A Gradual Home Birth, 42 wks 3 days.
The Long-Awaited Birth of Merit Fred
The Happy Tale of a Ridiculously Gradual Labor and Home Birth.
My edd was "mid-December"(Dec 22 2013 at the LATEST.), as Christmas and New Years passed and we entered into the first week of 2014 I was convinced I would be pregnant forever. F.O.R.E.V.E.R.
The mistakes I made were: expecting to deliver early, because my mom had given birth a week+/- with her natural births; my other mistake was WAITING. Expectant mamas, do not wait for labor to start.
My birth kit was ready the last week of November. It had all the basics plus an exercise ball, a foam camping sleep pad for floor labor which was to be placed right next to a mattress on the floor. I had fresh ginger in the pantry to shred and add to my soaking tub, and a piece of foam pad for my rear in the deep cast iron bathtub next to the wood burning stove where we would heat water. I’d had something close to the runs for the last week or so and was sure I would go into labor any second. But, of course, what I thought wasn’t necessarily what my body thought.
I had little clenching waves - similar to the beginnings of menstrual cramps, but painless, the evening of January 6th, 15 days after my latest possible, fudge the numbers, due date . But since I was doomed to be pregnant forever I didn’t let my self get excited. We got into bed around 11:30, I went to sleep, hoping, but not expecting things to really get going. Around 2 a.m. (Jan 7) I woke up because of the pain the cramping was causing. I told husband that I thought baby was finally coming - he mumbled “good” and rolled over -and doesn’t remember that at all! I tried to squat, go to the bathroom etc. to try to see how well things were going. everything slowed when I began to move around. I lay back down in bed but couldn’t stand it when D touched my hand or moved at all, so I got up. I decided I would go ahead and clean things up, rearrange the furniture ... you know, “nesty stuff".
I dozed in the early morning Jan.7 now was my EDD - my sister was supposed to come so that I could practice on her hair for her wedding and dye the tips of it with henna. I had her still go ahead and come over because things were going slowly and I might as well do something. I called the midwife and birth attendant to let them know things were finally happening, but told them not to bother coming, yet.
My whole attitude about birth was “it’ll happen when it happens how it happens." I was in no rush, and neither, apparently, was baby.
Finally around 4 pm the crampiness was enough I had Dan call the birth attendants and let them know they could come over whenever - but while they were on the phone I had a pretty ‘good’ one, I made Dan stop talking. “Tell her to come now!” I mustered as I rocked on the yoga ball, which later I hated because of the pressure it put on my bottom.
The water was started, heating on our home-made water tank over the wood-burning stove for filling the cast iron tub we had set up for the birth.
The whole night is a little .... swirly. We are off-grid in a 2-room cabin so we had kerosene lanterns lit and the cabin was in a nice, dusky yellow light.
I never felt rushed, we hand-picked our attendants with the whole idea that birth is OUR responsibility - our union, our baby, our family.
Nothing really offered much relief, which I understood but after hearing of other’s experience with the vast relief of a pool I had some expectations. I sat on the toilet, I got into my tub filled with somewhat fresh shredded ginger... I remember in the middle of the night trying to keep the temperature just right by D heating hot water and putting in cold, i would put wash rags over my belly in the evening while the contractions were up on top of my belly.
I would rush from in between the waves of pain with my pillow from the toilet, leaning on a stool for every contraction, to the floor near a mattress where I would again moan/breathe through 20 min of contractions with my face muffled into the pillows, butt in the air and bent over the mattress. I just let my body do its thing, I was on waves, just riding them in and out with my eyes closed. Around 10 pm i was kneeling on the floor when I started to leak fluid - I was sure I was peeing myself and was so irritated because I had made it through the entire pregnancy without any bladder incontinence! Then T said in her Texan drawl ‘that’s your water, Hon!” I was like “oh, right, forgot about that,....” I was so happy because I still had it mind that there was no ‘progress’ - such a stupid word when you’re finally giving birth after almost 10 months of pregnancy.
I had a night-gown on, then just a strapless bra and then I really could not stand anything being on me, it felt constricting, and despite wanting a measure of modesty I stripped down and just had a bathrobe for if I got chilly. Plus, I was in and out of the tub so much things were just getting wet and I didn’t like that, either. I didn’t really like anything, I wanted to be alone and at the same time wanted people there... to share, to see what I was going through to squeeze this little unknown creature that had been on my mind every moment since I knew of its existence, to acknowledge that I was brave. That I was doing the right thing for my baby by being at home in our snug little cabin.
I could feel waves of pain go from pulling and opening - probably for about 10 hours, then turning into pushing and drawing out. T was praying for me all night and just brought such an outward peace and serenity to the whole setting. Inside I didn’t think I could keep going, but at the same time, i was patient, I knew I would.
As things dragged on I just waited, let my body do whatever it needed to do and I was forcefully content for things to take as long as it needed, though I wished they would happen NOW. I am so thankful we were at home because I’m sure I would have been pressured into pit for “lack of progress”. I never felt like I needed to hurry up and get it over with - I just rode the sea of labor through the waves of high and low tides.
I didn’t want anyone to touch me, generally, which is odd because I’m really a very tactile-oriented person. I was so sleepy as the night wore on, I hadn’t really slept since 2 am the night before, and I was HUNGRY there was so much energy being expended! I tried eating grapes, they just made me throw up, I did keep up really well on water, though, and went to the bathroom frequently. Finally, the midwife, attendant and husby all kind of crashed while I labored on through the night. Dan was on my mattress and I would glare between contractions at him in his sleep, which I desperately wanted. R was lying on the couch, snoozing, and T I don’t think really slept because a couple times I hazily remember her next to me, praying, giving me a wash cloth or my water bottle several times through the night. But again, there was nothing I wanted them to do... nothing they really could do and I trusted them enough to know that they’d be up the instant I asked for something.
I had R check dilation a few times, and she had me and husband do that, too, but I really couldn’t tell anything. I think I was feeling baby’s head long before I realized, but it felt kind of squishy so I didn’t realize what it was...
Labor never felt like stages because it was so gradual, and even in contractions I could feel different kinds of contractions - up, down, back, forth, sharp, tight.... start lightly and then build till I wasn’t sure I could take it anymore and then it would taper off. The pain was basically like every period I’ve ever had all intensely rolled into one marathon. For me, labor was like going down a water slide that could terrify me if I focused, so I just kept on riding the waves as my utereous contracted first from the top down, then side to side... the line of intensity moving down my not-for-long swollen belly.
Snow fell. I had wanted it to snow on my baby’s birthday.
There was a point early in the morning where contractions were very close together - maybe 20/30 seconds, and I HAD to have the hot water bottle right over and up against my pubic bone, because it hurrrrt. Then I was just so tired, it had been 16 hours of ‘real labor’
Finally by 10am or so things slowed, pretty much stopped, really, and I just HAD to rest. I got up and dozed on one of our chairs, sitting on a towl as the daylight began to stream in through the window.
Then R said “it’s time to get up and have this baby. And you know what? I didn’t really want to. I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to push, I didn’t want the work of taking care of a brand new little thing who I didn’t even know. But I did, because this is what we had been working for, preparing for.
After trying some positions I finally got onto the birthing stool (i knew all along that I was going to use that!) Husband behind me supporting me under my arms, T and R ... I think helping the perineum, not really sure. Here, the bod failed me, I had read that it would just push that baby out without any say-so from me. WRONG.
I pushed, and my body would give me a contraction to help. But it was my job to push that baby out.
“Feel your baby’s head.”
I reached down... tried some more half-hearted pushing.
“Touch your baby’s head!”
“OH MY BABY IS ALMOST HERE COMING OUT OF ME AND I WANT IT SO BADLY!!!!!”
As I breathed “my baby my baby” I pushed, it didn’t seem like enough.
Remembering how, in karate, as a kid, we had to let out a yell when we made a strike to make it more forceful; I yelled with my next push. More fiercely and strongly than I had ever yelled in karate.
D switched out with T now behind me holding me up, he was going to catch his baby! I wasn’t super thrilled because I trusted his strength behind my back, but he wanted to be up there, catching our first-born.
I could feel what was called “the ring of fire” - and thought that was the most accurate name ever given to an experience. It was the only time in the whole labor and birth that I was scared, it hurrrt, and felt really wierd, what if I tore? I tried to go easy on the perineum as baby crowned. I finally gave in. Then just WOOSH! It kind of caught Dan by surprise, I think. The youtube videos of other people’s births were gradual! (The first thing that goes through my hormone-riddled mind? ‘That wasn’t so bad...’)
Baby was swept up and rubbed down with a big towel by Dan and R, he had been in that birth canal awhile and needed some stimulation. I saw something pale and some ... big feet. (What happened? I thought there was supposed to be this teeny-tiny person that had been living inside of me!)
DH and I tried to see the genitals...
“Boy.... and he has RED HAIR!”
The winter sunlight shone in on us as he suckled for the first time.
I forgot about the cord cutting, the afterbirth, those details which I had marked in my brain as the given for what was going to happen, the technicalities. I didn’t care; 36 hours of labor, 15 minutes of pushing later... I had done it. I had birthed my baby, in our home, and he was all ours.
*For those interested: D cut the cord, which was very fat on babe’s side, it was hard to tell when it hadstopped pulsing. I squatted over a large metal bowl to release the afterbirth, just gave a little push - though the midwife had to tell me it wouldn’t hurt, before I would try - she was right, it didn’t hurt. I had one very small tear. Our son weighed in at 7lb. 5 oz. at 12:09 pm - bigger than any of my mother’s babies. Proud does not even begin to describe...