Elleanna Joy turns One Month Old!

Well… we have survived! Wow, what a hard yet miraculous roller coaster this month has been. Here are some things we have learned about Elleanna this month:

She loves the be-boop-be-boop robot song

She loves kisses from her puppies

She will tolerate her swing for a few chunks of time, but mainly wants to be held and sleep on a human mattress. Forget those inconvenient cribs!

She speaks to us primarily in squeaks, and one night when Matt was rocking her to sleep, she fell asleep and sang to him a squeaky song for about 30 minutes.

Her tummy is definitely going to be ticklish… whenever I try to wake her up, I stroke it and she squirms around and looks at me like she has no clue how to deal with the emotional build up happening in her little person. I can’t wait for her to laugh!

She often sleeps in Anne Geddes style hand poses… of course not for our friend Katie Taylor who came over to take newborn photos when she was three weeks old. That morning she howled the entire morning, mainly due to me putting her in a very lacie yellow dress that kept getting in her face and making her mad. Oh well.

She loves to sit with both grandpas – Grandpa Z is an expert at getting her to sleep, so we will head over there a few evenings a week and enjoy a bit of silence as he rocks her. Grandpa M is the best at getting her to exercise… she stares in wonder at him as he bike pedals her legs, helps her do pull ups and assists in leg lifts.

Both grandmas have been life savers! They watch the baby while we catch a nap… they have done countless dishes and loads of laundry for us. I definitely would have no clean clothes without them… and neither would the baby… so… yeah. You probably don’t want to see our whole family naked. You should thank them too.

In general, Elleanna loves to squirm around. She is waking up more and more each day, and we often catch her staring at interesting things such as the walls or the curtains. Also if you put her on her changing mat, within 30 seconds she has wiggled to a completely different angle and position.

She loves to eat! Sometimes when I am burping her on my shoulder, she slams her lips into my shoulder several times, looking for the source of food. I always tell her I am thankful she does not yet have teeth and that cannibalism is not allowed in this household. Or this nation.
I also sing her a chompy baby bug song, as she escalates from angelic small mouthed baby to all-hands-on-deck wide mouthed screaming hungry baby in literally a nano second.

It’s funny… some days she just gets tired of us by the evening. So we pass her off to another set of arms and she goes back to being a content baby. I am glad we have a village to help raise our child.Image

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The Birth Story of Elleanna Joy, Pt. 2

The arrival of Elleanna Joy was definitely not by stork. I know this. I pushed her out of my body. That first hour of life, she sat on my chest, eating as much as she could. Her face looked as swollen as my feet had been the last few weeks of pregnancy. But oh she was cute! When the nursing staff decided it was time to check her vitals, I stayed lying back, pretty dizzy. They ordered some “delicious” hospital breakfast and tried to get me to eat as much as I could to combat the blood loss. Elleanna’s oxygen levels were a little low, as well as her blood sugar levels, and her skin looked like she was dipped into red food coloring, although no one seemed to be too worried.

We finally made our way to a recovery room. My parents, Matt’s mom and Matt’s sister were the first visitors to the room. I was so out of it that within 10 minutes of their arrival I was passed out. Elleanna and I continued to try to work on nursing. That so far has been one of the hardest parts of piloting a newborn. We are both inexperienced, and that is a little scary as she is depending on me completely for all nourishment. But I digress a bit.

Before each feeding time, a nurse would come in and prick her heel to check her blood glucose. Then they would bring her to me howling, and I would try to awkwardly calm her down to nurse. That was an uphill battle, although everyone assured me it was okay if she didn’t get to eat very much her first couple of days, but then they were also saying she needed to eat a lot to keep her blood sugar up… sigh. Finally we got settled in for the night, and the nurse told us to try and get some sleep, because the baby should be exhausted from labor and would let us sleep too. Well, they were wrong. All night our daughter howled, and Matt paced the hospital halls with her, trying to comfort her.

In the morning the pediatrician came by and confidently said she was doing great. Our new nurse, however, was a little suspicious. During a nap on my mother’s lap, Elleanna’s lips turned blue and they rushed oxygen into her, and her blood sugar wouldn’t come up from a low level. I remember I was in the bathroom. When I went in, everything was peaceful and quiet. When I came out, a beehive of activity greeted me. A nurse had the baby in her arms and was whisking Matt out the door to take Elleanna with him to the NICU. I stared around the room in exhausted painful confusion. A new nurse sat me down and told me they were concerned Elleanna had an infection due to the combination of symptoms she was exhibiting. I sat down on the bed and started bawling. They moved us over to a room in the NICU, which was directly connected to the room Elleanna would take over.

Through the glass door I could see several nurses huddled around my tiny little girl. They were giving her some oxygen and strapping on all kinds of devices. She was wailing. This was the first emergence of her windmill arms, an angry warrior dance she does to ward off attacking ninjas (or just express her displeasure). One nurse had to hold her arms down, another one had to hold her legs down and still a third nurse had to work on injections, etc. That’s my girl!

Because of her little baby chunkies, the nurses were unable to find any veins to take blood from. After poking her heels and hands several times, they finally determined to use the umbilical cord to start piping in antibiotics. They also decided to try another procedure. Elleanna’s red blood cell count was very high. This can sometimes cause all of the symptoms she exhibited. One treatment is to thin the blood by 20 percent and then replace that liquid volume with saline. We decided to go ahead with that treatment. A truly gifted nurse practitioner came in and completed this procedure. First they had to take X-rays to make sure the tubing for the antibiotics and for the procedure were all in the right place…they were not, so they had to try again. By now four or five hours had passed since our migration to the NICU. It was very hard to see our little baby on her table, strapped down and eyes covered, but she had finally relaxed due to the magical heat lamp radiating warmth on her body. That gave me some comfort.

Matt and I laid down to try and get some sleep. Raw emotions coursed through my veins. We locked eyes, and began to cry and pray together. How could we even sort through all of these feelings? How could we rest but also be by her side as much as possible? We had to surrender the care of our daughter to a very amazing staff of nurses and doctors, but even after the assurance of their experience, I still felt like an enraged momma bear chained to the corner of a room. All I could do was surrender and trust the Lord to take care of all of us.

After the procedure was finished, Elleanna had to remain hooked up to umbilical antibiotics for another 36 hours. This meant she had to stay on the table was there to lift her into the arms of either Matt or me. Sadness and worry kept washing over me… these should be the days that we get to cuddle, to try to all adjust to life together… and that first night, Elleanna was not allowed to eat for 12 hours. She was hooked up to glucose to keep her going, but that didn’t stop her stomach pains. We sat with her through a lot of the night, holding her and trying to comfort her wailing. Most of my memories from those few days include lots of beeping from the NICU monitors, and endless poking of my daughter. Our lifeline was Elleanna’s beautifully improved coloring, her stabilization of oxygen levels and her regulation of her own glucose levels.

After such a good pregnancy and a great labor and delivery, we were side swiped by all of these events. I never felt a shadow, or a worry that my daughter wouldn’t make it, but the stress of being a new mom and facing all of these choices to take care of this little warrior princess creeped into my very bones. We were chugging on adrenaline, the craziness of post partum hormones and lots of visitors. I must say here that I only caught a glimpse of what it is like to have a baby in danger of not thriving, and that small window gave me a new perspective on what many moms and dads have to face as their sons and daughters spend weeks or even months in intensive care. You really are the brave ones, and I admire how you fight for your children… would we do anything less?

Finally on Monday morning we met with the pediatrician again. She really wanted to keep Elleanna for one more night to observe her. The protective lioness appeared in me. “No. We need to go home,” I said. “Is it really so serious that she needs to stay one more night? If you think so, I will keep her here. But if not, we will stay up and watch her and bring her back if we need to.” The pediatrician relented and said she did feel like Elleanna would be okay, but only if we watched her and set up a doctor’s appointment for the next day. Sweet relief coursed through my heart.

It seemed like forever before she was finally completely unhooked and brought to us in the little hospital bed. Immediately Elleanna relaxed into our arms, wide-eyed and calm. Me too. Even though we had awhile to wait for checkout, it was glorious to just sit with her and feel her warmth. When we got home, peace settled over us. The next few days were really hard for me as I fought to recover from giving birth, staying up to nurse every three hours and detox from the stress and adrenaline of her first few days of life. We made it, and our little warrior princess sure made the journey worthwhile.

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Here is Elleanna chilling under her heat lamp in the NICU. The photo to the right is her awesome hearing test…her first experience with headphones. She passed with flying colors!

The Birth Story of Elleanna Joy, Pt. 1

Quiet rumblings began in the cloak of night. We had just finished watching “The Life of Pi.” I heaved up my belly and rolled to my other side, stretched to the end of my pregnancy grace. Sigh. Will she ever come? Later I woke up to medium squeezing radiating from my lower back to my abdomen. Maybe those were contractions? Hmmm. So I started timing. From 2:30 to 7 a.m., the contractions oscillated around 5 minutes a part and one minute in duration. I grabbed a cheese stick. I sat on my red medicine ball and bounced. I called the midwife. I knew it wasn’t time to go into the hospital yet, but I thought I would check in.

Then everything stopped. I felt pretty discouraged, especially after the midwife told me this could go on for days. I decided to take a shower and a nap, and when I woke up at 11 a.m., the contractions were working again. Throughout the day I moved around the house a bit, laboring on my side or on the red medicine ball. Matt got a great excuse to play hookey from work and I kept telling him to sleep as much as possible. I called my best friend Victoria from Grand Junction and she and her husband Mark arranged to leave after he got off of work. It was so hard to think about the timing, especially when we didn’t know how long everything would take. I am a researching soul, and the unknown of letting my body take control and work its natural process was a struggle for me, especially when I wasn’t matching the normal signposts and stages of labor. Contractions would change to 7 minutes a part, then go down to 2 minutes a part and then come back up to 5 minutes a part. Mom came over, and we took a stroll with the dogs and Matt. It was eerily blustery outside, so the walk only lasted 20 minutes. Matt picked up Georgia Boys for dinner. That was definitely a good choice!

Our doula Sarah, also our Bradley Method teacher, came to the house around 9:30 p.m. She suggested several shifts in laboring positions to help keep things moving. We walked the hall upstairs and in and out of each room. I took several showers. We sat on the medicine ball. Vicki and Mark and baby Nathan arrived around 11:15 p.m. Maybe that was my release? About an hour after they got there contractions started to intensify, but still not the level the midwives asked me about. Baby Nathan sat on the bed with Victoria as I bent over the side, breathing and relaxing through the contractions. His sweet little fingers caressed by bangs and he lit up, stroking my forehead. What a sweet little comfort. Love that little guy! He definitely didn’t want to go to bed because there was so much excitement!

Around midnight I gave in. I really wanted to go to the hospital and get checked out, even if they told me to go back home. I needed the assurance of momentum. So we piled into the car, and as Matt drove the diagonal highway for the trip to Boulder, I watched the stars out the window and worked to breathe through the harder contractions. Oh sweet baby love, I was ready for you. Yes I felt anxious, but I also sank into a laboring rhythm, finally relinquishing my mind control to the dancing of my insides, trusting my body and my baby to do the work we needed to do.

When we checked into the hospital, our midwife Merrilynn Artman of the Boulder Nurse Midwives came soon after. She checked my dilatation and effacement… I was at 9 centimeters dilated and 100 percent effaced! Everyone in the room gasped and immediately began encouraging me even more. Merrilynn calmly came back into the room with a basket full of rush fans and ambient lighting… but she hardly had a chance to use them. I put her to work right away. Deep sea moaning rose from my depths, a song I never knew I would sing as I moved through the contractions. They got me into the tub. Sarah climbed behind me, Matt and a nurse sat beside me and Vicki stood there too, reading scriptures. Mommy stood there, encouraging, praying and helping the process move along too. All I can remember is everyone telling me to sing deeper and deeper. Sarah would grab my arm to stop me from gripping the guardrails of the tub, physically reminding me to relax. These wide contractions rocked me to the core.

When Merrilynn could tell I was ready to try pushing, they hoisted me out of the tub and onto a birthing stool. I found when I lightly pushed through the contractions, the pain eased. After awhile of peaceful pushing, Merrilynn decided to get the show on the road. She checked and found the baby had descended into my birth canal, so they got me into a side-lying position. Sarah held one leg, Matt held the other one. Over and over again Matt said, “Take deep breaths!” until his voice was hoarse. These words kept deep sobs from rocking me. He would look me straight in the eye and tell me to breathe deeply. I kept saying “oh my gosh, oh my gosh…when will this be done?” I also found that if I didn’t start pushing right when a contraction hit, the pain was unbearable. There was no choice but to move forward.

Each push involved my jaw, neck muscles, a death grip on Matt’s shoulders and counter pressure on my legs. At each rest they tracked her heart rate. She was holding steady. Her body danced up and down, one-step forward then two steps back. Outside I saw the gray shadows of early dawn through the curtains. Finally I felt the “ring of fire” as she crowned and then slipped out of my body. Instantly the contractions were gone. She was placed on my chest and she started crying. I could barely see straight. At 5:49 a.m. on Friday, May 31 2013, Elleanna Joy took her first breaths. My breaths finally subsided as she clung to me.

Yes, this was a beautiful moment. If I can be honest, though, I was so exhausted that I could hardly register her, and right away Merrilynn began working on me, delivering the placenta and stitching me up. With astute clarity, Elleanna’s violet newborn eyes locked with mine as sweat still coursed down my neck and around my eyes. Wow. I was finally done. Natural birth accomplished.

* Elleanna weighed in at 9 pounds, 1 ounce with a 14 inch head circumference and 20 1/2/ inches on wiggly length. I joyously thank our amazing birth team for a life changing birth experience… Midwife Merrilynn from the Boulder Nurse Midwives, Doula Sarah Mills of Birth Mojo Boulder, my strong husband who actually ended up cutting the umbilical cord even though he said he never would, my comforting mommy and my amazing best friend Victoria Tucker… we have gotten into a lot of trouble since we were pre-teens!!

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Elleanna’s first photo as they cleaned her up and checked all of her vital signs

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First day of life cuddles with mommy and daddy!