One year ago, on this day, my granddaughter arrived prematurely. According to the lead obstetrician-surgeon who visited with us later that day, had my daughter not come into the hospital when she did, it would have been a different kind of Canada Day for us.
Thankfully we had the good sense to go to the Emergency Room at the Royal Alexandra Hospital here in Edmonton, Alberta when we did. Abigail, my daughter, would not have been the first in our family to have lost a child had we not.
Her grandmother had lost a son after my birth 50 years ago. I had given birth to dead son myself 28 years ago in post-Chernobyl Ukraine. He would have been my first-born.
It is a cycle that personally I am glad has been broken.
In celebration of Life, love and Canada, today I am sharing edited versions of two pieces that were posted last year on my former blog at Daughters of Sheba Foundation. They recount our journey to Mahalia’s birth on Canada Day 2014 and what we are grateful for most.
Feel free to share widely with any friend, family or anyone who you think might be supported through reading these posts of gratitude to the medical team at the Lois Hole wing at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
The Sweetness of Life
previously published on July 7, 2014
Life can be harsh, hard and sometimes downright horrible. It might be better to say that life’s circumstances can be all of those things and more.
More often than not, however, life is sweet, delicious and delightful.
The bitter and the best of life may occur within the same day, moment and/or with the same person. How ironic is that?
Almost all the posts on this blog show certain aspects of the authors’ lives. The sour and the sweet of life, at this moment, are reflective of mine.
For many months, my relationship with my adult daughter was troubled, marred by unrealized expectations on both sides, disappointments about career choices, a failed business venture, etc. As a mother, I had certain hopes and dreams for my daughter. As a child, she had her own. As the saying goes – “never the twain shall meet.”
Estranged for months, actually closer to two years, with the support of my Sistahs of Daughters of Sheba who stood firmly in the gap for us, my hope and fervent prayer were that one day we would reunite. Yet, I was clear that a reunion would be on the basis of equals – with me about her choices as a woman and she about mine as a strong, independent, and very different type of mother.
Is everything forgotten, all the ‘failures’, disappointments, hurts? No. I hope not. Forgiven most certainly, at least on my part but not forgotten.
While working in the correctional system, I was taught but rejected as a blanket covering all ‘evil’, that “the past behaviour is a pencil for the future.” Hearts can change, in my view and based on my experience. Mine has and I have seen others do the same. It takes work but more so resolve to be vulnerable and open. It takes trust. It also takes time.
My memory of the challenges that my daughter and I have experienced makes the sweetness of the past week more than bearable. Seeing my Kitten’s face (that is my name for my granddaughter) makes the journey to this day that much sweeter.
Will we have disagreements between us, even fights? Of course! Up to yesterday we did! What I know now is that nothing will separate my heart from that of my daughter and her first child – Mahalia.
I do apologize for the absence of our regular posts all of last week. This was due to the unexpected arrival of this bundle of joy one week ago. It is my promise that you, our readers, will continue to share my journey and that of my small family. It would be my honour to continue to share yours and look forward to your comments here.
Pregnancy, Prenatal Care and Parenting – The Test of Mettle
previously published on July 14, 2014
On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant catastrophe occurred. Although we were living only 100 kilometres away, in Kiev, official confirmation about two weeks after the incident.
Fellow students, who were in medical school and interns in various hospitals across Kiev, reported seeing badly burned people being quietly whisked into their facilities. The minimal access some had to international media broadcasts were either totally blacked out or could only be heard sporadically. The news was too big, however, and too many students were travelling outside of the country for information of the disaster to be kept on the “down low,” for longer.
I was pregnant with my first child and was one of the first to get out of the country. Months later, when my child – a boy – was born, dead, a still birth, I blamed the Soviet Government for my loss. The stress of being in the country for months after the accident and eating and drinking polluted food and water, if not the actual effects of the nuclear substances that wafted across Kiev, were thought to be in some measure responsible for my loss.
Twenty-eight years later, I am wondering how true that really was as I sat in the waiting room of the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Edmonton, Canada.
On July 1, 2014, at 1:40 in the morning, my first grandchild, a girl, was born. Her arrival was unexpected by the medical professionals, but something had told me she was going to get here earlier than her August 4 due date. When my daughter sent me the picture from her first ultrasound I was still in Jamaica on an extended visit. After offering congratulations and the usual questions such as when, what the sex, etc., I remarked to her “Your baby is going to get here by mid-July.” I just knew.
Returning to Canada in April was not my first choice. I really wanted to stay in Jamaica, the land of my birth, but the actualities on the ground were not what I had hoped they would be and something was telling me it was time to leave. News of a grandchild determined where my destination in Canada would be.
Looking at my daughter, doing my assessment of her pregnancy and her physical movement, I repeated to her, possibly more often than she cared to hear, that the baby was going to be here early. Approaching the end of June, I noticed bodily changes in her that took me back to Kiev, 1986. They also took me back to October 1987 – when she was born and I was experiencing exactly what she was.
That was when it slowly dawned on me that the stillbirth of my first child was not necessarily due to the Chernobyl accident but my health deficiencies and the poor medical care that I was receiving as a severely anemic woman. My daughter is too.
On June 30, Abi, my daughter called me at work around 5:00 p.m. to say she was still feeling poor and suffering severe leg and lower back pain. Without a second thought, I told her to get dressed as we were going to the hospital. We arrived around 6:00 p.m. and an Intern examined her around 8:30. His diagnosis was that back pain was “a regular occurrence in pregnant women” and he was going to send her home with some Tylenol!
Those who know me, and my daughter does, know that I can and will become dangerously annoyed when my loved ones are threatened. My looks will kill when my intelligence is questioned. The Intern found out as well.
After schooling him on the shared condition between my daughter and I; how it presents itself and what her doctor has not done since the pregnancy, he ordered a battery of tests and requested a specialist, senior obstetrician/surgeon, consult.
Said Senior Doctor confirmed what my Spirit was telling me and what Mahalia, my Kitten and granddaughter, was desperately trying to communicate all day. It was time to get her out.
Slumped on the floor outside of the Operating Room, weeping after seeing my granddaughter – all 4lbs 1 ounce of her for the first time – all I wanted was to go see my daughter in recovery. She was wheeled out almost an hour later and her first words to me were “Did you see the baby?”
This morning as I changed her diaper as she fussed (she hates being changed), my heart sang. The cycle has broken. Death is not something I fear. Not anymore. The death of my first child and the many transitions that I have had the honour of being present for in two hospitals in Alberta have taught me that this is a circle – the circle of Life.
She is not completely out of the woods but our Mahalia is a fighter, surpassing every target set for her as a preemie and was released from the hospital one week and a day after her birth. The prayers but more the Love that has encircled her has been more than I could have imagined. Mahalia has brought healing to many relationships in my and her mother’s life.
Funny side story: My daughter did not know about her baby’s namesake – Mahalia Jackson – when she chose the name. When I told her she said, “Well you will have to teach her about her!”I most certainly will tell her about the Queen of Gospel but also that her name means “tenderness,” and that is what she is – tender and precious.
Enjoy the rest of your day – Canada’s 148th birthday – and be sure to subscribe and allow me to share updates and other unpublished stories and tips right to your email.