Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Children

I don't even know what they said but I saw their exchange of smirking expressions. Jakob watched them. He heard. Then he went over and joined Ella on the teeter totter. One of many more encounters I am sure. I can't help but wonder what he thought as he watched those two older boys and saw the way they reacted to Ella. Whatever his thoughts, he knew the answer was to not join them but rather join her. His actions made a statement - they said that this girl is loved and worth my attention. Even though she is different, I will play with her.

Just one more way that shows that because of Ella, Jakob sees the world through an entirely different set of lenses. I've seen this with Audrey as well.

Ella is the only baby sister Jakob has known.

"When do you think Audrey will talk? When she is 4?"
"When do you think Audrey will walk?"

Jakob can't help but assume that Audrey will progress as Ella did. The strange thing is that we have never hidden from Jakob that Ella has Down Syndrome. In fact we have even tried to explain it to him but it never sticks. It just doesn't matter to him.

I love that.

He is such an amazing big brother. He loves. He loves so gently and compassionately when the time calls for it.

Then there is Ella. Dear sweet Ella. She loves in a different way. She likes to mother Audrey and it has been fun to watch as she takes her own babies and mimics what she sees, bouncing them as she sushes them to sleep and changes their diapers.

Audrey is two months. Nine weeks today. She is a blessing. She is light. Her easy going nature has continued on into her second month and it gives me rest. She is smiling and cooing, eating as can be expected (every three hours or so) and sleeping in between during the night.

She is my solace during this dark time.

The winds are changing...again...but this time, more painful than ever before.

...so I hold my littles tight and wait for the sun to rise.

The Sun Will Rise 
by Dave and JJ Heller

When the lights turn down

And the whole world dreams
And it’s your turn now
Close your eyes and sleep

Sometimes it feels like forever 
When it’s dark outside
Baby, the sun will rise
Baby, the sun will rise
However long the night

If you lose your way
And your heart is torn
May my love sing loud
Louder than a thunderstorm

Sometimes it feels like forever 
When it’s dark outside
Baby, the sun will rise
Baby, the sun will rise
However long the night

And when you feel afraid
And you see shadows on the wall
Wherever there is love
There is no fear at all

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Life Unabridged: one month

Little miss Audrey is one month old today although, she still isn’t “due” for another two days. One month of baby snuggles, of sleep deprivation, of joy, of frustration, anticipation and worry. I forgot about the worry. When Ella was born, I swore the worry was grounds enough for not having another child. But then you watch them as they sleep, you hold them tight and brush their soft skin with yours, your heart swells and the worry seems like a small price to pay – not necessarily absent, but not as consequential. I must confess that I am not the type that falls in love at first sight. I never have been (ask Ben). For me, love, and by love, I mean the love that everyone talks about in the movies, creeps up on me. To begin, love is a choice. That choice is then acted upon until one day I realize how madly, deeply in love I really am. That happened about a week ago with Audrey.

Life with Audrey, is like molasses through an hour glass. Few days have agendas. Sleep, feed, burb, change, repeat. And while I savour these moments I have with Audrey – to hold her for hours on end whilst binge watching Friends and Departures, life has taken on a different rhythm in our house as we adjust to being a family of 5.

Ben has stepped up to the plate like an all-star and works from dawn to well after dusk making sure the house is up to my standards – washing dishes, vacuuming, tidying, doing laundry. You name it. All the while, he has his own responsibilities and stresses.

Jakob, while being infatuated with Audrey from the start, is still, I believe was unnerved from having a new baby around. Every night he has some complaint – his tummy hurts, he needs the light on, he can’t sleep, he wants to sleep in my bed…the list goes on. He complains that he is too busy and has too much to do, although, this is usually brought on by us asking him to do something that is on Ella’s chore chart like set the table. With the start of Spring Break, I assured him, he would have plenty of time to play. My boy definitely has a maximum capacity and once he has reached that, he benefits exponentially from time to decompress. We saw the same moodiness just before Christmas break. That being said, he loves to hold his baby sister. He wants to help as much as possible – burping her, giving her her pacifier, scaring the hiccups out of her. He loves her, I can see that.

Ella, obviously, as my youngest, is needing the most time to adjust. It took her a good week and a half but she eventually warmed up to Audrey. I think she just needed time to realize that Audrey did not cry all the time and she would still have her momma. The hard part about Ella is that she is unable to articulate, verbally how she feels but you can see it. Anyone close to her can see it. She doesn’t understand why I can’t lift her up or stop to give her cuddles at the drop of a hat like I used to. She asks for hugs often these days and we have seen this not only at home but at school as well. I know that it is a natural part of life and dare I say, most children have to face the adjustment of a younger sibling but I feel for her. We never know how much she really understands. Sometimes, she seems to understand so much more than we give her credit for and yet at other times, when we ask her a simple question, we cannot get a coherent answer. And yet, she is one of the most genuine people I know, and I know her love for Audrey is just that.

Are you still with me? There is so much to say, so many things I want to share, but this is just a snapshot of life unabridged as a family of 5. Life has revealed much, taught much, and tested much in this last month. These thoughts in due time however - you can't hold a baby and type at the same time.

Thank you to Kat, at Stone Photo for capturing the early days - basically, I am in LOVE with these photos...and it was love at first sight.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Audrey Hannah: A birth story (PG-13)

My pregnancy with my third was unlike the other two. Each pregnancy is unique as is each child but in terms of symptoms and complications my third was entirely different. From the very early days I was acutely aware of the life growing inside me. The way it made me nauseas, woke me in the wee hours of the morning and the way it took me totally and utterly off-guard.

At our 20-week ultrasound we were thrilled to find out that we would be having another little girl. We were also disappointed to find out that she would come via cesarean section due to complete placenta previa (in other words, the exit was blocked).

As pregnancy progressed we had a couple scares due to bleeding and I was restricted to modified bed rest. No exercise. No lifting.

Thankfully, my Mother-in-law came from Alberta to stay with us for the few weeks leading up to my scheduled operation. The week before was especially quiet. In the evenings I was trying to tie up loose ends on various projects. Tuesday evening was no different. Ben was at a choir rehearsal and Shelley and I got the kids ready for bed and settled. Earlier in the day, Ella had thrown up. My motherly instinct kicked in and I rushed her to the toilet. We hoped it was just due to exhaustion but around 9:00 pm, I heard her stir and went to her bed just as she began to vomit again. I quickly grabbed her and pulled her to the bucket beside her bed to avoid as much vomit on the bed as possible. As she threw up, I felt it come – a gush. I called out for Shelley to take over with Ella as I rushed to the bathroom. By the time that I had gotten to the toilet everything from the waist down was drenched in blood, or so it seemed. I told Shelley to call 9-1-1. Then I called a friend of mine who was on the “emergency list”. The paramedics were on their way. Don’t have her sit on the toilet, the 911 agent told Shelley . Right, so blood is streaming from my body and I am not to sit on the toilet. I called my mother and she coached me through as Shelley liaised with 911 whilst holding a vomiting child. Is she breathing? Is she conscious? Lay down, my mother told me. And where was I supposed to do that? I crawled into the bath, sat reclined and waited and shivered. The blood formed a stream to the drain. My mom said she would call Ben – I texted him anyway. The firemen were the first to arrive. I was shaking like crazy probably due to the fact that I had no pants on and was sitting in a cold tub. They took my vitals and tried to keep me calm while we waited for the paramedics by asking me the same questions I would answer a near hundred times by the end of the evening. Did we know what we were having? Was this one going to make it? How many other children did we have? Were they awake? Was Ella okay?

The first set of paramedics arrived and reviewed all the pertinent information: when did the bleeding start, did I have bleeding before, when was I due, did I feel light headed? And then the infant transport team: second verse same as the first. Still shaking uncontrollably but somewhat more sound in mind, they put me in one of Ella’s pull ups and a towel diaper and loaded me onto some sort of wheelchair because there was no way they were getting a stretcher into our teeny tiny Kitsilano apartment. They navigated me carefully through the living room, past the many emergency workers, my friend Christina (who made it to our place in record time) out the door and down the front steps. It was like a bad ride at Disney Land. As I looked up, I could see all the shadows watching intently from the second and third floors of the surrounding houses – I was happy to give them the show. From the chair I was loaded onto the stretcher and put into the ambulance - my first ride in an ambulance…hopefully, my last.  Before we could get going, they needed to put an IV in - never an easy feat with me for even the most experienced medical workers. Second try and we were off to BC Women’s hospital.

I continued to shake and worried about how the baby was doing. Would this affect her? Was she alright? Had I felt her move since all of this started? I don’t think so. The infant transport team was extremely encouraging however and assured me everything would be okay. Still no word from Ben.

As they rolled me in, I saw my mother waiting. Ben arrived shortly after I was settled into the “green room” as he calls it. They quickly put a fetal monitor on. Lub-dub lub-dub lub-dub – it was music to my ears. From there, I lost track of the who, what, where and when. Somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 pm I sang the third, fourth and fifth verses to the nurses, the anesthesiologist, the resident OB and my actual OB, who just happened to be the OB on for the evening. Didn’t I just see you this morning? The bleeding continued. At home, I had lost roughly 1300 cc’s of blood. Change of plans: baby would not be born on Friday but tonight. But I didn’t bring my camera.

By around 11:00pm, I was prepped and ready to go. They wheeled me into the operating room and ushered Ben to where he could change into scrubs. The hospital has a policy that partners can only join the fun when mom is totally ready to go. (Apparently too many have fainted at the sight of the preparations). By now, I was close to tears. I am sure you think I’m strong but quite frankly, I am not. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it one bit. I would have much rather gone into labour and had a vaginal delivery. I know how to do that. I know how to keep control under those circumstances but in a operating room? Where I can’t see what is going on? Let alone have any understanding of it. I shook. The anesthesiologist went to work. First up, a second IV. They wanted two good points of entry just in case I needed a blood transfusion. Second try…and then rip. Did someone just trip over the cord? Third try. I needed Ben. I had a nurse, who was extremely kind and held my hand as they turned me on my side to clean my back and insert the freezing that would preempt the spinal anesthetic that would numb me from the bust down. The plan was that they would give me a spinal for the operation but rig me up for an epidural just in case things took longer than planned (which is a risk that comes with complete previa). 

All around me it seemed like chaos. I listened to one nurse spoke on the phone with a woman who had been sent home after a cesarean and was having issues, and to another nurse or OB that came in to explain that a woman, who had been pushing for four hours could wait no longer. Then everyone left and I felt alone. To be honest, I think there may have been a nurse in the room with me, but I couldn’t see anyone. I just laid on the table. Helpless. Shaking. After some time, a different anesthesiologist came in…and started all over. Needles with the freezing for the second time, and then the rest. Finally, Ben was able to come in. He sat near my head as my upper body convulsed uncontrollably. I don’t like this. I repeated over and over.

The surgical team went to work. I didn’t feel a thing except the jostling of the operating table. I kept telling Ben to talk to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life. And yet, women have c-sections all the time. I laid there and thought about cuddling with Ella earlier in the day – it gave me comfort. At last, they called Ben and asked if he was ready to take a picture of her coming out. She was breech but soon emerged with a short small cry. February 10th , at 11:39 pm we welcomed Audrey Hannah Ewert into the world. I listened, watched and shook as they took her and cleaned off her small six pound frame. Ben cut the cord and they wrapped her up in blankets, then he brought her to meet her momma. She was perfect. I held her on my chest. She was here. She was safe. Time passed slowly as I listened to the OB and her resident discuss the in’s and out’s of my uterus. There was a problem area but they could always open me back up if needed…Because that is just what I wanted to hear.  I tried to focus on Audrey. It wouldn’t be long and then I could properly hold my little girl.

Despite her dramatic entrance, Audrey settled into life outside the womb gracefully. Born at only 35 weeks and 6 days, she had apgar scores of 9 and 9. She could breathe well, she ate well and was perfectly perfect in every way.

We are so incredibly thankful for Audrey. We feel truly blessed and are grateful for all of the encouragement, prayers and support that our community (in person and at a distance) has provided surrounding the arrival of our baby girl. Thank you.

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