It was Friday, November 1st, and baby Stous was giving us signs that his or her (we didn’t know the gender yet) birthday was coming soon, which made sense considering the November 2nd due date. My wife, Kate, was feeling some very real contractions which weren’t consistent yet, but were certainly different than those she had experienced in the previous weeks. We made sure that the hospital bags were packed, the car was fueled up, and we had the hospital phone number stored in our phones.
I went to work that day with mixed emotions, ranging from excited to scared, and from calm to anxious. For all I knew, it could be another case of false labor and baby might not yet be here for another week. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait that long.
That evening, the contractions started to get much stronger and more consistent. We called our doula and the midwife, and were advised to go to the hospital. To make a long story short, we stayed at the hospital that night, but came home Saturday morning. There is one detail worth mentioning, though. Becky, our doula, stayed with us the entire night. Labor wasn’t progressing much, and it was a Friday night, but Becky stayed right by Kate. That made Kate feel so calm and cared for. It also relieved some stress on my part, knowing that she was there to help in any way she could.
Saturday night is when things really kicked in to high gear, and on Sunday morning, it became evident we needed to go back to the hospital. It was finally happening. Becky met us at the hospital around 6:00 a.m. on Sunday. The midwife, Karen, arrived shortly thereafter. We settled in to our room, which was about as calm of an atmosphere as we could have asked for considering it was a hospital. We were at Saint Elizabeth Hospital, and outside our window we watched a beautiful sunrise over the Veteran’s Administration Hospital across the street. It was a such a peaceful way to begin the day.
Throughout that day, Kate felt so cared for and loved. Karen was so patient the entire time, even as time passed without making much progress. She let Kate and the baby determine the pace instead of taking charge unnecessarily. She honored Kate’s preferences while advising her and coaching her when necessary. She encouraged, reassured, and comforted Kate. At no point did Kate or I feel like we were in the dark; we genuinely felt like we were all on the same team and were well-respected.
Just as Becky had done on Friday night into Saturday morning, she stayed by Kate’s side the entire time on Sunday. Her encouraging words and calm demeanor helped Kate feel relaxed, and it helped me to know that there was always someone with Kate…so I could go to the bathroom, get some food, or just take a mental break for a few minutes! The support Becky provided was immeasurable.
Twelve hours after we arrived at the hospital, Kate was still laboring, and for the most part, the only people in the room aside from Kate and me were Karen, Becky, and the nurse, Gwen. But eventually some intervention became necessary, and an OB had to come in and use a vacuum to finish the birthing process. Because of that and a few other reasons, the room filled up with a bunch of other caretakers. There was the OB, a few NICU nurses on hand just in case, and a couple of other nurses to help during the final moments.
Finally, at 6:52 p.m. on Sunday, November 3rd, our baby arrived. It was a healthy baby girl, and we named her Liviana “Liv” Kate Stous. We were overcome with joy. Liviana took her first breath, I announced it was a girl, and I cut the cord. Exhausted but on a high from the whole experience, Kate held Liv, and we began the newest chapter of our lives as parents.
The high level of care we received extended beyond just Karen and Becky. Kate’s nurse during almost the entire labor was Gwen, and she was so helpful. She’d been a nurse for something like 40 years, and was always aware of how to talk to Kate about what was coming next or how to help with her other needs.
Dr. Chandra Ljunggren was the OB who delivered Liv in the final moments. Dr. Ljunggren had a demeanor that was a good balance of care and confidence. I could write another story just about those final moments, but suffice it to say, seeing her skillfully use a vacuum to deliver Liviana was easily the coolest thing I’ve seen in my entire life, and with all of the spectators and lights, I felt like we were in a movie.
Another nurse who helped us was named Vern. Vern was one of the only nurses who was part of the delivery who was also there on Saturday night, so it was nice to see a familiar face with her in the room. She also fielded my call in the middle of the night to help teach me how to swaddle Liv, and she happily and calmly showed this new dad how to perform the basic task.
Cheryl was our nighttime nurse the second night in the hospital, and she was a blessing. The most memorable thing Cheryl did was to sit on the couch in our room late at night when she was making rounds, and she just took time to talk to us. Kate didn’t need any medical help, but we both needed someone to talk to who understood what we were going through, and Cheryl recognized that. She didn’t rush, and she wasn’t distracted. She just listened and was empathetic, and that was exactly what we needed.
Joanna was the nurse who helped on the last day in the hospital. Joanna helped us give Liv her first bath, which was no easy task with a screaming baby! But she was calm the whole time, and she answered countless questions from us as we prepared to go home that day.
There are others who helped us that day whose names are escaping me. But the reason I’m listing all of the people we encountered at the hospital is because those people are what made the difference between a satisfying experience and a disappointing experience. On paper, the birth didn’t go as we would have wished. But ultimately, what mattered was that we had a healthy baby girl, and that we felt cared for and loved. Kate and I have recounted the care we received from these different providers multiple times, and each time, it has brought us to tears. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to partner with us that day.
Satisfaction from how much someone cares isn’t exclusive to the healthcare profession. One of the first things Flagstone’s founder, Michael Johnson, taught me is that people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. That was absolutely true with Kate and me at the hospital. Having the necessary credentials was a basic requirement of everyone who we hired, but what we really wanted to know was that they cared for us. In the same way, people who hire a financial planner should consider the credentials to be a basic requirement, not a difference-maker in the hiring decision. Financial planning certifications, series licenses, fee-only structures, fiduciary obligations…all of that should be a given. What we believe really makes a difference to our clients is how much we care. We don’t get clients who send us cards after three years of working with us and tell us how happy they are that we have financial planning certifications. As time passes, what they really enjoy is knowing they have a partner in their financial lives who cares about their success and who takes a genuine interest in them. It’s something that takes time to build, but it’s worth it.
I learned a lot that day in the hospital, and it was an experience I will never forget. If I can help Flagstone’s clients feel even just half of the care I felt that day, I’ll know that I’m making a difference in our clients’ lives.