Baby in a Blizzard
Name: Emily Vondrachek (@emilyvondy)
Baby’s Name: Henry Joel
Weight: 8 lbs 11 oz
Birthday: February 25th 2018
Gestation: 39 weeks 6 days
Time of Birth: 1:30 pm
Place of Birth: Health Foundations Birth Center, Saint Paul Minnesota
My second born son very lovingly got the nick name “wrong way Henry”. A name that held true throughout my pregnancy and labor :).
At around 26 weeks I began to feel what felt like a softball at the top of my stomach. That sure feels like a noggin I would think every time he pushed up. At my 32nd week appointment I remember sharing my concerns with my midwife but she assured me that it was probably a rump, they feel very similar you know, (maybe that’s how the name butt head got started) and even if it was indeed his head, we had PLENTY of time for him to flip. I soon found myself 37 weeks pregnant with a very breech babe.
Yes, I did every trick in the book. No, he did not turn (wrong way Henry!) My birth center did not do breech deliveries so our last hope would be to try an ECV (External Cephalic Version) to get him to flip. We booked the procedure at around 38 weeks. That experience is a whole story in itself but I will sum it up and simply say it was crazy intense but crazy effective. We drove home with a head down baby!
It was a sunny, Saturday February morning. The white snow on the ground gave off a brilliant glow that filled the whole house with light. We had snow. LOTS of snow. Record setting amount for the month of February in fact and we were due for 5-6 more inches that evening. My husband plows in the winter, so my mother was over helping me do some last minute nesting. She watched my toddler while I went to Target. I wanted to stock up on essentials before the next blizzard...and I just love Target :)
I took my time walking the aisles, putting everything in the cart I didn’t need and nothing I actually did need. The Braxton Hicks I had been having all month started to change. They were more frequent and tight but still not labor like. I made my way home and enjoyed what was my last evening with my 18 month old as an only child. We ate supper and played with grandma and had a relaxing Saturday night. After I put him down, my mother and I rented a movie “The Mountain Between Us”. It was a great distraction from the Braxton Hicks that were turning more and more into real contractions. I was two-thirds of the way into the movie when it failed to keep my attention. I still do not know to this day if they ever got off that mountain! I needed to start moving.
In early labor I am very busy, always moving and changing positions. I had a nervous, excited energy as I started to realize, I think this is it! My mom picked up on that energy and asked if we should call my husband to come home. Not yet! Things were still light. I tried to sleep (never works) so I took a bath. We called the midwife at around midnight to fill her in and being as that this was my second baby and there was a blizzard happening outside she wanted me to come in sooner than later. I called my husband and told him to head home, the nice thing about him working with snow removal was that he was able to plow us the whole way there! Most roads had about a foot of snow on them.
We got to the birth center and contractions were coming regularly and intensely. I could tell my body was really trying to work but I did not feel like I was opening at all. Going off of how I was acting my midwife told her assistant to fill the tub. She checked me and realized I was only a 2! My body was contracting so hard because Henry’s head was caught on the front of my pelvis. His breech-shaped noggin which had not had time to shape to my pelvis did not want to drop down. So we lunged, swung, squatted and lifted my pelvis during contractions trying to get him to descend. Boy was it work!! My favorite laboring positing was a deep “runner’s lunge” while in the tub. I loved soaking deep into each contraction but after an hour or two my midwife wanted me to start moving again. It took me 5 or 6 contractions to get out of the tub. I would try to get out but had to sink back down every time a contraction would hit. Like if one were to come over me while stepping over the edge of the tub I would completely spit in two!! She checked me when I finally got out and I was a loose 6. Praise God! Transition was just around the corner.
With my first, I sailed through transition. Things were definitely more intense but still so manageable. Before I knew it I was pushing! Not the case with my sweet stubborn Henry. Transition with him was all the wonderful things you’ve heard about it. I was on the verge of losing it. Contractions were just so deep and intense with him I could not stay on top of them. They were in total control and I needed to let go. My midwife wanted me to have a couple contractions squatting on the birth stool because even though I was dilated to a 9 now, his head just did not want to come down but Good Golly did I hate that birth stool! I wanted to hold everything in like a giant hug and that stool forced me to throw everything out. My first contraction hit, my water broke and I could feel his head drop! Wow! Was that intense! “Can I get off the stool now” I asked? It was almost too much to bear! “Just two more” she said!! “You’re doing great!” They brought a mirror over and sure enough there was Henry’s dark brown hair starting to peek through. I started crowing and begged to go unto the floor. I needed to go unto hands and knees. I needed to feel grounded.
Everything felt different about this birth. I loved pushing with my first. Contractions were no longer painful, I welcomed them. I loved the feeling of pushing WITH them. Working as a team to bring my babies head down. It was so exciting! With Henry, pain intensified with each contraction, with every push. Even though I was crowning I felt like I was hitting this wall every time I tried to push past it. I continued to push for 30 minutes and finally got his head out but I still felt stuck. I told my midwife something feels wrong It feels like I can’t push him down. She looked over to her assistant and patted her shoulders, signaling shoulder dystocia. Her assistant was training to become a midwife so she was able to go in and try to free his shoulders. I remember my midwife saying to her “Do what your training has taught you”. It was her first time freeing up a stuck shoulder and she was a natural. She freed him in less than two minutes and as soon as that shoulder was free he slipped right out!! I think it was scarier for my husband seeing Henry’s head born without the rest of his body, bright purple and blue (which is totally normal). But I never felt scared. I had complete faith in my team. They worked together with such intention and fluidity it calmed every nerve.
I have very short umbilical cords so I am only able to bring them to my stomach instead of up to my chest but that forces me to just stare at them. I held that purple baby on my lap in exhaustion and wonder. There’s nothing quite like labor coming to a complete stop, when everything is still and silent and the magnitude of what just happened washes over you in a wave of gratitude and bliss. This labor taught me just how wild and fierce birth can be. How it can be totally different from your first! Heaven opened up and the spirit of God was thick and tangible. His strength carried me. There was no way of containing or controlling this birth. And it’s in those times of chaos that leaning on the One who created my body to birth, completely held me together.
Blessing to every mama and mama to be!