After nearly nine months and a lifetime of wisdom, I have finally written Paxtons birth story. Oh this journey. So scary and yet so divine. Grab a cup of Joe, cozy up on the couch and read about our little mans entrance into the world.
At 33 weeks, I went in for a routine ultrasound to see if my cervix had thinned at all. I was notorious for early labor and this was just a quick peek to be sure I hadn't changed. I jumped up on the table oblivious as all get out thanking the ultrasound tech for the complimentary 4 D peek we had just received of our baby the week prior.
She began scanning la ti da when all of a sudden she stopped on the heart and stayed for far to long without saying anything. I asked her if she saw something. My heart was racing before the words ever came out. Sometimes you just know. She said, "now let me look". I laid my head back down, already hyperventilating. It was then she said that she saw something within my baby's heart. She showed me the white where the white should not have been. She told me that she was not trained in this and proceeded to send me to the waiting room while I waited for the doctor to come get me. I was dying inside. How could this be happening. How had we just lost a baby and could now be losing this one. At the time we did not know if the baby was a boy or girl as we have always wanted the surprise. I texted everyone I knew for strength while I waited for what felt like an eternity. Finally I was brought back and from there it was a mumble jumble as I tried not to scream. Specialists. St. Pete. Blah Blah Blah. I had to get to my husband. Had to get the f*#k out of that place. I left that Friday with an appointment for Monday to see a maternal/fetal specialist here in town.
The time between then and Monday would be eternal. I called Dave and spewed out what I had just heard and once again I am pretty sure he thought I was overreacting...again. Through no fault of his own, I typically do. I like to call it erring on the side of caution. I was a zombie for the next 48 hours and remember posting this as I waited to find out my baby's fate.
Even once we got in the waiting room of the specialists office, I don't think Dave was really grasping what was happening. I am guessing mothers intuition was in full throttle by this point. I was sweating and shaking. Cold and hot. I robotically answered all the questions and finally laid on the damn table to find out what the hell was going on.
She began the scan in a dark room with a little tv in the corner so I could see too. I saw the white part I had seen the Friday before. She honed in on it. Clicking clicking clicking. I could hear the pictures for the doctor printing to my right. I was breathing in a way that clearly led her to believe I was going to lose it. I guess I actually was about to lose it. I was clutching Daves hand so tight I don't think any circulation could have possibly been getting there.
At one point she stopped, looked over and said, "I know you want answers and all I can say is there IS something wrong and I need to get these pictures for the doctor so that we can figure out where to go from here" or something to that affect because at this point the room was closing in on me and I couldn't breathe. The sobbs came from somewhere as I looked at my husband who's tears were streaming as equally fast as mine and said "I am so sorry." In my mind and in my heart I had failed him again. We had lost our last baby and now. Now....well now we didn't know yet. He told me over and over not to be sorry, that there was nothing I could have done. It became very clear that the shock was setting in for him. I know the positivity he carries in life and I truly believe he didn't think anything was wrong. The paleness of his face confirmed this. After a few minutes I realized that it was now my job to do whatever had to be done for our baby. I laid there and took deep breaths and allowed her to get the pictures she needed. When she was done she asked if we would like to know the sex. Dave and I hemmed and hawed for some time and she finally helped us come to the decision that she would write it on a piece of paper and put in in an envelope for us to do what we wished with. I tucked it safely in my purse and waited for the doctor to come in.
We held each other in the dark, hearts pounding, praying for a miracle. Once he came in, he pretty much made it all the more worse. Dammit I hated doctors at that moment. He told us that the left side of our baby's heart never developed and that it was "pretty significant" over and over he told us how "significant" it was. I kept saying what does this mean, what does this mean? He had nothing to tell us except that I was to be in Tampa to see a world renowned cardiac fetal surgeon that week and they would call me with a time. I exaggerate in no way when I say that man left us feeling like our baby was going to die.
So, we came home, hugged our boys tighter than we ever had and after the day we had, we then put them to bed. We actually got home that late. Then we turned down the lights and sat together on our big chair and talked about opening the envelope. My husband said it was up to me and while I more than anything wanted it to be a surprise like the others, I knew that this anything but like the others. I did not know how long we had with this baby once he was born, if he made it through delivery and I wanted to know who he or she was, with a name for however long we had. So in the quiet of night on one of the worst days of our lives, we opened a little white envelope with the simple word- boy -written on it. 3 boys! His name would be Paxton David West. We held each other for a long time. Then I went and took a bath, rubbed my belly, cried some more and talked for a good long time to our son!
Until our visit, I put my big girl pants on and tried the best that I could to keep it together for my other two children. I did not cry in front of them and I tried to keep their lives as normal as possible.
When the day arrived I was so nauseous that vomit lumped in my throat the entire morning. When we rounded the interstate into St. Pete and saw the tall building that was All Children's Hospital, the hospital that my son, God willing, would be at, I had to put my head between my legs.
This was it. This is where we would find out our 6 lb baby's fate.
Once on yet another ultrasound table, with what may have been one of the best nurses ever, I let it all go. My heart and my body knew I was where I was supposed to be and while she scanned me for the longest time I even dozed off since I hadn't slept in a week. The rest of the story from that visit is in written here.
It was a long night before Paxton's birth. I refused to leave Naples and my boys until the very last minute. I was a wreck about leaving them for however long I would be gone while Paxton had surgery and recovered. I stayed until bed time and tucked them in for the last time for a long time. I figured putting them to bed would be the best route to avoid crying and at the time they had no idea anything was changing, to them it was just another night that I put them to bed. My heart shattered as I silently said good bye for awhile.
We hopped in the car packed with all of my things for me to live in St. Pete after the baby was born. We drove and met up with my sister and mother for the drive to the condo we had blindly rented for the month. We would stay there the night before and head to the hospital bright and early in the morning. We stopped at one of my favorite places, Cracker Barrel, for dinner and I chowed down. I knew I wouldn't be able to eat for awhile again and I was also starting my diet once I was out of the hospital, so I was living it up until then!!! Once we got to the condo we attempted to get settled in a bit. My sister and mother did awesome helping me get unpacked and settled as best we could given the late hour that we arrived. At around midnight, we all went to bed...well most of us went to bed. I laid awake, knowing that these were the last hours with baby Paxton in my belly. Here is the very last baby bump picture. 38 weeks pregnant to the day!
It was the last time I would ever be pregnant again. I was trying to relish every last second and trying to prepare myself for what lie ahead in the coming days. I tried to tune out my husbands snoring, but to no avail and I went into the living room to try and sleep there, but my mom was snoring just as loudly so I headed back to the bed and lay there until my body couldn't fight it any longer!
Next thing I knew the alarm went off at 5 a.m! It was time! I jumped out of bed and got myself ready. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror knowing that today was the day my life would be forever changed. Each time one of my children was born, changed my life forever, but I knew that Paxton was going to alter the course of The West Family in many, many ways. I knew all that was to come would test our strength and teach us more than we could ever imagine.
Once I was ready, I went and woke up my husband and literally paced until he was finally ready. We grabbed my bags and we were off. Every minute on the drive there my mind was spinning. It was dark and I can remember looking at some random building that was some sort of small college, there were a few lights on in the building and I wondered why, little did I know apparently they are always on, because I would pass that same building many mornings after that and I would see those same lights on. My life having changed so much in a matter of days since the morning I first passed that building. 4 days later I would drive that same path to the hospital at 4 a.m to hold my son before he went in for his first open heart surgery. I looked at that building yet again only this time, I had a son. I knew his face, his smell and his sounds...
Weird, I know. I am so weird, but it's what I do. I remember random things. You know...the last week at this time I was...the last time I was here...
I would like to note that much to our surprise and anyone who hears our story, that it was planned to have a vaginal birth. It doesn't seem logical with a baby so sick, but I was told multiple times by many doctors that as long as he was attached to the umbilical cord, he would be fine, so vaginal it was and I was happier than I could ever explain.
So we parked and found our way to the main entrance of Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida.
We walk up the stairs and ask where we are supposed to go. Some grumpy lady told us where the elevator was and up we go to Labor and Delivery. We walk right in and they are expecting me. They lead me right to my room and have me do the usual. You know, pee in a cup and put a gown on. Then they put the belly bands on (the pink one and the blue one) my belly and we are able to listen to the babies steadily beating heart from there on out. It was hard to believe his heart was so sick, it sounded so strong to us! I was so excited. I was so scared. I didn't know what to expect. Would he look sick. Would they wisk him away. Would I get to hold him. So many questions, thoughts and fears were running through my mind as I lay there, the pitocin coursing through my veins, taking effect almost immediately. I was in the moment with contractions. Sort of felt like it was my duty to feel the pain. With all that lay ahead for my son, the least I could do was endure this for him. We all sat around the room, joking and laughing trying to ease the anxiety that was building in all of us. Dave, my sister, my mom and I. At one point, Daves sister Lisa came as well. It was a room full of heightened feelings, waiting to see how this would all play out.
At one point, they came in to give me an epidural. I waited to long, made myself and in doing so, it didn't take. In some ways, secretly I was glad. I had never felt birth and wanted to knowing he was my last. I knew when the time was nearing, after all this was my third go round. The nurse came in and checked me with just a little more cervix to go.
About 15 minutes later I told Dave to go get her again because I really felt ready, and I was.
From there on out it became a blur.
There were so many people in the room I am pretty sure I couldn't even count them on both hands. We had pediatric NICU doctors, the stork team from All Childrens Hospital next door with Paxtons isolette prepped and ready to take him away from me through a tunnel next door. I was told I may get to hold him or he may be taken away immediately. It was dependant on how stable he was after delivery. My eyes were wide with fear and anticipation as people flowed in and out of my room. I wasn't used to this and it made me worry that there was more to prepare for once he arrived. I braced myself.
I didn't know any of these doctors from Adam. I hated it, but I began to push. I looked at my husband and I know my eyes matched his preparing to meet the son we weren't sure would make it this far and preparing for whatever might happen once he made his arrival. My stomach is in knots as I type this.
Once I began pushing I realized that my epidural didn't take. I was screaming. I was hiking my butt up off the table in pain. Writhing my body. Crushing my husbands hand. I had no choice but to push on through. I was yelling to get him out. Then someone said I can see his hair and that is when I gave way to the pain so that I could experience the joy of meeting my son.
I was so excited when they placed a blanket on my chest. It gave me hope that I might be able to hold him for a few seconds.
After what felt like my body searing apart Paxton David West made his entrance into this world at 1:38 pm wailing his lungs out and I wailing mine. He was alive! He made it!
They immediately placed him on my chest. Oh' sweet heavenly miracle, I got to hold him. The month and half leading up to this was behind us and he was on my chest crying, pink and swollen from birth. He was freaking gorgeous with big puffy lips like me and Masons pudgy nose. He even had a butt chin!
I remember just staring at him. Waiting for something to go wrong. Waiting for him to stop breathing, turn blue, die....We were given all the risks and I prepared myself for all of them, he did none of them. I held him for what must have been 3 whole minutes. Gazing at him in complete awe. This baby in my arms had half a heart. It was so incredibly deceiving. Eventually they took him from me and did the whole weigh, measure evaluate stuff. Definitely not the apgar in this case. He weighed 7 lbs 14 ounces and was 21 inches long. Our half a heart baby was our biggest son and the son who needed it most. Praise God. Someone took a million pictures. Somehow all those people in the room disappeared. Somewhere in there I was being sewn and cleaned up, but all I can remember is my baby.
They then handed him back to me for what must have been close to 10 minutes.
I gazed at him. Kissed him. Smelled him and I told him he was the most amazing little man I had ever had the pleasure of knowing. I told him how proud I was of him and to be strong. Be so strong my beautiful boy and Mommy loves you more than you will ever know.
And I sobbed like I have never sobbed before as I had to hand my newborn son over to a team full of people I had never met. I watched them load him into his isolette. I remember he became very still and I sat up to make sure that wasn't it. I asked if he was breathing. He was. I knew then that this was the beginning of the journey into fear and faith. It was then that I had to hand it all over. I had done all I could do and it wasn't up to me anymore.
I watched them wheel him away and I just stared. Dave went with him. I didn't want him to be alone.
I, then, looked to my right and gave my sister who was sobbing a hug.
His birth was the single most surreal experience of my entire life.
So begins our HLHS journey with the most amazingly strong boy ever to grace my presence.
Miracles do happen my friends and my son, Paxton, is living, yes living, proof of that!