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Friday, May 11, 2012

Ella's Birth Day

After our three boys were born, prematurely and under difficult circumstances, the doctors told me that perhaps I should not have any more children. They couldn't predict what would happen if I got pregnant again, and I would definitely be high risk if I did get pregnant. For years, Alex and I wrestled with what to do. I felt in my heart that there was another baby waiting for us to be ready for parenthood again. But I didn't want to be reckless and put a new baby's life in danger, or my own. Most people I confided in said I probably should weigh on the side of caution and not have any more babies. Even though I sought out these opinions at times, asking what friends or family thought we should do, I didn't like this answer. 


One Sunday in November of 2008, we were sitting in church. It was bright and cold that day. The pastor was preaching about the choices we have in life, and how sometimes we just need to leave things up to God, put things in His hands. I had tuned out for a while, mulling over the ever-present Baby Question. I was so tired of trying to figure out what the best decision was. I sat there next to Alex that Sunday, and prayed that God would just give me a sign either way as to what to do, because I really didn't feel capable of making the right decision when life or death could be hanging in the balance. 


I tuned back into the sermon, to hear the pastor talking about a woman who had been sick for some time. She finally went to the doctor, who ran a battery of tests. She went home and waited for days for the results. The doctor called, and the woman was afraid to answer the phone because she was sure the tests would reveal that she had cancer. Instead, the doctor told the woman that she was pregnant! Instead of receiving news that she was dying, the woman was told she had a new life growing inside her! All of a sudden, I felt this overwhelming sense of peace and comfort and sureness. I knew from the bottom of my soul, that God was filling me with the knowledge that we would have another baby, and it would all be ok. I just knew. I had a peace that is indescribable. I've had this feeling on a couple other occasions in my life, and I recognized this sure, peaceful knowledge. I was overjoyed and relieved, because this was the answer I wanted.
Precious photo by Only Just a Moment
In December, Alex and I found out I was pregnant. We hadn't been exactly planning when we were going to have this new baby, and we were still hashing out whether we should or not.  Despite all this, we were thrilled. Scared, but thrilled. We couldn't believe our family was about to get even bigger! After seeing several different doctors who refused to take my case because it was so high risk, we found a great team of high risk OB doctors, who wouldn't be letting me decide if/when I needed my own C-section! I began taking weekly steroid shots to try and stay pregnant as long as possible. Alex learned how to give the shots to me, and every Tuesday night after the boys were in bed, we'd head to the kitchen for a very painful shot in the tushy. One time Alex hit a bleeder, and freaked out. I assured him it didn't hurt any more than all the other shots had, and we just bandaged up my tush and went on with the night. Then I got gestational diabetes, which can be a side effect of the shots I was taking. That was a low point in my pregnancy. I had to re-learn how to eat. I had to take my blood sugar levels several times a day. I had to pee on a stick every morning. I had to keep a diary of food-related details, and report to the nutritionist periodically about my health. It was difficult and intimidating. But how I loved being pregnant. I always think it's so unfair that I have had so many pregnancy debacles, when I am a woman who loves to be pregnant!! Not fair.
One time during my pregnancy, I got bronchitis. I thought for sure I was going to cough up a lung. We were out looking for a new car, minivan actually - since we now had enough kids to staff a small army. I didn't feel good at all. I was coughing like crazy. All of a sudden I felt something in my side sort of slip out of place. There was intense pain every time I took a breath or spoke. I thought I was going to die, literally. I had a massage scheduled that night at a salon. The masseuse knew me and our family story, and when I walked in crying she knew something was wrong. I was in so much pain, I cried the entire hour of my massage. I just laid on the table, where I was supposed to be relaxing, and cried as my friend massaged the muscles around what we realized was a rib that had popped out of place. I didn't know if I should go to the ER or the chiropractor or what. So I went home to try and sleep and see the doctor in the morning. I cried that whole night and tried not to breathe. The next day I saw the chiropractor and the doctor, who both got my anatomy back to where it should be, but the pain was still intense. I tried not to cough anymore since that could send that pesky rib back out of place. The drama in this pregnancy was crazy!


When we had our ultrasound to make sure the baby was doing ok, and to see if we were having another boy or a girl, I was so excited. I loved getting to see my tiny baby. As I lay there on the cold table in the dark, the tech asked if we wanted to know the sex of our baby. Uh, yeah! She said she could tell it was a girl! I yelled with joy. I had tears in my eyes. A girl. A whole new world.
During the later part of my pregnancy, I had to drive to the doctor, an hour away, every week. Not an easy task with three little boys at home. But I was determined to do my part in delivering a healthy baby into the world. One day at about 30 weeks, I started having contractions. I arranged to have grandparents babysit the boys and Alex and I went to the doctor. I was indeed having contractions. Overnight, the contractions slowed a bit, and since my water hadn't broken and I was stable, I was sent home. The doctor said I could go weeks having contractions and dilating but not going into labor. Hm, way to comfort a high risk mom. 


About 2 1/2 weeks later, I tried to go to sleep after putting the boys to bed. I started feeling stronger contractions than I had for the past weeks. I finally got up and told Alex we needed to go to the hospital, something was wrong. Again, grandparents arrived to save the day. And again we rushed to the hospital. This time they ended up admitting me. I had drugs to help the baby's lungs develop quickly and more drugs to slow labor. I was there a couple excruciating days, waiting and worrying about what would happen. Jonah and Ben weren't doing well emotionally at home. Since they had been through this sudden unexplained Mommy absence with Aidan's birth, they knew this was not good. They cried on the phone when I talked to them. Aidan cried. I cried. I couldn't even talk to them because I was crying so hard because I missed them and was sorry I had messed them up again with my leaving. 


My poor doctor could tell I was losing my positive spirit. My water had broken in trickles, I was tired, I was worried about my boys, worried about my baby, wondering what our outcome would be. Finally at a day under 33 weeks, the doctor recommended an amniocentesis to see whether the baby's lungs had developed well enough for her to be born, or if we needed to hold labor off longer if possible. That was not a fun experience but I hoped it would give us an answer as to our future, our plan. The results showed that our baby was ready to breathe air on her own. I was headed for another C-section.


Ben and Jonah with baby Ella
As I was getting prepped for the surgery, my contractions started full-force. I was having this baby today, one way or another! Everything started out routinely. I had Alex's eyes above me. I had the doctor pushing and pulling at me. Then things started to go a little crazy. They couldn't get Ella out. She was stuck down the birth canal, like Benjamin had been 7 years earlier. They had to call in two more doctors to try and dislodge our baby's tiny body and push her through the C-section. I found out later it normally takes 45 minutes to complete a C-section, and mine took 2 hours. I lost a lot of blood. When the doctors finally got little Ella out, she didn't respond. This was the only time during all our babies' births that I saw fear in Alex's eyes above his mask. Seeing that struck a chord of terror in my heart. Ella was on the little table in the side of the room. There was a team working on her. And the room was silent even with all those extra doctors and nurses. Absolute silence. We all waited and held our breath with Ella. The tears were rolling down the side of my face. 


Finally Ella let out the most beautiful cry I've ever heard, and the room erupted in cheers and clapping. I have never been so relieved to hear a baby cry in my whole life. Our baby was alive. Ella was born on July 23, 2009. She weighed 4 lbs 3 oz. She looked enormous to me, since she weighed what Jonah and Ben weighed combined at birth! And she was beautiful. 


My body, on the other hand, didn't handle the surgery as well as Ella's did. As I waited in the recovery room to have my body return to a state of normal, my body had other ideas. It started to shut down. I had lost so much blood, I felt weak and sick, and like I might be really taking a terrible turn. My kidneys shut down. I should have been in the recovery room for about 2 hours, but six hours later, the doctors finally got my body to stabilize. Alex had not called our parents since the surgery had begun, and they were all understandably worried. Once I was back in my hospital room, Alex made a round of calls to tell everyone both mama and baby were finally ok. Relief.


Ella was so beautiful. She was sweet and a little chubbier than her brothers had been at birth. She was jaundiced, she needed to grow and learn how to suck and swallow, but she was healthy otherwise. The hole in her heart that she had had before birth had closed on its own. She stayed in the NICU for 2 weeks before finally being allowed to come home to all of us who anxiously awaited her presence. I split my time between the NICU and being home for the boys as best I could. Again, my brain was on overload, wondering how in the world I was going to be able to take care of three boys with different, intense needs, and a newborn. What if I had forgotten how to take care of a baby? What if I couldn't take care of four kids? 


Those moments of doubt were put to rest the more we got into the swing of our routine. Ella came home during the weekend we were celebrating Jonah and Ben's birthday, so our family was here to welcome her. She did not have to drag an apnea monitor wherever she went, so we felt lucky. She was sweet and mellow and so very snuggly and delicious. The boys were overjoyed to have a baby sister. I felt so incredibly blessed to have another baby, another one I had longed for and hoped for. I revelled in the moments of one-on-one time. I cherished watching the boys fall in love with their sister.
Photo by Only Just a Moment
"Ella" means 'fairy princess' and also 'complete'. She has completed our family in more ways than we ever thought possible. She was the answer to my prayers, and just like my three boys, a gift from God. I will be forever grateful for the doctors who made Ella's life possible. They brought a precious little girl into our family, and we are so happy to have her gentle spirit in our presence. God filled me with peace that Sunday in November. I trusted that peace throughout my pregnancy. I still have faith in the fact that some things have to be left up to God, and that I was given these four beautiful children for a reason. Even if I don't always know what that reason is.
Aidan, Ben, Jonah, and Ella
October 2009

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