Finally wrote my birth story! Warning...it is LONG. If you make it to the end, thanks for reading :)
My water broke at 9:30 pm on Saturday night, October 23rd. I had about an hour to clean up, tidy the house, and feel ready for labor before very light contractions started. Really light, like if my water hadn't broken I wouldn't have thought anything of them (they felt like Braxton-Hicks). Well, I wanted to go to sleep and rest, but I was a bit too excited so I told Dh to get some rest while I chatted with a friend online for about an hour. Then I finally went to bed, but after another hour, the contractions started waking me up. Upright, I barely noticed them. Laying down, they were slightly uncomfortable. So up it was.
I didn't need any support yet, and wanted Dh strong and well rested for when I would, so I didn't disturb him and got up to go make granola bars for labor food. I had to keep stopping every 8 minutes or so while I made them, to squat through just a few seconds at the peak, so they took like an hour and a half to make. By around 2ish I was feeling like they were actually labor contractions, even though they didn't really hurt, they were stronger and closer together. So I decided to call my birth team and alert them that I was in labor, but asked them not to come yet. Well the midwives insisted on coming anyway, since I had meconium in my water and they wanted to check on me and the baby. This is my only regret about the birth. I wish I had waited at least 12 more hours to call them, because their presence ended up slowing down my labor. They lived about 2 hours away, so I went and bounced on my birth ball and had some tea and checked facebook while I waited for them to arrive. My contractions steadily got stronger and closer together, but I still would not classify it as pain…that was yet to come!
Around 5ish my two midwives, doula, and translator arrived; I woke Dh up, they checked my temperature and the baby’s heartbeat, and then we retreated back to our bedroom (I gave the birth team quilts and they napped on the couch). In the next 3 hours after they got here my contractions started spacing out to about 10-15 minutes apart, and reducing in intensity. I could sense the presence and excitement of everyone in the living room, and even though they left us alone, I still felt like they were hovering and it stalled my labor.
Around 8am I decided I wanted to walk outside, so Caleb and I drove 5 minutes up the mountain, got out, and walked some hills for about an hour. After we got back, the midwives wanted to talk to me. I didn't previously know this, but apparently there is a time limit in Italian law for how long your water can be broken at home. So since it had been 12 hours since water breaking, but still very putsy labor, they wanted me to take Castor Oil capsules to try to encourage my contractions to get stronger. They also wanted to do a vaginal exam, but I refused. Normally I have no problem with them, but since my water was broken I didn't want to risk infection by allowing their hands up there. Plus, I knew it wouldn't tell us anything, because I knew my labor wasn't active yet. Anyway, I asked everyone to go home, and they did.
Then I collapsed and sobbed on Dh's shoulder. I felt so pressured to perform, now that I was "on the clock". This was the reason I wanted a homebirth! Before they told me they had a time limit, I felt totally calm and at ease, knowing that it was just a natural labor plateau and that it could be a long time. I was prepared ahead of time for a very long labor, so I wasn't worried. But now I felt like they were telling me my body wasn't working properly, and I needed the capsules to put me back in labor. I know that's not what they intended, but that's how I took it, and I felt very violated and offended. I just didn't want to invite any of them back for the birth (but Dh's job won't allow us to have a UC---we have to have a licensed midwife to sign the birth certificate, in order to receive an American birth certificate, since he was born overseas.).
Dh was able to calm me down, love on me, and encouraged me to nap for an hour or two (the contractions were negligible, and I could lay down) and then follow their advice with the capsules. So I napped, and then around 12pm I took the Castor Oil capsules. I also took a very strong infusion of Red Raspberry Leaf tea and began taking cimicifuga and caulophyllum homeopathics. I would take one of each, then a contraction would come. Then as soon as the contraction was over, I'd take another one. This stimulated my contractions to start every 4 minutes or so, but still very light. I bounced on my birth ball, drank water, ate some granola bar, and waited for labor to kick into high gear.
Two hours later a friend stopped by on her way home from church to bring me her microwave; I didn't have one, but wanted to heat up my cherry pit pack (heat pack), so she was lending it to me. Suzanne is the type for frivolous, empty headed chatter, which is exactly what I needed at that time. I needed no one around who knew about birth and who knew I needed labor to get going. She distracted me from focusing on labor and wasn't worried about it because she didn't know there was a problem. She hung around and visited with me for another hour, and that is when my contractions started getting strong again, similar to early that morning before the midwives came.
It was about 3pm now, and I retreated back into my bedroom with Dh and we started laboring together. The contractions got stronger and stronger, and around 5pm I called the midwives and asked Caleb to fill up the tub. So he and Suzanne (she had stayed and knitted in the living room) started boiling water (we only could fill the tub about 1/3 full with hot water before the tap went cold). By 6 the tub was filled, and I got in. Oh, it was such a relief! I loved feeling weightless, and the water made it so easy to maneuver my body. I labored on my knees, leaning against the side of the tub, sitting in the middle of it, and reclining back with my bottom floating up a little.
Around 7 the midwives arrived and I decided I wanted them to check me since I knew I would have the baby within 24 hours at that point. I was 4 cm :) The midwives encouraged me and told me that that was awesome progress for a first time mom. I felt discouraged for a moment, but they bucked up my spirits, and I felt better. My contractions had slowed a little bit in the tub, and I had been in there for an hour, so they asked me to get out and I was fine with that---I wanted to have the baby, and I knew the contractions needed to be much stronger before that would happen! I would say that labor began to get painful around 8pm, but my coping techniques were working.
I got back into the tub at around 8:30 and spent another hour in there. The contractions continued to get stronger and more intense and I vocalized a lot during them. Whenever I was out of the tub the most comfortable position was hanging from Caleb's neck while he supported me under my arms. I tried hands and knees and sidelying for a little bit, but it was too painful. I really liked the hot pack on my lower belly. I never felt the contractions in my back, until I was pushing, but I felt them very low down in my cervix. At this point, I had only slept a total of about 1-2 hours in the past 24. And that was after I spent all day Saturday walking around volunteering at a Bazaar on base. I was exhausted and started nodding off in between contractions and then when they came they caught me off guard, making them seem more painful.
It was during these last 8-10 hours that my amazing husband became even more vital. The whole labor I just wanted to be with Caleb, and no one else. He comforted me with his presence, with his voice, with his hands and arms. I didn't care that he didn't know all the fancy doula tricks---what helped the pain the most was him being there, loving me through each contractions. He was my rock as I struggled through those last 8-10 hours of intense contractions. I absolutely could not have done it without him. I was tired, discouraged, in pain, and didn't think I could endure through. He encouraged me throughout that dark morning, continually whispering that I could do it and kissing me and holding me as tears flowed. We birthed our child together, as one.
Around midnight I asked the midwives to come in and check me again---they didn't tell me how dilated I was, but said I had "made good progress" and that my dilation "had advanced". They did mention that (surprise!) I had a bulging bag of waters coming through the cervix. Apparently, the water I had lost before was a leak from high up in the sack, and the water in front of Malachi's head was preventing it from applying firmly to the cervix, which is why I was dilating so slowly. So I immediately asked them to break my waters, but they said that they weren't allowed to break my waters at home. If I wanted that, I had to transfer to the hospital. I refused, of course. But in a moment of desperation I seriously considered trying to break my waters on my own with a crochet hook!
So I continued trudging along, mounting each contraction doing my best to relax (which was becoming more and more impossible), loudly moaning and crying at the peak, and sighing with relief as each one tapered off and I had a break for a few moments. I tell you, I was whinier and more of a cry baby than any mom whose birth I have attended! However, none of my natural moms have had as long labors as I had :) I did get in a hot shower a couple times with Caleb, and that felt so wonderful. FInally, about 6am on Monday they checked me again and I was "9cm with a posterior lip." She said that the lip was very soft and would easily move out of the way, and that I could try to push if I wanted to. I wanted to be done, so I tried a few times.
The next two hours were the most excruciating pain I had ever experienced. The pain felt wrong somehow...the pain before this time felt productive, like the pain when you are running and your muscles hurt (except amplified!). This felt wrong and sharp and acute, like a broken bone. I clenched and arched my back during every contraction, begging for the baby to be born and yelling that I could NOT do this. I wanted to get back in the birth pool, but it was cold. So they filled up my bath tub and I labored in there for about a half-hour.
Suddenly, during one of the contractions at about 7:55, while I was squatting by the bed, my water busted and flowed everywhere. Oh, what sweet relief!!! The pain vanished and intense pressure took its place. I am certain that Malachi's head slipped through the cervix as my water broke. Finally I had an intense urge to push and I pushed with all my might. Caleb was up on the bed, I was squatting on the floor facing the bed and holding onto Caleb as he held me up.
The pushing urges were overwhelming (finally!) and as baby started to crown I had to say out loud "don'tpushdon'tpushdon'tpush" and "I don't want to tear so I have to breathebreathebreathe"! lol, it was the only way I could make myself slow down with pushing him out so I could stretch. It paid off though, because I only had the tiniest of skid marks, which healed on its own by 3 days pp. After each push, I put my fingers a little bit in to feel his head, and it gave me the encouragement and energy to push the next time.
Finally at 8:13am he was crowning, and I was holding onto Caleb with one hand and had the other hand poised to catch. The midwife was lying on her back next to me with a little flash light so she could see to help me catch (I knew I couldn't catch him securely with just one hand, and I couldn't let go of Caleb for anything!). Finally his head was out and I paused to catch my breath and process the sensation of him being right there. I cupped his head with my hand and finished pushing him out. It was a very interesting, not-painful sensation to push his body out. It was so cool. As soon as he was out I wanted to pick him up, but I didn't realize at the moment that he had his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck twice, his chest, and his legs! The midwife was trying to untangle him, I was trying to bring him up to my breasts, and Dh was telling me to let go before I tore his cord. Finally I let go for a few seconds, the midwife untangled him, and then put him right in my arms. I felt awful afterwards, but I was so oblivious to anything but my baby at the time of birth.
I climbed up into bed and cuddled Malachi to my breasts; he had come out rooting like crazy and latched on within 5 minutes. Caleb was right there next to me and we were both just gazing at this little miracle that had put us through so much. Finally the translator asked whether it was a boy or girl. We checked, and it was a boy! I nursed for about 45 minutes and during that time he exploded tons of meconium all over us :) About an hour after birth I tried pushing the placenta out (it had detached long ago), but I was too sore to do it sitting up in bed. I wanted to squat in the bathroom, so Caleb clamped and cut the cord and held him for the first time while I pushed the placenta out. It is residing in the freezer until spring, when it is destined to be planted with a tree that will be Malachi's to take care of, with mama's help :)
My midwives checked for tears, diagnosed the tiny skid mark, gave me some advice and tinctures to wash with, put a load of laundry in, and then left so we could get some sleep. The came back later that afternoon around 5pm to check on us and measure and weigh Malachi. He was 7lbs. even, and 20.5 inches!
I would do this again in a heartbeat---every minute was utterly worth it. The pride and satisfaction of birthing my child naturally at home tops everything I have ever accomplished. I am completely in love with my husband and my son. We are the happiest of families!