Ready or not, here we come, grandma

DeWayne Bartels

   When Rachel Davis went to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center to deliver her daughter via C section, Linda Jatkowski thought she had things under control.

   Jatkowski, Rachel’s mother, knew becoming a grandma would deliver its share of surprises, but she was not prepared for what her first day as a grandma would bring.

   Jatkowski was standing outside the nursery anxiously awaiting the chance to hold her first grandchild — Cecilia Rose Davis — when her husband’s cell phone rang. That phone call launched Jatkowski on a 24-hour-plus blur as a grandma.

So close, yet so far

   Jatkowski, of Peoria, has two married daughters — Rachel of Peoria Heights and Stephenie Bills of Hanna City.

   Rachel was due Jan. 21, but her doctor decided to move the date up because the baby was already more than 10 pounds.

It was Jan. 14.

   Rachel went into the delivery room.    

   Soon, Jatkowski was a grandmother for the first time. She was very anxious to hold the child, but had to settle for a long look through the glass of the nursery. 

   The child was so close, just on the other side of the nursery glass, and her daughter was on her way to the recovery room. Jatkowski told herself that baby would soon be in her arms.

   When the phone rang, Jatkowski was looking at her granddaughter.

   On the other end of that phone call, her other son-in-law, Christopher Bills, said four words that turned her world upside down.

   “Stephenie is in labor,” he said.  

The big day

   Jatkowski had nine months to get prepared for her first two grandchildren, but had not prepared for what happened.

   As she stood there looking in the nursery window, she was torn. One daughter had just delivered, and the other might be right on the verge of delivery.

   Where to go was the big question in her mind. 

   As her son-in-law, Kevin, emerged from the nursery, she told him the news.

   “No way,” he said.

   As soon as Rachel was in recovery, she told her daughter her sister was in labor.

  “Rachel told me to go,” Jatkowski said.

   Stephenie’s labor came as a surprise. Her due date was Jan. 30.

   By the time Stephenie arrived at the hospital, she had been in labor for hours without realizing it.

   Stephenie and Christopher had been at home the night before.

   “After watching a movie, Stephenie stood up and said, ‘I think something happened,’” her husband said.

   They thought her water had broken. It was about 11 p.m. Jan. 13.

  Since she had no pains and it was her first pregnancy, Christopher said, an on-call doctor over the phone told Stephenie not to worry about it. The pair went to bed.

   The next day, they went to see her doctor after 1 p.m.

   “The doctor took one look at her and said, ‘Get her to the hospital now. She’s in labor,’” Christopher said.

   On the way to the hospital, they called Jatkowski. It was 1:40 p.m. The precise time is burned into Jatkowski’s memory. 

   It was off to Methodist Medical Center.

   Stephanie was to endure a long labor — 22 hours. The baby, while small enough for natural birth — at 7 pounds 8 ounces — would not turn.

   Finally, a C section was agreed upon and Marianna Bills came into the world.

   Jatkowski was there for it all.

   While Stephenie was being sewn up, Jatkowski ducked out of Methodist and headed back to OSF. There she got her chance to hold her first grandchild, Cecelia Rose.

   But, it was a short visit because she wanted to be back at Methodist in time for Stephenie to come into recovery. By that point, Jatkowski had been up about 28 hours, and, she said, laughing, got lost trying to get back to the maternity floor.

A good memory

   Jatkowski recalled the moment the call came while she looked at her granddaughter.

   “I grabbed Kevin’s mom and said, ‘We’re going to do this again. It’s so exciting.’ Everyone was laughing.” 

   Everyone is rested now.

   Life is returning to normal.

   The babies are doing well.

   “This has just been something else. It’s breath-taking,” Jatkowski said.

   “It’s wonderful.”