Monday, May 18, 2015

Gretchen's Home Birth in Photos {mostly safe for work}

at 11pm on Monday night my brother in law called to tell me my sister in law, Gretchen, was in labor.  They were calling the midwife and I should be ready to head over.  So, I tried to fall asleep and get some rest for what I assumed would be a long night.
I didn't realize she was going to be in such active labor, but she was moving and active.
The midwives checked on her, started some paperwork and we hung out. literally.

Some of Gretchen's early positions included hanging on Wayne and letting her belly hang, while her other midwife rubbed her back and hips.
It was so hard to watch as a photographer and not help a bit as she moved through her surges.  I realized in that moment I should probably not photograph births for family and friends.  It's too hard to not participate with the women I love as they work, but then again, Gretchen probably would not have wanted a random person she didn't know there, observing, watching, documenting.
Wayne and her were so wonderful together, and I tried to give them space when I could but still wanted to capture them from a distance.
as the surges got a bit more intense, her midwife suggested that she support her belly through the contraction lifting, I know from experience that is not comfortable, but it is helpful.
back on her knees, Rachel was able to help massage her back and hips.
Watching Gretchen's birth team so focused on her and helping her manage the pain was such a reminder how special it is to have people we love surround us at our most difficult times.
It seemed at moments she was at least able to drift into a bit of sleep in between contractions.
Gretchen tried the tub for a bit, and while she's used it quite a bit for pregnancy discomfort, she didn't seem to stay too long in actual labor.
she tried to relax for a bit but it was obvious that not moving around wasn't helpful.
I did grab a quick selfie in the mirror while she was resting though.
Once she got out she was able to rest for a bit more on the couch.
Wayne talked with her and got her water and tea, rubbed her head, and calmed her down.
then, things picked up again.
for a second we thought she was pushing baby.
The midwives got their supplies closer and checked a few things.
She started pushing,
and pushing,
and pushing.
and pushing, her midwife was able to tell that her tailbone was in the way, while pushing, baby cracked it and put it back into it's proper place.  I can not even imagine the pain of that combined with labor, but she kept going. and going, eventually after many more positions on her bed, in her bathroom, on the toilet, she was able to push baby though.
and while he came out quiet, her midwives suctioned and soothed him, and we head the sweet sound of a cry and he was passed up to his mama.  according to my time stamp on my camera he was born around 7:54am.  They didn't know if they were having a boy or girl so you can imagine their excitement to find out it was a boy, and for them to announce his top secret name; Arthur Espen.
Unfortunately, I stopped taking pictures soon after this because she wasn't healing as quickly as her midwife would have liked, I had to switch to sister mode and help with getting teas and making phone calls, and holding her hand, while Daddy held baby, in the end the midwife decided it would be best to transfer to a hospital to get her repaired in a more medically appropriate facility, with all the resources she *might* need.  I stayed behind with new dad and baby, since mama and her milk went to the hospital.  They could have brought baby with her but they would have admitted him as well {and nothing was wrong with him} and if they admitted both of them, they would have had to stay longer for observations, so Daddy and I stayed home, and waited for an update.
Her midwife left me with the scale to weigh him and it was registering at 8lb 10oz, which was so big we thought we were doing it wrong because that is huge!! We were all expecting a 6 or 7lb baby. My sister in law is tiny only tipping 100lb when not pregnant, how did she hold such a big baby?! After weighing baby, Wayne got a phone call asking us to bring baby to see Gretchen at the hospital... as challenging as that was to diaper and dress a baby that was only an hour old, and to put him in a car seat and drive him there, of course his Daddy did it and look how happy mama is to have him in her arms!
Since we all could not believe he was over 8 and a half pounds, Shell reweighed him at the hospital and he was actually a little over the 8lb and 10oz! 8lb 10.2oz according to their scale.
We were all so happy to have a healthy baby AND healthy mama.  Thankfully, because of the minor {not that it wasn't a big deal in the moment} injury, Mama was able to be back at home within a couple of hours.
Unfortunately, because of her tailbone injury she wasn't as mobile as she would have liked, but she was happy to host us and the kids for quick moment so they could meet their new cousin.
Vera was excited that the baby was out of Gretchen's tummy, but still she was nervous and quiet, Sonja on the other hand had that great big smile and was very excited {even tough she wanted a girl, she said she likes him now, "because he's going to be funny"}
This photo brings me to tears.  No mama should have to be away from her new baby for even a minute.  and even in a hospital with the resources, if necessary babies might be taken for medical attention or mom {like in this instance} might need to be fixed up and can't hold baby, but here they are together again, at home, where he was born, in bed with his mom in the most comforting experience of his life and they're loving each other.  like I said.  tears.  all the tears.  

It was such an honor to watch the strength of this first time mom, my sister, and friend, I've never seen a woman work that hard to get her baby out {I've been to 7 births, 3 of those c-sections and 2 my own homebirth}. I've never had to work that hard to get a baby out.   I've never seen a doctor let a mom work that hard to get a baby out, and kept waiting for her midwife to tell her that was enough, but she did it, even though she doubted herself for a second, {even though some of it I couldn't even document or share here because I was busy helping or it was too graphic}. 
But, she did it, and I'm so proud of her!

plus, now I have another nephew, so it was a good day. 


  1. Aww I love birth stories. What a special moment to share with your sister and your nephew is adorable.

    1. Thanks Charissa, it was such an honor to watch her become a mother.