Holding Onto Hope, Anticipating Joy

Julie Davis

One wife's journey on the road of infertility and missionary living. Real life ~from Small Town, Missouri to Prague, Czech Republic.

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The Aftermath

I was whisked into the ICU ward, into a room with two other beds, that were empty. I was in the middle of the two. A nurse kept buzzing around me. She would fly by, hooking things up as she zipped along, never forgetting to tell me to “Lay…Flat." However, trying to figure out what was going on, where I was, who was around, where was Aaron and Maggie...I kept lifting my head to try and orient myself to something familiar. “Stay flat!, if you don't you will be dizzy in the morning." Luckily, the bed was comfortable. I at least had a blanket (still no clothes) and somewhat warm, not to mention exhausted, so I dosed off and on. Later, I would come to. I lifted my head again, I realized nothing was going on...I was laying in a room, naked, with no-one else around….not knowing what was going on. I kept thinking, Aaron should be coming in soon, the doctor said he would be able to see me. I had no idea what time it was, or how much time had passed. At some point, another lady was brought in. She was on my right, she had had some trauma in the birthing room, so had an emergency c-section and was not awake or aware of anything...she too, was naked.

I had Maggie at 8:51am, so I was assuming it was sometime before noon. As I lay there, I heard the nurse station’s phone ring. I heard some Czech being spoken among the nurses, and one of them leaned into our door and said, "You are Julie Davis?". I said, yes, to which she handed me the phone. I thought, shouldn’t she know my name? I am one of two people in this room…I shrugged in my mind and said, “Hello?" To my absolute relief, it was Aaron! Hooray for Aaron! The first thing he asked was, “How are you?" The first thing I asked, was “Where are you? Where is Maggie?" He said that they had taken Maggie to the nursery, and that he would be able to see her during visiting hours sometime that evening. He asked if I had seen her, I said no. He mentioned that the nurses in the nursery said that I would get her every three hours or so to feed her, so she should be coming soon. At this point, we had both only seen Maggie for a matter of seconds, minutes for Aaron as he went with her after her birth…but still, not hardly any time at all. I asked when he was coming to the room. He said that he had come to the area and rang the buzzer. The nurses told him he was not allowed in the room. I tried to control myself, but I knew I was going to be there for at least 24 hours…that is a long time when you don’t speak fluent Czech, when you don’t really know what is going on and when you feel absolutely powerless. I was tired, he was worried about me, but, I did my best to keep it together...because, that is all I could do. He let me go, and said he would call me back later that evening.

The ICU area was shaped like a pod. There were about 4 rooms around it, with the nurses station in the middle. The rooms were glass doors, so you could see the comings, goings and many happenings. I saw a nurse come into the pod, wheeling a little trolly…she came to our room and asked for Magnolia’s mom…Magnolia’s mom, that was me! I was finally getting to see and hold my sweet miracle! She put her into my arms, and I just couldn’t believe it. I looked at her face, and thought, she is a little Aaron!
I laughed and looked around to share the news, then realized, there was no one to share it with.
I went back to admiring this little thing that was now ours. She was wrapped up in some type of white cloth, and was tied up like she was in a little cocoon. There were three ties (top, bottom and middle-see pic below), and when the nurse came back a few minutes later, she picked Maggie up by the middle tie, turned her around and placed her in my arm like a football. She barked some orders on how I was to hold her and feed her. Grabbed, forced and pushed things where they needed to be for her to eat properly..and I guess, to teach me how to do it the right way.

Side Trip

Now, when Aaron and I talked about breast feeding or bottle feeding, he left that decision to me. I have always been a bottle feed girl…I have my reasons, I’m not interested in having a discussion on what is right or what is wrong about the subject. In short, my opinion, and as Maggie’s mom, that is the one that counts….full stop, period. I also needed to do what I feel is best for our family in our current situation. We live in a foreign country. There are daily struggles and challenges, that we push through that are not easily explained, breastfeeding, regardless of the glorious benefits the propagandists would have us believe, was not the only factor under our family's concern. …so with all that, in my mind, that decision was made. I would bottle feed. In the Czech Republic, there is a consensus. They believe that everyone should breastfeed, no questions asked, full stop, period. If you don’t, you are a terrible and irresponsible person, who is intentionally hurting your child for selfish reasons. It’s every nurse's responsibility to remind you of that fact. No, I am not exaggerating, that is not hyperbole. We knew it would be a battle, but we decided it would be one we were willing to fight.

Back to the story

When the nurse said it was time to feed her, I told her we were going to bottle feed. She looked at me weird; either because I said bottle or because she didn’t understand, maybe a little of both…and said on word, “Breast." So, I thought, alright, lets just do what we gotta do. Well, to my surprise it was a fine experience. I thought, oh, this isn’t so bad. We will continue on this path, and see what happens. After a few minutes, she took Maggie away. I kissed and hugged her as long as I could (pretty sure it was a 5 minute visit) and sent her on her way…hopefully, to see her daddy.

There was about three shift changes with the nurses, each one gave me some reference to passing time. A third woman came into our room, and like me and the other, naked. We all were laying there flat in our beds, on full display, machines clicking, IV’s dripping, nurses coming and going…even our little ones, coming and going. No privacy, my eyes seeing much more than I felt they should, a lot of pain, but also a sense of calmness. Thank you, God for your peace.

It was early evening, and the lady on my left, started to get sick. I mean, "not a little" sick. The lady on my right, started yelling for the nurse. The nurse came in, eyes rolling and with a sigh, acting like it was an inconvenience. She set a bowl down near her with the grace of a hippo. The lady asked for something to drink…to which, we all asked for something to drink. It had now been about 20 hours without food or drink. I mean…20 HOURS, I was hungry, I was thirsty.
The nurse came around, and gave us all sippy cups of fruit tea. I’m not a fruit tea fan, which seems to be the Czech favorite, but at this point it was the best thing I ever tasted.
One of the women asked for more, to which the nurse replied that it was enough for now! Hahahahahaha!

At midnight, we had our last visit with our little ones. Each visit got better and better. I saw new things about Maggie; looked at her little fingers, kissed those cheeks and dreamt of her, Aaron and I being all together soon! I sent her on her way for the night, I had talked to Aaron and learned he had her for an hour until they came and took her away for the night. I went to bed knowing my people were okay, my goal was to get to tomorrow when we could be together!

The night nurse came in. She emptied our urine bags. She came around to each one of our IV drips and switched bags. Then, she came to each one of us, I didn’t realize what she was doing until she got to me…she handed me the pully, and said, “LIFT", touching my bottom…I did my best to lift my butt, then…without warning…she popped something up in there!
Whoa! TMI?!?…How do you think I felt!!! I wasn’t expecting that…ok.
"Hmmm…what was that for?" I thought. Turns out, it was the pain medication…the first dose I had been given since my operation that morning. …OK, people, I didn’t skip anything….at that point I had gone ALL day without pain medication. It was not a pretty site. The worst part was, every hour or so since I had been brought into the ICU, a nurse would come in, pull down the covers and press on my stomach. She would start at the top, and work her way down, pushing, jiggling, pressing. The first time one of them did this, I about jumped out of the bed. The nurse said, "yes, I know it hurts." After the fourth time and the soreness almost being unbearable, I was thankful for whatever that was that was shoved up my butt! I slept, as best I could I sleep in a room full of naked strangers.

Around 5am, the nurses came in and started changing out IV’s and unhooking us from machines. This was a positive sign, they were going to be moving us out. Our babies came in around 6, and we got to love on them some. The other lady to my right, started asking me some questions about Maggie. The first thing I thought was, SHE SPEAKS ENGLISH?! We chatted back and forth. She told me about her birthing experience, and that no-one knew she was in the hospital and that she had her baby. We couldn’t have phones, so she had no numbers to contact anyone. She was anxious and a little scared. The nurse came in, and said she was going to start getting each of us up…we had all been laying flat since we arrived. She started with the lady on my right. She chose to do this all WITHOUT a gown on…that we all JUST RECEIVED a few minutes ago. She slowly rose and made it to the bathroom to freshen up (with a bag of things she had someone smuggled into the room?…I wonder how much a nurse was paid to look the other way). It soon was my turn. I sat up, and you guessed it, I was dizzy. I took my time, stood up, sat back down. The nurse was concerned and was questioning my recovery. I asked if there was any way to get something to eat, that that may help…we had gotten tea, but no food. It had been 30 hours since I had eaten anything. She thought it was odd, but went and got us all some yogurt and a vanilla wafer cookie. I was upset because I wanted to leave the unit, so I could be with Aaron and Maggie.
Aaron called about that time. He asked If I knew when I was going be released to a normal room, I said, "I don’t know" I was trying not to cry-but, I was struggling.
I told him that I was trying to get up and that I needed some strength and energy to do it. He had not been allowed to see Maggie since the day before at 5pm, and was anxious to have us all together too. I hung up, and sat up, and was ready to try again. The lady next to me said, “You must really want to see you husband and baby." “DUH!" Were my thoughts, but I actually responded with a, “Yes, I do."

The nurse came in and told everyone that they were having trouble finding rooms for us because they were full (this was now being translated to me by my new best friend). I quickly told her that I had a private room, and that I was able to go immediately. They all looked at me and silently judged as they just looked at me…the American has a private room..?! “Of course she would, spoiled American!" The nurse said she would see about getting an orderly to take me there, but that it could still be a while and she wants to make sure I am well. About an hour or so later, the orderly made his way to wheel me to our room (the time it took, I could have wobbled there with time to spare...). He didn’t quite know where he was going, so we took a short tour of the hospital, but we did eventually make it. When we wheeled into the room, I literally jumped out of the chair into Aaron’s arms. I was just bawling, I was still in the hospital, but I felt like I escaped a dungeon. It was just a few hours since we'd been together last, but they were some of the most important hours of my life. Maggie had arrived, and I was just about to get and share her with my husband 30+ hours later. The nursery nurse came in, we nicknamed her nurse Ratched, for various reasons. She said she would bring Maggie to the room, so she could eat…Aaron, informed her, Maggie would be staying in the room with us. You could tell she didn’t like it, but she had to allow it, as we were in a private room. Maggie joined us, and we had a happy family moment.

The nursery nurses came in, they said it was time to feed Maggie. I rotated her in my arms, as I had been doing in the ICU ward, and got ready to feed her. Nurse Ratched snatched Maggie from my arms, pushed the button on my bed, it snapped up, forcing my body upright. She plunked Maggie back into my arms. I had just been pushed up after laying flat for 24 hours, and was screeching in pain, as I had not had any pain medication since midnight.

They demonstrated their way of feeding Maggie after they chastised me from using the previous method from ICU. Maggie was ok with it, but you could tell she wasn’t quite in the groove as we were before. They said we were done, reclined my bed back, put Maggie in a normal holding position and left before I could blink. "Whew, we made it through that." I thought. We would repeat that ordeal every three hours. They would bring more than one specialist to “help" me, they would yell at me for not doing it right and let me know I was being a bad mother…and Maggie would cry…and I would cry. This was day 2, and I knew we would have at least 3 more days of this.

During moments between the scoldings and hurtfulness, when it was the three of us; we sang, talked, snuggled. I watched Aaron change diapers and take care of Maggie, I watched him become a dad before my eyes…it was the best. He watched you tube videos on how to swaddle, he played Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to dance with her when she cried. He took care of me; helped me get up and down from the bed, in and out of the shower. He told me, I was a good mama! ❤️

Struggling with infertility for nearly a decade, we were finally in our moment! What we had been waiting for, praying for all those years. It was hard in those first few days, to hold onto the positive moments and memories because the hospital, nurses and culture were not ours. My milk was not coming in, and Maggie was not getting enough to eat. Each day, the nurses would come in, the doctors would come in and say, we will keep trying. They would have us weigh her before she ate and after to see if she had gotten anything…each time nothing, and Maggie was NOT happy about it. They reluctantly told us at the end of Day 3 that if she wasn’t satisfied, we could take her to the nursery for a bottle. So, we did…each time. Even though, we had decided to bottle feed before we came, experiencing breast feeding the the first few days, I had decided to continue.
Now, all the things the nurses had been shouting and yelling at me about being a bad mom, “It must be true at some level." was my thinking.
I couldn’t produce milk for my baby. It was one more thing I couldn’t do. I couldn’t conceive her on my own, now I can’t even provide food for her. Aaron was so encouraging and loving. He started doing some research and found that some women that struggle with infertility, often struggle with producing milk. It’s based upon the hormone problem they may have. Hmm…ok, well, maybe that was it….? I was trying to survive, everyday and every-which way, being shamed into not doing something correctly.

Day 4 came, the doctors asked if we could learn how to bottle feed since we would be going home the next day. We said yes. We agreed to continuing weighing, breast feeding, weighing again and if no improvement, we would call for a bottle. They would make it and bring it to us, each time…the whole while time Maggie was screaming in hunger. The first bottle she got, she chugged that thing down quickly…poor baby, was hungry. The rest of the day continued in that order, and everything got a little bit better.

We had been told by a hospital nurse previously, that once the baby is born, the baby is the patient, the mother is not. I found this to be true. I got one pain pill each evening that lasted until the morning hours. No-one talked to me about recovery or what I should and should not be doing. I realized in order to leave, I would have to walk out of there…so, I started walking up and down the hall. It was a slow start, but got better each time. I also, had a bottle of ibuprofen, I was going to start as soon as I walked to the car.

To be released, several things had to happen. First, I was sent to stand and wait with several other ladies to have an ultrasound to make sure everything was looking okay. We stood in line outside of a little cubicle, each lady went in one by one. While we were waiting, the ladies started asking where each other were from. When I mentioned the US, they looked at me and one asked, “Why on earth I would have a baby there instead of in America." At that point, I didn’t have an answer, I was asking myself that same question. They asked if the US was as brutal about breast feeding as they were there…to which, I was thankful that others felt the same way as I. Once that was done, we had a lady come in to help fill out the paper work for Maggie’s Birth Certificate. We found out, we would not leave the hospital with one, but would get one in the mail between 8-10 days (to which we never did, because they lost all paperwork, including our marriage certificate and other original documents…thankfully, we had a lawyer who helped us sort that out, that is another story for another day). I had my last check-up and Maggie did as well.

We woke up the next morning, packed and had everything ready. After some final words from the doctor, some paperwork, signature. We left…slowly, as I was still in a lot of pain. Aaron pulled the car up to the door, I got in and popped the glove box. We always kept a bottle of ibuprofen for after language classes that always cause headaches, I didn’t realize it would be my after c-section recovery meds stash too. Aaron pulled out into traffic, I took one last look at that place and said some "nice words" about it, and we went home!

This was the last picture I took at the hospital. This is the door to our room. In our married life, God has always been one to open the doors that needed to be opened and slammed them shut when they needed to be. When we left the hospital, there was a weight that I carried for a while based upon what happened in that room. It has taken me quite some time to process those things. I would see pictures of other friends having babies and having this joyous picturesque moments…and I would be a little sad thinking about our first few days together as a family. We had waited so long for our miracle, and God had finally answered our prayers. We left with our bundle of Joy! We left with our miracle. We left that room, that place, with some scars…but, we would find our Joy and peace in being a family of 3! What a journey we were about to take…there would be ups and downs, but it would be together, as a family of 3! ❤️ My heart could burst, knowing we were a family of 3!

I hope that you will continue along on the journey that I will continue to share. There are things that happen in life…God has slammed some doors shut, and He has swung some wide open…I am excited to continue sharing our life, as we are continuing to Hold onto Hope, as we are also Experiencing Joy!

Maggie's Grand Entrance

Our C-Section was scheduled for Friday morning, so our Doctor asked that we arrive on Thursday around 11am to get ready. We thought 11am sounded a little early, but we figured, we've never had a baby before...so, maybe there is a lot of set-up, paperwork, etc. Plus, we are in the Czech Republic; and they like papers, forms and stamping everything!

Arriving at the Hospital

We arrived at 11, and called the Doctor's Assistant, who spoke English. She quickly came to escort us to the registration room. This was a several step process. First, was getting out of the hospital elevator that sticks shut, ironically on the the delivery floor, where we were headed. Aaron put his shoulder into the door and it swung open. We made our way to the "when you think you are in labor, come here" room which doubled as the regular check-in. They sat me down in a chair, and hooked me up to the heart monitor, to check Maggie's heart rate. As I sat there, I looked around the little room, sparse, but clean. The room was divided with two sets of draw curtains, They were both wide-open when I arrived. As I was being monitored for about thirty minutes, I saw several ladies come through those curtains. These ladies were not doing well...one lady, came in, the nurses snapped open the curtain and asked her to get up on the bed...she was mid contraction, but I saw her struggle was real.

My first up close look at labor gave me chills

Trying with all her might, she almost didn’t make it up the hospital gurney, which might as well been a mountain side. Strategically, she shifted her enormous pregnant self, up…without any help from the nurse mind you! Just then, another lady, rang the buzzer to get into the room. She could be heard breathing heavily over the distorted speaker. She came into the room, and they put her in the other curtained area, he hair was dark and short damp from sweat. She didn't stay in the room long, as she was quickly escorted to another area. All the while, I just sat there, not in any pain...just watching in awe of what was happening.

Inside the Hospital, waiting for the Doctor’s Assistant to arrive

The next step was to get all the paperwork and documents in order...and to secure our private room. This is something that we found was a bonus for us. Most of the rooms women go in after delivery, are shared with 2-3 other women…in fact most of my experience in the hospital from beginning to end was with 2-3 other women…privacy really isn’t much of a concern. The private room would be a serious bonus! Since I wanted Aaron to stay in the room with me, we were able to secure it. (For extra cost of course!) As we arrived into the room, we looked around in awe (?). Not sure if awe is the right word...maybe bewilderment? We said, oh this isn't so bad…trying to convince ourselves it was true! It was a corner room, there was a table and refrigerator. Our own bathroom and shower. A baby station and the oldest scale (Made in Bulgaria stamped on the back) I ever saw...it was quaint, not what we expect in a hospital room, but maybe what we had grown to expect in this part of the world. The room was surrounded by windows. Unfortunately, with the building being so old, they were in the midst of cleaning the stone on the outside...so, our gorgeous view was covered by scaffolding, and at random times, working men, with tools, and sandwiches, and beer!

Baby Scale made in Bulgaria (We used this every day after Maggie’s birth.)

As we were getting settled...I am an organizer, remember...I started putting things here and there. Getting things ready for when Maggie arrives, getting things ready for me and making sure Aaron had enough snacks and drinks to get him through the next few days as well. A nurse brought in lunch for me...a typical Czech lunch; soup, goulash and hot tea. We kind of sat around talking and laughing at all that had happened, and that was about to happen. A nurse came in to introduce herself, she would be our day nurse. She only spoke Czech, so we spoke as best we could and mimed the rest when our imperfect-Czech fell through. She said that in a little while they would come and get me for another heart monitor hook-up (our Doctor insisted on this several times that day).


Resting in-between nurses coming in and heart monitor tests

Eventually I was taken to the pre-labor area. This is the area where they have the women who are in the beginning stages of labor...I never quite knew our schedule, they really weren’t interested in sharing it with me anyway. I was hooked up to a machine…not sure what it was this time, I didn’t ask, they didn’t tell me. Next to me was the lady who was across from me in the first room...this time, she seemed to be having contractions more regularly than before. Then, there was another lady. She was having quite a few contractions and having a lot of pain, sweat was beading down her shirt. Again, I just sat there, absorbing this environment like a sponge.

After I was finished with my 30 minutes, I met with the Doctor. Aaron was allowed in too.
You could tell our Doctor was finally figuring out, that Aaron was going to be a big part of this experience…

it’s not always typical to have the husband present and involved. So, he started visiting and chatting with Aaron as well. Most of the time, Czech men are not at each appointment, and sometimes absent at the early stages of the labor/delivery. So, it was a bit different for the doctor, until he remembered/realized, we are American, and that helped quite a bit and he wanted to chat with Aaron about mid-century American muscle cars…Aaron did his best.

Waiting to do paper work and meet with the Dr

He did a quick check-up, and then asked that I have another heart monitor done. He gave me his cell phone number, and asked that I text him with the results. What? Ok... I tried not to laugh, but it seemed odd that I, the patient, was to call him with the results from the heart monitor, that I could not read, from his hospital. "Ok, I will do it." So...I was hooked up again to the heart monitor. About 20 minutes in, a nurse came to check and realized the monitor was not on...so, we started again. Then, I start hearing, what sounds like an animal coming from the floor. Remember the poor lady from before? She was on all fours on the floor, working through contractions as best she could. I thought,

I am literally going to be a part of this lady’s birth story, because that baby is about to shoot out.

...finally, the lady's husband came into the room, and called for their midwife. She came in, and worked through the contraction with the lady, making sure the heart monitor stayed in place the whole time. After about 30 minutes of this they finally decided she should go to delivery. As she left the room, and walked down the hall to the other corridor, I could hear them stopping every minute or so. I don’t know any Czech swear words, but I am pretty sure I heard some then...I have no idea if she made it to delivery, or had that baby in the hall. “Thank you Lord for sparing me that joy!"😃 The nurse came in, and told me I was good to go. I asked her for the results, that the doctor wanted me to text him the results. With the language barrier, I wasn't sure if she got what I was saying or not. She said she had to get someone who could read the results. She was gone for about 10 minutes, and returned with a highly informative “test is good". When I got back to the room, I texted our doctor that the results were, “good". He seemed satisfied.

Now, with the evening arriving, it became time for some pre-surgery prep. Our evening nurse came in and introduced herself, still no English, only Czech. We smiled and chatted a bit about what was to be expected. She drew some blood, and mentioned that she would be in later to shave me...Ok, people...at this point, I figured I was in for a full experience, the only way to make it through is to try and laugh. So, that night, more blood was taken, I was shaved and given an enema. 😃

We were told that there was one person before me in the morning for a C-Section, then it would be us...they figured it would be around 8. However, I would need to be showered and ready at 6.

Getting hooked-up and ready

Trying to rest before the delivery

The morning came, I was very nervous. Waking up at 5, and getting ready, then waiting...well, it was not easy. I was a bundle of nerves, I tried to rest the best I could. We played music and Aaron prayed over the day, and we waited. The day nurse came in, she put my IV in and said she would be back when it was time. At about this time, that enema started kicking in (Sorry ya’ll TMI...I’m slow moving, people)...it was so fun going back and forth to the bathroom with my IV pole, especially since the bathroom was the size of a phone booth...Aaron, was a good sport!

At about 7:30, the nurse came back with a gentleman pushing a gurney. She said, it's time. I went to the bathroom one last time, went out into the hall and got on the bed. Thankfully, there was a small step stool and the help of the attendee to get me up there. The nurse suddenly realized she gave me the wrong gown...so, back down I got, back into the room, where she helped me put the right one on. Back up onto the gurney, laid down, blanket over me...and away we went. Aaron went with the nurse, to a different area to get ready himself. We went down an elevator, arrived on another floor, through some doors, to the surgery area. We were met by the Assisting Doctor, who greeted me with, "we've been waiting for you for several minutes". To which, I laughed out loud (I couldn't help it, this time). I just shrugged my shoulders. I mean, come on people...I can only go as fast as that man behind me can push the bed.

They asked me to transfer from one gurney to another...with no help, I was supposed to slide over...it is not as easy when the gurneys have no wheel locks, and you are nine months pregnant.

It wasn’t pretty, but I made it!!

Next, I was wheeled into the surgical room. There was a flurry of activity, as the nurses were doing their thing. The anesthesiologist came in, and we chatted a bit about what was to happen. The Assisting Doctor, sat me up on the edge of the bed, to get me ready for my spinal tap. He explained (in perfect English) that he would press down on my shoulders to help me not move, and that I should rest my head on his shoulder and he would coach me on breathing and the process as it was happening. I sat there for a few minutes on the freezing table shivering, as we waited on the Doctor to arrive. When he was getting scrubbed down, they started the process. I was very impressed with this stage, as the assisting Doctor talked me through what was happening, what I should be feeling and then I was done. It really was not bad AT ALL! If this was the worst of it, I will be fine, I told myself. I laid down, they pulled the blue curtain up and the Doctor arrived. He greeted me briefly, and they told me, he was going to do a small cut to make sure I didn't feel anything. I felt them wipe me down with ????, and in my mind I was screaming, I FEEL THAT. Aaron came in, and I was so glad to see him. I told him they were going to do a sample cut to make sure I couldn't feel anything...to which he informed me, that they were already into the process and the baby was about ready to come...what?

I had a breathing mask on, and I think I must have been pretty drugged up, as he said I was slurring a lot as I talked. I was really having to focus on my breathing, as I was trying not to hyperventilate from freaking out...I mean, this was my first time to ever have anything this drastic done...and I was not in America. Plus, there was so much waiting, then suddenly everything happened quicker than I expected it to, I didn't get to do all my research, prep and questions answered before we arrived at this point, my defensive mechanism from living as a foreigner for so long.

Aaron, seeing the anxiety in my face, soothed it with his own great experience of getting ready for the surgery... read his FB post at the end of this post. It definitely helped. The nurses and anesthesiologist told me, whatever I felt, I needed to let them know, so they could take care of it. Queasiness, chest pain, etc...were all there and present, to which they quickly helped by adding things to my IV. At this point, I am just some lady laying here on a table, trying to breath and having a baby cut out of her! Aaron later told me, that he saw blood squirting everywhere, and the Doctor was up on the table pulling. He can tell quite the story!

He said, she's out...we heard a cry...to which we both cried.

They whisked her by us, we both tried to grab a quick look. Aaron kissed me, and told me how proud he was of me...and then followed Maggie. He was with her when she was weighed, and all essential things that happen when a baby comes were done. He got some great photos...He also got some "yellings" from the nurse who was attending to Maggie. They brought her to me...oh, what a beautiful sight. I really cannot put into words what was happening and I was thinking, "She was our sweet and beautiful daughter! How long I waited for this moment!" I kissed her, and they whisked her away. The doctor finished up, and told me that Aaron would be able to see me in a few moments, and I was wheeled away.

I was taken back to the entrance of the surgical area, to be moved into ICU. Our Doctor wants all of his C-Sections to go into ICU for 24 hours. He had mentioned this to us previously, and he mentioned Aaron would not be able to be in there unless there was a private room available in that ward...turns out, there was not. We did not know this, no one told us this…at least in English. I would be able to see Aaron in a few minutes, as per the Doctors comments, but this wasn’t the case. While waiting to go into ICU, they rolled the surgical gurney next to a bed. As when I arrived, I thought, are they going to have me get onto the other bed. I was preparing myself to figure out how to do this, since I didn't have help the first time, I figured I might be on my own again...then, all of a sudden, a wooden board was slide under one side of my body. I looked over, and two nurses where lifting the board, and I dumped over into the bed like wheelbarrow with a load of debris…or a load of Julie in this case…really! (rolls eyes) it was quite funny to me.

They straightened me out, and covered me up with a blanket...turns out, I didn't have any clothes on, not even a gown!

Here we go people, are you along for the ride? It's going to get a bit "real" for the next part! This was only the warm up. This was over ten months ago, and I am now finding the ability to write about it. I found myself very vulnerable after my experience. I remember another missionary telling a group of us, her greatest accomplishment for a term was having a baby there. I remember seeing the look on her face when she said that, and not being able to read or understand it…I completely do now…sometimes there are no words. Part two will be coming next week.

Aaron’s FB post about his experience leading up to Maggie’s birth! 😃

How Time Flies

Our sweet miracle, Magnolia Joy, is now 5 months old. As I was looking back at the last time I wrote about our journey, I am a bit embarrassed that it was last November, when I was five months pregnant with her!

Can I say, the busyness of life, ministry and all else took over. It has been one of the most exciting times in our lives to be expecting something we waited so long for. It has also been one of the busiest as far as our ministry. I mean, who would have expected starting an International Church in one of the most atheistic cities in the world, would take up so much of our time (I say that with tongue and cheek). Great things were happening; I was feeling great, both Maggie and the church were growing and at 7 months pregnant, I started Heart Kids (our church’s Children’s Program) and our parents had bought their plane tickets for Maggie’s arrival! Looking back, this was way too much, but sometimes I take on too much.

Here is a little bit of catch-up for you, from the last few months of our pregnancy…so, you could say, this is Magnolia’s Birth Story, Part 1.

Each visit we had with our wonderful, fun and kind doctor showed Maggie growing well and quickly. They kept saying, she would be a big baby. We were able to see ALOT of her legs and arms, but hardly ever her face. She was always moving around, hiding her face or turned around when it came time for the ultrasound. We had one semi-good view of her face with the 4D Ultrasound, but never again after that…I jokingly stated that she was a Diva, and didn’t want to show us her face until her grand entrance.

One of the only photos of Maggie’s face we got, because she was such a mover!

At 30 weeks, we changed doctors, again. Pregnancy care is handled differently here. This time we went from our regular OBGYN to our Delivery Doctor. Our Clinic also has a partnership with one of the maternity hospitals in Prague. We were thankful for our Clinic because they helped register us at the hospital for the actual delivery, and made our appointments with the doctor to be at the Clinic. All things that could be difficult as foreigners.

We met our doctor, she was young and seemed nice. We remembered, how it seems that it takes about 3 visits to get to know a new doctor and feel comfortable with them…so, we settled into that fact and embraced the awkwardness of a first meeting. We could tell that she was the delivery doctor who worked for the hospital, and not our Clinic, as she would get us in and out for our appointments quickly. Not much relationship building…but, in the end we all got a rhythm of working together.

On one of our weekly visits, we found out that we tested positive for Strep B. Our doctor seemed quite alarmed with the results, and pretty much shut down any chit-chat. Aaron and I knew a little about it, but were not 100% on what the effects were on delivery, as well as procedures. Plus, we were in the Czech Republic, not the USA, far away from home, comfort and “normal". The doctor, mumbled some things indicating it was fine…but without any definite details, and then shooed us out of the room, until the next week. Needless to say, we were a bit worried and concerned…but, did some research and came back the next week with our questions. This part is hard for us. For us, we still expect a doctor to explain procedures and the “why’s" of whatever medical situation we have. Welcome to Central Europe!…where the guiding philosophy is, “The more you don’t know, the better." …and, “The doctor went to medical school, you didn’t…just trust'em."

In the mean time, we took a tour of the birthing hospital. There were papers and forms to fill out, money to pay and papers to take home and read. On our tour, they took us to a door where they said, when you come-in in labor, you will come to this door and press two buttons…not one button or the other button but both buttons simultaneously…or else the nurses wouldn’t know we were there. We wondered how many babies had been born in that hall due to improper button operation. When pressed, someone answers the call, you will tell them through the speaker that you are in labor. They will come and get you, see if it is true, and then set you up on a heart monitor while they start to check you in. The next tour stope took us to the labor and delivery rooms. They were nice and large, had a private shower and bathroom, clean and modern. The nurse talked to us about the procedure, and their thoughts on delivery. They are here to take care of the baby, not us, so their primary concern is for the baby…we could jump off a bridge. …this also meant, NO epidural during delivery…honestly, I tried to hide my shock! As I looked at Aaron, I thought, is it too late to fly to America to have this baby? A French couple was taking the English speaking tour with us. At the moment when the nurse declared their lack of concern for the mother…he blurted out, “You practice medicine like barbarians!" The nurse and the Frenchman began a heated discussion about the quality of care that lasted the rest of the tour. We silently made notes of both the hospital, staff and other guests. We kept our head down.

Aaron at the entrance of the hospital property.

On our walk up to the Hospital. The Hospital is in the background…not your average looking US Hospital.

The door with the TV above it…this is the door that ladies buzz into (pressing both buttons) to see if they are in labor or not.

In discussion with our doctor, regarding Strep B (we kept getting conflicting information on when we needed to go to the hospital to get the medication…and we live about 30-45 minutes away (much longer with traffic), which made the 1 hour limit seem troublesome, and the concern for Maggie’s growing weight, we decided to talk to her about the possibility of a C-Section. We shared our concern about Strep-B, and getting to the hospital in time. Ultimately, with a C-Section, there would be no danger of infection for Maggie.

In order to see if this was an option for us, we needed to see the head of delivery, our doctor’s mentor. …One more step in a chain of incomprehensible steps…so lets go for it! Our appointment was set with him for two weeks later. We went early to our appointment, so we could have her heart monitored and checked. The last time we had done that, she was a mover and a grover…this time, she was a bit more quiet…it was in the early evening, which was usually her rest time (she always came awake at bedtime, making bedtime for myself very interesting!) During the appointment, we discussed our thoughts and concerns, and he quickly moved to the ultrasound. He was looking, talking in Czech, giving the nurse numbers to enter into the computer to see the range of the baby, not bothering to let us know what it all meant. He seemed to be taking an extra long time, compared to our other doctor, but we assumed since it was his first time to see us, he was just being careful. He asked me when the last time was I felt Maggie move. I said earlier that day. He continued looking and speaking to the nurse in Czech this time furiously typing on his keyboard. He asked me again about the baby moving. I said yes. I looked nervously at Aaron, trying to figure out what was happening. We had just had her on the heart monitor, and everything was fine, so I was unsure of what was happening and he seemed frantic. He talked to the nurse some more, asked me again about her movement…a third time, in a commanding tone, unsatisfied with my previous responses. Then he told us, that he was unable to detect blood circulation between the placenta and Maggie. He said it made him a bit nervous, but that it wasn’t too the point of high concern. He asked us to come to the hospital the next morning at 7am, so he could do another ultrasound, this time on his equipment to check the status. Aaron asked if we should be concerned, he said, "not yet." (…really comforting!) …but again he would not give any specifics when we pressed him. …typical.

One of the many heart monitor readings for our sweet Maggie Girl.

So, we went home…packed, in case we were to stay at the hospital the next morning. Of course, we made it to the hospital early…we are American. The doctor was not yet there, but came shortly after 7. He took us in immediately for the ultrasound. He said that it looked like the placenta was not growing anymore, and that it would not be beneficial to keep Maggie inside any longer. We asked if she was developed enough to be born, we were at 38 weeks, he said everything looked good and was developed to the point of delivery. We asked if there was a risk to keep her inside longer, he said that if she stayed inside, it would affect her and possibly cause a stillbirth…so, we obviously chose to go ahead and have her. We knew God was in control, but hearing the words spoken “still birth" in a foreign accent, in a hospital a world away from family still sends shockwaves through Aaron and I. It didn’t matter the context.

First, we are thankful to God that we even started the discussion of a C-Section. Because of my positive results for Strep-B, we were able to talk about this option. Which in turn, caused us to have a special ultrasound with the Head of Delivery…which in turn, found a problem that may have not been found until a week or so later. It is obvious, God had his hand on this time, on me and on Maggie!

Our doctor that was going to deliver Maggie originally, was unable to do a surgery that week due to a sick child…so, not only did God take care of finding this problem early on…BUT, he also arranged for the Head of Delivery, the doctor with whom all other doctors have do their C-Sections and is at the top of his group in all of Czech, deliver Maggie! What a great God.

After the next morning’s appointment, we left the hospital knowing a little more information. Knowing that we would come back the next day to check-in and welcome Maggie into the world and knowing that, there were a lot of butterflies and excitement as we drove home. Then, it started to sink in…I was about to almost be split in-two, in a foreign country.

The Second Trimester Continues...

Since our sweet baby is due in March, I felt it fitting to start off with the saying that usually comes with each March. If March comes in like a lion, It goes out like a lamb.

Well, that is exactly how my Second Trimester has gone and is going. People told me, once you get into your Second Trimester, you will feel much better and you won’t be as sick…people told me that, as my head hovered over the toilet. To say my Second Trimester has been “much better", are not the words I would use. It was actually the hardest. I believe my best shining moment was one night as we were going to bed, I took my prenatal vitamin and was drinking water beside the bed. All of a sudden, I was gagged by the pill and I started coughing. I covered my mouth, to no avail. The next thing I remember is Aaron applauding “My wonderful and most amazing throw-up show he’d ever seen". (He used the word “spectacular", …boys?!). ...That is, until I burst into tears. He quickly jumped up, got a towel for me. Shooed me to the bathroom to “finish up what had just started", as he cleaned the bed, the room, the curtains and whatever else the shrapnel hit. …in the end; new sheets were added, tears were dried and there was even a little laughter. …roar….

Four months in…pregnancy sickness plus a cough and cold, not a great combination.

BUT! The last week and this week, they have been great. As I am coming to the last week of my 5th month, with one more month in my Second Trimester to go, I am hopeful that, “it will go out like a lamb". …bahh….

It has been a fun an different experience being pregnant. I have waited so long to be in this place, and yet, it is sometimes just unbelievable. Aaron and I will be lying in bed about to drift off, when one of us will exclaim how great and exciting and nerve wrecking it is!

It all became even more real, when we found out our sweet miracle is a GIRL! Now, I will admit, I wanted a little girl so bad. However, after trying for so long to conceive, I was happy with whichever God would give us. In fact, I was pretty certain it was a boy! My Pinterest Board was full of girl things, then it started to become full of boy things, because I was so convinced.

As long as Gender Reveal Parties have become a “thing", I have wanted one. I told Aaron and Amy (my most wonderful and best friend and missionary colleague), that if we became pregnant, this was the one thing I wanted to do. Then…we got pregnant. I started thinking logistically about how it would work and look, who would come, on and on. I basically told myself, I wasn’t going to happen. The amount of work to have something like that was daunting. I told Aaron, then Amy…and they both said, NO! This is the one thing you said you wanted, and we are going to make it happen…and I am so glad they put their collective foot down!

Here in the Czech Republic, the Gender Reveal Phenomenon has not appeared. So, we knew it was going to be an uphill battle. I had contacted a bakery after one of our appointments, where we knew the date we would find out the gender. As I have mentioned before, I am an organizer and planner…so, I wrote an email with pictures and as detailed as I could. The baker, did not understand…and didn’t really want to understand, if you get my point! So we would have to go about this another way. Let’s just say between Amy, the bakery and I…there were about ten or more email exchanges. …finally at the reveal. We just hoped we had something pink or blue. And not white, purple or green!

The next step was to explain to our Doctor, …try explaining how, “I want to know, but not really know, but write it down in an envelope so our friend can know."…in a foreign language! When we went in for our appointment, we reminded her that we needed her to write it on a paper and fold it up. We tried to explain the idea of the party, and she just smiled and said ok…have a fun party. She started the ultrasound, and told us when she was looking for the gender. Aaron and I both turned our heads. After the ultrasound, she went over to her desk to write the gender. She was whispering to her nurse in Czech, and Aaron quickly spoke to her in Czech. He said, “We understand some Czech, so make sure to not say it is Czech because we will know". They looked at us in surprise and laughed. They said they are excited to see pictures from “our party" at our next appointment.

Our Doctor’s Office, Canadian Medical Care. We are blessed by our great, caring and friendly Doctor.

Our party was really more than I could have hoped for…of course, having our family and close friends in attendance would have made it the greatest, but God blessed us with being surrounded by people we love here. Amy (Chris, Gideon and Karis too), met us in Old Town Square with the cake. It looked so great. We all kind of joked that if we cut into the cake and it was white, Amy would just shout out the gender…no matter how clear or how much we think we explain things, they can always get lost in translation. We found a little table in the extremely crowded area, and then were surprised by some other great friends and fellow missionaries from Hungary; Rick, Lori and Zsolti. There were a few tears on my end…I mean come on, how wonderful to be surrounded by people we love and not feel alone at one of the happiest times in our lives. I texted our parents and family to make sure they were on, and ready to watch (we did a Facebook Live Video, so everyone in American could join us). Once we received word they were, it was show time…I was so so nervous. You can tell by how Aaron had to prod me to talk during the video. However, when I started to cut the cake and saw a little sliver of pink, I just couldn’t believe it! Of course, no-one else was able to see, not even Aaron, so once I got over my initial shock and excitement..I continued. Afterwards, we had the most amazing Mexican food (it’s what I crave the most) we’ve had in Prague, as we all celebrated together.

Here is a link to watch our Gender Reveal, if you missed it!

My first moment of seeing the “pink", and forgetting to continue cutting the cake for everyone else to see.

It’s a GIRL!

Our sweet and wonderful missionary family sharing in on our excitement and miracle.

We have started on the nursery. We have a crib put together, we have a few other pieces of furniture. We are slowly finding things that we are liking for the decorations (I am trying to stay off of Hobby Lobby website, but boy oh boy, how I wish they would open a store here). We’ve bought some cute dresses and stuffed animals (Aaron’s favorite thing to buy). We are planning for both of our parents to come shortly before/after her birth. Things just keep progressing and moving forward…

Shopping at Ikea for our sweet baby! This is the chair that each photo has been taken in…except this one was part of the display.

Putting the crib together. One of the easiest pieces of IKEA furniture to ever put together!

In fact, last week, I was able to feel her first kick! I have been waiting for it. I was laying on the couch after dinner, watching some tv with Aaron, when I felt this little flutter…well, just a little more than a flutter! It took me a minute to realize, it was a kick. I shouted to Aaron, I am pretty sure I just felt a kick. What, he exclaimed…yep, a kick. It was another great, joyful and tear-filled moment. Really, one of the best feelings ever. I am looking forward to when she kicks more aggressively, that Aaron can feel it. He loves her so much already, and is going to be the best daddy!

Next Tuesday, we have our 2nd Trimester Ultrasound, where we will see our sweet baby’s organs and how she is progressing. It will be the first time, we get to see her, knowing she is a her! It is amazing to be able to watch her grow and progress from a little blob on the ultrasound screen, to a little blob with a head, to arms moving and legs kicking…to soon, being our sweet little Magnolia (Maggie) Joy, held in our arms.


Our Sweet Maggie.

Our Journey (so far)…in Photos!

As we started this journey, this specific IVF journey, we decided that along the way we would document important events with a photo.

So, today, I will share some photos, as well as a bit more of where we are in our journey.

Our First Visit to Gennet, Our Fertility Clinic was in April. We were unsure of a lot of things; about the facility, about the procedures, about the prices, about the doctors, about the steps…on and on I could go.

This photo shows a lot about what we were feeling…there is excitement, question, uncertainty. This journey, is a journey we are on together. It doesn’t just affect me, it affects us both, and this photo shows that.

After a month of going to the clinic for testing and check-ups, the time came for us to meet with our IVF Coordinator. So, last week we meet with our coordinator, and started the steps towards our IVF Procedure.

While there, we got our IVF plan.

Now, I am a very organized person…in fact, I LOVE ORGANIZATION! Take me to an office store, and I will want to buy everything there to make things nice and put where they should be.

In fact, on a recent ministry trip, Aaron snapped a photo of me before getting on the plane. I looked quite excited in the photo…do you want to know why I was so excited…I was so excited because of the folder in my hand. I had all of our travel documents and information in that folder…and I was so happy to have it all in one place and accessible, that I asked Aaron to take a photo of me with it! (True Story)

However, this plan that we got Karolina, was quite a bit more intense and very specific.

This is our IVF plan. It hangs on our refrigerator…mostly because, some of the medication is refrigerated, and it won’t get lost there! We have dates and days. I have medication to start and take (at the same time each day). I have medication to take now, some next week, and then more and more to be added. Every night at 8pm, Aaron gives me a shot. A SHOT! I set an alarm on my phone to go off at 8pm, so we won’t forget…and believe me, 8pm will sneak up on you. Today, we will add another shot, and he will give me 2 a night. He is so good to get it ready, sanitize the area and say, “I love you"…all right before he pushes the needle in…he doesn’t really like to see me in pain or hurt. Plus, have I ever mentioned...I don’t like shots!

Today, we also had a follow-up ultrasound, to see how the medication is working. I got a smile and an excited, “Things are looking good, and the medication is working well." Plus, that little right ovary that seems to hide…was nice and big because of all the follicules that were present!

Here is the Czech Republic. We have learned to celebrate little victories…whether, it is having a full conversation in Czech, getting the right food at a restaurant…or in my case today, having 7 follicules!

Now, you might think…what is the big deal, you got a Dr. Pepper and a bag of Doritos…well you see, you can’t just go get these at any store. You have to go to a special import store…that happens to be on our way home…so, celebrate we did! We also won’t talk about how much they cost…because we are celebrating!

Towards the middle to end of the month, we will have a few procedures to have the actual IVF. For the most part, the plan is in place, however the dates are “in the air" depending on how my body responds.

We would love to ask for your prayers.

Please pray for my body continues to respond to the medication in the way that it needs to.
Please pray for me. as well as Aaron, as my body and mind become a little crazy from the medication.
Please pray for the doctor to be guided each step of the way.
Please pray that God will bless us in the end, with a positive result.
Please pray with us, as we are "Holding onto Hope and Anticipating Joy!"