The birth of our second child is two stories intertwined. Often we don’t see God’s providence and mercies to us, but then every once in a while we get a glimpse, we see how intricately our stories are woven with the stories of others and how it all works together to make a beautiful tapestry of His grace. This story is an instance of the latter.
After the complications we experienced with the birth of our first child, we planned a hospital birth for our second. We would use the same hospital and the same doctor. The hospital is small, very supportive of natural birth and about a 50 minute drive from our home.
Our baby was due January 1 and I set up the Christmas tree in November since I just knew that this baby would be early just like her big sister. Christmas came and went and so did New Year’s. I didn’t take the tree down because I didn’t want to be in the middle of that when the baby arrived.
Contractions began in the wee hours of the morning on January 9th. They were 5 minutes apart and regular, just like with Amber, but these were the real, making-progress type of contractions, getting longer and harder as morning approached.
Since things weren’t imminent and I had a regular OB appointment scheduled for 10, I decide to just keep my appointment. Mark went to work and since we had only one car my mom came to drive me to the appointment. This way if this was ‘it’ mom could take Amber with her and Mark would have his car to be able to come to the hospital.
My contractions continue until we arrived at the OB’s office and then they stop. Even though this was frustrating for me, it was God’s providential hand allowing me to be available for the part that I was to play. I needed to be with my mother, but I needed to NOT be in labor.
When Dr. G checks me, I am 70% effaced and 4-5 cm. He is surprised that I am not in active labor and he doesn’t want me to go all the way home because he’s not sure we’ll make it back in time. Dr. G encourages us to go walk, get something to eat and then come back and check in with him after a few hours.
My mom and I eat lunch or rather I eat lunch and then we walk in the park. Here I am 9+ months pregnant and she is unable to keep up with me. She is tired and short of breath, **she isn’t feeling well, but doesn’t want to worry me. After seeing that there has been no change, Dr. G sends me home warning me not to hang out too long if things begin happening again.
My mom is driving home when we stop at a red light and she turns to me, ” Kimberly, you need to drive.” I have no idea what is wrong but we switch places right there at the light. We are just 2 miles from the hospital and I ask if I should turn around and go back, but she insists that I drive to the hospital near our house that is currently 50 minutes away. (The doctors who end up treating my mom later tell us that turning around to go back to that small hospital would have been a death sentence. She would have needed to be transferred to the larger hospital anyway and she did not have that extra time.)
I will never forget that drive. Even now nearly 12 years later I can not think of it without emotion. My mom is in the passenger seat with the seat reclined, the color drains from her face and her lips, her hands are blue and cold. I’m driving as fast as I safely can and praying that I will be pulled over and the police could escort us.
I keep looking to check and see if she’s still breathing, it’s difficult to tell. I pray that God will not allow my mother to die in the car. I’m not sure how much time we have.
Every once and a while she opens her eyes or squeezes my hand. I can tell that she doesn’t want me to worry. She’s still my mom –she’s trying to reassure me.
I pull into the emergency entrance and run into the hospital shouting that I need help, that I think my mom is having a heart attack. I’m not sure why I say that, I just know that she is dying and needs help.
Things happen quickly. Nurses and orderlies rush out of the hospital, get my mother and quickly head back in. One of the women takes my hand, “You need to go park your car. Get your baby (little 16 month old Amber is in the back seat) and come back into the hospital and talk to the people in admitting,” she says.
When I get back to the hospital I call my father and Mark, answer some medical questions about my mom and then Amber and I are taken back to the room where they are working on my mother. The room is frantic. They are trying unsuccessfully to get in an I.V. She is on oxygen and a variety of monitors. People are scrambling, Amber and I kneel in a corner and try to stay out of the way.
I pray that my father will make it in time.
Mark arrives and takes Amber to a waiting room.
A short while later my father walks into the room and my mother begins to cough. Someone thrusts papers at my father. No time for explanations, just “Sign these so we can try to save her life.” (She is going into congestive heart failure.)
They are running down the hall to emergency surgery. My mom thinks, “I’m dying” and as she looks at my dad, she knows that he will be OK without her. She later says that she was completely at peace.
My father and I join Amber and Mark in the waiting room and I lean into Mark and weep.
Things get fuzzy at this point, some of my siblings arrive and some friends from our church.
Our wonderful church family would continue to uphold our family in prayer and with their love and support, during the following weeks.
We learn that my mom has made it through surgery and is in ICU. If she lives through the night they will have a better idea about how much damage has been done and will try to give us some type of prognosis.
Eventually Mark insists that we go home because we could still have a baby at any moment and he wants me to get some sleep. I do not think that is possible.
In another of God’s amazing providences we go home and I go to sleep and sleep well until morning. At 6am I call the hospital and learn that my mother is still in ICU, she made it through the night.
We spend the next several days at the hospital, going home to sleep. We are surrounded by prayer, family, friends and loved ones from church. Two people are allowed to go back to see my mom for about 15 min. every hour, but the waiting room is crowded with support.
Our church family is wonderful. We are never alone and they feed, love and pray for us.
Several days into my mom’s recovery, Amber and I stay home for a nap. When I wake up I am unable to see out of one eye. Mark comes home and takes me to see Dr. G. By the time we arrive, my vision has returned to normal and everything checks out fine, but Mark and I decide that it is time to have a baby. I’m 12 days late, 100% effaced and 5cm dilated.
We decide to schedule an induction. Since the baby is still very high breaking my water is not a possibility, so we are left with pitocin. Dr. G. asks us to come into the hospital that night at midnight.
We head home to make arrangements for someone to watch Amber. While home we receive news that they are moving my mom out of ICU. She will not regain full heart function, but she will survive.
My contractions begin again, they are about 15 minutes apart, but regular and strong.
**Even though my mom had been having symptoms of a heart attack, she didn’t take them seriously because she had absolutely NO risk factors. It turns out that the radiation that she underwent for cancer when she was in her mid-thirties is now known to cause damage to blood vessels. She did not have any heart disease, but did have a massive heart attack.