Monday, November 22, 2010

Introducing...Josiah Timothy Gerdes!

We are very proud to announce the birth of our newest son...
Josiah Timothy Gerdes!
~October 22, 2010
~8 pounds, 4 ounces
~19 1/2 inches long
~DePaul Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia
~Birthing Team: Midwife Tara Smith and Doula Stephanie Rockefort

We praise the Lord for our little Josiah, and give Him the glory for allowing us to have a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)!

Throughout our pregnancy with Josiah, we were blessed to have many of our friends and family pray for us, that God would allow Josiah to be delivered vaginally, but most importantly that both he and I would remain safe and healthy through the entire birthing process. Those same prayer warriors rejoiced with us when they heard the news of Josiah’s birth! Since then, many have asked to hear his “birth story.” Josiah’s birth was absolutely wonderful, and I am more than happy to share every detail. But, before I really begin, I have to explain one very important point. This isn’t really “my” story or “Josiah’s” story, but rather it is “God’s story.” It’s incredible to think that before the beginning of time, God had every detail of this story planned out. As we reflect on Josiah’s conception, pregnancy, and birth, we are clearly able to see God’s hand every step of the way. By sharing this story, my goal is to bring glory to God. So, I hope and pray that as you read, you too, will be able to see God’s hand. To God be the GLORY!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a mom. Truly, it’s always been one of my deepest desires, right along with being a wife and a teacher! I would see other women with their pregnant bellies, hear stories of births, and watch “The Baby Story” on TLC, all the while dreaming of also having the chance to be pregnant and birth a child someday. A year and a half into our marriage, Jeremy and I found out we were pregnant with our first son, Jeremiah! To say we were excited, is an understatement! I thoroughly enjoyed a wonderful, healthy pregnancy. Two weeks before Jeremiah’s due date, my water broke at home, and we rushed to the hospital, so excited to meet our first baby boy. After a couple hours of natural laboring, walking the halls, one of the nurses discovered while doing a cervix check, that Jeremiah was actually in the breech position, meaning he was butt down, instead of head down. My dreams were shattered and hopes were crushed when the doctor came in and announced that Jeremiah would need to be delivered via c-section. I begged the doctor to try to turn him, because I wanted so badly to deliver him vaginally. But the doctor refused, saying that it was unsafe to try to turn him, because my amniotic fluid level was low, due to the fact that my water had been broken for seven hours at that point. Even though I was scared going into the c-section, it actually ended up being a wonderful experience, as it was quick and painless. Best of all, Jeremiah Daniel Gerdes was brought into this world, safe and healthy! Praise the Lord! God blessed me with a very quick and relatively painless recovery. For the first month after Jeremiah’s birth, I was too in love and caught up in the “moment” of being a first-time-mom, to really focus on my disappointment I had in having to have a c-section, rather than deliver vaginally, as I had always hoped and prayed. Then, something very hurtful happened. When Jeremiah was about one month old, a family member was visiting us, and made this comment when we were talking about Jeremiah’s birth: “Oh! That’s right! You are one of those lazy ones that decided to take the easy route and have a c-section, instead of delivering the natural way!” Ouch. That stung. Although, I am sure that particular family member was just joking, his words cut me really deep. All the sudden, I wondered if everyone viewed me in the same way he did. Did everyone look at me and think that I actually “chose” to have the c-section? The more I thought about it, the more I realized how sad I was that I didn’t get to have the birthing experience that I had always dreamed of. This started a long and painful journey of feeling “robbed” of my desired birthing experience, which would take me the next two and a half years to heal from, emotionally and psychologically.

Thankfully the story does not end there! At one of my doctor appointments, after having Jeremiah, the doctor explained that because of the type of horizontal incision he had made during the c-section, I should be able to have a vaginal birth some day. That gave me hope, and over the next couple of years, I started to research a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and all that it entailed. During that time, I spoke with other women, who had had successful VBACs, in order to gain more confidence that a VBAC was possible for me. My sister had two successful VBACs of her own, and was a huge inspiration to me. When Jeremiah was just over a year and a half old, we were having the time of our lives in California, on one of Jeremy’s short-term job transfers, and we conceived our second son, Josiah! Josiah’s conception was the start of my journey toward my very own VBAC.

When I was about 12 weeks along in my pregnancy with Josiah, we returned to Virginia, after a wonderful 5-month “adventure” in California. Knowing my desire to have a VBAC, my dear friend Karen recommended that I start seeing the midwives at DePaul Hospital in Norfolk. I called and scheduled an appointment right away. Because I was attempting a VBAC, I was considered “high risk” and could not be seen in the actual “midwifery center,” but rather, would be able to be seen by the midwives in the WomenCare center, an extention of the hospital. I just felt blessed that I was being allowed to see midwives, as I had learned through my research, that they were very into the “natural” birthing process, which was my desire. During my first appointment with one of the midwives, I learned some very uplifting statistics about DePaul. First, there are as many midwives as OBs who deliver babies at DePaul. Second, DePaul has the lowest c-section rate and the highest VBAC success rate in the state. After that appointment, I just knew this was the hospital for me!

My friend Karen also recommended that I visit her Chiropractor, Dr. Tiffany Fernandez, who specialized in a chiropractic technique, called the Webster Method, which is used on pregnant women, to encourage the pelvis to open up and the baby to get into the head down position, which is optimal for vaginal birth. I had my first appointment with Dr. Tiffany Fernandez at 12 weeks, and was very encouraged to learn right away that not only is she a believer in Jesus Christ, but she has also had a successful VBAC! Praise God! Throughout the rest of my pregnancy, all the way up until I was overdue with Josiah, I enjoyed chiropractic care from Dr. Tiffany, and also her husband Dr. Lou. With Jeremiah’s pregnancy, I had a terrible sciatic nerve pain, which made for many sleepless nights. However, due to my chiropractic care with Josiah’s pregnancy, I never had any back pain, and Josiah did indeed get into the perfect head down position, just as the Webster technique boasts. Dr. Tiffany was kind enough to invite me to a few of her classes where she taught me more about the Webster technique and also gave tips for a healthy labor and delivery. I learned so much through these classes. I praise the Lord for using Dr. Tiffany’s chiropractic care to help me enjoy an even healthier and more comfortable pregnancy with Josiah!

Another very important part of my “VBAC team” was my Doula, Stephanie Rochefort. I met Stephanie through a friend on facebook. At the time we met, Stephanie was working on her Doula and Child Birth Educator certifications, and needed to attend two births in order to be completely certified. Because she was still a Doula “student” she did not charge us for her services, which was a major blessing to us, financially! She was an incredible source of support through the end of my pregnancy (from about 30 weeks on), and was a very important part of our labor and delivery process. She, along with my Chiropractor, Dr. Tiffany, invited me to my first ICAN (international cesarean awareness network) meeting/support group, which played a HUGE role in my psychological healing process. At the ICAN meetings, I learned even more about c-sections, VBACs, important health statistics, my rights as a woman, and many other important tidbits of information, which helped me to feel empowered as a woman attempting a VBAC. I praise God for ICAN and the healing He brought to me through this amazing group of women!

As you can see, God blessed me tremendously with an amazing “VBAC team”: friends and family members who continually supported me and prayed for me, wonderful midwives, a loving chiropractor, an incredible doula, and a great ICAN support group. On top of all that, I had God on my side, so I knew that no matter what, whether God allowed me to have the VBAC, or if He decided I would have another c-section, I was in the palm of His hand, and there was no better place to be! Throughout my entire pregnancy with Josiah, I kept reciting Pslam 37:4 (NASB), “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It gave me so much comfort to know that God absolutely knew every desire of my heart, and that He had His best in mind for me. God is SO good!

Now that I have shared all the “background info,” it gives me great joy to share the amazing story of how God brought Josiah into this world!

Thursday, 10/21/10

I dropped Jeremiah off at my friend Karen’s house. Karen graciously agreed to take Jeremiah for me, so that I could attend my full day of appointments in peace, without having to bring a toddler with me. I was very much looking forward to some “mommy time!” Since Jeremiah was going to be at Karen’s all day, I packed food, extra clothes, etc. for him. I even packed pajamas, “just in case” he ended up spending the night, if I happened to go into labor, since I was already five days overdue.

I went to the acupuncture appointment, via the recommendation of my doula and chiropractor, on Thursday morning. I LOVED it! I've never felt so relaxed in my life! I'm serious! This warmth came over my lower tummy (where I had been having all of the cramping, pressure, etc.) and I got into a deep state of relaxation. The minute I got down off the table, I felt my first little "gush" but tried not to get too excited about it, because I thought it might be heavy discharge. On my way to my appointment, I stopped at Panera Bread for lunch. I was on my way to my long 3-hour appointment at DePaul anyway, so I knew everything would be ok. Well, on my way there, while I was walking into the WomenCare center, I felt four more little "gushes" and pretty much knew at that point, my water must have at least somewhat "broken." I was getting pretty excited at that point!

I had a great NST (non stress test) at my appointment, and then OB Dr. Hughes confirmed with a litmus test that my water had in fact broken (even though it was just leaking) and I was 2cm dilated, so he sent me over to labor and delivery! Dr. Hughes was incredibly positive and encouraging, and told me that in his opinion, I had a 90% chance of having a successful VBAC, since my water had started to break on it's own, I was already dilated, and the baby was in such a good position, so low in my pelvis. I praise God for Dr. Hughes' encouragement, as that surely was a great way to start out! Thankfully, Jeremiah was already with my friend Karen Miller, during all of my appointments that day, so I knew she'd be able to take him for me that night too, which put my mind even more at peace. On my way over to labor and delivery, I made all of the necessary phone calls. I called Jeremy and Stephanie to tell them to join me at the hospital. I called Karen to make sure it would be ok if Jeremiah stayed with her overnight. My parents (from Wisconsin) had visited my sister in northern Virginia earlier that week, and were visiting my brother in North Carolina at the time. They were only five hours away, so I made sure to also call and let them know what was going on, so they could start their journey toward the hospital, too. I was so excited that things were REALLY happening!

Jeremy and Stephanie arrived at the hospital shorty after I called each of them. I started walking the halls and having a few mild contractions.

I started having stronger contractions. As Jeremy, Stephanie, and I walked the halls, Stephanie made sure to time the contractions for us, and they were about one minute long and 3-6 minutes apart. During each contraction, I would have to stop what I was doing and concentrate on breathing, as they slowly became more and more painful.

After about five hours of walking the halls, practicing different laboring positions, and being monitored every hour, I started to get just a bit discouraged, as my labor actually slowed down a bit. Contractions started to spread out to about nine minutes apart. Nell, the midwife that was on duty that night, checked my cervix and discovered that I was still only 2 cm dilated. She recommended that I take this opportunity to get some rest, and she gave me some benadryl, in hopes that it would help me rest and relax overnight. At that time, Stephanie went home to get some sleep, since nothing was really happening, and I had been told to rest anyways. The benadryl really did nothing to relax me, and I was still in quite a bit of pain during each contraction, so I really could not sleep at all that night.

Friday, 10/22/10

Nell came in to examine me and found that I was still 2cm, so she decided to really break my water (with the hook), and sure enough, that REALLY brought on the contractions! From about 2:00am-7:00am, I labored through intense contractions that were right on top of each other, with really no breaks in between. I tried every position possible, to try to get some relief from the pain, but nothing helped. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even sit down, and laying down made me want to scream. The shower was the only thing that seemed to help, but even still, the pain was absolutely excruciating. After no sleep, and nothing to eat for the past 12 hours, I was getting exhausted.

I was checked again, and found to be only 3cm dilated. After seeing me go through so much pain through the night with no relief, Jeremy decided that I should get the epidural. At the time, I cried, because I really did want to try to do everything completely naturally and drug-free. I started to feel like a "failure" because I had “caved in” to the drugs that I so desperately tried to stay away from. Stephanie arrived at the hospital, just as I was getting my epidural. I thought for sure that she’d be so disappointed in be for “caving in,” but I was wrong! She was completely supportive and uplifting. She didn’t make me feel bad about it at all. She acknowledged that I really had tried my hardest to labor naturally on my own. It took a few tries for the anesthesiologist to get the epidural in right, so that was pretty painful. But as soon as it was in, I felt an immediate sense of relief! It honestly reminded me of the warm, peaceful, pain-free feeling I had at the acupuncture appointment the morning before. It was wonderful! Finally, I was able to actually lay down, for the first time in over five hours. It felt so good!

Midwife Tara had just started her shift, and so she came in to check me. She told me I was 4cm dilated. She was extremely encouraging and told me everything was going to go well, and that she was very excited for my VBAC! I was so encouraged by her positive spirit, too! Tara and the nurses were completely supportive and loving! I am SO blessed! After receiving my third bag of IV antibiotic to protect the baby from the Strep B that was in my body, the nurses hooked me up to the pitocin. At first, it wasn’t hooked up right, and Stephanie realized that the pitocin was actually dripping on the floor! So once they finally got it hooked up to my IV, things started to move pretty quickly! The next two hours, were amazingly wonderful and I was able to just lay in the bed and relax, completely free of pain. I wasn’t even feeling the contractions at that point. If it weren’t for the monitors, telling us when the contractions were happening, I would have had no idea I was in labor. That epidural sure does work!

My sister, Chasey, and niece, Madison (from northern Virginia) arrived at the hospital and stopped in to see me. It was wonderful to be able to actually talk to them, since I was so relaxed from the epidural. They would not have wanted to see me in the pain I had been in, just a few hours prior!

The nurse checked me and I was already at 10cm, fully dilated!! I was shocked! Just a few minutes before that, I had started to feel the pressure of some of the contractions and had commented to Stephanie that I thought I might have the urge to push, but wasn’t sure, because I'd never done this before. I shared with my "team" that I REALLY desired to be able to do some different positions when I was pushing (hands and knees, squatting, on each side, etc.). I really did not want to be on my back when I was delivering my baby, because through my research, I found out that the pelvis opens up 30% more when a woman is in any other position than lying on her back. The nurses listened to my requests, and were able to turn my epidural down, so that I could still feel and use my legs. It was WONDERFUL! I had the best of both worlds: no pain, but still able to use my legs! So cool! Obviously toward the very end, when Josiah was crowning and coming out, I had some pretty intense pain. But thanks to my amazing, supportive team, I was able to work through the pain. Most importantly, I knew that God was with me. I could feel His presence in such a strong way! I cried out for His help many times in those last moments of pushing, because it was such hard work! When things got really hard, I kept repeating to myself Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It helped me stay focused on my goal!

After an hour and a half of pushing, we welcomed Josiah Timothy Gerdes into the world! I was able to deliver Josiah in the squatting position, at the end of my bed, which is JUST what I always wanted!! As soon as he was suctioned, etc. he was put on my chest and I was able to nurse him right away! He latched on perfectly and fed for 20 minutes on each side, while Tara finished stitching up my small, second-degree tear. It was so incredible!

Soon after Josiah was born, the pediatrician discovered that he had some fluid on his lungs. Because of that, he was breathing at 100 respirations per minute, and needed to be hooked up to monitors and an IV. He was not allowed to breastfeed for two days, because they were afraid that he would aspirate the breastmilk, since he was breathing so fast. It was very hard to not be able to bring him back to our room with us, and to see him hooked up to all of those machines. When he was two days old, we were allowed to breastfeed again, and two days after that, his breathing had slowed down enough for him to be sent home. God healed him! We brought Josiah home on Tuesday, October 26th! What a joyous day for our family of four!

God is SO good to have allowed me to have a successful VBAC! It was definitely one of the biggest desires I've ever had on my heart. I knew so many people were praying for me the whole time, during all of the labor and delivery. I've never felt so bathed in prayer in my life! I am just SO BLESSED! I feel so good about being able to deliver a baby the way God designed for my body to deliver a baby. I praise the Lord for a successful VBAC, and am so thankful for the support team (Jeremy, midwives, OBs, doula, chiropractor, supportive friends and family) He put in my life, to encourage me every step of the way. Even though I did end up getting the epidural and pitocin, I am still thankful that I was able to experience just a little piece of natural labor. I praise God for every moment He allowed me to experience, as it was all I ever dreamed of, and MORE! After lots of prayer and anticipation, it was so beautiful to see God’s plan unfold in the birth of my second son, Josiah!

Welcome to the world, Josiah! We are so glad that God has given you to us! We look forward to the many wonderful memories that we will make with you. Most importantly, we pray that you and Jeremiah will come to know the Lord as your personal Savior someday. We love you SO much more than words could ever describe!