As many of you know, we added a new addition to our family about two months ago and I have been very neglectful in posting the story of Hannah’s birth. So as I sit here in the hospital with her again (I’ll get to that story later!) I am finally finding time to journal her coming.
As with all my other children, Hannah had to be born via C Section as the risk of uterine rupture for me was simply too great to attempt a natural birth. My pregnancy with her was very different than with the other three. I didn’t have gestational diabetes at all which was my biggest challenge with the others. I am pretty sure this was due to our diet here which is much more natural (more raw food and less prepackaged products) and our activity level. I had other struggles this time such as varicose veins, heart burn, and I fought a serious cold and sinus infection the last two weeks before she was born. Although I didn’t have gestational diabetes, there was still reason to believe Hannah would be born rather large and so the doctors scheduled her to be born at 38 weeks instead of waiting until 39 so that I didn’t go into labor on my own. I was pretty nervous about the birth because even though I done it three times before, this would be my first time in Germany so I didn’t know what to expect.
All scheduled C Sections take place on Monday morning so I had to check into the hospital Sunday evening. When I got there, they examined me and did an ultrasound to check on where Hannah was in my stomach and how big she was. I was worried they weren’t going to let me go ahead with the surgery because I was still so sick but thankfully I was given the green light. We were surprised to see that Hannah seemed smaller than expected but they planned to go ahead the next morning. I also had to get a shot to help prevent thrombosis , especially important for me since I had pretty severe varicose veins due to the pregnancy. I attempted to sleep but nerves kept me awake most of the night.
The morning of the C Section Ken was planning to take the other kids to a friend’s house and then come directly to the hospital since the surgery was scheduled to start at 8:30 in the morning. Of course, like always happens in that kind of situation, he was late but thankfully my surgery was delayed anyways for some reason. I found it interesting the lack of urgency the medical staff had. There was no hurry to put in my spinal block or get me situated on the operating table although with my other C Sections it always felt very stressful, like there was some kind of timetable or schedule to meet. Another major difference here was that the doctors that assist in the deliveries or perform surgery are not the ones who care for you throughout the pregnancy, they work separately, so I hadn’t met the doctors before that time. There were very thorough however in making sure they knew everything from my previous C Sections and medical conditions.
Despite all the great medical care I received, my surgery was quite horrible. The anestisiologist was very caring and worked very hard to keep me feeling well so I didn’t have to experience any nausea but the challenge ended up being much worse than that. From the beginning of the surgery, I could feel all they were doing, it didn’t hurt but I was aware of every cut, clamp, pull and tug. When they pulled her out of me, it felt like an elephant was standing on my chest and I couldn’t breathe but once she was out, it was such relief. She was beautiful and let out a nice loud cry and proceeded to scream for the next few minutes. When they had her wrapped and brought her over to me, I could immediately hear her struggling to breathe, like she was pushing hard to get the breath out and then back in. We were also shocked to see how tiny she was and that she was still covered in the milky white cream that protects their skin in utero. After about 10 minutes, when she was all cleaned up and weighed (2900 grams or about 6 pounds 6 ounces- 2 & 3 pounds lighter than the other kids!), they brought her back over to us for just another short minute and let us know they were taking her directly to the NICU because she was really struggling with her breathing. Ken went down with her for a short time before returning to me. Shortly after that time was when my surgery started to take a turn for the worse.
Although I had been able to feel what they were doing before, it hadn’t actually hurt but after about 45 minutes, I started to feel warmth returning to my feet as if my spinal was wearing off. I let the doctor know and so she asked them how much longer it would be, 30 minutes she was told. I thought, “Well I can probably handle it for 30 minutes.” She (the anestiologist) instructed me to let her know as soon as it started to hurt which it ended up doing within about 5 minutes. She offered me another medicine “It’ll make you high though,” she told me and started waiting for me response only to see something in my face that made her not wait and just gave it to me right away. I very quickly went into a sort of twilight state for the next hour and a half as the surgery ended up lasting much longer than expected and I had to be given the medicine another four times as it kept wearing off and I would start being in severe pain again. That was such a weird experience because I remember sort of coming around and thinking “What is going on? Why are they ripping me apart?” and then my thoughts would clear momentarily and I would remember Hannah had just been born and I hoped I wasn’t talking too crazy because Ken would laugh at me later. He really was my rock during that whole time as he sat next to me and rubbed my arm, which kept me grounded to where I was and what was going on, and he helped talk to the doctors and nurses for me when I couldn’t think to talk in German. I was so grateful for him and that it was over eventually.
In the recovery room, I was alone with my nurses most of the time because Ken had gone downstairs to be with Hannah again in the NICU. The pain medication quickly began wearing off and the next struggle began because due to the sort of twilight medicine I had during the C Section, I wasn’t allowed to have any more narcotic pain meds, only Tylenol. If you have ever had major surgery, you know that Tylenol isn’t enough to hardly ease the pain, let alone kill it. I spent the next 15 or 16 hours, begging, crying and moaning for more medicine just to give me a little relief. Finally at about 4 in the morning, my nurse finally believed me that I just couldn’t handle it anymore and got permission from the doctor to give me IBprofen. So funny to have to get PERMISSION for IBprofen and to have that be the medicine they gave me after being in so much pain for so long. Thankfully it did actually help deaden some of the pain from the uterus cramping and I was able to sleep for a couple hours.
Ken came back to me in my room for a little while but it was hard to be away from Hannah because she was really struggling to breathe and seemed to only calm when he had his hand on her stomach. They believed she possibly had an infection that was causing the rapid breathing and low oxygen levels and so she was immediately put on antibiotics to get whatever infection she had under control. She was also put into an incubator for about 18 hours to make sure she had access to enough oxygen. Because she was a newborn he couldn’t stay with her here overnight and we hadn’t reserved a room for both us in the maternity ward so he stayed with the kids overnight at one of our good friend’s home which is closer to the hospital and they had taken care of the kids all day and put them to bed at their house (it was like a big slumber party for the kids, they were more excited for that than for Hannah to be born!). We are so grateful for their help.
The next morning, my pain was more manageable and so the nurses got me out of bed and to the bathroom. Getting in and out of the bed was a lot harder here than in the States because the beds here are not automatic and don’t have bars on the side to grip when you sit up. Also I had a drain from my incision and so I had to have help from the nurses every time I wanted to go to the bathroom or move around in any way. I was pleased, although I had been in so much pain initially, how quickly I was healing and able to be up and about. That morning the kids came with Ken to visit and then we all went down together to see Hannah in the NICU as she wasn’t in the incubator anymore and had stabilized over the course of the night. They brought me down there in my bed and so I was able to sit with her and hold her for a couple hours and nurse her twice. I was so grateful she was doing better and that I was able to go visit her because up until that point, she hadn’t really felt like my child. Since she was taken away so quickly and I had only seen her for maybe a minute total and then I was in such pain, she seemed more dream than reality. The pictures of her Ken had showed me seemed more like looking on Facebook at a friends’ new baby rather than my own. While I held her, the nurses brought each of the other kids in one at a time while Ken waited with the others in the waiting room. Samantha kept saying how sweet she was, Micah just wanted to kiss her and Noah didn’t know what to think. It was good they got to see her so she could become more a reality for them as well because it’s really hard for kids to understand the concept when the baby is still inside.
Over the next couple days, my pain continued to improve. I had a few problems with trapped air in my stomach as a result of the surgery but by later Wednesday it was much better. Wednesday morning I visited Hannah again in the NICU and by that afternoon she was released from there to come stay with me in my room. We were so grateful that she got healthy again so fast and could be with me all the time. It was such a different experience too because I was alone there with her without Ken, who had been with me the whole time at the hospital after the other kids were born. She was, and still is, a good sleeper from the beginning and so it was a very relaxing time there together to heal. But by Friday morning I was ready to go back home, bored at the hospital and missing my kids and my own bed. My generous doctor agreed to release us, although usually they would have me stay another day or two, if I promised not to overdo it when we got home- easy to do when you have three other small children. I agreed and after a fairly extensive pre-release checkup for me and Hannah, involving an ultrasound on her hips, jaundice check, full pelvic exam and ultrasound for me, we were allowed to leave. My gracious German friend and her boyfriend came and brought us home as they have a car which saved us the taxi fare. We have been so blessed to have such good friends here.
One of my biggest fears about coming home after such a big surgery, was climbing the three flights of stairs to get to our apartment. I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage them all at once so my wonderful husband came down the stairs with a chair for me to sit on at each level should I need to. Amazingly, I was able to manage it all at once and go directly into the apartment. Of course we were swarmed with attention from the other kids who were so excited, as was I, that we were finally home.
Although her arrival was a little stressful and anxiety inducing, we are so grateful for our little Hannah Elaine, named for Hannah in the Bible, the mother of Samuel, meaning “God is gracious” and after her great grandmother Elaine, who has meant so much to us and always been there for our family in prayer and support. We are so grateful that although we didn’t plan for her to join our family, God had a better plan and gave her to us anyways.