Mommy to Ava Joy

March 8th, 2011 -March 9th, 2011


On July 9th, 2010 I woke up much earlier than usual and for some reason decided while still half asleep that I would take a pregnancy test, it was still a day or two early to be testing but something in me said it couldn’t hurt. When I saw the two lines on that test I instantly screamed. After a year and a half of infertility treatment that included provera, clomid and follistim as well as countless blood work & ultrasounds we were finally pregnant. We soon found out that my HCG levels were not up to par and an early ultrasound showed a blighted ovum.
At exactly 8 weeks I miscarried naturally and after another 8 weeks was given the ok to resume fertility treatment. To our shock and surprise we found out we were pregnant on the very first cycle and announced to our family on Thanksgiving that we would be expecting a July baby. Little did we know how wrong things can go. All of our ultrasounds were amazing and the baby was doing wonderful. It was the best 20 weeks I could have ever asked for and I wish my body would have just cooperated a little longer.


Monday March 7th, 2011 was just like any other normal Monday I went to work at 7:30am came home at 6:30pm started dinner and walked on the treadmill. I wasn’t walking for even five minutes when I felt something wet and knew something wasn’t quite right. I went to the bathroom and decided it was definitely not urine it was clear and had no smell, and then I noticed thick yellow mucus. I was worried, I kept thinking did my water break but wouldn’t there be more liquid? Was that my mucus plug? I didn’t have an answer to a single question and I was only 20 weeks along! Should this really be happening?  I’m a worrier by nature so I thought maybe this is just me overreacting. I waited for my husband to get home which was around 8:30 I told him what happened and that I was starting to have some cramping. He tried to reassure me that everything was fine and if I wanted to go to the emergency room he would gladly take me and sit there all night so we could have an answer. I decided to call my obstetrician’s office and talk to the nurse on call. I know it’s not her fault but she wasn’t helpful at all, she sounded young and unsure and told me it sounded like nothing and could have been just from walking on the treadmill even though I told her I had only been walking five minutes. Really should that have been long enough to be causing all these issues? Everything in my head said “Nicole your not fine” I kept thinking maybe this is pre-term labor. They give you so many pamphlets when you get pregnant and I remember reading all of the symptoms, so why didn’t the nurse believe me. I decided I would try and sleep and in the morning call and get an appointment to see my doctor.


When I woke up on Tuesday March 8th, 2011 I never thought I would be giving birth that very day, it never crossed my mind. I thought I would go see my doctor he would tell me I’m just a worrier and send me home but that didn’t happen. I got in the shower early it was maybe 5:00am and by 7:00am I was feeling more cramps followed by more mucus just like the night before but this time there was a small amount of blood mixed in. This was not normal I knew it but I had already told my husband to just go ahead and go to work, if I needed something I would call him. We had our 20 week ultrasound scheduled for Wednesday and I wanted him to be able to make that appointment, I didn’t want him to go into work late two days in a row. I once again called the nurse on call and she was no more help then the night before except this time she told me my option was to just go to the emergency room if I thought it was serious. I kept pleading with her to just let me come into the office right at 8:00am and see a doctor but she said she wasn’t sure what the schedule was like today and couldn’t do that. I waited until 8:00am and called the office. That was one of the longest hours waiting for them to open. When I called they gave me the same nurse that had been on call, didn’t they know I didn’t want to talk to her, she couldn’t help me. She told me she had an opening at 1:30pm and that was the best she could do. I was so angry and hung up on her. I called my husband who then called the office for me and demanded to speak with another nurse. He then called me and told me to go right over to the office and that they would just fit me in. I called my mom and she came with me, just in case something was wrong I needed to have someone there.


We sat in the waiting room for about 15 minutes and they called me back and did all of the routine things. I peed in a cup, was weighed and had my blood pressure taken. We had to wait another 10 minutes before they took me into a room. When the doctor came in I told him what was going on and all of the symptoms I said to him “maybe I’m crazy and everything is just fine, I would be more than happy for you to just send me home” he just laughed and said he needed to take and look and see whats going on. It was the fastest exam I have ever had in my life, as soon as he got the speculum in it came immediately out and he kind of jumped back. He spoke softer and calmer than before and his exact words I can no longer remember because I was just in disbelief but it was something along the lines of “I need you to just lay there, I’m going to help you get up slowly. From what I can see you have bulging membranes, we’re getting a wheelchair and admitting you to the hospital immediately”. He helped me up, my mom helped me get dressed and I called my husband, my mother in-law and my work to let them know I wasn’t sure when I would be back.


The new women’s hospital is connected to their office and we had just taken a tour when I was only 12 weeks pregnant. I never thought I would be back so soon. On our way over, the doctor tried to explain some things to me one of them being that we would need to decide if we wanted the baby to be resuscitated he said 20 weeks was just not far along enough to do much. I kept thinking but what if they can buy me weeks, that’s possible right? When I would ask him how much time I had, he kept trying to prepare me for hours or days, weeks seemed almost impossible. I wanted to believe he was wrong. They took me to the 5th floor where they handle high risk pregnancies and started an IV, and then put a catheter in since I was not going to be allowed to get up for any reason. Then they tipped me backwards slightly to take pressure off my cervix.


I was told I have an incompetent cervix and that there was no way for them to know ahead of time. This part bothers me because I had a leep procedure in 2005 and I had asked my doctor at least three times during my pregnancy if there was a chance I needed a cerclage, I was supposed to be having my cervix checked at my 20 week ultrasound which was just the next day I think it should have been checked much sooner. Something else that bothers me is that I tried to change my appointment for a week sooner and the girl scheduling wouldn’t let me. I keep thinking that if I was seen one week sooner that they might have been able to do a rescue cerclage but because the membranes were now bulging it wasn’t an option because they would risk breaking my water.


The next few hours so many different people came into my room to talk to us. They had the NICU doctor come and tell us why the baby mostly likely wouldn’t survive but I’m not stupid I know a pregnancy isn’t considered viable until 24 weeks and because I was only 20 weeks they weren’t going to give me anything to stop the contractions they said they had to let my body guide them and decide what was going to happen next.


Two of the four doctors in the practice came to visit and gave us things to think about. Did we want to see or hold the baby when it was born, did we have a name for the baby and that we would need to think about contacting a funeral home at some point. It was just too much to process. Was I really going to lose my baby? Was there nothing they could do for me? They reassured me that when I was ready to get pregnant again I would be considered high risk, get a cerclage at 15 weeks and be on bed rest but none of that was going to save this baby and that was all I wanted.


The contractions continued and were manageable until about 7:00pm when Holly, my evening nurse started her shift. I can’t begin to say enough about Holly she was with us through the hardest part of our entire life and she is forever a part of my family. My dad came to visit around this same time and I wish I could say I remember more but the contractions were getting so intense that is was hard to focus and we knew that  we didn’t have much time. My husband was by my side the entire time and believe me I squeezed his hand so hard every time I had a contraction, the poor thing ended up passing out and in a matter of seconds I think I had 20 people in my room trying to take care of both of us. Thank God my mom was right next to him and kept him from falling on the floor, he did hit his head but refused to go to the ER, which turned out to be the best decision because he would have missed the birth of our precious baby.


Once we knew he was fine they moved me downstairs to the labor and delivery floor and around 10:00 I finally received my epidural which was like heaven I was no longer in pain and I could think somewhat straight but that in itself brought a new reality. I was going to deliver this baby no matter what, no one could keep her safe inside of me any longer. Holly was with me during my epidural and held me tight the whole time since Chris and my mother had to wait in the hallway. I must say I was so afraid of the epidural but the contractions were much worse than any epidural could ever be. Once they were done it only took about five or ten minutes and I felt a warm gush I pressed the red button to call the nurse back and Holly came to confirm what I already knew, my water broke. She cleaned things up and left the room once again. My mom left the room as well but we told her not to go far since we didn’t know what to expect no one thought things would move along this fast. Within another five minutes I pressed the red button again and Holly came to check on me I told her I felt something it was warm and something against my thigh, Chris called my mom and told her to come back and Holly called another nurse in who then called the doctor and told her to come down immediately. There was no stopping our baby because Holly delivered her right there and just held her until the doctor showed up a minute or two later. Our beautiful baby was born at 10:31pm on Tuesday March 8th, 2011. I couldn’t believe it, I asked if it was a boy or a girl and they told us we had a beautiful girl! I was so happy, so confused and worried at the same time. We had a girl, I really prayed this whole time for a healthy baby but secretly really wanted a girl and she was perfect 20 weeks early, yes, but absolutely perfect. They said she was breathing and told us her heart rate which I can’t for the life of me remember. They asked what her name was and I proudly told them “Ava Joy”. A perfect and beautiful name for a perfect and beautiful girl. But how much time would I get with her? I wanted a lifetime but new it wasn’t an option.


While they were wrapping her up and putting a hat on her I had to deliver the placenta which was an interesting experience and the pounding they do on your stomach after, I know it’s necessary but I wish I would have been more prepared for that and they continued to do it for the next 24 hours.


They asked if we wanted to hold her and I asked my mom to hold her first and hand her to me. She was so tiny 12 ounces to be exact! I couldn’t believe my little peanut was only 4 ounces away from weighing a pound. She was 10 inches long which all of the nurses were very impressed with and my mom even saw her kick her arms and legs. I did watch her move her mouth a few times, everything about her was precious. I just wanted to comfort her, there was nothing else I could do. At first Chris wasn’t sure if he wanted to hold her. I think he was afraid he would be too attached to her, but she truly was daddy’s little girl from the start and eventually he decided to hold her. This made my heart happy, to see him hold his little girl what an amazing moment, he is the best daddy a mommy could ever ask for. I had her in me for 20 weeks all to myself and being able to share her was such a gift. The love you feel that instantly fills your heart is astounding! They asked if we wanted the hospital chaplain to baptize her and I was so happy that they were there and able to do that for us, it was beautiful.


They eventually moved me back to the 5th floor, which was very considerate of the nurses. The fact that they did not take me to the post partum floor where all the happy new moms were waiting to take there babies home meant a lot to me, I don’t think I could have handled that. They put us in the largest room at the end of the hallway with an amazing view of the lake. It was quiet and peaceful. When they were moving me from the third floor to the fifth they let me keep Ava right with me against my chest, I think they knew there was no way I was giving her up. I knew I would not get to take my baby home. I even at one point imagined just picking her up and running as far away as I could with her. This was not possible either since I could barely feel my legs.


We were able to spend four and a half glorious hours with our Ava Joy until she went to the Lord. I can’t say how happy I am to have had those hours with her. We told the doctor earlier in the day that we decided to just comfort her and spend as much time with her as the Lord would allow, we did not want her to suffer. We knew she was too small to survive and I didn’t want the NICU’s efforts to be the only way I remembered my daughter. The nurses were amazed at how long she was with us, they said it was not typical whatsoever, they would check her every hour and let us know where her heart rate was at. Those were hard moments. I didn’t want to hear that she was gone and each time they would check her I would hand her to my mom I just didn’t feel strong enough to handle the inevitable news.


She was such a strong little fighter and she must have loved being with us so much that she tried to hang on as long as possible. I held her close to my chest and it hurt me so much that I could tell she was getting colder. We were able to take a few photos, tell her stories, I sang to her the song I sung every day on our way to work. I needed her to know just how much I loved her, that I would do anything for her and I kept telling her she was loved so much and in my heart always and forever. I kissed her little head and told her of all the wonderful family members that would be greeting her in heaven. Those were the best and hardest four hours of my life but I would trade anything to have four more hours with her.


Once she had gone to the Lord I knew she was at peace and well taken care of. Holly took her to give her a bath, take more photos and get her hand and footprints for us. It’s amazing how much they do to try and ease the pain. The many photos they gave us I will cherish forever, they gave us the three different blankets. One that she had when I held her and two that they used in photos. We received her hat that she was wearing, many copies of her hand and footprints and quite a few other things. Little by little as I feel strong enough, I go through her things and remember all of the little details. She had such a perfect little face, her cheeks and lips and the cutest little nose, she definitely has her fathers nose! Her tiny hands and feet, I just can’t get enough of every little detail.


I didn’t sleep that night, it was possible. They wanted to give me Ambien to help me sleep but I refused. I just wanted to lay there and remember everything about her. Holly came and showed me all of the pictures she took of her around 6:30am on Wednesday March 9th and I just looked at them in awe of just how amazing Ava really was. Wednesday was a long day, they kept me in the hospital and planned to release me on Thursday morning. I needed to receive antibiotics the entire day just as a precaution and they finally took the catheter out and I was able to slowly start getting out of bed and walk again.


So many people came in and out of our room on Wednesday, the original nurse Melissa that was with me at the beginning of the day on Tuesday came back to take care of me and Holly told me she would be back at 7:00pm to 7:00am and would make sure that she was assigned to me again. The familiarity was comforting. They both already knew everything I had been through, no need for explanations. My mom had flowers delivered to our room, they were so pretty and made the room look happy. Father Murphy came and talked, and prayed with us for a short while he told us to make sure we are “gentle with ourselves” during this difficult time and told us that because of our immense love for her we are going to grieve it’s only normal when you love something so incredibly much. He reminded me that she is safe with the Lord and watching over us. With my mothers help I was able to shower, it was nice to feel clean once again. It was the first time I looked in the mirror since Tuesday morning before I really new what was going on and I looked like a different person, my eyes so puffy from crying my stomach no longer Ava’s home.


I’m not sure how I managed to think of this on Wednesday or how it suddenly came to me but I wanted Ava to be buried with some of her things that we had bought for her, my mom went and picked everything up at our house and we gave them the things at the hospital. I picked a blanket for her that was already washed and smelled wonderful, a soft frog lovie that matches the large frog chair in her room, a cross that was given to me by my grandmother for first holy communion that was then blessed by the bishop and a wedding photo of us. The blanket was so large that we cut it in half so that she has half with her and I have half here with me. On the back of the wedding photo we each wrote a special message for her. It makes me so happy to know she has these things with her.

Wednesday night I finally, with some encouragement, agreed to take Ambien. I understood that my body needed to heal and I did in fact need sleep. I believe I only slept for about four hours but that was four more hours than the night before.


Thursday morning we ordered breakfast and the hospital grief counselor came to talk to us. Stacy is a wonderful woman and I’m hoping she can counsel us in the future, they usually won’t let her counsel patients privately because the hospital thinks it’s a conflict of interest but I know she could tell how much I really wanted her to be able to guide us through this hard time and she said she would see what she could do. Stacy told us it’s not so much time that heals, it’s what you do with the time you are given and she is so right. My doctor came to talk to me once again and assured me there was nothing more I could have done. He actually said that if I would have gone to the emergency room on Monday night, they would have most likely broken my water from not being careful enough or knowing exactly what they were looking for. He reminded me that our future pregnancies will be handled much differently and certain precautions will now be taken. He is a wonderful doctor but it doesn’t mean I don’t wish he could have done more of our Ava and for me much sooner. Once my discharge papers were done we signed a few things and were able to leave around 11:00am. Leaving was much harder than I thought it would be. How to do you leave without your baby, it shouldn’t be something that is happening to women. No one should arrive at the hospital pregnant and go home empty handed! It’s not something I’m ok with and it’s going to take a very long time to heal. I want to celebrate our Ava Joy’s life, she has brought us an immense amount of joy that I never knew was possible to feel, and I will love her ALWAYS and FOREVER.

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