"Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Welcome to the world, my sweet baby Ella!! (birth story)

Ella, 2 lbs 10 oz, 15 in, b. 10-2-10 at 6:34 PM
I think she looks like a little gnome here! <3

On October 2, I woke up with very elevated BPs. I ate my breakfast but then the nurse informed me that there was a good chance I would deliver that day because the preexlampsia was obviously getting worse. I was told no more food until we knew more. While I was obviously upset by the fact that we were looking at delivering at 29w2d, I had a sense of peace about it. I realized that at this point, I had no control over the situation and all I could do was be strong and go forward for our new baby. Within 2 hours, they thought they had me stabilized and my labs came back perfect so we were told no delivery. I ordered lunch early (thank GOD!) and ate it when it came up. Literally right after I finished the last bite of lunch, my BPs shot back up. We were told again there was a possibility of delivery and no more food. This was at 12:00 PM. I decided to take a nap because I knew that if Ella was coming today, I would need what strength I could get. Shortly thereafter, one of our pastors came to visit us and we said a prayer for Ella and our family. It was immediately after she left that the doctor and nurse came in and said they couldn't get me to stabilize and it was no longer safe for me to be pregnant. The doctor explained to me that while yes, they could probably keep me pregnant for maybe another day by using multiple different blood pressure medications, at this point they were just chasing the BP, trying to get it to temporarily stay down. Once they got it down, it would only stay down for a few minutes before immediately shooting back up. If we waited, we would chance my severe preeclampsia getting even worse which could lead to an emergency c-section as opposed to a planned one. In the case of an emergency c-section, they would probably have to do general anesthesia and I wouldn't be awake for my birth. I told her no, that's absolutely what I do NOT want. I may have no control over when and how this birth is done, but I at least want to experience my birth. Regardless of whether it's major surgery, it was still the birth of my child and I wanted to be there for it. So she told me she was going to deliver triplets and then I was next. We called Constance, our doula, and started making phone calls.

Earlier in the day, I'd felt that sense of peace and it was still borderline...borderline with absolute panic. I tried to keep calm because I knew I needed to be strong for Ella and for myself but millions of thoughts rushed through my head. Mainly that I simply was NOT ready for her to be born 11 weeks early!! I broke down and cried multiple times and when they came in to get me, I was beside myself upset. I had described to the doctors and nurses my terrible experience with anesthesiology in my last c-section and the anesthesiologist came in and talked to me about the anxiety I felt regarding the whole situation. She was an absolute angel. I leaned on her the entire birth, it was like she was there for me and me only. We were unable to have both Constance (my doula) and Shane in the operating room, so she became my second support person. I originally thought this would never work but she was beyond amazing. I don't know how I could have gotten through this without her. She helped keep me focused and calm, especially once Shane went with Ella! 

I was brought back to the OR and prepped for surgery. I cried and cried but I was trying SO HARD to keep myself calm because I wanted to make sure that this birth was MINE and it wasn't taken away from me!! I kept talking to myself and visualizing all of the women before me that I cared for who had been in labor. I drew from their strength and leaned upon their spirits. This helped me immensely. It calmed me down and I finally stopped crying. Annie, the anesthesiologist, came and kept eye contact with me and rubbed my face and shoulders while softly speaking to me the entire time. Shane was on my right side, holding my hand. I was very calm and collected. There were a few times where the pressure turned almost into pain as they worked on getting Ella from my body and I had moments of brief panic but Annie stopped them immediately by working on deep breathing and soft speaking with me. 

 I could tell that she was about to come out because I felt and incredible amount of pressure and, oddly enough, I felt the urge to bear down and push her out!! I had NO idea I would feel this way, especially since she was being taken via c-section. I obviously couldn't push and didn't need to but there was no doubt that the urge to bear down was there. My body was attempting to make it as natural as possible. Immediately after I felt that, they said that she was coming out. I can't explain to you how rewarding it was to be able to feel that natural compulsion to push my baby out. I didn't get to do it, and I'll never know what it's like, but it was a sensation that truly allowed me to feel a little more healed by this birth.

As soon as she was born, Shane took my birth necklace that my doula and two very close girlfriends had made and blessed for me and put it in my hand while he went back with Ella. Once he was gone, I used this as a focusing object to help get through the remainder of the c-section. He was with Ella and I was with Annie. Again, I thank God that she was there because she really allowed me to draw strength from her! I clung to my necklace and pictured all the women there with me, being my strength and peace. I kept telling myself that this was MY birth and while it wasn't ideal, our baby was here and she would be okay.

 It was very shortly after that that they came out and told me that not only was Ella doing very well but she was actually BREATHING ON HER OWN!! They were able to bring her to me and while I wasn't able to hold her, I got to touch her face and blanket cradled body while kissing her cheeks for several minutes. She was doing so well that she didn't need any extra help and we got to share some special skin on skin contact, even if it was only my fingers and face. The picture to the right was the very first moment I laid eyes on our sweet baby girl. 

We were told that Ella didn't need to go to the Level III NICU because she was doing SO well on her own. She'd need to go to the special care nursery at Abbott and while there was a possibility (and still is a possibility) she will need to be brought to the NICU at Children's Hospital, it wiould only be  for a short period because of how amazing she was doing. My amazing doula, Constance, met me in recovery and we talked about the birth and she held my hand while they stabilized me. 

Once I was stabilized, they wheeled me up on the gurney to the next floor up to be able to see Ella. I wasn't able to sit up or hold her, but I stuck my hand in her isolette and we held hands for a long time. She had a wonderful grip in that teeny, tiny hand and was gasping for breathe, but appeared to be calmed by my touch and soothing whispers. I told her how much I loved her and rubbed her hands and chest. The nurse explained to us that while she was struggling for oxegyn, and she had amniotic fluid in her lungs, she was doing really, really well. She said that they almost never get 29 week gestation babies up there because they don't do this well. She explained that while Ella may need to be moved to the NICU if she got worse, she probably wouldn't be there long because of how great she was already doing. She said that it'd be some shakey first couple of days but that Ella was a major fighter. She kicked and cried at the nurses the entire time and that, she said, was amazing, especially for her gestational age. She said they had no doubts she was going to thrive and do amazing because she had a major fighting streak in her! 

Was this my ideal birth plan? Absolutely not. Do I have guilt? Yes. However, for an unplanned c-section, at 29w2d, this was the best it could be. I had amazing support from my anesthesiologist, my husband, my doula and all the women in my life who were spiritually there for me, allowing me to draw on their strength. The fact that I felt the urge to bear down was SUCH a rewarding experience and brought me a lot of healing. 

(Ella) Eleanor Dayle Johnson
Born 10-02-2010 
2lbs 10 oz, 15 inches long
6:34 PM at Abbott Northwestern Hospital


  1. Congratulations and I hope she continues to do good and can go home with you soon.

  2. CONGRATUALTIONS on a very successful delivery! I am so glad Ella is doing so well. I will definately keep you guys in my prayers!

  3. Congrats she's So beautiful thank you for sharing her with us.

  4. Congratulations! Ceri shared your link and I wanted to come over and offer my thoughts and prayers for your little Ella. *This is Amy, the other Olivia's mummy* :)

  5. Congratulations! :) I am so glad she is doing so well :) Please keep us updated! :) Prayers for her and you :)

  6. Christa, what an amazing and wonderful story. I'm so happy Ella is doing so well. Please don't feel guilty - you have absolutely no reason to. You did everything you could and this was the plan - we just don't always know the plan. We'll certainly pray for continued strength and recovery for you and Ella.