“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
Driving to Denver with Ariah:
The summer prior to Malia’s birth, I decided to make a road trip to Sycamore, as I had done several times prior to Ariah’s birth. But it would be a bit trickier this time around; I would have a 2 year old to bring with on the 15 hour drive… each way. Luckily, my mom was willing to fly to Casper and drive back with us. Moreover, my friend Laura, who lived in Omaha (a bit over halfway from Casper to Sycamore) invited us to stop at her house for a night on the way and split our drive into 2. Cherry then flew to Chicago toward the end of the trip and drove back to Casper with us, stopping to see her friend Jessica in Sioux Falls as well as Rapid City on the way back to break up the drive.
During the visit to Sycamore, my friend Ben clued us into a cool, new (to us) concept to help reinforce positive behavior with the kiddos. They were using “praise balls.” The concept was simple. If one of the kiddos did something praise worthy, Ben or his wife Melissa would place a ball in their cup. When the cup was full, that kid would get a prize or activity of their choosing.
We modified the concept and created a “star board” upon returning home. We gave Ariah a star for doing specific things we were hoping she would do (taking a good nap or sleeping through the night without fighting us, finishing her meals, playing alone for an extended period, trying something new, amongst other things). During the week prior to the drive, Ariah was 2 “bedtime stars” away from earning a new tablet. I badly wanted her to earn those stars during that week because of the nature of the prize she was working toward. A new tablet in her hands would likely help keep me sane during the 4 hour drive to Denver. Early in the week, things did not look promising due to her cough. But the Benadryl that Dr. Vignari recommended for the cough helped her sleep away twice during the week, thus allowing Ariah to earn her tablet and hopefully keep her entertained during our long road trips to Denver.
I think Ariah would have actually been fine without that tablet, but it helped. Either way, she was a pure champ, taking a good nap, spending quiet time to herself, watching a couple videos and playing on her new tablet. I couldn’t have asked her to be any better on the road trip and she earned a “bonus star” upon returning home that following Sunday.
Weekend in Denver with Ariah:
It was nice to be able to bring Ariah to Denver this time around. Cherry missed her greatly and I was able to get a bit of a break from time to time, usually so I could run some errands. With Cherry being on bed rest, she couldn’t take on too much of the responsibility chasing Ariah around, but here and there was acceptable and a welcomed break. Most of the time I went out, however, I took Ariah with me. She was getting pretty stir crazy in the hospital room throughout the weekend. And we certainly had several opportunities to get out. Cherry had been ordering hospital cafeteria food all week and was craving something different each meal. The rational thing to do would be for me to go out and get her meal, have her order room service (free for her) and swap upon my return. But how could I pass up pho, Maggiano’s, and the like?
Aside from trips to the store and restaurants, we mostly had a lazy weekend, relaxing and trying to keep Ariah entertained. The climax of the weekend came on Sunday when we were able to have some family pictures taken.
Cherry had been so excited to have professional maternity pictures taken. They were scheduled for this particular Saturday in Casper. Of course, we were stuck in Denver and out of luck. Or were we? Theresa, such a wonderful friend knew just how much Cherry wanted those pictures taken. Theresa called several photographers in the Denver area, searching for someone to take our pictures. She found one who was more excited to accept than we were to receive. She had a child who was born premature and felt a personal connection to our situation. She did a wonderful job taking many pictures with many different settings. We walked around different areas outside the hospital and took several within Cherry’s room. They came out beautifully. Moreover, she was so passionate about helping us that she would not accept payment for her services. We were grateful, gracious, and feeling good… at least for a little while.
Ariah and I got out of town around 3:30 on Sunday, giving us plenty of time to get home, unpack a few items and get to bed. Ariah fell asleep as soon as we got out of the city on and on the interstate, sleeping for nearly 2 hours. The last 2 hours of the trip were also simple as she was just as well behaved as she was on the way down. We got home slightly after 8:00 pm and I was happy despite knowing the struggles ahead in the following week (the whole being a single parent thing). I figured I was getting use to the responsibilities of the week before and the week to come. It wouldn’t be so bad. But 11 hours later things would change. 6 hours after that, my world would collapse.
Come back in two weeks to pick up on the next part of Malia Mei: A Courageous Birth.
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