As soon as I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I started preparing for his arrival. I did everything that an expectant mother can do to ensure the safe delivery of her baby: faithfully going to each doctor's appointment, eating the right foods, reading all the books and visiting websites. I even watched TLC's "A Baby Story" every day. I dreamed of the day that my son would come into this world. Never, even in my wildest dreams, did I imagine it would happen in the way that it did.
I worked part-time up until my 34th week of pregnancy, at which point I decided I could no longer stay on my ridiculously swollen feet all day. From that point on, I planned on cleaning the house, buying baby clothes, and getting in a few last weeks of rest in preparation for my son's homecoming.
I spent that first week at home packing and repacking my bag for the hospital. I wanted to be as prepared as possible for the moment when it would be time to deliver my baby boy. Little did I know that nothing I did could prepare me for what was about to happen.
The following Friday evening, June 28, 2002, I went swimming with my mother. It was then that I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt the baby move that day. I told my mom that I couldn't feel him. She guessed that he might just be asleep and said I should lay down for a while and wait for him to wake up. I did just that, but somehow ended up falling asleep within the hour.
The next morning I woke up with a start and looked at the clock. It was 8:00 a.m. Usually the baby would be doing flip-flops between the hours of 8:00 and 9:00 am. I felt nothing. I got up and had my OB/GYN paged. I had the sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong with my baby. Within seconds he returned my call and asked that I meet him immediately at the hospital. My heart sank as I detected the urgency in my obstetrician's voice. I felt an almost smothering sense of doom as I began to fear that my son might already have passed away in my stomach.
Fifteen minutes later, my mother, grandmother, and I arrived at the hospital. It happened to be one of the busiest days the Labor & Delivery floor had ever had. I had to sit and wait for the staff to find a place to put me on the monitor. As I sat, the world around me seemed to become silent and motionless as I strained to feel even a slight nudge from my son.
After what seemed like an eternity, they had me on a stretcher in the hallway so that they could put me on a fetal monitor to find a heartbeat. My heart seemed to stop while the nurse tried to locate a heartbeat on the fetal monitor. Finally, I breathed a sigh of temporary relief as I heard the faint beats of my baby's heart. "He's alive!" I said to my mother as she stood by my bed with a reassuring look. She ran to tell my grandmother, who was holding her breath out in the waiting room.
The nurse told me that the heartbeat was not as strong as they would like it to be and that I would have to go to radiology for a sonogram to make sure that he was okay. We waited a few hours for the technician to bring us into the ultrasound room. As I lay there watching the screen, the nurse tried to awaken my son several times. He wouldn't budge. She sent us back upstairs while the radiologist studied the test results of the sonogram.
The nurse who was taking care of me said she was just waiting to be given the "okay" so that I could go home. I felt so relieved.
The phone at her desk rang and she turned her back to take the call. She hung up and broke the news to us. "I'm sorry, you will not be going home today. Your doctor is on his way up. You will be having a C-section in less than five minutes. Please put on this gown..."
I immediately began to cry. I had never imagined that this would be my son's birthday. I kept saying, "He's not ready to come out yet! He's too little!” Before I knew it they had me on a gurney and were inserting an IV and catheter while explaining the anesthesia procedure to me and getting my release signature. My doctor came in and said it was time to go. He wanted the baby out as soon as possible.
I was wheeled into a sterile room while physicians, anesthesiologists, neo-natal nurses, and assistants buzzed around me getting ready for the emergency surgery. The woman tried three times to get the needle in my spine correctly. They called in another doctor to do it. The numbness took affect as they strapped my arms to the table. They began the surgery and within minutes, my son was brought into the world. It was 4:54 p.m. on June 29, 2002, and he was five weeks early. At six pounds, five ounces and nineteen inches long, he was a healthy size.
They got him breathing, showed him to me briefly and then whisked him away to the NICU for further observation. His APGARs were six and nine, so I thought he was okay. I waited all night to see him. I accepted no pain medication because I did not want to fall asleep. I wanted to see my baby. I was very excited.
I found out the next morning that there was more to the story than I knew. When I went to see him, he had tubes everywhere. He was suspected of having a virus. They told me that there was nothing they could do to fight the virus, and that he had a 50/50 chance of making it.
I lost my mind that day... I thought I would never even get the chance to hold him. As I lay in my hospital bed, unable to walk because of the C-section I could hear other mothers and their healthy babies in the rooms next to mine. I was very resentful and jealous of their happiness. I couldn't help it; my baby was dying and no one could help him.
The next day at midnight they informed me that my baby's condition was too critical for that hospital's Intensive Care Unit. I signed the papers for the transport team to take my son to Joe DiMaggio's Children Hospital. They wheeled his incubator into my room that night before they left so that I could see him one more time. I cried silently, each tear pulling painfully at the incision in my stomach. I feared I would never lay my eyes on my sweetly sleeping boy again.
My son, Anthony, spent the next two weeks in hospital. After several blood transfusions and quite a few ups and downs, he got better. I was finally able to take him into my arms. I saw him open his eyes for the first time. I knew then and there that I would spend the rest of my life loving him. I prayed every day for him to heal.
We finally got to take him home. Somehow I knew that he was here to stay.
As I write my son's story he is peacefully sleeping in his crib beside me. He is now two months old and well on his way to a full recovery. He is a beautiful, strong, happy, ten-pound baby. He has won my heart and changed my life in ways that I cannot find the words to describe. I thank God for him every day.