It wasn’t supposed to happen like this– none of it. Melissa Jensen had plans. A baby, especially one with complications, wasn’t in those plans. But life had plans of its own. And they started with a positive pregnancy test nearly one year ago.
Melissa was told conceiving would be difficult, so she didn’t think an unplanned pregnancy was in her future. This young, unwed, career-driven woman, sat on the ultrasound table scared to death and feeling completely unprepared for the little life that appeared on the screen. Enter the next twist– the technician discovered a tumor which knocked her into high risk status. The stress began.
Then came the time to tell her boyfriend he was going to be a father and his reaction was everything it should have been.
“Wow babe! That’s amazing! It’s a miracle!!!” he said. Melissa tried to find comfort in his words, but she couldn’t shake the fear of what was to come.
Her pregnancy was trying– daily injections with blood thinners, and at her 19 week appointment, the scan showed cysts on her unborn son’s brain. They were possibly a marker of a genetic disorder, or nothing. Every test came back negative.
“I literally fell to the floor sobbing,” Melissa said. “I felt like the cysts were God’s way of testing me saying “Do you really want this baby???” It forced me to finally come to a place of “Yes, I do,” when I had the fear of it being taken away from me.”
Melissa was going to be a mother. Her son was on his way. And she had to accept the outcome, good or bad. And accept it all, she did.
All of the shame, all of the judgement, all of the stress, she took it all on. She had to let go of those plans for the white picket fence and the career of her dreams. She prepared for her baby alone, while working full time. Her girlfriends and family helped fill the gap that a husband would have, and many nights she would cry tears of gratitude for the generosity of others. But for all that was lost, she gained a love so strong, she knew she would sacrifice herself for the little soul inside her. And soon, she would learn just what complete sacrifice meant.
Her high risk status meant an induction. It wasn’t what she wanted, but she knew it was what was best for her baby. She was terrified, but she had a clear birth plan, written down for the nurses and staff. If she could control nothing else during her pregnancy, this was one thing she wanted in control.
Her baby’s father was there, helping her through labor all night long. They knew, no matter what had happened in the past or would happen in the future, that they had created a miracle. A little person. A new life.
The sun began to rise, and her labor wasn’t progressing as it should have been. Her doctor broke her water. The contractions were strong, and her baby’s heart rate started to drop. She spoke to him, told him to hang in there, and soon it was time to push. But in her heart she knew something wasn’t right.
Melissa got a rush of excitement– it was time to finally meet her baby! And it was perfect– she was confident, having fun even! She wasn’t nervous anymore. She had reached the end. She gave the last, big, final push.
“What happened next, I have a hard time even writing about,” she said. “It lingers in me like a broken heart that was never removed. I feel the heaviness, pain and weight of it daily. It is the most tragic thing that has ever happened in my life.”
Instead of her baby crowning, her cord came out first. She watched everyone around her turn white. The nurse pressed the dreaded red call button, and a barrage of doctors and nurses rushed in.
“I have a decision to make,” her doctor told her. “And I have 10 mins to do this. I can either pull your baby out with forceps… but I have one try to do that. Or do an emergency c-section.”
In that moment, Melissa knew her only priority was her son. That was it. He needed to be out. She didn’t know how serious a prolapsed chord was, but she did know if the doctor would have told her he needed to cut off her leg, she would have done it. She was willing to do anything.
“Just get him here. Get him out.”
Her doctor jumped on the bed next to her, with his hand holding the cord off of her son’s head in the womb to free his oxygen flow, and they were rushed down the hall. She was almost in a trance. She didn’t say a word, but kept her eyes on her doctor. She could hear her mother sobbing. She could see the white light on the ceiling. Someone starts to shove a tube down her throat as she hears him ask “you want her out, right?” The terror was strong. A nurse said “you’re going to be ok” just as she noticed her doctor in gloves– no scrubs. There was no time. She was able to utter “Take care of my baby!” as he gave her a wink. And she was out.
What happened next isn’t her account, but that of her baby’s father. He said they had to roughly cut her open and by the time they reached sweet baby boy, his heartbeat was faint at best and he was steely grey, completely lifeless, and didn’t make a sound. Melissa started going into convulsions, and her heart rate was quickly declining. The nurses yelled out “1” for her baby’s apgar score. They checked his heart rate–10 beats per min.
“They immediately started to resuscitate him. My Son was almost about to be pronounced dead.”
That young father, about to lose everything he never expected fell to his knees in the operating room and prayed as he had never prayed before. Aloud, he said “Ren, we want you. We need here. Please stay with us. Come on buddy. FIGHT. Please fight.” He was about to lose his love and his new son. And he suddenly saw a little boy, laughing, holding his mother’s hand. His son. Ren.
Ren was sick. Very, very sick. But he was, indeed, a fighter.
Melissa was stable, and started to come to, just enough to remember the last thing she saw.
“Where is my baby?!!! Where is my baby!!” she screamed. The nurse told her to rest, to go back to sleep. Her family told her he was in the NICU, that his future was uncertain, that he may have brain damage, and she sobbed uncontrollably. She felt like she had failed.
And in that dark moment, Melissa found light. She was forced to face her biggest fears, and she had a choice.
“Not only did I have to be accountable and conscious for myself, but I now had a son who needed a conscious mother. It was time to wake up. And that I did.”
She visited Ren in the NICU only to be told she shouldn’t touch him for fear of overstimulating him. All she could do was trust that this was God’s plan.
Ren started to improve. Each day, each week in the NICU, earned him a nickname among the nurses– “The Fighter.”
And after two weeks, he was able to go home.
Melissa has had to let go of the fear and paranoia that Ren does indeed have brain damage. Because really, it doesn’t matter. This beautiful, happy, smiley baby boy is now nearly 5 months old and is the only thing she lives for.
“I was given a gift from God. I have learned the most valuable lessons in life and have finally been forced to do the one thing I was too stubborn to do prior – drop to my knees in humility. I have surrendered. I am accepting the future of my son, no matter how that may look. I have forgiven my delivery.”
It was all UNEXPECTED– the pregnancy, the birth, the complications– but Melissa knows now, it was all meant to be.
“If I could share one thing, it would be that life truly begins at the end of our comfort zone. The stories we tell and create for ourselves are damaging. There are certain things that no matter what we do, are simply out of our control. Find a way each day to live moment-to-moment consciously and have faith that in each moment that the each result has perfection in it. The Universe is out to serve you, not hurt you.”