The Three Births of Aurelia Claire

24 Jul

It’s close to four in the morning and I am awakened by the sound of my daughter crying. I slowly emerge out of a sleepy haze, rolling over to get out of bed. I pick my baby up out of her bassinet and try to comfort her. Her cry is loud now, reverberating across a silent house, her pink mouth wide open, waiting for me to feed her. For a moment I just want to drift back to sleep. Sweet, blissful sleep. I am then reminded of how just two weeks ago I longed so badly to hear her cry, and I would have traded every night of sound sleep just to hear her voice.

1.

It’s the sound we all hold our own breaths to hear, as a new baby enters our world and takes their first breath. My daughter struggled with hers, even after she let out her first glorious cry. For some reason we still don’t understand, her lungs never fully expelled the fluid inside them. She was born gasping for breath and we didn’t realize it at first. Everything about her looked alert and perfect, I couldn’t believe how flawless she was, not a wrinkle or imperfection.

I caught her myself after 10 hours of labor, 30 hours of water being broken, and 48 hours of no sleep. I pushed her out with a strength I didn’t think I had left, while on my hands and knees. I had already tried the relaxing birthing tub and every other position in the book, but her head was stuck, until that final, raw and real moment.  My midwife and birth team rushed to cover the beautiful wood floors with towels as Aurelia slipped into this world and into my arms.

I held her for an earth-shattering hour or so, the last time I would hold her until a week later.

The events after her birth were a gut-wrenching blur. Pure joy followed by overwhelming panic. She wouldn’t nurse, and showed signs of distress. She was given oxygen and a phone call was made. I got stitches. I rested in bed in the next room while medics wheeled in with the proper equipment to give my daughter the breath that she needed. It was storming hard outside, dark and foreboding. I couldn’t go with the ambulance, I wasn’t strong enough yet, I could barely stand. So my husband went. They rolled her into my room to say goodbye. I stood on shaky legs, holding onto the bed post, my vision blurring and blacking. I saw my precious baby hooked up like a science experiment, a pure, precious child inside of a machine with wires and tubes everywhere. I collapsed back on the bed sobbing.

No. This wasn’t our story.

I had just birthed a nearly nine pound baby with nothing to slow down the pain but my breathing. I have avoided hospitals my whole life, always gone “the natural way,” always assuming my body was fine and that it would fix itself. I believe very deeply God heals and protects. I rejected medical advise when I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and opted to keep it in check myself through diet and exercise, which worked brilliantly. There were no complications and I was once again considered low-risk.

This NICU, this wasn’t our story.

I felt like I was in a bad dream when I finally arrived at the hospital. My father-in-law pushed my wheelchair through the endless maze of hospital corridors. I watched several cops run by us to a group of people standing at the end of a hall watching a man who was broken to pieces, yelling through his tears, “They told me he was alive!”

No. We didn’t belong here.

I was supposed to be enjoying the suite-like relaxing birth center, taking an herbal bath with Aurelia, eating a pancake breakfast in bed with my new, complete family.

We arrived to the hospital room with Louvier on the door, and there she was, hooked up to so many machines, sedated and far away from me like she never left my womb in the first place.

—————————————————–

the constant mechanical beeping reminds us

of these fragile lives

who came to earth to soon

hanging in the balance

a few numbers

determining survival

but the will to live is strong

it echoes through halls

if you tune out the dark

and choose to hear it

—————————————————

 

Everyone we met in the hospital had far worse stories than ours. Most couples had preemies who had been there for months. They had been traveling a long, hard road, and there seemed like no end to it. My heart broke every time I walked down the hall and heard the cries of those tiny infants, who often had no one to hold them besides busy nurses and an occasional emotionally frail parent who drove from a long distance away and could barely keep up with their lives back home.

I was humbled, every time I began to feel bad for myself. I know you can’t really downgrade your own pain by comparing your circumstances to others, it is still the most difficult thing I’ve ever been though. But I quickly saw the stark black and white difference my attitude and perspective made in my mood and my overall sanity.

Gratefulness became my lifeline, and as days passed there was more and more to be thankful for.

My baby got better every day. Every single thing they tested her for came back negative. There was no bigger issue, no abnormal development or defect. She was indeed perfect, she just had a rough start.

strong

The nurses changed every 12 hours. Most were excellent, a few were mediocre. One in particular, a cheery, round woman who had been working in the NICU for 25 years, was our own Mary Poppins, our angel. She came right in the middle of our stay and saw Aurelia as healthy and whole, and treated her so. She pushed the doctor to eliminate machines and slow down sedation drips. She even bent the rules so that I could hold my baby, even though I wasn’t supposed to because she still had an IV in.

2.

I walked into the room after one of my long, painful bathroom trips, and Mary Poppins was standing over Aurelia’s bed grinning. She had produced a festive red bow from her magic bag, and placed it on my baby’s sweet head. I stopped, choked up, staring at my baby who finally looked like a little girl, not just a sick child. I got situated in the oversized hospital recliner and the nurse placed Aurelia in my arms. That day was my “due date” and even though she came into the world the week before, I felt like she was being born all over again.

holding

Soon they removed the ventilator which had been keeping Aurelia silent. I waited for her cry, thinking it would happen immediately, but her poor voice box was all scratched from the tubes. A faint, hoarse noise slowly turned to a strong proclamation of life over the next 24 hours.

3.

Her “third birthday” happened a week later when the doctor finally declared her well and signed our discharge papers. We went home, exhausted and overwhelmed with emotion, knowing Aurelia had no medication, condition or even a diagnosis.

“Some babies just have a hard time transitioning,” our pediatrician who I nicknamed “the baby whisperer” explained when we went to our follow-up appointment. Aurelia screamed her lungs out to prove they worked, then calmed down immediately when he put her in a different position.

At home, we quickly fell into a routine and relaxed knowing that whatever normal, hard things we went through with adjusting to having a newborn, at least it wasn’t magnified in the hospital.

We were finally home.

———————————-

Hallelujah 

Every breath is a second chance

(Switchfoot)

———————————–

I don’t claim to know why things happen. I can’t justify the fact innocent babies suffer, and that while we have our happy ending, some in the NICU do not.

I do know that life is so unpredictable, no matter how well you plan and prepare you just never know what road you’ll have to walk down.

I know that you never know how strong you are until you are brought to your very weakest point.

I know that there is a transition that happens in that moment of utter brokeness:

His strength is made perfect in your weakness. 

I know that Grace and Comfort are there in that moment, and He is more real and tangible than the tears in your eyes and the pain in your heart.

I know that sometimes the smallest, more fragile looking things in life often carry the most strength.

And I know my girl has found her voice, and one day, the world will hear it.

 

 

Jean-Thomas wrote Aurelia this song when I was pregnant and sang it for her in the hospital. This was our Fourth of July celebration.

 

Beautiful girl in a beautiful world

Do you know just how much your worth?

Your dreams are already changing this earth

There is so much more you’re destined for 

There are those who’ll tell you you’re wrong

They will try to silence your song

But right here is where you belong

Take your dreams, sail away

 

You’re the dawn of a new day that’s breaking

A masterpiece still in the making

Blue in the ocean of grey

The birth of a star that sends darkness away

Be the hoper of hope far out of reach

Be the dreamer of dreams and impossible things

 

Though this world may try to define you

They can’t take the light that’s inside you

So don’t you dare try to hide

Let your fears fade away

 

You’re the dawn of a new day that’s breaking

A masterpiece still in the making

Blue in the ocean of grey

The birth of a star that sends darkness away

Be the hoper of hope far out of reach

Be the dreamer of dreams and impossible things

and impossible things

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3 Responses to “The Three Births of Aurelia Claire”

  1. Melanie July 24, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    What a beautiful story. Well written with every emotion felt as I read your words. Blessings to you 3 as you take on what God has for you.

  2. Lisa Perez July 24, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    Thank you for sharing. You have a beautiful healthy baby and she is loved by more people than she may ever know!!!!

  3. Aunt JoKay July 25, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    What a beautiful story……with such a blessed, victorious ending. Well, it’s only the beginning. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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