Melissa and Ben Dickinson don’t always take the easy path — they’re first-generation farmers who launched a business selling pasture-raised beef, pork and eggs directly to customers. They’ve worked nonstop to revitalize the land on their small, Insta-worthy farm located in Arena, WI. And, oh yeah, they also decided to have a baby in 2020, a year that would turn the entire world upside-down.
But that less-than-easy path led to the arrival of their daughter, Hadlee. This is Melissa’s birth story…
Already a patient at Sauk Prairie Healthcare for her yearly physicals, Melissa spoke with her primary care provider about the next step after discovering she was pregnant. As she recalls, “I kind of gave an idea of what I was looking for in an O.B. doctor and we decided on Dr. Suzanne Welsch.” Dr. Welsch, by the way, is one of the team of eight providers — a certified nurse midwife, family medicine physicians, and obstetrics and gynecologic surgeons — from Prairie Clinic who deliver babies.
“We went in February 2020 to get a dating ultrasound because we weren’t sure exactly how far along I was,” Melissa remembers. “I found out I was 12 weeks already. So, that was kind of shocking. I knew I was farther along but didn’t think I was quite that far along. That was pre-pandemic, so the first month went pretty normal.”
As the world changed around us, Melissa notes how the necessary COVID-19 precautions at the Prairie Clinic in the Women’s Health Center impacted the journey, “All of sudden, Ben wasn’t allowed to go to my appointments anymore. And one of the first ones that he couldn’t go to was the 18-week anatomy ultrasound. We didn’t find out if it was a boy or a girl, but I was inside the clinic by myself and Ben was in the parking lot watching through FaceTime.”
Despite this being very early in the pandemic, Melissa still applauds the efforts of Dr. Welsch and the staff to keep her and her baby safe. “It was kind of scary, but everyone did a great job.”
As the months progressed, Melissa continued to see Dr. Welsch without her husband by her side. “Everybody was really accommodating as far as trying to include Ben the best we could in the situation we were in.” The staff even helped Melissa record their baby’s heartbeat so Ben could later hear it clearly at their home.
“Then we got closer, it was just a couple of appointments prior to me actually going into labor and Ben was able to come to my appointments, which was awesome.”
Everything seemed on-track. But baby Hadlee had other ideas.
“I went in about three weeks before my due date and I was already dilating. Dr. Welsch told me, ‘I don’t know if you’ll make it to your date, but we’ll see.’ So, we were on edge — waiting, waiting, waiting. And well, September came and still no baby. Then the actual due date came and still no baby. So, we finally decided that I was going to be induced.”
With a date in the calendar to induce labor, Melissa and Ben had to get ready to leave their farm. But with an operation like theirs that is very much hands-on, this was no small task. “We had this thing all planned out. Because we graze our animals, we had a pasture we weren’t going to open up until we knew Hadlee was coming. It was a big enough pasture where we could be gone for a couple days. We’d go to the hospital, get out as quick as we could, get home and make sure we had eyes on the farm.”
But now past her due date, Melissa couldn’t exactly pitch in like she normally would, “I was huge! I couldn’t really do a whole lot. I could maybe help with the feed bags a little. I couldn’t even fit in the skid steer anymore, plus I didn’t feel comfortable driving it because you have to wear a lap belt and I didn’t want to hit a bump and bump my ‘bump.’”
With Melissa managing the to-do list, Ben hustled to get everything ready for their departure. “We set up automatic watering for the animals in different areas, we gave them extra hay, we gave extra food to the chickens, extra food to the pigs. And, we have house dogs, so we had to make sure their food was ready for the dogsitter who was coming. Just getting all the animals ready took a lot longer than we thought. And it was raining and muddy and just not ideal working conditions. Lots of emotions and anticipation on that day.”
And while the Dickinsons arrived at the hospital a bit later than planned to start Melissa’s labor, “Everybody was really warm and welcoming. Even though we were a half-hour late, they joked with us as soon as we got there.”
The team began by giving Melissa a treatment of hormones that night. As she tells us, “By 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, I started to feel contractions and I went into the tub in my room and that was amazing. I’m very happy I had that. I sat in there a long time and the contractions got stronger and stronger. Dr. Welsch checked on me and let me know if I wanted an epidural, now was the time.”
Once the epidural anesthetic was placed, “Everybody assumed I was going to have our baby before noon,” Melissa tells us. But by 2:00pm, “I stalled out. I got some more hormones, started to push and she just wasn’t coming down. I pushed for another two-and-a-half hours. I was doing everything right, but Hadlee just wasn’t budging.”
Melissa recalls that at this point, Dr. Welsch examined her and declared, “Everybody’s healthy and good, but I don’t think this is going to be very easy and things just aren’t going how they should. I think we should arrange a C-section.” Thanks to Dr. Welsch’s calm evaluation, plus hours with little progress, Melissa and Ben agreed that this was the right decision.
“Everybody got prepped. Everybody knew that Ben was going to announce if we had a boy or a girl, so the whole staff knew they weren’t going to say anything about that. And we got started.”
Melissa continues, “Dr. Welsch started to deliver Hadlee and she kind of slowed down and, well, it turns out it was a very good thing we had a C-section . Hadlee was wrapped in her umbilical cord and her cord had a knot in it. But when it was time, Ben told me, ‘Oh, it’s a girl!’ So, he got to tell me.”
“They brought her to me, and we had some skin-to-skin time. And then Ben and Hadlee went back to our room while they took care of me. When I got to the room, Hadlee and I tried feeding right away. And then, I finally got to eat! Which was amazing. I really hadn’t eaten for a couple days.”
Drama in the rearview mirror, Melissa and Ben truly got to enjoy the first hours with Hadlee. “Everybody was so great. We had a ton of nursing staff come in. Everybody had different pointers and suggestions. I really wanted to breastfeed, so that was our number one goal and thankfully, Hadlee was a champ, and she was able to latch on right away. It was really helpful with all the nursing staff because everybody’s a lactation consultant. For me, that was probably one of the most helpful things because instead of a 30-minute consultation where you get information thrown at you, non-stop, it was nice to have people come in and give little pointers here and there. And each one of them was super helpful. And if we wanted to talk to the nurses, they had time to sit with us and chat if we had any questions or needed help. We knew if we needed help, we had it. If we didn’t need help, it wasn’t pushed on us. That was really nice.”
The calm atmosphere continued as Melissa recovered and it came time to leave the hospital, “When we decided we wanted to come home, the staff was very accommodating. I got my discharge papers from Dr. Schad during his morning rounds, but we didn’t leave until five in the afternoon, and nobody was kicking us out. It was very much, ‘Take your time. Do what you need to do.’”
As for Hadlee and her role as the newest helper at Melissa and Ben’s farm? “She’s a really good farm baby. She’s outside all the time. She’s been playing in the dirt. She helps me feed goats, she loves the cattle and the chickens. She signed ‘dog’ in sign language this week. She’s into that. She loves her dogs.”
And just like that, a second-generation farmer joins the family.
To learn more about the Birth Center at Sauk Prairie Healthcare, contact us any time. From tours, to information about our providers, we’re here to answer all of your questions.