They say “to trust your body”. “You and your baby are working together.” Well that is absolutely true. I firmly believe my body was holding Olivia in because it knew she needed extra help.
Monday, September 19
At 41 weeks, our midwife ordered an ultrasound to check on our baby’s wellness, amniotic fluid levels, etc. but little did we know that we would learn something about our sweet girl that would flip our idea of delivery upside down.
During our scan, the tech had trouble finding some of her organs. So the images were sent to a doctor in Fort Wayne to look at. He suspected that it was likely that Olivia had a diaphragmatic hernia, a hole in her diaphragm, which allowed her intestines into her chest cavity. The news caused a lot of uncertainty. The scans couldn’t show how much potential damage the intestines had done to her lungs and heart.
We were told to pack our things and get to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis as soon as possible because, at 41 weeks, I could go into spontaneous labor at any moment. And Olivia had the best chance of survival if we got people notified and lined up to take care of her as soon as she was born.
Tuesday, September 20
The hardest day of my life. We had more scans to look at our baby girl, and at this point heard so much information about what could be it was overwhelming and hard to bear. We discussed the possibility of her lungs not being fully developed because her intestines were not allowing them to expand. We just couldn’t really have any answers until she was born and they could get x-rays to see inside her more clearly. I tried to remain positive and for the first time in my pregnancy, I wanted to remain pregnant because I knew she was safe inside me. As soon as she would come out and have to breathe with her lungs, we just didn’t know how she would do.
I’ll never forget Jacob asking “I mean, what kind of quality of life are we talking about if she only has one lung?”, and that completely broke me. I felt there was a real possibility that we would not be bringing a baby home with us. And if we did, she could have a very hard battle for her life.
This Tuesday was the hardest and darkest day of our lives. Jacob and I held each other in tears worried for our baby girl; asking God to grant her strength and health.
Wednesday, September 21
Our third wedding anniversary. Still pregnant. Feeling a little better after a good night’s rest and news that the ultrasound images at 24 weeks showed no hernia, which meant it happened in the second half of the pregnancy, giving her lungs time to develop before the intestines leaked up into her chest cavity.
We got the go-ahead to be induced and I got my first dose of Cytotec (cervix was holding baby girl in — no dilation or effacement). Jacob and I nixed the hospital food and splurged on Noodles & Company for our anniversary meal because I knew I needed fuel for labor. At this point, Aubrey, our doula, was with us with the intention of stopping by and then getting a place to stay overnight until I went into labor. Contractions started but they were not intense.
Four hours had passed and I’m 1 cm dilated 😐 so another round of Cytotec. Now things get into motion. Contractions came hard and fast and within a couple of hours, they were 4-5 minutes apart. During the contractions, Olivia was not doing well. With each contraction, her heart rate would drop and I would have to roll to the other side for it to go back up. I did this for about an hour or so and then we made the decision for a c-section. We could have kept going but with the possibility of an emergency c-section, in which case Jacob and Aubrey would not be allowed in the O.R. with me and I needed them.
I am the most terrified I have ever been in my life while in labor contractions. The thought of being cut open was something I could never digest well but I knew I had to do it for our baby. I had the shakes so bad I don’t think I could hold still for a second.
Jacob and Aubrey waited for me to get on the table and the most incredible nurse was with me the whole way. Kelly had been a nurse with me during one of the previous nights and I was so thankful to have her with me during these incredibly difficult moments in my life. She held me up while I got the spinal and I remember her saying, “You have to be strong for Olivia”, “You have to breathe for Olivia”.
I hear my baby’s cry. Oh, thank you, God, she’s out! I finally felt a sense of relief. Aubrey looks over and says, “Oh my gosh, she has hair!!” Olivia is taken to the warmer to be intubated. This was the plan as they didn’t want her breathing on her own to relieve any excess pressure on her lungs. They honestly didn’t even want her to cry when she came out but Olivia does what she wants! Jacob looks around the curtain and can only see her feet and he says to me, “She has your toes”. Aubrey looks at him confused and he says, “Her second toe is shorter than her third, that’s exactly how Courtney’s are”.
I’m out of the O.R. and in recovery and we get to see our sweet Olivia for the first time. She is on her way to NICU and they stop in my room for a moment. I was worried by not being able to hold her immediately after delivery that I wouldn’t have that connection but as soon as I saw her, I knew she was ours — she looks just like her daddy!
Olivia was taken to the NICU and she had surgery on her diaphragm the following Monday. Her intestines had squished her left lung and also pushed her heart over to the right and which also squished the her right lung a bit. But once the intestines were back down, her lungs slowly expanded and heart shifted back to where it should be. The doctors said she made a great recovery. Each day made more and more progress, getting more lines taken out, getting on less oxygen and starting to breathe on her own.
Three weeks after we first got down there, we got to go home. Her journey continues with the nasogastric tube to help her feed. For two weeks, Olivia didn’t get the chance to learn the suck-swallow-breathe to eat so we’re working with her to take a bottle at home. It takes 18 muscles to eat so at each feed we try the bottle, she does as much as she can before getting tired and then the rest goes through the tube. She’s getting better and soon will be big and strong so she can take the full bottle on her own.
We are so grateful for every person who touched our lives during our time at Riley. From the caring labor & delivery nurses and doctors, the amazing NICU nurses who are truly angels on Earth to those who gave us a room to stay in at the hospital so we could be close to her every day.
We are so thankful to have caught Olivia’s situation when we did and were able to be prepared for delivery. She is a tough little girl and my hero already. She makes this mama so proud to call her my daughter.
Olivia, my sweet girl, I can never express how great of an honor it is to be your mama 🖤