The Homebirth of Lila Autumn
By: Amy Nansteel
Saturday, October 23, 2010, we took the kids to Hershey's Chocolate World to get my mind off the fact that I was still pregnant, even though I was only 2 days overdue. When we got home and put the kids to bed, I felt like I was starting to have time-able contractions, and though not painful, they seemed different than all of the false labor contractions I had been having for the past month. We were timing them about every 2 minutes for a few hours, so I called my midwife to give her a heads up. I didn't feel like I was at the point where I wanted her to drive down, as we had a few other false alarms, which I felt really silly about since this was my third baby! I decided to try to go to bed around 11:30 to see if they went away. I woke up at 4 in the morning with some uncomfortable contractions, came downstairs, and told my husband (Kenny) to start setting up the tub. I called the midwife, confident that this was true labor, though the contractions were only 5-7 minutes apart. She arrived around 5:30 a.m. My mom and sister came around 6:30 to take care of the kids. She checked me and I was 4 cm, but my cervix was still high, and only 60% effaced. She suggested Kenny and I go for a nice long walk. "Take her for a nice hard hike!" is what she actually said :) and I felt up to it, so we left the kids to play with Grammy, and started walking.
It was a cool, crisp, sunny morning, and Kenny and I didn't realize just how fast and far you can walk when not towing kids in strollers, having to stop at every street to "look both ways," and wait for them to stop and ponder every little thing along the way. We enjoyed our coffees, talked, and walked- about 3 miles total! I really look back on that hour and it always makes me smile. There were no distractions- just my husband and I, our conversation, the excitement that we would soon be meeting our little Lila, and I think we heard each other more in that hour than we have in years. My contractions started picking up, and while they were getting more uncomfortable, I was still okay. When we got home, I was 5 cm dilated, and much more effaced. I had my midwife call the resident doctor who had requested to be at my birth- she was fed up with the medical model of obstetrics after only two years of residency, and wanted to see a natural, normal birth. She knew that wouldn't happen in the hospital she worked at, so she contacted my midwife, who asked me if I would be willing to let her observe my birth. I could not think of a better way to help all of the future mothers out there who seek a natural birth, whether at home or in the hospital, and if my experience could change a doctor's outlook, it could have the potential to change hundreds of women's birth experiences for the better. So I agreed. This woman had come to my house for coffee a few weeks before my due date, and we chatted about lots of different things. She was very sweet, and I felt honored to share my birth with her- excited that a mainstream professional was so open-minded as to want to explore such a "controversial" way to birth.
We all hung out and talked for a while, and then I decided to get into the pool. I was nervous about the warm water slowing my labor down, as it did with the birth of my son Gavin during my last homebirth, but it actually seemed to regulate things, and the contractions became very steady and consistent at 3 minutes apart. At this point I began to get anxious, and I dredged up all of the fear that had been lingering from my son's birth. Although I had him at home, and don't regret it one bit, my labor and his birth were a little bit traumatic for me. His head was tilted in such a way that I had a very stubborn cervical lip, and was basically in transition for four hours. It was excruciating and never-ending. My midwife had me walk that entire time, because moving was the only thing that was going to get him to turn. When I did finally push him out I wasn't prepared for the pain, as I had an epidural for my first birth with my daughter. I was expecting the worst to come, and praying that this time around would be easier.
I hung out in the tub for about an hour and a half, and then the contractions really picked up in intensity, and I was breathing through them. My midwife told me not to dread every coming contraction, but instead to embrace it and think of each one as bringing me one step closer to meeting my baby girl. Once I welcomed the contractions and focused my energy downward, I felt in control of them, and they were manageable, although they definitely hurt. This went on for about an hour or so, and during this time my 4-year old daughter Ava came in from the backyard with a beautiful purple flower, and she gave it to me for her baby sister. I floated it in the water, and it was then that a really horrible painful contraction came, and I was convinced that I must have dilated significantly, so I had her check me and I was 7 cm, but extremely stretchy, and the baby was very low down. After a few more of these very difficult contractions that I was moaning through, she checked me again and I was 9 cm with a very small lip, and her head was right there. I knew one more of those excruciating contractions would have me ready to push, and I figured out that without even realizing it I had been pushing through all of the hard contractions the whole time.
Before I knew it I was fully dilated and began consciously pushing. Although I only pushed for a few minutes, it was every bit as painful as I recalled it with my previous natural birth- the burning was awful. I was screaming to "get her out" and "help me!" but before long her head was out, and that beautiful purple flower floated right next to her as she emerged. My midwife then guided her body out and said to me "Amy, catch your baby!" I brought her up out of the water and held her to my chest- I couldn't believe that I had actually caught my own baby! She started crying not long after, and then looked up at me with wide eyes. I laid the flower on her back, and said hi to my little baby mermaid girl, Lila Autumn. She pinked up right away and starting crying. Her brother and sister came in from outside to meet their new little sister, and I was overjoyed. Our family was now complete. Lila weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and was 20 and 1/4 inches long. She is such a blessing, and is the sweetest little girl we could ever have hoped for. It actually turned out to be quite convenient having another set of hands around, since the resident offered to be on camera duty. Thanks to her we have lots of great photos, as well as a full video of Lila's birth! I was really excited about this because I had wanted to video my last two births but it just had not worked out.
Lila's birth was so much more peaceful, quicker, and less painful than my last, and I think it healed me in a way. All three of my births were different, but this one was my "dream birth" if there is such a thing. I was really glad the resident got such a picture perfect homebirth to store in the back of her mind. Lila is our last baby, and I was so grateful to have had the opportunity to really get to know my midwife throughout this pregnancy. Even though she had delivered my son at home also, I had switched to her care at 38 weeks, so we had really only just met once before she attended me. This time around we had hour long appointments on her couch, in her home, and I got to really take advantage of the gentle, supportive presence that only a midwife can bring- she cared about me as a whole person, and I will always think fondly of her for making such a significant impact in my life both as the person who brought my babies into the world, and as a friend.