In my journey as a birthing mother, Gabe was my first baby to be born at home. While Calvin's Cesarean birth had been demeaning and emotionally crippling, and Sam's VBAC was healing, Gabe's birth was truly, truly empowering for me.
After experiencing a hospital VBAC to give birth to Sam, I knew that I definitely wanted to go the midwifery route again with my next pregnancy, so I followed one of my favorite nurse midwives to her new practice, about 45 minutes south of my home and started regular prenatal care with her. But while I enjoyed my midwife and knew I was in good hands with her, the costs of my prenatal care became unmanageable. For example, I remember the bill for the simple blood work for my first prenatal visit came to over $500 and since Mr. Pete had just started his own business and we were doing without insurance and a pay check for many weeks, the added expenses were very stressful.
But despite the medical costs, I felt very safe with my nurse midwife and wanted to stay with her practice. That all changed after a conversation with my Kathy, my doula. Apparently although my midwife practiced independently, she was still under the authority of a certain area obstetrician. My experienced doula had worked with this doctor before and she was horrified at some of the things she had seen him do and she was adamant that she didn't want me to give birth anywhere around this doctor. This was one time when someone I knew and respected was being very forceful with me, saying things that I did not want to hear - things that were outside of my experience.
I've had other discussions on this blog where I know that I have said some unpopular and unwelcome things because I knew that they were important to say. Long time readers might recall that it didn't seem to matter how carefully or sensitively things were phrased; most of the time those things weren't well received. I know I didn't receive Kathy's words well at the time. But the more I thought about it, the more it struck me how strongly she felt about staying away from this particular doctor. I would have to say it was almost a repulsion she seemed to feel towards him. Kathy had been with me with Sam's birth and that worked out great. I trusted her and I respected her opinion and knew that she had my best interest at heart. Her opinion mattered to me.
Couple that with the high cost of prenatal care with the midwifery practice and we reluctantly got off hospital VBAC boat and started to look into home birth.
We found a direct-entry midwife who lived about an hour from our home and I started receiving care from her. Visits to her house were always a trip! She had a lot of kids of her own (all born at home and as I recall at least some she delivered herself without a midwife) and was homeschooling them. She gave me the strips to test my own urine and weigh myself and then report back to her. She checked my blood pressure and we mainly spent a lot of time talking over my hopes and fears for this birth. She was so easy going and so confident and that helped calm my fears and doubts.
As with my other births, Gabe was two weeks overdue. At least my third time out I knew to expect that I would not be giving birth on my due date. But at the same time I knew that my body was getting ready for birth albeit slowly. When we were about to start 43 of pregnancy I decided I needed to get things moving. I bought a McDonald's milkshake and I mixed it with castor oil and drank the whole thing down! Then Mr. Pete and little Calvin and little Sam took a nice long walk. While we walked I tried NS (discretely of course) and all of those things together started what I thought was the beginning of labor.
When we got home from our walk that evening, I made my self stay up to try to keep this early labor going. I remember watching Legends of the Fall until I could not keep my eyes open any longer. I went to bed and the next morning my labor truly was going right along.
I remember Kathy, my doula, came over to help me cope with the contractions and the discomfort. Little Calvin kept coming in and out of the house playing with his friends. My friend Mary came over to keep an eye on Calvin and Sam and to keep the neighbor kids out of the house! I remember laboring all morning, getting in and out of the bathtub for relief. During one of those times, my dear friend, mentor, and flute teacher, Anita Exline called me on the phone to see if I had had the baby yet. Mary told her that I was HAVING the baby and Anita was very excited and happy for me. After hanging up she spent the rest of the afternoon writing a piece of music for my baby that was eventually called, "Gabriel's tune." I heard her performed that piece several times in public before her own passing years later.
Eventually Sam, who was only 2 1/2 at the time, got tired and went up to bed for a little nap, and active labor really kicked in. It was so hot and I was so tired and I was so huge!! I was also scared and wondering if I made a mistake by staying at home. But when it came time to push I made up my mind to see it through. I thought that since I spent so much time pushing with Sam's birth that my second vaginal birth would be a lot easier, but it wasn't. I pushed for a good 20 minutes. It wasn't until I got into the squatting position (just like for Sam) that Gabe's head started to crown. I remember Mary ran outside to tell Calvin to stop playing and come in the house because the baby was finally coming! And we all laughed when he answered back in the manner of a 6-year-old who is deep into sandbox play, "just a minute!"
But he did come in and witnessed a few more pushes before Gabe finally came out right in our living room. I was able to grab him first and put him right on my chest. He was beautiful. By the midwife's scale he was almost 11 pounds. He was nice and round and pink! As I cried and the midwife worked on cleaning him up a bit, Calvin started sneaking out of the room and bringing down baby toys for Gabe to play with. By the time we noticed it, the room had a lot of toys in it, even a rocking horse! I think Calvin was a little disheartened to see that his new baby brother couldn't really " do anything yet." When Sam woke up and came downstairs he was surprised to see a baby there. "Whose baby id dat?" And when we told him it was our baby he asked, "Can we keep him?" I have reminded him of that a few times over the years!
Gabe was born around 5 on a Saturday summer afternoon. The sun was shining, kids were playing outside and no one was in a big hurry. When the midwife, her assistant, Kathy and Mary finally left I felt invigorated and anxious to show the world my new son. The exhaustion set in later, but at the time of the birth I felt so powerful! Endorphins are a wonderful thing!
A few weeks later two of my best friends and their spouses came down for Gabe's baptism and we had a wonderful party!
I'd like to close with something I wrote in Gabe's confirmation letter earlier this year:
You know Gabe, you have always been a big guy. When I was pregnant with you the midwife was always amazed at how big you were getting inside of my stomach. And when you came out (with much effort!) you were as big as some 3 month olds! You have stayed ahead of the curve in size for kids your age. I think it is because God has given you a big heart. You are so full of love and joy you needed a big heart to keep it all in and a big body to hold it all. You are my gentle giant.
Happy birthday Gabe. I love you.