A Birth Story: Demitri Hadley Jr.
About a year before having DJ, we lost our first son at 17 weeks gestation. This wasn't our first lost, but it hit much harder because I had bonded with this baby. I knew the gender, we knew his name. He was mine. The strangest thing though, after losing our son, I found myself being embarrassed. The few that knew I was expecting and then I wasn't, I couldn't be around. I couldn't stand the sympathy and everyone's urge to say things to make me "feel better". The chorus of "There's always next time" and the "You guys can try again" made me want to scream. The logic in me knew they didn't mean any harm, but the mama in me cringed. I was in mourning and angry. I didn't want a next time, I didn't want to try again. I wanted that baby. MY baby. Then on the other hand I felt like my grief made everyone around me uncomfortable. So I retreated within myself. I wrapped myself up in grief and carried it with me everywhere I went. There's a grief that lingers with a woman after losing a baby. Once you go through the stages of grief, you're still you...but you aren't. I just know that each day it took everything in me to begin to piece myself back together. And I did.
Fast forward about a year, and I'm pregnant. I couldn't wrap my mind around it. How do I put my fears from the last time aside to accept this new baby. I wasn't even considering having another child at the time, yet here we were. It was an every day act to keep a good mindset and try to accept my portion; that I was high risk and would always be for future pregnancies. After the second loss, we finally discovered the problem. I was diagnosed with cervical incompetency (I hate the word incompetent, as if I'm choosing to not carry my babies to term) and would always need medical intervention to hopefully make it the whole 9 months. So the journey began. I met my high risk doctor, we set up a plan, and marked out all the milestones that would get me to term. So at 13 weeks, I got a cerclage (a stitch in the cervix to keep it shut and from dilating prematurely...think of it like a drawstring purse) placed, and every week starting at 16 weeks, I would get progesterone (known to aid in preventing preterm labor) shots once a week until 38 weeks. On top of that I would be seen weekly, was placed on light bed rest (at the time my doctor didn't think it was necessary, but I did it anyway. Thank God for Demitri (Senior) I was able to stay at home during my pregnancy and my mother came and stayed with us the entire time. Love my people.)
The first and second trimester has always been hard on me. With DJ, it was the same. I was sick most days, ALL day. Spent countless nights in the E.R. (Praise the Lord for the nausea medication Zofran). I had spotting in the beginning and a severe bacterial infection TWICE. These moments didn't do any good for my already leery heart. I couldn't enjoy being pregnant. I was miserable and afraid. I didn't want to decorate his nursery. When my family would ask me about a baby shower, I would just say "we'll see." I didn't want to take any bump pictures. I was afraid that I would plan for this baby and he would slip through my fingers like the last.
My first goal was to make it past 18 weeks, when that happened, I breathed a bit easier. At my anatomy scan, everything looked perfect. My stitch was doing its job and baby was nice and snug. I was almost at 24 weeks then and we were finally feeling like this was happening. 24 weeks technically meant that he could if need be, make it outside the womb. This was a big deal. If I were to go into labor, he would have a chance. That's when everything was put into perspective for me. He was coming. No longer was having this baby a hopeful thought. I could actually picture myself leaving the hospital with my child. I remember wanting to go away for Christmas but I was scared to go. We were traveling over 6 hours away and I wasn't comfortable being that far away from the hospital, but my doctor assured me everything was fine and that it would be okay to go. So we planned to leave the week before Christmas and stay until a few days after.
Just one day shy of actually hitting 24 weeks I began to feel weird. I was experiencing flu like symptoms and I remember not being able to get comfortable. My mom had just left to go home for the holiday and I was alone at home. When Demitri came home he noticed I looked strange and I told him that I wasn't feeling well but I would just lay down and get some rest. A few days beforehand I had began feeling sharp pains in my pelvis but didn't really think much of it. That whole night I couldn't relax and I tossed and turned. I had a doctors appointment the next morning so I knew that if I could just make it until then, I would be okay.
That morning Demitri went to work and I went to use the restroom. As I got up my mucus plug fell out. I immediately began bawling. I called my mom and she immediately began praying. I drove myself to the hospital and went straight to the ER (I didn't know that after 23 weeks you go to Labor and Delivery.) From there it was straight to L&D where they confirmed that not only did my mucus plug fall out but the amniotic sac was bulging through my stitch. One nursed held my hand while another injected me with a steroid that would prepare DJs lungs for the outside world. The doctors debated back and forth and decided that they were going to cut my stitch in order to relieve some of the stress on my cervix. I don't know how, but my actual high risk doctor, Dr. Poole, found me in L&D and stopped them from cutting my stitch. Had they have cut the stitch, DJ would have fallen out right then. I cant thank him enough for being in the right place at the right time.
Once moved into a room, it was determined that as long as I wasn't contracting or bleeding, I could technically remain pregnant. I needed at least one more day to get my second steroid shot for his lungs. Dr. Poole had taken over my care in L&D, and he was determined to keep DJ in for as long as he could. We werent even officially 24 weeks, so any time inside the womb was a our safest route. So upside down I went(sometimes women in preterm labor are put in the Trendelenburg position, where your in a reclined position with your feet 15 to 30 degrees above your head), they started fluids and magnesium (which by the ay makes you HOT. I mean, like on fire. I stripped down to just underwear at one point lol). I wasnt contracting which was a good thing and on the ultrasound, it was showing that DJ was still in the part of the sac that was above the stitch, but he was kicking his foot down into the birth canal (the sharp pain I was feeling the days leading up to this was his little foot. To this day he still kicks me like crazy lol) This caused another concern because a) They didn't want him to break my water because then I would officially be in active labor. b) If he continued to kick he could potentially get stuck or he could tear through the stitch and my cervix. Depending on the way I laid, he would either be kicking his foot or sitting right on top of my stitch, Buddha style. If that wasn't enough, I was beginning to show signs of an infection. My white blood cell count was on the verge of infection and I was beginning to get a fever. Not good. We then were running the risk of the infection potentially spreading to DJ and the amniotic fluid. If that were to happen he would not make it, but after weighing our options, it was decided that we would just wait and see.
When you have a baby prematurely, they'll send a Neonatologist into your room to discuss your "options". Trying to wrap my head around potentially giving birth at any moment, I now how to decide what I would do once I did. At just 24 weeks, the statistics for a baby being born that young aren't good. Most of the time, its fatal. Being that I hadn't gotten the full dose of steroid, his chance of survival was even lower. It wasn't to be cruel but hearing the percentages was even more disheartening. When they asked me what I wanted to do, it was immediate for me. Save my baby. I was in mama bear mode. I didn't care what the stats were, if he was coming, he deserved a shot. I would give him that shot. When we were finally alone, I cried. Hard. It wasn't fair to us. How could I get this far to lose my baby? Poor Demitri, I was a blubbering mess, and he had to just take it all. He wiped my sweat (and other areas that will remain unmentioned) and kept telling me that everything would work out. When my nurse heard my history, before leaving for the night, she came in one last time and held my hand saying, "It'll be okay. New baby, new outcome." That was the sweetest thing to me, she was the first medical personnel that actually gave me hope.
I couldn't really sleep, we were "stable" but I still felt DJ kicking low and it was beginning to hurt more and more. Before my doctor left, he decided to give me the second steroid shot early and I was to get ultrasounds every couple of hours to make sure that my stitch was stable and DJ wasn't descending into the birth canal. Dr. Poole decided that if at my last ultrasound at midnight DJ was not putting any pressure (or body parts) past my stitch, and I was infected, I could stay pregnant at least another day. Praying that would be the case, they wheeled the monitor in and lo and behold, he was behaving. Okay, I thought, We could do this. If I had to lay upside down for the next four months, I would do it. I would do whatever it took to get my son earthside safely. DJ was safe and although my stitch was beginning to open a bit, we could make it until the following day...then he did it. DJ jammed his foot so hard against my stitch it made me arch my back in pain. That was it. They weren't going to risk him breaking my water and it was better to take him out in a controlled setting versus it being an emergency in the middle of the night.
Since he was breach and still so tiny, a classic caesarean was my the safest option. They prepped me and away we went. I remember being super nervous, so much that I literally felt like I was dying (after the anesthesiologist gave me oxygen and calmed me down I felt super silly) and the numbing medicine made me shake. Demitri came into the room and I told him how I embarrassed myself and we laughed. It was almost peaceful. I don't know if it was a mixture of the medicine and my nerves but I chatted away during the whole thing. I even tried to get Demitri to record my actual c section but he was too queasy. The doctors told me that they were almost close to pulling him out, and once they did the first doctor gasped saying, "Whoa, he's a big 24 weeker" I was prepared to not hear him cry, before surgery they told me that he probably wouldn't and could possibly not be breathing, but he opened his little mouth and took his first breath. Everything was a blur and most of this was recounted to me but they told me he looked good. Still tiny, still premature, but he looked good. They whisked him away to the NICU and me to recovery, but we did it. The road after delivery would be a long one. There would be ups and downs, lots of sleepless nights, but we would endure. There hasn't been a truer test of my faith and trust in the God than this journey to motherhood.
I wont go into detail about our run of the NICU (that will be a future post) but we spent 147 days in the NICU. We had highs and we definitely had lows. If there's any mom and dads who are currently going through the NICU and have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, send me an email or message if you want to keep it private. It's especially encouraging to see success stories similar to your situation. I know once I was in my room, I began scouring Instagram and searching through hashtags to find people that were going through what I was getting ready to go through. So I understand. Take a deep breath and getting ready for the most scariest, trying, empowering, faith strengthening, exciting, labor of love ride of your life.
On December 17th, 2015 at 1:16 a.m. at just 24 weeks, Demitri Lawrence Hadley Jr. was born weighing 1lb 11oz and 12 inches long. My little miracle baby.
NOTE: This is the first time I've showed pictures of DJ from the very beginning on social media. It is still something I hold super close and am very protective over. However, I think its important to show the beginning, especially for any preemie parents that may come across this post. I hope it gives you hope to be able to not only see the now, but the then <3