Four years ago this week I wrote a post that marked a significant turning point for our family. I remember wondering how we would share the unexpected news of our baby boy’s arrival in a way that could include all the beautiful parts of meeting him, the deep love and protection we immediately felt for him and the sincere trust we continued to have in our Heavenly Father. In Sam’s first two days, we called family and close friends to tell them the news. A simple It’s a BOY! message along with his name and stats was posted on Facebook, but no pictures accompanied it. Pete and I both needed time to process. And then, just before leaving the hospital while Sam stayed in the NICU, the words came. Without question, that was the day I was most thankful to have a blog. We could share the full story, all of our thoughts and emotions, along with photos of our beautiful boy. We wouldn’t need to repeat the story over and over and all details would be articulated. With a single click of the publish button, we shared our precious boy with the world.
I will always treasure the words I wrote in the quietness of my hospital room. All the fresh feelings of love and surprise and joy. It was the beginning of a journey I didn’t expect but am now incredibly thankful to be on. I can’t imagine life without the events of that night four years ago.
So again, four years later, I want to share those words along with a few more photos and follow-up notes. These are the words that introduced our Samuel with the world.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Things first began on Tuesday night (May 22) when I crawled into bed at about 10pm and I began to feel small contractions. They didn’t really catch my attention, though, since I had been feeling Braxton Hicks contractions (a sort of fake contraction) for about 15 weeks. A few of them did wake me during the night, though. On Wednesday morning I decided to go about my regular schedule and see what happened. While shopping at Target for a few last items for my hospital bag, I had to stop multiple times to lean on my cart and let a contraction pass. In the afternoon, Ella & I went to Becky’s to watch Malena & Maira while Becky went to the dentist. At that time, the contractions continued to strengthen and were only about 4 minutes apart. Let me tell you, it was not comfortable having the three little girls crawling all over me while the contractions hit. But it kept me somewhat distracted! After Becky got home, I paged Pete out of surgery, telling him things were getting more intense. I drove the 10 minutes to the hospital (perhaps I should not have been driving at that point, but I wasn’t completely convinced I was in labor) and let Pete drive me home. The beauty of being married to a doctor is that he was able to check my progress while we were home. Much to my relief, he confirmed that I surely was in labor and had made it to about 5cm. Yay! We took our time gathering the last things for the hospital and headed in.
After a brief stop at the store to pick up a plant (so nice to have in the room during labor) and a magazine (to fill the time during labor before the actual delivery), we arrived at the hospital at 7pm. I was definitely needing to breathe through the contractions at that point and even got to ride in a wheelchair to the OB floor. I dropped off the cupcakes I had made that afternoon for the nurses and settled into my room. I have to tell you that from the very moment I got to the room, I asked if an order could be put in for an epidural. I’ve never felt that I’m a mama who needs to go without meds, and I was worried we would miss the window if we didn’t get going on it. Shortly after that, Pete checked me again and I was between 7 and 8cm. Things were moving fast! Before 9pm…and before I was given an epidural…I hit the complete 10cm and my window for meds was closed. I have to honestly say that I wasn’t excited when I was told I would have to deliver without meds. It scared me, and I really wondered if I would be able to handle the pain. With Ella, I never made it past 6cm and, therefore, never got to push at all. The opportunity for a VBAC had come, and that did make me happy. I wanted to have the experience of pushing and breathing and being coached by Pete. I wanted to have a chance to push a baby into the world the way women have been doing it for years and years and years.
And push I did. For 2 1/2 hours I pushed. Without meds. That was a lot of work! I really focused on putting all of my energy into the pushing, not yelling or crying or cursing out my husband, as I’ve heard can easily happen. Instead, I felt incredibly close to Pete through the whole experience. He was an amazing coach. When I was discouraged, he looked right into my eyes and reassured me. I found a lot of strength in that. I also found myself talking to Jesus between contractions and pushing. I know He was giving me a great deal of strength. Everything looked like it was going well until we reached the 2 1/2 hour mark. Then our little one started to show signs of dropping oxygen levels and my cervix began to swell a great deal, to the point that it looked like it may actually be closing again. Pete & I jointly made the decision to do a c-section for the protection of the baby. I was taken down the elevator on a bed, groaning the entire way as super strong contractions ripped through me.
Though I ended up in another c-section, the entire experience was far different than when I had Ella. This time I completely dilated, pushed for a long time, tried many different positions, and really gave it everything I had. I got to experience everything I wanted to with child birth. It was time to get our baby out while he or she was still doing okay. So that’s what we did.
My mom made it to the hospital just in time to join us in the OR for the section. Pete stood next to me the entire time, looking over the sheet for the moment our little one would enter the world. I felt great peace in those moments before the birth. I was able to pray for the doctors in the room before the section began (most of whom I knew from the residency) and hummed one of my favorite camp songs about seeking Jesus’ face. Everything was perfect as I excitedly awaited the announcement of our little one’s arrival. And then it came! Pete proclaimed, “It’s a boy!” and we were both ecstatic as images of my dear Pete with his long-awaited son filled my head. I announced to all present that our son’s name would be Samuel Thomas Amani Olsen as I held back tears of joy. And then I realized how quiet the room was.
The doctors – our friends – huddled around our Samuel on the warming table while I heard only a small, weak, peep of a cry. It was a tiny sound. Though I felt peace, not concern, I asked one of the doctors to take a small step to the side so I could get my first glimpse of our little one. And that’s when I saw the first sign. His body wasn’t clenched like Ella had been when she was born. Sam’s arms were floppy. I asked Pete to bring him closer so I could see him. I longed for the first real view of my son. When Pete held him close, Samuel opened his eyes and looked right at me. And it was in that tiny instant that I knew it in my heart. Was it my mama instinct? Was it the fact that I had been carrying this beautiful little boy inside me for so many months prior to this moment of introduction? I don’t know, but it was instantly clear to me. Our little Samuel has Down syndrome.
I was wheeled into the recovery room while Pete and my mom and the other doctors took Sam up to the NICU to give him a complete exam. I don’t know how much time passed before Pete and my doctor, Maria, came through the door, quiet and serious. My thoughts were confirmed in that moment. In an instant, many things changed. But in that same instant, many things were peacefully confirmed within me. God is good. God has a plan. God created our little Samuel, and we were chosen to be his parents. What an honor.
The last 2 1/2 days have been the beginning of journey down what a doctor recognized yesterday as our “new normal.” Samuel remains in the NICU while he works through the transition from the warm, safe place of my womb to the outside world. His oxygen levels have needed the most time to adjust. He was most comfortable in a warm incubator without much handling the first 24 hours. We haven’t been able to have him in our room. We haven’t changed any of his diapers. And I just got the all-clear to try nursing him. So far he’s been getting my pumped milk through a feeding tube in his nose. Each little step he’s made forward, we’ve celebrated. Late last night, Pete sat with me as I held him on my chest. His sweet little eyes looked up at me a few times, completely melting every ounce of my heart. Pete held him for a little while, too, and Samuel eventually fell asleep cuddled with his daddy. It was so hard to leave him in the NICU to return to our room. There will soon come a time when we won’t have to leave him for a single moment. We’re praying that the time comes very, very soon.
I’m now packing and getting ready to head home…without my sweet little boy. First we’ll try nursing, though. Pete & I will both be back very often to rock Sammy and I’ll nurse him. Miss Ella is excited to see him, too. We tried having her visit him in the NICU two days ago, but it was all a bit too much for her. We’re praying Samuel will be discharged on Monday or Tuesday, though we have to keep a very open hand about that in case anything unexpected pops up.
Please pray with us for our little Samuel. Pray that his oxygen levels will get to a good place so he can breathe all on his own. Pray that he will quickly adapt to nursing. Pray that he’ll get to be home with us in the next few days. And please pray for Pete and I as we learn what this new beginning will entail and how all of this will draw us forward. Thank you!!
In the end, Sam spent two full weeks in the NICU. In that time, we continued to try to nurse, but his little jaw just wasn’t strong enough and there were so many distractions from the alarms and cords and other babies. (At that time, the NICU was a large, open space with 18 tiny babies. A year later, Sam & I attended the opening of the brand new, very private, NICU!) After 24 hours breathing successfully on his own, Sam came home. In the peace of his own room, we worked on nursing a little bit every day. A week later, he latched on and at seven weeks he had his first full feeding. After that, he was pretty much an eating champ! That was the first time he showed us his determination on his own timeline. Countless times since then, he has worked and worked and worked on a skill and eventually mastered it with great success. Sitting, clapping, crawling, and now he’s nearly walking. This darling boy has surely changed our pace of parenting and expectations. I think it’s safe to say he was born to be spectacular!
photo by Sara Montour Photography