Sylvie’s Story: Part One

Written on May 9, 2012

Sylvie Kristine, my second born, turned four in March. Four years, and it’s only just now that I am making an attempt to write about the way she entered this world. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to before–writing is a good and expressive outlet for me–but a lot of that space in time is difficult to think about. Each time I’ve thought about sitting down to write her story, I’ve avoided doing so, wondering if some things are better left to fade with the course of time. I have come to trust that when Sylvie is grown, she will appreciate me writing about how she came to us, and it will somehow enable her to connect to a part of herself which has been there all along, and that hopefully she’ll already have come to know—what a strong girl she truly is. Each of us is meant to be….if you’re here and breathing it in, then God had His sights on you long before you ever arrived. Why we are here is a question for another day, but Sylvie’s story, in more ways than I can count, tells me to put all my trust in Him and that which He has intended for us. So I do, and it’s just that simple.

Most people who know a little about Sylvie, think first of her birth and the time surrounding it. But to tell her story, you need to first know about the time shortly after her conception, as that is the first time we thought we’d lost her. Shortly after I’d learned I was pregnant, I had a little bleeding which prompted a 48 hour HCG level blood test (pregnancy hormone), as well as a sonogram. Monday they drew blood, then Wednesday they drew it again to compare to Monday’s HCG number. Wednesday we went for a sonogram, which showed a normally developing pregnancy of about 6 weeks, and a precious beating heart of 130 beats per minute—a number within normal range for this gestation. Thursday we went to see our OB, Dr. Shah, who’d delivered Adelaide. Armed with Monday and Wednesday’s HCG level results and the info from the sonogram, she entered the room with a somber tone, and told us she was going to cut to the chase. She told us my levels had gone down significantly on Wednesday’s blood draw, and my HCG level was at 10,000. She said this indicated a certain miscarriage and that she was sorry to give us this news, but since tomorrow was Friday, she could schedule a D&C for Monday. Shocked, we began to question her, pointing out the normal sonogram we’d had the day before, and most importantly, the beating heart. I said 130 beats per minute for a newly beating heart is within normal range and seemed that it was on its way up. She countered that she believed the number was declining and on its way down. She agreed to do one last HCG level test the next day, and asked that I go to the hospital to have the blood draw, in hopes they could get her the results by day’s end, before the weekend arrived. We were eager for the Friday blood draw and informed her there was no possible way we were prepared to schedule a D&C.

The next morning, I parked at the hospital, while talking on the phone to a mortgage broker. In the midst of all this, we were preparing to put our house on the market. We were interviewing a realtor that afternoon, so we were cleaning the house, working on pre-approval for getting a new mortgage, etc. I hung up the phone as I walked inside, uttering to God, “Lord, if it is your will for this baby to live, then please….make it so.” Visibly a nervous wreck, I tried to sink into the feeling that all of this was indeed in God’s hands. I began to relax, had my blood drawn, and went about my day. My mom kindly had spent much of that day helping us get the house cleaned. The realtor was due at 5:00. At some point that afternoon, I went back to the Lord in prayer. The day before, Dr. Shah had told us that she did not expect the HCG level to go up at all, but “IF” it did, she’d like to see it go up to at least 17,000 (from Wednesday’s number of 10,000). My prayer was simple…..asking God that if it is His will for this baby to survive, then God please….make the number that comes back today, be SO high, that no one, not even Dr. Shah, could deny this was a normally developing and healthy pregnancy. Upon saying this prayer, a number came into my mind…..46,000. I remember wondering why that number came to mind, and thinking how absurd the number was. Even I, who believed in this baby, could not imagine that such a number could come back. The night before, after receiving the news of certain miscarriage, my sister had spent time online doing some research. She called to read me one very important line from another doctor which stated that once a pregnancy has been verified via sonogram, you are to “put no trust in HCG levels.” I clung to every inch of that statement, and that, along with our family’s love and support, allowed me to truly rely on God for Friday’s results.

Dr. Shah called me at around 4:30 Friday afternoon. Once again, cutting to the chase, only this time with surprise and elation in her voice–quite the opposite that she’d given just the day before. She said “Tiffany, I have great news! Your HCG level came back. It was 46,000. I just can’t explain this, but I’m very happy about this!” With that single statement, any shadow of a doubt I’d ever felt about God, vanished. The beating heart of 130 per minute, was in fact….was real…..was growing….even thriving. This baby could not be denied, or doubted, but was here to stay, was indeed His will.


Sylvie’s Story: Part Two

Nearly six years have come and gone, since I wrote the first part of Sylvie’s story. Countless times, I have thought about writing this second part of her (birth) story, and I just never followed through. Sylvie will turn ten the day after tomorrow, on March 15th, and if I close my eyes and think about it for a moment, I can easily recall the night of her birth and the days that followed. I believe that God is growing my motherhood in so many ways, especially during this particular season of my life. But my journey of bringing Sylvie into this world, is truly when and where God began a work in me, that has become the foundation from where all that growth is rooted.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to a Mexican restaurant with my parents. We have eaten there many times since Sylvie was born, but that night, I was reminded of how my labor and delivery began….right there at a big table, in the middle of the restaurant. I was wearing a red maternity shirt that barely covered my belly, timing my contractions, while attempting to eat a few tortilla chips. We were with my parents that night as well, and my Dad was the one to suggest that restaurant, because of its close proximity to the hospital, “just in case.” It turned out to be a good decision to be close by, and I ended up checking in to the Labor & Delivery floor after dinner. For four weeks prior to this night, I had been placed on full bed rest, and this was just a day or two after the bed rest restriction had been lifted, since I was 37 weeks along. Jorn and my Dad took Adelaide with them, and went back to our house to gather some things I would need in the hospital. By the time they got back, I was headed into full labor, and began to get excited that Sylvie was on her way. I remember at about 10:30 that night, Dr. Choudhary smiled and told me things were going well, and would likely go smoothly “like the last time” referring to Addie’s birth (presided over by her colleague, Dr. Shah). I have always said that my experience giving birth to Addie was my “fairytale birth” since I only pushed for seven minutes, and she practically flew out of me like one of those quick and effortless births you sometimes see depicted in movies. It was seriously an easy and magical birth experience, for which I will always be thankful. This same type of ease, is what I fully expected was ahead of me that night.
At some point closer to midnight, the doctor came to break my water. I remember that she was surprised by how much fluid I had, and things thereafter began to head downhill. She had been monitoring the baby closely via the belt heart monitor, and at that point, there was just one nurse in the room with us. Jorn was on the opposite side of the bed from where Dr. Choudhary was sitting, as she sat next to my belly, watching closely but not speaking. I can’t share this story without talking a bit about our wonderful and capable doctor. She delivered our niece, Evelyn, in 2005, and during that same year, she became my OB, helping me to get pregnant after over three years of unsuccessful attempts.  In addition to the rough start to my pregnancy with Sylvie, we had two other bad encounters with the other doctor in the practice, Dr. Shah, who we’d previously had a wonderful experience with when Addie was born. It was sad and disappointing, but we felt very strongly, that we needed Dr. Choudhary to be the one to deliver Sylvie when it came time. She promised us that she would be there for us, and thankfully, she was.
After a short period of sitting in silence with Dr. Choudhary next to my belly, she could no longer detect a heartbeat from Sylvie, and she firmly instructed the nurse to reach her hand up to hit the code blue button. This was clearly the first time this nurse had received such an instruction, and I could see the fear in her eyes, which was my first clue things were not good at all.  As the previously quiet delivery room became filled with nurses, who literally came out of the woodwork in an instant, one of them told Jorn to stand up next to my head (on my left side) and not to move from that spot. He took hold of my hand, and squeezed it tightly, looking at me and not saying a word aloud, yet conveying everything with his eyes. There were seven or eight medical professionals in the room and surrounding my bed, feverishly assisting Dr. Choudhary in determining if the child inside me was still alive. As you can imagine, it was here where time seemed to stand still for me. I remember the feeling of terror that overcame my entire body in a single moment. I looked at Jorn and immediately began to pray. I’m not sure I can give words to describe all that I was feeling, but the moments that followed, changed me. It was then that I felt God holding me. When I say “felt God” I mean that I literally felt His presence behind my body, holding me in the bed. Never before or since, have I ever felt so close to God. I’ve also never felt so close to my husband, and I cannot imagine how he must have felt, standing by my bedside, holding onto me, yet being totally helpless to whatever outcome was ahead of us.
Dr. Choudhary was sweating and was finally able to detect Sylvie’s heartbeat. This was done by her reaching blindly for Sylvie’s head inside of me, and successfully attaching a wire to her scalp. We began to hear that sign of life, and rejoiced that she was in fact, still with us. Sylvie still has a small scar on the top of her head, from this wire. It looks like a freckle or mole, and sometimes I go months or years without thinking of that detail, which was such a critical part of her birth story. Sometimes I search her head for this tiny scar and kiss it, just to remember it.
Needless to say, this was all followed by an emergency c-section. Sylvie was born during the midnight hour, and weighed a healthy 7lbs 9oz, and did very well on her Apgar test. At some point, while Dr. Choudhary was sewing me up, the baby’s doctor on duty, determined she needed to go to the NICU, and Jorn went with her. I don’t remember much after that. My next memory is from later that day, in the afternoon, when I still had not laid eyes on Sylvie in person. One of the Neonatal doctors came to my bedside, to explain that all five of the Neonatal doctors on staff there, had seen Sylvie and conferred with one another about her case. They said she had low tone, and that they all agreed that Sylvie ought to be transferred to Children’s National Medical Center, in Washington, DC. The transfer team from Children’s brought Sylvie to my bedside, so that I could at least see her before we were separated. She was inside of a transfer contraption on wheels, so I could not hold her. They did allow me to reach inside and touch her perfect little head, and Addie was also allowed to be held by Jorn and say hello to her new baby sister. As time would tell, it would be five days until I was released from the hospital and able to get to the NICU at Children’s. During that time, Jorn spent his days at Children’s, with Sylvie, and his nights with me in the hospital in Reston. I pumped that “liquid gold” and family, friends and neighbors, took turns driving my milk to the NICU, any hour of the day or night that they could. The love that was poured over us during that time, is something we will cherish forever. In the evening, Jorn would bring the baby blanket that Sylvie had been wrapped in that day, so that I could smell it and feel close to the baby that I could not be with yet. I would sleep with the baby blanket and a little stuffed bunny, and pray over these items. My sister would pick up Jorn and the baby items, and drive them back downtown early in the morning, to be with Sylvie.
Sylvie received amazing care in the NICU at Children’s. The first 24 hours she was there, she had no suck reflex, and the doctors were concerned she wouldn’t be able to feed from a bottle, and that her stay at the hospital was unknown, but could be up to six weeks. Sylvie’s team of prayer warriors were at work, and so was her heavenly Father. By day two, her suck reflex was not only there, but it was strong. By the time I got to her on day five, I was fearful she would never breastfeed, and that she wouldn’t know who I was. She took to breastfeeding immediately, like a total champ. This humbled me, and was just another way God was showing me that HE was in control the whole time, and that I was to remain faithful. Sylvie improved every day, and one week after her birth (the day before Easter), she was released from the hospital, in very good health.
The next day, when giving thanks before our Easter dinner, we were surrounded by family, and friends that are close like family. One of them stood to give a toast to Sylvie. He said Sylvie is like Mohamed Ali, because she fought her way into this world. It is overwhelming when I stop to think about how Sylvie did exactly that, not only during her birth, but in the early days inside my womb, when she fought against science and numbers and a doctor’s biased opinion of the state of her being.
Despite the way in which she entered the world, and the difficulty she went through during that time, Sylvie has the most incredible disposition.  She was born with a good attitude, and to know her, is to love and adore her. She is a person who absolutely lets her light shine. Sylvie is meant for great things, and I believe the strength she has always possessed, will take her anywhere she wants to go in life. She rarely gets down in the dumps about herself, but when she does, or if she doubts herself at all, I say, “Sylvie, what does God say about you?” She laughs and says, “I am CALLED and CAPABLE.” Then we talk about what that means. My prayer is that someday, when she’s a grown woman, she will stand firmly planted in who she is, because of her understanding of who God made her to be.