It was just a few weeks ago but it feels so far away already. It was a bittersweet and beautiful day, one I want to remember forever and I know by writing it down I will cement those sweet memories. This blog is the journal of our family, and I want to share Maxwell’s life with all the people that love and care for us.
|just about to head out the door to the hospital|
We were so excited to wake up on Thursday, April 24th. I took a long shower and got ready, spending a little extra time for our big day. We dropped Isabelle and Lincoln off at my parents’ house with some tight hugs and kisses and a promise to see them later in the day.
We parked at the hospital and left most of our overnight stuff in the car. At the last second, I made Jazz unlock the car so I could grab the little blue hat I bought especially for the baby’s birthday, just in case we wanted it sooner rather than later.
We checked in at ten. We were taken to the pre-op/ recovery room and I changed into my gown, got my IV, and had the baby hooked up to a monitor. Jazz put on his fancy disposable scrubs. We joked around and laughed and took pictures and thought about how our lives were about to change for the best. Everything was prepped and ready, a little before noon I kissed Jazz and walked myself into the OR. I kept saying “This is so weird! This is sooo weird!” This was our first scheduled c-section- it was so different having surgery after a good nights sleep, skipping hours and hours of exhausting labor and being wheeled into the OR in the middle of the night. We were so happy, cheerful even.
|lets do this.|
I sat on the edge of the table and hunched over for the spinal. Baby was sitting so high and wiggling so much I remember having a hard time curling over far enough so the anesthesiologist could poke around. See you soon baby! I thought to myself. Medicine took effect, they put up the drape and everyone came in. Jazz was right by my face, helping me stay calm- being numb from the chest down is slightly claustrophobic but after a few minutes I got used to it. It’s a weird feeling to be conscious during a surgery like this. Lots of pulling, lots of tugging and pressure, a little nausea. But I was so comfortable.
Maxwell was sitting so high in my body that the assisting OB was literally pushing on me to get him to move down. My doctor was so sweet and kept chatting with me to keep me informed on the progress.
We have a special friend named Carol who is a nurse for my dad at his surgery center- she is also a NICU nurse. Sweetest lady in the world. She came in on her day off to be at our birth and help us have a good experience- we were hoping to have some skin to skin time right away, and she was the woman to make it happen. She took many of the beautiful pictures that we have of our precious moments with Maxwell. We owe so much to her.
Soon, Dr. Kang said, “Here comes baby!” And just to my left was my Max. Slimy and fresh from my body. He looked so long! And big! Much bigger than my other babies. He was taken over to the warmer to be cleaned and to help him breathe a little bit. And then we heard what every parent waits to hear- that squeaky cry of a newborn baby. Maxwell was here. And he was loud. He was measured and weighed- a whopping nine pounds even! Almost two whole pounds bigger than Isabelle and more than a week earlier. So chubby! And with dark hair! I was elated about the dark hair, I’ve always dreamed of dark haired baby and he was finally here.
He was wrapped up and brought over to me and laid on my chest. Tears streaming down my face, I held him close to me, whispered that I was his mama. I stroked his soft cheeks and his pink lips and told him how glad I was he was here, how we had prayed and waited for him, how he had this great family and two siblings that were so excited to meet him. He smelled so good, so fresh and new. Jazz helped me hold him and told me what I great job I was doing, and had done to get him here. I sang a soft verse of happy birthday to my boy- I stroked his face and he turned towards me and he was calm and for a few minutes, all was perfect.
|Our first moment together|
|one last kiss before he was taken next door|
Carol came over and said they wanted to take him back to my recovery room to warm him up a little bit and check his breathing. We turned the baby around for a few more pictures and to get a last kiss, and off he went. We were so happy. For those few minutes, everything was perfect.
Jazz went with Maxwell to my recovery room and stood by him in the warmer. He held his hand, and talked to him, and felt the impression to take some video on his iphone. Jazz recorded about two minutes of Max crying and making little grunting noises and looking around at the world. Two minutes of Max’s life that I can keep forever among my most prized possessions.
|His neck rolls!|
It was a beautiful surgery. I felt comfortable, I felt awake and aware, I didn’t feel nauseous or sick– by far the best of my three cesareans. Pretty soon I was all stitched up, the drape was removed, and the staff did their closing counts on sponges and instruments. I was wheeled right next door where Jazz was waiting for me. He said they had just taken the baby to the NICU to help him breathe a little bit better, and that someone would keep us posted. I wasn’t worried at all, this is so common especially for c-section babies. I figured they would suction him and give him some oxygen and bring him over in a bassinet soon enough. Jazz texted our family members with Maxwell’s birth stats and a cute pictures of his brown fluffy hair and chubby little face.
All was well, until it wasn’t.
A nurse came in sort of panicked looking- I didn’t think anything of it at the time but looking back it was alarming. She grabbed my chart and took the non-stress test strip from earlier in the morning and studied it, wanted to see if there were any irregularities. She told us the baby was struggling to breathe and that they were going to possibly place an IV and that they were working on him. Still I didn’t panic.
About fifteen minutes later, my sweet OB came in with a pale face and shaking hands. She shook her head and with concern on her face told us the baby had been down for almost a half an hour, that they were doing all that they could, but that Jazz needed to quickly go with her to the NICU.
I wasn’t allowed to go, since I had to lay flat and be on monitors following such a major surgery. I stayed, in shock, the tears not coming. My nurse April came over and stayed with me and held my hand and offered a prayer for baby Max. I didn’t know what to think. I begged him to breathe and stay with us. I pleaded.
Less than five minutes passed, and I could hear Jazz coming down the hall, sobbing. I knew, it was finished. Maxwell was gone.
We held each other, gasping for air. This doesn’t happen, I said, it’s 2014, this just doesn’t happen. I live in America, I had great pre-natal care. We were full term. I took all my vitamins. I had all of my ultrasounds and appointments and shots. We were ready.
The doctor from the NICU came in, and all the nurses, and everyone stood around crying. He explained what they did, and all the measures they took to save Maxwell’s life. I sat, in shock, absorbing it all, and then the tears came. And we sobbed. Everyone cried with us. My OB held my hand. We cried. They asked us what we wanted to do.. And I didn’t know. What does anyone do? There’s no guidebook for this. I asked for a moment alone with Jazz. He held me and we sobbed. And then we had to call our parents. I’ll never forget those phone calls to our loved ones- to say something was wrong, not with mom but with baby. Devastating phone calls. My dad left the house right away to come and be with us. My mom called all of our siblings to let them know, and my sweet sister in law offered to come over and watch my kids so my mom could come down to the hospital. I could barely speak.
My dad came in to the room and I’m sure it broke his heart to see us in such tragic despair. The nicu nurses asked if we wanted to see and hold our precious baby. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be in this situation. They had dressed him in a little onesie, booties and a hat and swaddled him in a big blue blanket I’m sure some elderly person had knit and donated for this purpose. I’ve never felt such overwhelming anguish and deep love at the same time. Our sweet baby looked so peaceful, so perfect, I just kept thinking his toes were going to wiggle and he was going to open his eyes and wake up and be hungry.
We held him, and looked at his ears and his perfect toes and his little fingers. I felt his soft skin and his fluffy brown hair. This perfect body I had worked so hard to grow and make for such a long time. Peacefully sleeping. His work was finished. Our hearts were so broken, we cried and cried together and passed him around. I asked Jazz to get out that special blue hat and put it on him, even if it was only for a few minutes. It was the only thing I ever really got to dress him in. In those short moments I tried to memorize his face and his eyebrows and his ears that didn’t quite match, just like Lincoln’s. His face was round like Isabelle’s- his nose like his mama’s, his toes like his father’s, and Lincoln’s little mouth and chin. Nine pounds of chubby arms and thighs and chins. My Maxwell.
After a few hours my parents left, and Jazz and I were left alone to grieve and mourn while we held our baby. I talked to him and told him how special he is and how lucky we are to be his parents. I told him about his big sister and his big brother and how much he looked like them. I told him we would do everything that we could so we could see him again. I held him tightly in my arms and tried to make it last for a whole lifetime. We felt his spirit so near to us.
Later that night it was time for us to let go of our sweet baby. When we were ready, the nurses came to get him- that little body that had served a purpose and for a few minutes were full of breath and life. Handing him off was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. No mother should have to experience that.
I thought of my two children at home and what on earth was I going to tell them. Isabelle had been so excited for a new baby and had been practicing all of her mothering skills on her baby dolls and Olivia. I thought of the empty car seat waiting in my car. I kept saying, “I don’t know how to do this. What am I supposed to do.”
Of course, everyone wants to know “what happened.” What happened is that Maxwell was not meant to stay on this earth. He needed to come and get a body. To live for a few minutes. To change our lives and join our family, and then he was finished. A perfect soul. A perfect baby. His mission was complete.
In the short time they took Max from the recovery room literally across the hallway to the NICU, his heart stopped beating. And nothing that they did- no resuscitation or medicine or anything brought any sort of heart beat back. The nicu team did everything that they could but once he was gone, he was gone. He lived maybe 45 minutes, only five of those minutes in his mama’s arms. Five short minutes.
Scientifically, there is supposed to be a reason for his demise, as they call it. There has been talk of small heart defect, possibly a pulmonary artery problem, or something else entirely. We aren’t sure. We may never know. The neonatologist at the hospital said he has never seen anything like it in the twenty years he has worked in the NICU. He was here and healthy, and then he wasn’t. So quickly. A special neonatal pathologist came up from Oakland to perform an autopsy on our sweet baby. That is hard for me to even type. We won’t know the results for several weeks, even if they found anything at all.
We do know that there are so many things that were put into perfect position to help us have this experience with Maxwell. Tender mercies, we call them, and they are countless. We wrote some things down a few days after we got home from the hospital, and it was pages long. Someday I will share them, they are special and I’m so grateful that so many things were prepared for us.
I never got to change his diaper, I didn’t get to feed him or bathe him. There are so many things that I wasn’t able to do for him- but I kept him safe and grew him a big beautiful body so that he could come to earth for just a few short minutes. Those nine months were so, so worth it.
We love and miss our baby Max. My body aches for him. We mourn and cry and sometimes I feel like I physically can’t breathe without him, but I know that Heavenly Father is aware of my pain and agony. He has a plan for me and for my family, and I feel privileged to be the mother of this special child.
“Endings are not our destiny… They are merely interruptions– temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.” — President Uchtdorf, April 2014 Conference