Mother of 9 Louise shares her birth stories

My name is Louise, and I live in Iowa, the Midwest USA. I am mama to 9 children, ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years.

My first child was born in 2001 while we were missionaries in South America. I was happily planning a home birth until 2 weeks before the due date, when my midwife suddenly needed to leave the country for a family emergency. I ended up birthing in a private (very primitive) hospital, and in retrospect it was the hand of God. My water broke at 39 weeks, and there was so so so much amniotic fluid.  Labor soon began, and went well. After 8 hours I gave birth to a tiny boy weighing 5 lbs 5 oz. When after 8 hours he still had trouble breastfeeding, the doctor began to connect the dots and look for birth defects. Sure enough Josiah was born with tracheal-esophageal fistula and esophageal atresia. Meanwhile, while the baby was checked out, the doctor discovered that I was hemorrhaging quite badly. Apparently my uterus had been as large as if I was carrying triplets, and it could not contract firmly enough. She called for the operating theatre to be prepared for a hysterectomy, but with continual manual massage for 10 hours, we brought the bleeding under control. After a double blood transfusion, I quickly packed a small bag and flew to the USA with my tiny, 2-day old son for reconstructive surgery. That whole story would fill a book.

Baby number 2 was also born in South America, where we had returned to our mission work. We had several scans to ensure that he was in good health, and so we felt confident about birthing him at home. I had a good friend come over to our house to assist us, and together with her, my husband and I delivered our second son in 2003. My labor began slow and steady on April 4th, even though his due date had been March 15th. The waiting felt like years, but in this 3rd world country many hours from any skilled ob doctors, there was nothing to do but wait. Labor went smoothly when at last it started, and after 9 hours of labor, Micah was born. Pushing was quite hard, and it felt like moving concrete. I finally turned over and pushed on hands and knees, and was able to birth this big baby. He was 9 lbs and very chubby. After the birth, bleeding was a concern, but with some manual massage, it was finally controlled. (I’m sure I lost “too much”, as I felt weak for a couple weeks.) I looked carefully for a tear, and found a medium-large one. We used super-glue to glue the tear, and it healed very well. Soaking my bottom in herbal baths helped so much as well.

Baby #3 was born in 2006, and at this time we had returned to the USA and were living in Iowa. I had a lovely Amish midwife, and was eager to have a good home birth. The due date came and went, and at 10 days past due, the midwives gave me an herbal tincture to help the random contractions move into a steady labor pattern. By noon there was a nice labor pattern, and I filled up the birthing tub with hot water. I labored peacefully in the tub until 4:30 pm, at which point I was at 8 cm, and feeling very hot. So, I got out and set up the bed for delivery. But that’s when things went wrong. I seemed to get to transition, and had a powerful urge to push, but the baby was not coming down. The midwives found that her head was turned chin to her shoulder, and the side of her head was stuck on my pubic bone. I tried every upside-down and knee-chest position imaginable, but after 3 hours nothing had changed and I was besides myself with the pain. Baby just wouldn’t shift. So we made the decision to transport to hospital. En route, the baby turned her head, and came down the birth canal! Everyone was so excited except me, who just wanted to be put to sleep for surgery. Haha. At the hospital, my wonderful doctor got in my face and told me to PUSH, and within minutes baby Christiana was born. Our first daughter, and she weighed 9 lbs. Length of labor was 11 hours.  Once again, I did bleed quite a lot after the birth. The doctor told me to always make sure we have pitocin nearby if I give birth again.

After baby #3, my midwives told me that they did not feel comfortable doing any further deliveries for me. My tendency to go overdue, combined with excessive bleeding, just did not make them feel comfortable. So when baby #4 was on the way, we simply made plans to have a hospital birth. Since it seemed that going overdue was a common theme, my doctor and I discussed the possibility of induction. As much as I loved the natural way of doing things, by 41 weeks I was more than ready to put a date down to induce. Baby Jenna was induced on Oct. 30, 2008, nearly 2 weeks past due dates. The doctor broke my water at 6 am, and I had only a few sluggish contractions throughout the morning. At noon, they started a drip of pitocin, and the baby was born a couple minutes before 5 pm. She weighed 8 lbs. 5 oz, and labor was pretty much 5 hours long. However, this birth was one of my most difficult to process psychologically, due to the pain. I was laying in bed, hooked up to so many monitors, unable to move much. The pitocin drip made the pain level unbearable, and I felt out of control. In the days after the birth, I felt as though I had to process a trauma, even though the birth went smoothly and the baby did great.

Only a few months later I discovered quite by surprise, that I was pregnant again. I was nursing my 8 month old baby Jenna, when I felt a very clear, hard kick from the inside. I was already 4 months along in the pregnancy, and had no idea. Baby #5 is only 13 months younger than Jenna. I spent much of my pregnancy dreading labor intensely. Not until I was on my way to the hospital for another scheduled induction (at 40 wks this time), did it occur to me that I could actually give myself permission to accept something for pain! All my life I have been a strong advocate for home birth, natural birth, no unnecessary interventions, etc. And I was holding myself to a line too … of being as 100% all-natural as possible. But suddenly I realized that it WAS ok to use drugs and accept other options to handle the pain. So when the pitocin started up and the pain became intense, I asked for a epidural. It was such a relief that I cried. Baby boy #3, Taylor was born at 2:18 pm, after just about 4 hours of actual labor. He was only 7 lbs 9 oz, which seemed so tiny to me. 

Baby #6 (Gabriel, boy, 9 lbs), and #7 (Saraya, girl, 6 lbs 15 oz) and #8 (Luana, girl, 6 lbs. 12 oz) were all pretty similar to #5 (Taylor) . Inductions at the hospital near 40 weeks. Epidural for each one since I don’t care to experience labor like that again. Haha.

By the time #9 was on the way, my beloved doctor had retired from doing births. I was not interested in finding another doctor, and so I began to search for a new midwife. I found one about an hour from me, and she agreed to do the delivery at my home. But she did not feel good about going much beyond 41 weeks. So I had a back-up plan with a new doctor, to induce at 41 +2 if I did not give birth before that. At 41+1, I convinced the midwives to break my water since I had an induction scheduled in just 12 hours. Baby was low and engaged, I had many signs of labor ready to begin (lost the mucous plug, lots of prodromal labor, etc), and everything was perfectly aligned. Sure enough, water broke at 6 pm, labor began an hour later, and baby was born a few minutes after midnight. I labored in the tub and when it was time to push, moved to my bed. Pushing was very hard, but with only 3 pushes I birthed my largest baby yet. Jasiel weighed 9 lbs 6 oz. She pooped quite a lot right during birth, causing quite a mess, but also showing us how much pressure she was under during the pushing. She also had some bloodshot eyes. My bleeding was minimal, and it was my best recovery time ever. This birth felt so empowering to me, to know that I CAN do a great job of delivering at home and managing the pain in a natural setting where I can move and walk and relax without constant interventions.

I’m pretty sure that #9 was our last one. She is a delight, and our hands are full! =)  

~Louise Zook

Marengo, Iowa

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