Sunday, November 1, 2015

James Francis Jensen {October 18, 2015}

(I may be a year and half behind on blogging but I didn't want to miss the chance to document the birth of our new little man...)

Baby Jensen’s due date was October 15, 2015. I had been having some random contractions leading up to the due date so I thought he just might join us early. But, his due date came and went without any contractions or any sign of him joining us. I cleaned our entire house that day, in hopes of encouraging him to come. The next day (Friday), Kason and I walked all around the Smithsonian Zoo in D.C. to try and encourage him to come. Aside from some cramping and added pressure, it wasn’t enough. The next day was Saturday and we were really hoping he might join us on the weekend since it would be super convenient for Brad, meaning he wouldn’t have to miss any of his law school classes. Saturday morning I was feeling motivated to get him OUT! I went for a brisk, hour long walk around our neighborhood, talking to him and encouraging him to join us. Later that day, I had a couple contractions and I got really excited…until they stopped. We had a induction date set for 1 week past our due date and I was so determined to avoid that. I just kept hoping and praying he would join us before then. 

Saturday night Brad and I went to bed as usual but, I had a very restless night. I would wake every couple hours, due to a mild contraction but could easily fall back asleep. I was later thankful for a mostly full night of sleep. Sunday morning, about 6:45, I laid in bed tracking the contractions that had suddenly become more frequent. I wasn’t in pain, they were just uncomfortable. I could easily still rest and talk through them. Not to mention, there was no sort of pattern to them. Some were 5 minutes apart, while others were 10 minutes. After tracking them for about an hour, and not having them let up, I got excited but, didn’t want to get TOO excited about them! Brad woke up around 8:00 and I told him… “We might be having a baby today!” I called Labor & Delivery and explained my contraction situation. She told me to call back when the contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart and then I could go in. 

We started to get ready for church and around 9:30, I hopped in the shower. While in the shower, I noticed my contractions were really close together and really strong, to the point of me having to stop what I was doing and breathe through them. I wondered if the shower was exasperating them. After getting out, I started tracking them again. They were suddenly 2-3 minutes apart, strong and consistent. I kept thinking “What happened to the 5 minutes apart contractions!?” Then, I realized, church might not be a good idea that day. I finished getting ready, while breathing through contractions. I told Brad, “I don’t think we should go to church,” and I had him call Labor and Delivery again. They told him that we needed to come in. Before leaving the house, I had Brad give me a Priesthood blessing and then we were off! We were having a baby!!! 

Thankfully, our church building is on the way to the hospital so, we got in touch with our drop off person for Kason and he was able to stay with them during church. After dropping him off, we headed to the hospital. My contractions were quite painful at this point and every bump in the road hurt. I was thankful for the 2 minutes of rest in between where I could talk to Brad and joke about how crazy our situation was and how people were probably watching me thinking I was insane. Of course, on our way to the hospital we hit a detour and it added a few minutes. Then at the gate of the Navy Base, we were given grief about our expired cards. All I wanted was to deliver this baby!!! 

We parked the car and headed inside. Walking to Labor and Deliver seemed to take for-ev-er!!! I had to stop a few times to breath through a contraction. People would ask, "Is she okay?" to which Brad would calmly reply, "Oh yeah, she's just in labor." haha. Then they would quietly walk away..."I'll just leave you two be then!" Made me laugh. Finally, we arrived at the L&D desk and since they were expecting us already, they took us right back into triage. At this point, it was probably around 11:15. I dressed in a gown and somehow managed to climb up on the table in between contractions. They had stayed consistently 2-3 minutes apart but, man were they painful. At this point, each contraction was lasting, on average, one minute. I was so thankful for Brad allowing me to squeeze his hand with one hand and I was squeezing the bed side table with the other. Triage seemed to take forever but, around 11:30 they checked me and said I was at a 6 and mostly effaced. I thought, “I can handle 4 more centimeters! This is great!” After figuring out insurance and getting all my vitals, it was about 11:45 and suddenly I felt the need to push. (Had I seriously gone 4 centimeters in 15 minutes!?!)

I asked them “Um…what if I feel the need to push?” 

The sweet triage nurse, very calmly said, “Well, you can’t push, you’re still in triage! You need to wait!”

“Well then you better hurry and get me out of triage!!” … the doctor came back in and quickly arranged for me to be wheeled to a delivery room. A few contractions later, and around 11:55, we were in the delivery room where several nurses and another doctor joined us. The desire to push kept getting stronger but they kept telling me I needed to wait so they could check me again. I was dying. I just wanted to push and get some relief from that pressure. 

Finally, after checking me, they gave me the okay to push. I started pushing around 12:00. After a few pushes, the main doctor decided to break my water. That’s when we learned that Baby Jensen had poo’ed in the water. Because of that, they had to call in the NICU team to be on stand-by for when he was delivered. They kept telling me to push with each contraction and I would hear them talking in between the pushes, “they need more oxygen, the baby’s heart rate is dropping”…”Jami, deep breathes. Slow, deep breathes.” A few minutes later, they told me they were going to put a monitor on the baby’s head to monitor his heart rate closer. Doing that just made them panic more because his heart rate was really decreasing with each contraction. I remember being told from every direction, “Jami, you have GOT to push. You have got to get this baby out! Push HARD.” I’m pretty sure I yelled back, “I AM PUSHING HARD!!!!” But, I was so strained for energy, I knew I wasn’t pushing as hard as I needed to. At about this time, they told me they really needed to get baby out so they were going to use a vacuum to help pull him out. They also gave me an episiotomy to help. I don’t think I realized, at the time, how important it was that Baby Jensen got out as soon as possible.

Through each contraction I don’t even know whose hands I was holding, except I knew Brad was there, to the left of me. He was constantly telling me I was doing a great job, keep it up and you can do this. I felt so bad for everyone’s hands. I did not go gentle on those things. But it seemed to be the only way for me to get relief and have the gusto to push hard enough. Thankfully, when I thought I couldn’t push anymore, Brad said, “I SEE HIS HEAD! You’re SO close, babe! He’s RIGHT THERE!” That was exactly the motivation I needed to give one more big push. I would like to believe I had some help from beyond the veil, during that final push, because I was able to give it more momentum than I know I had in me. And with that, little Baby Jensen came out with that final push at 12:15 pm. Just one hour after getting to the hospital. 

Sadly, he did not look good. His coloring was pale and awful, his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck (hence his heart rate dropping) and he didn’t scream or cry. He just kind of hung there in the doctor’s arms. My heart dropped a little bit seeing that, but they rushed him over to the NICU team and after a couple of minutes I heard his sweet little cry. I was able to relax a little after hearing that. We received a tender mercy when Brad was able to go be with him, cut the umbilical cord and get a few pictures. 

After about 10 minutes of life though, Baby Jensen started straining for breath and struggling to get enough oxygen. They immediately put him on c-pap and told us they were going to take him down to NICU. At this point, I hadn’t even seen him. I had just heard him. They showed him to me briefly as they wheeled him out of our room and then I was left to recover. I asked Brad to go with the baby, I would be just fine. In reality, I just wanted to hold my little man. I wanted answers and I wanted to know that he was going to be okay. A short while later, one of the interns came back and explained that Baby Jensen had swallowed a TON of meconium and they were afraid it was really going to affect his lungs so they needed to keep him on c-pap until they were sure his lungs were cleared out enough for him to breath on his own. Our little guy would be spending his first day of life in the NICU.

During my recovery time, right after birth, I remember apologizing to the nurses saying “I’m really sorry I yelled at you…” I felt so bad for being short with them! Thankfully, they were all very forgiving and kept saying “You’re just fine! You were amazing. You did such a great job today.”

It was a long 4 hours before I was finally able to go back and see the little guy. We waited for Kason to arrive and we all went back together, as a family. He had all sorts of tubes and monitors all over him and the c-pap machine was pumping oxygen into his lungs. It was the saddest thing I have every seen. And because of all the machines, I still couldn’t hold him. He was 4 hours old, and I still hadn’t held my little boy. That was probably the hardest part of everything. I just wanted to snuggle him, tell him he was going to be okay and have him feel our love. But, the best we could do was hold his hand. My heart was breaking. After spending some good time with him, we went back to the room and sent Kason home with our friend from church. I asked Brad to go back and see him one last time before he headed home. This was probably around 6:15. Up until this point, we still didn’t have a name for the little guy. We had thrown around a few but, the two original names we had didn’t seem right. I asked Brad to really think about it when he was in the NICU with him. Maybe something would come to him. 

Well, Brad went down to the NICU and was standing there next to our little son. He decided to give him a quick priesthood blessing and as he went to start, the name James Francis came to mind and he knew that was meant to be his name. He administered the blessing and said goodnight to our little guy then headed back to my room before heading home. Normally, the NICU has “no visiting hours” from 6:30-7:30 so I planned to head back after eating dinner. Well, around 7:00, one of the NICU nurses called our room and said, “Mrs. Jensen, your son was doing so great all of sudden that we have decided to take him off c-pap. I know your husband was getting ready to leave but if he would like to come see your son really quick, we will let him in.” Brad rushed down to the NICU as was able to see little James for a few minutes before heading home. He still had several tubes attached so he didn’t get to hold him, but he was able to at least see him without the c-pap machine on. I was so so grateful at this point. The NICU nurses had told us he would likely be on c-pap for 24 hours to be safe and here he was 6 hours later and they had already pulled him off completely and his numbers were looking fantastic. So much gratitude!! 

After Brad went home, I asked a nurse to wheel me down to the NICU. By the time I got there (around 8pm) they had taken all the tubes out and he was only hooked up to the heart monitor and oxygen patch. He still had an I.V. in as well so they could administer the antibiotics he would get for 48 hours. When I got there the nurse told me they had pumped a ton of meconium out of his stomach, with the IG tube but that everything looked great. And finally…finally…finally…after 8 hours of him being here, I got to hold my little James Francis and I got to tell him that I loved him and that he’s going to be okay. 8 hours is way too long to wait to hold a precious new baby. My heart was whole the minute I picked him up. It’s amazing how quickly you can fall in love with a new little baby. I like to think that our spirits had been waiting for this reunion for quite awhile and because of that, it created an instant bond. I feel so much love for this little man. Having such a traumatic birth experience has made me appreciate him even more. Our delivery was the talk of the NICU and L&D ward for our time there. I would often meet a nurse and she would say, “Oh yeah, I was in your delivery, that was incredible. Great work in there”. That probably happened 5 or 6 times. I’m pretty sure we easily had 10+ people in the delivery room. They discharged James from the NICU Monday afternoon around 2:00pm, so just over 24 hours after he was born. It was so wonderful to have him room in with me that day and night! We couldn’t get enough of him!!! Brad & Kason were finally able to hold him that evening and all our hearts were beaming with love for the little guy. Thankfully, we were both discharged from the hospital Tuesday afternoon and were able to be home Tuesday evening!! 

This whole experience was shocking. Brad and I sat in shock for most of Sunday. Everything moved SO quickly, we didn’t have time to process it during the actual labor. Looking back, we made it to the hospital just in time. Any sooner and who knows where James would have been delivered. I was also grateful my water didn’t break on its own, that would have been so scary without a NICU team ready to go. Every single thing about this delivery was exactly how it was supposed to be, and for that I am grateful. I am so grateful for Brad - that man was my rock. He was so full of encouragement and true strength and support for me. I am grateful our little man arrived before my scheduled induction and that he’s now healthy and strong. This has been such a surreal experience and one that, surprisingly enough, I would experience again & again. It was incredible to watch the Lord’s hand in our life during this delivery and for that, I am the most grateful. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Normandy: Pointe du Hoc & Utah Beach

Pointe du Hoc is the peninsula that the Ranger Battalion sieged on D-Day. Brad endured the grueling torture of Ranger School and wanted to see what his fellow Rangers had accomplished. We ate a quick lunch of pb&j in the parking lot before heading out. 
There were craters all over (seriously, every few yards) from bombs that had been dropped on the area. They were fun for the boys (read: kids) to run through. 

The bunkers at Pointe du Hoc seemed to be more intact, with doors and everything. Not sure if it was because more of them were underground than the others, or what? But, it made for fun adventures...again, for the boys. 

The views were beautiful and I was impressed with the cliff's that the Rangers scaled to get to the enemy forces. I guess that's what being a Ranger is all about... (and those waters!?! gorgeous!) 

Inside one of the bunkers/gunnery areas that was right on the cliff, they had a plaque for the Rangers who lost their lives in the battle. 

After Pointe du Hoc, we headed towards Utah Beach. They had a small museum there that we walked through before heading down to the beach. It had a bunch of war memorabilia and gear. 

Our FINAL stop in the Normandy area was the Sainte-Mere-Eglise church. This church was made famous when, on D-Day, a paratrooper got caught on the corner of the churches tower. He never made it to the ground to fight in the battle! He hung there for something like 2-3 hours, pretending to be dead, before he was eventually taken as a POW. They now have a fake man hanging there in his honor. 

After that, we hopped in the car and headed towards Mont St. Michel!! 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Normandy: American Cemetery

We stayed at this charming Bed & Breakfast just a few miles from the beach. The view, from our room, was beautiful that morning!! The beach was off to the left...

So adorable!! 

We headed to the American Cemetery. When we got there we saw a group of soldiers down on Omaha Beach and Brad's curious side got the best of him and we wandered down. The tide was really far out so you could see more of the rubbish that had been left behind from the war. Like a boat!? So crazy. 

These soldiers, it turns out, were a group of cadets from the military school in the United Kingdom. They had come to Normandy on a field trip of sorts. But, watching them on the beach made the events of D-Day even more realistic. They had all the cadets run out to the water, and roll around so they were drenched to the bone. 

They then, ran up the beach, while their instructors were shouting things like "air bomb!", "grenade!", "artillery!" to which the cadets would drop to the ground. The instructors would point to certain cadets and announce their death. The cadet would then stay put, while the rest of the cadets continued up the beach. This happened several times until they reached the top of the sand. 

At the end of the exercise, there were 3 or 4 cadets still standing (i.e.: "alive"). They had everyone stand up, turn around and see how many of their fellow soldiers would have been killed if this had been the actual D-Day and not just a reenactment. It was pretty neat to watch and see the reality of D-Day. 

After that, we headed back up to the American Cemetery...enjoying the beauty along the way! 

The grounds were beautiful and it was incredible to see how many men were buried there. There was mostly crosses, though a few Jewish stars were in the mix. You would often come across a grave that was labeled "here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God"

The Niland brother's are buried in the cemetery. They are the brother's that Saving Private Ryan is loosely based on! I did a report about that movie my Freshman year of High School, so it was neat to see that. Much of the movie is fiction but those brothers are most definitely real. 

This guy was in the Ranger Battalion so Brad wanted a picture of his grave. And it was neat to see a Medal of Honor grave. It was just interesting to walk around and see where all the men were from...lots from the east coast, so we would get really excited if we found a Utah or Idaho or Arizona. They weren't very commonly seen. 

There is a memorial at the front of the cemetery. We didn't spend too much time there, but after seeing what we wanted to see, we headed off to Pointe du Hoc! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Normandy: Day 1

After Disneyland Paris, we headed to the coast of France to see Normandy. Ever since getting to Germany, in 2012, Normandy has probably been one of our top desired locations to tour, I knew we would regret it if we didn't make time to see it. And I'm so glad we did. 

The first beach we stopped at was Gold Beach. This was the beach invaded by the Canadians, so not much American connection here. Kason wanted to get in the water but apparently it was freezing so he spent the rest of the time on the sand. The big chunks of cement you see in the water are casemates that the troops would line up, and use to get to the shore from their ships, out at sea. Several of them are left on the shores of Normandy. 

We didn't stay long at Gold Beach, as we wanted to make sure we had enough time to enjoy the others. It sure was a beautiful view with a quaint little town. 

Next up, we headed up the beach a little to enjoy Omaha Beach. This was probably the most somber and life changing moment of the trip. It seems extreme to say that! But, it's really true. It was incredibly humbling to walk those beaches and think that 70 years prior, 34,000 men stormed these waters to fight for freedom. They had no knowledge of what their outcome would be but, still they were willing to fight. 2400 fought to the death on Omaha Beach alone. 

I can't even imagine coming off the ship and knowing you would instantly be shot at by the German's on shore. Yet, somehow, that knowledge didn't phase the soldiers. They fought and ran to their safety, while watching their fellow soldiers fall beside them left and right. 

Absolutely humbling. 

I will never forget the feeling I had while I walked the sandy beaches of Omaha beach. So much love, gratitude and pride for the soldiers of WWII. 

These are a couple of the memorials that are scattered along the beach...

This is the view directly up from the beach, the enemy had so much coverage! I can only imagine it being a daunting task, even thinking about making it to the edge of the grass. All over in the grass were German bunkers, with crazy thick cement. On a few of them you could see dents where bombs had barely touched the surface. The bunkers were open so you could go in and explore, which Kason and Brad had a blast doing. It was surreal to stand in there and see the view the German soldiers had of the beach. A clear, perfect view of the American's storming the beaches.

This was the view from inside one of the bunkers: 

And the thick walls, barely scathed by the attacks: 

On the beaches, you could occasionally find pieces of metal that have lasted 70 years. The enemies would put them on the beaches to deter anyone from approaching the "safe zone". 

The rest of the time on the beach was spent exploring the bunkers, collecting beach treasures and just enjoying the scenery. It really is beautiful. Hard to believe something so awful happened here. 

After a couple hours on the beach, we wandered back to the car, to grab some dinner and some zzz's! 

The houses in the Normandy region were CHARMING. I wanted them all. This one was one of the favorites that we passed: 

We found a restaurant, near Gold Beach actually, to enjoy some dinner. While looking at the menu, Brad saw something that he thought was similar to a dish he would eat on his mission in Uruguay, (I believe small intestine), which he loved (not sure why anyone would love that!?). So when the waiter came out to take our orders, Brad went to order that and the waiter asked, "You know what it is right!?" 

"Oh yeah! I love it!" 

Well......turns out, it wasn't intestine, it was actually stomach. Which Brad cannot STAND. Ha! He knew as soon as he smelled the dish, he wouldn't be eating much other than fries that night for dinner. However, we all had a good laugh about the experience! Never a dull moment in European travels!