As though it were yesterday, I can remember the birth of my daughter Alexandria. I had dreamed of being this little person’s mother for years. I had kept my husband up late many nights with baby conversation. When I learned that I was pregnant after almost seven years of marriage, I was beyond happy. Having previously lost two babies early in the first trimester, I admit I was also a little nervous.
This pregnancy, however, was different. I was already five weeks and six days pregnant, with about six or seven home pregnancy tests under my belt, when I had my first ultrasound. Like a right-turn signal, her heart blinked away on the screen right before my eyes.
As much as I possibly could, I handled my pregnancy with kid gloves. For better blood and oxygen flow, I slept on my left side each night. Never a drinker or smoker, I took my prenatal vitamins religiously and even gave up drinking Coca Cola. Anyone who truly knows me understands the magnitude of that sacrifice. I knew my obstetrician’s phone number by heart and called about any twinge of pain, discharge, or extended periods when my baby was less active.
Imagine my shock when one night, after enjoying some delicious nachos my husband had prepared, I was shaken out of my sleep by strong cramps that I knew could not be good. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom to find out that I was bleeding.
My husband rushed me to the hospital three traffic lights away. The nurses examined me, then hooked up an IV that delivered magnesium sulfate to slow down my contractions. The nurse warned, “This medicine is gonna make you feel hot all over,” and it did. Despite the discomfort caused by the medication, I remember being grateful that there was something that could be done to stop my contractions.
After about an hour or so of nurses and technicians checking on me, I was all settled in, my husband went home to get some sleep, and I finally dozed off.
The next morning my contractions grew in intensity. I was worried. Each contraction was powerful enough to wake me up and I timed them by looking up at the clock on the wall. They were coming too quickly. I noticed that my mother was sitting in the left corner of the room. I had time to speak to my mother and nod out for twelve minutes before my water broke like a dam being uncorked. The entire hospital bed was wet. No one alive could have convinced me that the entire Atlantic Ocean hadn’t just moved through me. Lifting my head, I looked at my mom and said, “My water broke.” She jumped up and ran to get the nurse. The nurse walked in and asked, “What’s going on?” “My water broke,” I answered, to which the nurse replied, as she stood over me, shaking her head, “Oh no. No, your water didn’t break. Let’s get you examined.”
I immediately called my husband. He said he was on his way. After I was examined, the doctor determined that my membranes had ruptured, just as I had said. My daughter was in frank breech position (one leg up, one leg down). It was election day, November 8, 2000 and my daughter was about to be born.
Like kids called into the principal’s office, three doctors stood to my right, heads hanging low, lined up against the wall. I had just seen two of the doctors in the last few days, earlier in the office, as well as Sunday at that very hospital. Both times, I had been assured that all was fine.
After hearing the options: turning the baby around and then giving birth or a Cesarean section (which would be less stressful on the baby), my husband sternly asked, “Well, shouldn’t you all be getting ready?”
Then, from among the heavy sAlexandria weighed only one pound, four-and-a-half ounces. She was 12 ¼” long. She weighed the same as a loaf of bread. To this day, I can’t pick up a loaf of bread or make a sandwich without remembering the day that never fails to give me hope.
ilence, the only female doctor (who will remain nameless), out of the three, stepped forward and rendered her medical opinion like judgement, “A C-section is major surgery. It’s very stressful on your body, and it doesn’t make sense for a baby who won’t be a viable person. You will want to have other babies.”
Those words hit me like a brick in the face. All I knew was I was this little person’s mother today. The distant future was the last thing on my mind. No matter the outcome, I would do everything I could to give her the best chance at life- this life God had breathed into her.
Minutes later the doctors cleared the room to prep for my surgery. As I lay in that hospital bed, only twenty-three weeks along in my pregnancy, I would become a mother. Strangely, a surreal calm washed over me. I didn’t cry. I knew that the Lord was with me. I spoke to the Him and said, “Lord, if you want her back home with you, I’ll be okay. If you let her stay, Lord, please help us and give me strength.”
Just hours later at 5:18 PM, Alexandria was born. As I lay on that operating table, I heard a nurse warn, “Mrs. Allen, you won’t hear her cry.” My husband left my side as the NICU team rushed my daughter away.
Alexandria weighed only one pound, four-and-a-half ounces. She was 12 ¼” long. She weighed the same as a loaf of bread. To this day, I can’t pick up a loaf of bread or make a sandwich without remembering the day that never fails to give me hope.
Yes, as one of the NICU doctors reminded me, when I was in recovery, we’d have a long road ahead. Yes, I had no idea of every trial and hurdle our family would endure or conquer. No, this was not the way I dreamed of becoming a mother. But yes, I would trust the Lord now. I was determined to learn all I could about the issues that most preemies face. And I would trust the Lord with Alex’s health issues: eye surgery, brain hemorrhages, a fractured femur due to chemical rickets and careless NICU technicians, oxygen levels, full feedings, infections, neonatal intestinal obstruction, edema, weight gain and loss, bradycardia (slow heart rate), and tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rate).
The Lord was there. His presence was clear to me. I experienced His love and faithfulness for myself day after day. We were blessed to have wonderful people in charge of caring for Alexandria. Dr. Armand, head of the neonatology department at DeKalb Medical Center, had a wonderful way of explaining every medical diagnosis, course of treatment, and procedure. One of our favorite NICU nurses, Tracey Hardy, gave Alex such great care that we never worried when it was her day to work.
Finally, only February 6th 2001, after eighty-five days in NICU, Alexandria was given over into our care. I can’t explain to you how my anxiety wrestled and mingled with my joy. A full month before her due date, Alex was discharged from Dekalb Medical Center. We had to take and pass a CPR class and learn about the monitor that was attached to our premature daughter. A monstrous oxygen tank was delivered to our home. Dr. Armand assured us it only administered just a “little puff of air” that Alex didn’t really need anymore.
We were so happy to have Alex home with us. For health reasons though, we kept her away from crowded places for the recommended time. But as soon as possible, the three amigos hit the road. We went to arts festivals, trade shows, and flea markets. Everywhere we took Alex, people were amazed at her tiny size. The receptionist at the front desk of Alex’s pulmonologist actually commented when we stepped off the elevator, “Girl, I thought you were carrying a baby doll in your arm.”
Well, my preemie is not so preemie anymore. She’s the beautiful girl in the blue coat, standing next to her baby sisters and brother. (Throwback photo). We just celebrated her 17th birthday last week. I’m amazed at how the time has flown. My firstborn is almost an “adult.” She keeps sweetly reminding me. My girl is beautiful, bright, and easygoing. Frozen’s Elsa and Anna are still her favorite. She loves the movie. She buys the books. She draws lovely pictures of them to accompany the stories she writes. There are areas in Alexandria’s, excuse me Alex’s life (she prefers Alex) in which she will always need her parents. And that’s okay. I’m her mother. She’s my sweet girl. Life happens. And life is still beautiful.
(P.S. I just wanted to share this story here on my website. Alex just turned 22 years old a few months ago and my son is now almost taller than I am.)
Blessings and love,