The 9 Minutes that Changed Everything
Hey Guys! Thank you so much for reading our blogs and supporting us in our new adventure. We are so excited for the upcoming high season which is basically Central America’s summer when most tourists visit and the weather is perfect. We look forward to the business opportunities we will have with the international travelers that come through CR every year. We are ready, we have the inventory, website is looking good and Rebecca and I have not killed each other yet, so that’s good. Let’s go Mango Baby Beach!
I wanted to share some insight into how we got here with a personal story from 2021. Our first blog gave some insight to our journey, but there was a main catalyst that really changed our mutual perspectives. Lo siento, but is about to get a bit personal and I like to talk, so hold on!
NOTE: Trigger Warning - Pregnancy Trauma
2021 fundamentally changed Rebecca and me for the better. Some will say we experienced burn out which I would agree with - to a degree. However, we believe the significantly difficult birth experience with Rocco, our third child, was the defining point that allowed us to be open to a complete life change a year later. Although our family and many of our friends know this story, this is the first time that I have shared it publicly. It took us a long time to even share it with our family as the pain and anxiety experienced during the birth would flood back full force.
It was May 27, 2021 which also happened to be my 40th birthday. Despite Covid and my lack of enthusiasm at turning the big 4-0, Rebecca (who was on bedrest and scheduled to be induced the next day due to worsening preeclampsia) and the kids tried to make it special. I woke up to a huge celebratory yard sign and a happy birthday chorus. We were having a great morning…that is, until about 9 a.m.
I received a call from my father letting me know that my cousin, Sean, had unexpectedly passed the night before. Sean and I grew up together and were very close in our youth. Our lives took us in different directions, and we didn’t see each other as often as we would have liked, but the love and bond we had as children never left. Needless to say this news made what should have been a happy day, a day filled with tears, sad calls and Facetimes with family. It was a very rough day and I cried a lot. I wanted to get all of my crying out, because the next day I was going to be a father again. I wanted to get all of my sadness and darkness out and leave it on 5/27, because 5/28 was going to be a joyous and happy day.
On 5/28, Rebecca and I reported to the hospital bright and early and were ready for the induction of our 3rd child. I say “child” because we decided to wait to find out at the birth. We had it all planned - we brought 2 onesies to the hospital, one said “Rocco” if the baby was a boy and the other “Bellamy” if the baby was a girl. I was even going to deliver the baby so I’d be the first to know and tell Rebecca.
This was our third induction and the day was going as expected - filled with laughter and fun and some pain for Rebecca, of course. We bonded with the nursing staff and midwife and had a pretty great day as things unfolded. At around 6 p.m. the midwife came in and it was time to break Rebecca’s water. This occurred without issue…or so we thought. Rebecca and I were still in very good spirits - me more so than Rebecca since she was in active labor and had chosen to forego an epidural like she had with Fiona. I was very tired from getting up early, so we were basically even…just kidding…Rebecca is a hero and I love her so much.
The midwife came back in about 10 minutes after she broke Rebecca’s water and was having a hard time finding the baby’s heartbeat. You could sense that something was wrong by the way the nurse and midwife started acting - all day they had been so fun and playful. This abruptly changed as they whispered quickly back and forth, moving the external fetal monitor around and asking Rebecca to shift in different positions. You could see the genuine concern on their faces.
They decided to shift to an internal fetal monitor and, within a minute of that decision, the nurse and midwife were shouting “HANDS” and saying “SHE NEEDS HANDS.” The bedside emergency button was activated and I started hearing announcements over the PA system at the hospital referring to an emergency in the birthing wing. It seemed like every nurse in the hospital was suddenly in our room, some calm, some panicked. They started ripping monitors off the wall and wheeling Rebecca out of the room, almost ripping her IVs out due to the nearly forgotten IV pole. There wasn’t much communication with me or Rebecca - just that she needed to go. As they were wheeling Rebecca out of the room, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “I love you.” It was such a powerful moment, as neither of us knew what was happening, but we knew for certain something was wrong. We didn’t know if the baby was okay or in danger, we didn’t know if Rebecca’s life was in danger, we knew nothing other then something very out of the ordinary was happening.
While it seemed like an eternity, it only was 9 minutes from the nurse calling for “HANDS” to Rocco’s birth. It was 9 minutes of complete panic and helplessness though. I watched doctors and nurses sprinting down the hallway for 9 minutes. Nurses were attempting to comfort me telling me everything was going to be okay for 9 minutes. They were telling me everything was fine with tears in their eyes while asking me if I wanted to pray - they tried to comfort me and keep me calm, but they could barely keep their own composure. For 9 minutes I didn’t know if I was losing my baby, my wife or both…and neither did they. Every time the operating room door swung open, I would get a glimpse of Rebecca lying lifeless on the table with a tube down her throat. For 9 minutes I knew nothing…I am not overly religious, but I was born Catholic and do believe in a higher power. I was frantically praying in my head, out loud, with nurses, to God, to Jesus, to my cousin who passed the day prior, to anyone who would hear my prayers. During those 9 minutes, I went through all the emotions - sadness, fear, terror, but also some level of clarity. I came to grips with my potential reality. I began planning how I was going to tell my other 2 children about losing their mother or sibling or both. I began thinking about being a single father and how I could provide care for my children while working. I began thinking how we were going to survive financially with only a single income. All of these thoughts, plans and emotions flooded through me during the those 9 minutes.
At the conclusion of those eternal 9 minutes, a nurse came out of the operating room crying and told me “You have a son.” My immediate thought was “What about Rebecca??” The nurse told me she was going to be okay, but would require a long recovery both in the hospital and out. I was so scared though - for the first time in witnessing 3 child births, I had to watch this helpless, tiny infant for the first 5 hours of his life while his mommy was stitched up, came out of general anesthesia and began pain management. While c-sections are very common and truly save baby and mommies all the time, they are usually planned with a great deal of preparatory pain management. Rebecca received none of those - in 9 minutes she was rushed to the OR, put under general anesthesia, intubated, and had a human cut out of her. She went under not knowing if her baby was okay or if she was ever going to wake up. When she came out of anesthesia, she didn’t have a baby in her belly anymore and didn’t have one in her arms. I can’t imagine the panic and fear she went through in those initial moments of coming out of anesthesia. My heart hurt for her and I am in awe of how brave and strong she is.
The complications arose from Rocco being a very wiggly baby. When Rebecca had her water broken, Rocco lost the warm swimming pool that he had been chilling in for the last 9 months. He was not having it. He started wiggling around and this ultimately caused the umbilical cord to pop out before him. This is called a cord prolapse and is very rare and dangerous. Basically the cord pops out before the baby and the baby’s head starts to cut off blood, oxygen and nutrients. This is why it is so urgent that the baby is removed via c-section before long term damage is done…or worse.
We are blessed that we have with us today a healthy and amazing baby boy. We are so lucky that this story did not end in a different way. We are forever in the debt of the amazing staff at Atrium Health Hospital in Pineville. Rocco is here today because of the heroics of the nurses and doctors. The midwife, Lori Williamson, will be remembered by us for the rest of our lives. I would build a monument dedicated to her if that was a thing people did and it wouldn’t seem weird and creepy. If it was not for her fast acting, Rocco would not be here. She is a hero and was assisted by other heroes. Fun fact, her husband is a Bojangles’ fanatic, so that made her extra heroic and cool. Rebecca was an attorney for Bojangles (a famous southeastern fast food chain) at the time. We gifted Lori and her husband a very fancy Bojangles blanket as a thank you, but only because that is all they would accept. It was the first time Lorie, a midwife of 20 years, had experienced a cord prolapse, but her training allowed her to recognize it fast and act quickly.
There was a good 6 months where I could not get through telling this story because it was still so fresh and traumatic. I would literally have to stop because I would get so emotional and all my efforts would go to being strong for Rebecca and the kids while holding in the tears. I could not talk about it, therefore I could not process and move on from it. I can talk about it now, barely….Of all the life changing events that happened in the world over the last 3 years, this one is the one that put us over the top. It fundamentally changed the way we think about what we should and shouldn’t value. We realized we just wanted to be together and all the “noise” was not important to us anymore. Any issue we faced, put against Rocco’s birth lost in terms of importance. We realized life was for living because nothing is guaranteed and every day is a blessing.
The rest was history…Rocco’s 1st birthday party was simultaneously a going away party, and less than 2 months later we were in Costa Rica. Our friends and family while supportive, are still shaking their heads with the exceptional speed in which we put this crazy plan into action. I have met many people with similar traumatic birthing stories since Rocco’s birth. Our story is special to us, but not special in the grand scheme of birthing stories. Many aren’t so lucky and many have their own similarly traumatic stories. There is a supportive community out there if you ever need to talk or share, don’t keep it in…. Rebecca will tell her experience when she is ready…Thank you for reading…Pura Vida Amigos!!!