Happy Birthday, Avett!
This is not my typical “Atlanta child photographer” post. But, it’s your birthday!
Every year, at your birthday, I am FILLED with emotions. Mostly happy, because you’re here, but some sad, because of how you came into the world. It’s next to impossible for me to tell your “birth” story quickly, but I’ll try my best!
When I was 35 weeks pregnant, your daddy was out of town. I went to bed feeling very uncomfortable, and told him that I probably was having Braxton Hicks contractions. The next morning, after a VERY sleepless night, I texted your dad and told him I was going to labor and delivery, but it was probably nothing. Still, I asked him to get internet on the plane and check in. I got to labor and delivery, and the doctor decided to do a couple of extra ultrasounds because, in her words, I was very ripe to have a month left.
Something Wasn’t Right…
Immediately the doctor came in the room and told me I was probably going to have you that day. There was fluid on your chest cavity. She said I needed to go to a different hospital, with a higher level NICU, because you were sick. At this point, I didn’t really realize how sick you were, and was honestly relieved that there was a very soon end in sight on my uncomfortable 4th pregnancy. Let’s face it, chasing 3 kids around when you’re 36 and pregnant is no walk in the park!
I had a friend come pick me up and take me to the hospital, made arrangements for your siblings, and texted your daddy to let him know that something was wrong with our baby, but I wasn’t sure what yet. Doctors started coming in the room and talking to me about “fluid on the lungs”, ” hydrops” and other things I had honestly never heard of. Daddy arrived just in time to ask a few questions. They had been prepping the OR for your arrival, and the NICU team was getting ready..this took a while. Had I known then what I know now, it would have made me nervous.
Since I had c-sections with your brothers and sister, it was always my plan that you’d be born that way as well. Once I got the spinal block, your heart rate bottomed out. The doctor looked at me, and told me it was going to be fast. Someone grabbed your dad from the hall, and you were out of my body in less than 2 minutes.
You didn’t cry. You didn’t breathe on your own at all. I didn’t get to hold you, or look at you and admire your sweet little features. I laid on a table, being sewn back together, which watching a team of no less than 9 doctors and nurses try to breathe life into your tiny body. They whisked you off to the NICU, and continued their work.
Transfer to Children’s National Medical Center…
About 2-3 hours later, the NICU doctors came to talk to us. I was still in recovery from the surgery, and hadn’t held or seen you yet. They told us that they had you on 100% oxygen support. They explained that “room air” is 21%, so you were needing a lot of help. The doctors also told us that they were helping you as much as they possibly could, but that if things got any worse, there was nothing else they could do. They told us about this machine, called ECMO, that another hospital had that they didn’t. They mentioned wanting to get you there, so that IF you needed the machine, you would be where it was. I didn’t realize that they had already started your transfer process, and a team was getting a helicopter ready to come get you. Your dad and I knew that this was your only chance, and said take him. A very kind nurse wheeled my entire recovery bed into the NICU so that I could hold your little hand before they took you away. Your dad drove to the hospital with our friend and pastor, and I stayed there, without my baby.
Once at Children’s, you were immediately placed on ECMO. I wasn’t there. Your dad and one of the NICU doctors called to tell me how it had gone, and I barely remembered it 3 days later. You stayed on ECMO for 10 days. ECMO is heart and lung bypass. It is basically a last ditch effort to save a dying person. You were born in cardiac and respiratory failure, and this machine, was doing the job of your heart and lungs for you. This was a complicated situation. Being on ECMO runs risks…stroke, blood clots, etc. We were scared all the time.
Since the hospital was over an hour away, your dad and I took turns in 24 hour shifts sleeping in a chair so one of us was always there. KK came and stayed with the big kids so that someone was always home. She is a saint.
After spending 10 days on ECMO the doctors said you were ready to come off. We were terrified that you weren’t ready, and wouldn’t make it, but you did great. The next few weeks felt like an eternity. You had to learn to breathe on your own, then you had to learn to eat on your own, and breathe while you ate. We were so antsy to just get you home with our family.
After 6.5 weeks in the NICU you finally came home.
You are turning 4 today. You are AMAZING. I would call you a typical BOY. Spunky, loud, dirty, fast moving, and snuggly. Our world is better, louder, happier, and more silly because you are in it. Everyone that meets you gushes over your big blue eyes. They have ALWAYS been the main attraction of your face! You love your mommy so much that you seek me out every single night after bedtime…and I tolerate it because you’re you. My baby, my littlest, my one that almost didn’t make it. Since you are so fast moving, you tend to fall asleep everywhere, I have even hash tagged #avettsleepsagain on instagram.
I know that you will grow up and do amazing things. You already know that ECMO saved your life. There were so many angels watching over you that day, and the days and weeks that followed. We are forever blessed to have your sweet self in our lives! Nothing that you went through at birth has affected you at all. Developmentally, you are fine. If you didn’t have the scars to show for it, noone would even believe what happened to you those first few weeks. We love you sweet boy. Happy 4th Birthday! It’s hard to believe there was ever a time where we weren’t sure we’d be here with you.
Avett in Pictures
Here you are in the NICU, on ECMO. There were so many machines helping keep you alive. When I walked into your room the first day that I was out of the hospital my self, I broke down crying. I didn’t realize what it would look like. I struggled with whether or not to bring my camera to the hospital, but felt like this was your story, and I needed to tell it. Truthfully, I really needed the distraction. Because of you, I am now signed on to take pictures of NICU babies for a non-profit.
In these pictures, you were off ECMO, and starting to get better little by little.
Here are some of the #avettsleepsagain photos. See what I mean?? You are so busy that you fall asleep all over the place, and often!
Here you are at your 1st Birthday. Naturally, we had to do a superman theme…because, you’re our super hero.
Learning to walk at about 14 months old…not letting anything get in your way.
We attended an ECMO reunion when you were about 15 months old. This is about as close as you got to the doctors.
Here you are at a park in Nashville with your siblings.
When we did this session, you were so excited about your pockets:) You were 2 years old here.
You have always liked masks and super heroes…I love your carefree spirit.
Here we are at the beach. Photo cred Chunky Monkey Photography
“Watch me FLY Mommy!”
We love you to the moon and back buddy. I hope this birthday, and all the ones after it are amazing!
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