We packed up the car and left for Detroit on May 6, 2003.
The family was going to meet us there at a hotel near Detroit so we could stay the night and then go to the hospital first thing the following morning. We had planned to meet for dinner at Benihana so the family could be together. It was such a rough evening for me. While I was happy that my family was there, I just wanted to crawl under the covers in the hotel room and not emerge until morning. Tomorrow was my baby’s birthday and I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that this was going to be the farthest thing from a normal birth than I could imagine.
The details of the birth had been explained to us during one of the many doctor visits we had in recent weeks, and just hearing it all made my head spin, and now, here I was, on the eve of the day I was going to experience it all. I knew these were the last moments I would have with my baby that were in any way, shape, or form, normal. He would not be a part of me anymore and he would have to fight this battle on his own. My heart ached for him and I wondered how strong we were both going to be. We were going to be separated the next morning. I cried. I slept. I dreamed. May 7, 2003 - Happy Birthday Eric James Williams!
We made it to the hospital very early. We were directed to my room to get prepped and ready for surgery. The day was here. The day we would welcome our bundle of joy into the world. The family was there at the hospital. Alex, my mom, grandma, my mother and father in law, and Ivonna (my best friend). As I lay in the bed getting ready for this C-Section, the moments were brief, but I felt a sense of accomplishment. I felt joy, happiness, and relief. Pretty much all the feelings a mother would feel knowing she was about to give birth. My head spun, my heart beat rapidly, the baby was very active, and my eyes welled up with tears as Steve and I waited to be wheeled down to surgery.
There were 20 or so people in the operating room. Doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, specialists, paramedics (waiting to transport our baby to the Children’s Hospital next door), and other random people, so many… and in that moment, I felt the agony of the near future. I felt the pressure of everything in my chest. I felt the magnitude overtake me. I felt helpless.
The table was cold, but I sat there, numb. The nurse who was going to give me my epidural explained what she was about to do. I had an epidural before because Alex was born C-Section, however, I had already been having some labor pains, was already in some sort of “active delivery phase” at that time. This time… not so much. I was not in any physical pain and here she was telling me she’s going to stick this crazy long needled into my back and for me to be still! I tried to use some of those breathing techniques people use to calm themselves down, but it was not working.
The nurse could tell how nervous and anxious I was and spoke to me gently for a few minutes, helping me to relax. My blood pressure was through the roof and I was shaking uncontrollably. After a few minutes, I was able to sit still long enough for the needle to be inserted… it was game on.
Adding to all of this was the fact that I was going to have my tubes cauterized during this whole c-section. During the process of preparation and getting the epidural, the nurse also placed a grounding pad on my left thigh so I would not be electrocuted during the cauterization. Good idea I thought, although this only added to my anxiety and the
overwhelming sadness that this was my last shot.
I was not going to have another chance to have a child. Even though Steve I had decided that we were not going to have more children, and we had peace with the decision, there was this part of me, in that moment, that again, I felt like I had failed.
I was ready, or as ready as I was ever going to be. There was so much activity and conversation in the room, I felt like I was at a party or something. I knew they were all there to help Eric and make sure the birth went smoothly for the both of us, but it was still overwhelming. Steve was beside me at the head of the table and this was about to happen. From what seemed like a lifetime ago at the doctors office on December 18, 2002, here we were, welcoming Eric James into the world.
Happy Birthday Eric James Williams (5-7-03)
The first, and only cry we would hear from Eric was in the first couple minutes he was born.
As soon as Eric was born, we heard the glorious cry all parents long to hear. It was music to our ears, but the music ended abruptly and Eric was now ventilated and draped in an array of tubes. The room was buzzing with all hands on deck to finish the cauterization of my tubes and keep Eric alive. Going back to his diagnosis, all this time during the pregnancy, his heart and lungs were not able to develop because they were being squeezed by the organs that had migrated through the hole in his diaphragm. Eric lay there on the table, not in the cute little blanket they typically wrap newborns in, but, instead, with tubes and wires everywhere, doctors standing around him, and paramedics waiting patiently to whisk him away. I lay there on the table, wanting desperately to be able to hold my baby, but tangled in a web of wires myself. Holding Eric would not happen until his very last day here on Earth.
Steve left my side and went with Eric over to The Children’s Hospital. I laid there, on the cold, hard table, by myself, waiting to go to recovery. No more baby with me, no more comfort, and struggling to find the slightest glimmer of joy in this whole experience. The sadness of being separated from my husband and newborn baby overtook me and I began to weep.
At that moment, I felt a loneliness I had never felt. I wondered how I was ever going to go on living and knew I would never be the same person as I was before today.
I was now able to have a dose of pain medication and off they wheeled me to the recovery room. It seemed like hours and even though I slept, I was drained when Steve stood over me and held my hand, explaining to me what was going on with Eric. He was stable, and they were beginning to do tests and more tests, connecting him to more machines, and giving him more medication, and whatever else was being done to assess the severity of the situation and keep him alive. The decision to put him on ECMO ((Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) is a procedure that uses a machine to take over the work of the lungs and sometimes the heart) was made within a few hours since his lungs weren’t mature enough and there was so much crowding in his chest.
All I wanted to do was to hop out of that bed and go to Eric. I needed to see him, but I would have to wait a little longer. I was in the process of getting settled into my room and I remember Steve was going back and forth making sure we were each okay. I delivered at Hutzel Women’s Hospital and The Children’s Hospital was next door. There was a tunnel that went underground connecting the two. This was not a tunnel for the normal visitor, but for extensive situations like ours, and for medical personal. We became very familiar with that tunnel over the next few days.
I remember when I had Alex and how much pain I was in, how I wasn’t able to walk much the first couple days, and how it hurt to move. I had the very same surgery this time, even more extensive because of the tubes being cauterized, but I was up and in a wheelchair to go see Eric that very same day. The physical strength I had to get out of bed and actually move, surprised many people, but not me. I didn’t give it a second thought. There was nothing that was going to keep me from going to see Eric. I didn’t know how much time I had with him, and I was not taking one second of it for granted.
The first night laying in bed, all alone in my room… literally all alone because Eric was now in his own room and not with me… a sensation went through me that was unexplainable. It was very quiet, I was resting pain free, and I recalled the day’s events, from the time I woke up that morning, until that very moment. The strength, empowerment, and pride that washed over me, and all through me, took me by surprise. What was this? Why did I feel so empowered when my son was hooked up to so many tubes I could barely count them? Why did I feel proud when my son was fighting to stay alive? Why did I feel strong when I had let Steve and Alex down?
I stayed with the feelings and let the questions swirl around in my head until I fell asleep. Tomorrow was just the beginning and I wanted to be there for my son, right next to him, and make sure he knew that mommy was going to keep fighting for him.
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