Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Story of John Harper

Well, it happened.  My little man celebrated one full year with our family. 
John Harper, aged ONE!
We were expecting his arrival a little bit sooner than he chose to arrive.  John Harper was due on Dec. 12.  It came and went.  As did the 15th (his "other" official due date.)  Then came Christmas Eve, Christmas Day.

my belly, 41 weeks
I saw a midwife for my pregnancy with John Harper.  It was an uncomplicated pregnancy, and I prepared for six months for a VBAC(Grady was a cesarean due to size) using Hypnobirthing.  We felt ready and excited to welcome John Harper in a completely natural birth.  We played this song over and over and over again, and I cried imagining the moment I would get to meet my son.

I awoke with a scream in the middle of the night on Dec. 28.  I'd read about back labor.  I didn't realize what waking up in the middle of a back labor contraction felt like.  Not great.  Throughout that night and all the following day and well into the next night I worked to get John Harper to us.  After a full 24 hours of hard, hard natural labor, I was at 2 cm.  I asked for an epidural, and then after some hard thought, prayer and tears, Adam and I decided that the best way for our baby to be born was via a repeat cesarean. 
coupla days old
John Harper Westmoreland Tarleton came screaming into the world at 11:54 pm on Dec 29, 17 days overdue.  All 10 lbs, 11 oz, 21 1/2 inches of him.  Despite his long journey, he seemed perfect.  I was able to touch and kiss him immediately, and they brought him to me to nurse within an hour. 

four days old
Within a few hours, we realized he was not, in fact, perfectly healthy.  There seemed to be something funny about his latch, and nobody had any real answers, other than to keep nursing him.  No one came to check his blood sugar, protocol for babies over 9 lbs., for 26 hours.  When it was finally checked at 27 hour old, his blood sugar was 40.  He was shaking and a seizure looked imminent. He was given formula, and stabilized.  Then began a cycle I am still trying to forget.  I would pump for 20 minutes, getting a few milliliters (yes, drops!) of breast milk (my milk hadn't come in yet because of the cesarean) and then Adam would feed him from a tiny cup.  We then gave him formula.  I got up while he ate and washed the pump parts.  And this cycle had to be repeated every two hours-- meaning about an hour in between the time I started and the time I finished--24 hours a day.  It took three days for him to be able to stabilize his own blood sugar, even on an almost exclusive diet of formula. I look back on those weeks-- and I had been through the shock of a newborn before-- and I don't know how we survived. 

meeting Grady and "Grady's John Harper"-- his enormous baby doll
There's more to the story, too, that isn't worth talking about anymore.  It was a hard, hard time.  Breastfeeding is so, so important to me, and it seemed like John Harper needed all the benefits my milk could provide even more than other babies.  We saw lactation consultants, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and an infant chiropractor.  We heard words the words "cerebral palsy." People have asked me if I cried a lot.  I didn't.  I knew that if I let myself fall apart, even for one minute, I wouldn't get myself back together. 

six weeks old
We kept on keeping on.  I kept putting John Harper to my breast.  I kept on pumping.  He began to eat less and less formula and more and more of my milk.  But his jaw was clamped shut as if it were wired, and his little body still seemed like a board-- he was completely stiff and we couldn't get his arms and legs to bend. 

And then, when he was 4 weeks old, he began to run a fever.  I took him to the doctor-- the pediatricain we saw told me to take him home.  The next day I was sitting in the emergency room holding my blue baby, watching him struggle to get air, seeing him held down while he had vial after vial of blood drawn, have a spinal tap, a chest x-ray.  I was alone.  Adam was with Grady while we waited on someone to come watch him. 

I didn't know what the next day would bring for us.  It's the most afraid I've ever felt. 

really little-- I think this is prior to the hospital, but I'm not sure
He had pneumonia.  He spent days on oxygen, hooked up to wires and buzzers and I sat in a chair next to his hospital crib that looked like a cage.  After a week, we came home again.

And then the weeks went by, and then months.  When he was 3 months old, he began to latch on during nursing.  We held our breaths while the lactation consultant weighed him after he fed.  I breathed a sigh of relief that he was getting milk.  And slowly, slowly, as his little mouth practiced opening and his little muscles worked, his body began to unkink.  He rolled over.  He rocked on all fours.  He crawled at 6 months, 1 week and 3 days old.  And nobody talked about cerebral palsy anymore.
First frosted cupcake.  It was really yummy.
And so today we celebrate one year of John Harper.  And we are almost ready to say goodbye to an old year and welcome a new one in. 

Goodbye to a year of hospital stays (there have been two more, but thankfully he's been fine every time), fear, worry and stress. 

Hello to a new year of wonderful with my wonderful boy.
Happy Birthday, John Harper!


~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

That is quite the story. I'm so sorry that you've had to go through all that -- no one, no mother, ever should. But, hopefully that is all behind you and 2010 will be filled with lots of joy and happiness. Happy Birthday to your John Harper.

Anonymous said...

you brought tears to my eyes. what an ordeal! glad its all behind you and you can move forward..
Happy birthday, John Harper!

paula said...

how scary. way to persevere with nursing. happy birthday to your sweet boy.

naqahdahnellie said...

Happy birthday John Harper! We're sure glad you're around!

Joy said...

I almost cried while reading that, Melissa! You guys have been through so much with John Harper. You're such a great and persistent mama! He's such a beautiful little guy. :) Congrats on making it through that first tough year. BTW, I'm working on b-day presents for both him and Grady. ;)

Erstwhile Editor said...

Surely, you've gotten a lifetime of troubles out of the way in that first year, and John Harper will be like his daddy, who, I've told people, practically raised himself with only minimal parental intervention.

Gremlina said...

wow. i had NO idea of all of that...what a time you've had. i could cry just thinking it could be any worse than leviah & she was just colicy. Here's to a 2nd year of healthy good times!

The Phillips Family said...

What a rollercoaster ride of a first year! Thank God he is now a precious, healthy boy. I hope he had a wonderful first birthday!

Cote de Texas said...

what an incredible story! most mothers give up on babies who don't latch on. i so believe in breastfeeding too - you should be so proud you didn't give up on it. he is too adorable and he does look very healthy now. congratulations on making it through the year - all your hard work paid off. you are a great mom!


Katie said...

Happy Birthday! Wow a year already!!

nameisgrace said...

just found your blog. happy birthday to your little man. i have a little harper as well who turns 2 next month. they grow so fast!

HannahJ said...

Oh my goodness- what a trial that was for your family- and what an amazing little man you have!

I stumbled upon your blog today after reading a comment you left on Bryn's blog...so glad I did:) We took Hypnobirthing classes too!