I apologize for the blog silence the last few weeks. Those who follow me on social media have seen my news, but for the readers here who aren’t on social media:
I’d love to introduce you to Bjorn Jorolf.
He was born 1:28pm on July 13, weighing in at 7 lbs, 14 oz, and 21 inches long. He’s my biggest baby by a long ways. (Ingrid was my next biggest at 7 lbs 3 oz.) He was born at home under the care of a midwife as we had planned. His first name means “bear” and it suits him very well. He’s totally our little bear. His middle name is his great-grandfather’s name on Knut’s dad’s side. Great-grandpa Jorolf, or “Oldefar” as the kids call him, just turned 100 earlier this year. (Jorolf said that’s what they would call the oldest grandfather in Norway.)
There’s something therapeutic about writing out a birth story, and there’s something special about reading them. I love reading birth stories. If you are like me, please enjoy. If you get queasy by these stories, you can just enjoy the beautiful baby-chub, and skip the part I wrote after the pictures.
(Photo taken of me by my midwife “B” before she left at the end of the day.)
Like my last few births, I was having hard contractions on and off for 2-3 weeks pretty consistently. Unlike my other pregnancies, I was having trouble walking near the end. I was just so huge, and the way he was sitting made it difficult to lift my left leg, so I just swung it around as I walked like a pirate. To say that I waddled would be an understatement. I looked absolutely ridiculous moving around. The pressure of his head was constant and made me on the brink of tears nearly constantly it was so painful.
So I was very ready to be done. I was battling a lot of fears this time around. I think that was because my previous births were all pre-car accident. Since then, I’ve dealt with anxiety, panic, etc. Keeping my head rational and myself calm was my biggest concern.
For those wondering why we picked a home birth again, you can read a previous post I wrote for when Ingrid was born on why that is a good fit for our family, and my particular set of risk factors in birth.
I almost called the midwife the night before he was born, as contractions were holding at a steady every 10 minutes, and my labors tend to quickly go crazy from that point. I told myself “I’ll call her and have her come after one more contraction.” The next contraction didn’t come until over an hour later. Then they pretty much stopped altogether, and I went to bed, and slept soundly for the most part that night.
I woke up on the 13th, about 5am to some contractions. They weren’t awful, but they were different. I could tell the deepness to them meant something. Also, I was leaking fluid during each contraction, and though that hadn’t happened to me before in labor, I knew that meant something important too.
I called my midwife, “B” around 7, and woke up Knut around the same time too to tell him that I had told them to come. He didn’t exactly jump up in panic. He just turned off his alarm and said, “sweet, that means I don’t have to get up yet.” Yeah, this wasn’t this daddy’s first time around the block.
My midwife usually comes with an assistant, who didn’t make it to my last birth until afterwards because I went so fast. This time the same assistant has been handling a lot of this pregnancy, as she has been working towards a midwife status for awhile. She has finished all of her classes, and spent some time doing some on-hand training at a birthing center, and just has her final certification exam and has to work under a midwife for awhile left. So she’s been logging births as much as she can, and since I just adore her as well, (we really clicked) I had full confidence having her (“C”) work as the student-midwife for my birth, under the guidance of “B.”
To me, I felt it was the best of both worlds. I had midwife “B” who has been practicing as a midwife for about 30 years, and has a ton of experience, and midwife “C” who has all the newest information and fresh knowledge and excitement to bring to the table. So for this birth, it felt more like I had a midwife team. This ended up being so perfect.
Knut called his parents to let them know that they should pick up the kids around 8. Silje had been to a sleepover 2 nights earlier at a cousin’s, and had only 3 hours of sleep there, and then the night before, Knut took all the kids to a softball game and kept them out way past their bedtime, so we were hoping they would all sleep in. However, now we had to get them out the door around 8. We were going to just let Silje sleep and be at home during the birth, or having Grandpa pick her up later, but the little kids were so excited that today was baby-day that they made sure everyone was awake in the house to know this exciting news.
B and C arrived before the kids had left. They know B and C from our prenatal appointments, so they were so excited to see each other. Knut worked to get the kids out the door, and I was dealing with the deep contractions, though still very random. They were coming in clusters. I’d have a cluster of 3 in 15 minutes, and then I’d having nothing for about 15 minutes. I couldn’t get any rhythm to them, but with the leaky fluid and just the different feel to them, I knew I had made the right choice to call them over.
For Ingrid’s birth, B was at our house about 10 minutes before Ingrid was born. This was so different. B and C transformed our bedroom with some medical equipment. They plastic sheeted the whole floor by our bed. They got the bed set with pads, and set out their trays of sterile tools, and set some towels over a heating pad to make a warming bed if necessary.
Once the kids were gone, and the midwives were set up, they checked me, and happily, the baby was no longer sitting posterior (“sunny side up” is another expression for that position) as he was at my last appointment. All my crawling around on all 4s, and doing some spinning babies positions for the last week and a half worked! This made me very happy. Knut was busy cleaning up the kitchen from breakfast, and I started feeling nervous. I felt like something was wrong that the contractions weren’t regular, with people waiting on me now. I was feeling shy, like a watched kettle. So I just walked around my house alone for awhile, while the midwives stayed out of my way. God brought to mind Psalm 23 as I walked around, looking out my windows, and out at the sheep’s pasture. It was like God was assuring me through this passage that he was going to care for me, and I could let my fear go. It was very powerful.
The midwife team blended in as the perfect wallflowers and just let Knut and I do our thing. They came and checked on the baby’s heart rate every 30 minutes or so. Then they left me alone again. Knut was busy working on chores for awhile, and I knew he just had to have a job or he’d drive me crazy, so I just let him keep cleaning.
When things started to stall more, B showed me this sash trick called the rebozo belly lifting technique. She wrapped a shawl around my waist, and pulled back and up a bit as she stood behind me. The idea is to tip the baby a bit so his head can be positioned better. All I know is it felt really good when she was supporting my huge belly with a sash like that, and the contractions very soon got more serious.
C also works as a doula, and she was full of ideas for pain relief that I’ve always gone too fast to use in the past. When I started humming through contractions as they got harder, she would use her hands to put counter pressure on my hips. That really helped. I filled the tub in our bathroom, where Ingrid was born, and just wanted to see if I could lesson the pain of the contractions in there. I spent some time in the bathroom tub, and Knut came up and brought up a speaker, and put on the Fernando Ortega station from Pandora, and the mood got so calm and peaceful. I asked him to read some verses from the cards I wrote out, and he so he did. I think he liked knowing what to do, and this was an easy job. Although I liked the water, it’s such a small tub, that I couldn’t find a comfortable position like last time. After 2-3 contractions, I got out again.
What I loved about this birth is that it was so much slower than my last few. I only had to deal with the contractions alone if I wanted to, but if I wanted my back rubbed, or counter pressure, or a hot compress, or water or food, someone was on hand to help me. I barely had to say a word. No one was running around getting things ready. So this stage of the labor had pain management so much more under control as I could rest better in-between and I was surrounded by people who knew how to lessen the pain in very real ways through touch and full of ideas to make things easier on me.
The contractions got much harder, and much longer, but they were so far apart that in-between them, I almost wondered if I made a mistake calling the midwives. But then a few minutes later a terrible one would come again, and I knew everything was ok. I was starting to feel shy again about all eyes one me, (I’m not used to births lasting longer than 3 hours or so…) so the midwives went downstairs, and I laid down on my side on the bed to try to rest better between contractions, and Knut stayed in the corner of the room reading some Tolkien he’s been working through, and coming over only when a contractions started so he could hold my hand and stroke my hair.
Things really picked up then. I headed back to the bathtub, still unsure where I was going to birth this baby in the final stretch. I started entering transition there, as the contractions started coming right on top of each other. I started feeling nauseous and shaky. B came up and asked if I wanted to birth him in the bathtub like Ingrid, and if so she would move some equipment to the bathroom. I told her I still didn’t know. I said I just couldn’t get comfortable in there, but I was fine for now. She said they should probably move me to the bedroom, then sooner rather than later. She reads me and my sounds so well.
It took the team of them to help me out, wipe me down, and help me walk to the bedroom. At that point in labor, there’s not much you can do voluntarily! Once in the bedroom, I had Knut sit on the ground, leaning against the bed, and I leaned my head on him while on my hands and knees, which was the most comfortable and wonderful thing at that point. That man is my rock. That worked out really well for awhile, except I couldn’t relax very well during the quick breathers I got in-between the now-rapid contractions. I said so out loud, and either B or C brought over my yoga ball and suggested I lean on the ball for contractions instead of Knut. That worked much better, and I squeezed Knut’s hand like crazy as labor got to that horrible phase of the baby beginning to crown. (He said I only hurt him a little.)
I hate that phase of labor. Really, really hate.
I should stop and add here that I have really been fighting God about this last phase for the last few months. I have doused it in prayer, and have memorized verses to fight the fear, and it really, honestly helped. It was still awful, but I made it. With each new contraction, I kept praying silently “Jesus carry me through this one. Just carry me because I can’t do it.” When I kept my focus off the contraction, and fixed on Jesus and what he was doing through me, I didn’t lose my head (as much).
Then my water broke. More like burst. It was a ton of amniotic fluid, much more than usual. And there was meconium in it, which was not a good sign. C had been checking the baby’s heartbeat quite often now, keeping on top of it. It was always good, but when the water broke, we saw the brownish green fluid at our feet, and the head started crowing, his heart rate plummeted down to about half speed.
It was a scary few moments. From my perspective, I was panicking inwardly toward God. “This is where my life falls apart! This is exactly what I was afraid of! This is horrible! This is awful! We have to get him out now!!!” Above my panic, it was almost as if God were talking above me straight to my soul: “I am still here! I haven’t left, and I’M STILL CARRYING YOU!”
As that was happening, B and C wanted me to change positions. Knut helped me stand up and lean on the bed. B put an oxygen mask on me, and C kept the doppler on the baby’s heart rate, which immediately recovered when I had simply stood up. The oxygen blew cold in my face and was refreshing. I had felt like I was gasping for air as before then, and the cold air reminded me that yes, my lungs actually were still working.
During those few panic moments, Knut said that he started to freak out, but as he looked at B and C quickly move to action, and with very capable hands just doing what needed to be done, he felt reassured just from their faces: we have the exact right team for the birth.
I just say this because I think a lot of people assume that home births and midwives are for the “perfect” or “ideal” birth, and anything that could possibly be off just can’t be handled by a midwife. Actually, they are trained to handle safely an enormous amount of scenarios. Often at our prenatal appointments, we’ll ask them how they will handle a situation that has been on our mind, or fears that we may have. B would always walk us through various scenarios, so we always knew what to expect, and can make some educated decisions based on our personal risk factors. Always ask lots of questions, for whoever you have attend your birth! That’s my biggest piece of advice. It’s good to know how they react to various things so you can be mentally prepared for whichever way your birth will go.
The horrible pushing phase lasted about 9 minutes, I’m told. His head came out, and everyone told me to stop and blow with my breath like I was blowing out candles. Honestly, it took every nerve in my brain and body to accomplish that blowing. I felt them messing with his head a bit when it was out, and I was immediately worried we were dealing with shoulder dystocia. I asked them, and they said, nope. He was rotating just fine, and the shoulders were fine. It took another minute of blowing, and I was able to then push him out when the next contraction came.
When he came out, (B’s log has this at 1:28pm) he didn’t go straight to my chest as Ingrid did, mostly because I was standing, the midwives had him behind me, and we were all in a huge puddle of amniotic fluid on the plastic sheets on the ground. It was all very messy, actually. Towels appeared everywhere. C kept telling us to talk to him. It took him a few seconds, and then he cried. The placenta detached almost immediately, and I was surprised that I had to deal with that so quickly. They tried to hand Bjorn to me, but Knut had to help me, as I was still shaking and feeling weak. We just stood there in the mess holding this wet, crying baby, encased in messy blankets and I was just so relieved it was over.
I delivered the placenta, and things calmed down very quickly. B and C started by cleaning me off, and gently getting me into the prepared bed. Bjorn was put on my belly with some clean blankets now as they wiped down my legs with some warm cloths. That felt so good. Knut came around to the other side of the bed and just snuggled with Bjorn and me as B and C did a few basic vital checks on Bjorn, especially with the meconium in the fluid issue, and when they determined that his lungs were clear and he was fine, they went to work cleaning up the room. They had some big black trash bags and just started clearing everything out. They worked so quietly and efficiently, and within a few minutes, not only was the mess out of site, but most of their bags and equipment was brought out to their car and our bedroom looked like a normal bedroom again. It was spotless.
It was after lunch by then. They asked if I wanted to eat something, and as Knut started naming things off we had in the fridge for me, I decided I just wanted a bowl of grapes. Knut wanted some of the chicken pasta salad, so B and C went down stairs, brought us up some lunch, and said they were going to give us some alone family time for about an hour, and if we needed anything they would just be downstairs. In the meantime, I should try to get Bjorn to eat before they did the newborn check when they got back.
So Knut and I just soaked in how gorgeous Bjorn was, and slowly started letting family members know. We called the kids over at the grandparents first, of course.
When they got back upstairs, Bjorn had eaten and was very happy. It was a perfect time for him to get all checked out. After he was all done and showing everything was normal, they checked me over and found I had no rips or tears. I was still having trouble lifting my legs after they had been so sore weeks before the birth. That was just going to have to take some time to get back to normal.
After that, they wanted to know if I wanted to see the placenta. I’m always fascinated by that, so I said that I’d love to. They showed us the cord, which was about 3 feet long, compared to the “normal” of 2 feet. They said that I had a huge amount of amniotic fluid too, which is probably why I was just so huge in the last weeks. They said that sometimes when the cord is extra long like that, the body will protect the baby from that causing problems by giving it a bigger amniotic fluid buffer.
The cord was wrapped around his neck 4 times when his head came out! That’s why they were fussing a bit when the head came out. The cord wasn’t tight, and they were working it a bit around his shoulders as he descended. They said having it around the neck 2-3 times is common, but 4 times is very rare. I asked B about it when she came the next day, if she was worried when his heart rate dropped like that. She said it’s common enough, and doing a quick position change always does the trick. Besides, she said, she knew I would get that baby out in a blink if she told me to, if it was a real emergency. That was very true when I thought about it like that. It’s not like he was stuck. With the births of Solveig, Ingrid and Bjorn, I never really pushed. I just let go of the urge to avoid pain. Even in Bjorn’s birth, they kept telling me to blow to slow down my pushing. Mentally for me, it’s more of a letting go feeling than an pushing feeling. They’re always trying to slow that down, though, so I don’t tear too badly.
Once all the exams were done, there was a list of things that I had to do (go to the bathroom, eat food, etc.) and then they left us some detailed instructions, some various herbs in case something on the list happened, and they left, saying they’d be back the next day to check on us.
Then we had the grandparents bring the kids over for about 30 minutes, after which I was exhausted, even though they were all so good. I was just tired. They left, and the house got so very quiet. It was probably the quietest it has been since Ingrid after was born 3 1/2 years ago.
Knut then grilled me up a bacon-wrapped sirloin that we had bought and saved for this occasion, with some yummy collard greens cooked in chicken broth, with bits of bacon. Oh, it was yummy. We snuggled in with Bjorn and watched a movie (Fiddler on the Roof) from the laptop at the end of our bed.
All in a day’s work. Whew. It was one of the best birth experiences I’ve ever had, but still…in the end…I’m so glad it’s over! Snuggling the baby on the outside is so much more fun.
Jennie saysJuly 15, 2016 at 8:30 pm
Congratulations Gretchen! He’s just beautiful. I completely understand when you say it’s not about pushing, but letting go of the fear of pain-that’s exactly how my last birth felt!
Many blessings to you and your sweet family!
Shari saysJuly 15, 2016 at 8:36 pm
Mom saysJuly 15, 2016 at 8:55 pm
What a beautiful story. I was so looking forward to hearing the details. God is so good, when we are in a panic, and we can benefit from His goodness, if we just concentrate and listen to His voice. What a great example you shared of that truth! I love you!
Elizabeth saysJuly 15, 2016 at 9:36 pm
beautiful story! thank God!!! what a blessing!!! all of it and that you had such a good team! I am so glad for all of the goodness in this!
sarah w. saysJuly 15, 2016 at 10:09 pm
It’s a perfect birth story. I started crying halfway through…there is something just so powerful in the tale of a sweet baby’s birth. Mazel Tov to you and your family.
Tracey saysJuly 15, 2016 at 10:16 pm
Thank you so much Gretchen for this wonderful insight into how a home birth works. I love your detail. I’m sure you won’t mind if I’m referring clients over here now and then, I think it was just so well-written out
Molly saysJuly 16, 2016 at 12:48 am
Welcome baby!!! He’s lovely and I’m so glad you had a good birth. =)
Gloria Kavlie saysJuly 16, 2016 at 2:07 am
Such a good birthing story, I almost felt like I was there 😀 So happy for you and your sweet family .
Cassidy saysJuly 16, 2016 at 1:48 pm
He is gorgeous!!! I love his name. Congratulations!!!
Angela saysJuly 16, 2016 at 2:23 pm
Congratulations!!!! Such a lovely birth story! He is absolutely adorable!
Laura saysJuly 16, 2016 at 6:36 pm
Oh what a sweet little face! Congratulations, and praise God that everything went as well as it did. I had thought he wasn’t due for another month or two at least, so it was a surprise to see your post 😀
Alina saysJuly 17, 2016 at 12:56 am
Congratulations! So happy for you and your family!
Sabriena saysAugust 4, 2016 at 10:05 am
All three of mine were born at home, but I didn’t get any flack about it, because that’s the rule rather than the exception, among my friends & family. I did not like the pain, but to me, giving birth was a Spiritual experience. I cringe when I hear the occasional acquaintance discuss their hospital birth, because it sounds like they experienced what you outlined in your post about why you chose home-birth. One of them had several complications resulting from a mistake the doctor made, and it was through a c-section, so I couldn’t help but feel like if she’d been at home, she most likely wouldn’t have had to deal with any of the things that are still giving her problems now (a year later). But I don’t try to pressure home-birth on people either. People have to make their own decisions. It’s their life, and their baby. Not mine. 🙂
I’m glad everything went so well for you.