Looking at the picture above of Brady just 4 lbs., getting ready to endure things that most don't in their entire lives, I am overwhelmed with pride and love for a baby thrown into the world almost 2 months early, once protected in his mother's womb, now surrounded by nurses and doctors poking, prodding, sticking, and overall examining him. What those feelings must have been for him. Most newborns are swaddled, cuddled, and held tight to simulate the feeling of being in the womb. Brady unfortunately was immediately sedated so he didn't have to feel that absence. Saying this confirms my desire to continue this blog. People need to hear of his strength, determination and perseverence to live. He wanted to live and he had a purpose which was obvious then and even more obvious now . . . to change the lives of those around him.

May 1, 2008
Ready or Not
There is no way this baby is coming this early.  We are wasting our time with this trip to the hospital.  They will surely be sending us back home in no time at all telling us it's just Braxton Hicks.  Sometimes the mind makes you think a certain way to avoid facing the reality of the situation.  This is exactly what my mind was doing.  We arrived at the hospital and was told I was actually in premature labor but that no worries, they would be able to stop it.  So given a drug, my labor pains subsided and after a few hours, we were on our way home.  We were told that the labor pains may continue, but that we should see our doctor the next morning and she will tell us how to proceed, which most likely would be bed rest.  So we went home and I sat in a chair in the corner of the room afraid for my then, 2 1/2 year old to climb on me for fear my labor pains would be pushed into full on labor and all I kept thinking was how much this child absolutely could not arrive early.  The doctors had warned us.  If the baby came early "all bets were off".  It was a very painful and disconnected evening.  Disconnected in that I didn't notice anything going on around me.  I went through the motions of kissing Anthony at bedtime, motions of my bedtime routine, but mostly I was just numb and completley out of my body.  I knew right then that the pains I felt wasn't just premature labor pains that would be stopped by bedrest.  I knew then in my heart that this was it.  However, I didn't do anything about it because these thoughts were in my heart and something I couldn't see until now, looking back.  At the time, I was focusing on my brain and not my heart which was still telling me, "this can't happen" so I willed it to just not be the real thing.  I went to bed that night and slept on and off between pains wondering what tomorrow was going to be like, all the while fearing that it was going to consist of anything but just going to the doctor.

May 2, 2008
I woke that morning feeling very worried, scared, yet trying desperately to calm myself.  I had the pains, but continued to convince myself that bed rest would do the trick, after all, women are put on bed rest all the time continuing to have contractions and can still go weeks before delivering.  So I showered to prepare for my 9:00am doctor's appointment, hoping to hear about bed rest and what would ultimately result in a full term delivery, all the while feeling as if this shower was so important because it may be my last for a while as I could possibly be in full on labor.  After my shower I decided to not wait for the doctor's appointment and just get to the hospital.  It's probably going to be another drip and sent home, but it's best to play it safe.  So off we went, hoping the experts would be able to stop the labor pains so I could go back home. Put me on bed rest and make this baby arrive later as opposed to now.  They'll take care of it.  They stop labor all the time.  It would be fine.

We arrived at the hospital and I was given a drip intravenously after waiting for what seemed like an entire day.  Actually it was probably only an hour or two, but when you have a ticking time bomb inside of you that just can't come out, that hour or two can feel like an eternity.  I remember crying for the first time because I felt so out of control and hopeless.  "Why weren't these people moving faster?"  I remember thinking that if this was someone being rushed to the hospital in a life or death situation, the staff would be hopping.  Well this was a life or death situation in my mind.  The survival of the baby inside of me depended upon them stopping my labor so why was it that nothing was happening?!  I  was screaming this question inside my head, completely anxious and stressed out, when finally we were wheeled to a room where I was given the drug.  The drug I was given was magnesium sulfate designed to stop contractions. It was about noon by the time the drip started . . . started a day filled with anxiety, fear, and ultimately acceptance.

Much of this day was a fog because of the drip I was given.  It makes you completely out of it.  Shuts down your central nervous system and makes you not only unable to think clearly, but speak or move.  By the end of the day I was literally drooling and laying in the bed unable to make much movement at all.  Things I do remember however, is staring at the big, black clock that was hung on the wall in front of me.  Every time I would have a contraction, I remember staring at the position of the clock in the hopes that this time, the contraction would be much further a part.  The contractions were mostly 7 minutes a part, sometimes 4 minutes.  Then at one point in the afternoon, while sitting with my sister, I remember finally thinking that maybe this was working and feeling a bit of relief when the contractions had moved to 30 minutes a part.  Things were being discussed like a separate area of the hospital that mother's go for bed rest.  Other things were being discussed like my dilation and effacement which was progressing despite the drip.  the neonatologist from the NICU had stopped by to meet us and discuss the protocol should all efforts fail and the baby has to be delivered.  "Not that it's going to happen, but . . . ".  It was overwhelming, but necessary and I'm glad these professionals were preparing.  Other things I remember were people making phone calls to family out of town keeping them updated.  Debating on when they should book their flights or hop in their cars.  Our support system at the ready.  All while I watched the clock.  "Please make this contraction even longer."

As the day progressed, people started drifting out.  I was sleeping on and off at this point.  The drip taking over my mind and body.  I was so out of it.  I remember throwing up at one point.  Interesting though that for being out of it and not remembering much, it was the longest night of my life.  Finally in the very early hours, I decided it was time to stop the madness.  Time to get a nurse to check my cervix, regardless of their previous claims that they were not under any circumstances going to check my cervix to avoid accidentally breaking my water.  I don't know how, but I just knew.  Was it the fact that I had already been through birth with Anthony?  I don't think so.  Was it a sign from something?  Not that I can remember.  Was it just my intuition?  Possibly.  Whatever the reason I knew that they not only needed to check my cervix, but call the doctor because this baby was coming.  All the talk of the labor being stopped and analyzing with the nurses "does this usually work?", and the relieved sighs when given the gift of the 30 minute a part contractions.  All meant nothing now as I was finally realizing that the guessing, wondering, and analyzing could stop.  It was time.

May 3, 2008
Brady Edward Zgonina
Born 8:48 am
4 lbs., 1 oz
16 inches long
Everyone has their birth story.  A detailed description of the overwhelming emotions as a person's life is beginning to change.  A little life being brought into the world.  Be it a long, drawn out labor or a quick barely got to the hospital in time.  Or the scary quick rush to a c-section story.  Whatever the circumstance, a birth story is truly amazing and miraculous.  And that's exactly what it was for the birth of Brady.

Everything happened so very quickly.  Once examined and determined to be 10 cm and fully effaced, I was taken off the drip and regained my strength really, very quickly.  My parents had arrived from Hilton Head and other family members were coming in for a quick visit then going back out for the birth was going to happen pretty quick.  And it did.  After just a couple pushes, out came this tiny little baby.  And he was a baby!  Not an alien or some weird creature that was painted in our heads from all the examinations and diagnoses.  He was a baby and actually crying.  Crying despite what we were told which was to expect the baby to be blue and possibly in distress.  The doctor placed him on my belly for a minute, we soaked him in and decided on his name.  Then he was whisked to the other side of the room where he was examined and prepared for his trip across the hospital to the NICU.  16 people in our room for the delivery, examination and transport of one, tiny, little perfect baby. 

So how was I feeling . . . I wouldn't say I was scared.  When I think about the scariest moments of this birth process it was the night with the drip.  That was scary.  Not knowing what was going to happen, how much longer my body could endure the drug, wondering if the birth was going to happen or if I had a long bedrest ahead of me.  All that was the scary part.  I wouldn't say I was relieved either.  I was sore, tired, confused, felt like I was having an out of body experience and definitely knew deep down that the hardest part was yet to come.  I think I can officially use the word "surreal".  A word that I hear people over use at times so I never use it.  The official definition of surreal is to have the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal.  Not a word to be used lightly in my opinion, however for the feelings I was having after the birth of my son who for so many months had been diagnosed with things that most would not survive.  Yeah, I would say I felt surreal.  And so many details swirling in my head.  The first you would think would be "what's the final diagnosis?" or "what's first to happen to Brady?", but instead the first thing that popped into my head was the fact that it was Derby.  Wasn't it just four days ago that I was in the doctor's office discussing if it was ok to go?  And there was an exam right?  Yes, there was an exam and nothing was happening.  Nothing.  What just happened?  Dreamlike.  Definitely felt like a dream.  

Dr. Boone, our cardiologist wasn't on call that weekend, so his partner did the initial exam on Brady then came to discuss with us.  I remember his words like we were told to us just yesterday . . .
"I did an echo on Brady, and well, the good news is that there are no surprises.  The bad news is that Dr. Boone was spot on."
Luckily all the preparation of this news helped this to not be devastating.  The devastating part was finding out these issues months ago.  Now we just were eager to stop analyzing and discussing and start moving forward with the plan to fix things.  Which we knew was going to be quite different than discussed now that Brady arrived early.  Everyone was encouraged by how strong he looked and acted.  He was breathing with a little help from oxygen and scored very high on his apgar.  This normally would have given us much relief, but it's almost like telling someone they have thousands of dollars worth of damage to their car, but don't worry, the bumper isn't dented.  All the good news went right over our heads because we knew we had so much bad news to handle.  Some might view this as if we were being pessimists.  That wasn't the case at all.  We kept our thoughts positive and tried very hard to focus on the positive, but at the same time, we are realists and know what Brady's diagnosis is and the journey that was ahead of him and us.  Hearing he scored high on the apgar was just not enough.

There are moments that you will never forget.  Months or even years later, a certain smell or sound might trigger a memory that makes your stomach do a flip.  To this day, I'm often reminded through smells or sounds, the experience of being pushed in a wheelchair, in my robe, through the hospital, to the NICU to see Brady for the first time.  It seemed like an eternity going the long distance from my room at Norton's hospital, over the pedway to Kosair Children's hospital to see Brady.  Each turn feeling like I was going to burst with excitement to see him and throw up from the worry all at the same time.  We finally arrive at the NICU not as a visitor touring the unit like last time, but as a mother going to visit her child.  Very different feeling this time.  We went through the formalities at the window and then the long task of washing and robing up to go see him.  He was in a small room just off the main area of the NICU.  This room is dedicated to the "hearts", otherwise known  as the babies who have heart defects and need the extra monitoring.  We walked back and I remember seeing Nancy, the nurse that we would get to know very well over the next few months.  She was doing the usual prep for her new patient, Brady.  I peered down at our newborn son with no tears, no fear, no massive feelings of pain or worry.  Just looked at him and how peaceful he was.  He wasn't in distress.  He was very comfortable.  He was just a newborn.  Of course we weren't totally naive.  We knew that things were getting ready to become quiet shaky for Brady and us, but for the moment, we just enjoyed looking at him and his tiny features and amazing little body.  He may have been broken on the inside, but there was nothing broken about him when we looked at that perfect little package.

Some people would ask me, "How did you do it?  How did you keep it together?" and I honestly don't have the answer to that question.  Some would say it was God's help.  Some would say it was the incredible support system we had.  I think I wasn't really all together.  I think I was doing what any parent would do in that situation.  I think people expected me to be in the fetal position crying my eyes out somewhere, but that wouldn't do any good would it?  And I think people imagine how they would react in an extreme situation when in reality their reaction would be completely the opposite, surprising even themselves.

So after visiting with Brady, I was feeling pretty weak and sore from the past 2 days events so I took the time to rest.  I knew I needed to because those restful moments were going to be few and far between very soon.  So we went back to my room and watched the Derby.  My Mom ended up spending the night with me that night as we wanted a parent home with Anthony and I didn't want to be alone just in case something emergent arose with Brady.  So I welcomed the drugs for the pain, both mentally and physically, attempted the breast pump for my milk which is a whole other story in itself, and tossed and turned in my hospital bed due to some drug induced dreams and the reality of the situation haunting me in the late night hours.  At times I would want to go over to see Brady but then other times I just wanted to sleep so I wouldn't think about my baby being all the way over in another building without me.  Then there were moments when I wanted the long night to just be over, while at the same time not wanting it to end for fear of what the next day would bring.  He had a surgery the next day.  His first surgery and with his heart not having been fixed mixed with his premature arrival, it was definitely going to be a tough day for him and the rest of us.  I was also going to see Anthony tomorrow.  I was so excited to see Anthony, but also a nervous wreck because of not wanting him to be exposed to the reality of the situation.  I had my entire pregnancy to mourn the loss of Anthony's little brother.  The one that was suppose to come home a day or two after being delivered, all swaddled in blankets to a warm home decorated with some balloons and a very excited Anthony.  I accepted that wasn't going to happen a long time ago, but in the thick of it, it was a lot harder to accept and made the night that much worse.  So getting up every four hours to pump as opposed to nurse, thinking about Brady's 1st surgery at only 1 day old, seeing Anthony, hurting physically from the day's events and I was pretty much wishing I could go back to being pregnant.  Back to the time when the baby was safe inside my belly.  Back to the time when the worse thing that happened to us was receiving news from ultrasounds or analyzing possible surgeries, not actually doing them.  I wasn't ready to face the reality of the situation and was scared out of my mind.  Scared, sad, anxious, numb, and most of all hurt.  I was in so much mental pain that I wasn't able to give in to it.  Have you ever watched Grey's Anatomy or ER?  A traumatic accident fills the ER and the doctors speak to the fact that the only thing keeping the victim alive is the fact that they are in shock.  That's what I mean by being in so much pain, but unable to give in to it.

Too much information?  A little over the top?  Trust me when I say it's not over the top enough.  There are no words to describe the feelings and emotions that a mother goes through in a situation like that.  But what I can tell you is that I did make it through.  Somehow I managed to smile the next day.  And eat a delicious sandwich from my favorite deli.  And joke with my siblings about something irrelevant.  It was all one day at a time.  No dwelling too much on the situation.  No thinking too far into the future.  Just living literally in that minute of that day and trying to cope with just that.  And that's what I did.  There were many tough times ahead but again, ignorance is bliss.  I didn't know they were coming.  Brady's accomplishments we celebrated, be it small or large, and all just went from there.  Which was the thoughts process when he came out of his 4 hour surgery that first day of his life on earth.  The success of his surgery  was celebrated and that was the main focus.  But the questions did creep up . . ."Will he recover ok?, What about his upcoming heart surgery? What if there are complications?".  These were always in the back of my mind, but stuffed way in the back.  I guess that would be the answer to the ever popular question of "how did you do it?"

So the first surgery was a success and then the next at just 4 days old.  Then there was the emergency surgery at day 9, Mother's Day.  All that and so much more which I will speak to in the next chapter.  I will try my hardest to keep it light and keep the medical jargon to a minimum, but just like everything up to this point, it has to be told.
Hospital Time

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