Where to begin. Jon is the most amazing man I have ever known, the most incredible husband, and the perfect daddy!
Before we got married we talked about the future and knew that would include children, we both wanted a girl. Jon just wanted a little daddy's girl and I wanted someone to dress up and talk with! I told him I liked the name Ella, he liked it too. When we found out we were expecting in our 2nd year of marriage, Jon was ecstatic. I mean running through the house grinning from ear to ear! He was destined to be a daddy!
When I began to get very sick, Jon was the one with the strength to press on toward the prize. He was the one who gave me the strength to give Ella what she needed to survive. Jon is the one who prayed fervently for me and our unborn child.
As we set in the hospital during my entire 1st trimester, we discussed baby names. We had lots of time to try to come up with the name that would fit. Though we didn't know if we were having a boy or girl yet, we decided to just pick out a name for both so that the instant we knew the gender we could call our baby by name! I started second guessing the name Ella, I loved it, just didn't know anyone with that name so I thought people might not like it. Jon never wavered, if it was a girl her name would be Ella! I agreed, it would be perfect.
At 21 weeks we set in the ultrasound room awaiting our 4th ultrasound, this one was to reveal the long awaited answer to the question we had wondered since day one! Both of us prepared for a boy or a girl and excited yet hoping secretly for a girl. When we heard the news that we were the proud parents of a girl Jon was so cute! A great BIG smile, we would be having our sweet baby girl, her name would be Ella Dawn. We basked in the Joy that that day brought and continued our life. Jon headed out to work the next day and I laid in my normal spot on the couch about to prepare for the long day of vomiting and weakness, but this day would be different. This day I would start writing in Ella's journal since I was finally well enough to write for short amounts of time and since I knew she was a girl. I would talk to her and call her by name.
I opened her journal and wrote the verse about being fearfully and wonderfully made, since that was what I wanted my little girl to know. As soon as I finished the verse my phone rang, it was a nurse I heard some words about possible problem with Ella's heart and the rest was mostly a blur. I eventually was able to ask her to repeat what she had said. She couldn't tell me much, only that I had an appointment in 10 (LONG DAYS) with a perinatal specialist for an echo cardiogram. I hung up and couldn't breath. I needed to talk to Jon, he was the one person that I needed to hear his voice. I called him as he was hard at work and I couldn't speak, being the man that he is he was patient and concerned. I told him all that I knew, he offered to come home, I told him I would be okay. Somehow as I crumpled to my knees in the back yard, Jon managed to find the strength to continue working and finish out his day. He finds strength when it seems impossible. Jon never has missed one doctor appointment, even to this day.
10 days later we set in yet another hospital, waiting on our echo, the mood wasn't too heavy but was certainly not light. Jon was holding my hand and kept telling me we would be okay. The nurse did the scan and every question that we asked was met with " I really can't say anything, you'll have to ask the doctor". The doctor came in and gave us the news that our Ella had something called hypoplastic left heart syndrome and that she would need a series of three open heart surgeries and had about a 75% chance of survival. We were both in shock. I began to feel hot tears sliding down my face to my ears as I was still laying on the examining table. It was then that the doctor told us that we had "options" and that "some people would choose not to continue the pregnancy" I felt sick. I couldn't speak. I felt more tears as I shook my head no. Jon spoke the words I couldn't find. He said "NO, that's not an option for us". He had tears for his sweet unborn daughter, his dream come true. We felt so afraid. They told us they were going to move us to another room so that we could stay as long as we needed. Jon held me as I cried. He is a rock even when he is hurting. My mom gathered information from the nurses for us to read over what all of this meant. As we read we began to feel the reality of what this meant. Our baby had only half a heart.
Over the next two weeks we began to discuss the options of c-section verses natural birth and the pros and cons for Ella in the situation. We decided we wanted to try natural birth as long as she would be safe. We went back 2 weeks later for our next check up. I struggled, Jon stayed calm and assured me it would be okay, he helped me walk in to the hospital. This time we met with the pediatric cardiologist. They did another echo and then rather abruptly told us that there was another problem. The half a heart that she had, hadn't developed properly. We were faced with a whole new array of hurtles to jump. Ella would need to be delivered via c-section to survive and would have immediate surgery. We wouldn't get to hold her and we would have to go out of state, Dallas or possibly Boston. Then he told us that she only had about a 20% chance to survive. I melted into a puddle of tears. Jon, knowing that I was completely unable to hear what else the doctor was saying, managed to hold back the emotion enough to listen for me. He told me later that he knew he had to listen for me so he just kept focusing. How he found the strength to do that is a mystery to me and something I am so incredibly thankful for.
For the remainder of my pregnancy Jon remained steady and was the best daddy he could possibly be to his baby girl. One day in particular I was really struggling, he had gone to the grocery store to do the shopping (he did most all the shopping my entire pregnancy!!!) and he came home with two little soft fuzzy pastel pink and white outfits for Ella. It was our first purchase for our little baby, I hadn't physically felt good enough to shop and emotionally didn't know if I should. When Jon came in beaming with his purchase I saw so much love in his eyes.
The night before Ella was born, Jon and I set up a video camera in our Ronald McDonald charity house room, and we told her, her whole story. We told her that we were afraid and told her how much we loved her. We told her that we trusted God with her and prayed over her. We both shed many tears that night, and at the same time we were SO excited to finally meet our sunshine!
August 9th 2010 at 3:23pm, our Ella came into this world via c-section to a room FULL of medical staff. She weighed 7lbs. 4oz and was 19 3/4 inches long (although we didn't get that information until she was well over 2 months) Most people would say that was the moment Jon became a daddy, but he was already an old pro by that time. He had been a daddy for 39 long weeks already. They broke the rules and held her up over the c-section curtain so that we could touch her hands before they rushed her away on a ventilator to the children's hospital. Jon was the first one of us to touch her, he reached up and touched her right hand and then I reached up and touched her left. She turned blue and quite crying, the doctor had to take her away. Jon had tears running down his face as we looked at each other with smiles and fear. He kissed me and asked me if I would be okay, I said yes, just go. He rushed out to follow Ella and her team as I got sewed up. He sat by her surgery door for 7 hours as we waited. He came to see me and told me that she looked like me as a baby. He told me that she was just beautiful and that he would take good care of her. He kept that promise as he stood by her bed the entire night. He practically stood there every moment for the next several days. He helped give her her first bath, he got her first foot prints, he signed all the medical releases, he asked all the questions and watched all the monitors. He was and is SUPER dad! I have never known a dad to be so involved in a baby's care. Even though Ella had her very own nurse and sometimes she had two, he would not leave her, I can never thank him enough for being with her when I couldn't.
Then when Ella was 2 days old they told us that one of us could hold her for a while. Jon gave me the privilege of being the first to hold her, truly an amazing moment! The next day Jon got his turn to hold our precious sunshine for the first time. She was wide awake for the first time and just stared into our eyes, oh how she loved her daddy!! To this day she just looks at her daddy different than anyone else, they have a bond that is special. He cried and really felt like a daddy for the first time! By that time I had discharged myself from the hospital and was staying with Ella and Jon in her hospital room. I was in EXTREME pain, still so weak from the pregnancy, and I was pumping every 3 hours while sleeping in a hard leather chair with wooden arms. Jon would wake me every three hours and help me pump, he kept track of my pain medication, he would get up at 3 or 4 am when they would come in to take her daily x-rays and he would cover me with one of there lead shields so I could sleep and he would step out and then he would examine the x-ray himself before the tech would take it away.
As they took Ella to have her first open heart surgery when she was 1 week old, he cried and held me. Ella brings out more emotion in him then I have ever seen in our entire 6 years together. We waited for an update, and it didn't come, He was worried. When we finally got a call, an hour after we were due for an update, they told us that somebody was going to bring us to the consultation room and the surgeon was going to come and talk to us. We knew something was wrong, the surgery was supposed to last several more hours. We waited to hear and Jon was more worried then I had ever seen him. We thought we were going to lose her. We prayed together. The surgeon told us that things hadn't gone as planed and that he had ended up doing an experimental surgery that he had never tried before. Her lungs were too sick, he told us this should buy us some time and that we needed to start the transplant route. He also told us that she had crashed on the way to the operating room and that if they hadn't have done the surgery right when they did she may have died (talk about God's timing!) he also informed us that he wasn't sure, but her gut may be dying, that had just happened recently to one of his other patients. I asked him what would happen if her gut died, he said "she would die".
Well at 2 weeks old they told us that her lungs had healed a significant amount (by God's grace) and they wanted to try the surgery again instead of the transplant. It was a success! I can honestly say that without Jon's sacrificial care for Ella, there is no way she would have thrived as well as she has. Jon began to work with her on sucking a pacifier so that she wouldn't lose the ability to suck, because of his work Ella was only on a feeding tube for about 3 weeks. Jon was present at nearly every doctor and surgeon round. Up to 3 times a day, He only left her room for the bathroom or shower, or a quick bite to eat down the hall.
Jon got to take his little girl out of the hospital for the first time when she was exactly 1 month old. As Jon drove we got honked at 2 or 3 different times he was going to slow for the people in a hurry. This is funny because he is always speeding, but he had his little girl in the car for the first time and this time was different. I find it so adorable that he was nervous to drive her. He got us settled in at the Ronald McDonald house and was off for his first diaper run. He has been an amazing dad everyday. Since then we have had to watch her go through another open heart surgery and still have one to face, but Jon is a continual source of strength, for us both. Ella so very dearly loves her daddy!
Jon has gotten up with Ella every single night with me during her night feeds, and when I quit pumping, he got up and fed her so that I could rest and recover. He still gets up with her in the night when she needs a drink. I told him that I felt bad that he got up all the time and told him I felt like I should do it especially because he works SO hard all day. He told me he liked doing it because he doesn't get to see her all day like I do. Isn't that the sweetest thing ever!! What dad chooses to lose sleep just because he gets a chance to spend time with his baby girl? As I have been writing this he has been playing with Ella, feeding her, coloring in her princess coloring book and helping her "baby green" go down the slide. If it was possible to express fully the amount of amazingness (yes I did just make up that word) that he is as a father, I would, but it's just not possible to put into words. Every morning and after every nap Ella wakes up calling for "daaaaaddyyyy" I go to get her and she asks for daddy, I tell her he's at work. Every evening when he comes home she hears the keys in the door and she gets SO excited and yells "Daddy HOME! Daddy HOME!!" From the time he walks in the door until the time she goes to sleep she is his shadow. Honestly I can't think of anyone I would rather her look up to. If she turns out like her daddy I will be so proud! Jon is our hero, Ella will someday be able to better understand just how much he loves her, but I think the way she looks at him and follows him all around says it all!
Jon, Thank you for who you are as a husband and as a father, we are so blessed to have you. You have saved us both countless times. I feel so much of God's love as a father through you! Thank you for you constant sacrificial love a devotion to our family. We love you more then words! Happy Father's Day to the most amazing daddy in the whole world!