Thursday, December 2, 2010

Warning: 9 Months Wrapped Up in a Single Blog

I did it. I survived. And it has been one of the greatest moments in my life and my most amazing accomplishment! I lived through my biggest fear; childbirth. My beautiful daughter, Nyellie Addison Runyan was born September 20, 2010 in Kiev, Ukraine.

Adam and I discovered I was pregnant mid January. It was exciting and terrifying. We had no plans to get pregnant while living in Ukraine and while living so far from family. Our start to the New Year was confronted with making difficult decisions, such as if we should stay in Kiev, move back to the USA, renew a work contract or stay home, and how to share the big news with family.

I had no idea what to expect as I announced my pregnancy to my family. We took a picture of our positive Ukrainian pregnancy test (which we had to learn how to ask for at the pharmacy) and emailed it to family. We called them on Skype and witnessed the reactions to the news as they opened the emails. Mary Lou, Adam's mom, had the best reaction. She has looked forward to a grandbaby since January 2, 2004, when we got married. Her smile stretched ear to ear and she wiggled in her seat as she giggled excitedly and nearly uncontrollably. Then, she would pause for a moment, look at the picture and again start laughing, squealing with delight and shaking. This repeated for the duration of our phone call.

Next we called Kim, my sister. My mom and dad were staying at her home, so we were able to share the news with them all. They gathered around the computer. When the email opened and the picture was revealed my dad asked, "Is this a joke?" Then Kim responded, "Kris wouldn't joke about this." At which my dad then replied, "Well, I better start working on a fishing rod!" Kim and my dad were very excited. However my mom was overtaken by sadness. She longed to be near me to give me a hug and walk through the pregnancy process with me. The distance was just too much for her to think about. Her sadness was soon replaced with joy and anticipation.

The conversations to follow would include my dad asking, "So how is my girl doing?" I would respond and he would snap at me, "I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to my granddaughter!" I loved hearing and seeing my father's excitement and joy in becoming a grandfather. When he and my mom bought a new home, he had it marked out where to build Nyellie's playground. When shopping at pawn shops and garage sales (which is one of my dad's hobbies), normally he would look for things to buy, fix up and sell. Now he is coming home with harmonica playing Mickey Mouse dolls, strollers, and other items for his little granddaughter. She's already captured his heart, and he hasn't even met her yet.... that is, face to face.

I will miss those crazy, vivid pregnancy dreams. Every night I would go to bed excited about what type of adventure I would go on. They were all so detailed and felt so real. I can remember Shere Khan from the Jungle Book chasing me in a village and in a swimming pool. And in another dream I found out my Papa and Granny were Jewish and I found my Papa's hair pin for his Yamika. It was really fancy and worth a lot of money. I wrote my mom the next day asking, "So, did you know Papa was Jewish?" Another dream had me running house to house coloring the floors with colored pencils. However, my favorite dream was when I was running with friends up a hill. I was running slow because I was pregnant. I decided to flap my arms and fly instead. My belly was too big that it weighed me down and bounced on the ground. I woke up laughing. Oh, yes, I will miss those crazy prego dreams!

I found great health care at American Medical Center in Kiev, and ISIDA Hospital. I have nothing else to compare it to as far as pregnancy and birthing care goes, but I felt well cared for. The greatest challenge I would meet would be communication with nurses at ISIDA. The doctors spoke English, but nurses did not. I had a practice run at ISIDA before the actual birth date, when I ate a nut that caused an allergic reaction so sever it threw my body into shock and put me in preterm labor. ISIDA stopped early labor, but it was a scary and overwhelming first experience at the hospital. No one spoke English and I refused to take pills or undergo medical treatment without knowing what it was and why it was being done. This made it very difficult since the nurses could not answer my questions and communicate issues. At first, they refused to let Adam stay in the rooms with me. This was due to the fact that men here do not take part in the pregnancy or delivery of the baby, so it was odd and quite culturally different for Adam to care to stay.

Traditionally men stay at home while the wife goes to the hospital, gives birth, and stays a few days in the hospital. It is not until the wife is released from the hospital that the husband goes and picks up the wife and baby, usually accompanied by the whole extended family and friends, balloons, and presents. The wife puts herself together, putting on make up, high heals and a tight little dress for her grand departure from the hospital. The fact that Ukrainian women can walk out of the hospital in high heals and a smile just days after giving birth made me much more comfortable with the thought of childbirth. It couldn't be as bad as I had imagined it to be.

Some Ukrainians are very cautious, overly careful, and very superstitious; that is, until it comes to smoking, spreading germs, and hygiene. For instance sitting on concrete will freeze your ovaries (I proved that one wrong), it is bad luck to shop for the baby before it is born, and it is bad luck to say that someone's newborn is cute or beautiful.

I was small but healthy throughout my pregnancy, and so was Nyellie. But, due to her small size every time I would go in for a check up nurses would freak out that she was so small. They would speak in Russian with concerned expressions on their faces that would send me into a panic. Eventually I learned that this is the way of traditional Ukrainian health care. They panic and give you the worst case scenarios then quickly follow up with, "But you are fine. You are healthy." I learned to ignore their first reactions and concerns and only listen to my doctor, not the nurses or other healthcare professionals.

I would also have to fight for what I wanted and thought was right. I really had to take my healthcare into my own hands and be very assertive. During the nut allergy they wanted to keep me in the hospital for several days. Each day I would ask to go home and they would say tomorrow I could go. Then the next day I would ask to go home and they would want me to stay another night. In The States, they would have stopped my contractions watched me for a couple hours after and then send me home, no overnight stay. Every time I went in for a check up, I knew they would want me to stay overnight for some reason. When my mom was in town and I had a minor sickness, I told my mom, "Watch, they will want me to stay overnight." And, they did. I just had to stay firm.

I was grateful Mary Lou and my mom were able to come during the final days of my pregancy. Mary Lou is a delivery nurse in New Mexico and made me feel much more comfortable having her with me during my delivery. Mary Lou stayed 3 weeks and my mom stayed 5 weeks. They both took such great care of Nyellie and me. I know that because of them, I got a better start at motherhood. And, thanks to them bringing me meals everyday to the hospital after Nyellie's birth I did not have to eat ground liver, sour milk or cold fish for breakfast. This caused a frenzy with the nursing staff. After two days in the hospital, they asked me why I have not been eating. As we were all enjoying stuffed bell peppers when they asked this question, I apologized for not letting them know food was not necessary because family was feeding me. I felt bad wasting, but, well, if you saw it you'd understand. Then the hospital administrator saw the stuffed bell peppers and said with all seriousness and concern, "You are forbidden to eat anything spicy!" Thanks again for the great food grandmas!

Childbirth was not nearly as bad as I had made it up to be in my head. It was not a walk in the park by any means, but somehow God gives us the ability to turn inside out, get hit by a bus, stand up and walk immediately after, and then gives us amnesia so we will do it all over again someday. Thank you God for giving us birth amnesia, so all we focus on is the joy and gift produced during the childbirth experience. I do remember craving candy (which I never eat), everything smelling like fish and cheap plastic, and my doctor telling me. "Kristen, you are like machine, push slower". But my most memorable moment was the first time I was able to meet my daughter. The doctor immediately placed Nyellie on my chest, we caught each others eyes, and words cannot express the intense emotions in that moment.

Overall I had a great and healthy pregnancy experience. I am happy to say that so far the distance from family has not been too painful, as I was able to spend two months in the summer in the USA, then my mom and Mary Lou came for the birth, and now it is time to pack the bags and spend another month in the USA with family. I can't wait for December 25th! Last year Santa brought my parents to me in Europe. This year Santa is bringing Nyellie to my parents. I am so thrilled to have three generations in my family again. Nyellie has been born into an incredible family. Welcome to the world my precious and beautiful little girl!


kimslanovich said...

What an experience! it's great to relive everything through your post. I wish I could have been there for her birth. I can't wait to meet her! I am getting the best gift of all this Christmas, I get to see you and Nyellie!

Aaron and Izzie said...

What a beautiful post and a beautiful family! So excited for you, have safe travels!!

Todd and Erin said...

What an amazing story! I'm so glad you shared it. God is so good and miraculous!!!