1 Year Later – Isaiah’s Story

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It was exactly one year ago tonight, Paul and I were home from our first trip to the hospital, gearing up for the arrival of our greatest gift. As I reminisced today, I considered that many of you who have given your support, sent your love, contributions to our foundation and prayers for our son and family may not even know Isaiah’s birth story. “What’s so special about it?”, you may wonder. If you’re a new follower of our foundation in the past year, I’ll be happy to share that story with you so you can better understand what’s driven our new passions this year… our sweet baby Isaiah. For those of you who already know this story, or who get bored reading it, you can scroll all the way to the bottom to see pics of the first year of Isaiah’s very special life…

(Buckle up… this might be a long story!)

My contractions had started at about 3 am on Friday morning, January 3rd. I didn’t wake Paul, but it was hard. I was like a little kid on Christmas. I stayed awake all night long hoping for the next one. Around 8 am, I couldn’t take it anymore and woke Paul to giddily share that our baby boy was on the way. We went about our morning. I went to a staff meeting at noon at The Loop. I’m sure the other people dining there that day thought I was nuts. While I don’t disagree, I was actually there at the advice of a family member, a well-respected nurse who suggested I go about my day as usual and that my labor would evolve as it should and we would feel less anxious. She was right. So off to my meeting I happily went. Contractions increased just as she had suggested they would, and when they got between 4 and 5 minutes apart, our Senior VP and one of my closest friends called the meeting. “Let’s go!” Bonnie said. “Call Paul and tell him I’m bringing you home right now!” If you know me, you know I refused the “taxi” and I drove myself. Bonnie followed closely behind.  (We laughed today remembering that drive… we might have been doing 90…) We called the OB/GYNs office and were instructed to come in to the hospital immediately. It was about 1:30 pm. They were closing the office for the day as they typically do on Fridays and they wanted the doctor on call to see me before she went home.

Off we went, hesitantly. If you’re a mom or dad who’s done this whole birthing thing before, you know that once you’re in the hospital and checked in for good, they don’t allow you to have food or water. And by “you”, I mean the birth mom. Dads get to eat all they want. It’s fantastic. Not. Anyhow, it’s a precaution in case anesthesia is required at any point. I’m not terribly pleasant to be around when I’ve not eaten or had water, so we knew we wanted to labor at home as much as possible. We were admitted around 2 pm and hooked up to a machine that measures contractions. It confirmed what my contraction app was telling us – contractions were super strong, and coming anywhere from 3.5 – 5 minutes apart. But then they checked and to everyone’s surprise, I wasn’t dilated. Zero. Big. Fat. Zero. The nurse almost couldn’t believe it herself. She double-checked. Zero. After consulting with my doctor, I was allowed to come home and continue labor here. Paul and I were so excited. Our first baby. Our sweet baby boy. Labor intensified and we battled it out for as long as we could at home. By about 10:30 pm, we knew we’d exhausted our possibilities here. Contractions were coming steadily about about every 3 minutes, sometimes even as close together as 90 seconds, and we packed up and headed back to Baptist South. I was hooked up to the same contraction contraption 🙂 and it confirmed what we knew… contractions were super strong (memories of the morning time and me thinking “this isn’t so bad! I can totally do this!” were pretty distant by now!) and they were pretty frequent. So they checked again, the magic check. Dilation. We were a 1. A stinkin’ 1. Again, shock all around. Turns out this was actually helpful as it prepared us for the 39 hours of labor. That’s right. Thirty. Nine. Hours. Of. Labor. HAAAA!

By 4 am on Saturday, January 4, I had walked the halls enough, and somehow managed to get that magic number to 4. If you know how this works, you gotta get that number to 10 before moving on to pushing. They knew I was moving too slowly. I knew it. Everyone knew it. Paul and I prayed for our baby and for wisdom throughout the labor process. By 4:30, the epidural I wasn’t sure I wanted (feel free to roll your eyes here) was newly in place, Paul was the only one in the room who had come close to passing out (dads: Paul’s advice is not to look at the tray when your wife is getting the epidural), I was MUCH more comfortable, and we had been instructed to call our dear friend Wanda who was going to be in the delivery room with us. Wanda arrived around 5 am and we were told we’d likely have a baby by 9 am. 9 am came and went. Nuthin’. Progress was not what they had hoped. 10 am. Nope. 11 am. Still nothing. In fact, at one point late morning, I had dilated to 7 and at the next check I was a 4. WHAT? I was sure I had read every book, every app, every article about labor and NOWHERE had I read that you could dilate BACKWARDS! At that point, our doctor suggested that it was possible that Isaiah was presenting in a position they call OP (Occiput Posterior) meaning that the back of Isaiah’s head was down, he was presenting face-up. Most babies present face down and rotate during delivery.  When a baby presents as OP, labor can be incredibly challenging as the baby’s head is not in an ideal position for delivery. Often, parents will opt for a c-section as the labor can be just too hard for the birth mom. Not these parents. 😉 We were informed of the possibility and after much prayer and lots of questions, we opted to continue labor as a natural birth at that point was still the safest for Isaiah.  They added some internal measures to keep track of Isaiah’s health (an internal heart rate monitor placed on him and an internal contraction monitor). As long as our baby was ok, we wanted to do what was best for his health. By 3 pm, we were told that if I wasn’t dilated to 10 by 4 pm, the best medical option for Isaiah and his health was going to be a c-section. We prayed. We prayed hard. We prayed with Wanda. We texted our closest friends and our families and asked them to pray. We prayed with our nurses. And lo and behold, when Shelly (my nurse) came in for the 4 pm check, she shared the great news… the magic number was FINALLY a 10. It was time to push! They weren’t kidding. Pushing out a baby who Dr. A had predicted was OP (she was right) is no joke. I was exhausted. Just plain ol’ beat. I’d been in labor for 37 hours. It was worth every second of it.

At 6:11 pm on Saturday, January 4, just over 39 hours into labor, Isaiah Paul Tesori took his first breaths. He was perfect. Paul cried. I cried. Wanda cried. Isaiah stretched out, and we all joked that he was probably really pissed at all the burpees and pushups and sit ups his mom had been doing for the last 9+ months. For a few seconds, Shelly placed our baby boy on my chest. Liz (Isaiah’s nurse) was busy prepping all the new baby stuff. Then Shelly gently said “Michelle, I just need to take him for a quick second and change his blanket, ok?” Her super sweet, gentle voice was so calming. “Of course!”, I thought. Shelly and Liz did their thing. They reported back to the room… “6 pounds, 4 ounces.!” YAY! Dr. A tended to me for normal post-birth stuff. There were some stitches, some other details to tend to, lots of joy and laughter and praying and then… I realized Isaiah had never cried. I hadn’t heard him yet. Weird, I thought. So I asked… “What’s his APGAR?”. APGAR quickly assesses a newborn baby’s health in 5 categories. A perfect score is 10. Someone quickly replied “He’s 8-9!” WHEW! Big sigh of relief. I didn’t really know if all babies cried. Maybe some don’t! This was my first go-round at this baby thing! Paul and Wanda and my medical team and I carried on. A minute or so passed and I was all stitched up, good to go. Wanda had gone out to tell our family and friends in the waiting room the great news. With my medical needs all situated, I had a moment to look around the room. And that’s when I knew…

A room that had previously only had two nurses, a doctor, Wanda, Paul and myself in it was now filled with white coats. I knew immediately. I wriggled around in my bed to try to get a glimpse of our new son. I couldn’t. I couldn’t see him. Shelly was on her way back to me. Liz was now surrounded by doctors and nurses. Shelly came and held my hand. I started to cry. Paul caught on very quickly. We had developed a very close bond with our nursing staff in our time there. Even nurses who weren’t assigned to our room had come in and prayed with us during labor. We were, incidentally, playing a super fun game that Bonnie had given to Paul called “Label & Delivery”, complete with label maker, which was a game in which Paul had to actually label about 25 things in the delivery room… all intended to keep him from passing out, which was his biggest concern. It worked. Bonnie’s a genius. So we’d been the talk of the delivery floor since we arrived. We’d gotten almost everyone involved in our game. You don’t even wanna know some of the things Paul labeled (ask him, he’ll tell you!), especially the bonus points items.

So we knew when our sweet, joyful Shelly walked toward us with tears in her eyes that something was wrong. Something was very wrong. The next hour or so is a complete blur. I’ll summarize… Isaiah was whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Medical staff believed he had suffered a seizure upon birth. Possible causes included blood on the brain or a brain virus, among others. They just didn’t know. The fear in the room was evident. Isaiah needed more critical care. They told us he’d be rushed to another hospital, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, one of the very best hospitals for children which is thankfully only about 20 minutes away from Baptist South where we had delivered. Isaiah’s medical concerns were critical. Time was of the essence. We were asked if wanted a chaplain to… well… I don’t need to say it. Through tears, we declined. We had already called our Pastor and dear friend, Jack Millwood and he and his wife Ann were already at the hospital waiting to come in. Our best friends, Meg and Wes, were there with them in the waiting room, waiting. Praying. Crying. We called Isaiah’s pediatrician, an angel on earth named Bonnie White and she rushed to our sides to help us decipher what was going on. Right before she arrived, a doctor we didn’t know came to my bedside. He talked a lot about what *might* be going on with Isaiah. Paul and I held hands tighter than we ever have. We tried to listen. We cried. And near the end of the possible explanations for Isaiah’s seizure, this doctor said, “also, I’m sorry to tell you this, but are you aware your son is showing markers for Down syndrome?” What? Down syndrome? No. No we weren’t. Because we are *ahem* older parents, we had had all the prenatal testing. I had tested negative and had had only one abnormal result – an ultrasound at about 18 weeks had shown a thickening of one of the chambers of Isaiah’s heart, but by the next ultrasound, it had gone away as they had suggested it likely would. But ok. Whatever. “Go back to the brain virus thing”, we both thought. “Go back to blood on the brain. Is our baby going to live? What’s going on? Where is he?” Lots of questions. None of them about Down syndrome.

We tried to connect with our families… while Paul’s immediately family is all here in the Jacksonville, FL area, my parents and siblings are all either in Vermont, New York, New Hampshire or Colorado. We did our best to try to keep everyone updated. Paul called Webb. It was heartbreaking to listen to my husband sob. Webb was so reassuring. He was in Hawaii, playing in the first tournament of the year. Ted Scott who typically caddies for Bubba Watson was covering for Paul.  All of those men and their wives are dear friends of ours. It was still early afternoon in Hawaii. Webb hadn’t teed off yet. Paul didn’t have a ton of information to share, but he needed to hear Webb’s voice. They prayed. They cried. They prayed. They cried some more.

Our room was now filled with some of our closest friends. Wanda. Meg. Wes. Jack. Ann. We prayed together. Paul and Jack went down to see Isaiah down in the NICU incubator. Paul still hadn’t held his son. It had all happened so fast. He couldn’t hold him now, either. Isaiah was in a closed-in incubator for his own safety. Paul couldn’t touch our boy. He could just look at him from the outside. They came back. A few minutes later, Isaiah was wheeled into my room in that same incubator. He was accompanied by 3 paramedics who would be responsible for rushing him to Wolfson. Two of the paramedics were big, big men. Paul always says they looked like NFL linemen. They did. They stood at the door, and the room was silent. They wheeled Isaiah over to me. They opened a tiny, TINY little door in the side of the incubator and let me stick my finger in. Our sweet baby boy wrapped his tiny fingers around mine, and I sobbed. Then I prayed outloud. I prayed for our baby boy. I told him that I knew no matter how much we loved him, Jesus loved him infinitely more. I knew it in my heart. Through the tears, Paul and I both felt a peace. We knew Isaiah was in the care of the greatest miracle worker, our heavenly father. God doesn’t make mistakes. We prayed Jeremiah 29:11… “for I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans for a hope and a future…”  I can’t explain the peace we both felt. We just knew… no matter the outcome, God’s plan is so much greater than anything we ever could have dreamed for our perfect little boy.

Isaiah’s pediatrician arrived. Dr. White. We love her. LOVE her. She sat with us and helped decipher all the information going around. They’d been running some tests on Isaiah while they waited to transfer him to Wolfson. He had an abnormal result on a spinal tap. He was presenting as though he’d had a seizure upon birth. There were concerns. Serious concerns. But she was super positive. And yes, he had some physical signs of Down syndrome. He had a crease in the middle of the palms of both of his hands. He had low muscle tone. That was it. Two. Of dozens of “markers” for Down syndrome,  Isaiah was physically showing 2. She explained to us that nothing was definite. Tests would be done to confirm any and everything they had suspected was happening with Isaiah. He was going to the BEST hospital and would receive the BEST care. She was so encouraging.

And she was right. Isaiah arrived at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville. Paul and I stayed in our room. We cried almost all night long. It was a long night of prayer. We were incredibly connected to God in those hours. Upon sunlight, Paul rushed to Wolfson to see our baby boy. I was joined by no less than 10 of our closest friends. We facetimed in to our Sunday morning church service and prayed with our congregation from my hospital room.  Paul reported back: Isaiah was in GREAT hands. A nurse, and now dear friend, Ashlene, was responsible for our baby boy. She had called my cell phone with an update on him first thing. And Paul returned, video in hand of our baby boy. More tears. My medical team worked their tails off and I was discharged in record fashion. About 18 hours after giving birth, I was cleared to leave so that I could go be by Isaiah’s side. Paul rushed back to pick me up. It was a full-on team effort to get me ready to go.

And that’s when God started working his miracles. An incredible woman was in charge of the NICU at Wolfson that Sunday, Dr. S. She was amazing. She joined us at Isaiah’s bedside and reported back… so far, all of Isaiah’s tests that Sunday had come back normal. She let us know there were many, MANY, more tests to be done, but that Isaiah was doing great. We got to hold Isaiah’s hands. We got to kiss his forehead. We got to sit with him all day long. We sang to him. We prayed with him. We had more quiet time with God. It was a special time for us.

Sunday night came, and Paul and I came home to an empty house. That was hard. Really hard. You just don’t prepare for that. But we prayed. And we cried. And again, we both felt as though God had completely filled our hearts. The morning came. The sun rose, and another call from Ashlene literally at the crack of dawn. Isaiah was improving. He’d had an amazing night. More tests were on deck for Monday, and so she let us know when we could come see our boy. We rushed to his side. A new doctor, Dr. D, was now in charge of the NICU for the week. He was covering for another doctor who was out of town. What a blessing. From the very first day, Dr. D told us that our boy was a miracle baby. He told us he was defying odds all over the place. He told us he was passing every test they gave him with flying colors, even duplicates of the spinal tap he had already had done. He told us that he didn’t understand it, couldn’t explain it, but that perhaps God had turned back time and erased all that Isaiah had experienced at birth. None of those medical challenges were presenting to the medical team at Wolfson. Not a single one of them. More tests were on the schedule, but Isaiah was doing so well, he was being bumped back to give the test times to the babies who were more critical. They drew blood to send off to a geneticist to confirm the suspicion of Down syndrome. We’d have the results back in 5-7 business days. They’d just be preliminary results. They’d only test 20 of his blood cells. More tests would follow. But we got another full day with our baby. I got to try to feed him. Paul got to hold him for the first time. God is so good!

Tuesday came, more good news. Dr. D told us that Isaiah had a few more tests coming. MRIs, CT Scans, brain scans etc. But he was moved from the critical care side to the “normal” NICU. This was HUGE. Every. Single. Test they had done had come back “normal”.  On Tuesday, Dr. D started to tell us Isaiah may be ready to go home sooner than the 2-3 months we had been prepped for. He told us not to get excited, it may be several more weeks, there were many tests to be done, but this “miracle baby” was speeding up timelines quickly. GOD was speeding up timelines quickly. Wednesday, same thing. Isaiah had more tests. Every single time Laura, Isaiah’s other NICU nurse, came in to report his tests results, she would cry. All normal. Every single one. We got to spend even more time holding our sweet baby boy. Thursday came. More of the same. Isaiah got his first bath! Dr. D told us we needed to start prepping to have Isaiah come home within a week or so. We were beside ourselves. He told us he’d give us 24-48 hours notice when Isaiah would be able to come home. Friday, more of the same. Isaiah’s MRI and CT scans were normal. His bloodwork came back. They confirmed he had Down syndrome, or Trisomy 21, a genetic disorder caused by three copies of the 21st chromosome rather than the “normal” 2 copies. We had met his geneticist, Dr. P, several times throughout the week, and he was super encouraging. All Isaiah’s doctors suspected he had something called Mosaic Down syndrome, which would mean that only some of his blood cells carry the extra copy of the 21st chromosome. This is something we still don’t know for sure today, as the testing would be too invasive at this age. We’re not even sure we’ll ever do additional tests for this, but we’ll continue to pray about it as our sweet baby boy grows up.

Saturday morning, January 11 arrived. Dr. D came in and apologized to us. He said he was sorry… because he had told us we’d have 24-48 hours to prep for bringing our baby home. He said he was sorry, but that he had lied. Our miracle baby, he said, had made a liar out of him. Isaiah was going home. Today. 1/11. For those of you who know Paul, you know how significant that is. And we packed up our baby boy, we loved all over Laura, Dr. D, Ashlene, and all our new friends at Wolfson. And then Laura put our sweet baby boy in a wagon and wheeled him in his car seat out to our car. At exactly 6:11 pm (yes. 11 again. 11.). And just like that, as of Saturday evening, January 11, 2014, our little home became the home of our little family.

This is likely where you picked up the story if you are new to following our foundation. And now you know… you know what God has been teaching us through all of this. You know the significance of the bible verse at the top of this page… Jeremiah 29:11. And now you know how special this little boy is, how special his arrival into the world was, and how God has been working on our hearts since a year ago today to expand the works of our foundation, which we have been trying to do for the past 12 months. We hope you’ll stick around for the next several years and be a part of what we know is going to be very very special. We have so many incredible things coming in 2015… please… stay tuned! Follow us here and on facebook or follow Paul on twitter!

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this precious baby. Thank you for a strong marriage, built on faith and love, built by you. Thank you for incredible friends and family and thank you for our PGA TOUR family who has been incredibly supportive. Thank you for the opportunity to give back to the world via the Tesori Family Foundation, and thank you for opening our eyes this past year to some special areas we can focus that have touched our hearts deeply. Thank you for providing so many great new friends for Isaiah in the Down syndrome community that we have been so embraced by. Mostly, thank you for giving our family an opportunity to grow closer to you through the journey of Isaiah’s birth. Thank you for allowing us to keep this baby in our care here on earth, and thank you for trusting us with such a special life. We ask for your continued grace and love as we celebrate Isaiah’s 1st year of life and look to use the lessons learned through his life to continue to teach the world about YOU. Amen.


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