As a Paralympian in the sport of goalball, Lisa Czechowski is used to conquering challenges.
Although she is legally blind, that doesn’t stop her from throwing her body down on a hard court floor to block a ball, lobbed at a speed of up to 30 miles an hour and outfitted with bells, before the other team can make a goal.
She’s so good at the sport, she was part of the Paralympic team that won gold in 2008. And she’s a silver medal winner in discus, which helps explains her strength and speed in throwing the goalball. Her husband, Jake, is no stranger to pressure himself, as the national team’s assistant coach.
But the challenge of an early delivery of their first baby was one that they had never encountered before.
In late June 2014, the athlete had anticipated having a routine day of running errands, including picking up a comfy rocking chair as a finishing touch for the nursery. Instead, when she and her husband went for their 36-week prenatal checkup, her blood pressure was inordinately high. Czechoswki had pre-eclampsia. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby. Left untreated it can have serious, even fatal, consequences for both mother and child.
The couple rushed to the hospital without even having the exam. For her safety, Baby Jay would be induced that day.
By nature, the 35-year-old is a planner – and this was not part of the plan. Thoughts raced through her head: What would an early delivery mean for the baby? How was labor going to go? Who would take care of the dogs at home while she and her husband were at the hospital?
"As first-time parents, we had a lot of questions,” Czechoswki recounted, especially since the baby wanted to take his time and seemed to have no interest in meeting the world just yet. “What really helped is that everyone we dealt with, from the nurses to the lactation consultants, were supportive and knowledgeable.”
The care staff also worked hard to accommodate her visual needs. They walked her through the procedures as they were happening so she wasn’t surprised if they touched her, for example. And since Czechoswki is very sensitive to light, the nursing staff taped down the light switch so no one could come in the room and accidentally flip it on.
“Those little things were really so important to help me during a time of such uncertainty,” she said.
What else helped? The USA Women’s National Team was in Finland playing at the World Championships. Her husband laughed at recalling his wife demanding: “Check the score!” between contractions.
Jay came at 5 pounds 10 ounces and is doing great. He’s a calm, mellow baby who will get lots of love from Jake’s nearby brother, with Lisa starting her new season and the couple anticipating traveling again for tournaments.
Czechoswki has advice for other first-time parents:
“Be patient. Ask for help," she said. "You have tremendous resources here at the hospital, so don’t be afraid to tap into their guidance and knowledge. And finally, love your gift!”