It was an ordinary day. Except nothing was ordinary anymore. It hadn’t been for weeks. It felt like everything was cancelled. School had been canceled since March 15. Colton didn’t go to preschool every afternoon anymore and Stu worked from home a lot. The park and the library were closed. Restaurants were closed or drive-thru/curbside pick-up only. We watched church on Facebook Live on Sundays. We couldn’t get together with family and friends unless we stayed at least 6 feet apart and wore face masks. But having a baby was NOT cancelled. And on April 9th, 2020, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the big day arrived.
I woke up that morning after a restless night. I’d been having a few random contractions in the night (but I’d had Braxton-Hicks for WEEKS). I was crampy and had some back pain. I felt so uncomfortable. Grammy came over to watch Colton and Millie so Stu and I could go to my 39 week appointment. I just knew my midwife, Holly Eckhart, would tell me that I was really dilated and ready to go at any minute. But that’s not what she said. She said I was at 1 cm and a wiggle. Pretty much where I had been for a couple weeks. I was disappointed that I hadn’t progressed more given all the contractions I was feeling but I was not to be deterred. I just had a feeling today was the day.
When we got home, Grammy went to work and we all went out for a walk after lunch. On the walk, the contractions started to intensify. A few times, I had to stop to catch my breath. But they were not occurring regularly yet. So the kids and I laid down for afternoon naps. I barely slept. The contractions were not super painful or uncomfortable but they were becoming regular. I started to time them on my app.
At 3:45, we had Grammy come get the kids and by 4 PM we were on our way to the hospital. My contractions were coming about 5 minutes apart and were lasting over a minute. We had to put our cloth masks on to enter the hospital and we had to answer screening questions for Covid before we could go up to labor and delivery. No fever or cough. No travel outside of the US or Nebraska, etc.
Once we got up to our room, the nurse, Dawn, hooked me up to start taking vitals and measure contractions. She left the room to get a few things and alarms started beeping. My blood pressure was pretty high. I don’t remember exactly what it was but my bottom number was almost equal to the top. I felt completely fine, though. She took it again a little later and it had gone down quite a bit. However, given the fact that I had HELLP syndrome with Colton, they decided to do some blood work to make sure my platelets and liver enzymes were ok. Holly was not on call, so I had Brandi Rogers. She said that my platelets were a bit low but still ok and a couple of numbers with my liver enzymes were a bit off. Even if I was developing HELLP again, though, delivery is the cure and I was progressing so we weren’t too worried.
After my past epidural experience (spinal headaches and emotional trauma), I decided early on in this pregnancy to try to avoid one at all costs. I had signed up for a Hypno-birthing class taught by Lana McCoy at St. Francis in GI. I have to admit, at the beginning, I was a bit skeptical. It seemed a little hippie or too crunchy for me. Plus, I don’t believe in getting “hypnotized” like they show on TV and all that. But really, self-hypnosis is just deep relaxation and distraction. I related to some of the techniques more than others but overall, I felt that it was very helpful. I felt so much more equipped to try a natural birth. With Colton, I hadn’t planned on not being able to have an epidural, so I just did it because I had to. This time, it was the plan and I had options to try to help me manage the pain.
Initially, I was going to do everything naturally and take my time unless it was medically necessary. But after my blood pressure was a bit high and my numbers a bit off, I decided to let Brandy break my water around 6 PM to try to speed things up a little just in case things took a turn with my health. At 7 PM, I got my IV for my antibiotics since I had tested Group B strep positive. Then, Stu and I went for a walk around the labor and delivery floor. By 8:40, I was ready to hop into the tub.
Besides the breathing techniques, the tub was probably the best natural pain relief that I tried. I still felt the contractions but they seemed dulled or subdued. I could handle them!
After about an hour in the tub, I was feeling quite a bit of pressure. We decided I’d get out of the tub because we aren’t supposed to do water births at Mary Lanning and we didn’t want any surprises. Plus, I was getting a little restless.
Brandi suggested I try the birthing ball for a while to change up positions. A little while later, I paced in small circles and when contractions hit, I held onto Stu and breathed through them.
At some point, Brandi mentioned getting on my hands and knees so I tried that for a while. It seemed like all of a sudden, I got very restless and panicked. I remember saying, “I can’t do this!” and trying to get up to leave. I have know idea where I thought I was going to go to escape childbirth at that point but, hey, a laboring mom has the right to be a little crazy, right?
As I was trying to get up to get outta Dodge, I remember Brandi looking at me and saying, “Shannon, I can see your baby but you’ve got to roll over so I can get to him.” That was the motivation I needed to cease my escape and roll over. I gave my best push because I did not want to have to keep on doing this and he was born. At 10:40, we welcomed Burke Douglas Lenz!
They put him on my chest and Stu cut the cord. We had our golden hour and he took to feeding like a champ. But his body temperature was a bit low. Despite all of the skin to skin he was getting and the warm blankets, his temp was still not where it should be. They put him under the warmer but the warmer in our room wasn’t working right. So, we loaded up to head to the nursery for a warmer that worked.
They needed his temp to maintain before they gave him a bath and unfortunately, due to Covid, they could no longer delay bathing past 2 hours. So, we put him on the warmer in the nursery and prepared for his first bath. I really wanted to be a part of his first bath, so when he was warm enough, I stood up to help. And that’s when things went a bit sideways.
A pool of blood showed up at my feet. We assumed it was just a gush since I had stood up. My nurse went to get some towels to clean me up and she sent another nurse in to help. The blood kept on coming. The other nurse asked if I felt ok and right as she said it, I was beginning to feel light headed and dizzy. She grabbed the wheelchair and sat me down and took off for my room.
Stu was left hanging out with Burke wondering if I was ok, what he should do, does he stay, does he follow, does he give Burke his bath? 🤷♀️ Meanwhile, the nurses were trying to determine if my bleeding was a hemorrhage. They were pretty confident that I just needed a round of Pitocin to get the bleeding to slow.
Thankfully, we got it to slow down to normal. 2 rounds of Pit and a dose of Cytotec were necessary to stop the bleeding. It wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds though, I knew they had it under control.
Back in the nursery, a couple of other nurses came to give Burke his bath. Stu took pictures for me because, once again, I missed the first bath. It’s ok. I’ve given a lot of other baths since then!
Stu and Burke were back in the room during my first round of Pit and things were calm. We were able to try to get some sleep in between all of the checks and interruptions. The rest of our hospital stay was uneventful. Lots of breastfeeding and lots baby snuggles.
It was a bit weird that family couldn’t come to meet him right away. But we enjoyed the peace and rest we were able to get as a result.
A few people have asked where we came up with his name. Honestly, every time I’d hear the last name Burke, I’d wonder if it would work for a first name. So, I looked up it’s meaning online. I discovered that it means “fortress”. Immediately the old hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” came to mind and I was hooked. Stu took a little convincing but he came around!
2020 is a year in which I need to be reminded of the truth of Psalm 18:2:
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
God is the ONLY safe place. And his name is a reminder for us.
Burke has been a joy to our family. He completes us and we are so grateful for the gift of him.