Miracle Baby

The births of my first two children went smooth, but the birth of my daughter was a different story.

My baby girl turns six today. There was a time where it seemed like I would never have the opportunity to say that. In fact, her birthday nearly became a horrifying experience that would have embedded a lifelong pain within myself, instead of being a day of celebration.

On April 4, 2006 my third child Nicole Alexa was born. She is the third of my three children and my only daughter - some would say a double curse. The births of my first two children went as smooth as could be imagined and both sons are healthy. The birth of my daughter was a different story.

The first signs of trouble arose shortly after my wife and I arrived at the hospital. My wife was in the hospital room and on the bed, in birthing position when the doctors did what was expected to be a routine exam. The distressed look on their faces made it clear that wasn’t the case. My wife was in labor, but only in the early stages. The doctors explained that we didn’t have time to wait until she was fully dilated. It turned out the umbilical cord had wrapped itself around the neck of my unborn daughter twice. To make matters worse every time my daughter kicked, she choked herself on the cord. Unfortunately, my daughter thought she was auditioning for the Rockettes, because she kicked often.

The scene was one of controlled chaos as everyone recognized the seriousness of the situation. The doctors pleaded with my wife to push as hard as she could, but they tried to do so in a manner that stressed the urgency of quickly getting our daughter out without causing undue additional stress on her or the baby. I stood their feeling helpless and useless. Previously, I earned points during labor by letting my wife squeeze my hand as I fed her ice chips. Now, I was relegated to the role of coach, encouraging my wife without crossing the line of being annoying.

I was 35 years old at the time and had not experienced any serious loss besides my grandfather’s passing when I was 12 when I was still too immature to grasp the full emotion that comes along with the death of a loved one. Now I found myself not only facing this situation, but it was my baby girl.

To my wife’s credit, and with the life of our daughter riding on her sheer will to push harder when her aching back and exhausted muscles told her she couldn’t, she gave it all she had. The baby was on her way out, but not all the way. Time was passing by and the doctor’s expressions made it clear we were quickly growing short of it. Finally, my daughter’s head began to crown. One nurse grabbed something that looked like a suction cup and helped her out the rest of the way.

Any semblance of relief was short lived and the pit in my stomach returned when I saw a nurse quickly scoop the baby into her hands and my daughter’s little arms dropped lifeless by each side. My memory of what happened next is fuzzy, but I do recall seeing a semi circle of medical personnel working feverishly to save my daughter’s life. Fortunately, a hearty cry would soon fill the room, but so did continued anxiety about what the next 48 hours, and my daughter’s future would hold.

The immediate fear was whether or not my daughter’s heartbeat would sustain itself at a high enough rate. Plus, she was severely jaundiced. The long term fear was whether or not she was deprived of oxygen for too long and she would incur brain damage or another ailment.

For the next week, she laid on a tiny hospital crib, multiple wires attached to her torso, while laying under flourescent bulbs to cure the jaundice and small oxygen wires pushed into her nostrils. I remember standing there, looking at her cone-shaped bald head, thanks to the suction cup, and yellow skin, and feeling numb. I was experiencing a constant sense of uneasiness but was also unsure of what to think. My mind was empty even though my heart was filled with sadness. The situation was very real, yet it seemed like it wasn’t.

Fortunately, everything worked out fine and we brought our daughter home. Not only has she not shown any affects of her harrowing birth but she actually seems to have benefitted by it, at least in my mind. Nicole is very smart for her age. And I don’t just mean in the way every parent brags about their child. She really is smart. When her kindergarden teacher hands out that month’s homework book, she completes the entire thing in thirty minutes. She is by far the best reader in her class, has a knack for numbers and math, and seems to have an exceptional memory. She has always seemed a bit ahead of the curve, which is why she earned the nickname Miracle Baby. I always credit the extra oxygen she received during her recovery.

I’ve only spoken of this moment once before, when I struggled through a stream of tears  and explained to my dad what happened when I returned home that first night to collect some things for my wife and take care of the dogs. The pain still sticks with me to the point that I almost broke down multiple times simply writing this story.

All the emotion came back earlier this week when I saw a TV news story about autism and how the rate of diagnosis in young children is rapidly increasing. Then, the next day I received a PR pitch for a book that was written by a man who was deprived of oxygen for 26 minutes after he was born and now has cerebral palsy. I instantly thought about how lucky I was that my daughter didn’t suffer a similar fate. Instead, she is as healthy and happy as you can expect from a typical six-year old girl.

Happy sixth birthday Nicole.

Boy, it feels great to be able to say that.