Wells' Birth Story

June 1, 2020

Seven weeks ago I was waking up to our first morning home with Wells. That morning brought sleepiness mingled with the utter joy of a new baby. And it felt like heaven to be nursing my son, snuggled in bed and iced coffee in hand, while the sun's rays slowly trickled through the window blinds. After spending the first 48 hours of his life apart from him, I spent the next two weeks cuddled up with Wells - bonding and healing and falling in love. And it was so very good for my soul, for my heart. 

It's taken me some time to finally write out Wells' birth story. While his birth was wonderful, it was what followed that completely jarred us. It was hard to process the details. And I realized that I was grieving over what I had missed out on; over not being able to be with my son during those first two days - to comfort him, love on him, tell him he was alright; over a dream I had been imagining that was shattered. The further I have gotten from his birth day, the more I have begun to feel at peace with how it all played out. I'm so thankful for the quick action and care of the providers and NICU team. I'm thankful for a community that rallied around us and showed up in the most selfless ways. And I'm so very thankful for my healthy boy. 

Wells' birth story really begins about the time I was 21 weeks pregnant. We went in for the anatomy scan and discovered that at the time I hard marginal placenta previa. The doctor was sure my placenta would move back into a better position, and we would follow-up to confirm in the third trimester. At the 34 week check-in, the ultrasound showed my placenta had not budged, which meant I was immediately a candidate for a cesarean. While I had already prepared my head and my heart for a c-section, I was caught off guard at an earlier due day - he would be delivered around 37 weeks to reduce any risks to me and to him. I cried, mostly because of hormones I think, but also because I worried for his health at only 37 weeks. And because there was so little time to prep. Not to mention this new virus that was spreading and on the verge of becoming a worldwide pandemic. 

As those three remaining weeks of my pregnancy ticked down, we found ourselves quarantined and adjusting to a new normal. We scheduled the cesarean and then waited for word on who would and wouldn't be allowed in the hospital with me. I was brokenhearted at not being able to have the girls come visit and meet their brother, but knew it was for the best. And I kept holding my breath that Pete would be allowed to be there for it all as hospitals in varying states began ruling that no visitors would be allowed in Labor and Delivery departments. 

The nearer we got, the scarier the world around us seemed to feel. So much uncertainty and unknown with COVID-19. I wanted to put our little family unit in a bubble and never leave it. Everything felt tense, and I often found myself wondering how everything would all play out.

April 10th arrived quickly. We woke to a bright morning with snow flurries falling. The dogwood tree outside our window boasted beautiful pink flowers and the morning air was crisp. We kissed our girls goodbye and made the ten minute drive to the hospital to meet our son. You can imagine the jitters, the growing anticipation, and the nerves. 

Once checked in, life didn't feel so scary. The fear of being at the hospital had almost all but disappeared, and the L&D department felt safe and protected. Besides little things - like nurses in mask, us in masks while in the hallways; and an operating room full of people doubly decked out in protective gear, it didn't feel too strange. It was enough to calm my nerves and give me peace of mind about delivering a baby during a pandemic that no one had clear answers for. 

We waited for about two and half hours from the time we arrived until the time I was wheeled back to the operating room. During that time, Pete and I talked a lot about meeting our son. About how sweet the afternoon would be tucked away just the three of us. I couldn't wait to be past the surgery and nestled in bed with my boy. 

Closer to time, my doctor stopped in to say hello and to go over the procedure. My blood work from that morning came back looking great and she anticipated no problems. We would be having a baby very shortly - one of the surgical nurses was waiting for her protective face covering and we would then get started. 

Around 10:45ish I headed into the OR for my spinal block and surgical prep. While uncomfortable, the spinal block went well, and I was going numb before I knew it. This time around I found that knowing what to expect was both a blessing and a curse. I had to take some deep breaths as my legs became heavy and eventually I could not feel them. Even though I knew it was going to happen, it felt a little suffocating to not be able to physically move and I didn't want to panic. The anesthesiologist was lovely though, and she kept checking in to make sure I was doing alright. At one point, she administered medicine to fight off the nausea I was feeling as my blood pressure lowered in response to the block being in place - all expected side affects of the spinal block.

Pete showed up soon after I was settled. Just like my first c-section, I could feel the pulling and pressure of the procedure. Through some deep breaths and hand squeezes, we eagerly listened for those first cries of our son. And in a whoosh, he was there. 

Wells Adler Rowe was born at 11:12 AM (fun fact: his big sister Greer was delivered via cesarean at 12:11 PM).  He came out crying and perfect. Dr. F. popped him over the curtain for me to see, and I was so pleased to see that he looked just like his daddy. His hair full like Quinn's and colored like Greer's. Wells was beautiful, and I couldn't wait to get a better look at all of his tiny features. 

With an original APGAR score of 9, followed by a second score of 10, our 8 pound 3 ounce baby boy seemed healthy and exceptional. After those initial vitals were taken and he was cleaned up and swaddled, I was able to have him laid on my chest. While I waited for that moment, the surgical team was working to stop the bleeding I was experiencing. As they were delivering him, my placenta began to come out with him, which caused a bit of a hiccup and bleeding that had not been foreseen (overall, I lost about 1 liter of blood).

Overhearing the team's commentary while they worked to control the blood loss was tense and scary. I tried to focus on the fact that I had a healthy baby, but my thoughts kept drifting back to what was happening with me. There was a lot of pressure as they packed the site, and I was worried when I realized I was smelling them cauterizing the source of the issue. 

As they worked, I met Wells face-to-face. They laid him on my chest, and I was amazed at how much he looked like his oldest sister. I noticed that he seemed to be having trouble clearing his mouth/breathing and equated it to the angle he had been placed on me. That combined with starting to feel weak, I had Pete scoop him off of me to hold and soothe him. 

I had trouble concentrating a whole lot on Wells because I became increasingly worried over what was happening to me. It seemed hard to get a clear answer - I knew they didn't want to worry/scare me -  and I started to feel an intense soreness in my abdomen as the procedure finished up. Once Pete and Wells were headed to the nursery, I told the anesthesiologist about my pain and she administered morphine to control it. I was grateful for the relief and ready to head into recovery to get one step closer to being reunited with my two guys.

Back in recovery, I waited for the first sign of movement in my legs/feet/toes. It took about 30 minutes before I could, and by that time all anesthesiologists had been called to an urgent case, leaving no one to essentially discharge me from recovery and on to my room. The nurse with me really advocated on my behalf because she knew how badly I wanted to get to my newborn. She went above and beyond to get me out. And as soon as she did she wheeled me straight for the nursery.

Memories of seeing Pete in the nursery with Greer came back, and I was thrilled to catch him with our son. But upon arriving to the nursery windows, there was no Pete with Wells. He came out empty-handed, explaining that Wells was having trouble breathing and there were discussions of sending him to the NICU 45 minutes away. I was so confused and even considered that he was joking with me, but knew he'd never joke about something like that. I had expected this sweet reunion and instead I was being told my baby couldn't breathe on his own and needed help beyond what our hospital could provide. 

I sat in my hospital bed in the hallway watching a team of nurses and doctors work on Wells. It broke every part of me to not be there with him, to sing to him through it or gently rub his tiny hand. I physically could not get to my son, and I felt helpless. 

Back in my room, our nurse (an absolute angel) came in with a quilted square. She told me to tuck it under or on my breast so that it would soak in my scent. When he was transported to the other hospital, they would send it with Wells to keep in the corner of his bassinet in the NICU. That was my undoing, the breaking of the dam. Reality settled in, and I knew there was no hope that Wells would not need to go to the NICU - where just a week earlier they had ruled no visitors (absolutely none) were allowed in because of the virus. 

Arrangements were made for transport and we waited for everything to be processed. Because I was still numb from the waist down, I couldn't walk to the nursery to be with Wells - yet another sadness I experienced that day. Fortunately, Pete could be there with him and he spent about an hour with him before the transport team showed up. He sent me photos via text of our son, everything from his head of hair to his little toes. I lived for those texts to pop up as I sat in my room, not even 20 yards away from them. Nurse W took such good care of me (of us) during all of it. She answered my questions, let me cry uncontrollably through vital checks and medication administration. She did everything she could to help without being too much or too little. 

The really neat thing about Nurse W was that she had played a role in our girls' deliveries. She had been one of the nurses helping Dr. R deliver Greer during my first cesarean. And she had been my intake nurse, starting my IV and getting me settled when I was induced with Quinn. Here she was again, and it was a blessing to have a familiar face and someone whose heart poured out love through her work. She was working all weekend, and I was able to request her for the remainder of our stay. A huge blessing in the midst of my heartache. 

Somewhere during the 4:00 hour, the transport team showed up. Pete had to leave the nursery while they readied Wells to be moved. I was promised they would bring him into my room so I could see him before they left. The sight alone was undoing, but I was glad to hold his hand as they explained their process. We were told that their more powerful machines had already made a huge difference for Wells' breathing, and that felt like movement in the right direction. I got about 10 minutes (maybe) with him in the room; and after signing papers they left. Like any mother would, I told them to be careful and drive safely. 

We waited for their call to let us know they had arrived without complication. And again we waited until we could FaceTime with one of the NICU nurses to see our son. We waited a whole lot those first 48 hours. I cried a whole lot. And pumped a whole lot to encourage my milk to come in. Pete transported the milk I pumped from our hospital to Wells' hospital twice a day. He would drive all the way there only to hand the milk over to a nurse at the hospital entrance and turn around to come back to me. 

During the middle of the night - around 1:00 AM, on Saturday April 11, we learned that Wells was swatting at the CPAP face covering. So they took it off to see how he was doing. He was doing amazing, and no longer needed the help, but would need to continue to be monitored. Wells didn't go back on the CPAP after that, and it was such a good feeling to FaceTime him that morning and see his sweet face without all the tubes. He continued to do well over the next 24 hours, and we were told he could be discharged on Sunday. 

I, of course, opted to be discharged two days post surgery so that we could get to Wells. Nurse W did everything she could to make sure our discharge was first thing Sunday morning. Even the doctor on call made sure to show up to our room first to clear me for leave. Not to mention all of the work of our church family going on behind the scenes. You never realize how many connections there are and what your community can orchestrate when they come together. And that's just what they did. Because of the love of those people, we were able to get a stay-in room in the NICU first thing Sunday morning (something we thought wouldn't be possible and might delay him leaving). 

As crazy and heartbreaking as the experience was, it all came together so seamlessly. And it was clear that God was bringing it all together in His timing. Holding Wells for the first time is one of the best  moments of my life. It was like we had never been apart. He knew me and I knew him. 

By early evening we were discharged with our baby boy and on the way home to introduce him to his sisters. Coming together as a family of five felt so very complete and whole. It was a moment I had dreamt of that was coming true just like I had hoped. And my mama heart needed it more than words can express. 

The trauma of being separated from my child was excruciating. I'm thankful for each person placed in my life during those 48 hours. For the nurses and doctors who took care of me and for those that took care of Wells. For a husband who carried me through it and let me feel every feeling with grace and love. For my mom and sister who cared for our girls and made them feel safe, loved, and happy during our absence. For our friends and church who prayed, sent encouragement, and made calls on our behalf to connect us to people. Wells' birth story isn't quite what I thought it would be, but it did bring out an enormous showing of love and kindness from those around us. I look forward to someday sharing this story with him and telling him how well we were loved through it all. 

For a sweet look back here are our girls' birth stories: