Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Day Gavin Was Born

I was cleaning off my computer desktop today (I was finally annoyed with everyone commenting on my desktop clutter whenever I projected my screen for a presentation) . . . and I found this document. I hardly remember writing it. And - wow - what a flood of memories it brings. It's long and not our happiest moment. I need to continue the story with all of the amazing things that happened over the first year of Gavin's life, how his story brought out the best in friends and family, how his presence increases everyone's faith and perserverance, his first time standing in the stander and his first time pedaling up a hill on his trike. He is such an amazing little angel. For now . . . here's the story of Gavin's first day:

Autumn was well over a week late when she was born . . . and we had to force her out. So, when my water broke at about 4 am a week before my due date . . . Jeff and I were completely taken off guard. It was so unexpected that I was unsure about what had actually happened. I called the hospital for instructions, gathered my bag and decided to drive myself to the hospital. People always get a kick out of that part. Since I wasn’t really contracting yet, I insisted it wasn’t worth waking Autumn or the friends that would be caring for her. So, I drove myself. We live about 3 minutes from the hospital . . . literally.

I don’t know if it was because an earlier and un-induced delivery was so far out of the realm of our thinking or that somehow we were all gaining a sense for what was to come . . . but, the day was shadowed with doubts and concerns. Later, Suzanne, our nurse, said that she could not shake the worried feeling she had . . . although she attributed it to the meconium they had already found in the fluid. She had insisted that the anesthesiologist be in the room during delivery in case the baby had breathing problems.

Dilation happened more quickly and more easily than it had with Autumn. And, the pushing began. Everyone in the room (Jeff, Dr. Tayler, a medical student, our nurse and the anesthesiologist) cheered when the baby’s head emerged. And, that was the turning point that foretold of the month ahead. Suddenly, instead of pushing only during contractions, they were instructing me to push straight through. Voices became more frantic and louder as minutes ticked by. As I leaned forward, I caught a glimpse of my doctor – red, sweating, and panicked. Jeff told me later that the baby’s face was turning a sickening blue. Options were limited and time was critical as Dr. Tayler jammed his knee against the bed for leverage and forcefully yanked the baby from my body. That was likely the moment when Gavin fractured his left femur, we discovered later.

There was no celebration or pause to allow Jeff to cut the cord. Everyone in the room except me immediately recognized that the problem was more severe than the baby’s breathing. The nurse and anesthesiologist immediately went to work on the baby in the warmer beside me. Instantly, the nurse gestured for the doctor . . . he stood for a moment at the warmer and came back to announce that “the baby has a large open cyst on his back . . . we will need to confirm . . . but, it looks like he has Spina Bifida.”

“Spina Bifida? I didn’t think people even got that anymore. I took my prenatals . . . how could that be!?” Those were the only words I spoke for almost an hour. The rest of the time I sat in bed, my head covered with the sheet . . . hysterical.

This wasn’t what was supposed to be happening. It’s not real. They’re going to fix him. How bad is it? I can’t see him. What does he look like? Is this my fault?

I can’t account for who left the room . . . but, almost immediately, there were 10 or more people in and out of the room . . . most of them hovered over the warmer . . . huddled over the baby. Life Flight had been called. They needed to talk directly to the doctor. A different nurse was holding the phone to Dr. Tayler’s ear so he could talk to the Life Flight team.

Life Flight? For my baby? I can’t see him. What does he look like? Is he okay? What do his eyes look like?

Strangely enough, I can remember the smallest details from that day. But, I can’t remember if Gavin was crying. I was obsessed with his eyes. Did they show signs of mental defects?

Dr. Tayler continued to work on me and asked for something three times before he raised his voice and demanded medicine immediately. He couldn’t stop my bleeding. I was oblivious.

One blonde nurse suggested they try to put the IV in the baby’s head . . . people were rubbing my arm coaxing me to breathe . . . Life Flight would have to drive down to pick up the baby because a helicopter couldn’t fly in because of severe weather . . . Dr. Tayler was yelling orders – No latex gloves! (all children with Spina Bifida are on latex precaution their whole lives and/or develop an allergy) . . .

Jeff wasn’t crying . . . but, I still cannot find words that describe the way he was looking at the baby. He was rubbing me, too . . . and then he was standing a bit farther away . . . watching the scene transpire.

I finally heaved myself forward enough to try to catch a glimpse of my son. I saw what looked like it might have been a leg . . . but, badly disfigured . . . flop up and sideways over his body. I laid back down in utter and complete devastation.

“How bad is it?” I finally asked Jeff.

“It’s bad. He’ll never walk.”

Dr. Tayler kept saying over and over, “You need to let Karen see the baby. She has to see the baby. Make sure you show the mom the baby.”

They finally placed him in my arms, but with support from two others, so that he could nurse. He was wrapped in plastic and blankets . . . and I could hardly see his face. I couldn’t see his eyes . . . they were badly swollen. The nurse that had been rubbing my arm told Jeff to grab the camera . . . “Daddy, this is a proud moment.” Jeff snapped two pictures. They took him back. Life Flight had arrived.

Jeff’s parents were en route and arrived minutes after the baby was whisked away.

“Where is the baby?”

I told them. And, then they were crying, too.

A nurse came back in to tell me that he was doing well. The team had found a vein for the IV in his head (the blonde nurse was right); they were snapping pictures (that I’ve still never tracked down), stabilizing him and preparing him for the drive back to Primary Children’s Hospital. He was wheeled back in and we asked for a few moments alone with the baby.

Jeff was sobbing uncontrollably and could not regain composure enough to give the baby a blessing. We decided immediately upon his name . . . Gavin Jeffrey Peterson . . . and his grandfather said the prayer.

“Will the father be traveling with us?” Life Flight asked.

One of the things that still strikes me from that day was how the shock of it all prevented us from immediately thinking and acting like Gavin’s parents. We would never let Autumn be alone . . . but, Jeff and I were so confused . . . so completely incapable of making a decision and being separated at that time that Gavin was taken without either of us by his side. And, then he was gone.


It was so strange . . . I had been in labor, delivered a baby . . . and he wasn’t there.

A nurse came in to say that people were starting to call the hospital. Friends and neighbors knew we were there.

We don’t want to talk to anyone. Send them away.

One of the nurses asked me, "Honey, what can I get you?"



  1. Thanks for sharing that Karen. It was so real and honest. I'm so glad you have that written down. Take care!

  2. Karen-I know i've heard this story before but it still brings back emotion reading it again. YOu 2 are the best parents Gavin could ask for and you're right, he is an angel. We miss you!! Love you lots, thanks for sharing the story again. Give Gavin and Autumn hugs for us.

  3. Couldn't stop crying while reading that one out loud to Jory! I'm so glad you posted it though. Gavin will also be grateful when he's older. We miss you guys.

  4. That was so neat, thanks for sharing. It's amazing to see how far you've come with him in such a short time. You guys are awesome!!

  5. Karen, wow! First of all, you are a great writer. Also, thanks for sharing, I was definately tearing up.

  6. i read this and it totally makes me look at Gavin as such a huge miracle, today i was in sarah's pool and gavin was crawling beside the edge and then plop there goes both his little feet(shoes included) in for a dip, an he just looked at me with those huge beautiful eyes, and smiled his cute little smile! thanks for sharing this, made me cry...

  7. Oh man! I'm crying as I ready this. I can't imagine the feelings you felt. Gavin is such a sweet boy. I can't belive how far he has come. You and Jeff are amazing parents! We can't wait to see you and have you move home!

  8. Wow Karen! I can't imagine what a terrifying experience that must have been. You and Jeff are wonderful parents. Just what Gavin needs. We are so happy for the progress he is making. What an AMAZING little spirit. Love you guys!

  9. Well I am in tears. I am sorry you had to go through that. But I can't think of a better family that Gavin could have gone to. He is so amazing.