Part 1: Prodromal Labor
After months of discomfort from SPD and sciatica, as well as nausea and the overall exhaustion, I finally hit 37 weeks and could relax. My daughter could safely be born anytime at home, as planned, and though I’d had a rough pregnancy there were no complications. My midwife was completely supportive of my plans, I had a doula, I had my husband and I had my small support network of friends. It was at this time that I first started having back pains, more nausea, and generally I felt “off” as if labor would start soon. I monitored these symptoms, but didn’t think too much of them. At 37 weeks and 4 days I had some more nausea, and the next morning I woke at 6am with a terrible back ache that felt like early labor pains. I tried to ignore them and crawled into the queen size bed I often shared with my son until 9am when they became more insistent than before. So I got up and went into the master bedroom to tell my husband that things might be starting soon. He asked if I needed to call my doula yet and I told him no, because I was sure things were still too early. But I DID want to get the rest of our home birth supplies, clean up the main areas of the house, and basically prepare our home for the birth. The pains were steady and constant throughout half the day, and I did my best to just ignore them and clean up the house. I swept, picked up clutter, washed dishes, and brought all the linens into our bedroom from where they’d been stashed in my son’s room. I put a plastic cover on the mattress in his room and double made the bed, just in case. I didn’t anticipate my water breaking as it hadn’t broken until he crowned, but as this pregnancy was SO different I decided it was better safe than sorry. Through all this nesting my pains didn’t increase until 6pm, exactly 12 hours after they’d first started. I guessed that things would pick up again in 6-12 hours. My cervix was very much posterior, I had not yet lost my mucus plug, and I had no bloody show, so I was pretty certain that I was still in very early labor or possibly pre-labor like I had been with my son. I could be days, even a week away from active labor. So I took two Tylenol and a Gravol and went to sleep.
At 6am I awoke to period-like cramps. They remained consistent and I was quite nauseous. I ate some scrambled eggs and did my best to just go about my day, resting and eating when I felt the need. I texted my doula to let her know what was going on, but told her I didn’t need her to come out yet as it was still early. At 9am the pains were a little stronger. I took a nap and my husband finished up cleaning the house and putting up the sheet near our front entrance to our living room for privacy. We checked off the last of the supplies and bought some more groceries. I rested comfortably but at 3pm I couldn’t sleep anymore. The pains had increased and I felt that these were just not going to go away. I called my sister and told her that it might be a good idea for her to come take our son for the night, as he was getting anxious and I might go into full-blown labor. She took him at 6pm and I was sitting on my birth ball, trying to take my mind off the pain in my back, hips, legs, and abdomen. At 9pm they again became stronger. My husband and I watched a movie to take my mind off it, and because our son wasn’t home we took his mattress out of the bedroom and placed it on the floor of our living room so I would have a more comfortable place to watch TV or a movie and cuddle with my husband. We went to bed and at 3am contractions had become harder to ignore. I timed them as 5 contractions in 10 minutes, because they were irregular in their intensity but definitely getting closer together. By 6am they had become 4 contractions in 10 minutes. I texted my doula and told her that she might need to come out soon, if only to bring the last of our birth supplies and the pool liner to start setting up the pool. Upon checking myself I noted that my cervix was still posterior and I could barely reach it. There was no bloody show, but my mucus plug was starting to come loose. I figured labor was days away, but with the intensity of the contractions it was best to send my son to his grandmother’s as my sister had to go back to work. So around 4 pm she brought him back, my doula went home to feed her kids dinner, and by this time my contractions had started to slow down anyway so I could eat and get some rest. I spent some time with my son, having him look through baby clothes with me and talking to him about his baby sister. It was peaceful having him home, but I knew that he was also getting anxious and that it was best he go with grandma. So she picked him up at 6pm and I spent the rest of the night with my husband. We watched another movie, went to bed, and even made love to try to get things going.
Things had slowed down completely by morning. I was still having some pains, but nothing had shifted and I accepted that like the last time with my son, this wasn’t it. Besides, I was only 38 weeks and it was best to wait another week anyway. So we brought my son home and I slept with him in the master bedroom, while my husband took the bed in the living room so as not to disturb me. It made the most sense as the bed in my son’s room had a very high bed frame and with my SPD it was hard for me to get out of bed to use the bathroom. The master bedroom however had a low mattress and an ensuite bathroom, which made it easier for me in those last few weeks. By Thursday, contractions had completely stopped. I consulted with my midwife on whether it was best to just go back to my normal routine and watch my sister’s kids during the day, and she agreed that I should maintain normalcy. So on Friday the kids came back and I resumed life as normal.
That weekend I had on and off cramps and contractions, but nothing had really changed. I accepted that I was in prodromal labor and simply chose to ignore it when I could and just do my breathing and exercises with the rebozo sifting to try to make myself more comfortable. I decided that I wouldn’t be in labor for real until I had my bloody show. For the next several days things alternated between back pain, cramping, contractions, nausea, and exhaustion. I rested as much as I could during the day and nested when I had the desire to do so. At 39 weeks I started having more nausea and exhaustion. I ignored it best as I could. There was NO way this kid was coming on Easter Weekend; I reasoned with myself. I was extremely tired though that weekend, and I slept for most of it. Contractions were mostly in my back and made me sweat. I felt that another week of this was likely in store for me, but I texted my doula, told her that I was still in prodromal labor, and that I was at least coping well. I was fast approaching my due date, and I was getting antsy. Would I have my daughter this week, or would she arrive at 41 weeks like my son? I wasn’t so sure I liked the idea of having her a week “late” anymore; all the prodromal labor had really been frustrating me, and even though I was more informed than most women and had a vast support network of women who believed in birth and were cheering me on, it was still exhausting emotionally. I was ready for this baby. I continued to drink my red raspberry leaf tea every night and dutifully took my vitamins. I had my husband do some rebozo sifting just to get her to move off my bad sciatic nerve and give me some relief. On Monday, the cramping had stopped once again.
Part 2: Nesting, Early Labor, and Finally Active
Monday morning, the day before my due date, I woke with a lot of energy. I had this overwhelming desire to clean up the house, and once again make preparations for this birth that I was so sure was a week away. But I just couldn’t shake that feeling that I needed to prepare anyway, so I cleared off the clutter on the kitchen table, washed dishes, washed the towels and linens, and made a quick grocery list of items I felt I needed, including more Powerade. When my husband told me “but we have 3 bottles in the fridge still” I told him that we needed more. I reasoned that IF this baby came over the weekend, then I would need every ounce of those drinks for hydration in labor AND for breastfeeding afterward. So he went out and bought everything on the list and I set to work on organizing the last of the supplies in the closet. Labor didn’t start that night, although I did start to feel very nauseated the next morning. I spent most of the day lying on the mattress in the living room while my son, niece, and nephew played and watched their shows on Netflix. Thankfully my sister had an appointment that day, so she picked the kids up early, just after lunch, giving me only six hours of babysitting instead of the usual ten. This freed me up to go to my son’s swimming lessons. By that time I just had some cramping in my back and I was still nauseated, but it was manageable. I figured that labor was still a week away, so I did my best to just ignore it, but after WEEKS of prodromal labor I also gave my daughter a few pep talks, telling her that it was time to come out. Her due date had arrived, and her time was officially up. Mama was tired, Daddy was more than a little worried, and her big brother was getting anxious and wanted to meet his baby sister whom he’d seen growing in my belly for so many months. I went to bed that night with the same dull back cramps and nausea, drank my tea, curled up with my son and went to sleep.
At 3am I awoke to some sharp contractions, lasting about a minute long. I tried to breathe through them and go back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I texted my sister to let her know not to bring the kids. This was the text I sent at 3:28 am:
Ow. Ow. Ow. Can’t sleep through these. Keep trying but not working. Also nauseous. I think this is it. Will see how things are at 7am.
I also texted my doula at 5:04 am:
I haven’t been able to sleep since 3am. Tried many times but just can’t sleep through these. Still about 7-10 minutes apart, but there is a sharp point to all of them. I think I remember this. Tightening in my pelvis mostly, and have gotten stronger over the last few hours. Waiting until 7am to see how much stronger, but pretty sure this is a shift now.
By this point I was hungry, and lying in bed was just too uncomfortable. I had tried to time the contractions, but they were so irregular that I soon gave up and just downloaded an app. I timed them by each contraction that had an actual peak, meaning that I basically ignored the early start of each one and didn’t have an actual idea of how long they were. However, based on the seven contractions the app had timed, it suddenly popped up on the screen “Go to the hospital”. I rolled my eyes, because obviously I wasn’t going to go to the hospital AT ALL! And besides that, the app said they were only seven minutes apart. That was still early labor. If this app was telling women to go to the hospital so early then it was clearly a stupid app and I wasn’t going to use it anymore. Instead of “going to the hospital” I just got up out of bed and grabbed the other half of my sandwich from the night before. My husband was sleeping on the mattress in the living room and asked me what was wrong.
“I can’t sleep,” I said. “And I’m really hungry.”
“Come lie down with me?” he asked, patting the side of the bed and pulling back the blankets.
“After I eat,” I told him.
I finished a few bites of my sandwich, but since I still felt sick I couldn’t eat the whole thing, so I put it back in the fridge. Then I climbed into bed. As if my husband had read my mind, he started to initiate sex and while I still had contractions they were just strong pressure in my belly and didn’t hurt anymore. I was able to get twenty minutes of sleep before they started up again. It was 6:30 and I had thought it had been closer to 7am.
“Any change?” he asked. It was one of the most constant questions in our home since my prodromal labor had started. We had started to mark my “progress” by whether or not anything had changed from what I’d already been through. I said I wasn’t sure. But they WERE sharp. I was getting nauseous again and while I felt it was still early, I suggested that my husband set up the pool.
“Should I go to work?” he asked. I wasn’t sure. I told him that I would text my doula after texting my sister, because obviously if things were this strong then it was likely that I wouldn’t be able to watch her kids that morning and she needed to know before 7am.
Me: OWWWW. Yeah, it’s labor. Not sure how fast it’s gonna be, but this is not easing up AT ALL. I maybe got 10-20 minutes of sleep and only because Ty helped get my mind off it at 5:30.
Me: F-ing hurts. I forgot this. And I think I need to time them again. Feel like they are closer.
And how can I be hungry an hour ago and then get nauseated again? This sucks.
I continued to deal with the intensity, all the while my husband was setting up the pool. While he did that I climbed back into the bed. Our son woke up in the bedroom, calling for me. My husband brought him out and asked him if he could cuddle with mommy, because she was hurting. I was grateful that he could read my mind; I felt I really needed a distraction, and cuddling up with our sleepy firstborn was a good one. But the contractions kept coming and I couldn’t lie still for long. My sister continued to text me, asking whether I’d had a bath. Telling me that she went through this with her daughter too, and had her by 11am. I told her that I had long labors and that wasn’t bloody likely, but that this hurt a lot and it sucked, and I probably had hours to go before I even hit active labor. I texted my doula and told her what was going on and that my husband was setting up the pool. I also said that he was going to go to work, but that I would need her help while he was gone, just so I wasn’t alone with my son and things got too intense. Right after I sent that text, I felt so nauseous that I ran to the bathroom and dry-heaved into the toilet. Because of the force of the heaving I had toilet paper between my legs to catch any stray urine that might be leaking at the same time, and when the heaving finally stopped and I wiped myself, the tissue was streaked with pink mucous. My bloody show had arrived at last. This was it.
I came out of the bathroom and told my husband that I had my “show” and that I was going to text my doula again. He was hesitant to go to work, so I asked her what she would suggest. Because he would only be ten minutes away and she’d be here with me, she said he should go work as much as he could, if only for a few hours. He would be home for lunch, at which time we would decide if he could finish up the day or stay home with me. I distracted myself by fixing myself and my son some oatmeal, watering mine down so that it would at least go down easier. I prayed that I wouldn’t throw it up; I was still extremely nauseous with every contraction. I sat on a white towel on the bed, so that any show would be visible, and so I wouldn’t get it all over the sheets as I lay down to rest when I needed to, and sit up when I needed to. I found that I had to change positions several times, often a different position through every contraction. The pain of them would dissipate if I found the “right” position, but the intensity and pressure remained. My son rubbed my back and talked to me, telling me it was “okay mummy” and I did my best to smile for him. I didn’t want him to be afraid; this was what I wanted him to see—that birth wasn’t scary. That birth was natural and that mommy was strong. That thought got me through the tougher parts of the contraction. I’d breathe deeply, sometimes moan, but for the most part I was in my “labor trance”. My female cat was going insane at the door, scratching and meowing as if she wanted to assist me. She had gone berserk the day before as well, as if she could sense that I was in labor. It was even more proof that she shared that mother-bond with me, and since I’d been there for her labor and birth (as if she gave me a choice; she wouldn’t let me leave the bedroom) she felt I needed her at mine. It would have been amusing if I wasn’t already in so much discomfort.
My doula arrived a little after 8:30 and let herself in with the house key we’d lent her. I was sitting on the ball at this point, trying to take some of the pressure off my legs. We did some more side lying inversions and did what we could to help position my daughter and take pressure off my back and hips, but she remained fixed in where she wanted to be, and since my labor seemed to be progressing at least we decided that we would just focus on making things as comfortable as we could. I labored some on the toilet, on the ball, standing up, sitting down, on my hands and knees…really, any position that felt right in the moment was the one I got into. My doula was a great support for my son in this time. She showed him how to “rub mommy’s back” and showed him the birth pool while at the same time keeping him from climbing into it.
I popped chicken strips in the oven for lunch and set the timer for 25 minutes on my phone so that we could go out into the front yard. My son needed to burn off some of his energy and it was a beautiful, warm spring day. I thought it was a perfect day to welcome my daughter into the world. I sat on my ball, did some swaying, and just enjoyed the sun. It had been months since I’d been able to fully enjoy being outside, and now that it was spring the sun had finally come out and I could walk; today my daughter had decided to give my poor nerves and muscles a break, and I was enjoying every second of my mobility. After the timer went off, we returned into the house for lunch. My husband came home soon after that, bringing with him a frozen lemonade for me and coffee for himself and our doula. He asked if there was any change, to which I told him that there WAS, but that it was still early enough that he could return to work. I just wanted him to put our son down for his nap first, because at this point lying down in bed sounded like torture. I had a midwife appointment that day at 3pm, which I wasn’t certain I would go to now that labor had started. We decided to go for a walk around the block while my husband put our son down, and as we walked I told my doula how much more relaxing this was. I was SO grateful that I wasn’t in hospital. I knew from my research that they would not have “liked” my labor pattern. They’d have pressured me to “do something” and speed it up. They would have wanted to hook me up to the monitors. But at home I was coping well even when the contractions were quite powerful, and I was free to do as I liked. I wasn’t on anyone’s clock or timeline, which meant that even if labor was long no one would really KNOW that except for me, my husband, and my doula.
At 2pm we had to make a decision; go to our appointment or call the midwife and let her know that labor had started. The thought of getting in the car was detestable; I’d been in the car in early labor with my son and it had been excruciating. I called the midwife clinic and got through to the receptionist, who then got my midwife on the phone. I told her what had been happening, mentioned that I had my bloody show, and while it was minimal it was still consistent. I told her that there was NO WAY I was climbing into the car at this point, and that unless things got very intense between now and 5pm when clinic hours were over I wouldn’t need her to come out right away. I just wanted to inform her because I was going to miss my appointment and simply re-schedule it for her to come out to the house after clinic instead. She said she’d be over by 5:30 to 6pm to check on me. My husband went back to work to finish up the day, and my doula stayed until 5pm when he got home. She went home to make dinner for her kids and said she’d be back later if the midwife said I was making progress.
When the midwife arrived she assessed my progress. She asked if she could check my cervix, which I had earlier decided I didn’t want, but now I was just too curious for my own good and I wanted to know. So I consented and she said I was 3-4 cms! I couldn’t believe it, because after checking myself earlier in the day I couldn’t even REACH my cervix. Things really WERE moving! I figured I would have my daughter by morning.
My husband came home from work soon afterward and when I told him that this was labor he took our son with him to the store to pick up some groceries and other things we might need for the next day or two, in case we were in for a long night. When he returned an hour later the midwife suggested we fill up the pool. I was SO relieved; I had been waiting to use this pool for weeks, and the thought of being able to relax in the deep, hot water sounded like heaven at that point. I texted my doula to let her know to come out; it was 7pm, exactly 12 hours from the time when my show had first started. My husband put our son to bed soon after the pool was filling up, and my doula arrived not long after that. I climbed into the pool and felt immediate relief! It was everything I’d imagined it would be, and while I was in there I felt another shift. The contractions were a lot stronger; some even pushing into my bottom. I could feel myself opening up through them, and I had to vocalize through them. I kept my sounds low, my mouth open, just as I’d read to do from all the natural birth articles and books I’d read over the last two years; it really DID help. When I needed to empty my bladder I would go to the toilet and sit through 3 or 4 contractions, and they’d become even more intense, almost like my body wanted me to push through them. I kept my pelvis open and very gently I would push enough for a trickle of urine to come out. It was so slow that my midwife had to ask me if I was peeing or if my water had broken. I assured her that hadn’t happened yet; I was hoping for a caul birth, after all. I didn’t want my water to break until I was at least pushing if it was to break at all.
By 9pm things started to slow down. I consented to another check, but it was so painful and I didn’t like it. I was still 3-4 cms and the midwife suggested we try to get things moving again. She had already called the hospital, and I was “on the clock”. Being that she was still newly certified she had to follow their “rules” and though everything with me and the baby was fine, she knew that if there wasn’t progress soon she would have no choice but to consult an OB. We all knew what would have happened then, and we were on our guard. I tried different positions and exercises, but the contractions didn’t seem to change in intensity and by midnight it was clear to everyone that I was getting tired. I was also hungry again, so I ate the leftover chicken strips, had some cut up strawberries while resting in the pool, and drank as much water as I could. My midwife checked me again and I was 5-6 cms during the contraction, but would then close back to 3-4 afterward. She knew that things would likely not progress any further; I was tired. I needed sleep, and my body was going to give it to me. She decided that this wasn’t labor; that I was still in prodromal labor and that once again my body had tricked us. I KNEW in my heart that this wasn’t true; I knew from my reading that my “abnormal” labor was just how my body did things, and that likely things would pick back up after a long rest. I’d been at this for 24 hours, I reasoned. My baby wasn’t stressed; the midwife confirmed that for me. I was fine; baby was fine. I agreed to take a Gravol and some Tylenol and go to bed. It was 2am and I had been laboring for 24 hours, possibly longer considering things had been strong when I’d gone to bed, but I hadn’t thought anything of the pelvic pressure at that point.
“If things DO pick up again AND you call me, I will have to assess you again,” my midwife said calmly. “If you haven’t progressed, then we will have to consult an OB, and I KNOW you don’t want to do this, but we might have to break your water and consider induction.”
I didn’t like that at all, and neither did my husband. We agreed that everyone would go home, get some rest, and I would sleep as long as possible. I climbed into bed and got a call around noon from my midwife. By this point I had decided that I would tell her things had stopped completely, and for now they had, so it was easy to pretend it had just been more prodromal labor. I grabbed my sandwich from the fridge, ate it in bed, then slept for a few more hours. My son was feeling sick, so he slept soundly beside me. At 2pm I finally got up. I had some very bad cramping and my cervix hurt a lot, which I simply attributed to the cervical checks I’d had the night before. I already regretted them, and I was angry at myself for having been so stupid as to think they’d “mean anything” in the first place!
My husband decided that he’d slept enough and went to work, intending to finish up the rest of the day at the least. I continued to eat and drink, as I was starving. I put on Paw Patrol for my son and laid down on the mattress in the living room for a bit, but the cramping was getting worse. My husband returned home half an hour later; they had sent him home for the day as they knew he was tired and that I had been laboring all night. It was a good thing they did, because it gave us time to discuss something that had been on my mind: what were his thoughts on NOT calling the midwife until I was in transition or just before I started pushing? Would he be okay with that? It turns out that he had been thinking the same thing, and he just wanted to know what our doula would say about that idea. I KNEW she would be all for it, as she was supportive of that plan when I’d first brought it to her before I’d found my midwife. But I texted her anyway, and she told us that we would simply need to sign a waiver in the event that the midwife didn’t arrive in time and we were facing an unassisted birth. My husband was okay with that, because he had it in his head that our doula would catch if necessary. Little did we know how close we would come to doing it all on our own…
Part 3: A Fast Labor and Birth
Around 5pm I ate the last of the hamburgers that my husband had made a few nights before. I was getting increasingly uncomfortable sitting on the chair to eat, as I still felt a lot of pressure on my cervix with these cramps. But then it hit me; these had a sharp peak to them and weren’t cramps at all. I sat still for a few minutes, monitoring them. Nope, definitely NOT cramps. I texted my doula to let her know that I was likely picking up again and the contractions were STRONG, just like they’d been the night before when I’d gotten into the pool. I felt I needed to empty my bladder, so I went into the bathroom and had another strong contraction on the toilet that I had to vocalize through. My son followed me in there, worried. I told him I was singing, and asked him to sing with me. That seemed to calm him, and it was a good thing, because I had another one right after I told him that. When I wiped, the toilet paper was streaked with blood. More bloody show, and it was a lot more present than it had been last night. I had a few more contractions in there, and sure enough there was more show present. I knew that my body was opening up again, and that since I’d already gotten to 6 cms the night before it would likely go faster this time. I figured I would have my daughter by morning.
I texted my doula to let her know that I needed her for at least an hour, just to keep the pool warm and so that I wouldn’t be alone. My son had his swimming lesson at 6:30 and my husband was still going to take him. He was anxious leaving me, but it was easier knowing that our doula would be here. They really ARE an asset when it comes to home birth; especially a long labor such as mine. My husband had been able to go into work, get groceries, take our son to lessons, and basically just continue a normal routine for much of my prodromal and early labor.
When she arrived I was already in the pool. She read the records my midwife had left on the counter, telling me that during the cervical check my cervix had opened to 6 cms on contraction but then closed up. She said that the baby’s heart did not decelerate and had remained steady, that I had been coping well, and that there were no issues. Basically, she explained, my midwife had wanted to close that file up for the night as badly as I did, and by agreeing it was prodromal labor the hospital had taken me off the board. I was, as far as the health authority was concerned, NOT in labor. So I could just relax and do my thing, and we would call my midwife when I got closer to the end. I was thankful that I was off the clock; that I had a supportive birth team; that I had done all my research and read all those empowering birth stories, and that I was confident enough that I could trust my body to do what it needed to do. I simply had to LET IT.
My doula stayed until 8pm when my husband put the mattress back into our son’s bedroom and put him to bed. Things hadn’t progressed, though contractions were still quite strong. We figured that things would remain this way for at least four hours or more, and probably pick up at 3am or in the morning. She went home to give us some time to ourselves, thinking that maybe what I needed was some time to just rest and relax with my husband. Soon after she left, my husband asked if it would be alright to head to the store. He said he’d be back in 15 minutes or less, and I let him go because the water was hot enough that I didn’t need him right that second. While he was gone I had a few more powerful contractions, though I don’t remember how many. I used the toilet, found more show, and then went back to the pool. I had another contraction and leaned back in the water just as my husband got in the door. Immediately I felt his hands on my shoulders, and I leaned back into him. Having him there, helping me get through these was all I seemed to need. As he cleaned up the kitchen I rested between contractions and made sure to drink lots of water and go to the bathroom as I felt I needed to. I had a bowl of cold water filled with washcloths and I reached down over the edge of the pool to place one on the back of my neck. My husband called his mother, who was now home from work, and told her that we might need her to take our son in the morning if I hadn’t had the baby by then. While he was on the phone, things really picked up. He rushed to my side and rubbed my arms as I vocalized long and low, taking four deep breaths between each vocalization. This one was my strongest yet, and it was SO sharp and SO intense that I sobbed at the end of it. I also had to push through this one, and my bottom had a lot of pressure. I wondered if this was transition, and didn’t know how much longer I could hold on. If this was what the next two hours were going to look like, I needed my husband to call my doula NOW. According to the time on my phone, when my husband texted her, I hit transition at 11:22 pm. While he was texting her, I had another one. This time I REALLY had to push, and it was FIVE vocalizations and then I suddenly reached a higher pitch as I felt a sudden pop of water pressure at my urethra. It shocked me out of my trance and I knew right then what had happened. I told my husband “My water just popped” and my husband thought I meant the pool. I shook my head. “No, my water broke.”
“What?” he asked. “I can’t hear you.” I had been talking into the edge of the pool and my arm, because I was leaning so far forward.
“MY WATER BROKE!” I said, lifting my head.
He was still texting my doula. My water broke at 11:29 pm.
My husband panicked and asked if we needed to call the midwife. At first I thought that I would get an hour’s break at least, or maybe my water had broken too early.
“Not yet. Not yet.” I started saying, but then I felt another contraction and some burning as her head started to come down. “YES!” I cried. “She’s coming!”
My husband was in shock and couldn’t believe it. He asked if I was sure, and I said “SHE’S COMING NOW!!!!” I could feel her head pushing upward, and I knew that I could NOT be on my hands and knees; it was far too intense and she was coming way too fast.
I wanted to see if there was meconium, but aside from the “slight discoloration” my husband mentioned (which was the amniotic fluid mixed with my show) there was nothing. Relief swept over me; my daughter would be fine, and if the midwife didn’t get here in time I could handle it. I couldn’t say the same for my husband, who had looked over and nearly had a heart attack.
“Oh my god, Baby, her head is RIGHT THERE,” he exclaimed, starting to freak out. I told him I already knew, that I was okay, and to just call our doula and midwife.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” he moaned.
I put my hand up (the one that wasn’t touching her head) and told him “It’s okay. I’ve got this.”
Everything was burning and I was very thankful that I was in the water because this baby was not slowing down at all. With every contraction I had to pant through it, because they were doing all the work of pushing my daughter out for me and if I pushed with them I knew I was going to tear. Soon the midwife arrived. She used the Doppler and assured me and my husband that the baby’s heart was still fine, even with the force of which she was being born. She asked my husband to call for an ambulance, which again sent him into a panic until she assured him that there was no emergency; she just needed backup, and our second midwife wasn’t here yet. While he called 911 and waited for the ambulance outside, I was panting beautifully and the head was almost out. My midwife barely touched me at all; she just placed her hand in the water to make certain that the head wouldn’t hit the bottom of the pool. Another contraction and the head was out; I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I had some time to catch my breath…then the shoulders were forced out with another powerful contraction which made me cry out in shock and surprise. I couldn’t believe it; she was out. My midwife lifted her out of the water and placed her in my arms, telling me to be careful because the cord was short. I sank lower in the water to keep warm, staring in awe at this tiny baby girl who hadn’t cried yet but was definitely alert. I cried for her, saying “I did it!” I couldn’t believe how intense and fast it all had been, but now suddenly she was here! The EMTs came in with my husband in time to see me holding her, and that’s when she let out her first little cry.
“So are we going to the hospital?” One of the EMTs asked.
“No,” I said, “It’s a planned home birth. She just came so FAST.” My midwife explained that we’d just needed backup, but that they could leave as soon as our second midwife arrived. The EMTs congratulated me. I was sore and tired, but high on endorphins and oxytocin, and I felt as if FINALLY I had healed from the trauma of my son’s birth. It was true: WHAT happened wasn’t as important as how I felt about what happened. This birth could have been traumatizing to someone else, but to me it was an empowering experience. I had been able to move around and just do what I felt I needed to do in every moment. I made every decision in my prenatal care. I’d even come close to delivering my own baby, without any assistance. My body was AMAZING! It currently hurt a lot, like a horse had kicked me in the crotch, but it WAS amazing. The best part was that in birthing my daughter I was able to see and know in my heart that everything I’d read and started to believe was also the truth: Birth WORKS. Had I been in the hospital, under constant monitoring and subjected to the regulations and restrictions in that institution I am sure that my story would have been very different, and the birth far more traumatic than it ever needed to be.
Part 4: After Birth
My daughter was still not ready to nurse right away while we were in the pool, and when the cord finally stopped pulsing we had it clamped. I forget if my midwife cut it (my hands were full) or if my husband finally decided to. I know that they had asked him, and he’d been a bit squeamish, but I was so busy looking at my little girl that I didn’t notice who actually cut it. I do know that afterward, because she still didn’t want to nurse and I had a gush of blood, that my husband took her and gave her skin to skin and both my midwives helped me from the pool. I was a little dizzy, and after considering it for a minute or two I decided that I wanted the shot of oxytocin/syntocinon to help deliver the placenta. Gravity on its own didn’t seem to be dislodging it, and I didn’t want to have to go to the hospital to have it removed manually. They readied the couch for me, placing down the plastic cover and the old bed sheet and towels, and I got onto my hands and knees. I passed a few clots, and finally I felt the placenta coming out. I had to cough a few times because it was so big, but it was all intact and my bleeding slowed after that. After the clots and placenta were removed from the towels and fresh ones put down, my doula arrived and took pictures of my husband holding our daughter. Then she was brought back to me to nurse, and she took to it immediately. Of course since we hadn’t weighed her yet that meant that she was cheating on her birth weight, but none of us were too concerned about that. The midwives filled out the paperwork and her birth time was pronounced to be 11:40pm based on the time on our oven clock. But since it was a few minutes ahead, her actual birth time was closer to 11:38pm; she had wanted to be a March baby and probably thought this labor and birth would have been too cruel a joke to play on us had she been born after midnight on April 1st.
My son woke up very briefly and my husband went to get him. He brought him out to see his new baby sister nursing in my arms, but our boy was so tired that he just snuggled back into his shoulder and we decided we would wait until morning. We did the vitamin K shot while I nursed, then my husband took our girl to be measured and weighed. She was 7 lbs 14 oz and about 21 and a half inches long. Her head circumference was the same as her brother’s, in the 90th percentile at 36 cm and she was an ounce heavier and half an inch longer! While my daughter was with my husband the midwife examined me and found that I had two small labial tears that needed stitches. I was anxious at first, but when I talked it over with everyone (most of all my husband) I determined that yes, I did need them. My daughter’s head had not molded at all, and with how fast she came out I wasn’t surprised that there was some damage. Fortunately they agreed to numb me as much as possible with the lidocaine, and after squirting as much as they could I had the stitches done. It was easier to relax on the couch, in the comfort of my own home, and afterward I did feel much better. I also was hungry, so upon learning that there were NO pizza places open at 2am, my husband went to the 24/7 drive thru at McDonald’s and I had a ten piece chicken mcnugget meal with a coke (because why not?). I figured the caffeine would at least encourage my bladder to get full faster, since I had emptied it constantly in labor and knew I would need to pee before I went to bed. An hour after I ate I had my midwives help me up and I went into the bathroom to have a bath, pee, and just relax for a bit while my husband got to bond with his little girl.
I could FEEL my bladder this time, which was something I hadn’t been able to do with my son, and when I was finished in the tub I put on my underwear and pad, wrapped myself in a towel, and climbed into my own bed. My daughter slept soundly beside me.
The pool was drained, the linens bagged for washing, the towels in another Rubbermaid tub for washing as well. Everything was cleaned up, I was comfortably lying in bed, and the midwives and my doula left around 4am. Since I’d only been awake since 2pm and had taken little catnaps between contractions in the early evening I was still wide awake. I tried to sleep, but my brain wouldn’t shut off. Eventually, around 6am, I finally did sleep. When I woke up again it was past 9am. Our son had awoken and when he heard the baby’s cries I overheard him say “baby out! See baby!” My husband brought him into our room, and he immediately lay down next to me and his new sister. The four of us remained in bed for over an hour, just cuddling and talking, with no interruptions and no sense of urgency or feeling like we needed to go anywhere; I was thankful that I’d trusted my instincts and chosen to birth my daughter at home, because in that moment there was nowhere else I wanted to be except right here with my family. Though the birth experience had been longer, more intense, and more painful than with my first, it had been exactly what I’d wanted; a perfect birth the way it was meant to unfold, with complete trust in my body and what it was capable of doing. I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way! ❤