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Linnea Joy Radtke

The Birth Story of Linnea Joy Radtke – June 27th, 2012

"Is This For Real?"

Jenn, Ross & Linnea Radtke

Attended by: Myriah Haggard and Rachel Shapiro, Midwives

Audrey Koonmen, RN Birth Assistant

Katie Martin, Labor Doula

Monday night (June 25th) when I got home from work I was feeling really anxious, like I had some sort of cabin fever. I was also ravenous that evening; I ate an entire box of macaroni and cheese, fruit, Nutella on toast, and was still starving. I tried to nap, but it wansn't restful. I organized things around the house and Linnea's room, putting away all the onsies that we tie dyed the other day. But I was still unsettled. I paced the house waiting for Ross to bike home after his shift ended at 10pm. The moment he walked in the door, sweaty from his bike commute, I asked if we could go to the late night happy hour at Tiffany's since it was wing night. He was all about it, so he locked up his bike, put some deodorant on and we made the 3 block walk (downhill) to the bar. We each ordered Buffalo wing, which were perfectly spicy for me and made Ross sweat. I enjoyed and O'doul's Amber while Ross had a couple Shocktops. We joked about how spicy food can induce labor, but it better not work that fast seeing as Ross was in no state to drive. We really enjoyed the evening, savoring the ability to just go to happy hour on a whim.

Tuesday afternoon (June 26th) when Ross got home from the morning shift at the pool we had gallo pinto (a typical Costa Rican dish) for lunch and got ready to head to our midwife appointment at Morning Star that afternoon. At the appointment we got good news that I was GBS negative, that I wasn't anemic anymore, and that baby was in a good position. I mentioned to Myriah that I have been noticing lots of Braxton Hicks contractions but nothing painful, to which she replied, "good, your body is getting ready." She also recommended that we pick up evening primrose oil capsules, and start taking them 3 times a day to encourage labor gently, making love, walking, the usual suspects. I mentioned to Myriah that my last day of work was Friday and we were going to go grocery shopping later in the week and make some freezer meals ahead of time. Later that evening we stopped over at my friend Cathy's to BBQ and enjoy the weather. I went to bed really early that night to rest before my interview at 7:45am the next morning.

Tuesday night into Wednesday (June27th) throughout I noticed that I kept waking up to contractions, but it was easy to fall back asleep and I didn't take them very seriously. I woke up bright and early to a text from my friend Janean that said "any day now!" and then I showered and got ready for my interview. (I should have known then that I was going to have her that day because back in October Janean texted me the day we conceived asking if I was pregnant because she had dreamed I was... though I didn't know until two weeks later. Also, Brad (my stepdad) totally called it – he said she would come between the 22nd and 29th!) I kept noticing contractions, and I decided to start timing them, even though I was convinced they were more Braxton Hicks. As I drove to the interview I definitely had to breathe through one while on the highway. I just kept thinking they were more Braxton Hicks and had a really great interview. I did count four contractions during the interview, but mercifully the interviewers were talking during them. On the drive home I called Ross and asked him to make me a lunch for work because I was running late. However, I noticed a slight increase in intensity, probably because I was finally paying more attention to them and not the interview.

When I walked in the door I told Ross what was going on, and that I wasn't sure if I could effectively do my job. I decided to call in and tell the team lead that I was either going to be late or not come in at all, and that I would call them back after I had talked to my midwife. I asked Ross, the first of many times, "Is this for real?" I texted my sister and told her that I was having contractions but I didn't want her to tell anyone until we were leaving for the Birth Center. Meanwhile, Ross started to time my contractions with an app on our smart phones. After timing a few we called our doula Katie, to see what to do, we explained to her what was going on, and I asked if this was for real or not. She said that it definitely sounded like it could be early labor, and that she was in Blaine today and we should keep her updated.

After we knew we wouldn't sound stupid we called Morning Star and got connected to Myriah, who was the midwife on call that week. I told her what was going on. At first they were about 4-5 minutes apart and about 20-35 seconds in length. Myriah told me that they could continue and this could be the beginning of labor, or they could fizzle out. She did tell me that I was not to go to work today, "by order of your midwife." She left the decision whether Ross should go to work up to us. She said that if they were Braxton Hicks contractions they might fizzle if we went for a walk or if I lay down to take a nap. Ross installed the car seat while I called Katie back and let her know what the midwife said, and that we were going to go for a walk and we would keep her updated. Despite the heat we went for a walk, down the alley instead of the busy street we live on. I remembered reading in Ina May's book how some couples would walk in the woods for hours while in labor, pausing to hug their husbands and sway their hips during contractions, and that's exactly what we did, but only for about 20 minutes... it was hot, and there were no private woods to walk through, just quite residential streets.

We came back inside turned on the AC and I drank lots of water. I started to labor in child's pose on the bed during contractions and Ross continued to squeeze my hips to open my pelvis. Sometimes he was messing with the contraction timer app on his phone instead of holding my hips, and I might have yelled at him once. Or twice. And I may have used some colorful language too. Around noon we called Katie and told her that we were ready for her to come and needed her support. While we were waiting for Katie, Ross read me birth stories from Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I continued to ask Ross the same question, "Is this for real?"

Once Katie got to our house she suggested that instead of child's pose I use hands and knees so that I could rock my hips more, and it definitely felt better. I asked Ross for some apples and peanut butter, and Ross realized that he had not eaten anything and told me he was going to eat the sandwich he made me for lunch. For the next few hours we continued to monitor contractions, read more stories from the book, and more hands and knees with Katie stepping in to squeeze my hips. By around 2:00pm I had really started vocalizing and when I went to the bathroom I noticed some blood tinged mucus. So we called Morning Star and they said that we could come in but didn't have to yet. But since it was getting close to rush hour we decided to leave at 3:00pm.

We heated up the rice bag for my belly and brought the water proof mat for the seat just in case. Traffic wasn't too bad and we arrived about 20 minutes later. When we walked into the lobby I paused to lean over the table and work through a contraction. Then they directed us to the exam room. Mryiah, our midwife, asked if we were comfortable with Rachel, the student midwife, taking the lead on our delivery with Mryiah assisting. We said sure, ok, so Rachel came in she checked my cervix. I said that I didn't want to know any objective numbers, and instead I told them to tell Ross and Katie. As it turns out I wasn't quite far enough along, and it turns out I did want to know the number. I was at 3 ½ and stretched to 4cm while she checked me. It was close, but they suggested that we go home and labor some more because it would be more comfortable and they didn't know how long it would take to progress to active labor as a first time mom. I went to the bathroom before the car ride home and I cried and told Ross that I didn't want to leave. It wasn't the contractions I was worried about, it was the car in rush hour! But we did indeed have to go back home.

We decided not to take the highways back home since it was rush hour but instead took side streets. But that was a HUGE mistake as there was a lot of construction, closed roads, and detours. It took us about an hour to get home, and it was close to 5:30pm at that point. Katie was gracious and stopped to pick me up some raspberries and peppermint water to help with the nausea I had been feeling.

When we got home I took my underwear off (more blood in my pantyliner) and lay on the bed to relax, while Ross made himself some dinner. I started to doze off in between contractions. Katie continued to press on my hips for relief. Ross brought me a small glass of wine to help me relax. Things were picking up and getting more intense, so Katie suggested I think about them as ocean waves. I began to visualize the ocean, and thought about surfing. Suring is hard work: you have to paddle to get out, then paddle like hell to catch the wave, but then once you've caught it it's smooth sailing in to shore and there's some relief.

A short while later (6:30pm) I felt a warm fluid begin to trickle out of my vagina, and I realized that my water had broken! We called Morning Star and they gave us the green light to come back. I did not want to get back in the car, and I seriously considered having a home birth instead, but we didn't have a big enough tub. I asked Ross for a glass of wine, and he brought me another tiny glass. Pshhh. We grabbed the birth bag again, and I put on a pair of "adult protective underwear" since my water broke and I was leaking. Gosh I really didn't want to get back in the car. At all. So on the way out the door I saw the bottle of wine Ross had opened (3-buck chuck!), so I grabbed the bottle and took a big swig. Then I ran for the car and we drove to the birth center on the highways again since rush hour was pretty much over.

We made good time but not fast enough, this was my 3rd trip in the car during labor. I had the rice bag under the seat belt again and when I would feel a contraction coming I would grab the "Oh Jesus!" handle with one hand and Ross' thigh with the other. I would pull myself up with the handle and sway my hips as best I could while squeezing Ross' leg as tight as I could. I remember thinking the whole time "only a couple more in the car. Only one more in the car..."

About a block away from the birth center I told Ross to just run the stop sign. When we arrived the Birth center was empty except for Mryiah and Rachel since it was after business hours. I walked straight back to the exam room, and they started fetal monitoring for ten minutes, but it was hard for Mryiah or Rachel to find the heart beat with the band monitors since baby kept moving and squirming around. Despite the difficultly I never felt worried about her, I was confident and trusted that my body would take care of me and my baby. During the monitoring they started the filling up the birth tub.

After they monitored me through a couple of contractions I asked if we could be done, and Mryiah graciously said "Yes, I think we can be done now." (Gosh I don't know how women labor with those things on strapped to a bed!!!) They took the bands off my belly and they told me I could head back to the birth room. And I walked straight through the offices (a HIPPA violation, my first of the night) because it was a short cut. The moment I walked into the birth room I stripped off my sundress and practically jumped right into the tub. After one contraction the warm water did its thing and I had to pee. Rachel said that I could pee in the tub since it was sterile, but I didn't want to pee in the tub, and I also didn't want to get out of the tub and walk to the bathroom. I asked for something to pee into, and Rachel handed me a blue vomit bag. I squatted and peed into it then handed it to Ross, Rachel took it from Ross after a couple dumbfounded moments. Clearly at this point I had lost any concept of modesty.

I squatted in the tub with Ross holding my hands and Katie pressing on my hips. And I asked again and again, "is this for real?" Audrey, the nurse/birth assistant arrived (who, by the way, went to kindergarten with Ross) and she did some intermittent fetal monitoring with a waterproof doppler. A short while later on Rachel told me that I was entering transition. I asked, "Is this where I think I'm going to die?" She answered, "This is where some women think that." At this point I found myself thinking yeah, I totally get why women choose to have an epidural. I get it. Might be nice. But if I want one I have to get into a car, and I'm not getting into a car, so here we go!

I remember being amazed, because right before she had said that to me I had started to feel a little pushy. Rachel and Myriah didn't need to check my cervix to tell me where I was, they just knew what labor looked like and could tell by my vocalizations and movements where I was. These ladies really know their stuff!

I continued to squat through contractions but my legs started to get really tired so I switched to being on my back in the water. A few contractions later Rachel said that I was sounding really "pushy," so she wanted to check me and make sure that there was no cervix left. I remember feeling her fingers and thinking that they sure didn't go in very far compared to the last two times I had been checked. "Oh my goodness Jenn your baby is right there." There was a little bit of cervix left, so she asked me to go back to squatting for a few contractions. I was really glad to be in the water so that this switching was fairly easy. After those couple contractions I switched back to my back and Rachel told me I could start pushing. It really does feel like you are taking a huge poop! While pushing I started to sway my hips side to side in the tub, and Rachel kept telling me to "dance my baby out" I could feel her head rocking into my pelvis and back with each contraction and I moaned through each one, low and loud. Ross said I was primal.

At this point I realized that the glorious thing about contractions is that you get a break in between, and during that break, nothing hurts at all. In between I could close my eyes and just rest, and nothing in the world hurt or mattered at all. I was safe and secure, surrounded by people who were all there for me, to love me and support me and help me bring my baby girl into the world. A month ago I felt terrified that I might die in childbirth, but in the moment I knew everything was going to be just fine. I was in good hands, Ross' on the left and Katie's on the right, with skilled midwives and birth assistants there to encourage and empower me to give birth under my own power.

All the sudden I stated feeling some burning, and I asked if her head was crowning? Audrey shone a flashlight and Rachel said they could see more and more head each time. They asked Ross if he wanted to catch and explained that Rachel would be there to assist as well. Ross walked around the tub to get a better view of what was going on down there. After one contraction Ross had seen enough and headed back towards my head and held my hand. Rachel asked if I would like her to perform "perineal support" to prevent tearing. I told her I didn't know what the hell that was. She rephrased using words a woman pushing out a baby could understand, and simple said "does this feel good?" and offered me support by gently stretching my skin as her head crowned. On the next contraction I pushed out her head, at 10:14pm. I heard Rachel say, "Head is born, head is born." I asked, "The rest is easy, right?" "Easier" was the response. And oh the pressure on my sacrum!!! This was the only contraction where I felt pain in-between them, and Rachel told me that on the next contraction that I need to hold my breath and push, that the body needs to be born... and something about a nuchal hand. As I felt the next wave I started grunting again, and Myriah had to step in and forcefully tell me to just hold my breath and push! Then, at 10:18pm, with one final push, I felt her slippery body come rushing out. She had the cord around her neck once so as she came out Rachel gracefully somersaulted her in the water to remove the cord and then immediately placed her on my chest.

Ross was on my left side and I kept looking from our newborn daughter and then back to Ross, who was absolutely bawling, and then up at Rachel. Ross and I kissed. Then I remember asking her two things at this point: one, "Is she real?" and two; "Am I supposed to be crying?" Well, she is definitely real and Rachel told me whatever I was doing was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I just kept rubbing her back to stimulate her breathing as she was having a little trouble transitioning. There was a flurry of activity and they decided to start oxygen and an ambu mask to help her breathing. As scary as it might have been I was never worried about her, I totally trusted the midwives and my entire birthing team. I was calm and kept staring at this little being on my chest. She never really started crying like you would think, but her breathing came around and she got nice and pink. At this point Rachel asked Ross if he wanted to cut the cord (as it had stopped pulsing) but he decided against it, he just wanted to stay (upright and) up at my head and by our sides.

Shortly thereafter they wanted me to get out of the tub and walk to the bed to deliver the placenta, so I told Ross to take off his shirt and take our baby girl in his arms. Ross gently took her and then went to sit on the other side of the bed while Audrey helped me walk over to the bed. My legs sure were shaking! I lay down on the bed and Ross handed her back to me so we could let her try to start nursing. It was incredible to see her little tiny head bobbing around searching for my nipple; she already had such a strong neck! After a short while she found it and started sucking!

Rachel then reminded me that I still had work to do and that I had to deliver the placenta, which at this point I thought would be no big deal. WRONG – the "fundal massage" was worse than pushing AND worse than laboring in the car. Rachel just dug into my abdomen and helped the placenta right on out. There was no point during my whole labor in which I had wished I could escape or began to beg for a way out of my body until this moment, I screamed at her to stop it! Rachel was very sympathetic and just said that this was the part where she had to be mean to help control any bleeding. Well, she must have done a damn good job because I only lost 2 ½ cups of blood! It was easy enough to birth the placenta; it felt all warm and squishy coming out. I was really anxious to know if I had torn or not, so after they collected the placenta (which we had encapsulated, Ross was very protective of it and reminded them not to use a biohazard bag. We were in good hands and he needn't have worried, but it was so sweet) Rachel examined me to find only a hairline internal tear, nothing external. Such a relief!

The hours after her birth are somewhat of a blur, but so much happened! I got to see that placenta, the "tree of life," though Ross decided that he would leave the room to grad our pizza at that point. After that Ross and I just got to enjoy our beautiful baby girl, eat pizza and weigh her: 6lbs 13oz and 20in long! I totally zoned out while they were doing her newborn exam, but Ross was with her the whole time. I sent a few text messages spreading the news, called my sister and my dad, and took it all in. Ross' parents, aka the new grandparents, came down to meet her and of course Grandpa Rod took some photos! After they left the three of us took an herbal bath which was incredible soothing and a special moment for the three of us.

After that we were on our way home. Dressing her for the first time was challenging, as was situating her tiny body into the carseat. As Ross was carrying her out to the car he had to stop in the lobby and take her out to check her breathing, and as I was walking out with Audrey we came upon him crying again holding her so gently. It had hit him that she had spent her entire life in the birthing room and we were about to take her out onto the roads for the first time and he felt a little panicked. Ross also drove 5 under the speed limit the whole way home while I rode in the back and just started at her to make sure she was still breathing.

When we finally arrived home at 4:00am the exhaustion hit us. I was sore, Ross was exhausted, but we were home with our baby girl. As I walked into the kitchen I realized that when we left earlier that day I didn't think about how our lives would be changed forever, and that we were now three living together, and I still couldn't quite believe it all. It didn't seem real.

Rachel told me that I labored beautifully and that it had been an honor for her to attend my birth. Myriah and Rachel were proud of me, and I was proud of myself and our whole birth team. At our one week postpartum appointment Rachel confessed that she had started to cry at one point, and Myriah had pressed her hand to her heart, both from watching Ross. They said the intensity of love for me shone so strongly on is face that it overwhelmed them. Rachel said that whenever they had to do anything Ross would watch my face to see how I reacted, and if it was ok he would then nod his approval for whatever it was that was going on. He was so protective, and is such a wonderful and protective father. He has taken such good care of us!

I also have to talk about Katie our doula: she was such a blessing. As a doula awaiting her certification she had to attend a few births to gain experience first, so she spent nearly 12 hours with us, supporting me through my labor, absolutely for free. She was a perfect companion for me, as I am pretty introverted and like quiet I appreciated her calm, steadfast and quiet demeanor. She was respectful, gracious and her strength never waivered, and she is truly a wonderful doula.

And Morning Star – what an incredible model for women's health and prenatal care! Not only was I taken care of so well during my pregnancy (they even helped us fight to have our insurance cover the birth center!) but we left after our delivery with their cell phone numbers in our phones with instructions to call night or day with questions or concerns. We had a 24 hour home visit which was wonderfully helpful, Myriah spent lots of time with us on breastfeeding and was a huge support when I felt overwhelmed. We were so well taken care of, and I couldn't imagine giving birth any other way! Things really could not have gone better.

One last thought: I remember feeling tremendously guilty that I didn't cry when she was placed on my chest, and honestly, I didn't "fall in love" immediately. I was waiting for my rush of oxytocin the "love hormone" but it just wasn't there. I felt very neutral for the next two days in fact! It wasn't until Friday morning that it hit me, I just started sobbing uncontrollably as Ross rushed back into the bedroom to see what was wrong all I could tell him was that I loved her. I love her so much, our beautiful baby girl: Linnea Joy Radtke. 

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