I still get goose bumps as I walk down the halls to the McClure Birthing Unit at FAHC, some 5 years later. This time I am headed to celebrate the miracle that happened then, to bring birthday cupcakes to the nurses and doctors in the NICU and Labor & Delivery, to celebrate Amaal’s fifth birthday. We have made this a tradition and I look forward to it every year. And yes, I cry every year I go there, but they are happy tears.
A bit of the background…
I married my best friend, the man of my dreams almost 12 years ago. We decided, like any young couple, to wait for a few years and enjoy our newly earned ‘independence’ before we had a baby. Salman and I are originally from Pakistan. He went to UVM for his Mba and we fell in love with Vermont. It was a never ending long honeymoon… beautiful mountains, our own little love nest and no one to tell us what to do! I did what I loved – Flowers! I worked at a local flower shop as their wedding designer and now run a wedding floral business of my own. It was like all our dreams were finally coming true.
After 4 years of being married, we decided it was time. Little did we know that what we plan is not how He has it planned. It took us a year to become pregnant… a year of trying, a year of heartache of negative pregnancy tests, a year of doctor visits and tests. And then on one of the brightest days in February, I did a pregnancy test before starting a new medication… and it came back POSITIVE! The rest was history, we were blessed with the most beautiful little girl. She was everything we had ever hoped for and more. We named her Amani, which means “heart’s desire and aspiration”.
Since it took us a year to become pregnant the first time, when I conceived the second time in the first month of trying, I thought the difficult part was over! Another baby was on the way! Little did I know what lay ahead of us was going to be more difficult than anything we had ever imagined.
The hardest 12 weeks of our lives…
The bleeding started late in the night, and I remember Salman saying “We can go see the doctor in the morning, why don’t you just call her?” So I called and my doctor said the same thing, ‘Rest it out and you can come to the office in the morning’. My instinct told me otherwise, and I am SO thankful that it did. We decided to go to the ER at 2 am. We bundled up a 13 month old Amani and started towards the hospital on that cold November night, not knowing that I was not coming back home for the next 8 weeks.
I went into labor at 23 weeks, and was 7 – 8 centimeters dilated when I was admitted. The doctors had no hope. They didn’t think the baby was going to make it and thought I would deliver in the next 24 hours for sure. Our perfect little world had been turned upside down. All that we had planned was no longer. The only thing that seemed imminent was the horror that I saw in my nurse’s eyes, as she held my hand and kept whispering to me, “We are so sorry”. The NICU was alerted, and we weren’t even sure what we were going to do, were we going to offer life support or were we just going to let Mother Nature take her course… it was an extremely tough decision that had to be made so quickly. Thankfully time decided for us, and I stayed pregnant for the next 8 weeks. On complete bed rest, lying down all the time, the nurses on McClure 7 at Fletcher Allen (they are my angels Y) and turkey burgers helped me take this baby from a 5% chance of survival with a projected birth weight of less than a pound, to a feisty little fighter who was still too eager to come into this world at 30 weeks gestation at a birth weight of 3 lbs and 4 oz (which felt HUGE compared to what she would have been at 23 weeks!) We named her Amaal, which means “hope and aspiration”.
Amaal stayed in the NICU for 6 weeks with no complications. It was the toughest time of my life and I felt like it was my fault somehow that I was unable to keep her inside. I asked her nurse when I went to see her for the first time in the NICU, how she was doing… I remember Pat saying “She is very feisty! And we like feisty in the NICU!” To date, the feisty part remains true. Amaal is a five year old now with TREMENDOUS amounts of energy (Yeah the steroids worked really well!!) She is bigger than her older sister who is 6, and remains a fighter! She wants to do everything ahead of time, and manages to do it well.
Time on bedrest and time in the NICU, is a hard time, for sure, harder than most things we have ever done in our lives. I remember when I came home even the beeping of the microwave would drive me insane, reminding me of all the alarms that went off in the NICU, but it all becomes your past with time, and you begin to forget it … I had a friend who had a preemie recently and when she asked about certain things, I had no memory. Yes you never forget it all, but it only gets better as you see your little miracle grow into his or her own little personality.
I always wanted twin girls. Amani and Amaal are 14 months apart, and I jokingly answer whenever someone asks me if they are twins, “No, they are 14 months apart. But I am happy when people think they are because I tried my best!” They have taught us to look at the bigger picture, to be humble, and most of all to be grateful. We get so wound up in our worldly desires that we sometimes forget how blessed we are. We are blessed, very blessed. And when we count our blessings, we count both Amani and Amaal twice.
[typography font=”Delius Swash Caps” size=”20″ size_format=”px”]Written by Marriam Khan[/typography]
I am a big city girl living in the small state of Vermont, and I love it!
I was born in Lahore, Pakistan, grew up in Nigeria, went back to Pakistan to earn a Master’s degree in Psychology, married the love of my life and have been living happily ever after in Vermont for the last 12 years. We are blessed with 2 giggling girls, Amani 6, & Amaal 5, who people often mistake for twins and I always jokingly answer “No, they are 14 months apart. But I am happy when people think they are because I tried my best!”
My passion has always been flowers and I am lucky that I have been able to live my dream. Currently I run two businesses, Just Weddings Floral Design and a recent sweet love, The Little Purple Cake Shoppe which came about when I started to bake my kids’ birthday cakes as a stay at home mom. Technically, I am a stay at home mom who works while staying home ☺
I love everything crafty and wish there were more hours in a day. Recently I have started to volunteer in a couple of community projects and love being able to give back a little. My goal: I want to be a better person, and I want to make a difference, for the better, even if it is a small difference ☺
Let kindness, knowledge and peace be what we have to share.