Last week Wednesday, July 28, Keao and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary. It was an interesting day. On that same day, right around lunchtime, I became a father. Being parents was something Keao and I talked about many times while we were dating, when we were engaged and once we were married. We both agreed we wanted to have kids but I would have never guessed it would happen the way it did (you can read Keao’s version here).
Our excitement actually started six months earlier when we found out we were having triplets (you can read that account here). Triplets have a habit of coming out early (as they run out of room to grow) but we had hoped to keep them in a little while longer.
On Monday, two days before Keao gave birth, I had come home from meeting a friend for coffee and Keao insisted we go to the hospital since she started to have consistent contractions. We arrived at the hospital around midnight and after monitoring and examining her for four hours the staff concluded that she wasn’t quite ready to give birth. We agreed with their diagnosis and went home to get some rest.
Tuesday appeared to be quite normal. We were discussing what we wanted to do to celebrate our anniversary the next day and we were having a wonderful day together. Later that night, around 3am, Keao woke me up in a slight panic. She thought maybe her water broke but wasn’t sure. I jumped out of bed and tried to calm her down. Not wanting to take any chances we rushed to the hospital and arrived there around 3:30am. The nursing staff laughed when they saw us because we were just there the night before (when we called ahead to Labor and Delivery they actually tried to talk us out of coming to the hospital). They essentially tried to slow down Keao’s contractions with some medicine but told her some bad news-she wouldn’t be leaving the hospital until she gave birth (and they hoped it would be weeks until that happened).
Little did they know, God had other plans. Throughout the morning Keao’s contractions were getting worse. So much so that I had to massage her when they arrived because she was in so much pain. Finally around lunchtime Keao said she felt the urge to push. Upon hearing that bit of news, a nurse jumped up and ran to fetch Dr. Nakamura. She ran in and quickly did a cervix exam. At this point I was outside with my mother who came in for support to give Keao some modesty. I’m not sure what happened next, but I could hear yelling inside the room and Dr. Nakamura saying, “she’s 8 or 9!” I thought they were commenting on the pain scale since they always asked Keao to rate the pain she was feeling. Honestly I had no clue they were talking about dilation.
At that point chaos broke out in the room and Dr. Nakamura screamed, “We gotta get those babies out now!”
More staff ran in and out of the room and someone pointed at me and said, “Dad come follow me.” I ran down the hall following them and they threw me a set of scrubs. They hastily explained that if they were able to administer a regional anesthetic then I would be able to come in to the OR. If they knocked Keao out, then I wouldn’t.
They told me to wait in the hallway and they would let me know. I guess they knocked Keao out because they I just sat there in the hallway for a long time…crying. I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life. Scared for Keao. Scared for my babies. Scared because I had no clue what was going on in there. All I knew was I was outside, helpless and Keao was inside without me.
One of the most heartbreaking parts of our pregnancy was knowing that one of our babies probably wasn’t going to survive after birth. Rory, we found out, had a heart condition and because she was so small, the doctors didn’t believe that surgery would be a viable option. We were hoping that if they stayed in the womb long enough we would be able to deliver a fat, old baby that may have a chance at surviving a heart surgery. We knew it was a long shot but it was the only shot we had.
Earlier in that morning our Cardiologist and the Neonatal doctor came by to explain what would happen after Keao gave birth. They explained that since nothing could be done to save our child they would do “comfort care” which means that they would try to keep Rory as comfortable as possible and let her pass away peacefully. I can remember crying with Keao that morning because we weren’t ready to let her go yet.
As I was sitting there in the hallway emotion got the better of me and I began to sob and shake. After waiting around half an hour a nurse came out and gave me a status update: 2 babies were out and they were delivering the last one.
Another five minutes rolled by and I was informed that all three were out. Another nurse came by and asked if I would like to hold Rory. I nodded yes and a few moments later they brought out a little baby girl wrapped tightly in a blanket.
From the moment I looked down on her face and held her in my arms I wept. I couldn’t control it. It just came. What should have been one of the happiest moments of my life was quickly overshadowed by the sobering reality that I was going to lose one of my daughters and there was nothing I could do to stop or even slow the process.
I kept asking the staff where Keao was and how she was doing because I wanted to share this moment with her. I know she desperately wanted to see Rory and I didn’t want to rob her of the chance. They assured me that Keao was fine but she wouldn’t be waking up for about an hour and a half. I didn’t think Rory had an hour and a half and I was crushed even more.
Looking back, it was the utter feeling of helplessness that’s the most defeating. Helpless to find my wife. Helpless to stop my daughter from dying. Helpless to do anything. I kept looking down on her peaceful face and whispering, “I’m so sorry Gizmo, I’m so sorry…” Every now and then I would see her twitch or gasp for air and I knew that her time here on earth was limited. Her heart simply could not keep her alive.
Rory Aiko Kuilimamekahaku Sunaoka
About 15 minutes later they rolled Keao out on her bed but she was still under the heavy influence of the anesthetic. The nursed asked her if she wanted to see me and her daughter and Keao mumbled an affirmative but later she admitted that she couldn’t remember any of it because she was so groggy.
It wouldn’t be for another couple of hours before Keao could actually meet her daughter and by that time Rory had went to Heaven.
Keao holding Rory’s hand
One thing we didn’t and couldn’t understand was why Keao gave birth so quickly. When we first got to the hospital we were told that most people can delay birth for at least 48 hours and some can go days, even weeks. Keao on the other hand made it less than 12 hours. One doctor suspected that Keao may have had an infection and that may have contributed to our quick delivery. He went on to explain that once the water bag breaks the body will do everything it can to save the baby. In Keao’s case, if she had an infection then her body would try to get the baby out as soon as possible as not to infect the baby. Looking back to Wednesday, Keao did have a fever that night and that would help to explain it.
But in all of this God continued to show himself faithful. We were reminded of his goodness in many different ways. Our other two babies did very well (in fact, the smaller of the two actually did better than the larger one). The ward clerk on duty that day just happened to be our good friend Kacie. Keao’s nurse that day just happened to be Rachael, Mikey’s sister. It was such an encouragement to have such wonderful smiling faces to help us during our whole ordeal. We also received an incredible amount of love and support through texts, calls, emails and Facebook. In addition we were very confident in just the sheer volume of prayer that covered our daughters.
I think what made our day so difficult wasn’t just losing Rory. It was also very hard because we couldn’t hold or hug our other daughters. It actually wouldn’t be for a couple of day before I would get the opportunity to hold my children.
One of the neat things about preemies is something they call kangaroo care. Basically it’s skin-on-skin contact and it’s something that only parents can do (and even then, it’s only one parent per child per day). It’s designed to help keep your child warm and to help you and your child bond. It’s even been shown to help increase milk production (although I keep checking but that whole experience is lacking in me).
When I first got to hold Allison it was a very emotional experience for me. For one, she’s really small. Second, I had all this love I wanted to give to her but was so scared because she is so tiny (and fragile looking).
Holding Allison Hope Yayeko Ka’olinanahenahe Sunaoka for the first time
She’s so tiny her fingers don’t even cover my thumbnail
As I mentioned earlier, only one parent is allowed to kangaroo one child per day so Keao and I alternate (this is definitely an advantage of having more than one baby). I had to wait a long 24 hours before I would be able to hold Casey.
I must say, holding Casey was a completely different experience. For starters she seemed to be a lot hotter than Allison. I mean hot to the point I started sweating. It was an almost uncomfortable hot. I think because I had already carried Allison I could just enjoy carrying Casey more (by which I mean, I wasn’t so terrified). I got to share some laughs with her and just sit there in joy.
Carrying a very warm Casey Lorelai Kikue Pomaika’i’iamekaikaikaokahaku Sunaoka
Her whole arm is the same thickness as one of my fingers
Through this week in and out of the hospital I am convinced that God is good regardless of my circumstance. He got us through this week and we’re confident that he’ll continue to watch and help our girls grow and develop.
“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31
If God cares about the sparrow I know he cares about Allison and Casey (and Keao and I) even more. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we have faith that God will carry us through.