I have angels disguised as friends that have encouraged me to tell my story and get involved with March of Dimes. Not only will this be therapeutic for me, but more importantly, I will have the opportunity to help others. This is one of the greatest gifts of all.
In August of 2010, my husband and I decided to go on a “Babymoon” to Savannah, Georgia. I had always heard of how beautiful it was there, and the fact that it was a short plane ride away from Virginia sold me.
Before we left, I had an appointment with my OB/GYN. I asked her for a green light to fly on a plane, given I was 32 weeks pregnant. She said everything seemed normal, so we were on our way to a relaxing vacation.I had a prenatal massage the second day we were in Georgia and later worked out on the elliptical machine at the hotel. That evening, I realized I hadn’t felt my baby kick or move in the last few hours. I told my husband that if I still hadn’t felt anything by morning, we should go to a clinic to make sure everything was okay. At 7 a.m. the next morning, I woke up after a worrisome night and still hadn’t felt our baby move. My husband was on his laptop soon after and found a hospital close by.
On our way to the hospital, I called my sister in Texas and told her not to worry, but that we were going to the hospital just to make sure that the baby was fine. I told her NOT to call my parents or other siblings. I knew it would only worry them for no reason.When we arrived at the hospital, we were admitted soon after. The nurse gave me some apple juice to sip on in an effort to raise the baby’s heart rate. According to the nurse, the baby’s heart rate was not fluctuating. It was stagnant at 140. They put this apparatus on me that zapped my belly to try to “wake the baby.” The heart rate was still the same.
The next thing I remember the hospital’s resident was telling me, “We need to deliver now.” I asked, “Deliver what?” I hadn’t a CLUE! He said, “the baby.”I was quickly rushed into the surgery room for an emergency C-section. In the meantime, my husband was calling our extended family to let them know our baby was coming. I was sitting there being prepped for surgery, shivering with fear. I had NEVER trembled like that before but it felt like I was sitting on an iceberg in the middle of nowhere…helpless. I looked up at the anesthesiologist right before surgery and I said, “Please save my baby!” I told him I was scared and the next thing I knew, I woke up, looked down and saw my flat stomach. It took a while for things to sink in.
At 32 weeks and 4 days, our beautiful daughter was born. Francesca Margo Flewelling. Many emotions were rushing through including excitement, anxiety, fear, sadness, happiness…the list goes on! All we could do was just ride the wave! We had no other child to compare our newborn experience to, so living in a hotel and visiting our baby girl in the NICU for 3 ½ weeks was “normal” to us.Soon after the delivery, I was greeted by a March of Dimes representative. She gave us a bag of goodies and told us that if we needed anything, we could lean on them. After a few days, I went to a March of Dimes workshop in the hospital where we made necklaces with symbolic charms. Not only did this take my mind of things, it was nice to be surrounded by others who were experiencing an early childbirth. I actually met a very dear friend in the workshop who I keep in contact with.
My husband and I had to drive 12 hours back to Virginia with a newborn. I was a nervous wreck! Despite being sent home with an apnea monitor and our daughter having reflux, everything was fine. After all, we brought back the best souvenir possible. It wasn’t until our daughter was 5 months old until we realized she wasn’t grabbing things with her right hand. I researched this and realized an early hand preference is not normal. Long story short, (AS IF this story isn’t long!) she has been diagnosed with right sided hemiplegia. This falls under the Cerebral Palsy umbrella. The CP words were scary at first, but I realize they were scary because of my ignorance and stigma that I had on those words…Cerebral Palsy. I’m embarrassed to say this, but when I was young, I thought Cerebral Palsy was a disease!The neurologist and physiatrist tried to appease me by telling me that Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term and has a large spectrum. Our daughter is on the mild side. I can’t help but turn my head and think of my friends who have children with Cerebral Palsy on the opposite side of the spectrum. Why them? Why us?
We have been down a winding road since the diagnosis. Francesca, our daughter, has been in PT since she was 6 months old and OT & Speech since she was one year old. She is now 2 ½ and close to walking!Until now, I have wanted to remain private with my daughter’s diagnosis. Not only do I not like labels, but I don’t want people to pity us or feel sorry for our situation. Our daughter is a gift and she is perfect in our eyes.
I am proud to be a team leader in the March of Dimes walk this summer in Virginia. Our little Georgia Peach and our experience with March of Dimes have inspired me to do so.