August 2012 was an exciting month for my little family. My oldest son, Zeke, would be starting kindergarten soon; my other son, Jude, was turning 6 months, and my husband Andy and I were going to celebrate our first anniversary. We were planning a trip to Gatlinburg for the four of us to celebrate. I was also preparing for my younger sister, Maegan's, bridal shower, since I was the matron of honor. So when I felt sick one August morning, I knew something big was about to happen. I sent Andy to buy a pregnancy test, and sure enough, we were pregnant again. We were both excited and scared. Jude was only 6 months, so they'd only be about a year apart. Either way, we knew we could do it and were stoked.
I didn't want to tell anyone because I didn't want anyone to talk about me. I know that doesn't matter, but I've always been like that and I still am. Also, I didn't want to "steal" Maegan's thunder, since she was getting married. That's a big deal. This was my fourth pregnancy (I had a miscarriage before I had Zeke) and I was going through my second marriage. I didn't want to turn any attention on me. Therefore, I called David's Bridal and had them change my dress one or two sizes up. I gave them my number and told them not to call the bride at all. I didn't want her to question why my dress size was different. Sure enough, Maegan called me one day as I was leaving the Children's Doctor. I had just taken Jude for his 6 month checkup. She was very worried because David's Bridal had emailed her that my new dress was in. I somehow convinced her that they messed up and that I already had my dress.
I was planning a beautiful shower for Maegan. I wanted her to have everything. My older sister, Jessica, had just reunited with her high school sweetheart and they had eloped in North Carolina. So, and both sisters, please forgive me, when Jessica was talking about her marriage at the shower, I took Maegan aside and told her my news. I figured Jessica let a bombshell out, I could tell my news with no one paying attention. She was, surprisingly, more than happy for me. I told my mom, and she was happy, too. Great! I could move on and prepare for this baby!.
We went to Gatlinburg the next day with my 3 sweet guys and had a blast. I even bought Zeke and Jude 'Big Brother' T-shirts, and I told many people in the mountains about my pregnancy. It was official and real.
September and October were like any other months. Work, go home, take care of my family. November rolls around and we are preparing for Maegan's big day. Jessica and her husband Joey were coming to stay with us, so I was getting my house ready. The Thursday before the wedding, I had an ultrasound. Everything was great. We also found out we were having a boy! Though I've always wanted a girl, we were all excited with the news.
We had Maegan's bridal shower Friday, then the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. It was so much fun. I was showing already and was so very excited to be a part of this big day with my family.
Saturday was Maegan's big day. We drove to Rome, after stopping by Fred's so I could buy my nieces (from Andy's side) a couple of things. My sister-in-law, Kristin, was fixing my hair and I usually show up with something for the girls. Kristin fixed my hair beautifully. It was a braided up-do. I felt so pretty with my hair up. When we came to the church and I saw Maegan, I was amazed. She looked so beautiful with her pretty brown hair in curls and her beautiful gown on. I gave her a letter I had written for her, as the Matron of Honor. We took many pictures. Everyone was having a blast.
Then, it was time for Maegan to marry David. It was such a beautiful ceremony. I can't remember if I cried. Probably. It was the prettiest ceremony. Maegan was now a Dockery. I was so happy for the two.
The reception was afterwards. We danced, we ate, we had fun. I had gone to the bathroom at the reception and noticed I had quite a good bit of discharge. I didn't really pay much attention to it because I figured it was due to my standing all day. Sunday morning I woke up to a bit spotting. I freaked out. I had Andy take me to the local hospital. They told me it's not uncommon for women to spot during pregnancy. That's true. I did with Jude. But I had a feeling something else was going on. The hospital didn't do an ultrasound me and told me that if I was having a miscarriage, there was nothing they could do and sent me home. I was pissed. I texted my friend that worked for my OBGYN and she set something up the next morning. Thank God. I wasn't ready for what was going to happen next.
I waited Monday morning for my parents to come over. Dad was going to stay at home with Jude and my mom was going to take me to my appointment. We got to the doctor and they did an ultrasound. There was Harrison, moving around. I knew he had been moving, but was glad to see him there. The ultrasound tech ran out to get the doctor that was there at the time to look. I didn't notice the big black spot on the ultrasound near the bottom. She did. All I saw is Harrison. The doctor came in there and looked. He then escorted Andy, my mother and me in another room. He told me I needed to get to Erlanger because my cervix had was open. Not a little, but a lot and if I didn't go, I'd give birth and lose him.
My mom and I rushed to Erlanger. They took me into a room and did ultrasounds on me. Yep, I had an incompetent cervix. How did this happen? They told me it just happens. They wanted to do a cerclage on me, which is where they sew the cervix during pregnancy. Ideally, women get them from weeks 12-16. I was 19 weeks. They took me for an amniocentesis test. This is where they take some amniocentesis fluid from you to test for abnormalities of the child. They did the test. That was the biggest needle I've ever seen and it went straight through my stomach. I didn't care. I wanted to see how Harrison was and I'd have 100 of those needles stuck in me again just to see his face. The results would not come back for a few days so I had to stick it out at the hospital. They told me his membranes were exposed and I would more than likely lose him. I hated the high risk doctor that told me that. I wanted hope. But he had to tell me the truth, and I understand that. They put on me on strict bed rest at the hospital, laying in the trendelenburg position. This is where you lie down with your feet 15 to 30 degrees higher than your head. I was not allowed to go to the bathroom; I had to go in bed pans. That alone is humiliating, but as a mother, you do what you gotta do.
Thanksgiving was that Thursday. We were still hanging on. I was dizzy from laying the same way, but I was getting used to it. Both of my boys were doing great. They didn't stay with me at the hospital. We were lucky enough to have family members offer to watch them. I don't know what I would've done if we hadn't had so many supportive people. There was another patient who was going through the same thing, but didn't have anyone to watch her children, so she had to deliver the baby early, knowing death was going to happen to the unborn baby. I'm so thankful we didn't have to go down that route.
Days went by. I loved the nurses and they loved me. I made friends with them and they all complimented how proud they were of me for being so determined. The amniocentesis results came back and everything was great! He was a normal boy. His membranes were no longer exposed. He was going back to where he needed to go and I was so optimistic. Andy stayed with me every night. He gave me sponge baths, he changed my bed pans, he brought me food to fatten Harrison up. He was a trooper. I would've gone nuts without him there. Our family brought the kids to see us, but I died a little inside every time they left. I hated not spending this precious time with them. It was Jude's first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, and I was giving up my time with Jude to try to keep Harrison alive. I knew Harrison had a shot of not living, but I wanted to give him every chance to live that I could. I would do it again. Sometime you just have to pick the best option. Jude was having a blast with the family, so I focused my attention on Harrison.
24 weeks and I was still pregnant. My water had broken, but not fully. 24 weeks was a big milestone. This was when the baby could receive steroid shots, so Harrison got both his rounds. 24 weeks came on Christmas Eve. The doctor who I had hated in the beginning was giving me hope now. He was now one of my favorites, calling Harrison Rocky because he was such a fighter. Everyone was so surprised of how everything was going, and I was so happy
25 weeks came around and each of my nurses came in the room, so excited we had made it another week! Harrison's heartbeat was good, he was moving around good, and it was all looking good.
New Years day came around. Andy had to work so I went online an ordered Harrison some preemie clothes and binge watched Roseanne and Honey Boo-Boo. I love Roseanne; however, the episode was where Darlene has her child and something was wrong with Darlene and the baby. I cried and turned it off. Andy and I ordered Papa John's and ate like pigs. I had been having a tightening in my stomach all day, but the nurses didn't see any contractions, so I didn't think anything about it.
After Andy went to sleep that night, I knew something was wrong. I peed, and there was blood. I told him to get the nurses. They didn't think it was anything, because contractions were still not showing. I knew something was wrong and told them to get someone else. The gyno trainee came in and checked me. Sure enough, my water broke all of the way and I was in labor.
They rushed me to the delivery room. Andy was in such a daze because he had been asleep for work. He didn't know what was going on. Then again, it's still a big blur to me. I was dilated at 2 or 3 cm, but he was coming out. Since I was only 25 weeks, we knew he wouldn't be that big, so I pushed. I gave birth to a handsome 2 lb 1 ounce baby boy. I didn't get to see him right away. They wheeled my bed by the NICU doctors and nurses so I could see him and he was gorgeous. Dark hair, dark skin. He was tiny, but a lot bigger than we imagined. They rushed Harrison to the NICU, and me to another room, so I could deliver the placenta. I begged Andy for a Coke, then told him I wanted to name him Harrison Thomas. Thomas was my late grandpa's name, which has been passed down to my uncle and my cousin. Thomas is also Andy's mother's maiden name. We love that Thomas Family.
Early the next morning, Andy and I went to visit Harrison. I was still in a wheelchair because my legs were like jello from being in that position for 6 weeks. There he was in his little bed. He was so sweet and cute. He was on a breathing machine, but for the most part, was doing great to be so small and young.
The days went by. I was discharged from the hospital. Andy and I came up there everyday. My parents and Andy's parents came visited Harrison. Maegan came up one day and got to see him. Jon and Kristin, Andy's brother and his wife, got to meet him as well, along with my best friend Miranda. Children were not allowed to visit, but one nurse said if I came in that day, she would sneak him in. He had school and so much going on, I never did bring Zeke in. I still regret that.
There were good days and bad days. Andy changed most of the diapers, I did the temperature checking. I was so scared to touch him. He was so small and frail that I didn't want to hurt him. I did finally get Kangaroo time. This is where I get to have one-on-one time with him and hold him. I got to do that twice. I told Andy he could hold him the second day, but being the miraculous husband that he is, he told me I could have that time and hold him. I am so grateful. The third day of my Kangaroo time was cut off because something went wrong and he had a code blue. We were rushed out and doctors and nurses ran in his room to make sure he was okay. He was. We were freaking out, but were thankful it went smoothly.
Saturday, January 19th, I received a call in the morning. The nurse told me to get there as soon as possible because he had taken a turn for the worse. I dropped both my boys off and raced to the hospital. He had developed a disease called Necrotizing Enterocolitis. This is where the lining of the intestinal wall dies and the tissue falls off. This happens a lot in premature babies. Harrison swelled up to 3 lbs. That's 1 lb in a day. Not good. We stayed all day and night. He looked so pitiful. I cried all night. Andy did the same. We were definitely losing hope, but not completely. Bob Dylan's Forever Young kept playing in my head, and I believe I even posted those lyrics on Facebook that day.
Sunday morning was worse. The doctor said he wouldn't make it. We were in shock. All of these weeks that we had worked so hard for were going out the window. About 12:00 PM, he died. Both of our families held him and kissed him. We put him in a white gown and had professional pictures taken of him. This was weird to me at first, but I'm so glad we got them taken.
Harrison's visitation was the 22nd. This was a hard time. Zeke saw his brother for the first time. He broke down and cried, saying "Jude and I will never get to play with him." This broke every one's hearts. I have never felt so sad, not just for me, but for everyone who prayed and got together with hope for Harrison. I remember Jessica asking me, "How can I miss someone so much that I never got to meet?" It was a sad but true question. He had touched so many people's lives that never got a chance to meet him.
His funeral was a grave site service at Halls Cemetery. Andy picked this cemetery because his Uncle Donnie had just been buried there two years before. He wanted Donnie to play with Harrison and to be hanging out in heaven together. Forever Young played at the funeral, along with The Beatles' Blackbird. It was a beautiful service.
We still think of him and miss him. We have a deep hole in our hearts and will never get over it. He looked just like Andy and was a complete fighter like myself. This is our Journey with Harrison. He will stay Forever Young.