It was a blustery mid-December day in 2003. I walked with a bounce in my step as I replayed the Fetal Foto session I had just enjoyed where I learned that the precious bundle I was carrying inside was a tiny little girl. A girl was a rarity in my extended family and I was feeling particularly clever that we had successfully, though unknowingly, implemented the recipe. We had been waiting to be pregnant for 13 and a half years, so to be expecting a baby was a miracle. To be expecting a little girl was just icing on the cake. Her name would be Makenna. I rejoiced that my cell phone was actually charged as I dialed to tell my husband the great news. We exulted together as I made my way to our van, which was secreted in the middle of a sea-sized mall parking lot. I was just hanging up the phone as I reached for the van door. The instant my hand touched the handle, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of pure and consuming love for my little girl. The feeling started at the top of my head and washed over me to my toes and out into Mother earth herself. I stood rooted to the spot as sobs of gratitude involuntarily began to issue forth from the center of my soul. “I love you so much, Makenna,” I whispered over and over again. I felt a mutual melding of our hearts and souls in that moment and, as I regained my mobility, I climbed into my van and drove back home, aware that my heart had been stamped with a supernal, intimate experience in the midst of an impersonal parking lot.
Six short weeks later, at 22 weeks gestation, I awoke in labor. We rushed in a panic to the nearest hospital. My bag was bulging and I was dilating quickly. The doctor said they really couldn’t keep me and so they called the Life Flight team. I was flown to the University of Utah Hospital and within the hour my water broke and Makenna was washed into the birth canal. Delivery was imminent. Makenna was born at 10:04 a.m. on January 28, 2004. She weighed 530 grams (or 1 lb, 2 oz).
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” I cried over and over again. My husband and I couldn’t have been more shocked or devastated than we were. Makenna was whisked away from us and Trent went to follow her. As for me, it was the easiest delivery ever—which riddled me with remorse and guilt. My physical recovery was a cinch. But my soul recovery time was lagging Makenna’s by a bit. My heart was thenceforth lying in a giraffe bed in Room One, right next to my little girl.
The first time I saw her I stood by her bed and cried. I cried the next several times I visited. Then suddenly, my soul rallied to do the battle and my demeanor changed. I committed to learn everything there was for me to learn in the experience from that moment on. I promised to be Makenna’s biggest cheerleader possible. The heart melding experience we had shared together in the mall parking lot cemented and I knew that with my husband beside me we would get through whatever was to come. We knew what we wanted that to be, but we were willing to allow it to be what it was going to be.
During the ensuing four and a half months in the NICU we had a hard course. Makenna had grades three and four intraventricular hemorrhages (IVH), an enlarged heart from her open patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)and pulmonary hypertension, acute bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), hydrocephalus, porencephaly, surgically inserted ART lines, sepsis, stage 3+ retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) which required laser surgery, and decreased left ventricular heart function, just to mention a few. Add that to all the other crazy ups and downs that are the NICU experience, and I felt very insane a lot of the time. The Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) became our lives. We were balancing four other children at home, two of which had just been adopted a few months earlier. We cried, laughed, and prayed our way through. We took pictures, wrote in journals, read stories, tried to rest, and tenaciously guarded a space of possibility for our tiny girl to move into if she chose to. We also loved her madly, no matter what the outcome was to be. Many times we were told it wasn’t very likely we would get to keep her here on the earth. We were advised to decide if we wanted her to stay alive on more than one occasion. We let her choose, and promised her we would support her no matter what she chose. She mirthfully said she was staying! We rejoiced and buckled in for the ride.
As she developed, I realized I would need to find answers for facilitating Makenna’s complete recovery. I held that intention and prayed to be guided. A little over a year after coming home I was introduced to the world of kinesiology and knew at once I would be pursuing it with vigor. It taught me that all things are possible and that our body/mind/spirits are intelligent enough to know how to heal with the right support. I needed to know how to support her in her healing journey.
Makenna is now seven years old and a joy beyond measure to our family. She has some residual issues from her ridiculously early birth. Sometimes I still grieve for the loss of that normal pregnancy and the ensuing normal development of my sweet little girl. Sometimes I still wish I could go back and fix it all. But that would be assuming that she is broken—and she is not! The only thing broken is my picture of how it was going to be. And the truth is, what is ends up being better than what I had dreamed up every time. I am grateful for life and the merciful learnings of it.
I stood at her bed while she lay asleep the other night and watched, with fascination, the sheer genius of her body and spirit at work, sustaining her life while she rested and repaired from an exhausting day at play. “I love you, Makenna,” I said over and over again. “And thank you for the journey you have led us on—blessing the life in all of us.”
I believe that all our varied life journeys usher us to the same universal lessons, and so I have written a book called From Delivery to Deliverance—My Journey Through a Newborn Intensive Care Unit, by Tawna L. Burton. It is available on Amazon in the Kindle Store; however, one does not have to have a kindle to download it. It will download to many different electronic readers, including your computer or phone. If you would like to read the complete story of Makenna’s birth and NICU journey, please follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_28?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=from+delivery+to+deliverance&sprefix=from+delivery+to+deliverance.
Tags: ART lines, body/mind/spirits, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, From Delivery to Deliverance, healing, hydrocephalus, intraventricular hemorrhages, kinesiology, laser surgery, micropreemie, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Newborn Intensive Care Unit, NICU, patent ductus arteriosus, porencephaly, pregnancy, pulmonary hypertension, retinopathy of prematurity, sepsis