Ava's Story

Ava's Story from Vicki Ballenger on Vimeo.

Ava was born on New Year's Eve 2007. The day our lives were forever changed.

Our first child was born after a quick and easy labor. The nurse even commented that I better have my bags packed with the next baby because second labors are normally 1/2 the length. So when we found out in early 2007 that we were expecting, we were soooo excited. Kenny immediately said it would be a girl this time, he said he just felt it. We talked about this baby's birth, and how we would like a more intimate experience this time. Aohdan's labor had been so easy, but yet so typical. I had been hooked up to a pitocin drip right away, had an internal monitor, and was told I had to stay in bed. We just wanted to be in more control this time around. So we talked about hiring a doula, and started calling around. After much thought and prayer, We ultimately ended up deciding on a home birth. Our plan was well thought out. Should any complications arise we had decided our back-up hospital would be St Ann's.

So I went into labor with Ava around 1am on Dec 31, 2007. It went from mild lower back pain to having to breathe through the contractions within just a couple hours. I remember thinking that this labor was going very quickly, just as we anticipated. But as the hours drug by I appeared stuck at 6cm. My midwife suggested I try taking a walk outside. I remember the contractions were so intense I was throwing up with each one. And I tired, so tired. By the time I started pushing it was almost 7pm, 15 hours since labor began. I remember pushing, and pushing, and pushing. Nothing was happening. About 2 hours into pushing, Ava's heart rate started to have late decels into the 90's. We decided right then to pack up and head into the hospital.

I remember grabbing the oxygen tank, throwing on my pink robe and tennis shoes with no socks, and heading to the car. I initially got into our car, but my midwife told me to get into the back of her car so she could monitor me en route to the hospital. So the convey took off out of our drive way around 9:15pm on new year's eve. Myself, and both midwives in one car, my husband driving our car, and my friend Carmen in her car. All racing up Route 3 to St Ann's Hospital. I remember laying across the backseat, the midwife holding the doppler across my lower abdomen and hearing the baby's heart beat getting slower and slower. My mind was racing, "What had happened?"

When we arrived at the ER everything was a blur. I remember being helped onto a guerney and rushed down the hallway. At some point I remember looking over and seeing my husband running beside me. In one of the trauma rooms we were greeted by several nurses and a team from nicu, and a very kind Dr who informed me there was no time for a c-section. He gave me a shot to take the edge off the pain, but Ava's birth was still excrutiating. She was delivered with the aid of forceps and manual fundal pressure...a nice way of saying that two nurses forcibly shoved their hands into the top of my abdomen to force her out.

At the time of birth Ava was a pale gray. Most babies born not breathing are blue, Ava was gray. I found out later that this is an indicator of the worst type of birth asphyxia. The NICU team began cpr, and the counting began. Kenny and I just stared while they fought to revive our baby. I told Kenny to go pray for her, and he tried to get as close as he could. As he knelt his head in prayer, I closed my eyes. I heard one of the nurses yell, "We got a heartbeat!" She had been given back to us. We thought everything would okay now. We were very wrong.

Ava was born at 9:51pm on New Year's Eve. We did not get to go back and see her until 14 hours later. We were told they were getting her 'settled in.' We still had no reason to think anything was wrong. The hospital neurologist came to see us around noon the next day. He explained Ava's birth injury in detail. He explained that all of her organ systems had shut down in an effort to preserve her brain. She had no kidney function, no lung function, no digestive, nothing. She had been put into a medically induced coma so that her brain could rest as it was swelling and she had been seizing since birth. When we saw her it was more than I was prepared to see. She was in such dire condition that she had her own nurse assigned to just her. After she was somewhat stabilized, St Ann's made the decision to send her to Children's Hospital as they would be better prepared to care for a baby in her condition. So Ava was admitted to Children's Hospital on Jan 1, 2008. She would spend a total of 13 weeks there.