I find it absolutely astounding to believe that it's been 100 days since our little miracle entered our world.
In that short time we have learned so much. So much has happened. To try to describe the road we've taken is impossible.
I still remember clearly Megan's face as she lay on the operating table and Ava was presented to her for the first time. Megan's belly still cut wide open and Ava still struggling to breathe. I still remember being scared out of my mind at the realisation that she was finally here, with us. And I remember how no one believed me when I said "it's a girl"!
Bringing her home for the first time was amazing. Being able to bring her back to her first home, surrounded by the people who love her, was such a wonderful feeling; the start of her journey out into the big wide world!
Then of course, came the sleepless nights while we battled with breast feeding as nothing seemed to satisfy our starving little sweetheart. All the hours of waiting & wishing for her to start growing... Looking back, all of that seems so distant now. I guess like most things, we remember the good bits and somehow block out the bad. Ava was so small for so long, but looking at her now it's hard to think that she was so ill. Having such a poor start has made us appreciate every perfect little smile, every gorgeous little giggle.
We've even got a little routine worked out (well, it's not much, but it's working for us - for now). She's sleeping soundly, and isn't making too much fuss of a night time. She's started to poop regularly too, and it's not funny colours, and (thank whatever Gods may be) not explosive... She's become the happiest little thing in the world, always smiling, laughing & cooing, trying her hardest to grow up as soon as she can.
Even Brucey has warmed to the prospect of having a little sister in the house.. I'm not sure he's 100% happy with the idea yet, but I think he's come to terms with sharing our attention and is getting more playful around her.
The last 100 days have gone by so quickly. The whole thing has been a blur. Almost none of it has gone to plan, but I don't think that anything was ever going to go 100% smoothly. I love the little girl that she's become, though. Enduring the struggles that she's come out of in her tiny life has made her into the wonderful little baby she is, and I couldn't ask for a more amazing daughter.
If our first 100 days is anything to go by, the rest of her childhood will be fairly turbulent, with a lot of high points, as well as a few downs. What we know is that she'll be able to get through so much, the rest of her future is already looking amazingly bright.
After our appointment with our OB/GYN on Monday morning, Megan started to get some odd pains. Initially we passed them off as more Braxton-Hicks, but as they kept up I grew a little more concerned. They were no more painful than the standard Braxton-Hicks contractions, but seemed to keep up for much longer than usual. We were still able to keep moving, so we busied ourselves and forgot about it for the moment.
Tuesday was much similar, but there was definitely a more noticeable scurry of activity - lots of bags being packed & final plans put into place about what would happen if it all finally happened... And of course, lots of reassuring Megan that everything would be ok (it was basically a whole day of repeating the phrases "are you ok, darling?" and "I'm sorry, darling"). The contractions started getting a little worse through the night, and she didn't get much sleep at all (neither did I, for that matter), and when Wednesday morning came around, we sorta knew what was happening.
As much as Meg didn't want to admit it at the time, I think she knew that the baby was on the way, whether we liked it or not. We waited it out as long as we could at home - it was approaching the afternoon rush hour and a storm was coming in... the 5 km, 40 minute drive to the hospital was about to turn into a 2-3 hour stagnation of bumper-to-bumper traffic, so we fed the dog, (re)packed Meg's bag(s) and got in the car.
After what was a relatively smooth check-in at Makati Med, we got into the swing of things. Contractions were now getting very painful and were right on schedule. Although our room was quite large, the hospital was very strict about their two-guest-only policy, which meant that one of the mothers was left outside... As soon as our OB/GYN arrived, though, she was able to talk some sense into the staff and we were all able to wait out the last few hours together.
We handed out copies of our birth plan, as well as copies of the pre-check in forms Dr Henson had given us... Still, though, the nurses required us to fill out the exact same forms on arrival, and clad in our weird hospital gowns, we waited... Those gowns & booties, by the way, are one-size-fits-all, so if you're any bigger than the standard Filipino, you're going to have a bad time...
Megan's contractions started to heat up a bit later in the night, but somehow she wasn't making any progress at all on the dilation front. After days of contracting and nothing to show for it, we made the decision to intervene. We had originally hoped to do everything naturally, so it wasn't an easy choice to make. She was scrubbed up by the anaesthesiologist and an epidural was inserted into her back and Dr Henson broke the amniotic sac. I should point out that although there are heaps of massive, scary looking needles, the procedure was all done very quickly and looked nowhere near as frightening as people imagine. Afterward, she went back to having no awareness of the contractions, and we tried to sneak in some rest.
Around 1 am, something happened, and pain shot through Megan's lower back. Some element of the epidural hadn't fully worked and now all of her pain seemed to be shooting through that small window. Doctors rushed in and we were stuck with another difficult decision. There was still no movement, although the baby was now getting impatient. She was determined to come out, but there was something blocking her path. We didn't know it at the time, but our baby was face-up; for some reason she wasn't able to turn properly into the birth canal. Frustrated, worried, scared, desperate and exhausted, we made the call to have the Caesar.
It was a very strange feeling, helping to wheel Meg into the OR, and knowing that she was about to have our baby sliced out of her. Some sort of paternal instinct kicked in and I began assessing everyone in the room, giving them little nicknames, like Mr & Mrs Superfluous (we'd specifically stated that no one who was not medically essential should be in the room, as watching a white woman give birth apparently draws a bit of a crowd). It turns out they were the paediatric team, ready to receive the baby - I was the only one there that was unnecessary. Anyway, I scrubbed in, taking lots of photos (of course my camera was also allowed in), and stayed by Megan's head as she was lashed onto the bed. Watching the team operate on her was at once brilliant, but also terrifying. There's no doubt that they were extremely good at their jobs, but to watch it happen was surreal.
When the time came and our child's head made its first appearance, I was absolutely stunned... Dr Henson casually plucked her from the open womb, and faced her toward me. I couldn't speak - it was incredible. It was also totally not what I was expecting. In a flash, she showed me our baby, covered in fluid, vernix, and blood. It was certainly not the prettiest of things to see at that time! The doctor was moving our new baby over so that Megan could see, and all I could do was stammer "it's a girl". Meg had tears running down her face, and I was handed a pair of medical scissors. I remember cutting the cord was a lot harder than I thought it'd be - it turns out that it's quite thick and I wasn't feeling very strong at that time! The paediatricians cleaned up our baby, Dr Henson sewed up Megan's belly, and I stood around, waiting to be told what to do.
Eventually I was able to wheel the baby back into our room, to the expectant new grandmothers, announcing the arrival of our new baby girl - and no one believed me. Everyone (me included) had been expecting a boy for so long, that the fact we had a girl was fairly inconceivable. Eventually, though, everyone agreed with me & we started trying to get accustomed to the idea of having a new daughter/granddaughter. Megan was son stitched up & brought back into our room, where we all cooed over our new addition.
It wasn't until about 8am that I got an hour's sleep, with little Ava sleeping on my chest. I had no idea but apparently they'd done all sorts of newborn exams on her while we'd slept. We were awoken so that we could change from the delivery room to a suite on a different floor. After a lot of confusing questions and nonsensical answers, I worked out where we were being transferred to & packed our things. The grandmothers had gone home to feed the dog & reorg. Our next few days were pretty chaotic as we battled an army of residents who seemed to come in every half hour to check either Megan's or Ava's temperature & heart rate; sleep was very scarce as we were doing our best to commence breastfeeding. We had to continually tell our 'visitors' that we were fine & not to continually harass us. And then there were the (very sub-par) food & newspaper deliveries, as well as everyone else who seemed want a look at the whitey & the baby. Our team of grandparents was soon back with us, making sure we had all we needed & running defence for us.
Filling out our draft birth certificate was a lot easier than expected. As we'd planned to make Megan's surname the middle name of our child, we avoided a lot of stress. Many friends have told us of how the administrative staff have bullied people in to using the mothers' maiden name as the middle name of their children, fitting with the Spanish style of naming (as part of the Spanish invasion, they renamed the population with Spanish names, which are continued today). There were only two copying errors in our finished certificate, so after they were emended, we were right to roll.
On Saturday afternoon, we were finally allowed to head home. With final checks from our Paediatrician and OB/GYN, and taking care of our tab, we headed out the door. Getting our little one home for the first time was an amazing relief. We still have to get a gift for our amazing doctors. The hospital experience was not one I'm eager to repeat, but there were a lot of pleasant surprises which in some ways made it better than what an Australian hospital might've been. I guess we'll never really know, but for a third-world country, it could've been so much worse.
Our first week is coming to an end - our little beauty is a week old! The days have flown; it seems like it's been one long, sleepless expanse of time, perforated by feeding sessions & nappy changes.
Ava has become so beautiful in that way that only newborns can. Her little face has turned amazingly feminine, as have the little noises she makes. She's losing a bit of her puppy fat as Meg's milk comes in, but she's still looking very healthy. She is a slight tinge of yellow, though, as we haven't been able to take her out into the sun much yet. There's a typhoon in town at the moment so there's very limited opportunity to get her out & about at the moment.
We're both currently getting minimal sleep - as amazing as our new baby is, she does have a demanding streak and a hefty set of lungs when she wants something... And it's taking a bit of a toll upon us... Of course having our helpers is still great, we wouldn't be getting any sleep at all if it weren't for them!
The good parts are though, that Meg has lost about 11kg so far, so she's very impressed with herself! She's feeding regularly, and although it could be better, she's producing a good number of nappies. She's got almost a full head of soft, blonde hair and a stunning pair of deep blue eyes. Her little muscles are still all there and despite her puppy fat, she's got a brilliant set of quads, delts & traps. Her little tummy is getting rounder and her chubby little cheeks are just so cute!!
She has a check-up with the doctor soon, on her one-week birthday. Hopefully we'll all score well on whatever tests she does & the TB shot won't hurt too mcuh We are also in the process of registering her as an Australian citizen, so fingers crossed about that one. She could be stateless for some time yet! It's quite a process, I'll let you know how it goes...
I'm incredibly proud to announce that our baby is here! At 3:00 am on Thursday 8 August, weighing 3.68 kg (8lb 1oz), measuring 51 cm, Ava Strid Anderson was born by emergency Caesar after 39 long weeks and a few sleepless nights of painful contractions.
Both mother and baby are doing great, and we couldn't have done it without our superstar team of Dr Maria Theresa G Henson, Dr Gerry de Jesus, Dr Vina Cabahug, and our legendary support staff of Grandma Strid & Grandma Anderson (and of course, late arrival Grandpa Anderson).
So far, Ava has been feeding well, and sleeping better. She is the most amazing little girl and will be out & about to make some public appearances very soon!