Holden’s birth story starts long before his birth. His oldest brother Brayden was stillborn at 24 weeks in 2014 due to undiagnosed severe pre-eclampsia and a placental abruption, masked by my very low baseline blood pressure that spiked at the end. Holden’s older sister Ainsley, our first rainbow, was conceived four months after we lost Brayden. I was monitored much more closely with her as a high-risk pregnancy by an amazing doctor, Dr. Britta Panda at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. With Ainsley’s pregnancy, my blood pressure remained low and stable until 36 weeks when it became elevated. There was no sign of pre-eclampsia, only pregnancy-induced hypertension. But given my history, I was induced to deliver and she was born at 37 weeks, healthy and now nearly three years old.

My pregnancy with Holden went smoothly overall; I was seen regularly by Dr. Panda again.

Holden would be my first C-section delivery due to a uterus surgery I had last year. The surgery increased my risk of uterine rupture, so we were scheduled for the C-section to be on April 6, 2018 at 37 weeks plus 6 days gestation. He was measuring healthy and big throughout the whole pregnancy and I was so excited, as well as so nervous about what my body was capable of doing to an otherwise healthy baby, given that my first son was perfectly healthy until I had severe pre-eclampsia.

With Ainsley’s pregnancy I was a permanent fixture at the hospital.

I came in often between my weekly appointments through the Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic during the daytime, through the ER at nighttime, and through Labor and Delivery when I had reached a certain point in the pregnancy. With Holden’s pregnancy, however, I pretty much just stuck to my weekly appointments. I only went in a few extra times for reassurance, something my doctor told me I was always welcome to do. Towards the end of this pregnancy, though, I started feeling a bit less in control. I could feel him kicking, see him at my monthly ultrasounds, trust my doctor that he was healthy and that my body could continue to be a safe place for him to develop and grow, but an overwhelming and growing part of me felt otherwise and it was hard to reconcile those two competing feelings.

On Sunday, March 25th, at 36 weeks plus 1 day, Holden wasn’t as active as he had been.

I was accustomed to him being very active at certain points in the day and he just wasn’t that day. Being told that there was “less room for him to move around” would certainly not ease my worries as a loss mom who has learned otherwise. If there was a change in MY baby’s movements, it would be better to go in to be seen and reassured than to be left wondering at home by myself and taking a risk. I called the hospital and the on-call doctor agreed; she asked me to come in through Labor and Delivery. My husband Matt stayed home with our daughter, with my hospital bags ready by the door in case he would need to join me.

I was terrified, of course, but as soon as I got to the hospital and was being monitored with a non-stress test, Holden started kicking away. The nurse joked that this happens a lot and that the monitor was magical, and I was so relieved. My blood pressure was elevated, though, potentially explained by my nerves, so they kept me in the same room, resting, and took it again.

Elevated again.

This time we added a urine test for protein, a hallmark sign of pre-eclampsia, and pre-eclampsia blood work. The blood work came back negative, as did my urine for protein. The medical team said I needed to do a 24-hour urine collection to complete the pre-eclampsia work-up. They offered for me to do it in the hospital with an overnight stay, or, they said, I could do it at home on Monday, bring my urine collection in on Tuesday and have my blood pressure checked again at that point. I chose to do it at home and was discharged.

On Monday I stayed home with my daughter and did my 24-hour urine collection. It was not my first time doing this so it wasn’t hard or taxing in any way. The baby was moving and I was feeling a bit calmer having seen him on a quick ultrasound the night before. I called out of work for the remainder of the week; it was originally going to be my last week of work before my maternity leave. On Tuesday I went to the hospital to drop off my 24-hour urine collection and to get my blood pressure checked. My urine came back negative for protein again (a good sign) and my blood pressure was elevated again (not a good sign). After another non-stress test, the new plan was for me to stay overnight for blood pressure monitoring.

My overnight stay was actually quite pleasant.

I felt MUCH safer in the hospital than at home. I hadn’t brought my packed hospital bags with me but my parents came to visit and brought a change of clothes. My blood pressure was checked often throughout the night and I had regular non-stress tests for the baby, too. I was having contractions but I wasn’t dilated yet. I missed Matt and Ainsley but I stayed in contact with them through Facetime and just tried to relax.

The following morning, Wednesday, March 28th, at 36 weeks plus 4 days, our plans changed. Due to my elevated blood pressure, we would move my C-section up by one week to Friday, March 30th, at 36 weeks plus 6 days. I was so relieved about this new plan because at this point I just didn’t trust my body.

I was discharged to have two nights back at home with a plan to be back at the hospital first thing Friday morning (or sooner if I had any concerns). At home, I tried to rest. We had an early visit from the Easter bunny for Ainsley, as we knew that we would be in the hospital on Easter, April 1st. We gave Ainsley lots of hugs and lots of love. She went to my in-laws’ house on Thursday evening. On Friday morning, Matt and I met my doula Janice, who had been an amazing support for me at my daughter’s birth, at the hospital.

We checked in and waited.

And waited. I was so nervous and it felt surreal to know that within a few short hours, if everything went according to plan, I would get to meet this sweet child, my second but only living son. We went through the preparation process and I was so thrilled to see Dr. Panda and to have the support of my doula. I was most nervous about getting a spinal/epidural as it had gone horribly with both of my prior births. Dr. Panda was aware of this so I was trusting that she and her team would do whatever they possibly could to make it successful.

I brought copies of my birth plan/wish-list (safety of baby and mom first, skin-to-skin as soon as possible) and print-outs of positive birth mantras. I also brought beautiful piano lullabies for me to listen to and for baby Holden to be brought into the world hearing.

I walked into the operating room, which was REALLY surreal.

There were so many people moving around the room doing so many things as I tried to take it all in. I got up onto the table and held onto Dr. Panda while the anesthesiologist put in the spinal/epidural. It took longer than he thought it would and he acknowledged that it was difficult, which I already knew, but hearing him say it caused a bit of panic for me. Luckily, I had Dr. Panda’s reassurance in that moment and it eventually went in successfully. I was laid down on the table and told to let the team know what I could feel in terms of little pricks of my skin and numbness. Matt was brought into the room, my music was on and the procedure started.

I kept thinking, “Please get him here safely, please just get him here safely.”

I could feel pressure, I tried to focus on Matt and my music. I trusted my doctor and the resident doctor who were performing the C-section. I trusted everyone surrounding them, too, talking and working as a team, so busy as I laid there quietly, trying to believe that this was happening and that this little boy would actually be born alive. There was my music and beeping and my legs were being squeezed by electronic booties to encourage blood flow. There was constant checking in from the nurse, from the anesthesiology team, and I felt supported, I felt heard. There was Matt, who has been through all that I have been through, who witnessed the labor and stillbirth of our first son and the labor and birth of our daughter. And then suddenly, my doctor and the resident doctor happily said, “Happy birthday!!” and I heard that amazing sound, my baby’s cry.

Dr. Panda said, “Congratulations! Tracy, he’s a cute one!”

He was taken to the corner of the room for monitoring and she held him up so that I could catch a first glimpse. He’s here, he’s here. He’s alive and ours and here and crying. When he was ready they brought him to me so I could feel him, his warm body touching my neck and chin as the nurse held him close to me. I looked at Matt through tears and told him I loved him. It was the biggest, purest feeling of relief. I said, “Hi sweet boy, we love you,” to our little Holden.

The procedure continued but it all fell away. All I felt and saw was our sweet baby boy. Holden Matthew Jaskot was born on Friday March 30th, 2018 at 9:46 a.m. at 36 weeks plus 6 days gestation. He weighed 7 pounds and 5 ounces and measured 20 1/2 inches long.

Our daughter Ainsley Hope met Holden that following Sunday and we came home from the hospital on Monday. We have been home for a few weeks now, settling in as a family. Holden is so, so sweet and mellow. I feel incredibly grateful to Dr. Panda and my medical team, my husband Matt, our families and friends, and our angel son Brayden, whom I truly believe hand-picked and safely sent Ainsley and Holden to us.

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