The Greatest Journey
By Kelsey Walters
Photos by Scott and Kelsey Walters
Avery Lynn Walters: February 27, 2018 • 9:40 PM • 5 lbs. 15.5 oz. • 19.5 inches
On the night of February 26, 2018, I was feverishly working on deadlines, just as we always do each month, to get the next issue of East Coast Current out. I was eight months pregnant and feeling uncomfortably large. I was feeling a little… off, so I decided to head to bed and get up early the next morning. I was going over my to-do list in my head of what needed to be done the next day, including writing this column.
As I climbed into bed, I was reading an article on my phone about how babies tend to come slightly late rather than early for first time moms like myself. My husband, Scott, and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our daughter, Avery, in just under two weeks. I told him about the article, noting how her due date of March 11th was perfect timing for the magazine after deadlines. I just had to open my big mouth. We would soon come to find out that Avery does things in her own way, on her own schedule.
I woke up an hour and a half later when my water broke. Scott and I packed a bag and headed to the hospital. We laughed over how calm I was – he was expecting me to be screaming the entire car ride like in the movies. I was admitted and spent the next 22 hours in labor.
For the first several hours, I worked as much as I could on the March issue in between contractions. As my night shift nurses turned to dayshift then back to night shift, they marveled at the tiny bedside office I had set up. The work helped to keep me distracted until my contractions intensified so much that I couldn’t focus anymore and it was almost time to meet our little lady. At 9:40 p.m. on February 27, after two hours and 40 minutes of pushing, Avery Lynn Walters made her grand entrance. I wish I could say that was the perfect, happy ending to her birth story, but there’s so much more to tell.
About three-quarters of the way through my labor, Avery began showing signs of distress with her heart rate dropping after each contraction. My nurses counteracted the change by having me change positions every few minutes and keeping me on oxygen. About a month prior, one of my doctors warned me that there was a chance my labor would stall and I would end up getting a C-section because I have an unusually small pelvis and it would be very difficult for the baby to get through. While my labor never stalled, it did present complications.
After being tightly squeezed for nearly three hours of pushing, Avery came into this world limp, unresponsive and not breathing. Her tiny body went into shock immediately after birth and she was having a difficult time transitioning. I watched helplessly as her own team of doctors and nurses supplied her with oxygen, rubbed her vigorously and beat on her chest and with a soft foam mallet to help break up the fluid and mucus that was in her lungs and airway. The room went quiet, except for the sound of the mallet, while I waited for what seemed like an eternity to hear her first cry. Finally, she let out a single cry, as if to let everyone know she was ok and to stop bothering her so much, and I burst into tears at the sound of her voice. Scott rushed over to let me know she was ok, and I told him, “I know! I’m crying because I’m so happy!”
After about 45 minutes of stabilizing her, they let me hold her for the first time before rushing her down to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). I only had just long enough to say hello and introduce myself and Scott as her mom and dad, kiss the top of her head and tell her I loved her before they whisked her away for the next few hours. Scott went with her to the NICU where he held her for the first time. It wasn’tuntil 2:30 a.m. that morning that I was able to see her again.
The following days in the hospital were a whirlwind that I would rather not remember, and barely can because of the complete lack of sleep.
Because Avery arrived early and had a difficult start to life, she faced a few complications. She was already small to start with and because she had missed the time in the womb to collect the brown fat newborns use to grow, she was rapidly losing weight as she burned through her fat supply. Her blood sugar levels plummeted and we had to make a split-second decision to change her feeding plan.
She was subjected to an endless barrage of blood sugar tests, before each meal, with a prick on the bottom of her tiny feet to collect blood. Shortly after that, we learned she had jaundice, which came with even more tests, and would need double light therapy to help clear it up. Our little glowworm spent the rest of the night and morning under a bright blue light. Once she was released from her extended stay at the hospital, we headed straight to the pediatrician for more appointments and even more testing at the lab. It wasn’t until a full week later that she was finally cleared of all treatments and tests, and could get on with her business of being a newborn baby bossing her parents around.
As I sit and write this article, tears fill my eyes and fall to my keyboard – not because I am sad looking back at these rough times, but because I am so incredibly grateful to have her here with us and know we are lucky. She lights up our whole world each day with her huge, goofy grin and has us laughing constantly at her sassy attitude. Scott and I now share an immense bond that can never be broken. Let’s just say that the incredible joy of bringing a life into the world, immediately followed by facing the threat of losing that life, puts love into a whole new perspective.
Now that I can look back at these times, with a precious baby girl in my arms, I can share with other new parents a few of the things I have learned during my first month of motherhood.
First, you will watch the people around you change into completely different people. Scott went from a guy absolutely terrified of babies to a Daddy, learning how to hold a baby, feed, swaddle and diaper, all in just a few hours. Our daughter brings tears to his eyes just about every time he holds her. He transformed, literally overnight, into the most incredible father. My parents, the people who raised me to adhere to rules and guidelines, have turned into completely unrecognizable piles of mush, who constantly fight like children over whose turn it is to hold the baby.
The moment you give birth, your brain goes right out the window. Just when you think you’re getting over the pregnancy brain, mom brain kicks in and it’s way worse. For this reason, I strongly suggest keeping a giant pack of gum in your car for all the times you’ll leave the house and forget to brush your teeth. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Right after we left the hospital, we realized we didn’t have any clothes that would fit her because the newborn size was too big.
We made a Target run to grab some preemie-sized outfits and were waiting in line at Starbucks for the absolutely essential cup of coffee that I have permanently glued to my hand. A woman with two children approached Scott and I, asking if we were new parents, saying it was because we “had that look.” It wasn’t until she walked away that I realized I had only applied half of my makeup before getting distracted and leaving the house. Literally, one half of my face looked completely different than the other. I asked Scott if he thought anyone could tell, to which he replied, “I’m pretty sure that’s what that lady just said…”
On another note, you will never stop talking about poo. Consistency, amount, color… Just face it, you will become those people and there’s nothing you can do about it, so just get used to your poo-filled convos. Just take a lesson from Scott’s “new dad” mistake, and always have your clean diaper open and ready as you take off the dirty one, in case of a “poo rocket.” We have photos.
People (just about everyone you know) will bombard you with unsolicited advice. Some of it is great, some of it isn’t, and some of it is so questionable that you wonder how that person’s kids even survived. It’s ok to let this advice go in one ear and right out the other, unless you want to hang onto it. People will also judge you for everything you do, and that’s ok to ignore, too. Don’t worry too much. At the end of the day, you are the parent, not them, and it’s up to you to make the best choices for your child.
Finally, nothing can prepare you for the wave of immense love you feel upon meeting this tiny person. As Scott said over and over at the hospital, “how can I love this person that I just met so much, and feellike I’ve known her for so long?” We find ourselves staring at her, unable to believe that she’s ours and we get to keep her.
Compared to all of our adventures together, parenthood is the greatest journey I could ever imagine. We can’t wait for the newest member of our family (and the newest “Flobuster!”) to join us on our trips throughout Florida!
Kelsey Walters is the publisher and one of the co-owners of East Coast Current, a professional photojournalist with a BS in Photography from the University of Central Florida. Her work focuses on travel and documentary photography.