And then the ultrasounds began...our biggest concern was whether there was a heart defect. When the heart looked perfect, we breathed a deep sigh of relief. No physical markers at all...baby now has at least a 90% chance that he is normal...however, the ultrasound showed an umbilical vein varix, an extremely rare condition, where the umbilical cord is dilated and could cause distress in the baby if improper blood flow occurs. I then had to get weekly monitoring of the cord.
On December 7th, I had my weekly monitoring after work. I sat in the chair with the fetal monitors noisily tracking Jackson's quick heart beat, checking for dips and rebounds. The ultrasound went smoothly, just as it had the previous weeks of screenings. Jackson was doing just fine...I left the hospital prepared for next weeks screening.
First thing, Dec. 8th, I see that the hospital had called. They had just ran the numbers again and noticed that the blood pressure in the cord was elevated. They had tried to catch me prior to my leaving, but missed me...Give them a call. I immediately called them and the doctor said that he wanted to check the cord again and didn't want to wait till next week to check it. We scheduled an appointment for first thing Friday, the 10th.
Adam and I joked around about packing the bag and bringing it with us to the hospital. Just to be on the safe side, Adam rearranged his travel schedule so that he would be able to come with me to the hospital. In the end, we prepared ourselves to go to work after the appointment, including my leftovers that I would bring to heat up for lunch and my papers that I needed to grade. We arrived for our 7:30 appointment, I laid back on the table, and the technician clicked away. A few minutes later, the doctor came in and asked "Did you bring your bag with you?" I responded with, "Should we have?". The umbilical cord's blood pressure was even further elevated and he didn't want to risk harm to the baby. Moments later we were escorted down the hall to labor and delivery after making a few quick, excited phone calls to work, parents and my sister.
Its amazing how quickly things happened. Next thing I know, I'm in a hospital gown, tube inserted into my hand to be ready for an IV, and excitement and a surreal feeling knowing that soon our baby would be here and our lives would be flipped completely upside down.
At 10am, the doctor came in to insert a drug to prepare my cervix for induction. I would have to lay in bed for 12 hours to let that do its magic and there was a likelihood of having to do a second round of the drug. The earliest I would get pitocin would be 10o'clock at night...which could make for a very exhausting evening, but there was a good chance that I wouldn't get pitocin till the next day.
Once the drug was inserted, I wasn't allowed to get out of bed unless I had to use the bathroom. Quickly I noticed menstrual-like cramps that showed that my cervix was getting itself ready for labor. Fetal monitor was strapped to my belly to keep track of Jackson's heart rate and my contractions, and then it was a waiting game. Thank goodness for a House marathon to kill the time...and my cell phone with downloaded games. I knew that it was going to be a long day/night, so I tried to get some rest which is pretty impossible with the monitor and the cramping sensation in my uterus. We were told that it was going to be quite a while before anything was going to happen, so Adam went home to get our things and I counted the minutes until he returned.
An hour and a half to two hours later, I was still awake while Adam slept deeply on the pull-out. I wanted to sleep, but had a strange desire to move my leg which felt very heavy and was difficult to move due to the epidural. I kept a watch on the heart monitor and my contractions and when Jackson's heart dipped and did not rebound, I knew it was a matter of moments before the nurses came in to check on him. Two (or maybe three people) came in, helped me to rest on my side to see if Jackson's heart would rebound. No change, so they switched me to the other side...still no change. Then they inserted a heart monitor to the top of Jackson's head to see if they could get a more accurate reading of his heart and it was still very low. At this point, they helped me flip over onto all fours, gripping the top of the bed as a last resort to get his heart to jump up. Still nothing... I was only 7 cm so I was not ready to push and the rush began. People began to move much quicker, an all-call for people to report to the OR and they quickly rushed me down the hallway to the operating room while poor Adam, confused from grogginess, was told to get scrubs on and to wait in the room till someone came and got him. I had already been on oxygen for the last few hours to help get oxygen to the baby, so they gave me a full epidural to numb me completely and Jackson was out within minutes. I don't pray very often, but I kept repeating in my head, "Dear Lord, please get him out alive." His soft cry brought tears to my eyes and relief. I have never heard something more precious in my life. The minutes went by so slowly as I waited to see my baby. I was only able to see him for a brief moment and kiss him goodbye when they closed me back up and wheeled me to the room to let the epidural wear off. I laid in bed, shaking uncontrollably from the epidural, anxious to kiss and snuggle with the new addition to our family.
Once the epidural wore off, we were wheeled down to postpartum. They brought Jackson in to see us and I was able to hold him for the first time. He was so tiny, 5 lbs, with beautiful blond hair and blue eyes. Adam and I looked for signs of Down syndrome and while there were no major signs, you could see it slightly in the eyes. I think I knew right then that he would have Down syndrome. I tried unsuccessfully to feed him, but cherished being able to hold him and keep him close to me.
A few hours later they took Jackson away for tests. We expected him back in a couple of hours, but those couple of hours turned into multiple hours, with us wondering what was happening and when we would see him again. The doctors came in and out, gave us the details of how the baby was doing. Yes, there are some signs that he has Down syndrome although he is missing some characteristic signs. He has an ASD (atrial septum deviation) and a murmur. He had pulmonary hypertension. We received a ton of information, most of which I missed...and I just wanted to see him again. We were able to see him one more time before they took him away...And since he wasn't feeding they had to put a tube in his nose to feed him. Then they sent him to NICU. The whole time I felt this surreal feeling. I had a son with Down syndrome. Brief flashes of images of what might our life be like, things Jackson might miss out on...but those sad or shameful feelings would melt away when we looked down on his beautiful face and held him close to our heart.
I know this won't make sense, but those days in the hospital were some of the longest yet quickest days. It seemed we would walk down to NICU, feed and hold him, tell him we loved him, go back to our room only to make the trek down just minutes later.
Jackson spent 1 week in the hospital. He spent the majority of his time in the isolette that would regulate his temperature since he couldn't do it on his own. Every time we visited, we checked the thermostat to see what temperature they had him at. Each time we hoped for a reduction that would show he was one step closer to getting into a crib and another step closer to coming home with us.
December 17th...the hospital gave us the boot. They were down to a couple of rooms so we were going to have to pack up and go home. Jackson's isolette was down to its final temperature, but he couldn't come home until he had spent 24 hours in a crib at room temperature.
Before we headed out, one of the doctors sat down with us and confirmed Jackson's diagnosis. Jackson's blood work confirmed that he had an extra chromosome that caused his Down syndrome. Part of my last shred of hope slipped away, even though I knew this was coming. On our drive home to Baltimore, I hid a few tears from Adam, saying goodbye to that last image of a child with 46 chromosomes and sad to leave behind the child that has 47 chromosomes.
Thankfully, those hours went quickly by...Jackson was holding his temperature and each visit gave us hope that we could take him home soon.At 9pm Saturday, the 18th...we finally got our wish. We took Jackson to spend his first night at home with us. The entire way home, we pointed out all of Jackson's "Firsts". Jackson's first stoplight...Jackson's first time on 95...Jackson's first time in the tunnel...Jackson's first night at home...