A quick and lovely natural home birth story. This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!
My sweet girl. How you were a whirlwind.
The pregnancy was not an easy one for us, and it coincided with major life stresses and decisions to be made. We spent a lot of time worrying about how we were going to manage four kids, and what that would look like practically. (You can read more about that here if you’d like.) But we had made it so far, and we were working hard on preparing our hearts and minds for our little one’s arrival.
We were visiting out of town friends when I first felt the usual prelabor signs. Cramps, low back pain, diarrhea. I was about 36 weeks at the time, and given the fact that I don’t usually have my babies early (a blessing, really), I resigned myself to weeks of prodromal labor.
About 39 weeks pregnant.
And so those weeks came. On and off, I would have contractions for a few hours at a time. They weren’t particularly painful. Sometimes crampy, sometimes akin to strong Braxton hicks, sometimes regular, and sometimes sporadic, the only thing I could count on was that they would keep coming back whenever they jolly well pleased.
Last week I shared my son’s birth story, and today I’ll share my daughter’s. She’ll be turning 2 in just a couple of weeks, so I’ve been enjoying reminiscing. This was published previously on my old blog, and has been given new life with the insertion of beautiful birth photos from Emily of Sweet Moments Doula and Birth Photography. Thanks for reading. 🙂
My husband and I had our dear firstborn son back in October of 2010. We wanted for him to have a sibling relatively close in age, so we put it in our minds that we would like to have a baby sometime before he was three or so. A summer baby was appealing to both of us since Tim teaches middle school and would have a couple of months off available for “baby mooning.” So last fall we began trying for baby #2, and sure enough, we had a positive pregnancy test at the beginning of October 2012. My estimated due date was June 15th, 2013.
When I was first pregnant with J, we spent a long time researching our birth options and had decided on a home birth. Since we had such a lovely experience the first time, we planned on birthing our second at home as well. A brief period of financial uncertainty lead us to consider a hospital birth (since insurance would cover it), but a good tax return enabled us to pay our midwife in full and continue on with the home birth plans.
The pregnancy was quite different from J’s. I was sicker at the beginning, more emotional throughout, and faced more general pregnancy-related physical challenges. I knew that both the baby and I were healthy, and that this was a blessing I should never take for granted. The most disturbing emotion was a strange unsettledness that I was having a hard time shaking. I was worried about the “what-ifs” of labor, the concerns of mothering two children and loving them both well, the fear of returning late-onset postpartum depression, mild though it may have been.
I pushed off the feelings for a long time, believing in a way it was better not to pay them much attention. But they continued to resurface, sometimes overwhelmingly. In one way, I wanted to fast forward to the birth in order to just get it done with. In another way, I dreaded its coming since I was so nervous about my own mothering abilities.
I realized that I was neglecting to address my fears, and more importantly, I was not taking them up in prayer. I knew it was necessary for me to take time to do this. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving make your requests known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) As long as I hung onto my fears, I was not entrusting them to the One who authors life and who could give me the peace I so longed for.
As I approached birth, I was reminded that it did not do me any good to worry. I needed to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and know that He would provide exactly what I needed (Matthew 6:25-34). I began voicing my worries to some women I trusted. Looking my fears in the face and talking them through brought both tears and great relief. I knew I was surrounded by prayer, faithful and supportive family and friends, and a skillful and compassionate birth team. All I had to do now was to rest in God’s sovereign hand and prayerfully await the onset of labor.
And wait and rest I did. The last few weeks of pregnancy were filled with more peace than I had experienced the whole time. I didn’t think that the challenges or fears would never actualize, but I knew that God would give me the grace I needed to handle each moment as it came. I took lengthy hot baths, read good birth stories and long passages of Scripture, and practiced breathing and releasing all my muscles. I drank pregnancy tea and ate dates, did the birth ball hula, and practiced squatting and kegels. I tried to mentally remember what crowning felt like and welcome it. I spent one on one time with my son and reminded myself that no matter how difficult mothering can be, the joy of knowing and loving each sweet soul was immensely worth every second of it. And as my due date approached, I finally felt ready.
During these last two or three weeks, I experienced light crampy contractions that would last for an hour or two here and there and then stop. I recognized all the usual pre-labor signs- diarrhea, loss of large hunks of mucus, and just feeling “off.” But the signs never went anywhere. I tried checking my own cervix, and it did seem that there was some softening and dilation occurring. As days went on, I could no longer find a distinct ring of cervix, so I decided that I didn’t really know what I was feeling and I probably was just feeling the vaginal wall. The day before my next appointment, I felt a lot of extra pressure in my bottom and assumed it was the baby “dropping.” I told myself not to get hopeful, and that I couldn’t possibly be significantly dilated. Better to expect nothing than think I had made progress, right?
On June 13th, 39 weeks and 5 days, my midwife, Jen, came to my house for our regular 10:30 am appointment. (Coincidentally, it was also Jen’s birthday.) We had discussed all of my “pre-labor” and she thought it would be prudent to perform an internal exam to see what was happening. Since she lived about an hour away, she was concerned about the possibility of a precipitous labor if I was already considerably dilated. After discussing our options, Tim and I decided that if we were pleasantly surprised by my progress, we would go ahead and have Jen sweep my membranes and see if we could get labor going while she was in the area.
As Jen was checking my cervix, she got a funny smile on her face and said, “Hmm! You’re about 60% effaced… and 5 cm dilated this way… and 4 and a half the other way…”
Five centimeters and not in labor?!? I just started laughing. Tim and I were in disbelief that I was already so far progressed! My son’s labor had been so “textbook,” so slow and steady, that I never thought I would end up dilating without any significant pain or long early labor. We also learned that the baby’s head was already at +1 or +2 station, so he or she was already coming into the birth canal. (Aha. That explained all that extra pressure.)
We agreed to have Jen sweep my membranes (a rather uncomfortable procedure, though not painful), and also decided to try some herbal augmentation to see if things would get going while she was still in the area. She left me some “labor prep” herbal pills and a black & blue cohosh tincture mixed into my morning’s green smoothie. Off she went to some other appointments close to our home, leaving instructions to call her if I began contracting hard at any point. She would come back to check on me in a few hours.
Within 30 minutes of our appointment’s end- about 12:00 noon- I did begin experiencing some contractions. While they were more powerful than my Braxton Hicks, they were no more painful and were not accompanied by any cramps. They felt like strong waves of pressure that took my breath away, though I could still walk and talk through them. They developed into a pattern, coming about 3-5 minutes apart, but only lasting about 30-45 seconds long. I decided to eat a small but nourishing lunch for energy in case this turned into the “real deal.”
Jen called to check on me, but I told her that the contractions were nothing to write home about. She laughed because that was what I had been saying before- and I was obviously already dilated despite the fact that I wasn’t in pain. She said she would still come after her last appointment for the day.
Around 2:30, Jen arrived. My contractions had not progressed to be any longer or stronger. She observed me for a little while and suggested taking more of the tinctures. She said she would hang out at our house for a while because she “didn’t trust me.” She joked that as soon as she turned around and drove home, she knew I would be calling her in hard labor.
Thus, even though we are all of the mindset that we would rather wait for labor to pick up on its own, we decided, given the circumstances, that it was still the wisest course of action to try to give it a little boost. (Plus I wasn’t really worried about any negative side effects of the herbal tinctures like I would be about Pitocin and other drug use.)
Since it was Jen’s birthday (and since J had gone down for his nap), I decided to bake a cake while we waited around for this labor thing to get painful. Too bad I didn’t have any white sugar… or powdered sugar… or cake mix… or frosting. I found a yellow cake recipe that I thought I could make successfully with raw sugar, so I put it together and stuck it in the oven. I searched the internet for a frosting recipe that used honey instead of sugar. We found one, but it turned out to be quite nasty as it called for a large amount of non-fat dry milk. We all laughed at my dismal frosting failure, and Jen suggested she run me to the store for frosting and sugar so that we could consume a palatable birthday cake. (Plus all that going up and down the store aisles might help progress the labor!)
I had to smile as we were going to the grocery store. I thought to myself, How cool is this? Most women’s care providers don’t even know their names without looking at their charts first, and here I am having a relaxing afternoon with my midwife, running errands while I’m in light labor. We selected our items and had a memorable checkout experience with an awkward cashier. (Let’s just say that there was story-telling about an internet figure who drinks bottles of Pert shampoo and other household products.) After some laughs, we headed back home.
I was still having the contractions, but I barely noticed them now. I was beginning to feel doubtful that I was really in labor. I felt a little anxious about what we would do if it all stalled out. We decided we would frost and eat Jen’s birthday cake, and then she would check my cervix again.
One slice of cake later, at 5:30 p.m., I was lying on the bed expecting to hear that there had been no changes. Once again, Jen laughed as she performed the exam. “You’re about 80% effaced and 7 cm. Abi, I can stretch you to an 8!”
Eight centimeters and no pain to speak of? I never thought I’d be one of those women- the ladies who I thought of as the lucky ones!
The fact that I had dilated this far with very mild contractions was actually a bit of a concern for us. We knew I would need good strong contractions to help push that baby out- but also to help my uterus clamp down after birth to prevent hemorrhage. (I had experienced significant blood loss after the birth of my son. While it had never gotten out of control, we wanted to avoid a repeat if at all possible.) I agreed to homeopathic pills inserted vaginally to see if that would help move contractions along.
J woke up from his afternoon nap shortly after the exam. We called my sister-in-law, Michelle, and our birth photographer, Emily, to let them know what was happening and tell them they should come in case things moved quickly.
Within a half hour of the homeopathy, I began getting contractions that felt more “real.” They still seemed like early labor. I could talk through them easily, but at least they were mildly uncomfortable. Tim inflated the birth pool and began filling it; I put my pre-made freezer meal into the oven to heat up. Michelle arrived to help watch J, and Tim and I got ready to go for a walk to help progress the labor.
It had been raining on and off all day, and sure enough, it began coming down harder once Tim and I went outside. No matter. I put up my hood, took Tim’s hand, and we began a brisk walk in the cool, wet evening. We remarked that this must be our labor tradition, as we had gone for a walk in the rain through transition during J’s labor as well. As we walked, we began humming and singing children’s folk songs during contractions. I knew that opening the mouth and throat through contractions helped to relax the mother and open the cervix. It seemed to be true- it made the contractions seem more manageable- much like strong pressure waves. I also helped myself through it by acting silly- I went on melodramatically about my cervix opening up like a flower to the sun and softening in the cool rain. Being ridiculous helped me to laugh and stay positive through the intensity of contractions. I think the fast walking also served as a welcome distraction. All of these were my pain management tools as we walked about a half a mile along our road under the trees.
The walk was definitely effective in helping contractions become stronger. During the twenty minutes or so that we were gone, I felt like I went from early labor to transition type contractions. As we neared our return, I could feel the baby pushing down lower. I told Tim that we had to get back quickly, or I would end up having the baby on the side of the road!
We returned to a welcoming house full of warmth and light and cheerful activity. Jen had prepared for the birth by pulling out supplies and monitoring the tub’s filling. Michelle had pulled the dinner out of the oven. Emily had arrived and was ready with her camera. Michelle was surprised by how much stronger my contractions were, and Jen asked me when I wanted to get into the pool. I replied that I was ready when the tub was.
(All labor, birth, and newborn photos to follow courtesy of Emily from Sweet Moments Doula & Birth Photography. Used with permission.)
Jen had a quick listen to the baby, and then I went to use the bathroom before getting in the pool. As soon as I sat down on the toilet, I felt that familiar pressure of the baby getting ready to be born. One heavy contraction passed. I tried to get up and another came on quickly. I attempted rising again and a third slammed me back down. I kept humming and breathing my way through them as best as I could. They were right on top of each other now, and I knew I had to make it out of the bathroom if I wanted to avoid a toilet birth.
I finally made it out of the bathroom. Jen asked me if I wanted to wear anything specific in the birth pool, and I told her yes, a sports bra and a tank top. She told me that I might want to go get that on if I wanted it. Yes, yes, I knew that, and I was trying, but I just couldn’t get a break between those contractions… Michelle offered to go get it, and I told her no- that going up the stairs would be good for me. But the stairs stopped me in my tracks again. Each step I tried to take stimulated another hard contraction, and I finally shouted at Tim to “just go!” and fetch my clothes for me.
At last, I got changed and made it into the pool. Jen asked me if it felt any better in the water, and I told her that I thought maybe it did, but I remember feeling disappointed that the water wasn’t hotter. In hindsight I recognized that of course I couldn’t birth a baby into Jacuzzi water temperatures, but it was still a let-down.
At this point the labor became a bit of an out-of-body experience. I kept humming with Tim through each contraction, but I knew that I would have to push soon. I thought to myself, this is why women get epidurals. Can I just wake up when it’s over? It wasn’t so much the pain that was overwhelming as the sheer intensity of it all. My hum turned into a low moan as I felt the baby begin to descend into the birth canal. Before the next contraction began I quickly told Tim, “no more song.” He said, “Okay,” and sat faithfully at the side of the pool by my head. J came in and out of the room a couple of times, wanting to show me a paper butterfly from his bug book. He seemed generally unfazed by my strange behavior, as we had prepared him in advance for the sights and sounds that accompany hard labor. I asked if we had towels for the baby once it was born. Yes, Jen had already done that. I asked if they had a garbage can for me in case I puked. No, but Tim scurried upstairs to fetch one. The doula in me was going through a mental checklist of necessities.
Now I had to keep a low moan sustained through each contraction. “I’mmmmmm gonna puuuuuuuush….” I groaned as I heard myself making those familiar grunty sounds.
“Okay, go ahead,” said Jen. And everyone attended me patiently and quietly.
Oh, what a simultaneously glorious and dreadful feeling it is to push a baby out! There’s nothing quite as satisfying, because you know that you’re almost done and you’ll get to meet your precious new life very soon. But there’s also nothing quite as terrifying because you know there’s just no way around it. You don’t want to do it because you know it’s going to hurt badly, but if you don’t just do it you’re going to remain in this pain even longer. So you have to just buckle down and sweat and grunt and moan and let it happen. With my son, I hadn’t felt an urge to push until the very end. And with this baby, I felt the urge overtaking me without my consent. It was like a freight train. Like throwing up, only throwing down.
I was so conscious of everything. I could feel the baby’s descent, and I briefly thought about forcing harder to get it done with. But then I thought, no, you’ll tear. Slow down. It won’t be long. Slow down and breathe. I kept saying, “I’m sorry if I poop!” but everyone assured me that it didn’t matter if I did. (Miraculously, I didn’t.)
There was a sudden sharp pop and gush as my water broke. This was much less pleasant than I remembered it. It wasn’t long before I realized that Tim was in the pool with me. It must be close or he wouldn’t be in here yet. Jen told me gently to slow down.
“I’m trying!” I responded. Then self-doubt flooded me. “Am I doing okay? Am I doing good?” I breathed. (I mentally reminded myself that it should have been, “Am I doing well?”)
“Yes, Abi,” she affirmed me warmly. “You’re doing good.” (She didn’t correct my grammar, bless her.)
And much sooner than I expected, I felt that surreal stretch as the baby crowned- I held it there for just a moment- and oh! The head was out!
“Oh, that’s SO much better!” I exclaimed.
Jen and Tim remarked that there was a lot of hair. Suddenly there was an unexpected sharp pain.
“Whoa!” cried Jen and Tim together. “That’s a hand!” added Jen. It turns out that pain was my baby trying to “swim” its way out with a nuchal hand by its face.
And suddenly Jen was lifting me up onto my hands and knees, saying, “Okay, let’s get you out of the water.” I mentally jumped to a shoulder dystocia diagnosis, but then just as quickly as I got up out of the water the baby slid out the rest of the way. (It turns out the baby was just about to try to breathe underwater, so that’s why Jen lifted me up. Phew, no major obstetrical emergencies here!) She was born at 7:12 p.m., and I had only pushed for 12 minutes.
I was eager to see this baby, so I sat back against the pool wall as quickly as I could. Tim and Jen brought the child to my chest and covered it with a towel. I admired our new little life, stroking its hair, rubbing in the vernix, quietly saying, “Hello, baby, you’re beautiful.” Tim leaned over my shoulder and gazed into those bright blue-grey eyes and smiled.
“What is your baby, dad?” Jen asked.
We both realized that in the joy of meeting our child, we forgot to check the gender! Tim peeked up under the towel and announced that it was a girl!
She was still and calm and alert. She had only let out one little cry when she was lifted out of the water to be put on my chest. I was concerned about whether or not she was okay because she wasn’t crying, but Jen assured me that her breathing, heart rate, and color were perfect. She told us that water babies are often calm and quiet when they are born.
J came trotting in, followed by Michelle. (She had been watching him and playing with him in the living room.) He came up to Tim and the two of them shared a great big hug. We showed him his sister, and told him that the baby had come out and it was a little girl! He approached cautiously and looked at her coolly from across the pool. We didn’t force him to come closer- we figured he would do that in his own time. He seemed generally happy enough, however, and went back to playing as we continued to greet our little one.
Our baby girl began rooting, so I took off my tank top and tried to help her find the breast. She latched quickly and knew just what to do! As she was nursing, we watched for any bleeding and checked on the cord. Michelle began calling family members to share the good news.
Probably about 15- 20 minutes after birth, the cord had completely stopped pulsing. We invited J to help cut the cord (this was something we had talked about before the birth). At first he was excited- “With scissors?” he asked. Then when he saw that he had to come up close to the pool and his baby sister to use them, he said, “No thank you!” We laughed and told him he didn’t have to help, and Tim physically separated baby and mama for the first time with a snip.
Thankfully, the placenta came out with no problems, and I lost significantly less blood than I had with J! (I had lost about 900 ccs with him, and only 300 with this baby. 500 ccs is about average for a vaginal birth.) Tim took our baby girl while Jen helped me get to the shower to clean up.
Soon, our new family was snuggled on the roll-out mattress we had brought downstairs for the birth. Jen performed a full newborn exam and pronounced our little girl 8 lbs., 9 oz. and 20.5” long! She had a 14” head circumference, just like her brother. I continued nursing her skin to skin under a blanket while Jen went over postpartum information with us.
Afterwards, Tim helped to dress the baby and I in comfortable pajamas. J wanted to have his little sister laid on his belly so he could hold her. He was finally smiling at her and wanting to see her- and he hasn’t stopped since! After warm hugs and thank you’s all around, Michelle, Jen, and Emily made their separate ways home.
My family came shortly thereafter, and got to meet their new granddaughter- as well as help put J to bed! Unfortunately, Tim’s parents were on vacation with West coast family at the time, but they came in to meet her as soon as they arrived home a couple of days later.
As we reflected on the birth, we were amazed by how different it had been from J’s. His was a steady 14 hours of labor, but this baby’s- little V’s- was only about 8 hours total. Less than two hours of that had any pain, and only about a half hour at the end was truly difficult. I don’t entirely know why this was (though I have my theories), but I’m very thankful for the experience of an almost pain-free labor.
V has been a true joy to us. We are enjoying getting to know her little personality and learning more about her each day. I am reminded by her birth and life so far that time does go so quickly, and that it is most important to soak up every minute with your children and fill each day with love for them. Before I know it, years will fly by, and they will be grown and gone. If anything, our daughter’s life has increased my love for both her and J deeply.
I am grateful for my wonderful midwife who cared for me physically and personally during this pregnancy and birth. I am grateful for an excellent birth team who came just at the right time and was so helpful to us. I am grateful for a loving and supportive husband- I could never fulfill my role as wife and mother without his patient and gracious help. I am grateful for my two sweet children, who we love more than the world. We are so, so blessed in every way. Praise God for his gracious gifts!
It’s getting close to my daughter’s second birthday, and I’m only three short months away from having my third baby. I’ve been itching to get my mind back around all things birth to prepare myself for labor- and also because I really enjoy the topic.
Over the next week or two, I will share my son and daughter’s birth stories. While these were posted on my old blog, the content was written for us to remember the birth. I kept it PG, but remember, I’m a birth doula- so these things seem pretty normal to me. Read at your own risk. 😉
“Homebirth? That’s great for them, if they really want to do it- but not for me,” I thought. I had a friend who had birthed all three of her children at the time at home, and things always went well for her. I respected her decision, but I always assumed that when I was pregnant one day, I would just go to the hospital- it was the automatic thing to do.
On January 20th, 2010, two blue lines showed up on the stick I bought from Target. I stared at it in disbelief- even though I knew it was a strong possibility, I still had told myself it would probably come up negative. I told Tim on his two o’clock break at work, and over the next several days (and weeks) we flew through a whirlwind of emotions. We felt thrilled and incredibly blessed to have a child on the way, but also overwhelmed by the number of decisions to be made and the coming responsibility of parenthood.
The most immediate decision to be made was that of health care for the baby and me. We hadn’t had insurance since we were married, and we quickly discovered that most insurance companies wouldn’t pick us up because of my “pre-existing condition.” There was no way we could afford the monthly payments of private insurance, and we were told that we didn’t qualify for medical assistance. Thus, we began to search out our options. We started by looking at pricing alone, and we were floored by the cost of hospital births. An uncomplicated vaginal birth could easily cost over ten thousand dollars, and sometimes much more than that. This discouraging reality caused us to look into the possibility of other options. Birthing centers looked like a feasible option, and there was one in Wilkes Barre, not too far from us; but, what about homebirth?
We decided that homebirth was at least worth some research before we disregarded the option entirely. We talked to our friend who delivered all of her babies at home, and the more we discussed the matter, the less crazy it seemed. We began looking up information and various studies on homebirth. Surprisingly, we discovered that homebirth with qualified attendants was statistically just as safe as hospital births for low-risk women. Women planning a homebirth had a low transfer rate to the hospital, were much less likely to receive unnecessary interventions, and the rate of c-sections were significantly lower. There was no difference in the outcomes of the babies between home and hospital births. Also, it seemed that the consensus among the testimony of women who had homebirths was that they had a positive experience and wanted to have homebirths again in the future.
The research drove us forward- we would call Jen, the midwife our friend had birthed her last baby with. We had a free consultation visit with her, and she really impressed us with her knowledge, skill, and experience. She discussed the advantages and possible risks of homebirth with us, and was very honest and open. She did not try to sell herself- she told us that if we chose a homebirth, we had to really be comfortable with the decision. It was then that we confirmed two things: First, that homebirths really were safe for low-risk women. Jen was well prepared to deal with the majority of “what-ifs” of birth, and most “what-ifs” she couldn’t personally handle were things that could generally be caught well ahead of time. There were very few things that actually required emergency transfer to the hospital, to which we lived very close. Secondly, homebirths agreed with my own philosophy of birth. I wanted an all-natural birth where I could fully experience labor, be entirely mentally there for the birth of my child, and be free to make informed decisions regarding the birth. Once these two issues were settled in our minds, we decided to go ahead with homebirth and chose Jen as our midwife.
Over and over during my prenatal care we felt again and again that we had made the right decision. I was excited about homebirth, and the more reading and research we did, the more I felt prepared for the birth. Jen was always warm and welcoming, and we looked forward to every appointment. We also got to work with two wonderful assistants during this time- Monica, from whom we took childbirth classes, and Nicole, who attended our birth. We felt that each one of these qualified women cared for us personally and professionally, and we developed friendships with each of them over the course of our care. We discovered the value of having a supportive, loving relationship with our caregivers. We were going into one of the most personal events of our lives, and it only made sense to have people there who we trusted and felt comfortable with. We knew that we were in the best possible hands, and we could hardly wait for the day of our baby’s birth!
(Photo Credit- Sarah Mitchell)
At forty weeks and five days, I was having Braxton Hicks contractions all day. No big deal, I had been having them for probably a month already, and they never went anywhere. We had our weekly appointment at my home and Tim and I went out shopping at a local health food store that night and bought evening primrose oil in hopes that it might get things moving.
At forty weeks and six days, October 5th, 2010, I woke up having to use the bathroom- nothing unusual for a woman great with child. I laid back down, and after a few minutes I noticed a contraction that was accompanied by strong cramping this time. Hmmm…. 2:45 a.m. Maybe I would keep track. Another at 2:52. Another at 2:59. So it continued, six or seven minutes apart for an hour. I woke Tim. “It’s birth day,” I told him. We were both so excited, we couldn’t heed Jen’s advice to get some sleep in the early stages.
The contractions were about five minutes apart and lasting about a minute long for a little over an hour. I started having diarrhea and bloody show. We called Jen to let her know I was in labor, and she sent Nicole on her way to check me out. In the meantime, Tim called our parents to tell them things were finally cooking and ran around setting up our birthing pool and pulling out our birth kit. I, in the meantime, was having contractions in the bathroom and throwing up. Nicole arrived with the sunrise, with Jen following shortly after. They told me sometimes there was a mini-transition period between three and four centimeters dilated, and that may have caused the vomiting.
We drifted through the hours during early labor. I couldn’t sit or lay back, because the baby’s head was on my tailbone. I continued to lean forward over the couch, chairs, countertops, or whatever I could find. Going on hands and knees became a favorite during contractions. I tried to remember what a lady at church had told me- just keep breathing, no matter what. The contractions were definitely still manageable, but I was nervous about how bad they would get before it was over. Jen, Nicole, and I tried to nap and rest as the hours went on, since we knew that there would be no sleep later.
Tim, on the other hand, was working on filling the birthing pool. This turned into quite the event. He ran the water very hot so it would stay warm for when it was time for me to get in it in later labor. However, we ran into a problem- the house we live in had been vacant for three years before we moved in, and apparently the bottom of the hot water heater was rusty. We didn’t know because we had never tried to run such a large quantity of hot water before. When we saw the rusty water, we knew we didn’t want to birth our baby in that! First, Tim bucketed out the majority of water, then tried to use his drill pump to finish the job. In the end, he decided to drive to the farm’s annex to borrow a small pump, as that would be more efficient at emptying the pool. When he returned, we walked up to the barn together to get an appropriate length of hose to attach to the pump. When we returned, Tim hooked it up and immediately found that it was cracked. Nothing that duct-tape couldn’t fix! Tim was finally able to dutifully empty the pool.
We were still determined to have a water birth, so we thought that maybe we could try boiling clear, cool water to fill the pool. Jen and Nicole were doubtful, but we decided to give it a shot. I went to the shower upstairs for relief while the saga of the pool continued downstairs. The hot water running over my back felt so good to ease the pressure of contractions! After about an hour in the shower, we finally conceded that the pool would take way too much water to try and heat by boiling. Empty the pool went again, and we decided we would just have to have a “land birth” instead of our water birth.
Jen suggested I eat something light with protein, and then that we go take a walk to get the contractions longer and harder and closer together. She said that I needed to change the way I was thinking about the pain. Instead of tensing up and dreading each contraction, I needed to think, “Oh boy! Here comes a good one!” This sounded easier said than done, but I knew if we ever wanted to meet the baby we had to try to progress things a bit. They said the more I could move my hips, the better labor would progress and the more likelihood that the baby would get off my tailbone. We had to walk for at least twenty minutes. I had a few bites of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and then I put on my polka-dotted galoshes and green hoodie to go outside to the autumn rain with Tim.
I will always remember that walk as a sacred time together before the birth of our baby. It was 12:50 pm when we went out. He took my hand and around the yard we went, up the hill, down the hill, around the back, circle the fire pit, around the side, up the steps, through the barn, down the hill… During pregnancy we had taken walks together, and Tim would always sing songs and say that we had to “keep the pace” by stepping to the beat. Now during this final walk as a solitary couple, Tim was still encouraging me to keep the pace. He sang old gospel hymns, cheery marches, and even “Jingle Bells” with enthusiasm. The contractions, however, were now coming on in waves that rocked my whole body. Every time they came, all I could do was lean my weight onto Tim’s forearms and breathe- hard. Keeping the pace seemed next to impossible now, but Tim would slow down his songs to my pace. We gently rocked our hips back and forth together. Occasionally as a contraction came on, Tim would ask quietly, “Is this a good one coming?” I would force myself to try to relax my eyebrows, fake smile, and say, “Oh yeah, really good!” while I just kept inhaling and exhaling. It’s true what they say about “zoning in” during labor. I remember now the wet leaves, the cool air, the steady drips coming down onto us, Tim’s strong arms that I squeezed, the smell of dirt and trees and grass brought out by the rain, how my body heated during each contraction, how tired I was, how I told Tim that we would have the rest of our children by adoption, how I didn’t think I could stand having the contractions any longer and harder and closer together…
It took us thirty minutes to go around the house three times. We decided we could go inside.
Bathroom time again. I kept feeling like I had to have a bowel movement, but it wasn’t coming. It occurred to me that this was something I should tell Jen. When I reported the sensation, she stopped and said, “Hmmm… let’s check you. We might be pleasantly surprised.” Tim put on some tea while Jen, Nicole, and I transported everything to the bedroom upstairs. Jen did an internal examination and happily announced, “You’re a ten. You’ve got no cervix at all- you’re ready to push!” Tim came up the stairs with two mugs of tea just in time to hear this delightful news. Apparently our walking and dancing outside had gotten me through transition without us knowing it.
I didn’t feel that uncontrollable urge to push that some women describe- in fact, I wasn’t even sure exactly what to do at first. Jen let me try for a little while I was sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning forward onto the birth ball. Contractions made me warm, but my feet were very cold. Nicole got me some funny knitted socks with character faces on them out of my drawer to warm my feet. After a bit, Jen suggested I empty my bladder and try pushing on the toilet, because the association helps some women get the appropriate sensation. Tim and I went into the bathroom and I tried pushing through a contraction. The position did help me start to get the idea, but as I didn’t want to deliver my baby on the toilet, we returned to the bedroom. We asked Jen to try her birth stool since it put me in the same position.
After a little while of trying to push on the birth stool, Jen asked me if I would like for her to put her fingers where I needed to push to help give me some direction. I told her yes, seeing as I wasn’t making much progress on my own. Once I felt her fingers, I felt that I knew much better where to direct my pushing energy. She put a mirror underneath of me so I could watch my progress. She began to help me push for longer stretches by counting to ten and asking me to push for the duration. At some point a low yell traveled up from my chest and came out of my mouth. It surprised me to hear it coming out so involuntarily, but it felt right, so I let it come. At some point during this process, there was a sudden pop! My water burst in a startling gush and made us all jump. Wow, that was a change in pressure! It took me a few contractions to gather myself to approach pushing again.
We continued to try other things, as the baby wasn’t coming down too quickly. I stood up a few times, hanging on to Tim and pushing, sometimes semi-squatting. The intensity was almost too much, so I returned to sitting on the stool. I was extremely hot, so Nicole kept bringing me cool washcloths for my neck. I would heat them up within minutes and she would refresh them. Jen encouraged me to reach up and feel the baby’s head inside of me. I tried it- my goodness! There really was a baby in there that was on his way out! This was my first physical contact with the little person that God had been faithfully growing inside of me for nine months. I could hardly believe it. Feeling his head also finally made something click with the pushing. Now I could tell when a push was effective and when it wasn’t, because I could feel when his head moved down. I discovered that when I thought I had been pushing as hard as I could, I had to plow past that threshold to really get him to move.
The birth stool started to get uncomfortable. To the bed we went again, waddling on the way. (It’s hard to walk with a baby on his way out!) Hands and knees still felt best, so I returned to that position while Tim sat in front of me stabilizing the birth ball, letting me lean over onto him as I needed. Things really began to get intense at this point. With each contraction, I pushed and let the yelling propel my energy forward. Each bellow seemed to give me a little more physical strength. The baby was coming closer ever so slowly. I was opening up, little by little, and Jen was steadily encouraging me from behind. Tim remembered last minute that his private music students were supposed to come to the house at 5:00, and it was 4:30 already. Thankfully, Nicole took his phone and called them to tell them not to come.
It turned out the phone call was just in time- suddenly, there came upon me the most extraordinary burning sensation as the baby’s head started to crown. Out, out, out, I thought! But at the end of each contraction, he would pop back in, jarring my insides. Each searing stretch caused my yell to rise in pitch as the pain became more overwhelming. Nicole reminded me to try to keep my vocalizing low, as it would help me to stay grounded and in control. Every time we thought the baby was about to crown, he would slide back inside again. I would touch him each time he came close. I was getting disheartened, thinking he would never come out, but Jen was my cheerleader. With each contraction, she would enthusiastically cry, “Good, Abi, good! Big breath, right back at it! Yes, yes, yes! Push, momma, push, keep going!” Tim was rooted and steady in front of me. I remember most his warmth and the scruff on his face and eyes looking at mine and him saying I was doing so well, even though I didn’t feel like it then. He was my strong pillar.
Then, it happened. I was absolutely on fire, a surreal and agonizing and excruciating stretch… I was as open as I could be, my vocalization lost control, and his crowning head finally pushed out. Time stood still. I was panting, looking down at my round belly for the last time. “Let’s see… eyes, and a nose, and a mouth…” murmured Jen. Tim was under me, my chest leaning over his back, his arms outstretched to catch our baby, tears streaming down his face. I don’t even know if I waited for another contraction. With a final great push, our little one slid out into Tim’s hands, slimy and slippery and covered in water and blood.
His spirited cries filled the air, and I looked down and exclaimed, “We have a boy!” Suddenly, the fact that I had been pregnant all this time, the knowledge that we were going to have a child, the understanding that I was carrying another soul made sense when I saw him. Finally, our long anticipated blessing was here. I cannot describe the love and wonder and absolute amazement of seeing this little one for the first time. He truly was a bundle of joy, and I truly did forget the pain as soon as I set eyes on him. We had a son, born at 4:55 p.m. He was finally here, and we finally got to meet him after all this time.
I laid back on the bed and they laid our baby on my abdomen. His cord was short, so he couldn’t reach me to nurse just yet. I was bleeding quite a bit. Normally, the nursing helps the uterus contract, stop the bleeding, and release the placenta. Since I couldn’t yet nurse, Nicole gave me an herbal remedy to try first for the bleeding. Shortly after, Jen gave me a shot of Pitocin to help. A few minutes later, our baby’s cord stopped pulsing, and it was time to cut it. Tim got to do the honors, and our baby was physically separated from me for the first time. Jen gently pushed on my tummy to help the placenta come out, and with a little push, it slid right out with little effort. The bleeding did slow down enough, and everyone was doing just fine.
Our little son could now reach the breast, and we pulled him up and let him try nursing. It was completely new for both of us. I had to really focus on finally relaxing my muscles after the labor- I didn’t want any tension for our first bonding. He had a couple good latches after a while of trying, and we knew we would both do fine with some practice. Tim and I laid there for probably about an hour, marveling at our son and praising God that all went well.
Nicole helped me take a shower and Jen and Tim gave our baby his first sponge bath over the sink. Jen and Nicole cleaned everything up for us. I got checked, and I had no tears- only a few skid marks and some swelling. Our little boy had his first tests, which he passed with flying colors, and his first measurements- he was twenty-one inches long. He took a ride in Jen’s sling-scale, and he weighed in at nine pounds, four ounces! We could hardly believe he was that big! Our family came about two and a half hours after he was born- everyone oohed and ahhed, and we made sure to get a picture with Jen and Nicole before they left.
From when I felt the first contraction to when our son was born, I was in labor just over fourteen hours and pushed for about three and a half. It was definitely the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life, but also the single best experience of my life. I am so grateful to God for the blessing of the birth of our son. It was He who provided the strength and courage I needed. All three of the caregivers we worked with over the course of my pregnancy were absolutely priceless and I am very thankful to them. As long as I am in good health, I have the choice, and God is willing, I hope to always be able to give birth in this way at home. Would I have another? Although I’m not thinking about it right now, absolutely I would. But as for now, my wonderful husband and I are enjoying the amazing blessing of having a son. Each day we are learning more how to be parents, discovering more of our son’s wonderful tiny traits, and falling more and more in love with this precious little one. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! His gifts are truly good.