The quick details: Transferred from a birth center to a homebirth midwife at 30 weeks. Prodromal labor starting at 40 weeks. 7 hour labor at 42+6, homebirth of 11 lb 12 oz baby boy. Shoulder dystocia, Gaskin Manuver, no tears!
Now for the really long version… (Don’t expect excellent writing - I’m one day PP! Zephyr is asleep on my chest in a ring sling as I’m typing)
I started out at a birth center because I knew hospitals weren’t a right fit for me but I had some hesitations about homebirth. So I settled for a birth center. Many of my friends absolutely love this birth center and its midwives and I’m not bashing them, but it just wasn’t the right fit for me. I felt like I was on an assembly line of testing, I never connected with the midwives. I felt like a number. I also took issue with how they handled going past your EDD - My middle child was born at 43+3, I won’t induce based on dates alone but the birth center encourages using castor oil starting at 41 weeks. If you go postdates then you can’t birth with them. This isn’t okay with me!
I felt stuck, like I had no other options. Surely the birth center would be better than a hospital. But then it hit me, out of nowhere: My body isn’t broken! Of course I can have a homebirth! Duh! I sent my husband a several-thousand-word e-mail detailing what I disliked about the birth center and why I thought we should birth at home. His response? “Ok”. Ha! Apparently he had come to the same conclusion already and was just waiting for me to come around.
So then I had to find a midwife who would take me so late in the pregnancy - I was in my third trimester! Suddenly everyone was coming out of the woodwork recommending the same midwife, Brenda. I gave Brenda a call and was immediately comfortable with her just over the phone! Meeting her in person was amazing. Her appointments last an hour and 45 minutes and she gives prenatal CARE, not just prenatal testing. She respects birth and respects autonomy, she doesn’t routinely interfere, only intervening when there’s a real problem or if the mother requests something, like a cervical check. She connected with me as an individual and was on board with what I wanted with my pregnancy and birth. As soon as I hired her, I fired the birth center. It was a huge weight lifted off my chest! I was no longer settling, I was going after what felt right!
At 40 weeks we were on the way to get my 2yo son’s cast off (an adventure of its own) when we were rear-ended. We were all alright, but contractions started the next day and never stopped. I wonder if that’s connected. Anyway, that was the start of almost three weeks of prodromal labor (it’s like never-ending early labor). This labor limbo did a number on my mental wellbeing! I suddenly couldn’t stand to be with my kids, like I wanted to growl at them and throw them out of my cave. Brenda assured me that this is common and that it will pass (this became my mantra). She told me a story of a dad who called her and said that he and his kids were at the park, his wife locked them out. He asked if he should get a hotel room and Brenda said that was probably a good idea. That story was so comforting and validating (and funny, though I felt for that mama!). So my kids went to stay with my mom until Zephyr was born. They wound up being gone for almost three weeks and it was a huge sanity-saver. I mean, being in labor limbo and feeling like a failure of a mother still ate at my sanity, but at least I wasn’t lashing out at my kids! Zach and I went to visit our kids regularly and I did miss them, but I just could *not* stand being alone with them! Hormones..
So three weeks of on-again, off-again contractions. Not fun. They would pick up in the evening and then taper off when I went to bed. I got to the point that I felt so darn crappy about everything - being away from my kids, inconveniencing my mom and mother-in-law and best friend, being hugely pregnant, having seemingly no progress - that I started getting crazy thoughts about induction. Now, in my right mind I’d never induce just based on dates. I patiently waited for my son Phoenix to be born at 43+3, but I didn’t have prodromal labor with him. Prodromal labor made me crazy and impatient and I started thinking about induction! I talked to Brenda and - get this - she talked me down. She didn’t make the decision for me, but she said what I needed (and secretly wanted) to hear. Instead of having to fight to go postdates like I did with Phoenix, I got to be vulnerable and real and rely on my care provider to not use that weak moment to swoop in and start managing my pregnancy. She reassured me that Zephyr would come in his right time. I of course knew this, but I really needed to just hear it.
Brenda said to sleep if I can sleep when it’s time to sleep, that when it’s time for active labor it’ll happen. Well, I kept going to bed, contractions kept tapering off, and I kept waking up still pregnant. Then one day I had a realization - Zach and I are night owls. Our energy picks up as the sun goes down, we’ve always been our most productive in the middle of the night, and both of our other kids were born after laboring through the night. So I got this idea that instead of going to bed and having contractions fizzle out, I should stay up and see if they keep going.
So I did just that. I decided to not go to bed. Finally, after three agonizing weeks of labor limbo and feeling like a failure as a mother, my contractions started to pick up. My theory was right! At 1:30 I told Zach that the contractions were really picking up. At 2:00 I called Brenda (side note - apparently I had told her prenatally that I’d be calling her at 2am. I called her at 2:00 on the dot! It just happened that way). I lost my mucus plug at 3am (finally got to see a mucus plug! Always wondered what they looked like but didn’t want to Google it). This is also when I called my doula, Madeleine. At 3:24 my water broke all over Madeleine’s birth ball that I had borrowed, heh. By 4am my contractions were 4 minutes apart and lasting over a minute each.
My birth team assembled around 4am - Brenda, Madeleine, my photographer Christina (my friend Addie came later). We hung out in my bedroom while I sat pantless on the birth ball. I was wearing a long shirt at least. We chatted and got acquainted with each other as a group between contractions. Zach was busy in the other room getting the space ready for birthing. At some point, I was ready to get into the birth tub. Contractions were starting to be a bit too intense and I was ready for the relief from the water!
Getting in the water was euphoric! Oh my gosh, that water felt SO FREAKING GOOD!!! I labored in the tub for a while and worked through contractions alright. I kept being surprised by how painless they were - they were intense but not painful. Heck yeah.
-Side note- In my previous labors I’ve gone deep within myself, became non-verbal, just totally tripped out in Laborland. With this one though, I was chatting or at least communicative throughout the process. Brenda noticed this too and we both had the same thought about it: that in the hospital I had to go within myself, but at home I was free to be myself and I didn’t have to retreat within. I definitely enjoyed this labor more than those too.
Around now, my friend Addie arrived. I was toward the end of the chatty part of labor so I didn’t get to hang out with her much. I didn’t pay much attention to her but I did register that she was supporting in the background, taking care of the details. I appreciated that she would refill my water instead of my doula having to leave me to refill. I don’t really know what all she was doing, but she was there and I was glad that she was there.
Zach got in the pool with me and I wanted to kiss him and love on him in the water, but when it came down to it I mostly just used him as a chair. He supported me so I wouldn’t have to use my muscles to support myself. I even yelled at him at one point for moving his arms in a way that I - completely self-centeredly - disliked. Poor Zach. But hey, I was in labor.
Then transition struck. Pain began. Despair, anger, sadness, fear, annoyance, shame - agh, transition... Transition peeled away the layers of my ego until I had completely submitted to the process. I cussed, I cried, I was afraid, I wanted to stop, I wanted my doula to take control and permit a break, I hated that our species has to give birth, I hated that I was in labor, and I really, really, really just wanted to STOP. My mantra became “Just my uterus”, as in only my uterus had to work, the rest of me could relax. That helped.
Then I rested between contractions and things changed, I shifted gears. I became focused and driven. I was going to push this baby out of my vagina, damnit, and I was going to enjoy it! Just try to stop me! I stopped talking and I stopped relying on my doula as much. I was a lone warrior, entering a battle that only I could fight. I focused in on a red light on a strand of rainbow fairy lights that surrounded my birth space. Red is my least favorite color, but it’s what I needed for this. That red light and I were going to push this baby out!
So I pushed. Pushing was a relief! After transition, oh yeah, pushing! I was loud! I roared! I groaned! I got a little sensual. I was a fierce wargoddess and I was going to birth this baby! I was surprised at how little it hurt. It was intense and the only pain was the lower part of my uterus.
Zephyr eased himself down, then back up. My vagina stung as it stretched, but I welcomed the sting because it was stretching instead of ripping. After a while I had another moment of “ugh can we just stop now? This suckssss”. His head was out shortly after that. You know, no matter how awesomely I rock labor (aside from transition), I don’t think there’ll ever be a day that I don’t scream during crowning.
So I’m kneeling there or squatting, I forget, with his head sticking out and I keep pushing. His body should have been out by now! WTF was going on!? Brenda calmly said that if he’s not out on the next contraction I’ll need to get out. She said it so calmly that I thought she was joking - she’s THAT calming in a scary situation!
Well, he wasn’t born in the next contraction. My birth team all sprang into action to help me stand up and get out of the tub and onto hands and knees, all while in labor and having a freaking head sticking out of me. My doula had one arm and my photographer had the other (and then switched with Addie I think) and Brenda performed the Gaskin Maneuver to get Zephyr out. His shoulder was stuck on my bone, shoulder dystocia. This is sometimes fatal to the baby and in a hospital they would cut an episiotomy and use forceps. Instead, Brenda used her hands, grabbed his shoulder, and turned him so he could get out. It was painful and horrible and awful. I wondered if this was what cat sex felt like - if you’ve ever heard cats have sex, it doesn’t sound pleasant. I screamed, I wanted to run away, I was afraid for my baby. Brenda told me to push! I said I can’t! But I did. I pushed and pushed and somehow found the strength to push him out. Once his body slithered out I just collapsed on the floor. The relief! I didn’t care that I was naked from the waist down, I didn’t care about getting blood on the carpet, I just - boom! Floor. I was on my hands and knees already so it wasn’t like a big fall or anything.
So Zephyr’s out and is blue. By the time I look at him Brenda is already pumping room air into his mouth and nose and is calmly but still assertively telling me to talk to my baby. Honestly, I wanted nothing more right then than to just take a nap and wake up and hear that my baby was fine. I was soooo tired! And so mentally elsewhere, not quite down to earth. But I talked to Zephyr and rubbed him as best as I could considering how out of it and exhausted I was. Zephyr’s heart was fine and he was gasping, he just needed some encouragement.
He started breathing on his own and started pinking up and Brenda thought he should have some skin to skin. - Now, in my ideal birth, I birth in the pool, Zach catches him, I take a birth pause and when I’m ready I turn around and Zach gives me our baby and I have that ecstatic skin to skin bonding moment. This wasn’t quite that. I was laying on the floor, now naked because we took off my shirt (yes we, it was a community effort), bleeding with an umbilical cord sticking out of me, connecting me to my son. We were laying skin to skin but I wasn’t really mentally there yet. I hadn’t exactly “checked out”, but I was exhausted physically and emotionally and just wasn’t all there. Zephyr wasn’t all there either - he had just gone through some intense birthing too. So we laid there and I don’t really remember what we did. Everyone covered us with towels and blankets and somehow got a chux pad under me. Zephyr and I were just kinda in a daze.
Then it was time to birth the placenta. It was *right there* and ready to come out but I had a hesitation. If you know about my previous births, you know that the cord has always been a huge issue. My hesitation was that I didn’t want to move at all as long as Zephyr and I were attached by the cord. I didn’t want to risk tearing it off, no matter how unlikely that was. So I asked Brenda to cut the cord before I’d birth the placenta. I was unintentionally but consciously not birthing it until we were no longer attached by the cord. So Brenda severs the attachment, I don’t even watch because I’m just so in a daze. The idea was that I’d get in a different position to push the placenta out and Zach would hold Zephyr to his chest during that. So Zach is lifting up Zephyr and as Zephyr is above me, I push the placenta out. It just slithered out and felt so relieving. Zephyr wasn’t even all the way in Zach’s arms before I got it out. Being attached by the cord was really the only thing holding me back from pushing it out. Weird how our bodies and minds work.
So then Zach sits on the couch holding Zephyr, Brenda and Christina go in the kitchen to clean and photograph and geek out with the placenta, Addie I think went home to her nursling, and I laid on the floor. I just needed to check out for a bit and I wasn’t ready to move. I had just been through a lot! So the floor is where I wanted to be, because that’s where I was. Madeleine sat near my head and kept giving me water. I spoke on and off but mostly just zoned out and rested. At one point I remembered something that I needed to tell Christina but I didn’t know where she was or if she was still there so I sent her a text. She responded by texting, “Did you just text me from three feet away?” Apparently she had been standing behind me the whole time, haha.
Finally I was back to earth and ready to get up. I wanted to take a bath to get cleaned up and then go to my bed. My birth team got a sitz bath ready for me and got my bed covered in plastic and sheets and chux pads and pillows. We decided to weigh Zephyr before I left the room though. Zach laid him on the scale sling and it was the first time I was really seeing my baby. I saw him and I cried, he was so perfect! My baby! Brenda announced that he weighed 11 pounds 12 ounces and I responded with a very appropriate “holy fuck!”. I thought he was a 9-pounder. He looks like a little baby to me. I didn’t have gestational diabetes and Brenda confirmed that he wasn’t a GD baby, he was just big! (My other son was 10.3)
So then I was ready for my bath. I got up by rolling over, getting on hands and knees, and pushing myself up off the ground. Then I slowly made my way to the bathroom and somehow got in the tub. Then I guess Zach handed me Zephyr? I held him in the tub and just looked at him. He was snuggled up and slept on my chest. Once I was clean and ready to get out, Zach took Zephyr and I got dried off and made my way to the bed. There Brenda and Madeleine and I chatted a bit, Brenda checked my nether regions and confirmed that there was no tearing just bruising. Eventually Madeleine went home and later Brenda went home.. then Addie came back with things and our parents and kids came by.. it’s all a blur. And then we slept.
I’m typing this the next day. Last night was hard. Zephyr cried a lot and I got two hours of sleep. Today hormones hit me and wow! Hormones! My placenta should be encapsulated and ready for consumption tomorrow, so I’m trying to hold on going crazy until then. I *should* be sleeping now but the house is quiet and this is good for my mental wellbeing too - being alone in the quiet, processing yesterday’s events. Zephyr is asleep in the sling and this is the most he’s slept since he was born. Definitely a sling baby <3
I suck at wrapping up endings. So um, this is the end of my birth story :p
Crunchy, AP, Potterhead Whovian.
L is 4 and P is 2 and #3 is "due" in January.
JENNY, 38~ preschool teacher, birth activist, sun worshiper, singer, married for 17 years and mom to
Karan 15, Fiona 12, Bodhi 10, Bjorn 6, Devon 3, and Robin Taylor born January 16th!
That was an awesome read! What a big boy, yeesh. Mine's supposedly big but I'm really hoping he's not THAT big!
You've made me feel better about the possibility of birthing "late" (whatever that even means...babies are like wizards, they arrive precisely when they mean to!). I just hit 39 weeks and my OB's trying to tell me that I will be induced at 41 weeks, like it or not. I really want a natural birth so that didn't go over well, obviously. I think as long as baby and I are still doing well, there's absolutely no reason to do anything besides wait for him to show up.
Your midwife sounds like a great lady, that's exactly what I'd want in a caregiver! Support and encouragement while respecting your wishes...what a beautiful idea. There aren't any midwives or doulas in my area, but I'm definitely never seeing this OB again after my son's born; she thinks the only answers are medical answers, and she's damned pushy.
Congrats on your wonderful homebirth and your big, healthy boy!
Girl absolutely in love with boy and our DD (11/06), DS1 (08/11) and DS2 (brand new!)