I went back & re-read what I had posted on our CaringBridge page for Ezekiel's birth. It was challenging to do so. I don't feel like the same person I even felt like then. My faith now even just a few months later doesn't resemble my faith in the first few weeks after his birth & death. That's what this blog is all about for me. Is picking up where I left off when everything seemed to fall out from under me. But in order to see where I am, I have to look back to where I was.
This was originally posted on August 17th, exactly one week after Ezekiel's birth and death:
Around 3am Monday morning, Kristina woke me up saying she had contractions about 5 minutes apart. She had been showing some signs of labor since Saturday, and had contractions about 10-15 minutes apart the night before that went away as the day went on, so I knew it was a possibility even when going to bed Sunday night. We called the birth center hotline, and eventually they got her in touch with the midwife on call and the midwife specialist who had been taking care of Kristina since the beginning. They told us to head on down to the hospital (since it was a high-risk pregnancy, Kristina had to deliver at the hospital downtown instead of in the new, fancy birth center facility) so we told my parents (who were staying with us to watch the kids) and headed out, bags packed.
We got to the hospital around 4am, and probably spent 15 minutes figuring out where to park! Multiple parking lots near the only open entrance (Emergency) were full and/or for staff only. Thankfully Kristina wasn't feeling too uncomfortable yet, so we parked in a general lot across the street from the hospital & walked over.
It took a while to get checked in, and I noticed the security officer gave me a visitor's badge with the previous day's date. It's strange how you notice little things like that, while I'm sure I completely missed a bunch of other details throughout the day!
Eventually we got back to a room around 4:45am. The nurse started her basic check-up stuff, and our kinda over-protective midwife specialist hung around in the room at the same time. Meanwhile, Kristina's contractions slowed down to an almost halt. They asked if we wanted to just go home, but since we were scheduled for an induction the next day anyways, we figured we might as well stay at the hospital. Besides, the process from waking up to getting checked in was almost 2 hours anyway! Considering Kristina's first 2 pregnancies really moved fast once the contractions got going (Adoration was under 6 hours total!), we didn't want to risk it. They turned the lights down some, and we took the opportunity to take a short nap, until...
At 7am, the anesthesiologist came in & woke us up. A younger guy who came across as a real "bro", he kinda joked his way through explaining the possibilities for an epidural. I'm not sure if self-deprecating, cheesy, tailgating-type of humor is part of the med school process for anesthesiologists, but it kinda worked for this guy somehow.
We were definitely awake at this point, but Kristina's contractions weren't really showing up on the monitor. She was having them, but they just weren't being shown on the print out, so the nurse & midwife seemed in doubt that today was the day. Funny enough - a similar thing happened with Asa's birth. Even when Kristina was having intense contractions, the machine didn't pick them up at all! The midwife checked Kristina out, and she was definitely moving along but said that it could be over 24 hours until baby arrived. After some discussion, Kristina opted to start a very slow drip of pitocin, which helps contractions.
At this point, there wasn't a whole lot for Kristina & I to talk about, so I was thankful when 2 of her best friends, Jess & Lauren, who had come down from Charlotte showed up. They really lightened the mood & gave us an opportunity to talk about things of every day life. Soon after that our close friend Megan from here in Jax came too. It was a little awkward at first because I knew Jess would be taking pictures, and I wasn't exactly sure how to act. Ultimately, though, I'm very thankful those 3 girls were there for us. Nothing against family at all, but Kristina was able to relax & get her mind off of everything better with such close friends that she wouldn't have been able to with anyone else.
They hooked Kristina up to an IV and pitocin drip at the most minimal level, and her contracts really kicked into gear. Kristina is a total champ when it comes to contractions. You can tell she's in pain, but it's so inward focused that you can't really judge how intense it is from the outside. As they started to progress closer together and more intense, I tried helping with some comfort care stuff as much as I could (pressing on hips, rubbing her back), but mostly I was just trying to keep it together emotionally. Knowing that we were getting closer to the birth, I didn't want to break down in front of Kristina and cause her to lose hope in any way.
As the contractions got more & more intense and closer together, Kristina asked for the epidural. The midwife tried to slow-play it asking if she wanted to be checked first, but Kristina was pretty adamant about getting it right away.
After a few minutes, the anesthesiologist-bro showed back up. He was training another medical student, so he was explaining everything as he went. I wasn't sure if this was a good thing for Kristina, but she was so focused in on getting through her contractions that it was hard to tell. Everything went fine with the epidural, and Kristina was definitely happy in her decision to go for it! Our first 2 kids were natural births with no medicine whatsoever. Getting the epidural helped Kristina get through the contractions without having to focus so much energy in on the pain. It also helped me relax a little bit, knowing that she wasn't suffering through it as much.
It was hard to keep track of time, but I'd say it was about 45 minutes after the epidural that Kristina started to raise the alarm that she felt the pressure moving further downward. In what was a total whirlwind for me, the midwife & nurse got things prepped. This was my hardest point. I knew we were on the verge of the birth. Something we had nervously anticipated for months. Not sure if we would ever get to this point. And not sure what would happen once we did. I couldn't even look at Kristina. All I could focus on was the worship music we had playing in the background. I took notice that one of the songs that had spoken to us early on in the pregnancy was playing - "You Don't Miss A Thing" by Bethel Music.
And then he arrived. My son. Ezekiel Promise Boothe.
They placed him on Kristina's chest, and I immediately just broke down sobbing. I think someone in the room put their hand on my back to comfort me, but I'm not totally sure. It's all just a blur. What I do remember is the voice of Kristina's friend Jess enthusiastically saying, "Oh, he's beautiful! He's perfect! He's beautiful!" Over and over again. It was exactly what I needed to hear. She spoke the words I wanted to believe when I was too weak to go there myself. Her reaction will be one of the most cherished memories of my entire life. I'll never be able to repay her. Thank you, Jess.
I looked up through the waves of tears to see my baby boy on Kristina's chest, not sure if he was alive or not. All I could do was whisper to Kristina "It's okay. It's okay. It's okay."
And then I saw his little heartbeat through his chest/neck. You could see him fight out a few breaths. And he even lifted his head at one point. He was fighting through a body not built to live.
I'm not sure how long he fought for exactly. Maybe 5 minutes. Maybe 10 minutes. Time was a complete blur. But we were able to meet him alive. And able to speak our peace to him. Able to speak his name over him. Tell him we loved him. Barely able to whisper, "Do not go gentle" to him. And able to say goodbye.
Eventually the neonatologist came in. She checked for his heartbeat but could only hear Kristina's.
That's all we could really say.
My parents & sister were on their way to the hospital with our kids, and Kristina & I decided it would be good for Adoration & Asa to meet Ezekiel.
She wrapped him up in a cozy blanket, put a little hat on his head, and held him close.
I met my family in the hallway outside the room, and I told our kids that Ezekiel had already moved on to heaven but his body was still here. They had the sweetest reactions to him. Asa was so enamored by Ezekiel's "teeny, tiny toes", and we heard him whisper "I love him" to Ezekiel a few times. Our joyful Adoration was a little more taken off guard. I encouraged her that it's okay to be sad if she felt sad. But she was just quiet. After having a little friend of hers pass away within the past year, she has gained such a beautiful perspective on eternity that I knew she would be okay.
After family left, Kristina & I got some time alone with Ezekiel to grieve. Jason Upton worship in the background. We took our time to grieve. The culmination of all the heaviness & burden of the past 6 months. The trauma of birth. The surreal emptiness of death. We took our time to hold him. Rock him. Weep. Sob in unexpected waves.
Eventually we had the nurse & Jess take Ezekiel out of the room to dress him, take pictures, and get his little handprints & footprints. Again, I'm so thankful for Jess. She had written a song for Ezekiel & was able to sing it over him as she dressed him & took pictures.
They brought him back into the room for us to see him one last time. They gave us as much time as we needed, but we were so exhausted that I don't think we took much more time with him. I wanted to. I wanted to have days with him. Years with him. But he was gone, and it was time to say goodbye. I'll never forget that moment. So close to him but so far. Never enough time.
Although we are crushed. I'm thankful.
Thankful for each medical professional who treated Ezekiel's life with dignity. The unsuspecting ultrasound technician. The genetic counselor. Cindy, our primary midwife. Dr. Sanchez, who had terrible bedside manner but got things done when we were starting to get the runaround from the nature of just being another number in the medical system. Our hospital nurse, Abigail. The hospital midwife, Angela. Even the anesthesiologist who was a total bro. Thank you.
Thankful for friends both near & far. Everyone who sent encouraging texts, emails, voicemails, or left encouragement through Instagram or Facebook. Friends here in Jacksonville who babysat & brought meals during our toughest times. So Kristina & I could escape for brief moments and feel like life was still a little bit "normal". We recognize that heartache & grieving can take a toll on a marriage, and our marriage has been sustained the last 6 months with help from playdates, babysitting, and meals.
Thankful for close friends in our River City Church family. Who have prayed for us & helped bear our burdens without ceasing.
Thankful for the leaders in my work, who've shown me so much grace both during the last 6 months and in blessing my family with sufficient time off to heal & process before getting back into work. Chris, Matthew, Stephen, and Scott. Thank you.
Thankful for Megan, Lauren, and Jess who gave us strength on the day of Ezekiel's birth. Lauren brought such a presence of peace & calm and did all the quiet things without even being asked. Jess gave us joy in the midst of the hardest day of our lives. Megan has loved us & fought for us all along here in Jacksonville. Even in the midst of her own heartache, personal health battles she never mentions, and raising 2 young boys while her husband has been deployed. I love these women who carried my bride through the valley.
Thankful for family who drove down from Georgia multiple times to take care of Asa & Adoration. Do all the things in the background. Give us space to breathe.
Thankful for Ezekiel, who fought his way through.
Thankful for God. Who gave us an opportunity to meet our little boy alive on Earth. Who is taking care of him in heaven. Who strengthens. Who fulfills promises. Who makes all things new.
Thankful for Kristina. I am so proud of my bride. She carried in grace. Loved with all her heart. Fought through fears. Endured all the exhaustion of pregnancy & childbirth. Held our boy for his entire life here on Earth. Sacrificed her heart, soul, and body for the sake of one. 9 months of sacrifice for 10 minutes of life. Raising our kids in the midst of the trial. She is my champion. She is my love. She is my altogether beautiful. I love you.