Filed in : Personal

As I type this glancing over at my sweet baby boy, I can’t help but become overwhelmed with emotion.  How can one tiny human be so strong-willed?  Our son, Gatlin’s fight to survive, both inside the womb and once he was born was simply astonishing.  Not just to us (proud parents over here) but to all of the nurses, and doctors that we encountered during our journey.

This birth story is definitely going to be a little longer than the typical birth you may read about, but I couldn’t leave out important events and details!  It is therapeutic to have all of this information in one place and quite honestly I noticed myself forgetting details since it was a pretty traumatic experience, so I wanted to get everything down before it all became a distant memory. If you haven’t read about our journey to start a family and you are interested in some backstory, you can catch up here.  Back at my 20-week ultrasound, my OB had noticed Gatlin was measuring a little small, and earlier in my pregnancy I had a marker in my blood that could potentially lead to placenta problems down the road. Little did we know that one blood test would lead to more stress than we could have ever imagined.  But Jared and I tried to stay positive and kept taking the pregnancy day by day.  We had already been through so much trying to get to this point, that we were honestly just grateful to have the chance to become parents.  Because of these signs, I was being followed more closely with more frequent ultrasounds and dopplers.  We had collected so many ultrasound photos of this little guy we could make a book out of them all!  They had noticed resistive blood flow through the umbilical artery which was something they wanted to keep a very close eye on because that could have been one of the reasons he was measuring small.  At this point in my pregnancy, I had heard of the term “IUGR” before but wasn’t confident I could give a proper definition if someone asked me. I was being seen by high-risk perinatologists and they wanted to see me back in a week. It is important to note that his original due date was August 8th.

His birth story begins on April 17th, when I was admitted to the hospital at 23 weeks and 6 days.  I remember this day vividly.  My doctor’s office was about an hour’s drive from our home and Jared almost always came with me to each appointment (even back when we were visiting our fertility clinic multiple times a week).  It was very rare I went alone, and I am very grateful for that.  But this day was different.  He had a work call and I decided to just go alone.  I left thinking I’d be back for dinner so I didn’t take much.  Trying to pretend I wasn’t nervous I anxiously sat in the waiting room to be called back.  I remember the ultrasound tech doing my reading was super bubbly and friendly which helped me not be so worried. She said we will just take the measurements and you’ll be on your way.  Once she was doing the ultrasound, her demeanor slowly changed.  I have been in these situations before, nothing was going to get past me.  She casually asked me if I had been feeling alright, and I knew right then something was really wrong.  She mentioned she wanted me to see the doctor and was going to send someone in to take my blood pressure right away.  I now know she was checking for preeclampsia.  The other nurse came in to take my blood pressure, I was sweating profusely and already out of breath just from sheer panic and anxiety.  My blood pressure read high, but of course, how could it not?  I knew it was just because of the situation.  Then they brought me into a small room where the perinatologist on call was.  I will never forget the feelings I had during this conversation.  She sat me down, looked me in the eye with a face overcome with concern and told me she wasn’t “confident my baby would have a heartbeat next week”.  It was as if my whole world stopped in that moment.  You know in TV shows and movies when a character hears bad news and they seem to not be present anymore and the voices in the room become muffled?  That is exactly how I felt.  Because of COVID, I was wearing a mask and gloves and I remember my mask was basically soaked with sweat and so were my hands under my plastic gloves.  I remember frantically taking notes on a tiny post-it, which now was just random words that didn’t make any sense, but I needed to do something to distract me from what was happening.  I jotted down some numbers in grams which were all very confusing to my brain that felt like mush at the time.  She said my umbilical flow had gotten worse and had progressed to “absent end-diastolic flow” which is the step right before the worst one, “reverse end-diastolic flow.”  My eyes welled up as I looked at her telling me the news.  How could this be happening?  I was so embarrassed to be crying in front of her, but I had no control of the emotion coming from within.  She kept saying words like “viability” and phrases like “we don’t take babies this small”.  She ended up giving me two choices.  Be admitted to a hospital with a level 3 NICU, or go home and just see what happens.  My OB’s office was in the same building but up a few floors and I remember asking her if I could run up there to see if he had left for the day.  She said of course.  I quickly left her office, trying to hide the fact that I had been crying to all of the other staff.  I got in the elevator as fast as I could only to find his office door locked.  I was too late.  I found a bench in front of the elevator and sat down to compose myself, rubbing my belly just hoping my baby boy would keep holding on.  I immediately called Jared trying to tell him what I just learned.  I then was able to get a hold of my OB on the phone we talked through our options again.  It was all pretty much the same info as what the perinatologist had just told me.  24 weeks is the cusp of viability outside of the womb, so it was up to me whether or not I wanted to admit myself to the hospital.  I said to him on the phone “I want to do everything I can to give him the best chance”. Halfway through uttering that sentence was when my voice became shaky and I tried my best to hold back tears.  I hung up the phone and called Jared again.  I told him to pack as if we were going to have the baby soon.  He packed as fast as he could, dropped off our dogs at my parents, and made his way to the hospital.

I got into the car and drove to the hospital that “took babies this small”.  I had no idea where I was going but I just tried to get there as quickly as I could, just praying that his heart was still beating. I found the entrance to the hospital not having any idea that would be my last breath of fresh air for many weeks to come.  Once I got into a room and they checked me in, I finally had a chance to breathe and begin processing all that had just happened.  A little while later, Jared joined me which made me feel so much better.  They said they were going to put me on continuous heart rate monitoring.  This whole world was so new to me.  What did that mean?  When the nurse came and got set up to find his heartbeat, it felt like the longest few minutes.  I couldn’t look her in the eye, I was just waiting to hear that sound.  She explained that when babies are this gestation it can be hard to find the heartbeat because they have more room to “hide.”  Then, we heard it.  My little buddy showing me he was ok!  I was overcome with relief and just so happy to hear him moving around in there.  I was on continuous monitoring for a few days until they got a better understanding of what was going on.  The days to come were followed by dopplers, meeting with perinatologists (doctors who specialize in high-risk pregnancies), testing, and lots of hospital food… yum. I received my first round of betamethasone, which is a steroid shot to help his lungs develop before birth.  I learned that I am definitely a hard stick because multiple nurses tried starting an IV, and were unsuccessful.  They kept taking turns until one of them finally got one in, only for it to fail a few days later.  They end up calling anesthesia to put one in with a guided ultrasound.  They got one to work but then it failed a few days later again. They were flushing saline into my muscle multiple times before we realized it wasn’t in my vein.  Once we got over the IV fiasco the weeks felt long, and somehow the days, short.  Jared wasn’t allowed to leave because of COVID, so he slept in a pull-out couch next to me for the time we were there before Gatlin was born.  He was a diligent note-taker when we spoke to each doctor, furiously writing down questions and things to remember.  As we slowly started gathering information from what our future might look like, it started to sink in that our birth story would look absolutely nothing like we had envisioned.  Infertility prepared me for the fact that things may not go as planned, but I don’t think anything could have truly prepared me for what was to come.

After speaking to doctors, I was just hoping to make it to 26 weeks, and once we hit that I was praying we would make it to 28 weeks. I kept hearing 28 as the “magic number” so to speak.  If we could just get to 28 weeks, our chances of survival would increase dramatically, and also just having fewer health problems down the road.  Jared and I printed out calendars and with each day that passed we would cross off a square on the calendar.  This small feat each day kept us going because we knew how important each day, hour, minute was for our son. I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes (I always wondered if I would get it because my mom had it when she was pregnant with me) which made the limited hospital menu, even more limited.  My fingers were full of prick marks since they had to test my blood sugar so many times throughout the day.  After a few weeks in the hospital basically on bed rest, I really started going stir crazy.  ALL I wanted to do was breathe the fresh air.  I desperately wanted to go outside and feel the sun on my face.  But because of COVID, there were so many extra rules and restrictions.  The only time I got to leave my room was to go two floors down for our dopplers.  I would try and walk extra slow so that I could be out of my room for longer.  These ultrasounds, although scary were also coupled with happy emotions since Jared and I got to see our son.  He had such a little personality already.  He would kick when they were trying to measure the flow in the umbilical cord which always made us laugh.  We held onto the little moments like those because it kept us grounded.  It was hard to not feel like a ticking time bomb.  There were multiple things that could push them into delivering.  Was his hear trate going to drop and it would be an emergency?  Would he stop growing?  Would the cord flow worsen?  How could my body be failing my baby?  These were all questions that swirled around in my mind daily.  But I kept telling myself that we were where we needed to be.  We were in the hands of amazingly talented professionals and we were all working to do everything possible for our little one to have the best outcome.  It was a matter of keeping Gatlin in as long as possible because the womb is the best place for him to be up until a point when he would be safer outside.  But when was that?  It is a tough call to make, and I do not envy the perinatologists that have those decisions fall on their shoulders.  Jared and I kept each other entertained and the nurses all got to know us so well.

Now let’s talk about my hopes and dreams as far as delivery goes for just a quick second.  Every woman is different, but for me, I really wanted to try for a vaginal birth.  I wasn’t against an epidural but just wanted to give it a try without one.  I struggled to get pregnant for so long that I just wanted to FEEL giving birth.  I wanted to experience it for myself.  I remember telling my mom and sister in law before all of this unraveled, I was excited for birth, I wasn’t scared.  I had wanted this for so long, and I knew it would be hard, but I was ready.  I would also like to say quickly that any birth is absolutely amazing and I do not judge any woman for how they bring a baby into this world.  We are all warriors and I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to have a baby.  I slowly realized that the chances of my birth even slightly resembling how I envisioned it, were slowly slipping away.  But I was ok with that if it meant I got to be a mom at the end of it.  That was my ultimate goal and what I had wanted for so long.  Now I was told that because Gatlin was so small, he most likely wouldn’t tolerate labor and there was a chance I would have to have a vertical incision if I had a C-section which meant I could never have a VBAC.  What??  That crushed me.  The thought that I would never be able to have a vaginal delivery in the future was a tough one to swallow, but they wouldn’t know for sure until they did the surgery, so I prayed it wouldn’t come to that.  Because I was transferred to a different hospital, my OB (who was my mom’s OB for my brother and I) wouldn’t be able to deliver our son.  Another tough pill to swallow since I always thought it would be him.  Each time I felt like something was being taken away from me, I closed my eyes and tried hard to remember the fact that all I wanted was to be a mom and have a child of our own.  That was what kept me going.  Nothing else mattered in the long run.  We just wanted our baby to be healthy and to finally be able to be a family.

Being a wedding photographer, photos are so important to me.  I always pictured once we finally got pregnant, our maternity photos would be outside in the beautiful natural light, oh I don’t know, in a lavender field or something 🙂  But I realized that was not going to be possible in our situation so I had to think fast because baby boy could have come at any day.  I ordered a dress online and had my family drop off my tripod and film camera and we had a maternity photoshoot in our hospital room!  Honestly, looking back I am so beyond grateful we did that because I will cherish those photos forever.  My pregnancy was cut short and my time growing our son went by so quickly, I felt like it was hard to enjoy it.  When I first got pregnant, I was terrified we would lose him, then quarantine happened, and a few weeks later we were in the hospital getting ready to deliver at any moment.  So needless to say, they meant a lot.  If you haven’t seen those photos, you can click here to view some of my favorites!

Each week the perinatologists would rotate with who was on call.  At times this was frustrating because each doctor had a slightly different opinion on our situation. They themselves have a running joke that if you ask two different perinatologists a question you will get 4 different answers.  It was also a blessing because we got to pick each of their brains and they brought a fresh perspective to what we were experiencing.  On Monday, May 4th, my dopplers hadn’t gotten worse (still absent flow) but the new doctor on call thought I was stable enough to be monitored as an outpatient.  I was grateful for this at the time, but now looking back I am even more grateful for this time at home.  We got to work on the house which was not ready because if you recall the day I was admitted I thought I’d be home for dinner.  We had nothing ready for baby boy.  No nursery, no supplies, no furniture, no nothing!  My mom came up to help because I wasn’t supposed to do much physically.  In those couple days, Jared and my mom completely cleared the room that turned into Gatlin’s nursery and just got our house in order.

Two days later, I had another doppler that I went to.  The nurse kept coming back to get different measurements.  The feeling was all too familiar.  Then I went into the doctor’s office.  Again, Jared couldn’t be there and had to wait in the car because of COVID, but we put him on speakerphone halfway through the meeting once I heard it wasn’t good news.  My cord flow had gone from absent to intermittently reverse which is of course not good.  He advised me to head back to the hospital and readmit myself. I couldn’t believe this was happening even though I knew this would happen eventually. It had only been 36 hours since I had been discharged.  It was harder to go back this time because I knew what was ahead of me.  They had told us to pack our bags each time we had an ultrasound as if we were going to have to be hospitalized, so luckily we were prepared this time, but somehow I still didn’t feel fully prepared.  When I got back to Jared who was waiting in the car I just started crying.  As we drove back to the hospital all I was thinking was this was not how I thought our birth story would go.  26 weeks along, stuck in a hospital room for weeks during a world pandemic.  I kept looking up pictures of 26-week old babies, to prepare myself for what was to come.  Jared and I clung to one another for support and tried to get through each day as best we could.  They actually gave us our old room back.  It was nice to have a sense of familiarity but also terrible at the same time because it wasn’t a familiarity associated with positive memories and feelings.  But we kept on pushing through and marking off each day on our calendars as it passed.  We stumbled into a nighttime routine and making our room feel more like home.  Jared was working from his pull out bed so that he could take time off when Gatlin was born.  He never left my side.

The days turned into weeks and we finally hit 28 weeks.  When we were first admitted, that sounded like such a long way away.  But we did it!  We were so relieved and felt like we could finally take a small breath.  I ended up getting a second round of betamethasone, which is the steroid that helps with lung development.  We also had growth scans every two weeks.  Because he was severe IUGR and wasn’t getting adequate blood flow, he was way smaller than a normal “28 weeker”.  Remember how I mentioned the doctors rotate?  Well, we had one that came in and knew I had been in the hospital for weeks on end.  He really showed us how much he valued mental health and wrote me a note to be able to have one 30 minute wheelchair ride outside per day.  This was AMAZING news!!  The first time Jared and I went outside we probably looked crazy because we were staring at all of the trees and smelling the flowers!  I so looked forward to those 30 minutes each day.  I essentially planned my day around it.  My parents and Jared’s parents would do our laundry, bring us food and all the things I bought online (sorry Jared!) and we would wave to them from our window.  But now that I could go outside we timed my outings so we could see my parents (at a distance and masked, of course) but we could see them.  It was so special since they didn’t really ever get to see me with a belly.

Each day I was monitored three different times for an hour at a time, however, if they saw a dip in heart rate they would keep you on longer.  This caused an immense amount of anxiety because although I loved hearing his heartbeat, I was terrified they would see something that would push them into an emergency C-section. We got to know all of the nurses so well and they took such good care of me, and Jared too, making sure he was comfortable and bringing him late-night ice cream.  Anything to make our stay more manageable.  After all, they were the only ones that saw us day in and day out and really knew what we were experiencing.  Not even our family could fully completely understand all that was going on even though we explained it in detail.

I know what you all are thinking.  “I thought we were supposed to be reading a birth story”.  I know, I am sorry I promise I will get to it.  But I truly feel like my birth story began on April 17th when I was first admitted.  Now back to the week Gatlin was born.  They had seen the intermittent reversal umbilical artery flow which was what sent me back into the hospital and were monitoring us closely.  We always knew there were a few factors that would push them into delivering.  1) persistent reversal flow 2) dip in baby’s heartbeat that wouldn’t come back up 3) no growth 4) deteriorating health on my end.  I wondered what it would be constantly.  It definitely got in my head and made each day that passed more and more difficult.  The week of May 25th, they wanted to prepare me for birth.  They mentioned that if they didn’t see growth in my scan at the end of the week they would be inclined to deliver on that same day, Friday (May 29th).  This worried me.  It seemed rushed to do the ultrasound that morning and then hours later have to deliver, so something in my gut told me to ask if we could do the ultrasound on Thursday, one day earlier.  They checked to see if someone was available to do it, and they were.  One thing to note was Gatlin’s heart rate was so strong this whole time.  A lot of times when babies aren’t in the best environment and simply not getting the nutrients they need, their heart rates reflect that.  But the doctors and nurses couldn’t believe how well his heart rate tracings looked on the monitor.  I know it’s because Gatlin’s will to survive was strong.  It is amazing that even though my body was “failing” both he and I fought for his life.  He is such a little warrior and wasn’t even aware of the battle he was fighting.  As you can see we had a huge collection of ultrasound photos, one positive of having a high-risk pregnancy!

Thursday, May 28th came and we went down to the ultrasound room, the one we had visited many times before in the previous weeks.  It was all riding on this moment.  Jared and I had calculated how much weight he needed to gain so we had an idea of what was to come once they gave us the news.  The ultrasound tech called the doctor in who watched as they measured our little boy.  I now felt like I was a pro at reading these measurements because of how many of these we had done.  I knew it didn’t look good on the screen and sure enough, it was persistent reversal.  How?  How could my body do this?  How could this be happening?  All I wanted was the best for my baby and I felt like it was me that couldn’t provide a safe place for him to grow.  I took a moment to process it all but I knew what he was going to say.  He sat down, looked at me, and advised us that nothing was improving, in fact, they were getting worse.  The last thing any of us wanted was to be “too late”.  The call was made, Gatlin would be born the next day.  I asked one last time about trying for a vaginal delivery.  My last chance to have a birth as I had dreamed of.  He was very honest and said because of his size, he would most likely not tolerate labor and the contractions.  It was clear to me that it would be a risk.  A risk for his safety but he did give me an option to try.  They could give me Pitocin and do a stress test to see.  Deep down I knew.  I knew I couldn’t take that risk for my son just to have the birth I wanted.  I needed to accept the fact that nothing about this birth experience was ordinary or what I would have wanted.  That was one of the easiest and hardest decisions I made throughout the entire process.  Gatlin’s was my number one priority, above any of my wishes or wants.  I remember leaving that room and just crying to Jared.  Not tears of sadness just overwhelmed with emotion and relief.  It was finally over, waiting for the inevitable.  In such times of uncertainty, we finally had something that was certain.  I remember feeling guilty for feeling relieved.  How could I be happy my son was going to be born so early?  But I was so tired and just physically, emotionally, and mentally drained from being in the hospital for six weeks that I just was happy for that part to be over.  I have to give myself grace and know that was a valid feeling after all we had been through.  Of course, I would want Gatlin to grow to 40 weeks, I wished that with every part of me, but there were different plans for him.

It was the night before my C-section.  They brought me down to the labor and delivery floor to get me prepped for surgery.  I also had to start a magnesium drip through my IV.  Little did I know this was probably the worst part of the whole birth experience.  More on that later.  I could not eat or drink anything past midnight.  I remember taking my last bite of food and my last sip of water, and thinking that was it until I was officially a mom!  It felt like Christmas Eve in a way, Jared and I were nervous and anxious to meet our son.  But at the same time, were terrified because we weren’t meeting him in ideal circumstances.  The reality was our son was only 2 pounds and 10 weeks early.  All we hoped was for him to come out breathing and crying but we were prepared for anything.  The nurse came in and started the Magnesium drip.  I was told it would create flu-like symptoms, I could feel hot, and just overall crummy.  As soon as she started the medication I asked Jared to turn on the air conditioning, I was burning up from within and just felt terrible.  Like the worst flu, I have ever experienced.  I know medications affect people differently, and this one was definitely was not my friend.  They sometimes give magnesium to women who are having premature babies because it can help reduce brain bleeding in the infant.  I wanted to do anything and everything I could do to help give Gatlin the best chance.  So magnesium it was.  I tried to get some sleep but let’s be honest, how could I sleep?  Oh, and did I mention they put me on continuous monitoring again?  I could barely get comfortable, and when I finally did then I would have to wheel my IV to the bathroom, only for the cycle to repeat an hour or two later.

Then it was here, the morning of May 29th, our son’s birthday.  We were going to get to meet him, to see who he was, and begin our journey as parents.  It felt like our whole journey lead to this moment.  My nurse that day was the one that came with me into the operating room.  She was so kind, patient, and caring.  Exactly what I needed that day.  My whole pregnancy I hadn’t taken Tylenol but my headache was so bad from not eating or drinking and the magnesium that I was desperate.  I had to take some Tylenol.  She then asked me if I was up to showering with this antiseptic soap to help lower the chance of infection.  I felt pretty miserable but was up for the challenge.  Still connected to my magnesium IV drip, Jared helped me into the bathroom and she gave us the soap.  Before she left she said, “now if you feel dizzy or faint, pull this red cord”.  I laughed in my head because I am not one to faint.  As she walked away, I thought to myself, “I am not going to pass out”.  Jared didn’t even have time to open the soap and I looked at him and said, “pull the cord I am either going to pass out or throw up”.  As he was pulling it, I did both, passed out and threw up.  Multiple nurses rushed into our room to help.  They couldn’t find a wheelchair fast enough so they put me in a rolling computer chair and wheeled me to my bed, as I kept throwing up on myself.  I was so embarrassed but also felt so miserable that I couldn’t care at the same time.  They got me cleaned up and told me to forget about the shower.  I sat in my bed with a barf bag not even able to look around the room without feeling like I was going to pass out.  Doctors came in and out prepping me for the surgery and I had to say I was listening but had to keep my eyes closed.  Not how you picture moments before birth, but what can you do? Somehow the time came for me to go back into surgery, with my magnesium IV still in tow!  Jared couldn’t be in the OR when I was getting my spinal but the plan was once I was numb and prepped, be would be let in for the C-section.  I kissed Jared goodbye and said, “see you in a few minutes”.  He got all dressed in his scrubs, so excited and anxious to meet his son.  The moment we had all been waiting for was finally about to be here.

They wheeled me back into the operating room and set me up for my spinal, still attached to my magnesium drip.  Oh, how I desperately wanted the mag IV to be over and done with, but I buckled down and continued to be strong.  The moment we had been waiting for was about to be here!  The anesthesiologist told me that if I felt any sharp pain to let him know. He said I would feel a bee sting, which was the numbing shot, and then I might feel pressure, but I shouldn’t feel sharp pain.  My nurse was facing me holding my arms to help me stay put during the procedure.  First, the bee sting happened, ok, no big deal.  Then they proceeded with the spinal.  Gatlin’s heart rate was also being monitored so I just closed my eyes and focused on him.  These were the last few moments of him in my belly.  I was so grateful to have experienced pregnancy, even if it was cut short.  Then I started feeling sharp pain.  I let them know what I was feeling and then before I knew it I started fainting.  I remember telling my nurse I didn’t feel well and I thought I was going to faint.  I was sitting up at this point, so she guided me down onto my side.  All I could hear was loud ringing and the muffled voices of the nurses and doctors in the room.  I could barely see anything.  Because I fainted, my heart rate dropped which in turn made Gatlin’s heart rate drop which was obviously concerning.  All of a sudden over the intercom which plays over the whole hospital I heard “Code Pink, 9th floor, OR 3”.  That sound was all too familiar because Jared and I heard it multiple times during our antepartum stay, along with Code Blues, etc.  Code Pink means baby in distress.  My first thought was…Jared.  He was going to hear this and know something was wrong.  I looked at my nurse and asked her to send someone out to my husband to let him know what was happening.  I could sense that things started to pick up in the OR.  My doctor was in the room at this point and bolted over to me to recover his heart rate.  After what seemed like forever, she found it.  Such a sigh of relief, he was ok.  But I wasn’t surprised, my boy had proven to be a fighter.  My doctor had known that I really wanted to try for a vaginal delivery and I remember her saying that he definitely wouldn’t have tolerated labor.  Even though I knew I had made the right decision, it was nice to hear it from her.   They then told me that they were going to try my spinal with me laying on my side.  So they laid me down and proceeded to try again.  More sharp pain.  I kept trying to wiggle my legs to see if the medicine was working and I could move them, so I started to get nervous.  I felt some pins and needles in my feet so something was working but not as much as I thought for how long it had been since they started.  They decided to flip me onto my back and start prepping my belly.  They thought it might take some time for the medicine to kick in.  My nurse was standing at my waist and the anesthesiologists were behind my head so I couldn’t see them.  As my nurse was cleaning and prepping me, I looked at her and said, “I can feel all of that”.  She looked at the anesthesiologist and trying to mask concern said, “she can feel all of that”.  I knew in her eyes something was wrong.  She was trying to stay calm for me but it didn’t fool me one bit.  They gave it a little more time and kept mentioning how it could take a few minutes to kick in so they proceeded.  My body was full of fear.  I was terrified that they would start the surgery while I wasn’t fully numb.  Once the blue tarp was up, they took clamps and clamped my belly in different spots to test my numbness.  In an urgent tone, I said, “I can feel all of that”.  Like as if I wasn’t numb at all.  Everyone in the OR looked at one another, waiting for my doctor to make the call.  She then said, “I am so sorry but we are going to have to put you under general anesthesia”. I was so exhausted at that point that I just gave in to the professionals and trusted that everything would be ok.  They put an oxygen mask over my mouth, and that was the last thing I remember.

According to the anesthesiologist, the first words out of my mouth when I woke up was, “is my baby ok?”  Honestly, I don’t really remember much from that point on until much later.  Because I was put under general they had to take me to a different floor to recover.  I also knew that to help milk production you are supposed to pump one hour after delivery.  I remember waking up and asking if I could pump.  A little while later Jared was able to come check on me.  He showed me photos of Gatlin and told me he came out crying!  When you are put under general anesthesia, it also affects the baby so they have to get them out very quickly.  Jared said that once they put me under, our doctor got Gatlin out in three minutes!!  My doctor is seriously a superhero.  She was the same doctor that was there the night we were admitted, so it really felt full circle.  We had connected with her during those weeks as an antepartum patient and had asked her if we could see if she was available to do the surgery once the time came.  She came in that day to deliver Gatlin.  We are so grateful for that.  She also told me later that she put Gatlin on my chest for thirty seconds after he was delivered.  I was obviously asleep but I can imagine what that looked like in my head and I will hold onto that image forever.

I had a few minor complications with the procedure. I ended up losing a lot of blood and was pretty anemic when it was all said and done.  I also had an allergic reaction to the adhesive they used on my inscision and all over my belly, so I had a huge itchy rash all over.  And when they intubated me, they knicked my uvula, so it was all inflamed and enlarged for a few weeks.  My guess is that happened because they had to act quickly putting me under.  But overall I was on my way to recovery.  They sent my placenta to pathology for further testing and my doctor said it was so small and calcified in places.  The umbilical cord was also very thin.  It is honestly amazing how long he lasted in my womb, given the environment he was in.  Also, good news, they were able to make a horizontal incision!

But how could we miss it?  How could we both miss it?  After enduring everything that lead up to this moment, neither of us got to see our son being born.  That was a tough fact we both had to come to terms with.  But to be honest, I knew the doctors did what they had to do to get him here safely, and in the end that is truly all that matters.  A few hours went by and they finally brought me up to my room.  Recovering from a C-section is no joke.  So many women get them so it doesn’t seem like they would be a huge deal, but they really are an intense abdominal surgery.  I wanted to get down to the NICU as soon as I could to see Gatlin.  Jared had already been with him for a while and it hurt my heart that I couldn’t be with him right away.  A few hours later, I somehow managed to stand up and get in a wheelchair still connected to my IV and we were on our way down to the NICU.  I remember it vividly checking in at the front desk.  They checked my wrist band that identified me as Gatlin’s mom.  I had no idea who had put it on me or when, but I loved that it connected me to him.  Jared had gotten a tour of the NICU so he was showing me where you wash your hands and where you go once you enter etc. I remember Jared wheeling me down the hall and looking into each room as we passed by, seeing each tiny baby in their isolettes.  It was definitely a sight to see, and one I will never forget.  I was anxious to see where my baby was.  It felt like we passed a thousand rooms before we got to him but finally, Jared whispered, “this is his room!”  As he pushed me into the room, I saw my baby boy for the very first time.  He was SO small.  Words can’t describe it and pictures couldn’t truly capture it.  It honestly was pretty shocking to see, but I didn’t care.  That was my baby.  The one Jared and I had worked so hard for.  He was so loved already.  Once we spent a few minutes with him and took our first family photo, I started feeling dizzy and faint.  Jared was talking to a nurse and I told him I felt nauseous and like I was going to faint again.  And then it happened again, my ears started ringing and I started to lose my vision.  They called for nurses to come to get me and bring me back up to my room.  I didn’t know at the time but I was anemic which explained the fainting.  Looking back I think I pushed myself too soon to go see Gatlin.  But in my heart, I needed to go and see him as soon as I could.  The NICU had a camera on Gatlin for us to watch 24/7 which was really nice.  I knew I had to work on recovering and healing so I could be there for Gatlin sooner, so that is what I did.  Jared really stepped into his role as a father with grace.  It was so special to watch him with Gatlin.  I will cherish those memories forever.  From May 29th to July 31st we were in the NICU each and every day with our son.  Those 64 days were some of the longest, hardest days, but we made it through and finally were home together as a family.  The moment we had been longing for.

As a photographer, I like to tell stories through photographs.  I put together this side by side to show the transformation of our son who was born 10 weeks early.  As you can see in the image below, Gatlin is a warrior.  We fought hard to meet him and he did the same.  He was so fragile when he was born, and now looking back these images are hard to see even for me who lived through it as his mother, but I am reminded of how strong he really is.  He has come so far and defied the odds.  As one who tries to find the positives in each situation, I like to say that we got to spend so much extra precious time with our son and witness firsthand the miracle of life. It truly is a beautiful thing. 

We are so grateful for all of the doctors and nurses in the NICU because they took care of our baby when we didn’t have the ability to.  They are all angels.  We are forever grateful for them, and all they did for our family.  It’s funny how things work out.  If you read my previous blog post you saw that when we first started trying for a family, my plan was to have a baby in May.  I don’t know why, but I always wanted to have a baby in May.  Then when we struggled with infertility and I didn’t care when our baby was born, I would have given anything to just have a baby.  But now, whenever I think of the fact that Gatlin was born at the end of May, I smile to myself and find peace in the fact that everything happened how it was supposed to and we are stronger on the other side.

Jared and I are thankful for each and every day we get to spend with him.  In the tough moments of parenthood, we remember how special Gatlin is to us and find the time to slow down and really savor each and every stage of the journey.  We know it will go by fast, everyone tells us that and honestly it already has!  I wanted to make sure we documented the first weeks of Gatlin being home with us, so those are the images you see below.  I will cherish these photos forever.

Look at that little face!

Mae and Adelaide adore their brother and can’t wait until he is big enough to chase around in the backyard.  Mae is very motherly and is constantly watching over him.  If he cries she looks at me as if she is saying, “Well, are you going to do something about that?”  It is the sweetest thing.  Gatlin is lucky to have his two big sister pups to protect him.  And thankfully Gatlin can pretty much sleep through anything (one positive of having a NICU baby) so he can sleep through their loud barks!

To our Gatlin, when I look at you, I see our miracle. Sweet baby boy, we want you to know we fought hard for you. Today we celebrate your resilience and health. You are stronger than you know and we are so proud of you! Thank you for fighting so hard in the womb so you could meet us and make us parents, what we had been hoping and longing for. With your golden hair and button nose, we fall more and more in love with you each day. We can’t wait to watch you grow up.  We will be here for you your whole life and love you more than you will ever know.

Love, Mommy & Daddy




Gatlin’s Birth Story

October 3, 2020