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(Kevin=DH, Vanessa=midwife.)

I had a pretty easy pregnancy. Aside from morning sickness that started at about 8 weeks (which is how I found out I was pregnant) and lasted until about 18 weeks, I didn't really have any complications. I had some sciatica and ankle swelling in the last few weeks, but doing yoga and seeing a chiropractor kept me feeling pretty normal. There was some concern toward the end because I had a low-lying placenta, but Vanessa said she didn't really feel we needed to be too concerned about it. We'd keep with the plan of giving birth at home, and of course change that plan if it became necessary. I had read through the Bradley Method book, and was prepared to use that to help me get through labor, as well as the breath control and relaxation techniques I used in yoga. I had a vague sense I might be having a girl, but of course didn't know for sure.

My due date of October 8th came and passed with nothing happening. When I went to bed on the 11th I was getting impatient and tired of being pregnant, even though I knew I could have a while to go yet since I was born two weeks late. I had lost my mucous plug the day before, but knew that that didn't necessarily mean anything. Earlier in the day, Kevin and I had gone to Borders to buy some kids' books with a gift card we had. We went to bed around midnight, which was pretty typical. Kevin wasn't feeling really tired, so he took a sleeping pill.

I woke up around 1:30 with what felt like an extra-strong Braxton-Hicks contraction. It was centered around my pelvic area, like the Braxton-Hicks contractions had been, so I thought that's probably what it was. I had read that real contractions generally start at the top of the uterus and work their way down, and that was nothing like what I was feeling, so I waited it out in bed and tried to get back to sleep. The contractions kept coming, though, so I tried getting up and moving around, something that had helped the stronger Braxton-Hicks contractions go away and the really strong baby movement to calm down.

It didn't work this time, though. They only got stronger, and there was no doubt in my mind what was happening as soon as I had to squat and hold on to a chair for support to get through a contraction. I sent a quick email to my work supervisor letting her know to take me off the schedule indefinitely (I work from home doing online tutoring), and just tried to relax. I woke Kevin around 3:30, when things were getting more serious. He was groggy from the sleeping pill, but got up right away, and we started getting the tub set up. He also decided to make himself some eggs with onion and green pepper, which had the unfortunate effect of making me throw up. I called Vanessa around 3:45 to let her know I was in labor. It turns out she also couldn't sleep that night, and so was still awake when I called. She said to call her again if I thought things were continuing to escalate and let her know if things hadn't changed by 9:00, which seemed like an awfully long time to deal with being in labor, but I trusted her experience. After all, I had no experience whatsoever with childbirth and she had had quite a lot.

After getting off the phone, Kevin and I started to set up the tub. It was pretty easy, and I was able to help in between contractions. By the time it was set up and filling with water (around 4:15 or so, I think), the contractions were definitely getting closer together and my underwear and boxers had started to feel like a vise around my stomach during contractions, so I just took them off, which did help a bit. When the tub was about halfway full, I decided that I was ready to get in since the contractions were continuing to get more intense. I could immediately tell that it was making a difference; I read that being in the water reduces the intensity of contractions by 50-75%, and I believe it. Kevin commented that it was really strange to have me in a big tub of water in the middle of the living room; I'm sure it was, but it was even stranger for me! Kevin put on some music at one point, but I only remember him starting it; I have no idea how long it played or if he even kept it playing.

The contractions continued to get more intense and closer together, and when they were about five minutes apart Kevin thought it would be a good idea to have Vanessa come over. I thought so too, but was too out of it dealing with the contractions to suggest it. When she heard that I was already in the tub and how close my contractions were she said she'd be here in about half an hour. By the time she arrived, the contractions were almost right on top of each other. I just stayed in the tub and kept dealing with them, and vaguely heard Kevin and Vanessa talking quietly in the background. I know she asked for the birth supplies I had ordered at one point, and I told Kevin where to find them as well as some distilled water to make the comfrey solution for after the birth. Occasionally I would ask for a bowl to throw up in or for a drink of water, and at one point I had to move to a different part of the tub because I had settled in for a contraction right in front of the heater.

At one point I knew I was in transition because it felt like my lower back was going to pull apart: not at all pleasant, but thankfully it only lasted for two or three contractions. During the first one after that, I pushed. I wasn't trying to, and I wasn't even thinking about pushing, it just happened. Shortly after I started pushing, my water broke - actually, it gushed as I pushed. The fluid was clear, which was good. According to my midwife's notes I was pushing for about an hour, but it didn't feel like it was that long; it only felt like it took 15-20 minutes. I was loud during pushing, too! I'm normally a very quiet person, but I wasn't at all at that point! Vanessa suggested that it might be a better use of my energy to put the effort I was putting into making noise into my pushes, and that did seem to make a difference. I was completely focused, and didn't say anything except to say that my water had broken, to ask for water in between most of the contractions, and once or twice to ask for a bowl to throw up in. It was a really strange sensation feeling the baby start to move down, but good because I knew I was getting near the end. Finally the baby was crowning, then after a few "little pushes" the head was halfway out . . . and stayed there. Two more contractions doing light pushes to try and get the baby out gently, but no luck. On the third contraction Vanessa said I needed to just get the baby out, so I gave a big push. I felt myself tear as the head came out, and the body shot out so quickly that nobody was able to catch it. I looked down and saw the baby's little legs below me. I reached down to pick the baby up, and announced, "It's Eleanor!" She started crying almost right after I brought her to the surface of the water. The placenta started coming right away. There weren't really any more contractions, it was just there after a few minutes. It didn't want to come all the way out, though, so Vanessa gave me some drops of herbs to help it come.

A few minutes after the placenta was out we gave Eleanor to Kevin, and I got out of the tub to go shower. I didn't really feel too tired, just really energized and kind of stunned to actually have the baby. After a quick shower I got into bed, and Vanessa examined the baby and the placenta. At the end of my labor, Eleanor's head not wanting to come out was due to a nuchal hand, and with each contraction where she was like that her heart rate was dropping and not coming back up, so it obviously became really important to just get her out and worry about any tearing later. After she was born she was completely fine. I did tear in two places, and Vanessa said I was the first woman to whom she'd seriously suggested going to the hospital to get stitches. I chose not to, since she also said I could help them heal by staying on bedrest for at least a week and taking four sitz baths per day to keep the area clean.

Eleanor was a perfect, healthy little girl, born after seven hours of labor. The first things I noticed about her were that she has Kevin's nose, and my long eyelashes and dark hair, although it has lightened a lot since then. She was totally covered in vernix (or "baby goo," as I called it then!
), which is apparently unusual in a full-term baby. After it was all over Vanessa told me I handled it very gracefully, which amused me because I had never felt less graceful in my life! The placenta was a bit on the small side and was shaped like a heart. The umbilical cord was also quite short. The low-lying placenta wasn't a problem at all, thankfully. Overall it was a very positive experience. It was easily the most intense experience of my life. I was completely focused on getting through each contraction, and later on I was completely focused on pushing and trying to rest in between contractions. I was very glad I had been able to give birth at home, and the tub was absolutely wonderful. I couldn't have chosen a better midwife. I'm absolutely doing it the same way next time. Kevin and I found it very amusing that I had to go into labor on one of the very few nights he takes a sleeping pill!
He managed very well in spite of it, though; actually, he didn't really have to do much of anything except set up the tub and give me water when I needed it.

The Bradley Method actually didn't do a whole lot to help, except to really emphasize the need to relax as much as possible and focus on my breathing. I'd say that doing prenatal yoga helped at least as much as the Bradley book did, if not more. I tried doing the supported position on the bed that the book describes, but it only made me nauseous. I'm just glad we didn't spend the money to take a class, since I don't think it would have been worth it!

At six months old, our little Ellie-Belly is a very energetic, social, vocal, and cheerful baby, and she completely charms everyone she meets.

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I have to admit to feeling a little envious - I wish I'd had such a lovely peaceful birth with my Eleanor Rose (who I also call Ellie-Belly!)

She's beautiful! You must be very proud!
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