Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Well-Deserved Snow Day

How fortuitous to wake up this morning, the morning of Kennedy’s 13th birthday, to learn it would be a snow day. This meant both she and I would be staying home together today. I think it is a well-deserved snow day and only fitting, given the events of her original ‘birth’ day – January 27, 1998.

We were living in Pennfield at the time. It was just a few short weeks after the horrific ice storm that crippled much of Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. It was said that the ice storm of 1998 “directly affected more people than any other previous weather event in Canadian history.” Like that ice storm, another January event would forever profoundly change the course of our lives.

Knowing how quickly I had delivered my second child, Kyle (about 50 minutes start to finish), and knowing we lived about 45 minutes from the hospital, we had planned to come up to Saint John to stay with Graeme’s grandmother within a week of my due date. Kennedy, however, had other plans. She decided to make her entrance thirteen days early.

Graeme and I had settled in to bed on the night of the 26th, where we both slept soundly until about 4:15am, when I awoke with the need to use the washroom. Seeing the tell-tale pink when I was finished, I summoned Graeme with a, “You need to get up NOW!”. We prepared ourselves quickly and made our way, excitedly and apprehensively, to the car.

Believe it or not, we both remained as calm as the still dark night we were driving through on the way up to the city, despite the dwindling amount of minutes between my contractions. We made it to the hospital and my doctor was called. We were pleased he was able to make it before she was born. I believe his familiar and calm presence was one of the things that helped us through what was to come.

The labour was going very well. I was very calm, concentrating on my breathing with a musical, back and forth, conductor-like hand movement indicating the commencement and conclusion of each contraction. Graeme held my hand and comforted me throughout each one. The nurse remarked that he and I should give lessons. We all had a laugh about that. One oddity occurred that neither Graeme nor I thought much of but, I am sure, alerted knowing hospital staff that something may be not quite right. When my water broke, it kept coming. And coming. And coming. It was like Niagara Falls compared to what I’d experienced with my other two babies. (it turns out this condition, polyhydraminos, aka “lots ‘o’ water”, can be an indication that there are swallowing issues that have been present in utero ).

6:59am. The moment arrived. That moment that is simultaneously terrifying and exciting. It’s like the feeling you get as you inch up to the top of that first incline on a rollercoaster and prepare yourself for the crazy ride that will ensue once you’ve reached that apex. There’s no turning back now. And so, with very few pushes, our beautiful baby girl made her grand entrance into the arms of my family doctor. We held our breath and waited. Nothing. The only sounds in that small contrived-to-look-homey room were the scrambling noises of the nurse and my doctor as they whisked her over to a little table and began to work on her. To their credit, they were incredibly calm and reassuring, given the fact that the baby in front of them was cyanotic, her skin getting darker and darker before their eyes. “We just need to clear her nose out.” Then, “We’re going to take her down the hall to get her nose cleaned out”. That was the last thing I remembered hearing.

A half hour or so later, Graeme helped me up off the bed so I could get cleaned up. I was still laying there in the same position I’d been in since she was born. I was dressed and sitting up on the bed. We called a few people to give them the wonderful news, “It’s a girl!” “Yes, everything is fine, they are just cleaning her nose out. There was a lot of vernix. Yeah, you know, that white, thick gunk that’s all over babies when they’re born.” As the minutes passed, though, we looked at each other, still cautiously optimistic, still blissfully ignorant, but wondering what was really going on and when they’d bring her back to us.

We eventually were taken down to a room on the floor, out of the Labour and Delivery Unit. The minutes seemed to take forever as we waited for word, all the while listening to the ebb and flow of the busy floor: nurses bringing babies from the nursery to parents, babies crying, and parents caring for them.

We finally received news sometime around noon, or maybe it was a bit after that. The day from that point on becomes a little blurry for me to recollect. It seems their attempts to pass a catheter up her nostrils to clean out her nose were futile. She had a condition called ‘bilateral choanal atresia’. I remember spending much of the afternoon worrying and crying. Crying because I didn’t know what the future would hold for my beautiful daughter, crying because there was something wrong that I didn’t quite understand, crying because I’d given birth 6 or 7 hours ago and still hadn’t seen her and crying because I couldn’t even pronounce the name of the darn condition the doctor had told us.

Late in the afternoon, we finally got to go down to the neonatal intensive care unit to see her for the first time. There she was. A big, 7lb 14 oz baby, looking so huge in the little incubator next to all the preemies around her for whom the incubators were designed. She had a large black contraption in her mouth to keep it open so she could breathe from her mouth and was hooked up to what seemed like a zillion tubes and electrodes. Yet, despite all the hospital paraphernalia, she was our beautiful baby girl. I knew, in that moment when we first laid eyes on her, that our lives would be forever changed but I also knew that we would love her more than any words could ever express. We would go to the ends of Earth and back for her. No matter what was to come, we would get through it. And we did.

Fast forward to today: it is January 27th, 2011 and we have reached yet another amazing milestone. Kennedy is a teenager. She has survived 20 surgeries, hundreds of appointments and tests, hours and hours and hours of therapy and remains one of the happiest people I have met in my entire life. She is a cheerleader. She is an actor. She sings and dances. She gives speeches. She runs and jumps. She loves movies. She loves games. She loves the Wii. She loves Facebook and chatting with friends on the computer. She loves Justin Bieber and Glee. She loves her cell phone and her iPod. She has done so much more than we could have ever possibly dreamed on that very first day. She has an exuberance for life and energy that would lift the spirits of even the most cantankerous curmudgeon.

And so here we are. It is a snow day. I am a teacher and Kennedy is a student. We will be together all day today, which I feel is most deserving, considering the amount of time we spent apart on her very first day.

It is truly a gift to be her parents. She makes us happy every day.

We love you, Kennedy.
Happy 13th Birthday.