Our sweet boy, August Judah Weathersby, arrived almost two weeks ago and every day since then we have fallen more in love with our boy. August was born at 37 weeks and 1 day, which is incredible considering the circumstances. He weighed 8lbs 1oz and was 21 inches long.
This was my second c-section and it was different in a lot of ways from my last c-section. Callum’s delivery was completely unexpected and urgent (he was going into distress so we had to deliver as quickly as possible) but this one was planned. Josh wasn’t able to make it to Atlanta in time for Callum’s birth so I was alone for the c-section, but this time Josh was with me the whole time. We drove up to Atlanta the night before and ordered food from our favorite Thai restaurant. Then we snuggled on the couch in our hotel while eating dinner and watching a movie. We were buzzing with excitement and disbelief that we had actually made it this far, things had gone smoothly and our baby was still alive and ready to meet us the next morning.
During the c-section, Dr. Trevett was able to join us, which was so special. He wasn’t actually doing the procedure (my OBGYN, Dr. Howard performed the c-section) but he was able to stand right next to me and be there for the delivery. Right after August was born we couldn’t see him yet but we could hear him crying and I was desperate to get a glimpse of him. I think he was grunting so they had to work on him a bit to make sure he wasn’t having trouble breathing. Dr. Trevett told us, “He looks really good, he’s big! And he has a lot of hair! It looks blond!” It was fun to have him narrate when we couldn’t see August yet. They finally brought August to us and he was so beautiful and pink and chubby. He looked like a normal full term healthy baby, not a baby who had just fought for his life for 8 months. We were so in love. I told Dr. Trevett, “He’s only here because of you.” And he laughed and said, “Well, you guys had a lot to do with it too.” The c-section went great and felt like it took 10 minutes and then I was taken to recovery. August was taken to the transition nursery for observation since he was still grunting. They wanted to do blood tests and make sure he was breathing well. After observation and testing they would decide if he needed to go to the NICU or if he could come to my room and stay with us.
Once we were taken to our hospital room everything was suddenly still and quiet and Josh and I were alone. We were so overjoyed that our son was here and he was safe. We had a few pictures of August from the operating room that we looked through over and over again and discussed. Who does he look like? I wonder what his hair looks like under that hat? I thought he would weigh more, what about you? As the minutes and then the hours ticked by I became more and more upset that we couldn’t see August. I remember after Callum was born I was not allowed to go see him for 12 hours after the c-section. That is the hospital policy for all women who have c-sections- no getting out of bed for 12 hours. This isn’t a big deal for the families who have healthy babies because the babies are in the room with them, but for the families whose babies are whisked away for observation or admittance to the NICU, this can feel excruciating. For me, the 12 hours after Callum was born were by far the hardest of his entire 20 day NICU stay. There is a deep primal need to have your baby with you after birth, to have him tucked up safely under your chin on your chest. The ache feels almost physical when you give birth and then there is no baby in sight, no skin to skin contact, no newborn smell. My pain might be more intense because of the trauma we experienced with Lucy, but I’m not so sure. I have a suspicion that the ache is just as deep even for mothers who haven’t lost babies.
Josh was wonderful and called the transition nursery over and over again for an update on August, and asked how much longer until we could see him. They told us his blood sugar was low, his hematocrit was great (39), so he wasn’t anemic, but his bilirubin was a bit high (4). They put him under phototherapy lights to bring his bilirubin down and they told us as soon as they were sure that he was breathing well they would try to send him to the well baby nursery on our floor. We were both relieved that he was doing so well, but I started to feel panicky looking around our empty hospital room. It brought me back to the hospital room we stayed in after Lucy died. No bassinet, no baby, just a heartbreaking empty silence. Josh decided to go get our bags and pillows from the car and once I was alone I allowed myself to cry. Part of me felt like I didn’t deserve to cry because my baby was alive and well, and so many other women’s babies weren’t alive. But I could not contain my tears, I sobbed and sobbed, aching for my baby August who I hadn’t even held yet. A nurse came in and saw that I was crying in my bed and I felt ridiculous, but she was so kind and compassionate. She went and talked to the head nurse who also came in and asked if there was anything they could do to help. I said the only thing I wanted was my baby and I understood that they couldn’t do anything to change hospital policy. They tried reassuring me that he would be fine and I clarified that I wasn’t worried about him at all, I just needed my baby with me. I told them that I had struggled in the past with PTSD after losing my daughter and this felt like PTSD (mixed with some intense hormones I’m sure.) Josh was also really sweet and affectionate and kept calling to check on August. After 8 hours of waiting we finally looked up and saw a nurse wheeling in a bassinet. You guys, we felt EUPHORIC when we realized it was him.
Josh got to hold him first and then I got to hold him on my chest and it was magical. He felt like God’s redemption in the flesh.
Josh and I cuddled with him and smelled him and savored every little detail we discovered. His dimples, his wavy blond hair, the cleft in his chin, his enormous feet and long toes, the way his little nose turns up, the birth mark on his forehead and eyelids (that all of our other babies had too.) It felt like such a gift to be able to soak him in and learn him and hear his little newborn sounds. His bilirubin was still a bit high so we had to keep him under the bili lights but we were so happy to be able to have him in the room with us.
The rest of our time in the hospital was spent enjoying our new son, getting his bilirubin under control, taking a million pictures and trying to get back into the rhythm of pumping and breastfeeding. Josh and I loved having this time together to bond with August without the stress of looking after our other four kids. Because of COVID restrictions, we weren’t allowed to have any visitors at the hospital. At first we were really sad about this because it meant that our parents, siblings and the kids couldn’t come meet August after he was born. But it turned out to be a really sweet time together in our hospital room, just the three of us cocooned in. Josh and I could talk for hours without being interrupted by the kids. We marveled in disbelief at August’s life.
I realized during this time together just how much I had missed with Callum. While he was in the NICU I didn’t feel like he was my baby. It felt like he belonged to the hospital and I didn’t have any ownership over him, like my parental rights hadn’t been granted to me yet. I had to ask them for permission to hold him, feed him, get him dressed. Now, since August wasn’t in the NICU and was in my room with me, he felt like he was mine. The nurses asked me if they could hold him, check his vitals, change his diaper. I was able to bond with him in a way that I couldn’t with Callum until I was home with him. I felt so thankful for this experience with August. It felt like another piece of my healing puzzle clicked into place. Another beautiful, undeserved gift from God.
After about 3 or 4 days under the lights, August’s bilirubin was low enough to stay off the lights. His hematocrit and hemoglobin stayed steady and the last time they checked, his hematocrit was 43. Dr. Trevett came twice to visit August and see how we were doing. As always I could not find the right words to express our gratitude for the amazing care he provided during my pregnancy. Not only did he manage an extremely risky alloimmunized pregnancy but he did so in the in the middle of a pandemic. Throughout my pregnancy he saw me every single week (sometimes twice a week), monitored August closely and helped me manage my fears and anxieties along the way. Dr. Trevett performed 7 intrauterine blood transfusions on August and got him all the way to 37 weeks safely. Thanks to him, August was born alive and healthy. We are so thankful for Dr. Trevett and all that he has done for our family.
We are also incredibly thankful for Dr. Moise who helped throughout my pregnancy as well, just from a distance. He checked in on a regular basis to see how the pregnancy was going and he was available any time Dr. Trevett or I had questions about my treatment. He was also ready to do any early IUTs if they had been needed.
August and I were discharged from the hospital together, which was a dream come true. No NICU stay, no leaving the hospital empty handed.
When we got home, the kids and my parents and even the neighbors were waiting outside in the yard, ready to meet baby August. The kids were so excited and relieved to finally see their baby brother in person, alive and healthy. We had warned them from the beginning that we didn’t know if he would survive and we didn’t know if we would get to bring him home or not. Just like we did during my pregnancies with Nora and Callum, we were very clear with the kids about what was happening inside my body and the risks that the baby was facing. We never gave them false hope or made promises that we weren’t sure we could keep. They prayed every night for God to protect their baby, which made it extra sweet when we finally got to see them meet their brother.
Over the past two weeks we have enjoyed our baby August so much. Seeing my five kids together feels so right, like a long aching desire fulfilled, like God’s promise kept in the most beautiful way. When I look at August I think about these verses from Isaiah 41-
17 When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the LORD will answer them;
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
20 that they may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Seven years ago we were told that we could never have any more biological children. And yet, in the desert wasteland of my womb God grew THREE healthy Kell positive babies. I hope when you look at our baby August you see what I see- a miracle that only the hand of the Lord could have performed. The Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created this sweet baby and sustained him.
There is still so much more to write about but this blog post is already way longer than it should be so I will write more later. Thank you so much to every one of you who prayed for August and followed along during the pregnancy. We have been so encouraged by all of the support and kindness you have shown us.