In 1998, my only child was born. The entire family worried silly because the doctors found a problem with her kidneys in-utero – her little organs weren’t functioning correctly and her life was in jeopardy. Three days after learning this news and seven weeks before her due date, we drove to the hospital to have our baby. When we arrived at the hospital, I was already in labor. It felt like a stomach ache but certainly nothing like you might see by watching those films they show us in baby classes. I figured the stress caused me to go into labor. More worry.
We arrived at the hospital and I was hooked up to a lot of machines with wires attached to every available place on my body. A couple hours later the doctor said the baby was “struggling.” Struggling translated to an immediate caesarean. As I lay on the table with John by my side, doctors of every specialty had already been called in and a medical helicopter ordered to fly my brand new baby to Oakland’s Children’s Hospital as soon as she was born. Overhearing conversations around me I wasn’t certain I would even have a chance to hold her before they whisked her off to save her life.
She was born itty-bitty with a very big voice. There were cheers and tears from everyone as they assessed her then laid her in my arms. We hadn’t wanted to know if she were a boy or girl so, in the midst of all the worry, we were joyous to have this little surprise. Our little Peanut - our baby-bump name for her – was a girl. She immediately calmed down and as I lay there convinced I would never be able to let anyone take her from me, doctors began shaking hands conveying their gratitude and saying goodbye to each other. Goodbye? Wait! Doesn’t she need your help?!!?
We were taken to our room and after a battery of tests they brought her to us. She was just under five pounds, could fit a little too easily in the palm of John’s hand, and was cute as a button! Imagine our overwhelming relief that she was safe. She was okay. She could be with us instead of being flown far, far away. The very day we left the hospital, and for many years later, we would be frequent visitors to hospitals and labs and she would have to endure horrible, horrible tests and procedures, but my baby did not have to be taken from me.
Her little steel bassinet with the number 18 clearly labeled on the outside, but faded from time and goodness knows how many babies before her, was delivered to our room. We took pictures of our tiny little baby wrapped up like a burrito lying in bassinet #18. More than a number it was a sign. To those who don’t know, my precious little miracle was my eighteenth pregnancy but only live birth.
We are not a religious family so when we named her Hannah, I had no idea the Hebrew meaning is “gift from God.” Hannah wasn’t even on our list of possible names but the moment they laid her in my arms she went from baby-bump Peanut to Hannah. Hannah Lee Smith.
Hannah is now, as she would profess, almost thirteen. A pre-teen. I don’t know when six months from your birth date has turned into “almost” but she is right. She is almost thirteen. She is our miracle baby.
And as we circled the Hoover Dam in a helicopter tour last year during a family vacation, I sent my thanks to the baby gods that this, twelve years later, was Hannah’s first helicopter ride.