Six years and two weeks ago, I was pregnant with a very special little boy. I was 25 weeks pregnant and my water broke at home. This started a four-month long journey that taught us a great deal about faith. We ended up being flown to a hospital 4 hours away from our children and family. I remember before we left and while everything was sinking in, being alone with our pediatrician I just started crying thinking this was a hopeless situation and asking what would happen to this little baby. The Dr. gave me a tissue and touched my shoulder and looked me straight in the eyes and told me they were doing amazing things with these little guys should he decide to make his appearance. This gave me hope…
In Great Falls we had the best care. My doctor was simply wonderful. He would calmly and honestly tell us what was going on, he gave us the best case scenario of the tear in my amniotic sack self-healing and being able to go near term and he told us that if he was born today he would have a 50/50 chance of survival. It was what I needed to hear. He stressed the importance of taking things moment to moment. Everyday the baby stayed inside his survivability odds would increase. If we could make it to 27 weeks his odds of survival were 90%! That was my goal. Plus my doctor was also a sheep guy with his own flock. ;0)
We met with neonatal pediatrician who would be taking care of our son the moment he came into this world. We were able to get a tour inside the NICU (me via wheelchair) where we saw the littlest babies with wires sticking out all over the place. That was a bit overwhelming, to imagine this little thing growing inside you snug as a bug and have him laying there… But my doctor thought it would be a good idea to see someone elses baby in there, hear the noises, just incase…
I was so blessed to be able to have my wonderful husband there. He held my hand the whole plane ride over as he knows I hate to ride in planes. He slept beside me for 3 weeks in lazy boy that our room cleaner snagged for him. He read to me when my eyes couldn’t focus due to the drugs they were giving me to keep labor at bay. He even braved they women’s intimates section where old ladies gave him ugly stares, all to buy me a night-gown and unders as I had been flown over in a hospital gown. He kept me sane.
God also made his presence known to me. He gave me an unbelievable sense of peace. This whole thing was so above us, we were helpless to do anything, but yet I had this sense of peace that everything was just going to be ok. The doctors even commented on how at peace we were with everything. When I think back about this time in our lives it is always one of the first things I think of…the peace.
On November 18, I woke up early in the morning and had some bleeding. The nurse reassured us that was probably ok. Later that day I started to bleed a bit more. At lunch I ate, but something was not right. Usually the baby would start to kick and tumble a few minutes after I ate…this time he didn’t. I had Mark find one of the nurses and was put back on the monitor for a little while where it was discovered that our little guys heart was having some pretty serious decels going down into the 80’s where it would normally be in the 130’s before. We were warned that once the baby started to look too stressed things would happen fast. A nurse came and explained that he was stressing too much and that it was time. I was able to call my mom at work and talk to her for a brief minute. She called my dad at home who called right back.. by that time we were in the operating room. It all happened so fast but it was calm.
Mark was able to come into surgery and watch the whole procedure, even asking the doctor questions as he opened me up! A few minutes later little Hayden made his appearance. His little hands were curled up into tiny fists and he let out a little mew of a cry signaling his arrival. I will always have that imagine of him in my mind’s eye, so little but yet so perfect, with his fists all curled up ready to fight. Things in the operating room got very busy, the nurses and doctor assessed him and rushed by me holding on to Hayden stopping only briefly to let me give him a quick kiss on the head. The room settled back down and I was put back together. It was determined that my placenta had started to tear away and fill with blood that Hayden had inhaled.
We were taken back to a recovery room where we waited several hours until we were able to go back to the NICU to see Hayden. It seemed like forever… but they had to stabilize him, get him set up on a ventilator, and get IV’s started. When we were able to go back and see him we had to go through the routine of washing hands and gowning up so we would not bring any germs into the NICU, if the little babies in there were to catch any little bug it could easily kill them. Any time we touched anything we used hand sanitizer.
Hayden Asher Henry (big name for a little boy!)
When we first saw Hayden, I remember thinking he was sooo little and how unfair it seemed to have this little thing who should still be snuggled up tight inside of me but instead laying there fighting for his life. He would make little faces like he was crying but we couldn’t here anything because of the tubes running down his mouth to keep him breathing. His legs weren’t even as thick as Mark’s fingers. When he curled all up you could just about cover up all his 13 1/2 inches with a dollar bill. Alarms would sound when his heart beat too slow or too fast. They would sound again when his blood oxygen levels where too low. He had ultrasounds on his brain to make sure it didn’t bleed during delivery. He had his own little velcro cloth sunglasses he would wear when he was tanning under the bili lights. He had several blood transfusions that would bring him from a pasty white to bright newborn pink. He had ultrasounds to make sure the valves in his heart closed right. He had a speech therapist that helped to learn the suck, sallow, breath pattern that would allow him to eventually drink from a bottle and eventually nurse for the first time at 3 months old. He started out eating a yellowish gooey substance that had everything in it a baby at his stage needed, delivered via tubes to his stomach. He was weighed in grams and each gram he gained was celebrated. He had tests to make sure his eyes didn’t have retinopathy of prematurity. After one such test he crashed. His heart rate plummeted, I tried rubbing him briskly to bring his heart rate back up but it didn’t help. I ended yelling out in help until his nurse was able to put down the other baby she was caring for, she had to sanitize too before being able to get back to Hayden.
Hayden with all of his equipment…
After I had healed up enough and used up all of my time in the hospital we were blessed enough to be able to stay and Mark’s cousins house until we headed back home. It was so nice to be amongst their kids and family when ours was so far away. It was so incredibly hard to leave the hospital and not be bringing a baby home with us. I was only able to get home once during the three months we were over there. Mark and I came home for Christmas for a couple of days, I have never been so pulled as to where I should be. We would call several times a day back to the NICU and found out during one of those calls that he had a bacterial infection, but he ended up pulling through.
When he was only a couple days old he pulled his ventilator out and they graduated him to a CPAP, which blows a constant breeze of oxygen through him. He wore this over his nose and when he opened his mouth you could feel the air rushing out. His poor little mouth and lips would get so dry. We also got to hear his amazing little cry for the first time after he pulled his ventilator out, it would always break my heart to hear it. I just wanted to pick him up and hold him, but his poor little body wouldn’t have handled it.
When he was strong enough to be held, it was so amazing. It was like holding nothing but just simply amazing. Eventually we were able to start kangaroo care, which is where he would be able to snuggle naked on my bare chest which was even more amazing! They would partition off a section of the NICU with curtains and it was just the two of us in a rocking chair, this little bug snuggled up on me.
Another difficult day came when Mark had to go back to work. I didn’t think I could do it without and it made me depressed when he did leave. Now it was just me going every four hours up to the NICU. The majority of the NICU babies never had visitors or a parent there their whole stay. Parents had to work or take care of other children. I felt so blessed to be able to be there the whole time and care for my little guy, my parents were able to watch the other kids for us the whole time we needed them too so I didn’t have to worry unnecessarily about them. Mark was able to stay with me for quite a while and my mom was even able to come over for a week and stay with me.
Everything was ruled by the 4 hour schedule that Hayden was held to. Every 4 hours I would get to go up and change his diaper, weigh it to make sure he was peeing out the right amount and not retaining fluids, and take his temperature. Sometimes I would get to hold him or do kangaroo care, watch him have speech therapy, help in giving him a bath, watch him be weighed or watch some of the non invasive tests be done. There were always test results coming back for something. I remember the first time we put clothes on him. Even the preemie size swallowed him up but he started to look more babyish instead of old mannish.
We found that when we had visitors (they were able to view through the window in the NICU) that it was really hard for most of them to look at him. They would all have the same furrowed foreheads and half smile. We were very blessed during our stay to have Great Grandma Margaret visit us at the hospital where she was able to see little Hayden and we were able to see her before she got so sick. Treasured moments.
Hayden’s feet (2lb 6.9oz.) next to Teigen’s footprint (6lbs. 4oz.)
Then the day came when the doctor thought that Hayden would be strong enough to make the 4 hour ambulance ride back to Kalispell. They ended up having to test him several times by placing him in the car seat he would ride in on the trip over and monitoring his vitals. I left a couple of days before he came home to get things somewhat back to normal and visit the hospital here. It felt so weird leaving the hospital it became sort of a home away from home. The care we both received was so wonderful and the friendships made were so great. The nurses took a little Polaroid picture of Hayden swallowed up in his car seat (all 4 pounds), his little fist this time raised in what looked to be a wave good-bye.
Hayden had no problem with the ambulance ride over and stayed in the Kalispell hospital for another couple of weeks. He was weaned off all his many medicines and actually took on to nursing like a champ. The night finally came when I got to stay and room in for the night. It was just us alone and I was able to take care of him by myself, just like a real baby! The next day he was released and came home on oxygen and a monitor for his heart. We were together for the first time as a family after 4 months, released just a couple of days before his due date weighing a bit under 5 lbs!
Six years later you would never guess the rough start Hayden had in life. You can still see all the scars on his hands and feet from IV’s and blood draws…but that’s it. He seems to have a more difficult time dealing with colds than the rest of the kids. When he was three and Teigen was only a year old they both had RSV. Teigen was fine but Hayden ended up staying in the hospital for a couple of days. Other than that though, Hayden is tougher than a rock! His first word was “I’m OK!” If Hayden is crying you know he’s hurt.
This year this sweet little boy has really been enjoying school and can draw the most amazing pictures. He is really excited for snow and to go sledding. And he still loves his cowboy stuff.
Happy Birthday Little Man!