The Birth of
Our Christmas Present
My thoughts and reflections from the birth of my son
I find it interesting how things make sense when you look back... So it was with a dream I had at about 5 months into my pregnancy with Patrick. In my dream he wanted to come out early and began to pop his head out. I told him that he was not ready yet and promptly put him back in (donâ€™t ask me how). He popped his little head out again with big eyes looking around ... so I took pity and let him come out (but only for a moment) and then told him that was enough and put him back in again. So strange and funny. Yet, once I saw Patrickâ€™s face after the birth, when he opened his eyes, I saw those same big eyes looking around him at the big world he had entered. Little did I know that he was going to come 5 weeks early of his due date.
But I aught to back up a bit. December was a busy month. Joey and Julia were married on Dec 8th and everyone was running around preparing for the big day. I think most people were in recovery-mode for a few weeks after. Christmas was exciting also. The Boutross kids helped me decorate the church for our parish mass. All the preparations made, Jeremiah and I attended the midnight mass at the monastery and returned home for some cookies and eggnog ... I got to bed around 4am. Next morning I noticed that I was bleeding a bit and returned to my bed. I mentioned to Jeremiah that I was having cramps, and they were coming in waves. I told mom, and she had me begin tracking the times just to be safe. The family left to go to mass and I decided to stay in bed and continue tracking. When Jeremiah returned I had a full page of times and they were all spaced an average of 5 to 8 min apart. I called my midwife to let her know that I was having contractions. I friend brought some herbs that we hoped would help stop labor. It was mid-afternoon when I noticed fresh blood. My midwife arrived and did a check on the baby and then on me to see if I had begun to dilate. She was surprised to ďŹ nd that I had already dilated to 5cm and my water bag was beginning to bulge out of the cervix. She knew there was no time to loose and promptly had me grab a few belongings before we raced down the road for the hospital.
During the car ride the contractions began to intensify and I focused on keeping relaxed and breathing calmly as in sleep ... something Jeremiah and I had begun practicing for the birth. My midwife was reassuring, and spoke what I was feeling also, that despite the rush and chaos, everything was going to be ﬁne...it was somehow God’s timing. Phone calls were made to warn the Tahlequah hospital of our arrival. They wanted us to turn around and drive to Tulsa since they did not have the facilities to care for premature babies, but we were too late into the labor and it was either Tahlequah or delivering in the car. Once at the hospital I was quickly wheeled into one of their birthing rooms. After changing into the hospital garments and climbing carefully into the bed the nurse checked me and I was dilated to 8cm. They set about hooking me up to the IV’s (they kept missing the vein and I think I had 5 sticks with the needle before they found a suitable place). I was very conscious of what was happening around me, but at the same time very focused on keeping myself calm and riding through each contraction. I could feel that the end was near. A pediatrician came into the room and told me that when the baby was born he would be taken to the Children’s hospital in Tulsa. I began to cry since I knew this meant that I would be separated from my baby as soon as he was born. It was another cross that our little family would have to bear together. I was fully dilated and the doctor insisted on breaking my water... it was the strangest feeling, tons of warm water gushing out . Then the cramps turned to pushes. It surprised to me to feel my body push so strongly, and working completely on it’s own. When I began feeling these strong pushes, I begged to get oﬀ my back and be in a squat position. Jeremiah lifted me up and supported my back as I began to really beardown. They wanted the baby out quick so everyone was telling me to just keep pushing. That last part was so intense .. I really pushed with all I had and found catching breaths between diﬃcult. I felt my temperature rise and I broke into a slight sweat. I think it was only a matter of minutes before Patrick was out. Jeremiah said after that he shot out.
I opened my eyes to see him -- he was so beautiful! He was squirming all over the place as he let out a loud cry. I was happy that he looked so healthy. Though I could not hold him, I wanted him to hear my voice. I exclaimed “you made it, you did such a good job!” They whisked him away to another part of the room to examine him. I wanted so bad to go be with him. It broke my heart to hear him cry and not be able to hold and comfort him. But Jeremiah was with him and it comforted me to know that Patrick could hear Jeremiah’s voice. They put Patrick in my arms for a few brief moments. The words of love and welcome just came gushing out as I held him. “I am so proud of you, they are going to take you away but mommy will come soon. Be brave. Daddy will be with you until mommy comes. I love you. You are so beautiful. Everything will be ok”. They came for him and I handed my son over to them. One of the most diﬃcult things I have ever had to do.
The doctor pulled out my placenta and sent it away for testing. I had tore a little bit and so after giving me a few numbing shots he stitched me up ... not very pleasant. It stung a bit, but all I could think about was little Patrick and how he had been taken away from everything he was familiar with and surrounded by strangers and machinery. But at least Jeremiah was with him. And every pain I had, I oďŹ€ered to God that he would spare pain for little Patrick. If babies can see their guardian angels, I begged Patrickâ€™s guardian angel to watch over him and comfort him. I begged our Blessed Mother to be a mother in my stead over my little baby when I could not be there. It had not really crossed my mind all the pains that came after the birth but there were quite a few. I think normally when a mother is holding her baby the excitement and joy covers over a lot of the pain ... but I did not have such consolation. Now the meditations on our Blessed Mother giving up her son became so much more real --- and mine could barely compare. I was just so thankful to God that Patrick was alive and well. Everything would be ok and well in time. After what seemed a long while I was told that the ambulance had come for Patrick from St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa. Jeremiah had been by his side during the long wait, and as he recounted to me later, watched with much pain as Patrick struggled for each breath. He was much relieved when the medical team from St. Francis gave Patrick a boost of surfactant so he could breath. Patrick was relocated into an incubator on wheels and brought back to my room to say goodbye. I reached my hand through the little portal and lightly rested it on Patrickâ€™s tiny head. I spoke with as much calm and assurance as I could muster, and told him that I would come and see him soon. The few moments passed quickly and the nurse informed me with much kindness and assurance how Patrick would be cared for during his trip to the hospital. I was grateful to know that she would talk to him during the hour long drive. They pushed him out of the room and down the hallway. Several days later when I spoke with the same nurse again, she told me that
it had broke her heart to hear my weeping after they had left the room. My mom and my midwife enveloped me with hugs and reassurance as I sobbed my heart out once I thought little Patrick’s ears were beyond the sound of my voice. I did not want to add any anxiety and confusion to what already was a bewildering situation for my little baby. As I calmed down, it brought me comfort to know that Jeremiah had baptized Patrick before he left. Patrick was in God’s hands. It was a long night at the hospital. Mom stayed with me and thankfully to. Going from the bed to the bathroom was quite the ordeal and the second time I blacked-out. I could barely hobble around and getting on and oﬀ the bed took much eﬀort and care. I was anxious to hear news --- St. Francis hospital called when Patrick had arrived safely and left me details of the care he was receiving. The nurses at Tahlequah kept monitoring me until 2pm the next day to be sure I was ready to leave --- it seemed like forever. All I wanted was to go be with Patrick and Jeremiah. After ﬁnishing the ﬁnal paperwork I was wheeled out to our car in the parking lot ... very conscious of an empty womb and and empty lap. Mom and I stopped by Braum’s to get some food before heading home to pick up items for my stay in Tulsa. My little sisters came running out to greet me when I arrived and it made me sad that I did not have my little baby to show them. I waddled around collecting clothes and various items and after what seemed a long time Dad and I were in the car driving to Tulsa. I had begun pumping breast milk right after the birth every few hours so that Patrick could be given the colostrum from the beginning. It took some skill, but I managed to use the small hand pump while riding in the car.
It was dark when we arrived and I requested Dad to drop me oﬀ at the front door. I was holding a cooler with the colostrum as I waddled up to the front desk. The man at the desk looked up at me and asked how he could help. “I am a mom who is looking for her baby”. All it took was little Patrick’s name and he promptly helped me into a wheel chair and strolled me to the elevator, up to the 5th ﬂoor and straight down the hall to Patrick’s room. Jeremiah’s parents were there with him and Patrick. I went straight over to my little baby and to say hello. It is a blur to me now.
Even though I could not hold him, I was just so happy to see him. He was still hooked up to oxygen with what is called CPAP and he had an IV feeding him and keeping him hydrated. He lay very still except a slight stirring when he heard my voice. Jeremiah’s parents took their leave while I sat down to rest.
I kept pumping milk every 3 hours using the electric machine at the hospital .. no more hand pumps. Jeremiah’s parents came the next morning with a little gift for Patrick. A small puppet of Peter Rabbit. Jeremiah’s mom loved making it talk to Patrick. They had brought breakfast for us from Whole Foods. For the ﬁrst several days at the hospital I was rarely on my feet. Jeremiah was my transportation and he wheeled me everywhere on my ‘extra-wide’ wheel chair ... It must have been designed for a super fat person, but I found it perfect for placing bags next to me. He would take me to and fro from the room to the lobby where Jeremiah kept a stash of food to satisfy my voracious appetite. I think for the ﬁrst time in history I began eating almost as much as him ...I guess
what they say about nursing mothers is true. The look of amazement on Jeremiah’s face, as I made endless requests for food was quite amusing. We certainly had humorous moments despite the diﬃculties of the situation. Jeremiah went out each morning to “hunt” food for his little family .... at Whole Foods. For the ﬁrst week we kept out food hidden behind a pillar in the lobby. Eventually the nurses found it and relocated us down to the level B Family Respite Room. They were worried that “someone might steal our food” ... but I can’t think of many people who would want to steal the “healthy” and “bizarre” food that we kept in our cooler. Mega salads, sauerkraut,keﬁr, plain yogurt, sprouted bread, fruit, etc. Each morning Jeremiah brought me a hot breakfast, usually eggs with potatoes, and if we were lucky, we got sausage patties. There was no proper
eating place, so Jeremiah usually borrowed one of the little children’s chairs and we ate over our laps. I was always breaking the plastic utensils despite Jeremiah’s attempts to demonstrate to me proper “ﬁnesse” ... I was saved by a kind and compassionate soul that brought us normal silverware. It took alot of patience on my part having to be cared for and waiting to be served ... I have been so used to being the one to serve. It took alot of humility. Not just with regards to food, but even getting to and fro the bathroom. I was waddling around that whole ﬁrst week at the hospital. Thankfully the staﬀ had a restroom just outside our room. I waddled that short distance until one of the nurses, who seemingly worshiped “policy”, informed me that I was not supposed to use their bathroom. My ankles had swollen on my third or fourth day in the NICU and I begged to be allowed permission to use the restroom until I could walk with less pain. She shrugged her consent and I continued until the next “policyloving” nurse came along and told me the same spiel. I had had
enough and decided that it was less trouble to walk the long corridor. I wish I could remember all the nurses that took care of Patrick; there were alot of them. They changed out every 12 hours at either 8am or 8pm. Usually we had the same nurse for 2 or three days in row. Unfortunately it is easier to remember the nurses that were diﬃcult than the ones who were sweet. I will just say that one particular nurse was so grinding on Jeremiah’s and my nerves that when I saw her the second time I started to weep. My steady composure had during the sleepless days and nights at the NICU been worn down and the thought of another long night of lectures and blow-by-blow accounts of policy was more than I thought I could bear. Well, we made it through that night and vowed the next morning that we would do whatever it took to be sure it would not happen again. It was not that diﬃcult. We simply made a request to the head nurse and we learned at the same time that we could make requests for nurses we preferred. Thankfully we did not have any more of the diﬃcult nurses. We had quite a few visitors during our stay. The most important of course was the visit of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament brought by our dear friend Father Van derPutten. He had helped both Jeremiah and I with our marriage preparation and had been the Master of Ceremonies at our wedding. It was a memory I hope never to forget --- a priest in full cassock bearing the Blessed Sacrament, calmly walking towards me, down the long corridor of the hospital amidst the bustle of hospital staﬀ. Both Jeremiah and I unloaded the burdens of our souls in confession and then knelt and recieved communion next to our little boy.
There is much more that took place during our stay in the NICU. But I will leave that for a part two. In the meantime I will leave you all with a collage of pictures. Thank you so much for you prayers and support --- It was what got us through! With much love and gratitude, Michaela Harrison