Sunday, May 19, 2013

She's Here!

My favorite of Eliza so far :o)

I thought I'd give this post a similar title to this one: He's Here!, where I shared Nathan's birth story. Mostly just for my own sake, so I can find them both easily later. But, if anyone wants to hit up that little link it'll show off how vastly different the births of our babies were!

**Disclaimer: the post (mentioned above) about Nathan's birth was written the same week he was born, and I had repressed most of the experience. I remember it very differently now, and the entry I wrote back in Nov. 2010 almost seems naive!**

The last two and a half years (with breaks here and there) have been spent in counseling, trying to get over what happened when Nathan was born. I was left with postpartum PTSD that triggered anxiety issues and basically altered my personality (by a lot), and my views on just about everything. Granted, we are extremely fortunate, and we've always recognized that. Nathan was supposed to have brain damage for how long he was without adequate oxygen. His heart rate indicated a quite possible heart defect. He was taken by emergency c-section after 12 hours of labor, when I was 100% effaced and dilated to a 9.5 (out of 10). We are so glad he made it here safely, but talks with the doctor I chose to deliver Eliza revealed that they waited way too long and compromised something much too precious to ever give them my business--or put my children in their hands--again. In fact, the doctor who delivered Nathan has since been fired and is now retired in Colorado.

My water broke 4 weeks early with Eliza on Friday, May 10th, 2013, at about 2:30 am. Mitch was on a required three-day campout with his business class and was supposed to get home at noon that day, so naturally I was trying not to freak out that he wasn't there. Actually, my very first thought was to get OFF our memory foam mattress before I ruined the thing!! I didn't ruin the giant sponge of a bed, by the way. (That's the fastest I've ever moved being that pregnant!) All that week and the week before, I had been thoroughly watched by my doctors for some bleeding and cramping I was having. We'd moved that week and the stress was just proving to be too much. I was dilated to a 1.5 (which most people know you can sit at for weeks), but they also had found that miss E had stopped growing at about 32 weeks. I was 36 weeks. Of course, she picked right in between appointments to do this, right before I started going every week, so no one knew anything until I went in. I had been given a clear, "everything's fine! Don't worry!" from my doctors on Thursday, and I had texted Mitch that, so he didn't think to worry. And then everything gushed in the middle of the night and things got REAL. And of course nothing was ready.

His phone kept searching for service while camping. He wasn't supposed to have his phone, but since he had a very pregnant wife at home he told his professors he WOULD have it with him, just on vibrate. However, to conserve the battery, he had to shut it off when it wasn't needed. Apparently 2:30 am doesn't usually present a huge time of phone necessity. I thought he was just sleeping through a vibrating phone (easy for him to do), so I just kept calling, basically until he found me at the hospital. 

In the meantime, I called my in-laws, because they knew they could expect a call to "start driving!" if things happened early, being only an 8 hour drive away. My father-in-law was the epitome of calm and reason, which was good, because I was trying not to actually process anything that was happening. I was having mild cramps, just a bit worse than Braxton Hicks contractions, so I knew (hoped) things would start on their own soon, but not before I got to the hospital! I called my friend Juanee (John-ee), who is one of my best friends and used to be our neighbor until we moved the week before all this happened (yeah...). She came right over, even thinking to grab Nathan's carseat out of our car in the parking lot before she came in. She helped me pack a bag and come up with a plan. I gave her a few numbers to call at a more decent hour and she helped get me something quick to eat and get me off to the hospital ASAP. I really couldn't have done it without her; I would have been calling unsuspecting friends in my contact list to see if they could come watch my kid in the middle of the night!

I didn't call my mom until I got in the car to drive to the hospital (yes, I had to drive myself. Yes, Mitch will always feel guilty about this. What else was I supposed to do!?). I wanted to get there before the pain got bad, and I could feel that the contractions were at least consistent (miracle induction while attempting your first ever VBAC {Vaginal Birth After Cesarean} is about the last thing you want!). I knew I'd fall apart talking to my mom on the phone. My father-in-law was so calm and assertive that he helped me not quite process things, just like I wanted. He helped me make progress and get out the door! And then went to town calling every emergency number he could find for Mitch's business dept. and the campground he was at. Anyway, my mom did her big, "GASSSSP!!! What are you going to DO!?!?" like I knew she would...something I couldn't handle hearing if I wasn't already on the way to the hospital, with everything taken care of (as much as I could control, anyway). I told her my short plan and asked her to say a prayer that Mitch would make it in time.

I showed up at the hospital, parked, got to the maternity ward, and checked in. I quickly told them the situation with my husband and they told me they could call dispatch and send an officer out to get him. I, of course, took them up on that...I didn't really have power to get those kinds of results by calling them myself, but they could, calling from the hospital! A sweet officer three counties over miraculously had his responsibilities lightened at the start of his shift by another officer who had free time, so he had time to go out and search campsites with a flashlight for Mitch (miracle #2...Mitch would NOT have made it in time without him! Yes, there is a thank-you note in the works!). They confirmed in triage that my water had broken and admitted me. My contractions were already only 3-4 minutes apart, and they were basically on top of each other by the time 3:30 am hit. 

The sweet officer ran into Mitch's campsite at about 4 am, ripping open tent doors and shouting, while pointing a flashlight at everyone's faces, "Where's Mitch Dooley!? I need Mitch Dooley! His wife's having a baby!!!" He grabbed his hat, pants, a hoodie, and his boots, and threw everything on in the squad car. His group members later brought his stuff home for him. He and the officer made the 45-60 minute drive in about 20 minutes, lights on and sirens blaring, going at least 90 mph the whole time. Mitch showed up at about 4:30 am. 

I wasn't quite dilated to a 3 yet, but things were getting painful. I couldn't believe I wasn't further along. I heard all the nurses from the nurses' station squeal and all say, "Oh, she'll be SO happy to see you!" "You made it!!" "It's our camper!!", etc. I have never been happier to see anyone in my life than when Mitch walked through those doors! Having Eliza also meant I had a lot riding on my emotional and psychological well-being, and I really didn't think I could do it without him.

I don't remember a ton from between 3:30 and 6 am, I just remember I wasn't quite far enough for my epidural when shift changes happened at 6. I got a new nurse (they were all awesome throughout all this), but they said shift changes for the anesthesiologist would take about 45 minutes, so my epidural was at least an hour away. In that hour, I happened to progress from a 3 to a 7, AND I hit transition. (I got my epidural with Nathan when I was at a 7 and in transition as well...bad timing!) 

Because I was a VBAC patient, my epidural was required. However, I was totally fine with that; my epidural was the only reason I stayed awake through Nathan's surgery, and with all they thought was wrong with him, I'll never go epidural-less again; I can't imagine a tiny baby passing away before I get a chance to see him/her. (And it's amazing that I can even write that sentence without crying, because that scenario haunted my nightmares and flashbacks for months...) It's a personal decision, of course, and this one is just worth it for me. So, we were cheering on that anesthesiologist and just trying to get him here! It was all I could do to keep still, while in transition (the most intense part of labor for most women), and get that epidural in place.

Those drugs took effect FAST. Thank heavens. I started feeling like I had to go to the bathroom (#2...sorry to get all graphic on everyone...), and they told me it was the baby's head, but that I wasn't quite dilated enough yet. None of the nurses could believe how LOW her head was (the same thing they said about Nathan's), especially since I'd never delivered a baby that way before. Her head was apparently at a -2 station when I was at an 8. (They told me it was at a -1 when I was in triage, very early in my labor, but I don't completely know the significance of this. I just know it doesn't happen to most people!)

We went over and over all the NICU procedures to take care of a baby who was (1) preterm and (2) the size of a 32 week-old fetus, instead of a 36 1/2 week old one. We had no idea what issues she'd have, and we were hoping she would just wait, resolve her little issues and grow, and THEN come normally. 

We explained to the doctor and the nurses that we were, of course, not going to put our plans to hold and cuddle her above her health, and that if she had to leave us immediately, we knew she'd be in the most capable hands possible (miracle #3...seeing Nathan leave the OR and get passed in to NICU was one of the hardest things ever. I really didn't know if I'd see him alive again or if I'd ever get to hold him alive. Getting to this point mentally, for Eliza's birth, took months of counseling all on its own!). Her pediatrician and a NICU team were standing by in the NICU down the hall, ready to admit her, and we had another team in the room.

Because her head was so low, once I was complete they brought the doctor in right away to be there when I started pushing; he didn't wait to waltz in and catch the baby. Plus, being a VBAC patient, he felt he needed to be there for as much of the actual birth as possible. I learned how to do everything, and Mitch and my nurse were great support. The doctor was awesome; he was so calm and assuring and just wonderful about everything. I know he really cares about each patient. That practice is amazing! I did request a mirror, which I didn't see myself doing beforehand, but I almost needed proof to myself, in the moment, that I had actually gotten there, and that my labor had been a smooth one and that my baby was still beating that little heart as fast as it should be. I was crying already, just starting to realize how different I was mentally than I had been 2.5 years ago. I had the realization that I wouldn't have to repress a moment of anything (not like it's a conscious decision), and that everything was so peaceful and smooth. Having the mirror was actually amazing and gross at the same time, but I was able to ignore the gross part for the majority of it. I will never forget seeing that little head show up out of (what seemed like) nowhere; suddenly a bunch of movements over the last few months had turned into a BABY! 

After only 20 or so minutes of pushing, at 9:03 am, she was out and on my belly, like they told me they would still do, so I would get some contact with her (another sweet, considerate thing this doctor did). Mitch and I bawled like babies ourselves. I loved watching Mitch's reaction to it all. They asked if he had any plans to cut the cord. He answered, "not really." which surprised me...this is the same man that peeks over my shoulders to watch epidurals and was taking pictures over the drape during the c-section! They asked if he would like to and he agreed. I still need to ask him what he thought of all that!
One of those horribly unflattering pictures, yet you don't care at all because you can't believe it actually I said, Mitch and I bawled like babies!
She was pink and screaming, which they didn't expect. They did her Apgar scores without even taking her from me, and at one minute after birth, our tiny fighter scored a 9 out of 9! Amazing. They told me that, as long as she stayed looking great, I was free to keep her with me. My nurse watched her carefully while we cuddled, did some chest-to-chest time, and I got to nurse her. I just couldn't stop crying and thinking about how amazing she was! An hour and a half later they said that they better weigh/measure her, get a diaper on her, etc. I could not believe they let me keep her for so long! It was so idealistic, and I never imagined it would really happen that way. I still can't believe it! Miracle #4: She didn't have a single thing wrong with her; no circulation issues, no temperature issues, no blood sugar, nothing! Nathan even had circulation and blood sugar issues at first!
SOOO tiny; my hand serves as a size reference here
The one low point was that I tore a bit and had to be stitched up. It still floors me that I tore with a 4 lb feels a bit pathetic, but I guess being born is quite the stretch, no matter your size. I'm not dwelling too much on it in my head; everything else went so perfectly!  
She'd weighed in at 4 lb 10 oz in the ultrasound a few days before. Mitch's guess was 4 lb 12 oz; he was spot-on! She was also 18.5 inches; for her weight, she should have been about 16 inches. She was fully cooked, just needed to fatten up!

She's pretty hard to fit a diaper on...

According to hospital policy, any baby born before 37 weeks must spend 6 continuous hours being monitored in NICU. So, after we nursed and Mitch got to snuggle our tiny little bug, we kissed her goodbye, sent her off to NICU, and the nurses took care of me. I totally almost passed out in the shower, by the way. I've never seen so many nurses show up so quickly! And smelling salts are REALLY effective...

After I ate lunch I was wheeled down to NICU in a chair to cuddle my baby. It was awesome. The NICU nurses LOVED her because they could actually dress her; she didn't have to be hooked up to anything but the little sticker heart monitors! So, they "donated" preemie clothes to us for our stay so she could stay that much warmer. She weighed in at 4 lbs 12 oz but with between 2-4% body fat. Most newborns have upwards of 60% body fat to keep them warm. We have to work hard to keep her warm so she doesn't have to work hard and burn calories to keep herself warm. Her little face looks chunky in the early hospital pictures, but it's just swelling. She really doesn't have much fat on the whole of her body! 

Proud big brother :o)
Proud daddy :o)

Getting acquainted

such dry, wrinkly skin! It wasn't supposed to be above water until June :o)

Curious brother :o)

Eye contact! Score!
tiny baby lashes :o)

 We went home on Sunday morning, after Eliza miraculously passed her carseat test. They test tiny babies for an hour and a half to see if they can hold their vital signs while in the carseat, and most babies under 5 lbs don't pass and have to be sent home in a preemie car bed that's rented from the hospital. This was a much easier option; we're glad she passed!

They would have let us go home Saturday if she wasn't so tiny; they just wanted an extra 24 hours to watch her. She has been a great nurser, although a bit on the lazy side, and sleeps wonderfully too, at least for now! We just keep her bundled and cozy and snuggle all the time, remembering that she's still supposed to be a fetus! She has brought so much joy into our home! We've had a few close friends as visitors, but we've been told to keep her away from anyone who is sick, and to treat her immune system like a preemie's. People wash up before they hold her, etc.

We love our baby Eliza Kay! Nathan's transition has been hard, but he is almost back to his normal self now that mommy's almost back to her normal self. Thank goodness for my in-laws (my mother-in-law showed up Friday night at about 8 pm), Juanee, who took Nathan and Apollo almost all day, my cousin Kim, who rushed back into town to be "on call" to take Nathan (Juanee and her family were going out of town that afternoon!), the officer who found Mitch and brought him to me, and my parents, who knew they couldn't get to us that day all the way from Kansas, so they were out shopping for preemie clothes all day so we'd have something to dress Eliza in!

 Now, for anyone who has made it this far, here's a few more photos! After photographing so many other newborns, it was finally time to take pictures of my own!
Nathan SO wanted Eliza to play trains with him when she got home. He kept saying, "Baby Eliza build big long train with me!?" He's very overprotective of who plays with his trains, so this was a huge compliment. For a size reference, each train is about 2.5 inches long.

The bunny her grandma found at Vera Bradley for her; as a size reference, her bunny is about 9.5 inches from head to toe.
chillin' in her cute new preemie clothes from grandma (my mom) on her cute blanket from GG (Mitch's mom).

 I am so grateful for all the help and well wishes we've received! My mother-in-law took care of me when I couldn't get up without a lot of pain to do anything, and she made our house look great while I was in the hospital (again, I thought I'd have 4 weeks to make the mess and chaos a home!), and my mom is here now and helping me to transition into life at home with two kids.

Later I'll write about my recovery; we've had a few bumps, but we're getting through them!


  1. So you don't know me, but I've been reading your blog for awhile now -- I think we have a mutual friend (Kristian Sims) and one day I clicked on your profile, saw your blog, and have loved reading it ever since. After reading your story, I couldn't help but comment. This had me crying through the whole thing, and I am SO happy that your sweet little girl got her safe, and perfectly. My sister had a 4 1/2 pound baby who had no problems whatsoever as well (born at 35 weeks, 5 days), so I know what a miracle this is. I have always been amazed by your strength after everything you've gone through. Congratulations :) I hope it's okay that I have been reading your blog. Hope you are loving having your sweet girl here!

    My blog is :)

    1. Thank you so much! That is so sweet of you! Of course you're fine to read all this; I mostly write it just as a family journal, but my kids also have grandparents that live further away than we'd like, so why not just update the whole family at the same time, right!? :o) Thanks for the sweet words!

  2. Congrats! She is a doll! I watched a documentary about VBACs and I am so glad you got yours. Its supposed to be hard to get through the hospital system. I'm also glad Mitch made it! I would for sure be freaking out. Congrats to you and your cute little family!

  3. Oh i am crying right now.
    Congratulations!!! Such a miracle. I am so so happy for you all!!! I love how Mitch was brought in... Thats something to tell her later! Her daddy will literally do anything for her :)

  4. She is absolutely precious! I love the story of the cop having to come get Mitch! Great story to tell Eliza when she gets older. Love all of the pictures and I'm looking forward to seeing more!

  5. Oh, I'm so glad it went so much better this time around! She's just a perfect little angel! Congrats! Congrats! Congrats!!!

  6. This post made me cry and I'm so glad that you have a healthy little girl. You are an unbelievably amazing person, love you Alaina!

  7. I'm so so excited and happy for you Alaina. I'm glad you had a "perfect" birth especially after Nathan's traumatic entrance. You deserve it. She's so beautiful and you'll be telling that story for years. Especially with Mitch camping. So great. Keep resting up!

  8. Amazing! The Lord understood all the trials you went through and thought you needed a break I guess. Congratulations! She is darling.


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