Although remnants of the hurricane of the same name are breaking up in the mid-Atlantic, Hurricane Julia Paige Cook hit William Beaumont Hospital at 6:06pm last night as a Category 5 baby. And the day started so… normally.

We had had a relatively quiet weekend (well, Jocelyn was on her modified bed rest, and I was running my bag off keeping her quiet and fed and knocking a few things off the ‘to do’ list). By Monday, I was back to going from meeting to meeting and got a call from Jocelyn, who was about to go to into a regularly scheduled Non-stress Test (NST). These had become pretty routine and boring, as Julia always passed them with flying colors; but there was always the spectre of the blood pressure reading that had put Jocelyn on the bed rest regimen in the first place.

Jocelyn needed prayer and she asked for it. So we took a moment over the phone, held out our hands, and gave the entire situation to our Creator. Both she and I are activist by nature and have a tough time letting go of things that we have in our heads as “our responsibility”. It was good – felt different somehow.

I wish I could have said the same for Julia’s NST. She just didn’t seem to be as responsive, according to the squiggly lines that the monitoring machine makes. And this was after days of the baby kicking and Jocelyn called me later with the news, seeming more annoyed than afraid. Back to Beaumont for a Biophysical Profile – “just a precaution,” they said. Our emotions had been beaten to death with “just a precaution” for over a month. Even one of our obstetrics team sent Jocelyn home the week before, saying it was their over-reaction that was stressing her out and spiking her blood pressure.

But the BPP was showing the same problems that the NST was – and worse. Somehow, most of the amniotic fluid was gone, making it that much tougher for Julia to move around. A check of the umbilical cord showed that the blood was flowing in the wrong direction. Vital nutrients were not getting to Julia, further investigation showed that she had stopped growing. In a matter of 72 hours, she had overstayed her welcome in my wife’s womb. It was time to get her out of there.

I was at the hospital by 4:30pm and was amazed at the calm that both of us had through the whole thing. The decision was made that there was no time to induce; Caesarean Section (a procedure we had fought hard to avoid) was clearly the only way forward.

Things moved very quickly after that. Lots of questions from staff, packing of belongings, coaching on how the anesthesia works. My cell phone felt hot in my hand as I madly texted and called as many family and friends as I could before I was put in gowns and brought to the doors outside the surgical suite. There were several tense minutes of nervous goofing around with the Labor & Delivery staff as they prepared Jocelyn. That’s normal. They get everything ready, get the mother good and numb, bring the dad in and get started. The anesthesiologist stepped out an motioned me over.

“Your wife’s heart rate is double what it should be. You need to go in and calm her down.”

So okay. No pressure.

I go in, and our capable OB is already at work and the place is really, really tense. I don’t pretend to have a lot of experience with surgery, but something had changed in the minutes preceding my arrival. I sat down at Jocelyn’s head with a drape between us and the surgery. I saw the stress on my wife’s face; and summoning everything I had, I took her back to a beach on an island in the Aegean Sea where we took our summer vacation (before you ask how we got there, let’s just say I got people). I painted a picture of the warm sand and languid waves lapping up on the shore, azure blue skies and utter relaxation in the shade.

It worked! Jocelyn’s heart rate stabilized, and I started writing my proposal in my head of how I could contract my services to the anesthesia staff. And then came the scariest 90 seconds of my life.

The obstetrician’s voice broke into the din of beeps and routine alarms from the monitors: “I need the attending in here RIGHT NOW. I need assistance RIGHT NOW.”

Jocelyn had heard the voice as well – I saw the stress in her face again.

And for just a few moments, I forgot what language I speak. The words of comfort simply wouldn’t come. Somewhere in that horrific 90 seconds, I’m quite sure I said something, but for all I know I could have been reading from the Oakland County Yellow Pages.

And then three of the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard came from the other side of the drape: “Okay. Got it.” The energy and anxiety in the room dropped, and the squeal of my child filled my ears. I simply wanted to collapse on the inside, but I was so curious on how this little life was doing.

I felt like an idiot with my beleaguered questions from the other side of the drape while so much reality was happening just outside my field of view. Is she moving? Is she getting pink? I was embarrassed to break their concentration on the task at hand. It was several minutes before they wheeled our Julia for a look as they took her up to Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU – you’ll be hearing that one a lot).

Are you ready for the grand reveal? Okay – here goes:

Reminiscent of an old guy in a stocking cap? I thought so too. But give her a chance to get cleaned up.

So here’s the rest of the story: Jocelyn and Julia came through the whole thing very well. The next couple hours (for me) were spent running between the NICU and Post-Op where Jocelyn was recovering from the surgery. Joce is doing great, although tomorrow will be a little tougher, pain-wise. She has been an absolute lioness through this – even posting her insightful opinion on a recent National Public Radio focus earlier in the day on the choices parents make to test or not to test for Down Syndrome.

We’ve had several visitors and Julia’s had some tests to see how her heart is doing (freaky pic, I know, but it was a simple electrocardiogram).

Many from our tribe have come in to pray for her and our family – what a blessing.

Here’s the latest on Julia: With God’s mercy, she’s doing simply fantastic! We are focused mostly on her physical well being at the moment. An echocardiogram confirmed what we already knew: an uncomplicated Atrioventricular Septal Defect (aka AV Canal Defect. Google it – you’ll find lots of information) of about 12 mm that experts tell us can be fixed with one surgical procedure. But the size and symmetry of the heart are, in the words of Julia’s cardiologist, “beautiful”.

She’s breathing on her own and the NICU team has weaned her off of the oxygen that they were giving her. She’s tolerating room air and doing a great job keeping the oxygen saturation in her blood at a healthy level. We’ve begun the process of teaching her how to breastfeed, and things are looking promising.

For those of you who have been following the story for a while, we really don’t know the extent of the Down Syndrome. A lot of that is going to be revealed as she develops. But I gotta tell ya, part of me wants to leave the dark of this hospital room as my wife sleeps to be with my daughter, Julia Paige. My heart is already fit to break for the love I have for her.

I think you’ll like her when you meet her. Jocelyn and I look forward to introducing you soon.

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16 Responses to Hurricane Julia – and yes, the promised pictures.

  1. Jo Fick! says:

    Oh, Chris, what a story! And isn’t it remarkable how often it has been created since the beginning of time? My first son had complications at birth, and could have died, I knew something was wrong immediately when they whisked him away, asked me the name of his pediatrician and informed me a little later they were transferring him to another hospital that had, of course, NICU. Back 30 years ago, that was a rarity. I didn’t even get to hold him before they took him away. I remember that poor little shaved head and all the iv’s and monitors. being the advanced Christian that I am, I just told God, don’t you dare. Being a God of mercy and grace, my son recovered and we took him home a couple of weeks later. But, oh, how I remember that fear for your child’s life! My second son was a whopping 11 lb. 10 oz child that required a C section that I did not anticipate. My cousin was the only one that told me the truth, that it was going to be very painful. That first day is a blur and the first time out of bed, ouch. That same boy today is a 6’2″ long, tall, drink of water. I cherish them both more than my own life. Always did, always will.
    You are going to be hearing a lot of these stories, these birth stories. I imagine some people will not quite know what to say about Julia, and may unintentionally say something hurtful or, well, stupid. Be patient with them, and use the opportunity to share your story. She is a beautiful girl, she looks so calm and smooth, and so lucky to have you both as parents.
    As for prayer, don’t forget our Prayer Shawl team has some beautiful, hand crafted, made with love and prayer shawls and blankets that we would be honored to share with you and your family. You will be showered with food, accept it all, and freeze it!

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your story, it is so touching and moving. God does have his own way to “bring it”.

  2. Tracy says:

    What a story! Thanks for sharing…this is better than my books and of course the pictures are amazing! Julia is beautiful 🙂 but where is the one of her daddy holding her?

  3. Judith pickering says:

    Chris, Jocelyn and Julia Paige, Hallelujah!
    “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10
    “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
    “The LORD (continue to) bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6: 24-26

  4. Jennifer says:

    Tears of joy are flowing,,, she is beautiful!

  5. Beautifully told, Chris. Can’t help but get teary. So glad that God carried you all through and that Julia and Jocelyn are doing well. What a precious little girl!

  6. Stephanie says:

    She’s beautiful!!!! Love the photos and the update. Wow! Congratulations!! SO very happy for you both!

  7. Verna Morelli says:

    She is perfection and amazingly beautiful!

  8. Shannon Coon says:

    Hey Chris! I just read your latest entry and viewed the images– SHE IS GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was cool to read through what happened. I really got a chuckle out of your sarcastic humor- HAHA!
    Keep up the great work- you will love to go back and read these entries some day 🙂
    Well, we can not wait to meet her, and shoot some photos. Tell Jocelyn we said hi!

    Take care!

  9. Robin Fisher says:

    I agree with Tracy…where is that pic of daddy and daughter!! She’s just beautiful and I loved the story….sitting here crying away as I read. Congratulations again….my heart is so full of love for you three!!!!

  10. We can’t wait to meet her! Chris, thanks for sharing the story of Julia’s arrival the way you do… Jocelyn, I’m so very proud of my sis! Love to you both.

  11. Michelle Timpf says:

    Wow….what a beautiful story….got me all teary eyed! So awesome to see how God worked thru it all! Praise God for the arrival of your little Julia! She is BEAUTIFUL! (the pics just make my heart melt!) We will continue to keep all three of you in our prayers! Congratulations!!

  12. Nancy says:

    Such a beautiful baby girl – I can hardly wait to hold her. Grandma is showing off the picture among the faculty. God has been so good – I am so greatful that both Jocelyn and Julia are doing great. Chris your story is great. I love the three of you and can’t wait to be there is person.

  13. Greg Trout says:

    She is a beautiful girl Chris. There is nothing like holding your daughter in your arms the first time. Congratulations to both of you. We love you and will continue to pray for you.

  14. Heath Davis Havlick says:

    Yes and amen to everything everyone else has already said! Tears of joy for Julia and for our awesome God’s presence in all of life. “So we know and rely on the love God has for us.” 1 John 4:16

  15. Melissa Sera says:

    Dear Chris and Jocelyn,
    I am just about crying reading this!!! What an amazing, beautiful, story. And…what an AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL, little girl!!! Praise God for Julia!! What a beautiful gift from the Lord. Our prayers will continue to be with the three of you as you begin your exciting life together! Much love, the Sera’s

  16. Kenneth Tanner says:

    I love the final snap…she’s beautiful. The praying hands are nice, too. 🙂 We’re so happy for the Cook family.

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