Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Birth of Harrison

What a beautiful, incredible experience.

I'm serious.

Be prepared for a long post here, because I loved the birth of my third baby.

Also, be prepared for gooey details.  Doing the doula thing, it kills me that people don't talk about birth.  If we all were more open with our birth stories, then we wouldn't need to fear the experience so much!  Good or bad, it's an incredible journey and one worth repeating.


We were in the midst of moving.  My life was insane.  Every day there was a to-list a mile long; and I was getting bigger and more squished by the second.  I felt like I was in ultra-nesting mode; nagging Mark every day (which, I might add, he handled like a champ), bustling the kids about and shuttling them off to friends and family so I could get something done. 

At night, I prayed my guts out.  There were just so many variables with a fixer-upper and a baby.  What if our pipes burst?  What if nobody helps us paint?  What if breathing all those paint fumes in gives my baby a third eye?  What if the carpet gets delayed?  What if I turn on the heater and cat hair explodes out of the vents and suffocates my son? 

And above all ... what if we're still living in the apartment when this baby comes?

Oh man. I wanted to cry every time I thought about that.  Our neighbors already thought we were too noisy and too irresponsible.  A baby would not help that.  My kids were squished and bored.  With winter coming on, how could I expect them to sit with me in that d--- apartment all day while I snuggled our baby? When I expressed those fears to Mark, he responded in true-to-Gunn fashion: "It's going to work out.  Worrying about it doesn't make it better."  (That's one of the main reasons why I married him, people.)  But then he would turn around after working 9 hours at the office (which I have to add, requires extra effort as he is still building it up) and spend 5 more hours cutting, sanding, and moving heavy furniture. 

I think he might have been worried too.  He just did something about it.

Our lives felt like a race against the clock.  A couple of days before Trent left on his mission, I had been busy loading things up and taking them to the house.  My stomach ached and throbbed; I could hardly breath.   And then I realized that throbbing felt familiar ... sort of like menstrual cramps, but with a little more rhythm.

No.  Not yet! 

I guzzled two glasses of water, hefted my girth to the couch, and put my feet up.  Eventually they subsided, and I was able to make it another day with my little man inside.  The rest of the week went along much the same way.  I would over-do it, freak out at my body's response, and spend an hour or two drinking and staying as still as possible.

And I prayed.

Oh I prayed like I haven't in a while.  I felt like I was begging the Lord to just let us have a home to bring this baby to.  I threw in plenty of "thy will be done"s, but, my word, I wanted to be in that house before the baby came.

On Friday, we were told that the new carpet wouldn't make it that day.  But it would be there first thing in the morning on Monday. 


A few more projects, and a lot more praying later, we made it through the weekend.  Monday morning came, and just as promised, the carpet guys were there at 8 a.m.  The kids and I stayed at the house touching up paint while those two brothers worked.  They were very kind and asked about our family.  I told them the baby was due in three days.  Their eyes seemed to bug a little, and they tucked into their work. 
Those boys did not take a lunch break. 
They finished at three.

With the carpets in and the possibility of moving our stuff to the house realized, I remembered all the birth preparation I had been neglecting the last few weeks.  I had been an all-star through the first half of my pregnancy; I read "The Gift of Giving Life" slowly, soaking up the incredible perspective of my fellow religious mamas.  I worked out daily; lots of stairs, squats, and jog/walking.  I followed all the stretches on spinning babies to make sure mine stayed head-down, and ate dates every day to speed recovery post-partum.  Mark adjusted me regularly to ensure a clear exit for our little man, and I even got massages to ease my swollen body.

But then as the hunt for a home became more intense and the project list piled up, labor prep was replaced with house prep.  I constantly hurt.  I hadn't even been walking in ages.  If I wasn't married to my gorgeous chiropractor husband, I would have been immobile with pain.

So finally, that very Monday night, I did something about it.  I went on a very long walk.  There certainly were some form of contractions happening; they were different from the Braxton Hicks kind I had felt throughout the entire pregnancy.  But they were never consistent, nor did the get stronger.  So I kept walking.  And returned home to box up the last of our belonging.

Tuesday, we began the move.

Mark has the office closed Tuesday, so I had him there all day.  He worked like a horse, loading things on his shoulder and hefting them up and down those stairs.  It was very attractive.  We did as much as we could, but with the rest of the world working on Tuesdays and me just trying to keep the baby in for one more day, there were some things he just couldn't move himself.

But still, we were in.  Boxes filled every room, and our mattresses were flopped on the floors in the bedrooms.  Mac's room was completely filled by the bunk bed mattresses, and he and Belle had a blast jumping on the bouncy floor before finally crashing for the night.  I stumbled around, trying to find clothes for everyone in the morning, and Mark called his brother Ben to get a couple more things into the back of his truck.  A neighbor stopped by and helped me unload odds and ends from the back of my car.

Mark and Ben returned with our love seat and the kitchen chairs.  I searched for silverware and pots and pans.  When they brought a load in, Ben took one look at me and asked, "Are you in labor?" 

I was flushed.  I hurt like crazy.  And I felt cross-eyed. 

But I needed to find the cereal bowls if the kids were going to have anything to eat.

I paused before answering.  "I don't know anymore.  It'll go away once I lay down."

He wished us luck and headed home.

Mark and I were absolutely beat.  I asked for a blessing before going to bed.  He gave me one, promising that I would understand the signals my body was sending me, and that our boy was happy to come.  He then hit our sheet-less mattress face-first and didn't resurface.  I found a box of blankets and cracked it open to throw one on top, and crawled in next to him. 

I couldn't sleep.  These pains were not stopping.  "Go away, go away ... I need to sleep first ..." I mumbled to uterus.  I tossed and turned, worried I would wake my chronically light-sleeper of a  husband.  But he didn't move.

After a couple hours of doing my best to be unconscious, I pulled out my phone and started to time them. 
Dang.  2-5 minutes apart.

That realization made it impossible to just lay in bed any more.  I needed to move.  I got up on all fours, breathing deeply and moving my hips in slow circles.  Mark finally sat up.  "Is he coming?" he slurred.

"Yep," I breathed.

He rolled over and applied pressure to my back while I moved.  It helped.
Once the contraction ended, we both slumped over in bed, in and out of sleep.  More contractions came, some Mark would wake up for and some I breathed through on my own.

Finally I decided I needed to call my midwife and my mom.  The midwife said to come to the birth center when I felt ready, but to not wait too long as this was my third. Chances were it would be quicker than the first two.  I agreed and said I'd come once my mom arrived to take the kids.

I called my sisters as well, and texted my sister-in-laws.  We had talked a lot about making this a party, and I liked the idea of having all my favorite women around this time to support Mark and I.  It was like I had multiple doulas; I had even prepped Jamie with all my doula books; she studied like mad was thrilled to come.  My baby sister swore the blood wouldn't scare her, nor would my screaming.  She absolutely wanted to be there.  And I knew my sisters-in-law were all busy with their own families, which was why I sent them a text instead of calling.  If they just couldn't make it, I didn't want them to feel like they had to ... but still know they were welcome.

Once the phone calls were made, I shuffled around to uncover the bag for the birth center.  Mac woke up with a scary dream.  Mark talked to him and put him back in bed.  I put the bag in the car and struggled back up the stairs.  Mark was asleep half-on the bed.  I crawled in next to him.

I set my alarm for an hour, so we could be up before my mom and sisters arrived.  We dozed and moaned and rocked and passed out till my phone buzzed.

I shook Mark awake and he jumped up to change his clothes.  We gingerly tip-toed downstairs and called the midwife to let her know we were on our way.

And my girls arrived.

Mom hugged me and "Ooo"ed and "Ooohh"ed as I wobbled through a couple contractions.  I wished she could come, but it was the middle of the night and I just felt better with her taking care of my first two babies.  So Mark and I got in the car, and Jamie and Rachel caravaned behind us.

The drive to the birth center wasn't too bad; a fact that had me worried that I would be sent home.  The contractions were intense for sure, but they still weren't entirely regular and I could wince through them.  Based on my previous two labors, however, that was completely normal. 

Indeed I had nothing to worry about, when we arrived they told me I was dilated to a 6.  They ushered us upstairs and we made ourselves comfortable.  Mark continued with the hip squeeze during contractions, and Jamie and Rachel provided jokes, conversation, and snacks in between. 

It was just ... perfect.

The midwives came in twice to listen to Harrison's heartbeat through a couple contractions.  They were nothing but reassurance and positive words ... and I knew I could absolutely do this. 

I walked, I stood, I squatted ... but not for long.  After about a half hour of being in charge of my labor, things picked up and I was completely exhausted, and at the mercy of my body.  This was hard.  I shooed Mark away when he tried to apply counter-pressure.  I was already consumed with so much pressure I thought I would burst.  There was power coursing through my body, and I did my best to direct all that power to dig down and down, deeper and deeper and out of me.  I stayed on all fours on the bed, rocking and gasping as I gave up trying to control things and settled for one thought: lower lower lower ...

My sister-in-law Katie then showed up, camera in hand ... a much-needed distraction.  If you know Katie, you know she is a barrel of energy and laughter.  She had us all giggling within minutes, and I was so grateful.  Katie provided that extra boost to get me through what I later figured out was transition. 

Suddenly I felt flushed.  It was that hot, panicky feeling and I asked to have the tub filled up in hopes that the water would help me relax.  I was struggling.  It was so intense .... and I hobbled to the bathroom as they hurried to fill the tub.  I decided to use the toilet before getting in the bath, remembering that an empty bladder can speed labor along. 

After standing up, another hot, panicky, monster contraction ... ending with a grunt.  I looked up at Mark.  He looked back at me.

We both knew what that meant. 
Our boy was coming.

The midwife knew too; she brought in her assistants and a mass of hands helped me into the tub.  "The bed is too far," she said.

She was right.  I hadn't planned a water birth, but I certainly wasn't opposed to one.  If water would bring me relief, I would absolutely get in.

Once in the water, immediately I got on all fours and began rocking. "Allie, stay low," the midwife instructed.  "We don't want to dip your baby's head in and out of the water."  They hadn't been able to completely fill the tub before I got in, so I adjusted my position as an incredibly strong urge to push dominated my body.  It felt like being sling-shot-ed through a hurricane-filled tunnel.
"Breathe, Allie," I heard Mark whisper.
"Okay, okay, okay ..." from the midwives.
And then with a resounding woosh he was here.  My midwives handed my son to me.  He was small, and pink, and beautiful.
All the intensity was gone; swallowed up by this perfect, tiny being.
I hardly noticed that he wasn't much moving, and felt surprised when the midwife bent down to give him mouth to mouth.  One breath did the trick, and suddenly he became a wriggly little pink thing in my arms. 
He was here.

My Harrison.  He was here. 

Mark cutting the cord

I only stayed in the tub for a couple minutes more; it was getting cold and I felt like I could conquer the world ... but would start with hefting my shaking legs over the side of the tub. 

Mark took our son as a mass of hands helped me to the bed.

I could have cried, I was so happy.  I hadn't experienced a rush of happiness like this in quite some time; it soaked through and through me.  I know the Lord protected and watched over us.  I know He ensured the safe arrival of my son.

The Spirit was strong, my loved ones were near, and all was right in our little world. 

Welcome to it, Harrison Wallace Gunn!

6 pounds, 10 ounces.  20 inches long

My sister-in-law Danika arrived, and together she and Katie left to get us all breakfast.  After we were full and completely content, everyone left Mark and I.  We lay on the bed together with our new tiny man between us, and when he started to cry, Mark picked him up and told me to get some rest and recover.

I tried to close my eyes, but I was still tingling from such an incredible, emotional, spiritual experience.  I watched my husband's eyes droop shut and fought the urge to tip-toe over and kiss his face right off.  So I took a picture instead.  Mark had spent the entire day moving our life into our new home, completely crashing just before midnight.  But instead of sleeping, he spent the night rubbing my back and comforting our oldest baby.  He holds our lives together in those strong, capable hands.  I know it's a burden, and it's one I try to take on as much as I can ... but I see him doing little things behind the scenes all the time.

And here he was, telling me to rest. 

Mark Gunn, I love you!

We came home a few hours later; the midwives checked us all and okay-ed our early exit.  Driving home I felt so purely, completely happy.  So many things could have gone wrong, but not one did.  Our birth center couldn't have been better;  I was so grateful to finally have my baby in a place that specialized in the kind of birth wanted.  I am always telling doula clients, if you want a beautiful, skilled cesarean, don't go to a birth center.  If you want an incredible vaginal hospital birth, don't chose a hospital or OB with a high c-section rate.  If you want a completely natural birth, don't go to a hospital that uses interventions as routine procedures.  Because of insurance issues with my first two, I wasn't able to pick the place I had my babies.  But this time?  This time was exactly what I had envisioned.  

I felt guided and blessed and protected. 

I had prayed my guts out that we would be able to bring my son home to a home, and my prayers were answered.

We arrived to our brand new home with our brand new son, and opened the door to find my mom and sisters busy unpacking boxes and organizing my kitchen.  We experienced a miracle.

Harrison, 9 days old
 These lovely ladies and my completely supportive husband carried me through that transitional time.  Adjusting to three kids was the smoothest yet.  My mother and mother-in-law cleaned, unpacked, and each took my older kids for a couple of days, giving us time to get to know this beautiful new person.  They took them long enough that I honestly wanted them back; I wanted our little family to settle in together.

And we did.

And it couldn't have been better.