A year ago today, we decided to visit the hospital just to be certain I wasn’t leaking amniotic fluid. We had just moved to a new city, J had started a new preschool class, and I had been on bed rest at home for about a week. I was 28 weeks pregnant and was feeling the undeniable “trickle” but we remained optomistic until we were able to get checked out at the hospital. While we had a few options of which hospital to go to in the area, we chose the one with the highest level NICU, just to be safe. Little did we know, the reality of needing that was much closer than not. The threat and fear of having our little boy way too early was much bigger and closer than we knew, but we lived it every, single day for the next fifty days of our lives.
I’ve been asked, “How did you do it?” How did you lay flat on your back for seven long weeks?! The answer is simple. I’m not special. I don’t have superpowers. I’m no different than anyone else. What other choice did I have?? When you’re a mom, you just do it. You do absolutely everything you can for your babies and while it wasn’t easy, it was absolutely worth every second of every minute of every hour of every, single day. I will tell you, I didn’t do it alone. Without God’s answer to prayer, my incredible husband, the crucial help from my mom and our family, my amazing nurses, and the prayer, support and love from everyone, it wouldn’t have happened. Plain and simple. But, that moment when I heard his first cry come from his tiny, little body, made it all worth it. Though, in true Dekker fashion, there was plenty of drama before that moment ever came.
It’s not common to stay pregnant for seven weeks after your water breaks, but somehow, with prayer and modern medicine, God allowed us extra time. I hadn’t had time to find a new doctor after moving, so I had the unique”opportunity” of conducting interviews from my hospital bed. Doc after Doc came through, proposing their “plan” for us. Most wanted to deliver him via C-section at 34 weeks if we even got that far. It was, according to them, the safest option for everyone. While I wasn’t in the position to be extremely picky or opinionated, I was praying for a Doctor that would allow more time and would support my desire to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). I knew it was a long shot, but I truly believed this was our best chance of the healthiest baby possible, that could potentially come right home with me from the hospital. At 34 weeks, all babies at this hospital automatically go to the NICU to be on the safe side. However, at 35 weeks, they allow mom to immediately hold baby and see how baby is doing before takiing them to the NICU. I wanted that. I really wanted that. More than anything, I wanted to hold my baby boy, to nurse him right away, to get that skin-to-skin, even if it ended up that he needed to go to the NICU, I wanted that chance. So, when one Doctor walked into my room, willing to wait that extra week and supporting my wish to deliver him vaginally, I was one happy mama.
It was a time in my life when I felt like I had lost complete control of everything. I went from not having ever spend longer than 24 hours away from J to being away from home for an excruciating seven weeks. I had to completely surrender my parental role for that time, because even when he would visit me, I wasn’t even supposed to sit up, much less chase him around. It was, by far, the hardest part of being in there. I didn’t know how to explain to him why I wasn’t home with him to tuck him in at night or why I couldn’t pick him up and comfort him when he caught his finger in the door at the hospital. I was often bored and sometimes lonely. My heart ached. My body ached. I could’ve easily become depressed and isolated. If it weren’t for the love, prayer, support, gifts, and visits from family and friends, I would’ve been a complete mess. If I hadn’t had the most amazing husband in the entire world that slept every, single night on the hospital couch bed, I probably would have cried myself to sleep many nights. That wouldn’t have been possible if my mom hadn’t given up her entire life for seven weeks to stay with J and take care of him and my entire family, no questions asked. I sometimes shared the highlights on social media of visits from friends, my mom bringing J, or 15 minute wheelchair rides to get fresh air, but truthfully it was hard. It was really, really hard. The hardest thing I’ve ever done.
So, the when we finally and miraculously reached 35 weeks, I was ready. I was, of course, worried that he would be too little and could potentially have a hard time breathing, regulating his body temperature, latching, and many other difficulties, but after weeks and weeks of reading the prognosis if I delivered at that gestation, we had made it to a point that while it was worrisome, the outlook was good and he would be just fine, possibly needing some extra help and time in the NICU. I also knew that the risk of delivering him at 35 weeks was lower than the risk of developing an infection from having my water broken for so long, so I was ready to meet him, no matter what.
The night before they planned to induce my labor, they took me off the meds that were keeping the contrations at bay. I took these meds every day for seven weeks, so when they stopped administering them, my contractions quickly kicked into gear. When my doctor came in that morning to check me, he saw that I was already 3cm dilated and the contractions were becoming pretty regular. So, they gave me a brand new room with an ocean view on the labor & delivery floor. They told me to make myself comfortable, because today was the day, but these things can take time. Our parents made their way to the hospital to settle in and await the arrival of their tiny grandson. Brendan set up the music, I began breathing through the contractions as they became more and more frequent.
Not but an hour later, I was in the zone. I went from having lively conversation with our family between contractions to requesting that conversation remain quiet and minimal. I was focused on relaxing, breathing, and allowing my body to perform miracles. While my wish was to have an unmedicated birth, part of the deal I made with my Doctor was that I would be willing to get an epidural. In the event that I would need an emergency C-section he wanted me to be prepped for it. It was that or they would have to knock me out for his birth, and I wanted to be awake to meet him. So, when my nurse came to say it was time to get the epidural, I didn’t feel quite ready, but when she could see how often and long I was contracting, she persuaded me to get the process started. We knew I had progressed to at least 5cm, so she wasn’t concerned with slowing labor.
It was the first time I laid down since beginning labor. They had just administered the epidural and I was feeling immense pressure. I told my nurse and she said that was a great sign that we were getting closer. I told told her, “No no, you don’t understand. Like… a loooooot if pressure.” She agreed to check me again, because she wanted to place a fetal monitor on the top of his head anyway, because there were a few times during the epidural process that his heart rate had dipped and she wanted to be sure he wasn’t in distress. So, when she checked me, she found that I was now 9cm dilated, so it was no surprise that I was feeling the amount of pressure I was. She was pretty sure I was about to deliver him before the epidural even had a chance to kick in.
It was that moment that everything became a blur. You know that part in the movie, where you’re staring straight down at the blank stare of the main character’s face as they’re being rushed on a hospital bed by a group of 10 screaming nurses to the operating room? Ya, that was me. All of a sudden, that beautifully strong rhythmic heartbeat of my baby that I had been meditating on had dropped to nearly nothing and didn’t come back up. My husband was ripped away and placed in a holding room while they swiftly prepped me for an emergency C-section. There were so many people. Terms like “crashing” and “no heartbeat” were being yelled across the operating room. My Doctor was barreling down hallways, pushing people out of way, rushing to save my baby. I didn’t dare ask if he was ok. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer. I just remember talking to him out loud. I told him he had to hang on. I needed him. We could do this together. I reminded him how much I loved him already and that he was going to be ok. Even with all the people in the room, I felt completely alone. It was then that I felt God’s presence and comfort. I mean this when I say, He was in that room. It was almost as if I could reach out and touch Him. It was undeniable. They finally allowed my sweet husband in the room and then, in the midst of chaos and noise, one nurse looked up and shouted, “Everybody, STOP! The baby’s heart rate is rising, Doctor, check her!” When he found that I was completely dilated and ready to push, he exchanged scalpel for vacuum and two big pushes later, the tiniest, most glorious, most courageous cry was heard. My little warrior baby had made his way into the world unscathed. He was 5 pounds 5 ounces of absolute perfection. The doctor handed him straight to me and said, “This one’s a keeper, I think he’s going home with you.”
And that’s exactly what he did. From that moment on, he never left our side. Not to the NICU, not to an incubator, he stayed right there with his mom and dad, healthy as can be. He was my miracle. He was strong, and brave, and he was all mine. It was the perfect ending and beginning all at the same time. It was a long, difficult journey leading up to that moment but it was everything I had ever wished for. Fifty long days of Grae, and then we got to go home and our life began a new normal.
“Though he be but little, he is fierce.”
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6