Many of you reading are absolutely shocked to see how far this story has gone without Amber playing a prominent role. The most simplistic explanation I can give is that Amber was in denial. She still seemed convinced that this would all just correct itself. At that time, we didn’t talk much about how we were feeling, even to each other. It’s for that reason I can’t exactly say what wars waged in her mind.
If you haven’t noticed, women are different from men. I won’t even attempt to explain women. I’d have a better chance of developing a cure for Autism while riding on the back of a dinosaur I cloned. One thing I do understand is that birthing a child comes with a different emotional attachment. Something that creates an endless capacity for sacrifice and heightens empathetic responses. As hard as this all hit me, Amber was even more deeply affected. It had knocked her out.
On the early afternoon of February 10th, 2009, we had reached a crisis point. Amber had been pushing for well over an hour, but time stood still as I watched my wife and daughter’s life reduced to numbers and blips on a computer screen. Amber’s blood pressure was dangerously low. Cailyn’s heart rate spiked and then dropped to abnormally low levels. Amber began to lose consciousness. She kept falling asleep and had to be slapped in the face to wake up and push. She just kept whispering between her chattering teeth “I’m cold.”
Behind me, the doctor asked the nurse to prepare for an emergency Caesarean. The doctor told me that she only had a few more pushes. Never one for theatrics or motivational tactics, I summoned my best “game face.”
“Amber, wake up. I know you are tired and cold, but this will all be over in a few minutes. Can you give me another push?” I asked
She simply nodded.
The next push was all she could muster and it left her crying, yet struggling to keep her eyes open. “I can’t.” She cried. “I’m cold.”
I amped it up a notch. “Amber, you CAN do this. You only have a couple pushes and it will be all over. I want to hold my daughter after the next push, okay?”
“Okay” she said as she weakly nodded back.
Amber pushed so hard that she couldn’t sustain it. She let out a breath in the middle of the contraction and screamed. “Alright” the doctor said “We might be able to do this, but it’s going to take a really good push. Can you get her to give us one?”
I remember glancing over at the vitals of my two girls, hearing the alarms, and being scared out of my mind. I patted Amber’s cheek to get her to wake up, put my hand up to the side of her face and wiped her hair out of her eye. “Honey. You have one time to make this happen. Cailyn’s going through a lot, right now. She needs you to give her the hardest push you can. Can you do it? Can you give one more for Cailyn?”
The doctor interrupted “Ready…Push!”
This time, Amber closed her eyes and summoned every ounce of energy in her. I’ve never seen such determination. The doctor had the vacuum and was working as we all coached “Go, Amber! You’ve got it!”. Finally, I heard her lose her breath and scream, again. Only this time, it was followed by a baby’s cry.
We had music playing in the background throughout labor. I’ll never forget the song that was on as Cailyn entered this world.
“You Do All Things Well”
None of us were prepared for the complications of childbirth or of raising an Autistic child. We were just scared kids throwing things at the wall and hoping they’d stick. As I’d later find out, Cailyn had her cord wrapped around her neck three times. Amber shouldn’t have been able to get her out on that push.
I should have known. Amber hits the hardest when she’s told that she “can’t.” A two year old with Autism and a husband at the end of his rope were about to find out just how hard.