Diary of a New Dad
Pictured: Moments captured of new father Joel Riordan admiring his son, Jaire Thomas, during their stay at the Birth Place at Windom Area Health.

April 26th was a regular Monday, but for one staff member at Windom Area Health it was the day he became a dad.  Joel and Jaci Riordan of Windom, MN welcomed their first child, Jaire Thomas, that Monday morning at The Birth Place at Windom Area Health.

“It was kind of a hectic twenty-four hours there!”

The Start of the Journey

On Sunday, April 25th Joel Riordan and his wife Jaci woke up around 8:00am to find that their newest family member was getting ready to make their entrance.  “We woke up and thought her water had broke, but we weren’t 100% sure,” Joel explained.  They had attended Prenatal Education classes at The Birth Place, but this was a new experience for them.  After doing some research, they decided to wait for a bit to go in as they weren’t positive if the water had broken, instead having Jaci lay down for a little while to see how things progressed.

Diary of a New Dad
Pictured: Joel Riordan carrying Jaire, heading home after a four day stay at Windom Area Health’s Birth Place.

They called the Nurses Station at Windom Area Health around 11:30am to explain what the situation was and they were told they should come in.  They got to the hospital where Jaci was examined and it was then that her water broke.  “We knew we were there for the long haul.”

Preparing for the Baby

The baby’s due date was the 30th of April, so this put them and baby’s entrance five days early.  However, these parents were more than fine with that.  Joel shared that Jaci had her hospital-bag packed three weeks prior to the due date.  “I had one tentatively packed like a week before.  Jaci kept saying, ‘You need to pack a bag!’  And then I ended up coming home and switching all my stuff anyway,” he shared with a laugh.

Waiting and Walking

After Jaci’s water broke, Joel ran home to grab things and make sure everything was set up there before returning.  After that it was a waiting game.  “We did a lot of walking.  Walked the halls pretty much all day on Sunday until we couldn’t walk anymore.”  Being a Physical Therapist, Joel was a big motivator for the continuous strolls, “Understanding the importance of movement…I was encouraging her to do that as much as we could. For walking the first day, we set a timer and I’d make her walk, even though she didn’t really want to.”  They tried to get things moving a bit quicker by having Jaci in different positions, even using a theraball and other items to help.

“That pretty much progressed all of Sunday.  We were thinking, ‘Oh, by four or five o’clock in the afternoon something will start happening,” but by six o’clock nothing was going on.  They walked continuously until the contractions put an end to it.  An epidural was administered at about nine o’clock at night.  “I’m thinking maybe things will start picking up here a little bit.  And then it turns into ten o’clock, eleven…midnight.”

The rest of the night progressed much the same way with Joel squeezing in a couple quick naps around 4:00 in the morning.  Then, around 5:00am they started the process of pushing.  “We were trying different positioning and whatever ideas the nurses or Dr. Buhler had.”  Dr. Stephanie Buhler was their primary doctor for both the pregnancy and the birth and has been Jaci’s primary care provider for the past two years, which brought a sense of comfort.

Delivery Drama

“The delivery aspect was kind of crazy,” Joel says, adding, “I was in the room and I had to be an active participant.”  They couldn’t get the baby out because the shoulders wouldn’t come through.  Joel stepped up and helped position Jaci correctly so that Dr. Buhler could do her work.  “That was kind of scary.  I’m trying to worry about my wife and I can see the baby,” he describes, “I thought ‘We have to get he or she out.’”

“I was kind of halfway joking with my wife throughout the whole thing from the beginning of the pregnancy, ‘I’m going to deliver the baby.’  You know…just as a joke.  And then all of a sudden the baby comes and here I am.”  He was surprised to be such an active part of the delivery, but he added it ‘was kind of fun.’ 

The baby was delivered a happy and healthy baby boy weighing 8 lbs 10 oz.  The couple hadn’t found out the sex of the baby when given the option, but they believed it would be a girl throughout the pregnancy.  “I thought it was a girl up until about three days before.  [Jaci] was shocked when I told her it was a boy.  She was like, ‘What?  Hold on.  Let me see!’”

Diary of a New Dad
Pictured: Joel, Jaci and Jaire Riordan.
Photo Credit: SR Photography

After Delivery

The baby was born, but Jaci had to be transferred right into surgery due to some tearing.  “So that kind of dumped all the initial parenting responsibilities on me.”  Right away their nurses, Kristi DeWall and Ashley Jensen, cleaned up and helped get everything situated.  They brought the new baby boy, Jaire (pronounced Jire), and Joel back to the post-partum room where the new dad was able to do skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care, with the newborn.  “My wife ended up being in surgery for an hour and a half to two hours.  I was able to use that time to bond with Jaire with feeding and skin-to-skin time.” 

Skin-to-skin is when the baby is placed belly down on their parent’s chest immediately after delivery.  It provides the baby with many benefits and helps them to adjust to live outside of the womb.  It is even recommended to continue doing skin-to-skin throughout the first month after delivery.  Normally, the first skin-to-skin experience is with the mother, but it’s encouraged for dads to snuggle, too!

While Joel and Jaire were getting their first hours of bonding together, the nurses were checking in to keep them updated on how Jaci’s surgery was going.  “Kristi would pop in every once in a while to mention what I should be expecting with the baby or what things we needed to do.  They did a good job of letting us know what was going on with Jaci, too, like what typically goes on within the surgery, how long before she would be back, and everything.”  After a successful surgery, parents and newborn were reunited.

Introducing Jaire

Over the next days, Joel and Jaci’s parents and siblings were able to come meet the newest member of the family.  There were COVID-19 safety policies in place regarding visitors, but through a process of having one person visiting at a time, they were able to get the immediate introductions done.  Even with the visitor guidelines, the family was able to be ‘together’ via the windows at Windom Area Health.  “I think we’re really lucky during these times to have those windows and the one-level hospital,” Joel said when asked about the visitor policy.  “Working here, I understand the COVID-19 restrictions and everything, so we were able to prep for that a little bit easier.”  He was relieved that everybody could at least come in and hold the baby.  “It means a lot to them.  Especially since it’s the first grandchild on a couple of our sides of the family.” 

Going Home

Joel and Jaci were at Windom Area Health from Sunday morning to Wednesday afternoon.  “We had a little bit more recovery for my wife…otherwise I think we would have went home on Tuesday.”  At home, Jaire got to meet the other member of his immediate family, Jiffy, Joel and Jaci’s Welsh terrier.  They were a little worried about how the two would get along.  “My dog is a big baby.  He’s mommy and daddy’s boy for sure.”  But they both did well with the transition and “they’re good buddies now.”

Getting Jaire home has been exciting.  Joel is looking forward to being able to do things with his son as he grows up like teaching him how to play catch, swing a baseball bat and so much more.  But those will have to wait a little bit.  “At home right now he’s sleeping and feeding every three or four hours at a time and he’s started to work on tummy time exercises.  Now he’s kind of learned how to turn himself over, which is way ahead of what he should be trying to do.”

With Joel being a Physical Therapist at Windom Area Health and Jaci being a 2nd grade teacher at Windom Schools, both of Jaire’s parents are excited to watch him grow.  “I mean, in school we go through all the pediatric stuff for physical therapy, making sure they’re progressing well.  So I’m going to be the one that’s like ‘Okay, we’re at six months, we need to be doing this, this, this, and this.’”  He added, “And then my wife’s a teacher so she’s going to be making sure he’s on track with developmental milestones.”

Pictured: Joel Riordan reading to his family, including his dog, Jiffy, and son, Jaire.

Familiar Care

Working at Windom Area Health, Joel visits the inpatient area quite a bit for physical therapy so he knew every single nurse that was helping him and his wife through the pregnancy, birth, and beyond.  “It’s always nice to have that friendly smile under the mask.  Friendly eyes.”  They had Kristi as their nurse for three days and they appreciated that consistency.  “But all of the nurses gave us different tips for trying different things so that was helpful.”

They attended the Prenatal Education class at The Birth Place prior to delivery and Jaci was able to build a birth plan from a template that she had received from Ashley Jensen, OB Coordinator.  “We were able to stay fairly consistent with our birth plan, which I was surprised with.  It was great that they were able to stick to it. ”  Now that Jaire is born, they’ve attended a Great Beginnings visit at The Birth Place, as well as the regular check-ups with Dr. Buhler.  There was a little bit of trouble with breastfeeding, but Ashley was able to help by suggesting different techniques, helping them find a solution.  “Everything’s going well.  He’s eating like a horse.  Happy and healthy baby.”

Dad-vice

Joel shared some of his advice for other new fathers that he learned from his experience:

“Everybody told us that we should have them take the baby to the nursery and I definitely recommend that for anybody.  Even for a couple of hours just to get a good two or three hours sleep at a time.”

“Be as involved as you want to be.  I wanted to be involved in the whole birthing process, but that might not be the case for all fathers-to-be.  You can be as involved as you want.  Even with breastfeeding and the skin-to-skin sessions, be an active participant if you want to be.  Absolutely take advantage of those moments that you have alone with the baby.  Be involved.”

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