“Malia Mei: A Courageous Birth” is a memoir by Michael Moline, a college instructor, loving husband and devoted father, that includes his recollection of the joy, fear, and hardships leading up to and following the unexpected premature birth of his daughter. Jelly Bean Journals is honored to share their story in this multi-part, bi-weekly series.
MALIA MEI: A Courageous Birth
by Michael Moline
At the hospital in Casper:
I arrived at the hospital after what felt like an hour (the drive should take about 10 minutes from Casper College). I suppose it probably took 12; I’m sure I was being melodramatic, but honestly, in a situation like this, any car in the way, red light, or pothole is enough to set a man off his rocker. I made my way to labor and deliver and rang the bell to be allowed in. I let the security officer on the other side know who I was and my wife’s name. “There is no one in here by that name” he replied. “Uhhhhh….” Was about all I could muster at that point. “These records are as of 7 minutes ago” he said. “Well, my wife called, told me her water broke and to meet her at the hospital” I replied, cognizant of the fact that it took me “forever” to arrive and my wife works about 4 seconds away from the hospital. “I suppose I can look again” he said, followed quickly by “oh, it looks like she is here. We just admitted her. Go on in.”
As annoying as that little chat was, I was over it in an instant. I had to get to Cherry’s room and see what was going on. Sure enough, her water had broken, she was dilated to a 2, and felt some other signs of labor. Since the hospital in Casper is not equipped to treat a 32 week baby, the plan was to “life flight” Cherry to Denver in case this baby made her way out. Additionally, Cherry was given magnesium to try to stop the labor. As I sat with her, we were able to get Ariah out of school, thanks to Sophea (Cherry’s brother) picking her up, and Theresa (her close friend) was able to come over and stay with us. While waiting for the life flight crew and Cherry’s OB Gyn, we made as many arrangements as we could for Ariah to be taken care of and for me to gather items to bring to Denver. Eventually, after a couple hours, I left to gather items from home and drive to Denver.
I was not aware at the time, but as it turns out, while I was gathering items and driving, Cherry’s labor intensified. She was just about certain that she would have the baby in Casper. The life flight crew was late due to plane troubles, and the magnesium didn’t seem to completely do its job. However, the moment the crew showed up at the hospital, the labor stopped and Cherry was able to keep our baby safe and sound in her uterus, at least for the time being. I of course, did not know the whole story and feared the possibility of our baby being born at 20,000 feet (or however high those medical planes fly).
Driving to Denver:
The trip to Denver was filled with many mixed emotions: fear, relief, anxiety, joy, sluggishness. The fear and anxiety, I think, are quite obvious. I was afraid of baby being born in an unsafe situation. I was anxious to know what was happening. Relief, joy, and sluggishness though? Well, these were my selfish reactions. I was relieved to be driving as opposed to flying in a small airplane. I’m afraid in big, safe, comfortable jets. A small aircraft taking me to Denver would just about give me a heart attack. Joy? Well heck, I was potentially about to be a father of a new, beautiful baby girl! Despite all my fears, this was a joyous thought! And as far as the sluggishness, well, I was just really, really tired and had been through a lot over the past few hours. It was hard to maintain focus on driving. On top of all the aforementioned emotions, I piled on a heap of melancholy as I made the long, slow drive to Denver. I of course eventually made it through and arrived in Denver a few hours later.
Arriving in Denver:
Who knew that hospitals were so big? Apparently, typing the Presbyterian, St. Luke’s Hospital into my GPS was not specific enough to find my wife who may or may not have delivered a sub 32 week old baby in a tiny airplane. Luckily, the hospital in Casper provided some papers, one of which had directions to the hospital. So after circling around the hospital, trying to figure out an appropriate place to park, I pulled over, took a look at the old fashioned directions and followed them into a parking lot that I got to know very well over the next few weeks. Upon parking, I entered the elevator foyer, passed a custodian, and pressed the button to go up to the main lobby and waited. And waited. And then I waited a bit more. At this point I figured out it would be appropriate to read the signs posted everywhere informing me that the elevators will not work for anyone except employees after 8:00 pm. As I took one step away from the shaft, toward the security phone to ask to go up, the custodian decided to swipe his badge and let me in the elevator. Thanks.
I was able to quickly find my wife on the third floor (those directions from the Casper hospital sure knew the right place to take me). Upon entering the room, I was relieved to see my still pregnant wife receiving care from the nurse. She explained that their hope is for Cherry to stay pregnant as long as possible, but they will not stop labor. They are in fact equipped to treat a 32 week baby. In the meantime, it’s steroid shots for baby’s lungs and antibiotics to prevent infection- a common consequence of a premature amniotic sac rupture.
Weekend in Denver:
The immediate goals for Cherry were to: 1) stay pregnant for 24 hours, 2) stay pregnant for 48 hours, and 3) stay pregnant as long as possible. This was because, in addition to taking antibiotics to prevent infection, she was receiving the steroid shots which could potentially mature the baby’s lungs significantly. The lungs are the last organ to fully develop and are of high concern for premature babies. If Cherry could stay pregnant through the course of the steroid treatment, the baby would be much more likely to handle breathing with minimal support after birth. Then, of course, the longer she could stay pregnant after that, the better.
Cherry reached those goals through the weekend and it was frankly, quite pleasant. Despite the possibility of going into labor at any time, I never actually believed she would once we were out of the woods Friday night. I tried my best to treat this weekend as an opportunity to relax and have a bit of a vacation away from home. Sophea and Theresa were taking turns watching Ariah in Casper so Cherry and I got to relax a little bit in Denver. It wasn’t exactly a vacation, but we watched some Netflix (Fuller House), took some naps, and enjoyed a mostly quiet weekend.
This was true for most of the weekend. Unfortunately, on Friday night the nurse applied what could only be described as a sleep deprivation machine to Cherry’s legs. She said it was used to compress the legs and facilitate blood flow for folks on bed rest. It did so once ever 1-2 minutes and was one of the loudest hospital devices I’ve heard. We got little to no sleep that night, but she was not required to wear it after that night because she was allowed to get up and move from time to time instead. Once the sleep deprivation machine was removed, we got some good rest, while hoping for baby to stay put as long as possible.
Work all week:
Sunday afternoon came around and it was time to head home to take care of Ariah. I got home just in time to put her to bed for the first time in a few days, which was nice. But I quickly learned the challenges of being a single parent. Ariah woke up five or six times throughout the night coughing, crying, and trying to spit up into the toilet. I went to work Monday morning exhausted. It turned out to be a rough week for many reasons.
I happened to have a busy work week between meetings and the specific material we were covering in different classes. I was spending most every free minute playing catch up and staying afloat throughout the week.
Ariah’s cough did not get any better over the next few days. She was up throughout the night Monday and Tuesday as well. Wednesday, we had a doctor’s appointment to look at some bumps on her leg which turned out to be a common virus. The only problem was they typically go away in 18 months… awesome. At least we got to have her cough looked at as well. The doctor said this was also viral and it needed to run its course. He provided a suggestion for over the counter medication to help her mitigate her cough and sleep better. She did, but still woke up at night a couple times over the next few days.
On top of the issues above, I was learning the trials and tribulations of single parents. While Cherry was on bed rest in Denver, I got the duties of taking care of all of Ariah’s needs. It turns out, cutting the parents in half equals about twice as much work. I guess the math checks out. Perhaps polygamists aren’t so crazy after all.
On top of all of that, there was a lot of packing to do. Cherry, trying to live in a hospital room, slowly kept adding to her list of items she needed brought to her. We confirmed that you often don’t know what you need until you need it. So every night I found myself packing a new bra, comb, or whatever into her bag. Additionally, I had to have a bag ready in case she went into labor and another bag ready for when Ariah and I would leave for the weekend if she did not go into labor. This was honestly one of the most difficult weeks of my life, as I hadn’t yet reached the point in my life where highly trained medical professionals would lead me to believe my baby would not survive. That moment was not too far away though.
Come back in two weeks to pick up on the next part of Malia Mei: A Courageous Birth.
Stock photo from Unsplash.
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