For most women, pregnancy is a time of happiness and excitement, but for some it can turn into many other things.
I found out I was pregnant at just five weeks along. I went to the doctor for what I was sure was a urinary tract infection. My doctor did some urine tests and came in with a huge smile on his face, announcing, “You’re pregnant! Congratulations!” I was so happy. I immediately told my husband, who was also very excited. I set up my very first OB appointment. It was in two weeks away and I could hardly wait. Unfortunately, I saw the doctor sooner than that.
One day I started bleeding and was rushed to the emergency room. The ER doctor said it was a threatened miscarriage. It was still so early in the pregnancy that this was not uncommon. From 6 weeks pregnant to 20 weeks pregnant, I was on bed rest with frequent trips to the ER for bleeding and threatened miscarriages. At my 20 week check up, my doctor was confident I had surpassed the miscarriage time frame and took me off bed rest, but cautioned me to be careful. I was very careful. I didn’t carrying anything over 5 pounds, I didn’t run or bounce, and I ate healthy foods and drank plenty of water.
On Thursday, January 27, 2011, it was time to get our 3D gender scan. Our sonogram tech said, “IT’S A GIRL!” We were told the fluid levels were good and everything looked great! My doctor confirmed all of this, and sent us on our way. We were instructed to come back in a week for gestational diabetes testing. That day seemed so perfect and we planned on going out to dinner to celebrate, but around 2:00 p.m. the ecstatic feeling went away. My back was hurting, giving me sharp pains and I lost my appetite. My husband wanted me to go to the hospital, but I insisted it was nothing. He went to sleep, but I stayed up. I couldn’t sleep. The pain moved to my stomach. I took a hot shower thinking that it would help. By 11:00 p.m., I was begging my husband to take me to the hospital. We got in the car, with nothing packed, assuming they would tell us again it was just Braxton hicks contractions. I called my doctor’s on-call number but the hospital where sheh was that night was an extra 25 minutes away. We couldn’t wait that long. We went to the closest hospital.
When we arrived, I was able to walk to the admissions desk. I insisted I didn’t need a wheelchair but the nurse told us it was protocol so I got in for the ride. They took me up to the labor and delivery floor. I was 24 weeks and 3 days along in my pregnancy. My nurses hooked me up to see if I was having contractions. I was, but they were not measuring very high on their charts. The nurse was in no hurry to get the doctor. She went through all of my medical history, past, present and family. Then she said, “Okay, Let’s check you out.” Her face changed immediately and she gave me a smile—one of those smiles you get from people who pity you. My husband and I looked at each other and knew something was wrong. We knew our daughter was alive, her heart beat was a strong 148 bpm, but still—something wasn’t right.
She came back with another nurse who checked me out and gave me that same look. Then they gave us the worst news: I was three centimeters dilated and my water sack was bulging. They gave me medication to try to delay labor, but the contractions continued and were getting closer together. A man walked in, as if he just rolled out of bed, and introduced himself. He was my doctor. He checked me out, then sat next to me to break the news. I was in labor, with a 24 week preemie. He explained they did not have the doctors or the equipment to stabilize a baby so premature. He began to talk about the procedure to remove the fetus. My husband, crying, stops him, and begs the doctor not to give up on our daughter. She was not a fetus, she was a baby—OUR baby.
There was a blizzard outside and trying to get a medivac to the hospital was nearly impossible. The doctor was not confident that I would make a two hour ambulance ride without delivering, but he agreed to try. It was about 2:30 a.m. An ambulance from another hospital had agreed to come and get me. It was snowing very heavily and it took about an hour and 45 minutes to get to the hospital. In the last five minutes of the trip, my water broke. The nurse riding with me informed the driver we needed to be there NOW! My husband drove behind us and arrived right after the ambulance. I was taken up to the delivery floor. Another doctor came in, a woman, and introduced herself. She would be delivering my daughter. She examined me and told the nurses I needed to be in the operating room immediately. My husband followed behind, struggling to get the scrubs on.
The doctor didn’t have time to mentally prepare me for what was about to happen. She just told me on my next contraction to push. So I pushed! Within six pushes, out came this tiny baby. No crying, no movement, nothing. There it was, the birth of my daughter, Eva-Ann Rose, born January 28, 2011. She was 11 inches long and just over a pound. I noticed soon after how many people were in the operating room with me, at least 15 people, all amazed at the size of the baby. As they took me back into the labor and delivery room, they let my husband get a sneak peek. The doctor explained the odds were not good and that’s when the real journey began.
After an hour, a doctor came in shaking his head. Our hearts dropped. Our daughter had to be resuscitated three times but was stabilizing. He told us not to expect her to live past eight hours, that adrenaline runs in their bodies in the beginning, keeping them alive. He then began a speech that I will never forget. He said, “There may come a time where we have to make a decision if we are doing things FOR her or TO her. To let her go or keep her alive by machines.” He explained they perform a test on these babies to determine gestational age. According to their test, she was only 22 weeks, not 24 weeks. Babies surviving at this age is rare.
We just wanted to see our baby, to see the life we created and loved so much. We waited four hours and after pestering the nurses they finally had the OK to take us back. She was in a clear box, a ton of machines hooked to her, and she was smaller than my hand. We couldn’t touch her, her skin would rip and cause her pain. I wanted to touch her so badly. If I was going to have to say goodbye to my angel, I at least wanted her to feel loved!
Days blurred together and I shut myself off from the world. All that mattered was Eva. She didn’t move, she didn’t do anything. The initial breathing machine they put her on was too hard on her lungs. They put her on the oscillator and it vibrated her tiny body. It looked so painful. Each day brought worse news, but February 10, 2011, was a day I will always remember. I placed her hand on my pinky finger, just set it there so it would not rip her skin. That day she squeezed my finger, just for a second and not very hard, but she squeezed my finger. I knew at that moment she was going to be okay. That same day also brought terrible news. Eva had a worsening grade three bilateral brain bleed. We got the speech again of how we needed to choose if we are doing things for her or to her.
After that, days became even more of a blur. Rounds at 8:00 a.m., watching Eva until 1:00 p.m. for lunch, back up to watch Eva until dinner at 6:00 p.m., then over to Eva until 10:00 p.m. I would try to sleep after that, but I would find myself at her bedside at 3:00 a.m. begging God to save her, to let my baby live. We wanted her even with any possible challenges she had. Blind, deaf, mentally challenged, disabled in any way. We loved her the way she was given to us.
Eva reached the one-month mark and was put back on the ventilator. Things were looking up, not good, but up. Then we were told she somehow contracted MRSA, a strain of the staph infection that was resistant to typical medications. They moved her into an isolation room. But we did get some good news. We could hold our daughter for the very first time! It did not go well, however. Her heart dropped and her oxygen saturations dropped to four. It is targeted at 100, and hers was four. Was I pushing her to hard? Was my desire to hold her compromising my judgment? I felt that if she could feel skin, warmth and love, it would help her fight. And it did. She stabilized after a few minutes and did fantastic the rest of the time. I cried, holding my baby, less than two pounds, in my arms, knowing she was fighting to live harder than any adult I have ever known. I knew that my daughter, my baby was fighting to prove everyone wrong. She knew God had a plan for her and that she was going to show the world that big miracles DO come in small sizes.
The next three months went by rather fast. She continued to move upward, hitting two, three, four pounds. Her lungs developed and she was able to come off of the ventilator. She then went on to the CPAP machine, then to the nasal canula. She began eating from a bottle and was nearing the time when she could come home! Her eyes were checked weekly for ROP. She had a level three, but that was nothing laser surgery couldn’t correct. Her dad and I were both present when they did her hearing screen. Eva failed. To pass a screening, a newborn must score 160 in each ear. Eva scored 12 in her right ear and 0 in her left ear. We were devastated, but willing to do whatever we could. Sign language, hearing aids, surgery, absolutely anything that could help her.
After four months of being in the NICU, we were ready to take our baby girl home. She was on oxygen via the nasal canula, and a heart and respiratory monitor, but nonetheless, we were home bound! That was the first day I felt like a mother. I was finally able to do for her what she needed from me. This excitement quickly faded. She went to visit her pediatricians office two days after discharge and had lost 12 ounces in two days—a huge amount! Her head circumference had grown two centimeters in a week, which was also a huge gain. We had to come back in three days. We returned and she had gained some weight. Her pediatrician was no longer concerned about her weight, but was still worried about the head circumference. We then realize it was a charting error. Happiness was back, we were so glad to have Eva home. We had a ton of doctor’s appointments but I didn’t mind. The rest of the first week was great.
Then horror hit that Monday afternoon. We were at Target picking up medication for Eva. I looked away for a second and when I looked back, she had spit up all over herself, was blue, and her heart monitor was not working! She was not breathing, she was limp, and her eyes rolled back in her head. I screamed for my husband and for help. My husband yelled, “CPR, Anya, CPR.” I laid her down on the floor and gave my daughter CPR. It took about a minute and then she coughed, and was choking. She was breathing again and by this time 911 had been called. The EMT squad arrived and we headed to the hospital. The local hospital had nothing to fit my five pound daughter. They called to have a medivac pick her up and take her back to the hospital we had just left a week ago. Eva now has spent an additional three months in the NICU. She has a trach, a G Tube and will require numerous surgeries.
Eva will turn seven months old at the end of this month. She is the happiest baby. Through the internet, she has touched the hearts of people from all over the world. She has proved every doctor who has encountered her wrong. They all doomed her with the worst, but her birth is a story to tell the world. When you feel like all is lost, remember with a little faith, hope, and lots of love good things do come.
Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!