In early January, Holly and Ryan Nardinger of Lake City, Minnesota, attended their first labor and delivery class to prepare for the birth of their first child. The lesson came just in time.
That night after getting home, Holly began feeling some unusual sensations. Initially, she didn't think much of it. The baby wasn't due to arrive for another two months, and at a 32-week checkup earlier that day, everything looked good.
But the odd, cramping feelings persisted. Holly couldn't sleep, so she took a warm bath. Then another. Then she experienced something she'd heard about in class the night before. "Around 3:30 a.m., the contractions started to form one of the patterns we'd learned about," Holly says. She called The BirthPlace at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, Minnesota. "They told me to come in and get checked right away."
At The BirthPlace, Holly's care team began monitoring her contractions, and a nurse did an exam to check Holly's cervix. That's when they realized Holly was in preterm labor. She turned to Ryan and said, "Honey, I think we're having a baby today."
At that point, a new member of Holly's care team entered the room — virtually. Staff explained to Holly that the audio-video machine they'd brought to her bedside would allow William Carey, M.D., a neonatal specialist at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus to observe and communicate with them via the Teleneonatology Program, a part of the Mayo Clinic Children's Center.
Because the Nardinger's baby — a girl — was arriving eight weeks early, Dr. Carey would advise staff how to care for the infant until she could be transported to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus for advanced care.
"Dr. Carey was very reassuring," Holly says. "He explained that a team was already in the air to come and get our baby and bring her to Rochester. He explained what would happen and the possible issues she could have due to being born early."
With Dr. Carey on the screen, a Mayo Clinic Ambulance Service helicopter in the air, and a team of nurses and doctors in the delivery room, it was time to welcome baby Nardinger to the world.
"When babies decide to come early, we still try to give the parents the best experience we can."Sarah Helm, D.O.
"I told the nurses to talk to me like I knew nothing because we'd only had one day of baby classes," Holly says. The care team offered expert instruction, and three pushes later, Clara was born, weighing 4 pounds, 4 ounces and measuring 16.5 inches long. "She came out screaming and pink," Holly says of her daughter, the hospital's first newborn of 2019.
"When babies decide to come early, we still try to give the parents the best experience we can," says Sarah Helm, D.O., a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing who helped deliver Clara. "We have resources in place, such as telemedicine, to provide assistance when we need it," Dr. Helm says. "We have a well-trained staff that works well together to take care of everyone that comes through the door."
For Holly, having care providers in two different locations wasn't a problem. "It seemed like everyone worked as one team instead of two separate teams," she says.
After Clara was born, Holly and Ryan each held their daughter briefly. Then the Mayo Clinic Ambulance Service transported Clara by air to the Newborn ICU at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, Saint Marys campus.
"She needed a little help breathing at first," Holly says. Doctors also placed a feeding tube in Clara's stomach to ensure she got enough nourishment until she developed the ability to eat on her own. And because she had jaundice — a yellowing of the skin caused by too much bilirubin, a type of pigment in the red blood cells — Clara received light treatment for 48 hours. "It was a little overwhelming to see her all hooked up, but the nurses did a great job reassuring us," says Holly.
"We got a lot of patient education from the nurses. They were really, really helpful and made us feel calm and not overwhelmed."Holly Nardinger
After three days in the Newborn ICU, Clara was strong enough to be transferred the Intermediate Special Care Nursery at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, Methodist campus. "We got a lot of patient education from the nurses," Holly says. "They were really, really helpful and made us feel calm and not overwhelmed."
On Jan. 26, when Clara was 3 weeks old, Holly and Ryan were finally able to bring her home. Now the family of three, plus their dog and three cats, are enjoying their new life together.
"We weren't completely prepared for the lack of sleep," Holly says with a laugh. "But I definitely felt more comfortable bringing her home because of all the information we got from the nurses in Rochester."
Holly adds that she's grateful to everyone involved in Clara's birth — whether they were in the room or 50 miles away.
Note: A version of this story previously was published on Hometown Health.