Ellie's Birth Story

After writing this blog post last week, I thought that baby Ellie would only be a day old today. Little did I know what was in store for us in the week to come. Almost directly after writing that post I started feeling contractions. I spent most of the day Tuesday feeling very uncomfortable. By Tuesday night my contractions were about six minutes apart, but weren't extremely painful. Part of me was extremely excited!!

After being eight days late with Bradley and getting induced, I never thought that my second child would come early or on her own. Tuesday night I started cleaning everything. My breast pump supplies were getting sanitized. I boiled bottles, pacifiers, and finished packing my bag for the hospital. Chris started preparing to miss work, and we were wondering if this was it. After a LONG night on Tuesday I was feeling really uncomfortable. But, my contractions were very sporadic. They would be six minutes apart and then fourteen minutes apart. Again they weren't extremely strong, but I was really uncomfortable. I called the doctor, because my biggest concern was that I wasn't feeling Ellie move at all. I thought I felt her roll late on Tuesday night, but I didn't feel her for most of the day on Wednesday.

Wednesday I started feeling awful. I was worried about Ellie, and just felt very sick. I couldn't eat. I couldn't relax. I just didn't feel right. I went in for a stress test on Wednesday afternoon. There was her sweet heart beat, strong as ever. But, she wasn't having much change in her heart rate. After putting a vibration thing to my belly she started to pep up. I left the office with instructions to call if my contractions got closer together. I still didn't feel right. Deep down I was worried about her. I wasn't sure why. I just remember coming home and telling Chris that I was worried.

At two in the morning on Thursday my contractions woke me up. Now they were really hurting. I could hardly breath through them. Then as the sun came up they got closer and closer together. By eight in the morning my water broke. I noticed there was something in the water and I became concerned. We rushed to the doctor and he said that my water had broken, and there was meconium in the water. I also wasn't dilated AT ALL. After almost three days of early labor and seven hours of intense labor I wasn't dilated. It must have been God to make that happen. If I had been making progress I am sure that I would have continued with labor. Thank God I didn't!

Chris and I drove to labor and delivery and discussed everything. I just remember telling him that I didn't want a scary emergency c-section like we had with Bradley. I already knew this little girl was in distress, and I didn't want to labor for another six hours and put her in any danger. We made the decision to have the c-section. Uggghhhh...another surgery. I knew what to expect this time, which is a good and bad thing.

I walked into the OR. The nurses were amazing. They were all so excited..."What are you having?" "Do you have a name picked out?" All of the fun baby conversation. "This is a great day for a birthday!" They couldn't have been kinder.

Well, as soon as they opened me up all Hell broke loose. Ellie hadn't just pooped during labor, they believe that she did it a few days earlier. She was COVERED. The pressure of it was so intense. I will leave out the gory details, but it was horrible. They intibated her three times to try and remove it from her lungs. It was so scary. She wasn't breathing. Chris and I were watching it all from our spot in the OR. Chris kept saying over and over again, "She's OK, She's going to be fine" while rubbing my arm. It was eerily quiet in the room, just the sound of the doctors working on Ellie.  I heard a nurse ask my OB, "Was she OK on the monitor??"  Everyone was in shock about what had just happened.  We thought this was going to be a wonderful birthday.  We were both frightened, and we knew that something was not right with the whole situation. Finally she started crying and they brought her to us....


My sweet girl!!

A quick kiss

A quick picture. They told us that they needed to take her immediately. That she was OK, but the situation wasn't good, and it could change very quickly. Chris and I were so scared. I spent my time in the recovery room crying and worried to death. By this point I had gotten to feed Bradley and hold him. I wasn't getting to see her. She was being taken care of, but I was separated from her. It was a nightmare that was only getting started. Please excuse how horrible I look, but after the surgery they wheeled me in to see her in the baby nursery. This is the only time I got to see my sweet girl until the 10 that night. Almost directly after this photo was taken she turned purple and had an apnea spell. Scary. Horrible. Not what you want to see happen to your brand new baby.




This is the only picture I have of our family close together on the day Ellie was born. Bradley looks concerned. I know he could sense that something was not right. The day drug on, and well into the night. Family stopped by and saw Ellie in the nursery. Chris went down to visit her a bunch of times. Always he came back with bad news...she is too pale, she stopped breathing, her platelets are low, they are trying to give her an IV, they couldn't find a good spot, it is in her scalp. I was terrified. I just gave birth, and sat in a hospital room for an entire day. I have heard dozens of newborns getting wheeled down the halls. I was the worst kind of torture to put a new mom through. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

By 9 pm the news was worse. Our pediatrician came down to break it to us. Ellie was not doing good at all. She was having apnea spells. Two of them lasting longer than 45 seconds. This is common for preemies, but should not be happening in a full term baby. She had pooped in utero days before birth. She was stressed about something in the womb. She may have an infection. She may be having seizures. She may have bleeding in the brain. We need to be concerned. We need to be worried. She may not be able to stay here. She needs more care than our community hospital can provide.

I didn't cry. I just sat on the edge of the bed (I thought I was going to see her finally). I just sat. He said he was taking her right down for a cat scan and a chest xray, and then I could come see her. He is a wonderful man and so calm. He looked VERY worried.
After he left, Chris and I sobbed and sobbed. Our worst nightmare just got worse. It didn't seem possible. I told Chris that I just wanted to go home and crawl into bed with Bradley and hug him. I felt so far away from everything. From Bradley, from Ellie, from getting better. It was too much. I couldn't do this. I wasn't strong enough. I fought so hard to get her and now look at what happened.

We started to call family. We needed support. Sweet Cali watched Bradley and my parents were on their way. Shawn was in the car on the way to the hospital from northern, va. If this was going to get worse we needed support. I was still hooked up to IVs and couldn't hardly get out of bed.

They said she was back and we headed down to see her. Our doctor was all smiles when we walked in. Everything was clear, but he had made a call to UVA to ask for more information on how to proceed. At first we thought she would stay there and just be monitored. But, UVA felt that she needed more testing. That she needed an MRI and lots of blood work. They were coming to take her. I held her sweet hand. I cried and cried. I rubbed her little arm. She was hooked up to so many things. I cried. Then UVA NICU transport came. My parents came. They packed her up in this...

She left a little after 11pm on Thursday night in this transportation unit. I tried to be strong. But they wheeled her out of the nursery and I lost it. This couldn't be happening to us. She was leaving me. I haven't even held her. I have barely even touched my child. It was all so wrong and unfair. She was going to have mounds and mounds of testing. What would they find? What was wrong with her? Was she going to get better? Would we be able to get through all of this?

After Ellie left Martha Jefferson the emptiness was overwhelming. My brand new baby was now far away from me. I was going to have to face recovery without her or my husband. There were a million questions and concerns that Chris and I were trying to deal with. Our loving pediatrician wheeled me back to my room with Chris and my parents following. We spent another hour with him discussing the situation and the variety of tests that Ellie was going to face at UVA NICU. They told Chris to give them a few hours to get Ellie transported and settled at UVA. He went over there before one am. His amazing brother Shawn and wife Rebecca met Chris in the NICU waiting room.

My Mom stayed with me at the hospital and my Dad headed home to transfer Bradley duties with Cali. I feel into somewhat of a sleep, and woke around three when the nurse came to check my vitals. It all came back to me. Where I was. What had just happened that day. That my baby girl was sick and we didn't know what was wrong. I woke up my Mom and had a good cry. After you wake up and remember the nightmare you are in, you are just hoping it isn't true.
Chris has lovingly spared me many of the details from early Friday morning and Friday during the day. But, he did call me often to let me know what was happening with our sweet girl. She was in her new spot in the NICU. She was surrounded by many sick babies. Chris said that he has forever been scarred by what he encountered there. Ellie was doing well in her new home. She didn't have any more spells as of five am that morning.

Chris was a husband, Daddy, and a milk delivery man on Friday. He spent his entire day racing back and forth between me and Ellie. Listening to me cry and worry. Watching Ellie encounter test after test. It must have been horrible. By the end of the day on Friday he had burst blood vessels in his eyes, and he looked like he was about to fall over. He did get the chance to hold our sweet Ellie for the first time. He also called me to tell me that he had given her a bottle of my pumped milk. I was strong on the phone when he told me, but sobbed when I hung up. How could this be happening? I haven't even held this precious baby that I carried for nine months. I was so thankful he was there for her, but devastated that it wasn't me. He told me later that when he gave her that first bottle he was so sad. He felt like it should have been me to nurse her.

With each test the worry continued. I would get a text, "She's headed in for her MRI." Then I would sit there in bed and cry and wonder and pray and hope. Please let everything be clear. Let our baby be OK. Why is this happening to us? With each test came good news. Although the doctor would have to give an official thumbs up, things were looking good according to the techs and the nurses. Ellie encountered so many tests... a spinal tap, blood cultures, MRI, EEG, EKG, etc. etc. It was painstaking, and I didn't even have to watch them do it.

By Friday night I was a total and complete basket case. It felt like the longest 24 hours without her. I sat in bed, had family and friends visit, and cried and cried. I felt like I was literally being tortured on the labor and delivery floor. I sat there all day and listened to the nurses wheel up the babies in their baskets. I heard families through the walls laughing and celebrating. I heard little newborn cries through the hallway. It was too much. By the afternoon I wasn't getting any colostrum. My only connection to my baby girl was to pump milk for her, and I couldn't even do that. The pediatrician said not to worry. I would see her tomorrow. It is hard to make milk with the amount of stress and for a baby that you haven't even bonded with. It's OK he said.

My sister stayed with me all day on Friday and spent the night. She was a rock star. How do you say thank you after someone helps you pump, cleans your bottles, takes you to the shower and the bathroom, and lets you cry and cry?? Thank you isn't enough. It won't ever be. I hope some day I can be there for her in the same way...(I love you Lindsay!!) By Friday evening the nurse ordered Ambien for me to sleep. I was a puddle of tears and every time I closed my eyes I kept seeing little Ellie lying on the table getting resuscitated. With help I was finally able to sleep.
Saturday morning couldn't come fast enough. Chris and Kim came to get me and take me to UVA. I was showered and dressed and waiting on the doctor. After a quick check I was free to go. They wheel chaired me out of the hospital and to the car. I was crying walking into the NICU. As I got closer and closer the tears wouldn't stop. I was going to get to see her. Hold her. I was beyond overjoyed.
The tears were joy, sadness, and peace. Getting the chance to hold her after two long days was indescribable. Adelle was the amazing nurse who was watching her that day. She was so kind and gentle with me. Little Ellie finally got that horrible IV taken out of her scalp and put in her arm. She was hooked up to monitors and IVs and computers. It was scary, but she really looked great. The doctors at UVA had cut back her IV fluids because they knew I was coming. She was ready to eat and nursed like I had only been gone for an hour. Wow, the power of motherhood and the bond between her children is amazing. I don't think Chris got a chance to hold her all day except to put her back in her basket.

Medically she was doing well. She hadn't had any more apnea spells. Every test was coming back 100% perfect. They were mainly waiting on the blood cultures to make sure that she didn't have any infections. None of the cultures were growing anything yet. There was a little glitch with her EKG and the cardiologist wanted to look at it further. But, so far so good for sweet Ellie.



After my journey to the NICU and getting to feed Ellie I was practically falling asleep in the chair. I was still on a lot of pain medicine. If everything had gone smoothly I would have been in the hospital for another two days. Chris said I needed rest, and I let him take me home. I just didn't want to let her go now that I finally was able to see her. We went home to sweet Bradley and Adam and Kim. We celebrated Chris' birthday and had dinner. We ate cupcakes and for a moment it felt like things were as they should be. But, there was hole missing in our house. Bradley was asking me where Ellie was, and when would she come home. It is so hard to tell your son that Ellie is with special doctors right now without crying. I kept telling myself to be strong. Be strong for Ellie. Be strong for Bradley. We are stronger than we know.
It was almost time to be an official family, not just a pieced together puzzle of NICU and big brother at home.  My heart and world torn between two places.

Sunday morning we received more good news. We were going to get to ''room in'' with Ellie at the NICU. They had a large room with a double bed, and we were going to get to spend the night with our little girl. I didn't leave the hospital all day. I was finally getting the chance to really feed and bond with my little girl. My parents stopped by for a chance to hold this adorable little bundle!


During 'rounds' Sunday morning the doctors decided to take her off of all of the antibiotics. All of her blood cultures weren't growing anything and she wasn't showing any signs of an infection. All of her brain tests had come out clean. We were really just waiting on two more EKGs of her heart and a heart echo. Once both of those were given Sunday afternoon we were looking closer and closer to going home. By the evening they had moved us down the hall to our room, and we were getting some quiet time with Ellie. It was bliss!! She was still hooked up to all of her monitors, but the equipment was turned off in the room. The NICU nurse was just watching her from the main room.

Friends stopped by for a visit with Ellie now that it seemed like things were calming down. Aunt Kim and Uncle Adam paid her a visit too!!

Snuggling with Aunt Kim!
All nice and cozy with Debbie...Ellie's God Mother! This picture was taken directly after Ellie had a complete and total meltdown. They spent a long time doing her heart echo (which she didn't enjoy), and directly after that they came in for her EKG. The poor thing had a ton of stickers all over her chest for the EKG. When they took them all off she cried bloody murder. It is so hard to watch your newborn endure all of these tests. Chris literally had tears in his eyes as the techs were trying to take off all of the stickers, while his hands were clenched in fists.

The evening nurse Erica came in to switch to the night shift. Chris was home gathering things up for us, and Erica told me that she was going to get Ellie ready for discharge! I couldn't believe it. Just to go along with the theme of this birth, I burst into tears. We were going to go home!!! I just rocked my sweet girl, and told her it was almost over.  She was a fighter and we were almost at the finish line.  I wasn't going to get too excited until I was putting the car seat in the car, but we were getting close!

We got to spend the night together and learn about our sweet baby girl. It felt like we were finally getting the chance to be a real family...now we just need to add Bradley to the mix! I spent the night with Ellie cuddled next to me.  Dosing in and out of sleep and listening to her little baby noises.  She was so perfect, so sweet.  I finally got the chance to fall in love with her.  She was mine.
The next morning during rounds Chris and I were waiting patiently for the official news from the doctors. Both of Ellie's EKGs and heart echo had turned out perfect. We were free to go!! No sooner had they finished telling us, did we head to the car to get the car seat. Chris didn't bring it in, because we were worried it might jinx us.


There were many tears shed on the drive home and pulling into the house. The whole moment felt so surreal after all we had been through.  Actually having her with us felt amazing.  You lose track of the world and reality when you are behind hospital walls.  You forget that the rest of the world keeps turning.  But, you are stuck with beeping machines, IVs that fall out, and nurses squishing by to help babies.  To be in sunlight with other people doing other things passing us on the road felt frightening and amazing at the same time.  She finally got the chance to officially meet her big brother.

Inspecting Ellie's hands

The cutest moment was on the couch when Ellie had a big stretch. She made the most adorable little baby noise, and I asked Bradley what was Ellie saying. He told me, "She said, Bradley I need you!" How true a statement.  It is a mother's dream to see her children together.  A moment you have seen in your dreams as your belly grows in size.  How will this new being fit into your family.  Ellie has the perfect part.  Like a lock that holds it all together.  She fills the space between Chris and Bradley perfectly.  God picked her for me to watch over, and gave her the spirit to survive all of that horrible beginning.

I still look back at this moment with such sadness mixed in with so much joy.  Why did this have to be sweet Ellie's story?  I was sharing that feeling with a good friend, and she said something so profound.  "Clare, other births just seem ordinary compared to Ellie's.  Pregnancy is a miracle in itself, and then when you hear Ellie's story you can truly believe in miracles."

Maybe that is the lesson that I can take away from all of this.  Miracles do happen, and they have happened to me.  Miracles come in the form of adorable little babies with hazel eyes and mohawk hair.  Miracles don't just fall into our laps.  We have to work for them.  We have to believe.  We fight for them to come true.  

Thank you Ellie for making motherhood this experience of miracles.  Without you I wouldn't know that God's plan for me is a good one.  A one of hope.  A plan of happiness.  I know there will be other moments of worry and despair.  Because of you I will believe in more.  I love you sweet one.