The Birth of Katie Rose Davis

This story is a recapitulation. If you’ve been following Katie’s story, you may not find anything new here (although I don’t think I’ve explained what happened when Katie was born in this much detail before).

On a Saturday night in mid-May Phyllis’s placental membrane ruptured with fluid spewing over our bed. She was twenty-four weeks pregnant, or about sixteen weeks shy of her nominal full term. We got my parents to come over to take care of the boys, and I drove Phyllis into the hospital in San Francisco.

It was clear from the start that Phyllis would be in the hospital for the duration of her pregnancy. There was a chance that delivery could be held off a while. The neonatologist, a doctor specializing in the treatment of premature babies, told us the odds weren’t very good for our daughter if she was born right away.

Kate Kangaroo

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They put Phyllis on an epidural to ease her pain, and tried different drugs to hold back labor. Tributalin gave her the shakes, and Magnesium sulphate made her temporarily diabetic, so they gave her insulin. The kept her head below her feet, so gravity would help (this may have contributed to the lung problems she had later on). They gave Phyllis shots of a steroid intended to speed lung development in the baby.

Tuesday afternoon as I sat at Phyllis’s bedside in the labor and delivery room in the hospital, I watched her temperature gradually, but consistently, rise hour-by-hour. I went to home to put the kids to bed, but came back to the hospital after her doctor called to say Phyllis was in all-out labor.

By the time I got back to the room, the baby had been born. She was a little, limp, apparently lifeless, blue thing. A huddle of half a dozen medical technicians, nurses, and doctors were working to try to resuscitate her. Things didn’t look good for our daughter. I turned my attention to Phyllis, who was shaking uncontrollably and having great trouble breathing.

First Look

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Phyllis was hit with a perfect storm. Her fever spiked to 105 degrees, her lungs were partially filled with fluid, she was in septic shock as the massive infection in the placenta hit her bloodstream, and her blood type was different than the baby’s. After some intra-hospital beaurocratic wrangling about who was authorizing the transfer, I went with her via critical care ambulance at 3AM to an adult cardiac intensive care unit at another hospital, where they stabilized her.

With Phyllis in good hands and highly medicated, I grabbed about an hour’s sleep on the floor of one of the waiting rooms. As a clear dawn broke over San Francisco, I found Phyllis and said, “Whatever happens, she deserves a name.”

Without missing a beat, Phyllis said, “What about ‘Katie Rose’? It was in my dream.”

I replied, “Sold!” I found a cup of coffee, and grabbed the intra-hospital shuttle bus to find the NICU (Newborn intensive care unit). At the NICU, I gave the nurse her name, they made a sign for her isolette, and with renewed hope I watched her for a long while, then headed home to be with the boys.

So far, knock on wood, Katie has consistently surpassed expectations. A few days later I wrote in my blog (photo above):

Katie Rose Davis was born on Tuesday, May 13 at about 10PM. Her gestational age was roughly 24.5 weeks, and she weighed a little under two pounds.

So today Katie was three days old. Her eyes were still fused shut at birth, and we were lucky enough to be in the NICU when she opened her eye for a first peep at the world.

It’s hard to fully fathom how small she is.

Katie under Billy Lights

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A few days after that, Katie was under billy lights:

Katie is under “Billy” lights. Like most preemies, she has a high level of bilirubin in her blood, which can lead to problems such as jaundice. These phototherapy lights break down the bilirubin. Her eyes are protected from the lights by a mask.

I intentionally underexposed this photo, with the idea of giving a sense of this tiny baby alone under the lights in a vast and dark world.

Katie continued to do well. In Katie Is Strong, I wrote:

When we visited Katie Rose at the NICU today she was snoozing comfortably on her tummy under a small diaper that served as a blanket. She opened her eyes a couple of times when she heard our voices, then went back to sleep.

Katie’s isolette was covered so it would be dark for her. I didn’t see any alternative to boosting the ISO fantastically, so I shot this at ISO 2,500!

Katie Rose is a fighter. Katie is our pixie daughter. Katie is strong.

Katie's Big Brother

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When Katie Rose was about ten days old, I brought her two big brothers Julian and Nick in to see their new baby sister. (Mathew, our three year old, is just too rambunctious for an NICU.)

The big brothers are shown in this photo peering into Katie’s isolette. I wrote:

Katie, who continues to progress well, knock knock on wood, was sleeping peacefully. When she heard her brothers, she opened her eyes a little, waved an arm, and went back to sleep.

Both boys indicated they would defend their baby sister to the death, and backed it up by demonstrating fencing poses in the NICU.

Phyllis has been giving kangaroo care to Katie this week. It’s called kangaroo care because the preemie is nestled warmly, skin-to-skin, sort of like a kangaroo mom and baby.

Phyllis, of course, loved holding Katie this way. But it is a bit scary holding a human being that is so tiny.

Katie continues to do as well, or better, than can be expected. She’s drinking roughly a teaspoon of milk every two hours, pooping, and coming off antibiotics after two weeks.

But she’s still so tiny.


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I loved what one of Katie’s nurses said, “She’s tiny, but she doesn’t know she’s tiny, and we’re not telling her!”

So many people have reached out to support us through this and are rooting for Katie. The support helps. We’ve learned we have a community we didn’t know we had. We are deeply touched, and moved. Please keep on with invocations, prayers, and positive intentions for Katie. It is all deeply appreciated, more than words can ever say.

Katie is a small being with an indomitable spirit. We must take each day at a time, because there are a great many things that can still go wrong, and every day is a victory.

Back in Katie’s first days I wrote “Every day is a victory” in one of the emails I periodically send out about Katie, and a friend responded, “We’d all do well to live life remembering that.”

True, but truer than for most with our little Katie Rose.

This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. I’ve been a regular visitor to Photoblog for a couple of months now and have derived much enjoyment and inspiration from your wonderful photographs but your recent posts about little Katie Rose have moved me greatly, even, at times, to tears.

    I think it takes a special kind of courage to lay such intimate words and images before the world at large – my heartfelt prayers, along with my respect, go out to Katie Rose and all her family.

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