I've had this idea for awhile and now I can't think of a better time to get started, because February also means my daughter's birthday is right around the corner. On the 11th, she will be 13 years old. It's hard to believe. She wasn't due until April of '96, but Payton does her own thing and her arrival was no different. A tad impatient, she made her debut into the world via emergency C-section 8 weeks earlier. Scary does not even begin to cover it. As part of the preparation for C-section, the nurse also prepared me by letting me know that this situation was going to be touch-and-go. Payton's lungs weren't fully developed, and whether or not she survived her birth and the days that followed remained to be seen. She assured me they would do all they could to insure her survival and informed me of the neonatal intensive care team that was already waiting in the operating room to be the first to greet this tiny baby. And then she knocked me out.
Its probably a good thing she did. I was reeling from shock and terror. I was all alone. I had gotten dropped off at the hospital and there was no one there with me. I was 21. I didn't know anyone who had ever had a C-section, and all I knew of the procedure was what I had read in "What to Expect When You're Expecting". I was unprepared. With a 15-month old baby boy and 2 months of my pregnancy left to go, I hadn't set anything up, I hadn't decided on a name, and I didn't even know if I was having a boy or a girl. And suddenly I was faced with the very real possibility that this baby that I had carried for 7 months and had already grown to love may not make it long enough for our eyes to meet.
I woke up in recovery and the same nurse that had prepped me was there by my side once again. She was quiet. I asked her if my baby was okay, and she let me know my baby had made it through the delivery and was undergoing a barrage of tests and evaluations in the neonatal intensive care unit. I asked if she was a girl like I had suspected, and she seemed surprised by the question yet nodded her head. Her calm and quiet demeanor had me ill at ease, but the drugs won another round and I was out again.
I woke up alone in a private room and the sun was shining through the window on my left. Shortly thereafter a nurse came in to check on me and I asked when I would be able to see my baby girl. She told me I would have to be able to walk down to the NICU in order to be able to see her. I was in so much pain it seemed impossible for me to even try. Because Payton's delivery was an emergency C-section and time was of the essence, the doctor that delivered her had to get her out of there as quickly as possible, resulting in bruising from my ribs down to my hips, inside and out. One minute and thirteen seconds from the first incision was all it took for the obstetrician to wrestle Payton from where she was tucked up under my ribs and hand her off to the awaiting team. Payton and I both wore the bruises to prove it, but I wouldn't have the chance to see hers until I could overcome the pain of my own and walk to her.
It took me almost an hour and a half to make it down the relatively short hallway to where my baby was. Hunched over like an old woman many times my age and gripping tightly onto the plastic railing, I made it there as quickly as I could. I pressed a button on an intercom and the lock on the door clicked to allow me entrance to a stainless steel room where the only warmth to be found was in the smiling face of a neonatal intensive care unit nurse who would come to be my friend. I was instructed to scrub my hands and arms up to my elbows in a large stainless steel sink with a special soap, and then guided into a yellow full body gown so that I wouldn't touch anything with my clean hands. I was led into a quiet room filled with waste-high baby warming beds and quiet couples holding their tiny babies. As I approaced my daughter's bed to see her for the first time, the nurse gently touched my arm and told me there were lots of strange things attached to my baby but they were all helping to keep her alive. And there she lay... like a tiny bird that had fallen from its nest too soon, a tiny bruised bird in a nest of wires and tubes, and yet she was unbelievably beautiful.
Overcome by a mix of emotions I cannot even begin to explain, quiet tears slid down my face and onto the blanket she lay on. I wasn't able to hold her... she was much too weak. But I could see her and I could touch her and I could sense in her the strength and will to survive that I still see in her to this day. These qualities coupled with the wonders of modern medicine are the reasons she's here with me today, and one of my greatest joys! As the weeks went on she grew stronger. She gained weight and the ability to breathe on her own without the assistance of a machine. Just shy of 6 weeks old, I was able to bring her home. After loading up monitors, taking classes on how to use them, as well as a CPR course for premature infants, we were finally able to go home where she would continue to grow and thrive and evolve into one of my favorite people in the entire world, and one of my very best friends. I'm so very thankful that everything worked out in the end and had a positive outcome, as so many stories that start off like mine don't. For this reason, I've decided to give back to the March of Dimes.
During the month of February, a portion of the proceeds from Dirt Road South will be donated to the March of Dimes in support of their ongoing research to help prevent others from going through what I had to go through as a parent, and to help other babies have an easier start in life than my own baby girl did. This donation will be in honor of Payton, and will be at least 10% of all of the proceeds from my etsy shop as well as some extra that I will throw in for good measure. If you wish to make a donation to the March of Dimes without making a purchase, you may do so at the March of Dimes website by clicking on the "donate" button on the right and using your credit card, debit card or PayPal account.
Future "Giving Back" posts will follow. My goal is to select a new cause to give back to for each month, and I already have a few in mind. If you'd like to suggest a cause for Dirt Road South to support, feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me an email. Be sure to let me know why and where I can find more information. In the meantime, put some thought into where we'd be without the love others have shown us, and think about all of the ways that you can give back.
Til next time,