I’ve been debating on whether or not I should tell you this story here on my little blog for the last month or so now. It is a very personal story and I didn’t want to give anyone the impression that I am an “intense and deep” kind of blogger. But, after several sleepless nights with this on my mind, and with the March for Babies walk this Sunday as well as Mother’s Day next Sunday, I’ve decided that this one time I will write something deep and intense in hopes that I can spread the word and share a message that is very very important to me and my little family.
This is the story of Peyton’s birth. In past posts I’ve mentioned that my first son Peyton (now almost 4 years old…I can’t believe that!) was born severely premature. I’ve also mentioned that my second son Sawyer (now 9 months old) was a bit of a struggle to keep inside and threatened to be born early from about 27 weeks on. I never have gone into a lot of detail about Peyton’s birth in particular because the subject is almost sacred to me and I never wanted to weigh this blog down with such serious subject matter. Until now. Please, kick up your feet, and maybe grab a tissue, and keep reading. My son is a MIRACLE. And it would just not be right to keep his story all to myself.
My husband and I had only been married for about a year and a half when we found out that I was pregnant. We were absolutely shocked since we were not planning on having a baby anytime soon and for the fact that I was on birth control. I actually didn’t even take a pregnancy test until I was already 11 weeks along because I honestly thought that it was just an impossibility. At 12 weeks I got the pregnancy confirmed at the doctors office and had a due date of October 4th 2007. I was only 23 years old. My husband was working part-time and going to college full-time to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Business. I was working full-time as an interior decorator for a furniture store to help put him through school. Things were tight, but we had faith that we could figure it out and began getting excited about becoming parents and started making plans about what we needed to do to get me insured (I only had emergency coverage) and started reading books on how to “grow a baby”. Some of you may wonder how I possibly could’ve been unaware that I was pregnant for 11 weeks. First of all, it wasn’t something I thought I should be thinking about or looking for, second of all I honestly didn’t have a single pregnancy symptom that bothered me enough to notice (aside from having oddly light periods). I didn’t have morning sickness or aches and pains or anything like that. As a matter of fact, once I found out I was pregnant for sure and announced it to my coworkers the other pregnant ladies (there were 3 more) were incredibly jealous that I seemed fine and healthy and could go on as usual with my daily routine. It was great. I felt the baby kick around 17 weeks and fell in love. I loved my little growing belly and finally transitioned into maternity clothes at about 21 weeks. Also at 21 weeks I had my second doctors appointment. I had researched all my options in the area and was planning on going through a midwife in a birthing center. My mom had given birth to 4 of her 5 babies all naturally, one (me) even breech, without any complications. I still didn’t have insurance (due to “pregnancy” being listed as a pre-existing condition) and had discovered that a birthing center with a midwife would be far less expensive than to go through a hospital. I even was contemplating trying a water birth which I had talked to a friend about who said she loved it and had a great experience. So that was the tentative “plan”. So at 21 weeks I went to the doctor and had an ultrasound done to determine the sex and health of the baby. The doctor examined everything and explained everything very well to us and the baby and uterus looked fabulous! Oh! And when it finally decided to stretch out we got to see that it was a BOY! My husband was proud (he has 3 brothers and no sisters), and we were excited to start preparing for our new son.
The next few weeks flew by. We threw around names but couldn’t really pin anything down although we both liked the name Peyton. The only problem was I thought it would be a great name for a little GIRL. My dad was trying desperately to bribe us in to naming the baby after him and Daniel’s (my hubby) dad was having a great time knowing that the baby would have his name as the middle name (its a tradition in their family). Daniel was working hard, finals were coming up and he was taking on more hours at work to cover our baby bills. It was nice and uneventful with no indication of the nightmare that was about to hit us like a runaway train.
June 14th 2007. It was a Thursday. I happened to have the day off and had gotten up early to take our best friends (they are married to eachother) to the airport. They had stayed the night with us and were on their way to a family reunion in Idaho. My bestfriend Tiff happened to be pregnant too, just one month ahead of me. We had fun talking about pregnancy and kids and future the night before and even snapped this pic:
On the way to the airport I started having these cramps. Tiff noticed my wincing and asked what was wrong and I just told her I was having weird cramps and thought that maybe I’d slept wrong. She said that they were probably just Braxton Hicks and that she had been getting them for weeks now. They weren’t very painful, just uncomfortable and continued randomly throughout the day. I went along, cleaning the apartment and making some jewelry for friends and such but was really not feeling well. The cramps were coming a little closer and I was feeling just EXHAUSTED and achy. Daniel came home for lunch and I told him how I was feeling. He told me to take it easy and rest. I was getting a little uneasy about it, especially because the night before I’d read in my pregnancy book that the earliest a baby could be born and survive was 26 weeks gestation and I was only 24 weeks to the day. I hadn’t read far enough to know what the signs of preterm labor were or even to know what labor would feel like so I was completely ignorant to what I was really feeling. I hate being a worrier so I kind of shrugged it off although I did tell Daniel that I read that babies can’t survive being born before 26 weeks. He just kind of laughed and said, “If Anna Nicole Smith can have a healthy full-term baby then you definitely can!” That made me laugh and I felt a little less concerned after he left to go back to school. But it didn’t last for long.
By about 9 p.m. the cramps were starting to really come close together and I really started to get nervous about what was happening. Daniel walked through the door at about 9:10. I was expecting to see him much later since he was in the midst of finals and was going to be staying at the library on campus until it closed. He said that he just felt like he needed to come home and instantly saw me and knew something wasn’t quite right. He started asking me questions about what I was feeling and got online and started researching my symptoms. I was talking to him but every couple of minutes I had to stop and wince through another cramp. Now that I’m thinking about it again, I can’t believe I didn’t realize I was in labor. Again, it just wasn’t on my radar. In my naivety I just really didn’t even know that someone could actually be IN LABOR at 24 weeks gestation. I really just thought that I had eaten something bad and was having an upset tummy or the stomach flu. Daniel went through a list of questions he found online under “pre-term labor”. Was I bleeding. No. Was I having contractions. I didn’t think so. I thought contractions would be immensely painful and start at your back. These were just annoying and deep in my belly. Pain during urination. No. Although I had just gotten over a UTI. Sudden gush of clear fluid. No. Low backache. No. Pelvic pressure. No. It was weird. I was nervous but Daniel was the one to decide to go to the hospital. We both thought, “Oh, its probably nothing. Maybe gas. Lets just go make sure and we’ll be home in a couple of hours.” I really wanted to go grocery shopping (we were completely out of milk) and I really DIDN’T want the embarrassment of going to the hospital for “gas”. I told him to hold on. I just needed to go to the bathroom. I thought if I just could empty myself out I’d feel better. So I went into the bathroom and tried to go. I pushed once and felt something suddenly drop low into my pelvis. I begin to feel my pulse rise as doom filled my heart. I also saw a large mucousy lump on my toilet paper. What was going on!? Instinctively my lower body tightened up. I walked out of the bathroom and said, “I think we have to go to the hospital. NOW.”
The birthing center where I was supposed to be delivering was about 25 minutes away. I wasn’t sure if that is where we should be going or not but when a gush of blood poured out of me onto the seat of the car about 2 minutes from our apartment my husband instantly took a left to the nearest hospital down the street. I was panicked. I had not read about pre-term labor or preemies or childbirth or anything of that kind in any books and I had only been to two doctors appointments, neither of which we discussed the possibility. I didn’t know if my baby was in danger or if I was or if we both were. I tried to stay calm and breathe and keep from thinking the worst. My husband was running red lights and was intensely searching for the ER wing of the hospital. He parked quickly and calmly took my hand. Daniel was intent and calm. He was amazing. We ran/walked into the ER. It was pretty dead but we couldn’t seem to find anyone to help us for what seemed like forever. The cramps were still coming strong but I was more worried now about the bleeding. Finally Daniel flagged down a nurse and told him that I was pregnant and bleeding and cramping. That was all that needed to be said apparently because I was quickly put into a wheel chair and wheeled into the Women’s Wing. There, another nurse had me strip down and put on a robe. I was scared to look at my pants and see the blood that had come from me. She had me lay on the bed and hooked me up to the monitor. Soon a lady doctor came in and looked at the monitor. I was having contractions she said and even showed me how to track them on the monitor. I couldn’t believe I was seeing my contractions. I was really not in much pain. Not nearly enough pain to be in LABOR. Not the kind of screaming, rip your hair out, make your face red pain that I had heard of and seen on “A Baby Story”. I felt so stupid for not realizing that thats what I had been feeling all day. I was praying that my ignorance did not cost me my baby.
The doctor didn’t want to do a physical exam because of the bleeding so she had me taken down to the ultrasound room to try to find out where the blood was coming from. Daniel was quiet but seemed calm and his face was reassuring. He was trying so hard to keep me from panicking though inside he was panicking himself. In the ultrasound room the technician pleasantly started up the machine like it was just another routine check up. The monitor was facing us all and as soon as he put the wand to my belly we all gasped. My water was “funneling” and my baby was half way through the birth canal. Feet first. That was it. It was over. The “trying so hard to not panick” was instantaneously replaced by severe shock and devastating doom. The technician grabbed the phone and called up to the doctor. “Prepare for an emergency c-section. Mother is bleeding, water is funneling, baby in distress…” I flung my arms up over my face and I started to sob. Daniel and the nurse were running along side my bed as we flew through the hospital. Daniel was trying to tell me it would be okay. He had tears in his eyes and a terrified look on his face. All I could say was, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” All I could think was, “I killed your son. I killed your son.” I did not care what happened to me. My body had killed our son. I was certain of it. I didn’t want them to save me. I didn’t want to exist. Sorry. I need a minute and a tissue.
They took me into the prep room first. I was surrounded by doctors and nurses. A see of strange faces all bustling around me, intensely shouting medical jargon at each other. Someone was trying to put an IV in my arm. Missed the vein. Missed again. It’ll have to go in the elbow. Daniel was shoved into a corner and was on his cell phone trying to call a friend to come to the hospital for help and support. I didn’t see much of what was going on. I was shaking and sobbing and dying inside with my one good arm thrown over my face. I tried to be calm. I tried, but all I could think was, “Is this happening? Is this real? Is he gone? Am I dying too? If he’s gone I want to go too.” I didn’t know what was happening but that sentence from my pregnancy book was haunting my mind. 26 weeks to be viable. I was 24 weeks to the day. Its over, hes gone. No body had the time to explain to me what was happening and even if they had, I don’t know if I would’ve been coherent enough to understand it.
Once prepped they wheeled me into the O.R. Bright lights and a mask over my face. Someone saying in a thick accent, “You’re doing a good job darling. Breathe deep…” Where was Daniel? He couldn’t come in with me? The last thing I remember was seeing Daniel past my feet on the other side of a big glass window. His face was white and he looked at me. Desperate and helpless. I will never forget that look. Then I was out.
I woke up with a jolt. Fire was coarsing down my body. My belly and legs felt as though they had been crushed by a steamroller. My body was shaking so hard I nearly bounced off the table. Someone was asking loudly, “Are you in pain!? We’re getting you morphine…hang in there!” There had been no time to give me an epidural before I went under for my c-section and the anesthesia was wearing off before they were able to pump me full of pain killers. I felt like I was being brought back to life. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be. The numbing blackness of the anesthesia was peaceful and oblivious. I missed it. Daniel and his petrified friend were there over me trying to pray for me and helping the nurses and doctors to get me calm and comfortable. I couldn’t talk. They had intubated me too quickly to be careful and the lining of my throat was swollen shut and raw. Either I passed out from the pain, or the shock, or they gave me a sedative because soon enough I was out again.
It seemed like I was out for days although in reality it was only about another hour or so. I woke up to a quiet room in the Mother Baby wing. The same nurse was there who was with me when I originally came in. She looked at me so sympathetically, like someone would when they’re looking at a childless mother. Daniel was not there. I was confused and tried to talk to ask where he had gone. I could barely make a sound because of how severely beat up my throat was but the nurse sensed what I was wanting to ask. She told me Daniel was talking with the doctors in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit and would be back shortly. What? Newborn Unit? Why? I managed to eek out, “The baby is alive?” The nurse looked surprised that I didn’t already know that and seemed relieved to be able to deliver some good news. “Yes! He is. And he is doing very well actually.” My head was spinning and my heart was full of all kinds of mixed emotions. I was relieved beyond words that he was alive but also weary of getting my hopes up because he would surely not survive much longer. I just wanted to see Daniel. I needed him to be with me and tell me what was going on.
Soon he was back. I’m not sure what all he told me but the jist of it was this. “The baby is alive. The doctors say he is doing well. He is 1 pound 7 ounces and 12 and a half inches long. His legs and one arm may be broken from being stuck in the birth canal when you went into shock. The doctors say that the first three days are crucial and if he makes it that long then his chance of survival goes way up. There are so many things they told me but I’m sure they’ll tell you all the same stuff. But anyway, hes alive.” I couldn’t believe it. My baby was alive and so was I. Daniel had watched from a few feet away as the doctors had worked quickly to resuscitate our son. The baby had tried to cry but couldn’t since his lungs were severely underdeveloped, like deflated thin balloons that couldn’t inflate on their own. The doctors had gotten his heart rate up and had hooked him up to about 12 different machines and put him into an incubator to act as his new “womb”. I was so grateful and still terrified about what else was to come. It was all so surreal. Truly like a nightmare. Actually, I don’t think that I could even think up a nightmare as traumatic and frightening as that reality. But it was a miracle. Theres no denying it. It was a miracle that Daniel had the prompting to come home early. It was a miracle that we went to THAT hospital instead of the birthing center since later we found out that if we had gone to the birthing center first that they would’ve had to life-flight us back to that hospital and the baby wouldn’t have made it. It was a miracle that the hospital we had gone to was equipped with neonatologists and equipment to save our son’s life. My little 1 and a half pound miracle. Now all we could do was pray and wait and see. The doctors told us to be “cautiously optimistic”. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
I first saw my son about an hour or two after Daniel had come back down to my room. I couldn’t sit up so they wheeled my bed up to the NICU and lowered the incubator table as low as they could bring it. I could barely peer over the edge. I was afraid to look. I didn’t know what a 1 pound baby would look like. Still a fetus really. Still a candidate for abortion (which I am appalled by and it makes me sick to think about it). My son was SO tiny. Just laying there on his back with his arms and legs sprawled out. You could barely see him through the wires and leads and tubes. He had a little hat on his head that was way too big, and a mask over his eyes to shield them from the light. He had a feeding tube going right into his belly through the remaining umbilical cord. His mouth was open and a tube was taped to his cheek. it went down his throat and into his lungs, pumping life into him. His little bed was vibrating quickly, helping to shake his lungs loose and open. His legs and one arm were completely black and blue (but not broken thank goodness). His skin was bright glowing reddish-pink and translucent. I could see little blue veins running every which way through his body. A fine white hair covered him and his nose and ears looked too big for his face. He looked like a little bird that had fallen out of the nest too soon. Which is really kind of what he was. I was shocked. I was so sorry for the little alien-like creature I was seeing, but I felt myself pushing away, emotionally distancing myself from this pathetic little bird who I couldn’t see surviving one more day. It was hard to accept that that little boy was my son. The same son I had felt kicking all those weeks. The same one we were picking a name for. That was another thing. It felt odd when the nurse asked what his name would be. I was almost surprised by the question. Do you name someone that is about to die? Of course you do, but it seemed like such a strange thing at the time in the midst of my shock.
That night was terrible for me. The shock was starting to wear off and the gravity of what had happened was quickly setting in. We had no family around. It was past 1 in the morning and no one we tried to call was answering their phones which bugged us as if letting more people know about it would ease the burden. Daniel layed next to me on my hospital bed and we talked about what had happened and what the doctors had said and what all the scenarios could be. Worst case: He dies. We have a funeral. We lose our first born son. Second to worst case: He survives. He has severe brain damage. He is a vegetable all his life and we try our best to keep him comfortable for the rest of ours. Any other scenario seemed easy in comparison. The weight of what we were facing was so immense and the guilt I was feeling was unbearable. After all it was MY FAULT. It was MY BODY. I must have done or not done SOMETHING. It was hearing the new babies cry and the mothers in the next room tending to them that sent me over the edge though. I started to sob again, but it hurt so bad to cry that that made me cry harder. I was in pain in every way and couldn’t see a light at the end of this miserable tunnel. Then Daniel held me close and said something that I will never forget and always love him for. He said, “No matter what happens, no matter what trials we face, we will be happy. This I know. We will be happy again.” During the hardest times of my life since then I’ve remembered those words. So simple and so true.
We finally got a hold of our family early the next morning. My parents were on a senior trip with my 18 year old brother. My mom’s first words after Daniel told her I had the baby were, “Aw. The poor guy never had a chance.” They were all shocked to find out that he had actually survived and seemed to be doing as well as a 24 week micro-preemie could be doing. We named him Peyton. It was the only name that we had ever discussed really and upon closer inspection we realized that the meaning of the name seemed quite fitting for our little guy. Peyton means “from the land of warriors”. Perfect. We’ll take it. My sisters were the first to get to us and got there later that day after a 6 hour drive. Daniel’s parents came in by plane later that evening and it was a relief to have family close. We also happened to have family friends who were in our town visiting their son who came by and helped out immensely before any of our family arrived. But I didn’t feel true relief until my mom got there on the 2nd day. There is just something about moms. No matter how old I get, I will always need my mommy.
The three days after Peyton’s birth were precarious with lots of crying and prayers, but lots of good news as well. He did get pneumonia from swallowing meconium during birth. But his brain scans came back clear which is almost unheard of for such a premature baby and meant that he most likely suffered little to no long-term brain damage. Another very significant miracle. He was also tolerating feedings well which was really important to his brain development and growth. He survived those three crucial days and we were able to cross the two worst case scenarios off our list of concerns. He wasn’t quite in the clear yet though and had a long and bumpy road ahead of him.
This is Peyton about 3 weeks old. You can see the bruising from his leads. Anywhere you touched his skin would bruise or tear. You can see sores on his belly where the leads had been. He still has scars from those tears as well as scars on his hands and feet from the IV’s.
I finally got to hold my son 3 weeks after he was born. It took 3 people to transfer him from the incubator to my bare chest for “kangaroo care” (skin to skin holding). Every time I held him his heart rate would steady and his oxygen levels would regulate. It is a scientific and proven fact that preemies who are held by there mothers each day have a higher chance of survival and experience far less complications. There is nothing like a mother’s love. It is unique and powerful and cannot be duplicated or replaced. My son is a walking living breathing example of my love and the love and prayers of hundreds of others.
He stayed in the NICU for 4 months and came home a whopping 8 lbs 5 ounces one week after his original due date. While in the NICU he had a heart surgery (PDA ligation), which saved his heart although they thought may have paralyzed his vocal chords as a side affect. It did not. His vocal chords are fine. Miracle. He also had pneumonia twice which he survived, was put on 5 different types of breathing machines and eventually came home on oxygen (a nasal canula) which he stayed on until he was 9 months old. They said that he would most likely have breathing problems and/or severe asthma. He does not. Miracle. It is also very common for micro-preemies to have some degree of cerebral palsy. He has none. Miracle. He also failed his hearing test and we were worried for some time about deafness or hearing loss. He passed it upon taking it again when he came home and hears just fine. Miracle. For some unknown reason preemies tend to develop ROP in their eyes and some lose their sight. The eye doctors monitored Peyton closely to make sure that his ROP would not develop to the point where they would have to intervene with laser surgery. The laser surgery would take away his peripheral vision but save the rest of his vision but it is not something that they do hastily. Peyton’s ROP progressed to stage 3 in both eyes. Stage 5 is total blindness. One night the eye doctor checked his eyes and regrettably told us to prepare for surgery the next day because the ROP was advancing and they needed to save the remainder of his sight if they could. My husband prayed over my son’s eyes and the next day when the eye doctor check his eyes before surgery he was amazed that the ROP had stopped. It never advanced past that point and my son has all his sight, although he should be wearing glasses if he would just keep them on! Miracle. I could go on and on but I’m sure if you’re still reading by now you get the point.
I have made this post ridiculously long but I’m not sorry. It has been a cathartic experience for me to revisit that night and remember how far we’ve come. I wrote this story to spread a message. Take what you will from it. Peyton’s story spreads awareness of premature birth and the growing problem it is becoming among the thousands of healthy pregnant mothers in our country and around the world. Premature birth is the number one cause of infant death and a leading cause of many life long serious health problems. Anyone can have a pre-term baby. I was 23, white, at a healthy weight, eating right, exercising, never had any health problems, never done drugs, drank alcohol, smoked, etc. Since Peyton I have had 2 miscarriages and had Sawyer after being put on bedrest, having a cerclage put in, and being on various medications to fight miscarriage and preterm labor. Peyton is a miracle in large part to lots of love, good doctors, lots of prayers and God’s grace, and support and medical research provided by the March of Dimes. Which is why we March for Babies every year. Peyton’s story also spreads the message of motherly love, and faith in God’s hand in our lives. Like many babies who are born severly premature and survive, Peyton is a miracle. I want everyone out there who is a mom, has a mom, or knows a mom to remember his story and spread awareness of preterm birth. I am still having my children. I still plan on adding to my family. So I still want to fight to save babies and find out why we’re having so many premature babies and what we can do about it. I never want to go through a birth like Peyton’s birth again and I never want any other mother to have to go through it either. If you would like to help us and donate towards our team goal for the March of Dimes, click on the side button to the right. Thank you so much for hanging in there with me through this post. I so very much appreciate your love and support as I am striving to fight for a cause that my family and I are so passionate about. Family is really what its all about isn’t it? And I am SO BLESSED to have mine.