Kate’s Birth Story

Stahl women at the Birth CenterIf you’ve followed this blog, you know the weeks leading to Kate’s delivery were a bit crazy. She was transverse, then she was breech, then transverse and then breech again. Finally, after a weekend of bed rest with the occasional breech exercises, she moved heads down, and we (all three midwifes at the Birth & Women’s Center, myself and Tony) decided to induce at 39 weeks.

While the situation was much different, I had been induced with Cytotec for Leo’s birth six years ago so it was something I was comfortable with. At that time it very efficiently kicked me into labor, so I assumed it would happen like that again this time. But I was wrong.

Instead it took several days of induction meds. Each day I spent several hours laying down, waiting for something to happen. And each day, afternoon and night I had hours of contractions that resulted in nothing. It was starting to become a bit depressing, not to mention exhausting.

Finally, on Friday after the third day of inducing, I decided I wasn’t going to mention the contractions to anyone until I knew for sure I was actually in labor. (We’d had family come to Topeka several times before then thinking we were having the baby, only to have contractions come to a halt). My mom and I wrapped things up at the Birth Center and went to pick the boys up from day care. Little did I know at the time that I’d have Kate less than four hours later…

That evening Tony made dinner while I read the boys a book and sat on my exercise ball. My parents were with us, helping with the boys. As mom and Tony took them out on the deck to eat dinner, and I mentally noted that I had been having contractions every 2-3 minutes for about an hour. When Tony came inside I got up to start getting a few things gathered and told Tony he should probably call his parents.

As I walked around, contractions started coming faster and I was beginning to get a little nervous. The Birth Center is about 25 minutes from our house, and I was hoping I hadn’t waited too long. On the drive there, things didn’t slow any and I told Tony he needed to go a little faster.

Tony and me about an hour before Kate came
We made it to the Birth Center and got into the large birthing room around 7:30 p.m. By then contractions were coming pretty fast and were starting to get serious. I paced around for as long as I could (and stopped for a quick picture with Tony – a tradition we started with Alex’s delivery two years ago). Within about a half hour, I could tell I was getting close and got into the bathtub for a water birth.

From there, things went quickly. I was only in the tub for a few contractions before my water broke.

Working through a big contraction


Baby Kate fresh out of waterThen I started pushing and within a couple of pushes, I decided it was time.

I told Jodi with the next push I was going to deliver the baby. She gave me some last-minute instructions and Tony got ready to catch Kate as she came out. 

Sure enough, with one push her head was out. Mid-push I adjusted positioning and continued to push her body out too. Whew. I was glad that part was over. And then I realized I had delivered this tiny, perfect little girl with a beautiful head full of hair and dimples!

Kate finds her thumb

Shortly after I delivered (right before 9 p.m.), my Aunt Net arrived. (Tony’s mom made it there with about 10 minutes to spare, and my mom was there probably 20-30 minutes before that.)

It was so special to have so many influential women in my life present as I had my baby girl. I hope as she grows older Kate realizes what a great line of strong, caring women she comes from, and how much they love her!

Now we start life as a family of five. And while we’re all still in the midst of transitioning into this new configuration, the boys are totally in love with their little sister. Tony and I are too!

Our family of five

Baby girl, the gymnast

We’re knocking on the door of 39 weeks, and the baby’s now breech. Or at least that’s what the sonogram revealed on Thursday afternoon. In the past 10 days, she’s been all over the place – transverse one way, transverse the other way, breech, head down and breech again.

If you’re familiar with pregnancy, you’ll know that we’re a little late in the game for all that business. For a natural delivery, she basically has to be head down.

I’ve been to the acupuncture guy for three treatments. Each treatment sparked a lot of movement, and almost every time has pushed me into early labor. Luckily each time my body has given up after a couple of hours because the baby wasn’t in the right position.

I’ve been regularly doing a series of exercises that are to help encourage the baby to move. And I’ve played music through headphones and placed a flashlight at the bottom point of my belly hoping to coax her down. So far, nothing’s worked and permanently kept her in place.

On Friday, I met with a obstetrician at St. Francis to talk through my options to get this baby in the right position. We have a game plan for an external version mid-day Tuesday, but there’s still several scenarios that could play out:

1. The version procedure doesn’t work, and they’re not able to turn the baby. Then I will go into an immediate c-section. While it’s not ideal, if I have to have a c-section, this is the way I want to do it. I don’t want to risk going into labor again and then end up having an emergency c-section. From what I’ve heard from friends that have gone through it, that’s the least ideal way to go the c-section route.

2. The version procedure does work, and the baby is head’s down. Then we’re going to induce labor so we can make sure she doesn’t maneuver her way back around before natural labor begins. I will have the option to be induced at the hospital or at the Birth Center. Unless something really compelling happens during the procedure, I plan to go ahead and check out of the hospital and go to the Birth Center.

From my conversations with the doctor, I feel comfortable going the hospital route. It sounded like they’d be pretty supportive of facilitating a delivery that is pretty close to what I could get at the Birth Center. But if I get to choose, I’d rather do it around my friends and family, because that’s what the Birth Center is – friends and family. Plus I get to go home within hours of delivery, which is what I’d prefer.

Hocus Pocus and that Jazz

We’re approximately three weeks out from Baby Menke making her debut, but we’re not quite ready. I mean, we are… or at least I am. But she’s not quite ready.

During my last three appointments, the midwives have told me the baby’s head is no longer down in the ready-for-delivery position. It had been for a long time… up until about three weeks ago. And then boom. She suddenly repositioned herself and apparently has gotten pretty comfortable. She’s taken a fancy to laying sideways (or transverse if you want to go by the medical term).

As we get closer to the due date, this transverse position is starting to become a bit of an issue. You can’t have a natural delivery if the baby’s transverse. Instead you have a c-section. And while I can accept that outcome if that’s what is meant to be, it’s definitely not ideal. It means hospital time (no birth center), IVs, knives, scars (to go on top of already very prominent other scars) and a longer recovery. All in all, it seems like the kind of thing that will cramp my style a bit. (Again, if it’s necessary, I’ll absolutely do it. And I’ll figure out how to be awesome at having a baby that way. But I’m trying to make that a last resort scenario.)

So now I’m in the “let’s try everything we can to get this baby to move” mode. I’m doing exercises recommended on SpinningBabies.com (which means I’m spending quite a bit of time positioning myself upside down in a variety of angles). They are suppose to allow gravity to work it’s magic pulling the baby out of her currently comfortable position while opening up my pelvis to make it more accommodating and inviting.

I also decided to give acupuncture a try. I’ve read a lot about it, and apparently there’s pressure points that tell your uterus to kick into gear, motivating the baby to move into position.

I went to my first appointment yesterday, and, well… it was interesting. I had no idea of what to expect, but that was probably good. If I had, I’m guessing I probably wouldn’t have gone. I don’t say that because I don’t think there’s a chance of it working – the practice was highly recommended and has proven successful for others in the past.

But man, it was by far the craziest appointment I’ve ever had. Honestly, it was the kind of like the thing you’d expect to see on TV because it was so far out there and over the top. There were needles and laser gadgets and frequency singing and pressure points and chanting and arm strength tests. The acupuncture guy talked super fast, and I could never  determine whether or not he was joking or if he was super serious. So I spent the entire appointment on the verge of giggling. But I tried to be open-minded. I figure that’s probably how the magic of Chinese medicine works best.

While the treatments have certainly stirred up a lot of Braxton Hick’s contractions and baby movement, I can’t tell if it’s actually working. The acupuncture guy said to give it 24-48 hours, and come back on Friday if the baby still wasn’t cooperating. He says he has an 80% success rate, so I figure it can’t hurt to try, even if it does seem like it’s a bit hocus pocus.

Motherhood, the Second Time


Throughout my pregnancy, I wondered whether I could handle another baby. I was confident I wanted a second child (I’d like to have three or four kids eventually), and I felt like I was really starting to get the hang of this mom-thing with Leo. (It only took about 4 years… that’s probably normal, right?) But I wasn’t sure how I’d handle all the challenges a new baby presents along with taking care of Leo and making sure he was still getting plenty of love, attention and parenting time.

We’re a little over a month into this new adventure, and I’d have to say I think I’ve adjusted pretty well. In fact, mothering seems so much more comfortable this time around. I can’t really tell whether it’s because I’m not “new” at the mom thing anymore and have realized there’s no need to stress over the small stuff. Or, if Alex is just a little bit easier of a baby than Leo was. I’m guessing it’s probably a combination of both.

Seriously, Alex is very chill. He cries when he’s hungry and when I’m changing his diaper. (There’s something about a cold wet wipe against his little baby butt that he doesn’t love.) Other than that, he’s a pretty content kid. I get up twice a night to feed him, but it’s pretty regular so at least I’ve been able to adjust to a somewhat comfortable schedule to accommodate it. Overall I’m probably getting around 6-9 hours of sleep a night. (I realize that will probably only be 6 when I’m back at work and can’t partake in the morning naps like I have these past few weeks.) But for now, it’s working well.

Honestly though, Leo wasn’t exactly a problem-baby. We struggled with irregular sleeping and he had a touch of colic where pretty much nothing I did could make him happy. But in reality, I know lots of other moms with babies that have struggled much more than we did. And Leo’s adorable smiles made it tolerable.

I really think the biggest piece comes from the experience I have under my belt. I’m not over-analyzing things like I did with Leo. I don’t spend every waking minute trying to read everything I possibly can on the internet so I can be super mom. I just flat out don’t have time for that. I have to be mom, and keep the house intact, and get the groceries, and spend time doing fun things with Leo. So my approach is much more fluid this time around. Alex just comes along and gets things done with me. Not even six weeks old and this kid has made several trips to the grocery store, to work, to daycare, to the park, to Kansas City and Emporia and lots of places between. He’s my mobile, go-with-the-flow baby.

The thing I’ve loved best about motherhood the second time around, is to see how much Leo loves his baby brother. I smile every time Leo stops what he’s doing to come over and give Alex a kiss. And when he helps try to sooth Alex in the car. And when he tries to play with Alex. And when he tells his daycare friends, “Come look at MY baby.” Seeing their bond, even at this early stage, is more special and means more to me than I ever could imagine. Leo’s an excellent big brother and Alex is going to love him so much!




Alex’s Birth Story

Alex-sept-9It’s been a little over two weeks since Alex decided to make his day-early arrival, but it’s a day Tony and I will remember for the rest of our lives.

It was a Monday, and it started off business as normal. I woke up and picked out one of my favorite maternity dresses. (I had been intentionally asking myself each day for the past week, “if this is the last day you wear maternity clothes, what do you want it to be?) I headed off to work with a list of things in my head that needed to get done before the mysterious delivery day would come.

Around 9:30 a.m. I started having contractions, but nothing particularly different from the weeks of contractions I had been having off and on. There wasn’t a formal start or end, so I made nothing of it other than to send Tony a text message telling him to alert the moms (both his mother and mine). This was actually the second time he’d done that, so I was a bit leery to give him that direction. I didn’t like the idea of becoming the mom that was constantly “crying baby” and then not actually going into labor. But since I was induced with Leo, I wasn’t really sure what labor starting contractions would be like. And I didn’t want our moms to miss the delivery since they both had an hour+ drive to get to the Birth Center.

The entire morning I tried to ignore the contractions and focus on work, but as the day wore on that became harder and harder to do. I was starting to struggle to focus and was become a bit irritated at things that wouldn’t normally ruffle my feathers. Around 11:30, when the contractions became a bit more formal and intense, I started timing them. It only took a half hour to realize they were consistently 4-5 minutes apart, lasting for 30 to 40 seconds. At that point, I decided it was probably time to go to The Birth Center to figure out if I was, in fact, starting labor. I spent the next hour sending out emails to wrap up a few projects and then a final email around 1 p.m. to the entire jhP staff (while most everyone was out at lunch) letting them know that I was taking the afternoon off.

Still feeling a bit unsure, I decided to stop Walgreens before heading to The Birth Center. I spent about a half hour walking up and down browsing through the aisles and grabbing a snack for lunch, still trying to determine if it was worth my time to stop and get checked.

At 1:30, I called Tony and let him know I was headed to The Birth Center. He asked if I wanted him to come, and I told him not to worry about it if he was in the middle of something. I didn’t want to interrupt his day. I said I’d give him a call when I had more news.

When I dropped into the Birth Center, I asked Kelly if I could get checked and told her I thought I might be in labor. Surprised that I was so nonchalant about things, she sent me upstairs so Eilene could check me. She took a quick look and sure enough, declared that I was in fact in labor. I had dilated to a 6, so I didn’t even have time to run home, baby Alex was on his way.

I sent a text to my mom giving her an update and telling her see needed to hurry, and I gave Tony a call. Fortunate for me, he had already wrapped things up at work and was in his truck en route to The Birth Center. I met him in the parking lot, we grabbed my stuff out of the car, and then we settled in for our short stay.

By this time, contractions were quite regular and starting to get intense. I could tell that my Lis and Tony beforebody was working fast to get the baby out, but I really didn’t want to push things along until our parents were there. So Tony and I hung out in the reception area. I sat on the birthing ball (still wearing my favorite maternity dress) and Tony on the couch, joking back and forth with the nurse and midwife as they took regularly took my vitals and listened to the baby’s heartbeat.

Around 3:15, we moved into the birthing room, and Tony and I took a final “before baby” picture. Shortly after that my mom arrived and contractions ratcheted up a notch. I changed into a plain red jersey dress and transitioned from sitting on the birthing ball to full squats during contractions, helping get the baby into final position before the pushing began. At that point my water broke and things started getting real. Contractions were so intense, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to hold off long enough on the pushing for Tony’s mom to get there.

Once my body gave me cues that it was time to start pushing, I moved so I was kneeling on the bed and resting my upper body on the birthing ball between contractions. Right about the time I started to push, Susan arrived. I really can’t tell you how long I was pushing before Alex came out, but I know that by 4:05 p.m. he arrived.

Tony did a great job throughout the labor, offering me lots of support and encouragement. He didn’t hesitate at all when it was time for him to catch Alex on his way out or to cut the umbilical cord.

Those first few minutes with Alex on my chest and Tony beside us were pretty magical. After 10 months of carrying this little thing around in my stomach, there he was. 10 long fingers on his tiny hands and 10 long toes on his larger-than-most-baby’s-feet. He was long and slender and had a head full of dark hair. And he was a natural at latching so our early start with nursing was off on the right foot.

About an hour later, Brandon brought Leo by The Birth Center so he could meet his new little brother. I was so happy and appreciative that Brandon thought it was important for Leo to share that time with us. I’ll always remember those moments, especially when Leo saw Alex’s umbilical cord stump and said, “Look at his penis mom, it’s funny.”

And that’s Alex’s birth story. Born 4:05 p.m. on September 9th at The Birth Center. He was 22.5″ long (just like big brother Leo was), and weighing in at 8lbs 12 ozs (a full pound smaller than Leo!) We’re now a small family of four!