Miracles and Tragedies Walk Hand-in-Hand Through the Hallways of a NICU
September is NICU Awareness Month, and it’s been almost five years since I’ve been in one. I’ll be honest, these memories, no matter how long it’s been, are still so fresh.
Miracles and tragedies walk hand-in-hand through the hallways of a NICU, and in my case, I experienced both with my twins simultaneously: as one was fighting for their life, the other was letting go.
The moments leading up to their birth were pretty laid out — they were not going to make it. We couldn’t stop the labor and Abigail’s foot was already in the birth canal. From the look on the ultrasound tech’s face to the phone call from the neonatologist who was on his way — tragedy was inevitable. I remember him saying, “I have to prepare you, because they are just too small and the chances of survival are not in their favor. I can’t play God and by law, I am not required to save them. I will assess them and do my best to save them.” All while I was bawling my eyes out and scared beyond belief, reality was setting in.
I was 23 weeks, three days gestation. They were not due to come into this world for another 16 weeks. This was my first pregnancy, and I had twins. I had absolutely no idea a world like this existed, and that my life was about to change forever.
Olivia and Abigail were born via emergency c-section on November 13, 2012. Abigail came first at just under a pound with the softest cry, and Olivia came right after weighing one-pound, one-ounce.
So much of that night is a blur because it all happened so fast. The one thing I remember was the doctor telling me Abigail was not going to make it, and that they were rushing Olivia to the NICU. While I was being stapled up, my family would be able to hold my daughter while she took her last breath.
My sweet angel, Abigail Rae, went to be with Jesus an hour after she was born. By the time I came out of recovery, she had passed. They laid her on my chest and I held her until the pain of saying goodbye became unbearable. A joyous moment for so many became a tragedy for me.
That night they kept me on the same floor as the rest of the mothers who delivered, and as the newborn babies would cry, so would I — as I laid there without my own babies.
It had been eight hours since they rushed Olivia to the NICU, and I didn’t even get a moment to meet her.
As I was wheeled down the long hallways of the hospital, the anticipation to see her was building. The fear of not knowing what her outcome would be, coupled with the loss of Abigail, was all too debilitating. They were created as two, and now tragically one. How can you think of one, without thinking of her twin? You can’t, it’s impossible.
We entered the doors of the NICU and it was like I stepped into a foreign world — one I didn’t even know existed, until now. A washing station greeted me, in which I’d scrub my hands and fingernails clean, throw on a new hospital gown and proceed in. There, I would see a small room filled with isolettes hooked up to wires and machines everywhere, with micro-preemies fighting for their lives inside. I managed to get the strength to walk to hers. The pain of my c-section was nothing in comparison to the pain of not being able to see or hold my babies.
The very moment I laid my eyes on her is a memory that will be engraved in my mind forever. I started sobbing uncontrollably. I never would have imagined she’d look the way she did, especially because Abigail did not. That, and I never thought I’d have to see my baby through a tear-stained plexi-glass box.
She was tiny. So tiny that she’d fit in the palm off my hands. Her weight had dropped to 15 ounces, and was 10 ¾” long — not even the size of a ruler or the weight of a stick of butter. Her eyelids fused shut as her eyes were meant to be growing in my womb for another 5 weeks before they could open. Her skin was translucent, with not an ounce of fat. With her blood vessels visible, and her tiny lungs being filled with oxygen, she looked like a baby bird that had fallen out of a nest. My sweet miracle baby was barely holding on. She lay there lifeless, looking as if death was the only option. The nurses, doctors, and specialists would brief me one after another. My mind overloaded, and my heart broken — the prognosis did not look anywhere near good with only a 15 percent chance of survival.
The night before when I held Abigail in my arms, I unswaddled her. I kissed her tiny fingers and toes while I said my goodbyes. I wanted to remember every inch of her. She had not a scratch or bruise on her entire body. Abigail looked angelic; tiny yet perfect. So much so, that when I finally got to see Olivia, I was in shock. Abigail was the one who was sick. She was twin A. She came first and we later found out her sac was the one that had carried the infection, which forced my body into preterm labor. So how in the world could Olivia look worse than her?
Everything about it didn’t make sense, until it did, so many miracles later. I believe God’s plans don’t always make sense to us in formation, and if I trust him enough, only in reflection. I believe in my heart it was apart of God’s plan to give me twins, because he knew only Olivia would survive in the NICU that day. If Abigail, my beautiful angel baby did not sacrifice her life for her sister, Olivia would not be here. Olivia continues to raise prematurity awareness with her testimony and defying all the odds that were medically placed against her, miraculously.
A version of this post appeared on Little Miss Dessa.
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