Saturday, July 9, 2022

The Birth Story of Madeline Sue

Today, July 9th, 2022, is Madeline's first birthday and I am just now publishing her birth story. I started writing it literally the day after she was born, and added little bits here and there since. Reading and finishing this post has brought back so many memories all over again. She had such a rough and early entrance into this world, but how thankful I am that she made it and that she is here, happy and healthy, today. 

Her birth story really starts on Tuesday July 6th, 2021, three days before she was born, but I will start with the events of Monday the 5th....

I had a great day; no morning sickness and plenty of energy. The morning was spent at home and then the afternoon I spent in "the city" by myself, with coffee and lunch, a midwife appointment, and some fun shopping, while my amazing husband watched the boys at home. Everything was great. I got to hear a super strong little heartbeat at my appointment, and I had a lovely time chatting with my midwife and then enjoying a little solo time out and about.

Tuesday morning I was hit with morning sickness. This was nothing unusual for me in the third trimester-with both of the boys I have had morning sickness right up until 37 weeks and this pregnancy was on track to be just the same. But after throwing up, I still wasn’t feeling better and developed a stomach ache as well, so I ended up going back to bed late morning. Thankfully John was working from home for the day and was able to take care of the boys. I didn’t eat much during the day but I managed some yogurt, chili, and a few other things, and then lost it all that evening after a hot epsom salt bath. It was very strange-I don’t normally throw up at night, with morning sickness, but that night I did. (Note: Later in the hospital I tested negative for any kind of sickness -and they tested me for EVERYTHING-so it obviously must’ve been morning sickness, just unusual for me that it was in the evening) 

Morning sickness continued into Tuesday and by Wednesday I got dehydrated because I was struggling to keep anything down. I developed a bad cough (that we now know was directly related to my heart condition) and that is what ultimately caused the contractions to start. 

On Thursday morning I woke up around 5am to hard contractions. I already had two labors/births under my belt, and I knew the signs, and I knew it was WAY too early to be experiencing what I was definitely experiencing. (I was 30 weeks pregnant, so only 3/4 of the way through, technically)  This wasn't just a few Braxton hicks; this was definitely the real thing, and they weren't slowing down. As the morning went on contractions continued, quickly building to five minutes apart. Under normal circumstances I would've been even more worried, but I was too sick to be able to think about it too much. All I knew was that it was way too early to have a baby, so obviously something was very wrong, and hopefully I would get better and it would all be "fixed". John was in touch with my midwife and we (they) finally decided we would head into the hospital to get me IVs for hydration and try to get contractions to stop. 
(we got a selfie right before we left the hospital that afternoon. Little did we know we would be back so soon.)

We went to the same hospital where I delivered Axton and they got me started on IVs for fluids right away. We were there for several hours and the contractions slowed down and I started to feel better. Before we left I ate part of a banana and drank some ginger ale and it all stayed down which was a first since Tuesday night! The contractions got light enough that I was able to talk through them and the nurse and John couldn't even tell I was still having them unless I told them. We prepared to leave and I was just so thankful everything was okay and I was feeling better!

I was so relieved that everything was settling down. We got in the car and headed for home. Ten minutes into the drive, the contractions started up again. We both thought that surely they would stop, esp with feeling better and getting meds that would help me keep food down. We stopped by the pharmacy for the prescription, and then once we got home, John made me a smoothie to take with the meds, and headed over to my in-laws to pick up the boys. While he was gone, I drank the smoothie and took the meds…and then lost everything all over again. Contractions were back to normal and stronger than ever. My cough was continuing and worsening as well. At this point I was still in denial I think-I knew I was totally in labor, there was no doubt of that, but I kept thinking "surely they can stop it at the hospital. Surely. Now that it's really serious, surely it will get stopped. Babies don't come this early. It's got to stop." 

I honestly was really worried. At one point when John came in to check on me, I asked him to read me Psalms 91. For some reason I kept thinking of that Psalm (I memorized it when I was a child) and just needed to hear it. He read it to me and and I remember just grasping to the words even though I was in and out with the contractions...

John got the boys down for the night and called his sisters to come over and we put a few things in an overnight bag and headed out again. I was in a lot of pain with the contractions and being so wiped out from constant vomiting and the previous weakening from dehydration, and even getting out the door was rough. On the way I called my mom. I didn't really say much but for some reason I had this strong desire to hear her sing to me. When I was a child, she often sang Steve Green's "When I am Afraid" song to us and I wanted to hear her sing that song again. I was in the middle of a strong contraction as she sang it over the phone but it brought such peace to me, even at that time, and I will never forget it. (thank you, mom!)

We got checked at the hospital again which felt strangely reminiscent of Axton's birth, the main difference being that I wasn't pushing yet, and I definitely wasn't expecting to have a baby yet. My contractions were close together and super hard by now and I was absolutely in full blown labor, but no one except us seemed to realize it. All I could think was "they are going to get everything slowed down." The nurse was super chill and relaxed. (in hindsight, I’m pretty sure I maybe wasn’t as out of control as her normal laboring mama patient and so I don't think she quite realized what was happening) 

A doctor came in and checked me. “You’re only dilated to a three. That baby is so high and settled in there, you’ve got nothing to worry about. She isn’t going anywhere. We’ll get these contractions slowed down and you’ll be out of here in no time.” 

It was a relief to hear that. But instead of success with getting everything slowed down, contractions picked up, and labor kept progressing. I started vomiting again. (Again, in hindsight, we now know I had hit transition-I always start vomiting during that point of labor. But because I had been vomiting already for several days, neither John or I realized that it was indeed transition) The nurse came in now and then but mostly we were left alone. Details at this point are a bit fuzzy for me but after several hours and then this vomiting at the end, John went to get the nurse and was very insistent that something had to be done, since labor wasn't slowing. The nurse checked me again and was shocked: "oh my, you're fully dilated!" 

It is still so crazy how I got to that point so fast. Everyone was confused because it wasn't normal, but it was too serious for anyone to be confused for long. I suddenly knew it was time and said “I have to push!” Apparently that was the final word to get everything really moving.  The nurse: “oh no, you can’t push, you need to wait, we've got to get the doctors in here.” Thankfully for her I didn't have the energy or stamina to get mad at her or I would've totally lost my temper. Instead I think I said something like, "I actually can't wait.” At that point she turned to John and said, "Go get help." 

I tried to wait but as any mother knows who has had a non-medicated birth, there is nothing more true than "when ya gotta push ya gotta push". It isn't exactly a time for a pause button! Things are still super blurry to me but everything moved so fast at that point. In no time there were nurses and doctors and NICU team everywhere. My water broke first and kinda exploded everywhere (it was so foggy in my mind and at the time I don't think I realized that was what it was, but I asked John later “was it my imagination or did my water break right before she was born?” And he said “yeah, my hoodie got wet”. =)) 

Two pushes and our daughter was born. Technically the easiest birth ever in terms of pushing and size but not in any other way! I was extremely weak and felt terrible and other than the time pushing, it was my hardest birth yet. The doctor laid her on my chest for just a few seconds but I was so weak and having a hard time breathing and I barely even could see her. I think I touched her but again, I was so out of it and she was so tiny and looked so so fragile and the whole thing was just so different than the typical relief one feels after their baby is born. It was not at all like the euphoria after my boys’ birth and felt heartbreaking in so many ways, specifically afterwards.
She was only there for a matter of seconds before they whisked her away to be worked on by the NICU team in a corner of the room.  (above picture, I think my midwife took it) At this point I really don't remember much except that the nurses and doctors were saying I had to have oxygen and I was fighting them tooth and nail. I felt like I couldn't breath (which I couldn't!) but somehow in my foggy state I was associating that feeling with the oxygen mask they were trying to put on me. I felt like the mask was hindering my breathing. PTL my midwife was there with me (she was waiting and came in immediately after Madeline was born) and encouraged me to just keep it because that was best. I trust her implicitly so I remember basically thinking I would try for her sake. If she hadn't been there I really don't quite know what I might've done. I was wheeled away, still in my bed, for a CAT scan and John stayed back to be close to Madeline. 

After the CAT scan I was taken to a room and my midwife was still with me and stayed with me for the next ten hours. (so grateful for that!!) I managed to get a few hours of sleep in there. Around noon they finally let me be off the oxygen which was wonderful. I hated having those tubes and wires everywhere (I had EKG stickers all over my chest for days as well) because it just made me feel claustrophobic; I was so not used to stuff like that! (don't get me wrong-I am ultimately so thankful for them because they saved my life and everything was a part of the process. It was just hard at the time) 

My sister in law Melanie came in and stayed with me for the rest of the day when my midwife left. John and I couldn't be together until the end of the day because we wanted one of us with Madeline and I couldn't be with her until all of my tests came back clear. (they were certain I had covid or pneomonia or something and honestly I don't blame them-I looked and sounded and felt terrible and it would've been extremely unwise for me to go into the NICU with as sick as I had been) 
It was amazing to have Melanie with me. She had experienced several NICU babies herself so it was known territory to her. Since I didn't have John there, I was so thankful to have someone who could answer questions/talk to the hospital staff, help me get started with pumping, and overall just be my advocate in a time where I really couldn't function or make decisions for myself.

I don't remember a whole lot from that morning but one thing I do remember was BEGGING for a shower. =) I wanted a shower so so badly. With both of the boys births I was showered and clean and had makeup done when I went into labor. With Madeline, I hadn't had a real shower all week (every time I had tried, I ended up vomiting) and I literally looked and felt so so rough. I don't think I've hardly ever had a shower that felt SO GOOD as the shower I was finally allowed to take around noon that day!

While John and I couldn't be together, we texted back and forth talking about a name. We had just found out in May that our baby was a girl; we definitely did NOT have a name yet!! It didn't take too long to chose her name-Madeline was one I had jotted down on a random list a while before, and John liked it too. For middle names, we have used a short family name with the boys. We decided on another family name-Sue-which is Melanie's middle name also. 

By afternoon the immediate tests were cleared and John was able to come see me. Our pastor and his wife came in and prayed over us and that was a beautiful moment. I think we were all in tears. There is nothing like having your baby's life hanging in the balance to make one realize how fragile and short life truly is. We were in the scariest time of our married life thus far and to be surrounded by our church, our families, our friends, and even people we didn't know, was such a blessing. I'll never forget the literal feeling of those prayers and countless others, holding us up. 

Shortly after that, I finally got to go to officially meet our daughter. Still makes me tear up just to write this to remember how I wasn't there with her after she was born, and for so much of the months following. John pushed me down the long halls in a wheelchair. We got to the NICU, got passed to enter, washed up at the wash station (we had to scrub for several minutes, a specific process, every time we went in) Then he wheeled me around the nurses station and into Madeline's little area with her isolette. 
(this is the first picture I have holding Madeline, that day)

Having her finally in my arms, for real, was so hard to describe. One doesn't realize all the things one takes for granted with life and birth, until one doesn't have them. In the moment, all I knew was that I was thankful that I was able to hold her, I was thankful she was okay for the present, and I was thankful that I knew our boys were in such amazing care while we could not be with them.
And that was the start of little Madeline's life. Obviously if you have been following along on her journey for the past eleven months, then you know the "rest of the story" of her NICU stay and the amazing progress she has made. If you are a new follower, you can read all about that by clicking on the "Madeline" tab over on the left hand side of the blog. (If you are reading via your phone, simply scroll to the bottom and click "view web version" and that will show you the "labels" section on the left hand side where you can chose the Madeline label)
(Tiny, tiny fingers....)

I'll end with a two pictures-the first picture ever taken of her, and then a recent picture I have of her, from the other day. Such a transformation in a year! So thankful for all God has done in her little life and the ways we have experienced His love and grace for our little family during her birth and through the following months. 
This was the first picture we got of Madeline, soon after she was born. She actually looks pretty good in this picture; the ones taken in the following days, like the first one at the top of this post, show better how truly scrawny and tiny she was. 
Ending with one of me and her. Goodness, I love this girlie. I guess I need to do a whole post of recent pictures of her because I have so many good ones! (anyone want to see a post like that?!)

And that is the birth story of little Madeline Sue. She had rocky start to life, but she is making up for it now by being a super determined and feisty fireball of a little lady! We are so glad she's ours!

Have a wonderful weekend, all!


  1. Oh Chelsy! This story is such a beautiful example of how the Lord does save those who are sick or are about to die. Yet, it was not the Lord's will for you to pass to be with Him yet. He is still using you for His plan and purpose, though we may not understand it. It is such a miracle to see both you and Madeline healthy and surviving! The Lord is truly good!

    I have been following your blog for a while but never commented. I just had to on this post though.

    With much love,

    1. Thankyou so much for taking the time to comment and share your encouragement, Mikaylah! We are truly so blessed!

  2. Awe, thanks for sharing!
    Yes, I’d love to see pictures of little Madeline!

  3. Chelsy, reading this story brought many tears as I remembered singing & talking to you that evening. After hearing the pain in your voice that night, I had the feeling that your baby was going to be born that night! But what a gift God has given to us all with Maddie’s health and energy and zest for life and adventure!!! Truly, this post is a good time to thank God again for all He has done for this precious girl. ❤️❤️❤️

    1. I'll never forget being in full blown labor and you singing to me over the phone on the way to the hospital! Thankyou mom! Maddy loves her Nana! =)

  4. Happy 1st Birthday, Madeline!
    Thank you, Chelsy, for opening up and sharing Madeline's birth story! I am so sorry for all of the struggles you have had to go through, but I love your gratitude to the Lord in the midst of it all. He has been so good to bring you and your family through these trials, and it is amazing to see the transformation in Madeline in one year!
    And yes, please post new and current pictures of precious little Madeline!

  5. Happy 1st Birthday, Madeline!

    Thank you for sharing. Our family has prayed for her all year. Reading her birth story is the perfect way to transition from request to answered!

    Would love to see pictures of Madeline and the boys!

  6. Thank you for this beautiful story of mighty MADELINE. HAPPY 1st BIRTHDAY MADELINE Happiness and Blessings. God Bless Joan,Marilyn and Marion

  7. Thank you for sharing! I think it would be helpful if, at the beginning of this post, you included how far along your pregnancy was. I couldn’t remember and had to go look at your old posts to see.

  8. Thanks so much for the update. Your life and mine are very different but I always get a lift from reading your blog.

  9. Happy birthday dear Maddie, we thank God that you’re here. Momofmany

  10. Happy Birthday Maddie! You are a fighter. Would love to see new photos and I pray that mom is doing better.

  11. Such an incredible story! I’m glad you’re both doing well now!

  12. Thank you for sharing! My second was born at 33 weeks, born in the wheelchair as we entered the labor and delivery ward. Technically in one sense it was an ‘easy’ delivery but the pain of contractions was so different when you are trying to work against your body to stop them when you know it’s too early. I know the pain of separation in a small way too as we did have covid and I had to wait two days before I could enter the NICU. Lots of emotions with NICU babies and journeys but never once did Jesus let us walk alone. Reading your story was healing and encouraging to me. Our little NICU baby will be two in December ❤️

    1. You said it so well about the pain of early contractions and complications being a completely different kind of "hard". Madeline's labor was definitely technically my easiest (two pushes!) but hardest in every other way.
      I am so sorry to hear about your having covid as well and not being able to enter the NICU at first. We all got sick too about halfway through Madelines NICU stay. I thought I was going to be fine but then got it too. There was about a day and a half where both John and I were sick.Thankfully the nurses were incredible and they called us to give us updates on her and my favorite nurse even told me she spent a little extra time snuggling Madeline since I couldn't be there which just MELTED my heart. But it was truly so hard to be away for that short time. God carried us through though-exactly how you said.
      I am so blessed that my story could encourage you. PTL for your NICU baby growing and thriving now! What a gift!

  13. What a blessing to see how Madeline has grown! Thank you for sharing.

  14. You both look beautiful love to seeing you ❤️

  15. I'm a little delayed in reading your story . I hope you feel in the end that you were served properly by the hospital staff? As you so eloquently explained, I guess, they were truly surprised by what was happening. Thank goodness that Melanie was able to be such a help to you. I'm sure that that was rather traumatic for her , considering her past experience with the baby that she lost. It is so awesome that the baby is doing so well... And so are you.

    1. I'm so sorry; I thought I had already responded to this comment!
      Yes, we absolutely do feel we were served so well by the NICU staff. Those nurses and doctors are rockstars! It is crazy to know that if it wasn't for them, Madeline wouldn't be alive. They were truly incredible.
      In labor/delivery, there were a few struggles (as I alluded to) but everyone came through in the end and the care was mostly great. There were a few calls made by nurses that should've been different, but I really don't blame them-from everything I've learned and know now, my situation was so odd and not typical. They did their best under the circumstances!
      All in all we are just thankful for how everything turned out! And so so thankful for hospitals!

  16. Beautiful. Praise God!


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