2014-10-30 / Columns

Chicken Soup For The Soul

Three Pounds Five Ounces

by Debbie McNaughton

A woman gives birth two months early.

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Thirty years ago, I found myself on board a Flight For Life plane as it rose into the evening sky. In a Denver hospital, 500 miles from home, my daughter was delivered by C-section. The doctor cradled her in his hands and brought her to me. I looked at the tiny new soul, covered with silken body hair, still in the fetal position. I cried with relief that she was alive.

“Hello, little one,” I said. “I’m your mother; your name is Meghann.”

Two months premature, in critical condition, Meg was transferred to Children’s Hospital Neonatal ICU. My blood pressure was out of control, and though it was imperative during delivery that I stay awake, sedation was now necessary to save my life. I said a silent prayer: “Please let me live, to hold Meg in my arms.”

As the medication took effect and the noises of the operating room began to fade, the last thing I heard was the nurse telling the doctor, “Weight: three pounds five ounces.”

Five days later I visited Meg. She lay in an open incubator, naked, her body swollen and discolored. A tube had been taped to her face, forcing oxygen into her immature lungs. The smallest of needles were inserted into her transparent skin, on her head, arms and feet.

I gasped for breath and said, “Oh my God.” Then I fainted.

The next day, I held Meg’s hand, which was the size of my thumbnail. I couldn’t hold her close to my heart so she’d remember the sound of a familiar beat, instead I kissed her and spoke her name. “Meg. Mama loves you.” Meg opened her eyes at the sound of my voice.

While in NICU, Meg had a brain hemorrhage and corrective surgery to close a heart valve. Against the odds, she came home after three months, weighing five pounds.

In her baby book, I faithfully wrote down her first milestones with anticipation of the next. Then I grew fearful when they were not on schedule.

As Meg turned five months old, I enrolled her in a preemie program to observe her development. After several months I became concerned when she couldn’t sit up or hold a rattle. I was advised that her slow progress was more than likely due to being premature. One day after a physical therapy session, Meg’s therapist gave me a book to read and told me I should talk to the pediatrician. My heart raced as I finished the first chapter. A week later, meeting with the doctor, I handed him the book. “Why didn’t you tell me something was seriously wrong with Meg?”

He looked at me and said, “You’ve been through so much already, I wanted you to bond with her.”

I stared back at him in disbelief. “My God, did you think I would have loved her less?”

He touched my hand and said: “Not at all. I’ll make the necessary assessments.”

After evaluations at the children’s hospital in Denver, Meg was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months.

I was the mother of a child with a disability. I felt alone and angry. What had I done wrong? Why did this happen? I mourned the loss of my dream child and then I faced the reality of my life ahead. I sought out other parents with children who had special needs. Together we forged friendships and became advocates to improve the quality of life for our children.

In Meg’s baby book, I continued to record her milestones each year. Along with her first smile and laugh, I kept a record of her first leg braces, wheelchair and communication device. Next to her list of baby shots, I wrote down her double hip surgery and spinal fusion.

Since Meg’s wheelchair had its limitations, we made creative alternatives to do fun things at home and in school. A car seat was made into a backpack for hiking. A little red wagon was built with railings to race down the street in the summer. In the winter, our dog Lilly pulled her in a sled. Meg rode horses with a harness and roller-skated on her belly in the school gym. She painted with an adaptive easel and played the tambourine in the school band. At both her junior and senior proms, Meg danced in her power wheelchair with her classmates.

I not only became Meg’s voice for inclusion and independence, but also her advocate.

Now 30, Meg makes her home with me. She’s an incredible young lady, her smile is constant, her laughter contagious. She is patient, forgiving and loves unconditionally.

I shine in her shadow.

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Visit our website: www.chicken soup.com.

(c)2014 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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