The following story is a guest post from Kayla Seyler.
THE THING I NEVER SHARED
Like anyone, I love to share the happy moments. I have flooded social media with pictures of my boys playing in mud puddles and stories of potty training successes and bedtime prayers. Sometimes I share stories of toddler tantrums and downright ugly momma moments. I am open and honest about the highs and the lows of our journey as foster parents. I share praises and prayer requests, good news and bad news.
Yet I have said very little about the birth of our third son. I haven’t told the full story to anyone really – at least not in detail. I haven’t even had the courage to write it in his baby book. I have kept his story so close to my heart and I haven’t quite been able to find the words to describe that day. Just like there are no words “happy enough” to describe the moment when your child is born – alive, healthy, screaming… there are also no words to describe the birth of a child who isn’t breathing. I’m not even sure I’m ready now, but my sister-in-law asked me to share something inspirational, and I instantly reflected on his birth and the strength and peace we experienced that comes from God alone.
My pregnancy was fantastic. After my first trimester passed, I managed to care for my other three children without feeling too overwhelmingly exhausted on most days. I craved fruit and salads which allowed me to gain only baby weight. We initially had some issues locating his kidneys in an early ultrasound, but a follow up confirmed he was perfectly healthy. It was physically my healthiest and easiest pregnancy. It flew by because I was busy juggling the chaos of raising three other little ones.
Around 35 weeks pregnant, something changed. During my appointment, I expressed concern to the doctor that I couldn’t feel the baby move quite as much. She checked for his heartbeat, and it immediately registered. The thump, thump, thump of his heartbeat brought fleeting relief though. His heart rate was about 20 beats slower than just 5 days before. She assured me that babies mature and often their heart rate slows as they develop. But I couldn’t shake that feeling, and she happily agreed to send me for a non-stress test.
During the non-stress test his heart rate showed very few accelerations and he definitely wasn’t moving much. They gave me apple juice and water, and we waited with no changes. They zapped my belly with that little vibrating machine that reminds me of a cow prod. He didn’t move, so they did it again. He jumped and his heart rate picked up a little. I was sent home, but still didn’t feel at ease.
Days later I requested another non-stress test and had similar results. I remember watching television that evening with my husband and expressing to him that I was concerned. “It just doesn’t feel right. I can’t keep going in there for those tests though. They will think I am crazy. Maybe he’s just another big baby with no room to wiggle.” I knew he didn’t feel big, but that was an easy explanation and I chalked every other scared emotion up to hormones. (Life lesson: Gut feelings are sometimes whispers from the Holy Spirit. I believe this. Listen to them. Sometimes God puts those tiny thoughts in your mind for a reason – do not disregard those whispers.)
We scheduled our induction for 39 weeks, but I went into labor on my own at 37 weeks. They admitted me and we called our parents to let them know. We requested that everyone remain at home. We thought that this could possibly be our last biological child, and I really wanted an intimate, special moment with Greg and our son. Those who know me will have trouble believing this, but I even told Greg to put the camera away! I didn’t need a picture; I wanted to etch that moment in my brain. I wanted Greg to lay my freshly born baby on my chest and I just wanted to smell him and nurse him and soak up every moment of the experience with my husband and new son. We shared that experience with our mothers when Holden was born, and when Ezra was born, everyone rushed in to meet him within minutes. I really wanted this moment to be ours.
I now know that God orchestrated that moment to protect all of us. He gave those desires to me so that I didn’t need to face my older sons in those desperate hours after his birth. He protected our parents from seeing our hurt. Even in the depth of our own pain, we were most worried about how we would ever tell them.
“WE’RE WORKING ON IT”
During labor, Koah’s vitals plummeted on the monitor. It was an intense few moments and I can’t share all of that process because it’s overwhelming. Greg wasn’t in the room at the time and I was helpless as they searched like crazy for his heart beat. They did find it within minutes, and once again, I thought that it didn’t seem right. “It happens sometimes. Your contractions came strong and hard and close together. That can be hard on a baby. We’re watching him closely,” the doctors told me.
Koah was born a little after 1 am with the cord wrapped tightly around his neck. His body responded to that fetal distress by releasing meconium – which he inhaled into his lungs. (Meconium Aspiration Syndrome) Our doctor described it as tar in his lungs… Even after the cord was released from his tiny neck, his little lungs couldn’t open because the “tar” was literally gluing them shut.
Greg looked sick and I looked over to see my baby. Unlike a healthy newborn, he was not screaming and I would describe his skin as “the color of death”.
“Is he okay?”
“We’re working on it,” they said.
And the entire floor of that hospital worked on Koah at our bedside. There was no time to take him anywhere else. I will never forget the nurse that had the job of watching the clock. She was responsible for counting the minutes he was without a heartbeat or breath. One minute. Two minutes. Three minutes. She shouted his apgar scores. 1. 1. 3. She looked sick, but she smiled at me. It wasn’t the kind of smile you want to see – it was more like an apology. I smiled back at her because I wanted her to know that it wasn’t her fault. I remember that clearly.
Greg leaned down and he said to me “I don’t think we’re taking our baby home, but we’ll be ok. God will see us through this, and we are so blessed.”
I said “I know”. And do you know what the crazy part is? I meant it. We both did.
Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
I do not want to pretend we are perfect or that my relationship with Christ is perfect. It is not. I battled many questions during those initial hours in the hospital. In those moments I was reflecting on the long road we had been down with our [foster] daughter. She was a preemie with delays. So when Koah didn’t breathe for those several minutes one of my first thoughts was “I can’t even handle another child with possible special needs.” I am ashamed to type that, but it wouldn’t be fair to pretend I didn’t let my faith waiver. I believe all life is precious and I know that God knits each and every one of us together… so I am sad that I even allowed this thought to pass.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your hearts and your minds quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
We made it through five hours alone in a hospital room without knowing anything about our baby. We listened to the precious cries of the baby born next door and we saw the middle-of-the-night visitors. We talked about our sweet baby and how our parents would wake up soon and wait for the news that a healthy grandson had been born. Greg and I made decisions about how far we would allow doctors to go to save our baby. Together we decided that if Koah lived long enough to be transported to Children’s Hospital, Greg would go with him and I would join him once I was discharged. We talked about the tough things. We didn’t want machines keeping him alive long-term. I was afraid that I wouldn’t make it in time to hold him, but I didn’t want him to suffer just to wait for me. We tried to decide what we would tell our sons if Koah passed away. We talked about our foster daughter – only 8 months old – and we were so thankful for her. We knew we would be going home to a full house with three beautiful kids to love and we believed that God gave us her to make this moment more bearable. I am thankful that Greg was so strong in those moments because that allowed me to experience such peace and such trust in God. He reminded me that those promises – God’s promises – were true even if this moment was not part of our plan. I am also humbled and overwhelmed by God’s love for us in every moment, good and bad.
Greg and I haven’t talked about that moment much since and we didn’t get to thank everyone personally after that. We had family members and neighbors that watched our kids or offered to watch them. Friends from school reached out and asked if we would like to stay at their houses while Koah was in Pittsburgh. Sandy and Steve helped with our dogs and were amazing neighbors. Greg’s mom entertained Holden and Ezra’s questions about their baby brother even when she didn’t have all the answers. I know that must have been hard. His dad drove him to Pittsburgh and stood by his side while he waited for answers without me. I knew that Greg may have to make life changing decisions without me, and I was thankful for his Dad’s support. My own parents sat in my hospital room while I waited to be discharged and cried with me. Katie brought me a Mountain Dew and gave me a moment to laugh and pretend it simply wasn’t happening. Our pastor tried to reach out over and over again. We are thankful for the hospital staff that showed us so much love and the couple next to us whose baby was born healthy and I could hear their joy, but I could also hear them expressing their concern for us and asking staff about our baby. That touched my heart that they took time from their happy moment to worry about us. I can’t name everyone here, but I do remember each and every text, phone call, voicemail, visit, and card. We were so covered in prayer by our church family and other believers that we could literally feel God’s peace like never before. I remember every single kind gesture that day and I couldn’t possibly feel more loved or more thankful.
OVERFLOWING WITH GRATITUDE
Koah was eventually stabilized enough to be taken to Children’s Hospital and was released a week later. His first few days of life were hard, but at discharge doctors said he seemed perfectly healthy and we could treat him as a “normal baby” – whatever that is. He is five months old and I still lose my breath when I look at him.
My boys pray at night, and on some nights (out of nowhere) they say, “Thank you God for making Koah better.”
We do thank God.
I pray that every moment of my motherhood reflects that thankfulness.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. -Deuteronomy 6:5-7
For Hope and Health,
If you would like to contact Kayla about anything in her post, please do so by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.