Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Birth of Asa Kayil Johnson

Our first son, Asa Kayil, was born January 4th of 2008. This is the story of his birth from his father’s perspective.

Millicent was born in January of 2006. She was born in our bedroom with only Michelle and I present. No doctor, no midwife. Just us. After that uplifting and beautiful experience we were convinced that we should never do it any other way. When Michelle became pregnant with Asa we calmly (since we were not longer rookies to unassisted home birth) began preparing for his birth. This means digging out the old birth supplies, getting a new birth pool because that’s how Michelle likes to deliver…in the water, stuff like that.

Toward the end of October I began to notice that Michelle’s face seemed fairly swollen compared to when she had been pregnant with Millicent. After doing some research I began to regularly take her blood pressure and test her urine for protein (a sure sign of preeclampsia). Her blood pressure was very high…so we agreed that she would go on bed rest until it came down. It never came down. The week after Christmas (2007) she began to pass protein in her urine. On the 2nd of January I took a sample and the amount of protein present was so much that it was off the scale of the strips I was using! I was very concerned for the health of Michelle and our unborn baby. Michelle wanted nothing to do with a trip to the doctor, though. Since the conception of Millicent we had done our own “prenatal” type care and felt very confident and self reliant in this area. I promised her that we would just go “consult” with a doctor and I would bring her home, as we suspected they would want to admit her and give her a c-section or some other asinine thing like that. We were correct.

We consulted with the doctor who was, admittedly, as cool as could be expected when present with a preeclampsic woman who is 39 weeks pregnant, had no prenatal care, and is not open to the option of any medical intervention. Anyway, after some discussion, the doc wanted to cut the baby out. I said no (as I had promised Michelle). We did agree to come back the next day however, so Michelle could be induced.

As a side note, I told the doctor a number of things about Michelle’s condition including gestation, amount of protein in her urine, even her exact dilation and amount of effacement (I don’t usually check much, but sometimes toward the end we get curious). I think we scored some points, when the hospital tests confirmed us correct on every prognosis.

In order to get Michelle and I to agree to inducement we had the doc and nurses agree to a long list of requests (more like demands).

1. Minimal “internal” exams.
2. Amount of inducement drug (pitocen) will be controlled by us. We wanted to slowly increase the amount to “kick-start” labor and then back it off, so Michelle’s body could do the work and not the drugs. Typical practice is to overwhelm the mother’s body with the drug and get the birth done quickly.
3. Absolutely no c-section.
4. Absolutely no breaking Michelle’s water.
5. Keep all medical personnel and machines as far away from us as possible.
6. As much privacy as possible.
7. Leave baby attached to placenta until the umbilical cord “dies”. Common hospital practice is to cut it very soon after the baby is born.

There are more…but you get the picture. We had envisioned how we wanted Asa’s birth to go down. Obviously, being in the hospital was a huge blow to that, and we were doing all we could to keep the rest “our way”.

I have said all of this, but I have not expressed how much of a bummer going to the hospital was for Michelle. I mean, I wasn’t happy about it. But, Michelle, it was a really big deal to her. When we drove into the hospital on the morning of January 4th, it was a very sad thing.

Most of the morning was spent with Michelle hooked up to a pitocen drip to get labor started. Since we insisted on going slowly it took a few hours for much to happen. My parents hung out with us for much of the morning and helped take care of Millicent. Ashlea also was with us and that was a huge blessing. Kori and Kati were out of town visiting relatives, but were able to make it to the hospital that evening. My sister, Carol, and her 3 children spent a few hours with us in around lunch time. By the time Asa arrived the lobby was full of our loving family…both our blood family and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Asa had a huge welcome party…but more about that later.

Everyone is Waiting to Meet the Baby

In the late afternoon Michelle’s contractions became more intense. I ran her a bath and she had a bath…then got back into bed…then got back into the bath. Every 5-10 minutes she was telling me how hot it was and asking if I would turn the air down. After a few hours the room was really frosty.

The labor significantly intensified. It was just Ashlea and I in the room with Michelle. We were not talking (except to pray) so that Michelle could concentrate. I prayed with Michelle through most contractions, thanking God that the birth pains would soon be gone and that Michelle would forget about them as she looked at her new baby. One of the things God showed us with Millicent’s birth is how intensely spiritual birth is. We definitely approach birth as a time of worship and communion with God.

The labor got pretty intense and Ashlea decided to go check on everyone in the waiting room. Delivery of a baby is definitely something you have to prepare for mentally ahead of time. The nurse came in to check on Michelle. She was acting so peaceful and calm that the nurse did not realize that Michelle’s water broke while she was standing there in the room. Of course, we did not want to be inundated with doctors and nurses…so we kept that information to ourselves.

Michelle knew the baby was coming soon and wanted to go get into the bathtub to deliver it. I told her no. I later explained that I knew that the sound of running water would bring the nurses in who had already expressed concern that she was getting up and down too much this late in her labor. Seriously, I don’t know if all hospitals are like that…but my opinion is that they really have things backward. I realize letting laboring women walk around is an insurance liability…but that is part of the problem. Anyway…it is really hard not to soapbox about all of this stuff….

Millicent had been fully born just a few minutes after Michelle’s water broke, so I put my finger to my lips to remind Michelle she had to be quiet if we were going to do this. A shot of adrenaline ran through me as I realized we were going to be able to deliver this baby by ourselves. I pulled the covers back and could tell that in just a few pushes we would meet our new son or daughter. Sure enough, Asa shot out so fast that I had to jump back to avoid being splattered by the wave of amniotic fluid he surfed out on (I know, I know…this birth story is pretty biological…hope you can handle it).

I gave Asa to Michelle and we both were thanking God and weeping. About a minute later she told me we had a son, but I already knew.

The nurses came in when they heard Asa cry and told us we had cheated. They hung around for a few minutes until it became obvious that we didn’t have any intention of handing Asa over for their inspection. He was clearly a healthy boy. They kindly brought us the materials we needed to cut the cord and then left us alone.

Our tradition is to let the youngest sibling of the newborn cut the cord. Kati cut Millicent’s and the plan was to let Mill cut Asa’s. Millicent’s first words upon seeing Asa were, “that baby’s oooowwee”. She did not want to touch the slimy little fella so we let Kori cut the cord. The doctor was a little freaked and said if she had known that was the plan she would not have let us. Oh well….too late.

That Baby's Ooooowwee!

The kids and I examined the placenta and sure enough it contained the tell-tale calcium deposits that are a dead giveaway that the mother had preeclampsia.

We let all of the kids have some time with Ace before we invited everyone else in. I didn’t count, but for a while I think we probably had about 30 people in the room. We love our family…but thankfully everyone had a look at Asa, said congrats, and said see you later.

Much to the nurses’ disapproval we announced that we were ready to leave about 2 hours later and headed home with our first son. As you can see in the picture below…he is doing very well.

9 months old


Michelle said...

Ah. Thanks.

You didnt quite express how sad i was...VERY distraught. But God was bigger and still gave me the birth I wanted...just not the way I wanted it.

Yara said...

That was beautiful Jeff
I had read it from Michelle's pov, but appreciate being able to read it from the fathers pov as well

Anonymous said...

You gave beautifully descriptive breakdown of your son’s birth story. With Millicent, how would you and Michelle have dealt with your other daughters in the house if unforeseen complications would have arose and been life threatening? Probably a silly question….

Jeff Johnson said...

The question is not silly. Most folks ask similar questions when they learn we have chosen to give birth without medical interference. Obviously we have a lot of faith in the fact that birth is a natural event and not an emergency situation, as it is treated in many hospitals. We also know that most problems attending birth can be recognized before labor begins. That being said there are some more common "unforeseen" events that rarely happen that would have meant a transfer to the hospital from our home. I don't want you to think I took my responsibility to Michelle lightly. I have an engineering degree...but I have never studied harder than I did when I was learning about all the different situations I could find myself in when Michelle delivered Millicent in our bedroom. To answer your question about the girls care...Ashlea was 15 when Millicent was born and we spent most of the day before birth in town with friends and family who were anxiously hovering about...waiting for the baby. So...short story long...there were plenty of folks to watch the little ones if we had needed to transfer to a medical facility. Fortunately, it was a beautiful and peaceful birth with no troubles.

Jeff Johnson said...

Also...if you are interested in Millicent's birth story and haven't found it yet...here it is. http://new-think.blogspot.com/2007/06/babies.html

Anonymous said...

Fortunately so.

Anonymous said...

What about the birth of your other three daughters? Were they home births as well?

Jeff Johnson said...


Michelle said...

No our other girls were born in the hospital.

We were lead upon this path later in our lives. We think it honors God. It's certainly spiritual to give birth when it's done the right way.