Sunday, June 9, 2013

Elise's Birth Story

I wanted to write Elise’s birth story up so that: 1) We’d have it and I wouldn’t forget all the details 2) I could share it with any “birth story” junkies out there. So, sorry this is a bit long.

I’ve always rolled my eyes a little bit when I hear people say that “God was in details”, but for Elise’s birth He really was. I just keep thinking about how great everything went and I know it God’s blessing around us and Elise. Thank you if you were one of the hundreds of people praying for us. We know that God hears our prayers.

OK, here’s the story…

A few days before Elise was born I had a ton of conversations with my OB and Oncologist about the pros and cons of inducing. Basically my oncologist was worried about me off chemo for too long.  Finally we came to the conclusion that at almost 39 weeks Elise was big enough and her lungs were mature enough to be induced.  My OB warned me that the induction could take a while, especially for a first-time mom, but that was a risk I was willing to take. So we chose Thursday, May 30th as our induction date. 

The morning of the induction we called the hospital to make sure they were ready for us (they were), we took a final picture of me pregnant, grabbed out bags, and headed to Panera for a last meal (since you can’t eat during an induction). 
38w5d - final preggo picture
We arrived at the hospital 9:00 AM and checked into our large corner birthing room. We met our sweet Nurse, Eva (who is also a believer). Then they took my blood and hooked me up the fetal monitors and IV. They sent my blood to the lab to make sure I was well enough to be induced. The OB on duty checked my cervix and it was high and closed. No cm dilated.  Bummer. The good news was that Elise’s head was way down in my pelvis. So after the blood work cleared at 11:00 AM the OB started me on drug to dilate my cervix called misoprostol. She said she’d come back to check me at 3:00 PM. She warned us that it could be a long induction since my cervix was so closed. 
Elise, you are getting evicted.

So then we waited. Played games on the iPads, read magazines, etc. I started to feel some minor contractions but nothing bad. We texted my parents to give them the update and they decided they’d come to the hospital at around 4:00 PM to see me and take Jonathan to dinner.

The OB came back at 3:30 PM and checked  my cervix. 2 cm dilated. Progress! She decided I could entering real labor here based on contractions and decided to not give me more Misoprostol or start Pitocin. That maybe my body would just do it on my own. My parents arrived a little while later as I was starting to have more contractions really low. We still figured real labor was hours away, so my Dad and Jon left for dinner around 4:30 PM and my Mom stayed to keep me company.

At around 5:00 PM my contractions started to get really close together and by 5:30 I was begging for pain relief. But I wasn’t sure how dilated I was so I didn’t want to get the epidural too soon.  They checked and I was 4 cm. I felt good about getting the epidural then. By 6:00 PM my epidural was placed I started to feel better. Then I started to feel worse, way worse. Terrible low stabbing pains (contractions), one after the other. I kept saying “this shouldn’t be how I feel on an epidural, should it?”
In pain but still smiling

Unfortunately right around 6:30 PM there was shift change a new anesthesiologist came in. He felt like maybe the epidural was placed wrong and wanted to re-do it. Thank goodness my Mom said “no” to that idea and had him load it up with more meds, because there probably would not have been enough time to remove and place a new epidural before I had to push. They also checked my cervix and I was already 7cm dilated (whoa!),  which was why I was in desperate need of more drugs. The anesthesiologist also gave me another pain drug in the IV (more on that later) to work quickly since I was in such pain (major cuss words and almost crying at this point).

Finally after more drugs in the epidural I was feeling great. My cervix got checked again and I was 8 cm and entering transition. My Mom started desperately calling my Dad and Jon telling them “get back here! She’s gonna start pushing soon!!” They’d been having a three-course Thai dinner.

Jon got back to the hospital at 7:00 PM and it was basically time to start pushing. Because the anesthesiologist gave me that drug in my IV they were worried Elise would come out lethargic from it since it takes two hours to wear off. So the whole pediatrics team was called to the room to make sure she’d be ok.  Since my hospital UCSD is teaching hospital, an intern, a resident, and Dr. were put in place in deliver Elise. My parents went out the waiting room and it was just Jon and I with all the Drs and nurses. 

I was finally fully numb from the waist-down thanks to the glorious, now-working epidural when I started to push a little bit after 7:00 PM. My amniotic fluid had still not broken and Drs were all worried about it bursting on them, so they had full plastics masks on. Hilarious. (side note: I guess a baby being born in their amniotic sack is rare very good luck in many cultures). I pushed for about 40 minutes while they monitored Elise’s heart rate. It dropped pretty low a few times but not enough to warrant concern. I couldn’t feel anything, so I kept asking the Drs “am I doing this right?” They assured me I was. They could see Elise’s full head of hair. Which was wonderful to hear because we felt assured that my placenta did it’s job and shielded her from all of the chemo drugs.

Finally on a contraction my water broke and did not make the giant mess that was predicted, and on the next push Elise was out! Elise cried immediately and it was the best sound I’ve heard in my life. They placed on her on my chest while Jon cut the cord.

Pure joy

Then they had the pediatrics team take her and do a quick exam to make sure she was fine from that drug I got. She was 100% fine and active. She scored a 9 and a 9 on her APGARs. Amazing score for any baby, let alone one who went through chemo, was induced, and got a little too much pain drugs. She weighed 7 lbs, 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long. Perfect size.


The doctors then placed her back on chest for skin-to-skin love and for me to feed to her a bottle of breast milk from the San Jose Milk Bank. My parents also came back into the room to meet Elise.
The Grandparents

The doctors all could not believe how quickly I dilated and how short of a time I pushed for. Basically the entire process from getting the first misoprostol drug for dilation to Elise being born was just under 9 hours. Heck, Jon almost missed the pushing because I dilated so much in just a few hours.
Family of 3

I said how God was in the details and here is what I mean…  I prayed so hard and had many others praying for short delivery, healthy baby, and no c-section. I got all of those about as perfectly as possible. The fact my Mom just arrived to be there with me during the worst pain and to be coach was ideal. How the epidural debacle ended just fine. I loved how Elise stayed in her fluid the whole time – it made feel like “protection” was around her for the entire process. I only had a very minor tear from delivery, so I could resume chemo quickly. But most importantly Elise was healthy and was able to go home with us 36 hours after being born.

Heading home


  1. I am so glad to hear things went so smoothly! Elise is precious. I'm keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Miss you!

  2. Yep, He was in all of it! I'm glad everything went so well for you. She is such a little doll and it looks like everyone is excited to meet her!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing the birth story! We hope to meet Elise soon. Good luck to all of you! Connie

  4. I love the part about her being protected and enclosed up until the last contraction/push! Amazing! Praise God! Cindy Sangalli

  5. Thank you... I'm in tears of joy. Love you so much!

  6. This is a wonderful story - she is here and she is perfect! I'm thinking of your family a lot and sending lots of positive energy your way.

  7. I love your details:) And I love how our amazing God gets the glory for being "in the details." He shows us how much He loves us every day, and Elise is a perfect example of that love. I am so happy for you, and praising God for her safe arrival! Now it's back to killing cancer...and we all know that God is already there, too;)
    Your Sister in Christ & Sister in Pink,

  8. She is precious! Congratulations!

  9. Sounds like everything went perfectly. Praise GOD! We live in SD and my Sis works at UCSD in Labor and Delivery! I've loved following your story. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Yay! Seriously crying while I read this. I'm just so happy for you. You deserve this. After everything you've been through I'm just so glad you had a healthy baby girl. She is adorable!!!! I hope you guys are doing great and enjoying every minute!

  11. Congratulations!!!! I have been following you since your newlywed blog and it's so inspiring to see you now with your family and radiating love and hope. God bless!

  12. Oh I just teared up reading this. What a perfect birthday for Miss Elise :) God is so good and I think she (and you) were just completely surrounded by prayers and love. Continuing to pray for you as you continue treatment and navigate the waters of being a mom to a newborn. xoxo.

  13. Praise God for such an amazing birth!

  14. Such an amazing birth story, thank you so much for sharing with us! I'm beyond relieved that everyone's prayers were answered, and that you were blessed with a quick and uncomplicated labor. Congratulations!

  15. Elise Victoria, you are so loved! Blessings to you all!

  16. Kirsten, I am a long-time friend of your parents and visited the house in Jamul a couple of times when you were a kid (and your dad-and my fellow Chicago native- would come to see us in AZ for Cubs Spring Training.

    I am late-coming to your blog and your struggle, but I want you to know another person (this one in Nebraska!) is praying for you and your family. Thank God for the blessing of your daughter's healthy and happy birth-- and what a cutie. Now you have my prayers for strength, complete healing, and peace.
    Bless you, Jon and Elise. -Dawn O. Braithwaite

  17. I happened to hear that you were pregnant and oh by the way, also have breast cancer a few months ago and have been consistently thinking good thoughts for you. I only happened to stumble across this blog today and am SO SO SO SO happy to hear that you're hanging in there and that you have a beautiful baby.

    Her name is completely appropriate and I will continue sending good thoughts your way!!

    Elizabeth Holt

  18. What a miracle. :) So happy for you guys and praying daily. xoxo

  19. I stumbled upon your blog while looking at I am also a survivor. I am a labor and delivery nurse and photographer so when I saw your maternity photos I had to check out your blog! While going through the birth story I thought I recognized the room you were in, it's UCSD! That's where I work! Then I saw the picture of you and Elise without your wig or head wrap on and I remembered you! I only saw you for a short time after delivery. I think I may have been the charge nurse that night and went in to help with a couple of things, so was only in there for a minute. It's such a small world! It's so nice to see that you are now in remition and that Elise is doing great :) P.S. Eva is a WONDERFUL nurse!!!