Please note, this is a full account of a real childbirth. There are a few gory details. Don't say I didn't warn you, lol!
There's a few important details to know before I dive into Gunnar's birth story. First of all he is my third child. I had given birth naturally with my first two children. But truth be told, I wanted epidurals with both of those births, but was unable to get them for different reasons. Now, with the birth of my third child, and having experienced natural childbirth, twice, I knew that I wanted to go natural again. But a fear loomed in my mind. This time I would be making the choice to have a natural birth, myself. The other times the decisions were made for me. I was a bit scared, but I knew in the end of would be very happy with my decision.
Another detail is that both of my previous births, especially Julius', had happen pretty fast. This was on my mind because Nathan had a business trip planned to St. Louis for a weekend about two weeks before I was due. Because Julius was born two weeks early, I was sure that if we did what we could, we could help this next baby be born before his trip(this just totally cracks me up now that I think back on it, lol!). I started having lots of Braxton-Hicks contractions, starting at 26 weeks. This too, made me think I would definitely go early. At about 32 weeks along, I started drinking red raspberry leaf tea a few times a day and I started taking evening primrose oil, among other things (preggo ladies, I highly recommend these two, but do your research). Women in Amish communities say these help encourage labor and make it quicker and easier. As the weeks past, our family started heading to the mall, grocery store and hardware store to walk, walk and walk some more. It was cold and snowy outside, so we had to find indoor places to walk.
At 37 weeks, and only one weekend before his trip, my parents took Layla and Julius for the night so Nate and I could enjoy a "last date" before the arrival of the baby. We finished up some odds and ends at the house, walked our brains out and headed to a wings joint for some hot wings. Every time we went walking, I would start contracting pretty strongly, but they would go away as soon as I rested. I ate a ridiculous amount of hot wings and even managed to steal a few sips of Nate's beer. Some women say that spicy food can bring on labor. Let's just say it brought on some heartburn. We walked some more, I had many more contractions, but decided to call it a night, since nothing was progressing.
By the end of the week, there was no baby and Nate decided to not go to St. Louis. I was relieved because with my last child, I woke up in full labor at 2 am and gave birth by 5:20 am. If Nate was 8 hours away in St. Louis, there was a good chance he could miss the birth of his child. As the weekend passed, still no baby and I felt bad I made Nate miss his trip.
At 38 weeks, my doctor's visit showed I was dilated to a 2 and my cervix was very soft, but the baby was high and posterior. The tea and oil seemed to be doing their jobs. I continued to have contractions like crazy over the next two weeks, but with little change at my appointments. This was one of the hardest parts of this pregnancy. I would wake up at night and have contractions for an hour or two and then they would go away. I was so confused because I kept thinking I was going into labor, but it was just a false alarm. I also had a lot of anxiety in regards to our children and I worried about when to call my parents to come watch them. I didn't want to call them if it was a false alarm, because they live an hour away, but I needed to call early enough so that Nate and I didn't have to drag the kids to the hospital with us. Oh, the worries of a pregnant woman!
As I approached my due date, my doctor started saying the dreaded word "induce." Because I knew I would be having this baby naturally, the last thing I wanted to do was be induced. Research shows that inducing women results in harder contractions, more difficult labors and greatly increases the possibility of a cesarean delivery. But, my doctor is kind of known for being an inducer, and I think he is used to getting his own way, so I immediately made my next appointment with the midwife in his office. She understood my fears of inducing and said she would avoid it if possible, but she warned me the doctor would get pushy.
As my due date came and went, I headed to the midwife for an appointment. I was still at a 2 and the baby was high and posterior. I told her I wasn't concerned because my other two kids managed to flip over right before delivery. During this visit, I discussed with her my concerns about delivering fast. I had tested positive for strep B with all my children. With my first two deliveries, my labors went so quickly, I wasn't able to get the full dose of penicillin before I delivered.
About 30% of all pregnant women are carriers of strep B. It poses no threat to the mother, but when a baby passes through the birth canal, it can sometimes breath in the bacteria. This then can put the baby at risk for pneumonia or meningitis. Before the end of the 60's, this was the number one reason why newborn babies died. Now all woman are screened and antibiotics are given during labor to prevent any problems. Up on the labor and delivery ward, it is hard to be taken too seriously by the nurses and other doctors, especially if it isn't in your records. I asked her to write on my chart that I deliver fast so they would be prepared to get me hooked up to an IV quickly. She was happy to do so.
She then asked about the exact timing of my previous births and became concerned that I would once again not get the antibiotics in my system before I delivered. She said she was not a big advocate of inducing labor, but she thought that I should be induced to ensure the safety of the baby. This made me want to cry, but I understood where she was coming from.
I was scheduled to be induced the following morning, but because I was past my due date, I had to first go be monitored up at labor and delivery for an hour. As I sat, hooked up to the monitors, I called Nate and my parents to let them know the change of plans. After an hour's worth of observation, the baby's heart rate looked good and I was sent home. The kind nurses warned me to eat a big breakfast and hide some snacks in my bag, because my doctor was not big on letting his patients eat during labor. I appreciated the tip.
As I headed home, my regular, annoying, going-on-for-the-past-twelve-weeks, Braxton-Hicks contractions continued. I ignored them, because, after all, I was being induced in the morning. If I wasn't scared enough before about natural birth, I was now totally freaked that I would be delivering natural and being induced.
The one relief this brought is that I knew ahead of time, and that my parents were coming to spend the night so we could be at the hospital, bright and early. My parents showed up and fixed a nice dinner. I noticed that my contractions hadn't gone away, but I ignored them. Nate left for a meeting. I put the kids to bed and went down stairs to hang out with my parents. My mom noticed I was uncomfortable. I told her I had been having contractions throughout the afternoon and evening. She questioned if they were labor pains. I said probably not, because they weren't getting any worse. I got myself a glass of wine and laid down on the couch. This is recommended to determine if labor is real or false. I was hoping it would make the contractions stop so I could get some sleep before my big day.
They didn't stop. By the time Nate got home, I was using a heating pad on my back. Nate and my mom suggested running up to the hospital just to see if I was in labor. At this point, I was a bit annoyed. The nurses up on labor and delivery are the best, but they are a bit leery of everyone and everything. I am sure they would think I was a nut for showing up a mere 6 hours before being induced. Nate pointed out the fact that we live but a few minutes away from the hospital, so what would it hurt heading up there. He had a point.
After brushing my teeth, fixing my make-up and changing into some comfy clothes, we headed to the ward. It was almost midnight. I was so relieved when we were assigned the nurse who helped deliver my second child. She listened to my story, but I don't think she thought I was really in labor. She said, we will go ahead and just get you started now with your antibiotics, so you will be ready to be induced in the morning.
I got changed into a gown and got hooked up to the monitors for 20 minutes. Still no sign of my antibiotics. After an hour and a half, I finally got hooked up to an IV of penicillin. Nate tried his best to doze in a nearby chair. My contractions were getting worse and I had a full-blown case of the shakes going on. With all of my children, I always knew I was in full labor when my whole body was shaking with that cold adrenaline-like feeling. I asked to get in the tub, if for nothing but to warm up. The nurse drew me a nice hot bath that did the trick. She came into the bathroom for a few minutes to check the babies heart rate. I spent about 45 minutes in the tub. It was a little annoying having an IV drip going, because I had to keep one arm out of the water.
The nurse asked if I would get out of the tub to be monitored for another 20 minutes. When I got out the water, the gravity kind of hit me. My contractions instantly became more uncomfortable and I had to lean over on something at each contraction. The nurse placed the monitor band around my belly and left the room. I sat on the edge of the bed in between each contraction, but I had to stand and lean over a nearby table during each contraction. After about 15 minutes the monitor fell off my belly. I didn't make any effort to put it back on as I wanted to move about the room to better cope with my contractions. When the nurse came back in, she noticed I was increasingly uncomfortable. She asked to exam me. I was between a 4 and a 5. I asked to get back into the tub. She ran some more hot water and I sank back in. It felt so good to be back in there.
Nate asked about my second bag of antibiotics. The nurse said there would not be enough time. She had went to the records and read up on my past births and knew things would go pretty fast from here. It was about 4 am. I ate half a banana and sipped on some green tea.
Nate called my mother and told her to head on up. He kept checking on me in the bathroom, but I had gone into my own little world. Even though I wasn't on an IV anymore, I still had the port in, so I had to keep that arm out of the water. I kept on my left side, with my right arm on the edge of the tub to stay dry. When a contraction came, I would relax every muscle in my body and do my best to float in the tub. In between contractions I would doze. I remember my mom coming in. She just sat quietly and read.
After a while I had a contraction that felt different. It put more pressure on my bottom. I waited to see if the next few contractions felt the same. They did. I called Nate and asked him to help me out of the tub and told him I was ready to push. I tried my best to time my getting out of the tub between contractions. Nate and the nurse helped me dry off and get into a dry gown. The towel was quite bloody. Another sign that I was ready to push. It was about 5 am.
I told the nurse I thought I was ready to push. She examined me and said I was at a 9 1/2. She wanted me to get in bed, but I told her I wouldn't until I could start pushing. She immediately started busying around the room getting all the supplies and instruments ready. I believe I was really at a 10, but she wasn't ready yet for the delivery. In fact, the nurse said to my mother she wished she would have gotten the room ready sooner. I leaned on the cold, marble window ledge, trying my hardest not to push through each contraction. These last 10 minutes of my labor were the worst and hardest because I was fighting against what my body wanted and needed to do. I asked the nurse if the doctor was coming. She said in a few minutes. After a particularly bad contraction, I told the nurse I needed the doctor now. She didn't respond. A few more nurses came in. So, I started pushing. I figured it would get their attention. Poor Nate was behind me, pressing on my back to relieve the pain. As I pushed, blood started running down my legs, onto the floor. Nate tried his best to get me to stop pushing, but I told him I couldn't help it.
I faintly remember Nate asking my mother for food. She handed him my leftover banana. I remembered thinking it was an odd time for food. What I didn't know is that my "loss of blood" was making him a bit faint.
A few minutes later the doctor came in. I was about to get in the bed, but he started complaining to the nurses that the bed was too low for him to deliver. They fixed the bed and I climbed in and continued to "half-push" until they had the stirrups in place. The doctor commented that Nate was a "glutton for punishment" because of his Lions shirt.
The doctor asked Nathan and the nurse to help me get my legs into position. I saw Nathan say something to my mother and she took his spot while he sat down in the chair next to me. I glanced back at him, only to see him put his head between his knees.
Once in place and given the green light from the doctor, I gave a nice long push. One thing that amazed me about this delivery was the large amount of time I had between contractions. With my other two labors, the contractions were often on top of each other. I really appreciated the time because it allowed me to rest and regain some emotional control and strength for the next contraction. After that first good hard push I fell asleep until the next contraction. I woke up to my body tensing up again. I gave another long hard push and the head was birthed. My first two children, when their heads were born, the rest of their bodies just slipped out with no further pushing. Not with this one. I fell asleep again until the next contraction and pushed out the rest of the baby.
Gunnar Ezekiel was born at 6:18 am. He weighed 7 pounds and 11 ounces and measured 20 and 1/2 inches long. We did not know our baby's gender and were pleasantly surprised with a boy. Though, I thought at first he was a girl because he was so darn pretty looking!
The doctor examined me and said I didn't need any stitches. I couldn't believe it! Especially after two episiotomies. I did notice he used baby shampoo as a lubricant. Why don't all doctors do that?
After the birth, Nate explained to me what was happening with him. He said that he had drank several cups of coffee and tea throughout the night and had eaten no food. He thinks a combination of the caffeine, no food, no sleep and the blood all made him get a bit queasy. His little conversation about a banana with my mother during the heaviest part of my labor now made perfect sense.
Gunnar was quick to nurse. He seemed like an old pro. I sat holding my newest baby, while the nurses cleaned me and the room up. The nurses teased Nate about his queasiness and everyone laughed at the fact that if I hadn't gone into labor naturally, I would be being induced right about then. As I left the delivery to head to a recovery room, I saw my doctor. He teased me about going into labor right before my appointment to be induced. I told him I just opened up a spot for someone else in his schedule.
I walked from the delivery room to the recovery room, instead of taking the standard wheelchair. I felt so good, even though I didn't look so hot. I was happy to hop right in the shower and get all clean and fresh. I even had enough energy to blow dry my hair and put on make-up. I still can't explain how good I felt. Even throughout the rest of the day I felt good. I took a few catnaps, but I didn't feel the utter exhaustion I had felt, especially with the birth of my first born.
Gunnar's birth was by far my best birthing experience yet. I was so amazed at God's grace throughout the situation. I was so blessed that I went into labor naturally, I had a nurse that I was familiar with, that nurse just let me do what I wanted and didn't force me to stay in bed hooked up to the monitors, and I was able to give birth with no stitches needed afterward. What a blessing it was to avoid being induced and to have such a calm labor. I think if it hadn't been for the last 10 minutes when I was told not to push, I think I could possibly label it as a near perfect birthing experience. It's hard to believe this all happened one year ago.
Happy Birthday, Gunnar! You are my little bundle of blessings! I love you.
To read Julius' birth story click here.