Ready or Not For Baby | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Ready or Not For Baby

Photo by Mandy Carlock

When Kathryn Kight realized she was in labor, her first thought was of Frank Melton. As a reporter for 16 WAPT News, she knew Feb. 19 was going to be a big day. Everyone was down at the federal courthouse waiting for a verdict in the mayor's federal trial.

"I was ready to go to Frank Melton's trial. I thought the verdict was going to come down, and that's what I was focused on that day," Kight said.

She never made it to the courthouse.

Around midnight, she went into labor, and consequently, she also went into denial. Telling herself she couldn't possibly be in labor, she rolled over and went back to sleep.

But around 7 in the morning, she couldn't deny it anymore and called the doctor.

Then she called me, her assistant news director, to tell me she wouldn't be at work. I thought she might not be feeling well, or overdid it the night before when everyone stayed late at the courthouse and ordered pizza. Kathryn had trouble with spicy foods, and that didn't help her constant morning sickness.

"I think I might be in labor," she told me, sniffling. I could tell she was upset.

"Well, are you in labor?" I asked her.

"The doctor told me to go to the hospital, and he says I'm in labor," she said with a frustrated tone in her voice.

"Are you in labor?" I asked again.

"I think this is false labor," she said, her stubborn side showing through.

"Did your water break?" I asked, with a smile on my face.

"Yes."

"Well, you better do what your doctor tells you, because if you don't get to the hospital now, you won't get your epidural," I said, laughing.

When she arrived at Baptist Hospital, the doctor confirmed it. She was in labor, and she burst into tears.

"I realized I wasn't ready," she told me. "But the doctor said it's going to be fine. He reassured me it was going to be fine. Apparently, it was meant for her to come today."

Kathryn and Jimmy Kight's daughter, Claire, was making her entrance a month early. And it wasn't the way the 25-year-old newlyweds planned.

Worried About Babies
Kathryn and Jimmy married last year, and then got a surprise when they found out they were going to be parents.

When the longtime Mississippians first started dating, college yearbooks were piled on the tables in their living room. Now, you'll find magazines about parenting and bringing up a healthy baby.

Prominently displayed is the book "What to Expect When You're Expecting," by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel.

It's a book Kathryn and Jimmy bought right after they found out they were pregnant.

The book is a beginner's guide to pregnancy and parenthood—something Kathryn has a little experience with. She worked her way through college as a nanny. She knows what it's like to change diapers, hold babies and take care of them on a budget. Jimmy, on the other hand, is a rookie.

"I was worried about babies. I had the perception about them being delicate. Apparently they're not as delicate as I thought they were," Jimmy said.

Even with the previous experience, nothing could have prepared Kathryn for the actual pregnancy. It was a big adjustment for the petite blonde with a bubbly personality.

"It's tough when you're 25 years old, and you feel like, ‘I was just in college,'" Kathryn said with a laugh. "You had all of these boys, all this attention from everybody. You felt young, thought you were cute. Then, all of the sudden, now you're pregnant, and you have this big belly."

Kight also found herself in a heightened emotional state. "It's sometimes crazy: One minute, I can be in the best mood; the next, I can get really irritable. But it's also great, because you have this other person inside of you. It's a mixture of emotions."

Their doctor said that's common.

What isn't common, however, was the constant morning sickness.

"For most women, that nausea goes away in 12 to 14 weeks," Dr. Jesse Etheridge, an OB/GYN at Baptist Hospital, said. "Kathryn is the exception to the rule."

Kathryn and Jimmy budgeted morning sickness into their daily routine. "Morning" sickness that could happen any time of the day or night. It happened at work, at home and even while driving. One night, Kathryn, Jimmy and I were driving around town. She felt fine one minute; the next, she didn't. She had to pull into a gas station parking lot and throw up. Jimmy sat stoically by, waiting for the moment to pass. He turned to me and said: "She'll be OK; it will be over soon."

A Spike In Temperature
Things were different for Julie and Eric George. She is a 32-year-old clinical pharmacist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He is 28, just got his doctoral degree in biochemistry, and works in the physiology department at UMC. They married three and a half years ago and live in Belhaven. Julie and Eric wanted to have a baby, but waited until January 2007 to start trying. They were hoping nature would help them out, but nearly a year into "trying," they had no success.

It was late 2007 when Julie started monitoring her temperature to ensure victory with their baby-making attempts, and from there, it didn't take long. In January 2008, her temperature-monitoring told her she was pregnant. She didn't toss her cookies; she noticed a change in her temperature.

"I thought: ‘That's an interesting spike, I should take a pregnancy test tomorrow,'" Julie said.

The next morning, a test showed she was pregnant.

She didn't have bad morning sickness. She threw up one day, and said she was nauseated a bit, but that was all.

Pregnancy is different for every woman. What can make couples anxious is what people tell them.

Dr. Etheridge said there is a lot of misinformation about pregnancy and delivery, and much of it can come from people you know.

"People get a lot of input from friends about different things that turn out to be nothing," he said. "Spotting, for example, is very common early on in a pregnancy. But there are people out there who will worry the mother-to-be, and tell her it's a sign of a miscarriage, when that's probably not the case."

Dr. Etheridge encourages expecting parents to get educated about what's really going on during pregnancy. When in doubt, ask your doctor.

"If they would just call their doctor, we could get to the bottom of it real quick. Takes the worry off the patient," he said.

When women find out they're pregnant, they all ask the same question.

"They want to know ‘What can I do to have the healthiest baby I can have? Everyone wants to have healthy pregnancy, a good baby," Dr. Etheridge said.

He tells them the same thing: Eat right, exercise, take prenatal vitamins and, most of all, get educated.

Not Quite Like Hollywood
Eric and Julie took childbirth classes and had in their minds how the labor and delivery would go. They even watched a video that details every minute of childbirth. Julie said it was "OK," but Eric will tell you it was "a little too graphic."

They laugh about it now, but they weren't prepared for the rush of delivery. On Sept. 6, 2008, Julie went into labor shortly after midnight. She began to panic when she couldn't get Eric on the cell phone. After 40 minutes of trying to reach him at his lab—where no cell phones are allowed—he finally made it home to drive her to the hospital. It was in the nick of time because Julie was only in labor for three hours.

That's extremely unusual for a first-time mom.

Dr. Etheridge said labor could take half a day—even longer for first timers.

"Because the labor was so quick, when I got to the hospital, they hooked me up to the monitors. They checked me to see how far along I was," Julie said.

She was four centimeters dilated, and that was good news to Julie and Eric, because that's when you get your epidural. But that joy was short lived. The nurse returned with the anesthesiologist five minutes later, and started preparing the IV. That's when Julie looked at the nurse and said: "I think I have to push."

When they checked her again, she was fully dilated. The doctor hadn't even made it to the hospital yet, and the nurses were urging her to "hold it in."

"So I got no drugs," Julie says very calmly now. "It was all natural and very painful."

Julie said labor is much different than Hollywood makes it out to be.

"You see TV shows and movies—even birthing class—you think it's a big gush of fluid, and, you know, ‘my water broke,'" Julie said laughing. "That's not what happened to me."

According to "What to Expect When You're Expecting," pregnant women can have trouble controlling their bladders. When Julie went into labor, she thought that's what was happening.

"I didn't think too much of it until my back started hurting so bad," Julie said. "Then I'm thinking: ‘Why is this so painful? Am I in labor?'"

During delivery, everything Eric and Julie learned in birthing class went out the window.

"They teach you the different types of breathing techniques," Julie said. "When I got into the delivery room, I couldn't remember any of that. In my mind, all I could think was, ‘Contractions are only a minute long.' I had a problem holding my breath, which they tell you not to do. I also tried to think of my happy place—the beach, the Bahamas."

It's Just a Blur
Labor and delivery were no cakewalk for Reggie and Janelle Jefferson, either.

The Jackson State University graduates met in college and had been dating five years when they found out they were pregnant in 2006.

Reggie and Janelle knew they were going to have their baby at Baptist, and signed up for all the classes they could.

"They give free prenatal classes, and all kinds of birthing classes," 28-year-old Janelle said. "We signed up for the birthing class, planning to go natural. We went to the Lamaze classes. They also taught the dads to do pressure points while you're in labor. I went to baby CPR classes. I also did natal-fit water aerobics classes."

They weren't just getting ready for the birth of their first son, Hart. The couple bought a house in Byram and was planning their December wedding.

"Everything was happening so fast," 29-year-old Reggie said. "Would we be able to take care of this child financially? What would be the cost? I don't know anything about babies. I hope I don't drop him. A lot of things were going through my mind. Even now when I think back, it's just a blur."

When their big day came, Janelle had been in labor nearly two days. She also received the maximum dose of medicine to help with dilation, but Janelle wasn't progressing. Doctors were worried about the health of her son Hart, so they performed an emergency cesarean section. Plans for a natural childbirth were out.

‘Let's Just Ride It Out'
Fortunately, things were much easier for Kathryn. The Kights decided early on they would put their trust in the doctor's hands and let him guide them through the process. They had no fancy plan for Claire's delivery. Kathryn and Jimmy wanted to stay in the dark about delivery until the big day came. They decided against taking childbirth classes.

"You can give me the once-over about what's going to happen," Kathryn told the doctor, but she had one stipulation. "I don't want to have a natural birth. I want any kind of drugs you can give me. Just give me an epidural, and let's just ride it out."

That was great news to Dr. Etheridge.

"People get misinformation, and they get ideas about birthing—especially first-time moms, who haven't been there before," Etheridge said. "You really don't know until you get there what you're getting into."

Dr. Etheridge suggests that would-be parents at least come into the hospital and take a tour. He said being familiar with your surroundings on delivery day helps things go a bit smoother. Kathryn and Jimmy never took the tour, and with Claire's early arrival, there wasn't time.

When they arrived at Baptist Hospital, it was time for her epidural. A few hours later, Kathryn pushed for 10 minutes, and that was it.

Out came Mary Claire Kight. At six pounds and 19 inches long, she instantly bonded with her mother and father.

And just as the day began with tears, it ended with tears.

"I started crying hysterically," Kathryn says as she starts tearing up, even now. "I was overwhelmed with love. I was overwhelmed with love for her. If you have ever known what it's like to be in love—you can't sleep, and you can't think about anything but that person. That's what it's like."

Ready or Not
Today, Kathryn and Jimmy's Rankin County house is total chaos. Baby presents, packages of diapers, onesies, baby blankets and relatives fill every corner of their three-bedroom home. They're happy to see friends who stop by and lovingly fight among themselves over who will hold the baby next.

Claire's room is a sunny spot in the back of the home. The walls have a fresh and hasty coat of paint. The brand new crib is there, but Kathryn and Jimmy aren't ready to let Claire sleep on her own, yet.

The day the crib arrived, Jimmy couldn't wait to open the box, feeling like a kid at Christmas. He called Kathryn to tell her the news, and by the time she got home from work, he had put the entire thing together. He even glued the side slats in so they'd "be more stable."

Jimmy beams as he points out that the crib is "convertible," talking about it as if it's a new car or boat. He shows off how it can turn into a toddler bed, then one day, into Claire's "big girl bed."

He reads instructions, puts together car seats and even bought Kathryn a breast pump, then turned it on to make sure it worked.

Jimmy is the planner, and reads up on how best to take care of his new daughter.

In the hospital, he followed the nurses around, asking questions about how to do things. But when it came down to changing his first diaper, he just did it—with no instructions and no questions asked—no longer a rookie.

The new parents admit they have a lot to learn, and plan to learn it "on the fly."

"We just make it together," Kathryn said. "We're learning together. This is her first time to be here on Earth. It's my first time being a mom. So, we're learning together. I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job so far."

 
The Future
All three couples say similar things when you ask them the first lesson they learned as parents.

"I didn't realize babies just require 100-percent attention," Julie said.

"When I got home (from the hospital), I realized, ‘Uh oh, it's us and the baby'," Janelle explained. "That's when it hit me: We're responsible for this little life, and I think I cried for about an hour."

"It just seems surreal that this little person is completely relying on me," Kathryn said.

All three couples are preparing for their children's futures by saving money.

They're going to need it. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that a couple living in the South can expect to spend nearly $14,000 a year to raise their child. That's more than a quarter of a million dollars by the time the child is an adult. And that doesn't include the cost of day-care or a college education.

It's a challenge Reggie and Janelle take seriously. They're looking into schooling options for two-and-a-half-year-old Hart and newborn son Jacob, who is 3 months old.

"We wanted to make sure we had the resources to be able to afford him," Janelle said, smiling. "All the resources we could give him to make sure he had a good childhood, feel loved, everything we could provide him with."

"We worry about (Claire's) safety," Kathryn said. "We worry about ‘Are we going to be good parents? Are we going to raise her right?' We want her to be nice; we want her to be smart. That's what we really worry about—that's what weighs on our minds. What I do is going to shape this person, and that's scary."

As for being ready for a baby, you get similar answers on that question, too.

"You can never be ready for a baby," Julie said, laughing hysterically. "You might think you're ready, but when it actually happens, and you actually have the baby—you can only get ready to a certain point. After that you go with the flow."

"There's no real way to prepare," Reggie said matter-of-factly. "Every baby is different. The steps someone else took to prepare for their kids is different from us. It's one of those things you have to learn as you go."

Kathryn sums it up the best: "I don't care what you read," she said. "You can throw all of that out the window. I could have read every single book, but those aren't going to prepare you. You get training on the spot, training on the fly. That's what we're doing. That's what everybody has to do. I don't have to worry about going by the book. I go by what works for us."

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