It's a good thing I've never been the type of person to daydream or fantasize about how I want things to be. Most pregnant women picture a joyous birth surrounded by friends and family. As with my son, Stephen, who was diagnosed with Autism at the very young age of 18 months; my daughter was going to teach me what a blessing it is to expect the unexpected. Expectations of having the "perfect child" puts limitations on happiness for the child AND the parent.
Eight years ago today my daughter, Olivia was born. Within two hours of her birth I was alone and watching her turn blue while I breast fed her for the first time. Pat had to go home almost immediately after her birth to care for Stephen. I pressed the emergency button and a couple of nurses came into my room. I told them that she was turning blue while I breast fed her and they suctioned her lungs and told me that they needed to take her to the nursery to keep an eye on her. They called the pediatrician on call and they suggested just observing her for a couple hours and to call them back.
I told them no. She needed to see a doctor, NOW. The doctor came down from the NICU and came to the same conclusion that she could be observed in the nursery. I told her that I thought there was something seriously wrong with my daughter and that she needed to be in the NICU. She said something condescending about me being a hysterical first time mom, which I was not. I immediately told her that because my labor progressed so quickly I had only had one bag of antibiotics before Olivia was born. I had tested positive for the strep swab and they administer 2 bags of antibiotic minimum during labor before the baby is born to prevent infection during birth. That was all I needed to say to get an immediate transfer for Olivia to the NICU.
I had not shed a single tear while fighting for my daughter's life. I did what I always do in the throws of any crisis. I took care of business and then cried hysterically when I knew I didn't need to be clear headed and strong anymore. On my way back to the room I started crying. I called Pat and told him what had happened and cried some more.
They say that you see people's true colors when the chips are down and this was one of my proudest moments. I was alone, no family was there to welcome my little girl into the world, no husband to back me up. I stood alone against a doctor on the phone and a room full of medical staff and won. It's a good thing I fought so hard to get Olivia into the NICU because once they took x-rays of her lungs they found she had pneumonia. When she constantly spit up everything she ate they did a test to measure the acid and how far it was coming up her throat and found she had GERD.
She probably would have died if I had taken her home or maybe in the hospital. But she didn't. She spent 10 days in the NICU. It brought me to tears to go home without her when I was discharged. I went home and faithfully pumped my breast milk,with a manual pump by hand, every 2-3 hours. Yes, I set an alarm to wake me up all night and all day for 10 days. I needed to do SOMETHING to help her get better and that was all I could do. We could only visit her for about an hour every day while Stephen was in preschool. The hospital was a half hour away. It seemed like 300 miles away every time we got back home and couldn't see her until the next day. We called at least once a day, we didn't want to seem annoying, to see how she was doing.
When she did come home she was having projectile diarrhea. For reals. I would put a diaper under her and the poop would shoot straight out of her. I went through 3-4 diapers everytime I changed her. They took her off one of her meds and the diarrhea stopped. I was able to breast feed her without any problems. Eventually, the two huge scabs on each butt cheek where she had developed a monster diaper rash in the hospital healed. Even with her being so sick and needing so much care and the endless breastfeeding I was so happy that she was alive and home.
She has been on medicine since birth to control the acid in her stomach. Even with meds for her GERD she has had dental problems and bouts of heartburn. She was diagnosed with Asthma a couple years ago and most recently with ADHD. We spent all of 2009 going to specialists to find out what was wrong with her skin. We were told it was Segmental Neurofibromatosis and now that has been tossed out and they think she has some harmless pigmentation issues. Much of her life has been spent taking meds and getting sick a lot and seeing many doctors.
Yet, she carries on day after day. She is so full of excitement. Does she remember how close she came to dying as a newborn? Sometimes I think, yes, she is living like people do when they are dying. I think she knows deep down inside that each day is a gift and not to be taken for granted. Every day is a day to rejoice in the unexpected because it's all we are given. All we have is RIGHT NOW. We can't wait until things are "perfect" or live up to our expectations to feel happy.
I wish more parents could give their children unconditional love. Our children are who they are for a reason. We all serve a purpose and have something to offer this world as our unique selves. I wish the mother who overdosed her 8 year-old son with Autism could have accepted him and loved him unconditionally. Instead, her quest for a "normal" child drove her to take his life and try to take her own when she had to face the reality that he was going to be who he was no matter how much money she had and how many doctors she dragged him to.
Eight years ago today, I never expected I would give birth to a very sick little girl. I never expected she would continue to be a "sickly" child. I DID expect to love her the minute she was born and I held her in my arms. I DID expect to do everything I could to protect, care for and nurture her. She has become a caring, generous, creative, dramatic, energetic and independant girl. I never could have expected such an amazing child, my imagination just isn't that good!
Happy Birthday Olivia!