It is important to me to share Jacob’s birth story. He may not get to have the life that other babies go on to have, but he did have a birth, and I lived it and I want to be able to share it. It’s not easy, and I’m not holding anything back, so reading this is maybe not for the faint of heart. I’ll add a warning before the graphic part and signal when it’s over for those who might not want all the medical details. Also, his picture is posted at the very end, so please be aware if you do not wish to view it. I begrudge no one who chooses not to read on, but instead share this story for me, for Jacob, and for other loss mamas who may find comfort in reading another’s story.
I was 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant with our first child. It had been a wonderful, routine, healthy pregnancy and I had completely fallen in love with the active little boy in my belly. For weeks I had been living in the strange headspace of knowing my son could begin his entrance and forever change my life at any moment, but at the same time feeling nothing happening. I had some days where my belly would cramp up and I would think “is this the start of something?” or I would be particularly moody and wonder “are my hormones gearing up for labor?” but all would return to normal and I would be left wondering “when!?”. Monday, July 18, 2016, my mom, grandma and I drove out to Granville, OH and up the Hill to Denison University, alma mater of both myself and my grandmother, for an afternoon of fun and distraction from my constant waiting and wondering. I felt some cramping and some tiredness, but mostly we just had fun strolling the campus, lunching at the Granville Inn and getting way too full on frozen custard from Whit’s. I posted this picture on social media:
My caption was: “Thought maybe this babe would decide it’s time to join us out here if I took him to his future college. Fellow Denisonian Mama Jane obviously had to come along as well….so far it doesn’t seem to have sped anything along ;)”
If I could have picked which part of that was wrong and which was right, I would way rather Jacob ended up picking a different college than Denison than that he would make his entrance that night the way that he did.
I proceeded to make dinner (what I cannot for the life of me remember), and as I was prepping and cooking and cleaning I remember thinking, “these cramps seem to be somewhat regular, maybe when I’m done with all of this I better start timing them.” So I sat on the couch, used my contraction timer app, and waited for my dear friend to arrive for our Bachelorette viewing plans (yes, I realize I should be embarrassed that I was watching the Bachelorette while in labor, or ever, but I’m over it).
I enjoyed the distraction of the terrible television as I waited for my contractions to hit the magical “5 minutes apart, lasting a minute, going on for an hour” guideline and then I called my Doctor’s on-call line. I remember thinking, “are these real contractions because I don’t feel in nearly as much pain as those women seemed to be experiencing in the birthing class class videos? If they are, maybe I really will be able to have the unmedicated birth that I am hoping for!” After talking through what I was experiencing with the on-call doctor (“I think I’m at 5-1-1 but they just don’t hurt that much, and some of them might not last a whole minute”), we decided that I should try to get some rest, as it would likely be a long labor. My friend and I finished watching the bachelorette and she left my house, eagerly asking me to keep her posted. The doctor checked in again, and I got into bed to see if I could fall asleep. I was literally SO excited. Not only would I meet my son soon, but I seemed to be handling labor well, and I felt strong and confident and ready, which is never how I expected to feel about giving birth as I had been semi-terrified about the process my whole life.
**This is where it gets graphic**
It was then that everything changed. As I laid down, I felt one much stronger contraction followed by a gush, and excitedly said “my water broke, I guess I won’t be resting!” Only then, when I got out of bed, did I see all the blood and think something might be terribly wrong. I called the on-call doctor who said that some blood can be normal but to come to the hospital right away. We grabbed our bags and supplies for the hospital, loaded in the car, and rushed there quickly as possible. I felt Jacob kick on the way there and shared that with Erik. When we arrived at Labor & Delivery, I nervously told them I was bleeding and they better get me back quickly, which they did. A nurse came in and called for an OB as soon as she saw all the blood. She also hooked up monitors and discovered that Jacob had a very erratic heartbeat. Other medical professionals arrived, at least one of which was an OB, and someone performed an ultrasound, announcing that there was no placental abruption. An OB performed an exam, and discovered that Jacob’s cord had prolapsed through my cervix. So I was rushed to the OR, with precautions taken to prevent his cord from any further compression.
**Graphic part over**
At some point while I was being examined after arriving at the hospital, someone had asked Erik to go back to the car to get my medical records, and just as Jacob and I were being wheeled to the OR, he returned in time to kiss me and for us to tell each other we loved each other. I prayed to God to keep us safe. Once in the OR, IVs were inserted in each of my arms and an anesthesiologist asked me about a million questions about past surgeries and my health history, and very quickly I was out.
The first things I remember when I woke up were Erik holding my hand and the NICU doctor coming in to explain Jacob’s status. Erik says the first words I said were “baby’s not ok is he?” Somehow, I knew. The doctor explained that Jacob’s blood and oxygen had been cut off at some point while I was in labor, and he had sustained major brain damage. So much so that he was completely non-reactive to stimulus. His loss of blood and oxygen were due to two extremely rare complications: an undiagnosed velamentous cord insertion that caused one of his umbilical vessels to rupture when my water broke, and a prolapsed cord.
The NICU doctor said that there was a treatment available at the Children’s Hospital NICU to reverse brain damage, but that it may not be successful on such serious brain damage. She also explained that he may not be strong enough to survive the transport, but that we needed to decided if we wanted to have him sent to Children’s for a chance at improving his condition. Erik and I asked them to go ahead, and they took us to see him before he left the hospital. He was so small and there were so many tubes and wires. And I was still coming out from anesthesia, so it was all very foggy. As they prepped him for transport, one of his lungs collapsed and they had to perform surgery. After surgery, he had another heart episode, and this time, they were unable to resuscitate him.
We returned to the NICU where I got to hold him for the first time. I was struck by how beautiful and perfect he was. He was my perfect little boy and I’ve never loved anything in the world the way I loved him. I remember being in awe of his red hair, which Erik and I had just known he would have. Our wonderful pastor, who, having received a call from my mom, had arrived shortly after I woke up, baptized Jacob. I remember feeling so thankful that our pastor was there to baptize him, and simultaneously that this was NOT the way my son should be baptized! I remained in awe of how perfect he was to me and how I couldn’t believe I had to let him go. I could not stop crying long enough to get a good picture of us together. We spent way too short of a time saying hello and goodbye, for most of which I was just staring at him. I’ll never forget holding him and feeling that intense love and sadness. I know Jacob will live on in my heart and the hearts of many others forever, even as the memories of that night begin to fade. Here is a treasured picture of my perfect Jacob.