It is amazing that almost tens years has passed and I have yet to sit down and write our story. I have told it countless times but I have never found the way to put into black and white. It is actually quite interesting because one time not too long ago Xza asked to read my birth story and it really got my thinking that now is the time. It only makes sense that I share it for the very first time here. So, without further adieu, here is the birth story of Peyton Andrew.
It was February 10, 2002, I was twenty-five weeks pregnant, and it was my twentieth birthday. The day had started off just like any normal day. It was a Sunday and I had planned on spending the day with my husband at the time, Will, and than my Aunt Pat was making me my favorite dinner, Shepard’s Pie. Since it was my birthday I had decided to take that weekend and the following week off at work to celebrate and try and get some much needed prep for the baby done. The day before I had gotten a prenatal massage (which sucked) and bought Peyton’s coming home outfit. That day we went and had lunch at Pizza Hut and we talked about how we probably were not going to get another ultrasound. I even joked half-heartily that maybe I could tell them something seemed off just so we could get just one more peek. After pizza we went to see “I am Sam” in the theater. The whole time the movie was playing I could feel Peyton moving but the movements were different. I wouldn’t say they were painful but definitely more distinct. I chucked it up to him getting bigger and he was just trying to see how much stretch mommy’s belly really had. At one point I could easily say it felt like he was trying to push through my abdomen. Once the movie was over we went home to nap before having to meet my family at my aunt’s house for dinner.
I fell asleep on the couch for a few hours while Will watched the NBA All-Star Game on television. When I woke up I did what every six month pregnant woman does… I went pee. I came back out to the living room but as soon as I got to the couch there was a crippling tingle that ran up my spine. I instantly doubled over in pain and it took all I had not to fall to my knees. Than I felt like the possibility of pooping my pants was going to become a reality. I ran back into the bathroom to sit on the toilet just in case. The feeling in my back wasn’t going away. The pains were coming frequently and staying for what felt like an eternity each time. Than the hot flashes started. It was the middle of February in Cleveland so the weather was chilly but I felt like I was sitting in a sauna. I began stripping off my clothes and screaming for the windows to be opened. I tried to get off the toilet and sit on the bed in a fetal position in hopes that it would make the cramping go away… it didn’t. Will first called the doctor’s office but because it was a Sunday they, of course, directed us straight to triage. The triage nurse informed him that they would page my doctor but couldn’t give us an idea if or when she would call back. They said it sounded like indigestion. He than called my aunt to let her know we would be late for dinner because I was having severe stomach pains. She thought I was trying to get out of dinner. After he hung up the phone I decided “screw this! I just need to poop and will push it out!” which lead to me pushing and than a loud POP! and splash…. my water broke. I instantly started screaming and crying. I knew that the rest of my evening would not go as planned. Will called the hospital back and let them know what just happened. It was time to get there and do it quickly. I hurried to get dressed, bawling and apologizing the whole time. Once we got in the car I called my aunt to let her know we wouldn’t make it to dinner in between sobs. She told me to put my feet up, stay calm and that she would call my mom and dad (they were both still living in Arizona).
We lived approximately thirty minutes away from our hospital. Sure we could have probably gone to a closer facility but I chose that hospital for a reason! They were in a nicer part of town and allowed water births and that was how I was going to deliver my son. I swear it took only ten minutes to get there with how fast we were driving. We parked in a handicap spot right in front of the Emergency room and Will barely had it in park before getting out of the car. I got out and froze. I could feel a warm liquid run all the way down both legs. I looked down and there I was standing in a circle probably two feet in circumference of blood. MY BLOOD! There was also large visible clots and I thought he may have came out too. You have no idea what a 25 week old baby would look like in the circumstance and as per usual my mind went to the worse. Will grabbed me and pulled me in. As soon as I stepped foot in the ER I could feel the stares on my back. I walked up to the counter and let them know I was 25 weeks pregnant and I thought I was miscarrying. The woman behind the glass already knew my name and there was a young male nurse standing with a wheelchair. Will was still on the phone with his parents letting them know what was going on. When I sat in the chair I noticed there was still blood everywhere and tried to clean it up. The nurse began sprinting to the maternity ward and my sense of fear was in full force. When I arrived to the maternity ward a nurse by the name of Amy bent down and looked me in the eyes and told me to “relax… the doctor was on the way” and handed me a gown. I put the gown on and tried to clean up all the blood that was now all over my legs and bathroom floor before she came in and literally dragged me into the bed. They placed a fetal monitor on my belly and I could hear his heartbeat. All of a sudden a sense of relief came over me. He was still in there and he was alive. Than came time to place an IV and start fluids. I was not the best patient when in came time for that. The nurse checked me for dilation and it took two nurses to hold my knees down because I do not want hands near there after the trauma and blood loss. I don’t remember exactly what they told me but I think I was dilated to a four. A few minutes later my doctor walked in. A brief history on my doctor… she was a middle aged woman from India that spoke very hard to understand English. Her bed side manner seemed horrible at the time but upon looking back I think it was just the language barrier. Needless to say, as soon as I saw her there was an odd feeling of comfort and nervousness. She grabbed my hand asked how I was doing. All I could do is kind of chuckle and answer with “I’ve been better”. She nodded, rubbed my forehead very motherly-like and told me that I was going to have a c-section… right now. I asked why and she said the baby was in distress and with my blood loss if they didn’t get him out that I could die. The rest seems like a blur. I remember them holding me down to insert the catheter. The move from the room to the OR I have absolutely no recollection of and Will was not with me. I was all alone and extremely scared. I don’t remember being in any pain though.
The anesthesiologist was waiting for me and immediately pulled me up to prep my spine for the epidural. Due to my heart surgeries as a child my spine has a severe curvature so between that and the urgency in the room it seemed to make it impossible for him to find the space he needed. It took three times of him inserting than removing the needle until he finally found it. That would contribute largely to me having a pretty intense and painful recovery later. After it was finally done they laid me down, pulled up the sheet and started the incision. The first cut I could feel… completely. I told my doctor I could still feel it and she said it was normal to feel some pressure. It wasn’t pressure I was feeling. I felt them slice me open and begin to tug. She yelled at the anesthesiologist to get me some relief immediately. He walked over and injected something into my IV and my arm felt like it caught fire. I begin yelling it burned and crying hysterically. The next thing I remember is waking up to a very numb arm and the need to throw up. The nearest nurse grabbed me a bed pan so I could release the demon in my belly. I asked where the baby was. He wouldn’t answer me or even make eye contact with me. I knew it wasn’t good. I could vaguely see behind me where the infant heater was and there was what seemed like countless doctors standing in a circle around it. I asked where my husband was and that same distant nurse let me know he had to leave the room because he was too emotional and almost passed out. So here I was being sewn up, alone, without any knowledge as to what the hell was happening with my child. I never knew what shear panic felt like until that very moment of my life. The original nurse I had upon arrival, Amy, came and sat down next to me and held my hand. I started crying and asked if he died because if he had I didn’t want to see him. She told me he was alive but barely. She warned me that if he didn’t weigh enough that they wouldn’t be able to do very much medical intervention. Panic turned into numbness. Soon the doctors stabilized him enough to move him into the NICU and I caught a small glimpse of his tiny body as they rushed past me. By that time Will had composed himself enough to come back in but I made him go with our son. He shouldn’t be alone. Mostly I was scared he would pass and only have doctors surrounding him. They finished stitching me up and started moving me into my room. It seemed like it was midnight and I was drained. I just kept hoping that maybe I was still napping and I would wake up from this horrible nightmare soon. After I got into my room I was covered with warm blankets but it did pretty much nothing for the shaking and chills I was having. I seemed to have all sorts of medical apparatus attached to me, IVs, catheter, compression stockings, heart monitors. Amy came in with a Polaroid picture of Peyton and asked if I wanted to go see him because she would wheel my entire bed in. I told her no. She told me he was born at 8:34 p.m. and weighed 2 pounds 1 oz which was way more than they had hoped for. My water broke close to 7p.m so I couldn’t believe how fast it all happened. She than told me very pointedly that what I chose to do was my decision but if I didn’t go see him I would regret it for the rest of my life and not to be scared. Deep down I knew she was right and I agreed to go. On the trip to the NICU she was spouting off a million warnings… the NICU is very dark, he is very small, almost see through, I couldn’t hold him, and the doctors are working very hard to stabilize him. Once I got in there Will was standing next to his little cot and there was only 4 doctors left. They wheeled me up close enough that I could touch his hands and feet. He was little but he was perfect. The female doctor let me know that due to the blood loss of my placenta his blood was not oxygenating so they were giving him medication to help with that. Once they could get oxygen in his blood they would be able to transfer him via helicopter to Rainbow Children and Babies Hospital in Cleveland. He would go and I would be staying until the hospital released me in a few days. I still wasn’t sure what happened and at that point I didn’t care because my only focus was him. I was wheeled back into my room, feeling a little more confident. My family had arrived at the hospital mid way through my operation so Will was going back and forth updating them and trying to get visitors privileges for them to come in and see me. A little before midnight I was able to have them come in and be with me which felt good. The nurses and doctors updated me as much as possible on Peyton. My sister-in-law called my room and I was telling her how he was doing and how positive I felt about them being able to transfer him. That was when his doctors walked in with Will and the whole vibe changed.
They informed me that the meds that they had been giving him for his blood was not working as they had hoped. There would be no transfer. They would try as long as we wanted to try but ultimately if he survived this the chance of him being in a vegetative state was high. They would allow us to hold him if we chose to stop the meds. It was a very easy decision… it was time to let go. I asked if they would try just one more dose and if it doesn’t work we would stop. They prepared me for transit but this time they let my awaiting family to come along. Once we arrived for the final time in the NICU they gave him his last dose. When they first started the medicine it would oxygenate his blood for hours at a time, this time it stopped working within 15 minutes. They begin disconnecting him from the machines so I could finally hold my son. They wrapped him in a blanket and placed him gently in arms. I could see his chest move with every heartbeat. His eyes were still fused shut and his mouth was bruised and bloodied from the tubes. I asked if would have been able to cry or see… they answered probably not. I grabbed his hand but he didn’t clench my finger like a baby was supposed too… the only proof of life was his slowing heart beat. I knew it was coming close and I couldn’t bare for him to die in my arms so I passed him to his dad. Moments later life escaped him and he was at peace. They took him shortly after time of death was announced and we all went back to my room. He passed at 2:17 a.m on February 11, 2002. They brought him into my room and we were all allowed to hold him for as long as we wanted. They even offered to keep him in the morgue until our parents arrived the next day which I refused. The hospital had a service that would cremate him for free and that was what we chose to do. I held him for what seemed like forever and not long enough all rolled into one. I finally fell asleep with him snuggled into me. A few hours of sleep later I woke up and knew it was time to say goodbye and start the healing process.
The next day my mom, my dad, stepmom, brother, and Will’s parents all arrived throughout the day. My mom stayed with me and I fell asleep to her sobbing. It felt good to have someone cry for me because I had run out of tears. Mid way through the night they moved me out of the luxurious birthing room into the standard recovery room with two beds because they needed it for a laboring mother. My mom flipped out but I was okay with it, I understood. At least they didn’t make me share a room which was standard at the time. A flimsy piece of paper with a heart and a rose was placed on my door to inform passers-by of our loss. The next three days consisted of a lot of “I am so sorry” and sad looks. Amy came to see me every shift she had even when I wasn’t on her patient list. She was honestly my angel through the entire thing. My doctor came to check in on my the day after surgery. I was told that my placenta abrupted without any known cause. She had never, ever seen such a severe case. I had basically delivered 80% of the placenta while he was still inside me. Since he was so early that meant he was very high up in my uterus so a t-incision was necessary to get him out. From the time she opened me up to the time he was out was less than 7 minutes. The trauma of a procedure that fast made my healing extremely difficult and I could not walk for well over a week. She also said that they believe that he had a Tracheoesophageal fistula (basically his esphogus and trachea were connected) making it harder to revive him at birth. That defect would have been present at birth and can be extremely difficult to find on ultrasound. Treatment for that type of a defect is difficult and ongoing. I wouldn’t allow an autopsy but I feel in my heart that the doctor was right. My doctor then said something to me that took a very long time to come to terms with… “Sometimes a mother’s body rejects a sick baby.”
It took me a very long time to stop being angry. I hurt for my son daily but I know he deserved a better quality of life that what he would have had had he survived. I know that I didn’t have much of a choice as to what happened to him but knowing I made the final decision to let God take the lead was the right one. Death can be very empowering to witness and after watching my angel come and leave this Earth I am no longer afraid if it. I survived the most horrible thing a person can go through. I walked through hell and am a stronger, better person for it. I would never wish my experience on anyone but at the same time I feel blessed to have been tested in that way. I know it probably sounds crazy but it is the truth.