“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
Weekend. Check out my new crib:
On Friday, Malia’s bilirubin was low enough and body temperature stable enough that she was moved from the incubator to a crib. The transition occurred while being held for the first time by her grandmother. In the evening she cooled down quite a bit and was threatening to keep her temperature too low, forcing her to go back into the incubator. But when we woke up Saturday morning and went to visit her, she was indeed still in her crib with slightly low, but high and stable enough temperatures to stay put. She did require 2 hats and 3 blankets, but being able to stay in the crib was worth it. It was amazing how easy swaddling became once I wasn’t forced to stick my hands through 2 little holes to get to her.
On Saturday morning, my mom flew back to Chicago, leaving us without a babysitter, but with an extra bed and a better chance to get some rest. Cherry and I had to start taking turns going in to see Malia, as Ariah was still not able to enter the NICU due to their flu season regulations (that no one under 14 years of age could enter).
Sunday night, Malia had a bradycardia episode that lasted about 30 seconds. Hearing about this had me awfully concerned because Cherry also mentioned one that only lasted a few seconds while she was around. I was hoping this would not become a pattern and something to worry about. The nursing staff assured us that this is relatively normal in premature babies and the Sunday night episode was the only significant one to date. Chances were, it was due to some reflux after eating and as she got closer to her due date, it would be less likely to recur.
The next week.
At this point, it was clear; the only thing keeping us from going home was Malia learning how to eat on her own. Her health problems had been cleared up for a while, she reached her birth weight Monday, and continued to gain. A nurse told me “we did our job; it’s up to her now.” Perhaps Malia caught wind of this because overnight between Monday and Tuesday, she took 35 of her 41 ml by bottle. They tried again at 8:00 am Tuesday morning and she took all 41 ml. At 11:00 am, she only took 17 ml but at least she had been showing a ton of progress (and 17 was still more than she had ever taken until the night before). In the evening, I had the opportunity to to feed her a bottle and she took the entire 41 ml again. Over the course of the week, Malia was “hit and miss” when it came to how much she drank from the bottle with steady improvements on consistency.
By the weekend, Malia had acquired very good consistency with her feeds. Starting Friday evening, she began taking the full amount of all of her feeds. From a feeding standpoint, going home soon became a real possibility.
Since coming off of oxygen a while back, Malia would often have some dips in her O2 saturation levels. In fact, she was often sitting in the high 80s to low 90s with relatively frequent dips into the low 80s and even into the 70s, especially after feedings and during deep sleep. The medical staff decided to place her on a small amount of supplemental oxygen which raised her levels immediately. An hour later, she was back to room air because her saturation levels were so high with the small amount of oxygen. However, the same problem arose again over the next day while on room air so they decided to keep her on the oxygen since she responded so well to it.
As it turns out, Malia wasn’t quite advanced enough to be better than a professional athlete in Denver, but at least she was close. We were told she would likely be sent home with the oxygen, at least for a little while. This actually made me happy because seeing her O2 saturation levels with the oxygen versus without weighed heavily in my mind. I felt much more comfortable knowing she would have plenty of oxygen circulating to her brain and body when we left the NICU and were on our own. So, it wound up being a close race, but the physician turned out to be correct, and the nurse who disagreed with him was incorrect insomuch that Malia would indeed be going home with supplemental oxygen.
Aside from the feedings and oxygen, it was a mostly uneventful week for Malia, with only one other major noteworthy event. Malia passed her hearing screen, which at this point seemed unsubstantial compared to her other health concerns, but it provided some peace of mind nevertheless.
At some point over the past few weeks, Cherry decided she would prefer to have a vehicle at her disposal while Ariah and I were back in Casper during the week(s) to come. Her brother, Sophorn was generous enough to drive my car to Denver early Saturday morning so that he, Ariah and I could drive it back later that day and leave Cherry’s car with her in Denver. There were some warnings of snow in the evening so we decided to leave as early as we realistically could. After lunch, we loaded up several items and headed for the asian market on the way home (a common theme for the Yann family as there are many items that they use at that store that they can’t get in Casper), and ultimately headed to Casper, leaving Cherry and Malia behind for the week.
We got to Sophea’s house a little after 5:00 pm so that we could drop off some asian market items for him. Upon arriving, I noticed a text from Cherry, requesting that I call her when I get home. Sophea spoiled the surprise, mentioning “so, you get to go right back to Denver Monday, huh?” Indeed, in predictable fashion (especially considering our quick turnaround back to Denver a few weeks earlier) during our car ride back home, Cherry received news that as long as there were no setbacks, Malia would be discharged on Monday.
Ariah and I got to spend some time together Sunday but mostly worked on getting the house in order, ready for Malia’s arrival the next day. We had a pleasant day, slept well all weekend, spent a half day at work/ school on Monday, then it was time to go back on the road Monday afternoon, this time with Sophea and his daughter Izzy joining us for the ride.
We arrived at the hospital around 4:00 pm on Monday, March 28. When we reached the NICU floor, I checked my phone and noticed that Cherry had requested that I bring the car seat up with me to get Malia loaded as soon as I arrived. Too excited to see them, I decided to head into the NICU first and retrieve the seat later. My excitement got me into further trouble as I entered the NICU and made a b line for Malia’s room. For the first time since the day Malia was born, I was entering the NICU without my VIP (Very Important Parent) badge. Seeing me walk fast and badgeless, the front desk staff quickly stopped me, probably worried about my pace, wondering what I could be up to (all I really needed to do was stop, sign in and tell them who I was). After a quick explanation, they agreed I could immediately go to Malia’s room without signing in and of course, I did just that.
As I entered, I noticed that everything was ready to go. All her belongings loaded on a cart, her portable oxygen tank was next to her, ready to use, and the nurse was headed to pick up our ridiculous amount of stored, frozen breast milk. As such, I immediately needed to go get the cars, bring them to the hospital entrance and bring the car seat up. Within minutes, we were on our way out the door and headed home. Ariah got to finally see her sister again after 3 weeks away and we were a complete family together for the first time since the first moments after Malia’s birth.
The car ride home was simple and efficient. Cherry sat between the girls, keeping an eye on Malia the whole time. We stopped once for dinner and gas, fed Malia for the first time outside of the hospital and were home shortly after. It was time to start living our “normal lives.” And that’s exactly what we did.
Come back in two weeks to pick up on the next part of Malia Mei: A Courageous Birth.
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