I personally enjoy hearing the details of birth stories, but I understand that some other people don't. If that is you, please feel free to skip this blog post, as it does contain details and is probably a little long-winded (ok, a lot long-winded). But for those of you who would like to hear the details of our homebirth, read on!
So my estimated due date was June 8th, but our little one just kept on cookin'! I was actually avoiding my phone due to all the calls asking if baby had arrived yet. I began having early labor symptoms on Friday June 6th, and every night I would wake up around 2am with consistent, painful contractions. Sometimes they would only last an hour, and sometimes they would last for 12 hours or more. It was so frustrating wondering if I was finally going into labor at last, only to have the contractions stop. My midwives called this prodromal labor.
|41 weeks pregnant...and counting|
So just when I began to believe that baby would never arrive, and that I was indeed going to be pregnant forever, baby decided it was time. At 41weeks and 5 days gestation, on Friday, June 20th I woke up at about 1:30am feeling odd. I had a very strong headache, and I also felt feverish and nauseous. I began to wonder if I was coming down with something.
But a part of me wondered if this was a sign the baby was finally coming to join us. I tried to wait it out and dozed for a while in bed, tossing and turning. Then around 4:30am I felt a hard thump in my lower abdomen, like the baby was kicking me really hard, only I knew that was where the baby’s head was, not a limb. I wondered if my water had just broken, but nothing came gushing out, so I decided to get up and go to the bathroom. Once there I felt a small gush, so I called to my husband and told him I thought my water broke. He went and got the swab stick the midwives had given us and we were able to confirm it was amniotic fluid. We were excited!
We texted our moms and the midwives and let them know what happened, then went back to bed and tried to sleep. Contractions started shortly afterward but I was able to doze between them. First labors are often long, so I knew I needed to get whatever sleep I could.
The morning passed calmly, with lots of dozing, eating, and spending time with my husband. Then around noon or so, I laid down in the bed in the nursery, where we were planning to have our homebirth. My husband sat in the glider with our laptop and I dozed some more between contractions. Then all of a sudden the contractions got very strong and I realized that laying down made them intolerably worse. So I decided it was time to get into the birthing tub.
|Baby's room all ready for the birth|
My husband filled the tub and I got in and immediately knew it was the place to be during labor. I honestly don’t know how I could have done it without the water. I laid down in a reclined position, because it seemed the only one I could tolerate, and I breathed through contractions.
I had learned that the trick to getting through labor is to breathe as normally as possible. Once you lose control of your breath, it all starts to spiral out of control. So when I would feel a contraction coming, I would begin counting my breaths, focusing on keep them steady and centered in my abdomen. I began to count how many breaths it would take me to get through a contraction, so I knew about when the contraction would begin to lessen. This was a huge help. Telling myself I needed to get through 8 breaths and then it would start getting better was a whole lot easier than telling myself I needed to get through hours more of this!
My husband sat at the side of the tub and timed contractions for me. He was a superstar coach through everything. I had made little cards of inspirational quotes, Bible verses, and facts to help me get through the labor, and he would read me one after ever contraction. It was one of the best ideas of my birth. They said everything from “You are giving birth with 350,000 other women today” (and I would immediately feel better knowing most of those women weren’t getting medication either), to “The contractions cannot be stronger than you, because the contractions ARE you”. Little reminders like this were so powerful and really helped me to focus.
|I couldn't believe he was taking a photo of me|
Around 4pm I started crying and I asked my husband to call the midwife. I am not a crier, so my husband knew this meant things were moving along. I was having contractions every 2 minutes and they each lasted 60 seconds, so the midwife decided to come check on me. She arrived and checked my cervix, and delivered the news that I was only about 3cm dilated. Bummer. She told us to keep doing what we were doing, and to keep her posted. She also said to try to get some rest because it could be a while. Part of my vision for this birth was to be alone with my husband as much as possible, so she left and awaited our call at her house 10 minutes away.
I decided I needed to get back in the bed to try to sleep if this was going to continue for hours yet. I got into the bed and after about 10 minutes the contractions became unbearable. I was struggling to keep relaxed and not writhe around in pain. So I gave up on sleep and went back to the tub.
The rest of labor is a bit of a blur to me. My husband continued timing my contractions, reading me inspiration, fielding calls and texts, forcing me to drink a sip of water after ever contractions, and just being all-around amazing (ladies, do a Bradley childbirth course! My husband learned how to be an amazing coach there and it was invaluable).
I continued to breathe through contractions, but it was getting more and more difficult to stay calm. I stopped communicating at all with my husband; I just was so focused and couldn’t put the energy into talking. Pretty soon I noticed the contractions getting longer. It was taking 20 seconds to breathe through them instead of 12, and I was often having double or triple-peak contractions, where around breath 15 they would intensify again rather than dissipate. So rather than finding relief, I was breathing through contractions that were just lasting forever.
I started having thoughts of doubt at this point. I was convinced I was not going to have any more children. I remember thinking this was by far the most intensely painful thing I had ever experienced or imagined, and I started thinking about how c-sections really sounded like the way to go. And rather than being excited about the baby coming out, I began to just pray for it all to be over. Looking back I recognize I was going through transition (the end of first stage labor when full dilation happens), which is often the most difficult part of labor.
But luckily, through it all, I never doubted I could actually do it. I took it one contraction at a time, breathed, stayed as calm as I could, and just kept trucking along. Going to the hospital for anything other than an emergency was not an option in my mind, and as one of the cards my husband kept reading to me said “You’re alright”. Because honestly, I was alright. I wasn’t dying. This pain was just pain, and it wasn’t harming me, but serving a purpose. Every time he read that one, I affirmed it to myself.
My husband said he knew it was time to call the midwives again when I not-so-kindly snapped at him for trying to adjust the temperature of the pool. I was sweating like crazy by then and couldn’t express to him that I didn’t want him to raise the temperature of the tub. I never speak to him like that, so he knew it was probably time. He called the midwife at 7:30pm and she said she doubted I was too far dilated because usually it takes a while for first-time labors, but she agreed to come check on me.
As he was on the phone with her, I felt an intense urge to push. It was a force unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My body was literally pushing the baby out for me, and I didn’t have a choice but to cooperate. I told my husband I had to push, and he relayed that to the midwife. Before I knew it, she was there and checking my cervix again. She excitedly relayed that I was fully dilated and the baby was coming down.
I tried to be excited that it was almost over, but honestly, my morale was not the highest at this point. I pushed and pushed in a reclined position in the tub, mostly because I couldn’t bring myself to get into any other position, and I thought it was the most comfortable. After a while, my midwife had me turn over and lean on the side of the tub on my knees, which would open my pelvis more. My husband sat on the other side of the tub edge and wiped the sweat from my face, held my hands, and gave me water after every contraction. (Have I mentioned yet what a rock star he was?)
Time became a blur and the second midwife arrived. The place where we received our care always has two midwives at every birth, one for the baby and one for the mom.
My first midwife told me gently that I had been pushing for an hour, and although the baby was descending, she didn’t want me to get too tired. So she gently suggested we get out of the tub and use the birthing stool. I was NOT happy about the idea of leaving the water, but I decided to trust her. So they prepared the birthing stool, and I moved onto it. Essentially imagine a short, wide, stool with a hole in the bottom (so the stool seat is u-shaped). My husband sat behind me and I supported myself on his forearms (The poor man said it hurt horribly when I bore down on his arms, but he refused to complain).
I began pushing with the next contraction and had a moment of panic when I thought I was going to tear. One of my midwives was helping guide the baby out and the other was supporting my tissues with her hands and oil. I knew there was no way around it, so I pushed with all my might, and got the head out in two big pushes. My midwives encouraged me by telling me to reach down and touch the baby’s head. That was all the motivation I needed; I wanted to meet my little one. One more big push with the next contraction and her body followed. Before I knew it, I was holding her. My husband said I just kept saying over and over again “My baby! I did it!” She began crying and I was so excited, with my husband next to me looking at her little face.
Then I remembered that I didn’t know if it was a boy of girl. I looked under the receiving blanket and gave my husband a shocked look “It’s a girl!”. We were both shocked, as we thought it was going to be a boy.
After birthing the placenta, the midwives left us alone with the baby for over an hour while they cleaned up. It was a wonderful time of holding and bonding with her. We also sent the news out to the family that our little Victoria Rose had arrived. She is the first granddaughter on both sides of our family, so there was a lot of excitement.
|Bonding after the birth|
After we bonded the midwives put together an herbal bath for me and Victoria. It helps with postpartum healing and also helps her umbilical stump to heal faster (it fell off in just 6 days). Victoria loved being in the water.
After the bath, I showered while they looked her over. She was 20 inches long and 9 pounds even
I will write an update on our first few weeks with our little one soon. She's been keeping us very busy!