All day Friday, Jenelle was experiencing some of the most pain she had felt during her pregnancy. Contractions were becoming closer together, and lasting a little longer than usual. We were worried.
Saturday morning however, everything was back to “normal”. Jenelle was still experiencing contractions, but they were small, manageable, and irregular again.
#HospitalHack : use the iPhone timer function to lap when each contraction starts, and hit lap again when it ends. This will help you accurately tell your nurses what is happening. We had over 140 hours of recorded contractions.
Jenelle’s mom and sister came over on Saturday afternoon, and I decided that I should run out and do a few errands. She was feeling fine, and I thought spending some time with her sister would be nice.
I stopped by work quick to copy some required files off my computer to a shared drive, and ran to best buy to lookup a receipt we needed. I also decided to indulge and get some Wok Box for supper. :)
I had just got on 127 street when I got a phone call from Jennifer. No formalities, she said, “Jenelle thinks her water broke”.
It took me under 10 minutes to get to the hospital…
I had been having a great day with my family. Jennifer had massaged my hands, as they were quite dry, and we were eating pomegranate.
I excused myself to go to the washroom. I felt a little bit of pressure, but I didn’t think it was anything. And, there was a swift kick… gush!
I yanked on every cord, pushed every button, and screamed for my sister to call Steve. My mom was also pushing every button in the room, until a nurse finally came and helped me back into bed.
The contractions started coming hard and fast. The nurse started to get me to breathe, and I kept asking, “Is my husband here yet?”
Steve finally arrived. The contractions hurt so bad.
The nurse said, “maybe we can stabilize you for your Caesarean on Monday.” and I shouted,
“I can’t stay like this till Monday!”
(back to Steve)
By this time Jenelle was crying and curled into the fetal position on the bed. I was doing my best to help her breath properly.
#HospitalHack : Deep breathes in, so your chest and stomach are full of air. Hold it for a second, then push out all the air out and start again. Sometime simply focusing on the process can help calm. Sometimes you get punched in the face.
During the down time, Jenelle sobbed she wasn’t ready. During the contractions she cried out for pain relief. She cried out to be sedated. She cried out to be knocked out.
This is where the strength of a proper birth plan comes into play. Jenelle and I had decided that, unless it was medically necessary, she would be kept awake during the section so that she would get to meet our daughter; no matter what happened.
In between the contractions (now measuring 1 minute on, 1 minute off) I confirmed that Jenelle still did not want to be knocked out. She didn’t, but she didn’t think she could handle the pain much more.
After what seemed like an eternity, the nurses finally came in and said they were going to move Jenelle to OR. I explained to them (as was explained to us by NICU earlier) that this was not to be treated like a Code Pink, and Jenelle was not to be knocked out.
I grabbed the two extra copies of the official birth plan from our shelf, the swaddle blanket we had prepared, a couple baby hats we had bought, and my camera (for a nurse in the OR to take some pictures).
Jenelle was rolled out, and up to the OR on the fourth floor. As she was taken through a large double doors, they stopped me from following her. I wasn’t allowed in until we got the go ahead.
Our nurse at this time, a great lady named Morgan, stayed with me. She helped me find the scrubs I would have to wear into the OR, and she tried to keep me calm and focused.
My biggest worry at this time was that, because this was an emergency, not everyone would have read the birth plan in her charts.
I paced in the hall frustrated that they weren’t letting me in. I know my wife, I knew our plan, I knew she wanted me in there. I knew our birth plan said she wanted me in there. I also knew that the final decision was up to the anesthesiologist if I could or not.
As the doctor on call, Dr Wong, walked passed me, he introduced himself. I really quickly made sure he was made aware that Jenelle wasn’t to be put out. That she wanted to be aware. He assured me they would do there best, then he walked through the swinging doors; leaving me waiting in the hall.
I am still having contractions. I get into the OR, and they move me to this tiny bed that was incredibly thin and had a big hole in the middle. It is really uncomfortable, and I had to sit up because it was to thin to lay on my side.
People kept introducing themselves to me, with their masks on, “Hi, I am so and so, I am a nurse/doctor/resident/etc”
And I asked all of them,
“Are you my pain doctor?”
and they would say,
and I’d reply,
“It’s nice to meet you” (note there was a touch of sarcasm)
Finally, a gentleman said, “yes, I am”
At that point, I just wanted Stephen with me to help calm me down during contractions. So I asked the anesthesiologist if Stephen could come in; since I knew it was up to him.
He said, “No” and went from being my best friend, to my worst enemy.
He then walked behind me and asked, “Are you having general or a spinal today?”
To which I replied, “Spinal”
He then had me attempt to perform a yoga position, sitting down, in order to receive my spinal. I think it is called the Cat pose (spine pushed out to create as much space between vertebrae as possible)
The pin prick feeling I got from the needle was nothing compared to the contractions I had been feeling. The anxiety I had for my spinal suddenly melted away.
They then had me lay down and the effect of the spinal was almost instantaneous. The numbness went through my legs, and it felt like they fell asleep immediately.
I asked them, as I was laying down, if they knew my birth plan.
They said, “No, why don’t you tell me about it?”
I explained, “My birth plan is very important. There is a good chance my little girl will not make it. Everybody needs to know my birth plan”
They asked, “Should NICU be here?”
And I more-or-less freaked out and shouted, “NICU isn’t here?!?! They need to be here now!”
They set up a sheet to block the surgery, however I was able to see everything in the lights above my head’s reflection.
I said, “I can see, I don’t want to see… can you make it so I can’t see?”
It was around that time, as they adjusted the sheet to block the reflection, when Stephen came in. It was probably only a couple minutes, but it felt like an hour.
(back to Stephen)
When I finally was allowed into the OR I was a little bit of a crazy man. I went over to Jenelle, happy to see she was awake. I apologized I wasn’t there sooner.
I handed my camera, the blanket, and the hat to a nurse nearby. They seemed intimidated by the camera, so I reassured them they just needed to look through the hole and click the button. It was sorta cute how that confused them. :)
I then asked if anyone had read the birth plan (see, we are really harping on the birth plan). Nobody said yes, so I started to read it out loud in the OR.
I read the part to the anesthesiologist that we needed to make sure that whatever he gave Jenelle didn’t cause amnesia or knock her out. Despite being Jenelle’s enemy, he was a very nice gentleman who reassured me that, even though he couldn’t guarantee it, that he thought she would be able to remember everything.
Since they had changed the sheet to block Jenelle’s view, I could easily see the surgery taking place on my wife. Something that I was totally okay with,
I saw as they took our daughter’s body out of her abdomen, and was amazed at how ‘rough’ they were with her body. But I knew they did this all the time.
I started to worry when they were unable to get her head out though. The doctors ended up working together to open the incision wider to get her head out ASAP. Finally they coaxed baby’s head out.
There were no cries.
Within seconds they had our daughter at the NICU station. Our plan stipulated that she would get basic, immediate care after birth to help kick-start breathing, but she would not be incubated or resuscitated if there was no promise for a better quality of life.
Thankfully, NICU was the one group that had read the birth plan.
As they helped her breathe, I cut the umbilical cord.
At this time Jenelle started calling out asking where I was. I quickly walked back to her and said I was just with our little girl, and would be right back. Jenelle was taken aback that she was out already. She was still under the impression they were taking her out. She hadn’t even noticed the commotion happening around her.
Baby took a few breathes. Her whole body shuddered as she inhaled the oxygen that they were forcing on her. 30 seconds of PPV later and they asked if I would like to hold her.
I helped NICU quickly put the hat on her head, to help mask her larger-than-normal cranium, and swaddled her in the blanket we brought for her.
I then took our little girl over to meet her mom. We spent the next couple minutes kissing her, stroking her cheek, and spent a short period praying over her.
I could tell she was alive because I could see her tongue moving in her mouth. She didn’t seem to be in pain, but she also didn’t seem to be trying to breathe.
Jenelle asked if there was anything we could do to help her?
I looked at the NICU team, and they shook their heads. There was nothing left to help her.
Jenelle and I spent the best moments with our little girl. Our little Lera Grace. We loved her as much as she could be loved in that short time. We cried over her. We kissed her. We lived 100% focused on her while she was with us.
Eventually, her little tongue stopped moving.
15 minutes later the NICU team looked for any more signs of life.
Lera Grace Kiers was declared dead at 6:19pm.
We held her, and cried for her as they finished stitching Jenelle back up. The next while is a little bit of a blur.
I remember that I took a few minutes and used a wet cloth to clean any leftover blood and 'stuff' off of Lera's body. I remember wrapping her back up after. I remember just staring at her face. Time seemed to slow down, and I can't remember much of what happened around me during this time.
As a random subplot to our story, our photographer friend Krista (due the same the say as Jenelle was) had started experiencing some contractions earlier that day as well. They dropped the kids off at the grandparents (in Edmonton) and she was being monitored in the Alex when this all went down.
Because of that, they were ready (and with equipment) to join us immediately. Even though we had been told that only I would be allowed in the OR, Zach was gowned up and brought into the OR right after myself. He walked into the room just as Lera was being delivered. We have hundreds of photos of the event because Zach was there to capture them; memories we may have forgotten without those pictures.
Coincidence, or miracles; we are thankful they were there.
And Kirsta? She was released before we were out. Everything was okay!
After she was finally stitched up, Jenelle, Lera, and I were all wheeled next door to the recovery room. Our family was brought in to see us, and to meet our little girl.
That night went by so slow, and so quickly. After the grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, and our niece Emma got to meet Lera, we had more of our best friends, and pastors, Brett and Desiree, join us at the hospital.
We had a bittersweet time of introducing our baby girl, and mourning our loss with friends and family. We prayed together and, slowly, everyone eventually left.
We were there alone with our baby girl. We wept, and then we slept.