Thursday, February 21, 2008

Emma's Birth Story

Morning sickness was long gone, but my back ached and I was so tired of pregnancy. We were expecting our baby to come around the end of December, but by the middle of November I had a strong feeling she would come early.

My pregnancy, Emma’s birth and her life so far have taught us a new level of faith and hope, and revealed to us the love of our friends and God’s blessing and healing power in our lives.

Not long before the events I'm talking about Bill and I married blending our family with two sweet daughters. This was our first baby together and early on in my pregnancy I knew that she was different from my first. I could sense something fragile about her and I could not shake the feeling that she would come early and that there would be something significant about her birth. I dreamed about it and the feeling turned into more of a premonition, and on a Monday morning late in November, after two days of being seriously sick with the flu I felt the contractions start.

The sickness was the worst I had ever experienced. I could not keep anything down, even a drink of water. I was violently throwing up anything I would try to eat and then nothing at all. I could not sleep, I could not find even a moment of comfort and when I coughed I felt my whole belly quiver and burn. We went into the hospital and they stopped the contractions by giving me fluids. The contractions were gone but I was still sick and two days later I was back more. Again the contractions stopped but I still did not feel relief.

On Thursday I woke up and I felt different. The contractions were lower in my abdomen and instead of the sharp tightening of Braxton Hicks, they were deep and dull. I remembered my dreams and waited for Bill to get home from work.

We checked in to the Birth Center, of which we'd already become pretty familiar, and once again I was hooked up to the IV for more fluids. They checked me and I was dilated between 5 and 6 cm. The nurse left the room after telling me that they’d be discussing ways to stop labor and fear rose up in my gut because I knew my baby needed to be born. Minutes later she came back and told me it was too late, I was too dilated.
Bill and I looked at each other, both realizing what was really happening and instantly our fears were replaced with anticipation to what was coming next. We had no idea about the challenges we would face later and in the days ahead. As I lay there in the hospital bed relief came to me for the first time in days.

Unlike my first baby for which I filled out a birth plan with “whatever” as the most common request, I decided I was going to take charge this time, not allowing continuous monitoring or pain medication. When my doctor came in at 4:30 p.m. she thought I looked a little too comfortable and almost went home for dinner. At 4:50 she thought she should check my cervix before taking off and despite my smiles and conversation I was almost 9 cm. dilated. “Never mind,” she laughed, “Let’s break your water, this baby is coming.” She ruptured my membranes and the contractions came instantly, hard, fast and about twenty seconds apart.

Earlier in the afternoon a massage therapist had come to offer a massage which I so gratefully accepted because of my continuous back pain. She showed Bill a couple of techniques using application of pressure to relieve pain. I sat on an exercie ball while he applied pressure to my lower back as I took relaxing deep breaths. Soon I felt the need to, well, either push or pee. I got up to go to the bathroom just to be safe but I soon realized that I was wrong and with the contractions coming so fast I found myself stuck on the toilet. Bill quickly came to my rescue and helped me into the bed.

Emma Joy came at 5:25 p.m. after four pushes. The doctor laid her on my chest and I stared in amazement at this little baby who I already felt I knew. Her head was full of thick black hair and her skin was purplish brown. Bill cut the umbilical cord and I had my only moment with her before the nurse took her to clean and weigh. Even though she was a month early she weighed 7 pounds 4 ounces and was 19 inches long.

After the pediatrician came the voices on the other side of the room grew hushed and serious. I wanted to hold my baby but they explained that her abdomen was distended and they quickly needed to figure out why.
We were confused and exhausted and only wanted to have our baby in our arms. I wanted to breastfeed and Bill wanted to know that she was safe, but neither of us would get what we wanted that night or in the days immediately following.

While Bill drove home to get some things that we had not thought to pack, the doctors came to me with the news they were going to transport Emma to Children’s Hospital in Seattle, about an hours drive on a cold and icy night in November. The thought of my baby in an ambulance on the icy freeway filled my heart with worry. I called Bill and told him that she was leaving without me. All that was happening was so surreal and I didn’t recognize the anxiety growing in my husband’s voice.

After Bill had returned and in the final moments before she left we circled around our baby in the hospital nursery. My parents came and were shocked to see their new granddaughter with tubes in her mouth and nose and monitors on her chest, hands and feet. Her belly was very swollen and she looked so fragile and small. I didn’t know how I could touch her without disturbing any of the monitors and suddenly this life I knew so well within me seemed foreign and so far from me.

We all prayed for her safety and healing and then she was gone, and Bill was gone and I was alone in my room. I could not sleep and so I called my friend Heather from church. She promised to pray and also pass along the prayer request to the church body. After talking and crying to Heather, I hung up feeling comforted and soon sleep found me and I rested better than I had in weeks. Many people were praying for our family that night.

Meanwhile at Children’s Hospital Bill waited with family members until 3:00 a.m. for the doctors to talk to him and make a decision about whether or not to take action that night. They decided to wait and monitor her closely. Bill was exhausted and tried to get some rest to no avail.
On Friday morning I met him at the hospital and was so relieved to see Emma safe and looking comfortable in the NICU. Bill had been with her, holding her tiny fingers and singing to her throughout the morning.
When I saw her I felt like I was meeting my daughter for the first time. I felt unsure but soon my maternal heart started to open again.

The tube was in her nose and the monitors were on her chest with readings of her heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen on a screen nearby. There was a tube going down her throat pulling fluid from her stomach. An IV was bandaged to her tiny hand and a heated lamp hovered over her little plastic cradle. They had put a hat on her head and swaddled her in a thermal blanket. Every once in awhile she would stir and sometimes cry out but most of the time she slept as if she hadn’t left the comfort of my womb.

Later that day they did a tap, sticking a long needle into her abdomen from which they hoped to extract whatever was causing the swelling. Dr. Kyle, Emma’s doctor in the NICU came to us shortly before it was our time to leave. They had pulled blood from her abdomen. Fresh blood indicating that she was bleeding from one of her internal organs. They were going to continue watching her throughout the night and decide the next morning whether they would need to operate. If her condition worsened during the night they would have to do something then. Then they sent us home with a pager in case the worse came to be.

I decided to stay at my friend Megan’s house near the hospital so that I wouldn’t be too far from my baby. Bill planned to drive home and get some much needed rest, which still would prove unattainable.

In Megan’s driveway Bill and I sat and pondered the possibility that our baby girl might not make it through the night. We closed our eyes, held hands and prayed together for the first time in our marriage, besides mealtimes and church. Bill, with such determined faith, prayed for God to heal our little Emma and thanked God for his faithfulness in our lives. Traces of doubt tried to creep in but I would not let them stay. If my husband had such faith in God’s healing power I felt that was reason enough for my own faith to be strong. Again I felt peace and slept well until the morning.

God was faithful. When we walked into the NICU the next morning Dr. Kyle told us that overnight the bleeding had stopped. The nurses were giving her nourishment through an IV and there was no need to operate. Later that day they performed an ultrasound and were confused. All of her organs were perfect, no rips, no tears, no scarring. The doctors couldn’t understand what had happened but we knew and our faith grew stronger.

She was lethargic because they had given her a little too much morphine for her tiny body but we had seen God’s healing power and we knew He would continue to heal her.

Over the next few days we spent every minute possible with Emma. Finally on the day before Thanksgiving they let me nurse her. She latched on right away and I stayed with her overnight to feed and weigh her every three hours.

After that day I went down during the day and had to go home at night. Nothing can describe how difficult it was to leave her there, but I prayed for God to keep her asleep until I could be with her and when I was not with her I pictured Jesus holding her in His arms.

Finally after she had been in the hospital for ten days her jaundice was under control and she was finally gaining weight and we were able to being her home.

Words cannot describe how wonderful it was; to be home, to be a family and to live with all that had been given to us; our healthy baby, a new faith, and a new love for each other.

Emma is four years old and between her humorous personality, sweet laugh and continuous health you would never guess what she went through those first few days after birth. We discovered the name Emma means “ancestrious” or “to bond a family together”. God’s plan was more than we could have expected and we are so thankful.

Something I know to be true is that when we face difficult circumstances

in our lives, God always provides us with the strength, the faith, the peace and the love to make it though.

And we know that God works all things out for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. Romans 8:28

We can also trust in God’s plan knowing that He looks at us like a father looking in amazement at his newborn baby, amazed at how he could have created something so beautiful and so perfect and knowing that we have a purpose and His glory will shine brilliantly throughout our days.


Nicole McNeil said...

Wow, Jewel. Even though I knew that of course Emma is healthy now, I still cried that whole story. Your faith as a family is beautiful. Praise God for Emma's quick healing at birth and her lively spirit 4 years later.

Christabelle said...

Yes, that story touched my heart. Thank you for writing it!

Angie said...

Wow...i never knew what little Emma had gone through! What a miracle!

Angela Magnotti Andrews said...

Thank you for sharing this intimate and achingly beautiful story. I love the part where Bill's faith increased your faith and of course the testimony of God's miraculous healing of her little body. Emma is an amazing gift, and I can see that she brings you together in ways that no one else could. She definitely continues to live up to her name's meaning.


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