After a grueling, needless 22 hr pitocin induction with my first baby leading to birth injuries that took 18 month to heal, and many battles fought at the hospital over procedures for this pregnancy, I convinced my hubby to agree to a midwife attended home birth. So glad I did! It was no comparison, and a wonderful healing experience that restored my belief in my body's ability to birth, Here is our birth story.
June 19th was my due date. Even though I have been having noticeable and sometimes time-able contractions for up to 2 hrs for the past 3 weeks already, nothing had been happening all day when I went to visit my back up doc for another prenatal. We were set to give birth at home with our midwife Beth and assistant Jill, but I was oscillating between some calm given the contractions and the fact this baby was sitting a lot lower than Ella already (who never dropped below -1 until after 15 hrs of pitocin), and the conviction my body would not be able to go into labor by itself again. My midwife was going on a vacation exactly 2 weeks past my due date, at which point my only option would be to go to the hospital and be induced. I felt somewhat reassured by having found a family doc I felt was very supportive of natural birth and had no problem with monitoring my pregnancy while I was planning to deliver at home.
I had an appointment with her at 4.15 in the afternoon. Hubby unfortunately had strep throat the week before, and my throat had been feeling slightly scratchy off and on for a week already. Strep test promptly confirmed I had it too. I was somewhat on the fence about having my membranes swiped that day, but Dr. L thought it’d be unlikely I’d have the baby before the antibiotics kick in. Really wanting to avoid an induction, having been stuck at 3 cm for 2 weeks, and feeling like my body only needed a little bit of push to go, I agreed.
My husband met us after the appointment and I talked him into going to Red Lobster, jokingly saying this might be the last time we get to eat out for a while. My normal pre-labor contractions had started up right after the doc had swiped my membranes, but I did not get my hopes up. I could not help at least loosely monitoring my contractions of course, and around 7p mentioned to Bob we better get home just in case I was actually gonna go into labor.
By 10 pm I was still having mild contractions every 20 to 15 min apart, which was the longest I had had prelabor contractions without pause. I timed for a bit but since they were so long apart and I was really tired, went to bed without really thinking about it. I was struck by a very unusual craving for a high sugar high fat brownie just before bed, but didn’t think much about that either. In retrospect, these extra calories and sugar really helped me through the night I think.
I woke up around 2.45a to a contraction, not very strong, like a menstrual cramp. I don’t know what exactly made me think this was it, but it felt somewhat different – not more painful or stronger – just different from the prelabor contractions. I laid in bed for about 15 min during which I had 2 more contractions, and then woke Bob. At that point I felt pretty guilty for waking him, but compelled to do so. I asked him to get my laptop so I could use the contraction timing app without having to wake up too much. Timing them, contractions were about 5-10 min apart but all around 45 sec long. Once Bob heard how irregular they were, he decided to lay back down which was fine by me since I was laying down too and just hitting the enter button whenever I felt one. The contractions were just strong enough to wake my every time when I was dozing off.
Around 4 am I decided I’d call the midwife, who had mentioned she’d like to be informed as soon as I think I might be in labor. I felt apprehensive about calling her, especially since I was totally convinced in between contraction that this was still false labor. During contractions, it did seem appropriate to call her, especially given it’d take her an hour to get to us. Beth said she’d come right away, but I told her to hold out yet since I wasn’t convinced this is it. However, just the bit of walking around I did to get the phone etc had made the contractions and downward pressure a lot more.
Since I had called the midwife, Bob decided he’d get up as well and start some labor preparations just in case. I could hear him doing stuff in the kitchen, picking up, cleaning, getting the tub out, etc. Beth had said to call her back within 30 min, and I decided to just lay on the couch for a bit since standing during contraction had become uncomfortable. I cuddled up with my huge comforter on the couch, pulling it all over my head. After a bit I felt it’d be helpful to have Bob hold my hand during contractions. I still thought it was all in my head at that point, but it felt a lot more comforting holding on to his hand and breathing during contractions. In between contractions Bob really got going with labor prep now, inflating the tub and preparing to fill it. 20 min after getting off the phone with Beth I called her back telling her she really needed to come. She said she’d brush her teeth and get on the road right away.
In the meantime, as Bob was trying to set up the tub, he discovered the tub liner was basically just a big piece of plastic. I called Beth again – somewhat unnecessarily – to ask about how to get the thing properly on. I think part of me was getting nervous about this being it, and I definitely was looking for a lot of reassurance already. I alternated sitting and laying on the couch with some walking. Once the tub started filling, I immediately started eyeing it longingly. However, I knew it’s a bad idea to get into the tub too early lest it slows labor, and I thought IF I really was in labor, I was in very early active labor. Somewhat after 5a I called Beth again and asked if I could get into the tub. I had a lot of pressure and had been trying to pee since getting up, which was pretty much a no go. I thought the tub might relax me a bit if nothing else. While on the phone with her, I already had to stop talking through a contraction, but still wasn’t thinking this is really labor. Beth said to go right ahead and she’d be there in about 10 min anyways.
Getting into the tub was really not making that much of a difference this time around. With Ella, the tub was a huge relief, this time, it was nice, just like taking a bath is nice, but really didn’t make me feel that much different. I was insisting on Bob being there for every contraction now, and was breathing starting and making sounds through each. What was going through my head with each one was something like: “Why are you moaning, it’s not that bad, and you should use coping techniques too early to have something left for later”. But it felt a lot better to moan and make noises at that point, and I did not feel like restricting it. Bob said Beth was here during one contraction, and apparently she just watched me through one and then started to haul all of her gear in. Next thing I knew was the oxygen tank was in the kitchen already, and I was thinking wow, she doesn’t even want to make sure I am in labor, what if I am just making it up?
During the next half hour (felt like a couple minutes really), the contractions really picked up in strengths, and I was starting to panic at times. I was convinced this was early active labor at best, and I was maybe 4cm. Because the contractions were a lot stronger, but still irregular and spaced quite far, I started to think I would never be able to go through with labor, which I imagined would still last for another 12 to 24 hours. At 6.08a I told Beth she had to check me, and if I was only 4 cm I had to go the hospital. She said she thinks I had already progressed a lot in the half hour she’d been there, but checked me nonetheless. I could feel her fingers making a bigger circle inside me - much more than 4cm, but when she didn’t announce a number immediately I was desperate and cried I knew I was only 4cm. In her calm voice Beth stated no, I was in fact 8-9 cm with only a lip on one side. That was definitely very good news and my vocalizations went from “can’t do it” and “need to go to hospital” to “ I can do it, I can do it” during contractions. Bob said at that point I had a relatively easier half hour, and he thinks transition was over soon after Beth checked me at 6.08a, but I think it was still going on for a while. Jill, Beth’s assistant, came around this time too, and I was happy to have another person around.
This was so much different from my last labor. Contractions never became entirely regular, still spaced somewhat randomly between 2 and 7 min, and no longer than 1 min. I remember saying this would not work since contractions weren’t strong enough/long enough/close enough together. At some point, I started getting more panicky and urgent during contractions, saying I needed to push. It such an odd feeling: needing to push, not wanting to push, feeling so totally consumed. I finally settled on making a psh, psh, p(u)sh sound during contractions. I think that helped me satisfying the adrenalin in preparation for pushing but also kept me from pushing and wasting energy. The team later said I had started pushing so gradually they really couldn’t come up with an exact time when I started. The record said 6.50a I started pushing at the peak of the contractions. I was still sitting squarely on my butt for all of this, not wanting to move. I remember yelling at Beth I couldn’t have the baby this way (on my butt) anyways, to which she simply calmly said “well no, not quite like this”.
I starting grunting and pushing a bit more with each contraction, still nothing like I did with Ella at all, where I pushed exactly 4 times during each contraction like clockwork. Beth suggested I might try going on my hands and knees, reminding me this is how I wanted to give birth. I thought she was totally crazy, surely I was nowhere near giving birth, my tiny ridiculous pushing efforts had not made any dent as far as I knew. I tried moving, and immediately noticed that was a lot more uncomfortable, so I rolled onto my side for another contraction, while cuddling Bob with my upper body. Beth checked the baby’s heart rate again and I noticed she had to look a lot lower this time for us to hear the heart. My doulas Jemima and Christina still hadn’t shown up yet, but I told Beth they should just get out of the way. She asked whether it was ok to have them in the living room, to which I replied only if they don’t make any sounds. Poor ladies, they showed up a couple minutes later and I just basically yelled at them to go away.
All of a sudden I had a strong urge to turn onto hands and knees. I don’t know why and remember even wondering about that in the moment. With the next contraction, I could feel the baby enter the birth canal and slide all the way down. I really started panicking because it felt as if baby was not lined up very well with the exit, and I was totally pushing against muscle and tissue. I was sure I’d have another huge tear, just in a different spot this time. Once the baby was so low the time between contractions and during contractions blurred somewhat, I really just wanted to push all the time, but I remembered Beth coaching me ahead of time not to push in the end, so I tried just panting. Bob kept telling me to let my uterus do the work. With Ella I knew exactly where her head was at all times. Not pushing it was an odd feeling because the baby’s head kept moving back and forth. Beth came around to my back and asked for the video to be turned on. She knew I really wanted to have a way to watch the birth, and there was no way I could observe it live in this position.
It seemed like a long time, but after watching the video I know it was only 1 min from there. I asked Beth whether to push, she said no, and I kept panting for a little longer. Then, with the next contraction, his head came out. I wanted to make noise this time, having read that helps to relax the muscles and prevent tearing. We had all agreed to make “mooing” sounds, but I just started screaming ouch, which I guess had the same effect. When the head was out I didn’t actually know whether it had come or retracted again, and I asked. In that moment, the body torpedoed out so fast Beth couldn’t catch him. Baby was born at 7.14am. She brought him out of the water right away and put him on my butt. This was as far as he could go; his cord was only about 1ft long.
I later learned baby was a bit limp coming out, which is why he was lifted out of the water and suctioned right away. However, he started crying after 30 sec, and Jill helped me turn around so I could cuddle him. What a different way to experience birth. This time I was laughing and crying in joy at his birth, wanting to see and hold him right away. Beth had put a little towel around his midsection, because I told her I wanted to discover the sex myself. I lifted the towel and saw he was a little boy as I had suspected all along.
Ella woke up just as Will was born. Jemima brought her around right away. I was telling her we had the baby, and she started looking at her little brother.
The placenta detached pretty soon, but didn’t want to come out right away. I stood up and it took quite a bit more pushing to get the thing out. Then I walked to my own bed with fresh sheets to be tucked in with our new baby, and started nursing him. It was the perfect birth.