Karen and I have been friends since we were 6 years old. We grew up down the street from one another, went to school together, danced for ten years in the same group and always had the same friends. I was with Karen the day she and Anthony got married in a Chapel on Fort Dix in New Jersey. We walked down the aisle together amongst a sea of uniformed military soldiers. We later went to a local dive bar just off-base and sang karaoke all night long. It was perfect(in a totally imperfect way). The day after our little Maxime was born, Karen and Anthony came to see us in the hospital. She sat on the edge of the bed and whispered in my ear, "I think I might be pregnant…". Sure enough she was, and exactly eight months later, the amazing Zora Dee joined us.
Karen was present during my labor at the hospital when Josephine was born, just because she wanted to be there to support me. I will forever be so grateful that she was.
When Karen learned that she was pregnant, fairly shortly after, we had the conversation about me being in the room with her and Anthony. I asked her if she would mind, that I would be beyond honored to be there for the birth of my best friend's child, and that if she was ok with it, I would love to document it for them. She and Anthony agreed, and so it was decided.
She was due just after Christmas, but had gone into the hospital 4 times prior to the actual birth to have her labor stopped because she was going into pre-mature labor. No one actually thought she was going to make it until Christmas. But, like a sweet little Christmas angel, this little babe waited patiently until December 26th to finally make her appearance. But when she did, she came full force.
Karen texted me at 1:26 pm on December 26th to say that she had been having contractions and was in so much pain but had been holding out at home because she was afraid of being sent home again. I told her I was going to put the girls down for a nap, but that I would call her right after, and to call me if she went in. She called me about an hour later to say that she was at the hospital and had been admitted.
I quickly threw my things together, charged the battery on the camera(because it was dead.. of course), told my mom I had to go, and jumped in the car. It was around 4 pm when I finally arrived at the hospital, and and thank goodness I got there when I did. Karen's contractions were just a couple minutes apart. She got up to use the bathroom right after I arrived, and when she got back to the hospital bed, they began piggybacking, one on too of the other. It was pretty clear that this baby was on her way, and quickly. Karen was amazing; calm and controlled. She breathed through every contraction, barely making a peep. At 5:24 pm, Jaelyn Lucia Rokosa was born. She was beautiful and chubby, and messy as a new born baby is… and I was in tears as I watched this precious little being literally fly into the world. (Karen pushed for under 2 minutes. I was in total awe. Amazing. ).
But then, no sooner than she arrived, did the doctors and nurses take her over to the little table off to the side of Karen's bed. 'This is normal, right?' I thought to myself, trying to keep my cool for my friend. I remembered them taking Maxime and Joey right away to clear the lungs and all. But the time was passing, and we could hear them saying things like, 'her color is good, and she is moving, but…' Both Karen and Anthony work/have worked in the Medical field and the understand all of the doctor jargon. Karen knew something wasn't right, and she kept looking up at Anthony, asking him very calmly if she was ok. All he would do is give Karen a quick thumbs up, and then look back at her on the table. Karen wasn't satisfied, and frankly, neither was I.
After what was probably only 3-4 minutes, but what felt like a half of an hour, the doctors told the nurses that they were taking her to the nursery to get her under the oxygen hood. Everyone left the room, including Anthony, and Karen and I were left wondering what had just happened. We didn't say much to one another, I think because we both knew that until we had some information, talking about it wouldn't do anything. So we just sat there together, quietly.
A nurse finally came back in and explained to us a little more what was happening. Jaelyn's respiratory drive wasn't kicking in strongly enough, and she needed them to assist her in breathing. The nurse told us that they were most likely going to transfer her to either UConn or Harford Children's Hospital because they did not have a NICU in Bristol. We were both speechless. I honestly didn't even know what to say to Karen. I couldn't even imagine giving birth and then having my baby be taken away and possibly sent out to another hospital like that. But Karen was amazing, once again. Even though I know her fear and anxiety was raging inside, the calm that had come over her, it was that only of a mother who just gave birth. The need to be strong and fight on for this little life was firing through her, for she was a mother. This is what we do. From the moment our little people are conceived, everything we do from that point on is for the protection and survival of them.
About a half hour later (I think, I actually don't recall.. it may very well have been longer), the nurse came back and told us that she was doing much better and breathing on her own, and that they weren't going to transfer her anymore. The tension that was so solid and profound in the room almost immediately dissipated and I watched Karen's whole body let go and relax. My heart filled with joy and my eyes with tears and I stayed, waiting with my friend to meet the beautiful little wonder called Jaelyn Lucia.
And then, she arrived. And all was well.
Thank you both so much for letting me be there with you for this. Karen, don't ever doubt your strength and courage. You are strong. You are brave. I am so proud of you. Congratulations to you both. You have a beautiful family.