So little Miss Ava Marie Fullen turned 8 weeks old this Thursday at 6:40pm and I know I've been completely out of the computer/blogging loop for this time and although I'd like to apologize to those of you who've been waiting to hear all about her birth story and more, I can only half do so, because I haven't really minded one bit that my hands and hours have been really busy holding that beautiful little girl who I waited so long for instead of pressing computer keys and keeping up with facebook, etc.. She has filled my days with peaceful joy! How can I apologize for time spent like this?
(Ava at 4days old)
...but now I'm feeling it's time to "get back into the groove" and don't want to forget to write so many of these beautiful moments and memories down.
For those of you who prayed so hard for Ava & I during our hospital stay, I am SOoooo grateful and reallycannot express to you how powerful your intercession was and how much I felt I was being prayed for. Thank you.
On the day of the last post, September 15th I had been home "taking it easy". I wasn't technically put specifically on "bedrest" and after my brief visit to the hospital had gone into serious nesting mode. I wasn't sure how much time I had left before her birth and wasn't really that aware of how "sick" I had been getting, so I figured as long as I didn't do all the stuff I felt that I needed to do "myself" but asked for help and just delegated... that would be just like "relaxing". So what did I do as soon as I got back from the hospital? Cleaned the basement out.
...yup. The basement. SERIOUS nesting.
I enlisted the help of two of my favorite girls and who were like little Mary's visiting a very pregnant Elizabeth to help me clear out the basement and sort through all of our wedding stuff to give away to a young friend who was getting married and would be coming to the baby shower that weekend (or so I thought). I also wanted to make room to move out an old refrigerator and washing machine and reorganize the whole basement to get it ready for the pellet stove Shaun wanted to put in for the winter. This all had to be done NOW in my mind, so these girls worked their tails off to help me.
I was focused on this task for the day and this kept my mind off how I was feeling. Every now and then I put my feet up and eventually felt a bit more "funny" and decided to put my feet up for the rest of the day. The girls were an enormous help at this time and I cannot thank them enough.
While I was resting on the couch I was busy folding all of Ava's baby clothes and thinking about how soon she'd be here. I didn't realize it would be sooner than I thought! I had really enjoyed my pregnancy and would miss it. I would miss feeling her inside me and the whole experience. I wasn't sure if I was ready for her to come out yet.
Around this time my midwife Louise called and told me that she'd looked over all my lab results and consulted with the physician on my case... I definitely had preeclampsia and they wanted to induce me! ...I didn't want to hear this and involuntarily started shaking at the thought of labor and how much still needed to be done to get ready, but just looked at the pile of clothes before me and said, "Ok, Louise. What size clothes do I pack?" She just said, "I wouldn't pack anything TOO tiny!" and asked if I could be at the hospital in a couple of hours? I said, "Ok, I'll try" but realized after I hung up that my backyard was full of everything from our basement
and I still needed to make dinner for Shaun & I and pack everything!
3 hours later we were at the hospital and along the way I had called one of the couples from our birth class who was due soon and left a message that I was being induced. Ironically when I arrived at the hospital, I found that she had gone into labor! I prayed for her and the other mothers during my stay and tried to prepare myself for labor soon!
The next morning they began the process of inducing me. They put in a cervadil suppository to help soften my cervix and prepare me for the pitocin the following day. This was uncomfortable, but I knew it was necessary. The following day they started me on a low dose of pitocin and on Monday began to "up" the dosage. Typically when the dose goes up to 6-10 units a woman who's ready to go into labor will really start moving along... but me? Nothing. All the way up to 20... nothing.
All during this time, I was on constant bedrest and my blood pressure was constantly being monitored and I was being poked and prodded with needles and lab work. I hate needles... but again, I knew it was necessary and honestly felt that it wasn't that much of a difficulty, because I was able to deal with the waiting and just rest and pray for the other mothers in labor and wait my turn. I wasn't in a BIG rush to go into labor after all!
Probably one of my biggest things to offer was having to sleep away from home and Shaun. I missed him very much.
A few days in, I asked one of the nurses how bad my lab work had been? She looked at me and said, "Marijanna, you were critical!" I was like, "Really?" My midwife would come in to check on me and say, "You look great. You'd never know how sick you are!" I don't think I really understood what it meant to have preeclampsia and how sick I actually was. This was probably a good thing. My ignorance kept me calm.
All during this time, Ava's vital signs looked great. She seemed completely protected from anything and the monitors showed her to be the "healthiest" looking baby of all the babies being monitored. This was great news.
After going from Friday through Monday with NO progress on the whole "induction" process, my midwife decided to take Tuesday to go through all my labs again do another 24hr urine test before proceeding. If I hadn't gotten any "sicker" then we could potentially still go slowly and try to "intice" my body into labor.
When all the labs came back, I hadn't gotten any sicker. This meant we could proceed slowly. All this time I was trying to "offer up" each day and prayed to be able to embrace God's will and for a safe delivery for Ava & I. I really didn't want to have a C-section! Aside from the fact that it was major surgery and I'd be recovering for a while from it, I was also aware that in our hospitals group they had a policy that if you had ONE C-section... you had to have a C-section for EVERY other pregnancy afterwards. This was discouraging to me because I knew Shaun & I wanted more children (If God blesses us) and there's always a chance with the scar tissue from C-sections of a higher chance of miscarriages. Still... I tried my best to trust.
On Wednesday night they put another Cervadil suppository in overnight and for some reason... perhaps because of everything my body had gone through during the week and already having had a Cervadil suppository just a few days ago, I found myself in a lot of discomfort and pain by around 4 or 5 in the morning... and could no longer sleep through it. I knew they couldn't take it out until 8 in the morning, so I just tried to bear it until then, but by morning I was ...tired ...and in pain.
This seemed worth it when my midwife checked in the morning and I was a whole 1cm dialated... woo hoo! At this point I fought becoming discouraged due to the small amount of progress because some progress had actually been made and I tried to anticipate a day of labor ahead of me.
Shaun was working and I tried to manage the pain/discomfort as best I could on my own, but the nurses could tell that I was "not myself" because I was much more silent/serious than I had been for the past week. I called Shaun, told him I thought I was going into labor and needed him there. Then I waited and found myself trying to imagine how I was going to get through the day. I was in so much pain and was exhausted and all I kept thinking was "I thought I had a high pain threshold, but if this is just the beginning and every other woman goes through this, I must be the biggest wuss ever!" The thought that I was only at the beginning of an uphill climb without end in sight and was already in so much discomfort definitely started to break me apart. I was having a LOT of difficulty seeing my way through the day ahead and everything seemed to irritate me, so I tried to remain quiet in order to keep my thoughts to myself and wait for Shaun to arrive as the nurses began the pitocin and I went through what had become the regular gammet of procedures. All I wanted was my husband and after a week of being away from him and my home, I really needed him and some privacy.
When he finally walked through the door, I just started crying. I had been in bed for a week but was in a lot of pain in my lower back that at one point, unable to find any comfort I just needed to get up out of bed. I sat in a chair and played cards with Shaun wincing a bit through the little contractions. Every time they came (every minute or two) I'd look over at the monitor and see a flat line... It showed no contraction... "What a wuss I am" I'd think to myself. Eventually the nurse came and adjusted the monitor and I realized that I was indeed having contractions, but they just hadn't been showing up on the monitor. The hours passed by and they couldn't get a good labor pattern going with the contractions and when my midwife arrived later in the early evening was surprised that I was still sitting and playing cards. She said jokingly "You should be screaming by now." and urged me back into bed (I shouldn't have been up in a chair). Upon checking me, she realized I'd made NO progress in the past hours at all. I was discouraged.
She offered that we could put the Cirvadil in again overnight (I responded with tears running down my cheeks at the thought of a night with SO much discomfort again) and said, "If that's what you think is best".
(Somewhere around this point I remember that I couldn't help but keep meditating on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and how he asked the Father if it was possible to remove the cup of suffering from him, but not his will but the Father's be done. I really felt this poingnantly. I didn't want to suffer. I didn't want to go through labor (especially natural labor) I really wasn't looking forward to it at all, but I knew that I'd go through anything if it meant saving Ava's life. It really helped me to see this mystery much more clearly. How Christ could really NOT want to suffer, but would continue forward, knowing that suffering was coming and embrace it willingly to give me life. That is true love. It brought whole new meaning to the words "This is my body, given for you" and I thought of how Jesus allows us to share in a small way in his suffering, so we can catch a glimmer of how much he loved us when he willingly embraced his cross to give us life.)
In the end she decided to put me on a lower dose of pitocin all night to keep the contractions going and then begin again to up it first thing the following morning.
This really ended up being a good plan. I was able to get some sleep during the night and in the morning as they upped the pitocin, I tried to sleep through the early contractions. Labor began to progress throughout the day... finally. I wasn't sure if I was ready for this, but it didn't matter. It was happening anyway.
Shaun was by my side and remained with me throughout the entire day. He became more and more supportive as the contractions and pain increased. Earlier on, our interactions with each other were quite "comic" (though they didn't seem so at the time).
As I became increasingly more uncomfortable and irritable, I tried to figure out how this day would progress and in an attempt to control what was becoming an "un" controllable situation, I turned to Shaun and said, "Do you remember what we learned in class".
To which he responded, "No."
"NO?!" I said indignantly, "What do you mean, NO? You don't remember anything?"
...again, "No. Was I supposed to?"
"You're kidding right?"
I tried to remind him.
"Ok, the two most important things you're going to need to do is to tell me to RELAX and to BREATHE because those are the two things I'm going to forget to do when I'm in pain, Ok?"
Next contraction... silence.
"Ugh. You need to tell me to relax, remember?"
next contraction... "Ok, Shaun here it comes..."
Shaun very disinterestedly in the MOST monitone voice pets my arm absentmindedly...
"Relax. relax. breathe. relax..."
(His eyes finally look over at mine which are glaring at him)
"You're kidding right?"
"Why? What's wrong?"
"There is NOTHING relaxing about what you're doing!"
"What? I'm massaging you."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Get out of your fricking chair!!!!"
next contraction... He silently watches it climb up on the monitor screen and back down again. I'm looking at him as this occurs and finally say, "SHAUN!!!"
"This isn't a television show! That's happening to ME!"
"Oh, well it'd already started, I figured I'd get you on the next one"
"I'm not supposed to be coaching YOU through contractions, you're supposed to be coaching ME!"
(we both silently try to imagine how we're going to make it through this day)
I see his face and realize he's irritated with me.
"Are you serious?"
"YOU are mad at me? YOU are mad at ME???"
"I'm not mad"
"Yes you are. I cannot BELIEVE that YOU are mad at MEEE!"
...somewhere around this point our Pastor unexpectedly pays us a visit and enters the room bringing communion!
We both respond kindly... "HI Father Conrad, SO nice to see you!!!"
I try to explain that I'm yelling at my husband and feeling quite irritable. so I'm not sure if I'm in the best disposition to recieve communion. In the midst of the conversation I'd breathe through my contractions and can now laugh at the funny situation we found ourselves in. I'm sure I was probably the first woman in labor he'd ever came to visit. I really WAS incredibly grateful to recieve communion, though and asked Jesus to help give me strength. I was incredibly moved not only by Father Conrad's generosity to drive nearly a half hour out of his way to visit me, but also that Jesus came in the midst of my suffering to annoint me and became very present to me, reminding me that I was not alone and he was aware of all I was going through and would be going through. I renewed my desire to offer up this sacrifice and throughout the process many times remembered people to offer my contractions for.
Not long after this I began throwing up through the pain.
At this point Shaun really stepped up his game and I did not need to remind him even one more time to help me. He got it. He was honestly the most supportive husband and stayed by my side through everything and helped me stay focused as he counted through every contraction.
I wasn't able to stand, walk around or do much of anything I'd learned about in my classes to help my labor progress as my blood pressure would go through the roof if I so much as walked to the bathroom. I was able to continue most of my labor in the tub, though and this really helped me to relax. Shaun knelt by my side. At one point he even commented that I "made this look easy" to which I replied in a tired voice "this is not easy" I was just too tired to fight.
When Louise arrived around 4pm she checked me and said in a happy tone, "That's great! You're 3cm dialated! We might have this baby by midnight!"
Shaun & I both thought the same thing to ourselves. "LIKE HELL WE'RE GOING TILL MIDNIGHT! NO WAY!"
I resolved to try even harder to give in to the pain and do whatever I had to to let my labor progress. I wouldn't fight the contractions and would do whatever I had to so that I wouldn't have to re do even ONE. This seemed to work because in 20 minutes I'd reached 5cm, then 7cm, then in two hours I'd reached almost 10 and it was time to push.
At this point Louise told me to get out of the tub because I had to get to the bed to push. I think my eyes became as big as melons when I realized she was asking me to actually stand UP! She must be kidding! I tried and held on to Shaun as a contraction came on me. With the Pitocin everything came faster so I had very little time between them. I nearly took poor Shaun to the ground. I made it to the bed and it came time to push.
I tried and tried for 40 min and towards the end started becoming frustrated. Louise told me at one point that I needed to get this baby out NOW. I began to panic when I turned and looked at the monitor to see Ava's heart rate dropping. At this point I cannot tell you what I felt knowing that I was trying as hard as I could and somehow it may not be enough and I might hurt her right at the end of all of this because I couldn't get her out. Shaun saw the look of panic in my eyes. Louise must have too, because she just firmly said, "DON'T you look at that monitor! Just look at me and at the next contraction PUSH!" At this point I blankly stared at her and said, "Louise, I can't feel them anymore! I don't know when to push" I guess something happens sometimes with all the medicine and your uterus can get tired. The nurse had to tell me by feeling my stomach when a contraction was coming. Somehow I pushed and was able to get her out. All 9lbs 4oz of her! She was placed on me and I just cried and apologized, telling her I was sorry I took so long and almost hurt her. She was beautiful... really beautiful... and she was mine.
(You can see how swollen I am from the pushing... not my most attractive)
My body started shaking uncontrollably and they were able to stop the bleeding eventually and through everything that happened after that it didn't matter anymore. I just held her and didn't want to let her go. I was so grateful for Shaun standing over me, holding my hand and never leaving my side. I knew again at that moment that no matter what happened he would never leave me. He made me feel beautiful and that he was so proud of me and told me what a good job I did. I felt proud of myself. I did it!
Ava Marie Fullen was born at 6:40pm on September 22nd and weighed 9lbs 4oz and was 21 3/4" She had a full head of thick dark hair and the sweetest disposition from the very beginning. She was a fighter, though and you'd never know from looking at her that there had been any danger at all. There wasn't a single mark on her. She was perfect.
I thanked Louise through tears for all her help and for being patient enough to let my body (and me) get ready to go into labor. I knew anyone else would have called for a C-section. I knew she had enabled me to trust her so completely and had helped me to believe that I was capable of this and that childbirth was the most natural thing possible. Her belief in my gave me strength. I didn't know how to thank her adequately. Her humble response? "It was my priveledge".
Before I left the hospital and went home, one of the nurses came in who had sort of seen what the week had held for me. She had the most encouraging words after seeing me deliver in the end. She said, "Marijanna, before I leave I wanted to tell you that watching what you did this week and how you delivered in the end... you pretty much did the impossible. I thought you should know that." That made me feel pretty good after everything, but I knew that I couldn't have done it without the prayers of so many, a terrific midwife, Jesus and Mary helping me through and of course...
...my husband Shaun. I love you honey.
After a long week and a half and many lessons, we headed home to begin our newest chapter of our lives with this beautiful little girl.
Ava Marie Fullen, we're SO glad you're finally here!