Our Little Early Bird

I'm not one to get too personal in this space but sometimes you just have to make an exception.

It was 18 years ago today, at 3:57 p.m. to be exact, when the medical staff at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak cut a 2 lb, 14 oz little pipsqueak of a girl out of my wife in an emergency C-section. The screaming, wiggling little thing could have fit in a shoebox but gave the nurses all they could handle.

Our daughter was a preemie, and there was no place better to take care of her than at Beaumont, which had---and still has---an outstanding neo-natal care department.

My wife had been laid up with toxemia in the months leading up to the birth, which wasn't supposed to occur until sometime in June. But during a routine check-up on Good Friday, 1993, her doctor advised her to go to Beaumont, and not to pass GO and not to collect $200.

We thought there were simply going to be some more tests and that she'd be home by the end of the day.

Imagine my surprise when, the next time I saw my bride (we'd just been married since September and our daughter was conceived on our honeymoon), she was being wheeled out to the waiting room, in a wheelchair and a hospital gown.

So much for being home by the end of the day.

It was soon determined, after getting my wife a bed in a semi-private room, that the baby---our baby not due until early-June---would have to be delivered, by hook or by crook.

They induced my wife with pitocin, which is standard. But after a day of that, it was evident that a vaginal birth was unlikely.

I spent the night with her and the next day, after another morning of waiting for the bun to come out of the oven, and with family in the waiting room, suddenly everything got frenetic.

In a flash, there were more nurses than usual and the bed was being wheeled away and I was handed a blue gown, hat, and mask.

The bed was wheeled down the hall, toward the delivery room. There wasn't panic, just urgency.

OK, maybe I panicked a little.

Upon entering the delivery room, I was told not to touch anything that was color coded blue. I remember saying, "I will not touch anything blue." That's a good time to follow orders.

I held my wife's hand and I'd never held the hand of anyone so cold who was still alive. The anesthesiologist sat next to me. I remember asking if she was supposed to be so cold. I don't remember what he said. Probably, "Yes, now shut up."

Several minutes passed and I heard someone shout, "Sharon, would you like to see your baby coming out?" and they held a giant mirror for her---and me. Only, I looked away. Sorry---too much that I didn't want to see.

Then, the baby was out and she was being carried to a nearby table. I was told to come see.

The first words out of my mouth, and I'll never forget it, were, "Is she going to be OK??!!!"

The reason for my concern was the wiggling, purple and red person I was staring at. She was SO SMALL. Turns out she wasn't even three pounds, which means she wasn't even as heavy as a bag of sugar. As I said, a shoebox would have been a suitable abode.

The nurses assured me that, yes, she'd be OK.

For about two months, our little girl lived in Beaumont's NICU, in an isolette, wires attached to her body and often her eyes covered to protect them from the harsh light. Everyday we visited, my wife twice a day---once in the day and again with me in the evening after I left work.

Finally, on June 4, 1993, our little Nikki came home---and even then she barely scraped the scales at four pounds.

Looking back, we should have been more scared, but the staff at Beaumont was so good and competent, and their reputation was so stellar, that I guess our fears were alleviated. That, and Nikki never encountered any serious health concerns while in the hospital; that helped.

Turns out that my wife's regular doctor had difficulty delivering her because of the position of the baby. Thankfully, the head of the department was in the hallway, purely by chance. And he was summoned, with both my wife and our baby's survival in jeopardy. He used his experience and skill in safely extricating our child.

This I found out later, and I'm glad I did. I didn't care to know that at the time!

So Happy Birthday, Nicole. You're officially an adult. But always our baby.


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