I never have realized how quickly my life could change from being very normal and routine to being very chaotic and out of control. As many of you know, our second daughter was born 17 weeks early on January 4 2012. She weighed 570 grams. I feel as though I need to type out my thoughts, as I often keep my feelings inside and unable to fully express my thoughts. So consider this as the first chapter of my story as a father of a premature daughter.
It all began on Friday evening while eating dinner. I had been asking Ruth how she had been feeling since Evje and I had both recently gotten over a cold. She expressed having some back pain and also a small sore throat. She then hesitantly stated that she may have felt a contraction or two. We quickly cleaned up dinner, gathered some things, and dropped Evje off at my Dad’s flower shop as he was preparing for several funerals the next day. We left the lights on at home, thinking that at least one of us would be coming back to the house soon.
While at the hospital, we learned that not only was she having contractions, but she was dilated to a six. Nurses began to swarm around Ruth’s bedside, tipping her bed so that her head was angled down and hooking her up to an IV. The healthcare staff began to ask us questions and told us about doing everything they could to save the baby, as there was a very good possibility that our baby would have some sort of disability. Suddenly our "planned c-section spring baby" was turning into an emergency winter baby with very good possibilities of long term complications.
A helicopter was now on its way to take my wife into Salt Lake. I used to think that I was a calm and stalwart person when it came to this kind of things, but this was affecting me in a way that had never affected me before. I remember talking with both my parents and Ruth’s parents in the bathroom at the hospital, and then when I was done, openly sobbing. This was something I had not done in a long time. I was trying to be strong for my wife and did not want her to see how hard I was taking the news. Somehow I was able to stay composed enough to give Ruth a blessing. I watched as they loaded her onto a helicopter and then walked back to my car. I remember the nurses kept asking me if I was OK and if I had someone to ride in with. I guess that I had not done a good job at hiding my emotions. I drove off from the hospital and watched the helicopter take off. (I later learned that this is about when Ruth’s water broke).
The drive to the hospital was a blur. I had feelings of guilt, anger, sadness and anxiety. Somehow I reached the hospital alive. Ruth’s parents met me there, where I learned that Ruth was now delivering our daughter. I was able to see Ruth again after the birth, and we decided to name the baby Elsie Linda Sagers. It was the only name that we had both talked about and agreed on. (I had already decided on the name while driving in to the hospital). Ruth was given another blessing by her father. Ruth’s brother showed up later and had been through similar experiences, knowing some of the anxieties we were feeling. When we finally did see Elsie, her face was completely black, having been extensively bruised from the delivery. She seemed so frail and fragile and I felt very helpless not being able to touch her.
After what seemed like a short nap later that night, I woke up the next morning to the realization that it was all real and not just a nightmare. I suddenly wanted nothing more than to see Evje again. She became my tangible anchor that I could hold on to and hug; something I could not yet do with Elsie. When I saw her later that day, I held her for several seconds, not wanting to let her go. Several people said they could take her that night, but more than anything ,I needed to have her close to me. That night after I had put Evje to bed at home, I felt a strong presence that my late mother who had raised five boys was now watching over my little Elsie. This thought helped to give me comfort.
Over the next couple of days, we were embraced by so many family and friends. People began to come out of the woodwork that had also had preemies. They had told us their stories. It began to give us hope that there was light at the end of this long and scary tunnel. I thanked so many people that the word became almost indifferent. I wish I could write a personal note to each and everyone who has helped in so many ways. For anyone who is reading this now, I thank you in behalf of my family from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your fasting. Thank you for the help watching our precious Evje. Thank you for your hugs. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your stories. My desire is that by writing this down, someone else that goes through a similar experience can find comfort and hope in my story. I know our journey is just beginning, but I now have hope that someday we will find strength from our current trials.