Editor’s Note: David Glover has a lot to celebrate this Father’s Day. David and his wife Tia have two baby girls –Billie born last year and Daisy born in April –who are now flourishing thanks to the staff at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit in Berkeley who cared for the newborns and their mother. (Pictured above: David and Tia visit micro-preemie Daisy in the NICU.)
by David Glover
Our first daughter Billie decided she couldn’t wait any longer and made her grand entrance into the world at 34 weeks; clearly, she wanted to be a Capricorn. It was the middle of Covid, and we were on the tail end of a New Year’s trip to Tahoe with plans to take maternity photos in the snow that morning (Viking themed of course). My wife Tia woke up with a feeling that things weren’t quite right but didn’t think too much of it and we went through with the photoshoot. As we worked through our poses, her discomfort persisted, so we called our midwife who advised us that it was probably best to head home right away. We packed up and got on the road.
The entire ride, what Tia thought were Braxton Hicks contractions were actually the real deal –we know now that she was in labor. However, with both of us in denial, we weren’t in a rush, so we stopped for gas and got some ice cream. When we arrived home, I drew her a bath thinking that might help calm things down, but the contractions continued and started to get closer together. I began to feel the gravity of the situation, so we rushed to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. It was not a minute too soon.
A nurse checked Tia when we arrived and found she was fully dilated with the baby at the gates, so we prepared for delivery. However, when the doctor arrived, a quick scan revealed the baby was in a breech position. (A baby is breech when they are positioned feet or bottom first in the uterus.) Within minutes, Tia was rushed off for surgery as I frantically notified our family that things had really taken a turn. At this point, it helps to mention that we had been preparing for a midwife-assisted home birth, so this was definitely not in the birth plan!
Baby Billie Arrives
A few minutes later, I was escorted into the operating room, where it seemed like half of the hospital was in attendance for Billie’s birth. Things moved quickly and less than a minute later, the doctor said “Congratulations, it’s a girl!” This came as quite a surprise to us since, having kept the sex a secret, we were both pretty sure we were having a boy.
I was then whisked away with the baby, and so as the surgeons attended to Tia, I watched helplessly as my little girl struggled to take her first breaths. I next followed the entourage of doctors, nurses and specialists to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where Billie would live for the next three and a half weeks.
Our first stint in the NICU was filled with a range of emotions: we were at times happy, sad, scared, exhausted, invigorated, excited and bored. It was also quite a learning experience, mostly about what each ding, bell and alarm meant, what to be worried about and what to ignore, how to hold a (relatively) tiny baby, and how to feed a baby that doesn’t know how to coordinate breathing with sucking and swallowing.
As a new dad, my first job was to deliver the most miniscule amount of breastmilk and to handle it like it was a golden nugget headed to the bank. However, as time went on, Tia’s milk came in and she was able to come home from the hospital. We fell into a routine of visiting three times a day (fortunately we live very close to the hospital), and I grew more comfortable with first holding and then feeding Billie. Soon, I was giving her nearly all of her bottles during the visits and changing her diapers with confidence.
While it felt like an eternity to us, it was actually only a few weeks before Billie passed her car seat test and was able to come home. I still fondly remember the day we “graduated,” when, as we walked out of the NICU, all the wonderful nurses and medical staff congratulated the three of us and showered Billie with little gifts to send us on our way, with promises to look for us at the next NICU reunion picnic. As fate would have it, we were going to see everyone again much sooner than we thought.
Fate Intervenes: a Second Baby, a Second NICU Stay
About 14 months later, our second daughter Daisy was also born into the gentle, caring hands of the Alta Bates Summit NICU team. However, Daisy was barely 23 weeks old and weighed only 1 pound 5.5 ounces at birth.
When we found out we were pregnant with our second child, our joy was quickly tempered, as from the very early days of the pregnancy, Tia was continuously spotting and we could sense that something was not quite right. This uncertainty came along with a significant amount of fear and anxiety that hit a high point at 16 weeks, when, while sitting on the couch watching a movie, Tia started to bleed heavily and had to be rushed to the hospital.
While the bleeding abated over the next few hours, we learned that Tia hit the lottery of unfortunate pregnancies. She was diagnosed with both placenta previa where the placenta completely or partially covers the opening of the uterus, and placenta increta where the placenta has attached itself too deeply into the muscle wall of the uterus, which can cause dangerous bleeding. Given the grave situation, the doctors recommended an immediate hysterectomy (which would mean terminating the pregnancy) in order to save Tia’s life. We also found out that the baby was another girl. At this point, knowing our sweet little flower might not make it into the world, we decided to call her Daisy.
But while we were in the hospital, the bleeding slowed, and we dared to ask the doctors for a bit more time. We were also able to get a second opinion. After another thorough workup, the specialists gave us the slimmest ray of hope –we could continue with the pregnancy with very close monitoring and with a clear understanding of how tenuous and dangerous the situation really was.
The next six weeks were spent alternating between boredom and heavy anxiety with a heaping dose of insomnia. Tia was on bed rest at home, and we had a few smaller but still scary episodes of bleeding along the way.
However, during all of this Daisy’s growth in the womb was exceptional, and she continued to thrive in spite of everything going on around her. We started to allow ourselves to think about actually making it to 28 weeks. Unfortunately, that was not how this part of our story ended.
Tiny Baby Daisy Arrives
On the morning of April 7, Tia awoke and noticed she was bleeding. Heavily. We called 911 and she was again rushed to the hospital. This time, surgery was imminent, and we just hoped that we’d been able to give Daisy enough time to have a chance to fight for her life. We were also fortunate with the timing of the bleed, since the absolute A-team of doctors, surgeons and NICU specialists were all just starting their day.
Daisy was delivered by C-section and was immediately taken to the Alta Bates Summit NICU where her big sister Billie had been a little over a year earlier.
And Daisy’s birth was just the beginning of Tia’s fight for her own life.
Tia Fights for Her Life
Tia’s hysterectomy surgery lasted over seven hours. The surgeons described it as “very complex and challenging” and the team basically performed a miracle for our family. Over the course of the surgery, Tia lost 27 liters of blood, and went into cardiac arrest for five minutes as the doctors, nurses, and emergency medical staff went all hands-on deck to save her life.
In the end, they were, thankfully, successful. Tia is a fighter, just like her two little girls, and as I write this, she’s sitting in the NICU holding Daisy during one of her feeds, keeping her chin closed to keep the bubbles bubbling (if you know, you know). Amazingly, we are coming up on two months in the NICU with our little miracle.
Billie’s stay in the NICU prepared us for what to expect in the NICU the second time around, but it did not prepare us for having a micro-preemie. The first month was a blur of nurses and doctors and one scary thing to worry about after another.
Waiting five weeks to hold your newborn is excruciating, especially when coupled with anxiety and uncertainty about her health. Compounding this was a challenging surgical recovery for Tia and little Billie at home, just starting to toddle.
Through it all, we have been extremely fortunate. Most of the scary scenarios we were warned about never materialized, and we are slowly and steadily making progress towards less and less life support measures for Daisy, who continues to grow bigger and stronger every day. Now that we can, we take every chance to hold our little girl and to give her our love and support and we are looking forward to the day that she, too, will have a tear-filled graduation ceremony from the NICU.
David Is Filled with Gratitude on Father’s Day
This Father’s Day, I have so much to be grateful for. Thanks to the incredible community at Alta Bates Summit, I am fortunate to have two beautiful, wonderful little girls, and a wife with whom I get to share the experience of watching them grow up. We have family and friends who love and care for us with selfless support both physically and spiritually, and we have hope for a normal and happy life ahead. I couldn’t ask for more.
So, while it has been quite a rollercoaster ride, and I don’t think we’re quite off the ride just yet, the big drop and the loop-de-loops are behind us, and we’re hoping to cruise back into the station with smiles on our faces and only a few bugs in our teeth.
Update: As of this writing, Daisy is nearly 34 weeks old. She now weighs a whopping 4 pounds 2 ounces –just edging out Billie at the same age! Her lungs are getting stronger and she is progressing as well as can be expected. She really is a miracle; an adorable, tough, determined, feisty little one.