As a staff gardener who helped plant Botanica's Downing Children's Garden in Wichita, Laura Pham is used to nurturing tiny plants and watching them grow. Her love of gardening stemmed from her time as a young child, planting vegetables alongside her grandmother.
Her parents had announced her birth as another P has joined the Pennington pod, in a botanical play on words. As a fourth-grader, she knew she wanted a career in botany.
When Laura, a consummate planner, and husband, Quy (pronounced Kwee), her high school sweetheart, bought their Wichita home in 2012, they started preparing and painting a nursery.
When Laura got pregnant, they planned to have a home water birth with a Christian midwife — with the baby’s due date falling right before Christmas 2013.
“But I didn't even make it to Halloween,” says Laura.
For the Phams, Laura's pregnancy would become a lesson in patience, faith and trust in doctors and nurses who would try to help their unborn baby flourish.
After some unexpected issues with the pregnancy in August, the midwife recommended bed rest. Later, Laura was referred to Via Christi maternal fetal medicine specialist Michael Wolfe, MD, and then hospitalized at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph on Sept. 12 to continue bed rest. Her water broke the next day, way too soon in the pregnancy.
“I wanted to give my son a fighting chance,” says Laura, “but it was scary, knowing I might go into labor at any time.”
One day past Laura's 29th week of pregnancy, the Phams' baby was in fetal distress. His head was pressing down on the umbilical cord, essentially clamping off his lifeline, and the amniotic fluid level was getting too low.
On Oct. 6, Baby Pham was born weighing 2 pounds, 10 ounces.
During Laura's three-week stay on bed rest, the St. Joseph hospital became their home away from home, with Quy often spending nights by Laura's side, then going to work at nearby Via Christi Village at Georgetown where he is a cook.
“We were there for so long, we knew everyone by name,” remarks Quy.
Laura, in keeping with her meticulous nature, wrote down the name of every nurse and staff member she and her family encountered.
The staff “were so knowledgeable, answering all our questions, and really helped provide us with encouragement,” recalls Laura.
Laura also found tremendous solace in the prayer cards she'd created during the last few days of summer — in anticipation that she'd be using them during the home birth in December.
Four days after their baby's birth, the Phams settled on a name: Thomas, rooted in the Biblical story about the Apostle Thomas who initially doubted Jesus' resurrection. “God still provides, even when you doubt,” says Laura.
Thomas flourished during his nearly two-month stay in Via Christi's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. By the time he was released Dec. 2, the day after Laura's birthday, he had more than doubled his birth weight.