One year ago, our day started out with this:
I was 23 weeks pregnant, and our cute little toddler Evje had a check-up at the pediatrician's office. I was hustling her out to the car so that we wouldn't be late. My hands were full with the diaper bag plus some other random stuff I was taking to the car, and my back was hurting, so being a mean mom, I made Evje walk to the car beside me. We had just gotten to the car, which was parked on the street, when Evje lost her footing and face-planted onto the pavement. She didn't put her hands out to catch herself because she was holding graham crackers, and her face caught the brunt of the fall. Poor baby! You can't see it very well in the picture, but she had a pretty good sized lump on her forehead. Anyway, we went to the doctor for her check-up and he made sure that her face was ok. I felt like the worst mom ever!
For the rest of the day, I just wasn't feeling right. I thought perhaps I was catching the cold that my husband and Evje had had earlier in the week. My back continued to ache, and I had gross amounts of mucus coming from "down there" when I used the bathroom. I took a nap when Evje was napping, but it didn't seem to help.
Looking back, it's easy to see that my back ache was actually early labor pains, and the mucus was actually my mucus plug. At the time, I honestly didn't know what was going on, but I was getting worried that something wasn't right. It had been such an easy pregnancy up until this point, so I never would have guessed what was about to happen.
Clayton and I went to the hospital just to get checked out, feeling very foolish, hoping that we were making a big deal out of nothing and would be sent home. I'll never forget the look on the nurse's face when she announced that I was already dilated to 6 cm. That was when I started getting scared.
Flying on the helicopter to Salt Lake City. I remember how painful it was to be strapped down on the gurney, lying on my back and unable to move into a comfortable position during contractions. I was so scared and desperately wanted comfort. I begged the nurse on the helicopter to hold my hand.
They wheeled me into the hospital and I saw a glimpse of my dear parents, waiting anxiously. Clayton hadn't arrived yet. In fact, neither he nor I had ever been to the University of Utah hospital before, and I was worried that he wouldn't be able to find it, especially in his current state of mind.
In the delivery room. No time for pain relievers. No time for a c-section, which would have helped protect her delicate body from the trauma of birth. The baby was on her way within moments of our arrival. I screamed with the agonizing pain. My mind was in anguish, wanting so desperately to keep my precious baby safe inside me, but my body was cruelly pushing her out.
Recovery. I felt empty. My hands kept creeping toward my belly, only to find nothing there. So thankful to finally have Clayton with me, as well as my parents, my sister, my brother. I was numb.
After several hours, we were given permission to see her. I didn't want to. I was scared to see the child who was born way, way too early. Her face and head were completely black with bruises, her extremely delicate blood vessels having been crushed during birth. Her eyes (still fused shut) were covered to protect them from the bilirubin lights.There were more machines, tubes, and wires coming from her tiny body then I thought possible. I searched desperately to find something, anything, that wasn't harmed or covered with machinery, something that would help me recognize that this was indeed my baby, and I suddenly found great comfort in her fingers and toes. All babies have fingers and toes, and so did Elsie, albeit extremely tiny ones. Here was something, something, that was normal.
We went through a lot during our NICU stay. Elsie was hospitalized for 160 days, that's about five and a half months, and was released on June 13, more than a month past her original due date of May 3. She had PDA ligation surgery on January 17, which was the repairing of an open valve in her heart. She suffered a Grade 2 bleed on the right side of her brain, and a Grade 4 bleed on the left, Grade 1 being minor and Grade 4 being the worst that it can be. Elsie contracted pneumonia when she was about six weeks old, or 29 weeks gestation. She developed Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ROP, which is an eye disease, and had two laser surgeries to prevent the disease from causing blindness. She struggled to learn how to eat by mouth and eventually developed an oral aversion, due to five and a half months of having tubes down her throat. This means that Elsie became uncomfortable with anything in or even near her mouth, including food. She had a gastrostomy tube placed, which is a feeding tube that goes directly from the outside of her abdomen into her stomach, bypassing her throat altogether.
A year later, we go to feeding therapy. We go to physical therapy. We go to opthamologist appointments. GI appointments. Neo-natal follow-up appointments. Monthly pediatrician appointments. Doctors appointments and therapy are a fact of life nowadays.
And yet, through it all, Elsie is thriving.
Elsie is a happy, easy-going baby who loves her mommy and daddy, adores her big sister, and likes to pet the doggies and take baths. She is more patient and determined than I have ever been. Her determination astonishes me. She has overcome so many challenges in her short life, and has amazed several doctors and medical professionals.
Elsie has blessed our lives in so many ways. She has brought our family together into a tight, cohesive unit, full of faith, full of prayers of thanksgiving. We have been blessed. We have seen miracles.
It has been quite the year. I don't know that I'd like to ever go through it again, but I wouldn't change any of our experiences. We have all grown so much because of Elsie's birth.
We love you, Elsie. Happy first birthday!