I was not my mom’s first pregnancy. She had lost a baby before me. That tragedy would make it even harder to handle the trauma of her second pregnancy: me.
I was due around August 17, 1984, but I was born June 21, 1984. I was eight weeks early.
On June 16, 1984, my mother was working the cash register at Kmart. By the time her shift ended, her ankles were completely swollen, and she was in so much pain, she could barely walk.
My dad had come to pick her up from work, like he always did. Upon evaluating his wife’s condition, he told her manager firmly that this was her last day.
My mom took it easy the rest of that day and the next. In the middle of the night on the 17th, she got up to go to the bathroom. On the way there, blood started gushing from her body.
In a panic, my dad quickly drove her to Chippenham Hospital in Richmond. On the way, my mother was having painful contractions.
At the hospital, she found out the reason why she was hemorrhaging: the placenta was tearing away from her uterus. (My mom actually has a misshapen uterus. It looks kind of like a heart because there is a wall going down the center of it.)
She got medication to stop the contractions. Throughout the night, my mom also got multiple ultrasounds to check on her unborn baby’s lungs.
She did not sleep at all that night. She was put on complete bed rest, and had to stay in the hospital for the next four days.
On the evening of the 21st, since she hadn’t had any issues, the doctors let her get up to use the bathroom on her own.
Immediately after my mom got out of bed, she started hemorrhaging again. She was rushed back to bed, and the ultrasounds started again to check my lungs. I can’t imagine how scared she must have been.
My dad was not at the hospital during that time, because he was at school. While in class, he got a prompting to go to the hospital, so he left early.
When he got there, he saw my Nana and Granddad (my mom’s parents), who had been there anyway for a visit. When he found out what was happening, phone calls were made to my aunt Kathy, my aunt Betsy, and my Grandma (my dad’s mom) to come to the hospital. Back then there were no cell phones, so it was a blessing that they all responded and could be there for my parents.
Because of her intense hemorrhaging, my rapidly decreasing heart rate, and breech position, Dr. Crooks prepared for an emergency C-section, where my mother would have to go under general anesthesia.
Before the operation, Dr. Crooks allowed one person, other than my father, to visit my mother. My aunt Betsy (my dad’s sister), and my aunt Kathy (my mom’s sister), fought over who would get to see her. My Nana remembers Kathy firmly saying,” She is my sister.” Needless to say, Kathy was the one who got to see my mom.
Sadly, nobody, not even my dad, was able to be with her during the actual C -section, but my mom wasn’t afraid. She simply pled to Dr. Crooks, “Please save my baby.”
He responded to her, “We are going to save you first.”
That was when my mother realized that not only was my life in danger, hers was too. That thought was the last thing she remembered before going under.
My dad wanted so badly to be with my mother, but he had to stay in the waiting area with everyone else. What made it even more traumatic, was that the doctor told everyone that they might lose one or both of us.
My family gathered in a circle and prayed. My Nana said she believed it was Granddad who offered that prayer.
My dad remembers crying bitterly, and then the warm embrace of his mother comforting him.
All they could do was wait, with prayers in their hearts.
Finally, they were told that I had been born, and that Mom was okay. I was born at 9:30 PM, a mere 3 pounds 10 ounces, and 17 inches long.
When my mom finally awoke from the general anesthesia, she got the wonderful news that I had survived. Her face fell, though, as she was told she wouldn’t be able to see me yet.
Dad had seen me though, and held me. He could cradle me in one large, strong hand.
He, and the rest of my family, watched as I was prepped with needles, IVs, tubes, and a u-shaped tank over my head to provide me with oxygen. Right as they were about to attach something to my heart, the curtains were closed.
I had to be rushed to MCV because there was no NICU at Chippenham Hospital. My mom was not able to see me before I was taken away.
Dad went with me in the ambulance, unable to visit my mom first. She stayed behind, enduring her intense pain and exhaustion.
When I got to MCV, I was put in an incubator. My dad was allowed to go beyond the glass in scrubs, but nobody else was.
Meanwhile, my mother’s good friend from work, Robin, also had her baby, full term. They were put in the same hospital room. The nurse brought Robin her baby and then asked my mom if she wanted hers.
Her heart aching, she said, “My baby isn’t here.”
She wasn’t able to see or hold me, but her heart was with me. She also helped me survive by pumping milk for me to be fed through a feeding tube that went down my throat into my tiny stomach, because I had not yet developed my sucking reflex. I only ate about 2 CCs of milk at a time.
I also had acid reflux and couldn’t digest food on my own. Because of that, I had to take medication. Thankfully, I never was put on a respirator, but I was given oxygen to help me breathe.
Two days after I was born, my mother finally got to go to MCV to see me. My dad drove her there, and wheeled her to me in a wheelchair.
My Nana, who had been having a lot of hemorrhaging issues herself, was scheduled for a hysterectomy that same day. Before her surgery, she watched my mother go to my bassinet to hold me for the first time.
She recalls my mother’s initial look of horror at looking at me with all my wires attached. Then, the most precious moment happened: as soon as I was placed in her arms, it was as if a switch was flipped. Her horror, in an instant, transformed to “total, perfect, and complete love.” Nana had never seen anything like it in all her life. It was such a change.
While Dad was in the room with the two girls he loved most in the world, he watched the rest of the family “cry like a baby” behind the glass as they saw this true love unfold.
Nine days after being in the hospital, my mom was finally able to go home. She and my dad came to visit me at MCV every day, and she continued to pump milk for me, until I was also healthy enough to go home. My dad recalls what “a pain” it was to drive back and forth every day, not knowing when they would be able to take me home.
They were told so many times that in just a day or so, they would be able to take me. Then, they would be told no because I wasn’t digesting well enough, and hadn’t gained enough weight.
As my parents visited MCV during that period of time, they met many families with premature babies. Babies passed away all the time. One day the parents would be there, and the next day they would be gone because their baby had not survived the night. It was heartbreaking.
After being at MCV for a month, my parents could finally take me home. I weighed in at a humble 4 pounds 5 ounces.
That same day, my mom finally had her baby shower, while my dad and aunt Kathy watched over me.
Everyone had to shop at a special preemie store to buy clothes and diapers for me. It was located right next to a friend’s, Steve Montrose’s, carpet store. To give me an idea of how small I was, my dad said my diapers were about the size of a Cabbage Patch Kid’s.
When my parents took me home, they also took home a heart monitor. I had a heart monitor at MCV too, and it constantly had to be re-calibrated, so my parents were a little anxious. There was a Velcro band that had to be wrapped around me, with wires attached. I slept with the wires underneath my little sleepers.
The reason I need the monitor was because I had sleep apnea. My parents were told to shake my leg any time the monitor went off and I stopped pumping blood.
At first, the heart monitor went off all the time, scaring my parents to death. They got no sleep that first night because they were so worried about me. They were so relieved that I made it through that first night. It was actually hard for them to sleep any night. Every time that monitor went off, they ran and checked on me. I had this monitor for six months! My dad told me that my little chest was concaved from having that band around me all that time.
My health was not the only thing that heavily burdened my parents. They also went into huge debt after my birth. My mom had gotten pregnant before their health insurance went into effect, so when she had me, her hospital bills were not covered. Luckily, mine were because I was an emergency delivery. My parents would receive many calls and letters from collection agencies, causing them a lot of stress.
My mother reminisced with me about her feelings during this time of new motherhood. She had been only 22 years old, dealing with the anxiety of having a premature baby who needed so much care. She pondered on how she could have lost her life in the delivery room. She felt so blessed to be alive and to still have me. She said I wasn’t even as small as some of the babies born later term than me. She had been told that baby girls are stronger and fight more, so she was so glad I had been a daughter.
She tried to nurse me after bringing me home, but it was so hard since I had never nursed before. By then, I had gotten used to a bottle. My mom was so worried I would lose weight and go back to the hospital, she started me on formula. Thankfully, I slowly started to thrive.
When I was two months old, Dad gave me my baby blessing at church. My Nana and Granddad had purchased my beautiful blessing gown from the preemie store. Of course, my family thought I looked beautiful, but my dad remembers an audible gasp in the congregation when he held me up.
I continued to grow, though, and at six months old, I no longer needed my heart monitor.
To celebrate my new freedom, Nana and Granddad presented me with a huge, and super soft polar bear – the softest stuffed animal they had ever felt.
Nana remembers when I first saw it, I looked at it like, “What am I supposed to do with that?” She chuckled softly as she thought about that moment.
I thrived, and my mom said I ended up being as big and chunky as her friend, Robin’s, son, who had been born full term on the same day.
Apparently, I also got prettier. A friend of my family, Gisela Tetterton, said that I was the prettiest baby she had ever seen.
Nana said that I grew quickly because I had a very strong spirit. Physically, because of my underdeveloped esophagus, I could have easily died. But, I didn’t. She is sure it is because of my spirit.
To her, it has been evident ever since. I have always been determined to be what I wanted. That strong spirit still remains, Nana says, a spirit equaled only by my mother’s spirit.
Nana said that my mom was determined that I would survive so that she could love and rear me. She was willing to have more children, even though she had miscarried her first baby, and almost lost me.
Nana confidently said that there was no way, with the combination of her daughter’s mental and spiritual capacities that things wouldn’t have turned out beautifully.
She lovingly told me that I am spiritually strong like my mother. My mom had just come that way, just like me. Nana believes that is because she was pregnant with my mother the day she was sealed in the LDS temple to Granddad, and her first baby, Danny. She always felt having her there in the womb had something to do with mom’s spiritual side.
My Nana knows how to make me cry. Her love is pure and strong. She told me that she treasures all of the pictures of me as a baby laughing and smiling, especially at her and Granddad. Because of the situation surrounding my birth, Nana has always had a sweet spot for me. My whole life, we have sung “I love you, a bushel and a peck” to each other. She is just as special to me as I am to her.
I know my parents were grateful for all the help my grandparents and other family members gave to them in my very difficult first several months of life.
When I was 1 year old, MCV had a reunion at Maymont Park in Richmond. For my parents, it was wonderful to be reunited with the nurses that had loved me and taken such good care of me. I hadn’t even been the smallest baby they had ever seen, which only reiterated what a miracle it was that I lived.
When I was in the hospital, my parents were told that I could have mental or physical disabilities from being born so early, but another miracle is, I never did. I grew up healthy and happy.
To this day, I have scars on my hands and feet from the IVs. My mother still has a very crooked scar on her lower abdomen from her emergency C-section. My parents have a joke that Dr. Crooks “couldn’t cut a straight line.”
These scars are something to be grateful for, to hold sacred. They are a memory of God saving two lives, one of them being mine. I will eternally be grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to live on earth, and to be raised by such loving parents.
I have never been so grateful for my parents as I am now, now that I have finally heard all of their memories of my birth, and the first very difficult six months of my life.
My dad told me that when I was two, I never went to bed when I was told. I got out of bed so many times, and often I would be found sleeping at the foot of my parents’ bed. I remember doing that when I was older too. I am sure it was because of the true love I felt for my parents, knowing their love and devotion kept me alive and nourished me into a healthy little girl.
I am so happy that they took a great leap of faith to have more babies after me. My life has been blessed beyond measure by having siblings.
Eddie and Laura Thacker have helped me become the woman I am today. I am so grateful for their examples and for all they do for me and my sweet family now.
Most of all, I am grateful to be alive, when it makes no sense that I am. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan and a mission for me. I owe it to Him to serve Him my whole life, and serve His children. I hope to help save souls just as He has saved my life.