Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Psalm 115:1
Written on May 11, 2014
Joel and I each wrote up our take on the experience of Joanna’s birth. When we read through them together, we noticed some discrepancies, and I think that just exemplifies the craziness of the whole situation!
I try to meet with my friend Darin every Monday morning at 7 AM, but on the 5th day of May in the year of our Lord, 2014, a Monday, with my wife over 39 weeks pregnant, I wasn’t counting on getting together with Darin. The baby could come any time, and we were expecting just that since our son was born at 38 and a half weeks. I woke up with my alarm at 6:10 AM. Holly was already awake and sitting at her desk in the corner of the room, looking at something on the computer. She said that she hadn’t slept well. I later found out that she’d been having regular (approximately 5 minutes apart) contractions since about 2 AM. She wasn’t too concerned because they hadn’t been changing in intensity or duration, but she thought she better call the midwife to check. The midwife wasn’t too concerned either, and said to give it an hour and see if the contractions would change. That was around 6:15 AM, but within about 15 minutes it was apparent to Holly that we should go to the hospital. So, I let Darin know we wouldn’t be meeting, I packed up a few last things, woke up our son Abe, grabbed a couple big towels, and loaded the van. Holly sat on one of the towels in the front passenger seat, just in case. We left the house shortly before 7 AM.
It was a gorgeous morning; clear, calm, warm. The plan was to drop off Abe at our friends the Wrights’ house, and then go to Avera McKennan hospital in Sioux Falls. The Wrights live in the country, not far out of the way to the hospital, but getting to their place requires driving on several miles of gravel roads. Shortly after we left I could tell that the contractions were pretty strong. Holly was closing her eyes during contractions, and seemed to be focusing pretty intensely with each one. They were coming every 4 minutes or so. I hadn’t been exceeding the speed limit yet, but was starting to get the feeling that labor was progressing quickly. I felt bad that we had to drive on the gravel roads because I knew I’d have to slow down, and feared that they would be rough enough to cause Holly problems staying relaxed. As we arrived at the house, Holly told me to be quick. As quickly as I could, I grabbed Abe, and Abe’s stuff, dropped them off with Kennley, and rushed back to the van.
There wasn’t much conversation on our drive to the hospital. At one point Holly asked me how far apart the contractions were, but I hadn’t been paying close attention. I thought about 4 minutes apart. When we were arriving at the on ramp for I-29 Holly told me that she didn’t know how much longer she could keep her body from pushing. The tension was building inside of me. What if we didn’t make it? What if I have to deliver this baby? What should I say to my wife? How fast should I drive? Occasionally, I would say things like “you’re doing great, Sweetie” or “hang in there” or “I’ll get us there as soon as I can.” What I wanted was for her to fight against that urge to push, and keep that baby inside until we reached the hospital. But I wanted to be supportive and encouraging at the same time. At one point I know I reached over and put my hand on her leg.
Things quickly intensified, Holly’s breathing during contractions was getting louder, stronger, and more rapid. She reclined her seat as far back as it could go. The contractions were coming more frequently and she commented on how she was unable to relax her hands even between contractions because she was clenching the armrest and door handle so tightly. She told me she didn’t think she could make it to the hospital. My heart began pumping faster. I called the hospital and explained our situation. I estimated that we were 15-20 minutes away. They said to come right to the ER and they’d be waiting for us. During contractions now, Holly began crying out along with the heavy breathing. Contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes now. I generally don’t like exceeding the speed limit, but since we hit I-29 I had been going 85 MPH. I’m sure many husbands in my position would have gone a lot faster, but that was as fast as I felt comfortable driving. There was pretty heavy traffic, by South Dakota standards, because it was prime morning commute time for workers and students. I certainly didn’t want to cause or in any way be involved in a traffic accident. Sioux Falls couldn’t come soon enough.
We arrived in Sioux Falls and turned onto I-90 East. Traffic was getting heavier, and I had to slow down, all while things were getting harder and harder for my beloved. As we were nearing the Cliff Ave. exit, Holly told me that she thought she pooped her pants and complained about how uncomfortable it was. I felt terrible for her and I felt helpless to improve her situation. I think she said something like “hurry up, and get me to the hospital.” I replied that I was doing my best. We turned onto I-229 South—just a few more miles to the hospital but it seemed so far away. I asked Holly if she wanted me to help her take her pants down. She agreed and we were able to get her pants down around her ankles. Holly was literally screaming at the top of her lungs now during contractions. She reached her hand down between her legs and thought she felt something coming out. I leaned over and could see a hairy head beginning to appear. I called 911. I wasn’t really sure what kind of help to ask for. A police escort? They’d have to come to us first, and it seemed impractical during morning commute traffic. Could they change stop lights for us? No, probably not. I explained our situation to the dispatcher. We arrived at the 26th St. exit. The dispatcher said if I wanted to pull over they could send help to us, and stated very clearly that I couldn’t break any of the laws of the road. We were so close. They were waiting for us at the ER. I needed to get there. I couldn’t pull over now. Just as I was hanging up, we pulled into the left turn lane behind about 5 vehicles stopped at the stop light. At that very moment, Holly had one last big contraction, and out came baby! Baby Molascon landed on the seat and was looking right at me. Holly quickly sat up and picked up our new baby. Baby coughed and/or cried right away, and was obviously breathing without problems. Holly said “I don’t know what to do.” I said something about spanking baby’s bottom, but that we probably don’t need to do that since baby is breathing fine. Then I told Holly just to hold baby to her chest, and asked if she wanted me to open her sweatshirt so that baby and mommy could be skin to skin. She said no, that I should come around to her side and get a towel for baby. I turned on the hazard lights, ran around to the passenger door. On my way around I motioned to the driver behind us that they should go around us, not knowing how long we’d be there. I opened the door. I was so focused on the task at hand, and ultimately getting to the hospital, that I didn’t think to even check if our new baby was a boy or girl. Thankfully Holly thought to ask. I looked between baby's legs and declared “It’s a girl! Hello, Joanna.” I got the towel and wrapped it around baby Joanna. A woman driving by stopped and asked if we needed help. Holly told her we just had a baby. The woman said “Wow! Congratulations.” This became the standard response to Joanna’s birth story, and an interesting story for a woman to tell her co-workers after her morning commute.
I felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders. Baby and mommy were doing great, now we just needed to go one last mile (or so) to get to the hospital. I gave Holly a kiss, closed her door, and returned to the driver’s seat. Holly asked me to call a midwife to see if there was something we should be doing. I called the hospital again and explained our situation to a receptionist. They said they were not qualified to give any medical advice, and that she could have someone call me, but we were almost to the ER, so I thanked her for her time and ended the call.
There was a gaggle of women waiting to help us at the ER. As we pulled in we saw a few ladies at the main ER entrance that were waving at us to proceed on to the ambulance garage, outside of which stood another group of ladies waving us over. We pulled right in and they closed the garage door behind us. I jumped out and told them that we had a girl. Our midwife Lisa was already there, which was a very nice surprise. The umbilical cord was clamped right away, and I got to cut the cord right in the front seat of the van. They wrapped up Joanna in some warm, clean blankets and I got to hold my baby girl for the first time while they helped Holly out of the van and onto a gurney.
We left our house at just before 7 AM. Joanna Marie Molascon was born just before 8 AM in the front seat of our new (to us) Honda Odyssey. We praise God for our healthy baby girl!
On Sunday night, May 4, I was having inconsistent contractions from about 9pm on. They were 10 or 20 minute apart, so I didn’t think much of it. With this pregnancy, I’d also been having contractions when I got gassy (that’s my only real pregnancy issue…no morning sickness, very little heartburn). I wasn’t really able to sleep because of the contractions, and they were around 5 minutes apart from 2am until 6am. Around 5:30 I got up and had some toast and walked around to see if that helped. Walking made me feel worse which made me think it was more gas-related. Around 6am, the contractions started getting a little bit stronger but still not any closer together. At 6:15am, I called the midwife who was on call (not my regular midwife) and told her what was going on. She said to wait an hour and see what happens, and that I could always come to the clinic when they open at 9 and they could check me. I went to the bathroom and noticed it was slightly pink, so I told Joel that we should probably go to the hospital. I’d been praying for a clear sign that it was time to go, and that was what I needed. I texted our friend who was going to watch Abe at 6:25 to let her know that we were going to go to the hospital.
We packed up the last few things into our hospital bag and got Abe’s diaper changed. I brushed my teeth and put my contacts in. Joel put Abe’s diapers in the wash (we didn’t want to come back home to stinky diapers!). Joel grabbed a couple towels, loaded up the car, and we headed out at 6:54am. I’d put one of the towels on my seat just in case my water broke on the way. Even by this point, the contractions were noticeably stronger. We dropped Abe off at our friend’s house (who lives in the country….Joel drove a little slower on the gravel roads for my sake), and not too long after I told Joel that I wasn’t sure how long I could not push. The contractions were closer together now, too – about every 3-4 minutes. I had to change my breathing pattern a few times to be able to handle them. With Abe, I don’t think I had to change from breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth slowly. My water broke at some point when we were on the interstate (I think between the Dell Rapids and Baltic exits for you locals). I think that’s when Joel first called the hospital and told them that we might not make it in time. They told him to come to the ER and they’d be ready for us.
When we were on I-229, I felt like I had pooped my pants, but when I checked there was nothing there. It was just the pressure of Joanna wanting out! It was terribly uncomfortable, so I had to hold my bottom up off the seat. I started to pull my pants down, and Joel helped me. I was able to kick them all the way off so I could have my legs as wide apart as I could. I felt down there and felt something kinda squishy and asked Joel if he could see anything. He said he saw hair. I think that’s when he called 911 to see if there was anything they could do to help us – make all our lights turn green, give us a police escort, or something. We had just pulled off onto the 26th Street exit (Yeager Road) and were at the red light to turn left. Right after he hung up with 911, Joanna was born at 7:54am! I said, “Baby’s here!” Fortunately, she slipped right out, and I heard her cough and cry a little right away, so I knew she was breathing. Joel put on the hazards and jumped out of the car to come around to our side. I checked to see if we had a boy or a girl, and I told Joel “It’s a girl!” I asked Joel to get the other towel from the back so we could wrap Joanna up. There was one car that stopped and the lady asked if we needed any help. I told her we’d just had a baby. She said, “Oh! Congratulations!” (I wish we could’ve followed her to work to hear her tell about her morning commute. J) Joel got back into the driver’s seat and drove us to the hospital, which was about a mile away. 911 had said they could have an ambulance pick us up if we stayed there, but he figured it’d probably be faster to just drive there ourselves since we were so close.
As we drove to Avera, I called my mom and told her, “She’s here! But we’re not at the hospital yet.” She was rather flabbergasted. I told her her name and that she was named after her, and that we were really close to the hospital. When we got to the ER, we were waved past the regular ER entrance into the ambulance bay. When we pulled in, there was a whole entourage of people there waiting for us. (We found out later there was an ER team and a labor & delivery team, as well as our midwife. The L&D nurses said that the ER team freaks out whenever there’s a baby coming. J) One of the nurses clamped Joanna’s cord right away, and Joel cut it while we were still in the van. Then they wrapped Joanna in some warm blankets and Joel held her while they helped me transfer to a gurney. Then I held Joanna on my chest while they took us to labor & delivery. Our midwife (who normally wouldn’t have been on campus that early, but went in early in anticipation of glitches with the computer system they were starting that day) took care of me, and we were all set! The nurses had to make some things up (times, etc.) as they were doing all their computer work. One of the nurses was on her first day of labor & delivery and was training, and the experienced nurse had to tell her over and over again, “Normally we do this when they first come in.”
For the gentlemen: Our van has been detailed. :) There was relatively little mess. The only obvious sign of what happened was some blood on the door threshold from after the cord was cut and I was getting out of the van. We just bought our van a month ago, and fortunately decided to have it Scotchguarded. Vern Eide only charged $30 for the cleaning and let us use a vehicle for the day for free while we were in Sioux Falls.
For the ladies: The logistics of delivering a baby in a van isn’t as bad as it seems. I had the seat reclined as far as it would go, and I had my legs spread apart as far as I could. Because I felt like I had pooped my pants, I was holding myself up and therefore was pushing myself even further back in the seat. I was in this position when Joanna was born, and she came out right on the seat. I didn’t really even have to catch her. My tear was pretty significant (but still only 2nd degree – thank goodness!) at least partly due to the unique position, but all-in-all, everything went as well as possible!
Joel told me that we’re not going to do it this way again. I hope he’s right! We had been praying for a quick and relatively painless delivery. Those prayers were answered – I would definitely describe it as more intense than painful. I guess next time we’ll have to be even more specific in our prayers.