all the things

Hello, everyone. To be honest, I had every intention of returning here after my vacation with great stories and photos, but that didn't happen. Obviously. I mean, the vacation was amazing, but the follow up was impossible. What did happen was a whole whirlwind of magically and miraculous and exciting and sometimes scary things. Shortly after we returned home from the beach, I was sucked down by the undertow of wedding planning. For all intents and purposes I'm still there, because our big day is next week, but I'm also at the point where there is little I can do to change big picture worries. Things are in a good place, I think.

What has really happened is much greater and more overwhelming than a wedding, actually. I learned in April that a friend of mine, Wendy, was pregnant. (We've technically known one another since high school, introduced by mutual friends we still share to this day.) It was honestly all she ever wanted, and I was so happy for her. She was due on December 11th. A few weeks later she learned that there were some complications and health concerns with the baby, and eventually it was revealed that the baby had a number of severe and potentially life-threatening complications - Turner Syndrome, cystic hygroma, and hydrops (the Latin name for it is hydrops fetalis, which is pretty direct and terrifying). A few months later, she and her husband learned that the baby was not growing adequately in the womb. She was now also facing intrauterine growth restriction, and they suspected it had to do with intermittent/absent umbilical cord flow.

On Friday September 7th, she was admitted to the hospital on bed rest. I rushed with Christine and Katherine to Babies R Us and we purchased Dreft and preemie clothes and receiving blankets. We wanted to make sure our friends had something. We washed the clothes and blankets at my place and drove like bats out of hell to the hospital with them so that she could keep them with her, not knowing what the future held.

On the 16th, we had a Mama Shower in her hospital room because she never got to have a baby shower before she was admitted, and we wanted to show her love and bring her things to keep her entertained. We had spent, and would continue to spend, many days and nights with her at the hospital keeping her spirits up. I was there so much that my friend's grandmother thought I was her nurse.

On the morning of the 24th, her daily monitoring revealed that the bloodflow in the umbilical cord was no longer intermittent/absent. It was reversed, or taking the life out of the baby. They performed an emergency c-section and Jordan Aubrey was born at 3:35pm, weighing in at 1lb 14oz and 13 3/8" long. She was just shy of 12 weeks early.

The emotions of going through this experience with a friend, or at least next to her, has been overwhelming and new and joyous and difficult for me. Watching my friend go through the motions (or lack of motion) during bedrest, facing challenging decisions at every turn, despair, heartache, fear, joy...I was completely in awe of her courage. When Jordan was born, and in the days following, I felt like I had exhaled the biggest exhale of my entire life. The weeks leading up to her birth were scary and challenging for me, and I wasn't even pregnant with her! On Saturday afternoon, I was able to sneak into the NICU and meet her for the first time. She is the smallest human being I have ever seen. It was breathtaking.

Perhaps the thing that tethered me so tightly to this experience, beyond being there for a friend in need, is that Jordan's due date was also the birthday of someone in my life who passed away a few years ago, Elizabeth. I've written about her before here, and I carry her in my heart always. A few weeks before my friend was admitted to the hospital on bed rest, I sent her an e-mail telling her the story of Elizabeth, and also sharing that it has always been my belief that when souls pass each other up in Heaven (or wherever we go), they send the new life down to Earth with similar characteristics to the person who passed. In Jordan's case, I feel in my heart that Elizabeth is her guardian angel, and I can see this to be true already in her brief life so far. Resilience, perseverance, stubbornness, beating the odds. These are all things Elizabeth did with grace and gentleness, and all things I can see in Jordan already, too.

This experience has also been a lesson for me in a lot of ways. It's given me more perspective about choice, it's given me more respect for mamas, it's taught me to understand faith (my own and that of other people) in new and different ways, and I think it's also pushed me to be a better person and friend. These are not things I expected to learn from an experience like this, or from an itty bitty baby like Jordan. I often say that I have the great fortune of being an honorary aunt or godmother to a lot of kids in this world, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my friends who share their families with me (and us!). To have so much access to a situation far beyond the norm, and quite scary at times, has been truly soul-stirring and heart-warming. While talking to Jordan in her isolette on Saturday, we agreed that I would teach her how to craft, how to bake, and how to be the best Christmas elf there ever was. She promised me that she would teach me patience, selflessness, and grace in the face of overwhelming odds. And the best part is that she continues to do well, breathing on her own (with some assistance from a c-pap), gaining back all of the weight she lost post-birth (and then some), and remaining stable. She looks just like her mama, too.

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Photos by Jordan's dad, Jason Dunham

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.