Gunnar Jay’s birth story
Valerie and Zeke are proud to share the birth experience of their beautiful son Gunnar Jay, born March 8 2012 at York Hospital in Pennsylvania, USA.
Valerie writes the attending doctors and several nurses informed her Gunnar was their first experience at York Hospital with delayed cord clamping!
“Unfortunately we have no photographs of the actual umbilical cord and delay, because the hospital would not allow pictures during delivery.”
Options for ’cord blood’?
During my pregnancy I read many articles and pamphlets on either banking or donating my baby’s cord blood. I was leaning towards donating the blood, because I knew collecting and banking the blood was quite expensive.
I decided to wait until I met my doula Jackie to ask her about my options for the cord blood and if I should donate it.
Due to give birth in March, I met with Jackie in January. During this appointment I asked her about donating cord blood and she informed me there was an alternative to donating the blood. Jackie said our baby could benefit from the stem cells as soon as he was born! She then explained her experience with horses and other mammals that do not cut the cord immediately at birth.
Discussing this with Jackie, it made perfect sense to me to choose delayed cord clamping – it seemed like the right thing to do. This way my baby would receive all the nutrients, oxygen and stem cells directly. I went home and talked it over with my partner Zeke. He proceeded to research delayed cord clamping and agreed it was something we had to do, that it made perfect sense.
Choosing delayed cord clamping
At my next routine exam I informed the physician’s assistant about our birth plan and that we wanted to delay cord clamping. She explained we should take our birth plan with us to the hospital and that whoever was on call that night would need to know our plans. She seemed to think there would be no issue with any of our wishes, delayed cord clamping and no medical interventions unless vital to the baby or myself. Due to my insurance, none of my care providers worked at the hospital where I was booked in to give birth, so we knew we would be encountering people we didn’t know for the birth.
My original due date was March 2, 2012, that day came and went. I was having regular stress tests for five weeks before the baby was born. On March 7th I went in for a routine stress test and was told our baby had a heart deceleration. I was scared to death! They told me to go home get my things and head to the hospital. I had no idea what to expect, I think I was the most nervous I have ever been in my life, I was trembling with fear. I was being faced with induction or possible C-section, both procedures I had wanted to avoid.
We contacted all of our family and let them know what was happening. My next call was to my doula Jackie. She let me know we could discuss using a Foley catheter to start the induction, before having to try any medications. My doula advised me to discuss my options for starting the induction with the doctors.
Zeke and I arrived to the hospital around 2pm. When the doctor came in we explained our birth plan and how we would like to try the Foley Catheter before starting any kind of medication for the induction that was recommended. He agreed and the Foley catheter was inserted into my cervix, to produce a mechanical dilatation of my cervix and hopefully start labour. The doctor explained a new team of doctors would be starting soon to take over for the evening shirt. He said we should let those doctors know our birth plan too.
Research changes the doctors attitude
The new doctor on call came to introduce herself. We went over our birth plan, but when we got to the delayed cord cutting her reaction was not good.
“Why would you do that, do you want your baby to be anaemic?”
“I have never heard of that!”
“Do you want to harm your baby?”
I was in shock, not only was I surprised she had never heard of this, but her reaction was not what I expected at all. Thankfully Zeke took over and explained the benefits and the research supporting delayed cord clamping. He had a voice when I did not, and he had the doctor almost speechless with what he knew about it.
I was very proud of Zeke and the way he stood up for me and the evidence!
The doctor left us, but to our surprise she soon returned with an apology.
She explained while she was gone she had researched delayed cord clamping for herself. The doctor confessed she had not known delayed clamping was now “all the rage” and that she hadn’t found anything that could make her not want to do it. She agreed the cord clamping would be delayed by three minutes. We really didn’t want it to be timed and to wait until the cord was completely empty but since she only found studies describing a delay of three minutes that is all she felt comfortable with.
This doctor wrote up instructions for delayed clamping in her notes for the next doctors on call, just in case she was not there for the delivery.
Not long after this I was at 4cm dilated and it was decided I was going to be given a small amount of Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) to get things going. The contractions became stronger immediately.
Some hours later I was checked and was 6cm dilated, so the doctors increased the Pitocin. I went from have a minute or two between contractions to rest, to having one long contraction after the next. It felt like my spine was being ripped out of my back, in my head I was screaming “I can’t do this” but what I did was whisper to Zeke “I don’t think I can take the pain much longer”.
I was starting to think I needed an epidural. Jackie suggested I get the doctor to check me one more time. I decided if I was transitioning I would not get an epidural. When I found out I had not changed from 6 cm in 8 hours I was done, I could not do it anymore. I had not had sleep in 24 hours and knew I had to conserve some energy to push; I caved to fatigue and pain. Having an epidural was not what we had planned and it was a very scary experience, apparently my blood pressure went very low and my oxygen levels dropped. I had to be given something to revive me. I don’t remember any of this.
The good thing about the epidural was I got to rest before pushing; the bad thing was I could not feel anything from my arms down. Three hours later a doctor came in and my water had broken itself, he checked me and I was only 7cm. We thought it was still going to be hours before I was ready to push, so our parents left the room to go get breakfast and take a break, while Zeke and my doula Jackie stayed with me.
About 45 minutes later I woke up with the fear of not knowing when I was going to be ready to push. I asked Jackie “how will I know when I need to push when I can’t feel anything?” She explained I would feel pressure and just know when I needed to push. My next words to her were “I feel pressure I think I might be ready to push”.
Jackie had me call the doctors back in. They checked my cervix and confirmed I was ready to push. I was asked to try a practice push, and in response the doctors suited up immediately! Zeke informed everyone “the time has come”and I was starting to push!
Birthing and educating a team of new doctors
The attending doctors asked if I was okay with them bringing in others to watch the delayed clamping of the cord. We agreed and so the head doctor along with four other doctors watched his birth and the delayed cord cutting! It was so amazing to be a part of that!
I was mentally prepared to push for hours, since I had been told the average length of time for pushing was 1 to 3 hours for first time moms. I focused on two things, seeing my baby for the first time and imagining my muscles from my belly all the way down pushing him out to see his family. Yet, only four contractions later and Gunnar Jay was born!
I was shocked he was out so soon, words cannot express how profound the moment was when I heard him cry…feeling over the moon is an understatement! Even more heart- and mind-boggling was seeing my baby for the first time…it is completely unexplainable and unimaginable the overflow of love that I felt.
When Gunnar was born the doctors held him below my level for 30 seconds and then placed him up on my abdomen where he stayed for three minutes before clamping and cutting his cord.
Everything became very dream-like when they took him to be weighed, measured and cleaned up. I could only see him and follow him. I did hear the nurse yell “10 pounds 36 ounces and 22 inches long”. That could explain why it took two hours before I was moved to a recovery room, I had extensive tearing and also a lot of bleeding, I was completely unaware of any of this, all I knew was I had a beautiful baby boy and was focusing on Zeke and our parents with my baby!
All of Gunnar’s vitals were great – his iron levels were excellent and his skin was amazing! Our doula Jackie said she had never seen such a pink, glowing and alert baby before. He did not look like he had just been born! No swelling, not purple at all! Gunnar was the buzz of the hospital; the nurses would come in just to say hi to him and tell us how they had heard about his birth story and delayed cord clamping.
I think it is sad we had to fight for something that is so indisputably good, not just for our baby, but all babies! In the end we successfully negotiated a safer third stage and transition for our baby, which we knew was right. And as a bonus, there are now several informed doctors at that hospital!
While the doctors and nurses did let us know we were the parents who were “bucking the system” at this hospital, we were firm but kindness got us what we wanted!
Further comment from doula Jackie Smith
“I would like to say that I have never seen such a pink, glowing, alert newborn. I’m so glad that their fight for what they wanted ended with educating the doctors (who researched scholarly peer-reviewed journals following their discussions with Valerie and Zeke) and an entire team of residents on delayed cord clamping.
On a side note. I breed horses and goats (actually got my B.S. in animal science before deciding to pursue midwifery,) and it was practice in my equine reproduction class to not clamp the foal’s cord.
Our grade was actually docked if we went to touch the cord prematurely. I have videos of foals’ cords being left until they are done pulsating, and then the cord thins out in one specific place where the cord will naturally break once the mother stands up.
We humans are not all that different. It lead me on a journey to wonder why this was common practice with all animals, yet most human babies are clamped, cut, and whisked away. After all, animal births are natural births in their purest form (mother’s instinct included) and rarely is there ever even an option for interventions.”