Baby Addison was born at home on March 24, 2011 at 3:30 am after a 7.5 hour long labour. At 39 weeks, she weighed 6lbs 11oz and was 19.5 inches long.
My EDD was April 1, and as this was my first pregnancy, I fully expected to go late. I planned to start my year-long maternity leave on March 18, to be followed by a glorious two-week vacation, and then begin the countdown to the baby’s arrival sometime after April 1. I was in no rush to meet the little one who had been kicking me with delightful glee for months. As this was to be my only pregnancy - we already have two children via adoption and baby would make three - I really wanted to enjoy every last second of it.
During my final week of work, I began to get the feeling that the baby might make an early appearance. Each day I was thankful that labour hadn’t started yet. I made it to my maternity leave and then started my vacation with a long ¬¬list of tasks to complete before the baby arrived. These were very important things like having my mother come to visit, getting my haircut and the house cleaned, and having one last pre-natal massage. Then some early labour signs appeared.
On Monday evening around 8:00 pm (3/21), I began to experience my first contractions that weren’t Braxton Hicks. I could feel them start in my back and wrap around to my belly. Or vice versa. They were mild, irregular and I easily went to bed. I had a few around 4:00 am that stirred me from a deep to light sleep, but by the time I woke up in the morning, they had fizzled out.
Tuesday (3/22) was an uneventful day on the labour front. My biggest concern was that the baby had suddenly become significantly less active, and if I had of been doing kick counts, it would have taken me hours to count 10 fetal movements. I shared this with my midwife at my regularly scheduled appointment that day and she elected to send me for an ultrasound for Thursday so we could check in on the baby. She also assured me that at this stage of pregnancy experiencing only 12 fetal movements over a period of 24 hours was normal.
That evening, again, I began to experience some irregular contractions that started around 7:00 or 8:00 pm. Only these were different and I wasn’t prepared for them at all. They weren’t painful, per say, but they did make me feel incredibly nauseous. Given my huge aversion to puking, I hoped this wasn’t what labour was going to feel like. I was utterly unprepared to deal with these sensations and I hoped that they would peter out overnight so I could spend some time mentally preparing myself and finding some new coping mechanisms the following day.
At 10:00 pm I went to the bathroom and when I wiped the mucous-like discharge had a tinge of pink blood to it. Was this bloody show??? I ran to the bedroom to share the news with my wife, and then we both panicked. The change in contraction type, loosening of bowels, less active baby and now bloody show indicated early labour to us. This baby wasn’t due for another week, and we weren’t really expecting her for two or more weeks. We totally weren’t prepared for her to make an early appearance. We both wanted more time. Only we now were both sure that we’d meet our daughter by Friday.
I woke up on Wednesday morning (3/23) and the contractions had again disappeared. I went about my jam-packed day feeling fantastic and was hopeful that the baby would wait another week to make her appearance.
That evening my wife was out with her coworkers celebrating the baby and this would be the last time for quite some time that she would be able to have a girls’ night out. She’d been looking forward to it for weeks.
I should have predicted this, like clockwork, the contractions started up again around 7:00 pm. Only these felt different. They felt like textbook contractions. I picked up my copy of the Birth Partner and flipped to the section on comfort measures. I hadn’t actually had a moment to mentally review how I’d cope with the labour, so I spent some time re-reading that section and remembering all of the things I’d do and put in place.
The contractions seemed somewhat regular so at 7:40 pm I started timing them. I was sitting in bed reading and I tried out some of my relaxation and breathing techniques. These early contractions were easy to work through and this gave me the time I so desperately needed to get grounded and focused.
After about an hour I looked at contractionmaster read out and I realized that there was a pattern. My contractions were 7 to 8 minutes apart and were lasting 30 to 45 seconds long. I wasn’t quite sure yet if this was labour, and a labour that was going to stick, but if it was I thought that I would have plenty of time as this was my first. I re-inflated the birth tub and installed the liner and then tucked my kids into bed for the night.
I sat in bed for a while longer debating whether or not to update my wife. She’d been checking in with me all day, and I really wanted for her to have an awesome, unencumbered time with her colleagues. I didn’t want to be the partner who interrupted a night of frivolity with a false labour scare. Something told me to check in with her. In my attempt to be casual, I fired her off an email around 9:15 pm that simply read in the subject line, “What time are you coming home?” She quickly responded, “11-12. Is that okay? Do you need me sooner?” I wrote back, “I'm okay. We have contractions. Just don't have too much to drink, okay?”
I sat back in bed again to read and time my contractions. Over the next hour they alternated between being 5 to 7 minutes apart and 1m to 1m30s in duration. I was still coping just fine and wasn’t quite sure yet if this was the real deal. I put on my PJs and started to get ready for bed. I knew that exhaustion would likely be the reason I would have to transfer from home to the hospital and that rest was vital at this time for making sure I could keep to my birth plan.
My wife rushed in the front door at 9:45 pm. We began, or rather I sat there, as I watched her begin the busy work of tidying up the house. What I remember most is that I had just bought a bunch of used baby toys from someone earlier in the day and I had dumped them on the living room floor. It looked like baby crap had barfed everywhere.
The mess was driving me nuts, so in between contractions, we sorted it into keep and toss piles. I was getting annoyed because my darling wife was more engrossed in playing with the toys and figuring out how they worked then quickly deciding which ones we should keep. My contractions were increasing in intensity and it was getting for difficult to focus. During one contraction she picked up this toy that launched into the alphabet song and she couldn’t turn it off. I remember being short with her and growling that she shut the damn toy up. She couldn’t get it to stop and “z” couldn’t get there fast enough!
At this point, we went back upstairs and I sat on the birthing ball while my wife continued to organize and declutter. The birthing ball felt so good and with each contraction I could actually feel my cervix opening. In between contractions, we chatted easily. At one point I felt that my PJ bottoms were all wet so I stood up to look at them. It turns out, what I had earlier thought was bloody show wasn’t. *This* was bloody show. With this sign, we finally decided that this must be the real deal and we began preparations for home birth. She worked on the bedroom and setting up our bed, while I began to fill the tub.
The contractions kept on rhythmically coming and at 11:00 pm she thought I was 4-1-1. I told her she was nuts as I had been having contractions for less than 3 hours and I didn’t think that I’d been having contractions 4 minutes apart for an hour. We knew we’d have to call our doula and midwife that night, but we both weren’t sure if it was the right time.
My wife decided to call our doula who was skeptical that I was in active labour. She told my wife to call the midwife and get back to her. My wife was pissed as our doula was supposed to be our support system and come when we needed her. My wife then paged our midwife.
During this time, I was still filling the birthing tub as the tap attachment was being a royal pain in my ass. The system we had rigged was finicky and the adapter kept on slipping off the sink faucet. As my contractions came closer and stronger, I was getting pissed off. I began to sway and moan through the contractions.
My midwife called back at 11:45 pm and I could hear my wife talking to her in the background as I still fiddled with the hose and worked through the contractions.
The midwife on call that night was my second midwife and we had had a conversation at every visit about when would be a good time to call. I kept on asking at my appointments, “Are you sure you only want me to call when I’m 4-1-1?” And she kept on re-iterating, “Yes.” I thought she’d want to know earlier so that she could manage her life and she says there was nothing worse than having a false pager call (that always came at 11:00 pm) which would result in her spending the night waiting for the real page and not getting any sleep.
In this context, I heard my wife somewhat unsure and with hesitation, say that she thought I was 4-1-1. My midwife also said she thought that would be a little quick, and asked to speak with me. My wife tried to hand me the phone just as a contraction hit and I swatted her away as I swayed and moaned through it. Upon hearing me, the midwife said, “Oh, she sounds active. I’ll just come and check on her to be sure.”
With the birth tub filling up, I returned to the birthing ball and laboured there for the next hour. I was hot and sweaty and started to have the shakes. At 12:00 pm my midwife arrived and she was soon followed by the doula 5 minutes later. The midwife asked to check me. I was 4cms dilated, 80% effaced and the baby was at station -1.
At 1:00 am, I finally slipped into the tub and laboured there for the next hour. The water lessened the intensity of the contractions and allowed me to rest in between them. I did find the tub a bit awkward to labour in. I would have contractions with my front dangling over the side, but in between contractions, it just wasn’t that comfortable for my legs. My back just ached and ached. I gripped onto my dear wife’s hands while my doula applied counter pressure to my back with a hot water bottle. My midwife and wife kept on running up pots of boiling water to keep the tub at a soothing temperature for me. Despite the warm temperature of the tub, I was still shaking.
My contractions increased in intensity and they came closer and closer together. At this point I just let go and began to moan and cry out through each contraction. I was incredibly loud, inwardly focused, and so animalistic in my labour. My birthing team was phenomenal and keep on encouraging my in between contractions.
The contractions shifted as I went through transition. I would have one extremely intense – almost unbearably intense – contraction, followed quickly by one of lesser intensity. It was like climbing a mountain, quickly descending, and then running right up a foothill. The contractions of lesser intensity and the short ensuing break gave me the time to muster the energy to get through the next big contraction. My breathing and contractions shifted at this time marking the end of transition.
Around 2:00 am my midwife asked me to get out of the tub so that she could check me. I was still shaking and dripping wet standing in my hallway as they toweled me off. Instead of going straight to the bed for my cervical check, I decided I needed to go to the bathroom to pee. Sitting on the toilet, all I wanted to do was pee, but I couldn’t. My midwife encouraged me to get off the toilet so she could check me, and I didn’t want to leave the toilet as the pressure was so intense. It was too intense.
I struggled down the hallway, walking like there was a football between my legs, and I was exhausted by this point. While I had entered labour thinking that transition would be the greatest challenge, it turns out pushing was. While I had embraced and fully given my body over to the contractions, I was suddenly fearful of pushing. It hurt, the pressure was intense, and I just didn’t know if I could do it. I was shaking and trembling and I think it was only at this point I lost my confidence and I wasn’t sure if I could do it.
When I finally managed to waddle all the way down the hallway to our bedroom, I still wasn’t ready for that cervical check. I stood with my wife dancing and swaying. The pressure continued to build, and my feisty daughter made it even more difficult as she was kicking her feet and using her head to make a punching bag of my back. While I couldn’t feel the individual movements, the back pain was pretty severe. Through each contraction I danced with circling hips clinging onto my wife, while my midwife applied the most wonderful counter pressure to my hips.
In between contractions I was encouraged to get back on the bed so I could be checked. When I was able to, I quickly got on my back, and begged my midwife to be fast and efficient. She only had a very small window of time to work within! She checked me, and the position of the baby, and declared that I was ready to push. In less than 6 hours, I had fully dilated and my cervix was completely pushed to the side. She also checked the positioning of the baby and determined that the baby had shifted to ROA. The baby was at station -4. In a little more than 3 hours, I had completed the first stage of labour.
I began pushing, albeit ineffectively, around 2:40 am. Still on my back I had the urge to push and it was just awful. I have no idea how women can successfully labour this way. It was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever experienced. You can’t effectively bear down and there’s nowhere to drive your energy.
With the next urge to push, I lept into a standing position. I swayed here for a while with my wife and then asked to go back to the toilet. Once on the toilet, with a very loud pop, my water broke and there was a small gush of water. I was very pushy at this time, 3:00 am.
My midwife came over to me with her flashlight to check me out and asked me to quickly get to the bed. It was only afterwards that I found out that they saw part of the head coming down. Despite having very quick active labour, my midwife expected me to push for a couple of hours before delivering the baby. She hadn’t yet called the second midwife, and they needed to call in a different midwife as my second was attending another birth. I needed to be distracted in order to give the second midwife time to arrive.
Back in the bedroom I flipped over to my hands and knees and tried to push that way. I was so hot and tired by this point in time that I had to work from my elbows and rest my cheek on a pillow on the bed. I went through a couple of cycles like this, but wasn’t able to bear down.
Next they had me lie on my side, and again, I couldn’t bear down like that. I tried holding my own legs, and having others hold them for me, and I just couldn’t push into my pelvis.
I needed to labour in a position that effectively used gravity and I just wasn’t in any state to stand. I was so tired and all I wanted was for this to be over. I wanted it to be over so badly, I just wanted it to go away, and I wanted to rest. Birth was the only way for this to end. Quitting wasn’t an option. I knew the only way I could finish was with my daughter in my arms so I tried to mentally ground myself to not be afraid of pushing and to give into these sensations like I had to the contractions.
My midwife provided incredible guidance during the pushing stage. My natural inclination was to continue to be very vocal and scream with every pushy sensation. She gently instructed me to put my chin to my chest and to inwardly focus my vocal energy into bearing down. This is how I learned to effectively push. While contractions were externally loud as I was inwardly focused, pushing was a silent activity where I was more conscientious of what was happening around me.
At 3:20 am my midwife encouraged me to go back to the toilet. With the very first contraction I effectively pushed and they could see the baby’s head again. I felt like I was splitting in two and I tried to brace my hands on the wall and keep her in a little bit longer. I did not particularly enjoy this sensation and wanted to keep myself from tearing. I never did experience the ring of fire. I reached down and could feel the top of her head emerging.
My midwife scrambled to grab the birthing stool and transitioned me off of the toilet. With the next contraction I pushed her head out, and being so impatient for labour to be over, I quickly followed with another push to get the rest of her body out. My midwife caught my little baby who was born on the bathroom floor at 3:30 am.
There’s not really a word or phrase to describe my emotional state at this time. Surprised-elation is the closest I can come. Here I was, in the bathroom, with a wee wailing baby who had just emerged into the world via my vagina. It’s not that I didn’t know I was pregnant for the past 9 months or what the birthing process entailed, I was just shocked that she was here and my labour was over. I sat there, open-mouthed, while my midwife and wife kept telling me to hold my baby. I was momentarily paralyzed. I finally scooped her up and began to cry with tears of joy. Our little Addison had arrived.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that the baby had arrived with a huge gush of blood. As per my plan to deal with any signs of post-partum hemorrhage, my midwife pushed 10cc of oxytocin. I didn’t notice, but my midwife and wife both panicked a little bit. The bathroom apparently looked like a disaster. I lost a lot of blood – apparently 500 ml instead of the typical 300 ml.
My midwife had me move down the hallway back to our bedroom. It took me a while to pass the placenta and then my midwife froze me so she could stitch up my second degree tear. All the while, I was still shaking. When the second midwife arrived, she started the newborn exam. The baby’s APGAR scores were 9 and 9, everything looked great, and the baby had her first nuzzle to the breast.
My wife fell asleep in the bed next to the baby and myself while the midwife finished her post-partum duties. I got to inspect the placenta, the midwife left me a long laundry list of post-partum care tips and things to watch out for, and our doula made some scrambled eggs. Around 6:30 am everyone had finally left, and we settled into our babymoon. I'm so incredibly happy that I got to experience an extraordinary, empowering and brilliant homebirth with the support of a wonderful midwife and an incredible birth partner.
And if you want even more cuteness, we had a newborn photoshoot done. You can check out some of the shots in a post on our photographer's blog - Sweet Baby "A".