Monday, 14 July 2014

Pregnancy, Prenatal Care and Parenting - The Test of Mettle

Claudette Esterine
On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant catastrophe occurred. Although we were living only 100 kilometres away, in Kiev, we only had 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 much 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 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 remain 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 own 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 straight 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 own 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 poorly and suffering severe leg and lower back pain. Without a second thought I told her to get dressed, we are 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 medical professional since the pregnancy has not done, 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.

Mahalia on the NICU a week ago
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.

Mahalia at almost two weeks old
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.

Do you have a story to share about your child’s or grandchild’s birth? We want to hear so leave a comment here or visit our Facebook page and share it with us.


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