Like most parents, we never expected that we would end up with a premature baby. After two perfectly normal, healthy babies and having had no previous pregnancy complications (not even morning sickness), we never thought that the story of Delilah would be any different. I don’t smoke, I didn’t drink, I took my prenatal vitamins daily, I watched what I ate, I did everything I could possibly do to ensure that this baby would be healthy. It didn’t matter. My normal checkup on Monday January 10th, 2012, would be the last thing standard about this pregnancy.
I was only 25 weeks pregnant. After mentioning that my ankles were swollen at my appointment, my midwife, Cathy, expressed concern that my blood pressure was too high and that she wanted to retest for protein in my urine. A few days later I was hospitalized, and I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, a condition in pregnancy for which the cause is unknown, but is diagnosed with the combination of high blood pressure and a high level of protein in the urine. The condition progressed to severe within only two days, and I was transported to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, where my husband and I had to make the difficult choice to deliver our baby at 25 weeks gestation. That decision gave the best chance of survival (only 40% at that gestational age), who had also been showing decelerations in her heartbeat. It was that heartbreaking moment when I understood how bad things were. We didn’t know what sex our baby was. We didn’t have names picked out. We didn’t have a nursery ready. We didn’t expect to meet our little one that evening. And furthermore, we were completely unprepared for what we were about to go through.
Delilah Evangeline was born at 11:39pm on January 14th, 2012, at a mere 1.5 lbs, and that’s when our 27 day stint in the NICU started. She was beautiful, she was a fighter, she had the most expressive eyes I have ever seen, and she never did anything less than 100%. Go big or go home. That is how I always described anything she did. She was going to cause trouble, and she was going to make sure EVERYONE knew who she was—hence her very early entrance to the world. She was a force of nature.
Delilah made continued improvements even to the point that we talked with the neonatologist about moving her back to our hometown, because she’d mostly just needed to grow. One day, I’d mentioned that she hadn’t been moving around very much (not her usual feisty self). It was that point that the doctor had confirmed she had an infection. This particular bacterial infection was incredibly aggressive—we’d been through multiple antibiotics, transfusions, ups and downs with the breathing machines—and it continued to get worse. Three days later, on February 10th, after they had tried everything, she had become septic and swollen. It was at that point that we had to have the worst conversation one could possibly imagine with the neonatologist. Our world nearly ended, because that day we had to say goodbye to the little angel we’d barely had a chance to get to know.
Delilah touched the lives of those who were fortunate enough to know her, and she also made a difference in the lives of those she’d never met. She helped us form friendships with strangers who we would have never met, simply because they cared enough to reach out to us. She earned a permanent place in the hearts of all who watched us go through this, and she will continue to impact the lives of others through the work that we will do to support the ISCUs in Chicago’s North Shore and to help the families that have no choice but to experience them. It’s astonishing to know that one little pound and a half wonder could inspire so much… And for that we are honored to have been a part of her life.
Stacey Porter, Founder of The Tangerine Owl Project