Merry Christmas! I’ve been putting off writing this letter because I want to tell you about our Avery, and I’m afraid that that will turn this into a very long letter. So, if it’s enough for you to know that our healthy, happy Avery Dayle was born July 26 at 11:35 pm, 7 lb. 10 oz. and 20½ inches long with a sweet little swirl of a cowlick in the front of her hair just above her right eye and a dimple in her left cheek… then feel free to skip down. 🙂
Avery started out being different from her brothers and sisters by having a due date in July instead of one that would bring her here the first week of September! My pregnancy progressed normally until “that fateful day” of May 18 when I went in for a regular check-up and the doppler that my midwife was using was unable to pick up the baby’s heartbeat. When she hooked me up to a stronger machine, we could hear that little heart just pounding away – too fast. A typical baby’s heart in utero beats about 135-165 beats per minute. Our baby’s was going as fast as 280 at times. My midwife called a high-risk pregnancy doctor in Lexington and told him I was on my way. That hour-long drive back home to Roger and our children was the hardest I’ve experienced yet in my life. I imagined so many things that could happen: Our baby could be stillborn, or maybe she would live for just a few hours – or years – and we would have to say goodbye to her, or she could be born unable to develop like our other children have.
After that, Roger and I had a two-hour drive to Lexington, KY. That was a time of trying to be calm and not worry, but still thinking and imagining what we might hear from this new doctor. When we arrived at the hospital, I was taken to an examining room. Roger went to find a restroom and the nurse hooked me up to a monitor and went to get my charts. Lying there in that room alone, listening to my baby’s heart beat erratically and fast on the monitor, I was able to give that little girl to God. I thought, “God, I think I can accept whatever you choose to do with this little life. You know how much I want to hold her and love her in the years to come, but I’m not going to worry and be scared anymore.” And I didn’t.
Roger and I stayed in the hospital for 3 nights – Mom came up from NC and stayed with Judah, Wesley and Malin. Our doctor confirmed that Avery had SVT (supra-ventricular-tachicardia) – which basically means that her heart was beating erratically and too fast. Other than that, the ultrasounds showed a healthy baby who was developing normally – even her heart looked basically the way it should. I was put on heart medication (digoxen) to slow down my baby’s heart, and told to come back to Lexington for a checkup every week until she was born.
So our family took a mini-vacation away from camp once each week this summer. Those days were so refreshing to us as a family – we needed that time to get away together. During the rest of the pregnancy we heard so many people tell us, “We’re praying for you and that little baby!” That meant so much to me. Several times, someone said to me, “People at my church have been asking about you,” (people I didn’t even know) “we’ve all been praying for you.”
The rest of our year doesn’t seem as exciting… Mark and Mary Driskill were here again this summer – they took over running camp for Roger while we made our weekly trips to Lexington. We were truly blessed with wonderful staff who made it easy for us to leave without worrying about what was going on while we were away. Avery Dayle was born the first Monday after our last week of camp – the timing couldn’t have been better. We spent a week with her in the hospital – Mom and Dad came up and stayed with Judah, Wesley and Malin for the week, even bringing them to stay at a hotel near us for 2 nights. Ultrasounds of Avery’s heart after she was born showed a hole between the lower two chambers of her heart, and a coarctation of her aorta. (The aorta – leading out of her heart – has a spot in it that is too narrow, which limits the blood flow to her kidneys, liver, and the lower half of her body.) Now, after 4½ months, the hole in her heart has closed enough that our cardiologist isn’t worried about having to do surgery on it. Her coarctation remains the same – she takes Lasix daily to get any extra fluid out of her lungs and flushing through her kidneys – and she will probably have to have surgery to correct it when she is three years old. (But not open heart surgery!)
The kids adjusted quickly to having a new baby in the house – although we did have a few hard times with our sweet Malin, who I have babied more than the boys. Wesley asked me yesterday, “When I grow up, am I going to be a daddy? And is Malin going to be a mommy?” I told him that I hope so! They’re all learning so much about what it means to take care of a baby. With the arrival of Avery, our 6-year-old Judah finally reached the big hurdle of being able to carry his baby sister around. Often, when I’m working in the kitchen, and Judah hears her crying, he will pick her up and bring her to me. When we brought her home from the hospital late at night, Wesley (4 years old) was the only one still awake. He got the special honor of being the first of our children to hold her. I don’t know if that created a special bond or what, but he has been the one who loves to spend the most time with her. Sometimes he gets too excited and a little rough, but he’s picked up on what makes her laugh – and I even let him carry her a couple of times. He loved that. J Malin (our 2-year-old) has been the silent observer (but just in the last week or so, she has been saying all kinds of new words – I love this stage of childhood!) One evening, Roger had taken the boys to church and I was playing baby dolls with Malin in her room. Avery woke up hungry, so I brought her to Malin’s room and sat in the rocking chair to nurse her. So… Malin picked up one of her babies and a doll blanket, got carefully situated in her little rocking chair and started nursing her baby too. (As she sucked her favorite finger.) J Later, she was pointing to one of her babies, laying on the table in her room, trying to tell me something. I was guessing random things, trying to figure out what she was saying. When I said, “Is your baby eating?” she gave me a look like I was crazy, shook her head no, and pulled up her shirt to show me that no, the baby was NOT eating.
Judah and I got a late start with kindergarten, but we are plugging along. The hardest part is trying to find a time of the day when we can spend an hour or so with few interruptions. That may get easier, as I’m noticing just how much Wesley and Malin love to play together. Recently, Roger and Judah took a trip up to Ohio to buy a new (used) van for our family. While they were gone, I was amazed at the peace in our home. (As I told Roger… Wesley and Malin were out from under Judah’s thumb. They enjoyed having their “boss” gone for awhile.)
Judah has lost his first three teeth – all on the bottom. One of our highlights this year (strange as it may seem) was our trip to the dentist in October. Judah has asked me for months, “When do we get to go to the dentist again?!” They all enjoyed that trip and had great reports. Even Malin, when the hygienist called her name, trotted happily to the back with her, holding her hand, and proceeded to do everything that she was told to do.
There are so many other things that I could mention, but I’ll close right here. Thank you to each of you who prayed for our family this year.
Roger and Ruthie, Judah, Wesley, Malin and Avery