Born and raised in Pembina County, Kallie  Christenson  always  dreamed of planting roots with her high school sweetheart, Brett, in Drayton, North Dakota.     An hour north of Grand Forks, the couple settled into...

The post Rural Roots: Growing Babies and Health Advocacy in the Northern Red River Valley appeared first on Altru Blog.

Photo Credit: Sustad Photography

Born and raised in Pembina County, Kallie  Christenson  always  dreamed of planting roots with her high school sweetheart, Brett, in Drayton, North Dakota.    

An hour north of Grand Forks, the couple settled into adult life  after college"Kallie as a public health nurse and Brett as a farmer.  A few years ago, they started to get baby  fever.  

'I've always wanted to be a mom,' smiles Kallie.  

'Working in healthcare myself, I find it difficult to choose a provider that meets  my criteria,' shares Kallie. 'Dr. Lessard  exceeds it all!'  

Kallie was looking for a  relatable  provider in a similar stage of life.    

'I feel like it's important to  be able to connect on multiple levels in this area of medicine.'    

From genuine real-life conversations to  wise 'mom hacks,' Dr. Lessard provided  the physical, mental and emotional care that Kallie craved most.    

The Stork's in Town

After a few years under Dr. Lessard's care and with the help of prayer and patience,  the  Christensons  discovered  their  dreams were coming true. A baby was on the way!    

While traveling Pembina County through her nursing career, Kallie knew she needed to save as much  paid time off  and sick time as possible for her upcoming maternity leave.  That's where  Dr. Lessard's  regular visits to  Altru's  Specialty Care  in Cavalier came in  extra  handy.    

With her office located at the  Pembina County  Courthouse  in Cavalier, Kallie was able to  easily bop over to  Altru's  Specialty Care for monthly appointments.  'I even did my labs and glucose tolerance test there. It was a huge cost and time savings for my family and employer!  With MyChart messages and call backs usually within the same hour,  I was continually connected to my care team.'  

Planning Ahead

Rural living, while full of the perks of peace and quiet,  did cause  some concern.  

'As my due date got closer, I worried about having to travel from Drayton to Grand Forks in labor. I didn't want my proximity to the hospital to impact the outcome.'  

As months turned to weeks, Kallie found it comforting when Dr. Lessard  provided her schedule  and planned birth around  her availability.  

'I designed my care plan around a natural birth,' shares Kallie. 'I used a birthing ball,  music and yoga mat"everything I could think of! After 30 hours without medication, I decided  I was ready for  an epidural.'    

Hello, Baby

The  Christensons  welcomed their little man, Jett, into the world  in August of 2016, at 8 pounds,  3.5 ounces.  Because Kallie had a fever during delivery, Jett had to spend a little time in the NICU for observation. He checked out perfectly healthy.    

'As we left the hospital, I remember Dr. Lessard  paused what she was doing, appeared in her surgical gear, and gave me the biggest hug,' smiles Kallie. 'It meant so much to me.'  

Six weeks later,  Kallie was running into some breastfeeding issues.  

'New motherhood was a wild ride, but  Dr. Lessard  guided me through it all.  Her support and generosity  was  unending, and I never felt like I had a dumb question.'    

Here We Go Again

Soon after, at her annual check-up, they  discussed  birth control options.  Kallie decided  against  it, and soon enough,  two lines appeared  on the stick  again!  Several months later, they learned Jett would have a baby sister.  

All went well throughout the pregnancy, with  regular check-ups in Cavalier until  weekly appointments  near the end.    

'The only difference was I planned my epidural this time,' laughs Kallie.  

Going into labor naturally  at 41 weeks,  Kallie and Brett left Drayton at 4 a.m.  to get to Altru Hospital. 'Brett was counting the minutes between my contractions while watching the road,'  shares  Kallie. 'I'm sure he was super nervous, but he  didn't show it a bit!'  

Baby girl, Maren, was born  in September of 2018 at 8 pounds, 12.5 ounces.  All was right in the world.    

Thinking back, Kallie recalls  her absolute favorite nurse, or 'angel in scrubs,' Amber H.  Kallie describes, 'She made me feel like I was her only patient, her main focus for the day.  She thought of everything from ice chips and cool towels on my forehead to a fan, birth ball and snacks for my mom and husband. After Maren was born, she made sure we had plenty of private time to ourselves with limited interruptions to experience the Golden Hour, initiate breastfeeding, and have skin-to-skin with both mom and dad.  She didn't miss a beat.'  

'Leading up to  Maren's  birth, I remember feeling overwhelmed with two kids so close in age,' shares Kallie. 'Dr. Lessard continued  to share all the real-life tips and tricks. She advised  me to keep Jett in his crib while I nursed Maren  during the day, and  gently bounce  Maren's bouncer with my foot while rocking Jett  and sneaking in a quick bedtime story.  Her suggestions are worth more than gold.'  

Advocacy  Beyond the Clinic

Beyond being a mom to three and often working around the clock for her patients, Dr. Lessard also makes time for advocacy  and policy change.    

'She is such a wonderful advocate for women's health in our region,' shares Kallie.  'She's made it her life's mission to improve breastfeeding experiences for all mothers wanting to breastfeed, provide access to quality OBGYN care in rural settings, and collaborate with community  agencies like local public health, WIC and multiple breastfeeding coalitions.  It's refreshing to see a provider who cares this deeply!'      

Growing Babies and Career

Today,  the  Christensons  are raising their babies (now  ages  two  years and  almost one!)  while  beginning to  build their dream home in Drayton.  Beyond her  favorite  role as mom,  Kallie continues to be passionate about her  nursing  career  and its focus on prevention and health improvement for all.  

The post Rural Roots: Growing Babies and Health Advocacy in the Northern Red River Valley appeared first on Altru Blog.