Hunter's Birth Story & Journey Home (Part 1)

It's taken me 11 days to even tell you that my son was born. 
That's because those 11 days have been the most intense, most sobering, most heart breaking and yet most faith growing days of my life.

Hunter Zion Flores was born on Thursday, March 15 at 6:53 pm. 
He was born at 35 weeks, 3 days gestation.
He was 6 pounds, 4 ounces and 20 inches long.

One hour after birth, Hunter was taken to the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) in 
respiratory distress. 
As I write this post, he is still not discharged. 
Please join me in prayer that my son will soon be home in my arms. 
His journey is already a long one with many parts and pieces. 
I've only begun to scratch the surface of writing them down, but I know that one day I will want to remember. Not the heartache of it all, but the triumphs. 
I want to remember the faithfulness of God and the gentleness of His heart towards us in this time.

This is part 1 of Hunter Zion's story:

My darling little boy, 

I wanted to write this all out while it is still fresh in my mind. You are only 3 days old, and already so much has happened since your birth that is clouding my memory. I want to write this all down so that one day, we can read it together and I can tell you about the great things that God did in your life from the very start. 

You were conceived last August. Your life was intended to be, sweet boy. God placed you in my womb with His very hands and spoke you into existence. My love for you began growing the moment I learned you were inside of me. 

When your daddy and I found out you were a little boy, we were overjoyed! I don’t think I’ve ever seen your daddy stand taller! We were so excited to know that a son would be joining our family. We began praying that God would give us a name for you. A name that was strong and firm, that represented who you would be. We knew we wanted you to be Hunter. We loved the masculinity of the name and the way it rolled off our tongues. We loved that it meant seeker, pursuer. We began to pray to ask God what your middle name should be. We wanted a name that would complete your first name well. What would it be that you would seek? After what would you chase? One night, your father and I were praying about your life. God lead us to several passages in Scripture that talked about seeking God on his holy mountain. Mount Zion. We knew then that you would be called Hunter Zion--Seeker of God’s Holy Mountain. Pursuer of God’s presence. 

My pregnancy with you went well. I felt really good for most of the pregnancy and was enjoying feeling you move and watching you grow. Twice while I was pregnant with you, I did bleed a little bit and it frightened me. I didn’t want to lose you. Both times I got on my knees and asked God to keep you safe. Both times He responded and stopped the bleeding. 

You were such an active baby in my womb. I felt you rolling and kicking and flipping and punching. You got the hiccups often which were so fun to feel! I started to learn your patterns--when you would sleep and when you were most wide awake. After your big sisters were in bed for the night, you would come most alive. It was like you knew you had Mommy & Daddy all to yourself and were ready to show off for us! We loved that special time with you. 

When I was about 7 months along with you, I started to feel a little itchy. I was concerned because while I was pregnant with both your sisters, I had a condition called “Cholestasis” which made my liver enzymes go a little off balance. It’s a dangerous condition that, if not treated, can cause babies to die in the womb. I got tested for it, but was told that I did not have it. I breathed a sigh of relief, yet wondered why the itching continued. A couple of weeks later I asked to be tested again. I felt like the itching was getting worse. My doctors confirmed that yes, I did indeed have Cholestasis. (I was about 34 weeks along.) As the week went by, my itching only worsened. The medication they had given me wasn’t seeming to help at all, and I was miserable. I went for another test to check the levels of bile acid in my blood. We waited three days for the test results to come back in. Those three days, I didn’t sleep hardly at all. My skin crawled and itched so much that I tore into my skin trying to get relief. Through those days, however, I thanked God that you remained active and healthy inside of me. I went two times to have you monitored so we could confirm that you were still okay. You were perfect. On Tuesday morning, March 13th, my doctor called me to let me know that my levels were dangerously high. The risk level of Cholestasis dramatically increases at level 40, and I was at level 88. It was no longer safe for you to remain inside my womb. In order to make sure that you would be alright, they had to induce my labor. They wanted to wait 48 hours in order to give you steroids that would hopefully help in maturing your lungs. As soon as those steroids were given, they would induce. 

All kinds of thoughts began to run through my brain. On one hand, I was so excited that I would finally look at your face and hold you in my arms in only 2 days. But at the same time, I was terrified. I was only 35 weeks along… you would be born a month early. I knew that there were a lot of risks that went with having a baby so early, but unfortunately the risks were greater of you staying inside my womb. Although they can try, there really is no way to know for sure whether a baby with Cholestasis is going to live or die from one day to the next. The heart beat can be strong one day, and gone the next. For your safety, and for mine, you had to come into the world much sooner than expected.

I prepared myself for your arrival. I busied myself working in your room and eating healthy meals to prepare for labor. I prayed and prayed over you and dreamt of you each time I was able to sleep. 

On Thursday morning, March 15th, we got a phone call asking us to be at the hospital at 10:30 am. We kissed your sisters and left them with your grandma. We got in the car and prepared ourselves to finally meet our beautiful son. We prayed over you unceasingly. The sun was shining brightly and it was so warm for a March morning. 

When we got to the hospital, things were moving more slowly than we expected. It took some time to fill out all the paperwork, talk with the nurses and midwife, and discuss options for starting labor. We agreed to have my water broken and then we would see if labor would begin from there. I was 4-5 cm dilated and 80% effaced when we came in. Your head was at +1 station. My midwife broke my water and immediately I was exactly 5 cm and 90%. After my water was broken, we agreed to wait for labor. A couple of hours went by with nothing more than a few small contractions. We continued to wait. Your daddy and I walked around the hospital in hopes that would help things move forward. We enjoyed looking out the big windows in the birthing center and seeing the bright sun shine through the windows. 

Finally around 4:00 we realized that labor wasn’t coming as quickly as we thought it would. And because at this point, we knew it was safer for you to be out than in, we decided to start Pitocin (a drug that helps induce labor) Once pitocin began, labor came quickly and painfully. The contractions were fast and furious. I knew I wanted an epidural, but I wanted to wait. I was in so much pain, but I knew the pain was bringing you closer and closer to me.

Finally after a lot of pain, when the contractions were so close together that I could barely catch my breath between them, they ordered the epidural for me. I had a lot of contractions while they were trying to place it, which all made it very difficult to sit still. Finally, once the epidural was placed, I was able to lean back and focus on you coming into the world. I continued to feel my contractions, however, and the anesthesiologist confirmed that my body was moving faster than the epidural. You were coming quickly. 

Not long after, I felt ready to push. I pushed only three times, but it was fast and intense. Pushing you out was extremely painful and I couldn’t help but yell out. Just when I thought the pain couldn’t get any worse, I felt the rush of your body leaving mine. When the midwife placed you on my chest, I gasped at the sight of you. You were so beautiful. Your cries filled my heart with joy and I allowed my body to relax after all the work I had just done.

I cuddled you in my arms and cherished your scent and the feel of your warm little body. I hushed you as you cried and stroked your sweet head. We cuddled like that for about an hour. I didn’t tear at all when you were born so we were able to really enjoy that time together. Daddy kissed your head and we both gazed into your eyes. You were so alert and obviously taking in the sights of the new world around you. 

When you were about an hour old, the nurses agreed you should be weighed. From there, things happened so quickly. I remember rejoicing when they told me you were 6 lbs 4 oz. I couldn’t believe how big you were for being so early. I was so happy that you were strong. Then all of a sudden, I remember seeing more and more people come in to the room. My pediatrician was one of them. The next thing I knew, she was telling me that you had to be taken to the NICU. You weren’t breathing well. My intense joy suddenly turned to fear… Suddenly they were placing you in my arms and telling me to say goodbye. The tears fell as I kissed your head. “Probably 24-48 hours.” They told me. They might as well have said it would be a lifetime. My arms immediately felt empty and so did my heart.

Your daddy went with them to take you to the NICU. Suddenly I was alone with my midwife and your pediatrician. They were comforting me, patting my legs and telling me you would be just fine. My eyes blurred from the tears and suddenly the pain of the labor I’d just endured felt nothing compared to the pain in my heart.

I asked if I could go see you as soon as I was cleaned up. They said of course. As I was getting ready to leave, they gave me some medication through my IV to help stop the itching from the Cholestasis. As soon as the medication went into my IV, I started to feel faint. I couldn’t focus and I was so dizzy. I felt like I was going to vomit or fall over, I wasn’t sure which. The nurse helped me get back in bed, and I laid there, frightened and wishing only to see you.

After what seemed like forever,  I opened my eyes and felt like things were a little clearer. I was still feeling light headed, but I was better enough to go see you in the NICU.

To be continued soon in Part 2.


Lib at Truly His said...

Claire, praying for you and yours! You will never know what a blessing your family story is to me!!

Natalie said...

Saying prayers for you and little Hunter! He is such a strong boy!

Natalie said...

Congratulations on your beautiful, precious son! I will be praying for your family in the days to come.

Andrea {kerubo mama} said...

Wow, praying praying praying! And he is so, so beautiful.. congratulations! xoxo

Emily grapes said...

Gosh, such a happy and sad story! I'm so glad he's getting better and better each day.

So glad you've been able to sit down and capture it all so preserve all that went on.

I've been praying, and will keep on!! He'll be released before you know it. :)

Ria @ Life as a Wife! said...

I have been following on facebook your story and your sweet boy's face... soon you will have him home. Believing with you that God is the ULTIMATE healer and he will make Hunter whole!!

Emy Roo :) said...

Oh Claire! Your story and your writing is beautiful! I am still praying for Hunter and your beautiful growing family...and will continue to do so for the rest of my life! You are such an amazing mother and wife and I so cherish the wisdom in these posts! Your children truly do and will call you blessed! :)

MegsM said...

Oh my goodness! Praying for you! And your family. God has the perfect plan in place. PRaying!!!

Amber said...

Saying a prayer for you and that handsome little man!

Carly Anne said...

Prayers your way, girl. Sometimes it's hard to understand how making babies can be such a heartbreaking process...

Callie Nicole said...

He was such a good weight for being born at 35 weeks! I'm praying for you and Hunter, Claire. He is precious.

Beka Fox said...

I am so excited to read the 2nd part! I know that your little Hunter will be home before you know it! God has his hands ALL over your family. SO PROUD of you & so proud of the fact that GOD IS GOING to use HIS story to reach so many people!

I love you dear friend.