Enzo's Birth Story: Part 2

I've written my version of Enzo’s birth story not as a continuation of Emily's, but to share it from a different (and, at times, more conscious) perspective. If you have not yet read her post, do that first. In fact, since it took me so long to publish this you may want to just go back and read Emily’s story again now. - Jeff Janzen

It began on Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 in an unexpected way. What Emily and I thought would be a routine trip to the OB/GYN for our last scheduled prenatal appointment turned out to be the last drive we'd take together in our two-seater for a long time (no, it’s not for sale).

Emily at 30 weeks pregnant.

Emily at 30 weeks pregnant.

Emily’s blood pressure had been normal for the entire pregnancy, never raising concerns. But suddenly, we discovered, it had climbed. We were told to go immediately across the street to St. Boniface Hospital to visit Obstetrics Triage on the 3rd floor for some testing. We also realized that over the past two days she had been experiencing symptoms of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition that affects about 6% of pregnant women and has something to do with the mother’s body not being cool with the placenta anymore. If left untreated it can be fatal, and the only cure is delivering the baby.

Finding ourselves among those 6%, we were lucky because Emily's only developed at 39 weeks, so there was no risk of a premature birth. Many women find themselves faced with a rather unpleasant pair of options: induce birth prematurely, or wait and hope the preeclampsia can be controlled with blood pressure medication. We were looking at a full-term baby either way, but there was a good chance that we would have to induce labour today.

Today!? Holy crap.

Being told that you’re going to have a baby in the next day or so isn’t as exciting as you think it might be. You always picture it happening a certain way. Hopefully, you're at home when the contractions start getting more frequent and more intense. Then you get confused about whether you're really in labour, eventually realize that you are, let the excitement sink in, and settle down with some movies, games or other distractions until the contractions become sufficiently long and frequent that you can relocate to the Hospital. That’s what they tell you to prepare for, anyway.

None of that was happening, and it was hard to take. We held each other as we waited in triage, Emily now wearing a hospital gown. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that we would soon meet the little one we'd been waiting for, and got the lowdown on the risks and benefits of induced labour from a very helpful doctor and Google.

“Ok, let’s do it," we finally concluded.

Since mom’s body doesn’t know it’s about to give birth, they first supply you with a synthetic version of the chemical that women normally produce when it’s time to warm up the machinery. For the next 12 to 24 hours, we were told, we would wait in a hospital room while induced labour drug number one (of two) did its thing.

It was not a comfortable room; not even remotely accommodating of couples. Emily shared the room with another fearfully expectant mother, there was no chair or bench, and they wouldn’t let me bring a bedroll to sleep on the floor. At the time, this struck me as an atrocity. Put yourself in Emily's shoes for a moment and you'll understand why: You are being induced into labour, which means there is some kind of threat to the health of your baby or yourself. So you are understandably afraid and uncomfortable, and now you are being asked to spend the entire night without the person best equipped to help you feel calm and comfortable. (A note to anyone in the industry: This part of the process is broken.) After some persistent badgering mostly by Emily’s wonderful mother, Sue, who was with us for a few hours that night and would return for labour the next day, either compassion or fed-upness prevailed and the staff granted me permission stay in the room. We made it work with some serious spoonery in the extremely small bed. It’s a good thing neither of us take up much space.

The next morning, a Resident came in to check on drug number one’s progress and told us it hadn’t worked well enough to move to number two, so we’d have to keep waiting. We decided it would be a good time for me to run home, take a much needed shower and mentally prepare for my upcoming role as labour coach.

I managed to just get cleaned up before receiving a text from Emily telling me that when I got back, she would be back in Obstetrics Triage. It turns out the Resident had made a miscalculation and drug number one had worked. It wouldn’t be long before she would be would be squeezing out our offspring, so back I went in a hurry.

I want to give credit where it's due: The half-hour excursion we were encouraged to take before Emily was hooked up to the IV from which drug number two would drip may stand as the best single memory from our near-weeklong stay. Kudos to whoever made sure it was a part of our induced labour experience.

Emily enjoying some fresh air on our walkabout just before the big show.

Emily enjoying some fresh air on our walkabout just before the big show.

It was around 3:15pm when we began active labour. I say "we" because there appears to be no such thing as one person in a room being in labour while others are present. It consumed everything, and every bit of attention, emotion, and impulse I had for the next 6 hours was driven by it. I was in awe of Emily's ability to breath through the contractions, and of the bond between mother and daughter as Sue took her turns coaching. I was intensely focused on keeping Emily's attention when it was my turn, and on doing whatever it took to minimize her discomfort when it was not. It was at times intense and at brief moments relaxed and even kinda fun, and it went by quickly, right up until the moment it happened.

It's cliche but there is no better way to say it: Those few minutes felt like forever.

Staff became a bit worried when Emily wasn’t fully dilated but was having a hard time fighting the urge to push, so extra precautions had to be taken. They moved her to the operating room and I was allowed to follow, but Sue had to stay outside. The room filled with five or six attendants ready to pitch in if needed.

No more than a couple minutes went by before our doctor announced that things were now progressing well and that there would, in fact be no C-section! Cheers from the attendant staff made us feel like the worst was behind us, when in fact it was just around the corner.

After nearly an hour of directed pushing (the 10-seconds-on 30-seconds-off routine you see on TV), with baby's head crowning and just minutes from birth, Emily's blood pressure spiked.

Mine probably did too.

Her body stiffened, her jaw clenched, I don't know if her eyes were open or closed. She stopped breathing and I watched my favourite face in the world turn blue in mere seconds.

"She's seizing," Dr. Robinson proclaimed firmly. “Code Blue."

Fear and confusion gripped me more fiercly than any emotion ever has (I feel it again as I write this), and a hundred thoughts fired through my mind as quickly as the dozen or more emergency staff raced into the room.

“What just happened? What’s happening now? Why is she that colour? What can I do? Is she OK? Emily, can you hear me? Please stay with me. Please hang on. The baby is coming out! Yup, it’s a boy, no surprise... WE HAVE A BOY, EMILY! WE HAVE AN ENZO! Can you hear me? She couldn’t die from this, could she? Holy shit, she could! They’re trying to save her life! Hey hurry up with that tube thing. Just pull her mouth open! Am I watching my wife die right now?"

I don’t know how much time passed before I was told it was time to leave the room as the rest of the response team poured in, but it couldn’t have been more than about 30 seconds. My thoughts remained just clear enough to be slightly in awe of the team of professionals springing to action. “Cool,” I thought, as I turned the corner and headed toward the hallway where Sue was waiting with her characteristic composure. That was roughly the point when I lost mine.

Watching staff continue to rush back and forth in the hallway was excruciating. I’ve never been so afraid in my life. I felt vulnerable and confused, and I wondered if I could possibly raise a child without Emily (I was pretty sure I couldn’t). Sue and I held and consoled each other, or maybe she mostly consoled me. Having some knowledge of seizures with Emily’s brother, Josh, Sue tried to pry out little updates as staff slowly began to leave the room at a less hurried pace.

Finally, we got what we were waiting for. “I think she’s going to be ok,” one of them said as he passed.

Enzo was brought out a few minutes later bruised from the forceps, but otherwise perfect. I held him there in the hallway while a nurse explained that he would soon get to meet mommy, too.

Enzo Lawrence Janzen, born at 9:48 pm on August 27th, 2015.

Enzo Lawrence Janzen, born at 9:48 pm on August 27th, 2015.

Next, the staff weighed and measured him (8lbs. 6.6oz, 20.5”), and I fed him some infant formula. The drugs that Emily was given during her seizure would take 24 hours to clear her system, so we couldn’t exclusively breastfeed right away like we had planned. Plus, she would still be fully sedated for a couple hours to allow her body to recuperate.

You’ll remember the notes that Emily typed on my phone from her version of the story. She had woken up in the ICU, confused and in pain, and her head was foggy. After her third or fourth time asking why she had a seizure - and me starting to wonder if she had suffered some permanent damage - she finally understood that she had suffered eclampsia. Her first sight of our baby boy was of a photograph on my phone. I can’t imagine how strange that must have felt.

(A brief aside: I’ve always wondered this and now I have the answer... Yes, it is possible to know that your own baby isn’t cute. Enzo looked like an evil Mr. Magoo in his first photo. His eyes were squinty and beady at the same time, he had no hair on the top of his head, and his hands were claw-like and too big for his body. Thankfully that all passed and he has now claimed his rightful title as the cutest baby in the world.)

Emily and Enzo finally met face-to-face at 1:30 AM, three and a half hours after birth, and shared a few short and sweet naps together. Sue and I took turns sitting by their side that night while the other one slept in another room, a couple hours at a time, until the morning.

Emily’s condition slowly improved and some time that morning, the breathing tube was removed from her throat. Throughout that first day we had our families stop by for some visits and Emily was rolled from ICU up to Obstetrics for further observation, and finally to our private room just in time for night.

That room would end up being our home for nearly three days (which felt like 10), as the nurses and doctors kept a close eye on Emily’s blood pressure and Enzo’s weight. The room had plenty of sunlight, and the staff were caring and helpful. There, we learned how to swaddle Enzo properly, how to calm him down and squeeze in a workout at the same time by doing squats, how to begin feeding him the right way, and pretty much the entire hospital menu rotation. We also learned how many great friends we have, with many of them coming to visit while we were still there.

For Emily, it was a longer road to recovery than most new mothers get to travel. This is far from an exhaustive list because the details are really not my story to tell, but I will try to give you just an idea of what Emily went through during that time. There were blood tests several times daily and blood pressure checks every couple hours. For the first day, she couldn’t walk, swollen and in pain from head to toe, some parts quite severe. Eating was a challenge because her arms were badly bruised from the blood tests and IVs. Improper latching was causing breast pain (Enzo was a lazy eater for the first few weeks), and all this was on top of the usual painful parts of childbirth recovery, exacerbated by the use of forceps. Mentally, we worked together to piece together the memories Emily had of her labour, and she struggled to come to terms with missing out on the experience she was most looking forward to: those first moments with our new baby.

It was hard work for Emily, and I was amazed by her strength and perseverance. She was determined to get Enzo breastfeeding as soon as she could (it’s not as easy as you think, guys), and to build the relationship with him that we thought would just appear when he did. And just as I was there to support her, she never failed to reciprocate, asking frequently how I was doing, whether I needed a rest, and how I was coping with the trauma of watching her stop breathing on the delivery table. Many fathers in similar situations end up with panic attacks and other symptoms of PTSD, we were told. Thankfully, after retelling the story to friends and family enough times to fully understand how I feel about it, I am OK.

So what’s happened with Enzo since late-August?

Well, Enzo is now six months old. He is a matchstick - taller than 99% of babies his age and skinnier than a majority too, with a pretty big head. He likes to pull himself up to a standing position if you offer him your hands, and he’ll even do a little bit of walking (or dancing - it’s hard to tell) if you keep holding on. He’s learning to inch across the floor like a worm and we fear he will soon be crawling around to show us what needs to be baby-proofed. He loves when mommy reads him stories and he still hates going to sleep (the first few months were pretty painful - lots of crying and screaming), but he’s getting better at it.

He’s starting to eat some solid foods which makes for great mealtime entertainment, and he’s smiling and happy for most of every day. He loves going for walks, even in the cold, and his giggles are intoxicating. I make sure to tickle his neck with my face every single day because I just can’t get enough of them.

The most frequent comment about Enzo from strangers is, “he’s so alert/attentive!” A pharmacist we recently visited said she felt like he was listening in on her advice to mommy and judging whether or not she could be trusted. That’s my boy!

Enzo and I.

Enzo and I.

Enzo's Birth Story: Part 1

Enzo entered the world in such a way I could never have imagined, never mind in such a way I would not recall. With Enzo already two months old, I wanted to write out our birth story before I forgot any more details. It's hard enough remembering much of what happened as it is.

Jeff and I found out we were expecting on December 24th, 2014. I think it will always be the most surprising, yet best Christmas gift ever. We started to spread the news to our families Christmas Day.

We decided to keep our bebe's gender a surprise and prepared ourselves with selecting both a boy and girl name. They would be Enzo or Olivia. Most guessed we would have a boy, myself and Jeff included. For one, when I slept and dreamed of our baby, it was always a boy. Secondly, I chose to compete in almost a full season of autocross this year (up until week 37!) and was gaining time on Jeff from previous years. I believed it was because I now literally had the balls to go faster.

Winnipeg Sports Car Club Autocross

Other than an 8cm ovarian cyst that had grown, burst, and bled into my abdomen at 8 weeks and caused what had so far been the worst pain I had experienced, it had been an incredibly smooth pregnancy for us. I only experienced the typical bittersweet physical discomforts expected in pregnancy. I finished work at week 36 and spent the next couple weeks keeping busy around the house and preparing for our little's arrival.

At 38 weeks I woke up at 4am with the same pain I had felt at 8 weeks. It was constant and unbearable, but we were certain it wasn't labour. After an hour of pacing, rolling on the floor, and trying every position in an attempt to sooth my pains, I asked Jeff to take me to the hospital. I was admitted and we spent the day there with the nurses and doctors trying to diagnose the issue. They administered me morphine and I went on a little trip until the pain subsided and I was well enough to go home for the evening. I spent the next few days bound to the couch.

Four days later I quickly swelled up in the feet and face, had a throbbing headache, and was seeing stars. I assumed it to be typical pregnancy symptoms, but I was a little concerned because it all happened so suddenly. Luckily I had a prenatal appointment already scheduled the next morning.

That morning, Wednesday, August 26th, the doctor diagnosed me with preeclampsia - a serious condition that could lead to fatal complications for myself and the baby. Scientists haven't yet been able to pinpoint exactly what causes it, there is no way to prevent it, and there is no treatment for it. For the 5% of women that develop preeclampsia, sometimes premature delivery is necessary. Fortunately, the severe preeclampsia developed at the end of my pregnancy with a full term baby. Our doctor sent us straight to the hospital. I was most likely going to be induced and we would have a baby the next day.

I was terrified. This was not how it was supposed to happen. A few weeks prior Jeff and I read that we should have a birth plan ready to share with the nurses and doctors. I was reluctant to do this because I hate when plans fall through. I felt births were unpredictable and uncontrollable. Why plan for it? Nonetheless, I caved and we came up with a plan:


    Present for the birth:
        Jeff Janzen, husband
        Susanne Bashford, Emily’s mother

    We wish that all nonessential persons request permission to be present for the birth. Emily will decide whether students/observers are welcome in the room.

    We are prepared to have as natural a birth process as possible:

    • No pain medication
    • No IV
    • No intervention unless medically necessary


    • We prefer spontaneous bearing down followed by self-directed pushing. Only if necessary will we try directed pushing.

    Perineal care:

    • Episiotomy should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

    After birth:

    • Umbilical cord - prefer to wait until it stops pulsating before cutting.
    • Jeff may want to cut the cord; he will decide when the time comes.
    • Jeff will be staying in the hospital with Emily and Baby until they can all go home.
    • Emily will be breastfeeding. Avoid formula.

    If caesarean or other intervention may be necessary:

    • We wish to be fully informed of the factors leading to the decision, and any other options.
    • If absolutely necessary to have caesarean birth, Jeff will be present.
    • Emily would like to avoid sedatives/medications after surgery so she can hold the baby and begin nursing as soon as possible.

    If baby is sick/requires care after birth:

    • We wish to be fully informed on the situation and be involved in the decision process wherever possible.
    • If baby cannot nurse, Emily will express the colostrum and milk. Avoid formula.

    If stillbirth/death of baby:

    • We would like a chance to hold it, say goodbye and take a photo.
    • We would like an opportunity to discuss what lead to baby’s death with a doctor/nurse.
    • We would like an autopsy if cause of death is undetermined.

I had imagined being at home at the onset of labour. Contractions would slowly progress and Jeff and I would be confused as to when we should go to the hospital for the final stage of labour and delivery. Once at the hospital, Jeff and I would walk the halls, pausing with each contraction and Jeff would coach me through it all until my Mom showed up to help (with a fruit tray - this was my odd request). I wanted to feel everything. I wanted to experience it all and let my body do what it was built to do.

But for whatever reason my body was not built to delivery a baby this pregnancy. If not for modern day medical care, I or Enzo may not be alive today and Jeff may be a single dad.

After some evaluation, the doctors and nurses at the hospital recommended I be induced to deliver the baby as soon as possible. We knew induced deliveries were more painful than natural deliveries because it happens faster and the brain does not have time to release the chemicals that hide the pain. We also knew an induced labour would have a higher chance of being followed with further interventions of which we wanted to avoid. We asked as many questions as we could think of to make the best decision for us. It was a difficult decision to go forward with the induction, but we now know it was the right decision. Scrap the birth plan.

The first stage of induction began that afternoon. It was a matter of monitoring my blood pressure, controlling the pain, and waiting for signs that my body was ready for labour. We were told I would have to spend the night without Jeff, as no private rooms were available. This added to the stress. I couldn't do it alone.

Our bed for the first night.

Our bed for the first night.

Fortunately they found another room for me where my roommate would not mind Jeff spending the night. On the bright side, we would stick together for our last night as just the two of us. On the downside, we spent a long night together sharing a tiny single bed, as Jeff was not allowed to sleep on the floor and a sleeper chair would not be provided. Between the discomforts of the bed and my pregnant body, the headache, and the need to go to the bathroom every couple hours, I was exhausted the next morning. Knowing I would be going into labour this exhausted frightened me.

That morning we were informed things had not progressed enough to start the second stage of labour yet so Jeff went home to shower and collect a few things for our hospital stay. I was confused when only a couple hours later I was suddenly told I was going to receive the second stage of induction. Labour would start within the hour! I felt so helpless and uninformed. Jeff rushed back to the hospital and we asked more questions to learn more about what was going to happen next. I had half an hour to take a hot shower and go for one last walk with Jeff as just the two of us.

That peaceful walk around the St. Boniface entrance loop with Jeff is one of the most special moments I have with him, and the last thing I clearly remember from the day Enzo was born. It was a warm, sunny day and the leaves were starting to show signs of my favourite season of all: fall. I needed that moment. It was a moment I felt relaxed and in control. I dreaded going back, as I knew I would soon be confined to the hospital bed for the duration of labour with an IV.

When we arrived back to my labour and delivery room, I was introduced to the nurse who would guide me through the labour. I found relief in knowing I would have her help, as she was so kind. I was also excited to see a friend (Jenn!) starting her shift just then and that I would also be under her care. I don't remember Jenn's jokes, but I remember her making me laugh and her bright red lipstick. My Mom, my other coach, arrived too. 

Labour was coming. I watched it drip slowly down through the IV into my arm. That, and an episode of Modern Family. But when labour hit, it hit hard. What little energy I had drained very quickly with each contraction. I moved from the bed to an exercise ball so I could move around a bit to cope with the pain. I remember Jeff rubbing my back and one contraction in particular when I said I couldn't do it anymore. I locked eyes with my Mom kneeling in front of me. She asked me to follow her breathing. So I did, and I made it through the contraction. And the next one. And the next one. In those moments I felt so connected with my Mom. Then I think I closed my eyes for the rest of labour. That or my visual memories are mostly erased beginning then.

When my water broke I was terrified. A big gush of water ran over the exercise ball and down my legs. It felt like I was having a nightmare and I wet the bed. I moved back to the bed for comfort. I then felt as though all my energy was gone and that I could no longer cope with the pain of the contractions. It felt like there was never a moment of rest between them. Embarrassed and disappointed with myself, I asked for morphine to take the "edge" off. But the pain kept up and it only worked momentarily. I then, even more disappointed in myself, proceeded to ask for an epidural. They told me I needed blood work first and that I may be too close to the end to get started on it.

Then I got the urge to push. It was now definitely too late for an epidural, but it was also too early to start pushing. Now instead of focusing on the pain with each contraction, I concentrated on not pushing. I hated myself each time my body pushed even though I was telling it not to. I felt weak. Wasn't I strong enough to overcome my body with my mind and stop it from pushing? For concern this was causing stress on the baby, we were moved to the operating room where there were the tools necessary for helping the baby out should they be needed. I could bring only one person with me, so Jeff came and my mom stayed behind.

Once we got to the room we received good news. The doctor confirmed I was now ready to push! Things had progressed so fast in those few minutes. The room cheered.

The doctor and nurse directed me on pushing. I would push for the count of 10, wait for the count of 30, repeat. Everyone cheered me on!

Then I woke in a strange room with Jeff standing beside me. I couldn't talk because there was a tube down my throat. Jeff held his phone up for me to slowly peck at a message for him:

Translation: I first told Jeff I loved him, then how much I was hurting. Jeff told me I had a seizure and I asked why. Everything was such a blur. Jeff told me we had a son and showed me a picture of him. He looked like Mr. Magoo, I thought.

This first photo I saw of Enzo still makes me laugh.

This first photo I saw of Enzo still makes me laugh.

I asked Jeff to wipe the drool dripping down my chin from trying to talk. I asked why I had a seizure (again). 

I excitedly yelled "Enzo!" in my mind, but it didn't feel like I had a son, especially with him no where in sight...


I'll post Part 2 of Enzo's Birth Story on the blog as soon as we can. It's a look at how Enzo came into the world from Jeff's point of view, and fills in on the areas I dearly wish I had experienced.