July 9, 2011

Winnie's Story

The doctor was right... this baby is perfect... in every way.

That's how Dr. H,  my perinatologist, ended our weekly ultra sound the Tuesday before Winnie's unexpected delivery.  The Wachter family could not agree more.  We are all madly and head over heels in love with this little angel.

For those who didn't get her stats (here it is Miss Gayle) she weighed 5 pounds 11 ounces and  was 19 1/2 inches long.  Born on July 2 at 10:39 pm, at 36 weeks, technically a preemie, she is the second smallest of our babies, but shows none of the problems our other two preemies did.  She both nurses and sleeps like a pro and has moments of delightful alertness when she is so content to just look around at all these crazy faces staring at her.

As you know we called her "Winnie" while I was carrying her.  Our kids always come up with some in utero nickname and they are typically pretty silly.  (Huey, Gertrude, Bertram, Scooter... you get the idea)  But Winnie was chosen, not for the bear, but for its  meaning:  "The Lord has restored my joy."

We have officially named her Carmella Joie (pronounced Joy) which means "Garden of Joy".  Carmella was my paternal grandmother, who was a very special person in my life and a lady who stood for all that is important to Allen and I, namely God, family and friends.

We chose Joie because, through her, He has restored joy to our family.  Our verse for this year has been:
"Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.  Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever."  Psalm 30:10-12   
I hope this post will answer all your emails and also share the amazing ways God has used this child, so small and young to show his constant protection and guidance even since our positive pregnancy test.  

The truth is, after losing  Gussie, everyone said the best way to bounce back to to get pregnant as soon as possible.  And I wanted to be pregnant more than anything.  And, yet, I wanted to never be pregnant again.  I couldn't know what the right decision was.  So, I did the only thing I've ever really known to do in this area of my life,  I told the Lord it was in His hands.  And asked Him to give me what I needed for whatever would happen.

Last November, Allen had been telling me for several weeks that I was pregnant, but I couldn't bring myself to take the test.  I don't know if I was more afraid of it being positive or negative.  Logically, I knew that the chances of having another miscarriage were slim but I couldn't get my heart to understand it.  The day before Thanksgiving, when I read the email from my girl friend telling me she was expecting, I ran upstairs and pulled out the EPT.  We were both delighted.  And more than a little nervous.  

Thanksgiving came with turkey and guests and the next day, as our family ate leftover turkey sandwiches and put up the Christmas tree, I started bleeding.  We both knew there was nothing we could do at this point, regardless of what it meant, so we prayed and carried on with our plans for the weekend in order to let our family enjoy our company and the traditions that we look forward to all year.  More than anything, we wanted a little bit of normal in a year that had been anything but.  

Come Monday, we headed to the doctor.  Who could tell us nothing decisive.  Baby was too small to detect a heartbeat or the absence of a heartbeat, even on the sonogram.  Tests over the next week, showed  my hormone levels increasing as they should be, but the doctor who had seen me through my miscarriage felt that was not necessarily a reason to be positive.  Weeks after my last miscarriage my hormone levels were still where a healthy pregnancy would be.  So we just had to sit and wait a few more weeks.

We immediately decided we wouldn't say anything to the children until we knew what was happening.  They had already had so much loss and hurt last year, we just didn't want to take the holiday season away from them.  Except, that having young adults in the house, it is hard to keep anything secret. 

I was ready to crawl into bed one night when I found a folder on my pillow.  In it was a "case file" filled with all the evidence the girls had collected to prove I must be pregnant.  This "evidence" included things like, "Mama taking Tylenol instead of ibuprophen", "taking a nap on Sunday afternoon," "Pa caught rubbing Mama belly" and "lightheaded from the paint fumes."  So you see, there is no such thing as keeping something quiet around here, unless you let half the kids in on it.  ☺

We swore the girls to secrecy and continued in a state of bleeding and unknowing until my tenth week of pregnancy, just a few days before Christmas, when doctors were finally able to get a heartbeat on the sonogram.  My whole body let out a sigh of relief.

Then there were decisions to be made.  The specialist I had seen to manage my diabetes through pregnancy in the past was no longer seeing patients in our area.  And the idea of making weekly trips to John Hopkins was not really appealing.  On the other hand, we liked that she was a Christian who believed in giving us the information and then letting Allen and I decide on the plan of care.  Many doctors we have dealt with, seem to forget that we are seeking their advice but in the end, what happens is up to us.  At first we were very unsettled about which doctor to choose, but the Lord was faithful to answer our prayers and lead us to Dr. H.  We liked him from the very first meeting and were more than impressed with his approach to managing my diabetes and pregnancy together. 

From there, things started to look up.  My regular readers know, from January through the end of June, we received nothing but good reports at our weekly appointments.  You might remember in my last update on the final Thursday in June, the perinatologist gave me clearance to go three weeks longer than he normally likes his diabetic patients to go.  The sonogram that Tuesday showed a healthy, strong baby, with a healthy heart, kidneys, placenta and umbilical cord.  God answered so many prayers in those months.

Our last prayer request was that we would deliver naturally before the time for a scheduled induction arrived.  That date was July 19th.  Those prayers were answered faster than we expected.  Actually, we were joking that we should have been a little more specific.  My OB of choice, has only made it to one of my deliveries.  When I first saw her, at the beginning of the year, we joked about the best plan of action to ensure she would be here for labor.  We compared calendars and she was to be away only over the July 4th weekend.  No problem, we concluded, since I wasn't due until the end of July.  But all those prayers were answered so quickly, that as you know, by Saturday baby was coming and Dr. A. was out of town.

In fact, we had more than that to be concerned about.  When my water broke, on Saturday morning, I was hemorrhaging.  I would normally prefer to stay at home and labor until I get closer to delivery, but under the circumstances we called the doctor right away.  We made a second call to my friend who works for my OB and is a labor and delivery nurse.  She had just gotten off duty on the night shift but said she would meet me at the hospital.  This gave me so much comfort!  She has seen me through so many babies and understood my reservations about the doctor on call.  While I felt the doctor had to improve his bed side manner, Allen had questions about his competency.  We've had some complicated labor and deliveries and we were more than a little nervous going into it with a doctor we didn't even feel was up to the job... especially because, at that time, we were questioning whether our baby was still with us.  However, as it seemed from the very beginning, God was asking us to trust Him in this and He was promising to give us grace for whatever was ahead.

I must tell you how much I love my girls!  I had nothing packed so they started putting things together for me... remembering essential comfort items like my Bible and nail polish.  Brianna even offered to do my hair.  No, we didn't take time to do it.  But it was nice that she thought of it for me.  

When we got to the hospital we went through the typical check in process before being attached to the monitor.  Allen, Dawn and I all let out the breath we'd been holding for the last hour when they not only found her heart beat, but it was steady and strong.  Then we started asking questions... which no one could really answer until we delivered eleven hours later.

At this point, the nurses that were tending me, didn't seem to understand the extent of the bleeding.  Which is more than a little frustrating, as I look back at it.  However, on the other hand, maybe it was a blessing since there wasn't much we could do, aside from a c-section, that we weren't already doing.  In fact, it was five or six hours later when the nurses realized how much bleeding I was talking about.  The funny thing is Allen and I kept talking about it and asking where all the blood was coming from and everyone acted like it was no big deal.  After a whole afternoon of this, we stopped worrying and I figured we were just over reacting.  But then all of a sudden, when they noticed how much it really was, everyone switched to panic mode.  As a matter of fact, the doctor had not even come in to see us yet.  But at that point the nurses said they were going to call the doctor and tell him to come right now.  Again, the irony of the whole matter, is that in a way it was a blessing that no one had paid much attention up to that point.  The staff's nonchalance gave us a calm we wouldn't have felt otherwise.  Furthermore, if everyone had been fully aware of the situation prior to this point, then there would have likely been a greater push for intervention instead of allowing me to labor on my own.    

In fact, everyone was so calm and we had relaxed so much that as attendants came and went we all discussed what time baby would arrive, would it be a boy or a girl and the stats of our other kids at home.  Make note that Allen said 11 pm.  I even got my toe nails painted.  

And Dawn and I passed some time talking about our kids and playing cards.  Okay, she whooped up on me.

Here is just one benefit of having a friend on your nursing team.  When I was restricted to bed and had to put on the awful stockings, she found a way to keep a little girliness to the deal.

When the doctor showed up, everyone was all of a sudden concerned that I had been bleeding too heavy for too long.  I was not progressing hardly at all.  Now we had to figure out how to move forward.  Right now, our Winnie still showed no negative signs from labor.  We still didn't know the source of the trouble. Dr. G had a theory that the placenta had separated prematurely, but not fully because her heartbeat would have declined.  It had already been 7 hours with no progress.  If we waited longer and didn't progress, the baby may not continue to do so well and that would bring about the need for a c-section.  The other option was to introduce some pitocin and try to speed things along.  We debated back and forth.  We have had several babies who had trouble with their heart not recovering from the decelerations of contractions which quickly brought about emergency situations.  The increased risk of heart trouble with the more intense contractions that can come from pitocin was of concern to me.  However, her heart rate had remained so steady that the risk of waiting too long seemed greater.  

Which is why, at six o'clock, we decided to start pitocin.  Even though, I had trepidation, it was just one more time we had to leave it in the Lord's hands.  I am so glad He is in control!  Things couldn't have gone smoother.  In fact, knowing what we do on this side of it, it is even more of a miracle to realize that Winnie's heartbeat NEVER faltered.  Even the expected normal decelerations of contradictions were less than our other babies!  To me, an obvious example of how the Lord was looking out for her all along the way.

And it worked, too.  Historically, even though I might labor for days at home, once I get to the hospital I deliver quickly.  Nathaniel was born 5 minutes after we checked in and with Samuel the doctor never arrived at all.  This sitting around and waiting business was kind of annoying.  So when they checked me at five in the evening, and I had barely changed, I was getting annoyed.  But at 10:30 we were ready to go.  As they called for the doctor, nurses, surgical team and neonatal team, one of my nurses said, "Don't even sneeze until they gather all the emergency personnel!"  

Ha!  I am glad I had such great nurses, for sure.  Actually, as much as I hate the hospital, and as much as I don't like this particular hospital, I must say with just one exception, I have always had a great nursing team for my labor, delivery and postpartum care.      

As you know, our Carmella Joie, arrived safely at 10:39 that night.  She was immediately taken over by the Neo unit.  Who, in my opinion, kept her way too long!  Allen told me later that they had to pump blood from her stomach, but in a matter of minutes she was laying there looking around at the world, trying to get her thumb in her mouth and acting as if she'd been doing it her whole life.  

From where I was, I couldn't see her or what was going on except for once in a while she would stick her right foot up in the air and I could catch a glimpse of her tiny toes.  From the position she was always in on the weekly ultrasounds, and the pressure I would often feel under my ribs, I imagine this is what she did when she was in my tummy.  Even now, at three weeks old, she still likes to lay on her back and kick up just the right leg.  It is so adorable!  One might wonder what we would do without technology.  Allen took his i-phone and made a little video of her as the doctors worked so I could see what our darling was up to.  

And here was the moment of truth, when the doctor confirmed just how much the Lord had been looking out for all of us.  When the doctor tried to deliver the placenta he discovered a tear in the umbilical cord.  As a matter of fact as he brought it out, the cord became completely separated from the placenta.  The doctor kept turning it over and over in his hands as he exclaimed how the placenta was damaged and the membrane was separated.  As I watched the doctor's face while he was studying it, my heart caught in my throat.  Everything has been sent to a lab to find the cause of the abruption.  Really, it doesn't matter though.  Even before we heard the words, we knew the Lord had worked a miracle for our daughter.  It was merely formality when we were told, "It was a good thing that my water broke when it did or we would have lost her."  And there was the other side of the coin to consider how long I had been hemorrhaging or how much longer I could have  continued.

After the Neonatal team released her from their care, the pediatrician came to examine her.  She was so worried about releasing us to go home with so many things against us... the bleeding, her premature delivery, being so small and controlling her blood sugar.  However, try as she might to find something wrong, she couldn't.  And so she wrote the orders for us to be released 14 hours after Carmella's birth.  We dutifully took her for two checkups since then, but our family doctor thought her so well, he couldn't even understand why the pediatrician had insisted it was so urgent we should see him.

God is so good!  I can't get over the irony of how her little life began in the womb with concerns over bleeding and finding a heartbeat and she made her entry into this world with the same.  Yet, never did the Lord, who created her heart and made it beat, allow it to falter even once.  Her little life has been with us just 9 months, yet her whole existence has been about confirming the Lord's faithfulness to sustain those who will lean on Him.  

I mentioned that Allen had decided to take off Friday July 1st.  After a rough night of sleep, the family let me sleep in.  Then we headed out to pick blueberries.  We spent the afternoon and evening by the pool, keeping cool and cooking on the grill.  Everyone had such a splendid time.  For the first time in a year, as I was dressing for bed that night, I reflected on the day and thought to myself, "This is it.  It feels like I remember it used to be.  We are finally turning that corner and life has returned to 'normal' "... whatever that may be.  All I could utter in way of a prayer was, "Thank you for your faithfulness to hold us up when we thought we wouldn't be able to move forward again."

I am convinced it was His plan for July 2nd to mark the end of this season for our family.  As we headed to work in the yard that morning we discovered the sunflowers blooming in Gussie's garden, just one year to the day that we realized something was awry.  One year and the Lord has brought everything full circle, as we now embark on a new journey with this precious little life.  His timing never ceases to amaze me.  

I am sure He timed her birth as He did, to remind us that for everything He has a time and a season and He wants it to be unquestionably clear that the season of mourning has made way for a season of dancing.  

Ecclesiastes 3:4 "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;"


  1. What a beautiful story and a very beautiful little girl. She fits perfectly into your family...

  2. thanks for sharing her story. isn't it marvelous how our Lord works? With the last 2 kids, my husband was driving truck over the road. We (I) fretted and worried about where he would be when it was time. But it all worked out.. perfectly.

  3. What a story. While reading every word, my heart would beat faster, just to slow down remembering it all did work out...perfectly. Loved all the pictures you used to illustrate the journey.

  4. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, and for giving God all the glory in it! He works in amazing ways! We lost our 12 year old son in an accident this spring . . . I know your pain over the loss of a child, but I also know your joy in God.