Monday, January 17, 2005

Carter's Story - Part I

To Our Precious Firstborn Son, Carter Devon Richardson:

Even though you were with us physically for only a short amount of time, your presence will be felt within our hearts forever. You already had a personality all your own…

Our journey began on the day of your conception on a wonderful night in May 2004. In early June, your father, Aunt Kodie and I went to Hawaii on vacation. Although we didn’t know it at the time, you were with us on our vacation. We had a wonderful time parasailing and snorkeling and sunbathing.

When we returned the following week, I was ravishing all of the time and if I didn’t eat, I felt shaky so I knew something was amiss. On June 19th, your Dad bought me a home pregnancy test. The test came back positive. So I made your Dad go to the store and buy me two more just to confirm! Of course, they were positive too. We were having a party that night so it was virgin lava flows for me (and you).

The next week, I went to the doctor who confirmed that I was indeed pregnant. Your Dad was very ecstatic and wanted to tell everyone right away. But I wanted to keep you a secret for a while.

A few weeks later, I was spotting and was worried about you so we went to the doctor for our very first ultrasound. There you were, as beautiful as could be, with little stubby arms and wiggling all around. You were, from that point forward, our little peanut.

That day we called and let our families know. They were very excited to learn of the news.

We went regularly to the doctor for our monthly checkups. We didn’t eat anything or drink anything that the doctor told us not to. No more Subway because they use pre-packaged deli meats which could have given us listeriosis. No feta or other unpasteurized cheeses. No swordfish or other fish high in mercury. We did indulge in caffeinated beverages once in a while but for the most part we drank a lot of Gatorade (I have water issues). Your Dad would go to the gas station and get us an Icee at 3 a.m. if we wanted one. I tried to do everything to make sure you were okay. However, some of our favorite treats were Hot Cheetos, pickles and French fries (not all together, mind you!). We also didn’t crave any sweet foods like ice cream or other desserts – it was salt all the way – normally I would eat a lot of desserts on my own but apparently that wasn’t anything you were interested in.

In August, the three of us took a trip to Tucson for my work. You and I went to bed early while your Dad stayed out drinking with my co-workers. We were sleepy heads.

September was a busy month. I had a 250 person conference to run in Scottsdale. Then you and I jetted off to Nebraska to join your Dad for Uncle Scott’s wedding to Malena. Aunt Tiffany and Dane picked us up in Denver and drove us to Crawford. I was just starting to show and everyone wanted to touch you and said how cute I looked. I bought a pretty new dress to wear to the wedding. Uncle Scott and Aunt Malena’s wedding day was very cold and rainy but it was a beautiful ceremony.

The next week, Great Grandma Harshfield passed away. Your Dad flew back to Nebraska for her funeral. I couldn’t go with him because you and I flew to Chicago for a conference with DeAnn and Katie. We went downtown to Michigan Avenue and ate at a pizza place. (That was another of our favorite foods - pizza.) One night when we were out eating with the conference attendees, a gentleman (a work client) had the restaurant bring dessert for us that had ‘Congratulations!’ written on the plate in chocolate.

When we returned to Arizona, it was time for another ultrasound. Daddy and I were excited because they would be able to tell us if you were a boy or a girl. This ultrasound was very long because they suspected that your heart was different than other boys and girls. But all your other parts were growing just as they should. They also told us you were a boy and your Dad said to me, “I told you so.” He knew it all along. He was very thrilled. I on the other hand was worried about what I would do with a boy! I’ve only been around girls most of my life. But even that didn't outweigh our worry about your heart.

On Monday, they got us in to see a pediatric cardiologist named Dr. Peoples. Grandma Lori flew out to be with us. The cardiologist explained that you had a severe form of Ebstein’s Anomaly, a rare congenital heart defect in which the tricuspid heart valve is not formed correctly. Your Dad and I decided you were a tough little guy and could fight it out to be with us.

We had many, many doctor’s appointments with many different doctors. Alperin, Watterkotte, Zenge, Balducci, Gilpin, Cleveland, Stock… Daddy and I met with the NICU doctors at Banner Desert and St. Joe’s and the surgeon who was prepared to do any surgeries on your heart. We were originally going to deliver you at Banner Desert but St. Joe’s had better doctors for your situation so we wanted to do what was best for you. We were going to give you everything we could to try and make you better. The best doctors and surgeons, the best hospital.

Although I worried about your condition every day, soon you were kicking and squirming in your tiny space to let me know you were okay. We also bought a device so we could listen to your heartbeat when you were a little bigger. Listening to your heartbeat was one of my favorite sounds in the whole world. Your heart rate was always right where it should be at every doctor’s visit (between 130 and 150 beats per minute).

October was a sad month. Your second cousin, Nicolas, was very sad and took his life. The three of us flew back to Nebraska once again for his funeral. Our whole family was affected. It was a very big funeral with many people missing him very much.

Soon, your Dad could put his hand on my tummy and feel you move around. The two of you had a special game you would play where he would poke you and you would kick him back. Sometimes when he would get home from work late at night and I was already asleep, he would wake me up just to play with you. He would also lean close to my tummy and say “Hey now” in his loud way. I know you recognized his voice because every time he would come home, you would move around a lot in response to his deep voice.

November we were in a car accident on our way home from work. My fault probably. We were okay. But the Vibe wasn’t so we drove around in a Nissan Altima for a month.

Your Dad and I began taking childbirth education classes for 3 hours on Monday nights. This was a fun experience for the both of us even though we didn’t use much of what we learned in the delivery room.

Your Dad and Aunts Tiffany, Natisha and Chelsey, all pitched in for a spa package at La Bella Salon in Chandler. It included a facial, massage and pedicure. I liked the facial the best. Later in the month, Kathy at KCA provided our whole office with full body massages. You kicked the massage therapist during the massage when she put her hands on my belly.

On December 10th, we attended the KCA/PRA Christmas party at the Farm at South Mountain where we ate a nice dinner and did a gift exchange. A good time was had by all.

The next week, we went to the Wild Horse Pass Gila River Casino for your Dad’s Cheesecake Factory Christmas party. Dinner was served and a gift exchange was done as well. They also gave us a little bit of money to gamble with.

My co-worker, DeAnn, gave you a Baby Einstein video and music CD for Christmas. We drove around listening to the CD of Baby Bach music. You seemed to like it and would kick me when it was on. This was one of our fun adventures.

Grandma Sandi came down for Christmas and stayed for a couple of weeks. Uncle Daryl came up on Christmas Eve. Daddy had to work on Christmas Eve so the three of us ate at the Cheesecake Factory so we could see him. I was sad because this was my first year away from home at Christmas. But I knew that if I went to Nebraska for Christmas and something happened to you, the doctors would not be able to give you the care you needed for your special heart so I was willing to stay in Phoenix.

On New Year's Eve, your Dad and I went out for a romantic dinner at Fleming's Steakhouse. We had a wonderful night.

In January 2005, your Dad went to California for work. We were very proud of him. He was attending a course called Professional Assessment and Development Center for only a select few employees of the Cheesecake Factory. On Thursday the 6th, you and I went to our first (and only) fetal non-stress test. They hooked me up to a machine that monitored your heartbeat and my contractions. I was having regular contractions even though I wasn’t supposed to be and didn't feel them. They were also concerned that you weren’t as active as you should have been. So they did another ultrasound to make sure you were okay. (We were used to them by now!) You got the hiccups during the ultrasound like you did every day for a month it seemed. This was the only doctor’s visit that your Dad missed – he was a very loyal Dad and came to all the others – and there were a lot of them! That week I did notice you were starting to get a bit tired. Your movements weren’t as often. I was very nervous and worried about you frequently. I waited and waited to feel you move for me.

That Saturday, January 8th, we had a fun day. Your Dad and I worked on the house to get it in tiptop shape for your arrival and all the visitors you would have. You were a very active baby that day and gave me hope you would be okay. That night we went and ate at On the Border – you must’ve liked the spicy food and didn’t give me heartburn.

Sunday you were slightly less active but I felt as if you were just getting cramped in that tight little space. You were stretching your legs a lot against my belly and trying to get comfy.

Monday, the 10th, I woke for work feeling pretty good. I had gotten most of my hospital bag packed over the weekend. Before I left for work, I told your Dad I was ready for the next chapter. I was ready to see what was going to happen next. You must have heard me because around 2-3 p.m. you decided to kick me one last goodbye. I started getting scared on my way home from work since I hadn’t felt you move in a while. I played the Baby Bach CD so loud in an effort to get you to move. I ate a little dinner, drank some caffeine and laid down to try and get you to do something. Anything. Around 8 p.m., your Dad spoke to the doctor to see if we should come to the hospital. He got off work and around 10 p.m. we were at St. Joe’s.

The nurses and doctors on duty looked for your heartbeat for quite a while with the heart monitor. I remember one nurse trying to blame it on the machine being broken. Then they brought in a portable ultrasound machine. They confirmed my worst fears – your heart had gotten tired and stopped beating. You had taken the angel’s hand and left for heaven, taking a part of me with you as you went.

The doctor said we could go home that night and come back to deliver you the next day as long as I was feeling okay. You slept with us at home for the last time that night.

The next day (January 11th) around 1 p.m. your Dad drove us to St. Joseph’s Hospital where they would be inducing me. We got settled into our room and met our nurse. Her name was Lori, just like your Grandma’s. She was very nice. She was training another nurse named Leah that also tended to us. She inserted an IV that was giving me saline solution. I was hooked up to the machine that monitors contractions again. The doctor inserted some medicine to ripen my cervix around 4 p.m. They gave me some pills to help me sleep. I had a little bit to eat – graham crackers, jello, and some nasty tapioca pudding/jello. Grandma Lori and Grandma Sandi arrived around 5 p.m. at the hospital.

Our night nurse was Katherine. She was nice as well. We were moved to a quieter, nicer room. I slept off and on. Everytime I rolled over, the belt that monitored contractions would move so it wasn’t picking them up anymore. The nurse would have to come in and fix it.

At 7 a.m. on January 12th, Lori was back on duty with Leah. Around 8 a.m., I heard a soft popping noise and felt a gush of water – my water had broken. Lori helped me up to go to the bathroom. When I came back to the bed, the contractions were intense and about 1 minute apart. At this point, I requested the epidural.

About 45 minutes later, the anesthesiologist arrived and inserted the necessary catheter into my back to administer the pain medication. A few minutes later, I started feeling relief from the contractions. My right side was still feeling the contractions pretty intensely so Dad rolled me over onto my right side as the anesthesiologist had instructed. But it still wasn’t affecting my right side. The anesthesiologist came back and started to put some more medication into the tube – this is where the story gets frightening…

He asked me if my neck was tingling. I said yes. Almost immediately, I got a loud ringing in my ears, my tongue started going numb and I was seeing double. I was frightened. He called for the nurses quickly. He put a different medication into the tube and the side effects started going away. Apparently the catheter had moved and some of the medication got into my vascular system.

The anesthesiologist inserted a new catheter into my back to administer more pain medication. At this point, the nurse said I was dialated 10 cm and so it wouldn’t be much longer. They were going to wait until the contractions pushed you down to make it easier on me.

The next thing I knew, Dr. Gilpin and Dr. Cyr were at my feet. I was drifting in and out. A few minutes later, you were born straight into heaven. I didn’t even know you were out. Your Dad looked at me through tears and said “He’s out.” It was 11:10 a.m.

We discussed before we even saw you that your name would be Carter Devon Richardson. The other option for a name we had was Alexander but you felt like a Carter in my heart.

Grandma Lori and Grandma Sandi went with you to have your picture taken and your footprints done. Grandma Lori got to dress you.

Later that afternoon, your Dad and I held you. I didn’t want to let you go after I got you in my arms. You were the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. You had your Dad’s big feet. My long fingers. My face. A cute little nose. Lots of reddish brown hair. It looked as if it would have been curly like your Dad’s. You weighed 4 lbs. 1 oz and were 17 inches long. Everything about you was absolutely gorgeous.

We had you blessed by the hospital’s chaplain and she took you away. I wish I had gotten the chance to rock you before she took you away. I also wish I had my picture taken holding you.

We left the hospital that night around 6:30 without you. I felt very lonely without you in my arms as they took me to the car in the wheelchair.

Saturday we got to see you again at the funeral home. You still looked as beautiful as ever. I wish we would’ve had a camera with us. I got to hold you again. We should’ve stayed longer.

Now you are with the angels and Jesus in heaven where your heart can’t hurt you anymore. For that I am grateful. Many children with heart defects have to have many, many surgeries to endure – it makes me feel more at peace that you won’t have to go through that.

Nonetheless, we miss you a lot. We had many hopes and dreams for you. Your Dad would have made you into a perfect little NASCAR fan. I can picture the two of you kart racing. He would have taught you how to cook like a pro. He would have taken you hunting and fishing. You would have had his deep voice.

You would have loved playing with our little teacup yorkie, Nutmeg. The two of you would have been best buddies.

You and I were going to rock and play and sing lullabies. You would be a computer expert. You would have sang like an angel… now you’re our guardian angel.

Your Dad said all along that I would have been the princess of the house. You would have taken care of me just like your father does. He says you already started to take care of me while you were inside me. You turned to exactly the right position and I didn’t hurt afterwards (physically anyway). Now you are always with us, protecting us.

We’ll see you again someday. But until then we will miss you everyday. I will cherish our memories. For now, I will rest in knowing heaven is your home and it’s all you’ll ever know. You will always be our little baby. Our firstborn son.

I love you forever, ever and always.


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