Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gemma's Birth Story

It was just another pregnant Monday. 

Monday, January 16, 2012.

My weekly prenatal appointment was scheduled for 3 pm.  Still over a week from my due date, I didn't expect to walk away from this appointment with any hint as to when my baby would actually be born.  After going into labor a week late with Augustine {...and just hours before undergoing a scheduled induction}, the last thing I expected was to have this baby on time--and especially not early.

Before heading to the appointment, I glanced back at Augustine's pregnancy journal and realized that the first time my doctor "checked" me with him was ten days before his due date.  Ironically, that day {January 16th} was ten days before Baby #2's due date, so I decided I would ask her to check me so I could compare my progress.  With Augustine, I was less than 1 cm dilated at this point in the pregnancy (38 1/2 weeks), and I expected about the same this time around.

"Sure, I can check you," my doctor said, "and if you are dilated, would you like me to strip your membranes?"

The question caught me off guard--for one, because, puh-leeze, what are the chances I would be dilated; and two, I was only 38 1/2 weeks.  My doctor ended up stripping my membranes with Augustine but only when I was five days overdue--not a week and a half early.  Not really considering it in the realm of possibility, I took the question as a mere hypothetical, and said, "Sure."

One minute later, the doctor informed me that I was 4 cm dilated!!  And, then she stripped my membranes.  (For those of you unfamiliar with this one-of-a-number-of-awkwardly-named-pregnancy-terms {in good company with "mucous plug" and "bloody show"}, stripping one's membranes is when the doctor separates the membrane that connects the amniotic sac to the wall of the uterus).  The other day I read that it increases your chances of going into labor within the next 48 hours by 30% {it has proven 100% effective for me in both my pregnancies...}

Anyways...had I had another minute to rethink about it, I probably would have told my doctor not to strip my membranes since I was already 4 cm and would probably go into labor on my own in the next week, but at the time all I was worried about was being late and having to be induced so my judgment was a little cloudy.

After the appointment, I went home and proceeded with my life as normal, though still shocked that I was already 4 cm! 

Our little family at Augustine's 2nd birthday party--just two days before Gemma was born. 
(Maybe I shouldn't have jumped in the bouncey castle...)
 So it begins...

I did not sleep well that night.  From 1 am-5 am, I just laid in bed awake.  I was having contractions here and there--contractions different from the braxton hicks I had been having for months but nothing consistent or super painful.  Still, by morning, I think Luke and I both knew this baby was coming sooner rather than later.

We had a very busy day: 

9:30 am Mass with Luke and Augustine.

Straight to "mommy and me soccer" {coached by none other than the best daddy in the world} at 10:30 am.  I had contractions the whole way there and throughout the session--but not consistent or intense yet.

Home for lunch and a nap.

Play date at our house with my girlfriend and her daughter from 2-3:30 pm.

Grocery shopping with Augustine from 4ish-5 pm {at this point, the contractions were getting painful, and I had to pause and breathe through several at the store}.

And finally, a walk with Luke and Augustine.  Before going shopping, Luke and I decided we would take a walk when I got home.  As I was putting away the groceries--and having to stop to breathe through contractions--I tried to back out of the walk, but my hubby wouldn't have it.  I had been telling him for weeks that I wanted to take a walk during labor to keep things moving along, and he was determined to help me meet my goal! 

Active Labor...

With our little love,
just three hours after finishing our walk!

During our walk we called our babysitter to cancel the date we were supposed to go on later that night--we were pretty sure the only date we would be taking would be to the birthing center!  As soon as we got home, I laid down on the couch, and the contractions became extremely intense.  Though I hadn't been timing them, they had probably been 3-5 minutes apart for the past hour.  Luke tried to get me to eat the pizza we had put in the oven before we left for our walk, but I could only force down a few bites, as I labored through the contractions.  Luke buzzed around getting everything ready and packed up and called our neighbor to come stay with Augustine.  I couldn't do much besides lay down and try to stay calm through my contractions.
By the time we left the house it was about 6:40 pm.  We had really hoped to make it at home until 7 pm so we could put Augustine to bed {only one other person has even done it, and it didn't go the best...}.  However, I knew it was time to GO.  We told Augustine we were going to go have the baby and left him with our awesome neighbor who did a wonderful job helping him finish dinner, giving him a bath, reading him stories, saying his prayers with him, and putting him to bed.  And Augustine did great, too!

Our Birthing Center Experience...

I walked into the birthing center and made a bee-line for the bed, only stopping briefly to calmly comment to one of the staff members that I was going to die.  For the record, I never actually think I am going to die during the birthing process, but it has become my go-to phrase {much to the chagrin of my doctors} when I am in a lot of pain--I blame my sister, Ellen, because she said she repeated that when giving birth to her first daughter, so now I just think that is an acceptable comment for every pregnant woman about to give birth.   

Our little peanut.
The midwife came over to the bed and asked me if I would like her to start filling up the pool.  I told her that would be great but that I would like her to see how far dilated I was as soon as she could.  At 7:15 pm, with the pool filling up, she checked me, and I was 8 cm dilated.  Luke and I got into the pool; it was really great that he could be in there with me.  My contractions were super painful, of course, but I learned a lot during my labor with Augustine, and I did a good job staying calm and just breathing through the pain. 

Time to freak out push...

Around 8 pm, I was feeling a slight urge to push with my contractions so I asked my doctor to check my progress.  I was 9 1/2 cm, and she said it would be ok to push if I wanted to.  I did a few pushing contractions in the water, but I just wasn't feeling it, so I got into bed.  But once in bed, I still didn't have a super strong urge to push {like I did with Augustine}, so I was feeling discouraged. 
Sleeping after hard work.
The pushing phase has been the hardest emotionally for me with both my pregnancies.  No doubt about it, dilating is vastly more painful physically, but when it's time to push the baby out, I feel like it's all up to me...and, to be honest, I totally freak out.

My doctor suggested that the reason I didn't feel a super urge to push was that my water still hadn't broken, and she offered to break it.  This is when the midwife chimed in that babies born still in their sac are said to have "special powers."  I told her I was over it, and yes, please break my water.  My doctor told me {definitely as a way to reassure me, as the freak out was beginning...} that I would be holding my baby in six minutes. 

Luke cued the video camera {call me crazy, but I really do want video footage of my children entering this world}, but then Luke, my doctor, my midwife, and a nurse ended up blocking the visual...I have a feeling Luke isn't too torn up about that one.  But the audio, my friends, was recorded loud and clear.  Plenty of "I'm going to die!"s and "Help me!"s--I promise I am not usually dramatic.  My doctor said things like, "Look in the mirror and see your baby!" and "Reach down and touch your baby's head"--both part of my birth plan--to which I responded, "NO!  I don't want to!"  Not sure who was being more of a baby at that point, me or Gemma. 

Our great doctor.

It may have been the most hysterical four minutes of my life, but at the end of those four minutes I was holding my sweet baby girl!
Love . Peace . Joy

Luke had requested to "catch" the baby, but when the time came, I think he just froze.  He said the doctor grabbed his hand and put it on the baby's head {she was awesome about following our birth plan}.  He also immediately lifted her into my arms and clamped and cut the umbilical cord.

The next four hours...

At the birthing center, as long as everyone is healthy, you can leave to go home just four hours after your baby is born.  This was a big factor in us choosing a birthing center birth, as neither of us liked the idea of being away from Augustine for long.

The atmosphere after the baby was born was great!  I held and nursed sweet Gemma for as long as I wanted.  The doctor, nurse, and midwife left the room to give us alone time as a family.  There was no rush to weigh her, bathe her, or anything else.  It was probably two or three hours after her birth that she was weighed and given her Vitamin K shot and eye ointment.  Luke took a shower, and then I took a shower {one of the best of my life!}.  We never once left the room she was born in, and she never once left our sight or our arms.

Gemma's birth couldn't have gone much better.  Having her at the birthing center was exactly what we wanted.  No IV, no medication, no pitocin after delivery, very little time spent away from Augustine, the option to move around as I desired, no doctors threatening to speed up my labor, and so much more.  Not to mention, the hard part of the labor was much shorter this time than with Augustine.

But, most importantly, we were blessed with a healthy baby girl. 

God is so good.

If this is your kind of thing, you can read Augustine's birth story here.


  1. I love this! It made me excited about having another baby and experiencing labor again! I have been a little nervous since my first labor was so crazy--"I'm going to die" was heard SEVERAL times in my delivery room as well. But I meant it. I am going to come back and read this entry as I get closer :). So glad you guys had a good experience at the Birth Center--and only four minutes of pushing-- AWESOME!

  2. Wonderful story - thanks for sharing!! I wish we had a birthing center here in Boulder too, but at least our midwives have hospital privileges. I hope my labor is as short and sweet as yours! Lucy's birth wasn't the easiest, but it's all worth it to have such a sweet child. Blessings to you, Luke, Augustine and Gemma!

  3. What a beautiful story! Congratulations! I was induced for medical reasons and I hated it... super glad for the healthy baby but just wished things were a little different. Hoping that the second time around is a little more "on my own."

  4. Great story Andrea! I am so glad that you had a wonderful birth experience and it was everything you wanted! Your little family is cute!