Monthly Archives: September 2011

Liam’s Story

I’m now firmly rooted in the belief that you can never be truly prepared for the onus of being a parent.

Friends, relatives, books, movies, TV – try as they may, can never quite capture what it is that changes within you. They aren’t to be held accountable as I think it is the most unique and personal experience you can have on this planet. I know that while I had prepared myself as best I could, I was still forever changed by the ride. This is Liam’s Story. I’ll spoil it and say it has a happy ending, but the journey is worth the price of admittance.

The story begins on a rather pleasant and unassuming Friday. It’s Elizabeth’s weekly check up and the kid was a day overdue. A simple visit with the midwives where we expect to be greeted warmly and hear, “No Progress; don’t worry that’s normal.”

That had been the mantra for the past few weeks. We had been reminded by nearly every breathing being in the universe that most first time births happen a week or two after the prescribed due date. As such, it came to no surprise to find out that our unborn child was content to remain in its happy home. The midwife informed us that as is common at this point we should schedule an ultrasound during the following week in addition to the weekly midwife appointment. Elizabeth called the clinic and made both appointments for the following Thursday, August 25th.

The days pass without incident. Elizabeth continues to go to work and I continue to work from home.

Thursday dawns: I’m excited! I don’t have to drop Elizabeth off at the bus stop. This means I get to sleep for an additional hour and a half. She is taking a day off of work because of the Ultrasound and Midwife appointment. Commuting to and from work would just be a logistical nightmare, so better to take it easy and spend a day with Me!

I start my day with a 2 hour work call followed by work related items. At this point, the morning is gone and done. We are off to the ultrasound!

Arriving early to the appointment as instructed, we were quickly ushered into the ultrasound room. It was fairly by the book. The only difference being the kid was much larger this time making it harder to pick out one body part from another. If you get to experience an ultrasound at this point of gestation, don’t expect any classic pictures to come out of this session. The nurse took a number of In utero measurements. Some were obviously more difficult than others. After she finished up, she apologized for not being able to get any keeper photos. She told us she’d run the numbers and let us know the next steps.

Elizabeth and I proceeded to discuss our lunch options. I believe we decided on heading home to eat leftovers. Ever so cost conscious.

After what seemed like an eternity, the nurse came back and told us that we would complete the second part of the appointment, a stress test, on the maternity floor in the hospital rather than in the clinic. Once on the maternity floor, we were informed that the amniotic fluid was running really low and they wanted to keep Elizabeth and the kid on monitors for a while as they performed an extended stress test. They wanted to observe how the kid’s heart rate reacted to contractions and wanted additional input from the midwife on duty. When we found out that we would likely be in the hospital longer than anticipated we settled in and watched some golf on the TV. It looked like lunch was no longer a concern.

Our original midwife appointment time, that Elizabeth had scheduled a week earlier, had arrived. So, I made my way over to the nurses’ station with the intention of having them pass a message to the midwife, in the clinic, that we were going to miss our appointment. They smiled and informed me that they had already done that and the midwife was going to stop by at the appointment time. It took about thirty minutes before the midwife we had the appointment with dropped in with the midwife on duty. The midwife on duty apologized for not showing up earlier and informed us that she had just finished delivering a baby. We were just excited to finally get some information on what the situation was. Before we really had a chance to talk, the midwife we had the original appointment with asked us, “Who’s ready to have a baby? Let’s make a plan.”

We were floored. We had no expectation of being induced for at least another week. From the sounds of things, low amniotic fluid can be an indication of a failing placenta and it’s better to be safe than sorry and start induction. The midwife had the nurse order up some blue gel that would help to get the process started. Meanwhile, she filed us in, “First, we will use the blue gel to soften up the cervix. This can induce contractions. We’ll have you come back this evening some time; assuming the next few hours go well. Tonight, we will apply another cervix softener and then in the morning around 8 or 9 am we will start the pitocin.”

Still shocked, we just nodded along. Before long the blue gel arrived and in it went. An avalanche starts with a snowflake and that snow flake is apparently blue gel. It didn’t take long until I was able to see noticeable contractions on the monitor. I made sure to inform Elizabeth. She informed me that she kind of already knew. A few hours of this game passed and eventually they felt comfortable enough to allow us to head home, gather our things and get some dinner. A couple of quick appointments had turned into a day at the hospital. On our way out, the reality I had known seemed to be giving me a solid salute as I left it in the triage room. Within 24 hours, there would be another human in this world and it would be our child.

We arrived home and loaded up the car. The majority of the packing had already been done in case the kid decided to come early or on time. I loaded up my various electronics and camera gear as they were the only remaining items to be packed. On the basis of solid advice, we decided to eat out and eat big as Elizabeth wasn’t going to be able to have people food for a day or so. We decided upon Chili’s. It’s not important to the story, but the service at Chili’s off of 19 in Woodbury had to have been the fastest service I have ever seen. She had a chicken quesadilla and I had the cajun chicken pasta. We finished dinner with about 20 minutes until we were supposed to check into the hospital. They had told us to call ahead in case they had a sudden influx of babies. We did and we were told to push it back to 7:30. With extra time to kill, we just went home, rested on the sofa and soaked in the moment. It would be the last time that it would be just the two of us.

Heading into Woodwinds, through the ER entrance, we made our way to the maternity floor and were shown to our room. I made quick work of getting things organized. Laptop was ready so we could keep updates posted about progress and so I could play some games during the downtime. I’ll save the intricate details on this one, but that was pretty much the last time I touched the laptop for about 24 hours. Soon after, the nurse showed up and hooked the external monitors up to Elizabeth’s stomach. The monitors were meant to record contractions and the kid’s heart rate. The midwife on duty was there to apply the additional cervix softener and we settled in for the night to get some rest for what could be (and was) a long day.

Morning came, my back was sore (not the greatest sleeping amenities for Dad) and Elizabeth was feeling a bit groggy from the sleeping pills. It had grown much harder to sleep with the contractions increasing in intensity. This is where the work horse of the induction process, Pitocin, enters the story. Not much later our support group began to arrive in the form of our parents. It was tremendously appreciated to have them there as it was clear that this was going to be a marathon and not a sprint.

It was obvious that Elizabeth was starting to feel much stronger contractions now with the Pitocin. We did a number of activities to help cope with the contractions. We walked, we bounced, we swayed and we even tried a bath. Eventually, the contractions became very strong and it was time for the epidural. From the time Elizabeth asked for the epidural to the time she was hooked up, had to have been only 10-15 minutes. Talk about service! The doctor was amazingly professional and clearly knew what he was doing. Sadly, once the epidural was in, Elizabeth was essentially bed ridden. Her approved activities included: lying on the left side and lying on the right side.

Once the epidural was in I played the “Tell your wife when she’s having a contraction” game again. This time, it was actually useful as Elizabeth had a much harder time identifying what was a contraction thanks to the epidural. After we played this game for some time, we both agreed it would be good to have her rest so she could be well prepared for the birthing process. I headed out into the hallway to visit with our now growing support group. The Pederson’s had made their way to the hospital and brought Subway with them. I was very thankful. The stress of the situation tried to abate my hunger, but I knew that I would need some energy later that day. This was around 1:30 PM.

The next few hours were fairly uneventful. More guests arrived, Elizabeth slept and I watched the monitors.

Every so often the nurse would come in to flip Elizabeth and see how she was doing. Less frequent, the midwife would stop by to check on how things were progressing. At one point they decided to try and assist the birth by putting a saline solution into the uterus to take the place of normal amniotic fluid. The intention was to provide some fluid based assistance in pushing the kid out. It was hard to tell how much it was contributing, but Elizabeth continued to make progress. At around 6 cm we hit our first hurdle. When Elizabeth moved so that progress could be checked, the kid’s heart rate took a big dip during a contraction. They moved Elizabeth back on to her side and decided to hook an internal monitor up to the kids head to get a better measurement of the heart rate. This was a little nerve wracking but things returned to a normal rhythmic process.

This is where my grasp on time begins to fade and things start to blur. Around, what I assume was 6 PM, it was time to check the progress once again. This time the heart rate, which had been consistent since the last drop, decided to dive again. The nurse and midwife had Elizabeth practically doing flips and somersaults to try and get her in a position that would normalize the heart rate. They were able to measure that she was at 7cm and quickly had her return to her side where the heart rate came back to a level state but higher than the previous heart rate. This was not good. It indicated that, while the kid was able to stabilize its heart rate, it was clearly being stressed by the birthing process. The midwife, using their at times less than effective communication system, called a flurry of people to get the doctor on duty in the room to provide advice. The doctor showed up and *it’s a blur* eventually another doctor, this one a surgeon, showed up to consult us on the possibility of having a c-section. He was also fantastic. He calmly and quietly laid out the options and his advice. We could continue to try and have a normal birth with a high risk level or opt for a c-section and try to avoid any further complications. We both agreed that given the situation, a c-section seemed like the way to go. (In hindsight, it was absolutely the right decision.) Once we gave the go ahead, a trickle of additional people entered the room. They started getting everything ready to move from the birthing room to the c-section OR. All of a sudden the kid’s heart rate dropped through the floor and with it, my world.

Where once we had 2 consistent faces we were surrounded by an army. They moved in what appeared to be chaos. Tension in the room was rising. I could tell that the situation, while under control was walking a very fine line between urgent and emergency. In my hands appeared a set of scrubs and was told to put them on. Elizabeth’s bed was converted to a gurney and she was quickly wheeled out of the birthing room towards the c-section operating room. I followed dumbfounded in my space suit. Down the hall I could see our support group looking on in worried anticipation. I didn’t want to ignore them, but my focus was completely devoted elsewhere. I was instructed to wait outside the operating room doors until they were ready for me. Time passed. People went in. Time passed. People came out. Time passed. My emotions were tightly locked down. I had to be strong for Elizabeth. The doors in front of me opened and they motioned me in. There must have been eight people in the operating room. Elizabeth’s stomach was covered in iodine and not far above it was a giant blue cloth shield obstructing her upper torso from my view. There were hoses and cords and widgets and gizmos all over the place. It looked very much like the operating rooms seen on TV. I was told to sit in a chair at the head-based side of the giant blue cloth shield. I could now make eye contact with Elizabeth. A nurse chimed in, “You can hold her hand…”

I didn’t need to be told twice. My hand stabbed out and grasped her firmly. I tried to offer words of comfort but they didn’t come easily. She seemed to be much more at ease than I was. Time, not satisfied with its snail’s pace earlier decided to leave any restraint behind and sprint forward at a break neck pace.

Elizabeth will claim there was an odd popping noise, but my memory draws a blank. It’s as if there is a clear gap between the life I used to live and my life now. The gap was merely my body switching cassette tapes. For the next thing I know I was being instructed by Elizabeth to follow the nurse’s instruction and to look over the blue curtain.

The “kid”, as we had affectionately called our unborn child, was gone. There, at 6:41PM on August 26th 2011, in the nurses grasp was William David Benson, or Liam. It was more than I could handle and I burst out in tears of every emotion.


Being pulled back to reality on account of my fatherly duties, I, through broken sputtering speech and a water fall of tears, told Elizabeth, “It’s William.” We both teared up in joy together.

I know Elizabeth had questions and I think I responded the best I could, but I can’t recall any of them for I was focused elsewhere. Liam wasn’t crying as much as I knew he should. Justin and Amber had gone through quite the ordeal with Link and this was beginning to look eerily familiar. The NNP was called immediately. Liam was quickly placed in the infant incubator. My fears were emboldened as they wheeled in an oxygen canister and obscured his face with a gas mask. At this point I clearly remember Elizabeth asking, “How is he?” I flatly replied, “He’s…fine.” I knew that she was still in the middle of major surgery. There were still lots to take out, put in and sew up. I tried to do my best to not cause her further concern.

I was told that I could either go with Liam or stay with Elizabeth. I looked her in the eyes and asked if I could go with Liam and would she be all right. She didn’t hesitate and quickly insisted I go with Liam. As I approached the incubator, I quietly spoke out some, more than likely, non sense to Liam. What I said I don’t remember, but it is firmly rooted in my memory that his head was pointed to the left and as I stood on the right side he turned his head, oxygen mask and all, opened his eyes and seemed to stare directly at me. He was only 5 minutes old.

I was able to snap a few pictures in the OR, before they wheeled him over to the intensive care unit for infants. I was welcomed to another flurry of individuals. They had him on oxygen and a heat lamp acting as his only source of warmth. He was on an 80/20 mix within minutes of being in the ICU room. This means he had 20% room air and 80% pure oxygen. The diagnosis was that he had fluid in the lungs. I was able to glimpse the chart and if memory serves, his Apgar at birth was a 4 or a 5. Within about 10-15 minutes on oxygen he was at a 7. It didn’t take too long for him to be on 100% room air. I was very proud of my little boy. He was already overcoming his first adversity with gusto. I think I was in the ICU for at least an hour before the mayhem settled down. It felt like 5 minutes. If you look at the photos and see the concern on my face, now you know why.

I eventually left the ICU to fill in the support group, which had swelled to a measurable size now. While I was in the ICU standing sentinel over Liam, the surgeon had sewn Elizabeth back together and wheeled her once more into the birthing room. She was getting a debriefing from the surgeon when I entered. I showed her the photos I had taken in the OR and ICU. Wanting to give her a better glimpse at our miracle I returned to the ICU, video camera in hand. If a picture is worth a thousand words, video is priceless. I think the video really helped as it would be another 7 hours before Liam would get to see his Mom.

The rest of the evening was spent winding down and thanking all the visitors for their generous support and gifts. My sister brought me some late night dinner. And then it was time for Mom and Dad to get some rest.

At 2:30 am on August 27th, Liam was wheeled into our room. Life changed again at that moment as the realization set in that this was our child and the reason for the things we do. Life will never be as it was and it is fantastic.