Sunday, April 20, 2014


I ran down the hospital corridor, the doctor’s words echoing in my mind—“You need to get back to the hospital right away.  We’re losing her.” When my husband Bert and I arrived back at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, we stopped short.  Two of my babies clung to life, and the third was slipping away. Several doctors stood around little Abby’s incubator, their faces drawn. The nurses who’d tended to her for weeks choked back tears. I had no reason left to hope. This is goodbye.
Critical Abby in early stages of E-Coli Infection
Not so long before, I’d given up hope of becoming a mother. My first marriage had ended when I was in my mid-20's.  It was nearly twenty years later by the time I remarried.  A fertility doctor told Bert and I that we only had a two percent chance of getting pregnant naturally, so I decided to undergo in vitro fertilization. Surprisingly, it worked the first time around.
Then came the sonogram. I was pregnant with identical triplet girls! After the initial shock, I began picturing my family walking on the beach, the five of us hand in hand. The girls dressed in white sundresses, kicking at the surf. As if God was helping me make up for lost time.
Less than five months into my pregnancy, I collapsed at work. As I was being rushed to the hospital, I started to bleed heavily. The bad news kept coming. I had a placental abruption where my placenta had separated from my uterine wall. Then the triplets contracted fetofetal transfusion syndrome and weren’t getting the same amount of nutrients. Later I developed gestational diabetes.  I prayed that I’d make it to seven months so the girls would have a better chance at life. But by six months, they were ready to come out. Two days after Valentine’s Day, Abby, Bella and Simone were born 15 weeks premature. They weighed less than 4 1/2 pounds… combined!  Abby was the smallest at 1 pound, 5 ounces.
Abby and Bella underwent surgery for perforated intestines, followed by heart surgery. Simone’s lungs were collapsing. Abby needed three blood transfusions. Each procedure produced new complications. Bert and I practically lived at the hospital, praying non-stop by their incubators and watching helplessly while the nurses administered rounds of painkillers, steroids and antibiotics. At one month old, Bella and Simone were critical, but stable. It was Abby who we were losing. On top of everything else, she’d contracted an E. coli blood infection through her central I.V. line that sent her body into septic shock.
Abby in Septic Shock
Now I had to ask the one question I didn’t think I could endure hearing. The doctor on call was a visiting neonatologist—he practiced at the hospital only one week out of the month, but he’d been following my girls’ case closely.  
“Isn’t there anything else we can do?” I said.
 “Medically speaking, no,” he said. “We’ve done everything.”
“So that’s it?”
He hesitated. "I think you should do Kangaroo Care."
I’d spent enough time around the maternity ward to have done kangaroo care many times—holding each girl skin-to-skin. I figured he was just giving me a chance to say goodbye.  But the doctor insisted that wasn't the case. “We don’t fully understand kangaroo care,” the doctor admitted. “When we've done all we can medically, sometimes a baby just needs to know someone loves them so they know there's something worth fighting for." 
I looked down at Abby. What we needed was a miracle. The slightest intake of breath was a struggle for her. Her entire right arm was an open wound, burned by the sodium bicarbonate she’d been given to balance her toxic levels. Her fragile skin looked ready to burst.  She had ballooned to twice her size from all the fluids pumped into her fragile little body. It hurt to look at her. She was dying before my eyes.   
Maybe kangaroo care wouldn’t heal her. It seemed so basic after all the doctors had done, all that technology and knowledge. But it was a chance to say good-bye. I’d hold her close so she’d know I loved her. One last time.

The nurse placed Abby in my arms and wrapped a blanket around us. I was afraid I might hurt her. I held her gently against the warmth of my skin, and sang to her “You Are My Sunshine."  It’s okay, Abby. If it's too hard you don’t have to hold on any longer.

My tears flowed as I said goodbye.  But suddenly a voice inside me said, tell her to fight.  I whispered to her, You are so loved.  Your sisters need you.  Your papa needs you. I need you. Don’t go, my sweet girl, fight. I felt my words go through me to her.  I held her for an hour, feeling the tiny thump, thump against my chest.  Next it was Bert’s turn.  He closed his eyes, cradling her close.  She looked so small against his bare chest.  “Stay with us, Abby,” he whispered.

The nurse put Abby back into her incubator. We huddled around and watched her vitals. Come on, Abby. Her blood pressure started to rise. Her oxygen levels were stabilizing. Her heart rate was too. You can do it, Abby!
It took several days before Abby was completely out of the woods.  Several nurses confessed to us that Abby was the sickest baby they'd ever seen survive. 
We continued doing Kangaroo Care as often as we could.  After more than thirteen weeks in the intensive care unit, we brought the girls home—all three of them.  The doctors couldn’t explain Abby’s recovery. “You do all you can medically. Sometimes, though, it takes a different power,” one of the neonatologists said.  
Love is that power. I have no doubt whatsoever that love brought Abby back from the very brink of death when all else failed and all hope was gone. It was love that gave my daughter life. 
Abby at 20 months old with her papa

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