While most moms look forward to delivery day as an epic adventure and the exciting addition of a new life, Jamie Bird couldn’t share the enthusiasm.
Instead, she felt hollow. Empty. Yearning.
Doctors told her her baby daughter wouldn’t survive outside the womb.
“When I was 16 weeks pregnant, I went in for an ultrasound,” Jamie said. “They told me she had a 0 percent chance to make it. She didn’t have any amniotic fluid.”
Doctors also believed tiny Tessa had no kidneys. And no bladder.
“The suggestion was to terminate the pregnancy,” Jamie said. “My husband (Josh) and I are Christians. We prayed about it. I knew I couldn’t determine her last heartbeat.”
The Birds decided to seek a second opinion from Spectrum Health.
“The doctor was awesome,” Jamie said of Jeffrey Dood, MD, a Spectrum Health Medical Group OB/GYN. “He said, ‘You know what, this is your journey and I will support you. I think it will be OK.’”
At the advice of Dr. Dood, Jamie saw a maternal fetal specialist, who had her drink a gallon of water per day to help her placenta make amniotic fluid.
“We tried multiple things, but nothing was working,” Jamie said. “We said if this pregnancy makes it to 24 weeks then I’ll check into Spectrum Health and we’ll be as aggressive as we can.”
She made it to 24 weeks. And beyond. Between 24 and 28 weeks, Jamie was taken to labor and delivery six times.
Tessa was trying. Jamie was trying. Doctors were trying.
“She was having a lot of problems in the womb,” Jamie said. “The doctor said, ‘She’s showing us she’s in distress. Let’s deliver and see what happens.’”
Jamie prepared herself for what she thought would be a few brief minutes with her newborn daughter, if any at all.
“We were thinking she was going to die,” Jamie said. “We knew we were probably dealing with a terminal situation. They had a whole team there. They said they’d do everything they could to let us see her alive.”
Tessa entered the world on July 12, 2011, with a surprise no one could have imagined. She immediately started crying.
“They didn’t think her lungs would ever be viable enough to take in oxygen,” Jamie said. “She was a little miracle baby. She didn’t even have to go on oxygen.”
Tiny Tessa stayed in the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit for 76 days with a “feed and grow” mission. Other than that, she has no issues, no developmental delays, nothing that doctors had her pegged with while she grew in the womb.
“I was waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Jamie said. “I was so overjoyed that she was alive and couldn’t believe she was doing so well. We had always had issue upon issue with the pregnancy. I never really trusted we would be able to take her home.”
The outlook looked so grim that Jamie and Josh never bought a car seat. Or a baby bed.
“I didn’t want to get my hopes up, I guess,” she said. “It was a mad rush when she was finally discharged. I didn’t even really have clothes or anything.”
That’s not a problem these days. Tessa’s closet, and her heart, are full.
She’s a bubbly, active 5-year-old now.
“She’s absolutely perfect and doing amazing,” Jamie said. “We feel very, very blessed.”
They wanted to share the blessings.
When Dutton Christian School in Dutton, Michigan, where Josh is a teacher, gave the family $200 to go out and make a difference in the world, the Birds took it seriously. They still do.
“They had given us $200 and said find something you’re passionate about,” Jamie recalled. “Make it something to give back to the world. It was an easy choice. We wanted to do something for the NICU.”
The Birds recognized that they would have really enjoyed having treats in the NICU family lounge.
“A lot of times when we were there we didn’t want to leave NICU because she wasn’t doing well,” Jamie said. “Or we had forgotten our wallet or were short of money.”
So, the perfect solution became delivering treats to the family lounge on the third floor where the NICU resides.
Jamie and Tessa make the trek every two weeks, dropping off breakfast bars, chips, pretzels, macaroni and cheese, candy and granola bars. They bring about $6,000 worth a year.
“A lot of people help us out,” she said. “My husband’s school did a food drive for it for Thanksgiving. Our church sells cotton candy to help fund it. We have a lot of friends who are helpful and a couple of dollars can really go a long way.”
Tessa loves the gesture.
“She thinks it’s awesome and talks about it all the time,” Jamie said.
And there may be people in the NICU family lounge who end up talking about Tessa as they munch on potato chips or heat up a container of macaroni and cheese.
Tessa’s story is on display near the treats.
“We like to think that we’re feeding both people’s bellies and their souls with her story sitting there,” Jamie said. “God carried us through one of the darkest times of our lives and we feel very, very blessed. We had a real dire situation and it turned out OK. We’re giving them hope.”