Jameson's Birth Story
Jameson’s birth story was not the usual. Nothing about my pregnancy had been “the usual,” though, so I suppose it was fitting.
After trips to Denver and Milwaukee to meet with specialists, I had started IV meds in October of 2016 before learning we were expecting the day after Christmas 2016. We were overjoyed. We knew the pregnancy and delivery would be risky, but we had prayerfully considered this baby and couldn’t be happier with the news that he or she would become a part of our lives.
From there, we became frequent fliers to Kansas City, making the four hour drive each month for an echo of my heart and to meet with my pulmonologist. While we were there, they also scheduled Jameson’s standard appointments. We would drive up on a Sunday afternoon, stay the night in a hotel, and go through our morning of appointments that generally began around 8:00 a.m. and finished up around 1:00 before making the four hour trip back home.
Those trips got awful long the more swollen my feet got, and they became more frequent as well, changing to biweekly and then weekly appointments leading up to Jameson’s delivery date, which we knew would be one month early at the latest.
Things had gone smoothly throughout my pregnancy with my heart function and pressures, so it was determined that I would be induced Monday, August 7th. I was to check into KU Med Center in Kansas City Sunday night to get all of my lines placed so that things could get started early the next morning.
That Sunday morning, Brad and I packed our car for our week long stay in the hospital. We had no clue what to bring to prepare for a baby, and I recall thinking that there was no way the baby would be tiny enough to wear the newborn clothes, so I packed several three month outfits, just in case. We drove through Hutch on our way to Kansas City to catch church with Brad’s family that morning, and my mom and grandma met us there. After the service, Brad’s dad asked if he could lead us in a prayer, and we circled up outside the car before beginning the last three hour drive to the hospital.
When we got there around 5:00 that night, I was admitted to the Medical ICU where Jameson was to be delivered and where I would stay for the week following delivery. A team of all sorts of different doctors, nurses, and specialists had met on many occasions to iron out all of the details and potential scenarios they may encounter. They had reserved a corner room of the ICU that had an anteroom where they could store all sorts of medical equipment to have immediately on hand in case something happened and I had to be put on bypass.
They had had us tour the facility before on a previous appointment so we would know what to expect, but it was certainly a cold feeling when we walked into the ICU room where there were poles and wires and machines everywhere, and a toilet with handles that sat exposed to the room, not the comfy and spacious suite that most delivery rooms are styled in. It was a steady stream of doctors and nurses who popped their heads in to introduce themselves to us. We had been told that they would try to keep extra student doctors to a minimum but that due to the nature of the pregnancy, there would be an extensive number of people involved and making rounds. They were not kidding.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that we probably met 40-50 medical personnel that night. I think that between the ICU room and the large number of doctors who were checking in, it made things seem so much more real, and my poor grandma who was there with my mom couldn’t hold herself together. I think she cried every time another doctor entered the room.
The first thing they were to do was to run a central line through my neck. It’s basically the same thing as the central line that I have permanently in my chest to administer medicine, but this one had three pigtails where they could hook up three different types of medicines. It’s just like an IV, the difference being that this one dumps directly above the heart to work the most quickly and effectively. This was to ensure that if at any point during the delivery they needed to get medicine in me fast, they had an easy way to do so.
Everyone was run out of the ICU room while a couple of doctors came in to run the line. I. Was. Terrified. I have terrible anxiety when it comes to needles and line placement, and the last experience I had had with getting the line in my chest redone after it pulled out too far didn’t go super smoothly. I’ll not digress and get into that now, but my blood pressure dropped significantly, and I had nearly passed out during the procedure. I was afraid the same thing would happen, and I worried about the baby.
The doctors created a sterile environment with a large blue drape they put over my face and chest. They were working through a cutout window, and I could feel them swabbing my neck and sterilizing the area. My beathing was fast, and I had already started sobbing. They were telling me it was okay (and probably thinking I was ridiculous - lol), but I couldn’t speak to them my throat was so tight. I was terrified to move anything as they started inserting needles with lidocaine, and I felt myself getting hot, just like last time.
Hayley was my nurse that night, and she could see that I was incredibly worked up in spite of the doctors saying it would be fine and continuing to work. She asked if I would feel better if she went and got Brad for me.
I will never love a nurse as much as Hayley.
I was still choked up enough it was hard to respond, but I managed to squeak out a yes or a head shake or something. The next thing I knew, Brad was by my side in a sterile gown and mask. He held the drape that was covering my face up a little to let a bit of air in and to peek at me from the side while holding my hand. Everything felt better. I calmed down and listened to him talk. I have no idea what he was saying, but I was thankful to hear his voice. I was still too paranoid to move a muscle, but it all felt better getting to look at his eyes and hear his voice.
The procedure itself was not pleasant. You know those zipties that are made of some type of tough, corrugated plastic? It felt like they were running one of those down my neck. It was tight, and I could feel it catching on something. Apparently the doctors could too because they poked around for a little while before deciding it was too tight, and unsure of what it was hanging up on, they pulled the line out and said they’d have to figure out a plan B.
I was bummed that this would mean a second attempt later, but I was relieved to have the line out of my neck.
My dad showed up not long after. He was also worried and wanted to be up there the night before the induction as they were getting things ready. I didn’t know how I’d feel about having so many people at the hospital with me (like don't make me feel like I'm dying, people - lol), but it was actually a relief when he showed up. He was positive and cheerful and super encouraging, even though I know that he was actually probably a nervous wreck on the inside.
The doctors who had tried to place the line came back in to explain that they were having some troubles figuring out where to place the line. The left side of my neck hadn’t worked. They were afraid the right side would interfere with the line that was already placed in the right side of my chest. The groin was the other option for these types of lines, but that was out due to the upcoming delivery.
They left, and we visited, and they reappeared awhile later to say that they were going to go ahead and try the other side of my neck. They took a sonogram of the vein and discovered that it was much larger than the one on the left side (strange anatomy, I guess). Dad was ushered out of the room, but they allowed Brad to stay with me again, thankfully, and though I could still feel the line going in this time, it was nothing like before.
The line was quickly placed and stitched in place with no issues, the three pigtails creating a funny clattering noise any time I turned my head. I wasn’t going to look glamorous for this delivery. Lol.
It was awhile later that evening that a different team of doctors came in to place an arterial line in my wrist. (This is like an IV except that it goes deeper, into the artery. These take skill to hit as you cannot see arteries like you can veins, and they’re painful. I remembered that from the time I had to have one placed in Denver.)
Mom and Grandma had left earlier in the evening before the line placement to give us some space that night, but Brad and Dad were both present for the art line placement. Brad held my hand, and Dad rubbed my feet while the doctor worked on placing the line. It hurt, and I remember looking at Brad while tears ran down my face, probably mostly from anxiety. It had been a long evening. I glanced at Dad who was watching the procedure, and unfortunately, the first stick was unsuccessful. I felt the needle come out and find its home again, this time at least for good. I was so ready to be done being poked for the night.
I was given a pill to help ripen my cervix, and we were all surprised when my baby nurse that night told me that I wouldn’t be having the baby the next day. What?
How on Earth had we gone through 36 weeks of doctor’s appointments and no one had mentioned that point to us? I was certain I’d have a baby in my arms the next day, but she explained with a laugh, “Oh no. Your body still wants to hold on to this baby for another month. It’s going to take lots of coaxing to get your body to give it up. It could happen tomorrow, but I’d say it’s highly unlikely.”
It made sense, but I was bummed to learn that news.
I slept terribly that night between the hospital bed, foreign sounds, and all of the many lines: three pigtails coming off the line on my neck, my regular central line and pump, leads hooked to my chest, arterial line in my left hand, and a blood pressure cuff. I was a tangle of wires, and if I thought it was hard to sleep when I was 36 weeks pregnant at home, that was nothing. Lol.
The rest of this is all blurry by now, so I hope I get the details mostly correct. The next morning (Monday) a balloon was inserted to help with the dilation, and I was started on pitocin. Hayley was my nurse again that morning and again came to the rescue, making sure I got one last meal in before the pitocin was started. I was so grateful. It sounded like it was going to be awhile before baby was here, and I’d only had a small breakfast that morning. Well, that and I like food.
Before starting the pitocin, I was given an epidural. I would have requested it anyway, but it was to be one of the requirements for my delivery. Pain would make my pressures spike, which was a bad thing, so the goal was to avoid that. Hey. Fine by me.
Like usual, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of a needle going in my back, and I’d heard how large this one was and all sorts of horror stories from other people’s painful epidural experiences, but this was cake walk. I was nervous, but this was the first procedure with a needle that I hadn’t cried during in a loooong time. They were right: It felt just like a bee sting, but other than that, it was fine.
They inserted the urinary catheter and got me started on the pitocin. I’ve heard pitocin hurts pretty bad, but I didn’t feel a thing. That epidural was marvelous. Lol.
Nothing too exciting happened for the duration of Monday. Progress was slow, and it looked like the nurse was right: no baby.
It was another night of little sleep, and by Tuesday morning we were getting anxious and tired of being in the hospital. I could tell Brad was worried, even though he was doing his best to put on a good face for me, and I texted his mom. His parents had originally planned to come down on Tuesday (when we thought the baby would be born on Monday) so that they could spread out the visitors and give us some good bonding time with the baby right off. Since the baby didn’t come Monday, I think they were debating about pushing their visit back to Wednesday, but I felt like Brad needed his parents, and frankly, I wanted them there too. They are praying people, those real, genuine, salt-of-the-Earth kind of people, and there was so much comfort in that.
I texted Tanya and said that if they were still up for coming on Tuesday, I thought Brad could really use some time with his parents, and I would enjoy seeing them too.
I think it was around 10:00 that morning that they checked me and said I was a 6. Considering that I had been induced the previous morning and that I had to get all the way to a 10, I was sure we still had a long wait, but the nurse told me that sometimes things move much more quickly once you get to that point. She was right.
I had this great setup with the epidural that I could push a button to receive more every 15 minutes when the light turned green again. It was impossible to over-medicate because of the way they had it locked down, but they wanted me to push it any time I felt any pain to make sure I was numb enough. My right side hadn’t wanted to numb completely at first. They had me lie on my right side to see if gravity would help, and it had. My right leg finally went completely to sleep too, but I felt a dull stabbing pain in my lower right abdomen. I was afraid the epidural was wearing off, and my button wasn’t doing the trick anymore. I called a nurse in, and she buzzed to have the anesthesia team come check the placement.
Meanwhile, a doctor checked me again. “Surprise. You’re at a 10.”
What? This was labor? I had felt nothing. If that dull stab was all I felt as my body prepared to usher this new life into the world, I could totally take that.
It was about this time that James and Tanya arrived to KC. Originally I only wanted Brad and my mom in the delivery room, but in the spur of the moment, I thought it would be nice to have Tanya as well. I knew Brad would appreciate having his mom close as he was surely worried (even though he was staying positive for me), and I wanted her close too.
I didn’t know what to expect (does anyone?), but this was not it. I felt so great thanks to the epidural, that all through my “labor” (if we can call it that), I visited with Grandma, Mom, Brad, Dad, James, and Tanya. They would hang out around the room and visit and leave when doctors came in to check things.
The doctors who were to deliver the baby were in the middle of another delivery, so I had to wait for them to arrive. Meanwhile, they had me sitting up to allow gravity to pull the baby down the canal.
I remember being totally freaked out by this. I couldn’t feel my legs at all. It was as if they belonged to someone else, and I thought, there is NO way I’m going to feel if that baby comes slipping out of there. I was so worried he or she would fall right out. The nurse assured me that wouldn’t happen. Lol.
It was time for the family to clear the room while they brought in the delivery instruments and other equipment. Brad’s dad led a prayer before slipping out, and I was again thankful for my in-laws and that they were there for this delivery.
Mom and Tanya stood in the back corner of the room. I couldn’t see them (or maybe I was just too focused on Brad, who was seated by my side), but I knew they were there.
The way KU does their High Risk OB doctors is pretty wild. They rotate between several facilities, so you never know who’s going to be available. Throughout my pregnancy, I saw I believe 6 of their 7 different doctors. It was always someone different for my baby appointment. I hated not being able to form a relationship/trust with just one doctor who I knew was aware of all of the details of my case, and there were soooo many times I wished Dr. Fowler, my doctor from back home could deliver my baby at PRMC like a normal delivery, but that was definitely not an option. The doctor who was on duty that day for delivery was Dr. Parrish. I had met him for two of my different appointments, and I couldn’t have been happier that it worked out that he would be the one to deliver our baby.
I assume that all doctors are intelligent if they got their degree and such, so I always give preference to those who are kind and have a good bedside manner. Dr. Parrish for the win! I was a little unsure, I admit, when he showed up scrubbed in but watched as another doctor, his fellow, Dr. Hasan, took over the delivery.
I knew it was to be a forceps delivery as they would not allow me to push (again, concern for the heart and pressures). A natural delivery was safer for me than a c-section due to the more gradual shift of fluids associated with a vaginal delivery, but I was not prepared for what a forceps delivery entailed. (I try not to read too much about things because I think that’s a great way to freak yourself out and cause extra anxiety.) That being said, I had noooo idea how hard they would pull on a baby’s head during a forceps delivery.
I held Brad’s hand, looked in his eyes, and was so nervous as my entire body slid on the bed with each pull of the forceps. All was quiet from the doctors. No one talked, so neither did we, not much anyway.
My mom must have been crying. I remember hearing Corinna ask if she needed to sit down, and I wondered what was going on as I watched Dr. Parrish standing at the end of the bed, hand on his chin in concentration, watching as Dr. Hasan worked.
After awhile, I have absolutely no idea how long, he changed places with her, and more pulling commenced. I was beginning to wonder if they were going to tell me they needed to switch to an emergency c-section when there was a sudden “pop”. I remember being terrified that the baby’s head had been pulled off, and I think my mom thought the same thing, but there was a loud wail, and I’d never been so happy and relieved to hear a cry before in my life.
Tears streamed down my face, and they quickly placed the warm baby on my chest, another answer to prayers. Since we were delivering a month early, I was so worried the baby would be whisked off to NICU and separated from me without even so much as a first touch.
The nurses worked on rubbing the baby down to clean it up, and Brad and I both cried. I had never known such joy and love before, cliche though it sounds. We didn’t know the baby’s gender, and I had briefly forgotten that all together. It didn’t matter whether this baby was a boy or a girl. It was perfect, and I couldn’t have been more in love.
Someone asked Brad if he wanted to announce the gender, and he parted the baby’s legs and choked out, “It’s a boy.”
Of course it was a boy, I thought. Though I didn’t have a clue what we would have leading up to the delivery, it seemed in that moment that it would have been absurd for us to have a girl. Surely we were always meant to have a son, and this was him right here: Jameson Clark Emery.
He was 6 pounds 14 ounces, a good weight for a one month preemie, and 18 ½ " long. He was born at 1:55 in the afternoon Tuesday, August 8th, and he definitely had that dimple in his right cheek that I thought I saw during one of the sonograms.
KU was awesome about the delivery. No one would tell me leading up to the delivery if the baby would be allowed to stay with me in ICU. All anyone would say was that that was against hospital policy. I was anxiety-ridden leading up to the delivery at the thought of anyone taking my baby away from me, especially during the uncertain week that was to follow.
They had showed us the NICU and the angel cams they were proud of that would allow parents and others to watch live video footage of their baby from wherever they were via their phone. I knew I didn’t want to watch my baby on a phone screen, however. I wanted to hold my new baby and kiss his temple and stroke his hair.
We had been told that most babies at 36 weeks don’t require the NICU, and we were relieved to learn that Jameson was healthy. He would be allowed to stay in our room with us in the MICU under the care of a mother/baby nurse they sent up just for him. I am still so grateful for the accommodations KU made on our behalf. I’m guessing some mom/doctor/administrator out there knew what this would be like and went to bat against all those hospital policies.
I would loved to have been in the comfort of our own home for that first week of life with Jameson, but you can’t very well look at the could have/would haves of life. Better to focus on the positives. Here was this baby I would have given my right arm to have, and he was healthy and perfect. Even if we were in an ICU room, the doctors and nurses were wonderful, and they loved sharing in the joy of a new life being born on their floor.
Our reading and visits with the doctors had told us that the most high risk time for me during the pregnancy was the delivery itself but even more so about three days after delivery when major fluid shifts occur. This seemed odd to me and others, but statistically, this was when most deaths occurred for mothers with PH. I remember wondering ahead of time how I would fall asleep that night when I was worried about not waking up. Okay, yes, I did struggle with that one evening, but I think that was all sort of put on the back burner since Jameson ended up being moved to the NICU Friday, three days after he was born.
During a routine exam, some doctors thought they witnessed Jameson having a seizure. He was right there in the ICU room with us, and another doctor was rounding on me when I remember becoming completely distracted by what was going on with Jameson in the corner of the room. I could tell something was wrong by the way the doctors had switched to talking in hushed tones and making careful observation, and I was wholly focused on him by this time, tears streaming down my face, but trying to remain a quiet observer for fear they would kick me out (not sure where they would have sent me).
A call was made, and a couple other doctors rushed into the room as they worked on transferring Jameson to NICU. I could tell Dr. Stephens (the doctor who was checking on me) felt bad about the turn of events, and I wanted to be with Jameson, clearly an issue as I was admitted to the Medical ICU and he was being moved to the Neonatal ICU.
My nurse for the day was Shannon, and she quickly became another all time favorite.
She rushed out of the room in the midst of all the bustle and apparently was talking with someone about getting it cleared for me to go down to the 5th floor to visit the NICU and see Jameson. She had a two-year-old son at home, and she said that completely made her more empathetic about the situation. She had set it up that the MICU nurses would come to me in the NICU and get regular vitals so that we could be with Jameson.
When we got down to see Jameson, he had an IV in his tiny arm and leads hooked up to his chest. They were monitoring him for seizure activity, but as it would turn out, it was a false alarm.
Jameson was merely jittery from low blood sugar, which was due to him not drinking enough. Consequently, his bilirubin levels were too high (making him jaundiced) and more lethargic . . . which made him drink less. He was also having trouble stabilizing his temperature.
These were all standard issues for a baby born a month early, and these were all things that mother/baby could have handled from within our MICU room; however, once Jameson was transferred to NICU, they would not move him back. To say I was upset was an understatement.
Already a bundle of nerves, I cried and cried. I should have been thankful he was okay (and I was), but I was definitely having an issue getting stuck in a pity party. I hated seeing that IV in his arm, and it upset me to hold him and see him in wires. This was CRAZY. I knew he was the biggest kid on the block and that MANY of these babies had more tubes coming out of them than he did. All I could focus on was how much I wanted him with me, though, and when Brad and I finally went back up to our room that night to sleep, I had a complete meltdown.
All of the baby stuff had been removed from the room: bassinet, incubator, etc. and it seemed too empty without his place to sleep at the foot of my bed. I still had a baby, but it didn’t feel like I had a baby.
To top it all off, I was exhausted (and hormonal - I’m sure that wasn’t helping). We had been in the hospital six days, and I was so ready to go home.
It seemed like Jameson was in the NICU forever, but really it was just four days before they finally released both of us to go home Tuesday, August 16th, a full week after he was born and ten days after checking in.
I’d never looked forward to a car ride so much in my life. Jill and Hayley, our first and last nurse at the MICU, walked us out to the car as we left. I gave hugs and cried again. It had been a long week, and I was so grateful to the awesome nurses we’d been with for the wonderful and scary ordeal. They felt like old friends at this point somehow.
I rode in the back seat next to our new baby, and it seemed like the strangest thing that we were doing something so normal just like that, driving back home a family of three.
Now I can’t even imagine life without this precious blessing.