Our baby girl is HERE!
World, meet Sutton Rae Schulz. This little bundle of joy graced us with her presence a little earlier than expected, joining us 6.15.22 at 8:15am. I’ve been staring at this blog post for weeks now, trying to put words to how much we love her, how crazy this adventure has been, and still processing her birth story. And… what better way to process it all by writing about it!
This pregnancy has not been an easy one but man, was it worth it to have this little one in our arms.
Our Pregnancy Journey
My early pregnancy was pretty nice – no morning sickness… just SO DANG TIRED. But, other than that, I was smooth sailing this pregnancy ride and so excited for our little one to make her way into the world. We absolutely LOVED sharing the news with our family and friends – and were lucky enough to capture reactions on camera.
We threw a gender reveal party and to my complete surprise, found out we were expecting a little girl, which has been my dream since I was a little girl!
At our 20-week ultrasound – what is supposed to be one of the more exciting ultrasounds you have during pregnancy – we found out that Sutton’s umbilical cord had one artery instead of the normal two. This condition called SUA (Single Umbilical Artery) can be isolated, or can be connected with other congenital anomalies.
During this ultrasound, they also put a few red flags on baby girl’s heart due to the SUA diagnosis to watch further during my pregnancy. SUA babies are also typically on the smaller side for growth, so from this point on, we were going in for monthly ultrasounds to track growth.
We had a fetal echo around 24 weeks with similar results (aka, no real answers) and another one at 32 weeks. While all of the doctors and sonographers were seeing the same “flags” for the heart, nothing was definitive.
We sat helpless for weeks just praying that once she was here, we’d be able to tackle whatever comes our way as a family. The plan was to do another fetal echo once she joined us within her first 24 hours of life.
During this time, it was extremely hard on my mental health to try to stay positive. Constant worry about what’s going on with our girl. I tried to focus on things that we could control, like creating a sweet nursery space for our little love for when she would finally join us. But, Anthony was a ROCK for me during the really hard days… so thankful for him as a partner.
Fast forward to 33 weeks, when another diagnosis came into play. I was diagnosed with cholestasis, a liver condition that typically occurs in late (third trimester) pregnancies. It started out with one day of itchy palms & feet, and then the next day I experienced similar symptoms. I went in for blood work and was diagnosed after a quick trip to the hospital.
Luckily, after being put on some medication to help with my levels, the itchiness subsided and my levels were back to a more manageable level to keep Sutton cooking for a little longer.
With the cholestasis diagnosis, it was almost inevitable that we’d be induced between 36-38 weeks depending on where my levels were each week. This diagnosis also added on twice weekly BPP ultrasounds (biophysical profiles) and weekly blood draws on top of my normal OB visits. The last 2 months of my pregnancy I felt like I was at the doctor at least once a day!
We were sitting on the couch on Tuesday, June 14 when I felt a pop in my stomach. It was the weirdest sensation EVER, so I stood up to use the restroom. When I stood up – I knew my water had broken. I was 36 weeks + 1 day pregnant… exactly ONE week from our scheduled induction date. This little lady has gets her patience from me (or lack thereof) and was ready to join the world!
We headed to the hospital and got settled in. Thank goodness I packed my hospital bag way in advance being the type A planner I am.
The crazy part of this story is… we had a few other friends that were pregnant and due within months of one another. One of them being our best friends Morgan + Dillon, who met the same way Anthony and I did (being neighbors post-college). Morgan + Dillon were due one month before us, and had an induction date scheduled for… yep, you guessed it, Tuesday, June 14th in the evening.
So after we checked in, we heard them walking down the hallway and later that night texted them that we were there too. It was a crazy coincidence! Their sweet baby boy, Beckett Steven Benz, was born on June 16 at 12:15am. We even got to be right across the hallway from one another in the mother baby unit since we delivered at the same hospital! Such a special memory we will never forget.
On top of that, we had friends who gave birth to TWIN baby boys just 5 hours before Sutton was born. Within 22 hours, our friend group brought 4 new little besties into the world! We are so excited to see them all grow up together.
Back to the labor story…
I wasn’t dilated, so was given some medication to help that process along. They told us to buckle up for 48 hours before the baby was born – being as though it was our first – so we did.
My contractions began around 11pm. Around 3am, I was 3cm and they gave me some medication for sleeping. I was luckily able to sleep from about 3-6am, and then the contractions started getting harder and closer together.
When the nurses were doing their shift change at 7am, I told them I felt I could start pushing and they checked me again – it was time to do this thing and have our baby!
With no time for an epidural due to how far along I was, we did things the old fashioned way… no drugs. The best part was when the on call doctor walked in, he said “oh, there’s the head!”, like it was just another day in the office. I was laughing so hard!
Luckily, with 20 minutes of active pushing, Sutton was here. Anthony tried texting our moms as it was happening, but he sent the “she’s coming text” at 8:02 and by 8:15 had to reply “she’s here”. My mom laughs to this day saying she was just out for a nice walk with the dogs and came home with the surprise text that she was a grandma!
5lbs, 11oz, little precious girl. We got to enjoy about an hour with her before her oxygen levels dipped and they wanted to take her down to the NICU to be monitored.
First Days with Baby Girl
When they took Sutton to the NICU, we honestly didn’t know what to expect – but we didn’t think we would be there for very long. Being as though she was only 1 week earlier than we thought, we figured she was just needing a little extra support to figure out the life outside of the womb.
She was off of the breathing support after 24 hours and her levels were all fine and dandy! But, she was having issues with feeding. She would get too tired to take in the amounts she needed to grow big and strong!
We were discharged from the hospital after 48 hours and I’ll say leaving the hospital to go home without your baby is a pain I don’t wish upon anyone, ever. We went home to freshen up and get a good nights sleep, but I had major mom guilt not being in the NICU at all times with her.
I spent the next 11 days in the NICU from sunrise to sunset, typically 10 hours each day. I wanted to be there to watch the nurses help care for our girl, listen to their guidance and tips, hear from the doctors, and make sure that Sutton was getting all the love she could even while she was hooked up to what seemed like 10 different cords.
These were longggg and tough days. I connected on social media with a few other NICU mamas who gave me so much strength and reassurance. Our families did everything they could to help – helping with our doggies, bringing over dinner, cleaning our house etc. When I wasn’t at the hospital, we had a livestream of Sutton in the NICU on the iPad at all times.
I had to remind myself to also take care of myself and rest up because she would be home with us before we knew it.
The nurses were SO KIND and sometimes would add little notes for us to see over the camera.
During her NICU stay, they did another echo on her heart & saw a few things (basically again, no answers) and we will follow-up with a cardiologist in the fall to see what the next steps will be in monitoring.
Her feedings were tough. Her body was so little & she was so tired all the time. They compared it to running a marathon each time she ate! But after some luck with a OT, a change in bottle type/nipple sizes, we made progress.
Over 48 hours after finding the right bottle, she was taking in what she needed & we were one step closer to going home.
After she fed the amounts needed for 24 hours, they took out her feeder/grower tube. I will never forget when we went in the next morning because we knew we’d get to take her home that day! And, it was the first day we’d be able to see our baby’s face without a tube up her nose.
Once we were discharged and had Sutton all snug in her carseat ready to head home, there were a lot of tears in our car (and, not from her… haha). We were so grateful after all the worry during the last few months of my pregnancy, and the first few weeks of her life, to be bringing home our little bundle of joy!
Day one of being home she got to meet her Grandma + Grandpa Hutsell & Nona Schulz. They had been dying to meet her – because the NICU had really strict visitor policies they weren’t able to meet her until she came home. And, she finally got to meet her bestie Beckett!
Life as Mom & Dad
Now, we’re almost 3 months into loving on our sweet girl. I’m finally back in the swing of things at work, as is Anthony. We’re lucky enough to have family helping us with childcare for year one – for which we are so thankful for. We’re into a routine and she’s almost giving us 6-7 hours a night consistently of sleep, which is amazing!
We’re so in love with you, Sutton Rae, and can’t wait to continue to watch you grow. Being your mom is my favorite thing in the world.