Charisse’s Birth story

[You may also want to read about our move to Edmonton and my pregnancy through the summer.]

Psalm 103:2-5

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good [things; so that] thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

We planned an Open House for our new apartment for Saturday, October 15. The event loomed and much remained to be done around the house, but my energy levels weren’t keeping up with the workload. I had another ultrasound on Oct. 7 (32.5 weeks) to check on the fibroid. There was concern that it might interfere with labor’s progression. The fibroid had not grown, but my cervix was beginning to shorten (efface). The doctor’s office called to recommend I take it easy and keep off my feet as much as I could. I was still teaching violin lessons and trying to keep them through mid-November. My due date was November 27. I had a headache Monday night (Oct. 11) through Wednesday afternoon, but the weather was changing, and I thought it was just my sinuses.

On Wednesday, Oct. 12 (33 weeks), I had a relatively busy day—teaching, church, etc. That night around 11 p.m., while I was standing talking to Duncan, I suddenly felt really lightheaded. Not spinning or dizzy, but like I couldn’t stand up much longer. I thought I was just really tired. Duncan helped me into my pajamas. Around 1 a.m., I woke up to go to the bathroom, and the weird feeling persisted. I called the nurse hotline, and although I didn’t have any other symptoms (my headache had gone away), she recommended I go in to the hospital to be checked out. Poor Duncan! To be roused in the middle of the night, and it’s not even time for the baby!

At the ER, when you’re pregnant past a certain number of weeks, they take you right up to labour and delivery. Well, it turns out my blood pressure was high, and I was diagnosed with PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension). After a night in the ward, hearing all the questions that nurses ask when ladies in actual labour first come in, I felt like I had received an education! Thursday morning they sent me home, but to manage and monitor my PIH, the obstetrician put me on partial bedrest and signed me up for the local antenatal program. A nurse started coming to our house every day to give me a non-stress test (check blood pressure, measure contractions, and check baby’s heartbeat), take blood work once a week and answer any questions. I was also given a cuff to check my bp three times a day and little sticks to check for protein in my urine.

How your life can change in a few short hours! We did go through with the Open House on Sat., Oct. 15, but I sat most of the time. Duncan had taken Thursday off work and was able to get our place in ship-shape order. Thursday night we went to the first (out of 5) prenatal class at the hospital—we learned about the process of delivery and breathing techniques. Sunday at church I was not able to stay for both morning services because of fatigue. The following week was taken up with lots of rest, nurse visits, bp checks, and a couple appointments. My blood pressure had stabilized at higher than normal, but not excessive. Monday, Oct. 17, in the evening I had a strange pain/pressure in my left abdomen—I called the nurse hotline again, but we concluded it must be heartburn or something. As it looked like I could potentially be going into labour early, we set a time to meet the doula we were considering and to pay for the first half. We made an appointment for Monday, Oct. 24 in the evening. Thursday, Oct. 20, we attended the second prenatal class, which went over a tour of the labor and delivery area of the hospital and what happens during a c-section.

On Friday, Oct. 21, the nurse on her visit took my blood for testing. The results take one day through the antenatal program. They called me on Saturday to say that one of my liver enzymes was slightly elevated (it was 56 when 50 and under is normal), and they would retake my bloodwork on Monday. I still had no protein showing up in my urine with the sticks (high bp and protein in the urine indicate preeclampsia). Over the weekend, my abdomen pain increased, but only in the evening and night. Sunday night I was not able to sleep very much because of the pressure. But I could read and it was bearable. Also, my blood pressure was staying higher.

At 11 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 24 (35 weeks 1 day), when the nurse came to our house she recommended I go in to the hospital. They would be able to get bloodwork results within hours, and with my strange pain and higher bp, it was worth getting checked out. So I called Duncan at work to let him know, and used the taxi voucher the program had given me to get a ride to the hospital. My bloodwork came back, and not only had my liver enzyme that was 56 skyrocketed to over 200, but my platelets had dropped below normal (down to 90,0000). I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, a group of symptoms thought to be related to preeclampsia. The initials stand for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelet count. The only cure is to deliver the baby.

By the time Duncan showed up from work around 5 p.m., we were talking about the baby coming that week. As the doctors discussed options with us, we had two alternatives: induction or cesarean. At 35 weeks, the baby was developed enough to not be in danger (praise the Lord!), but induction might take a couple days, and with my fibroid, I might have ended up with a cesarean anyway. We didn’t know how quickly the HELLP might progress. So the doctors recommended a cesarean. That night.

Poor Duncan ran home to pack a few things. He cancelled the meeting with the doula. He dashed off an e-mail to family. All it said was “Looks like a Csection tonight.” Mom Johnson immediately called, then booked a flight to arrive in Edmonton that night at 9 p.m. Around 7 p.m., I was prepped for surgery. I remember being comforted that I was wearing pink socks, since we were having a girl. The nurses were so helpful. One named Marion came into the cesarean with me, and stayed into the night.

Duncan was a real trooper. We read some Scripture together—Psalm 121 and 91. We warned the nurses about his record at medical procedures :). They had him wait until I had received the spinal, and everything was set up, then brought him into the surgery. Within three minutes of the beginning of the surgery, we had a baby girl!! She was born at 9:02 p.m. To hear her cry was so surreal. The nurse showed little Charisse to us and looked at Duncan and said “Don’t faint, don’t faint!” She weighed and measured her (4 lbs 3 oz and 17 inches long), wiped her up, and brought her over to us. Duncan held our tiny bundle right close to my head so I could kiss her. She was so tiny!! And sweet and precious. Our hearts were just overflowing with love for her.


I had never envisioned a c-section. There were so many ways that things did not go at all as we expected. But God was so good to us. He protected Charisse and me from dangers. We saw His mercy in so many ways, even to where we didn’t end up paying for a doula we did not use. Little Charisse was small for her age, and stayed in the NICU for two weeks. I was in the hospital for one, then the rest of the time came into the hospital for all her daytime feedings. What a joyful day when passed the “carseat test” and came home!

Luke 1:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

Here are some more pictures!

4 thoughts on “Charisse’s Birth story

  1. How precious and wonderful! Thanks for the update. We are awaiting our second little grand-daughter right now! I enjoyed these pics so much!

  2. This brings back so many memories! God is so gracious, and Charisse is so darling, it was worth every trial.

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