Gabriel's birth story - November 2011

The birth story of Gabriel Keith
11/26/11 (37w1d), 6:09am MST
Weight: 7lbs, 9oz; Length: 18.5 in.

I discovered a surefire way to induce labor - just cook a Thanksgiving dinner for nine people and poof! You'll go into labor the next day. At least, that's what worked for me...

I spent most of Thanksgiving (36w6d pregnant) on my feet, roasting a turkey for the first time, concocting homemade stuffing, and making various side dishes. I did try to get off my feet whenever possible, but it was still an extremely busy day. I was wiped out by 6pm and in bed and asleep by 8pm.

The next morning, I woke up at 4:45am and couldn't get back to sleep. I decided to go downstairs and surf the Internet for a while. I ended up finding a fantastic Black Friday deal on a new pre-lit Christmas tree at ($130 tree for $40, plus free shipping) so I (foolishly) went upstairs to wake up Collin and ask if we could buy it. He did not take kindly to being woken up that early on one of his rare days off (can't say I blame him) but eventually he gave me the green light to buy the tree. I did, went back to bed, and managed to fall back asleep until 8am.

When I got up again and used the bathroom, I noticed a bit of blood in the toilet and on the toilet paper. Hmmm, odd, I thought, but passed it off as spotting due to my overexertion the previous day. After all, I was only full-term that very day, and my last pregnancy had gone to 40w3d, so I doubted it meant anything.

I told Collin abut it, though, and we decided that I should pack my hospital bag just in case (something that was on my to-do list for the weekend, anyhow). I packed as best I could and threw some stuff into the washing machine to pack later (such as all my newborn-sized baby outfits, none of which I'd washed yet).

Collin wanted to see the chiropractor, as he'd been having back pain the last week, so we loaded everyone in the car. The kids and I did a bit of grocery shopping while Collin visited the chiropractor. When he was done, we went to see The Muppets (fantastic movie), and then went home.

I used the bathroom again when we got home, and -- surprise -- lost my entire mucous plug in one fell swoop. That had never happened to me before so it was rather jarring. It made me think that maybe something was happening, after all. Still, I'd heard that it was possible to lose your mucous plug and not go into labor for days or even weeks, or that the mucous plug could regenerate, so I still tried to convince myself that it didn't mean anything. Even so, I finished my laundry and made sure my hospital bag was packed and ready to go.

I started timing contractions around 5pm. They were painless, but coming in fairly regular intervals about 10-20 minutes apart. I took a warm bath with Epsom salts, a trick that had always worked to calm BH contractions before. This time, they kept coming. We all piled onto our king-size bed and watched TV for a while, and by 9pm the contractions were starting to become a bit uncomfortable. Collin noticed that I was pacing around and decided to put the kids to bed ASAP. After they were settled, he called his sister-in-law to let her know we might need her to watch the kids. (She was actually our back-up plan for childcare - our initial plan had been to have his dad come over, but his dad was currently en route from North Dakota and was scheduled to arrive in AZ sometime late Saturday or early Sunday!)

Around 10:30pm or so I called my doula, Brealin, to tell her that my contractions were about 7-8 minutes apart, and I wasn't sure if we should go to the hospital or not. I was skittish because of my precipitous labor with Violet, which had only lasted 2.5 hours start to finish. Brealin encouraged me to wait for an hour and see how I felt first, and to eat something nutritious and rich in protein to keep up my energy in case this was real labor. I ate some Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey, sweet potatoes, and a roll) and drank water, all while timing contractions.

Finally, around 11:30pm, I decided I wanted to go to the hospital. The contractions weren't lasting very long but they were coming closer together, and I at least wanted to get checked out to see if anything was happening. I was open to coming back home if necessary, but I didn't want to have too close a call as I'd had with Violet. I called Brealin and arranged to meet her at the hospital, and as soon as my SIL arrived we headed to L&D.

[Collin asked me to write about how he single-handedly defeated a horde of Viking warriors that were between us and the hospital, so I'm humoring him.]

Once I got settled into triage, a check revealed that I was 4cm and 60% effaced, but baby was still high up (-3 station). The triage nurse encouraged me to walk the halls for an hour or two and then come back to get checked; if there was progress I'd be admitted, but if not I'd be sent home. In retrospect I probably should have labored at home a while longer, but like I said Violet's fast birth had made me skittish. With her birth I had labored at home too long and had just barely made it to the hospital in time.

Brealin, Collin, and I walked the halls from 12:30am-2:30am. Thankfully the place was deserted since it was the middle of the night, so we were able to wander around the public areas -- the lobby, the chapel, etc. When a contraction hit I'd stop where I was and "slow dance" with Collin, laying my head on his chest and swaying my hips as he and Brealin rubbed my back or stroked my hair. It was wonderfully soothing.

Around 2:30am we went back up to L&D triage, and the nurse checked me again. I was 5cm and 100% effaced! I can't remember for sure if baby had come down at all -- I think he might have been at -1 station -- but they were going to admit me. I was elated that I was going to meet my baby that day, and that I'd finally have a chance to labor in a jacuzzi tub!

The triage nurse told me that my OB, Dr. N (the one I'd seen throughout my pregnancy) was scheduled to be on call at 7am, but the doctor currently on call (Dr. M) was one I'd never met. I told her there was no way I was going to wait 'til 7am to have this baby so I'd take my chances with Dr. M!

Luckily, the nurses had gotten my GBS test result, which was negative (I'd had the test at my November 17 appointment but hadn't gotten the result yet) so I didn't need an IV. I consented to a heplock, stayed on a monitoring strip for 20 minutes while Brealin fired up the tub, and finally was given the green light to get in around 3:00am or so.

Collin actually took a short video to commemorate the event:

HEAVEN, I tell you. HEAVEN. Brealin laid out a bunch of little battery-operated tea lights, then shut off the overhead lights. She also laid gauze pads with drops of of clary sage essential oil
around the tub. Oh, it was amazing. I sat and soaked, my head pillowed by a fluffy towel, and let the jets pound my back whenever I had a contraction. I felt like I was in my own little exclusive birth spa. The white noise of the jets was almost hypnotic, and I kind of felt like I was in a trance. The contractions didn't even hurt - I felt pressure but no pain. I'd rest my head against Collin's hand whenever I had a contraction, but otherwise I didn't move other than to sip water, and once to suck on a honey stick provided by Brealin.

Our L&D nurse, Amy, was absolutely FABULOUS. She left us completely alone and trusted my doula to come get her if necessary. She came in every 30 minutes to check the baby's heartbeat via Doppler, and I didn't even have to get out of the tub. She read my birth plan and respected it 110% - I couldn't have asked for a better nurse.

Around 5am I started feeling "pushy," and also started feeling a little panicky - the "I don't think I can do this much longer" feelings that usually indicate transition. I got out of the tub (boo) for a cervical check. When Amy told me I was only 7cm, I was devastated and started to cry. I thought for sure I'd be fully dilated.

Amy quietly recommended sitting on the birth ball to encourage baby to drop down further to promote dilation, so they brought one in and I spent the next half hour or so sitting on that. At this point my former peace had been shattered -- I was chilly from leaving the warm environment of the tub and the contractions hurt like hell now that I was out of the water and sitting upright. After a certain point I couldn't stand sitting anymore and started pacing the room, stopping to brace myself at the end of the bed with each contractions. I swayed my hips like I was doing the hula, and made low mooing sounds (that's what they sounded like to me, anyway) in my throat.

The running commentary in my head was, I hate this. I want an epidural. I want a C-section. I don't care how, I just want this baby OUT because I can't do this anymore. However, I didn't vocalize my thoughts because I knew it'd be useless, and some part of my brain knew that I really didn't want drugs, no matter how appealing they seemed at the moment.

Brealin, Collin, and Amy were all doing their best to encourage me, but I felt like labor would never end. I was accustomed to speedy transition (with William, I went from 7cm to 10cm in 15 minutes; with Violet, I arrived at the hospital 10cm and ready to push), and this time transition was taking forever, like it had with Elanor's labor (I'd also had the urge to push at 7cm with her). I was scared that it'd take over an hour to push this baby out, as it had with my first labor.

Around 5:50am I said that I felt immense pressure and really had to push. I was checked again - 9cm.

Amy explained that the bag of waters was literally bulging out of my cervix, and the minute it broke the baby would be here, but in the meantime I had to get to 10cm. I was not a happy camper. I stood at the edge of the bed and worked through contractions as best I could, with Collin and Brealin doing their best to give words of cheer and encouragement, and me fantasizing all the ways they could die. (Okay, maybe I wasn't that bad, but I was in a lot of pain.)

Brealin repeated again that once the bag of waters broke, the baby would be here. I growled in a voice reminiscent of Linda Blair in The Exorcist, "Then let's break the goddamn thing!" Brealin quickly agreed and Amy went to ask someone to find the doctor to come in and break my water.

At this point, things get a little fuzzy for me. I had a contraction that felt like it was ripping me in two, and my body started to push all on its own. The feeling was so consuming that I couldn't vocalize what was happening other than to groan. I was still standing at the foot of the bed, with my hands braced on its sides, when I heard a *plop* and felt something literally drop out of my vagina.

I gasped, "Oh my God!" and reached down to feel a bulging, squishy bag hanging between my legs - it felt like a water balloon. I thought it was the baby's head, but it was only the amniotic fluid sac - baby was coming out in the caul. That same second, things went nuts. Amy, Brealin, and Collin were the only ones in the room. Amy shouted at Collin to go get the doctor and more nurses to help. Brealin was telling me that I had to get on the bed, but I shook my head and said, "No, I can't!" - fully intending to push the baby out right then and there, standing by the end of the bed. (Probably not the best choice given that I was standing on a hard wooden floor, but I wasn't thinking too clearly at the moment.)

I have always said that I have membranes of steel, as my water has never broken prior to pushing (and twice it's been broken by the nurse or midwife as baby was crowning), and this birth just reinforced that notion given how long the sac stayed intact.

Amy and Brealin both told me that I had to get on the bed. They gently, but firmly, lifted me on to it, with Amy supporting the sac that was still hanging out of me as I awkwardly climbed in. I crawled on the bed on my hands and knees and stayed that way. I was not moving, and to their credit I don't think anyone asked me to move.

All I have to go on now is what I could hear, because I was clinging to the bed for dear life, on my hands and knees with my butt in the air and couldn't see much of what was going on. I do remember someone - maybe Amy? - telling me not to push yet. I was trying not to but my body wasn't cooperating; with every contraction I could feel myself push but there wasn't anything I could do to stop it.

Brealin told me that Dr. M moseyed on into the room -- apparently, the urgency of what was going on had not been thoroughly communicated to him. I imagine that the sight he met when he walked in the door -- me, on the bed, butt-first and an amniotic fluid sac hanging out, huffing through a contraction, as the nurse supported the sac in her hand, and other nurses scurrying around getting the baby warmer ready -- made him realize that we didn't have any time to lose. He ran to the sink, scrubbed up, and dashed to the bed. God bless the man, he didn't bat an eye at the fact that I was on my hands and knees, as some OBs might.

Now everyone was telling me to push. I was in too much pain to communicate the fact that I didn't have any control over it anymore -- my body was pushing all by itself regardless of what anyone wanted me to do! I made an effort to push harder, more because I wanted to pain to freaking END already.

The baby's head came out in the caul, and as the shoulders were being born, the amniotic fluid sac "exploded like a bomb" (quoth my husband). The nurses had prepared for this by putting towels on the bed and floor, but I don't know how wet they (they nurses) got. Once the shoulders were out, the rest of the baby was born quickly, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Since he couldn't put the baby on my chest as I'd requested in my birth plan, the doctor instead handed the baby to Collin, who looked between the baby's legs and gasped, "It's a boy!" We hadn't found out the baby's sex beforehand but I'd had incredibly strong boy vibes throughout my pregnancy. Still, it was jarring to realize that my vibes had been correct and we indeed had a new son! I said something like, "Oh God, it's a boy, I'm so happy! I really wanted a boy!" and was half-sobbing with joy. (Collin said he was pretty teary-eyed too.)

The doctor asked a nurse for the time of birth, and she said 6:09am. Collin remembers seeing that the sky was lightening outside, and later I looked up the time of sunrise - it rose exactly one hour after he was born, at 7:09am.

Meanwhile, it was very awkward, clinging to the bed with my butt still in the air, not knowing quite what to do now that he was born. I heard the doctor asking about cutting the cord, because our birth plan specified that we wanted the cord to stop pulsing first. However, it was a little complicated given that I was on my hands and knees and couldn't really hold the baby skin-to-skin in that position, but it was equally as awkward trying to flip over while the umbilical cord was still intact and the bed below me was soaked with fluid and blood. Eventually I just told them to go ahead and cut the cord to make things easier.

Once they did so, the nurses removed what dirty linens they could and put clean blankets and towels underneath me, and helped me turn over. While my butt was still in the air, I heard a nurse say, "He's 7lbs, 9oz!" I couldn't believe how big he was for 3 weeks early; Elanor had been born at 39 weeks and she'd been only 1oz heavier at 7lbs, 10oz.

As soon as I had turned over, I saw an unfamiliar man watching me with a smile on his face. "Oh, hi," I said. "You must be Dr. M."

"Yes, that's me," he said.

"Nice to meet you face-to-face instead of butt-to-face," I quipped.

He just grinned wider and shook my hand. "Congratulations."

Then, FINALLY, they handed me my sweet baby, and I marveled over his full head of hair and his adorable little scrunchy face. I kissed his cheeks, raved over his cuteness, and told everyone his name was Gabriel Keith. I tried to breastfeed him in order to aid the expulsion of the placenta, but he wasn't very interested in latching on right away; he just laid on my chest, blinking his eyes, and watching my face.

Collin took a video of us about 10 minutes after Gabriel was born, while we were doing some skin-to-skin snuggling. Please ignore how drugged out I look; I promise it's due to exhaustion (and baby bliss), not medication!

Dr. M was incredibly patient. He just sat and waited for a good 15-20 minutes, as the nurses did all the newborn procedures on Gabriel (he was on my chest the whole time). Finally, he spoke up and said he was concerned about the amount of bleeding I was having, and he thought it best if we tried some fundal massage to get the placenta expelled. He also asked if I'd consent to an IV bag of pitocin, due to the amount of bleeding I was having. I consented to both, and was very pleased that he'd asked my permission first.

He came over to the bed and did the fundal massage, which worked almost immediately to get the placenta out. The nurse hooked up the pitocin to my heplock, and then I gave Gabriel back to Collin so Dr. M could check for tearing. Not surprisingly, I had a 2nd degree tear (the only birth I haven't torn was with William). I had to wiggle my way toward the end of the bed and put my feet up in stirrups so he could stitch me up. Even though I got a shot of local anesthetic, the stitching hurt more than I remembered from previous births, and it seemed to take an inordinately long time. I think part of that was the fact that I was absolutely exhausted, so the experience seemed to last longer than it really did.

Finally, he was done and I got my baby back. :) Soon after I got a lovely dose of ibuprofen, a wonderful ice pack for my nether regions, and I got Gabriel to latch on. He nursed like a champ from the get-go. I went on Facebook to spread the news, ate a ham-and-cheese omelet that tasted fantastic (I hadn't realized just how hungry I was until I ordered breakfast!), and a few hours later we were moved up to our postpartum recovery room and starting calling family and friends to spread the joyful news that unto us a child was born.

Before we were transferred to the postpartum unit, Amy thanked us for the privilege of witnessing our birth, as this was her last shift; she was transferring to another hospital in the Valley to work as a lactation consultant, and she was glad to end her career in L&D on such a high note. That made me a little teary-eyed. She was a fantastic L&D nurse so it's definitely the hospital's loss!

Also, the pediatric nurse said, "I've never seen anyone deliver on their hands and knees before. That was cool to watch." I later learned that the L&D nurses on the floor that day had nicknamed me "Rockstar Mom" due to the hands-and-knees birth. I didn't think it was all that impressive at the time, given that I was the one with my butt in the air, but hindsight is 20/20 (ba dum bum ching!).

We saw Dr. N as we were leaving the L&D ward, and he came over to congratulate us and said he was disappointed he'd missed the birth, but was glad things had gone so well for me. He said something along the lines of, "I heard you did great," so evidently my reputation of Rockstar Mom was already making the rounds.

The story behind Gabriel's name: Gabriel Keith was the boy name we'd had picked out for Violet, had she'd been a boy, so it's one we'd been waiting to use for a while. Gabriel is Collin's confirmation name, and as an added bonus this baby was conceived on the Feast of the Annunciation, making it very appropriate. Plus, the name goes with the "Holy Family" theme we have going with our kids' names (their middle names are Mary, Joseph, and Elizabeth). Keith is my father-in-law's name, and we wanted to honor him as well. We also liked the initials G.K., in honor of G.K. Chesterton, one of my very favorite authors (Collin and I were confirmed into Catholicism on his birthday!).

Gabriel is such a sweet baby, so mellow and content. His two sisters and his brother absolutely adore him. We are blessed!


  1. congrats :) That's great that you had a good birth. Enjoy your babymoon!

  2. Awww. That's a great birth story. Thank you for sharing! He's adorable.

  3. Wow! That is so amazing and I am so impressed! 'Loved every minute (too bad we didn't have video of the WHOLE thing)!

  4. Oh, man, you did this in dramatic style! Whoo-hooo, that was awesome!! Poignant AND funny! Welcome Gabriel, and I love the story of the names.

  5. What a BEAUTIFUL birth story! Thank you so much for posting this! I was just hunting around for inspiring birth stories yesterday to get myself geared up, then woke up this morning to Gabriel'ss birth story in my Reader!

    You did so well, and your doula sounds awesome. I am stealing the batter tea-lights idea!!!

    That last picture is just sooooo precious.

    Again, thank you so much for posting this and all the details, it sounds like a beautiful birth, and it was just exactly what I needed to read today!

  6. I love reading birth stories, and yours certainly was an adventurous one! :) So glad it all went well. I could relate to the stitching up feeling painful and being super hungry after! :) Gabriel is just precious! Congratulations!

  7. Congratulations JoAnna! Thanks for sharing your story with us. Enjoy your babymoon! :)

  8. Beautiful birth! Beautiful baby! Thank you for sharing your wonderful birth story. Blessings and love on your family.

  9. Beautiful story! I love your writing style and sense of humor too!

    I also delivered on hands and knees in the hospital where it was not the norm. Go Rockstar Moms! :)


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