This is a continuation from my last post, Vortex Baby.
There was no time for a stretcher. The nurses escorted me quickly down the hall to the OR. Brian was sitting in scrubs on a bench outside the OR, looking extremely pale. I have never seen him look like that (not even on our wedding day). Apparently, one of the nurses was concerned he may pass out, and sat with him while they administered my anesthesia.
I sat on the OR table as the anesthesiologist continued to prick my leg, asking- “Can you feel that?” “Yes!”, I answered. “Are we going to have enough time for this to kick in before I have this baby?!” I got a real sense they weren’t too sure of that answer.
They eventually laid me back on the table, strapped my arms down, put the curtain up at my waist, and let Brian in. The doctor put on some Rusted Root and Jack Johnson for me to listen to; and started the c-section. I had already started to birth my baby vaginally- which made the c-section quite complicated. As the doctor pulled him back up, my broad ligament snapped and blood came up over the curtain and hit me in the face. My poor husband- still extremely pale, gently wiped the blood from my forehead. I could feel the tension and panic in the room. I did my best to breathe; and continued to pray to both my father and God, to help us all through this.
I could feel that my baby was no longer in me. But, where was the newborn cry?
I could feel that my baby was no longer in me. But, where was the newborn cry? The room was silent for what seemed like an eternity. Brian stayed by my side as we both held our breath waiting to hear our child’s first breath. We couldn’t see anything from behind the curtain. The doctor and nurses had brought our baby to another part of the room. I still am not sure what happened; or how they got him breathing. But, they did! As soon as we heard him let out a little cry, we both let out a huge sigh of relief. I asked Brian to please leave my side and go to our baby.
Jackson Walter Caruso was born at 34 weeks, 6 days at 5:37PM on May 31, 2012- weighing 4lbs, 5oz and was 18 1/2 inches long.
I had really wanted to have some skin to skin time with Jackson right away. But, he was bruised all over, and his left arm was in a sling. They felt it was best I didn’t see him like that right away. So, they had him wrapped snug in a blanket when they brought him over to me.
I well up just thinking about what a courageous soul my son is.
This kid just went through hell. Yet, he looked so peaceful as he lay quietly on my chest. This moment perfectly foreshadows my son’s demeanor. Not only did Jackson spend the next few days in the NICU with IVs and tubes; he would also end up needing surgery at 9 months of age. He handled all of this with such grace. I well up just thinking about what a courageous soul my son is.
So much happened over the next week:
- I kept needing to hide from nurses in the maternity ward who were pushing me to take pain meds; even after I explained that I had a history of pain med addiction.
- Our car rental company threatened to have Brian arrested if he didn’t bring the car back on the day it was due. We were 3 hours north of the airport where we rented it; submitted a doctor’s note and asked them to charge our credit card for an additional week. They refused. Luckily, the police never came for Brian.
- I missed my baby shower. I heard the food was delicious and that my sister in-law did a fabulous job decorating!
- We had to learn prior to discharge, how to monitor our baby’s O2 saturation rate without the help of the monitor. In other words, how to tell when he was about to stop breathing.
- I learned how to perform the PT necessary for Jackson’s left arm that was injured in-utero.
- We shopped for a baby carrier, nursing tanks, preemie diapers and more for our trip from Phoenix to Manchester (which turned out to be a 12 hour travel day).
- We had to re-arrange our flight home ( United Airlines was amazing).
- We stayed in a hotel overnight by the airport with Jackson sleeping in the car bed between us.
- I had to use a hand-held breast pump in an airport bathroom stall several times (horrific experience).
- We had to re-book all of our patients with our maternity coverage doctor.
- And finally, figure out how in the hell we were going to survive, financially. We just had a premature baby via emergency c-section, on the other side of the country; with a 7 day NICU stay for baby, 4 day stay for me, and NO HEALTH INSURANCE. Yup, that wasn’t scheduled to start until mid June.
Our entire life savings was wiped out.
Our entire life savings was wiped out. Plus, we had to pay someone else to do my job for the next few months. It was terrifying.
We finally arrived in the Manchester Regional Airport a little after midnight. As we descended the escalator to baggage claim, I saw my in-laws standing there with smiles on their faces. They had gotten our car out of the short term parking garage and were there to bring us all home. I have so much love for the two of them. I seriously lucked out in the in-law department.
The next year was a real doozy. Brian had to go back to work a day after we returned home; Jackson ended up having a severe case of colic and reflux; breast feeding was disastrous and we needed to put Jackson on a formula that costed about $400 a month.
In order to make ends meet I returned to work after 8 weeks maternity leave. We couldn’t find a nanny who was comfortable with taking care of a preemie in the beginning. So, I wore Jackson in the Ergo baby carrier as I adjusted. We were so lucky to have very kind and understanding patients.
That first year was one of the most challenging and scary times Brian and I ever experienced. However, with a deep love for each other and for our child; and a knowing in our hearts that everything was going to be alright as long as we had Team Caruso, we persevered.
We had been told by our doctor and midwife that because of the complications of my first birth, we should wait 18 months to get pregnant again. I was diagnosed and began treatment for late stage Lyme Disease when Jackson was 17 months old. He is now 4 . I am now 41. And, I am tired; and a bit defeated if I am being honest.
Every time he asks me if he can have a brother or sister, my heart breaks a little.
Every time he asks me if he can have a brother or sister, my heart breaks a little. So, I stare at the empty bassinet, and infant car seat, and baby swing, and preemie car bed and piles of vacuum-packed baby clothes; and try to forgive myself – to forgive myself for still being sick. I intellectually get that accepting where I am on my journey is a big part of my healing process. It’s getting it in my heart that seems to be the problem. I guess I am just scared to let go of that original idea of how things were suppose to be. And, the funny thing is, I love our family dynamic. We have a really good thing here.
Perhaps, I need a little of Jackson’s courage.
P.S. A huge Thank You to the amazing team of doctors and nurses in both the OR and Special Care Nursery at Flagstaff Medical Center, AZ. You are forever in our hearts.
Love, Joy, Truth, Gratitude-