Blue Jays’ Davis counts blessings after child’s eye-opening birth

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — Every time Jonathan Davis’ phone buzzed, he thought it was the call. His wife, Hannah Montgomery Davis, was due to give birth to their first child on Feb. 10, and as the days bled into the 11th, the 12th, the 13th, Davis was growing more and more anxious. The Toronto Blue Jays outfielder, who spends off-seasons in Mississippi, was due to report to spring training in Florida on Feb. 16. It wouldn’t be a big issue if he was late for that. The organization understood. But what was taking this baby so long?

See, the Davises had a very clear vision of how this was meant to go. They intended to have a natural home birth, and prepared a long, meticulous plan detailing everything that would transpire from first contractions all the way through to delivery. It was extremely thorough, including specific positions Hannah would assume during labour. The baby would arrive on Feb. 10, at home, and Davis would be with the Blue Jays for the beginning of camp.

But more than 12 hours after Hannah’s water finally broke the night of Feb. 15, her labour stalled. Her cervix wasn’t dilating. She grew dehydrated and had trouble keeping fluids down. That’s when the Davises made the call to abandon their already spiralling plan and get to an emergency room.

It was there, at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Miss., that Kapri Dove Davis was born via Cesarean section at 10:37 p.m. on Feb. 16, more than 24 hours after Hannah’s water broke. She weighed six pounds, seven ounces.

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But they weren’t out of the woods yet. During delivery, Kapri inhaled meconium — stool passed while in the womb — causing her right lung to collapse and leaving her left lung on the verge of collapsing.

Meconium aspiration syndrome occurs in only a small number of births, but is more common with babies born past their due date and during long, stressful deliveries — both of which were the case for Kapri. An estimated five to 12 per cent of cases result in death. Kapri survived and is healthy now. But that doesn’t make the experience any less scary.

“If we would’ve had the birth at the house — man, our baby might not be here,” Davis says. “We were that select few. It’s like that one per cent of anything. You don’t worry about the one per cent — until the one per cent is you.

“So, I was really thankful that we did go to the hospital and thankful for the medical people who put in the time and labour to be able to help my child in that time of need. Going through that whole process, it gives me a newfound respect for what they do. And my wife’s a warrior, man. She’s a warrior. She’s stronger than me. Seeing that process and everything that she had to go through, it gives you a new perspective on women and what they do. I just adore my wife. I love her to death.”

Kapri spent the first week of her life in Forrest General’s neonatal intensive care unit, breathing with the help of a CPAP machine, which provided continuous airflow to her recovering lungs and helped clear fluid. She began breathing on her own four days in, at which point she was weaned off the CPAP while remaining in intensive care for three more days, being closely monitored and receiving antibiotics.

“At first, when she came out and they transferred her to the NICU immediately, it was like, ‘Oh, man, what’s going on?’” Davis says. “But speaking to the doctor and seeing how comfortable he was and how sure he was that my baby was going to be all right, it gave me some assurance. And then it was just praying and seeing how things transitioned.”

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Davis spent his entire week at the hospital, sleeping on a small couch in Kapri’s unit. His luggage, packed for spring training, sat on the floor next to him. He doesn’t remember getting any more than three continuous hours of sleep while he was there, alternating between spending time with Kapri in the NICU and Hannah in her own room where she was recovering from her procedure. When Hannah was discharged three days after the birth, she joined her husband in Kapri’s NICU room, taking turns sleeping on the couch.

While Davis was living in a hospital, spring training began without him in Dunedin. He remained in contact with Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, the club’s GM Ross Atkins and his manager Charlie Montoyo, keeping them updated on Kapri’s status and his own. He couldn’t tell them exactly when he’d be able to take Kapri home, only that he couldn’t leave her side. They told Davis he could take as much time as he needed. His locker would be ready for him whenever everyone was stable and healthy.

Kapri was finally released from the hospital on Sunday, Feb. 23. Davis drove his family home that night, took Monday to get everyone settled and catch his breath, and then hopped back in his car Tuesday to make the 10-hour drive from Mississippi to Dunedin, Fla.

A week later, he was in the Blue Jays lineup batting leadoff against the Tampa Bay Rays. While barely sleeping and never training is not an ideal launchpad into playing a sport at the highest level, there’s still a baseball season to get ready for.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for me to get back into baseball mode and get ready to play. It’s just one of those things. We’re kind of built for it. You’ve just got to pick up and do what you do,” Davis says. “It’s part of it. I think everybody who has a child, you can ask them and they’ll say, ‘Hey, you find the strength. You find the energy to do what’s needed to be done.’ I think that’s the beauty of having a child.”

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Still, the next week will be tough as Davis is in Blue Jays camp trying to catch up to his peers while Hannah and Kapri are home in Mississippi. The plan is for them to join Davis in Dunedin this weekend. And then later this month in whichever city he ends up playing his baseball for.

That’s likely to be Buffalo with Toronto’s triple-A affiliate, the Bisons. But baseball’s a crazy business, and certainty is the last thing players such as Davis — optionable and on the edge of an organization’s 40-man roster — enjoy.

A potential timeline exists in which he ends up in Toronto on opening day due to injuries above him on the depth chart. He could shuttle up and down between Toronto and Buffalo, as he did several times last season. Or, in an unlikely but always possible scenario, he could get caught up in a 40-man roster crunch that puts him on waivers and available to 29 other MLB organizations.

That uncertainty’s a reality of the business — one Davis knows well. And if Kapri’s birth reaffirmed anything for him, it’s that old saying about the best-laid plans.

“It’s just like any baseball season — you can’t really plan it in my position. There’s some guys, they know where they’re going to be and they know what it will look like for them. But most guys don’t,” Davis says. “But it’s all good, man. I’m here, doing what I’m doing. I have a healthy baby, healthy momma at the house.

“I was talking to my mother-in-law and she was saying how back in the old days, that could have been a labour where one of them might not have made it. So, that’s a blessing in and of itself — that I have my wife here with me and we get to have a baby. Now, it’s just another regular season. We’ve just got another person along for the ride with us. Another person to take care of. I’m just so happy my family’s healthy. It’s a blessing, man. It’s a blessing.”

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