Sunday, January 3, 2010

Elise's Birth Story

It's taken me a while to be able to sit down and write about this and I wish I could blame the delay on being a busy mom of two. Not to say that isn't part of the story because, as many had forewarned us, the transition from one to two children is most definitely the hardest. Okay, I know I have no idea what it's like to have more than two right now, but somehow having "two under two" has more than doubled the amount of patience, energy and flat out perseverance that you need on a daily basis. But I digress. Getting back to the heart of the matter, this was simply a very difficult experience for me to write about. However, with the New Year upon me, I felt that this was one of the most necessary things for me to do, not only in terms of appropriately reflecting on the most major happening from the past year but also so I can continue moving forward in this new chapter of our lives. Ringing in 2010 in a cathartic sense, so to speak.

With that said, I have to dust off the memory banks a bit to first recall exactly how anxious -- or, to put it more accurately, flat out impatient --I was for the arrival of our little girl. My due date of June 6th came and went without any sign of her pending appearance and I was beginning to get more nervous by the second. When would she finally come? Would she be healthy? Would I be able to have a successful v-bac delivery as I had so desperately hoped for? The endless questions rattled through my mind and Brad was truly amazing at keeping me as sane and grounded as possible during this home stretch. I tried everything I could think of to prompt this little girl to evict her cozy home and I won't even go into detail about how ridiculous a nearly 10 month pregnant woman looks hard-charging on an elliptical machine. No need to go down that road! All of my efforts were futile. This little girl had already decided that she was going to come in her own time and, well, the rest of us simply had to be okay with that!

This brings me to the post-near-nervous breakdown moment early on the morning of June 9th at approximately 2:30 am. I awoke from a seemingly life-like dream that I was in labor, which was nothing new at this stage of the pregnancy. But wait, after I finally emerged from the fog of my sleepy haze, I realized that I really was in labor . . . definitely something new this time! Since it was so early in the morning and I knew the day and subsequent days ahead of us would be long, I decided to let at least one of us get some sleep. So while Brad snoozed away I tried to labor as much on my own in the quiet still of the house. I finally woke Brad up around 5:30 a.m. and we gave Marsha the call to come over so she could tend to Joseph when he woke. At this point, we walked out the door know that our family would be forever transformed the next time we walked back in.

We had a nice relaxing drive to the hospital (at least, in between contractions) and we felt like old pros this second time around. This time we knew exactly where we were going, we knew the routine and standard hospital protocol. It's funny how that can give you a false sense of security. We safely arrived to the hospital around 7:30 am and my initial monitoring indicated that I was further progressed than anticipated. I was already 6 cm dilated and moving steadily along which I couldn't have been more pleased to hear. As they wheeled me up to the birthing room, I knew it wouldn't be long before our little girl would be making her entrance. Little did I know . . .

Soon after we got settled, the anesthesiologist came in to give me my epidural -- which I still believe must be the absolute best job in the entire hospital -- and I was almost instantly comfortable and relaxed. The staff was great, my doctor was attentive and everything was going smoothly. The doctor discovered that my progress had stalled a bit due to a "stubborn" bag of water and she proposed to break it. This was fine by me since I wanted to keep things moving along. Brad had decided to run down to the hospital cafeteria to grab some lunch and I made sure to ask the doctor if he still had time to do so with her plan to break my water. Dr. Hubbard reassured me that there was ample time before the baby's arrival and said that it usually takes one hour per cm for dilation. Famous last words. Brad went on his merry way and the doctor proceeded with the water breaking. The doctor was surprised and how quickly and prominently the baby's head came down as a result and then noticed that she was transverse, similar to her brother's position at the time. To help correct her positioning, she had me do some creative positioning, to put it mildly. It was at that moment that the labor experience took a dramatic turn. The baby rotated, her head came down even more and, most importantly, it was all of a sudden time to push. Oh, and did I forget to mention that my epidural decided to stop working and I could feel everything? Um, this isn't what I signed up for! The nurse ran to find Brad and everything was happening in a blur, almost like rapid movie flashes. The anesthesiologist quickly returned to try to give me a fast-acting boost of pain relief, but he could make no guarantees that it would actually work. He said that sometimes in rapidly progressing labor the pain can get ahead of the epidural and the epidural may not ever have the chance to catch back up, which ended up being the case with me. But we won't dwell on that. It was out of my control and I had to do my best to stay focused on the end goal.

Thankfully, Brad returned just in the nick of time. As he walked in with a burger and fries, he was quite surprised at the sight -- or should I say sounds -- of me writhing in pain. The smells were more than I could take and I told him to get rid of the food. Very wisely, he immediately disposed of his lunch and I was relieved to have him by my side for the pushing that was soon to come.

I don't think I pushed for more than 20 minutes, though I can't be certain because everything was such a blur. All I know is that I definitely reached a point of mental breakdown where the thought crossed my mind that a c-section may not be such a bad option. Everyone was trying to be supportive to help me through the pain, but it was Dr. Hubbard who reminded me of what I had set out to accomplish from the beginning. Having a successful v-bac had been my primary goal and my opportunity was finally here. With that, I gave it everything I had and our little girl entered the world at 1:08 p.m. weighing 8 lbs. even and 20 inches long. Much smaller than I had anticipated, though it is important to note that her head was still in the 80th percentile for size. Ouch. She quickly let us know that she was strong and healthy and the moment when they placed her in my arms is one that I will cherish forever. What a different experience from when Joseph was born! I remembered longing to hold him in the operating room, but I could only watch from the table as the doctors worked to finish the surgery. This time, I could hold our little girl immediately and I'll never forget how locked in her gaze was with mine and how grateful at that moment that I was to have her. We named her Elise Katherine (Katherine after my fondly remembered Aunt Kathie) and it seemed to fit her in every way.

After we spent some much cherished time bonding with Elise, I was moved up to my room and this is when things started really taking a turn for the worse. I had experienced quite a bit of tearing and bleeding, all of which are rather fairly standard for the post-birth experience. However, the amount of bleeding and pain didn't seem normal and I was beginning to get concerned that the pain was so intense. When the nurses insisted that I had to get up and moving, I knew I had to try but also knew that my body didn't feel even close to being ready. I made it just a few steps and the world started swimming before it when black. Next thing I knew I was back in bed and I suddenly had a team of nurses working on me. I will never forget the looks on their faces as they worked for hours on end to stop the hemorrhaging. Their looks matched Brad's --grave and silent -- which did not give me any peace of mind. Despite various attempts and treatments, they were unable to stop the bleeding consulted with the resident on call, who we were not overly impressed with. Regardless, she sent me for a CAT scan to ensure that the bleeding wasn't a result of uterine rupture, a rare but serious risk related to v-bacs. Results from the scan were inconclusive and, unfortunately, that left me with a late night phone call from Dr. Hubbard telling me that she was coming back to the hospital to perform surgery on me. Though I was desperate to avoid such measures, she was adamant that this was the only option at this point to stop the bleeding. Needless to say, I was simply devastated and terrified. Brad was too, though he did a good job not showing it. As they wheeled me to the OR, I remember thinking that they really should do something about the harsh lighting and bland landscape of the hallways and ceiling. With nothing but fear and uncertainty racing through my mind, the florescent bulbs and white popcorn ceiling tiles did little to console me. Next thing I knew, I was giving a half-wave to Brad and I was out.

The next five hours were easy on me thanks once again to those wonderful anesthesiologists. However, I can't say the same for Brad. The surgery ended up being much more drawn out and involved than anyone had anticipated. Brad faced those early morning hours of seemingly endless waiting on his own until, thankfully, his mom arrived for additional support. He received several updates from the staff, many of which lead to both relief and confusion at the same time. They included the mention of possible hysterectomy if they couldn't stop the bleeding to confirmation that it wasn't uterine rupture to admittance that they weren't sure of the exact cause of the excessive bleeding. After much work and assistance from a specialist who drove up from Holland at 2 in the morning, they had determined that the source of the bleeding was two-fold -- I had a post-partum condition called uterine atone along with some additional bleeding resulting from one of my more serious lacerations. They were able to patch me up, get my uterus to finally cooperate and, with a transfusion of 5 units of blood later, I was good to go. Or at least I should say I was good as anyone could be in that situation. I woke up tired and thirsty but grateful.

The next several days in the hospital were followed by care from an amazing nursing staff and support from friends and family. Though the early days of recovery were difficult, I received exceptional treatment from doctors and nurses alike who were determined for me to celebrate my 32nd birthday in my own home rather than a hospital bed. I was relieved to be headed home on the evening of Saturday, June 13th, but also uncertain about how I was going to manage in this adjustment with the unexpected events. Brad was a superhero and alleviated my fears and anxieties by scheduling around the clock help for the next two weeks straight. At that moment, I was reminded once again of why I married him.

Though there were many unanswered questions and unresolved feelings related to the post-birth happenings, I can look back and say one thing with certainty . . . I wouldn't have traded Elise's birth experience for the world. Her entrance into this world may have been "fast and furious" as I later coined, but we could have never imagined the place in our hearts that was immediately carved out just for her. With the unexpected turns that we encountered on this day, we were reminded that this is life, plain and simple. We can't control it, we may not understand it, but we must embrace it with every part of our being.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Here we are, once again, anxiously awaiting the latest addition to our family and time couldn't be moving any slower! Ah, yes, I seem to vaguely remember this feeling during my last pregnancy with Joseph. With the clock moving at a snail's pace, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on our past few months . . .

First, I have to say what a different pregnancy this has been from my first. Not sure if it's the fact we're having a girl -- yes, we did find out the sex this time thanks to the new ultrasound technology being tried out for the first time during our 20 week ultrasound. Despite the very clear picture and exact placement on the "nether regions", I have to admit that I had a moment of weakness that ultimately led to our confirmation. Retrospectively, Brad and I both talked about how that first shot all but confirmed that our little one was a girl. Once I caught a glimpse, I simply couldn’t resist and just had to be sure. The shopping of cute girly clothes ensued and the rest is history. We couldn't be more thrilled to balance out our brood and add a little girl to the mix!

But I digress . . . I have heard wives' tales that pregnancies with girls tend to be a lot more difficult and, wow, did that end up to be so true in this case! I'm not sure if it had anything to do with this pregnancy falling mostly over the germ-infested winter months or my level of fatigue resulting from both chasing after a very busy toddler and trying to work full-time -- my guess is that it was a little bit of both. Anyways, the majority of our winter months were spent perpetuating and trying to defeat the endless cycle of ailing symptoms, including two rounds of antibiotics in April due to a bad case of bronchitis. Who even knew that they gave pregnant women antibiotics?!? Anyways, we can thankfully say that the long winter is behind us and we look forward to brighter days ahead.

Over the past several months, we have watched Joseph's amazing transformation from baby to little boy. Ever since he put on his "walking shoes" in December, we haven't been able to slow him down! He just loves exploring the world around him and I am just so incredibly thankful that he is still such a good sleeper. Where would we be without those naps?!? Every day brings something new and we've enjoyed seeing our "little professor" learn and grow in leaps and bounds over these past few months. Yes, that's one of our affectionate nicknames for him because -- as much as he loves to be the physical active little boy that he is -- he is such the studious analytical observer as well. One of the first things he does before he gets out of bed in the morning is point to his books so he can pick one out for his morning read. I swear there is no funnier image than seeing him so intently focused on his book of choice while we change his morning diaper. Every once in a while, he'll even cross one leg over another just for effect! These last few weeks, I've been getting particularly nostalgic with him and trying to simply cherish those quiet moments that I have with him. Whether it's quietly reading a book together, working on a puzzle or simply rocking him to sleep -- yes, I still rock him like a baby and I will continue to do it as long as he lets me -- it is in these moments that I am reminded of how blessed we are to have such a special little boy. I know the next few months will be as much of a transition for him as it will be for us as we try to remember what it's like to have a newborn, but I don't doubt that he'll continue to amaze us as he takes on his new big brother role.

Which brings us to where we are today, the official due date of Baby Girl Hunter, appropriately falling on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. The infamous day signifies the high-cost invasion that officially marked the turning point for Allied forces in WW2. This day is often noted as "the longest day" in history and that has certainly taken on an entirely new meaning to me. Let's just hope that, similar to the storming of the beaches in Normandy , this little one decides to take the world by storm soon! Oh, and on a side note, let's also hope that she goes easy on mom in the process. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers and stay tuned for news . . .

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And still growing . . .

Just like most folks out there, we've found ourselves particularly busy over the past several months with the holiday rush. As we put the final touches on our Christmas preparations (yes, we did just get our Christmas tree up last night -- no comments, please!), we are excited to spend yet another year with our loved ones celebrating those things that matter most in life. We have our health, happiness and an upcoming new year that will be filled with many exciting changes to our family, namely . . .

Yep, that's right, your eyes do not deceive (even though I was sure mine were for several minutes after taking this test). We have baby #2 on the way! This came as a great surprise to us and, once we moved past the initial "shock and awe" of the revelation, we began to anxiously anticipate the arrival of Joseph's little brother or sister in June! Time will fly - especially given that our new little baby Hunter was a mystery to us for the majority of the first trimester -- and we will keep you updated with the latest on our little developing bambino. Until next time, enjoy a restful and blessed holiday season . . . we're certainly ready for it!

A first glimpse at baby Hunter at 12 weeks

Being a little shy . . . nice shot of the backside!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday, Little Joe!

Whew, just made it in under the wire to share with you some recent photos of our birthday boy! I can't believe one year ago today that Joseph came into our lives and changed it in ways we could have never imagined. This year has been the absolute best as we've been able to watch him grow from our chubby-cheeked newborn to what already seems to be little boy status. Every day brings something new and exciting and we are so grateful for the joy that fills our hearts with each special moment we share with him. Happy Birthday, Little Joe, and we hope all of your wishes in life come true!

We love you up to heaven and beyond!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Remembering Grandma Emilio

Johanna Emilio
(February 13,1918 - March 23, 2008)

This is long overdue, but I have to take a moment to commemorate the life of Grandma Emilio -- the true matriarch of our family. She passed away on Easter Sunday due to her battle with Leukemia, after living a very full 90 years of life. Grandma was truly a remarkable soul and anyone who had the opportunity to meet her would wholeheartedly agree. She had the most warm, welcoming and open heart of anyone that I knew (and probably anyone I will ever meet in this lifetime). She will be missed dearly and I will always carry her memory close to my heart.

Sitting on my desk right next to my computer, there is a small calendar which contains prayers and devotionals for each day of the year. As I glance at this calendar through tired eyes, I can see that the date still reads March 23rd. For some reason, I just have not been able to turn that page. Interestingly, the prayer for that day reads as follows: "You never know when you will step into the moment for which God has been preparing you. It is not just one moment, but many successive ones. It doesn't matter whether you are nineteen or ninety, God is preparing for you daily for something great." I believe that says it all. We'll love you always, Grandma, and just as you would have wanted -it's time for us to turn that page.

- Grandma pictured with Joseph at 4 months old. When she met her first great-grandchild, you could see how happy and proud it made her. Throughout our visit, she kept repeating emphatically "He's gorgeous!" in her Long Island accent -- well, you can't disagree with that!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

4th trimester no more!

Well, time has truly flown by and today marks the official 3 month mark for Joseph. All I can say is, wow, what a difference three months has made! Soon after I gave birth to Joseph, I heard the term "4th trimester" used to describe those first three months of transition -- both for baby and parents. Understandably, babies in their first few months of life need a little bit of time to adjust to all of the stimulating sights, sounds and smells that the outside world has to offer. After all, the majority of their life has been spent in a very cozy, warm and dark place until they are abruptly introduced into their new bright, loud and chilly environment (especially in our case!). Can you blame them for needing a little time?!?

I can share that, although Joseph has so far exhibited an overall pleasant temperament, I can truly see how he is now embracing his outside world wholeheartedly. With each day we can see even the smallest of changes in him that, to anyone else, might seem a bit boring. Okay, I admit that suddenly beginning to produce enough drool to fill Lake Michigan isn't exactly an earth-shattering accomplishment, but it's a big change nonetheless! So, bear with me as I share some of the ways that we've observed our little Joseph grow over the past couple of months:

  • Physical - As we all know, Joseph was already off to a pretty good start in this department. At his 2 month appointment, he measured 25 and 3/8 inches in height, 14 lbs 6 oz in weight and 42.1 cm in head circumference. Now what does that actually mean, you ask? Bottom line . . . little Joe is a very big boy, ranking in the 98th, 95th and 92nd percentile respectively! As daddy says, straight A's across the board!! Perhaps we should get some sort of bumper sticker to commemorate the achievement . . . hmmm, maybe something along the lines of "Big-boned, Big-brained and Lovin' Life" or "Baby Goliath on board"!?! Here is a picture from the holidays capturing him in all his glory:

    Now, let's keep in mind that the average American gains 7 - 10 lbs during the holiday season, so I think we can cut Joe some slack!
  • Motor Skills - Since Joseph didn't really have many of these coming out of the gate, he really only had one direction to go from there. Thankfully, we have seen very steady improvements in this area . . . marked primarily by his ability to grasp onto toys and persistent attempts to put them in his mouth (we're still working on that one!). He's also recently started reaching for toys which I've captured on a lazy afternoon basking in the oh-so-rare winter sunlight.

  • I would also like to note that he has developed quite the knack for foot-activated devices, exhibited primarily through the karate kicks that he likes to give to his bouncy seat. Once he figured out that the little hidden foot pedal made his animal band light up and play, he kicks with such purpose and fervor that I'm sure he'll either be a fantastic soccer player or winning the lead role in "The Karate Kid: The Next Generation". I noticed that he even kicks a lot more when mommy or daddy are holding him. Perhaps he's hoping that we too will begin to light up and play nice music! You've gotta love all of the baby gadgets available nowadays.
  • Social/Emotional - This can be best summed up in this picture.Although we began to see the first true smiles at around 1 month old, he is now constantly lighting up the Hunter household with smiles, coos, giggles and I even got him to reach such hysterical levels recently that he had his first hearty belly laugh. Perhaps I should take my act on the road! The best part of his smiles are the recognition that comes along with it. Okay, sure, now he'll pretty much smile at anyone who talks to him a pleasant tone or flashes him their pearly whites. However, nothing beats the smile that I receive when I first peak into his crib in the morning without even saying a word. He goes from an "I'm starving!" type of cry, to intent staring and then slowly breaks out in the biggest grin. It's priceless!
  • Sleep Patterns - Okay, I realize that this isn't one of the major developmental areas, but Joseph's advancements in terms of his sleep schedule have been simply huge and definitely deserve an honorable mention. During the holiday season, Joey began what we first believed to be an isolated Christmas miracle, but thankfully became what is now a pretty well-established pattern . . . at least for now! He has started to consistently sleep through the night and, when I say "sleep through the night", I don't mean the mere 5 hour stretches that all of the developmental guides talk about. No, I'm talking about approximately 10-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night! Although we are still working on an established daytime nap routine, we are truly thankful for this accomplishment and hope that this is only the beginning of many restful nights in our little boy's future!
  • That's all I have for now! I hope you enjoyed reading about the progress that Joseph made during his "4th trimester" of life. At least I know our fellow parent friends can probably relate to the feeling of pride that washes over you the first time your little one discovers his or her hands!

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008

    Remembering Grandpa Martinie

    Melvin Jay Martinie
    (May 8,1926 - December 30, 2007)

    For those of you who may not have heard, Brad's grandfather passed away right after the holidays. Grandpa held a very special place in our hearts and we were grateful that he was able to celebrate Christmas with us and hold Joseph for the first time. It was a moment that we will always cherish and I wanted to share with you the words that Brad spoke in tribute to grandpa at his funeral:

    Hello I’m Brad Hunter, Mel’s grandson. I feel that grandpa’s faith guided much of what he did in life so I want to talk about two ways that faith was evident to me and the people around him.

    First, my grandfather, as many of you who were privileged enough to know, was a passionate and convicted man. He was committed to being a positive force in others lives by being joyful, optimistic, and most of all humorous. Those convictions would also shine through when my grandfather would get onto topics that the best I can describe as “the way things oughta be”. He openly shared his viewpoints passionately describing his thoughts on what could be changed in our world. Well, a topic that has been taught in the church I attend lately has caused me to look differently at the way my grandfather discussed world events. The idea that’s been frequently touched on in our church is that God instructs us to look at the world as an inherently good place, that people are inherently good, that all things work themselves out in the end for good. But the world tries to tell us, through the nightly news and most of things on TV, that everything is bad, our world is full of pain, true love is not attainable, etc. I think what Mel was trying to say is THAT is what is wrong with our world! Not that there are problems, or not that bad things happen; but that our world and our lives are to be enjoyed, that our relationships with others are a gift, and that we’re all here for a reason.

    Second, my grandfather gave us all enough forewarning about his health and what would eventually be. And interestingly enough, I feel today like that was intentional on the part of my grandfather. He certainly held onto life much longer than many of us thought, a testament to his courage, faith and perseverance. I think a bit of that was by design. He had a way about him that took into account the feelings of others and how they would react to a situation, and I think his passing is no different. He prepared us for it—if there is a good way to leave this world—the best way WE would be able to cope with it. He made sure we were okay with his passing. And today, I honestly feel that example should be used to feel the same about all of our loved ones…that we be in the right place with all those around us.

    Finally I would like to read from 1 Chronicles where God is telling King David that his son will be chosen to build the temple. These verses are often quoted when speaking about the responsibility we all have in fulfilling God’s wishes for our lives, even though sometimes we are discouraged because they seem unattainable and out of reach. Let us remember my grandfather as someone who carried those out in many aspects of his life:

    "1 David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: 2 King David rose to his feet and said: "Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. 3 But God said to me, 'You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.' 4 "Yet the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the house of Judah he chose my family, and from my father's sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. 5 Of all my sons—and the LORD has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. 6 He said to me: 'Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 7 I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.' 8 "So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever. 9 "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work."