When Asher was born the midwife handed him right to me. I was completely spent, collapsed over the birth ball that I had finished up labor on, so the midwife handed Asher to me between my legs. Such a strange perspective. He was so floppy and blue. His eyes were still closed. There was no newborn cry, no noise of any kind coming from him. These things didn't register until the midwife's head appeared from the side and she started blowing air into Asher's mouth. Two puffs, three puffs. I heard Adam say, 'Come on, Asher, breathe buddy!' It slowly started to sink in that things weren't going exactly according to plan.
With the fourth puff, Asher started to respond. But not in a robust, 'here I am world' kind of way. More just a moaning, grunting kind of way. The midwives, doula and Adam got me situated sitting at the head of our bed and handed Asher to me. As I held him the head midwife did a checkup on all Asher's vital signs. From somewhere far away I heard her tell the apprentice that she needed to call a transport.
Oh, dear God, I just had my baby! All I wanted to do was curl up with him on my bed and take a nap. In fact, that was how I got through transition, the time in labor when you feel like you cannot go on. Now they're saying I have to take him in an ambulance to a hospital?!
As we waited for the paramedics, the midwife, Aly, who I finally met, continued to check Asher's heart rate and respiratory rate. He improved some, enough that she asked the paramedics if they could just wait a few minutes before we made a final decision.
At this point Aly checked me and found a fairly large tear that could only be taken care of by a doctor. Asher was not rapidly improving. We prepared to head out to the ambulance.
There was some tension between one of the paramedics and Aly. The paramedic refused to allow any of my birth team to ride in the ambulance with Asher and I. I wasn't concerned about that but my fear began to rise wondering if this was indicative of what awaited me at the hospital.
I was grateful that they laid Asher right on my chest in the ambulance and purposefully moved the blankets so we could be skin to skin the whole ride over.
On the ride to the hospital the same paramedic who had been so brusque with Aly chatted pleasantly with me. About halfway to the hospital she asked the question I would be asked many times over the next few days. 'So, why did you do a homebirth?' I gave her a shortened version of the reasons I listed in Part 1. That was the end of the conversation, we pulled into the hospital.
When we arrived, they wheeled us into a room in the ER. Adam and the birth team were there immediately and shown right in. There were three doctors waiting for us, one from the maternity ward, a pediatrician and one from the ER. Everyone was so kind and so respectful. All my fears started to dissipate.
As I was being looked after, Asher was getting his own check up, in a bed next to mine. I watched as they worked on him. Heard them say he was 10 lbs, 2 oz and 22 inches long. My biggest boy yet.
All the details bleed into each other and seem rather hazy. I have a very clear memory of someone turning to Adam and I and saying, 'We're seeing markers for Down syndrome.' Tears started falling fairly quickly. I remember Adam turning to me and saying he thought Asher looked like Damek and he didn't see anything that looked like DS. I clung to that last thread of hope, knowing how silly it was to trust my nonmedically trained husband over competent medical professionals but not caring if it meant Asher would be 'normal' for a little while longer.
Asher and I were taken separately to the floor that housed both the maternity ward and the NICU. Adam came to tell me that they were wanting to put Asher on antibiotics for 48 hours due to high white blood cell counts. We had already decided that if he needed to be in the hospital longer than a day we wanted him to be at Children's. Adam asked for a transport.
I continued on with the day's trend of most difficult moments. I was already admitted to the hospital. I could stay for the night and head for Children's in the morning or be discharged immediately. I knew there was little rest once I got to Children's. I knew I needed some recovery to be worth anything as Asher's advocate.
I made the hard choice of staying one night alone. Adam headed out following Asher's transport.
That night was the longest night of my life. I was exhausted and needed sleep but I continued to replay the events of the day, especially the very real probability that I had another special needs child. I cried a lot. I felt very alone. The nurses left me to rest, so I didn't have a lot of interruptions during my dark storm. I questioned God a lot. I doubted I would be able to love this little stranger who just appeared with so many unknowns, so many needs. I wanted to run away. I grieved. I felt picked on.
At my lowest point a song started playing in my head. This has happened enough times in my life that I know to listen to the words because it's some message being sent to me. The song was Jill Phillips' Grand Design. The specific lyrics were
With those words running through my mind, I fell into a troubled sleep.