Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Learning Curve

This little nugget is three weeks old today:
At least I think she is...From everything I've read in the last few weeks premature babies often have two ages: their chronological age which is the age of the baby from the day of his or her birth (in this case Ava would be considered three weeks) and their adjusted age which is calculated based on the baby's actual due date; the adjusted age is used by Doctor's to measure if milestones are being met on time. Because Ava is considered a late preterm infant since she was born after 34 weeks but before 37 weeks and her due date hasn't arrived yet (April 13th) I'm not really sure what to say other than we've had her in our lives for three wonderful weeks, and that she's was early. The last few weeks have certainly been a learning experience for Chad and I. We've learned how strong our relationship is, how much we love one another, and just how much we love our children. We've also learned that maybe Ava's temperature doesn't have to be checked every five minutes (guilty) in order to make sure she's regulating it properly or that maybe she would breathe much better if my finger wasn't constantly under her nose checking for air. We've learned that she doesn't like when I've eaten broccoli or tuna fish (holy gas related nuclear meltdown), but other than that she loves to eat! So much so, that she gained almost a pound by her first Doctor's appointment (she's 6 pounds now!). We've learned that she makes the cutest sound after sneezing and dinosaur noises when she's stretching. We've learned that for the most part (when I'm not eating foods she dislikes) she's a pretty happy baby and smiles a lot in her sleep; also I don't believe people who say "it's just gas" she's smiling damnit! We've also learned that these two will be trouble in a few years
We've, or maybe I've been learning to just let go, to just breathe, and well, to stay off  Google at all costs; seriously. With premature babies there are so many risk factors, so many exams, so many articles discussing your babies "uncertain" future that it can drive you crazy and for a minute there I think I was going crazy. It wasn't until we had her retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) exam the other day and got great news that I finally began to breathe, and TRULY, truly, believe that she is going to be just fine. The retinopathy exam is no joke however, and getting through it was terribly hard for this momma! I made the mistake of reading articles relating to this exam before we arrived for her appointment (some were more pleasant than others) and by the time we got there I was ready to turn the car around and ya know, save my baby from this evil Doctor; he ended up being a very wonderful, and pleasant man but, whatever! The waiting room made it even worse since it was nothing but babies getting their eyes dilated, and a little boy who couldn't have been older than 18 months screaming at the top of his lungs each time the nurse came out with eye drops; I cried when he got his done because his momma, bless her heart, looked so heartbroken telling him "it's just like last time, it's okay" and I thought rather selfishly I guess, is this our life now? Will Ava have to do this every few weeks? Sure, she may not remember now, but, she will and then I cried some more. When it was her turn to go back, Chad offered to hold her while they did the test and I don't know if it was the masochist in me but, I needed to be the one...I thought, if this our life now, if Ava has to have this done every few weeks than I need to be there for her; I needed to show half the strength she had been showing since the day she was born. It wasn't easy though, I had to hold down her little legs, and arms as she screamed and the Doctor used some contraption to pry her eyes open. When he started to manually move her eye around I lost it, closed me eyes, and cried until it was over and the not so evil Doctor gave us the good news. Ava's eyes were mature, and that he wouldn't have to see us again till July. He also told us that he really thinks she might be older than she is, that maybe they calculated my due date wrong, and that there are just some things Science can't explain...which I agree with! What Chad and I have learned the most over the last few weeks is how strong our faith is, how amazing God is, and how miraculous life can really be. We've learned how blessed we are and just how amazing this baby that he's given us really is.
She is strong, she is mighty, she is a little hurricane.
 Ava Belle will be loved, and cared for beyond measure and no matter where her journey takes her, she will never go at it alone. We are still learning all about our little early surprise and while we aren't sure where this path is taking us just yet we are no longer afraid of it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A New Life

When I first started this blog my intention was to post something every day, or at least once a week, but then I would get busy and a whole month might go by without a single entry. The last time I posted anything here was July of 2012, more than a year of events (like Lily turning three) life changes (we had that beautiful wedding) and everyday things, that I missed out on posting about because I was too busy. When I became pregnant with our second daughter, I thought this is it, I need to start blogging but, I became too busy and I forgot once again. Then, our daughter came six weeks early and I knew it was time to write it all down.

My pregnancy with our first daughter Lily was pretty uneventful, blissful even, and although my labor with her was really long (26 hours total) I remember telling everyone what a great time I had; cue the crazy stares on that one! My second pregnancy however, could not have been more different! From the moment I peed on that little stick I felt as if my entire body were falling apart. I constantly felt sick; although never enough to throw up, just enough to ruin my whole day! I had horrible headaches and experienced food aversions to all my favorites (A1 sauce, pickles, etc.!) while also having what felt like every "weird" pregnancy side effect known to man! I had a low lying placenta as well which turned me into a worrywart (stay off GOOGLE) because I desperately wanted to avoid a C-section and put me modified bed rest for two months until it cleared. She was also in position most of my pregnancy and there were days that I would cry putting on pants because the pressure was so intense. I know it sounds awful and believe me, some days really were but, even through all of that I still loved being pregnant-every awful minute of it! lol That placenta previa allowed us to see her on a sonogram a lot more than the allotted few they give you, and bed rest isn't all that bad! The sickness, the food aversions, the headaches, etc. all subsided and when my third trimester hit I started to experience real bliss....It's here that I should point out that Chad and I had originally planned to have our daughter in North Carolina, like her sister, with my new awesome Doctor that I was absolutely in love with but on Valentines' Day I went into pre-term labor while still in Florida for his job and all of our plans changed! While most couples were out having a nice, romantic dinner Chad and I were sitting in a hospital room and I was receiving a shot to stop my contractions; contractions that began with no real explanation they said, as I had great blood pressure, a negative gestational diabetes test, and no other complications. After that night Chad and I decided to find a Doctor in Tampa and have our daughter down here so that he wouldn't miss it, so that he wouldn't have to rush to North Carolina, and well, because we both knew she wasn't going to wait much longer!

From the beginning, this baby showed me who was boss-I would call her my little hurricane because every movement, every hiccup, every ounce of indigestion she caused was so strong, so overpowering that I was convinced she was going to come out strong and mighty like a hurricane...and she did! On March 5th, 2014 almost 6 weeks before her estimated due date of April 13th, Ava Belle was born.

My water broke at 5:30 am just like it had with Lily but instead of feeling excited, I felt very afraid. I remember calling out to Chad who was just about to leave for work, and then balling my eyes out when he said it was all going to be okay. I remember thinking how could it be okay? She wasn't supposed to come this early, we had nothing packed, nothing prepared, we didn't even have a bed for her yet! I remember asking God if he could stop my water from fully breaking, reverse it somehow,  I was desperate to keep her in...I didn't exactly have a birth plan but, I knew this wasn't it!  We called my Mom who rushed over, and my sister to watch Lily and headed to the hospital in silence. By the time we arrived I had come to terms with what was about to happen: we were having a baby and she was going to be premature.

The nurses must have checked to make sure my water had actually broken a hundred times, a hundred different ways while I kept asking what else could it be?! This was followed by an ultrasound to check her position, estimate what her birth weight might be (5lbs, 4oz) and look for any abnormalities. I was then hooked up to an IV to fight off infection, Pitocin to speed things along as naturally as possible and an epidural that I still have a love hate relationship with! The next few hours went by slowly but peacefully too-we were ready to have this baby despite our concerns! When she arrived at 6:20 pm weighing 5lbs, 10oz it shocked everyone, even the Doctor's didn't know where to place her on the charts because that was considered an average weight but, she was still only 34 weeks along. She took to my breast quickly which also puzzled everyone and we were told countless times by the nurse that 34 weekers rarely do that-as their sucking reflex is still considered immature. She was strong, she was mighty, she was a little hurricane!

She was allowed to stay with me for a few minutes before they took her to the NICU which we were told was mandatory for observation reasons and that even though everything looked okay she would have to stay there for 12 hours. My heart broke. I can't remember what time it was before we got to see her again, hold her again, but I will never forget walking through those double doors for the first time as long as I live! That first night is still a total blur, it didn't actually feel real or make sense yet...I just remember feeling lost as Chad and I made our way back and forth to those double doors every few hours to feed her. In the morning they brought her back to our room, and all seemed right with the world again! Lily came up and met her little sister for the first time and I fell in love all over again with my husband as I watched him with both of our girls. I took a shower, changed out of that horrendous hospital gown and relaxed: we were going home in the morning! But then, Ava's bilirubin level spiked and she was taken back to the NICU. Night two was the worst. I remember feeling crushed, we were so close to going home and they took her away again...I remember walking down the hallway which felt much longer now, entering those double doors, washing my hands for the required three minute time period and seeing her hooked up to all of those wires, protective eyewear on her face to shield her from the light therapy and immediately feeling nauseas. When we got back to our room I threw up in the bathroom, and sat in bed asking God what I had done wrong...did I eat something, do something, to make her come early...everyone kept telling me it was spontaneous labor, no explanation but, that didn't make the guilt I felt go away! Friday rolled around and instead of going home as planned, Chad and I were given a courtesy room so that we could stay another night with Ava or at least close to her. The guilt began to sink in again for the both of us, staying another night meant leaving Lily behind...Lily who was having a hard time understanding why her sister wasn't home with her, why we weren't home with her! On top of that I spent most of Friday pumping what little I could to bring to the NICU every few hours and then beating myself up when I could barely get anything at all because my milk hadn't come in yet and they were having to supplement formula; I felt like I had failed her. On Saturday morning we were told about the drop in her heart rate, her momentary lapse of breath, which would require her to stay for five more days as they monitored her to make sure it didn't happen again...five more days without us! Walking out of the hospital that morning without her, is quite literally the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. I felt as if I was outside of my body, watching it from some far off distance...trying to hold myself upright when all I wanted to do was crumble. My milk finally came in Saturday as well and I've never felt so proud, so happy, but when we visited her that evening she had moved to the other side of the room, next to a baby in an incubator weighing less than two pounds and a new kind of guilt overcame me...I watched as the mother of that baby spoke to the nurse in Spanish, pointing in my direction as I nursed and although I don't speak the language even I could understand the heartbreak on her face as the nurse shook her head no, and the defeat she must've felt as she handed over barely there bottles of colostrum because I had been there too. I left that night heartbroken and not even for myself...I felt guilty, for even feeling sorry for myself...for our "situation" because Ava was healthy! She was in the NICU for jaundice, and one episode with her heart, while there were so many other babies, families, in there who were fighting much harder to just get by. The next few days were a blur of pumping, nursing, sitting next to a bedside, asking if I could hold my own child, giving her back when our time was up, and going home without her all while trying to stay present in my life outside of those double doors. Because I did, have another life outside of those doors-one that depended on me and trying to balance that was hard! It meant giving up going to the hospital for Ava's overnight feeding sessions while still waking up every two hours to pump to be home for Lily and Chad at night especially, Lily. It meant that my three year old spent a significant time riding up and down elevators with her Grandma, spending time in the NICU's family room, etc. just so that we could hang out between feeding sessions. Anything to make sure she felt included, to make sure that she knew how loved she was despite the fact that our attention seemed to be elsewhere at the moment; which was something I again felt so guilty about. So many emotions were felt during that week that it's hard to fully put them into was a week that forever changed my life, made me really open my eyes to what the words grateful, and blessed really mean and one that humbled me to my core. I pray every night for the families still there, for the nurses, for the Doctor's and I thank God every night for my little early surprise.

The nurses at Florida Hospital were beyond amazing in helping us to feel comfortable, and comforted and I'm truly thankful for each and every one. My mother is amazing, for being there for my family, for Lily and I cannot thank her enough. I'm thankful for my sister and her watching Lily that night. I'm thankful for everyone who prayed for us, and continues to do give us strength. 

I'm thankful for both of my daughters for teaching me what strength, and love really looks like.

I'm thankful for the experience, I truly am because it brought me even closer to God, and even closer to Chad.

Chad is my rock. He always has been. I wrote in our wedding vows that he is my miracle, that he saved me from the dark and he does...he saves me everyday! I know that I wouldn't have made it through all of this without him. He thinks that I'm strong but, without him I am weak. I thank God every single day for him, for the love he gives me and for the two little lives we've created together!