In the early portion of 2007 my husband and I learned we were pregnant. We lost our first child to a miscarriage in 2005 and were very unhappy with the treatment we had received at the hospital. So we knew we would do things differently this time. After much thought and discussion we had settled on having the baby at a birthing center. However, we were not truly content with that decision. We felt the most comfortable with having a home birth, but were not happy with the thought of a midwife being in our home, our sanctuary.
When I was 5 months pregnant we read about giving birth unassisted and instantly felt a connection. This is what we had felt we needed, but did not think it was possible. The following four months we educated ourselves and made many preparations for our baby's arrival. We both maintained my health during the pregnancy. I drank plenty of water everyday, consumed a lot of protein, and did many other things that involved adequate nutrition. If there was something we overlooked my body would remind me by telling me what it needed. We both listened to intuition. Through this we learned many things. We bought different books about pregnancy and childbirth and studied those along with various resources on the Internet. Everything about the way we handled the pregnancy was perfect and peaceful.
Early on I had estimated the due date as October 24th, but knew the baby would come when it was ready. From the beginning we both sensed it was a boy. On the 19th of October we began to feel that we should take off time from our job to finish preparations for the birth. This involved focusing inward, relaxing, buying the rest of our supplies for labor/birth, sewing cloth wipes, etc. But as the 24th came closer we began to doubt that would actually be the day.
The Birth of Francis Marten
I awoke on October 23rd around 9am with what I later figured out were labor pains. I thought I was possibly sick from something I had eaten the previous afternoon, but had a feeling that wasn't the case. I hoped it was not actual labor as our preparations were not yet complete.
As the day progressed the labor pains grew stronger. I soaked in the bathtub for some relief. I felt so happy and giddy that the baby was on its way. After I got out of the tub I finished what I could with sewing cloth wipes for the baby while Chris finished up some work for a client. When the contractions became too strong for me to sit through, I rocked back and forth on my knees or I would lean on a chest at the foot of our bed and rock my hips back and forth.
Later that afternoon we went to the store to buy the rest of our birth supplies. It was difficult for me to ride in the car while going through the contractions. At the store I could barely concentrate on shopping. I tried to maintain composure while leaning on shelves for support and going into the bathroom a few times. Eventually it was just too much. I went to the car and waited while Chris paid for our items. We had a few more stops before we were finally able to go home.
At home I was planning to hang around in the kitchen while Chris made dinner. I ate some cookies, but doing so caused me to feel like throwing up. I went upstairs and labored through increasingly stronger contractions. I leaned on the chest and rocked my hips. It felt so much better and more tolerable when I did that. The contractions felt like menstrual cramps and I considered if all of it was possibly just prodromal labor.
Each contraction was painful and immobilizing . Since using the phone was about the only thing I could do at the moment, I decided to call another unassisted birther. I described to her how I was feeling and she said that it was most likely labor, but she couldn't be sure because her contractions hadn't been the same way. Her support was encouraging and within a half-hour of the phone call my bag of waters broke.
The water breaking brought a bit of relief from the pain. From there I labored in the bathtub, mostly on hands and knees, but at times would stand. When needed, Chris gave me glasses of “Emergen-C” to drink for thirst and energy. Eating raw honey also helped with energy and gave me strength. Having these items on hand was a great help. To help maintain calmness and relieve stress and pain I took Arnica, Chamomilla, Pulsatilla and Rescue Remedy. I also drank comfrey and red raspberry leaf teas, both of which are known to help labor.
I was concerned about exhaustion. I had slept only 4 hours the previous night. A few times I felt discouraged and worried that I wouldn't make it through without going to the hospital. I overcame those doubts by speaking encouraging things aloud and asking Chris to encourage me as well. This strengthened me and greatly improved my outlook. As labor neared the end I took deep, long breaths to avoid hyperventilation.
Eventually I began to get urges to push which helped to give some relief from the intensity of the contractions. But the relief was short-lived and I became weary of the urges as they seemed unpredictable and uncontrollable. After a few minutes I began to feel a burning sensation and realized it as the “ring of fire” that I had seen mentioned many times.
At this point my position in the tub was hurting my knees badly. I wanted to get out and onto the bathroom floor. Chris positioned rags so there would be padding for my knees. Once I was out of the tub and on my knees I leaned far back. Laboring in this position felt great and the pushing urges were easier to deal with.
At some point I stood up and leaned on Chris' shoulders for support as he was sitting on the floor. I asked Chris a few times to check if he could see the baby's head. He said he thought he could see something. I remember touching near the opening and feeling the baby's head for the first time. It was so amazing and mysterious. We never checked station or worried about anything like that. We just went with the flow. I stood, leaning on Chris, and continued pushing. Chris got a towel ready, held it underneath me and waited while I pushed.
Without warning our baby shot out and onto the towel. It was such a relief to have him out! Chris immediately picked up our baby and turned him onto his stomach, head tilted down to clear his airways. Mucus came out of the baby's mouth and he began to cry. The sound of a baby crying in our house was so foreign to us. It felt very strange.
I don't remember what I did at that moment (other than stand there and enjoy the relief of labor being over). Chris told me it was a boy. Hearing that was very refreshing and wonderful to me. It made me happy. We were right about what we felt the whole time. Chris went into the bedroom and checked the time (our clocks were purposely kept out of sight during the last hours of labor). We estimated 12:05am as the time of birth.
At this point our baby was still crying. I sat on the toilet and latched him on to breastfeed for the first time. It was so amazing to me. I thought breastfeeding might feel uncomfortable, but it wasn't in the slightest. It was wonderful.
The baby was still fussing even while nursing and that's when we finally realized that we hadn't yet dimmed the lights – something we had planned to do as we knew how important this was for the baby during the first hours out of the womb. We quickly replaced the bright lights with the soft, soothing glow of candlelight. Within a few minutes the baby was calmly and quietly nursing. I sat there feeding him and waited for the placenta to detach. Eventually we decided to move into the bedroom. When I stood up I found that the placenta had dropped; we placed it in a bowl with the cord still attached. We then moved the baby, the placenta bowl and ourselves into our bed while I continued to feed the baby. I don't remember how long he nursed, but at some point he finished and was resting peacefully. While our baby slept I looked at him closely for the first time. I was in awe of how beautiful and perfect he was. Chris and I laid there and admired our baby for quite awhile. Then we too joined him in rest..
Our little man is now a year old and is as happy and healthy as can be.