Today is my firstborn’s 15th birthday.
At the moment of her birth, I was a very scared young lady, scarcely 18 years old, the ink barely dry on the marriage certificate.
She was born prematurely, by emergency c-section at a rural hospital with no NICU. The first time I saw her was 5 hours after her birth, covered in wires and tubes, in an incubator surrounded by life flight nurses. I was allowed to touch her hand through the hole and could barely etch a memory of her in my mind before she was rushed out by helicopter. It would be almost a week before I would even hold her.
She would be flying 85 miles before I could register what had just happened.
Before the fact could sink in that I was a mother.
I certainly didn’t feel like one. Here I was in the maternity ward, with no baby.
At 7:30 that morning the nurse came to my room. I had a telephone call from the NICU at the hospital that received my little girl.
She was currently in critical condition. Her lung had collapsed on the flight there and they had to put in a chest tube and intubate her. They almost lost her. I needed to be checked out that morning and try to get there as soon as possible.
As I hung up my doctor came in and encouraged me to get out of bed and start walking, I would be discharged by lunch time. He wanted me to get to see my baby…in time.
There was no time to waste, no leisurely recovery. No time to feel the searing pain of the incision. I was up an walking down the hall. The nurses had just recently changed shifts and one of the new ones did not realize that I was the one who’s baby was whisked away that morning.
“Ma’am, is someone in the room with your baby? You can’t leave it alone. You need to return to your room.”
I almost collapsed on the floor. Hot tears welled up, I leaned against the desk, began weeping and barely made out…”My baby is gone.”
She at once realized who I was and ran around the desk to help me. We walked up and down that hallway until they were fairly certain I would be ok to be discharged.
It was evening before I was home, by that time my sister and mother had already made the trip to see my daughter, who was now a bit more stable, but still very fragile.
Arrangements were made for me to stay in the Ronald McDonald house and finally, the next morning I was on my way. That seemed like the longest trip of my life. I was anxious to see her, but I had to get checked in to my room. The longest trip was turning into the longest day.
We only had one vehicle and my then-husband had to continue working, so I was being dropped off essentially. No support whatsoever. Without a car, I had to walk from the RM House to the hospital several times a day. No time to feel the pain of the c-section. I opened my staples up twice, but barely took notice. It’s a miracle I recovered so quickly.
When I finally made it to see my daughter, it seemed surreal. I didn’t recognize her, as the short glimpse I had faded quickly. The NICU was such a scary place. Alarms and bells, buzzing of machines. She didn’t feel like she belonged to me. I had to ask permission to touch her, I was supervised changing her diaper. I couldn’t even feed her. She was given my breast milk through a feeding tube.
Every where I turned I was met by sadness. The baby boy in the next incubator over was dying. The parents were there to say goodbye. I didn’t know what to say to them. In my youth and inexperience I tried to not make eye contact. I could barely process my own grief and despair, I was not prepared to witness others. The aisle over was quadruplets. I did manage enough bravery to ask if I could look at them, I was intrigued. They were so tiny, but seemed stronger than my own little one, who was over 5lbs larger than they were.
When she was born, at 6 weeks premature, she weighed 5lbs. 14 oz. I was told that if she went to term she would have been a very large baby, possible 10+ pounds. In the short 10 days she spent in the hospital she lost down to just over 4 pounds.
I was told she would be in the NICU at least until her original due date, but she recovered remarkably quick. Ten days later her father and I carried her home, smaller than when she went in, but she was a little fighter.
I have always called her stubborn. Strong-willed. It’s that spunk that gave her the strength to fight for her life. That, second only to the grace of the Father.
That fight would stay with her. To this day she is stubborn and strong-willed. A little (she still is small for her age) fighter.
And I thank God for granting me 15 years with the most precious gift I have ever received. A gift I was afraid wasn’t going to make it through her first day on this earth.
Today we celebrate the wonderful young lady she is becoming. We are so proud of her. We are excited to see all the amazing things she is going to accomplish in her life. With the determination she has shown since her birth, she could move mountains.
Happy Birthday baby!