*I have had twins vaginally in a hospital; a baby in a birth center/hospital; and a homebirth that ended in a postpartum hospital transport for a retained placenta and pph. I was really really concerned about this homebirth, given my last experience.*
On Christmas Eve, my husband and I watched a movie (Spy Game with Brad Pitt) after the kids went to bed. Later that night I started having regular contractions. I couldn’t fall asleep, so I tried to read while the contractions were just background noise. At about 1:30am I got up and walked around the house. The contractions were definitely getting stronger but still not very long, and I wondered if this was the real deal, or just a warm up.
I didn’t feel like I needed any support at that time, so I let my husband sleep. My mom was visiting, and I let her sleep too. I got on Facebook for a while, and surfed the web until about 3:30AM, when the contractions were too intense to sit or stand for them. I started swaying my hips like I was dancing during the peaks of the contractions. That helped. I was really tired and wanted to lie down, but every time I got into a horizontal position, the contractions got much more intense.
Around 5am I started thinking that I would wake people up – although I decided to wait another hour. I could see that this was the real deal, but I was still okay on my own, and waking people at 6am seemed more reasonable than 5am.
By the way, I wasn’t timing my contractions or paying much attention to a clock. I was just noting that they were getting more intense and closer together, and that I was really working to get through them.
I woke up my husband first, and then my mom. By that time, the kids could hear us talking and wanted to start opening Christmas gifts. I thought I would give it a shot – at least walk in and out of the room in between contractions – but I quickly felt overwhelmed by the intensity of the contractions and stayed in my room. I felt kind of bad because the kids kept popping their heads in to show me a gift, but I just couldn’t focus on anything except my labor.
I called my midwife at 6:30am, according to her phone, and I told her to come straight over. She lives about 20 minutes away, and after we hung up I wasn’t sure I could handle another 20 minutes without her support, so I called her back and she talked to me on the phone while she drove. She stayed on the phone with me until she was in my room. She checked me, and told me that I was complete and the baby was at +3 station – but I had a small cervical lip. She called a friend who lives nearby who I had invited to my birth, and told her to hurry if she wanted to make it to the birth. Although my midwife had said I was close, I still felt like I had a long way to go and that it would be hours before the baby arrived.
A note on my friends: I have a really wonderful supportive group of friends who all wanted to attend my birth (if I wanted them there). While I was pregnant, I had invited nearly everyone; when I was actually in labor, however, I wanted to be alone. Honestly, if I hadn’t been so caught up in a contraction when my midwife was calling that one friend, I would have told her not to. (In retrospect, I’m really glad she was there! She was a fantastic support person!) My midwife did ask about my photographer friend who was planning to take pictures and I said not to call her – which I regret tremendously. When my husband started taking pictures, I freaked out and told him to stop, but my midwife told me to ignore him. I’m very grateful she told him to keep taking pictures, because otherwise I wouldn’t have had any pictures! (My midwife says later that she wishes she’d called the birth photographer right after I called her – seriously she’s that good! And I know she would have taken amazing pictures.)
My midwife said hands-and-knees position would help make the cervical lip go away, so I got on my bed in hands-knees position. I was feeling completely overwhelmed, and I asked her and my other friend and my husband to talk to me. Actually I demanded that they talk to me, including what specifically to say. My midwife and my friend were saying things like, “You’re doing so great!” and I would snap, “You’re patronizing me! Quit talking to me like I’m just any random laboring woman; talk to me like I’m me!” and insisting they use my name. A big part of why I wanted a homebirth was the ability to have just “my” people with me – the ones I chose to be there specifically because they knew me and loved me, and vice versa. The idea of birthing in front of strangers who are simply on shift at the hospital does not sound appealing – or even feasible for me. For me to get a baby out, I need to go to a very raw emotional place, and I don’t think I could do that in front of strangers.
I was also really emotional. I kept telling my midwife and my friend and my husband how much I loved them and how much they meant to me – and later, when I was pushing, I said the same thing about my kids. I don’t remember specifically all the things I said, but I remember the sentiments: I love you; thank you for being a good friend; I love you so much; I’m so glad you’re here. I was in a lot of pain, and my only way to rise against it was to try and “combat it” with loving words.
I had begged my midwife to break my water when she told me I was complete, but she didn’t want to – I have always been against unnecessary breaking-of-water, and she knew it! However, I felt like having that bag of waters was keeping me from pushing and at that point I would have done anything to get the baby out. At some point during a contraction, my water broke on my bed with a huge warm splash. I have no idea why, but I thought there was meconium in it (there wasn’t. Or if there was, it was a tiny amount). I really hung on to this idea, for some reason. None of my four older kids had had meconium, but maybe because I was at 42 weeks I thought this baby would.
After my water broke, I wanted to sit on the toilet to push. I had weight loss surgery two years ago – a biliopancreatic diversion with a duodenal switch – and as a result, I spend a lot of time on the toilet. So I knew that if I sat there, I would relax as much as possible and then I’d be able to get the baby out, perhaps more quickly than in any other position. However, as I sat there my contractions actually got less intense – maybe I felt too relaxed? – and after a while, I said I wanted to lie down and maybe rest for a few minutes. I got back near my bed and then decided to go back to the toilet; it was just more comfortable.
At some point another midwife who lives nearby came over bring my midwife some extra supplies. It was either the first time I was sitting on the toilet, or the second time, after I’d tried my bed and then gone back. I was originally planning to have two midwives there, but my second midwife was working when I went into labor, and I was fine with just the one. The other midwife, the one who stopped by to bring the extra supplies, wanted to know if she should stay or if I wanted her to stay but I said no. I must have had a fleeting moment of clarity and realized that everything was going great, I didn’t need an extra set of hands, and also it was Christmas morning and the other midwife probably wanted to get home to her family!
Pushing was, for lack of a better phrase, really intense. Much more intense than with my first four kids. I experienced it as really painful. There was so much pressure; I thought there was absolutely no way the baby could come out. Even though I’ve birthed four babies without a tear or cut or stitch, I really did not think I could get this one out – even if I had torn or been cut and stitched. I felt really fearful that I’d be stuck experiencing the pain forever, with a baby’s head crowning while I wasn’t having strong enough contractions (in my opinion) to push it out. While my contractions before my water broke had been very intense, the ones afterward were much more manageable. After fighting it for hours, I finally wanted some hardcore contractions to push out a baby, and I wasn’t getting them!
Finally, somehow, some way, I got the baby’s head out. My midwife had said birthing on the toilet was fine, but she suggested I stand up at the end, and I pushed the baby out with one foot on the ground and one propped up on the toilet for some support and space. I think there may have been a nuchal cord, and the baby’s shoulders delivered fairly quickly. Sweet relief!
My midwife held the baby while I was recovering from the birth. Given my sense of time, it felt like she held the baby for five minutes, but it was probably less than one. We had actually discussed this at length. My midwife recognizes that not every woman feels an immediate urge to grab her baby, and she let me know that if I didn’t feel that urge the very second the baby was out, that that was okay, and I could take my time and not hold her til I felt ready. I wasn’t ready right away. I think immediately after the birth my arms were shaking and I was just so relieved that I just wanted to relax for a minute before I held my baby. So, after a minute or two or three, when I felt a little more like myself, I took the baby and saw it was a her and cuddled her.
The placenta came out fairly quickly, which was a relief because after my last birth I had retained it and hemorrhaged, and went to the hospital in an ambulance. I forgot how hard I would have to push to get it out! Still more relief after it was out. Because of my history, I had specifically asked my midwife to be very conservative about my blood loss, and I received a shot of pitocin – I don’t remember if it was before or after the placenta. Later my midwife said that I probably didn’t need it, but she wanted to err on the side of caution per my request, and I am glad I took it.
At some point after the placenta was out we walked back to my bed, and I got in bed with my new girl and cuddled her. She started nursing right away, and I told – someone – to bring in my mom and kids. They came in and met her, and my now-second-youngest child immediately coughed all over her. My older three helped clamped and cut the cord, and my husband and I decided on her name: Celeste Noelle. She was 7lbs 11oz at birth, and 20.5 inches.