Mom to Jason 'JJ' Garrick Dial, Jr
October 29th, 2009
I selected my OB based strictly on geography. When I asked my general doctor for a referral, she knew of only one doctor in the area near my work. I called the office and scheduled an appointment for infertility. We had been trying for a year and a half with no success and I was ready to talk to someone who might be able to help. Since I’m a teacher, I called at the beginning of my summer and they didn’t have any openings until the end of my summer. However, one week before my appointment I took a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant. We were so excited, we’d been married almost five years and now we were going to be parents! I called the office and changed my infertility appointment to a pregnancy confirmation appointment.
We found out on a Tuesday (10/20) at 19 weeks that we were going to be having a boy. My husband, Jason, was so excited he couldn’t even stay in the room for any more of the ultrasound he had to leave the room to tell everyone he knew. I, on the other hand, was a bit sad about it being a boy. As I sat on the medical table and dealt with my disappointment, his life flashed before my eyes and I could see him leaving me on his mission. And I was sad. I had to reassure myself, he isn’t even born yet! You have 19 more years before he’s going to be leaving you, Relax! It was then that I knew having a boy was going to be okay.
The following Sunday night (10/25), we were at my parents for the annual family pumpkin carving party. We had bought me a pumpkin to carve but when I got there I just didn’t feel up to carving, so I told my cousin I’d hold her baby so she could carve with her little kids. I looked at it as good practice and an easy out. I was sitting on the couch holding the baby when I felt the first contraction. However, as a first time mommy, I didn’t realize that’s what it was. I just thought it was my dad’s chili paying me back.
I don’t remember much about the next day at work and how much pain I was or wasn’t in. I’d experienced the normal pregnancy “discomfort” and I think I just chalked it up to that and worked through it. But I do remember that that night as I ran some errands with my sister I felt horrible. I remember telling her, “It’s a good thing we have to take care of this shopping, because I feel like crap.” I remember talking to my friend on the phone on the way home, tell her something similar.
I got home and crashed on the couch, telling Jason I felt horrible. He was worried about me and asked me to call the doctor to see what he suggested. I wasn’t sold. It was 9:30 at night, what on earth could the doctor tell me? I had work in the morning. Somehow Jason convinced me to at least call the doctor. The on call nurse told me she wanted me to go to Triage to get checked out. She asked me a few questions that threw up some red flags for me, “How far apart are the pains?” “How long do they last?” I told her it wasn’t really like that, but I knew that based on those questions, she thought I was in labor.
We lived over 30 minutes from the hospital, so by the time we got to the hospital it was 10:30 and I was still just worried about work the next day. In the car was the first time I felt the pains in waves and then I started to get worried. I told myself that if I could just hear his heartbeat, I would know everything was okay.
Triage checked me in, she found his heartbeat and I felt a wave of relief. They put me in one of the Triage rooms and started monitoring the contractions. After monitoring me for about 10 minutes, they came back in and said I was experiencing some pre-term labor symptoms and they would give me some Terbutaline shots. They made it sound like I would get these few shots and then they would send me home shortly. We hadn’t even told our parents yet that we were at the hospital.
In between shots, the nurse did a vaginal ultrasound. Everything looked good. After the ultrasound, I told the nurse I felt like I was “leaking” she said it was probably just the lubricant from the ultrasound. Then she lifted my gown and saw that it was blood. Then they checked to see if I was dilated. I was dilated 3 cm. Things changed very suddenly. The doctor came and told us that normally this hospital didn’t deal with women this early in labor and they might have to air vac me to another hospital in Phoenix that specialized in women in labor this early. I told Jason he could call our parents, we were going to be here for a while.
Even though I was only 20 weeks, I ended up staying at that hospital. (Jason told me later that the doctor told him I was in too precarious of a situation to air vac and they had to keep me there.) The doctor made it perfectly clear that if I did deliver this early, there was nothing they could do to make the baby survive. Nurses rushed in and gave me the warnings for taking magnesium sulfate, “mag,” inserted a catheter, and worked on an IV. And those same red flag questions returned, “On a scale of 1-10, how much pain are you in?” “Are the contractions getting more painful?” “Do you feel like pushing?” Once I was hooked up to mag, everything got a little blurry for me.
I remember being wheeled into an L&D room. I remember them elevating my feet and lowering my head trying to keep blood away from my pelvic area. I remember vomiting once the mag was in my system for twenty minutes. I remember being monitored every 30 minutes. My parents showed up about 45 minutes later and I could tell from the way my mom looked at me that things were pretty bad. But she stayed with me and kept me company.
I made it through the night and the contractions lightened only slightly. The next morning the specialists started to visit. First it was the neonatologist with the strong accent. She was in there for about three minutes and said exactly what I’d heard the night before. If I delivered my son this early, there was nothing she could do for him. If I could make it even three more weeks, then she could help. Then it was the perinatologist with the snakeskin boots who started to throw around words like “incompetent cervix” and “cerclage”. He told us he would come back after lunch and monitor my progress. Thank heavens he had a busy day and didn’t make it back to my room until 9:30 pm, because by then, labor had slowed extensively. After a day of high doses of mag, regular shots of Zofran to combat the nausea, and elevated feet, he cleared me to lower my dose, lay parallel with the ground and even sit as needed to drink and eat if I felt up to it.
The second night in the hospital went a lot better. I could finally have that drink of water I had been asking for since Triage. Wednesday (10/28) was a good day. I was able to sit up for most of the day and watch movies with my sister. It looked like that cerclage might actually be an option. My dad even offered to stay at the hospital with me that night so Jason could go home and rest. Jason declined and said he’d be okay. Thank goodness he was there that night.
That night Jason asked the nurse to give me a sponge bath to try and cheer me up. While the sponge bath happened I could feel the contractions coming on stronger. But I wasn’t worried, I had had a great day, I had felt great. I just had to sleep through this, get some more medication and I would be fine.
Wednesday night was even worse than the first night in the hospital in more rooms than just mine. The L&D wing was buzzing with activity and getting any nurse response was a slow process. I first asked her over to see if they could increase my mag dose. The doctor allowed her to increase the dosage, but not to as much as it had been when I first checked in. We had to go through the need for Zofran again. I couldn’t sleep through the pain and all the nurse could offer me was Tylenol or a sleep aid. After two nights of no sleep, Jason was finally able to sleep on the couch in the room. He missed most of the pain I was in.
The contractions were now closer together than they had ever been since my hospital stay. By the time I could relax enough to go to sleep, another more painful contraction would start. Early, early in the morning, the nurse could tell that there wasn’t a lot they could do to stop the labor. The doctor thought they might be able to try a medicine usually for arthritis patient that might relax the uterus, but she was having trouble locating it through the pharmacy. She then said they could give me something stronger for the pain, maybe some morphine? A few minutes later she asked me if there was anyone I wanted to call, clergy? Parents?
I felt bad waking Jason but knew I had to. He called our bishop and my parents. Both arrived shortly. My mom held my hand through everything. She gave me words of comfort and told me everything would be okay. Even then, I still didn’t think I would deliver this baby right then. Everything was going to be okay, my body would cooperate and keep him in. I would be fine. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the room who still felt that way.
The minute I felt like pushing, I knew my hope and faith wasn’t going to fix this situation. I knew what that meant. I remember my mom saying to me, “He just needs you to give him a body, can you do that for him?” Jason was outside on the phone when the pain really swelled and the urge to push started. This was also about 7:00 am on Thursday, October 29, 2009 (21 weeks exactly), while the nurses were changing shifts. After a rough night all around the hospital, there was a lot of things that had to be discussed and there were no nurses anywhere near my room. My dad went to get any nurse he could. After he left and the pain got truly horrible, I screamed. Jason heard me down the hall and came running. My first push, I was all alone with my mom and husband. By the second push, the entire nurses’ station had swarmed inside my room. Just in time to catch my son and hurriedly clean up everything.
The nurse who cleaned him and weighed him said, “He’s breathing. Do you want to hold him?” I looked at my mom and didn’t know what to say. In all my dreams and all my thoughts of the day my son would be born, I wasn’t going to be faced with this decision. I trembled out an “Okay.” I knew I didn’t have the time to think about it before the time was over. While the nurses continued to work through the room, Jason and I held our son and shared his perfection together. My husband was holding him when JJ took his last breath.
My nurse worked to help my body get put back together. She took out my IV. She removed the catheter. She helped me to the restroom. I remember what it felt like when I first stood after being in a hospital bed for almost 60 hours, that emptiness inside me with the absence of my son. Family and friends came to visit, to offer comfort with the words they couldn’t find. I was still in shock. My body was finally mostly back to normal, I was no longer in labor or on mag. My mind didn’t have the energy to make sense of what had happened. All I wanted to do was sleep and be alone with my husband.
During one of those brief moments of solitude, Jason asked me if we could name our son after him. Of all the decisions I had to make that day and of all the things I wasn’t sure about, I knew that was right. I knew our son was meant to be named after his father, because even at 21 weeks, he resembled his father. In the days after JJ’s death I would look at my husband sleeping and see our son’s face in his. I know that our son has even more in common with his father and when I do get to raise him in heaven, after this life, all of those similarities will be made known to me.
Katie blogs at jasonandkatiedial.blogspot.com
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org