I will never forget this time in our lives, and how it was the most scary and hard time for us but there were also were little moments of joy and times when I could literally feel God's hand on our newest baby's life and our lives as well.
I'll just start from the beginning.
15 days ago, on Monday June 11th, I woke up around 5:30 in the morning. Before I even got out of bed, I felt my water break. I quickly woke Caleb and the two of us ran around the house trying to pack up and head out for the hospital.
On our way to the hospital, I sent out a text asking for prayers to friends and family. I knew I was a bit early to be having our 3rd child. I was only 36 weeks pregnant and while I knew this was a bit early, I assumed all would be fine.
Once at the hospital, we were informed that because I was 36 weeks pregnant and not yet considered full term, the baby automatically had to go to the NICU for the first 48 hours and would not be in the room with me and Caleb. While this made me sad, I thought to myself it would only be 48 hours. I would rest up some and then we would get to take the baby home with us.
Other than that sad news, this was the best birth experience I'd had. With Elliana and Ethan, my contractions started immediately after my water broke and I dilated to 10cm before getting any kind of pain relief at the hospital. However, this time around, the contractions came somewhat slowly and were not too intense. I actually had time to visit with family before going in for my repeat C-section.
After my c-section, the first day went just as smooth as any new mom would hope. Our baby came out screaming (a good sign of strong lungs), Caleb got to announce that the baby was a GIRL (this was our surprise baby) and she was given a clean bill of health! Then Elliana, was given the privilege of announcing the gender of the baby to family. My sister Courtney did a great job of documenting that first day.
Everyone got to see pics and we assumed we'd have our baby girl in our arms and our care after the mandatory 48 hours in the NICU.
We named our precious girl Emsley Jeannette. Emsley means "gift from God" and we chose Jeannette after Caleb's grandma and also one of my beloved late Aunts. Emsley was 5 lbs, 7 ozs, and 17.5 inches long.
After the first 24 hours, we quickly found out that 48 hours had turned into a minimum 5 day stay. Emsley was having some issues with apnea and oxygen desaturations. She had lost a significant amount of weight. She dropped to 4 lbs, 14 ozs, and she had jaundice.
I spent all 5 days going from my hospital room to seeing and nursing or feeding Emsley in the NICU. I learned that because she was premature her brain and lungs were not fully developed, and mostly she hadn't yet learned to suck, swallow and breathe while feeding. I watched as she would often turn blue while Caleb or I fed her a bottle or burped her. Every time was just as scary as the one before, and the nurses would rush to our side and help us to "remind" Emsley to breathe again.
I was beginning to feel way in over my head, but I asked the nurses as many questions as possible. I tried to educate myself quickly about preemies, and all of Emsley's needs to prepare for her to come home with us on Saturday, 5 days after her birth.
Then, on Saturday we were told Em had to stay in the NICU at least until Tuesday, 1 week after her birth to further monitor her. The nurses still felt she needed 7 days from her first apnea event to make sure it wouldn't happen again.
I was discharged as a patient on Saturday and Caleb and I were offered a "sleep room" in the hospital to stay in until Tuesday. I wanted to stay close to Emsley and nurse and feed her as often as possible. Caleb stayed in the sleep room with me until Sunday, then he had to go home and take care of Ellie and Ethan since they had been with his parents the whole first week of Emsley's life.
Then Monday morning came. I got a call from the nurses in the NICU to come and feed Emsley early in the morning. I was met at the door by the nurse that had cared for Emsley throughout the night. She had a sad look on her face and I my heart instantly sank. With tears in her eyes she said to me "Christine, I have bad news. Emsley can't come home with you tomorrow. She had another apnea episode last night in her sleep. It lasted a long time, and for the next 8 minutes her oxygen levels fluctuated up and down."
I knew what this meant. Just like that, Emsley would have another 7 day minimum stay in the NICU. The first TWO weeks of her life would be spent in NICU. Our family would be separated for another 7 days since I would want to be by my baby girl's side as much as possible.
I held back tears as long as I could, but it didn't last long. I walked over to Emsley's crib, I picked her up, began nursing her and the tears started to flow. As sad as I was over the fact that she was going to stay in the hospital for another week, I was more scared than anything. I was scared to lose her, I was scared as to what her future held.
We sent out prayer requests to our family and friends, both through emails and social media. The support we got was overwhelming. I knew that many, many people were praying for our newest baby girl.
Caleb and I had many conversations in the days that followed and as hard as it was to be living apart and going through all of this, he and I both said it had made us draw very close to God again. We both had spent lots of time in prayer and in the word, and it felt good to feel God so near.
The whole next week we saw Emsley improve every day. She was put on oxygen, but we were very much at peace with that decision. After being put on oxygen, she didn't have any more apnea episodes, and she was really beginning to master the suck, swallow, breathe thing. Mostly, we watched her thrive, in a huge way. The nurses in the NICU often told me how much they laughed about how someone so small could eat so much. They told me that Emsley was eating more than babies twice her size in the NICU, and they had named her "Miss Piggy". :) Once she started putting weight on, she never looked back and she was gaining 2 ounces a day! After losing a lot of weight in the beginning, she quickly passed her birth weight and by the end of the week, she was almost 6 pounds!
The best news was that after that week, on Monday June 24th, Emsley was finally discharged at almost 2 weeks of age and we were finally able to take her home and begin life as a family of five! I had tears in my eyes when I walked in that Monday morning to feed her as I knew it would be the last day we would have to visit our baby girl in the hospital.
I was more than ready to kiss this scene goodbye.
Our first photo as a family of five!
Taken by one of the NICU nurses the night before Emsley was discharged.
Our family has been more than amazing as my mom and my parents-in-law have really stepped in and helped care for Elliana and Ethan over the past few weeks and are continuing to care for them these first weeks home so I can give Emsley my undivided attention. My family and Caleb's parents also pitched in and bought us a "Snuza" baby monitor. It's a monitor that you clip onto your baby's diaper and an alarm goes off if your baby does not take a breath after 15 seconds. It's just a little added security for now.
These last 5 days have not been perfect, in fact the first hour we came home was completely chaotic and stressful, but it's been wonderful to have Emsley home and to live life together as a family of five. Elliana and Ethan adore her and they are so sweet and gentle with her. I'm excited to watch their sibling relationships grow.
With each passing day I feel more confident that Emsley will be fine, and so will we. When I look back at where our journey began several years ago, when I thought we might never have kids, I see where we are today and my heart is so full! Our family is finally complete and I can say that God is indeed faithful. I can even look back at where we've been just the last 2 weeks and I can see God's hand in that situation as well.
Here's a bible verse that Caleb and I have grown to love over the years. We can't wait to frame it and hang it on our walls:
"When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel." Isaiah 29:23