Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Christy!

Dear Christy,

January 23, 1977 was a day that we will never forget! It was 34 years ago this morning, at 2:36 a.m., that you entered this world, and what an entrance that was! You arrived 6 weeks early and it became apparent very quickly, that you weren't quite ready for your debut.

In 1977, ultrasound was very new. My doctor sent me to have an ultrasound and when it was over, they told us that they were gathering data so that someday they might be able to tell the sex of the baby. I asked if they had any guesses about you and they technician just smiled and said, "What are you hoping for?" and I said a girl would be nice. She just smiled and said "You might be very happy in a couple months."

The Saturday night before you were born, I was not feeling very well, and at 10:03 p.m., the first labor pain hit me. For about an hour I tried to ignore them, but by 11:30, they were coming regularly, about 5 minutes apart. By 12:30, we decided it was time to call the doctor. She said that we should go to the hospital.

When I walked down the stairs to get in the car, it felt like you were going to drop out before I got to the garage. Well, you decided to stay in, and we went ahead and dropped Alan off at Grandma and Grandpa's house on the way to the hospital.

Great Grandma Letha holding you for the first time

We got the hospital, the old Adventist hospital on 60th and Belmont, and made our way to the basement. They had built a new hospital and moved all but the maternity ward. It was like being in an old abandon building. I got settled in, prepped and my doctor arrived, checked me out and said, "I guess we'd better get this baby out." If it were today, the doctor probably would have prescribed some anti-contraction meds and put me on bed rest. But, in the good old days, the doctor didn't want to waste a trip to the hospital, so a C-section it was!

I hope all these black and white photos don't make you feel too old!

The anesthesiologist came in my room, administered a spinal block, and in a few minutes, I was moved to a make-shift surgery room. The pediatrician arrived to complete the team, and it was time to get you out and into the world. In those days, the fathers didn't get to be part of the birthing process, so Dad was out in the waiting room, and it was just you and me. But, I couldn't wait to meet you!

In a few minutes, the doctor said, "Congratulations, you have a little girl!"

I was so happy that you were a girl! But, I didn't hear any baby sounds, so I finally said, "Is my baby OK?" And then my lights went out...I will let Dad pick pick up the story.

Dad: If ever there was a picture of the pacing father-to-be, it was me. After I kissed your mom and watched her being wheeled down the hall, I went into full-on pacing mode. After a few minutes, there seemed to be increasing levels of activity coming and going from the area your mom had been taken to. I kept asking about her and our baby, but no one would say anything except you'll have to wait for the doctor. Finally, I saw our pediatrician and a whole cluster of medical staff huddled over a small crib and half-running down the hall. I fell in behind them and asked if our baby was OK. I got no answer as the elevator doors shut between us.

Christy and Ivan

Dad: I took the next elevator to the nursery area and anxiously watched and waited. I had no idea what was happening, but the intensity of those caring for you, made it very obvious that you were in trouble. After a couple of hours, the doctor finally stepped out into the hall and found me. He told me that you were a girl, and explained that you were born premature and were not able to breath well on your own. They used a hand ventilator to assist you after you were born, but did not have neonatal ventilators to assist your breathing.

Dad: In 1977, hospitals in Portland, were surprisingly primitive. The most basic life support systems for infants were only to be found at the Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Center. The doctor said they would do all they could, but they needed to get you on a ventilator at OHSU. Unfortunately, there was a waiting list to get a bed once one became available, and you were #2 on the list. Somehow you seemed to know that you needed to fight. I would stand by your bed and talk to you and tell you what a great job you were doing -- you just laid completely still and kept breathing. The nurses would come and draw another sample of blood, and you didn't cry or stir, you just kept breathing. You were beautiful, and I was so proud of you (and worried)!

I woke up some time later and found myself recovering from surgery in a storage closet. I mean there were brooms, a cleaning cart, paper goods and janitorial supplies. I called out, "Hello, Is anyone around here?" A nurse finally came in and said I wasn't supposed to be awake yet. I said, "I just want to see my baby!" After what seemed like a very long time, they took me upstairs and as we passed by the nursery, the nurse stopped next to the window. I saw you and I said "That is my baby! She looks just like me!" That was my only glimpse of you until 24 hours later when I was finally able to get into a wheel chair, with all my bottles and tubes, and a nurse pushed me down to the nursery.

Dad: I spent most of the time standing over your bed. You had beautiful long fingers. You hung in there and just kept on breathing. When they would need to work on you, they would send me out, and I would go find your Mom and try to give her some care. Through a series of events, you got moved to the top of the waiting list when a bed became available at OHSU. All you had to do was hang on until the Team arrived with the specially equipped mobile neonatal care center came to transfer you. A doctor, a respiratory specialist, a couple of neonatal RN's and the ambulance attendants all arrived at about midnight on your second day.

Dad: By daybreak, you were ready to move and the trip across town began. I didn't know where they were taking you at the OHSU campus, so I followed close and wouldn't let you out of my sight. When we got there, the ambulance driver threatened me and told me how I shouldn't have followed them. I paid no attention to him...I only cared about you. I walked away from him while he was still sputtering.

Dad: Within an hour you were settled into your new bed and resting while the respirator did your breathing for you. You looked very relieved. I know your mom and I were!

Dad: Every day, I was at the hospital by your side. As the shifts would change, all of the neonatal doctors and nurses and respiratory specialists would meet with the new shift to pass on the information of the day. Each group would smile when they came to your bed and say, "This is Christy, our miracle baby!" Each day you grew stronger and in 7 days (not 6 months as we had been told when you arrived), we were taking you home.

    Because I had a C-section, and it was 1977, the doctors kept you in the hospital for a full week to recover. You were about 10 miles away from me, so I would listen to every word your dad said as he updated me on how you were doing. They also gave me a phone number that I could call anytime, night or day, to find out how you were doing. I hadn't been able to hold you yet, and that is very hard for a new mom.

    They put me at the opposite end of the floor, away from the moms and babies, probably so that we couldn't hear the babies cry. I was in a room with a first time mom that had a premature baby an hour after me, and her baby didn't make it. After the first two days, I told them I didn't want any more pain medicine. I knew that as long as I was having shots of Demerol and other meds, they would never let me leave the hospital and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I convinced my very old fashioned doctor to let me leave the hospital on the day you were 4 days old. Dad picked me up and drove me right to the hospital. We still couldn't hold you, but we could touch you and talk to you.

    Your diaper was too big for little you

    You had been too sick for them to weigh you when you were born, but they estimated that you weighed around 5 lbs. Your weight dropped to around 4 1/2 lbs, but you started gaining, and put on weight everyday. Many people were praying for you during that week and the doctors and nurses said they had never had a baby that turned around so fast. The day your were five days old, I got to hold you for the first time.

    Holding you for the first time

    By your sixth day, all the support systems and other attachments had been taken off. You were completely free. They said that we could take you home on your seventh day. The nurses and doctors were so happy! They cried when it was time for us to take you home and asked us to come and visit so they could see you grow.

    You slept with your eyes partly open when you were younger
    We took you back up there several times during your first year, but it was just for a visit. The doctors and nurses were still talking about "Christy, the miracle baby!"

    We took you up there every year on your birthday until you were about 7 years old, and then you told us you didn't want to go up there again because it made you feel sick, listening to people talk about how sick you had been and how fast the "miracle baby" had recovered. We didn't take you again after that until you were much older.

    They thought you might be smaller that other kids your age, but you weren't!

    Your brother was 15 months old when I got pregnant with you. When we found out I was pregnant, we were so happy! We wanted our kids to be close in age so that you could grow up together and become great friends for life. You ended up 23 months apart in age and I'm so happy that you are still great friends.

    Hardly a day has passed to this day, that we do not think about our how thankful we are that you graced our lives with your presence. We have always been proud of our Christy, our daughter. You are talented, beautiful, intelligent and the wonderful mother of our two grandboys, Wiley and Ivan.

    Christmas 2011

    Even though your are all grown up and have kids of your own, you will always be our "baby!"

    Happy Birthday! 

    We love you!


    1. Amazing! How have I never heard this story? What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful daughter!

    2. Beautiful story and such a testimony to the power of prayer and love!