After going back and forth about how detailed I wanted to be in Charlie’s birth story, this is what I landed on. I wrote a more detailed one for J and myself to have but decided to keep that private.
It would be an understatement to say that so many things about my pregnancy didn’t work out anywhere close to what I had imagined or hoped for (I realize that they rarely do). One of those things is that all along I wanted nothing more than to have a vaginal delivery if it was possible, but once it became clear that we were going to need to deliver Charlie to be able to give him a shot at life, that option went out the door. The doctor strongly recommended a C-section because she was worried about Charlie being able to tolerate labor.
The events leading up to the decision to deliver Charlie all happened very quickly and once we made that decision, things continued to move quickly. The conversation with the doctor took place at 10:26 p.m., the anesthesiologist was in the room less than ten minutes later, and then before we knew it, it was go time. The rest of the team was in place, and they got Jesse suited up. The adrenaline started kicking in and I couldn’t help but start shaking uncontrollably. They took me up to the OR first and got me all numbed up (luckily I was able to hold still for long enough that they got my spinal in without any issues or pain). They brought J in shortly after and at 11:12 p.m., Charlie was born. J then saw them whisk Charlie away.
The anesthesiologist went to check on Charlie and came back to let us know that the neonatal team was working on inserting a breathing tube. He also let us know that he was struggling and that his heart rate was quite low, around 60 bpm. Minutes later, one of the neonatalogists came in and I think we knew what she was going to say even before she said it, but her words still hit us like a ton of bricks: “I’m so sorry, but Charlie isn’t going to make it.”
They cleaned and bundled Charlie up, brought him into the OR and handed him to me so we could hold him while he was still alive. I was starting to feel nauseous from all of the pulling and tugging, so J then took him into his arms and we held our precious baby boy until they came back to check him again, at 11:46 p.m., when they let us know they could no longer find a heartbeat. Our sweet boy passed away peacefully in our arms.
Once I was all stitched back up, we were moved into recovery, where we took turns snuggling Charlie some more. As the shock started to wear off (slightly), we were able to admire just how cute our sweet baby boy was.
Just before 2 a.m., after a couple of hours in recovery, they brought us to our room and got us settled in. Jesse’s family joined us in the room and my parents arrived a couple of hours later, around 4:30 a.m., to meet their grandson.
The rest of Friday (the Fourth of July) was busy, the hospital chaplain that I’d reached out to after we got Charlie’s diagnosis, came to perform the naming ceremony that Jesse and I had picked out. Shortly after, Megan, a professional photographer volunteer with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep arrived to take some photos of Charlie and of Jesse and me with Charlie. The day was mostly a blur, I had barely slept at all since we were first admitted to the hospital and I remember not wanting to sleep, just to spend as much time with our little family as possible.
On Saturday evening, we decided to keep Charlie in our room for one final night. After they got my discharge information drawn up and prescriptions filled, we started packing up and I got ready and put on some real clothes. We said our final goodbyes and Jesse went to pull the car up while the nurse wheeled me down a back hallway instead of by the rest of the postpartum rooms. Letting the nurses know that we were ready for them to take Charlie away and then leaving the hospital without him, was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do.
We are so thankful for the outstanding care we received throughout this entire ordeal and for the amazing nurses (seriously, we can’t say enough good things about our nurses), doctors, care coordinators, social workers, our doulas and other members of our care team. The past ten weeks have been a roller coaster (to say the least), but it also made us cherish each day that Charlie was still alive and fighting.
We’re also very thankful that we were able to keep Charlie in our room with us for as long as we wanted. We’ll never forget that precious time we had that gave us the chance to snuggle him and give him lots of love and to take our time saying goodbye. His grandparents, aunts and uncles (both blood and not) and cousins were also able to meet and say goodbye to him.
Last Tuesday, J and I met with the funeral home in the morning. After that was over, we headed up to his family’s cabin, where we stayed until Friday afternoon. I’m so glad we decided to get away for a few days. And as hard as it was to come back home, we came home to beautiful flowers and sympathy cards and home cooked meals (seriously, thank you for helping me not have to think about cooking right now) and people wanting to stop by to visit with us. We’re so grateful.
Tomorrow I have my first postpartum appointment — I’m still sore, but recovering and feeling a little better physically every day. And I keep reminding myself that my body, like everything else, needs time to heal.