Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Day You Were Born

Dear Ella Christine,

It's hard to know exactly where to begin the story of your birth. As you'll soon find out... Your mother can sometimes be a little too word-y. Do I start when your dad and I found out we were pregnant? That seems a little silly. So then do I start it the day of your birth? That seems to cut out too much. I guess the only place I can think to start is mid-February. Around that time (February 16th, to be exact), your dad and I started questioning the validity of the due date we were given at our first ultrasound (March 11, 2014). We mentioned these concerns to our midwife, Kasie, and that started a whole slew of confusion. It's a long story, kiddo, but basically... We weren't sure what our due date was or when to expect your arrival. I knew that I was feeling crummy all the time... My feet and ankles (and just about everything else) were three times their normal size, I was having cramping pretty regularly, and my energy level was at an all-time low.

I started taking it easy at work and trying to keep my feet up at home, whenever I could. Your dad was such a huge help at this time. He tended to me so well and was so sweet. Really, he was that way throughout my pregnancy with you, but he really kicked it into overdrive those last few weeks. 

On February 27th, we had our weekly appointment with Kasie. She noticed that my swelling was still out of control, my belly was still measuring really large, and I'd gained 25+ pounds in two weeks! The next day, she asked me to meet her at her doctor's office for a consult to rule out polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid). All was well at the appointment... Turns out I had just the right amount of fluid, you were just a big girl! We were all so relieved that everything was just fine and we wouldn't need to be induced or (worst case scenario) have a c-section! 

Following that appointment, I was so sure you would come anytime. He'd examined me and found I was 3 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced. He predicted it would be anytime, so I just expected you to come that weekend! Well, I was wrong about that... But you didn't wait too much longer! 

I tried so many things to get "real" labor going with you: red raspberry leaf tea, evening primrose oil, bouncing on the birth ball at home AND at work, walking as much as my feet and energy would let me, and castor oil.You were stubborn, though, and took your time.

I worked that whole next week. Working at this point was just not fun at all. Getting up and down, mustering up enthusiasm with my kiddos, and answering a billion questions ("You're still pregnant?" "When is she going to come already?!" "How are you feeling??") were becoming so difficult. That difficulty aside, it gave me something to do to keep my mind off of waiting for you, so I was thankful for that!

March 5, 2014
At about 1:45 AM on March 6th, I got up to pee... Just like any other night. I remember thinking, when I walked back to bed, "Hm... Something feels a little different", but I wasn't fully awake so I didn't think anything of it. I sat down on the edge of the bed, got a drink, and started to roll over onto my left side. Midway through rolling over, I felt a gush of liquid. I yelled out, "Whoa!", which woke your dad up enough to say, "What's wrong?!". I told him, "Well, I'm either peeing again, or my water just broke". As carefully as I could, I stood up and an even bigger gush of fluid came out. We knew then that you were coming soon! At first we couldn't do anything but just stare at each other, like... What the heck do we do now?! (haha) The first thing your dad did was get a towel for me to stand on so I'd stop leaking all over the floor. While he did that, I reached for the phone and called Kasie and your Nonnie. After they were informed about what was happening, I got in the shower to wash off. At that point, I hadn't started contracting yet. I tried laying back down after the shower, but that was when I started feeling contractions. They really weren't too bad at that point, but considering how fast we were expecting you to come, we told our parents, Kasie, and Molly Beth (the photographer) that it would be best to head this way.

This is what 65 pounds of swelling, placenta, and baby looks like!

I remember so much about the day of your birth, but I have absolutely no reference for time. I know my water broke at 1:50 that morning, but beyond that I lost all track of time. The day went by extremely fast and incredibly slow at the same time. I know that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I can't describe it any other way! To help put everything together, I asked Kasie to give me her notes from the birth, so that's really helped me piece everything together. From now on, any times I mention, I got from her notes (Thanks, Kasie!).

Our amazing midwife, Kasie, and her assistant, Dawn
Kasie got to our house first, at around 4 AM. I was still dilated 3 cm but was now 100% effaced. I'm not sure what time your grandparents arrived. Your dad and I stayed in our bedroom for nearly the entire day, while everyone else stayed out in the living room. I've been told that your birth day went by very slowly for everyone waiting outside of our room. Nonnie told me later that she stood outside our bedroom door several times to try to hear what was going on. She told me, "You were so quiet through the whole thing!".

Kasie checking your heart. I'm still smiling so contractions must not be too bad yet =]

Doesn't Papa Gene look like he's having the time of his life? haha

Grinny kept lots of people updated throughout the day.

Grandpa relaxing
I wasn't too interested in eating or drinking throughout the day, but I did have some snacks. I ate a few bites of tooty fruity (fruit salad), a few bites of "German pancake soup", water, and Powerade. I probably didn't drink/eat as much as I should've, but it seemed like every time I took a bite of something, I had a contraction.

Little one, I cannot explain to you how much more I fell in love with you daddy the day you were born. I mentioned before how big of a help he was throughout my pregnancy, but I never imagined how incredible he could be during labor/delivery. We took a birth class a few weeks before you were born with a wonderful doula named Wendy. She went over several comfort techniques for us to try. I had no idea your dad was paying that good of attention! He seemed to know what I needed without me even having to ask. He was my hero that day.

At around 7 AM the contractions had gotten stronger and were much closer together. I wanted to get in the birth pool around this time, but Kasie wanted me to wait a little bit, as I was only dilated to a 5.

I got into the birth pool shortly after 8 AM and by 8:20 I had dilated to 8 cm! By 8:30 I was in transition! It all seemed to go by so fast (for me) after this. The contractions were overwhelming.

We had my laptop in the room with my favorite Pandora radio station playing. I can't begin to tell you how much that helped to take my mind off of the contractions... Especially once they got really bad!

By 9 AM I was at 9 cm! I thought, for sure, you would be coming anytime. Just like what I had read in all the billion pregnancy books I'd read... My body seemed to relax and there was an odd calmness that came over me. 

I got out a couple times to go to the bathroom. Apparently somewhere in my mind I was preoccupied with the fear of pooping in the pool, haha. Between 10:40 and 11:40 I pushed slightly to help open up my cervix. 

That last centimeter wouldn't budge, so Kasie thought it would be a good idea to get out of the pool. The next several hours were a roller coaster of intense, intense, painful contractions and periods of no contractions at all. 





Nothing (Check out my gross elephant foot though!)


See? Kind of all over the place. The worst contractions were when they had me lie on my side. They were pretty much unbearable... To the point that I felt I was going to pass out. I could only tolerate this position for less than a minute a couple times. 

Kasie had a suspicion that your head might not be in a favorable birth position. You were definitely low in my pelvis, but your head was turned sideways and my body was so exhausted/tense from contracting for so long that it would not dilate that last centimeter. In a last ditch effort, she had me contract in a position called the "banana". In this position, I had to lie on my back with several pillows under my butt/low back. The "banana" is also EXTREMELY unpleasant, to say the least.

Unfortunately, this didn't work either. My body was too tense from the pain and pushing that you weren't able to rotate. I sat on the edge of the bed, which was the only position that was (relatively) comfortable, while Kasie explained to me my options. She told us that we could continue to labor at home, but it was not likely to progress into a successful and safe birth. Your dad and I were left alone to discuss our options.

Truthfully, at that point, I felt as if there was no way I would be able to continue at home. It was now about 5 PM. I'd been dilated to 9 centimeters with waves of very intense and painful contractions for 8 hours. I knew it was time to go to the hospital. Surprisingly, I didn't have as much of a struggle with that decision as I would've expected. Although, with how exhausted I felt and how much pain I was in... Maybe it's not so surprising that I would want relief however I could find it. Within the first few days after your birth, your dad shared with me that he was much more upset/scared about going to the hospital than I was. As you will one day learn, your dad has had some difficult experiences with hospitals. He didn't want me to need to go to the hospital, and he most definitely didn't want us to have to be admitted.

Once we made the decision to go to the hospital, Kasie made arrangements to have our information and paperwork faxed and advised them that we were on our way. Since we didn't have care established with any of the doctors at the hospital, our sweet photographer, Molly Beth, helped us by hand writing a quick birth plan. Her practical and fast thinking was such a lifesaver! Your dad rushed to get a bag packed because we didn't expect or plan to be going to the hospital. He loved telling everyone "I asked her earlier if we should have a bag packed and she kept saying 'No, we won't need it'". He just had to throw in that "I told you so." =]

The walk to the car was probably the longest walk I've ever endured. As well as the car ride to the hospital. Grinny drove your dad and I there. I hear she was quite the speed demon, but nothing could've gotten me there fast enough, ha. I had contractions every 3-5 minutes. Grinny thought it was funny that, despite the contractions I was having, I was still able to give her directions to the hospital. When we got there (around 6 PM), the valet attendants had to wait before they could move our car because I was in a contraction when we pulled up and couldn't get out of the truck. We left the house so quickly that I didn't even put on shoes! I'm sure I got plenty of strange looks rolling into the hospital with bare feet, but I never even noticed! As soon as we got to the labor and delivery reception desk, they took us to our room and got me into bed.

I stayed breathing like this and didn't move a muscle until the anesthesiologist came.
Since I didn't have an obstetrician established, we were assigned the doctor on call, which happened to be Dr. Mandy Winfrey. She came to our room within minutes of our arrival, which was so nice. When we got there, I was convinced I needed to have a c-section. I felt like there was no way in the world I would be able to push you out vaginally... I was beyond exhausted and felt so defeated. When Dr. Winfrey did her exam of your position and my cervix, she told us, "Once we get you an epidural and your body has a chance to relax... I see no reason at all why you wouldn't be able to give birth vaginally!". Like I said... I was exhausted and ready to be finished. So when she said I would have to push some more, I wanted to slap her! ha. Was she crazy?! Could she not see how tired I was?! Did she not hear us when we told her I'd been pushing for hours?! How could she think it would be that easy?

We were told that it might take an hour for the anesthesiologist to come with the epidural. I have never watched the clock so closely. My contractions were still steadily coming every 3-5 minutes. These were some of the hardest contractions to manage because they had me sitting up in the hospital bed with the band around my stomach to monitor your heart rate. I couldn't move or get "comfortable"... All I could do was breathe, try not to push, and pray. Fortunately, the anesthesiologist showed up in about 50 minutes, instead of the full hour. Not a minute too soon!
Everyone had to leave while the epidural was administered. They had me sit on the side of the bed and bend my chin down as far into my chest as I could. This proved to be a LOT harder than it sounds. You saw how big my belly was... Bending forward was no easy matter! But I knew they had the drugs that would hopefully bring relief, so I did my best. They told me I had to be completely still. It took several minutes to administer, which was surprising to me because I didn't realize how much preparation would be involved. When one of the drugs was inserted, the anesthesiologist told me "You might feel some cramping in your back" and a split second later, I started having a contraction as well as back cramps. I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would help me to be still through that contraction, because it was hurting so bad.

Ella girl, I cannot express to you the overwhelming relief that the epidural provided. The best way I can describe it is feeling like my body was enveloped in complete warmth. I felt no pain at all. It is the best feeling I had ever experienced in my entire life (until I held you for the first time, of course). See the big lump under the covers in the picture above? They had me lie on my left side with a peanut ball in between my knees. Dr. Winfrey explained that this would allow my body to relax with my pelvis open so you could rotate into a better position.

Around 8:15ish, Dr. Winfrey returned to our room to do another internal exam. Within seconds she said, "Okay, let's push this baby out!". I was finally dilated to a 10! We were about to meet our baby girl!!!

All I remember from pushing is the nurse having me push for 3 sets of 10 seconds with my chin as close to my chest as I could get it. That was nearly impossible, it seemed. During the last set of 10 seconds, I always had to stop short. I know that seems silly to remember, but I kept thinking "Are you insane?! I can't breathe!". They asked if I wanted a mirror to watch you make your way out, and I declined. Baby girl, there are just some things in life that can't be unseen. Giving birth is a miracle, but I didn't think I could handle actually seeing the miracle that was going on down there. Your dad and Nonnie saw the whole ordeal, though (bless their hearts).

See? Not much space to scrunch.

It took me lots and lots of pushing to get your head through. Once I got you there, Dr. Winfrey had to help pull you out because your shoulders were stuck and you weren't crying/breathing. Your dad cut the umbilical cord as soon as you were completely out. They took you immediately to the incubator to try to get you to breathe.
Right after you finally came into the world!
Oh, sweetheart... The sound of your cry was the most precious sound I had ever heard in my life. It was as though everything else disappeared from the whole world and all that was left was you and that amazing, miraculous cry.

You were born at 8:42 PM. You weighed 9 pounds, 15 ounces and were 22 inches long. Your head circumference was 15 inches.

Once they established that your vitals were good and saw you were breathing just fine, they brought you over to my chest. 

I had never seen anything as beautiful as you, baby girl. You were (and are) absolutely perfect. I loved every inch of you and couldn't stop staring at you and soaking in every piece of those first few moments.

Us with Dr. Winfrey
Once they finished taking care of me, your dad held you for the first time. Watching him holding you made the entire day worth it. He is such a good daddy, and he was from the time we found out about you. He loves you so much, baby girl. 

Then everyone took turns coming in to meet you.

Ella Christine, you are the best thing your father and I have ever experienced. You are our greatest accomplishment. Growing up, all I ever wanted was a daughter. You made all of my wishes come true. You made us parents. I can never tell you the hold you have on our hearts and the amount of love we feel for you. The moment you were born, you made our lives better. 

You and daddy

Big feet!

You are everything we ever wanted and more. I pray that God blesses you with this kind of love one day with your own children. It's greater than anything I could ever explain.

We love you so much, sweet girl, and can't wait to watch you grow into the child of God you were created to be! 

All my love,

We have several people to thank for making Ella's birth day so special. Thank you, Kasie McElhaney (at New Life Midwifery Care) and Dawn Rabideau for taking care of me and making sure I was safe and as comfortable as possible at all times. Kasie, you are so precious to me. I could never thank you enough! Thank you, Molly Beth at emb photography for capturing so many priceless photos that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. You were a bright light throughout the day and had the most positive attitude. Thank you, Wendy Fowler, for teaching Braylen and myself so many useful techniques that we were able to utilize to make my labor significantly better. Also, thank you for giving us an idea of what to include in our hospital birth plan. 

Lastly, but certainly not least... Thank you to our parents and family friend Carol for enduring a long day of waiting. It means so much to us that you all were there for us to welcome Ella into the world. She is so blessed to have you all in her life, just as we are. I pray we can be half as good of parents as you all are.
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