Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gabriel’s Birth Story

This birth story, like so many others, begins with the birth of my first child, Lydia.  I’ll keep this part brief, as I’ve written on her birth before (to read in detail, check out this blog entry: 

With Lydia, though I had been very clear about my wishes for a natural birth, I was induced for being “post-dates” at 40 weeks and 5 days.  Needless to say, one thing led to another, and after a traumatic journey, I landed in the Operating Room for an emergency Cesarean Section. 

I think I probably suffered through every intervention known to man.  I had labored 23 hours on Pitocin (20 of those with no epidural, and 6 long, awful hours of back labor) with just my husband as my labor coach (champ that he is).  I had dilated all the way to 9.5 cm, but still didn’t make it to 10, and at shift change, I went into reverse labor.  The doc on call diagnosed me with Cephalo-Pelvic Disproportion, (though I didn’t know this term at the time).  When told of the need for the emergency c/sec, I had asked if I was a good candidate for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) for my next birth, and the OB said “No, I’m afraid your pelvis is just too narrow.”  I was devastated, exhausted, and confused, but hey, I had my healthy daughter, and the doctor and staff had saved both our lives, right?
Me with Lydia in the recovery room after her birth.

Not the way I see it.  If I had known then what I know now and allowed my baby and my body to decide when labor was appropriate to begin, our lives never would have needed saving in the first place.  But what did I know?  I was just the pregnant lady.  I trusted too much in a broken system.


Fast forward a few months.  My husband and I wanted to have our babies close together, and so after I healed up and got into the swing of being a mommy, I began to research.  I decided not to take the OB’s word for it and sought a second opinion on the VBAC.  I met with one of the staff at the local midwifery, and she told me some interesting facts.  First was that my hospital’s rate of emergency c/section on first time mothers that were induced was between 60% and 80%.  Wow.  Seriously??!  I was REALLY angry that my OB (whom I truly trusted) had withheld this info from me when she scheduled my induction, especially after my incessant hammering of natural birth, natural birth, natural birth. 

Another, more heartening fact, was that, unless in the case of gestational diabetes, the vast majority of women DO NOT make babies that they cannot birth.  (CPD was more of an issue in the 1600’s when Rickets was prevalent and caused misshapen pelvises.)  That, and the fact that I had been in labor so long and dilated as much as I did definitely increased my chances of delivering vaginally for subsequent births. 

Well, I didn’t have to wait too terribly long to find out if I would be able to birth my next baby naturally, as I found out when Lydia was about 8 months old that we were expecting again!  Yikes!  And yay!! 
My positive pregnancy test, January 10th, 2012

After weighing our options, my husband and I decided that Home Birth was the route we desired to take.  This (as you can expect), caused alarm in some people we knew, but I trusted my body to do what God designed it to do.  I wanted a natural birth, and by golly, I deserved it!!!  We did, however, decide that we wanted to know the sex of our baby-to-be, so our midwife sent us to a local institution to have an ultrasound. 

I took my mother with me, because the midwife I’d be meeting with was the one who had been my mom’s Lamaze coach for my brother’s birth and the attending midwife for my birth thirty years ago.  (To be honest, though my mother loves her dearly and respects her opinion, she was not my favorite person.  She made me worry about my decision to have a VBAC, my decision to have a home birth, and made me question the credibility of the midwife I’d chosen to attend it.)  She talked me out of the home birth, and I switched care to the local midwifery.  Though I did feel they would do a good job for me, I was still extremely unsettled (terrified, really) about giving birth in the hospital again.  I knew there would be an operating room just down the hall waiting for my labor to “not progress” as the hospital staff saw fit.  I also did NOT want to be strapped to the electronic fetal monitor and have an IV port “just in case” – standard of care across the nation for VBAC.

So, after LOTS of prayer, more research, and anxiety over telling my husband I wanted to switch yet again, the decision was made to go once more for home birth.  My midwife was very gracious in taking me back for care. 


All that said, NOW we can really get into my SON’S birth story! 

On Monday morning, September 10th, I lost a little mucous plug (I was pretty sure anyway) and I had thought FOR SURE that I was in labor on Monday night.  I’d been having regular contractions that were more than Braxton-Hicks, and just *felt* that it was time.  It wasn’t.  J 

Tuesday morning, I lost some more mucous plug, this time with a little blood in it!!  Tuesday afternoon, my wonderful chiropractor adjusted me (for free – out of the goodness of her heart she wanted me to be as best prepared for labor as possible) and told me to come back the next week if I was still pregnant. 

Wednesday afternoon, I had a prenatal visit with my midwife, and Thursday marked what we were pretty sure was my 39th week of pregnancy.  (There has been LOTS of discrepancy over my actual date of conception and due date.)   I had still been having regular contractions, and looking back, I realize it was prodromal labor, and I think I had been in labor that whole time, maybe even from Monday night!  I had no desire to leave the house, only to cook and clean and spend time with my 16-month-old and husband.   
Me and Lydia, taken by my cousin, Sarah Nix.  I think this was taken the last week in August.

Sure enough, about 9pm on Thursday, I knew for sure that I was in labor.  I waited an hour and a half, just to be certain, and then called my midwife to be on the alert.  She told me to rest if I could, but of course I was so excited, that though I sent my husband to bed, I stayed up.  I found a great contraction timer online ( -- I don’t have a fancy cell phone to download apps to) and pulled up Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook to distract myself through each rush.  (Hey, whatever works, right?!)  My doula was awake, so we chatted here and there on FB.  She would be coming from a little over an hour away, so at 1 or so, I gave her the go-ahead to come on down.  (She was so excited!)  The hubbs was still sleeping at this point (poor guy had a NASTY cold – another reason I knew labor was imminent – Murphy’s Law, right?) but I woke him to tell him that if he came out of the bedroom to make sure he was dressed b/c company was coming.  J 

I called my midwife at 5 to let her know that I’d been up all night having contractions, and now they were about 5-7 mins apart.  I’d been doing low moaning each time I had one, leaning over the couch arms, as I felt it was rude to continue with my game now that people were with me!  As I felt the contractions come on, I would envision myself at the prow of a small boat, sailing on an ocean, and would rise up on my toes as I was cresting each wave.  (Ah, yes, the bliss of visualization!)

My midwife arrived about 7am on Friday morning (I’d told her to take her time) and everyone went to work setting up and filling the birthing tub.  I think I got in the tub about 9, and I was sooooo sleepy after being up all night.  The water felt wonderful!  It was great to be buoyant after months of feeling heavy and weighed down.  When my husband put our daughter down for a nap about 10, everyone lay down to rest and gather energy.  My contractions were SO much stronger in the bed!  I don’t think my husband got any rest.  When naptime was over, I got back in the tub after my labor team heated the water up.  (Funny, but I kept thinking about how wrinkled my toes must be after all that time in the water…)
Lydia LOVED the tub!  She kept calling it "BALL!!" 
I think b/c it was the same color as my birthing ball.

I don’t remember much between then and when Lydia got up from her second nap at 2ish.  I do remember that I asked James to call his sister and see if she’d be willing to look after our lil girl for a few hours as labor was getting really intense, and Lydia was causing me a lot of distraction.   I think something in me knew that I would be able to get more done without her there and I could focus 100% of my energy on getting my son earthside.  James left to take her and got back about 2:30. 
Resting between contractions.

My contractions were REALLY picking up by then, and my water broke (clear!) after I felt the urge to start pushing.  This was about 2:55pm.  I began to get really overwhelmed and had a good cry with James there at my side.  He was so wonderful and encouraging – he told me “You’re one of the toughest people I know” when I was ready to give up.  I told my midwife that I really felt like pushing, and she told me something like “your body won’t steer you wrong”.  (Pushing at the wrong time, thus causing swelling is part of what caused me to not be able to dilate all the way to 10cm with Lydia, but I was on too much Pitocin and had started pushing at 6cm.  Needless to say, I felt caution when it came time to push.)  I also remember asking her if I was in transition yet, and she told me we were WAY past that point!!  I was SO relieved!!!  I just wanted it to be over – it had been such a long and trying journey…
My husband was so supportive and loving through the whole journey.

(I’m cheating and using my Labor Record, by the way.  There’s no way I ever could have known what time all this stuff happened, lol!)

I kept talking to our son, kept vocalizing what I wanted to happen and for him to do.  My midwife said that was great.  She wrote down where I kept saying things like “I’m ready to meet you!”  “I am just ready to open up and have this baby!”  “Oh Lord, just open me up!”  “I am ready for some Oxytocin!!!!” 

I really began pushing at 3:45, and then at 4:15, on my Labor Record, it was recorded “feeling some big movement”.  I distinctly remember asking James what time it was and when he told me 4:15, I thought to myself and to God, dang it’d be GREAT to have this baby by 5!  At 4:40, my crowning peaked, and though the ring of fire was unpleasant, it wasn’t near as bad as I’d heard other women describe it (thankfully).  4:50 was the full crown, and at 4:56, his head was born.  That was awesome and terrible all at once!  What relief, knowing it was going to be over soon… 

I looked down at his little head there between my legs and said “he has some hair!”  I’d turned my body toward my husband, basically aiming myself at him so he could catch our son.  Then when my midwife saw the cord wrapped around his neck, and told James to unroll the baby, not the cord, but he decided that it’d be best if she did that, so he took over holding the light and she poised herself to catch him. 

At 4:59, the rest of his little body came out, wrapped up three times in his cord.  My midwife unrolled him and handed him to me.  I thought it was so cool that I’d gotten my wish to have him by 5!  I exclaimed “I have a baby!!”  I clutched him to my breast after checking between his legs to ensure that he was definitely a he.  He coughed and spluttered for quite some time, but he eventually cried.  I said “me too, baby, me too,” as I was feeling his pain.  He was so beautiful!!  So perfect!  He had the old man wrinkly feet and hands that Lydia had had, and he looked SOOOO much like his big sister!!

I was so very relieved that it was over.  Or so I thought…

I guess my Sister-in-Law had called when I was getting really close and said that Lydia was absolutely inconsolable, and James told her that we were really close to delivery and that he’d call her back soon.  (He didn’t tell me this -- wise choice -- until after our boy was born.)  He called Ashley back after the baby was born, but before I’d delivered the placenta, to tell her it was okay to bring Lydia home, as he didn’t want to be a burden (they have a little girl about Lydia’s age, too). 

I guess I didn’t think about labor not being over, and I didn’t think I’d have any difficulty delivering my placenta, but when my SIL and her hubbs came in with my niece and Lydia, I think it halted my labor.  It was chaotic for a few minutes – Ashley came over to me, gave me a hug, and said “you did it!!!”  We had her husband wait by the couch b/c I was quite indecent, and then when a few minutes had passed and I still hadn’t delivered the afterbirth, my midwife felt it was time for me to speak up and ask everyone to leave.  My mom also came to look after Lydia sometime around this point. 

I noticed at that time that I REALLY had to pee, but couldn’t seem to be able to go.  I think we got me out of the tub at this point, still holding the new baby, and moved to the bathroom.  I suggested cutting the cord and passing the baby off to someone else to see if that’d help the placenta come out.  My midwife told me that my since my bladder was so full, it was holding in my placenta and that the placenta was also holding in my bladder – that’s a heck of a catch 22!  I was extremely uncomfortable.  We tried many different methods to try to get one or the other out – holding my hand under warm running water, sitting in a tub of warm water, showering, taking a tincture of Angelica (it’s supposed to help expel the placenta), drinking more (big mistake!), sitting on the toilet, walking around, NOTHING seemed to be helping! 

It was getting later and later, and everything was chaos and pandemonium.  Poor James was being pulled in 50 different directions, trying to help our doula with the tub drainage and cleanup, worrying about me, trying to get my mom situated with Lydia’s dinner, etc.  I laid down on the bed on top of several chux pads (and a shower curtain covered by a sheet) in misery and just prayed that something would happen and happen SOON.  James and my mom prayed over me, praying that we wouldn’t have to transport to the hospital.  I REALLY didn’t want that, after all I’d been through to have this home birth!!  I was emotionally overwhelmed that so much time had passed and nothing had happened.  I think it was about 8pm by then.  We decided to try inserting a catheter, but I was so swollen that it wasn’t possible with the type of catheter my midwife had on hand.  She had called her midwifery partner to come with a different type of cath, when all of a sudden, I was able to pee a little.  It wasn’t much, but it gave us all hope. 

Then nothing again.  Finally, after another hour or so, I went in the bathroom by myself, just praying to God that He would get us through this without having to get medical assistance.  I sat on the toilet for a few minutes, felt the urge to push, and MY PLACENTA CAME OUT!  Then, sweet sweet relief – I must’ve peed for a solid minute!!!!  (I told James later that it was like the heavens opened up and the angels were singing just for me!)  Feeling like ten trillion dollars, I cleaned myself up, came out of the bathroom, threw my hands up, and grinned as I told my midwife, “I did it!  It’s all in the toilet!”  (Like anyone would know what that meant.)  Someone said “what’s in the toilet?”, and I said “Everything!  My placenta, my pee, everything!!”  I know that must sound strange, the way I put it, but I was just so excited, and yes, again, relieved.  It was 9pm when I finally was done delivering the placenta.

My little man had peed by then too, soaking a couple receiving blankets, and had gotten rid of a HUGE meconium stool.  With everyone cleaning up the tub, tending to me, holding him, bathing Lydia and getting her ready for bed, we didn’t have the chance to weigh him until after he’d pooed, so we estimated that he’d weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces at birth, with a length of 20 ¼”, and a 14” head circumference. 
Me and my new baby boy!!

Something I find unbelievable was all the time that had passed, and we still had not picked out a name for him!  (For those of you who don’t know, we’d settled on a name a few times, but then James would change his mind.  I got tired of getting attached to a certain name, so I told him that I wanted him to pick our son’s name and not tell me what it was til the baby was earthside.  Many people questioned my sanity at this choice, but I had faith.)  When everyone was gone for the night and the three of us were snuggling in bed together, James told me that the Lord had laid it on his heart to call our son Gabriel.  What a strong and beautiful name!  We decided the next morning that he would be Gabriel John – John is my favorite gospel, and a family name on both mine and James’ sides. 


My labor had been 20 hours long.  This seemed like forever to me, but talking with my midwife after the fact, she said that she was highly impressed that he’d come before 10pm that night.  I felt like a champion – I’d done it!  I’d had my child MY way, on my terms, in my own time, in my own home.  I didn’t have to go anywhere.  I had such an extreme feeling of satisfaction.  I rode that cloud all the next day, too.  I must’ve looked like a cheese with my Permagrin slapped across my face the whole day! 

Talking with my husband (who previously had been heard saying “it doesn’t matter to me how the baby gets here, as long as he and Stevie are safe and healthy”, and though he was on board with the home birth, he would have been on board with an elective repeat c/sec, too), I am so glad he realized why having an un-tampered-with vaginal birth was so incredibly important to me.  I no longer feel the anger that I did after my daughter’s birth.  I feel peace, knowing that I could do it, that my body could do it, and that my uterus didn’t explode (like so many people had led me to believe it would, but which I never had felt was an issue for me). 

I also feel so much closer to James.  After Lydia’s birth, I didn’t realize what the c/sec had done to my emotional state.  I was a MESS.  Not only did I have to recoup from a major surgery, but I had a baby, and all the hormones that came with giving birth, and I could barely take care of myself, let alone a newborn and a husband to boot!  I don’t know what he went through emotionally with Lydia’s birth, but I did not feel close with him afterward.  With Gabriel’s birth, I can’t explain it, but I think it has changed the way James views me.  He has been very sweet, tender, and affectionate with me, not to mention more patient when I am hormonal and weepy (all.the.time).  I feel more like he is my ally this time, though I can’t say where the feeling had come from that we were on opposing teams last time. 

Bonding with Gabriel has been easier, too, as has nursing (though we are still trying to solve a clicking issue) than it was for Lydia and me starting out.  I have no regrets about my birth with Gabriel, where I cannot say that I would not have done things differently with Lydia’s debut had I known better.

My perfect son.  I am in love!!!

I am glad I stuck to my guns, glad I was too chicken to have a hospital birth.  People think I’m brave for giving birth at home, but I tell them that the brave thing for ME would have been to walk in to a hospital, having previously had a c/section, and tried to have a natural birth.  After 20 hours, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have had another c/section.  My labor was long at home, my haven, where I am most comfortable and I didn’t have strangers walking in whenever they saw fit, causing my contractions to stall or become less productive.  I can’t see how being in a hospital setting would have made it less lengthy. 

I am thankful that I didn’t go into labor and have to put my battle armor on to defend my right to a natural, vaginal birth.  I am just not that strong.  Or maybe I am?  I am glad I don’t have to find out.  J