I could write a lot about what I did, what we did, to save our sons. And that could be another five blog posts. I have a journal and wrote down a lot at the time. I can share some of the things that I did, and maybe in time I will write more in detail. Right now it’s really important that I share their birth story. I feel that this is what they want to be known. It’s amazing how much I am feeling them as I write about them. How much I feel like their mother, how much I feel we are their parents. Grief does funny things and can cause disconnect and feelings of illusion and detachment. I think part of the reason why they have nudged me so much to share their story is so that it can continue to be a part of my healing and to help us feel even closer to them.
So what I will say about what we did for their health and to improve their situation, was everything. It became a full time job. I consulted with my holistic healers in many arenas and followed all of their advice. None of it mattered, because I did not want to have any regrets. I can tell you that we did have real, measureable success that the doctors could not explain. One weeks after the first ultra sound with the high risk doctor, the blood clots that were very apparent in the first ultra sound, were completely gone. They had vanished. In one week they had completely dissolved and I did not have any bleeding. So I knew that what I was doing was doing something. And that was enough for me to keep going. Two more weeks later, the boys had fluid in their bodies, in their stomaches and in their bladders. Ryan asked where the fluid came from, and the nurse told us they swallow it, so they must have some fluid around their bodies. I was hopeful, that their amniotic fluid was building up and maybe they did have a fighting chance. But they lost their fluid so early, and I wasn’t sure. I read stories about babies at 16, 18, 20 weeks losing their fluid and making it to 24 or 26 weeks and they made it. But our boys lost their fluid around 12 weeks. That was pretty early, and as hopeful as we both were, we also feared the worst. Even when you fear the worst, when it actually happens, nothing can prepare you for it.
On Tuesday, May 30th, in the late afternoon, I began to have some cramps. They were really low in my abdomen and were slightly uncomfortable but not too bad. After about an hour they went away. Then a few hours after dinner they came back. And they were really intense. I could actually see my low abdomen contracting when they squeezed me. But still, I thought maybe I was dehydrated, or maybe had a bladder infection. We called the doctor and they told us to get to Stanford asap for an ultra sound to make sure everything was ok. But we were apprehensive and didn’t know what the right choice was. We both really thought that I just had a bladder infection gone bad. Around 11pm Ryan ran to the store to get me some cranberry juice, and I was going to guzzle the entire jar. While he was gone, and it was only about 15 minutes, the cramping stopped. I felt my heartbeat relax. I felt calm, and I actually felt really good. Everything was going to be ok. He got home, poured me a glass of juice, and I sat up in bed to drink it. A few minutes later, we were going to go to bed and of course, I wanted to make sure I went to the bathroom. I had felt some pressure on my bladder for the last 20 minutes or so, which confirmed my thinking that maybe I had a really bad bladder infection.
I went to the use the bathroom before bed, and that is when I delivered our first son, Nicholas. I called to Ryan because I was so afraid, I couldn’t look. I could feel something was coming out of me and I was so scared and shaking all over. Ryan took him in his hands and I finally was able to look down at him. He was so tiny, so so tiny. And he was moving. We both looked at each other in udder bewilderment. Here was our baby boy, way too early, but so so perfect. He was so precious beyond words. I looked at Ryan and told him to call 911. I held Nicholas in my hands, tiny, thin umbilical cord attached, and made my way in to the living room. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It felt so surreal, so strange, so foreign, like I was living in someone else’s life.
The paramedics, fire medics and police came almost immediately. They took me in to the ambulance and we raced away to Lucille Packard children’s hospital, maybe two miles away from our home. What we entered in to when we arrived was nothing I had ever seen before. They had cleared the emergency room completely for us. The room probably had 30-40 people, orderlies, students, nurses, doctors, my eyes glazed over and Ryan was across the room from me. He couldn’t even be next to me. And I was still holding Nicholas. They did an ultra sound to see our other son and said there was no amniotic fluid present but he was not down the birth canal yet. It took a few minutes and they rushed me up to labor and delivery. Things are kind of a blur from there. Doctors and nurses coming in, giving me an IV, maybe another ultra sound? I don’t remember. It was almost an hour later before I delivered again. I actually had to deliver this time. I was dilated to about a 4 or 5, which was enough considering they were not full term. After midnight, on May 31st, I delivered our second son Lucas. He was breech and he was again, moving yet barely alive. They did not detect a heart beat but Ryan knows he saw his chest move. We knew it didn’t matter, since they were too small to live outside of the womb. We spent a long time just holding our sons. I have never felt so much pain in my life, like my heart had been ripped out of my chest and was outside of my body and in these two little precious babies who I loved more than anything else I had ever laid eyes on. Nothing can even put in to words what we actually felt in those moments. Nothing.
Delivering the placentas was another story. Because I was early, they were still small and softer then when a baby is full term. The doctor was able to remove one, and the other just wasn’t making it’s way out. I was losing a lot of blood. A lot. A transfusion was discussed, and I was whisked away to the operating room for a d&c to remove the second placenta. Ryan was left in his own, they wouldn’t let him come in. I’m not sure why, and all I wanted was to feel him next to me. I was given a spinal block, some blood was drawn, and immediately once the numbness kicked in they went to work. I was shaking so badly. I didn’t want to have this done, but if my life depended on it, I didn’t have a choice. We had already lost so much that I didn’t want Ryan and I to lose each other as well. Not even two minutes in the second placenta came loose and was extracted. I didn’t even need to have the full procedure, I didn’t have any procedure at all except for the spinal block. I was grateful beyond measure. It was incomprehensible to me that in the course of a few hours I had had a home birth, a breech delivery, and I was in the OR for a procedure. Not in a million years could we have ever imagined that this was going to be the birth story of our first pregnancy. Nothing can prepare you. In the moment, you just go with it, because there is nothing else that you can do.
I returned to the room and continued to get numb, which was so, so weird. I think it was around 5 or 6am at this time. They were still monitoring me to make sure I didn’t bleed anymore. I was given something to help make sure all contractions and labor had stopped. I can’t really remember. There are a lot of details I remember that I’ll leave out. The hospital was quite boggled with us and our situation. A baby born at home before 20 weeks (which is the time which the birth goes from being classified as a miscarriage to a stillborn, which is a JOKE in my opinion because what we had happen was neither one, and I’m sure thousands of parents have the same experience of having neither one as well) and a baby born at the hospital at 20 weeks. There was lots of paperwork and things that are not necessary to get in to. But let me say, that is nothing that any parent wants to deal with after having their children born early and leaving this life too soon. It was very taxing and exhausting.
I can’t remember when we went home, maybe around 3pm the next day. Or the same day, since we arrived at the hospital after midnight. The feeling of leaving a hospital, no longer pregnant, and also no longer with our babies, is something I will never forget. It is heart wrenching beyond belief. It is the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life. I know I can speak for Ryan on that as well. We have never felt more anguish.
When we got home, I think we just stared at the wall for a little while. And then we realized we better start calling some people. We were both in shock and started having the same conversation over and over again, so it was actually kind of robotic in a way. It felt so surreal, so out of character, so bizarre. Food started arriving on our doorstep. I realized for the first time in almost 24 hours that I was hungry. We had been up for 36 hours. That night I think we both slept a dreamless night. I slept well, surprisingly, but it was numb.
The next day visitors came, flowers arrived, more food arrived, it was more than we ever expected. People who we had no idea cared so much showered us with love. It was incredible and amazing to see this side of the human condition. Never had we been in such need before, and those who came through for us just astounded me. I am and always will be, we both will be, immensely grateful for all of the selfless acts of those who came forward to care for us in our time of need. We were deeply touched and I still feel so much love when I think of it. Humanity, in it’s fragility, is really beautiful.
A gesture of genuine kindness that touched us both, maybe the most, although that’s hard to say because they were all thoughtful and incredible, was when the fire medic stopped by our home the next day. He was off duty, and he brought us flowers from the fire station, from all who had come to our aid less than 48 hours before. We were all choked up, when he shared that they were so impressed by us, and our situation was so unique and also incredible, that he couldn’t let it go unnoticed. He was so impressed at our level of calmness that we displayed, and the commitment we had to each other, and the love that we shared. It was one of the most beautiful gestures of kindness and I am still in shock and gratitude to the grace and love that he displayed to us. It showed us both how special our boys are, how much of an impact they have had on the world, even in the short amount of time they lived their tiny lives.
Our sons continue to impact us daily. They inform the choices we make, they inform how we see the world, and they have forever marked our hearts with their presence and existence. We miss them terribly, every day. We would have much rather had them stay with us. And they needed to go. For whatever reason, that sometimes seems very clear and is sometimes shrouded in doubt and mystery, they needed to go. We love them forever, our precious boys Nicholas and Lucas.
Thank you for reading abut our sons, and for letting us share it with you. May their short lives have a positive ripple effect on this world to all those who come in to contact with their story.
Love, The Johnsons
Ryan, Adrienne, Nicholas and Lucas