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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The birth of Ansen Gabriel

Well I am up and kind of wired at 2 am (after waking up at 1 am to pump), so I figure I might as well write this out now while I have  the energy and time.  Its going to be LONG.  Here it goes!

First of all, I never thought the day of Ansen actually being born would ever really arrive.  We went from being told to terminate the pregnancy, to being told he was almost certainly miscarrying, followed by a pre-term delivery scare where they talked about "chances of survival", and then to find out for the rest of the pregnancy that my life was in danger at delivery and that there was a chance that I might not meet this baby for myself.  This pregnancy has felt like a cancer from the start.  Every single problem, every single new danger.  It was very hard on me to continue on bravely.  Every day the pregnancy continued on was more time for my placenta to further grow and potentially invade other organs (from ultrasound, two of my doctors were convinced that my bladder was involved).  The only thing that kept me going in these times of great fear was my faith that God had shown that he had big plans for this baby.  Our Ansen was meant to be-after what we had gone through in the start, I was SURE of it.  If God hadn't given up on Ansen, how could I??   As much as fear tried to take over my life (and I had many great moments of fear), God gave me the faith and hope to move on each and every day, no matter how fearful I might still have felt. 

The last week of pregnancy was very bittersweet.  I knew it was most certainly the last time I would ever be pregnant.  I was always worried about something happening to Ansen during these final days....if he didn't move for a bit, I would start poking at him like crazy until he would give me a reassuring kick or two.  I was enjoying my other kids and Doug and loving them and appreciating them.  And I was scared out of my mind that that might be my last week on Earth.  Every day that went by, I wondered "will this be my last Saturday?", "Is this my last car ride to so and so with the family", " is this my last  meal at EB's (a fav. restaurant of ours)", etc.  I would look at Doug, and it would absolutely tear my heart apart thinking about leaving him alone-from the moment I met Doug, I knew he was so incredibly special...he is my best friend, my amazing husband and an even more amazing Daddy to all our kids.  We have only had 14.5 short years just wasn't enough.  I didn't know if he would ever understand why I HAD to give Ansen life, if it ultimately meant having to give away my own.    As much as I tried to convince myself I WOULD LIVE, I was still scared.  But I knew I had done what was right.  I had peace in my heart about giving Ansen the life he was fighting for, no matter what I had to do and what I had to face. 

The day of surgery arrived.  I was surprised to actually get any sleep.  The kids were all in our bed, joyfully talking about how today was the day Ansen would be here.  We had to get up and out of the house early, to get some final stuff done.  And go for one final family ride.  I felt like I was just in a daze.  How are you supposed to feel IF it is meant to be your final day?  I didn't know.  We went to my brother's house to drop off the kids with my sister and my Dad.  I still sat there in a daze, as my kids ran around and played.  And I asked them each for a hug and a kiss and I looked them each in the eyes and told them how much I loved them.  My brother gave me a hug, and it was one that I didn't want to let go of.  I told him I loved him.  My sister got all the kids packed back into the van, hopped into the driver's seat...and I could see the worry all over her face.  She told me that she loved me....and I told her I loved her as well.  And all I could think was "please don't let this be the last time I see any of them".  Gave my goodbyes to my dad, and I finally had to force myself to turn around and walk towards the car we were taking to the hospital.  I didn't want to go, but I had to.  Doug and I drove most of it in silence.  I didn't want to ask him if he was as terrified as I was.  I didn't have to ask him.  A week prior to surgery, my doctor had wanted to specifically speak to Doug.  And he had had to talk to Doug about the very bad risks.  Risks of death.  And his importance as my health care proxy.  That he had to know what I wanted if the time came that I was unable to decide for myself.  I told Doug I choose life.  I had fought for Ansen's life, even when there was only the smallest chance possible....if I even had a chance, I wanted Doug to fight for it.  And on the car ride to hospital, I squeezed Doug's hand and simply told him one more time "I just want to live".

We got there and checked in, which was one big crazy mess.  Our surgery was at 1pm, and I had been told to come in at 10 am to maternity hospital to have baby monitored before being sent to the main part of hospital for my surgery.  But maternity then sent me to main part of hospital to register.  Lots of walking to other side of huge hospital.  Registration then sent me to pre-OR waiting room.  More walking.  And pre-OR said "why are you here so early?"  I told them I was told to come early to get baby monitored first, but of course, they didn't have what they needed to do that there-bc that was all in the maternity part of the hospital....where I was originally told to come.  So more phone calls were made and then they decided to just get me in the pre-OR area and that maternity would be sending down ultrasound and doppler to monitor the baby there.  I said a goodbye to Doug (just for the time being) and went into my little pre-surgery area and got dressed in my gown.  I folded my clothes and put them in my bag.  And then just stared at that bag.  Was this the last time I would wear them?  Nurse came in and put an IV and asked how I was feeling.  I told her I just wanted tomorrow to be here.  Then I just sat there and waited for maternity people to come.  Across from me was a guy waiting for surgery.  I sat there, wondering what he was going in for....and I am sure he sat there wondering what I was going in for.  We just kind of glanced at each other nervously.  His surgery had been majorly delayed.   We were just waiting.  I wondered if he worried about not waking up after surgery.  Doug was escorted in at this time and I felt better to have him by my side.  My maternal fetal dr, Dr. H came in and he walked over, squeezed my shoulder, and told me I was in good hands today.  I thanked him.  For the many hours before surgery, he told me that again and again-I would be in good hands.  And I thanked him again and again.  I met his fellow who would be at my surgery.  I met my two nurses that would be at my surgery.  The gyn-oncologist stopped by and told me she was ready to go whenever the OR was, and that her partner would be there as well (the other gyn-oncologist).  The two nurses from maternity showed up, introduced themselves that they would be at my surgery for Ansen....and Ansen was monitored.  Dr. H came to check my placenta and where Ansen was, and he had flipped to transverse.  He drew lines on my stomach showing where to cut, where placenta started.  Ansen looks great and I felt a twinge of guilt that he was so happy in there, but soon enough he would be ripped from his cozy little world.  I hoped he would be okay, being born earlier then normal.  I met the two anesthesiologists that would be there at surgery.  Lots of doctors and nurses congregated in front of my pre-surgery area, talking about whether or not to put me to sleep before or after central line was put in.  I glanced over and guy across from me was just staring at all the people I had over there.....I nudged Doug and said "I can guarantee you right now that guy is thanking God he is not facing whatever surgery I am".   I wished I could be that guy instead.  Dr. H told aneshesiologists that baby was going to get a lot of general anesthesia, no matter what they did...just bc he had to cut carefully through things to not start any bleeding.  So it was decided for my own comfort that I would get the central line (line going in through vein in neck to heart), arterial line (line to artery that would register every second of my blood pressure, beat by beat) and catheter after surgery.  Lots more people came  in and introduced themselves.  Two NICU nurses and NICU dr, bc of the prolonged general anesthetic for Ansen now.  Urologist and interventional radiologist would be in there.  It was just so many people.  It was very overwhelming.  But I felt at peace.  This peace had taken over my my head, all I could think was "well we did it God...we won".  No matter what outcome we would have during surgery, I was now convinced that I had accomplished God's gratest good.  Throughout great fear, I had still been able to make the right choices.  Ansen would live.  I was at great peace...still thinking proudly "we won God, You won!"  It was a nice feeling, a surprising feeling to feel right before surgery.  I had to use the bathroom and Doug came in there with me.  And in there, he said "lets get over with the goodbye hug".  We aren't usually audience huggers.  And so there, the bathroom, we just hugged.  I didn't want to let go.  I told him I loved him.  And we continued to hug....I didn't want to let go of him EVER.

About this time, it was an hour before surgery, and we found out we had gotten bumped out of OR room for now, bc of an emergency craniotomy??  The guy across from us was still waiting to.  Probably still thankful he wasn't me.  Finally he got wheeled away and my stomach spun a bit.  I was getting nervous again.  We got transferred to another pre-OR waiting room, bc the room we had been in needed to turn into a recovery room.  And we waited.  A couple of the nurses were asking me about kids and trying to keep my mind off of things.  When everyone started putting on masks and hats, and then I got a blue hat put on my head, my stomach did the biggest flip flop ever.  I was a little after 2 pm, and the time had come.  I looked at Doug and shot him an "I love you" with my hand (its always been our thing, using the sign language ILOVEYOU to quietly get our point across).  And he gave me a quick kiss.  And as I was being wheeled away, I sent him another ILOVEYOU sign.  I felt so bad for him-what HE must be feeling at this moment.  As they were wheeling me away, they asked me if I wanted medicine that would relax me and make me feel like I had a couple glasses of wine.  I didn't know what that felt like, since I don't drink....but I said sure.  My heart was racing and I was afraid that I would start crying.  And so they gave me something in my IV and suddenly everything was cloudy and a bit like a dream.  Somehow I ended up on the OR table (don't remember getting up on there??)  And I looked around the room and there were SOOOOOOO many people.  People moving in all different directions, lots of people talking and doing stuff.  This was BIG stuff going on in here.  This wasn't some little surgery I was facing.  But I was at peace still.  And all these carts of medical equipment everywhere.  Was I really going to need THIS much stuff??  Someone put an oxygen mask over me and told me to breathe in really deeply, for the baby.  And I kept taking these really deep breaths, thinking of Ansen.  I glanced over and saw two iv bags filled with this milky shite stuff, which I guess was the anesthetic.  It was almost time.  I took those deep breathes and in my head, I just called out for God to be with me.  I was told that it was time to go to sleep.  And I tried to hold on as long as I could, calling out for God to still be with me.  That we had won.  And I suddenly I woke up.

I felt I was choking and gagging something stuck in my throat and I couldn't get it out.  But I think I was alive....that must be good??  I fell asleep again and woke up and the gagging/choking feeling was gone.  But I was so thirsty.  I kept calling out for Doug, but my voice was so quiet.   No one would hear me.  Someone asked me what I wanted and I said "my husband".  I kept falling asleep in between thoughts.  I would wake up again and ask for Doug.  And tell everyone how thirsty I was.  I heard someone say my husband was there, and someone touched me and was praying outloud.  And then Doug was gone again.  And then a nurse was feeing me ice chips.  And then all the sudden, Doug was back, feeding me ice chips.  I was trying to ask what had happened, if Ansen was okay, but I kept falling asleep.  It felt like Doug was shoving those ice chips in one after the other, but he in reality giving me like 5 minutes in between them bc I kept falling asleep.  That general anesthetic is some crazy stuff.  They had Doug leave again bc they needed to do some work on my central line in my neck.  I guess this was like a 2 hour thing, but it felt like minutes again.  And I was moving and was brought to other side of hospital.....remember like 1 second of that ride.  The next morning, I FINALLY got all the details I wanted to ask, but wasn't sure if I had asked.

After they had taken me, Doug started back to the OR waiting area.  He said he felt like he in a daze...not sure what to do.  And then he ran into one of my friends, who showed up there to support him.  I had no idea she was coming and I am so grateful she took the time out of her day to be there for Doug and I.  She took Doug to cafeteria to eat, and Doug ate something, although he said he felt sick and just lost at that moment.  My friend kept Doug talking and helped keep the time passing.  The mininster from my mother in law's church came and sat with them for a few hours.  I thought that was very kind.  They prayed and talked.  And then after he left, the pastor from our Chuch showed up and spent about 3 hours with Doug and my friend.  When I heard this, I just felt the love of the moment.  So many people there with Doug, hoping and praying for me  And so many others praying and hoping for us as well, those that couldn't be there, but were there in spirit, around the world.  I can't express my thankfulness to those who were there for Doug at what was probably one of the worst moments of his life.  Doug said he talked to the pastor about anything and everything for hours.  He just kept talking to her and asking questions about faith and stuff.  I wish I could have been there to witness this moment.  It makes me cry just wanting to think about it.  Thank you to Karen, Reverand Earl and Pastor Elva for being there for my best friend when I couldn't.

Doug said that the first update was the scariest, just bc the dr working alongside Dr. H came storming in, out of breath, looking around the room frantically.  Doug said his heart just sunk.  But she said the baby was out.  The second update came later, that baby was in NICU and that I was having a hysterectomy.  Doug knew that meant it had to be somewhat good news, bc I had been told that they would leave everything in if it was too bad.  Doug and Karen and Pastor Elva went and met Ansen for a few minutes and a prayer was said for him.  Then Dr. H called Doug and explained a little bit more about how it was going.  Gyn-oncologists were doing hysterectomy at that moment.  And that it appeared my bladder was unaffected.  Later Doug heard from Dr. H again that they were closing me up, and that although my placenta had gone through uterus (placenta perecreta) it had NOT attached to bladder at all.  My bladder was completely unaffected! What a miracle, since it had certainly looked VERY involved on ultrasound.  My doctors had stayed VERY much on top of my blood loss and I was told I lost about 6 units of blood and I received 4 units of blood to replace it.  That is just amazing, they were so concerned that I would be hemmorhage out blood faster then they could give it to me, since percretas are very vascular.  Although Ansen had to get so much general, they went about my surgery in a way that really saved me from catastrophic blood loss.  I was finally out of the OR at about 7ish and Doug was allowed to come in for only 5 minutes the first time.  He and Pastor Elva came in and she said a quick prayer for both of us, and she left.  Doug tells me he told me "you did it".   He told me as much as he could in that short period of time.  All I remember is the prayer though.  He was asked to leave and he tells me I cried and begged him not to go.  I don't remember that.  And then he was allowed back in again after a bit, and that was when he fed my ice chips and told me the whole thing again.  Still don't remember much fo that...except for the ice chips.  And then had had to wait again, for the 2 hours while they did some work on the central line on my neck.  All in all, he probabl had to tell me a million and one times about everything.  He was happy though.  And I could feel his happiness and although I wasn't really sure what had happened, it felt like it must have been good.  And I was alive.

The next day, I also found out more about Ansen.  He had been under general anesthetic for at least 45 minutes and he didn't cry at all when he was born.  His lungs were very full of fluid and he was very lethargic and having a hard time clearing them.  Hence, he ended up on a ventilator.  Everyone was kind of surprised by how much trouble he was having after birth.  But I was assured he was alive and doing well....just that he probably wouldn't be out of NICU quickly like they had originally thought and hoped for.   I was so incredibly grateful that I had been able to have the hysterectomy.  It meant I didn't have to do chemo drugs and deal with infection risks of placenta/uterus in me, and it also menat I could breastfeed!!!  I started pumping that morning after surgery-so joyful that I would be able to breastfeed my last baby.  Don't get me wrong...I felt like I had been hit by a truck, I had this huge bandage on my stomach and had no idea what had been done there, but I was just so elated that I was live and my baby was alive.  Word's can't describe the feeling of joy you get after surviving something like this!!  I had a morphine pump and I was told to squeeze this little thing whenever I needed any extra pain relief.  I was actually pretty good though til the afternoon.  That afternoon, I was told that I was getting my catheter out...and I was most certainly cursing my doctors at that moment.  Did everyone forget about the major surgery I had just had??  The gyn-oncologist told me I needed to get up 8-12 times today.  Was she nuts??  It hadn't even been 24 hours since surgery started.  I knew they wanted what was best for me and I knew walking was best for me, but I didn't want to do it!  I just wanted to happily lay there and rest and celebrate.  But I got up.  HOLY PAIN!!!  I pressed that morphine things plenty of times those next 2 days.  Every time I had to to the bathroom, I would reward myself with a hit of morphine once I got back to my bed.   My other reward for finally getting out of bed was being able to see Ansen.  Doug wheeled me to the NICU and I got to see him for the first time...somewhat.  I was in the wheelchair and his isolette was up so high and I couldnn't really stand much, so that I couldn't make out much...but it was my baby and he was alive.  We had done it!

Over the next few days, everyone was surprised by how quickly I was bouncing back, especially after the hysterectomy.  But I was just so darn grateful to be alive and have my second chance of life, side by side with Doug and with all my kids, that I could happily deal with whatever pain I needed to.  Bandages were taken off and I got to see my stomach for the first time, all swollen and lopsided, with a scar that runs from top of belly down around belly button and below it.  It was ugly and bloody and really barbaric looking actually with staples EVERYWHERE, but it was also my proud souvenir of this journey.  Its ugliness was and still is  a thing of beauty for me.  It reminded me that I had taken some really ugly battles this pregnancy and in the end, it had brought much beauty/joy to my life.  I will forever look at this scar and smile.

Ansen had a rough start and they think he ended up with pneuomina from his rocky birth start, but a week later, he is doing fantastic.  Hoping he will be completely weaned off the vent in the next day or two.   Dr. H kept apologizing that Ansen was so sick from his birth....but all I can say is he is alive and I am alive.  Dr. H gave him hope for life back at 6 weeks and actually gave him that life on June 3rd, at 3:41 pm when he pulled him out of me.  I will be forever grateful for Dr H and what he has done for us, as well as grateful/thankful to everyone on the wonderful team that kept us alive and well. 

Ansen was awake last night (finally off of sedation) and he was interacting with me...looking at me, kicking his legs at me as I rubbed them, clutching at my hands.  Tears came to my eyes.  It was my "thank you Mommy for fighting so hard for me" moment.  He is alive and here in this world bc I followed my heart...and let God lead me through this journey, many times onto roads I did NOT want to travel.   His life is a miracle to me.  Every time I see him, I think "he shouldn't be here, but he is".   It's an amazing feeling.  And I am forever grateful for all the life lessons I have learned along the way.  I will never be the same.  Thank you God for that. 


  1. God is good and def was with you and Ansen not just that day but the whole 9 months! Awesome inspirational story!

  2. I'm completely amazed at your strength, your humility, and your great faith. Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm so happy to see a picture of you with Ansen in your arms!