On the morning of Sunday, July 26th, I woke up at 1:30 am feeling fairly crampy and achy. I didn't think anything of it, as I was "only" 41 weeks (dds had both come quite a bit later) and I had also been having lots of prodromal labor for about 3 weeks. I got up to pee, noticed a little bit of pinkish mucus and went back to bed. I drifted back to sleep very easily, and slept until about 5:15 when I was awoken by a contraction that was quite a bit stronger than the prodromal ones, but still fairly mild. I rolled onto my hands and knees and waited to see if I had another. After about 4 or 5 contractions that were about 3-4 mins apart I decided to get out of bed and start timing them on Contraction Master (I love that thing)! I peed again, and had quite a bit more watery pink mucus while on the toilet. I checked my own cervix and it was much the same as it had been for about 3 weeks... about 3 cm or so, though it had thinned a bit and I could feel baby's head right against it. I set myself up with a big glass of lemonade (to try and hydrate myself in case these were Braxton-Hicks... hilarious in retrospect) and sat on my birth ball in front of the computer.
My contractions ranged from 1.5 to 3.5 minutes apart and anywhere from 30-50 seconds long. They were still pretty irregular and not very strong yet, although I did notice they were fairly close together. I had had a precipitous labor and birth with dd2 (1 hour 40 mins) but her contractions were extremely strong and like clockwork at 2 minutes apart from the very beginning. I decided to wake dh up at about 5:50 and see if he wanted to get up and spend time with me while I tried to figure out if I was in labor or not. Around this time I also posted in my DDC with "could this be labor?" describing the situation. We chatted and I breathed through some contractions, which were still very manageable and light. dh was concerned that they were very close together, and that our midwives were about 45 minutes away, and thought that we should call them. We paged them at about 6:10 just to give them a heads-up that today might be the day. When I spoke to my midwife I told her the contractions weren't very strong and that it was her choice whether she wanted to drive all the way down to see us. She decided that given my history, she'd rather come check and hang out for a bit and see what happened.
dd1 woke up around this time. She was so sweet and excited, and we sat on the couch eating breakfast and talking about labor and the upcoming birth.
She was planning on being present to see her sibling being born. Whenever I would get a contraction, I would sit on the birth ball and rock my hips. At around 6:30 the contractions got considerably stronger, and I felt fairly certain that they were going to lead to a baby (finally!). I was vocalizing quite strongly through them rather than just breathing, and it was uncomfortable to sit on the birth ball anymore... I preferred to be on hands and knees on the floor leaning over the ball. I felt a bit of pressure and really needed to pee, so I went to the washroom. I emptied my bladder and checked my cervix again. Now I was about 6-7 cm with a HUGE bulging bag of membranes. I was so excited since I knew this was definitely it! I asked dh if he wanted to feel the bag of water, he politely declined.
The contractions from this point on were very, very strong. I was vocalizing loudly and dh thought we should call the midwife back to update her. She was still about 30 minutes away, and suggested that we call the paramedics if I start feeling pushy before she arrives. I was hesitant to do this, for 2 reasons. I am a midwife myself, and paramedics at home births aren't always the most helpful. They don't have a lot of experience and everything sort of turns into panic mode... I just felt that they might do more harm than good. Secondly, we had been considering UC throughout this pregnancy, though ultimately we had decided that we wanted a midwife present. I felt calm about the possibility of it being just dh and I (though I don't think he did). We compromised and I told him that if my water broke and I started feeling pushy, we could call, but otherwise I'd like to try to hold off and wait for the midwife to arrive. I decided to lay down on the bed instead of walking and squatting to see if I could slow things down a wee bit.
As soon as I laid down, I started feeling immense pressure with the contractions. I told dh that things might happen fairly quickly, and he grabbed the basket of birth supplies and the phone. The next contraction, my water broke. I felt baby's head descend all the way onto my perineum in the same contraction. dh got on the phone with the paramedics, but I knew they wouldn't be there in time. dd1 shouted "Daddy! I can see the head!" and he hung up the phone to come help. Baby's head crowned and was half born in the next contraction. I waited for the next one and pushed the rest of it out slowly. I could feel he was a pretty big baby (my girls were big, too, but their heads both came out easily in one push). The midwife in me started thinking that I might have a little trouble with his shoulders, too. The next contraction after his head was out, I tried pushing with all my might for his shoulders. They weren't moving, so I changed positions onto my hands and knees. I also made note of the time, conscious of the fact that he needed to be born fairly quickly.
I pushed on hands and knees, standing up, squatting, etc. Nothing was making him come out. Eventually, I lied on my back, pulled my legs as far back as I could, and told dh to reach both his hands in up past the baby's head, grab his shoulders, and pull him out. He did, bless his heart for not panicking, and baby Noah was born! His umbilical cord broke when he came out (interesting, since dd2's had done the same, and it's apparently a pretty rare occurence). dh grabbed the closest thing he could find (the headphones from his iPod) and we tied it off. He was pale and hadn't cried yet, but I knew he was okay since his muscle tone was good and he was making faces. I grabbed some receiving blankets and rubbed him up good while speaking lovingly to him and he started crying and turning pink. He had a bruised-looking blue forehead from the blood pooling in his face while we was stuck (for a total of 2 minutes). At this time, the paramedics arrived, and as I suspected, were fairly useless. I informed them that I was a midwife, what had happened, that the baby was okay, etc. I asked them for a cord clamp and some free-flow oxygen for the baby, both of which they provided. They remained very hands-off and let me call the shots, which I appreciated so much. There was a lovely female paramedic who stayed in the room with me, and she was chatting with dd1, and said "it's so nice that you got to have your baby at home!". The other paramedics on the other hand, were dragging in the stretcher even though dh told them we had been planning a home birth, our midwife was on the way, and we weren't going to the hospital! Luckily, our midwife arrived about 5 minutes after them and everyone relaxed.
I did need 3 stitches for a first degree tear (caused by dh's arms no doubt!) after two previous stitch-free births, but that was fine with me since my baby was here and safe! Noah nursed for the first time while I was stitched (about 20 minutes after his birth). I had a quick shower while Noah was snuggled by loving family (both sets of grandparents had arrived by now) and the bedroom was tidied, and then we did his newborn exam. He weighed 9 pounds 11 ounces! Only 3 ounces bigger than my dd2, but he was 1.5 inches shorter, so quite a bit chubbier! His newborn exam was perfect in every respect, and he settled right into our family life. We spent the day eating, sleeping, enjoying the company of family and marveling over the fact that all was very well despite some unexpected bumps in the road! I find it interesting that we ended up having a UC after all, even though we had decided to have a midwife there. I am also so grateful that he arrived before the paramedics, because I think dh would have stepped aside to let them "handle" the situation, and their inexperience could have caused serious harm with a shoulder dystocia (if they pulled/twisted his head or neck, for example). He truly did choose the very safest way to be born!
So, there's the story of how our beautiful Noah Gabriel came into the world. He was born at 6:51 am... 1 hour 31 minutes after I woke up, 41 minutes after we gave the midwife the "heads up", and after about 21 minutes of strong contractions that I would consider active labor. Phew! He's 3 days old now, nursing beautifully and sleeping well.
Thanks for reading, and here are some photos
of his first day, even though we didn't quite have time to get any of the labor and birth!