I took a deep breath and Mike and the nurse held my legs as I pushed with all my might. Thinking back, I don't remember how many times I pushed or how long that part of Ava's delivery lasted, but she was born at 1:04 pm during a very uneventful delivery.
"What is it...what is it? Boy or Girl?" I said through tears.
"A perfect little girl" replied the doctor.
I couldn't help but laugh as I cried...I swore that Ava was a boy. My pregnancies were SO different...it was impossible that this baby was a girl. She fooled me for the entire 9 months! But, if I must admit, I was thrilled to have another little girl!
On the other hand, I was disappointed in my intuition...it's usually right on...but it wasn't this time. Nor would it be again.
Ava was an exact duplicate of Zoe when she was born. Beautiful angelic little faces that looked months old as opposed to hours old, incredible amounts of thick black hair, and these adorable little hands and feet. Both of them were amazingly perfect. But with Ava, something wasn't quite right from the beginning.
We spent most of that first day trying to get Ava to take a bottle. (I couldn't breastfeed due to medications I was taking.) She just didn't seem to have any interest in eating. I figured that she was new and tired and her appetite would increase over the next few hours or even days. We had a million justifications for her lack of desire.
That night, my mom and I "fed" Ava and hunkered down for the night at around 8pm. The nurse woke me around 4am when she came in to do vitals and check on Ava.
"When was the baby's last feeding?" the nurse casually asked.
"8 pm," I replied.
The nurse looked confused. "No, what time did you feed her during the night?"
"I didn't, she's been asleep since I fed her at 8:00."
In a way, I was pretty excited that she had slept so long and attributed it to my swaddling technique. This baby was going to be a breeze. She was already sleeping 8 hours...what more could I ask for?! After all, Zoe left the hospital sleeping 5 hour stretches at night...I must be doing something right!
The nurse, almost angry, said, "You MUST feed her EVERY 2-3 hours! She's gonna start having blood sugar problems...she absolutely CANNOT go that long without eating!"
I think I kinda chuckled to myself as the nurse insisted I wake Ava up and feed her. When she left the room, my mom and I joked about never waking a sleeping baby, "fed" Ava through her sleep-induced haze, and went back to sleep ourselves.
The rest of our stay went about the same. Ava would be awake for short periods, "eat", and then be sound asleep for hours at a time. The next few nights she continued to sleep long stretches, and I found myself unconcerned...actually excited...by the amount of sleep we were all getting. I kept patting myself on the back for having "the right touch" when it came to getting babies to sleep.
Once again, my intuition was failing me. How did I not see what was going on? Where was my mommy instinct that I have always relied so heavily on? My brand new baby was sleeping insanely long stretches and all I could do was be excited at how "easy" she was going to be. She was slowly and methodically starving herself...and I didn't see it happening. I didn't notice.
Why didn't I see it?
Looking back now, I get angry at the mom I was during those early days of Ava's life. My common sense was gone and I didn't want to disrupt our easy and peaceful transition into life as a family of 4.
I often wonder...did I sense a problem and chose to ignore it? If that were the case, I don't think I could ever forgive myself. But I really don't think it occurred to me that something was wrong. I think I was in that euphoric stage of early motherhood. I was busy with my newborn and struggling to make my toddler feel loved and important during this huge transition in her life. We just went about living life...the best way we knew how.
But all through that first month, the battle of our lives was slowly brewing in the background. How could we begin to fathom the fight we were about to undertake? We had no idea how much our lives were about to change.
Soon, we would be fighting to save our daughter's life...and we would do it almost completely on our own.