Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Caden's Birth Story

Two months ago, Caden joined our family. Before now, I haven't really had the emotional strength to revisit that day in any detail. But I want him to know (and I want to remember) how his story began.

*I apologize in advance because this is very long. Don't feel like you have to read it all. And parts of this story you may have already read or heard. But I needed to put it all down in one place. Even though there were many times in the remembering that I had to stop writing and hold Caden close. To remind myself of how God redeemed that day, how he healed our son.

Tuesday, August 2nd.
My stomach fluttered with excitement as we arrived at the hospital late Tuesday night. We were scheduled to be induced early the next morning. The hospital was crazy-busy that night, and we ended up waiting for several hours before finally getting a room after midnight. We spent that time watching Shark Week on Discovery Channel, indulging our craving for an Oreo McFlurry, and chatting with the other expectant mothers who were waiting for rooms with us. Eventually, we were the only couple left sitting there. We snuggled close together on the couch, squeezing each others' hands, while I felt Caden's kicks and turns in my belly with a grin of anticipation. Adam and I talked about how we could hardly believe that the "house-nightmare" chapter of our story was finally over. And how excited we were to begin this new chapter, one that involved bringing our baby boy home to our new house and beginning a new ministry as a family. Our hearts were full, ripe with anticipation and joy at what lay ahead.

When they brought us to our room, we filled out paperwork, they gave me an IV, and they checked your heartbeat (everything sounded perfect). I was having contractions, but not regularly, and I was 4 cm dilated. Finally, at around 3am, we were able to turn off the light and get a few hours of sleep. I closed my eyes to the night-time hush of the hospital, and dreamt of seeing your face.

Wednesday, August 3rd.
7am came quickly, and I was jolted into excited wakefulness when the nurse came in to prep me for induction. Adam and I smiled widely at each other across the room as nurses came in and out. With the lights still low and my IV dripping quietly, the longing to hold you in my arms swelled in intensity as it grew closer to becoming a reality. Finally Dr Hirsch came in and they started me on pitocin. With Jayci, after they started the pitocin I eased gently into labor, and Jayci didn't make her appearance until mid-afternoon. I had plenty of time for visitors, chatting, and to get my epidural. Because of that experience, we told our family there was no hurry. However, this time when they started my pitocin at a two, my contractions started coming strong and back-to-back almost immediately. So much so that they turned the pitocin back down to one in order to give my antibiotics time to get in my body. Even after they turned the pitocin down, however, the contractions continued unabated. And I could feel myself getting a little panicky at how much they hurt. I kept reminding Adam this wasn't the plan. The PLAN was to have my epidural in plenty of time so I didn't feel any pain at all (cause that's how it happened with Jayci). Adam just held my hand, prayed with me, and kept telling me I should call the nurse to get my epidural. I finally did call for my epidural (I was afraid of getting it too soon since it had literally been like 30 minutes since they induced me), and it was about 15 more minutes before the anesthesiologist came in. After he gave me my epidural, I continued to panic slightly because the pain wasn't stopping. The nurse explained that the epidural might not be working because things were progressing so fast and furiously. When Dr. Hirsch came in, I explained (perfectly calmly I'm sure) that I needed to not be hurting anymore and that things weren't going according to my plan. He had the anesthesiologist come back in and they upped my epidural. He also told me that I was already 9.5 cm dilated and it was almost time to push. I gripped Adam's hand tightly, and we knew that the moment of Caden's arrival was almost upon us.

Thankfully, by this point the epidural had kicked in and although I was feeling a whole lot of pressure, there was no pain. I pushed through two contractions, and then on the third push, Dr. Hirsch told me to stop pushing because he was "about to fall out." And just like that, Caden made his entry into the world. I felt a rush of thankfulness and joy as they handed him to me and I clutched him to my heart. He was pink and crying and absolutely perfect in every way. Adam snapped pictures and we both cried tears of joy as they cleaned him up a little.

Adam and I enjoyed some time thanking Jesus for our sweet baby boy, and I held him close to my skin while he breastfed like a champ. We giggled and held hands and stared into Caden's eyes and thanked God for writing such a beautiful story. One of life and birth and new beginnings.

We were so excited for Jayci to meet Caden, to have our whole family together, that we quickly rushed out to tell our family that Caden Thomas Stanley had made his arrival, and to bring Jayci back in. When Adam came back in the room with our little girl, wearing her bright pink "super incredible big sister" medal around her neck, she suddenly looked so big, so grown-up, next to the tiny bundle in my arms. My arms and heart felt full as Adam sat Jayci next to me on the bed and she handed her brother the little green sock monkey she had picked out for him. And I realized I was someone different in than moment than I had ever been before: I was the mother of two. Two beautiful, amazing children.

After a few more minutes together with our little family of four, we sent for the rest of our family, and all of a sudden our room was a bustling, loud, joyful place. Full of laughter and tears of joy and hugs and snuggles. Everyone took their turns holding Caden, exclaiming over his beautiful head of hair, his little wrinkly forehead, and his tiny perfect nose. I lay on the bed and remember thinking through the haze of my exhaustion and pain medication that it was a perfect day. Every time I met Adam's eyes in the midst, or when Jayci demanded to see "brother" again, I thanked the Lord for this moment.

 The nurse came back in and announced it was time to bathe Caden, prick his heel, take his measurements etc. He was 7lb 12 oz, 20 inches long, and he only whimpered a little as they bathed him.
 Then she listened to his heart. And she heard a murmur. She assured us that so so so many babies have heart murmurs, and it would probably go away. But she was going to check his oxygen levels just to be sure. And they were an 89. They had to be 90 in order for him to stay in our room with us. Anything below 90 and he had to go up to the NICU as a precaution. But the levels were fluctuating and a few times when she picked up the phone to call and have him sent up, the number jumped above 90 and she would hang up. Finally she decided to go ahead and send him up, reassuring us they would just observe him for an hour or two and by the time we were sent up to our room, he would just meet us up there. I felt a flutter of concern and asked what could cause this. Everyone assured us that it was probably nothing, and it happened to lots of babies and could be totally normal. I don't know if it was my exhaustion or the reassurances of those around us, but I was surprisingly unworried. I just felt ready for everyone to leave so I could sleep. I wanted to go up to our room, meet my baby boy again up there, and spend the next two days enjoying our new baby, sleeping, resting, recovering, and discovering who Caden is. . .

Slowly, our visitors started to head out to let us rest. Adam took Jayci and his parents upstairs to the NICU to say goodbye to Caden before they left to give Jayci a nap. He said he would just meet us in our new room and hopefully Caden would be with him. I nodded sleepily as they left. My mom and sister stayed until they wheeled us up to our new room, and then they too left at my insistence that Adam and Caden would be there soon. I closed my eyes and tried to rest before realizing that I needed to pee, and then wanted to try and find Adam. As I shakily pulled myself out of bed on wobbly post-epidural legs, and tried to get to the bathroom, I felt a stab of annoyance that Adam was still upstairs. I needed his arms to help me to the bathroom, and I wanted to see Caden. Despite my annoyance, I remember feeling triumphant at my accomplishment as I lifted myself back into bed and buzzed the nurse, determined to track down Adam and Caden and tell them to hurry up and get downstairs. She brought a wheelchair to take me upstairs, and was just helping me climb in when Adam walked back in.

His eyes were red and puffy, and he wasn't alone. The cardiologist was there with him, and in that moment I knew something was terribly wrong. It was as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. I looked at Adam with questioning in my eyes, all my annoyance forgotten, and only fear coursing through me. What? I asked. What is it?

It's Caden, he said. Something is wrong with his heart.

My stomach dropped and I was acutely aware of my own heart beating loudly. Adam wheeled me through the hallway to the NICU, and the cardiologist handed me a piece of paper with a drawing of a heart on it.

My hands shook as I read: Less than 1% of babies.Critical. Severe. 

Finally I told the cardiologist I had no idea what it all meant. He explained that they had found some severe heart defects. And that Caden was going to need to be transferred immediately.

I asked what caused it, why this had happened. My mind immediately went to the diet cokes I had drank, to the glass of wine. The lack of spinach. The throwing up and never keeping down my prenatal vitamins. The doctor explained that they don't really know. Sometimes it's genetic, sometimes it's environmental, and sometimes it's just chance. He said he wanted to look into the medication I had been taking, but he wasn't really sure. I was devastated, full of pain and remorse that I had already failed so hugely as a mother. I knew that this was my fault somehow, that I had done something wrong . . . 

I gripped Adam's hand tightly, as a pain far more severe than the contractions I felt earlier flooded through me. Tears washed my face as they wheeled me next to Caden, and I saw him hooked up to machines. Beeping and flashing lights surrounded my beautiful baby boy. And the transport team was waiting, watching as we blinked away tears and tried to comprehend what they were telling us.

They asked me if I wanted to hold him. I nodded through my tears and sobbed into Adam's arms as they unhooked Caden slowly and handed him to me. I couldn't believe it. He was perfect. His little eyes still closed, his forehead wrinkled in dismay that he was being moved. He snuggled in my arms and I held him close to my beating heart. I breathed prayers that didn't go beyond "please God." And I never let go of Adam's hand. We both whispered over Caden how much we loved him. How glad we were to have him. We held tightly, fiercely, to him until they told us they needed to take him now.

Finally I asked the question that had been lodged in my throat. The one I desperately needed to ask. But was terrified to hear the answer to: "Is he, I mean . . . will he be ok? . . .  Is he going to die?" I asked and immediately dissolved into tears.

The cardiologist gently answered, and I saw in the eyes of the nurses watching us how sorry they were, and all he said was "I don't know." He said that Egleston was the best place for him and they were going to do more tests and they would know more then. But he reiterated to us that Caden was very sick and he needed to go now.

Everything was such a blur as they took him from my arms and placed him in the transport unit. They hooked him up, checked his vitals, and got him ready, as Adam and I just stood and watched. Numb. Scared.

One of the ladies who was taking him away stopped for a minute and got her face close to mine. She grabbed my hand, and told me that she had been doing this for 20 years. And that they never know what causes these things. She said I didn't do anything wrong, that it wasn't my fault. I will be forever grateful for her taking a few seconds to reassure me. I held on to her words as they wheeled him away.

Adam and I hugged each other and sobbed. Hard. So hard, in fact, that the nurses asked if we wanted to go to the parents' room, apparently specifically designed to contain frantic new parents whose babies are sick. We declined the room, pulling ourselves into some semblance of sanity, and began to figure out what was next.

They said it would take them a little while to get Caden all checked in, and that Adam couldn't ride with him in the ambulance, but could follow behind. I whispered that I couldn't be alone. I wouldn't survive it in my current state. Adam said he would wait for my sister and mom to come back (they hadn't left that long ago) and then he would have his family and some friends meet him at Egleston so he wouldn't be alone either.

Back in our room, we prayed together, desperately. We cried some more. My heart and arms ached to hold my baby, to make sure he wasn't alone. Or afraid. Then Adam called our families, and we posted on the blog.

I'm not really sure how we even made it through that day. I remember that we had to make a decision in that moment. We had to decide if we still believed that God was who we had always said He was. If He was still good. If we were still going to trust Him. We knew something like this would either destroy us, destroy our marriage, destroy our faith, . . . or make us stronger. And somehow, that day, we chose to believe God still loved us and had a good plan for our futures, for Caden's future. And we knew it would make us stronger.

Friends and family sat with us that night as Adam visited Caden, and I sat in my hospital gown on my bed. We laughed a little bit. I burst into tears again and again as I remembered that they weren't bringing me Caden to nurse. That he wasn't down the hall in the nursery, or laying in the little bassinet next to my bed. Adam didn't get to see him that night, because there was an emergency in the CICU. But he sat outside the doors and prayed for Caden. And we prayed for Caden in our hospital room. And y'all prayed for him all over the globe. And the next morning, we went to Egleston's to see Caden, and to begin a new chapter in the story God was writing with our lives.

From here, you know most of the story. We tried to let people journey with us through this. But I want you to know that there were moments of darkness. Of pain and doubt and fear that ran far deeper than any words could express. But there was also hope, even in the midst of the deepest fear I've ever felt. There was hope in knowing that Jesus sat with Caden in that ambulance. That my Heavenly Father was carrying Caden as they took Him from me. And we knew that even if we didn't want to pray, even when we felt like this was unfair, when we were angry and sad and confused as to why this was happening, even then we knew that we had nowhere else to go. Like the disciples, we said to Jesus, "Where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Because without Him holding us, without the promise of Him holding our son, we never ever would have been strong enough to survive those scary first moments, days, and weeks of Caden's life.

We were somehow able to see through our fear and doubts that Caden was still our beautiful, perfect son. That God was writing a story with our lives and with Caden's life that was much bigger than us. There were dark nights. That first night, especially, was fraught with pain and fear. But light shines brightest in darkness. And the gift of our son, whose life began so beautifully on that day, it brought light to our lives. It shines in the darkness of our fears. Even in those moments when I longed to just go back and feel the pregnant anticipation of a healthy new baby. When I wanted to change and fix things. Even then, his light changed us. Caden and Jesus together, they changed us. They made us better people, better parents, better friends, a better husband and wife.
 Today, as I hold my son and write these words, I want him to know the beautiful beginning of his story. To know that God used him to change people, to make me a better mom. And to know, above all else, that we don't want anything to be different about who he is. Adam and I just think he is absolutely perfect and we could not be more grateful that God entrusted him to us for that first day, and for every day afterwards.


  1. i have tears rolling down my face. he is a miracle baby, becca ... i'm so glad God gave him to you and Adam. He couldn't have chosen more perfect parents to be there for Caden.

  2. I just sobbed like a baby, Becca. I love you and your sweet family! So thankful God placed such a gift (YOU) in my life. So thankful that in the midst of fear and chaos that you chose Him and His way and not to turn. I love you dearly! Give Caden a little hug from me until I can come hold him again! LOVE YOU!

  3. A beautiful, incredible story. I can't begin to explain how much Caden & your family has touched my heart!

  4. A smile is breaking through my tears like the sun through the rain. I can't exactly put into words what I'm feeling, but there's a profound gratitude that I've gotten to know you and to witness Caden's miracle. And a solid belief that, no matter what, you would have accepted God's will for your boy. I think that's what's so beautiful. Yes, there is heart-bursting joy that God's will was for Caden to stay here and be His earthly vessel. But if God had wanted to do things differently, you still would have been praising Him. What a beautiful story... thank you for sharing it with us even as you recorded it for Caden. xoxox....

  5. You do not know me, I read your story from Jill D's FB... I was so inspired and so thrilled to read Caden's birth story. Your faith is beautiful and reminds me how much I need to rely on God in all things. God bless you and your beautiful babies!

  6. I'm crying as I type this. I can only imagine what that day was like for you. I've faced nothing more difficult than having to trust my baby into God's loving -- though not predictable and not always safe -- arms. I am reminded of what the Beavers tell Lucy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe -- that Aslan is so very good but not at all tame. Our good God was with you every minute and was with Caden, but not knowing what the outcome would be, it was -- and continues to be -- a struggle to open your hands and offer your precious bundle to God. I am so thankful that God has blessed Caden's life and yours and has changed so many people because of your son and your faithfulness to point people to the Giver of Life and the Healer of all wounds. We are all blessed because of your family. Thank you for sharing this. And thank you for choosing to trust in Jesus even in the darkness.

  7. I found you through the blog hop habit (addiction) I have, i have continued to read because your pictures are always beautiful and we are in the same season of life I have a 3 year old and an 8 month old...this was so heart wrenching/beautiful to read. You have been very 'real' and honest throughout everything and it's been so refreshing and again beautiful to read. Thank you for sharing yourself and family! and the stalker using your pictures is undoubtedly one of the most disturbing/creepier things I have ever heard! I guess you know that's when it's not just you that thinks your kids are the most adorable things ever!?

  8. this must have all been so terrifying. Thank God that it had such a happy ending! You have one special little boy there.

  9. A beautiful story. You are such a great writer, Becca. Caden is truly a miracle baby and has touched so many lives at just the young age of 2 months. Thank you for sharing this!

  10. Today, my daughter Riley, turned 1, and I have been taking a moment to relish in that fact. I read your story and knew exactly what it felt like to be alone in my hospital room while my husband was tending my my new baby in the NICU at Northside Hospital. I have had that piece of paper with the diagram of her heart handed to me and I know the pain that my heart felt and can only imagine you felt the same. Riley was lucky to be able to hold off until she was 4-months old before her open heart surgery at Egleston. Thank you for sharing your story, as awful as it is to revisit that pain, it's nice to know that you aren't alone. I wish you & you family (especially Caden!) all of the best. I'm sure you've learned from your research how lucky we are to have sure great pediatric cardioligist at Egleston. I thank God for that every day that I am able to hold on tight to my baby girl.


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