Grace. Power. Weakness.

This blog will probably take a few days to write, as I have limited time between feedings (Ella eats every 2 hours, and each feeding takes between 30 minutes and an hour), and I am, well… tired.

Mike and I wanted to thank everyone for their prayers before, during, and after labor/delivery. Here is a description of how things went… I’ll try to keep it short. I’ll also try to keep it non-TMI, but no promises. πŸ™‚

I had braxton hicks contractions Thursday night (the 15th) starting at a church dinner group meeting. They continued all night, but they didn’t hurt. Even so, I was distracted thinking “Is this it??” so I didn’t sleep well. That’s why I was up at 4:30am on Friday morning, so I felt the famous earthquake (yes, we got an earthquake!!). I actually thought (and journaled this at the time), “I wonder if this will make me go into labor.”

Friday afternoon I began to lose amniotic fluid. I wasn’t sure that’s what was happening, so I called a friend who is a mom and asked her. She told me to call my midwife. An hour later, contractions had started, but even then they were so mild, I thought “This could be false labor – don’t get too excited.” Even so, I lost my appetite because of excitement, and we called my mom “just in case.” I was a week and one day before my due date, so we were not convinced that this was “it.”

We were out to dinner with friends, and we cut the night short since I couldn’t eat and I was cramping. We went to the mall to walk around, because we had learned that can help advance real labor or stop false labor. Plus I was antsy. It was too hot to walk outside (it’s been upwards of 100 degrees here in DC the last few weeks).

Walking at the mall didn’t last long. It didn’t take long for my contractions to become uncomfortable and then, quickly, painful. Mike timed them, and within 4 hours I was contracting 2-3 minutes apart, which is when the midwife told me to come on in.

We had “planned” for my mom to be in town for my labor, as a backup coach to Mike. She wasn’t due to fly in for a whole week, but thankfully we had lined up a backup: our good friend Alyssa Groen. Around 12:30 am, we grabbed our bags, swung by and picked up Alyssa (she lives down the street), and headed to the birth center.

By this point, I was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t talk very well during contractions, and I didn’t really want to be touched. This, we had learned, was a sign that labor was serious/advanced, which was encouraging. The birth center is in downtown DC (in the ghetto), and the roads leading to it are under construction. One word: OW.

When we got to the birth center, the midwife checked me and I was only one centimeter dilated. For anyone who doesn’t know, a woman has to be 10 centimeters dilated to be able to deliver her baby. 1 centimeter is like a kick in the gut – I was nowhere near where I thought I was or wanted to be. I was in so much pain and getting nauseous with each contraction.

The midwife (Lisa) told us to walk around the birth center to advance my labor. We tried that, but I simply couldn’t keep walking when contractions hit. They were coming fast and furious. I had become incredibly bossy and grumpy, barking commands at Mike and then retracting them just as quickly. He was a saint, complying with my demands with an enormous amount of patience. Lisa wouldn’t admit me into a birthing room because I wasn’t far enough along. But she set us up in the family waiting room, and I settled into a big recliner. I labored there for hours with Alyssa coaching me while Mike slept. After 3-4 hours, Lisa checked me again: 3 cm. ONLY 2 cm growth in 4 hours??? I was so discouraged. What Lisa didn’t tell me at the time was that Ella was in perfect position, and she thought I would begin progressing more quickly. She admitted me, and we moved into a birthing room. I immediately got into the tub and labored there until I felt the urge to push.

After about 14 hours of labor, it was time to push! I was sooo excited. I had made it! No drugs. I felt renewed energy surge through me, and we began the pushing phase. I pushed for 2 1/2 hours, which isn’t a REALLY long time for a first time mom, but it’s not short, either. Some women only push for 30 minutes.

Ella was born at 11:05 on Saturday morning, July 17th. It was THE. MOST. AMAZING. EXPERIENCE. when I finally pushed her out, and they placed her, squirming, on my chest. I remember saying, over and over, “I did it! I can’t believe I did it! Oh my gosh, look at her! She’s here!!”

Everything was going well, until I delivered the placenta. At that time, I began hemorrhaging. I saw a lot of blood, but I didn’t really know if it was too much, until I was surrounded by 4 midwives, all with grave expressions. One was telling me to focus my energy on stopping the bleeding, another was mashing on my stomach to contract my uterus. Others were running for medicine to help me clot. They told Mike and me that this was serious and they needed to give me several different drugs to help stop the bleeding, because it wouldn’t stop. It was a really scary time, and as I breathed through the pain of them manually contracting my uterus, and prayed, I called out “Pray, Alyssa!” She said “I am, Laura” and raised her voice louder.

I heard the sounds of drugs and needles and IVs and hurried voices and worried voices and midwife chatter, but then, above it all, Alyssa’s prayer rose. She thanked God for his sovereignty, the gift that Ella was to us, and asked him to step in and stop the bleeding, to swoop in and save the day and protect my life.

The bleeding stopped.

Five hours after delivery, we went home. Because of my hemorrhage, I was very easily tired and got straight in bed when we got home. A few days later, after checking my iron levels, the midwives considered sending me to the hospital for a blood transfusion. Instead, though, they put me on a regimen of iron supplements and bed rest. They will recheck my iron levels at my 2-week postpartum appointment, which is this Friday (the 30th).

In addition to my anemia, which has limited me to staying at the house and taking the stairs only twice a day (which is hard when there is no bathroom on the main level), Ella has been fighting jaundice. Jaundice means that her liver is not adequately ridding the body of a substance called bilirubin. If her bilirubin count is too high, it can lead to all kinds of long-term issues. In the short term, jaundice causes her skin to be very yellow and for her to be extremely lethargic. The biggest problem with this is that one of the two main ways to treat jaundice outside the hospital is by feeding her like crazy. But… lethargic babies would rather sleep than eat, so they don’t breast feed well, and the vicious cycle continues. In addition, we have to “sun” her a few times a day (inside, of course, where it’s not 103 degrees like it was yesterday).

Ella has already been to the pediatrician 4 times, and we have another appointment tomorrow (and Thursday). The doctor told us to start supplementing her “meals” to assist in weight gain and to flush out the bilirubin, so we have begun that. We don’t want to use bottles, so we’re using a crazy contraption that mimics/assists breast feeding. She seems to be doing better – her last blood work showed the bilirubin leveling out, and her skin is less yellow. For those of you who have been praying for us, keep it up! We still have a way to go!

It’s been tiring, to be sure. I only get – at most – 2 or 3 2-hour blocks of sleep at night, and sometimes a 1-hour nap or two during the day. Somehow, though, we are surviving. I am convinced anew that this verse is true:

“But he [God] said to me [Paul], ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Praise God for my weaknesses, for He is sustaining us and giving us grace to live each day.

  1. #1 by Jill on July 26, 2010 - 12:20 pm

    Wow, Laura. What an amazing journey it took for little Miss Ella to come into this world. A crazy, scary, emotional, yet joyous time. I’ll continue to pray for you and Ella (and Mike, too!). I can’t wait to visit and get to hold the wonderful little life two of my best friends created.

  2. #2 by Vic on July 26, 2010 - 12:38 pm

    Oh poor Ella! And poor you, Laura! Bless Mike for being so awesome about all of this!
    You are in our prayers, of course! We know you will pull through. Everything happens for a reason and we are all tested in various way. The best part though, is that Ella has 10 fingers and 10 toes and is alive. You will all be fine. We love you!
    Victoria, Aunt Luanne, and Uncle John

  3. #3 by Mike Icardi on July 26, 2010 - 6:05 pm

    Laura, you will never regret keeping a record of that has happened and all that God has done, and will do! We are so proud of you (and Ella and Mike) and keep praying that you will be back to full health and Ella will be free of the jaundice. You are truly a wonderful writer!

  4. #4 by Mike Icardi on July 26, 2010 - 6:09 pm

    You have a gift at expressing in writing what God is doing and your thoughts. This will be part of Ella’s sorty as she begins her life journey with the amazing parents God has given her:) You are a precious Mommy and Mike is astrong, gentle Daddy!1 Ella is blessed, and we are thankful for how you both are walking through this with the Lord. We love you! Mom

  5. #5 by Sarah Stone on July 26, 2010 - 10:18 pm

    How is it that I already know every detail of this story and STILL teared up reading it?

    The pictures are precious. Love the black-n-white at the top. It’s serene and sweet.

    And on a less serious note – if you photoshopped a remote control in that hand and put some Nike booties on those feet – you’d have a total mini-Mike. Seriously. Too funny. πŸ™‚

    Can’t wait to meet this sweet girl!!

  6. #6 by Shannon on July 28, 2010 - 10:37 pm

    Wow Laura, Ella’s birth story is beautiful! I am beyond thrilled to hear that she arrived just the way you wanted, dreamed and planned. You worked so hard before, during and after her birth and you should be so proud! She is absolutely beautiful!

    I hope and pray that you will begin to feel well and back to normal, well, your “new normal’ so soon. πŸ˜‰

    Are you eating a lot of spinach? If you get sick of salads, you can put it in smoothies. Beans, (black, lentils) are also a good source as well as endamame.

    I’m glad you’re able to get around the bottle thing- such dedication! Do you have a breast pump? Make sure you’re pumping during the times you’re supplementing so that you keep up the supply and demand thing. That way when you no longer need to supplement, you’ll be all ready for her big appetite! =)

    Blessings to you all!!

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