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February 01, 2018

On the Day You Were Born & A Letter to My 6 Year Old

The quote below is from a little story book we used to read to my belly -- Oh, Baby, The Places You'll Go! -- an adaptation of Dr. Seuss classics. Little did we know, Dr. Seuss quotes are used often in NICUs all over the world.
Baby, oh, baby the places you’ll go!
The worlds you will visit!
The friends you will know!
The horn-tooting apes
From the Jungles of Jorn,
Will hoot a big toot
On the day you are born. (~Excerpt, Oh, Baby the Places You'll Go!)

6 years ago today, February 1, 2012, our first daughter, Isabelle was born. Only, it wasn't a big toot. There was happiness, of course, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't overshadowed by overwhelming relief and fear. 
You see, Isabelle wasn't supposed to be born on Feb 1. She was due April 10. 10 weeks before my due date, I got very sick and developed HELLP syndrome. You can read more about HELLP and my journey, here. After 24 hours of care, lots of questions, and an emergency c-section, Isabelle came out. There was no other option. (HELLP syndrome affects mom, not babe. Many pre-term babies are born as a result of premature labour. I never went into labour. Baby needed to come out so I could get better.)
New moms often gush about those first few bonding moments with their newborns. Mine was different. I didn't hear her cry, although Donny did, thankfully. I didn't even see her for about 4 hours, and when I did, it was for a minute before she was whisked away to the NICU. She couldn't be without oxygen for very long. I had to wait a full 24 hours before I could hold her. I dare anyone to tell me you don't bond with a baby if you don't hold them immediately.
But let me tell you what else happened in those first few days, as I was recuperating. (Photo is from a week after birth, when we were both looking a bit healthier) 2 pound Isabelle made it through the day with few "desats" -- that's hospital jargon for desaturation, when baby doesn't get enough oxygen to the red blood cells. And she didn't have a "spell"; a brady spell is when oxygen levels dip below 80. We didn't know what any of this meant at the beginning, but towards the end of our stay we were using the same terms as the doctors and nurses. Truthfully, I had to remind myself of the terms in order to write this -- it's funny how you quickly you forget.
So, that was good, we were told. We had a long road ahead, but we were on our way. Isabelle also gave the nurses a glimpse of her personality in those first few days. She constantly ripped out her feeding tube, often grabbed onto a bar in her isolette when she was lifted, and tried to take off her oxygen mask. "She's a feisty one," our nurse told us. "We like feisty. We need feisty."
I try not to dwell on Isabelle's preemie story, but every so often (especially leading up to her Birthday), I take a few moments to reflect on the day she was born. It was also the day I became a mom. And so, together, with Donny, we started our family -- a bit side-tracked, and scary, but with lots of support and care all around us.
I continue to share this story with whoever will listen. Especially new moms, who may be going through it. After all, it could save a life, or two. Preemie mom life isn't easy. It certainly is NOT easy. And no one will really understand unless they've been there. A very smart neonatologist once told me to be an advocate for my daughter. Fight for her. I will always. Both of them. 
Photo: Silvana Marshall Photography
Without her even knowing, Isabelle shows us her feistiness every single day. She is determined and strong, and so smart. She's creative and analytical, piecing projects together and finding new ways to do things. (We kid she gets the creativity from me and the analytical skills from her dad) But she's silly, and funny and kind, loves bugs and snails and is the best big sister. 
And this is what we try to remind her -- on her birthday and as she goes through life. Take these amazing qualities and turn them into something and someone even more outstanding. (Like historically breaking ground on the new hospital in Vaughan!)

Isabelle, as you celebrate your 6th Birthday, 
Know that you are unique and there isn't anyone in the world who is you. Don't be afraid to try things that make you scared. We didn't really have a choice, but look what we got out of it -- you! Don't be afraid to take the lead, but collaborate fairly as well. Be kind and honest, a good friend and supportive sister. Use your skills, your voice, and your talents to do what you love, but also to help others. You can do great things in your life, and we know you will. 
And, always remember to embrace a little silly.
I love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be.

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