Wednesday, November 17, 2010

National Prematurity Awareness Day

In honor of National Prematurity Awareness Day and in celebration of Emma Claire's FOURTH birthday I've decided to post her birth story. I wrote this on Emma Claire's first birthday three years ago. There are probably many typos, but I just don't have time to go through and make sure everything is perfect. Thanks for reading Emma Claire's story. Enjoy!

We decided one day near the end of February 2006 that we were ready to have another baby. We had decided after Olivia that we would wait until Scotty was out of school, but after things seemed to really be falling into place with him going to grad school at John Brown, we decided that we should just see what happened. It only took ONE month! I found out I was pregnant on April 1st. An overly used April fools joke, I was sure my family would NOT believe me. They didn't. It took actually seeing me in person for them to believe that it was indeed true. I was working at Maumelle First Baptist as the Administrative Assistant while Scotty was staying home with Olivia and finishing up his undergrad at Central Baptist College in Conway. It was great timing, as I was planning on leaving work when Scotty went to grad school to stay home with Livi. The baby was due the first part of December(The fourth, I think.). SO, we moved in late April to where we are currently and I began a VERY rough pregnancy. I was SOOO sick. I had morning, afternoon, AND night sickness. It was constant! I also started having some minor contractions at about 13 weeks that continued throughout my pregnancy. I loved being pregnant while I had a learning toddler at home. It gave me so much time to talk to her about the life that God had given to me that was growing inside me. We took Olivia to nearly every visit so that she could hear "Lil' Smittle's" heartbeat. She LOVED telling people that momma was going to have a baby. We had decided if it was a boy his name would be Griffin(A family name on my side) Robert(Scotty's first name-family name), and if it was a girl we had narrowed it down to Greyston Cate, Emilyn Elisabeth, or Emma Claire. When we found out she was a girl we were so excited. I was glad that Olivia would have a baby sister to play with and we had PLENTY of girl things already in our house!

Emma Claire at 26 weeks(I think)

I lost so much weight at the beginning of my pregnancy, that by close to the end I had only gained about 10 pounds. I was HUGE though. People laughed when I would tell them how far along I was. They thought I was lying. They would ask if I was having twins. When I said no they would just say sorry. What's that supposed to mean??=)
Me at about 34 weeks

When I went in at 34 weeks my doctor checked me to see if I had progressed any with the contractions that I had been having. I was already dilated to 2cm and about 20% effaced. The doctor didn't seem to worried and told me to simply take it easy. I did indeed. Well, as much as a mother with a toddler can! We had a busy Halloween, and that whole next week I kept thinking I was feeling like I was about to have the baby! I kept having pretty strong contractions off and on. When I went in to the doctor she decided that she wasn't going to check me. I have no idea why not, but whatever! Anyway, that next Friday I woke up feeling GREAT! I decided that I probably wasn't going to feel this good again before Emma Claire came(the name we had finally decided on.), so I started cleaning the house. I realize now that I was NESTING BIG TIME!! Anyway, I ended up getting the house in great shape, and deciding to go ahead an clean the carpets while I was at it. I really wanted to get this done before we had a little baby laying around on the dirty floor. ANYWAY, I ended up going ahead and putting up a lot of Christmas decor too, seeing as I was going to be having a baby the first part of December and I wouldn't feel like doing it then. At about midnight I stopped and realized that I was having contractions. Ahh. They would stop...They didn't.

At 4AM they were about 2 minutes apart, so I woke Scotty up and we called his grandparents to come stay with Liv until the morning. My contractions were like clockwork every two minutes. Not hard. Just constant. I got hooked up to everything and they decided that we were probably going to have a baby that afternoon or evening. We called my momma at about 6, as she was three hours away to go ahead and come. My last delivery was pretty quick, so we wanted to get her there in time!=) Anyway, after they got EmC's monitor hooked up they realized she they weren't finding a difference in her heart rate. They said that it should fluctuate and hers wasn't. Eventually they got a little variance, but they watched it very closely. I was doing great. Not in too much pain. At about 8 I got moved over to a delivery room and they broke my water at about 9. I was dilated to 6cm. I went ahead and got my epi a few minutes after they broke my water, because I didn't want to be in a lot of pain when I was ready to push. THIS WAS THE WORST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE!! The angel came to the room and started my epi. As she was getting it ready she was going over all the things that she has to say. At one point she said, "...and there is a risk that I can pull back spinal fluid which will cause you to have a severe headache..." At that moment I felt a rush of pain like I have never felt before. It shot down all the way to my feet and back. I don't know if it was her or a contraction, but either way, she did indeed pull back spinal fluid. She was so sorry and I, at the time, didn't think it was that big of a deal. I laid back and prepared to wait.

Now, in the back of my mind I was thinking that with Liv I went really quickly, but ehh, this wasn't Livi. Well, at about 10 the nurse came in to check on me. I was in heaven feeling the effects of the epi. When she checked me she looked at me with wide eyes and said, "DO NOT PUSH!!!!" She had Scotty push the nurse button as he hand was holding EmC's head in and tell the other nurse to call the doctor STAT! She kept telling me to be a good girl and NOT push until the doctor(Who, by the way was a man I'd never met before. My doctor's husband, actually, who was on call for my doctor.) got there. He arrived a few minutes later and was being all hummhoo until he realized that the nurse was holding EmC's head in. He got a gown and gloves and said to push anytime I was ready. I did and plop. There was Emma Claire after just one push!
I actually took this picture while Scotty cut the cord!

We were so excited, because she LOOKED so great! When Olivia was born she was almost black because she wasn't breathing. She never cried and I was SO terrified! With Emma Claire it was totally different. She was SCREAMING from the time they got her out until they took her to the nursery. We thought things were so much better than the first time. We were wrong. After she had been in the nursery for about thirty minutes I started to worry. They were just going to take her to get cleaned up and really checked out and she didn't come back. Scotty had gone with her, so I knew if there was something wrong he would come tell me. Eventually he did. It appeared that Emma Claire wasn't breathing properly. She wasn't really taking breaths. They had her on full oxygen and that still wasn't enough. They wanted me to come see her. I was so sad for my pretty girl!
My first peek of Emma Claire in the nursery.

When I got to the nursery the nurse had a phone in her hand. She said, "Mrs. Smittle, this is the doctor. She wants to speak with you." Poor sweet Dr. Cadle was given the task of telling me that they were going to move my tiny baby to another hospital and that I would have to stay there until I was discharged. They needed to get Emma Claire to a NICU, because this hospital wasn't able to care for her. I was a COMPLETE wreck! Scotty had to take the phone from me, because I couldn't speak. I was just sobbing. When I got up to Emma Claire's bed they told me I was going to have to not talk, because when I did it was rousing her too much and they didn't want her stimulated. So I had to just pray that God would calm her and let her know I was there. IT was so hard. The hardest thing I've ever had to do. To say goodbye to me sweet baby not knowing what was going to happen to her. They transport team from the other hospital got there to take her and before they left they wheeled her in to me so I could touch her before they left. I wanted to make sure that they all called her by her name, so I insisted that instead of her paperwork saying "Baby Girl Smittle" it said "Emma Claire." They were all very kind to me and let her stay with me as long as they could. Scotty and my sister, Emilie, went with her and my mom stayed with me. MY best friend Ashley was also there to be with me. It was seriously the hardest time of trusting God I have EVER had.
Our family! This was before we knew there was anything going on.
So, I forgot to mention Emma Claire's stats. She was born at 10:30AM on November 11th, 2006. She weighed in at 7 pounds 4 ounces. I think she was 20 inches long. Being almost a month early, I can't imagine trying to deliver a WHALE at 40 weeks. I think she would have been about 10 pounds AT LEAST!!=)
ME holding Emma Claire before they took her back to the nursery.

So, the night I spent in the hospital was one of the worst in my life. My sweet mother was wonderful. She was the only person who stayed beside me through the whole thing. I asked to be drugged up so that I would be able to sleep. I wanted to be at the other hospital so bad finding out what was going on with Emma Claire. We hadn't really heard any news, because Scotty couldn't use his cell in the NICU. We knew that they had to put her on the ventilator and that she was being sedated so that she wouldn't fight the tubes. Beyond that we knew nothing!
Sometime during the night I started hallucinating and ended up getting NO rest AT ALL. It seemed I was having a reaction to the meds they had given me. When I did finally rest I woke up with-you guessed it-the spinal headache! I kept thinking, OK GOD! Can't you give me a tiny break. I'm here without my baby and husband. Can't you just give me a tiny break. Finally, after advising with my doctor we decided to do a procedure called a blood patch. This was more painful than birthing two children. I will NEVER have another epi or any other form of ANYTHING in my spine! They inserted something with a needle into my back, then after telling me that if I moved I could be paralyzed they poked another HUGE needle into my arm and pulled out what could only be ten gallons of blood. They then inserted the blood from my arm into my spine "patching" the hole that the original anesthesiologist made in my spine or spinal fluid or whatever. I don't know. Anyway, they made my headache feel better QUICK. Now I had to lay FLAT on my back for at least an hour. After an hour I could leave if I was ready. This began the countdown to the longest hour of my life. After an hour I got up to the worst BACK pain of my life. I probably shouldn't have gotten ready to leave, because I was in SO much pain. I seriously still feel severe back pain. I don't know if it's normal, but I'll never know, because I'll never let anyone else ever look at my spine, EVER!!
Now came what ended up being the worst part of my end of things. It was still just me and mom at the hospital. I was being discharged and the nurse from the nursery came in with a hospital certificate and all the paperwork that they needed for EmC. She gave me the ink pads for her footprints and hand prints and told me I'd have to do it at home, because they didn't get a chance to do it in the hospital. They gave me her little cap and shirt and bands and things and told me all the things that I would need to do to care for my newborn. At this time I didn't even know if I was going to have a newborn to care for. I sat there and bawled the whole time. Momma had to help me fill out the paperwork, because I could remember things like my social or address. I was so embarrassed. The dang nurse kept rubbing my hand and saying, "This too will pass, Darlin'" I wanted to smack her! How did she know that??
Then, the time came to be wheeled out. It hit me HARD that I didn't have anything. No flowers-except for some that Ash brought(thanks Ashley), no gifts, no "it's a girl" balloons, and worst of all-NO baby. I covered my face and cried. I could see people feeling sorry for me as my mom and the nurse pushed me through the halls. There were families laughing and talking about who their babies looked like and when they were going home and I was thinking to myself that I didn't even remember what my baby looked like at all. (I know that to some of you have been at this place and understand completely. God has used so many people in my life that understand that. Thank you for being open. You know who you are.) My mom put me into her car and we drove straight to the hospital.
I was so nervous I couldn't even remember my name when I buzzed into the NICU. I was shaking from pain, exhaustion, and adrenaline. I couldn't wait to see Emma Claire. I had to scrub my hands for what seemed like eternity. It was really only three minutes, but I watched those seconds tick and thought I'd never get finished. A nice nurse met me in the hall to kind of prepare me for what I would see. She was the same nurse that had been part of the transport team. She insisted that they get me a chair. I think she could see that I was in pain and I was tired.
I turned the corner and saw Scotty next to a baby in a tiny bed. Surely this wasn't MY baby. This baby was tiny and so puffy and there were so many tubes. She was laying spread eagle with a HUGE tube coming out of her mouth. Her little chest heaving with every breath that a machine was making for her. I just crumbled! I was so weak. Scotty came and got me over to the bed to see her. He asked the nurse if I could talk to Emma Claire and she said yes and even showed me how to "properly touch" my child so I wouldn't stimulate her. I know that I probably was like any mother seeing her child in the NICU for the first time, but I felt so stupid. I wanted to know what every tube was and why it was there. I wanted to know if she was going to live and if they could prove that to me. I kept saying BUT DO YOU KNOW SHE WILL LIVE!! I was so doubtful. So selfish. At the time I was only thinking of myself. That the ONLY way for this to be right was for her to live.
This is what I saw the first time I saw her.

I stayed as long as they would let me. I just sat there and looked at her. I still had NO security that she was going to live and THAT was when it hit me. Maybe she won't. It was like God hit me in the face with those words. I started to sob, thinking about the fact that I may never get to hold her, or teach her songs, or let Olivia sing Happy Birthday to her(that was something that Olivia wanted to do on the day she was born). I cried and cried and cried. I kept feeling so guilty. I felt like I had failed Emma Claire. I was SO ready to not be pregnant, but I kept thinking that if I had carried her just a few more days or if I had done something different while I was pregnant. I just kept thinking it HAD to be someone's fault and because there was no one else to blame I blamed myself. I knew that I couldn't live my life if she died. I KNEW I couldn't handle it. That's when I felt God telling me that I wouldn't have to. He would be the ONLY thing that could get me through this no matter what the outcome. And the GREAT thing that I realized that first night I sat and watched my sick baby was that God WOULD get me through this. He had NEVER let me down. There WAS a reason this was going on and HE WAS going to be glorified in this. Now, I'm not saying that at that moment I was fine and from then on I had no doubts. FAR from the truth. I doubted God so much that at times I knew for certain that Emma Claire would never come home and I wanted to kill myself. BUT! At the end of the day, while I lay in my bed and prayed that God would let me raise Emma Claire, I knew that NO MATTER WHAT, He would be praised.

Emma Claire on her worst day, which was the day after I got home from the hospital.

Scotty stayed at the hospital that night in the waiting room. He hadn't had a shower or anything since the beginning. He was so exhausted, but he knew that if he was there at the hospital they would come and get him if something happened. The nurses tried to get him to go home, but he refused. So, I spent another night without my baby and husband. The nights were the worst, because by now, my milk had come in and I was having to get up and pump by myself and for "nothing." They weren't letting Emma Claire have any food yet. It was so sad, because I would wake up and pump and wonder how she was doing. I started calling the NICU every time I would pump. I knew they were there with her, so it made me feel closer to her.
By day three the doctors had ruled out all other illnesses with EmC and decided that she was born with RDS(respiratory distress syndrome). The doctor said that her chest X-ray looked like that of a 34-35 week baby. They were worried that she might get pneumonia because of her not being able to breathe properly. They had given her a shot of surfactant(a chemical that most infants are born with that helps the lungs expand) upon arriving at the hospital, and because she still wasn't doing as great as they wanted her to be they had to give her another. She was retaining water BIG time and had gained about half a pound of fluid which wasn't good. The doctor told me that it was strange to him, because she was SOOO much bigger than all the other babies in the NICU, but that she was one of the sickest when you consider the fact that she was one of the only ones on a ventilator. He told me not to be worried about the vent. He said if she was a younger baby(gestation wise) they would be more concerned about it, but because she was older that it was fine for her to be on it for several days. And she was.

Some of my favorite pictures of Emma Claire while she was very sick.
For the next days nothing changed too much. I finally talked Scotty into coming home with me, as we realized this may be a bit longer hospital stay than we first thought. We continued to be at the hospital as much as possible. My mom stayed with us and did EVERYTHING for us. She kept Livi, prepared meals that people from our church brought, got groceries we needed, cleaned my breast pump, washed our laundry. She was our angel. She would do whatever we asked. No questions asked. She brought Liv up to the hospital at least once every day so that she could see sister. I was worried that Olivia would think that Emma Claire was going to stay at the hospital forever, so I wanted to keep her as in the know as I could. We were always asking her what she wanted to do with sister when she came home. What songs she wanted to sing to her and what she wanted to teach her to do. It worked out well and Livi loved coming to look at "Baby MmmClllaaaaire."
Olivia doing a cheese for some of the nurses. They called her the little princess.
Throughout this time I didn't get to hold Emma Claire at all. Depending on the nurse I sometimes couldn't even speak. There was one nurse, I think her name was Shelly, but she let me sing to her(and the rest of the babies). She was my favorite nurse. I think Emma Claire got better while she was in her care. She said that babies need their mommas and that's what would make my baby better. SO, the first day after EmC had been in her care she got to come off the ventilator. This was a big deal to me, because I knew I stood a better chance at holding her. So, we walked into the NICU that morning and saw Emma Claire trying to pull the tubes out herself. Her doctor, an Asian man, said, "Ahh. Yes. Da Baby. She ees redah to take herself off. We take it out at noon. She redah." I was so excited. We left to get a bite to eat and then came back to "watch" through the blinds. They don't want the parents in when they take it out, because it is a hard thing to watch. ANYWAY, after they took it out she was REALLY mad and started throwing what they called a tantrum.=) (She still has that temper today!) They said that if she continued she would have to be put back on the ventilator. I was so sad. I just knew that she was getting better and then, BAM! So, I got the keys to go to a private pumping room and while I pumped milk that I wanted to give my baby I prayed. I prayed that the Lord would put his hand gently on my baby and calm her unlike anyone else could. I prayed that if it was His will that she would calm down enough that they would let me hold her so that I could just be with her. I asked God to heal her and help Scotty and I be able to make it through this together. That God would bless our marriage and make it stronger through all of this.
Emma Claire the first time we saw her on the C-PAP after she was taken off the vent.
When I came back the doctor was shocked. He said that she had calmed down and was even asleep. She was now on a C-PAP machine to help her breathe. Basically it was doing the same thing, only at a lower level. If you have ever seen one of these you know, but I HATED it even more than seeing her on the vent. She had to wear a headband around her head and face and it smushed her head so bad. She had developed really high bilirubin levels, so now she also had to wear "sunglasses." She was now getting my milk through a tube that went into her tummy. AND! I got to hold her. I walked into the NICU one night and Shelly said, "Whenever you're ready you can change her diaper and I'll get her bundled so you can hold her." I about had a heart attack! Changing her diaper was so strange. I was nervous about doing it right. I don't know why. I had changed diapers so many times before, but this was different. I changed her and Shelly got her ready and I held my precious baby and kissed and kissed and kissed her. She was so wonderful and smelled so nice and felt so perfect in my arms. I sang "our song" that I sang to her while I was pregnant. I held her so close. I wanted to stay there holding her all night. Finally Scotty cleared his throat and I knew I was going to have to share!=) Watching him was so emotional. He cried as I gave her to him and did the same thing, kissing her and talking quietly to her and looking at her. We now got to talk about who she looked like and what Livi was going to think the first time she got to hold her. I just kept saying, "Thank you, Lord!" I was SO thankful that I was getting the chance I'd asked for. I knew that God was going to bring us through this. I knew that Scotty and I were going to be stronger and I KNEW that my story was going to be one of glory to God. He was healing our baby.
Emma Claire on the C-PAP

The next few days were long ones and it started to get REALLY old going up to the hospital every day. We had planned on Scotty being off for a week, and soon that week was up. He still didn't feel like he could work, so he decided to use some of his sick time. He and my mom were still working overtime taking care of everything so that I could rest and be at the hospital as much as possible. Finally, Emma Claire got to step down to a nasal cannula for breathing. Her lung x-rays were looking better by the day, and eventually they let me breastfeed her for the first time. I was so worried that she wouldn't want to suck, and while they were getting her ready for me I started to pray that she would just KNOW what to do. When they gave her to me she IMMEDIATELY began to suck and ate SO great. All of the nurses were amazed! They said they had never seen a baby suck so great the first time. I was so happy.=) After that we were on the uphill climb to her getting better. Her biggest downfall was her temper. They said that she would be doing great and then she would have a "tantrum" and just stop breathing. SO, I started to pray for a gentle and quiet spirit!=) Ha! I STILL haven't really gotten that from her!=)
The first time I held Emma Claire
Eventually she got to come off the jaundice lights and we got to put clothes on her and dress her all up like a pretty girl. There was a little boy in the bed next to her that was I said could be her boyfriend! He was so sweet. He was actually born about the same time as Connor Steese, and was in about the same condition he was, so I felt close to them. It reminded me to pray for Leslie and her family and tiny baby Connor. I would look at that family and think WOW! I have been here for a little over a week. There are people that will be here for months. This was great for me to be able to realize that I WASN'T that bad off. Praying for YOU, Leslie, made me a stronger person.
Baby Connor in HIS NICU days and NOW!
Emma Claire dressed up for the first time.

Emma Claire getting fed for the first time with a bottle.

Anyway, after 9 days, EmC got to come off of ALL oxygen machines and was now connected to only the monitor. They were REALLY ready for her to go home, because she screamed all the time. They said she was bored. They brought a swing in and some musical toys to keep her occupied. Then the night of day 9 Scotty and I slept over at the hospital in a room with her. Again, I have to confess that I was SOO nervous. I also felt a disconnectedness to her that I hadn't felt until we were alone for the first time. Wow. That is so therapeutic to say "out loud." I felt so terrible, because I felt like I was taking care of someone else's baby. I loved her and wanted to be with her, but there was just something missing that I hadn't felt until we were in complete charge of her. Anyway, the night was great and she was a nursing dream. She ate when she wanted to eat and slept the rest of the time. Scotty and I slept little because we were so worried that she would just stop breathing or something. ANYWAY, everything went great.

Emma Claire ready to get out of the NICU nursery!

Emma Claire sleeping in "our" room at the hospital.

The next morning they did all of her tests(hearing and such) and a final exam and then told us we could take her home. I was so worried. I wanted to know for sure that she was OK. That there wasn't ANYTHING else I needed to know to take care of her. I wanted to make sure that more than one doctor looked at her and she was "fine." They were all very kind and assured me that I would KNOW what to do and that I was going to be a great mother and that she was a beautiful baby. I was now getting what I missed when I went home the first time, I got her all dolled up and wrapped up and we got all of our things together and we left. WITH OUR BABY! I watched as Scotty put her in the car and I kept thinking that I was in a dream. When we got home and brought her into the room that I had worked so hard to create I lost it. I just laid her on the floor and let her look around. I took all of her clothes off and did what most moms get to do when their children are first born. I counted her fingers and toes. I looked at her little bootie. I felt her soft hair. I sang to her and took pictures of her and prayed over her. I was so happy. I again kept saying Thank you God! Thank you for my little miracle. Thank you for the life you created. Thank you for letting me be in charge of her if only for today or for ten or fifty years. Thank you for bringing me through this. Thank you for giving my mother to me and for all the help she has been. Thank you for my wonderful husband and the strength he has shown throughout this whole thing. Thank you for Olivia and the wonderful big sister that I'm sure she will be. And, most of all, Father, THANK YOU for my precious Emma Claire!
Emma Claire "glad" to be home!

Emma Claire this past week on her FOURTH birthday!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's YOUR heart beat for?

Last night we were having light hearted talk around the dinner table whilst enjoying grilled cheese and tomato soup(one of our favorite fall foods). At some point I said, "Oh Thank you dear, you make my heart beat!" to the manly man. The girls all thought this was the most hysterical thing they'd ever heard for whatever reason. I said, "Well, what makes YOUR heart beat?" These are the responses.
Olivia:"UH! God!!"
Addison:"I don't know."
Emma Claire:"CHEEEEESE!!!"