A note from Misty: Erin is a good friend of mine who I’ve known in my personal life for around 10 years. Her son James and I actually both have an extremely rare condition where main organs (only my heart is affected) are on the opposite sides of our body from what is normal. It affects few in millions! Neat, huh?
XO ~ Misty
My name is Erin Lowry. I am 25 years old and live in Guelph, Ontario.
This is the birth story of my son, James Bard, with his incredible father Shawn:
I went into labour on March 6th, around 2pm. That morning my boyfriend, his mum and I had been ambling around Target, looking at baby clothes and cute things for the house. I had been finding it increasingly uncomfortable to walk. That day was especially bad, I felt so incredibly heavy and slow. The women at my work all told me that because I’m so young and this was to be my first child, the baby would come late. They predicted about 10 days late. My due date was March 17th (St Patrick’s Day, which made my proud-to-be-Irish father very happy). My mum, who lives in Georgia, planned to arrive in Guelph on the 10th. Even though we had not been together physically for most of my pregnancy, my mum and I read the same books, shared the same worries and excitments, and she was to be in the delivery room when I gave birth to my son.
Of course this did not happen. When we got home from Target that day, I needed to lay down because I had awful cramps! I really wanted to clean our apartment, and I tried, but they just got increasingly more uncomfortable. I refused to believe that these were signs of early labour, though. I spent a few hours in bed late that afternoon, tossing and turning and feeling so crampy. I called my boyfriend in our room and started crying, “This cant be labour. I have no lower back pain and my water hasn’t broken….but I feel like I need to go to the hospital because I’m scared something is wrong with the baby.”
We went to the hospital (maybe around 6 or 7pm?) and waited for my midwife to show up (she lived half an hour away…) I was sooo uncomfortable. When she checked me finally, she said “It looks like you are 1cm dialted!” “No… I can’t be. It’s too early.” I felt sick. I thought this can’t be happening. My apartment isn’t clean. My mum isn’t here. I’m NOT READY! My midwife sort of laughed gently, understandably, and said “Erin, you are having this baby within the next 24 hours.”
I was not dialated enough to be admitted so I was sent home. I spent all night, tossing, turning, pain increasing. So damn scared. I knew I was supposed to be paying attention to time and length of contractions but I was having a horrible time concentrating and keeping track… I was in so much pain and I was so nervous. I made my boyfriend drive us back to the hospital at about 2am because I needed to know how dialted I was. It had been HOURS. Still only 3 or 4 cm – so back home. The next morning, I called my midwife. She suggested I take a bath and if the contractions were still really bad then I should try returning to the hospital. The bath definitetly took some pressure off but I was still in a lot of pain. We decided to finally return to the hospital around 11am, and the next time we were coming back to our home we would have our new, little life with us.
I was dialted enough to be admitted, thank God. Soon I got an epidural which was heaven on earth. We spent a lot of time laying around and waiting. I was progressing soooo slowly. Meanwhile, my mum had been scrambling to find a last minute flight and was trying to get to me as fast as she could. I guess it was around 7pm Thursday night, (over 24 hours later from when my labour pains had actually begun…) and my midwives said it was time to start pushing. I did this for 3 hours. Not making eye contact, in the deepest level of concentration that you can only experience in the midst of active labour. My boyfriend was essentially my water boy, standing idly by with a giant cup of iced water that I would constantly take sips from. It actually made me feel so much better. My mum was on a plane, somewhere in the sky. 3 hours had passed and I was pushing SO HARD and my baby was SO close but he wasn’t coming! The midwives said they would need to go get the doctor and get the forceps. As soon as I heard that I gave my final, SCREW THIS! push and my baby boy James finally came out.
He was a healthy weight, breathing a little rapidly but nothing to worry about, so tiny and beautiful. Incredible. Time to give birth to the placenta. The easy part, right? No. After a grand total of about 32 hours in labour, my placenta would not come out. I was exhausted, but I pushed and pushed, and then the doctor tried to remove it himself, which was 10 times more painful than birth. Nothing was working so they needed to put me under and preform surgery to remove it. Hours later I woke up in our hospital room to a tiny, soft cry. I would finally get to hold my son, and try breastfeeding. The nurse brought him to me and it was such a foreign feeling, but so beautiful. After a few minutes I noticed his breathing was fairly laboured. I wasn’t sure if this was normal for a newborn so I called the nurse over. She watched him intently and then said she would need to take him to the doctor so they could do a thorough check.
A couple of hours passed (maybe? I found time to be such an incredibly strange and abstract concept when going through all of this) and finally at some point a doctor returned to us. They told us that they had done an x-ray to look at James’ chest, and found a small tear in his right lung. “Oh God!” I thought. I started to cry. Then the doctor told us they had also discovered that all of his internal organs, including his heart, were on the opposite side of his body. I had never in my life heard of this, and I assumed the doctor was basically telling me my child was about to die. This memory is a blur but I’m sure I crumbled into my boyfriend’s arms. Nothing else existed outside of this moment. Quickly, the doctor tried to reassure us that things would be okay but James needed to be sent to McMaster hospital (45 minutes away) immediately so they could run tests and take better care of him. At some point a lactation consultant showed up and quickly taught me how to hand express tiny amounts of breastmilk so they could collect it and tube feed James.
The third time I got to see my son after I had given birth he was in an incubator surrounded by wires. I cried and cried and cried.
For the next month we lived in a tiny, windowless room in McMaster hospital. We would get a phone call at least every 3 hours to come see James so I could breast feed him. The doctors fairly quickly settled on the diagnosis that with his Dextrocardia Situs Inversus (organs and heart on opposite side) James had Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia. A progressive lung disease, but one that can be managable with daily physical therapy.
And so after a month in hospital with numerous tests, endless tears, and the fierce strength that is born in a person when they see their child for the first time, we got to bring our child home. It was, to say the least, the best day of my life. We set our tiny miracle on our bed as we had been longing to do so for a month (felt like much longer). My mum, dad, boyfriend and I each took turns just hugging each other and crying happy tears of relief.
That was the day our new lives began, and we officially welcomed James Harrison Bard into our home