When Everything Goes Wrong

This is Ambrose.

Ambrose was born right around 11 p.m. on January 9, 2017. He’s a big kid: 9 lbs, 4 ounces and 20.5 inches long.

J and I had been anxiously anticipating and planning for his arrival since we got the news I was expecting back in April. I’d read countless books, made notes in my bullet journal on what to do in those first delirious and sleep-deprived weeks, put together the perfect nursery with everything he would need, and planned everything for our beautiful home waterbirth, which was going to be attended by our midwife and my mother, also a midwife.

Everything went according to the plan. Until he was born. And then it didn’t.

I’m still wrapping my head around what all happened with his birth, but from what I understand, it was some combination of meconium aspiration, and birth trauma possibly caused by shoulder dystocia and a short cord. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers right now, and I’m probably wrong about all of that. What I know is that he was struggling when he came out. The birth team suctioned his lungs and stomach while giving him CPR and oxygen, and then the paramedics arrived and we were cut apart. I stayed home from the hospital to be sewed up and recover from the 18+ hour labor while J went with the ambulance, followed closely behind by my mother and my in-laws.

Ambrose’s condition was bad enough that the NICU he was taken to wasn’t able to give him the level of care he needed. He needed to be put on ECMO — respiratory bypass — which was only available in Utah or LA. We chose to have him airlifted to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The good news is that he did great during the flight, and his condition gradually improved enough that he actually hasn’t had to go on ECMO yet, which is big. ECMO requires major surgery, and if he can avoid it for the time being, that’s for the best.

Still, Ambrose is not doing great in general. He is very, very sick. Although his condition is slowly improving, he’s still heavily medicated and sedated, and is currently on a 24-hour EEG to monitor his brain activity. As of our meeting with the neurologist this afternoon, it’s understood that he’s sustained some degree of brain damage, and will most likely not develop normally. In the next several days we will try to do an MRI to assess the damage further; this will give us a clearer picture of whether the damage is limited to the extent that the rest of the brain can compensate, but the probability of this is unlikely.

Miracles can happen, and all prayers for Ambrose’s recovery are very much appreciated. It’s looking like Ambrose will be here for weeks or possibly months. We’re overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we’ve received thus far.

How am I doing? All of this is very hard for me. Mom guilt is a real thing. Even though I know that what happened is incredibly rare, I’m still working through the feeling that my selfishness with my birth plan directly led to Ambrose’s condition. I would rather have had ten of the C-sections I was trying to avoid than for any of this to have happened to my beautiful, dark-haired son.

And it’s not just the birth — it’s the time in the NICU. I feel like I need to be by Ambrose’s bedside 24/7, but at the same time, I know I need to take care of me. I’m also recovering. I gave birth less than 48 hours ago, and I am still completely exhausted from it.

Anyway, my brain is still foggy, so I’m not sure how to wrap this up nicely. Just keep Ambrose in your thoughts and prayers, and in the meantime, I’ll keep posting updates as I can.

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58 thoughts on “When Everything Goes Wrong”

  1. Oh Emily, how I wish I could see into the future and tell you how great everything will turn out. I know that he’s a fighter like his momma. Please don’t rest in the guilt. It’s not your fault at all. No one could have foreseen this. Keep fighting, and take care of yourself. You guys are in my prayers and constantly in my heart and mind. I believe in you. I believe in Ambrose.

  2. As a mother this was extremely hard for me to read. I applaud you for putting it to words and sharing. I’ve learned that you’ll never get away from experiencing some form of mom guilt. You’ll question your decisions countless times along the way. You just happened to get a heavy dose of it from the get go, and it’s not fair. It sucks. I know between hormones and stress it will be hard, but for your healing and for Ambrose try to understand you did what you thought was best and there’s no way of knowing if the outcome would have been better if you made different decisions. Don’t let the mom guilt interfere with your focus on your son or your recovery. You’ve got this momma! My prayers go to your sweet Ambrose, the doctors, and your family.

  3. Emily huge huge hugs and prayers. I’ve seen similar complications occur in a hospital and with a c section. There is always going to be time to process but please know that your choices did NOT cause this. I am so sorry you are facing such a journey and I pray for a miraculous and faster than anticipated recover for Ambrose. You are an amazing mommy and you like the rest of us did your research, sought the best advice and care and made the best choice you could given the information you had. It’s all any of us can ever do. And you continue to do so daily as you guide him and yourself through this recovery. You are strong girl. You’ve got grit. And you are going to see him through this and be all the stronger for it.

    Let yourself come together and fall apart, experience the joy and the frustration and the anger and the happiness. It’s ok to feel how you feel. Hang in there mama. The nicu journey can be trying but you are going to come out of the other side of this.

    I will pray for Ambrose but also you and your husband for strength, partnership, peace and wisedom.

    God bless,

  4. Oh my dear friend, I know all too well about mom guilt. I’ve had three children and I feel guilty all the time about the little things and the big things.

    Doctors are there to treat what conditions are in front of them and to tell you all the outcomes. Remember there is always hope! It can be incredibly difficult to be positive, but you are surrounded by people who care deeply about all of you and I hope that brings you some peace.

    My heart breaks for what you are going through. I know we haven’t talked in many years, and you have a large support group full of friends and family, but if you need to talk about anything I’d be more than happy to listen.

  5. Hi Emily. My name is Kim. I used to attend St John’s as my husband Fr. George served there for two years with Fr. John. I want to send you my love and prayers. My son was in the NICU for three weeks after his birth so I understand what you are going through. My son has Cystic Fibrosis. If there is anything at all I can do to help I will, even if it is just a fellow mom who has been there.
    Prayers for you, and your family.

    1. Hi Kim,
      I’m 33 years old and have CF. I had a double lung transplant almost 7 years ago. Let me know if you have any CF questions!

  6. Emily God gives us strength. You have such a wonderful heart and soul. Please don’t blame yourself for any of this. God has a plan. You have you this wonderful son for a reason. You are all in my prayers.

  7. Emily,
    We are praying fiercely for you and Ambrose and your new little family. The doctors and nurses are going to care for him like he is their own! Take care of him as best you can, and let others take care of you. He is a beautiful baby boy with a head full of dark hair. Get some rest dear one.

  8. You kids do not know me..and that’s irrelevant…love yourself…love your baby…God has all this…you will see…TRUST…God has all this…


  9. Emily ,.. ambrose will be totaly fine.. he is only taking a lill time .. all good wishes and prayers for baby ambrose..

  10. Emily,
    We met many years ago while your Mom was mentoring me at Goshen. I now work in NICU. I know you feel guilty, but please let it go. All mothers, no matter what, feel guilty about everything. We all do the best we can for their entire life. We can never know what life holds for us.
    Please remember to take care of yourself. It is okay, to take a break, sleep in a real bed, If they will let you, surround him with his things such as his blankets, your pictures, books. Read to him! Sing to him! My heart aches for you and you are all certainly in my prayers. We believe in miracles!

  11. Oh Emily. My friend, Watson. I’m crying as I’m reading this. No mother should have to go through this. No parent should have to watch their baby go through this. Ambrose will thrive. Babies are resilient. Remember…Braeden had a stroke while I was in labor with him and his heart stopped twice. He is a healthy 7 year old now. Ambrose will be the same.
    You could have never, ever predicted that this would happened. You should feel absolutely no guilt, as many women have chosen this birth plan with no issues. God has a plan for every single one us. Ambrose is being watched over by Him and we are all praying to Him for you. I love you. And I love Jarrod and Ambrose, by association. Stay strong and take care of yourself and your family. Love you, Watson!!

  12. Hi! Your mom was the midwife for my third sons birth. I have been excited anticipating your moms Facebook posts about when your son would finally arrive. When I found out through her posts that he was not well it made me very sad. I’m so sorry! I cried and have been raising you all up to the Lord in tearful prayer. Praying Sweet Mother Mary is close at your side…she has also watched her son suffer and can feel your pain. Praying you all feel Jesus’s comfort and mercy and see and feel his healing grace. Much love to you all…especially sweet Ambrose❤️

  13. Praying for you sweet Emily, J and Ambrose…life can be so damn unfair. Your all in my thoughts and prayers….your words are Beautiful…and my heart is breaking for you…

  14. Oh Emily. My friend, Watson. I’m crying as I’m reading this. No mother should have to endure this and no baby should have to go through this. I pray that Ambrose will be okay and thrive.
    Remember…Braeden’s heart stopped twice and he had a stroke while I was in labor with him. He is now a healthy 7 year old. Babies are resilient.
    I love you and I love little Ambrose. God has a plan for every single one of us and He is watching over your dear, sweet baby.
    Also, you should not feel guilty at all. You could have never predicted this. It may take Ambrose some time to heal, but he is a strong little boy because he has strong parents and he will thrive!! I love you, my Watson. Stay strong and take care of yourself and your family. Please let me know if I can do anything to help. Besides pray, cause I’m alread doing that, my friend. 🙏🏻

  15. Emily – I had an emergency c-section with Bill. He was frontal breach and I insisted on a natural delivery. God had other plans and due to a wrapped cord we almost lost him. Mom guilt is real and you just do the best you can. Our prayers and support are with you dear, God has a wonderful plan for each of us. He has Ambrose in the palm of his hand. Bill, Elena, Sava and I are holding you in our prayers.

  16. Emily, I don’t know you but I worked with your mom eons ago and was so excited to hear about her grandchild. I’m a physician now, and have two kids. Both births went differently than expected, once with midwives, once with doctors. There is no way to prepare for all the possibilities and pitfalls. While I understand the mother guilt, please know that you did nothing wrong. My thoughts are with you all.

  17. Emily,
    I pray that you will have peace in your heart and for God’s strength as you are recovering from the birth of your beautiful baby. I pray God lifts that “mommy”guilt from you . I am a mother of 5 children. 3 of them were born in the hospital and my 2 youngest I had at home. There are complications that can arise in both settings. Things that are beyond our control as it is with soooo many areas of our lives. When we are faced with great trials we often times cant comprehend why is this happening. I pray that during this tough time, the love from your family and friends and community helps to fill your cup and you can feel Gods love shining through them. I pray for your sweet little guy’s strength and healing
    God Bless you and your family

  18. Emily and Jarrod,
    Been thinking of you and all loved ones. Our hearts ache for you but know that God holds you close and loves each of you very much. May you find strength and hope from each other’s love, care, and trust that a God is there.

  19. Never feel guilty, never give up on your son, God has a plan and we all pray for miracles and complete healing for you and your sweet little family. Take care of yourself and know God is taking care of you both, all 3. Just breath and give it to God, Dixie Yound, former classmate of your mom’s and friend from Wayland.

  20. Emily, dear:
    I have fond memories of a spirited,
    Little girl at Assembly.
    Your spirit and live will aid Ambrose
    In his struggle. Please know we are
    Praying daily for him as well as dad, your parents and the wonderful
    Hospital staff!

  21. Emily, this is Ally Condie (we met at VCFA). I live in the SLC area and have had to take my own kiddos to Primary Children’s for different reasons. I will be praying for your sweet Ambrose and for all of you, and would love to help in any way.

  22. Emily,
    As someone who just 6 weeks ago also had a baby in the NICU, don’t take all that guilt for yourself. I also felt like I had to be in the NICU constantly or Elna and I would never develop a connection. Any time I went to take a nap or even a drink of water I felt guilty; take time for yourself, even if only to get away from the cacophony of all the beeps and alarms. Ambrose is in good hands.
    I love you guys and my heart goes out to all three of you that Ambrose heals well.

  23. Dear Emily,Remember,God makes no mistakes.I feel certain things will turn out fine, and your faith will be made even stronger through this trial. Remember we are praying for you and Ambrose and trust in God .He will see you through. ( from your friend at First Baptist, Norma Kyle)

  24. Emily,
    I am privileged to work with your mom in Indiana and met you while you were home this past year. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.

  25. My little family is praying for you all! (Kate was my midwife and had to send us to the hospital for a traumatic birth that landed my son in the NICU for three weeks.) Keep writing and working through your feelings- it will help you heal! And there are a LOT of people praying for the immediate healing of your amazing little guy!

  26. Praying for you and your sweet family. I know how you replay things when you are given situations and diagnosis you aren’t prepared for after the birth of a precious baby boy.

  27. So sorry to hear that my prayers are with you and a Ambrose and pray that it turns out well miracles do happen keep the faith.
    Jan Teel

  28. Emily– You and your sweet family are in my thoughts and prayers. You couldn’t have anticipated this. Don’t let those thoughts take residence in your head. You are a fighter and so is Ambrose. So much love to you.

  29. Thank you for sharing from your heart, it is part of your healing. Courage, hope and strength will come day by day, moment by moment as we all lift up our prayers; also as you keep on keeping on in the faith that you have been given in our Lord and Savior to whom nothing is impossible Let HIM take all that “mom guilt” and give you his peace so you will say “it is well with my soul”.
    We love you and are lighting Ambrose’s candle everyday.

  30. Emily, just waiting and hoping, so, so very hard for some good news! You guys deserve every extra-precious moment of baby bliss, and I pray ypur hearts may know that, even through the storm… ❤

  31. Hope and healing vibes are being sent with love, Emily. Look to Ambrose for strength–even his name is strong!–and he in turn will derive strength from you. Don’t worry about what might be or could happen…none of us know, at any given time. Just breathe him in, feel the love, and rejoice that he’s here. I’m looking forward to reading more chapters in the Ambrose story.
    Best wishes, love & prayers,

  32. My heart breaks for what you must be going through right now. Evan and I are praying for you. God is at your side and will continue to be. Ambrose is blessed to have you and Jarrod as parents and God has a good plan for his life. You are wise, strong, and most importantly, have faith in the One who is strong when we are not. We love you guys and he is a precious little boy!

  33. Wow! Emily, Jared, Ambrose and family: you will be in our prayers! So sorry that this has happened. But remember our great God, the great surgeon and healer, Our good, good Father is in control! He has the power to create the heavens and the earth, move mountains, part the sea and He cares for even the sparrows! Why should He not be concerned/ take care of Ambrose?! Dear Lord I pray for your loving arms and your overwhelming peace to surround and engolf Emily and Jared and their family right now as I write this and also when they read this. In Jesus name! I pray for the guilt to be taken away and replaced with Your love. I pray for peace and unity among the family members. I ask for healing of Ambrose’s body & mind, in Jesus name! I pray for rest for Emily and Jared and their family members while they wait and take turns staying by his side. I pray for the fear to go away and be replaced by Your peace and trusting in You, leaning on You as their strong tower! In Jesus name. Amen.

  34. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, Emily. I’m praying for Ambrose and his parents. May you all get through this rough time and may his condition continue to improve.

  35. Praying for ur sweet precious babyboy and also for his parents….u were right when u said miracles do happen…we serve an AWESOME God….praying yall get a miracle and precious Ambrose is able to go home soon with his loving parents…

  36. Emily, don’t give up on Ambrose, even for a minute. God can and DOES intercede with prayer. I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm about seven years ago, now. I didn’t get the surgery needed to stop the brain bleed until well passed the window considered for a good recovery. I was in ICU for awhile in which I was given a mere 10% chance of survival. Like I said, God can and DOES grant miracles. I’m well, fully functional, despite the gloomy outlook of the Neurologists that attended me. Take heart, since this was circulated by my parish priest, I’m certain others, beside myself have added little Ambrose to our prayers. Take care, and remember to take care of yourself, too.

  37. Lord have mercy. We are praying for all of you. Our priest at Sts Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in SLC forwarded your story to our parish. Please know we are all here to help in any way we can.

  38. Emily, little ones come with their own special stories. Ambrose is lucky to have you as his loving mom. One step at a time, one day at a time. Babies have a way of outgrowing much of how their birth story begins. He is a strong baby who is loved by her parents, I have great faith in your amazing family! You are in all our thoughts and prayers.

  39. Hi Emily. I just stumbled upon your blog and read this post. I am not a mother, but hope to be in the near future. You and your son and family are in my thoughts and prayers. I cannot imagine what you are going through, but I know it must be incredibly difficult and confusing. It sounds like your son is receiving great care and is part of a very loving family. I look forward to reading about his improving health! ❤

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