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Gwendolyn Becomes a Big Sister

January 20, 2014 by Victoria Strong

Welcome to the world
Eleanora Tanzey Strong
January 19, 2014 * 7:13 pm * 5 pounds 11 ounces * 18 inches

Bill and Gwendolyn just left the hospital and the last 24 hours have been magical. We are all filled with such gratitude and love for our new family of four. As I sit here and gaze at our new little girl, it all seems so surreal. Perhaps because there was a time when Bill and I weren't sure we would ever choose to expand our family -- because of all we have faced with SMA, because of fear, because of the practical reality of juggling more than we already do. And I'm certain when Gwendolyn was diagnosed neither of us believed we'd get to watch her become a big sister -- a loving and very proud big sister. Surreal definitely. In fact, my entire pregnancy felt like a whirlwind. It went quickly. It was easy. I found myself savoring all the little things about it and often in disbelief that it was really happening. And then suddenly we were having a baby!

All along I had a feeling Eleanora would arrive early, but her birthday nearly 3 weeks early definitely came as a surprise. I had a doctor's appointment on Friday which Gwendolyn got to go to. She loved going to my appointments, seeing the baby's picture, hearing the heartbeat, and being the official photographer. On Friday there was literally nothing to report. So while Gwendolyn was a week early and I know so many second babies who come earlier than their due date, I was having no signs of imminent labor and was starting to think my mother's intuition was off.

We have been shifting rooms around, having little construction projects throughout our house, and doing massive clean out to gear up and make space for a new person in our home. To be honest a lot of our focus has been on getting Gwendolyn ready and adjusted. She's been Queen Bee for a long time so we tried to make her feel that things like a new big girl bedroom (which was totally practical and necessary) were her decisions to give her more control. Gwendolyn now has a brand new bedroom (our old room), a proper big girl space with a big bed and all new decorations (will share pictures soon). Eleanora is taking Gwendolyn's old room, but we, of course, had to redecorate for her too smile. So, our plans for the three day weekend were to get the house finished to be fully ready before the due date. We had closets to move and reorganize, art to hang up, tiny baby clothes to wash and put away, etc. etc. etc.

I woke up Sunday morning with contractions but really didn't think it was anything serious. I felt her shift into place but knew that could still mean weeks. The contractions definitely increased as the day went on and they also lit an organizing fire under both Bill and me. It felt like we did more in a few hours than we had in weeks. My friend, Megan Sorel, offered to take photos of us and so we planned to meet her at the beach that day around 4:00. I had previously felt shy about maternity photos but everything fell into place with Megan and so now, even with contractions, I was determined that I have photos of Gwendolyn with me pregnant. By this time contractions were definitely real but I was in denial and kept telling myself (while trying to downplay them to Bill) that we still had hours. I will say Bill was entirely against the idea of taking Gwendolyn down to the beach for some photos mid-labor. His judgement was probably right. When we got to the beach I could hardly stand but since we were already there... well, we might as well, right? The great thing was this created a really magical moment for us. Gwendolyn was so into being at the beach, holding my belly, and taking photos that without really knowing it we were able to capture our final moments as a little family of three right as we were becoming a family of four! Pretty soon I realized that we needed to get home, get Gwendolyn's treatment done, notify our awesome team of nurses that it was "Go Time," and actually go to the hospital. We left Gwendolyn glowing from her fun outing to the beach, tucked in for the night into her new big girl bed, and thrilled to be having a movie slumber party with Evelyn. 

When we got to the hospital it was all very fast and very intense. Eleanora was born just about an hour after we arrived. She was actually delivered by the incredible nurses (and Bill) since there wasn't enough time for our doctor to get there. And no time for an epidural either -- although I was very ready for one by that point. Oh yes, we definitely cut things close... well, I did. But it really did work out perfectly. And I felt great afterwards. We knew Gwendolyn was happy and in good hands. We'd had a great day together as a family. I kept myself busy all day so even though I labored in the midst of projects, it made the whole thing go by quickly. A fast delivery is definitely the way to go. Maybe allow a bit more than an hour, especially when you love your doctor smile

Bill went home bright and early so he could tell Gwendolyn the good news, do her morning breathing treatment and get her ready to come meet her sister. And Gwendolyn was ready! She was such a proud big sister as she came through the hospital door, a little nervous, but eager and up for any task we offered. She checked Eleanora out thoroughly, held her hand, tickled her feet, changed her diaper, learned how to swaddle, giggled at Eleanora's little sounds, and soon wanted to snuggle in bed with her. Gwendolyn truly is the baby whisperer -- they always fall fast asleep in her arms -- and Eleanora did just that. Bill and I are still basking in that proud parent glow as we looked on at our two little girls. It already feels that we have always been four and at the end of the day Gwendolyn said meeting her little sister was, "The BEST day ever!"

Thank you for your love and support on this journey. Our hearts are full and we are all very, very happy. 

PS -- Many have said the girls look alike. What do you think?

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