First-Time Mom With Complicated Pregnancy Leaves Cold Practice And “Goes Home” to St. Luke’s
Janelle W., of Whitehall, is a new mom, happily settling into life with her “little doll” as she likes to call her. But early on in her pregnancy it was discovered that a previously diagnosed heart condition could lead to complications. After becoming frustrated with only a few visits with an area doctor, Janelle decided to see the physicians associated with St. Luke’s. “I just felt like a number,” she says. “But going to St. Luke’s felt like coming home.”
Janelle W., 23, of Whitehall, is a new mom, happily settling into life with her “little doll” as she likes to call her. As with most first time moms, Janelle spent the last nine months busily preparing for her baby’s arrival in addition to spending time with family, attending church where her father is the pastor, and decorating her baby girl’s nursery; so on May 28th, she was ready to finally meet her little one.
Early on in her pregnancy, Janelle decided that she wanted a midwife for her prenatal care and ultimately, a natural home birth. But, after a couple months, it was discovered that pregnancy had exacerbated a previously diagnosed heart condition that could possibly lead to complications in late pregnancy and delivery, so she decided to switch to an obstetrician and deliver in a hospital setting. After becoming frustrated with only a few visits with an area doctor, Janelle decided to see the physicians associated with St. Luke’s Hospital.
St. Luke’s had been Janelle’s hospital throughout her youth. Her father and all her aunts and uncles were born at St. Luke’s and nearly every woman in her family has given birth there. “At the obstetrician I was seeing earlier in my pregnancy, I just felt like a number; the practice, the staff and the doctors all seemed very business-like and cold. They didn’t get to know me or sit and talk to me,” says Janelle. “But going to St. Luke’s felt safe and welcoming, like going back to my roots, coming home,” recalls Janelle.
Janelle decided to become a patient at St. Luke’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates. Adriaan J. van Gaalen, MD, one of the practice’s six doctors, along with the entire staff, immediately made Janelle feel comfortable and cared for; she knew she had found what she had been missing. “I was so glad to be in Dr. van Gaalen’s care,” says Janelle. “He truly wanted what was best for my baby and me. He took time with me and answered my questions - I never felt rushed when I saw him.”
Dr. van Gaalen’s staff helped Janelle throughout her pregnancy by providing her with many helpful tools and resources in preparation for her baby’s birth, even arranging a meeting with Dr. Jodi L. Schucker from St. Luke’s Perinatal Associates, a maternal fetal medicine specialist, who checked in with her often, and administered frequent and advanced tests to monitor a fibroid which could have potentially become problematic. “With a strong Network like St. Luke’s, it makes it easy for us to provide resources for patients like Janelle, who require sub-specialists to closely monitor a high risk situation,” explains Dr. van Gaalen.
“It’s so important to be a good listener for patients, to really understand their expectations,” explains Dr. van Gaalen. “Communicating and truly listening along the way is key - it can be hard during a short visit, but it’s so valuable for the best possible delivery for the mom and the baby.”
Janelle’s baby was born on May 28th, and thanks to Dr. van Gaalen and his staff guiding and educating her on everything from signs of labor to the ins and outs of breastfeeding, she felt as prepared as she could be and confident and empowered before labor even began. That preparation made a huge difference for Janelle - her labor moved very fast! Had she not been so prepared, she may have panicked about her labor’s frenetic pace.
Elizabeth Dierking, MD, a colleague of Dr. Van Gaalen’s, was on call the night Janelle’s water broke, kick starting her labor. In the middle of the night, through stalled labor, Janelle and her dad could be seen pacing the halls, all the while, her dad keeping her focused and giving her his famous “pep talks.” Even though her pain was extreme, Janelle looks back on it fondly because that pain became bliss at that moment she became a mom. After 12 hours of labor, six minutes of pushing and an abundance of cheers and encouragement from all the doctors and nurses, little Kallie Lou Watson was born.
Janelle credits nurse Janis for being her “labor angel” - calming her and coaching her through everything. “Janis was so motherly and experienced, it made me feel safe,” recalls Janelle. “It’s a good thing I went into labor when I did because she retired two days after my baby girl was born - I’m so thankful to have had her with me.”
After all was said and done, Janelle’s birth plan went along relatively closely to what she intended. The staff honored everything she indicated in her birth plan, even allowing the baby to get the last bit of blood from the placenta before cutting the cord and providing Janelle and baby with plenty of skin-to-skin contact before the nurses whisked her away to clean her.
“Having a baby for the first time is such an amazing experience and you don’t want to share that with just any practitioner. When choosing a doctor, you have to analyze what your needs are and what matters most for you and your baby and find a practice that can meet your expectations,” suggests Janelle. “I know it sounds crazy, but I absolutely LOVED my labor and delivery and thanks to Dr. van Gaalen, Dr. Dierking and the entire labor and delivery staff, I couldn't have had a better experience or a more perfect little angel.”