William Sebastian's Birth Story (Kristi's Preterm Classical Cesarean)
"But at once he spoke with them,
'Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!'
He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.
They were completely astounded."-- from the gospel on Will's birthday. Mk 6
Though it has been over two weeks since his birth, I still find myself in disbelief that my little man is here and that the most worrisome pregnancy I've ever been through has come to an end. But with such a grace-filled ending to the past few months, I am compelled and delighted to share it.
On December 14th, my pregnancy which was already high risk due to confirmed placenta previa became immeasurably more scary when the specialist I had been seeing told me that she thought I also had placenta accreta. The diagnosis of accreta would mean a c-section at 34 weeks, and also I would need a hysterectomy during the procedure in order to save my life and stop the bleeding. I found myself in shock and fear, not only because little one had to come so early, but also because of the danger of the operation and the idea that there was a possibility that I would not be around to mother my three beautiful kiddos if something went wrong. Over the next few weeks, I met with multiple doctors, researched like crazy online, had an MRI to see if the doc was right about the accreta, and began to mourn the loss of my fertility and all of the future babies that could have been.
God was with me through it all and sent me numerous little signs that He was taking care of me, but I rarely had a day that thoughts of the worst didn't cross my mind... And it seemed I could burst into tears at the drop of a hat. Through it all, my husband and I along with countless family, friends, religious, and coworkers prayed that all would turn out okay. As the surgery date drew closer, my fears kept increasing. Six days prior to surgery, my doc sent me to the hospital to get my first of two steroid shots (to mature the baby's lungs). As I drove to the hospital, praying my way there, I noticed a giant billboard on the side of the road with a beautiful baby smiling at me and words that said something like..."Life... God's greatest gift".
How profound and true! My life was a gift, this baby's life was a gift. My body and my baby were not really mine... But His, and I knew our loving Father had our best interest in mind.
That night, as Andrew and I went to bed, we continued the litany of prayers that had carried us through the last few months. We always prayed asking St. Girard, patron of expectant mothers, for his intercession... We prayed a prayer to St. Gianna and I held a prayer card that had touched her glove to my belly... And we prayed to Our Lady of Lourdes. Mary must have been frightened before Jesus birth too... So we turned to her and each night Andrew would bless my tummy with miraculous water from Lourdes. This particular night when he went to pour a small drop on my belly, the bottled slipped a bit and he spilled quite a bit more than normal. I said "That's okay... Let's just rub it in and let it work miracles."
Seven hours later, Our Lady's intercession and all of the prayers going up to heaven for us became evident. I awoke at 5am on Wednesday and had a gush of blood. I woke Andrew, grabbed the children and headed to the hospital while trying to get my doc on the phone. My OB ended up not being on call but within 10 minutes I heard from the on call doc. She told us that I absolutely needed to be at the high risk hospital in town. We checked in about 5:30a, a friend came and picked up Mia and Vince and the madness continued.
It was right after we checked in that everything finally hit me. I burst into tears and the nurses told me that I was in the right place... don't worry... baby and I would be fine. Andrew was still quite strong at this point. He had been so calm ever since I woke him up. What a gift that was!!
The on call OB arrived soon after they had taken all my vitals and checked baby's heart-rate. One of the first things she said to us was that she had tried phoning my cell phone back on her way in and had heard Mia say "God bless you" at the end of my message... She then said she had been praying for baby and I her entire drive to the hospital, and that everything was going to be fine because we were in His hands. How amazing that this sweet doc who I had never before met had been praying for us.
She had already spoken with my OB, the perinatologist on call, the surgeon on call and the neonatologist. They had basically come to the conclusion that it was not worth waiting another 24 hours so I could get my second steroid shot. There was too great a risk that I would begin hemorrhaging again, and at least if they did the surgery now, they could have everything and everyone they needed on hand. I think it was at this point that I realized that God had decided we had had enough time to worry... And it was just time to get going. The maternal/fetal specialist on call (yet another doc I had never met) came in for one last sonogram. He surprised Andrew and I when he said that it didn't look like accreta to him. Could my specialist who had never been wrong about a sonogram accreta ACTUALLY have been wrong?? Or had our prayers been answered and had the Lord healed me? The specialist on call reminded us, however, that they would not know what my placenta would do (detach or not) until they got in there.
Andrew was on the phone with our parents saying that it looked like we would have surgery sometime that day... But the docs were working much faster than we realized and before we knew it, we were meeting with the anesthesiologist and getting prepped for surgery. In the last 10 minutes prior to surgery, they were still going back and forth on whether I would be awake or put under for the surgery. I told them I would prefer to be awake for the c-section, even if they had to put me under for the hysterectomy... but it looked like the surgeon wanted me to be under for the whole procedure. As they wheeled me down to the OR, still no official decision had been made. I realized as they wheeled me through the hallway that I had not had the baby blessed or been anointed prior to surgery, and again I had to just trust that the Lord was with us. And then things got very crazy.
They pushed my bed into the operating room, and Andrew and I realized even more how serious the situation was. No less than 20 medical personnel were buzzing around the room. And other than the last hour of prep, I had not met any of them before. There were docs and nurses from the NICU, my on-call OB, the chief resident who would assist in the surgery, multiple people from anesthesiology, nurses, and the main oncology surgeon who would perform the hysterectomy if things got out of hand. The chief anesthesiologist advocated for me since I wanted to be awake and it was agreed that they would start the surgery with a spinal block so I could witness the baby's birth. As they were placing my spinal block, I looked up at Andrew who was holding my hand, and saw tears running down his face. He later told me that he was crying because he was so afraid they would ask him whether to save me or baby. I had been shaking all morning out of fear (or maybe blood loss) and it didn't stop when they laid me down to begin the c-section. The awesome OB told me one last time that all was going to be okay because God was with us, and she promised she would walk me through the surgery step by step.
Surgery began. The main anesthesiologist, 2 nurses, and Andrew sat at my head. Andrew was holding one of my hands, and the oncologist asked if he could hold my other during the c-section. They had ordered 4 units of blood, and it was waiting on standby just in case. The nurses and oncologist tried to keep my mind occupied by asking what we would name the baby and asking other questions about our kids at home. In the midst of shaking, crying, holding Andrew's hand, and listening to the OB walk me through what she was doing, I was still deeply in prayer that God was with us and taking care of us. It was almost as if I could feel St. Gianna, St. Girard, St. Therese, and Mary in the room with me. About 15 minutes into the surgery, the docs called out "uterus!" which meant they were very close to getting baby out. I overheard the OB saying that my placenta was covering the front of my uterus and she would need to cut very high to avoid cutting into it. As she made the incision, the nurse behind my head said, "I see feet and a butt!". And then Andrew and I heard the most beautiful sound in the world... Or little 33-weeker was crying his head off. "He's peeing all over the docs!" one of the nurses reported. They raised little William Sebastian just high enough that we could see his rosy complexion and beautiful little body, then they whisked him to the corner of the room to check him out.
I heard the doctors whispering. I knew we had reached the moment I had been dreading for a month. I looked at Andrew and knew that he was focused in prayer, so I closed my eyes, dug down deep in my soul, past my worry and fears, and prayed, "Please, Lord... if you are going to grant this miracle, NOW is the time... we have no more time to pray for it. Please Lord... We trust in you.". And then I heard the words I thought I would not hear... "Kristi," Dr. Short said, "your placenta is coming out! You don't need the hysterectomy. We can start sewing you back up." And the tears of joy I had been crying from seeing my beautiful baby, turned into full-on sobs of rejoicing. We had received a miracle. Our prayers had been answered.
The NICU people had bundled baby Will and were ready to take him upstairs, but they brought him over to Andrew and I first. The poor little guy was beautiful, but was looking a bit blue. He had cried more than his little 33 week lungs could handle, and they needed to get him on oxygen. So off he went. As soon as it was discovered that I would not need the hysterectomy, the room quickly went from 20 people to about 6. They finished the c-section and wheeled me to recovery. I only got to see and hold Will for about 10 minutes that first day because he was in NICU, and I couldn't walk for the first few hours after surgery.
When I first got back to my room, I found my folks waiting there for me. They had been praying during their 2 hour drive down, and they were so happy to see us. One of my great friends from work had rushed to the hospital as soon as she heard I was going into surgery, and when she came to my room, she told me of the Psalm she had opened up to that morning: "Yet You drew me forth from the womb... Made me safe at my mother's breast. Upon you I was thrust from the womb; since birth, You are my God."
A few hours later I talked to my former roommate, Sr. Sophia Grace, whose entire convent of sisters had been praying for Will and I for months. Before Kimmy became SSG, we always had this thing that we would tell each other when life got rough. We would reference the story of Jesus calming the waters when the apostles' boat was being tossed about, and we would say to one another, "Don't worry, He's in the boat." Sister read to me the gospel of the day... Which is referenced at the top of this story. She said it was obvious that Will was to be born on Jan. 5th, because the gospel was all about God being in the boat. :)
It has now been 2 and a half weeks since his birthday, and Will is finally home. He spent two weeks at the hospital trying to get his lungs ready for the outside world and learning to nurse well. It was tough not having him home right away but it is such a blessing to have him home now. He will be on a breathing monitor for about 6 months, and we have to be super duper careful to keep him away from germs, but other than that, he's pretty much a perfect newborn... just a bit smaller than we are used to.
He will forever be a part of a miracle and I can't wait to share with him how many wonderful people prayed for his safety and well being.
Thank you to all of you who went through this journey with us. You are officially part of a miracle. Your prayers carried me through one of the scariest crosses God has ever given me to bear, and I will be forever grateful to you. Though it was very difficult, I truly believe that this pregnancy and delivery was a gift from Him. My faith has been tried, and the devil was working overtime to make me doubt my God... but I have grown so much through this experience and gained an unreal amount of empathy for all people being asked to bear great crosses. I feel blessed that the Lord trusted me with this one.
From all things He gives us, we draw closer to Him and are called to something greater. I am excited to see what He's asking me to do next.
"Trust and trust alone should lead us to Love." - St. Therese of Lisieux"