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Going for the Gold

North Wales family celebrates birth of 50th great grandchild
at AMH

When baby John Joseph Kaltenbacher entered the world on July 20, delivered by obstetrician Philip G. Sih, M.D., he was greeted by a full house in the birthing suite at Abington Memorial Hospital (AMH). In addition to parents Rosemary (Ro) and Kevin, also present for his birth were his great grandmother, two grandmothers and an aunt. Meeting her 50th great grandchild for the first time, Great Grandmother Marguerite (Peggy) Koller, 89, had a front-row seat at John’s birth, directly beside Dr. Sih.

Great grandmother Peggy Koller and baby John Kaltenbacher

Great grandmother Peggy Koller and
baby John Kaltenbacher

“We wanted my grandmother, especially, to be present for John’s birth, because he is her 50th great grandchild,” says Ro. “His birth was absolutely miraculous. It was the first time my grandmother had been present for a birth other than those of her own 11 children.” Peggy also has 56 grandchildren. John was the 28th among Peggy’s combined 106 grandchildren and great grandchildren to be born at Abington Memorial Hospital. Although she was born an only child in 1922, clearly, a small family was not in the cards for Peggy.

Large family gatherings – even in the birthing suite – are the norm for the extended Koller family, most of whom reside in the Philadelphia area. “Ours is a big family,” says Ro, “and we’re very close. My sisters are my best friends and we’re there for one another’s childbirth experiences whenever possible.” Likewise, Ro says she doesn’t think she could go through childbirth without her mother, Mary Therese Ferro, who delivered seven children. Born in 1946, Mary (also John’s grandmother) is Peggy’s oldest child.

In addition to Great Grandmother Peggy and Grandmother Mary Therese, baby John’s greeting party included his aunt, Lisa Dwyer (who gave birth to her son, Kieran, at AMH), and his other grandmother, Kathy Kaltenbacher. Aunt Ann Marie O’Shea, missed John’s grand entrance by just minutes; she was in the AMH parking lot the moment he arrived arrival. John joins siblings Alison, 3, and Carly, 16 months, both of whom also began their lives at AMH.

Prior to John’s delivery date, Peggy had been worried for Ro and hoped the delivery would go quickly and wouldn’t be too painful. The wonders of modern medicine helped to put Peggy at ease. “When I saw the effect of that epidural, I was amazed and so relieved for Ro,” says Peggy. “So much has changed since I had my babies. For some births, I wasn’t even conscious and for others, I just worked through the pain.”

John’s was an uncomplicated birth, although the family had been expecting a Cesarean delivery because John was in breech presentation (positioned to deliver buttocks and feet first) just days before his due date. Thankfully, John had turned at some point, so Cesarean delivery wasn’t necessary. Peggy says John’s birth was the most emotional experience of her life. “It was very exciting,” she says, “to see his little head, followed by that little body… and he looked so healthy!”

Ro also found John’s birth to be exceptionally moving with her grandmother present to take it all in. “The medical team was fantastic,” says Ro. “They answered all my grandmother’s questions along the way and were so kind to my family.” She adds, “As for me, this was the easiest birth so far. I even had my own personal coach – obstetric nurse, Kristin Roddy, R.N., who was by my side from start to finish.”

Baby John’s birth is one of several big events in Peggy’s life this year. She will celebrate her 90th birthday in November and 2012 would have marked her 70th wedding anniversary with her late husband, William, who died in 2008.

“Ro tells us she should get a prize for giving birth to the 50th great grandchild,” says Peggy. “I tell them I’m the one who deserves a reward.” Since babies are such treasures in Peggy’s life, she will, indeed, be awarded more trophies in the near future. Two more great grandchildren are due to be born at AMH before the end of the year.

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