Letter to Olivia: Birth Story

Dearest baby girl,

Happy birthday sweetheart! Even though chronologically you are two months old but truly today is your termday  as you turn 40 weeks. In many ways, you have exceeded our wildest dream. You brought so much joy and delight to us within this short period of time. 


Every day since your birth, mama has learned much from watching you fight and grow courageously. We are so very proud of you. On this special day, I want to tell you a marvelous story – your birth story.


Before you were conceived


Long before your birth, my darling we wanted and desired you. Unfortunately, mama’s medical history complicated matters. Undoubtedly, there was a constant struggle to balance mama’s health and yours, especially during the pregnancy. Certainly, I wish things were different but it is what it is.


When my neurosurgeon gave me the green light to try to conceive in July 2009, we were so excited. To have a safe pregnancy, mama had to stop taking an anti-cholesterol medicine temporarily. With that the waiting game begun.


Sadly, the menses came month after month and mama began to feel discouraged and sad. One year passed. We sought help. We tried again. More challenges came our way and our hope diminished each time we received bad news. Still, with faith as small as a mustard seed we trusted that God had the best plan for us. 


Fast forward to 2011. By now, mama had stopped taking the medicine for more than two years. Not surprisingly, my blood cholesterol had crept up to a level that was unfavourable. My doctor expressed his concern. Papa was concerned. We finally decided that we would give ourselves several more months before calling it quit.


In September 2011, mama finally made the decision to restart my medicine. It was one of the hardest things I had to do and I agonized and grieved over it for many months. Watching one’s dream vanished was really painful.


At week 8. Thrilled to see and hear you.
At week 8. Thrilled to see and hear you.

Miracle touched us – discovery of your conception


As they say, miracle happens when you least expect it. Indeed, you came into our lives surreptitiously, little one.


After your grandma and aunt left from their visit in July 2012, I discovered that my period was much later than usual. Protecting myself against disappointment, I kept my expectation low when we bought the home pregnancy test.


God was merciful and we were spared of the torturous wait because within seconds the plus sign appeared on the indicator. We were speechless! Utterly beyond belief!


Your papa was in such disbelief that he read the instructions several times just to be sure that we had followed them correctly. Meanwhile, I was over the moon! God had answered our prayer in His time. He is faithful!


Because I was still taking the medicine when you were conceived, we were concerned. A consult with the physician allayed our fear but there was still a certain amount of anxiety.


Everything felt unreal until we saw and heard your heartbeat for the first time. We were so amazed that at barely eight weeks, your heartbeat was distinct and strong. It was such a magical moment that words failed me.


Yes, we were pregnant and you are our miracle baby!


And you know what was the bonus? You were going to be a March baby just like your mama! In fact, you due date was one day before my birthday. God had intended you to be my most treasured birthday gift. I couldn't be happier.


Babymoon in November 2012. Destination: Santorini Island, Greece.
Babymoon in November 2012. Destination: Santorini Island, Greece.

The pregnancy: a roller-coaster ride


In the first trimester, mama suffered from morning sickness but it was tolerable. What I didn’t expect was the extreme fatigue that I experienced and that’s when realized that making baby is hard work!


Due to my medical history and advanced age, the pregnancy was considered high-risk. Consequently, the doctor referred me to see maternal-fetal specialist at Lucille-Packard Children’s Hospital, where you and I received top-notch care. This in itself was a great blessing and I am so grateful that we chose this hospital.


Following the initial rapture, things started to go downhill after we went for first trimester genetic testing and other tests. First, my result was borderline for gestational diabetes. I had to undergo dietary change and daily finger prick.


The second issue was more serious as the risk of me having a baby with Down syndrome was 1 in 67. We spoke with a genetic counselor and decided to go for the Harmony Test. The results for this took one to two weeks and that waiting period was most agonizing.


During this same time, I also had a threatened miscarriage and bled for two days. It was an extremely stressful period even as we held on tightly to our faith and each other.


The good news was that you are fine (i.e. your risk of having Down Syndrome was less than 1 in 10,000).  Incidentally, this result came to me on my fifth anniversary since the brain bypass surgery. To me, it is God’s way of assuring me that He is in control and I need not fear.


Things improved as we approached the second trimester. Together with papa, we went on several trips (Denver, Hawaii, New York City) and the biggest one of all was the babymoon in Europe. Baby, you may not realized this but you have been to Italy, Greece, Turkey and England! Also, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI blessed you at the General Audience in the Vatican City.


What I loved most about the pregnancy was the realization that you were one with me. Literally, you were with me all the time and this filled me  with such joy. When I started to feel your kicks, I looked forward to them every single day. I took that as you communicating with me and spent much of my time talking to you.


I have never felt closer to anyone else. This is something very special that only you and I shared, my baby. When the pregnancy was cut short due to preeclampsia, I mourned for this loss for many days. I missed being one with you so much that it hurt.

January 17th - 6.15pm-3.30 am - in labor.
January 17th - 6.15pm-3.30 am - in labor.

Your birth

About a month before your birth, mama's blood pressure started to hit the roof and became erratic. To control, I was prescribed medications but it remained unstable for a long while. Consequently, I was in and out of the hospital several times. In fact, you and I spent our Christmas at the hospital.


After several tests, it was confirmed that I had severe preeclampsia. The doctor decided that I had to remain at the hospital till it was time for you to be delivered in order to monitor me closely. January 9th was the day when this occured and  I was at week 30 and 5 days.


I panicked initially because we had done so little in preparation for you. Eventually, I accepted my fate and prayed hard that I could keep you for as long as possible in the womb because that was the best place for you. Yet this had to be managed delicately such that both our safety can be assured.


Nine days later, you were born.


On January 17th, my blood pressure readings spiked for the umpteenth time and I was already at the maximum doses for the medicines that I took. Prior to this day, I had met with numerous specialists, visited the NICU and took the steroid injection, which helped to mature your lungs. Thus, the team came and informed me that we had done all that we could to prepare you for the world and it was time.


I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was super excited that we would see you very soon. On the other, I was worried about you surviving outside of my womb.


At around six o’clock, I was transferred to Labor and Delivery. The initial plan was to induce me and try for vaginal birth. This took place around 6.15 pm. I was also given magnesium sulphate at the same time as a preventive measure for seizure since I had preeclampsia. Shortly after that I started to experience contractions and before the pain became unbearable I was administered the epidural at 8:15 pm.


I felt instant relief and managed to nap for several hours. The doctor checked on me every now and then but my progress was very slow. After nine hours I was only one cm dilated. To speed things up, the doctor broke the water at 3.30 am.


From this point on, everything happened in a blur. Despite the intervention, I was not progressing and you seemed to be in distress. The decision was made for a Caesarian Section then. More drugs were given and there was a buzz around me as everyone prepared for the operation before I was moved to the operating theater.


I felt nothing as the incision was made on my belly. It was such a very strange feeling being strapped and I shivered non-stop. Fortunately, the anesthesiologist was kind and assured me that everything was going fine. As I struggled to find a comfortable position, I heard a tiny cry. At that moment I realized that you were born! The baby whom I had been carrying in my womb all this while was here! This happened around 4 AM.


Sadly the neonatologists whisked you away because they had to examine you immediately. Left behind on the table as your papa went with you to NICU, I couldn't quite express my feelings. For one, I was very sad that I didn't get to meet you at all, much less to hold or place you at my breast to suckle.


Yes, I knew the priority was to get you examined and treated but still I mourned the lost opportunity to hold you the moment you were born. I had to leave the operating theater without you my dearest baby and that was so painful.


Meeting you for the first time. You had me the moment I held you.
Meeting you for the first time. You had me the moment I held you.

Meeting you for the first time


Baby, mama only got to see you the day after you were born because I was in no condition to get up. I couldn't wait to see you and had to rely on papa to take pictures of you. Even though you are preterm, you look like an angel.


The first time we met was nothing like what I had expected. I had mixed emotions throughout. You looked so tiny and fragile in the incubator as you were only 1.55 kg. My tears flowed uncontrollably. Yet, you looked so perfect.


I will never forget the gift you gave me when I first held you. At first you cried when the nurse placed you in my arms. However, when I started to talk to you, you calmed down and stared at me intently. You held your gaze on me as though you recognized that I am your mama. It made me so happy that I had such an impact on you. That was such a precious moment and I thank you for that.


I will tell you the rest of the story in detail when you're older. Briefly, you stayed on in the hospital for about 5 weeks. Right from the start, the doctors were optimistic of your prognosis. Still, the early days were challenging and I am so glad that it's behind us now.


You have been home for about three weeks now and we enjoy every moment with you. We are delighted that your weight has increased steadily and you weigh 3.01 kg today!


Once again, happy birthday my darling Olivia. You have completely changed our lives and we are so blessed to be your parents. Thank you for loving us so and we look forward to spending the rest of our lives with you.


We love you so much, baby girl. You are our pride and joy.

Clockwise: Day 1 when you were born. Precious moments with papa and mama. Beautiful you.
Clockwise: Day 1 when you were born. Precious moments with papa and mama. Beautiful you.