“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
Thursday afternoon and evening:
The reports we received Thursday afternoon and later that evening were much better than the morning. Malia continued to improve her breathing as they continued to wean the settings on the ventilator. Also, her blood sugar levels normalized. They were, however, on the low end of normal and they wanted to see the numbers stay normal for a while before starting feeds again. For now, she remained on the ventilator, under the ultraviolet light, and receiving all nutrients via IV.
While Ariah and I visited Cherry the weekend before Malia was born, we had the opportunity to stay at the Ronald McDonald house, located just a couple of blocks away from the hospital. We each had our own bed and it turned out to be a comfortable stay. We had checked out Sunday, but Monday afternoon, I had to check back in so my mom and Ariah could stay there while Cherry and I stayed at the hospital, providing us with a nighttime vacation for a few nights.
Our little night time vacation came to an end on Thursday as Cherry was discharged from the hospital. While my mom and Ariah had been sleeping at the Ronald McDonald house, each of them got to sleep in their own double bed. Although the space was limited, while in the hospital, Cherry and I each had our own bed to sleep in as well. That would change Thursday night (and beyond) as she and I would join my mom and Ariah at the Ronald McDonald house. We decided to purchase a small inflatable mattress for Ariah, allowing my mom to keep her own bed and Cherry and I would share the double (which proved to be difficult as we were use to sharing a king bed at home). Moreover, as my mom had warned us, she was a snorer. She came prepared with earplugs for us to wear and we turned Ariah’s sound machine (set to rain) to a very loud volume to provide white noise, but unfortunately, those ideas would not be enough. We had a very difficult time sleeping and staying asleep that night. We hoped the McDonald house would afford us the opportunity to have a second room.
Due to our fatigue from the previous night’s lack of sleep, we were pretty slow getting to the hospital Friday morning to visit Malia and check on her progress. When we ultimately arrived, we got very encouraging news. Malia had been extubated; they removed the ventilator and replaced it with a cpap, a device that provides constant pressure, making it easier for her to breath, as well as oxygen flowing through the tubing. This was a significant milestone in her breathing progression because the cpap did not provide her with any additional breaths like the ventilator did. It also looked significantly more comfortable for Malia, as the tubes went just a few millimeters into her nose as opposed to in her mouth and down her trachea. In fact, we were told that she should soon be able to cry. The only reason she could not at that time was because the extubation had been too recent and her voice would be too horse from the previous breathing machines. Parents don’t often wait for their children to cry with anxious anticipation, but (knowing we would ultimately “eat our words”) we couldn’t wait to hear Malia cry.
In addition to the major step in her breathing progression, Malia was also able to have her umbilical line removed. This was the only thing restricting us from holding her as the line was fragile and if it were inadvertently pulled out without proper care, she could bleed out. Knowing this, my heart raced as I watched the nurse remove the line. It produced an anxious feeling on two fronts. First, I was terrified of something going wrong causing Malia to bleed out and second, I was anticipating the opportunity to hold her for the first time. Ultimately, the procedure was quick and easy and we were told that we could hold her when we came back for her afternoon cares.
On the way out the door of the Ronald McDonald house, we described our difficult snoring situation and requested an extra room, agreeing to donate more for it and move if they reached capacity. Evidently, we were the third group to make such a request and they were already near capacity with more folks potentially needing space later that evening. I was glad to know they were available for all the people who needed them, but I was a bit disappointed that we would have to continue to endure difficult sleeping arrangements. This was of little consequence, however, as we were moments away from seeing Malia and potentially holding her for the first time.
Cherry held Malia for about 1-2 minutes shortly after birth, before Malia went to the NICU. To a new mother, this was of course not long enough. Then for 4 days, we were not able to hold Malia, until this time. Because the umbilical line was removed and Malia was on a CPAP instead of a ventilator, holding her was acceptable. It was a bit of a process moving the several wires still attached to her, but an amazing experience nonetheless. After Chery held her for 10-15 minutes, I got my turn. For the first time, I held Malia. It was a very special moment and I couldn’t wait for more snuggles, especially without all the wires and devices.
As far as Malia’s medical improvements, her blood sugars looked steady so they decided to start feeding her again. This time they would increase feedings/ decrease IV fluids a bit slower. Her bilirubin levels were better, but there was room for improvement so she needed to stay under the light for the time being.
Friday- late afternoon phone call:
While relaxing in the room before a meal at the Ronald McDonald house, my phone began to vibrate to the tune of Jingle Bells (I still hadn’t changed it from Christmas time). Assuming it was a family member or coworker, I started a lazy stroll to the other side of the room where it was charging. As I got nearer, I noticed the display showed a phone number, not a contact’s name. This made me move faster. Half a second later, I noticed a Colorado phone number displayed, at which point I received another one of those heart jolts I had started to get accustomed to. With a nervous “hello” I answered the call. On the other end was a physician providing care to Malia. Now my heart really began to race. Realizing my stress and anxiety, the physician quickly confirmed that Malia looked great and there was no sudden emergency. Yet, I was not about to receive the best of news either. They decided that they wanted to perform a spinal tap on my poor baby girl so they could draw spinal fluid and test for meningitis. He assured me that he did not expect to find anything, but since they had not confirmed anything else causing her to be so sick right away and because she was looking so healthy and stable now, they believed it was a prudent time to rule out meningitis. My heart relaxed a bit, but I sure felt sorry once again for Malia as she would have to endure another painful procedure, now only 4 days old.
The nurse said Malia was a champ. Lumbar punctures are known to be quite painful and at 4 days old, it didn’t seem fair that Malia would be forced to endure one. However, according to her nurse, the process was only a couple of minutes and Malia seemed more upset about the positioning (essentially, they needed to fold her in half since she could not sit up and bend forward) than anything else. As soon as they “unfolded her” and placed her back in a comfortable position on the bed, Malia acted as if nothing had happened. She was looking good and was prepared for a peaceful night.
Come back in two weeks to pick up on the next part of Malia Mei: A Courageous Birth.
If you liked this post, take a read through these other Jelly Bean Journals writings: