Friday, April 24, 2015

Ella’s Journey (Feb-April 2015)

Ella’s arrived!!!  We’ve had a long journey leading up to this sweet little girl’s birth.  She is adorable and we’re so thankful for her.  She’s a gift and we’re so in love with her!

Having a daughter has been the deepest desire of my heart for close to 10 years.  If I thought about it, I would start feeling tears welling up with longing.  I kept laying my desire down at the Lord’s feet and trusting Him with it.  God is good.

When I was trying to get pregnant with Ben, God was very clear with me that I was not to learn anything about the science behind increasing your chances of having a boy or a girl.  I had to trust God.  I obeyed and had to shush any of my friends who were reading the books and bursting full with wanting to share that info.  I had to check myself constantly to make sure I was content with having a boy or a girl.  I even ended up acquiring some beautiful baby girl bedding in case my baby was a girl.  A few months later, we got our sweet Ben, who has brought so much fun and joy to our family!  I’m so thankful for him, so thankful that the Lord made sure I was good with either a boy or a girl, and so thankful that the Lord knew what He was doing in how he built our family.
I kind of assumed I would only have two children, so I thought I was done, buuut...I kept my favorite practical baby stuff...just in case, like the Moses basket, the changing table Jon built with its baskets, and a few favorite blankets and toys.  About 6 years ago, God took me through a time where He was teaching me about “giving freely” and He required me to give away all my saved boy clothing and to do it with a generous heart.  My nature is to plan and save.  I attach so much sentimental meaning to my kids’ clothes, so this lesson was not the easiest for me.  Ever since then, I pass along our kids’ outgrown clothes to our friends with younger boys.  I have to say, I was very surprised to find how much joy I got from seeing the clothes on our friends’ little guys.  A burst of sentimental memories of my own kids at younger stages comes back to me in those moments.  I love it!  I see now that God knew I wouldn’t need those clothes at all and that they should be used and enjoyed instead of wasting away in storage indefinitely.  Let’s say it again, God is good.
Once we were in Texas for about a year, I had a moment where I realized that the big roadblocks to having a third child had been removed, namely that we had gotten ourselves unburied from a lot of debt.  I also wanted to have all my young kid stage child-raising days behind me before I started working towards becoming a counselor, a direction I feel God is leading me in.  God also released me to learn about the science behind increasing your chances of having a boy or a girl.  I started getting excited that God was finally going to give me a daughter!  It took Jon awhile to agree to having a third child.  I knew he was really okay with going forward when he pulled me aside at Christmas time to give me his present in private.  It was a sweet little pink polka dotted baby girl onesie with matching shoes and a note that read:

Dear Rebecca,
        I love you so much!  You are such an amazing woman and blessing to me and the kids.  I want you to know that I am on board and excited about having a baby with you.  How could I deny a child the blessing of having you for a mother?  You are the best!
His gesture really meant a lot to me.  So I read the books and began tracking my temperature and charting my cycle.  I did not enjoy doing that, so I just stopped after awhile.  I knew God was in control ultimately anyway. 
One day the Lord told me the meaning of the name for my daughter; bright, shining light!  It was such a clear and specifically worded message from the Lord.  Can I say it again, God is good!  I looked up names with that meaning and wording, and the one I loved best was “Ella.” 
It took much longer to get pregnant than I expected.  I miscarried and it broke my heart.  God named that baby Alex, which means defender of mankind.  I’m pretty sure he was a boy.  It took awhile until I was ready to try again.  Once we started trying, it took a really long time to get pregnant again.  I was wondering if it was meant to be or not, but I kept trusting God, no matter the outcome.  Although it seemed like giving me a daughter was His agenda, I just didn’t know anything for sure.  Trust, trust, trust.  I finally got pregnant.  This time around I had to really keep my emotions in check.  I didn’t want to dwell on fearing another miscarriage.  But I also didn’t want to start making plans and buying baby stuff, just in case.  We kept our good news on the down low until we had a confirmed ultrasound that all was well.  Insurance ended up being a ridiculous nightmare to get situated, so my first doctor appointment was much later than normal.  Once we got everything worked out with insurance, we were so happy to find out that all was well with this baby and we could share our good news!  I kind of knew in my heart that she was a girl, especially since I felt the Lord had already named her, but had to wait to find out for sure.
We endured a very difficult pregnancy.  I had awful morning sickness and a crippling fatigue in the first half or so of this pregnancy.  Some symptoms improved with the second half of pregnancy, but they were replaced by other frustrating symptoms.  On top of the normal pregnancy fatigue and discomfort, I had gestational diabetes, insomnia, a crazy overwhelming hormonal or nerve based itchiness at night that would leave me a sobbing mess, and Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction – a common pregnancy condition where the prego hormone relaxin does its job too well, making the ligaments around your pelvic bone during pregnancy too loose too soon, which causes instability and severe pain in the pelvic joint.  I had to only try to get done the bare minimum each day throughout the whole pregnancy.  I kept up with homeschooling and paying the bills, but that’s about it.  I gave up trying to cook for my family or keep the house clean.  It was even hard to delegate because my brain couldn’t handle thinking of what needed to be done in the house.  Little by little, I regrouped and got the boys busy keeping the house clean.  Jon took over all the cooking and shopping.  I am so blessed with a family who will do what it takes.  I’m very thankful for a husband who is so supportive of me and such a great and engaged dad.  We ate a lot of tacos, spaghetti, and chicken caesar salads, we ate out a lot, and we made it through.

The day before Ella's arrival

On the morning of Ella’s birth, we dropped the boys off at One Day Academy, where they each take a homeschooling class, and drove to the hospital.  Prepping me for surgery & setting up my IV’s ended up stressing out my body that had been fasting food and water for 12 hours.  Jon said my head rolled back, lost color, and my eyes were fluttering.  The nurses checked my blood sugar and said it was way too low.  They gave me an IV with sugar in the drip and gave me oxygen.  That started helping some. 
Before I knew it, we were headed to the surgery room.  They gave me the spinal block and then let Jon in.  This surgery ended up being drastically more traumatic for me that the previous two c-sections.  They used the minimal amount of drugs to keep me from pain, they put a large blue sheet up directly in front of my face, and they tilted the surgery table back so my head was lower than my feet.  My arms were laid out perpendicular to the sides like I was making a capital T.  I felt a lot of pain in my shoulders, arms, and head.  I could feel every little touch from the doctors and nurses.  In previous c-sections I was completely immobilized from the spine down, could hardly feel any pressure, and had enough morphine to feel pretty good.  This time I could wiggle my toes through the whole surgery.  The weight of the baby and the angle of the table really increased the stress on my body.  I was having a really hard time and felt really stressed out from the discomfort.  I asked them to level the table and to give me oxygen.  They did and it helped me a little bit.  Then it felt like the doctor was pushing on my ribs over and over and over with all his weight.  It was just too much and I started to cry.  Soon they pulled the baby out and held her up for me to see.  I couldn’t really see much from my position.  The nurse thought I was crying from joy, but it was from how overwhelmed I was, physically mainly, but I’m sure emotionally too.  As soon as the pressure of the baby and the doctor was off of me, I instantly felt physical relief, I could finally start breathing better, and I began to feel less distressed.  After they weighed the baby, the laid her on me, but there wasn’t any room because the curtain was so close to my face, so they pretty much laid her under my chin.  I couldn’t really see her, but I gave her a kiss.  I wasn’t quite ready to take in the joy of my new baby because I was still so overwhelmed from the surgery.  I recognized that lack of joy and connection and felt disappointed.  I wanted to be filled with joy and love.  I just had to take one thing at a time.  I knew I’d get there soon enough.  They took Jon and the baby to another room while they sewed me up.  I just concentrated on breathing in the oxygen and trying to recover.
They wheeled me into the post-op room where Jon and Ella were waiting.  Jon said the time he was in the room alone with Ella was really sweet.  Moments after I arrived in the post-op room, my cousin Kara and the boys arrived.  She had driven from Missouri and picked them up from school.  It was a big relief to me to have Kara there.  I needed that extra measure of love and support and friendship.  Plus, knowing she was in charge of the boys, freed me up to be completely unconcerned about them the whole time I was in the hospital.  That was a big weight off my mind.  I was still needing some time to regroup, so I feel like I missed out on seeing the boys meet their sister.  The nurse came in to see if I was ready to nurse for the first time and I had to ask for a few minutes to collect myself.  This is all within 5 minutes of being wheeled into the post-op room.  The nurse came back a few minutes later and we nursed.  The nurse gave Ella a bath and got her all snuggled up.  A while later they took us to the maternity room. 
The trade-off to the more traumatic c-section was that I recovered much more quickly!  I had no drug haze to come out of immediately after surgery since they used much less medicine.  I was on my feet and regaining muscle strength much sooner than I have in the past thanks to my fantastic surgeon!  He sewed up a lot more layers internally than they did in my previous c-sections.  He did a great job!
The next few days are kind of a blur.  Feed the baby, doze, eat, wait, visit with friends and family, and celebrate each little milestone: standing, walking across the room, walking down the hall, getting unhooked from the IV, being allowed liquids, being allowed jello, being allowed solid food, etc.  Kara brought the boys to visit about twice a day.  She kept up their homeschooling, fed them, and even made extra food to leave in our freezer!  She was a Godsend!
It took us awhile to settle on Ella’s middle name.  We were still at the hospital before we officially decided.  Early in the pregnancy God told me “joy.”  I didn’t know if that was supposed to be her middle name, but I felt like it could mean that she would be a joy to us.  We considered naming her Joy, but we decided to name her Ann.  It’s my middle name and my mother’s middle name.  I was really attached to the idea of continuing that tradition.  Ann means gracious one.  I love her whole name together and its meaning, Ella Ann Hartshorn –a bright, shining light and gracious one, who brings joy to our family!
My mom was able to come once I was home from the hospital.  It was so nice having her around.  She and Ben got a lot of good time together and she changed a million diapers for me.  She got to visit for two weeks and we really enjoyed her!
Over the next 6 weeks I had a few extra complications.  My incision got infected and I had a bad cough and cold.  It is pretty difficult to sneeze or cough when you have a fresh incision.  That on top of the usual sleep deprivation and a nursing baby sucking the life out of you is a lot to take at once, but we made it through.
As I expected, Caleb wasn’t very interested in the baby, but what can you really expect of a 13 year old boy.  He held her when he first met her, but he’s never asked to hold her since.  He doesn’t ooh and aah over her or really pay her any attention.  He’s much more interested in his own hobbies.  Ben is 8 and is much more willing to hold her if it’s offered to him, but he doesn’t ask to hold her either.  Ben is more interested in looking at her from time to time.  He thinks the little facial twitches that cause her to smile are smiles she’s giving just to him.  It’s super cute!  He likes to count how many times she smiles at him.  I think Ben will especially love playing with her when she can interact a little more.  Both boys will give her a binky in the car when she needs it.  It makes me happy to see them try to keep the binky in her mouth when it keeps popping out.  I like that they’re interacting with her when normally they wouldn’t and sometimes it’s just funny listening to them while I’m driving.  Caleb will load and unload her in her car seat for me, which is a huge help while I’m recovering from the c-section and can’t lift that much weight.  Jon loved to trap Caleb on the couch under Ella.  He would just set Ella on Caleb and then Caleb would be stuck because he didn’t know how to move Ella.  It was hilarious!  We finally taught Caleb how to move Ella, so that trick doesn’t work anymore.  Jon also sneak attacks Caleb regularly.  He gets Ella and makes her swoop down to give Caleb relentless kisses.  It’s adorable!

Ella is a super sweet little baby girl.  It’s so captivating to just look at her.  We’re really enjoying her little expressions and movements.  Snuggling her is the best!  She had her nights and days mixed up for her first 3 ½ weeks.  Now at 6 weeks, we’ve mostly got her little body regulated to a four hour schedule of eating, awake time, and sleeping with just eat and sleep from late night to the morning.  We’ve just about got her sleeping through the night the last couple nights.  My body is mostly recovered from the c-section and my energy and stamina are increasing each day.  I’m getting back into the swing of things and adding back in cooking and cleaning little by little.  I feel so much better than I did when I was pregnant!  The more I sleep and recover, the more I move out of survival mode.  Now I am really appreciating and cherishing moments with Ella.  I’m so excited to see what the next year brings with this sweet baby girl!

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