My Life : Our Christmas Miracle

As I lay on the operating table with the oxygen mask on anticipating meeting our child for the first time the mood of the room suddenly shifted.  The words coming out of the doctors mouth were terrifying, meconium, cleft.  I knew those words, I had read about how some babies poop before birth and they swallow it which can cause problems with their lungs, I knew that they typically spend time in NICU because of it.  Of course I’m very familiar with the word cleft as my nephew was born with a cleft palate and I know how difficult and scary things have been this past year for my sister.  I lay there hearing those words before I even knew what my baby was.  Finally the anesthesiologist (aka pain killer guy!) said we had a boy!  I could hear his loud strong cries but they couldn’t show him to me as they were working to clear the meconium from his lungs.  I asked about the cleft but no one would give me a straight answer.  After what seemed like an eternity they let David go over and see him.  We had brought the camera in anticipation of getting these beautiful photos of meeting our son for the first time but this was nothing like when we had Will.  In fact everything felt so different even though it was the same room.  I was so grateful David was able to take a few photos and bring them back for me to see.  Our little baby boy, Robert Van Douglas named after our grandfathers and my Dad.  Next thing I knew they were taking him and David to the nursery to put Rob on a machine to help him breathe.  Once again I found myself laying there on the operating table with the oxygen mask still anticipating meeting my child.


It all started Christmas Eve, we attended services at our church and during the service I reached over and squeezed David’s hand pretty hard as I felt a pretty good contraction.  They continued over dinner with the family but they were irregular and pretty far apart.  I drank a lot of water and slept through the night with no issues.  Christmas morning they started back up and by the time we had exchanged presents and had breakfast at my sisters they were coming pretty regularly.  We called the hospital and they said to come in just to check.  By the time we got to the hospital they were about 5 min apart and a minute long.  They slowed back down at the hospital and the staff was about to send me home until they checked and found out I was 5cm dilated!  Next thing I knew they were running around getting paperwork filled out and blood drawn for labs as they prepped for a c-section.  All David and I could think was we were going to have an extra Christmas present this year!

Once I was in recovery David came back in with my sister Michelle in tow.  Let me tell you it is really nice having a NICU nurse for a sister, she went back and saw Robert and was able to reassure me and David that he was doing great and the cleft was very minor.  He was fighting the oxygen machine and breathing well.  The doctors told us we were lucky that I went into labor instead of waiting another day for my scheduled c-section.  The longer Robert was in the meconium the worse the situation could have been.  He will always be our Christmas miracle!  It all seems like such a blur now, I remember getting into the recovery room and David and Michelle were there.  My parents arrived shortly after and David was running people back to the nursery to see Robert.  I was still waiting though.  Finally after what seemed like an eternity they brought him to me and I got to hold my baby boy for the first time and cry with relief that he was ok.


Robert Van Douglas Jeffcoat was born on December 25th, 2013 at 6:25 pm weighing 8lbs 12ozs and 19.75″ long.  He does have a cleft lip but it is very minor and does not affect his feeding at all which is such a relief!  David has already come up with half a dozen stories for him to tell when he gets older about how he got the scar that will remain once he has surgery to repair the cleft.  Our favorite is the one where he got into a fight with a polar bear and then hitched a ride on Santa’s sleigh to be born on Christmas day!  As for when he will have surgery we aren’t sure, but most likely it will be before he turns 1.  His big brother Will is fascinated by him and loves to come up and tickle him and giggle.  I love watching them interact and I can’t wait to see them grow up together!

Here are a few photos I took of Rob to hold you over till our photos from the insanely talented Marta Locklear are ready!  She did our newborn photos with Will also and I’m still in love with those images.  I can’t wait to take my favorites from that session and combine them with my favorites from our latest session to put up a display over our bed!!!


I love love love that stage with newborns where they stick their butt out with their little legs curled up!


(Sidenote: My nephew has had his cleft repaired and is doing AMAZING!  He is a healthy typical little boy about to turn 1 this month!)

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    Melissa Arlena is an award winning Richmond and Charlottesville photographer. She recently earned her Master Photographer Certification in the Maternity, Newborn & Family categories from the National Association of Professional Child Photographers. Melissa offers maternity, lifestyle newborn, and family photography in her relaxed, natural, and joyful style.


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