If you haven’t read our infertility story please read that here first.
As 2018 comes to a close, I sat rocking my little girl this evening and a tear slid down my cheek. What a year this was, and what a year compared to the last several years. I just rocked and rocked and prayed “Thank you God.” Being on the other side of a major trial for the second time in my life, I am once again shocked by his grace and goodness. Not sure why I am shocked by that, maybe because I don’t feel it is deserved, but wow. He always gives so much more than we can imagine. It is just always in His timing. He uses the hard and painful to shape and mold, and once we see his artwork, we stand back amazed. Our infertility story and now our Birth story have made me stand back utterly in awe of Him, I never saw this coming.
I loved being pregnant, like ridiculously loved it. I loved my belly, I loved maternity clothes, I loved going to bed early and my cozy pregnancy pillow, I loved every single kick and movement, I loved going to doctors’ appointments and hearing that little heart beating. I was finally here. I loved it! After 6 years of marriage and 2 long years of actively pursuing IVF treatments, I loved that I was going to be a mom.
As the due date got closer I was equally excited to meet our little one and find out gender, but also bummed that I would be done with this pregnancy journey. It almost felt like I had worked so hard to get pregnant that the actual having a baby part I wasn’t ready for! BUT, we began the usual full-term eviction processes. Long walks, spicy food, etc..
Labor and Delivery
On Saturday July 28th ( I was due Aug 1) after two walks I finally started feeling some contractions Hmmm I wonder if this could be it? I still wasn’t feeling very big. I never got “uncomfortable” the way so many full-term moms complained about. I found that kind of odd.
No, Saturday wasn’t the day.
Sunday July 29th – nothing.
Monday July 30, I went to lunch with my mother in law and described those low contractions and explained how I just didn’t feel like I was very big, and that those contractions weren’t normal or even real. I even said out loud “I just feel like there is a tiny little girl in there.”
Contractions again that evening- fizzled at bedtime.
Tuesday July 31 – nothing.
Wednesday August 1- 6:30 am, oh hello familiar contractions, I wonder if today is the day?
Aaron came with me to my 1:00 PM doctor appointment that was previously scheduled. Contractions had been consistent all morning and I told him to stay close and be sure to go with me to the doctor! Contractions were starting to get painful. The doctor checks..I am at a 1. Boo.. go home. I really wish they would have checked on the baby at this appointment.
On the way home. This hurts.. like… um… ouch.
By 4:00 PM, after eating a late lunch from Chik-fil-A (!!) I call and we head to the hospital.
Last photo before baby!
These contractions REALLY hurt, but why are they so low? Why so sharp? Where is all this wrapping and tightening people talk about? This doesn’t seem right to me. After the nurse checked me I was barely a 3. OK, we still have a long way to go. That’s fine… I looked the nurse straight in the eye and said,
“Please, don’t send me home.”
After a few minutes the nurse came in and said, since you asked not to be sent home we are going to move you to a room. The doctor said it was ok if we just monitor for a while. Once we got settled into a room, only a short amount of time goes by and the nurse comes in and tells me to turn on my side. Ok. Odd. She comes back in a few minutes later, “let’s put some oxygen on you”…
At this point I am starting to feel like something really isn’t ok. My contractions are starting to lessen significantly and I am afraid I will have to go home. Like terrified something is wrong and I will get sent away from the “safety” of the hospital.
A few minutes after that, in walks the doc, who says, “I don’t like this, I just told the OR to prep, let’s go.”
Oh, wow, ok this is like an emergency? … yep…
Aaron immediately informs the family that just kidding this won’t go until late in the night or early in the morning. Baby is coming out immediately.
Within 20 min I am laying, completely numb, and I hear the words “Meconium, Meconium!” and I am feeling the tugging of baby coming out.
Let’s pause from the scary for a second.
Our doc, who is AMAZING, has Aaron check out baby to announce gender. He pauses for a bit (I find out later it’ because she is green and brown and covered in poop and he can barely tell gender because her cord is weird colored and he was so distracted by all of that, I mean who wouldn’t be?) and I finally hear the words, “That is definitely NOT a boy..”
As soon as I processed that, while in the midst of the crazy emergency C-section, I felt the most unbelievable and overwhelming feeling of completeness. It wasn’t “aww a girl, yay,” which I did feel so so much, or even any of the other million feelings I could have felt. It was complete. My family is complete. Our story is complete. This journey to motherhood is complete. We are complete. God is amazing.
And we instantly knew we were naming her Sloane. More on that later.
Back to the scary..sorry
I hear no crying. As I mentioned she was brown and green, and they didn’t bring her to me. Finally after cleaning her off they lifted her up and I burst into tears - she was so beautiful, but then off she went. still no crying. “We are just going to take her to the NICU, we will keep you updated.” She weighed only 5lbs 1 oz and I was 39w4d. She should have been bigger.
I asked the doctor while she was stitching if Sloane would have survived if I was sent home. Her response was, long pause, um.. I don’t think so. um… WHAT? See remember when I had those contractions on Saturday evening, I think this is when she was in distress and had pooped. I really did think something was wrong, and in fact, it was.
Later on I was told that a piece of my placenta had died several weeks prior to Sloane’s birth causing her small size and eventually her distress. Her lungs were completely filled with meconium. She was on 100% oxygen and that still was not enough. If I could stress one thing to IVF moms is to ask for extra monitoring during third trimester. We IVF mom’s have a lot higher stats for complications, and if I had known, maybe we could have taken her earlier and saved her from this..
As soon as they whisked her away I think God put blinders over my eyes, I just kept thinking, lots of babies go to the NICU, I honestly didn’t even feel worried and I don’t know why. At 5am they came into my room to tell me they had intubated her and put her on a vent. Oh wow, ok…. that probably isn’t good. (Later on, I noticed on a bill the words “newborn resuscitation”)
When morning finally came around and I was able to get up and go see her. This was my first look.
“No, you can’t touch her.” “Please don’t talk in here.” “The towel over her head keeps her calm.” “She is just struggling.” “Her lungs are full.” “Meconium aspiration.” “She has probably been in her own meconium for 4+ days”
Now I was starting to worry…
So, Thursday was a mess, back and forth to the NICU waiting for any good news, talk of a transfer to a level 4 NICU, and numbers that just weren’t promising. No one could tell me she was going to be ok.
Friday, more of the same, until early afternoon, I was alone in my room because Aaron had gone out to eat with my parents so I could take a nap, and the Neonatologist comes in and says, we need to move her. Her numbers are dropping and we don’t have the treatment that she needs.
FULL BLOWN PANIC on my part. Aaron, get back here now! Every blinder was ripped away in that moment. Every emotion came flooding in, as did the tears. She was going to die. but, God you wouldn’t do that. You just gave us this miracle, are you going to take her away?
The doctor started talking about stroke risks, and ECMO, and all of these crazy sounding things and I finally looked the doctor in the eye and said, please stop. Just stop talking. I could barely breathe.
The transport team arrived, and I wish I would have taken a picture of the amount of things and people necessary to move an extremely sick baby. There were 10 people in her tiny room and a tiny box on top of enormous machines that looked and felt like a casket. I felt like I was saying goodbye to my two-day old girl forever. There were doctors everywhere all telling me different things. I finally sort of yelled above all the hustle and just said can I please just look at her, even from a distance and then I will let you take her. I just wanted to see her one last time, if it was going to be the last. Off she went, I didn’t see her again for 4 hours.
Then I was discharged, 40 hours after having major surgery, so we could follow her to the new NICU. I think by far, this was the worst day of my life. I was in pain, weak, tired, terrified, and now I had to pack my bags, leave the hospital, go to another hospital and wait and wait and wait to see her. I can honestly say the tears I shed in that awful waiting room were actually physically painful. I was cut open and sore from walking back and forth to the NICU, washing pump parts and doing all the things I should not have been doing because my baby was unbelievably sick, and I was broken. Aaron and I were broken together.
The name Sloane and the Facebook announcement
Let’s pause and talk about the name Sloane. Aaron found it in early May 2018, and it went on the list. We just kept coming back to it. We LOVED that it meant warrior. She had to have been a warrior to survive in my pit of a uterus, but now the meaning was even more important. She had a long fight ahead.
A few days after she was born Aaron (who isn’t big on social media) asked, are you going to post that she was born? People keep asking me if you have had a baby yet and I don’t know what to tell them... I just burst into tears.
Was she going to make it? I can’t take a photo of her without tubes everywhere… I didn’t get a fresh 48 session. She looks scary… This isn’t how it is supposed to be... This is not how I envisioned this happening… Through years of infertility my end goal was that hospital photo with the giant bow (yes, I always envisioned a girl) and the adorable baby burrito all swaddled up... She was none of those things. She was laying naked on a table with so many cords..so many..
I couldn’t yet… I waited a few more days and finally 5 days after she was born I posted. I still cry when I think about it. It was not how I had always dreamed it would be. I mourn that loss. I mourn the loss of that beautiful skin to skin moment after a baby being born, a fresh 48 session with the bows as I mentioned, the first bath with daddy, the scale... and even a first cry. I don’t think I heard her make a noise until day 7. The NICU is so hard, a lot of people spend time there, I had no idea how hard.
That announcement image will always bring tears to my eyes, tears of joy and tears of sadness.
The Girl Who Lived - (did you get the Harry Potter reference there?)
The amount of people praying for Sloane, including our giant church (College Park) where our head pastor mentioned her name in every service that Sunday, is the reason she is alive. You prayed. God saved her. You all also brought meals, sent messages, shipped gifts, gave gift cards, and prayed more and more. She is alive because of you and our Lord (and I won’t forget to mention the AMAZING NICU doctors and nurses).
Every single night we went home empty handed and exhausted, food was waiting, gifts were on the doorstep, and more messages of encouragement were in hand. When we would wake up and get back to the NICU, she would have improved so much overnight it felt miraculous. Every morning she would do so much better than they predicted.
How do I even say Thank you for that? I couldn’t write thank you notes because I simply had so many people to thank and I didn’t have the time, but please know that we were and are so thankful for the love that was shown us during this time.
I will NEVER forget the moment I first held her 7 days after she was born and I just kept saying… mommy’s got you. mommy’s got you... as tears poured down my face. She was so tiny and my love for her was so fierce. I know all new mommy’s can understand that feeling. It is one of the strongest emotions I have ever felt. Then to feel like you could do nothing to help your child was just so devastating. When I had her in my arms I just finally felt like I was helping, she knows I am here. This will help her. It was such a relief to feel like I could even play such a small part in her healing. Aaron got to hold her too, and what a sight to behold.
After 15 of the longest days of my life were over, she was coming home. We were parents. I was a mom. 2 years of infertility and the intense pain that comes along with that were over. Her fight with meconium aspiration was over. We had a healthy baby girl.
Throughout our infertility journey, I kept coming back to James 1 and the word steadfast. I was still wearing my necklace every day that carried that specific word.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Did you catch it? the word complete. The word that came into my head the minute she was born…
On November 10th I was laying down to go to bed, Sloane sleeping in the next room, and I felt the Lord tell me to take off my steadfast necklace. It was so clear and such a strong urge I took it off immediately and heard Him say, that story is over, it is time for a new one. One week later, as I rocked my baby to sleep, I realized that on November 10th it had been exactly 1 year since the day God began to form Sloane in a lab at Midwest Fertility. A full and complete circle.
So here we are, she is almost 5 months old and I have never loved something so much in my entire life. She is pure joy. As I have said before, being a new parent is hard, she can be hard, but not having her and almost losing her was so much harder.
We are complete.
With all our love and so many thanks,
Aaron, Sarah, and Sloane Shields