It was a Monday night. We won’t ever forget that because my husband was watching football when it all started. If you have ever been pregnant, you know how it can affect your digestive system. Well, without going into too much detail, I was in the bathroom and something just did not feel right. I yelled out to my husband, who bolted right on in. Apparently my voice gave it all away. I have been told I am never allowed to sound like that again. I asked him to check me because I thought I felt something. Something like a wet balloon. Turns out, that is pretty much what it was. The cervix had opened up and the embryonic sac started its way down the birth canal. By the time my husband came it, it had already migrated back up somewhat, so he felt nothing. I called the doctor, but could not explain it very well at the time. Not an hour later we were on the way to the hospital – I just went with my gut that something was not right.
We were first told that it was early labor and that he was going to come soon. After some more ultrasounds, it was found that the cervix was in fact opening. But since the sac had retreated, there was a chance. This was 22 weeks and 2 days into the pregnancy. They pumped me full of antibiotics to stave off infection. The plan was to elevate my bottom half so gravity could help keep everything where it was supposed to be.
In the middle of the night, contractions had begun and we were told he would be coming soon. The emotional pain on top of the physical pain (he was partially in the canal this whole time) was too much. We were going to lose our little boy, Cullen.
Until that morning, when we were told there was still a chance. If he could stay inside for just another week or so, the odds of survival at this hospital were quite high for births beyond 23 weeks, when their lungs develop enough to be assisted. I was so happy, that I started to feel relief from the pain. Mind over matter is an amazing thing. We figured out how everything was going to work with me in the hospital for the remainder of the pregnancy. Until that afternoon.
After more tests and no luck with the antibiotics for Cullen, we were again told he was going to come soon and to prepare ourselves. How? You can’t. We were asked if we wanted extreme measures taken to try and preserve his life once he was born. We asked them what they would do if we were their wife or child. We decided to spare him that. The odds were that all it could possibly do was keep him with us artificially, and that is just selfish on our part. I did not want Cullen to be in pain his entire life. The pain I was feeling was unbearable. I finally consented to an epidural (needle in my back scare the begeebers out of me). We asked if there was anything we could do to move this process along. But because of pro-lifers, by the time we would go through all the paperwork and videos telling us all about abortion, it would most likely all be over. (yes, it would have been considered that even though he was already half way out and it was inevitable at that point) So for another half day we had to just lie there and wait – in the most pain I have ever felt, even with the epidural.
Wednesday morning, November 6, 2002, the water broke. In an instant it was all over. I don’t ever want to feel that kind of pain or cry that much ever again. And I hope you never have to. I held him for his entire hour and a half with us. And yes, he was alive at this point, but his lungs were not fully formed so breathing was not entirely effective. I do like knowing that for entire life, he was held and loved.
The nurses and staff were amazing throughout this entire thing. I stayed in the hospital for 3 more days. Grief counselors came in often. The nurses were always there for me, both for medical and emotion needs. We were given a memory box before I left. It was hand painted and filled with everything he touched. His hat, booties, blanket and ID tag. There was a memory ring, tiny sized, as well. They also gave us unprocessed photos of him to develop when we were ready. His record of birth, hand and feet prints were in there too. It took us a while to develop the pictures. And it was not until now that we shared the box with others. But it is time. I am still healing, and this has helped.
So for the entire month of his birthday, I will be donating 10% of my etsy sales to the Michigan Chapter of The March of Dimes. In hopes that someday, someone as young as Cullen could survive.