Our Birth Story

Fenn Gilbert Whitworth came into the world on August 25th, 2017. He weighed 6 lb 14 oz and was 20 in long. It was a Friday morning and the weather was mildly pleasant, but his arrival into our world was fierce.

At about 7:15 in the morning on that Friday, I heard a peculiar pop that woke me up out of my sleep. Drowsily, I crawled on to all fours in an attempt to get my basketball-shaped belly moved from the bed to the bathroom, and instantly felt a forceful flood of liquid hit the white sheets. Whoops….

“My water just broke,” I said out loud dumbfounded to only the cat since Peter had left early to practice a work presentation.

“That was my water. Ok, whoa…I better clean that up. Wow, that’s a lot of liquid,” I thought.

I stripped the bed and hurried myself to the bathroom. I felt calm upon realizing this was about to be a very big day. I think just maybe…. possibly…there was a chance I was too calm? You let me know what you think after reading this tale in its entirety.

Next, I called Peter (who was a couple towns away at a Starbucks practicing his presentation) and my mom (who was at home asleep) to let them know I ruined the bed. Both parties answered their phones, and I warned them not to rush. I was going to pack up, feed the cat, attempt to clean up the bedroom mess, get myself ready, do some other unnecessary things while in labor, and then finally, we would make our way to the hospital and mom would meet us there. The plan was to be induced on the following Monday, August 28th at 38 weeks 2 days, so I wouldn’t say we were entirely prepared for this to be our son’s birthday. We had some bags packed, but I don’t travel lightly, so I had quite a bit to gather up before I felt ready to leave.

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8:30am

Soon after, Peter arrived and we carried all our belongings to the car, double-checking we had the car seat, my Vest, my bag, the baby’s bag, etc. I started having mild cramping like contractions at this point that were about 3-4 minutes apart but still felt calm and comfortable.

Now a day, thanks to smartphones there are great apps to time your contractions. The app even warns you when it would be an appropriate time to head to the hospital. I received the “hospital warning” about four separate times before we even got on the highway. I was mildly annoyed this app was being so uptight and pushy.

Our drive to the hospital was uneventful and my contractions continued to increase in strength while I put on my make-up and made sure I had eyebrows for the big day. Once we were about 10 minutes out from the hospital, I started experiencing contractions that I couldn’t talk through. I knew this meant something about the progress of labor, but I honestly thought I was just being a big baby and labor was about to suck hardcore, so I gave it very little thought.

9:00am

We arrived at University Hospitals and pulled into the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital driveway, a roundabout I have driven through many times before but for a very different reason than the present. In the past, here is where I would surrender myself for weeks upon weeks of IVs antibiotics in the interest of health. But today, I was admitting myself in the pursuit of my hope to become a mom. Life felt incredibly full circle in that moment. Usually when an expectant mother arrives, they bring a wheelchair to help the mama get across the hospital. Passing by my favorite bagel cart, I didn’t have time for those considerations and walked myself to Labor and Delivery foregoing the complementary wheelchair ride.

There, we were checked-in, I peed in cup number 200 of this pregnancy, had the monitored strapped to my giant belly, and did all the other necessary admission tasks. While in triage, the doctor swung by to double check my water had broke, and that I indeed didn’t just pee myself and mistake it for labor. That actually happens, people. Ding, ding, ding! I was in labor! The doctor confirmed my waters did break and that she could see the baby’s hair.

In response to the exam, I thought, “Cool. I must be a couple centimeters dilated and in the beginning stages of labor. This is really happening.”

Oh my gosh, I was so clueless.

9:30am

This is when things really picked up. My contractions felt very close together and were increasing in strength. They would build to the point that I couldn’t concentrate on anything but getting over the hump of the pain and coming back down to the point of relief.

I looked at Peter and quietly said, “If this is the beginning of labor, I can’t do this. I think I need the epidural.”

I already felt tired and it had only been about 2 hours since I was sleeping cozily in my bed. My high-risk doctor popped her head around the curtain and said a quick hello while asking how I was doing. I told her how my water broke in my bed and I couldn’t believe I went into labor naturally. I had been hoping to avoid my scheduled induction and that my body would know when I was ready. She reminded me it might take awhile since I was a first time mom and that she would be on service tomorrow. My heart absolutely sank in response.

“TOMMORROW!?! I don’t want to do this for another 24 hours. Are they nuts?” I thought as I inwardly panicked.

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10:00am

We made our way to another room so that I could get my IV placed before going to the final delivery room. When the doors opened to Multipurpose Room A, it was as if a glowing angel was sitting in the chair waiting to offer guidance in the midst of pain– except it was my mom. I felt another contraction coming and waddled my way to the end of the bed so I could lean over and brace myself while doing some weird head roll to offer some relief. You seriously do some weird things with your body while in labor. So. Very. Weird.

“How are you doing, Janeil?” she asked with a hug.

“Mom, this is the worst,” I said swaying back and forth, white knuckling the bed rail.

“How far are you?” she asked holding me at a distance. “Did they check you? I think you are further than you think.”

Honestly, moms do know best. My mom has seen me in pain many, many times before. She knows that I deal with pain mostly inwardly by becoming very quiet and stoic. She also knows that I have quite a high pain tolerance and my pain scale doesn’t directly correlate with the general public’s. It was must be a CF thing. I hopped into the bed and we started chatting once the contraction was over and the nurse started inserting my IV. A few seconds later, I told her I felt another contraction coming and the nurse asked that I stay with her until she tapped down my IV.

My mom replied, “Already? Your contractions are 45 seconds apart and lasting one and a half minutes.”

I looked at her and said nothing.

“That’s long!”

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10:15am

A few more contractions went by while I squeezed Peter’s hand and in between the rest period, I laid my head back and pretended I was sleeping. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me, ever, ever again (dramatic). Another contraction would build in intensity and the cycle would start again. Suddenly and surprisingly, I felt the overwhelming need to push as if it was beyond my control. My body was in command in that moment. The baby was ready, even if I believed I wasn’t.

Through labored breath I turned to my mom and said, “I need to push.”

“WHAT!?”

“I need to push. Can I push??”

“No!” everyone said in unison. “NOT YET! Blow them away.”

Hurriedly, my mom requested the doctor come check me since she believed I was further along in the process than we all thought. I continued panting and blowing the urge away while we waited. The doctor answered her page to my room, did her business, and her jaw dropped while she examined me.

“What time did you come in?” she asked.

“Around 9:00am,” I moaned slightly.

“You’re all the way…,” she said as she slowly reached over and pushed the call button asking for a delivery team over the loud speaker.

“We need a delivery team in Room A,” she announced.

Before I realized what was happening, my legs were being thrown up in the stir ups, eight more people rushed into the room while snapping on gloves and gowns, metal tools where clanking together, and I was being instructed on exactly how I would bring this baby into the world.

“This is happening, now??” I asked.

“Can you even deliver in here?’ my mom added.

(The answer was yes; you can deliver in Multipurpose Room A as we would soon find out.)

10:30am

The pushing began.

Suddenly, I realized with every contraction that pushing is exhausting work when you’re a tiny woman, only two thirds of your lungs function, and you’re moving a basketball through your body.

Personally, just breathing in between the set of big pushes was the most difficult part of the entire labor process. I could handle the pain, but with each big breath in I could feel myself dwindling of energy as if I wasn’t getting enough air to power my body. There was so much force and pressure from every direction, I doubt my lungs had the space to open and inhale properly.

“Can you throw some oxygen on her?” my mom suggested to the medical team.

Good call, mom! Best decision all day. I am super glad you are a respiratory therapist! Once the nasal cannula was on and the oxygen saturated my tired lungs, I felt my head clear and my energy increase.

“You’re not afraid, you’re not afraid,” I repeated to myself.

Although I had barely any time to mentally process what had just transpired over the last three hours, I knew if I was going to continue pushing and deliver without any pain medication, I had to do it without fear and with confidence. I quickly asked the Lord to deliver him safely out of my body and into my arms. Ok, I was ready!

Peter, my mom, and my nurse Eileen stood bedside and acted as my coach and cheer squad for the next 30 minutes.

“1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… 10,” my mom counted slowly.

“Fill those lungs, baby. Fill those lungs!” my nurse chanted while I inhaled as big as I could.

(Honestly, I can’t remember what Peter said. I recently asked him as well, and he said he didn’t remember either. I did feel his arm behind my head holding me up though. Thanks, love!)

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10:50am

The pushing continues.

I pleaded to know how he was doing, what position he was in, and if the head was close to being delivered in between pushes. At one point they said I could reach down and touch his head, but I could barely open my eyes and needed to conserve my energy and focus for the next limitless set of pushes, so I politely declined and told them I was ok for the moment. Other than that, I was a silent and stoic laborer—no screaming, no crying, just desperate inhalations, followed by relieving exhalations.

Towards the end of my time pushing, they told me I needed to quickly roll over on my left side to help the baby because he was under stress. His heart rate had changed and retrospectively, my mom said she felt very worried in that moment watching the fetal monitor.

“Oh, boy. Seriously?” I thought.

Even in that very intense moment, I knew that was not a pretty scene to watch. With a huge watermelon belly pointing up and my legs perched in the air, I allowed them to flip me over in between pushes and then back again.

I send apologies to everyone who had to witness that very graceful moment.

10:56am

A few more pushes eagerly elapsed, and then the world went silent for a moment, and he was here.

His cries filled the room—a cry I felt I knew almost immediately, as if I’ve heard it one thousand times before. Only, this was the first time it would meet my ears.

His little body was plopped onto my chest, and in response, I made noises I never thought possible. Unearthly wails exited my body as I laid hands on our tiny baby. Those wails were powered by an accumulation of an all consuming relief. Feelings of relief that the pain had stopped; relief that he was here safely; relief that I made it through my pregnancy healthy; relief that I finally proved everyone wrong; relief that we had made a good decision almost a year ago; and relief that I, miraculously and heavenly-decided, was finally a mom. His mom.

I touched his head, his long fingers, and his tiny nose I saw on the ultrasounds with each passing week, the nose we guessed if it was Peter’s or mine. I knew he was ours. I looked at his umbilical cord that was wrapped around his neck seconds prior reentering my body and realized that I would gladly spend the rest of my life providing for him without reprisal. That love is real. The rumored love you experience watching your child enter the world—guiding them so unsure and yet determined. That love is immediate and powerful and consuming and scary. Holding him while the many bodies around me slowed to a blur, I just got it.

I so got it.

I finally understood the true nature behind a mother’s love.

Labor was unearthly. Knowing that my broken body was still capable of undertaking something it was designed to do, I never felt mightier or freer of my disease. Simultaneously, I never felt so honored to be labeled as “sick” as I held my baby boy. He is my proof that if cystic fibrosis has imparted any clarity upon the understanding of my experiences, the very brightest is that The Lord has gently humbled me time and time again so that I could experience the true influence of that moment–the power and vulnerability of bringing forth life when your body is so very fragmented. I believe my labor has set the tone for my season of motherhood.

For nine months, I wondered whether my diseased body could handle a natural labor. I prayed for a natural labor so that I could hold onto the experiences when my disease didn’t completely define me. My mom prayed for a labor I could physically manage while preserving my stabilized health. Our prayers were both answered. That morning I chose not to do my treatments and pills unknowingly believing I would have time at the hospital while we waited for Fenn to make his arrival. I never received them. And, that’s why our birth story is so precious to me, because it was a time when I was physically at my rawest, my very truest self; but by the grace of God I was blinded by certain strength and in under four hours, I moved mountains as mothers so often do.

 

 [Thank you to Uncle Christian for these photos of Fenn’s birthday!]

 

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First Trimester Recap- Week 1 to Week 13

I consider myself one of the lucky ones looking back on my first trimester. Really, I don’t think my first trimester could have gone any smoother than it actually did. I believe everyone around me has lovingly been a bit surprised by that fact as well–I know I am not the only one. If I am being brutally honest, I thought those first 13 weeks would be a sh** show, and I had realistically prepared myself (and Peter) for the shower of preemptive baby poo coming our way. My initial thoughts: First trimester horror stories + CF = I am going down. Way to have any confidence in your abilities, Janeil. ☹

The reality was I was very aware there were women who spent the first three months with head hanging over the porcelain throne. Honestly, I thought with all the morning coughing I do, I would spend my fair share of time locked in the bathroom with my supreme gag reflex. Instead, I celebrated every time I puked because I knew that was just part of being wonderfully pregnant. I thought with already underlying chronic fatigue, the first trimester would wipe me out completely. Again, that wasn’t the case either. I felt an influx of energy and used that timely wisely. I worried about making it through the first trimester with no IV antibiotics to avoid exposing my developing babe to the harsh drugs. No harsh antibiotics here (minus my necessary daily ones)! I did it! I made it through the first trimester, and I did it with relative ease and healthy lungs!

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So, I consider myself extremely blessed because I know I fall into the minority group of “easy first trimesters”. Maybe the first trimester was so enjoyable because as Peter so eloquently put it, “You are used to feeling crappy”? Better yet, maybe it was all the prayers, support, and well wishes we received lifting me up to a healthier place? Either way, I truly felt great, hungry, a normal amount of tired, avoided IV antibiotics, and more excited with each passing week while baking that babe. Amen! My subsequent thoughts: I would do that 1,000 times over again!

Here’s a little more about my comfy and joyful first trimester being pregnant with cystic fibrosis:

Finding Out: I guess when you are so in-tuned with you body like I am, the benefit of having that connection is finding out you’re pregnant freakishly fast. At just 3 weeks 5 days pregnant, my body told me, “Get up out of bed and go take a pregnancy test because you are pregnant, girl!” And my body was right! Cue tears and hyperventilation.

I told Peter the next day and he was overcome by shock, just as I was. I think we both expected our TTC journey to play out differently and had our doubts we would ever be successful. The stats were not in our favor: about 1/3 of CFers need assisted reproductive technology to conceive and about another 1/3 only conceive after a year or more of trying. So to find out we made a human early on was very much our own little miracle! Overall, the first trimester felt long because we found out we were expecting so early, but it was incredibly joyful.

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OB Visits: Because my pregnancy is considered high-risk due to cystic fibrosis and also cystic fibrosis related diabetes, I am being monitored entirely by a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) doctor, basically an OBGYN with extra training to handle complicated pregnancies. We decided a normal OBGYN just wouldn’t know what to do with me, and I am ok with that! The following things typically happen at my appointments: I usually get an ultrasound to make sure baby is growing correctly (it’s crazy to see the changes so far– the above ultrasound is 9w6d and 8w6d respectively), we go over my medications to make sure there have been no changes and everything is still safe to take, we go over my blood sugar numbers and adjust insulin as need, we discuss how my lungs are doing, and we discuss my weight gain. Starting at 20 weeks, I will get a growth scan at every appointment to continue to monitor baby’s growth. And from there, we see how things progress and adjust my care as needed!

CF Visits: I am also seeing my CF team on a more frequent basis to make sure I am the healthiest I can be during this time. As usual, I do a pulmonary function test (PFT) to determine how well my lungs are working, discuss my weight gain and calorie intake, adjust my medications, discuss my energy levels and other symptoms, and do a full physical exam. Surprisingly, my PFTs have gone up from 64% to 67% in the first trimester. YAY! Of course, everyone from my team comes in to see and touch my belly while asking all about my exciting pregnancy! I love my CF team so much and their constant support and detail to my care during this time is such an encouragement. I know this pregnancy feels like a huge victory for them as much as it is for me, and I hope I can make them proud by being a healthy mama!

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Morning Sickness: I had a touch of morning sickness up until about Week 8 but focused on keeping my stomach filled to help with the nausea and random vomiting, and it worked! After Week 8, the sickness was gone and there were only random moments of feeling queasy. I felt my morning sickness was very tolerable and ultimately, I knew I had the skills to deal with it (vomiting isn’t really a novel thing in CF).

Appetite and Cravings: Smoothies, fast food (Chick fil A, Taco Bell, etc), pizza, tacos, fresh fruit, cheese danish, different cereals, raw carrots, and brussels sprouts were some of my cravings. Basically, any time I overheard talk about food on the radio or while eavesdropping on a private conversation, I needed said food item ASAP. Pregnancy cravings are really just a step up from my already CF-induced food cravings. Poor Peter has spent a lot of time driving me to different food establishments, but he has always been a good sport about it!

Weight Gain: From December to Week 13, I gained around 8lb (104lb to 112lb), which was very desirable since I was struggling with poor weight gain during the holiday season. My goal is to eat an extra 300- 600 calories a day on top of my minimum ~3000 to 3500 calorie demand to gain between 28 to 40lb. Geez! I just keep telling myself, “Food is fight. Food is growth.” I believe I can get there slowly and surely, and so far I have! I think my healthy weight gain has been the most shocking aspect of this pregnancy so far. Eating appropriately and seeing such fantastic results on the scale is such a foreign concept to me in my normal CF life. As an result, I am so thankful I am putting on the weight we both need to stay healthy, and I am slowly learning to love my new maternity body that can’t fit into any of my previous clothing.

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Fatigue: My fatigue level from the beginning to Week 13 was very normal for me, even less burdensome than normal. There were days were I felt I had more energy than usual and was wondering when the impending fatigue would hit. There were also days were I napped and felt refreshed, and then days were I was tired. Overall, I personally feel CF-related fatigue is much more intense than pregnancy-related fatigue but that just might be me. Hopefully this energy will continue to transcend through the second trimester and beyond!

Other Pregnancy Weirdness: I had your usual cramping and twinges for the entirety of my first trimester. I now realize that all that stretching and pulling was needed because I started to show fairly quickly and developed a bump around Week 9 (and, I know it’s almost anatomically impossible at that point). People kept telling since I am petite, there’s nowhere to go but out. ☺ Who knows! I just went with the bump and embraced the congratulations and belly rubs from strangers.

With all the stretching, I experienced my very first round ligament pains pretty early on around Week 8 during hard coughs. I felt sharp pulling and tightening on the sides of my belly after coughing and then the pain would relax after a few seconds. My MFM agreed such strong coughing can definitely tighten all those muscles surrounding your belly causing sharp pains, and that I better get used to it. I am used to it at this point.

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CF Weirdness: The number one CF/pregnancy question I was asked after announcing we were expecting was, “Can you still use your Vest twice a day for 30 minutes for airway clearance?” The answer is yes! It won’t harm the baby a bit and is an especially important tool to keep my lungs as clear as possible. Eventually, I will have to unclip the bottom buckles to fit my giant belly and possibly have Peter “clap” me to target my lower lobes (form of airway clearance that looks like pounding with cupped hands) but for now, it’s all Vesting. Some women even say their babies are comforted from the shaking and noises of the Vest after delivery because they were so used to hearing it in the womb. ☺

I think the baby will also be used to my coughing, or at least I hope so. On my 12 Week ultrasound every time I coughed, the baby did a little squirm, floated up, and then back down from the force of the cough. It made me laugh and feel a bit bad for the disturbing poor thing. Eventually, baby will learn coughing is just a thing mama does, along with many other weird CF things.

That’s a wrap, people! Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement. I am happy to report how well babe and I are doing so far. Please let me know if you have any questions about this special pregnancy and I would be happy to answer!

Sending love and light,

J and Babe

Our Favorite Announcement

Our hearts grew a little bit bigger this winter as Peter and I learned we are expecting a precious addition to our family. It’s true! WE ARE PREGNANT! And we are so excited to share our happy news with you all!

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I’m not sure Peter and I know how to truly express the immense joy, crazy love, or gratitude we have felt already at this point in our pregnancy. The depth of our emotions just can’t be translated to a screen because they are much too big and mighty. At the start of our attempt to expand our family, I think we both expected there to be some disappointment and heartache, a lot of patience, and more faith than we were ready to give, instead the Lord simply decided our time was now. His perfect timing and His certain decision to make us parents of this special baby will always humble me. I still can’t believe we have been so blessed.

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Truthfully, the past three months have sort of felt like a whirlwind; like we are stuck in a long anticipated dream with no desire to get out. My belly is growing by the day, I cruised through the first trimester as healthy as could be with little discomfort, and I am rejoicing in the weird and lovely terms of pregnancy. I can honestly say I have enjoyed every single day of this new adventure so far and cannot wait to meet our sweet little dream all wrapped up baby-burrito style. This time has been so very special to us. Telling our friends and family have been some of the happiest moments in our lives, and we can’t wait to further share our unique journey of pregnancy and parenthood with cystic fibrosis.

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Our special little babe is due to make their arrival on September 9th, 2017, but until then please join us in praying for an enjoyable, healthy, and stable pregnancy. Specifically, pray that my lungs stay clear and unchanging, I can maintain good blood sugar control, and that I am able to gain the necessary weight to keep our babe and I strong and growing. Please keep in mind our physicians who have the difficult task of managing a complex, high-risk pregnancy. We ask that you pray for wisdom, knowledge, and skill while they care for the both of us (Oh, goodness—“both us of” feels so weird to say!). Also, pray for the dad-to-be who will inevitably pick up the slack as I get more and more pregnant, and we experience a bit of transition from just two kids with a furbaby to eager parents with a human baby (+ furbaby). I know we are in for a crazy ride, but as always I appreciate your kindness, love, and support you have given our family.

Overall, we are uncontainably excited, deeply humbled; and most importantly, growing a human. We just couldn’t be happier!

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Stay tuned for more love and more baby,

J + P

(A big thank you to my cousin-in-law, Dave Blakeslee, at David Blakeslee Photography for capturing this special moment for us to have and to share. We are thankful for your talent!)