Our sweet baby girl, Alicia Charis Chang made her entrance into the world this morning, May 29, 2011 at 2:30 a.m. weighing only 654 grams (1 lb. 7 oz.). This is her story.
Two days ago, I got a call from my wife around 8:00 on a Friday morning. When I got her call, I thought it was odd, because since she'd been pregnant it was rare for her to be up before 9:00. Then I heard her voice and knew that something was up. She had the, "I'm a little scared, but trying to stay calm voice" as she told me the news that she was having contractions. Normally an expecting family would be ecstatic about this revelation, but being that Linda was 3 months from her due date and I was away on business, this was not welcome news.
I spent the rest of my day in a daze, trying to not be too anxious about my wife and child and to trust God. As soon as my work day was over at 5:00 I caught the next train I could to where my wife was in Taichung. My wife's sister, Gloria, met me at the train station and drove me over to the hospital where my wife was at.
Let me interject a moment here and just say that Gloria has been a godsend through this entire ordeal. She was the one that drove Linda to the hospital and stayed with her during the first few hours that she was there. She was also the one that stood by us as the doctors told us everything that was going on with our precious little girl.
So back to the story. I got to the hospital and I was never more happy to see my wife. She was restricted to bed rest and not allowed out of the bed for anything, not even to go to the bathroom for fear that she would go into labor. She also had an IV drip feeding anti-abortion medicine into her body meant to still the contractions.
That night was a pretty sleepless night for both Linda and I. First, the contractions weren't stopping so Linda couldn't really sleep. Also, the medication had a side effect of making Linda's heart race really fast, so that made it doubly hard to get any sleep.
In the morning, the doctor returned and told Linda that the first medication wasn't working as well as he had hoped, so he wanted to add a second medication that was stronger in order to still the contractions. So in came the nurses with needles and a second IV drip. Ugh. Seeing my wife getting prodded like that was hard. Linda was a real trooper.
After a few hours of the two medications, the contractions still were coming pretty consistently, so the doctor informed us that we would need to prepare ourselves, our baby would probably not make it full-term. It was then that he also told us that he suspected that Linda had an infection that was causing the contractions. Linda had a high white blood cell count and also a slight fever, so he suspected that she might have a virus. But he wanted to do some more tests to be sure. This was also a scary prognosis because he wasn't sure where the infection was coming from. If it was in the womb, then that would spell trouble for baby.
Before he left, Linda asked on my behalf if we could do a sonogram so that I could see the baby. I had mentioned to her earlier that I was hoping we could do a sonogram cause I hadn't seen the baby in over a month. The doctor was hesitant at first, but relented and asked the nurses to bring over the sonogram machine. Boy were we glad that he relented. Halfway through the sonogram, the doctor exclaimed, "Oh, no." Definitely not something you ever want a doctor to say. He explained that Linda's cervix was dilated and that some fluid was already leaking out. He said that once this happens, the chances of maintaining the pregnancy were slim. So he recommended an immediate transfer to another hospital with better facilities and neonatal specialists and who would be better able to handle premature babies. The closest hospital to us was China Medical University Hospital, which also happened to be the hospital in Taichung with the top facilities and pediatric specialists. And it was also had a new kind of anti-abortion drug that was supposed to be more effective with less side effects. So once the decision was made we packed up and transferred hospitals within the hour.
Once we got to the other hospital, the nurses and doctors immediately started to do checkups and tests on Linda. More poking and prodding. My heart hurt. The decision was made to use the new drug, even though it was a self-pay medication that would cost us $16000 NT (about $550 US) a bag. But we wanted to give our girl as much of a fighting chance as possible, so we didn't even think about the cost and just accepted. Again, have to thank Gloria for helping out with that cause there is no way we could have afforded that at this point. Also, the doctor told Linda that they were going to put her on a round (2 shots) of steroids to help stimulate the development of our baby's lungs. The 2 shots would take two days to administer. They'd give her one shot, and then wait 24 hours and give her the second.
Unfortunately, Linda never made it to the second shot. Despite the medicine Linda's contractions continued to get stronger and more consistent, so it seemed that our little girl's birth was eminent. Also, the doctors confirmed that Linda indeed had an infection, but they still weren't sure where it was or what kind of infection she was had. So it came down to do we let the baby stay inside and develop or do we take her out for fear that she may be bathing in viral-infected waters.
The final straw came literally at the 11th hour when Linda started to bleed fresh blood. Upon examination, the doctor discovered that Linda's placenta had started bleeding which was a sign that labor was coming soon. Problem was, our little girl wasn't in position for delivery. She was horizontal, so a C-section was necessary for delivery. To complicate matters, the placenta was in such a position that the doctors would have to cut through it to get to the baby, and that made surgery all the more risky. Because of all the added risks the doctor recommended that we do the C-section sooner rather than later. Apparently it's better to do a C-Section before the water breaks. The water acts as a cushion while the surgery is going on.
Linda and I prayed and we decided, it was time. So we told the doctors and they notified the anesthesiologist and got everything ready for our little girl's delivery. It was at this time that we also found out that I wouldn't be able to go into the operating room with Linda, which was hard for both of us to hear. Linda said, "God is really making it so that I can only depend on him, he's taking away my final rock - you." By now, my tears were flowing. Linda was so brave and so beautiful.
While we waited for them to prepare everything, I looked down at Linda and said her name shall be Alicia Charis Chang. We had decided her first name a long time ago. Alicia means "of noble kin, exalted, and oath of God." But we were debating about the middle name. Several months ago out of nowhere I thought of the name, "Charis" which means grace. At this point in this ordeal, I felt it was a strong confirmation that she was to have this name, and grace was to be the center of her life.
With a final prayer, the nurses wheeled Linda into the operating room. And so began the waiting. For the first 15 minutes or so, I was in our room alone, wanting to pray, but not knowing what to say, and just crying. I wanted so badly to have my daddy or someone there to hold me and tell me that it was going to be all right. I felt like a little kid who was about to have a kid of his own.
It was then that God sent an angel. I forgot to mention that we were staying in a double room with another woman who was also on bed rest because she also had a threat of preterm labor. But the amazing thing is this woman and her husband were also Christians. So as I was sitting there kind of crying to myself, the husband walked around the curtain and said, "Hey are you, OK? Can I pray for you?" And I just nodded. So he put his hand on my shoulder and said a simple prayer. I can't remember everything he prayed, but one part touched me. He said, he didn't know why God had put us brothers together, but he was thankful that he did so that we could support one another.
By this point, Linda's sister, brother-in-law and cousin had returned to the hospital. The three of them were such pillars for us during this whole process. At that point, I got the call that Linda was out of surgery and that the baby was being rushed to the ICU. I left the room and caught a glimpse of a pink bundle in a plastic box being rushed away. The family and I rushed after the box asking quickly, "Is she OK? Is she alive?" We were able to get a "Yes. She's alive. But we need to get her to the ICU quick!" out before they disappeared with our baby girl.
Next. More waiting. An hour passed by of me sitting with the family. Just waiting. By then I was so emotionally drained and exhausted but really didn't want to sleep. Then I got the call that Linda was out of surgery and in the recovery room. So I rushed over to see her, and it was so good to see her. I was so so proud of Linda. She was exhausted and dazed from the medication. After making sure Linda was OK, I went back to see if they were letting people into the ICU yet.
I got back to the ICU and still had to wait for a while before they let us in to see the baby. When I finally got to go in, I was amazed at her size. So tiny. They had her splayed out like a specimen on display with tubes and wires extending out from her every which way. First thing I noticed, her hair. It was black. Black black. Like her mom's. And curly! Just like I had asked God for. The next thing I noticed? Her nose. Linda and I had often talked about what our daughter would look like. I had always hoped that our girl would have Linda's nose, because I really like Linda's nose. =) But when I looked down, she had my nose. =) It was adorable.
The tears began to flow again as I talked to her and touched my little girl for the first time. She flinched a bit at my touch because she I guess wasn't used to human contact yet. She was pretty pale from lack of oxygen and was on a respirator, but her heart was beating strong. This brought me some comfort.
After a few minutes the doctor came over and explained about Alicia's condition. They said she had to be resuscitated after birth because her heart and lungs had stopped functioning. But they were able to bring her back to life. But right now her organs were all very underdeveloped so the would really need to monitor her carefully to make sure that everything would develop well.
My little brave girl. After saying goodbye to her for the night, I went back to find Linda who by that time had been moved to a intermittent recovery room while they prepared her patient room. The nurses told me to just rest in that room until the other room was ready and then they'd transfer us. By then it was close to 4:00 in the morning. I was exhausted but couldn't sleep. Finally I was able to get some sleep and was awoken at 7:00 when they moved Linda to her patient room.
It's now been about 16 hours since Alicia was born. The first 72 hours are the most critical.
But I believe our little girl is going to be fine. God knew she was coming, and looking back on our journey over the past 72 hours, I saw that God really provided the best of care for all of us every step of the way. From the sonogram, to the transfer to China Medical University Hospital, to Linda's sister and cousin.
Also, another amazing thing, the hospital we are at partners with a preemie babies foundation that helps to support parents of preterm babies. And I got a call this morning from my aunt who told me that her father who is very close to our family, used to be the chairman of the board of this foundation, and now serves as an adviser for the board. And knows the current chairperson well. And it turns out that the current chairperson had just met with the department head of the NICU a day or two prior. And this head doctor is also the supervising physician for our little girl. So God is working the connections for us!
Anyway, it's time to go see little girl again. Thank you all for your prayers and support through all of this! Our little one really is and has been surrounded by a cloud of witnesses! And I can't wait for you to meet this special one!