The name of this blog was chosen intentionally to reflect the see-saw nature of my life: back and forth between giving energy and attention to my dual roles as Reverend and Mother.
Sometimes those shifts happen so quickly that I feel a little like a ping-pong ball bouncing between two worlds. But there are also seasons when one or the other of those roles gets my complete attention and focus for a time, and this is definitely one of them. This is a season of being fully and completely a mom. Newborns don’t allow time for attention to much else, so I thank God for 8 weeks of maternity leave to focus entirely on this brand new person, her big brother, and becoming the person they need me to be. For a month now it has been such a huge blessing to be completely and totally devoted to my kids for a while (and by “completely and totally devoted” I mean that showering is optional, PJ’s are the daily uniform, and meals consist of snatching leftovers off a toddler’s plate while jiggling a newborn on my shoulder.)
So forgive me if I drop the “Reverend” and go all “Mommy Blogger” on you for a while. The pastoral part of my personality is in hibernation for a bit, and the “Mommy” part is in full force. Excuse me if I occasionally slip into baby talk with you, dear readers, and say things like: “You’re just the cutest thing I’ve ever written a blog post to! Yes you are! Yes you are!” I promise that my professionalism and “Reverence” will emerge again at some point. For now, consider your cheeks pinched.
So many of you have sent greetings and congratulations since Kate’s birth, and I’ve felt incredibly blessed that our family is surrounded by such warmth and love. Many of you have also asked: “So… what happened? Tell us about the day she was born!” It’s quite a story, filled with drama and joy and more than one LaGrone passing out (hint: not the baby), and about a thousand references to my water breaking (be forewarned), so I wanted to wait a month into Kate’s little life to get my wits about me in order to write about that day (and by “wits about me” I mean I’m off the Vikodin and sleeping for two whole hours at a time. Still shouldn’t operate heavy machinery, but writing seems safe.)
Katherine Juliet LaGrone, “Kate,” was born on Tuesday, June 5 at 6:08 PM.
Part I: In Which I Try To Be Reverend AND Mother (in labor)
At The Same Time
Since she was due on June 19, two whole weeks away, I had made plans to attend our Methodist Annual Conference in Galveston that day. I was determined not to miss this annual gathering of colleagues and friends – only an hour and a half away from home/hospital. And besides, the due date was circled on my calendar. Did I mention I still had two weeks to go? Drew had arrived promptly on his due date two years ago (something less than 5% of babies accomplish) so I was going with my limited experience and the rookie mom’s false assumption that it’s OK to compare your children and expect them to be similar in any way. Since I had a night of constant Braxton-Hicks contractions on the 4th, was waddling like a duck, and my entire family was urging me not to go, I gave in a little (just to please them) and had my mother drive with me in case we needed to leave for some reason and go directly to the hospital (which I was sure we would not!)
Before we left The Woodlands my mom and I stopped to pick up breakfast. Sometime during that that experience something seemed a little “off” – and I remember thinking to myself: “Did my water just break? Surely not! She’s not due for 2 whole weeks!” So we got back in the car and off to Galveston we went. My mom dropped me off at the Convention Center and I was there for about 5 minutes before feeling a little odd again – so back to my favorite vacation spot (the bathroom) – with the same question in mind: “Did my water break?” Every story I had ever heard about that happening involved a puddle and a great deal of embarrassment, and that was certainly not the case here, so I returned to the Conference.
The next 20 minutes was the greatest experience of cognitive dissonance I have ever been through. I shmoozed with pastoral colleagues and mentors, making small talk, all the while thinking in the back of my head: “Did my water break? Am I in labor?” If I had a conversation with you that morning, I apologize for the strange look on my face and the abrupt ending to our talk, as I stepped casually away from you (Haha! Excuse me! Be right back!) to visit the bathroom 5 more times, just to check on things. I think 5 times in 20 minutes is a record. Although I still wasn’t sure this was really happening, I finally decided it was time to go.
I called my mom, who was around the corner having coffee with a friend, and she sped back to the Convention Center to pick me up. To her credit, she drove the hour and a half back to our hospital very cool and calm (on the outside at least). Also to her credit, she never said “I told you so” about the fact I shouldn’t have gone to Galveston at all. Maternal restraint is amazing. She didn’t speed on the way back, although we would’ve had the ultimate excuse if stopped by a trooper.
I’m not sure if it’s good technology etiquette to text your husband that you’re in labor and on the way to the hospital, but that’s what I did. He left work and picked up our bags at home and we arrived at the hospital at the same time, where they confirmed that yes, my water broke at 8:30 that morning. I had been in early labor the whole time.
On the floor of Annual Conference, in front of a couple of thousand of my closest colleagues, the Bishop read my Facebook status from the podium: “This is Jessica LaGrone’s status on Facebook today: ‘Do I get ultimate credit for being at Annual Conference? Was there 20 min. Went into labor. Mom drove me back. Am I obligated to name my daughter John Wesley?'” The Bishop suggested instead of “John” I name the baby Susannah after the founder of Methodism’s mother. Here’s hoping I don’t get professionally reprimanded for not following a Bishop’s orders!
Kate’s Annual Conference Nametag
Part II: In Which The Drama Begins
Meanwhile, back at the hospital, the glorious decree came from the doctor that I could go ahead and get my epidural. Contractions were now in full force, and the epidural is (I’m not joking) my absolute favorite part of having a baby. I mean, seeing new life come into the world is great and all, but that epidural… if I speak of it with more fondness than I do for my newborn, please forgive me and never tell her. Jim jokes that when we came to the hospital to have Drew I announced at the check-in desk “My name is epidural, can I have my Jessica now?” Once I found out what a blessed gift pain relief was, Drew came dangerously close to being named Epidural LaGrone.
For some reason, the anesthesiologist thought it would be a good idea for Jim to stay in the room and sit on a stool facing me and hold my hand while I got the epidural. You know, to comfort me.
0 Fact one: I have a medical background and a great fondness for the epidural, and I was not in the slightest in need of comfort.
0 Fact two: That is one huge needle going into your spine.
0 Fact three: Jim has sometimes been known to pass out when giving blood, something that requires a much smaller needle.
So… as the nice doctor was placing a needle into a place inches away from where it could cause paralysis, I stared into my husband’s eyes as his face turned white, his eyes rolled back in his head, his rolling stool rolled out from under him, and his head make a loud knocking sound while connecting with the hospital floor. All the while the nice doctor with the needle was screaming in my ear: “Do not move! Do not move!” (NOTE: Please don’t mock my husband when you see him. He was kind enough to give permission for me to blog this!)
Suddenly the entire emergency response team was in the room with us, and I wasn’t the patient everyone was most concerned about. Jim regained consciousness immediately, but everyone insisted that he make a trip to the Emergency Room for a CAT scan and MRI. I agreed we were better safe than sorry (and I didn’t want to worry about whether his brain was bleeding while our daughter was being born) so off he went to give our hospital bills a creative addendum.
Kate and her daddy
Part III: In Which We Had More Drama Than An Episode of E.R.
I can see that God was at work in so many parts of that day, but one main one is that my mom was there with me when Jim was gone getting his brain checked out. If she and I hadn’t been on the road together, it might’ve been just Jim and me, and then I would’ve been alone for this next part. God knew I would need my mom there.
The doctor let me know that she would try to hold off delivering the baby until Jim got back, but she couldn’t promise anything. Doctors generally don’t pay close attention to you in labor until the moment the baby is to be born (the nurses are your go-to gals up to that point), so the fact that my doc kept returning over and over to check my vitals let me know something was up. It turned out the baby’s heart rate was too high, and was dipping during contractions. Because of circumstances with my pregnancy, they were pretty sure at this point that I had an infection in my amniotic fluid called chorioamnionitis, and were worried the baby was in distress. They came close to having to deliver the baby quickly to assure her safe arrival, and let me know the neonatal team was planning to be present when she was delivered in case anything was seriously wrong.
At one point my sweet young nurse was the only one in the room with me, and she came over to the bed and calmly informed me she was going to pray for me. She proceeded to pray the most powerful and beautiful prayer. I’m so thankful when people are brave enough to show their faith at work, even when it’s against the rules. (NOTE: The nurse recognized me because I had performed her sister’s wedding several years ago! You never know when the people you’re ministering to will become the people ministering to you.) The baby’s vitals leveled off and we were able to wait until Jim came back, having certified that he did indeed have a brain and that it was functioning as normally as can be expected for a man whose wife is in labor.
They had given me medication to slow down contractions, now they gave me medication to speed them up, along with another glorious dose of epidural. When time came for Kate to be born it all happened very quickly. I remember wanting so badly to hear her first cry, and being so thankful when she finally did. The neonatal team pronounced her healthy and beautiful, 8 pounds 4 ounces, and they put her in my arms for the first time. It was, as they say, love at first sight.
Our first picture
I would love to tell you that the drama ended there, but things got complicated again. I spiked a fever, began shaking uncontrollably, started hyperventilating, and soon after handing the baby off to Jim and my mom, I passed out: the second LaGrone to lose consciousness that day. The emergency response team rushed back in, and they were all: “Weren’t we just here? Why do you people keep passing out?” Actually, I don’t know what they said, because I was in and out of consciousness for the next several hours. I lost a lot of blood due to the infection and felt like the rest of the day was one big out-of-body experience. My mom says she just sat in the corner and prayed a lot and cried a little most during that time – another reason I’m so glad she was with us.
Kate and her Grammy
Part IV: In Which We Have A Happy Ending
Finally the drama was over, and I was fine, Jim’s brain was fine, and little Kate (the healthiest one of all of us) was better than fine, but ironically had to go to the NICU for a couple of days to be on IV antibiotics and make sure she didn’t get an infection as well. It felt strange to be visiting our big healthy 8 pound baby in the NICU when the twins in the room next to her didn’t even total her birth weight if you added them together.
Kate watching her weight
Drew came to visit the next day and showed great joy over finally getting to meet “Baby Sister.” That’s the story we’ll tell her anyway. His greatest joy was getting to push the buttons that moved my hospital bed up and down, and his ultimate question was: “Mommy, why you have your PJ’s on?” Since we came home and I’ve had my PJ’s on for most of a month now, he’s stopped asking.
Drew meets Kate!
First Family Photo
Kate is an amazing baby: calm and mellow, sleeping between every feeding, and opening her eyes to turn her little head towards the sound of her daddy’s voice when she’s awake. She has the sweetest little rosebud mouth, and looks quite a bit like her brother did as a newborn. I’m thankful for her every day (and even right now in the middle of the night). Writing the story of the day she was born I’m thankful again to live in this century. If we lived in another time our story might not have such a happy ending. I think medical science is a true gift from God (especially the epidural – can I get an Amen?) and that those who practice it are in ministry to their patients.
Sappy hormones are creeping into this post, so before I get all sentimental I’ll stop for now. But not before saying: God is good. I know that now more than I ever have.
Welcome to the world, Kate. You were definitely worth all the trouble.