Born: Sat., June 4th, 2016 at 7:54am
Weight: 7 lbs, 4 oz
Length: 19.5 inches
Midwife: Karen Carroll
Nurses: Mary and Martha
Doula: Verna McCrillis
Spiritual Support: Sandi Johnson
To God be the GLORY for the great things HE has done! Before I begin the birth story of Annabelle Jean Gerdes, I want to make sure I give all glory, honor, and praise to my Heavenly Father. It is He that allowed each beautiful chapter of this story to unfold just the way it did, and we give Him ALL the glory.
For those that enjoy extra details, it may be beneficial to get the “back story” about why a second VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) was so very important to me. You can read that story here: http://gerdes3.blogspot.com/2010/11/introducingjosiah-timothy-gerdes.html
Our story truly begins before Annabelle was even conceived. After Josiah was born in 2010, we thought our family was complete. Then when I went back to work in 2012, until 2015, I really truly thought we had made the decision to be done having children, as the long hours of my teacher schedule (most days 7:30am-6:00pm) were not conducive to bringing a baby into the world. During that time that I had gone back to work, Jeremy asked me one night why I kept telling all of my friends that we were “done” having kids, and then went on to tell me that he was not done. Of course this brought on lots of other conversations, a counseling session, and quite a few prayers. Fast forward to June of 2015, when we clearly felt the Lord calling me to resign from my teaching job, and homeschool Jeremiah and Josiah, starting in September of 2015. We took the summer to really think about and pray about whether or not God was calling us to bring another child into this world. We both came to the conclusion that we’d wait to see how homeschooling would go, before we made our final decision. After our first couple weeks of homeschooling in September of 2015, we realized that this new lifestyle of starting school around breakfast, being done by lunch, and having all afternoon/evening to “play” really was working well for our family. It was at that time that we conceived, later getting our positive pregnancy test in early October. We were both thrilled and shocked that everything happened so quickly!
Because of my amazing first VBAC experience with Josiah at DePaul’s Woman Care Center, I knew I wanted to be seen there for this pregnancy as well. So we had our first pregnancy confirmation and ultrasound appointment with Dr. Hughes in early November 2015, and shared the news with the big brothers, as well as our family and friends, that same day, at about 9 weeks into the pregnancy. From the very beginning, this pregnancy proved to be more challenging than my other two. For about the first 16 weeks, I experienced terrible nausea, that made me vomit most nights, with cereal and crackers being about the only foods I could keep down. I hadn’t experienced this severity with my other two pregnancies, so this was all new to me. Thankfully, I started feeling better around the middle of my second trimester. That’s also around the time we found out we were having a girl!!! Yay! So exciting! Soon after that, though, is when I started having pretty bad heartburn, which was also something I had never experienced before in the other pregnancies. Then around the beginning of my third trimester, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. From the very beginning, the doctors had a feeling I might have GD, because in all of my ultrasounds, Annabelle was measuring 2-3 weeks ahead, and in the 90th percentile. Though this news was devastating at first, and it took some time to get used to the strict new diet, and checking my blood sugars four times per day, it all ended up being a blessing in disguise, because by the end of the third trimester, an ultrasound revealed that Annabelle’s growth was back to normal, and she was in the 57th percentile, which the doctors told me greatly increased my chance for another successful VBAC. It was also around this time, that I was told my blood sugars were so good that I no longer needed to see the diabetes doctors, and was cleared to still be able to deliver at DePaul, instead of Norfolk General, the high risk hospital. Just a few weeks prior to that, at 33 weeks to be exact, we had a little bit of a scare when I had to be admitted to the hospital for the afternoon, to monitor early contractions, that were showing up on the monitor, only three minutes apart. I was given medicine to stop the contractions, as well as steroid shots, just in case Annabelle decided to make a super early appearance. Thankfully, the medicine worked, and my contractions spread back out. We praised the Lord when I made it to 35 weeks, and into the “safety zone” where Annabelle could have come at any point, and would have still been allowed to deliver at DePaul. For the next six and a half weeks, I continued to have some fairly good contractions, which were tiring at the time, but in the end, I truly believe those contractions, along with all the walking I had been doing in my pregnancy, were helping my body get ready for a very speedy delivery! Already, before Annabelle was even born, God had answered so many prayers, and was paving the road for an amazing birthing experience!
As I was starting to prepare my heart and my mind for this birth, I knew that I needed to have a good support system in place for the day that God would choose for Annabelle to be born. I desired for this to be a spiritual experience, where the Holy Spirit was welcome to move freely and powerfully, so I asked my dear friend Sandi Johnson to be with me, as well as a precious new friend and doula, Verna McCrillis. Sandi and I have been friends for three years, and she is a major prayer warrior, who calls heavily upon the Word of the Lord in all situations, so I knew she would be an asset for spiritual support during labor and delivery. I met Doula Verna through my friend Brandi, who is in our homeschool lego club. I praise God for the day we showed up to lego club an hour late (almost didn’t even make it that day), where Brandi and I just happened to talk about birthing experiences and my desire for a Christ-following doula, which is when she gave me Doula Verna’s contact information. After talking with, and later meeting with Doula Verna, I knew her expertise she had developed through attending 34 other births would also be an asset to my birthing experience. It is with great pleasure that I get to share that God worked out LOTS of details, and performed many miracles with the timing of Annabelle’s birth, so that both Sandi and Doula Verna could be there! God used these two ladies in HUGE ways to bring me incredible support on the day of Annabelle’s birth.
On Friday, June 3rd, I had an appointment with Midwife Nell, who upon doing a cervix check, told me that my cervix was 3 centimeters dilated and “soft like butter.” Annabelle’s head was engaged in my pelvis at a -2 station. She predicted that Annabelle would arrive sometime that weekend. I told her that I really hoped she was right, because with my due date quickly approaching, I was feeling very “ready” to have this baby, as I was having lots of contractions, pressure in my pelvis, was having to use the bathroom about every 15 minutes, and was in a lot of overall discomfort. Little did I know at the time, Midwife Nell was in fact right, as Annabelle would be born the very next day! After my appointment, Jeremy and I took the boys to Sam’s Club to stock up on some groceries, as we were really hoping that we might actually be welcoming Annabelle into the world soon. Everything else was already done. Her crib had been set up for a few weeks, along with having the hospital bag all packed and ready to go in the van. Just a day before that, we had even gotten rid of two couches in our living room to make space for a pack-n-play, bouncy seat, baby swing, and comfy chair to nurse in. Even the carseat/stroller combo was in the van and ready to go! We walked around Sam’s Club for about an hour, having to stop every couple of minutes so that I could breathe through the contractions, which were coming on stronger and stronger by the hour. As soon as I got home and unpacked all the groceries, I got into some comfy clothes and decided I was going to take it easy the rest of the afternoon and evening. I’m so glad I did, because little did I know, my sweet baby would be born early the next morning!
I drifted in and out of sleep that evening and into the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, June 4th, waking up very often to use the bathroom and trying my best to get comfortable. Around 1:30am, I could not bare to be in my bed anymore, because my contractions were starting to get pretty strong. I went downstairs to tell Jeremy that he needed to start helping me time my contractions. He was actually still awake, because he was in the backyard working on the hot tub! Yes, he’s a night owl! Because I had gone through so many “false labors” in the weeks leading up to Annabelle’s birth, I made sure to do everything I could do to try to stop the contractions, in case they weren’t actual labor contractions. I was in and out of the shower and bath, guzzling water, laying on my left side as much as I could, and putting a heated rice pack on my back. Over the previous weeks, those kinds of things would stop the contractions I was having, which is how I knew it was just braxton hicks contractions/false labor. Well this time around, the contractions were not stopping with anything I tried, but rather getting closer and closer together. Soon, instead of being 10 minutes apart, they were 8 minutes apart, and by about 4:00am, they were about 6 minutes apart. I had remembered one of the midwives telling me recently that once they were 6 minutes apart, I needed to head to the hospital, as apparently things can happen more quickly with the second vaginal birth. So I called Sandi and Verna, and told them to meet me at the hospital. We woke up my brother-in-law Gabe (who lives with us) to tell him that we were leaving for the hospital, so he would be in charge of the boys. On the way to the hospital, a wave of relief washed over me, as I realized that God had already answered so many prayers about the timing of Annabelle’s birth, as He was allowing me to go into labor on a Saturday morning, where Jeremy was already with me, Gabe was already at home with the boys, and Sandi and Verna were easily able to get to the hospital. My original fear was that I would go into labor in the middle of a week day, where I’d have to track everyone down. Well God totally took care of that fear for me and allowed me to go into labor on a Saturday, of all days! Praise Him!
Sandi, Verna, Jeremy, and I all showed up to Depaul Hospital around 5:00am. There were a few times on the way up to labor and delivery that I had to stop and breathe through the contractions, which were now about 3-5 minutes apart. The gentleman working in the ER area, where we entered the building, kept asking if I needed a wheelchair, as he was escorting us to labor and delivery. But Verna kindly told him that I was fine to walk, as it of course is best to walk as much as possible when in labor. After we got checked into labor and delivery, and after I signed all of the paperwork they needed me to sign, Verna and Sandi got right to work, with making the room more comfortable for me. Sandi got the lavender essential oils going in the diffuser and turned on some calming music, as Verna helped me breathe/moan through contractions and gave me counter-pressure on my lower back. Soon after that, I was introduced to my wonderful team of nurses, of whom I can only remember two names - Mary and Martha. How cool that God gave me two nurses that reminded me of one of my favorite stories in the Bible! Midwife Karen came in to do a cervix check, and to inform us that she was the one who would be attending my birth. I was very glad to be told that I was 5 centimeters dilated. Just a few weeks prior, I had met Midwife Karen (a fellow Wisconsinite!) for the first time, and had told her about a wonderful idea that my Chiropractor, Tiffany Fernandez, had suggested, which was to use a birthing ball in the shower. During that previous appointment, Midwife Karen had told me I could do that, but ONLY if I was able to get the ONE set of wireless monitors that the entire labor and delivery floor had on hand, as I would need to be on the monitors 100% of the time, with attempting another VBAC (which is considered somewhat high risk). So right then and there, after that appointment, I started praying, along with many others, and sure enough God answered that prayer, too! That morning that I had gone into labor, that ONE set of wireless monitors just happened to be available for me to use! Coincidence? Definitely not! Totally a God thing, for sure! Upon receiving the news that I would be allowed to use the wireless monitors to get into the shower on the birthing ball, Verna, Sandi, and I looked at each other with joy on our faces and took time to thank the Lord right then and there.
After a few minutes of the nurse helping me get hooked up to the wireless monitors, I was able to get into the shower, on the birthing ball. Verna, being the amazing doula that she is, had thought ahead, and had brought a swimsuit to change into, so that she could get into the shower with me while continuing to help me breathe/moan through contractions and apply counter-pressure to my lower back. The monitors kept disconnecting, but God blessed us yet again, with a very gracious nurse who left the room for quite a while, giving us the space we needed, and allowing Sandi to keep an eye on the computer screen that showed Annabelle’s heart rate, as Verna helped me adjust the monitors and work through the contractions. Most labor and delivery nurses tend to hover and not want to leave the patient’s side, especially when there is a slightly high risk situation. Thankfully, this particular nurse could see that Sandi and Verna had things covered, so she only needed to check in on us from time to time. I’m not entirely sure how long we were in the shower, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was around an hour or so. I remember the hot shower water feeling SO good, and I also remember feeling an incredible sense of relief every time a contraction would pass and I’d get a break. Toward the end of my time in the shower, though, the contractions started to come on stronger and stronger, with hardly any breaks in between. So that’s when I said I was ready to go back to the bed and try to lay down.
Upon climbing back into the bed, which at the time felt like I was climbing Mount Everest, with all the pain I was in, I immediately started to bawl my eyes out. I remember thinking, “I just want my mom!” It’s true - I’m just a kid at heart - when I’m sick or in pain, I just want my mom! At that time, Verna told me she thought I was most likely in transition, seeing as how my contractions were so close together and I was so emotional. Well she was right! When Midwife Karen came in to check my cervix, she told me I was 9 centimeters dilated, almost a 10, with just small piece of my cervix left to open up. She went ahead and broke my water at that time. It was at that time that the pain became pretty much unbearable. I no longer was able to breathe/moan through contractions, as I had been, and instead started screaming in pain. I felt like my body was being ripped in half! I kept asking everyone if I could just have a break! I wasn’t getting any breaks between the contractions, and all I wanted to do was stop and rest. But, nope! That wasn’t going to happen! It was GO TIME! There would be NO time for an epidural this time around! I was going to have to do this without pain meds! Jeremy, who had been on the other side of the room, sleeping in a chair, since the time we first checked into the hospital, was abruptly woken up with my screams of telling him to, “Get over here right now and help me!” Oh, goodness! What a way to be woken up from a blissful slumber! Oh well! I felt like I was at the end of a race, where my whole body was on fire with pain, just trying to get to the finish line, and everyone was cheering me on, telling me to keep pushing, etc. Well around that time, Midwife Karen yelled at the top of her lungs for everyone to be quiet, so that I could focus just on her. She got in my face, just like a drill sergeant, and said, “Courtney, you better get it together! You STOP that screaming RIGHT now! You need to put that energy into pushing, NOT screaming!” To which I answered, “Yes, ma’am!” I am so thankful for her ability to get me re-focused, as I was in so much pain, I could hardly see straight. I had been on my side, but she had turned me onto my back, for reasons still unknown to me (I had wanted to be in any other position, except for on my back). I remember being told to reach down and touch Annabelle’s head, as she was crowning. Being able to touch her, gave me that extra strength I needed to push through the pain. Midwife Karen kept telling me to put my hands behind my knees and put my chin to my chest. No matter how hard I tried to do that, my legs kept wanting to go straight out, and my head kept wanting to fling back. But with Sandi standing at my feet, both of us praying aloud, begging God to help me, with Doula Verna on my right side calmly leading me through each push, and with Jeremy on my left side holding my hand, I was able to push through all the pain and finally start pushing the way Midwife Karen told me to. Still though, there were a few more times she had to get me back “in the zone” as at one point she told me Annabelle’s shoulders were stuck. Thankfully, she was able to help me ease Annabelle out, fairly quickly. I’m not entirely sure about how long I actually pushed for, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was around 15-20 minutes at the most. Everything happened so quickly, compared to my previous VBAC (24 hours, compared to 3 hours)!
At 7:54am, Annabelle Jean Gerdes made her grand appearance! The first thing I asked was, “Is she really a girl?” What a silly thing to say, right?! But in the weeks leading up to Annabelle’s birth, I kept having dreams that I would actually give birth to a boy, and then would be completely unprepared with all the wrong clothes, etc. So I was very relieved when everyone shouted back at me, “Yes! It’s a girl!” It was of course music to my ears to hear Annabelle’s first cry, and then it was so wonderful to have her placed right onto my chest, cord still attached, for that special bonding time. We all marveled at her perfect little nose, long fingers and toes, and all her hair, which at the time, appeared to be a strawberry blonde, many shades lighter than her older brothers when they were born. Because of how quickly she entered the world, she did have quite a bit of bruising on her face, which thankfully disappeared rather quickly over the next day or so.
After about a half hour or so, my placenta still had not come out, and so Midwife Karen tried several times to retrieve it, with her hand, as well as pushing on my belly, both of which were extremely painful, almost as much as the actual birth itself. Soon after that, Dr. Licor, who I had never met before, came in to explain that because my placenta still had not come out, he would likely need to bring me to the OR, put me to sleep with general anesthesia, and do a D&C to remove the placenta. He was a very nice doctor, who explained things very thoroughly, but even so, I started to get very scared, my entire body started to shake, and yet again I started to bawl my eyes out, praying aloud with Sandi, this time begging God to let the placenta come out on its own. According to Doula Verna, the kind of cry I had this time was a totally different cry than before - more of a “releasing” sort of cry. Well as soon as Dr. Licor was about to finish his lengthy explanation, he and Midwife Karen looked down and realized my placenta had started to come out on its own. One more big push and it was all the way out! Yet, another answered prayer! So Dr. Licor did NOT end up having to do ANY of the things he had told me he might have to do to get the placenta out! Praise God! After getting me all cleaned up, Midwife Karen mentioned that I had a very small first degree tear, which would not even require stitches. Yes! Another praise!
Through each part of Annabelle’s birth story, the months leading up to it, the day before, the day of, and everything in between, it is clear to see God’s mighty hand, and His answers to many specific prayers. Throughout the course of my pregnancy, I posted many prayer requests on facebook and through personal message/text. I was so blessed to have many precious friends and family members covering me and Annabelle in prayer the entire time. I was especially honored to have my sisters in Christ lay hands on me and pray over me and Annabelle at both of my baby showers. Hearing the precious prayers of those sisters in Christ, and then seeing how those specific prayers were answered before/during/after the birth, is totally mind-blowing! I truly believe in the power of prayer, especially praying for things by name! God stepped in and did BIG things the whole way through! From evening out Annabelle’s growth through the special GD diet, to allowing me to have Verna and Sandi at the birth, to being able to use the only set of wireless monitors on the labor and delivery floor, to being blessed with an incredible team of nurses/doctor/midwife who supported my needs and wants, the list goes on and on. God cared deeply about my desire to have another successful VBAC, and truly did exceedingly, abundantly MORE than all I could have ever asked or imagined! He even gave me the strength to do it un-medicated, which was something I had always wanted to do, but never thought I could actually do! I am so thankful to the Lord for this amazing birthing experience, and most importantly for bringing my sweet daughter, Annabelle Jean, into our lives. Truly, to GOD be the GLORY, for great things HE has done!