|"A Gift from God."|
I'll never forget that day in January of 1990, when my wife told me she was pregnant. It was beyond a doubt, one of the happiest days of my life. We were young and just starting out. Having been married for only eight months. We hadn't really discussed starting a family right out of the gate. She was twenty and I, twenty-three. It didn't matter. We were both elated at the thought of raising a child. The months that followed, were some of the best days, as we planned and discussed all the things that anxious first time parents do. What about a name, did we want unique or traditional? What about the room, would we wait until the baby arrived, or would we use neutral colors? Did we want to know the sex? Every thought and question imaginable burst into our minds. Every one but one. The one that no parent likes to think about. The one that most parents-to-be don't think about.
My wife went just about the whole pregnancy without any complications. Toward the end of the pregnancy, she had a little swelling and her blood pressure rose some but the baby was growing and doing fine. It looked like it was going to be a big baby. That would figure we told ourselves. My wife and I are not little people. She is five-ten and I, six-three. On a Monday, because of her blood pressure, our Doctor decided to induce labor. My wife stayed at the hospital all day Monday and part of Tuesday before the Doctor decided it wasn't working. He told us everything looked fine, no problems, go home and he would see us the following Monday. Unless of course nature kicked in. When we left the hospital, it was three days from the due date.
Two days later on a Thursday, my wife started having labor pains. This was it, the moment we had been anxiously awaiting the past eight months. We knew not to take off immediately. We started timing the contractions and when they were five minutes apart we left home.
It was about five a.m. Friday morning when we arrived, checked in and did the paper work. We never thought that Friday, September 28th, 1990, would hold a place in our hearts for all the wrong reasons. Hooking up to a fetal monitor, the nurse was having trouble detecting the baby's heartbeat. She assured us that this was normal. The baby could be turned in such a way that it would be difficult to detect. After failing on several attempts, she thought she had it, much to our relief. Unfortunately after looking at the beats, it was my wife's heart they had picked up. What had started as a joyous day was fast becoming a nightmare.
The Doctor came in and tried to find a heartbeat, he to, to no avail. He immediately ordered an ultrasound. He told us that when he checked my wife, that something didn't feel right with the baby's head. We looked at each other and tried to tell ourselves that this was a dream. It was not happening. The ultrasound confirmed what I had all ready in my heart, figured out. Our baby was dead. We both exploded in a pool of tears. We kept saying this couldn't be happening to us but indeed it was.
My life, as well as my wife's was a complete shambles that day. I had to call Grandparents, family and friends, to tell them the news that I still couldn't believe. Maybe they were lying. Maybe by some miracle of God, when we finally got in that delivery room, the baby would be alive.
My wife was in labor from six that morning until nine that night. There would be no use in taking the baby by C-Section, as she would have to spend that extra time in the hospital. We decided along with our Doctor that natural would be the most realistic way. We could go home the next day and not have to hear any more babies crying. We could start trying, to put our lives back in order.
What caused our precious baby to die? That question would not be answered until the child was born. After fifteen hours of heartbreak, agony and enough tears to fill up a hospital crib our baby was born. The cause of death? Umbilical cord entanglement. The cord came under the left arm and was around the neck five times! That was it? Why didn't some one discover this? You did ultrasounds, couldn't you see this? A million thoughts flooded my mind as my tears flooded the delivery room. It was a boy. A beautiful eight pound and eight ounce boy. Not a blemish any where, just the cord.
My wife, what an unselfish woman. She gave me the honor of being the first to hold my son. I held that tiny body and checked him from head to toe and could find nothing wrong. He was perfect, so why wasn't he breathing?
I have never seen so many people at a hospital before. The Grandparents came in the delivery room to take a look at their beautiful grandson. We didn't want anyone deprived of the only chance they would ever get at seeing him. We assembled the rest of the family and friends in another room and our Doctor let anyone that wanted hold him. He was then brought back to us. We took some pictures, told him how much we loved him and said a very heartbreaking goodbye. It was hard to let go knowing you would never see him again.
Two days later we laid our son Travis Reed Tapley to rest. It was beyond a doubt the hardest deed we have ever had to do. We hope he is looking down on us in Heaven and smiling. Knowing that one day, his Mommy and Daddy will have an eternity to spend with him.
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The days turned into months and the months turned into years as we tried desperately to get pregnant and have another child. One more chance, that's all we wanted. Just one more chance. I had changed jobs and went to work for the railroad, shortly before the death of our baby. We had left our home in Alabama and been forced to move to Louisiana. I had left the craft of switchman and became a locomotive engineer and they were needed desperately in New Orleans. Being one of the youngest men seniority wise, I was forced to move. Little did we know at the time of our move in 1991, that we would get another chance.
In April of 1994, my wife went to pay one of the local O.B.\GYN's a visit. She said she had heard good reports about him and would tell once again, our story. After more than three years of negative after negative pregnancy test, we felt that some type of fertility drug was going to be needed. It was apparent we couldn't accomplish the task on our own. We had been unlucky so far in our attempt to find a Doctor that cared about what we had to say and was willing to listen. We were about to.
Dr. Jason Collins is one of the most fascinating men we have ever met. He somehow finds time to spend with his patients and is genuinely concerned about their wants and needs. He loves what he does and it shows. Walking into his office for the first time my wife was getting the jitters. We felt that we were on a dead end street and would once again walk out dejected and frustrated. She wanted a child and I wanted a child and we were at wits end trying to have one. However, we didn't want the same results as last time.
As my wife's name was called, I sat impatiently in the waiting room and tried to be comfortable. I was getting a few strange stares, as it is not every day you see a man in the waiting room of a Gynecologist. It was taking longer than usual. What could the hold-up be? We were usually trying to hold back tears or arguing about the visit at this point. It seemed as though I was going to run out of magazines and would then have to look at these women with a red face. Finally, she came out and the look on her face told me the news. For the first time in a long time we had something to celebrate.
Out of all the places in the world we could have moved. Out of all the Doctors in the world we could have picked. We pick one in Slidell, Louisiana on a whim that he was good. He, by no means is merely good, he is outstanding. He is the only Doctor in the United States and possibly the world that we are aware of, that is doing any kind of research on the type of act that happened to us. He was fascinated with us and our story and gave my wife the fertility drug, Clomid.
From that time, until August, we were on the Clo'. As we liked to call it. Still no pregnancy. The doubts slowly started coming back into our minds. We were beginning to convince ourselves that it was never going to happen again. For some reason, we weren't supposed to know, we never would be parents.
Sunday, September the 4th, 1994, will forever live in my mind as the day I once again went to cloud nine. I had gotten dressed to go to work that afternoon. I was on the 3:30 to 11:30 shift and we were joking before I left about her period being late. It had been our personal joke for almost four years. Every time she was late we would buy a pregnancy test and every time the result would be the same...negative and every time the period shortly followed. I didn't give it another thought as I walked out the door and left for work.
As I went to lunch that night, I called my wife. I always do and told her it shouldn't be too much longer. I never detected the nervousness in her voice. I just wondered why she was asking me if I thought I would be home on time. She knew the railroad as I did and knew you could never depend on them for anything. When it looked like you might get off a little early, you made three or four hours OT. This happened to be one of the rare nights I got off a little early. I called to tell her, I was on my way. I still didn't think anything about her telling me to hurry and get home but be careful. Looking back, I should have known.
Walking in the front door of our house, I immediately saw her standing there smiling. Looking different from the woman I had left only hours earlier. On the wall to my right, was a banner. When I read it, the words it contained went right over my head. I had to read it again. The second time it hit me. It read, "Guess what Daddy?" I stood in the doorway, dropped my work bag and hugged my wife.
After nearly four years of being on a roller coaster ride of happiness and dejection, she was pregnant again. Nearly four years of watching friends and family have children. Nearly four years of feeling the emptiness inside as someone hugged their child, we were getting that second chance we so desperately wanted.
We were prepared this time and knew it could happen again. We were not going to let ourselves be caught off guard, unprepared as we had been previously. We took nothing for granted. Every move, my wife wrote it down. Every Doctor visit, I was there. Dr. Collins does an ultrasound every visit and I was there with the video camera. If it did happen again, we would have something to hold onto this time. We begged God to just give us a healthy baby. Boy, girl, it didn't matter as long as it was alive. Matters you don't like to discuss, we did. We felt as though we could deal with any problem it might have, as long as it was alive. One thing was for sure, we would definitely love it with all our hearts.
We once again were doing all the things parents-to-be do. It felt great. We, however had our guard up. We were elated and nervous wrecks all at the same time. We knew we had the right Doctor. We felt that if something did go wrong, Dr. Collins was the person to have in your corner.
In February of 1995, we were scheduled for the BIG ultrasound. The one where we could tell the sex, if baby co-operated. The baby never fully gave us a clear shot but the woman doing the ultrasound said it looked like a girl. A girl, I knew it. It by no means mattered. She would definitely be a "Daddy's girl" but the feeling was there for that boy. I never told my wife this until after the pregnancy was over. We started picking up a few girl items here and there but leaving the price tags on them.
Two weeks after the big ultrasound, we went in for a scheduled appointment and routine ultrasound. Dr. Collins, does not charge you for all the extra ultrasounds, he does them out of the kindness of his heart. Hooking the machine up and starting the ultrasound, our deepest and darkest fears came back. The baby had the cord draped around it's neck. Peggy, Dr. Collins nurse tried to console my wife as well as she could and I tried to remain optimistic and strong for her sake. Why us, what had we done in life that was so bad we had to live this nightmare again?
We really started paying attention to every move now. My wife kept a chart and every move was recorded. Dr. Collins set up a fetal heart rate monitor at our home. We scheduled a time and he monitored the baby every night at 9:00 for thirty minutes via modem. He told us what to look for in a pattern that signaled distress in the baby. If we saw any signs, go to the hospital immediately. We must have driven the delivery room nurse's crazy those last two months. Our every move became as though we were walking on glass. All we did was think and worry. This was still February and the baby was not due until May. Two and a half more months, could we stand it? We once again started Lamaze classes and never could enjoy them. We wouldn't get to finish anyway.
In the early morning hours of April 26th, my wife started having labor pains, nothing major she told me, just mild contractions. Calling Dr. Collins office at 9:00 that morning, he told us to hook up to the fetal monitor. He would get on-line and see if she was indeed in labor. It was, after all three weeks before the due date. She was in labor and we were sent to the hospital. Please God, we prayed, we've made it this far, let us take our baby home.
The thoughts from September 28th, 1990, played havoc on our brains. An insane asylum would have gladly admitted us with no questions asked. The morning proved to be uneventful, no problems, so far. Dr. Collins came by the hospital at noon and 4:00 and told us to remain calm. We would have a baby. We prayed that he was right. At 8:00 that night, he came by and checked to see how much my wife had dilated. She was four centimeters. She had trouble delivering naturally with our first baby. He told us that with this baby probably being bigger, he was going to do a C-Section. They would be in shortly to prep her for surgery.
At 8:45 my wife was taken to the operating room and I was left with my mother-in-law to worry for a few more minutes. A nurse came and got me at 9:30. This was it. With video camera in hand, I shook all the way to the O.R. Standing behind my wife's head and to her left side, I was finally starting to believe that we were going to be parents. Filming every move, I was ready to capture my daughters first breath and to hear that sweet cry. At 9:49, I see the face. I watch as Dr. Collins removes the cord from around the neck. I see the rest of my baby, our baby appear. I listen...there it is that cry, the sweetest sound I have ever heard. Then I hear the words that I will never forget. Even if I lose all of my memory, I will never forget these three words, "It's a boy!"
The tears came freely now, like rain from the sky. It's a boy, I kept repeating. I didn't have a clue to what I was filming. I had succeeded in fogging up the eye piece on the cam-corder. My wife and I cried tears of joy that we had our dream. Our nightmare was over. He was spectacular. He weighed 9 lbs, 7 ozs and we named him Jesse Colin. Jesse means, "Gift from God" and we felt that was exactly what he was and is. A gift from God.
In conclusion, to those of you reading this that have lost a baby, you know. You know the pain, agony and suffering. All the questions you ask. To those of you that are expecting for the first time and maybe even those of you that are expecting for the second or third time. Don't be naive and take it for granted that you are going to come home with a baby. Be aware always of your baby's movement. Don't be scared to ask questions. We were lucky the second time. We had a doctor that lives for what he does and because of him, our baby lived. A lot of people think Dr. Collins is crazy for what he is doing. Those of us that have been his patients and have lost children know better. My wife and I have no doubts. If it wasn't for his ability to spot this problem early on and monitor it, we would be empty armed once again. We thank God for, "Tater-Head" as we have come to call Jesse and our second gift from God, Dr. Jason Collins.
Voluntarily written by, Travis Tapley for the Pregnancy Institute.