Andy spent every day and most nights at the hospital with me. On Monday, August 2, he decided to spend some time at home. It looked like we were in for a long hospital stay, and financially we weren’t prepared. He needed to make some phone calls and find ways we could save money over the coming months. I had a new nurse that day. She was a Labor and Delivery nurse who was covering on Antepartum as they were short-staffed. Mid-morning I asked about the steroid shot, wondering when they would be giving it. She would check the doctor’s orders and let me know. Just before lunch she came back with the shot, and the monitor. At 23 weeks they begin monitoring the baby’s heart rate for longer periods of time. They want 20 minutes of a steady heartbeat each day. The nurse explained that they would monitor me from the nurses’ station, and that the first few times can be difficult.
It was very reassuring to hear his heartbeat and watch it on the screen in front of me. After several minutes the pace slowed briefly, then picked back up. The nurse came to my room quickly, readjusted the monitor, and started my 20 minutes over again. After several minutes it happened again. She readjusted the monitor and had me change positions. This continued for about an hour before they decided to move me to Labor and Delivery. They explained that I would be monitored on a more sensitive machine and once they were able to get the 20 minutes they needed I would return to Antepartum. I called Andy to let him know what was happening. He told me about some of the calls he made, and said he’d be there before long.
In Labor and Delivery the results weren’t any better. James’ heart rate dropped many times over the next few hours. They tried changing my position several times, but it didn’t help. Each time he was able to recover and his heartbeat returned to a normal rhythm, but they were concerned that one time it might not. Dr. Dew was on duty that day. She had been in contact with Dr. Stevenson throughout the afternoon. Around 3:00 they began talking about the possibility of delivering James. I called Andy and explained the seriousness of the situation. Just after 4:00 they told me Dr. Stevenson was on her way.
There were lots of tears as I watched the commotion of nurses moving about my room. They were kind and encouraging. They asked if he had a name yet, and told me what a strong name it was when I said, “James Alexander.” When Dr. Stevenson arrived she explained that James had a better chance of survival if they delivered him now than if they waited. His heart rate was too unstable. Within minutes I was in the OR receiving an epidural. Andy was at my side, holding my hand. When she delivered James I couldn’t see him and he didn’t make a sound. My heart sank when she said he weighed a pound, then sank further when she corrected herself and said 15 ounces.
After a few minutes a nurse came and told us they were able to intubate him. Was there a chance they couldn’t? That thought never entered my mind. What other things could happen that I didn’t even know about yet? A few minutes later a nurse asked Andy if he’d like to see him, and Andy disappeared briefly. Shortly after that they rolled him past me – they were taking him to the NICU. I tried to lift my head so I could see him, but there wasn’t much to see besides a rolled up blanket. Just as they continued on their way his little arm came up and moved back and forth, like a little wave. Everyone noticed and stopped what they were doing for a couple of seconds. Looks of uneasiness and fear softened, and you could hear the smiles as sounds of “aww,” broke the silence. We were all captivated by this tiny baby boy.