The day our son was born, started out like any other. We woke up; we packed up our stuff, and we headed out. Having a scheduled c-section meant it took the guesswork out of the equation. When we left our house, we knew that the next time we came home, we’d have our little boy. I was more nervous about making sure we got to the hospital on time, and the fact I knew my wife wanted me to take photos of the actual c-section, than anything else. I was excited to hold our son, to see what he looked like. I was excited to start this new journey with my wife.
We got to the hospital on time, my wife was prepped and all things were ready to go. She had made a nurse extremely excited after asking about the possibility of having a clear curtain so she could watch her own c-section. (This woman was ecstatic!)
I admit my nerves kicked in a little more as we approached the time. Not because of becoming a father again, but because I wasn’t sure how much blood I was going to see, and I wasn’t a huge fan of seeing my wife cut open. It was pretty hilarious for a few moments as I struggled to figure out how to unfold the booties they gave me to cover my shoes. Thankfully, no one else was around to see that one!
So there I was, being brought into the room where my wife was laying there with several nurses and her doctor getting things ready. I sit down on my little stool next to my wife’s head and prepare myself to watch my son being born through what amounted to be a clear shower curtain.
Then the world stopped.
Almost immediately, I knew something wasn’t right. Little man was breach, so he came out feet first, which was a good indication of things. Then the cringe of watching the doctor struggle to get our son’s head to come out.
What I didn’t realize at the time, was that little man’s left arm was up and behind his head, with his cord wrapped around it. In his attempt the shift things around to bring him out, the doctor inadvertently broke our son’s arm.
So once he’s out, I see the hands even before they take him to the table to wipe him down and do all the things that happen with a newborn. Once he’s laying there, I’m taking photos, knowing things aren’t right. His hands are drawn and not moving. His left arm is laying away from his body, looking as if it was dislocated at the shoulder, barely attached to his body by anything but skin. His legs are drawn up towards his body and he’s not moving them.
I move back over to my wife as I know something is wrong. I just don’t know what. The doctors and nurses, while trying to hide the fact that they’re freaking out a little facing an unexpected situation, are doing a piss-poor job hiding it. I’m trying to hide all this from my wife, who is still laying there, asking if our son is ok in the middle of being sewn back up.
Finally, they bring our little boy, swaddled up, to come to see his Mom. A quick moment to grab a photo, let Mommy see his face, and he’s rushed away, only to be replaced by, what can best be described as a shell-shocked doctor, stumbling over words, trying to explain what was going on. Again, I already know something is up, but this is the moment my wife is realizing things aren’t going to plan. Unfortunately for the doctor that was brought in, everything he’s doing to try to “console” us is only amplifying the situation in the worst of ways. After what felt like days, I’m finally offered the opportunity to go see my son while they sew my wife back up. While walking down the hall, the doctor is trying to lay out potential scenarios. I’m only listening to about every third word, as fear is building up inside, not knowing what I’m walking into. Not knowing what I’m going to see. Scared for my son, for my wife, just bone, soul-chilling fear.
The next bit is a blur for me. I come into the area they currently have him. Multiple nurses and doctors around, talking, doing tests. Monitors and tubes everywhere. They already have lines coming from his belly button/umbilical cord, which I was unable to cut. His feet are curled up to nearly being under his diaper. Head turned to where his chin looks to be resting on his right shoulder, with his right hand clenched and tucked under his chin. His left arm just laying loose to his side.
Rather than being with my son taking photos, enjoying those first moments in the nursery, I’m barely conscious of the world around me. I’m looking at my son, wondering what all could be wrong. Running countless scenarios and worst-case outcomes in my mind. Thankfully, in all the chaos, one nurse must have picked up on this and offered me a chair, which I quickly took. I’m sitting there, staring at the bed, when the doctor comes and sits next to me to talk again. He’s telling me about his fractured arm, how his joints are all clinched and seized, and the countless unknowns.
I’m finally brought back to my wife, who knows nothing beyond something is wrong. I feel disconnected from reality, in my own Twilight Zone, but bring myself back to consciousness enough to try and console my wife. To try and reassure her. To lie to her the best I can while I do my best to hide the sick and unending dread and worry I feel in my gut.
The next few hours go by in a haze. We’re informed that our son will get transferred to another hospital because of his fracture. Numerous doctors and nurses coming to talk to us about different circumstances, what is happening, about trying to get my wife transferred to the hospital with our son, and more. Thankfully, during this time, my wife is wheeled down to where our son is waiting for his transport. She is able to see him for the first time. Hiding back the tears, the fear and hurt that I know she’s feeling. The guilt. The deluge of emotions.
More time passes, we see our son one more time before he’s taken away in an ambulance, soon followed by my wife in a separate one. I’m left, driving from one hospital to another, where my wife and newborn son are being taken to in ambulances. Feeling so many emotions while feeling nothing at all.
At this point I’m numb. I’m numb purely for survival and the need to function and be there for my wife and son.
The following days are filled with countless doctors and specialists talking to us while we remain in a haze. Being torn between loving your child while also mourning your child and the life you had dreamed up in your head is an essence exhausting experience I’d wish on no one.
Those first few days we hang on, finding new thought processes, new paths, new terms and phrases as the clock continues to tick forward. We hang on, by the tips of our fingers, to the few facts we know:
Our son is here, and he’s alive.
Our son has a condition called Arthrogryposis (AMC).
We did not have the typical signs of AMC during pregnancy, i.e. low amniotic fluid, and lack of movement in the womb.
While having a fractured arm and lack of muscle development in his left shoulder, our son’s left arm likely saved his life by keeping the cord from wrapping around his neck.
He is our son, and we love him, unconditionally.
Life may have taken a left turn, but it’s still moving forward, and we can’t afford to ignore that fact very long.