This is VERY LOOONG.
There is something about 4th babies that just throws you for a loop! I am so grateful that I chose another home birth where I was safe and well taken care of.
Because I was so informed on choices and variations of birth, I was fully prepared for this birth, although it was fully different from my other three.
This pregnancy was different to my body. I HAD to visit the chiropractor often because I had pelvic pain on the back part of my hips and keeping up with adjustments and the foam rolling exercises I teach in class helped me out. I still had a harder time moving around and had to go slower than ever at the end. I also experienced more braxton hicks than I did with my other three kiddos.
Gunnar was “due” Thursday December 8th. My first son was born five days after so I was expecting to go past my due date by a few days (of course, once you hit 39 weeks, every twinge makes you pay attention).
3 AM Wednesday Dec 7th I started having contractions that were very low in my back and coming every 10 minutes. This lasted until around 5 am and then they spaced out to 20 minutes apart.
I did not feel them radiate around to the front at all but they felt stronger than my braxton hicks.
We texted the midwife around 6am to let her know things may be happening and we would keep her posted. My mom was texted too and she took off from work so she could be there with the kids.
Part of our birth wish this time was to have the kids there with us to experience birth. Because I teach classes, my kids have seen many birth videos and they wanted to participate with their brother being born. Well, the girls did anyway, my 4 year old son just wanted to be the one to scoop poop from the pool if needed. My mom was going to be there with us this time.
Our other three births were only my husband, the midwives and I, so I was concerned about the atmosphere in changing our birth team, but my mom has had two home births as well so I knew that she would not disrupt my birth. I also wanted my mom there because it was my last birth and I think it would have been special.
But that’s not how it went down…
At 1pm Wednesday, the midwife called to check on us and I told her we went to walk stairs at Cabela’s to try and get things to pick up.
The contractions did not develop a pattern but they were fairly strong. This went on for hours-coming every 10 minutes for 2 hours and then spacing to 20 minutes apart for 3-4 contractions.
I knew that this was prodromal labor. I had it for 2 days with my 2nd born so I was expecting this to last, or stop and start. Unlike my last prodromal labor, the contractions kept coming throughout the day instead of stopping after four hours. I knew that sometimes a malposition could cause this so I did many moves from spinningbabies.com (I WISH I would have remembered to go to the chiropractor during all of this, but I was really expecting things to start any minute now).
We told my mom to go ahead and come up because surely I would be in full labor by the night and we did not want her to drive. She came around 5pm and I was resting in bed in case labor started around midnight or so. I ate dinner with the family and returned to my contraction sleep. Every 10 minutes I would wake and breathe and rub my back, then return to sleep between the squeeze of the contraction.
In the morning the midwife called to (jokingly) see if we had an unassisted birth. I told her about the night and she said I needed to sleep. She suggested I drink a shot of hard liquor, take 3 advil and an epsom salt bath and talk to God about what was going on. She said the kids needed to go and my husband and I needed to have a heart to heart and see if something was stopping labor.
I do not drink alcohol at all so I was not comfortable with that part but she assured me it was purely therapeutic and I needed to sleep. I had a glass of Guinness left in the fridge from making chili that was flat and leftover from November, so I choked it down and took an epsom bath with lavender essential oils but skipped the advil.
As I soaked in the warm bath, my husband and I talked about how mental roadblocks can stop labor from starting or can cause stalls. I remembered that Chloe had her hand by her face and that caused some prodromal labor. But I told my husband that maybe we have not accepted him because he did not have a name. So we settled finally on Elam Rune.
*Birth is 80-90% mental and 10-20% what is actually happening so just the suggestion that mentally I could be stalling out was enough to cause me to have doubt. But the fact that my midwife was also encouraging that things would progress normally and quickly after helped. As we teach in class, your provider is the MOST important choice you make in your birth*
My mom heard what the midwife said and she knew immediately I needed a break so she took the kids to her house.
I bathed and then slept HARD for 3 hours because the contractions had stopped- I was drooling on the pillow and everything.
I woke up around noon and the midwife had planned to stop by and check on my since this had been going on for over 24 hours.
Monika came and listened to the baby and took my vitals and checked his position. She said he felt like he was in a perfect position but you can’t fully tell. I let her check my cervix, to see if the contractions had done anything. I was a 2/3 but opened to a 4 during the check. She said that it was likely that when my body made that shift and the baby’s head pressed down that I would open quickly. My last labor had been around 4 hours start to finish so I was ready for anything from a 2 hour labor to an 8 hour, but I was sort of disappointed that I was not 7cm like my last prodromal.
She left and told us to call as soon as anything starts happening that felt different.
My husband and I ate some lunch and he filled the pool. We had to drain it again because there was sediment from the water heater. We were planning on watching a movie or something but around 3:15 the contractions started back up, 10 minutes apart. They were like that for about an hour and I could feel them get much stronger but still all in my back. It felt so much better to rub my hips and sacrum, but my husband kept doing hip squeezes too because I wanted to make sure my pelvis was opening up in case there was a positional issue. It did not relieve much of the pain but I was ok with it.
At 3:45, he was on the phone with his mom and telling her about it when I had another contraction that was only 4 minutes or so after the last. I told him to go ahead and call the midwife back because I was sure this was finally labor because of how close they were. I also said I wanted to get in the pool. At one point, the cat laid down on my back while I was leaning on the couch and it made me laugh, which helped release some tension and increase some endorphins, but also irritated me!
For this birth, I decided I wanted to labor in the water but deliver out of the pool. I have been reading on the micro biome and for some reason, I did not want another water birth. I feel it was God leading me to that because of how the delivery progressed.
Hitting the water was instant relief. The contractions were manageable because I could really float in the water. The water was not very warm and I was shivering. I normally shiver during transition but not after the contractions like I was doing. Debra, my other midwife told me that being cold could slow contractions because of that, but I didn’t care because the water-even chilly felt so good. She said I could get in the bath if I wanted to try that but I knew I could not submerge and would be irritated by that and I assumed that once I was pushing, it would be super fast like my 9 minutes last time.
When I started really moaning and feeling grunty, my husband was noticing how much I was shivering and he didn’t want to slow things down so he suggested we move to the bed. I was not watching the clock, but according to my labor notes, it was 5:30 around this time. I had only really been in the pool for around 40 minutes or so.
When I got in the bed, I really was pushing but was not feeling the baby move down. This was at 6:50, my water broke and I was laughing and I told my husband the baby would be born around 7ish. But after a few more contractions like that, nothing was really moving along. Monika suggested I try laying on my side; I knew that I would hate being on my side but I said I would try. That was the worst contraction EVER and halfway through it, I had to roll back over and I loudly said “NO”. -It's so nice to be able to move around as I felt I needed to and not be confined to any position for any reason like monitoring or because it is easier on a provider.
I labored for 20 minutes like this and, I figured I had a cervical lip, but I did not say anything about it. Part of me felt like I maybe was thinking I knew too much I guess. Monika asked what I was feeling and when I said pinching in the pelvis she asked if I wanted to be checked and she did find that I had a small lip where the baby’s head was pressing against the pelvis. She asked if I wanted to let it resolve or for her to try and press it back. I knew lunges work for cervical lips but standing did not sound good so I told "you're already down there" (Can you say CODE RED?!)
And I wish I had not because it hurt like FIRE. I wanted to tell her to stop but I also wanted it to help. According to the notes, this was at 7:25pm The midwives gave me some arnica pellets and told me to just grunt and not to push. I tried for one contraction but I had read an article from Thinking Midwife on pushing through the cervical lip so I had a moment of hesitation on if I should push through (conventional thinking is that it causes the cervix to swell) or if I should try not to (which is hard to do and hurts more).
Immediately after this, I felt like I needed to pee again.
I had a contraction out of the bed before going to the bathroom and another as soon as I stood up. I was in transition for sure and the contractions were only 2-3 minutes apart, but they had been coming every 3 minutes since 4pm anyway.
Because all the contractions were in my low back, I was having a hard time relaxing and opening up. I kept trying to remind myself to breathe and open but it all felt like a frantic frenzy. Corey had asked the neighbors to keep the dogs in because the barking this week had bothered me and I was concerned about it during labor. I mentally noted that it was quiet outside for some reason at that point.
I was back in the bed and the other midwife asked to check if the lip was still there. It was and she told me with the next contraction to push.
My husband was supporting me as I laid on my back like a turtle- yes, I pictured myself like a turtle. As soon as she held the lip, my son’s head came down and I was crowing in the next contraction. My husband had wanted to catch this baby since he did not catch the last one due to a fast birth. But when the midwife asked him he told her” I am where I need to be” He was cradling me, helping me to get off my back some so I could push. He knew I did not want to be on my back and I think he knew I needed the extra help.
It took 4 minutes to deliver his head and I heard the midwife say he was rotating. I kept pushing and it was not as comfortable as being hands and knees but I decided to just go with it and push.
After she said his head was born, I felt her tugging and was wondering why she did not just let him deliver- then I immediately knew it was a shoulder dystocia and “Gaskin Maneuver” popped into my head. The moment I thought it, the midwife told me to flip over. My husband had to help me because my arms were a bit slow and I pulled one leg up and pushed. Debra came in and I could feel her maneuver the baby and I knew what she was doing. She said “switch legs” and I did and then prayed out loud for God to give me the strength to push so I did not need an episiotomy! (My midwife later told me that at that point, episiotomies are worthless anyway because the head had already stretched the tissue.)
He came right out and it was a still few seconds and gave a grunty cry and my hubsand exclaimed “Thank you Jesus!” and they put him immediately on my chest as soon as I had turned over and laid down.
This all happened in a span of TEN MINUTES from my going to the bathroom to him being born.
I was glad my kids were not actually there yet because I felt like it was chaos! I did not feel in control, I felt like I was so loud and it was chaos. My midwife said it was not really like that but that she was so glad I was not in water because it would have been hard to impossible to tell his shoulder was stuck and that first breath would have likely been under water.
The reason for the back labor and the dystocia: his arm was flexed behind his back!
My 9 pounder was perfectly fine with no issue with his arm and I did not tear one bit.
There was a bit of meconium in the fluid which is notable but not concerning. He latched on after about 15 minutes and nursed for about an hour. His AGPAR was 8 at birth and 9 after 5 minutes. His daddy cut the cord about 25 minutes after birth and the placenta was delivered almost within 5 minutes.
My mom and the kids arrived about an hour after he was born and they got to watch him get weighed and measured. They were not even the slightest bit upset that they missed his birth because they got to come soon after while he was still nursing and before he had been checked and dressed.
As soon as he was born, my husband looked at him and said he was not an Elam and he needed a strong name, so we went with the original name of Gunnar, which meant warrior. (Our second daughter was sad when we told her we chose Elam before they left, telling us "no one likes the name I chose). It was still 5 more days before we decided on his middle name though.
After about 2.5 hours, I showered and ate a bunch of soup, a cheese stick and drank coconut water. We snuggled in bed and went to sleep.
Recalling the birth the next few days, my husband said “She jumped in there and like put her hands in like a cow!” I laughed picturing it and told him that I knew that is what she was going to do because I knew how midwives resolved dystocia from reading all the Ina May books during my pregnancy. I also told him it was such a God thing that we decided against water birth this time and that I was not at the hospital because they do not handle dystocia well and things could have been bad, but being in the hands of a midwife- we were well cared for.
I can imagine a different outcome with the hospital protocols: my son was a bit stunned so his cord would have been clamped, cutting off much needed oxygen and blood, he would have been taken away to be checked by the neonatal nurse, suctioned heavily because of the meconium staining while under a bright light and strange hands holding him, so his first inoculation of germs would not have been from my skin-but a stranger. This is not to instill fear mongering, I know many doctors that are gentle and trust birth, but to encourage out of hospital births as normal and safe as well.
Midwives value skin to skin for it’s therapeutic response to babies, ESPECIALLY those that are a bit stunned.
All in all, it was a very interesting birth and at no point was I fearful because I felt completely prepared for any variation in our birth. My husband may not have known as much of what was going on as I did, but his total trust in our ability to birth naturally, and his knowing how to support me through any change was amazing.
With this birth, I took the postpartum recovery period seriously and did a variation of a mother roasting/lay in that I’ll write about later.
Gunnar Dee Davidson born
12/8/2017 (his EDD)
After almost a day and a half of prodromal labor, 4 hours of actual labor, including 40 minutes of pushing like transition, but 15 minutes of intense whirlwind from 9cm to birth!
We did not get any photos of the birth, just a few photos after and then our camera got washed with the birth sheets. So this is his Day 1 picture.