The short version:
Cyrus Boone was born on December 29, 2007 at 12:04 a.m., in as gentle and easy a home waterbirth as I could have imagined. He weighed 6 lbs 12 oz and was 21 inches long. He was born in the caul, traditionally considered good luck. The whole experience was incredible.
The very long version:
I tend to take a pretty laid back attitude towards life in general, and I wasn’t worried about giving birth, to the point where I was a little worried that I wasn’t worried enough. My sister had a really great homebirth about two months before me, and I mentioned that to her. She told me not to be scared, and she said that for her, giving birth hurt, but not unbearably, and then it was over and she had her baby. It seemed like a pretty good way to look at the whole process.
On December 27, the night before Cyrus was born, I played “single girl having a night in” for the last time in what could be a very long while. Aaron (DP) was out of the house overnight for a sleep study, and by the time we realized I might be giving birth that night, it was too late to reschedule.
I was technically due on December 29, though I had been going with a 12/25 due date based on the length of my cycles. For the last couple of days, I had been feeling crampy in the morning, but no other signs that labor was imminent. But women in my family tend to go from zero to baby in no time flat, and I was pretty sure I’d go into labor in the next couple of days.
I had put in a few hours at the office that Thursday afternoon and left around five, saying I would be back Friday unless I was giving birth. At about 7 p.m., Aaron took off to the sleep study (after swearing up and down that he would keep his cell phone at full volume and glued to his side). I beamed stay-put vibes at the baby, explaining to him that he needed to wait for daddy to come home before we went into labor, then I consciously settled in to enjoying myself.
I rented a couple of uber-cheesy movies whose names shall go unmentioned, cracked open a bottle of red wine (midwife’s orders) and dug into a bag of chocolate. The night also involved red toenail polish and a hot bubble bath.
Despite the girly-girl vibe, I was feeling really contemplative, and very aware that I was sitting on the border of what would likely be the biggest transition in my life. In some ways I felt like I was saying goodbye to one incarnation of myself and preparing to greet another.
It was well after midnight by the time I went to bed. Every time I woke up throughout the night, I checked the clock and was reassured that there was no way I could be in full-blown labor before Aaron got home.
He got back around 7 a.m. on the 28th, and pretty much as soon as he walked in the door, the contractions started. They were really mild at first, like marginally uncomfortable menstrual cramps, and they were coming like clockwork every two minutes. (The baby had been posterior all through the third trimester, and the midwife said the rapid early contractions were probably him turning anterior.)
Aaron took off to work, and I had a pretty good nesting fit all morning, getting the house obsessively clean, doing all the laundry and making a pot of lentil soup. I kept on having signs that I might be in labor, but I still wasn’t really sure. The cramps were still mild. I was on the toilet a few times. I wasn’t really having a bloody show, but the toilet paper was the palest pink. I thought my water might have broken and be trickling, but the ph paper strip was only turning blue around the edges.
At about 10 a.m. I called the midwife. She said everything sounded good, and to keep her updated. A bit after 1 p.m., things started picking up a little bit and I knew I was really in labor. I had a no-doubt bloody show and the contractions were picking up, to the point where they felt like the sort of menstrual cramps that would make me call in sick to work and snuggle up with a hot water bottle—uncomfortable, but not painful. It was starting to seem unfair that the contractions were still coming every two minutes (I don’t think they slowed down until I was practically in transition, at which point I was way beyond timing them.)
I took a shower, and then I managed to doze through most of the afternoon, waking up during contractions and falling right back asleep. My water broke with an audible pop and a gush around 5 p.m. Aaron got home about 6:30 p.m., and by that point, I was starting to stretch out and vocalize through the contractions.
I called the midwife and told her Aaron and I were going to take a walk and asked her to head over in about an hour. A couple minutes later I called her back to say screw the walk, come over now.
She got there by about 7:30 and she and Aaron started setting up the birth pool in the living room, in front of the fireplace. By that point I was starting to take off into labor land. I went into the bedroom, turned off the lights and lay on my side on the bed breathing through the contractions.
The midwife asked if she could do an exam, and she said I was 3 – 4 centimeters dilated. While the tub was filling, she asked me to eat some toast, which sounded sort of like a bad idea to me at the time. It came up a couple minutes later, and I had the odd sensation of throwing up out of one end while gushing amniotic fluid out the other. Not my favorite part of labor, no.
At about 9 p.m., the tub was ready, and I climbed into it and instantly decided that the house could be burning down around me and I would not get out. Seriously, I don’t know how women gave birth before the invention of portable hot tubs.
The whole experience was starting to feel decidedly psychedelic. That’s the only way to describe it. Being in labor was a completely different and weird headspace. I had read descriptions of “laborland” but it was a way more intense mental experience than I could have imagined.
I was in good active labor at that point, and it was starting to hurt. I never thought that I couldn’t do it, but I had a couple of contractions where I felt a little bit like a caged animal trapped in the pain. I flailed around in the tub a little bit, and I started wishing for a break.
The trick I worked out for dealing with it was to realize that the contractions were short, and the space between them was long and pain-free. I relaxed into the intervals, trancing out between contractions. Looking back on it, I must have been under the influence of the endorphin rush of a lifetime.
What I remember most from that point was how calm and quiet everything was, almost like a church, with music playing softly and everyone whispering and the water lapping against the side of the tub.
At some point I was actually dozing off between each contraction in the middle of transition. All the Christmas decorations and tree were still up, and I started dreaming that I was giving Aaron a really amazing Christmas present, only I couldn’t remember what it was.
Whenever I imagined the labor beforehand, I would be surrounded by people talking to me and encouraging me and rubbing my back. But I wound up not wanting anyone around or talking to me, because that jerked me out of the trancelike state where everything was warm and pain-free, and back into the fully awake state where things hurt.
Aaron was trying to be the good, supportive partner, and he tried rubbing my back a few times, but I wasn’t having any of it. What went through my head was, “Thank you for your concern and your sweet attempts to help, but I am discovering that for me, labor is an intensely solitary experience and I must go it alone.” What I managed to get out of my mouth was “Hngh. Not now,” as I moved away from his hands into the center of the pool.
He realized I wanted to be left alone and he spent the rest of the labor pacing through the house and chain smoking outside, poor guy. I tried to smile at him a few times and reassure him that I was okay and he was doing great too. The back-up midwife showed up at some point, and I thought about saying hello to her, but that seemed like too much effort.
Maybe around 11 p.m. or so, the midwife asked if she could do another check, and she said I was fully dilated. Not long after that, I suddenly realized I was bearing down with every contraction. It felt so good to have a focus during the contraction, and once I was pushing, labor really didn’t hurt much at all. I never felt like I was straining or pushing with all of my might—I didn’t even feel like I was doing it myself. My body just took over and started reflexively bearing down.
The midwife whispered encouragingly, “Just keep on doing exactly what you’re doing. Just keep on ooching that baby down.” It sort of surprised me, because at that point I was so far off in laborland that I didn’t even realize I was pushing the baby out. I was just pushing because that’s what my body was doing, with or without me.
That went on for maybe an hour, and I was really feeling okay at that stage, trancing out between the contractions. All of a sudden, during one of the contractions, I felt the baby’s head bulge out a couple of inches. It totally surprised me. I think I had forgotten that there was a baby in there. There was a sudden flurry of activity and I told the midwives to get Aaron. He got in front of me and I grabbed his hand and squeezed as the next contraction set in.
The phrase “ring of fire” flashed through my head, and I steeled myself for the crowing part to hurt really badly. But it felt strangely good. I pushed half of the baby’s head out on the next contraction. I felt like I could have pushed out his whole head, but it felt like I was stretching too much, so I relaxed and let the head pop back in. That felt really weird.
On the next contraction, I bore down and pushed out the entire head, and gasped to the midwives to catch him. It seemed to take forever for the next contraction to set in. I almost started giggling because it seemed so funny to have a baby’s head sticking out between my legs, and I wanted to crack a joke about it, but the English language was a little beyond my ability at that point.
On the last contraction, I gave a big push and the rest of his body came slithering out into the water. The whole world was in soft focus at that point, but I remember turning around and seeing the midwife pull this tiny naked baby up out of the water.
The immediate aftermath is a jumble in my memory, just a series of impressions. Aaron and I kept on gasping “I love you” to each other over and over again. I was trying to hug him and stare at the baby all at the same time. I was on my hands and knees, so we had to do some contortions to get my leg over the umbilical cord so I could sit back and hold the baby. I remember the way the baby’s soft, slippery skin felt the first time I brought him to my chest.
The look on our faces in photos taken moments after the birth is amazing. We look like every child on every Christmas morning, awed and overjoyed and speechless. I think it was the most real, profound and mind-blowing moment of my life, staring at my baby, at this new life that had just entered the world, and realizing how much I already loved him.
After a while, we climbed out the birth pool and settled down on the sofa, just staring at the baby. At some point, with the help of a gentle tug by the midwife, the placenta plopped out, which felt oddly good. We all cheered when the midwives checked me out and said there was no tearing at all.
The midwives suggested I try nursing, and the baby latched on like a little pro. Suddenly I was starving, and the midwives made me the, um, traditional post-natural-childbirth meal of a grilled cheese and cherry coke. It was the single best meal I have ever had in my entire life.
I cleaned off in an herbal bath while Aaron held the baby, then we all settled into bed, where the midwife weighed and measured the baby. I hadn’t realized it earlier, but she told me the baby had been born in the caul, which in many cultures is a sign of lifelong good luck. Even though my water broke, the midwife said there are multiple layers of membranes, and one of the layers must have still been intact. She left around 4 a.m. and the new family drifted off to sleep.
It’s been around three weeks since he was born, and Cyrus is doing fantastic and so are we. He’s such a chill, happy, unfussy little guy and has been since the day he was born. Part of that, I think, is due to the fact that we had such a wonderful, gentle birth and a long, relaxing babymoon.
While of course the most important thing was the baby coming out safely, I’m so happy with the birth experience as well. Many times, when I hear stories of hospital births, it sounds like such a negative or scary or traumatic experience—or at the very best, something that must be soldiered through bravely. For me, Cyrus’s birth was an amazing and empowering experience, and I’m so grateful for it.
Birth photos:laboringborn in the caulmy familyCyrusdaddy and babymama and baby