Older brother holding his new baby brother.

Gideon’s Birth Story: A Natural Birth with Doula Support

For her second-born, Courtney Brelie, RN, St. Luke’s Labor & Delivery Nurse dreamed of having a natural birth. At St. Luke’s Birthing Center, that dream came true – thanks to her labor and delivery team, and Dana from Doulas of Duluth! Read the full story of her son’s birth.

A few months after I started working at St. Luke’s as a Labor & Delivery Nurse, I had my first son, Theo. I was induced and had an epidural. It was a good experience, but for my second I knew I wanted to deliver naturally

Pregnant belly

When I got pregnant again, I was ready. I started reading books about women who delivered naturally and began mentally preparing. Unfortunately, I lost that baby at 10 weeks. After some time, I got pregnant a third time. I decided to hire a doula once I hit the second trimester. I have seen firsthand the additional help they provide the person in labor and their support person. I know how essential their role in my natural birth would be.

I reached out to Dana Morrison with Doulas of Duluth. I have worked with her during many deliveries and really like her interaction with her clients and the team at St. Luke’s. We had an initial meeting, and after that, I could text her about anything throughout my entire pregnancy. She is caring, empathetic and a great listener. Having the extra support for me and my husband was amazing, before, during and after our delivery.

From there, I did a lot to prepare – going to the chiropractor, utilizing massage, doing yoga, walking a lot, everything. Thankfully, it was an uneventful pregnancy. Then, when I was 40 weeks and 4 days along, my water broke and set everything into motion.

Heading to St. Luke’s

It was about 3 am on July 3 when I woke up. I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I decided that I’d go outside to look at the moon. As soon as I put my pants on, my bag of water opened. I woke my husband up to let him know.

My contractions were pretty mild, so we laid back down for a while. Two hours later, I needed to get up. My mom was staying with us, watching our son, so we went for a walk and ate some breakfast. Around 6 am, it was time to head to St. Luke’s.

Mom laboring in labor tub while holding husband's hand.

I let my coworkers know I was coming in and called Dana once we got into our Birthing Suite. One of the great things about having a doula is that they are on call 24/7 after 36 weeks, so I knew she’d be ready to meet us at the hospital. You also get to pick out a back-up doula just in case they can’t make it (being sick, etc.).

Soon, we were settled in, my music was playing, and I was happily in one of the labor tubs. That’s when things got a little more intense.

Getting ready to push

My labor team had been doing hip squeezes, which is when someone puts pressure on both of your hips. This offered some relief and helped things along. When my contractions started ramping up, I got out of the tub and moved to the bed.

At this point, I was pretty uncomfortable, but I was taking it one contraction at a time. I needed to know if I was in transition yet (when you dilate from 7-10 centimeters), as this is the most intense part of labor.

My provider did a cervical check, where she felt a bulging bag of water. I asked her to rupture it. She then checked my dilation and I was 8 centimeters. Within an hour, I was ready to push.

Welcome to the world, Gideon

Everything was going well, until baby’s heart rate started to drop. I didn’t know it at the time, but the umbilical cord was wrapped around the babe’s neck once, body twice and once around the leg. I had been pushing super hard, but it felt like I was making no progress.

I asked if baby was far enough down to use a vacuum. The provider said yes. As she turned around to get the vacuum ready, I gave one more extremely hard push. Suddenly, I felt baby move down and we didn’t need the vacuum anymore. At 1:37 pm, the baby was born and my husband announced that we had another boy!

They brought him up and put him on my chest, and I bawled. I couldn’t believe that he was finally there and that I had done it! He had a small amount of hair and his little face was bruised from being ‘sunny side up’ for most of the delivery. But, of course, he was so cute!

Couple holding their new baby new baby!

An excellent second experience

He had a heart murmur, but those can be common in the first day or two of life – it resolved, on its own, in a couple of days. We were able to head home just 24 hours after delivery, on the Fourth of July.

It was such a beautiful and fulfilling experience. I could not have done it without Dana or my labor nurses, Katy and Jen. Everyone advocated for my wishes and my birth plan was honored. As a labor nurse, I know the medical side of things, but I was grateful to have the extra hands-on support from a doula. Dana helped me through the contractions with hip squeezes, gave me advice on what positions I should try, was my cheerleader, my advocate and made sure my husband was also cared for.

My coworkers, the St. Luke’s delivery team, made me feel so empowered. They were caring and supportive. Many patients have told me that we’re very accommodating to their birth plans and wishes, and I can say that’s exactly what I experienced firsthand. We’re all super close, I trust the providers completely and the teamwork is unmatched. I might be biased, but I think St. Luke’s Birthing Center is the best place to have a baby!

St. Luke’s Birthing Center is located in Duluth, MN, with St. Luke’s clinics in the surrounding region, including Superior, WI. To schedule a tour of St. Luke’s Birthing Center, call 218.249.5605.


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