Nine years ago today, I woke up ecstatic to be the mother of three children. Three, healthy, happy, adorable babies. I was feeling very blessed! Avery had been delivered by a scheduled C-section the morning before, and Mr. Level-Headed and I were still giggling about how easy his delivery was compared to our other two nightmares that wound up being emergency C-sections.
Avery was born at 8:01 am. I remember sitting in one of the delivery rooms with Mr. Level-Headed, sans pain, and laughing about the fact that we were going to be holding our Avery in half an hour. It was surreal! We had decided not to find out the gender of our third baby because Mr. Level-Headed enjoys the surprise. My only complaint about not knowing the gender was that I really liked knowing the baby's name while I was pregnant with them, and so, in his typical level-headedness, Mr. Level-Headed suggested we call the baby Avery, whether it was a boy or a girl. It worked for me!
When Avery was born and they announced he was a boy, I was shocked! I was convinced that the little bundle I had been carrying around for nine months was a girl.
Are you sure, Derrick?
Yes, I am.
Although, it was a surprise to me to have another boy, I was thrilled with my new son. He was absolutely perfect! We spent Avery's first day showing him off to his siblings and holding him very close. Mr. Level-Headed and I cried many times that day, rejoicing in the fact that our little family was finally all together.
When I woke up the next morning, I thought to myself:
This is going to be the best birthday ever!
Derrick was going to come to the hospital that afternoon with Zoe and Elliot. Unfortunately, I still could not stand up after my c-section. Every time I attempted it, I would get dizzy and faint; therefore, I was bed-ridden. The nurse came in and helped me clean myself up as best as we could. Then she brought Avery to me, all bathed and ready to nurse. After he finished nursing, I held him at arms' reach and told him all about our family and how excited we were to get to know him. Then he did something strange. Avery's arm started to pump rhythmically. Newborns do some silly things and so I scrambled to think if my other babies had ever done this before, but I couldn't remember. Finally, it stopped. I chalked it up to newborn weirdness and carried on talking to him. Then he did it again, but this time, his foot pumped along with his arm. I was scared. I rang the nurse's bell and asked her to come to my room. When she arrived, Avery had stopped his "dance". I explained to her what he was doing, and she told me to contact her if he did it again. I sat there in the room all alone with my boy, praying it was over. Then he did it again. I rang the bell and thankfully, this time he was still going when the nurse arrived. She scooped him up immediately, and told me she was going to take him to the nurses' station to get someone to check him out.
He's going to be okay.
and she walked briskly out of the room. My heart sank when I realised that she had turned left heading down towards Neonatal rather than turning right to the nurses' station.
I immediately began to cry. I was terrified. I was alone, and I did not know what was wrong with my baby.
Then Mr. Level-Headed popped his head in the door with the kids. I lost it. I sobbed and told him all about what had just happened. Luckily, my mom was in the hospital that day. I can't remember if she was there because she was working or if she was there as a support to my aunt, whose husband was undergoing surgery that morning. Whatever the reason, Mr. Level-Headed took the kids down to her, explained what was going on, and had her take them home. He then came back up to me, and we sat there in the room, crying and consoling one another. Then I stopped. I stopped crying. Mr. Level-Headed left me for a moment to phone his parents, and I got angry. Laying in my hospital bed, I got angry with God. I prayed to him and yelled at him..
How could you do this to my baby! My kids are off-limits! Don't mess with my kids. We are done! I don't need you any more. You clearly don't care about us.
And then this eery calm came over. I felt strong. I felt confident. I resolved at that moment that no matter what the outcome would be, I was going to be the best mother I could be to that little boy even if it for just a few more hours.
In my naivete, I failed to realise that even though I had just turned my back on God, He had not turned his back on me. He was right there with me, the whole time. He was the source of this peace I was experiencing. He was the source of my strength.
After what felt like an eternity, we were invited to come down to the Neonatal unit to see Avery. Mr. Level-Headed put me in a wheel chair and wheeled me down the hall. There he was, stripped down, connected to wires, and laying in an incubator. I did not cry. The nurses explained that they did not know what was wrong, and that he needed to undergo some tests: a MRI, a spinal tap (eek!) and a couple others that I am unable to remember.
My only response was:
Can I nurse him?
In my shock, this was all I could process at the time. I just wanted to care for him as best as I could. In my delirium, I thought that if I could nurse him, I could cure him; I could make him all better.
The nurses assured me I could and that they would call me when he was hungry. That first night was all a blur for me. He was a nursing machine. I would nurse him for 20 minutes and he would fall back to sleep. Then I would return to my room. Since I was still unable to stand, Mr. Level-Headed had to stay with me and wheel me down every time they called. Our phone rang every hour on the hour. The nurses laughed.
He is a very hungry little boy. We can feed him if you want to get some sleep.
No. I need to do this for him.
I really did not know how long I was going to have Avery and so I did not want to lose even one precious moment. All through the night, I was wheeled back and forth from our room to the unit. I nursed my baby, while Mr. Level-Headed napped in a chair beside us. I talked to him. I changed him. I held him close, but I never cried.
Two days later, we finally met with Dr. Meek. As soon as I saw him, I could not hold it in any longer. The tears began to stream down my face. I could not control myself. I remember one of the nurses coming up to me, and exclaiming:
Finally, you are crying! You really scared us.
Dr. Meek then explained to us that Avery had suffered a stroke in the left side of his brain and that this was what had caused his seizures. He could not tell us what impact the stroke would have on him. He did not know if Avery would have another stroke. He did not know why Avery had a stroke. He did not know when the seizures would stop, and he did not know what affect they would have on him.
Can I nurse him?
Well, yes. Yes, you can.
Again, this was all I could process.
I nursed Avery the entire week we were in the Neonatal unit. I was convinced that this would help him to heal.
And the amazing thing was that he did heal.
Three days later, they scanned Avery's brain again and they could no longer see where the stroke had occurred. Dr. Meek explained to us that in the first forty-eight hours of life, your brain is the busiest it will ever be, and thanks to all the flurry of synapses firing off and making connections, Avery's newborn brain had rewired itself. His seizures had stopped and after seven days of intense examination and worry-filled, sleepless nights, we were sent home. I never thought the day would come that I would get to carry Avery into our home and raise him alongside our other children.
After the kids had shown Avery all their toys and all the rooms in our house, I carried him upstairs to change him. The minute I walked into our bedroom, I began to cry again. Being the amazing husband Mr. Level-Headed is, he had rearranged our bedroom to include the futon that Zoe and Elliot slept on together.
I just thought you would like us all to be together.
Yes, this is exactly what I need. Thank you!
And so for the first few months, until I was quite confident that Avery was not going anywhere, we all slept together in that cosy, little bedroom. It was there that I began my journey as a mother of three. It was there that I realised just how blessed I was to have these four remarkable people in my life. And it was there, that I began to forgive God.
Avery, as I told your sister on her birthday, it is hard to imagine, but I love you even more today than I did nine years ago, when I first laid eyes on you.
Happy Belated Birthday, Baby!
We have always been able count on you for a laugh, or a really good scare!