Birth Story… Karissa

Since it’s almost her 18th birthday, I should type up Karissa’s birth story. She was an easy pregnancy. All the excitement happened after her birth. Hmmm, where do I start?

Karissa Charlene was born on a Wednesday. I remembered this because I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Tuesday night and thanking her for allowing me to watch it before I gave birth. Her middle name is after Kevin’s mom. I had no clue if she was going to be a girl or boy since the Army hospital had a policy on not revealing the baby’s sex. Some story about a commander’s wife whom they gave the wrong gender to. I don’t know if it’s true, but I had two names picked out. The boy’s name I had was Aaron Jacob. Karissa’s birth took a bit longer than Alexis’s. Let’s see, water broke at 2 am, went to the hospital, wasn’t feeling contractions yet though I was having them. I started feeling the contractions at 8cm and Karissa was born at 3:55 am on May 24th, 2000. I was happy about having a baby born in the year 2000. It is certainly easy to guess her age. Heehee.

I remember after Krissy was born, Kevin said, “It’s a Karissa! And she has your Filipino side!” She had long, black hair and stayed with me in my room for two days till we were both allowed to go home. Kevin had two weeks off work to help me with her. We really had no ideas what to do with her. She slept with us in our bed for a week till we felt comfortable enough to put her in her crib. The doctors did find a few small holes in her heart and she had to have a doctor’s appointment every week to see how it was going. Karissa was born at 7lbs. It’s a good weight. The problem was she wasn’t thriving or gaining any weight. We had her on a strict feeding schedule, logged how many ounces she ate, weighed her diapers. Had to take her off breast milk and start her on a high-calorie formula with a calorie supplement.

When she was three months old, her cardiologist said that she had to have her heart surgery that we were trying to wait out. The doctors wanted her to be at least 15lbs. Although after three months she had only gained one pound. So at three months old, she was at 8lbs. In August we took her to Children’s Hospital Oklahoma City for her 9-hour heart surgery. I remember it being very stressful. Three days before we had to take Karissa in for her surgery, I had to take Kevin to the ER because he had kidney stones and was in the hospital for several days. I had called his brother in Texas and he and Tara were on standby if Kevin wasn’t out of the hospital yet by the time we needed to get Karissa to Oklahoma City.

The surgery went great. They found a third hole in her heart and patched that up. One thing, never go see something sad, like say the Oklahoma City bombing site, when your baby is in the hospital. Just, bad idea. Your mind is already stressed and adding more… just bad. She was in the ICU for a week and then to her own room for the second week. We would have gone home after the second week, but she refused to eat through the bottle. They had to keep feeding her through a feeding tube. Her new requirement for coming home was to gain .5 ounces… by feeding with the bottle. Something Karissa was refusing to do. Come to think of it, she still doesn’t eat that much and I still have to remind her to go eat. We were living in Oklahoma City for a month. It got to the point where my dad told us to stop paying for the hotel and he took over paying them. The Ronald McDonald house was booked. After the month, Kevin and I decided that we needed to take over her feeding schedule. We were seeing that the nurses would feed her, and when Karissa would refuse to wake up to eat, the nurses would put the feeding tube into her. So we moved into a room in the hospital… I never knew that was even possible. We asked for the feeding tube to go away and that I would feed her. I allowed her to sleep for six hours at night and then I’d feed her. I did what I had to do when we were at home. I’d take her into the hospital playroom with a cold, wet washcloth and a cup of cold water and feed her. When she started falling asleep I’d wipe her face or back with the wet washcloth. She would wake up agitated and start feeding again. After a week she was getting much better on her new schedule. I’d keep her awake and busy during the day. She eventually gained her half an ounce and we were ready to go home.

Karissa caught a cold right before we left and Kevin and I had caught the flu. I was scared on the day we were to bring her home. For the first three months of her life, I couldn’t take her outside because we couldn’t have her heart work too hard to regulate her body temperature. It was a very hot and humid day that day and the doctor assured me that Karissa would be just fine. I rode in the back with her on our two-hour ride home. I kept feeling her back to make sure she wasn’t sweating too much. It was hard at home to not constantly watch her. To make sure she was ok. At 5 months she weighed 12lbs.

The problem with spending over 4 months lying on your back? Your muscles aren’t developed. Physical therapy time. I didn’t know they had physical therapy for babies, but they do. She had to learn everything from lifting up her head to rolling over. She sat up by herself when she was 9 months old, started crawling at a year old and started walking at two years old. The crazy thing was that she was always a happy baby. She had her hard days, but she was always pretty happy. Kevin passed away when she was two months shy of turning 4. She still had a smile on her face. She is the one who is the most sensitive to things we can’t see. She has seen her dad and talked to him, seen her grandma and her grandpa and the animals we have lost. She has always told me that they are all doing fine.

Karissa became a big sister when she was 3 years old. The first time we brought Alexis home, Karissa had looked in the crib and screamed and ran to the other room to hide behind the door. Not sure why she felt the need to hide, though she became quickly comfortable at teasing her sister.

Lastly, we always knew she was hard of hearing. Mostly because of me, we just all assumed it. We didn’t know the severity until she was 5 when we found out that she is deaf in the left ear. Yes, she doesn’t seem to mind too much and jokes about her lack of hearing.

So now, 18 years later. She is graduating high school in fourteen days and turning 18 in twenty days. It doesn’t feel like it’s been 18 years. …And she’s still smiling. 🙂

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