Monday, June 4th, 2007 was my due date. During the preceding few days, I’d been having irregular contractions and general increasing discomfort. But I was pretty sure labor was still a number of days away. I took Annalise to her music class in the morning and to a playdate in the afternoon. Following the playdate, a few of us decided to call our husbands to get the kids and have a little girls’ night out for Mexican food. Not long after we got to the restaurant I realized that my contractions seemed fairly evenly spaced, so I started timing them. They were about 10 minutes apart at the start of the meal (around 7:30PM). By the end, they were 5 minutes apart, and I was actually beginning to believe that I might be in labor after all. One of my friends drove me home in my car and had her husband pick her up. She even straightened the toys and did some of my dishes while she was waiting for him! (Thank you, Stephanie!) Judson got home just as I did, and Annalise was asleep in the car, so he put her to bed and helped with getting the house a little tidier.
After I’d settled back in at the house, updated Judson on everything, and timed a few more contractions, I called Jen, our midwife. It was about 9:30 by now and contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart. She said to keep timing the contractions and call her again when I felt that something had changed and I was at the “next level.” So we straightened some more, put a crock of veggie chili on the stove, stripped and remade the bed for the birth, and generally puttered around. By 11:30 the contractions were 3 minutes apart and getting more uncomfortable. Judson was getting antsy, and even I was beginning to be nervous that the baby might come quickly, so I called Jen to update her on my status. She agreed that it was a reasonable time for her to come over. After we hung up, Judson and I sat down to watch a little TV to pass the time until she arrived.
She got to the house around 12:15 with her assistant, Darlene, and her daughter, who we’d hired to entertain Annalise should she wake during the labor or delivery. They arranged her gear in the bedroom and we chatted a bit. After the birth team was settled in, Judson lay down to get a little sleep if possible before everything really got started, and I found my groove in walking around and leaning on walls or furniture whenever a contraction came. I could no longer speak through a contraction and had to really focus on my breathing and muscle tension to keep them within my manageable range. This went on for a few hours, then Darlene came to check on me and took pity on the poor, laboring woman. She stood and chatted with me in the kitchen for quite a while, which was a very welcome distraction. She also used that conversation as a way to time my contractions, and when they dropped consistently below 2 minutes apart, she broke away for a few moments to tell Jen, so she could check on the baby’s heart rate, etc.
We snagged the birth ball from the bedroom, where Judson was still sleeping, and I tried all the positions and actions that had served me so well during Annalise’s labor. None of them worked this time. Walking and standing both felt better than sitting, rocking, etc. At around 5AM, Annalise woke up. I’d really been counting on her sleeping until 7, as she had been for the last few weeks, and even thought I might deliver before then, but ‘twas not to be. Judson went to get her, but she was not a happy camper, so I went in, soothed her, and set her up with some breakfast before retreating into the bedroom.
A little while later, it struck me that my labor had stalled. My contractions were now further apart and less intense than they’d been 90 minutes before. When I had contractions, I felt a little “pushy” but not irresistibly so, and not between contractions. At first I thought it was just awareness of Annalise that was blocking me, but she settled into a fairly happy-sounding routine with Judson, and things didn’t speed up. Then I decided it must be fatigue, so I took a power nap. I felt much better after 18 minutes of sleep, but the contractions didn’t seem any more productive. I was feeling like things should have been “ready” at that point, and was a bit fatigued and frustrated. So Jen suggested that we do a vaginal exam. I agreed, as I wanted a plan of action pretty badly at that point. I was prepared to hear that I was only 5cm dilated, but I just felt that I needed to know where things were.
Turns out that I was stretchy to 10cm, and probably had been for quite a while, but the baby’s head was at an awkward angle, and wouldn’t stay engaged between contractions. It didn’t help that my water still hadn’t broken, so the head tended to “float” back up a tad after each contraction. Jen wiggled the baby’s head around, then suggested that I try laboring on hands and knees. She also gave me a homeopathic remedy to intensify my contractions. The second I stood up, I knew something was different. Baby was decidedly putting more pressure on my pelvic floor and I felt slightly pushy. I don’t know quite what did it, but some or all of Jen’s actions really did the trick. My next contraction was knee-bucklingly strong.
Jen got Judson and she and Darlene left the room to give us a little time alone and to check her voicemail, as she’d been at my house all night. Judson supported me through two more intense contractions, at which point I asked to use the bathroom. (That Mexican food from the night before had been slowly making its way through my system all night, so I had reason to believe that I might actually need to move my bowels, in addition to pushing out the baby.) I sat down on the toilet and pushed, lightly, once. My body took over with a vengeance. I did, in fact, have the anticipated bowel movement, but literally could not stop pushing afterward. And I couldn’t stand up, either. I panicked a little. Judson asked if I wanted Jen and I growled “yes” between my howls of startled pain. It took about 90 seconds for Jen and Darlene to make it back to me, and Jen actually held her hand between my legs as she helped me back to the bed, lest the baby come before I traverse the 10 feet or so to the mattress.
Luckily it didn’t happen quite that quickly. We got me on the bed, where I pushed on hands and knees for about three minutes before the head was birthed. My water didn’t break until Jen wiped the membranes from the baby’s face. The amazing sound of my crying baby registered in my brain before I pushed the shoulders out! Once I gave that last push, baby slipped right out of me and down onto the mattress beneath me. I looked at the tiny little wet person below me for a few seconds before I was helped onto my back and the baby was placed on my chest at 9:37 AM on Tuesday, June 5, 2007.
I think it took a good minute or two before I even thought to look to see whether the kid was a girl or a boy, and even then I couldn’t easily see. The cord was right in the way, and was fairly tight, so there wasn’t a lot of room to wiggle. Luckily, the MW had the same issue and asked Judson, who had a better angle and had seen right away. So he told us both that the baby was a girl!
We rested, and tried to nurse while we waited for the placenta to be born. It took nearly an hour, and I was so relieved to get that organ out of my body. It was heart-shaped, just as Annalise’s had been. We nursed a little longer, Jen checked Rowan for a few moments, then sent her out with Judson to meet her big sister while I had my perineum checked and repaired. I had second degree tearing, so the process wasn’t super quick, but it wasn’t too painful with the local anesthetic. Then I got to take a wonderful warm shower while Jen and Darlene cleaned up the bedroom and stripped off the yucky sheets. By the time I got out, the bed was ready, and Rowan was ready to nurse again.
It was just amazing to have this intense, beautiful experience in my own home, where I could relax with my husband and daughters in our own, comfortable space so soon after the birth. And, though the few moments that made up the pushing/delivery phase were a bit disconcerting for Annalise, I think the fact that she never had to be out of her own home, and at least one of her parents was reachable at all times was a huge benefit to her. She’s adjusting to big-sisterhood more gracefully than I had dared to hope. And Rowan’s first days have been so peaceful in comparison to our hospital stay last time. Homebirth was definitely the right choice for us.