I've been a bit of a lurker on this website for the past few months and was super grateful for all that I learned from all of the wonderful moms. While still a crazy painful birth, the things I've learned from here helped me recognize the different phases and work through some of the worst of it.
I woke around 12:45 am and feeling like I needed to pee got out of bed and immediately started leaking. I thought I had lost control of my bladder and barely made it to the bathroom without soiling the carpet (my pajamas were a different story). When I got on the toilet, there was way more fluid than my bladder has been able to hold for the past four months. Jon called in (still groggy from the Nyquil he took before going to bed) to ask if everything was ok and I said I think my water broke. He brought in my mesh panties that we had ordered along with one of the diaper size pads. I had him check me before I put them on, but he couldn't feel anything at all. We realized later that it was because at that point I was already fully dilated and effaced. I managed to rest for a little bit in bed but the contractions started almost as soon as I laid down. At first I could just breathe through them lying down, but then the pain started getting more intense and I had to move to my hands and knees and was moaning through them. Eventually I ended up on the floor, moaning and swaying and rocking. The pain of it was all in my lower back and was, by far, the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life. About 2:30 am I told Jon I wanted to get into the tub. He was so amazing with all that he did for me, listening to my moans and, eventually, screams and sobs, and keeping his cool the whole time. I got into the tub and the hot water felt good, but the contractions were building in intensity faster than I could handle and I spent most of the time again on my hands and knees. I tried other positions but it was the least painful for me. I had a lot of thoughts during this whole time and began yelling at Jon that I couldn't handle it, that I didn't want to do it anymore, and in the back of my mind I was thinking that thinking and saying these things usually indicated transition, but it had only been a couple of hours and I couldn't bring myself to believe that the baby was coming. The funniest thought I had (which I'm grateful I didn't voice) was that I just needed Jon to call the paramedics to take me to the hospital so I could have an epidural. This was immediately followed by, "Now, Jessica, that is a completely irrational thought. Why would you even want that?" (BTW, I'm not saying wanting an epidural is irrational, but with my fear of needles in my back and how anasthesia affects me in general, there's a lot of reasons why it's an irrational thought for me).
Shortly after that thought I began feeling pushy, but I was still in denial about having the baby so soon so I thought I just needed to use the bathroom again (I had luckily had my BM when my water initially broke) and told Jon I wanted on the toilet. This was around 3:30 am. The contractions were coming hard and fast, the back pain almost unbearable. More than a few of them were back to back or double-peaking, and I kept trying to find relief by jumping up and moving around, or by screaming, or leaning on Jon. For being drowsy from the medication and stiff from his RA, he was amazingly right where I needed him to be when I needed him there. Finally I said I needed to get back in the tub. I could tell the baby was moving into the birth canal and Jon could feel his head before I got in the tub. I felt it too and thought (again, irrationally) my cervix hadn't fully dilated and I was pushing it out with the baby, but Jon reassured me it was just his head. Hands and knees in the tub again, I began pushing in earnest. It didn't bring relief, but I knew I needed to do it. The crowning of his head created the most terrific pain I've ever felt (I thought the contractions were a ten in transition, but it turns out they were more like a seven. This part was definitely a ten) and I could barely push him out fast enough. I didn't want to push him out so fast that I would tear, but at that point I couldn't hold back. Jon coached me through it continuously telling me what a great job I was doing. When the head slipped out it felt amazing but then Jon said I needed to deliver the shoulders and all I could think was, seriously? Am I not done yet? His shoulders felt almost as big as his head, but then the rest of him slid right out. Jon caught him and for a moment he opened his eyes and then closed them again. Happy with that response he handed him to me after I laid back in the tub. I hadn't seen him open his eyes and he was so blue and white with the vernix so I started rubbing at his chest and feet to get him to cry. He let out a lusty yell and immediately pinked up, but then wouldn't stop crying. It was 4:06 am, so 3 hrs and 21 minutes from the time my water broke to the time the baby was born. Jon drained the tub and covered me and the baby with towels. The placenta started to come out shortly after that but got caught because of how I was sitting. Jon gave me some of the Shepherd's Purse tincture just as a precautionary measure. He thought it was still attached but I knew I just needed to squat it out. Jon had to help me, but as soon as I shifted positions, it came right out, perfect and whole. Jon slipped it into the mixing bowl and started cleaning things up and preparing the bed. The plastic painter's drop cloth was perfect and we didn't get any blood on the carpet. Cleanup was a single load of laundry and throwing away the drop cloth. I laid on the bed with our new son, Caius, for about half an hour while we posted on Facebook and called our parents. I took a shower a little later which felt so amazing. Thank goodness for an extra-hot water heater.
Caius wasn't interested in nursing at first and was kind enough to let us rest until our toddler, Xavier, woke up. Amazingly, he slept through all of the noise I made and woke around 7:30 am. When Jon got up to get him ready for the day, Caius and I slept for a few hours. After our nap Jon went out for Chinese food and ice cream and we had a lovely lunch while Xavy took his nap.
The differences between this birth and Xavy's induced birth are stark, but most amazing to me at all was how I felt after it was all said and done. With Xavy, I was laid up in the hospital for five days, barely able to do anything for myself and having temporarily lost my vision from hypertensive retinopathy. With this birth, after my initial nap, I was ready to get up and eat and even see visitors. My bottom is still incredibly sore, but nothing like the episiotomy pain I felt with Xavy. This birth I only had a few skid marks, no tearing, even with pushing him out so fast.
I know home birth isn't for everyone, and going unassisted can seem like a crazy idea (my mom couldn't believe we hadn't called the paramedics) but it was the birth I wanted, in spite of all of the pain, and seeing Caius so healthy and strong and perfect makes me all the more grateful that we decided to experience his welcome into this world in our own home.