It won’t be possible to recount all the events for Kadence’s birth, but I want to remember as much as possible because it was a great testimony of the Lord’s provisions every step of the way.
So if you’re interested in reading further, I’d recommend getting comfortable. I’m about to get loquacious.
God in the Beginning
The Lord laid a lot of the groundwork to becoming a father long before the big day. Honestly, I was never sure if I could be a dad. I never felt that I connected well with kids.
Shortly after being married to Jennilyn, people stopped asking the question if I was excited about being married. They began asking when we were going to have kids. It dawned on me that someday, I would be a dad. Thankfully, I was having an easier time around kids at that point because many of Jennilyn’s friends have kids (and some, lots of them). I was more than familiar with being surrounded by kids— I actually enjoyed it. And then there’s the fact that they are fun photography subjects who aren’t camera-shy.
Jennilyn and I had planned on starting our family two years after we were married. Just enough time to get a few adventures in, grow in love and respect with each another, and strengthen our faith in the Lord. Kadence was conceived a few months short of our two-year anniversary, but without any regrets.
The baby announcement was a surprise to me. But Jennilyn had asked me if I would be angry if we were pregnant earlier than planned the week prior the announcement. I reassured her that it would be in the Lord’s timing and the best thing for us. I also knew from watching movies that any man with half a brain should be quick to share in the excitement and hide the anxiety for later.
The day after finding out Jenni was pregnant, my boss’ boss, Rick, initiated small talk, “What’s new with you?”
“Not a whole lot,” I lied with a smirk. We were not going to tell anyone yet, at least not until our immediate family found out first.
Building a Solid Foundation
In the church bulletin the Sunday after I found out, I saw that Beaverton Foursquare Church was starting a fatherhood ministry. It didn’t take much for me consider attending. It was great that God had given me an opportunity to learn from fathers before becoming one. I learned a lot from their experiences— especially Pastor Mark.
One bible passage from the fatherhood sessions was:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Sons are a heritage from the Lord,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are songs born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in
Psalm 127, NIV translation
I’m glad to have had that advice from the Lord. I hope to build the life of our family on the rock of Jesus Christ.
Jennilyn had been wise in seeking counsel too. She has a wonderful friend in Montana, Rachel Jones, who is the mother of four and a doula. Jenni and Rachel chat often and received insights from Rachel’s experience. God used her later in our pregnancy as well.
We signed up for a “First-Time Parent” class series in our church during May. They blessed us with four weeks of Godly advice and lots of books. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read in “Sheparding a Child’s Heart” so far, and hope to finish it soon.
The series had a nurse come in and teach us how to change diapers, give our baby a bath, swaddle a baby, and more. We met our pediatrician there too, he gave a great talk and hosted a question-and-answer session one night of the series.
The biggest memory for me of the class was at the end. Pastor Bob Potter had given the tour of our church’s nursery and children ministry, and we paused a moment for his final words. I don’t cry easily, but listening to him tearing up as he described the love he has for his children, I had to fight hard to hold back tears. I hope that I will love my children as much as he does his.
Jenni also signed us up for a natural childbirth class, specifically called “The Bradley Method.” I was a bit skeptical at first, but in hindsight, it was the best thing to prepare us for an unmedicated labor and birth. It was taught at our teacher’s home, with seven couples nearing their due dates. Our instructor, Linda Dare, was energetic and very well informed.
The Bradley Method uses relaxation to cope with labor pains rather than drugs. Much of the material I learned in the class was an eye-opener to me. There was an enormous amount of information to take in, but it gave us the power to make educated decisions for pregnancy and birth.
We also benefited from learning from other couples. Two of the couples in our class had their babies before the eight-week-turned-nine-week series ended. They came in the last class to share their newborn and birth experience. We look forward to the reunion party later with all the children later on.
I thank God for the class because its focus was almost more for the husband than the wife. It gave husbands an active role in the birth. The husband was the coach, being the one who was constantly attending to the laboring wife’s needs and comforting her. I learned what went on at each the stage of labor, pain-management methods to encourage, setting up a birth plan, and labor scenarios.
Oh yeah, watching birth videos was extremely beneficial. Seeing what a birth would be like was essential for me to know what to do and what to expect. Then again, seeing it live was nothing like seeing it on video.
The Winning Ticket
The company I work for, Vernier, has a summer fitness challenge for eight weeks to encourage employees to stay healthy. Each employee that attains the yearly goal is eligible for prizes, including two grand prizes of a free round-trip airplane ticket to anywhere in the continental U.S.
At the start of the fitness challenge, I had an odd thought that perhaps I would win this year since I won’t be interested in traveling when Jenni would be eight months pregnant by the end of summer. After all, where would I want to go when I’ve got a newborn at home?
As our due date got closer, Jenni started to wish that her doula friend, Rachel, could be at our birth to help out. When I joked about winning the summer fitness challenge prize to help absorb the cost of flying her to Portland, she immediately prayed to God that I would win.
And I won. It was one of those blessings that I looked up to the sky and smiled, “Thanks God.”
And followed with, “Ok, now what?”
Calling in Backup
Rachel had her own baby in April. And had three young sons. And we have a one-bedroom apartment. But we felt that having Rachel with us would be a huge blessing and she came to Portland using the ticket God provided. Rachel and Naomi, her daughter, came two weeks earlier than Jenni’s due date because we started to think Jenni would have the baby sooner. She ended up visiting with us for over two weeks. Thanks to her husband and sons for letting us keep her for so long.
Having Rachel with us was great. I hadn’t had the chance to get acquainted with her much, even though we visited her in June. I knew her mostly from the conversations I’ve had with Jenni. Now, I can say that she is fun person with a nerdy wit.
Best of all, her six-month old Naomi gave us an opportunity to see and experience what it was like to have a child around twenty-four seven. We had it easy really, Naomi was a sweet gal with a charming smile that greeted me in the morning.
I learned a little about what kind of attention a baby needed, hands-on training by changing a few diapers, packing a day-trip with a baby, and scheduling around nap times. I’m sure Jenni learned a whole lot more since I was at work most of her visit.
Going Past 40
While we learned that most first-time mothers go past their due date (which is an estimation based on when the child was probably conceived), almost everyone expected Jennilyn to go into labor sooner than her September 24th due date— just like almost everyone expected us to have a son.
After going out dancing in week 37, Jennilyn felt the baby drop into her pelvis and could barely walk due to Braxton-Hicks contractions. There were occasions where we’d go grocery shopping at WinCo, her contractions would set in mid-errand, and I’d have to leave Jenni behind while I finished shopping. Then I’d get through the cashier line, packed up the car, and drove up to the exit to pick her up.
When we got home, I’d bring up all the groceries before slowly walking with her for 15 minutes up to our apartment. Later on, I even managed to pick her up by the legs to carry her up the stairs to our apartment or else she would crawl on all fours.
With all the difficulty in walking, we eagerly anticipated progress. We waited. And waited. Then waited some more. And when we went past her due date, she became increasingly discouraged and I became increasingly indifferent.
We had a prenatal appointment three days past her due date and the midwife, Robi Quackenbush (No, really, that’s her name. She was awesome, and her last name is awesome so I had to point it out), talked to Jenni about potential tests that occur in week 41 to make sure the baby is doing well. Needless to say, we didn’t look forward to the options of inducing labor, since we were very hopeful of a natural childbirth.
The weekend of week 41, the Lord provided a restful time that included a nice pregnancy massage for Jenni, a casual movie afternoon at home together, and a romantic evening doing laundry (yes, laundry can be romantic). We praised God for giving us a nice weekend to spend together while Rachel stayed with a friend.
It was the last one with “just the two of us.” Then the Lord encouraged us with a sign that Sunday night with Jenni’s mucus plug coming out.
Getting ‘The Call’
Jenni called me Monday at 4:13pm while I was at work. She had been having contractions closer together since noon. Since we were a bit discouraged by being eight days past due, she didn’t want to get our hopes up. But she had lost her mucus plug the night prior, so I felt that when I left Vernier on Monday, I wouldn’t be back Tuesday. When my boss left for the day, I told him confidently that he wouldn’t see me tomorrow.
As I walked home from work, my stomach was having butterflies. It was hard not to get excited. I didn’t listen to mp3s like I normally did— just walked and thought. As I approached the driveway to our apartment, I saw Jenni walking toward me. She was beautiful as ever, and walked without too much of a problem. We continued walking and talking past our apartment to the newly constructed road to a nearby elementary school before turning back.
The rest of the evening was pretty casual. We ate chicken for dinner (wow, what a surprise). But then after dinner, around eight, the contractions were getting stronger and closer. At that point, we felt it would be wise to alert certain people of the possibility of labor soon.
After we hung up with Jennilyn’s mom, I joked that her mom would be quite excited and probably wouldn’t sleep at all.
The Insomnia Begins
I fell asleep around 11pm only to be woken up an hour later with a request to walk up and down the stairs with Jenni. Outside in the cold. Five times. We threw some clothes on and set out to a quiet stomp up and down the stairs.
We spent the next few hours trying different things to relax during the contractions. The hours of the night went by quickly, and soon I was asked to wake Rachel. Jenni’s contractions were strong and close enough to get things going. I began final preparations of packing food, loading up the suitcase, and writing one more blog entry (How geeky is that? My wife is in early first stage labor and I’m blogging?).
I called up Jenni’s mom and she answered cheerfully after the first ring. I knew she would still be awake, waiting. I informed her that Jenni wanted to start heading out to the hospital soon. She and my father-in-law picked up a babysitter, Rachel’s cousin Elizabeth, and came to our apartment. Elizabeth watched over Naomi while the rest of us headed to the hospital.
I’m going to take an aside to just thank God for a thorough and organized wife. She had a call list made out of who should be notified when we head out to the hospital, what hours not to call them, and etc. She also had the list assigned to her mom, so Jenni would be able to concentrate on her labor instead of fielding calls. She also had a detailed pack list so that I would be able to bring all of her food needs without leaving something important behind.
Jenni’s parents arrived at our apartment shortly after 4:30am, just as we were ready to guide Jenni to the car. Thankfully, her shower had reduced the labor pains so the walk to the car wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.
When we reached the hospital, they led us into a room where we would be checked over. I learned in the Bradley class that many couples often go to the hospital too early in labor and would have to go home. The dilation (diameter of the cervix) should be around five centimeters to be admitted. I had made a mental note to not jump the gun and we both wanted to labor as long as possible at home. But when Jenni said that something was changing and she began having shakes, I wasn’t one to argue that we should go to the hospital.
First Stage of Labor: The Helen of St. Vincents
Robi was the midwife on duty. She greeted us warmly and performed an exam to check Jenni’s dilation progress.
Jenni was only three centimeters dilated. It was very disheartening.
“But your cervix is really stretchy!” Robi assured us.
So we talked over a few options since we didn’t want to go home only to do this routine one more time later. Jenni felt that her contractions were strong enough that we weren’t that early in labor. We decided to labor in the hospital for a few hours to see where we were at that point.
What was also a deciding factor was that the midwife Jenni prayed to have for her birth, was on duty in a few hours. Helen Welch is a very seasoned midwife of at least 35 years experience. She has a British accent and a humor to match.
Rachel and I worked together to relax and encourage Jenni through each contraction. We labored in the pre-admittance room for two hours before the next midwife, Christine, came in to check in on us. She was filling in for Helen for a few hours. After talking with Christine, we decided that we would stay and continue laboring.
We were moved into a bigger room. It was a long journey to get there. Rachel and Christine slowly walked behind Jenni as she walked with me in front. I held her as if we were slow dancing, her head looking down, and lodged up against my chest. When we arrived, I remember checking out the bed. The end of it reminded me of something pouncing because there were two metal arms that stuck out where laboring women put their feet on.
A large window allowed sunlight in across from the doorway, and we were greeted with the morning clouds and rush hour traffic on highway 26. Rachel and I continued to help Jenni with the contractions. She would moan in a low voice to help ease the pain. We kept her well hydrated and fed when possible. With her hypoglycemia and food sensitivities, God carried her through so that she had the energy to continue without complications.
Her labor progressed steadily with varying contractions that lasted around 2 minutes and spaced 5 to 7 minutes apart. I had expected a different scenario from what we learned in class, with 1 minute contractions around 5 minutes apart. So I’m glad Rachel was there with her experience and knowledge.
Jenni’s parents were so kind and ordered me a breakfast from the hospital cafeteria since I had not eaten since arriving at the hospital. The large order of scrambled eggs hit the right spot and Jenni had some of it to boost her energy.
Helen came around 10am and offered Jenni the jacuzzi. Jenni loved the idea to help ease the pain and give her some rest. When we got Jenni situated in the jacuzzi, Rachel left for our apartment to feed Naomi. This gave Jenni and I a chance to handle the labor with each other. Well, in between all the nurse visits to check the baby’s heart rate with an electronic fetal monitor, blood pressure test, etc.
The jacuzzi looked like a great place to labor as Jenni was able to maneuver around to her comfort and the warm waters relaxed her muscles. Eventually, I asked Jenni a question, and there was no response except for a quiet snore. I shrugged and happily loaded up X-COM on my PocketPC (Yup, I’m a geek).
I probably played for 45 minutes before I began to feel guilty for not timing Jenni’s contractions. At 11:14am, Jenni’s eyes popped open as she sat up and gasped, “My bag of waters broke!”
Transition Stage of Labor: Losing Modesty
This stage was the toughest. Rachel came back from our apartment just in time. Jenni was hit hard with contractions every two minutes. Each contraction, I held up her head so she could rest her neck while Rachel rubbed her shoulders and verbally encouraged her. Jenni didn’t hold back from groaning loudly for each contraction.
Helen stepped in at some point and we helped place towels under Jenni’s knees in the jacuzzi. It allowed her to kneel in the waters. She stayed for a while to monitor Jenni’s progress. Between one of the contractions, she told Jenni that she needs to urinate when she could to reduce the pressure in her bladder which in turn caused more pain during contractions. She could even pee in the jacuzzi if needed be.
“I already did,” Jenni responded in a matter-of-fact manner.
“Now that’s a woman!” Helen applauded.
Helen then gave me a heavy pat on the back, “And we put our hands in there!”
Second Stage of Labor: The Unstoppable Urge to Push
Transition stage, while the toughest, is usually the shortest stage. During the end of one of Jenni’s contractions, she yelled in a low voice, “I’m PUSHING!!!!!!!”
I was caught off guard and we got Helen to come back into the jacuzzi room. The hospital had a policy against women giving birth in the jacuzzi so we were tasked with getting Jenni out of the tub and back to her room to finish the labor.
I thought it was going to be impossible since her contractions were still fairly close together and she was pushing during her contractions!
Nonetheless, Helen was straightforward in telling Jenni that we will need to get her out of the jacuzzi and back to her room. She got several large towels and wrapped them around Jenni when she got up. We hurried across the hallway into her room before the next contraction arrived.
Jenni made it to her bed, but she made no attempts to get on it. She propped herself on one side of the bed with both arms and Rachel mirrored her on the other side. Jenni stood bent over and Helen got ready for the baby. I stood beside Jenni and massaged her. I switched back and forth between whispering encouragements to Jenni and watching God’s miracle of birth.
For the next half hour, she groaned (or more like yelled) loudest I’ve ever heard. If God hadn’t spoken to me through Helen’s encouragements, I would’ve been extremely scared since it sounded quite painful.
The pushing part didn’t last as long as I remembered learning in class. Helen invited me to touch the baby’s head a few contractions before Jenni pushed really hard. The baby’s head had hair, so it was tough to distinguish at first.
They held the electronic fetal monitor to Jenni, and the baby’s heart rate was a bit low. Helen was slightly concerned, since she is much more comfortable if it was over a 100 beats per minute. Jenni overheard Helen and gave a big push which must’ve sent the baby further down the birth canal and her heart rate jumped over a hundred.
Helen massaged Jenni’s perineum, opening up the birth canal so that the baby could come out easier. Each push made the baby come out a little more, only to sink back in when the push ended.
In her English accent, Helen encouraged Jenni by telling her that the baby is almost out and to make a big push on the next contraction.
The baby’s head came through with a gush of mucus coming out of the mouth. The eyes were closed shut, lips were swollen, and face was completely blue. I’m glad that in watching the birth videos, I learned that the blue color was normal, and not something to be scared about.
“We’re going to have to cut the cord!”
Helen had reached past the baby’s head and felt the umbilical cord tied tightly around the neck. When I was born, I also had the cord tied around my neck, but I don’t believe as tightly. Helen received from scissors from a nurse and snipped the cord. Now, Jenni was free to make her final push.
I stepped in and Jenni pushed the baby out. There was a large gush of liquids and blood that accompanied our child. I caught the baby’s head in my right hand and the bottom in my left. Some manner of fluid gushed onto my shirt (which I wore proudly for the rest of the day. Don’t know why really). I quickly took a peek at the gender as the nurses came in and wiped the baby. I asked Jenni to turn around so I could introduce her to the baby.
“Jenni! It’s a girl!” I exclaimed.
Almost everyone guessed our baby was going to be a boy. I even started calling the baby a “him.” It caught me off guard that I was holding our daughter. Our baby. God’s creation just for us.
I had anticipated this moment in my mind many times, wondering how I would react. I’ve known times in my life when I’m so overfilled with joy that I tear up. Would this be one of the moments as well?
All I could do in that moment, looking at our daughter Kadence, was stare.
Then they took her away.
I can’t remember if I handed the baby over to the nurses or they just took her away from me. There was a heated station where they laid her out and started to place monitoring pads around her body. A voice told me to stay with her as a crowd of nurses hovered over Kadence, placing an oxygen mask on her, wrapping identifier bands, and checking her heartbeat.
I gave my finger for her tiny hand to grasp. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was speechless. I wanted to say hello, but all I could do was stare at her.
She was so blue and her hands and feet were pale white. She was not breathing well. She was trying very hard to expand her lungs so she could breath. There came a moment when all the nurses finished up their tasks and let Kadence try to take a few breaths. They took tubes and sucked liquid from her stomach and nostrils. All this while, Jenni had only seen Kadence, and hadn’t even touch her yet.
The fear of losing our daughter crept into my heart. I prayed that it wouldn’t happen, but at the same time, prepared myself if something that dreadful did happen. How would Jenni react? What would I do?
I learned from the nurses that babies take in breaths to open up their lungs. Kadence was grunting as she couldn’t get her lungs to fully open. Therefore, she wasn’t getting enough oxygen. The mask they placed over her face was pumping oxygen to her in hopes to help her get her lungs to fully expand. But it didn’t seem to work.
Helen tended to the placenta as the nurses prepped Kadence for the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU for short. God bless Helen for stopping the nurses from taking Kadence right away and allowed Jenni to at least see her for more than a glance. Jenni and I shared joyful looks at what God had brought into our lives.
I apologized for taking Kadence away, but Jenni responded contently. We both had wanted Kadence to be breastfed immediately and bond with us for the first two hours of her life, but we wouldn’t interfere with medical emergencies.
Jenni and I had joked that St. Vincents was a great hospital choice because all baby emergencies in the area were handled there. If anything should go wrong, we were at the right place. As I walked alongside the cart with Kadence, I wished we hadn’t thought that something could go wrong.
At the NICU, they began attaching more monitoring equipment to her. The nurse explained to me what they were doing. They were going to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) to help Kadence breath. I watched stunned and slightly horrified as they plugged all sorts of tubes into Kadence’s orifices. The CPAP used two tubes for her nostrils and they also stuck a tube down her throat to clear out liquids. I was thankful Jenni wasn’t there to see them putting all the tubes in.
After they had the CPAP set up, Kadence wasn’t going to take it lying down. She fought a bit and managed to knock out the CPAP a few times. I chuckled as she was strong and feisty like her mom. I stayed with Kadence for a long while, which made me worried as to whether Jenni would be worrying too.
Several of the nurses encouraged me to take pictures, which seemed odd that I needed that encouragement. I usually take a lot of pictures. But at the NICU, I was quietly worried about her, praying for her, being with her, that taking pictures was secondary. When I eventually took out my digital SLR, one of the nurses commented, “Wow, that’s a big camera.”
There were many other babies in the NICU with Kadence, many of them might have been in worse condition. My heart went out to all those babies and their distraught parents. I couldn’t imagine the ache in their souls as they watch their children in incubators, wondering if they’ll be able to hold their children in their hands without plastic barriers.
To comfort Kadence and myself, I decided to sing to her, for lack of any conversation topic fitting for the situation. I sang her a song that was stuck in my head since the previous Saturday.
How sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost,
but now I’m found,
T’was blind, but now, I see.
I really can only remember that one verse in the song. Then I began to think about the movie Braveheart, and how the song was played on bagpipes at a funeral. Hmm. I quickly switched to a song that I often sang to Jenni.
You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy,
When skies are gray.
You’ll always know dear,
How much I love you,
Please don’t take
My sunshine away.
God’s Love Always
Dr. Novac introduced himself before we went back to Jenni’s room. He gave us a report on Kadence. She would need to be on the CPAP until she was able to breathe on her own. It could take up to two days. And Jenni would not be able to breastfeed.
Jennilyn suggested a few possibilities for breastfeeding still, since colostrum is so important to a baby’s health. We eventually had to concede and allow Kadence to be fed soy formula until she was off the CPAP.
After some paperwork, I took Jennilyn to Kadence so that they could spend time together. Jenni was very happy to be able to see her daughter, even in her intensive-care state.
Not long after, Jennilyn was very tired and rested in her postpartum room while I took guests to see Kadence. Everyone was overjoyed and probably somewhat concerned with all the tubes and wires with her. There were no shortage of smiles however.
I joined my mom, brother, and parents-in-law for dinner in the hospital cafeteria after introducing Kadence to family and guests. I hadn’t eaten since the morning and it was now five in the evening. We prayed for the meal and Kadence.
Everyone went home after dinner and I returned to Jenni’s room to find it empty. I smiled as I’m sure she missed Kadence already and I would find her in the NICU.
When I arrived in the NICU, I found Jenni holding Kadence in her arms! She was off of the CPAP after only five hours! What a fighter like her mom! She was breathing on her own and got some color into her cheeks. Hallelujah!
She would need to remain in the NICU for another 24 hours to make sure her progress continued. But we were both ecstatic. We thanked God for His protection and enjoyed our daughter until they kicked us out during their shift changeover hour.
Jennilyn and I returned our room to rest. There was the baby station sitting lonely in the warm heat lamp light. We looked at it sadly as we wished Kadence was with us, but we were comforted about her improving condition.
Jennilyn got onto her bed while I opened the small hideaway bed. I could feel the bars through its thin mattress. It was so narrow that my arms dangled off the sides. I chuckled, because it didn’t really matter that much. All that mattered was Kadence was doing well, Jenni was doing well, and God was watching over us. Always.
Happy One-Week Birthday Kadence!
It hasn’t felt like a week has passed by since Kadence was born. I suppose that goes with the lack of sleep, but we’re getting accustomed to waking up every three to five hours to take care of our little one.
We’ve been blessed with family and friends bringing us meals that load up our refrigerator with many choices, and we’re touched at everyone’s generosity.
Kadence has been growing well, four days after she was born, she had gained beyond her birth weight! It normally takes 10 days, so Jenni is on her way to becoming a super-mom. Just like her mom. Kadence makes the funniest of faces and often looks at me from the corner of her eye. I’ve been trying to get her stick her tongue out at me and have had some humorous success.
Being a father so far has only required of me a few sacrifices. I haven’t gotten used to changing diapers repeatedly because Kadence poops into a new diaper right after I change her. I’ve only managed to let a few things go moldy because I didn’t keep inventory of our food supply. I managed to snack quite often on beef jerky to help keep me awake during night feedings. I’ve only melted one plastic container with the soup my mom made.
Not bad. Not bad at all. I’m glad to be a father now rather than later. I’m going to love growing with Jenni and Kadence and all the adventures and misadventures along the way.