For the past three months we have been on a grand adventure. In early December we set out from Colorado with a goal to explore the Northwest. Along the way, we’ve spent time working on farms, camping in the mountains, the desert and on the beach. We’ve met wonderful families and friends. The kids have had great educational experiences as we have been homeschooling and creating life long memories. From the beginning we entrusted this journey to God’s providence under His guiding hand.
We spent a month and half in Northern California where the weather was temperate enough to camp in our 5th wheel camper. Then we headed north through Oregon and spent a week in Bend visiting family. After that it was time to make our way up to Wenatchee, WA where our generous friends invited us to stay in their home while they were out of the country for all of February on a medical mission. It was our hope that the baby would be born during our time at their home.
It seemed for the most part that this pregnancy was shaping up to be pretty similar to the three previous pregnancies with the boys. Being on the road for 3 months, we’ve been checking in with midwives in various communities that we have passed through. Rebecca had been feeling good for the most part and had been taking it much easier than she had in past pregnancies with the hope of carrying to term.
When we arrived in Wenatchee, WA we sought out a local midwife and shared with her our hopes of doing an unassisted home birth. She was cool with that and offered to be there for us in any way she could. We wanted confirmation from the midwife that everything was still on schedule so when it came time to measure Rebecca's fundal height we were shocked to hear that she was only measuring 28-29cm. Having just come from Bend,OR where she measured 33cm we for sure thought this midwife had measured from a different point and there was no way that she’d measure 28cm, 36 weeks into the pregnancy. We went home and really didn't know what to think. We remeasured Rebecca's belly ourselves and could only come up with 31cm from the point we thought all the other midwifes had measured from.
The following week we again went to meet with the midwife and sure enough the measurements were small though there had been growth. We thought we were in our 37th week which is technically full term but the measurements were telling us different. The midwife was concerned and suggested that we go meet with a doctor for an ultrasound. Their main concern was that there might be a Inner Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). So off we went to the first ultrasound. The findings from that showed an AFI (Amniotic Fluid Index) of 3.9cm with the minimum being 5cm. It also reported inconsistent growth of the head, abdomen and femur which should all be relatively the same gestational size. To wrap it up they reported not being able to find the left kidney. The hospital sent us from there back to talk with the midwife. We were a bit of a wreck getting this bad news and realizing Rebecca had all of sudden become a "higher risk pregnancy" and no longer a candidate for a home birth of any kind. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride.
We reported back to the clinic for more testing the next day. We started with a neonatal stress test (NST). Initially the baby didn't perform very well, due to her being asleep, but in the end perked up and met the criteria for letting us leave there with reasonable belief that she acted “normal.” From there it was back to ultrasound where we found, much to our delight, the presence of a left kidney. However, the test showed an AFI of 2.8cm! We were alarmed and scared as the doctor sent us straight to the hospital for further monitoring. We weren’t sure what was going to be the next step but we both were thinking c-section and possibly sooner than later. We were blessed to have a very patient doctor. Rebecca spent the next couples hours hooked up to the monitors and the doctor paid close attention to what the baby was doing. To our delight, he released Rebecca from the hospital two hours later. We went home and Rebecca obediently hyper-hydrated and started left-lying on bed-rest. We would retest in three days.
When we returned to the clinic on Monday the stress test was conducted first which baby breezed through. Ahh. Then the ultrasound showed an AFI of 5.7cm which was double the amniotic fluid. Doctor congratulated Rebecca on a job well done but said he'd just like me to go into labor. He also joked that for the first time in thirty years he had to mark down the fetus' gestation was somewhere between 34-37 weeks! We also tried to assure him that we have had very small and totally healthy babies all the other times too. It looks weird though when the average baby born here must be 9+ pounds. He sent us home to stay on the aforementioned rest and hydrate plan.
2:00am the next morning Rebecca awoke in labor. Wow! The power of suggestion from the doctor that she should "go into labor." She never did have a problem doing that. The laboring went on but not intensifying to the point where we thought we should go to the hospital. For about three hours we got in and out of bed as the contractions increased and then decreased. In the end it was a false alarm.
All the next day there were random contractions but nothing rhythmic until 9:00pm when things seemed to suddenly regulate. We labored peacefully at home and got to the hospital at 11:45pm with the kids whom we hoped would all sleep on the father’s cot in the room.
Once they had Rebecca hooked up to the monitors, her labor stood completely still for an hour. Once it resumed, it was obvious that baby was struggling during the contractions. The heart rate would decelerate substantially but recover strong after the contraction. Doctor was concerned and got the surgical team ready but remained optimistically patient. About the time Rebecca had me retrieve the relics of St. Gemma Galgani and Bl. Pier Giorgio from our bag and place them beside her, the baby began responding much better and the doctor was amazed and happy. Contractions continued to move along about 4-5 minutes apart. Rebecca enjoyed a lot of conversation in between contractions with her Catholic nurse and mother of four boys. Again right before dilation was complete, there were two more decelerations. We looked at each other and thought, "oh no, this better not turn into a c-section after all this." However the doctor didn't waiver. He was committed and knew how strong we wanted to get our baby out as naturally as possible. After a couple more contractions labor quickly transitioned and Rebecca pushed 3 times and our baby daughter was born. She started crying immediately and went right to Rebecca's chest. It was obvious that our baby was healthy and thriving. Oh how tiny she was at only 4lbs. 4oz. and 17in.! After all the concern about size of abdomen, head and legs it all turned out for naught as our little baby girl was perfect. After further testing it was concluded that baby was indeed about 37 weeks gestation despite her petit measurements. Once again, a small but fully ready little person to greet the world.
Together we praised God for his mercy, providence and protection. Never did He withdraw His hand from us in our time of need. Rebecca spent the night alone peacefully nurturing baby in her recovery room while the boys and I headed home. The next morning we sought to be released as early as possible at which time Rebecca decided walking home was exactly what she and babe needed. Praise God for another birth miracle in our lives. Cannot wait to grow close to our precious daughter.
We named her Emiliana Jean Dussault.
Named after St. Emiliana (eh-MIL-e-ah-na)
Middle name chosen to honor three incredible grandmas, one of whom is "great."
Great Grandma Jean Carol Stefanich Mund
Grandma Carol Jean Dussault
Grandma Carol Jean Quinn
St. Emiliana story:
St. Gregory the Great had three aunts, sisters to his father, Gordian the regionarius, who led an ascetic religious life in their father's house. Their names were Tarsilla, who was the eldest, Emiliana and Gordiana. Tarsilla and Emiliana were more united by the fervor of their hearts and the bond of charity than by blood. They lived in their father's house on the Clivus Scauri as in a monastery and, encouraging one another to virtue by discourse and example, made great progress in spiritual life. Gordiana joined them, but she was often impatient of silence and retirement and, being called to another way of living, married her guardian. Tarsilla and Emiliana persevered in the path they had chosen, enjoying divine peace and love until they were called to receive the recompense of their fidelity. St. Gregory tells us that Tarsilla was visited one night with a vision of her great-grandfather, Pope St. Felix II (III), who showed a place prepared for her in heaven, saying, "Come; I will receive you into this habitation of light". She fell sick soon after, and as her friends were crowding round her bed, she cried out, "Away! Away! My Savior Jesus is coming!" After these words she breathed out her soul into the hands of God on the vigil of Christmas. The skin of her knees and elbows was found to be hardened, "like the hide of a camel", by her continual prayer. A few days later she appeared to Emiliana, and called her to celebrate the Epiphany in heaven. Emiliana in fact, died on January 5. Both are named, on the respective days of their death, in the Roman Martyrology. Her feast day is December 24th.