Dear Mom, I am who I am because you were my mom, always my backbone.
Dear Grandmas, you show me strength and love that persists through all things, my inspiration.
Dear Michael’s Mom, you are so naturally a part of my heart, my incredible blessing.
To all moms today… thank you. You are truly amazing.
This Mother’s Day is a little extra special for me for two reasons. First, I gained the best mother-in-law a girl could ever ask for. Second, my sister became a mom for the first time. With this, I had the honor of being a part of the birthing process, and man oh man, after what I saw in there… props to you ladies, this was certainly a hard earned holiday.
In honor of a mother’s strength and with my sister’s blessing, I share my nephew’s birth story below.
Hank’s birth story
I was at work and just got on my dinner break. I called Michael to see how he was doing and after hearing that one of my patients died unexpectedly earlier in the day, I was kind of in a funk. Right after getting on the phone with Michael, I got a text from Jess. It came in at 19:46 and read “Good chance we’re going in tonight… contractions are picking up. I’ll let you know if/when we head to the hospital. You should be able to finish your shift”. The tears came right away as I was on the phone with Michael; I was so excited. At 22:44, near the end of my shift, I got the text that said “Leaving in the next half hr”. I was late out of work due to another busy night and didn’t hit the road until 00:40; I rushed (probably too much so) to the boat to pick up Michael and we were at the hospital in Stillwater at 01:30; that’s got to be some sort of record. I was highly anxious on the way there (more so than I’ve probably ever been) thinking I could potentially miss it. Boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t until fourteen hours and one minute later that Hank was born.
While the cheering squad (Mom, Dad, Kent, Becky, and Michael) slept on the floor and in the chairs in the waiting room, Jess and Sean stayed awake in room #222 dealing with contractions every couple of minutes. I could already tell that Jess was tough as nails. When the pain got intense, she closed her eyes and went inward. I’ve seen this as strength before. While some people make noise to express pain, look outside of themselves for a way to fix it, or need distraction to stay calm, I find that the strongest people turn inward and find peace and strength there, within themselves. Jessi wanted no distractions, no TV or music; she never once complained or even asked questions… okay she did ask two questions over that next fourteen hours and they were right at the end. She asked “Did I just shit myself?” (she did not by the way) and “Is he ever going to come out?” (a question we were all thinking).
When the sun started rising, we all had a fresh energy (despite Jess and Sean getting no sleep). Along with this fresh energy, the contractions got stronger and more frequent. While the cheering squad went out to breakfast, we met Michelle Rice, the midwife, a woman we would later learn had a lot of patience and respect for the natural process of birthing. Jess also learned what worked best for her contraction pains; the weird peanut shaped ball was good to straddle, and if Sean pushed in on her hips from both sides, she found the most relief. Jessi continued to be a total badass on no sleep and no food.
Eventually it was time to transfer to the tub room. This was exciting and just what Jessi wanted to help relieve some of the pain. She was in the tub for an hour or two, and Michelle began to worry that her cervix was not dilated enough to stay there until Hank joined the world; Jessi had to get out of the tub so Michelle could get a good check; she was at 9cm; this was good; she was only at 7-8cm on her most recent check before. Michelle encouraged Jessi to stay out of the tub for a bit and try multiple positions to wiggle Hank down. Jessi was in a lot of pain now with frequent and strong contractions. It hurt to move at all but she did it anyway and even when she did not want to, it only took a time or two to remind her that if you move this or that way, we might have progress. Jessi cooperated with everything and again, made no complaints. At this time, her eyes were almost constantly closed but she still heard our suggestions; if we asked her to breathe slower, she worked hard to make it happen. During her time out of the tub around 13:30, she used the bathroom, sat on the weird peanut thing again, sat on her knees in the bed, and stood up rocking back and forth.
After all of Jessi’s hard work and Sean being constantly at her side and clearly in touch with every feeling Jessi had, Jessi was now dilated to 9.5cm with only a very thin area remaining. It was now tub time again; time to push. The water had to be between 95 and 100 degrees for baby to transition well to the life outside. Holy hot. Not only was Jessi in a room full of people working harder than I’ve ever seen anyone work in their whole life, she was now in a hot tub. We had the fan blowing on her, cool cloths that Sean diligently switched out to keep her comfortable between contractions, and sips of water, but she still had drops of sweat falling down her face. There were multiple times during this phase that I got full of tears just watching my sister fight so hard, over and over and over with what felt like (but certainly was not) no progress. Her eyes were closed, she had no sleep, no nutrition, was sweating in this hot tub, and never once did she cry, tell us she couldn’t do it, complain, or even raise her voice. I certainly would have felt defeated by now, potentially asked for pain meds, and most certainly would be crying or yelling as an outlet. I am a nurse and have seen a lot of pain but this was the most. This was relentless; like an enemy coming back at you stronger and harder with every hit. It takes strength you don’t believe you have any more to keep going.
For these four hours of pushing, I felt like I was at war with Jessi, Sean, Michelle, and the nurses as our soldiers. The only hard part was that Jessi had to do all of the fighting. This is what brought tears to my eyes and sometimes when I would tell her “push, push, keep going” or “we’re almost there, be strong”, I lost faith myself and my lip would quiver in saying these things. Sometimes all the soldiers would be quiet but Jessi wouldn’t let up; she was still pushing, with her eyes closed, and her courage greater than anyone in the room. Although she never did, if Jessi had tried to quit, I could see that Sean would be right there to instill some sort of reminder that their love for this little man she was working so hard to get out was stronger than any force that could try to fight against them. I was seeing that the strength she carried came from a place deeper than just her; it came from her love for Sean, for Hank, and knowing Sean’s love for the both of them. Jessi was pushing for all of them; she never forgot that.
I become teary again as I write this because I think about Mom and Dad, Kent and Becky, and Michael; they were soldiers too. And after 12pm, they began to wonder what was taking so long; they began to worry. Michael later tells me that an announcement was made over the intercom; something about an emergency or a code and that all available staff had to report to room #2; Jessi’s first room was #222. Michael told me that Mom’s hands started shaking as she held her phone and for a minute everyone was very scared. Becky was our messenger and was able to tell them that everything was okay and provided updates throughout. Besides breakfast, the cheering squad never left the hospital. Michael described it as feeling like “a lock-in”; he said it was really pretty fun; they took over the waiting room and apparently watched a lot of TV shows about diesel engines (at least that’s what Kent said). Good grandparent bonding plus Michael. During the last four hours, they were on pins and needles just like we were in that room. Becky said she was praying constantly; I said a few prayers too, and Grandma and Grandpa Larson tell me later that they were praying all day. We were all keeping God very busy.
Jessi pushed in that tub for what felt like forever. This is also were I saw what looked like the makings of a tiny black mohawk; long black hair floating; this was amazing and I felt so much love for this little boy already. We told Jessi “he has hair! he has hair! long black hair!”. Jessi was exhausted and likely overheated and after two hours of pushing in the tub, Michelle made the call that she should get out and try pushing in the bed. This is where it gets a bit blurry in my mind already because there were so many times when I thought he was coming out that I had no concept of time. I saw the top of his head poke out what seemed like a million times and then after the contraction, his head would go back in; he wouldn’t stay put enough for Jessi to push his body through the pelvic canal. She had to of pushed for two more hours in that bed.
After so much patience and Jessi working incredibly hard, Michelle slightly hesitantly offered Pitocin; she recognized that Jessi was doing all of the pushing work and her body was too exhausted to help her; she needed her uterus to contract and help her get Hank just a bit further. This was a good call.
After 20-30 minutes of IV Pitocin, Hank’s head was progressing and Jessi was now experiencing the worst part; the neonatal team was called to be on standby in case the baby needed anything and after 22 hours of labor pains, we were finally at the end. Jessi never let up; she gave it everything she had and all at once, he was out. Jessi was still in the zone and Michelle had to say “Jessi, open your eyes and look at your baby”. Hank was put in her hands and I could tell that Jessi and Sean could hardly believe he was theirs. He cried lightly and briefly and seemed to be right at home in Jessi’s arms. Sean was full of love for this little man and was immensely proud and in love with both Jessi and Hank. Becky relayed the news to the cheering squad; Hank was here! 5:31 PM on March 4th, 2017. 7lbs 2oz and 21 inches long.
Michael said that Mom and Dad started crying; every one of those grandparents and Uncle Michael were so proud and so happy and so in love with Hank. They would not have wanted to be anywhere else that whole day. After Jessi and Sean got some time with Hank, and Hank practiced latching onto Mama for some milk, we all went in to meet him. Hank is perfect. His long black hair, long fingers and toes, and adorable little face. He was so content; no cries, just a cute little yawn we caught on camera.
He is an incredible little dude with two amazing, strong parents. I felt so honored to have gone through that process with Sean and Jessi. Although it was way more intense than I could have imagined, I was left in awe of the power and strength of true love. Jessi and Sean have an incredible love for each other and for Hank. Not everyone can go through war like that together without becoming divided or weakened. I knew my sister was tough but holy cats. With Sean by her side, she can take on this whole world. Hank, you got some pretty kickass parents. They’d go to hell and back for you.
After the cheering squad left the Roadhouse family for the night, we went to Joseph’s Bar & Restaurant and all had a drink with a big cheers to Jessi, Sean, and Hank and to the power and love of family.