|Will and Luke cannot WAIT for sis to be born.|
Then in the last weeks of my pregnancy I was really sick. Green skin, sweaty, fevery, teeth chattering chills sick, like I wanted to curl up in a ball and die sick. I had bronchitis and was given antibiotics. I was finally on the mend but the baby wasn't kicking me like she normally did. I was worried. At my OB appointment I told them about her movement lessening and they immediately sent me to have an NST (non-stress test) where they monitor the baby's heart rate. Her heart was not accelerating like it should have so I was sent in for a BPP (biophysical profile). They found fluid around her heart. Ugh. This is scary stuff. So within a week I had 4 NST's and BPP's and she was failing all of them. I contacted my friend from grade school who is now a Midwife. She was my savior. After many late night chat sessions on Facebook and a few phone calls later, she said "this baby needs to come out, now!" She was right, I knew she needed to come out. She gave me the courage to listen to my instincts. At my last couple of appointments I begged them to get her out. I could feel it in my gut that something was terribly wrong.
At my last ultrasound the tech noticed the chambers of her heart looked uneven. She called the doctor in and he was concerned too. By some miracle, there was a pediatric cardiologist in the office that day. They set up an appointment for a few hours later so he could take a look. My mom was with me and we went and had a fattening pizza lunch then shopped at Goodwill to pass the time. Jesse met us at the appointment, and I'm glad he did. The cardiologist had some news for us. There is a vessel in the heart called the ductus which stays open while the baby is in utero and then it closes once the baby is born. The ductus in our daughter's heart already had closed and he said she needed to come out the next day. I was 38 weeks pregnant. We rushed home to pack our bags and couldn't believe we were about to meet our daughter!
|Hi mom and dad! I'm cute already!|
January 4th. This is going to be my daughters birthday, and a day that will forever be burned in my memory as one of the most stressful, exciting, miraculous and life changing days of my life. We were all ready to go, we were excited and nervous all at the same time. My mom, brother Matt and sister-in-law Diane were there. I'm so glad they were there. I was wheeled into the OR for my c-section and Jess had to get his scrubs on and wait. Mom, Matt and Diane helped to keep the tension light with their comedic ways. Jess was worried about us, I could tell although he never said it. This is a much different scenario than our boy's births! My family kept him laughing all the way until they said it was go time.
|My last moment as a pregnant woman, ever!|
|Ready to roll!!|
Jess came into the operating room and kissed me on the head. "Love you honey, you will do great! It's time to meet our baby girl" My nervousness subsided once he was there with me. There's something about this man that always makes me feel safe. Just having him next to me I knew we were going to be OK.
The cardiologist had warned us that our daughter could come out blue because of her heart issue. We were mortified. I prayed and prayed for her to be OK. The NICU team was ready for her and were on stand-by. Jess had the camera in hand and I made him promise to take a picture when they held her up. The docs had a hard time getting her out because her head was stuck under my ribs "just another tug and she will be out" they said. Jesse says "there she is!" But they didn't hold her up. I didn't hear her cry. Jesse didn't take her picture. They whisked her away into another room and I was terrified.
A few minutes later they ask Jesse if he was ready to meet his daughter. I think to myself, "she's fine, thank God!" I remind him to take a picture of her. Oh I was so anxious for him to come back and tell me all about her! As he disappeared behind the heavy double doors I heard a cute girlish cry. Ahh the tears stream down my face. I just heard my daughter cry. My daughter! I have a baby girl! And she's OK!
Jesse returns to me, his face pale and his eyes full of tears. "What's wrong? Is she OK???" I'm panicked. Through the tears he tells me that they suspect she has Down syndrome. It felt like the blood drained out of my body, from my head down to my toes. "No she doesn't, there's no way!" He says the doctors are pretty sure and that they found some "markers"... "Like what?" I ask. "She has a crease across her palms, her first toe and second toe have a big gap between them, her ears are small and set low, and her facial features". I asked him what he thinks, and he just shrugs. I need to see her. He took some pictures so I squint at the little screen on my camera. I don't see it. She's my beautiful daughter, she looks just like her big brother Will. She doesn't look like she has Down syndrome! Is this really happening? I cry, hard. Then I apologize to Jesse. I don't know why but I felt like as her mother it was my job to protect her and I had failed. It was gut wrenching. Jesse didn't want more kids, in that moment I was ashamed and horrified. Is he going to leave me? I'm going to have to raise my three kids alone! This is too much for him! He will never walk her down the aisle! My dreams of having a daughter were crushed. I want what my mom and I have, she's my best friend. How am I going to do this? Will I have to quit my job? What about Will and Luke? This is going to change their lives too, forever! It's amazing the number of irrational thoughts I had in such a short period of time. Then I said "we are going to love her, she's our girl" and Jesse agreed.
Jason Mraz - I Won't Give Up
|My first glimpse of my daughter was this photo.|
After I was all stapled up I was wheeled back to the room, Jesse was holding my hand the whole way. I was numb. Not just from the spinal block, but my head and my heart were numb. When we got back to my room my mom, Matt and Diane were waiting there for us. They told us later that by the looks on our faces they thought she didn't make it. I could barely speak and I told them what the doctors said. "They think she has Down syndrome" and my mom hugged me tight. For some reason the experience of telling my family is foggy. I don't remember what was said. My brother said they were all crying. I wish I could remember.
They finally brought her to me and I got to hold her for the first time. I wish I could go back to that moment and hold her and love on her all over again. I was inspecting her, trying to see if I could see what the doctors were telling me. I feel guilty for that now. She looked perfect to me. I didn't want to give her back to the nurse, I wanted to hold her and protect her. I wanted her to be healthy. I closely looked at her long skinny fingers and toes, her cute lips with the top lip sticking out further than the bottom one. Her nose that was just like her mamas, and her right ear that was just like her daddy's and her left ear that was just like mine! She was beautiful. I only got to spend 5 minutes with her. It would be hours before I got to see her again.
When Jess and I were alone in the hospital room, he reminded me of something. "Remember our dreams?" I had already thought of them. It was crazy, we both had dreams about this little girl. This little miracle baby who was determined to be in our lives. She is here, through the horrible pregnancy and surprise conception. She was meant to be ours and Jess and I both saw her in our dreams.
Once the medicine wore off I begged Jesse to wheel me up to see her. It had been 7 hours. Jesse spent the whole first day next to her side. I often wonder what was said during that time. I think he whispered to her how he was going to protect and love her for the rest of his life. I think that first day was very important and special for them. They bonded as father and daughter. He was there for her when she needed him the most. She is a lucky little girl to have this man as her father. The love he has for her is insurmountable.
That night was the hardest for me. The pain reminded me of the way I felt when my father died. My stomach turned and was in knots. I would wake up every hour and sob. Jesse would wake up because he would hear me crying and would comfort me. Every time I would wake up I would think it was a dream. I would reach down to feel my big pregnant belly and it wasn't there anymore. This was real. I couldn't believe this was happening. I was so scared for the future, for her health and for the unknown.
The next day we were in the NICU visiting our girl. We were still inspecting her and trying to see if we could see "it". The pediatrician came in to see us and handed us a book "Babies with Down Syndrome: A New Parents Guide" it was so in our faces. We don't even know if she has it! The karyotype was supposed to be back in a couple of days with the results. Although, deep down, I knew she had it. We even joked about how I looked like I had Down syndrome as a baby. We laughed about how she just looks like me! Maybe I have Down syndrome too! Another marker is a flat head, the pediatrician commented on how our daughter's head was so round. I pointed out my brother Matt's head shape. It is flat on the back. Matt turned his head so the doc could see, and he agreed his head shape was considered a marker. We all laughed and gave my mom grief for leaving Matt in his crib, leading to his head shape. It was nice to have some humor during this time to break up the tears. Our family tends to deal with everything using humor.
The second day of her life I told Jess that we needed to come up with her name already! We had Quinn or Harper picked out for months. I knew in my heart we would use Quinn. When I saw her she didn't fit either name. As I was next to her isolette looking at her sweet little face Jesse said "what about Ellie?" Yes! Ellie! That's it! I grab my phone and look up the meaning. Ellie: Warrior, Sun Ray, Light. It was perfect! I was in tears and emailed my mother-in-law. I knew she would be excited because Ellie was her and my father-in-law's name choice. I can't imagine our girl as anything but Ellie. And her middle name is Lehne (pronounced Lane) which is my beautiful mother's maiden name. I love it. My Ellie girl. Ellie Belly. Ells Bells. Ellie Bean. Ellie L. Sissy Roo. My daughter.
When I heard the song Wonder by Natalie Merchant it struck me. It was a few days after I was home from the hospital and Ellie was still in the NICU. It came on while I was making dinner and I just started sobbing. I had heard the song a hundred times, and even sang along! But I had never really "heard" the song until after our Ellie was born.
Oh, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laugh as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience, and with faith
She'll make her way
Natalie Merchant - Wonder
|The first time Will met Ellie. He was in love.|
|Will loving on baby sissy.|
|With her big brother Luke.|
|One of the first days home from the NICU.|
|Looking at her mama.|
|Uncle Matt and Auntie DiDi, they love their Ellie and were there the day she was born!|
|My mother-in-law, aka "Grammee" who spent quite a few nights with Ellie at the hospital. Their slumber parties were very special!|
|My mom, Barbara, aka "Grandma" with Ellie, her 7th grand baby.|
|Ellie and her awesome Papa, my father-in-law, and his 6th grand baby!|