Thank you to Amy for sharing this lovely story of the 2013 home birth of her baby girl in Owensboro, Kentucky.
I had been having irregular contractions on and off for a few weeks. Every night around suppertime I played the immortal game of “Is it, or isn’t it?” So on the day of my 40 week prenatal appointment I was burning with curiosity to see if I had made any progress. When the midwife checked me, she excitedly informed me that I was a “good” 4cm and 80% effaced. At my 39 week appointment I was 2cm and 75% effaced, so in a week I was able to make a good 2cm progress! I still didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I washed all the towels and sheets when I got home, just in case.
The evening passed uneventfully. I sent my husband out for Chick-fil-A because it was late and I didn’t feel like making dinner (I had been fighting off a cold for the past week and was still under the weather). I kept telling myself: “It doesn’t mean anything. I could be 4cm for another week for all I know.” But I couldn’t shake the feeling that labor was imminent, and that I had already progressed farther than when I had gone to the hospital for my son’s birth (and that after nearly 8 hours of active labor). After dinner, I checked Facebook and found out that there were some severe storms heading our way that night, carrying with them the likelihood of tornadoes. Oh joy. Just my luck this kid would be born in the middle of a huge storm and none of my birth team would be able to get to us in time. “I better not go into labor tonight!” my status said. Then we settled in for the night and watched episodes of Scrubs while timing my still irregular contractions.
We went to bed around 10:30 that night and I fell right to sleep. As was usual for me, I awoke about 3 hours later needing to change position. As I gingerly rolled from my left side to my right, I felt a “pop” and a gush of fluid. “No way!” was my first thought as I leapt out of bed with an agility uncommon for a woman in her 40th week of pregnancy and rushed to the bathroom. Sure enough, I was leaking amniotic fluid. I climbed back into bed and gently informed my husband that my water had broken, but contractions hadn’t started yet. We laid a towel down under me and I texted my midwife to let her know. I tried to relax, but my mind was racing. What if I don’t start labor right away? I had tested positive for Group B Strep and knew prolonged rupture of the membranes was a risk factor for infection. “Please go into labor,” I thought. Five minutes went by. Contraction. This wasn’t a Braxton-Hicks, or even pre-labor. I told my husband and he immediately got out his phone and started timing it. It lasted for over a minute. We waited for another one, and sure enough, six minutes later I contracted again. If I had another one like that, I was calling the midwife. Like clockwork another one came about 6 minutes later. I phoned the midwife. She told me she would leave immediately and start the two-hour drive to my house, and if I thought she would need to get there quicker, I was to call her again. I agreed and hung up just as another contraction hit. I breathed my way through it as best I could and then called my mom and sister, who were also going to be there for the birth. It was only raining so I wasn’t too concerned about them getting there in time, and we’d had no tornado warnings, thankfully.
I couldn’t handle these lying down anymore and I didn’t want to wake my toddler. We agreed to move into the living room and start setting up the birth pool. I changed out of my pajamas and grabbed the birth ball from the spare room. I sat on the birth ball and leaned on our computer chair in between contractions. They were still pretty manageable, albeit painful, and I was pretty chatty in between them. I was excited for my mom and sister to get there. Their drive was only an hour so they would get there before the midwife. I was looking forward to hanging out a little bit since I figured we were in for a pretty long night. While we waited for everyone, my husband set up the birth pool, with the occasional direction from me in between contractions. After some trial and error, we were able to get it set up and ready to be filled, but my husband wanted to wait until the midwife got there to fill it in case we didn’t set it up right. My previous labor had lasted 17 hours from start to finish, so we figured we had time.
My mom and sister arrived around 3:30am. By then my contractions were consistent and regular, spaced about 4-5 minutes apart and lasting at least a minute. My mom had been present for my first birth, but my sister had never witnessed a birth before, so she was very interested in everything that was going on. They were surprised that my contractions seemed to last so long and take up most of my attention. We talked and joked in between contractions, which helped me to relax. Dominic woke up around this time asking for his water, but once my husband gave it to him and let him take a few sips, he laid right back down and went to sleep (thank God).
The contractions were coming closer together and lasting longer and longer. I started to feel rather chilled, and the shivering was breaking my concentration and wasting my energy. I blamed the draft coming from the attic door right behind me, but in retrospect I’m pretty sure I was just in transition. We rolled up a blanket to use as a draft stopper, I threw on a sweatshirt and my mom put a blanket over my legs, but none of it seemed to stop the shivering. After a few contractions, I became convinced I was in transition and worried that the midwife wouldn’t make it. I had texted her to determine how close she was, but hadn’t received an answer. Around the same time, it was decided that we shouldn’t wait for the midwife to begin filling the pool. I made my way through several contractions while everyone else tried to figure out how to attach the hose to the kitchen faucet. The end of the hose was too big for the faucet so my sister tried holding the hose up to the faucet, but that only resulted in a pathetic trickle from the hose and a lot of wasted hot water. I finally called my midwife. She happily informed me that she was minutes away, and asked how I was doing, to which I replied, “Pretty good, I think I’m in transition.” Then I asked about the hose attachment, as my husband and sister busily shuttled pots and bowls full of hot tap water from the kitchen and dumped them into the pool in the background. There should have been an adapter in with the hose, she informed me, so my husband immediately searched the box for it and came up empty. No hose. Pots and pans would have to do.
When my midwife finally arrived I was still in good spirits, albeit tired from 3 hours of labor. I still felt very present and aware of the goings on around me. She brought in her supplies, exercised a brief search for the missing adapter (my sister was heating water on the stove at this point as we had run out of hot tap water), and checked the baby’s heartbeat: 144 bpm. Steady as a rock, just like my son. After another doozy of a contraction, she suggested I get in the water. The pool was only halfway full, but I was ready to be in water (and hoped the warmth would halt my now almost constant shivering). I undressed down to my bra and jumped (figuratively, not literally, of course) into the water. I was soothed immediately and let out a relieved sigh. I was a little worried the warm water would slow my contractions, but the next one allayed my fears. We had stopped timing contractions hours ago, but I could tell these were much longer and coming more frequently. I spent a few contractions reclined in the water while my sister continued to pour pots of water into the pool. After a few of these I had to tell her to stop because the water seemed to be cooling down too much, so we never reached to fill line on the side of the pool. I kept shivering, despite being partially submerged in warm water, so it was obvious by that point that I was in transition, and the contractions were still picking up in intensity. After each one my midwife would tell me, “Blow that one away, it’s over now.” My husband crouched behind me beside the pool and held me through each contraction, encouraging me to stay relaxed.
Suddenly I felt the need to change positions. I turned around and knelt down with my upper body leaning against the side of the pool just as another contraction began. This time I felt that unmistakable and all too familiar urge to push. “Already?” I thought to myself. This was moving much faster than Dominic’s birth, but I still prepared myself for a long pushing phase. My mom refilled my water bottle with coconut water, and I made sure to take a sip after each contraction. My sister periodically asked the midwife what was happening since she had never witnessed a birth before, and at one point my husband told her I was in transition. “What are you talking about?!?” I bellowed, “I’m PUSHING!!” Poor Nick.
I began to feel like an out of control freight train, charging forward at top speed. My vocalizations, which to this point had been controlled, low moans, became uncontrolled wails and groans. I was sure my son would wake up with all that racket, but he never did. I tried my best to slow my pushing, but it seemed an impossible task. After what only seemed like a few contractions, I began to feel her head pressing on my perineum. My midwife kept encouraging me to ease her out. “I’m trying!” I whined. I didn’t want to tear as badly as I did with my first. But these contractions were relentless and unyielding, and I found myself giving in to them. Her head began to crown. “What time is it?” I heard the midwife ask, “This baby is coming now.” The ring of fire made its appearance briefly, and then I was pushing again, still trying to pant through parts of the contraction so she didn’t come too fast. Suddenly, the pressure was gone. Her head was out! I felt the midwife check for her cord, and held back as another contraction hit. She gave me the all clear and in one last push I felt her body slide out into the water.
Amid the joyous cries of awe and disbelief, I looked down to see my baby floating peacefully beneath me in the water. I couldn’t believe it, and was in shock for only a moment before I quickly scooped her up and clutched her to my chest. All I could say was “Oh my God!” over and over. I couldn’t even move, I just knelt in the water, holding the little girl I had waited nine months to meet, overcome with emotion. She was bluish and hadn’t let out a cry yet, so I rubbed her back vigorously to get her to breathe. Almost immediately she let out a lusty cry and began to pink up. When I was finally able to sit back in the pool and look at her, I noticed her full head of dark brown hair. “All that heartburn wasn’t for nothing!” I laughed as my midwife laid a blanket over her to keep her warm. I was suddenly aware of my husband next to me in the water, holding me and telling me how awesome I was. Apparently as soon as I sat back he stripped down to his underwear and jumped in with me. “You’re so good!” he kept saying.
My daughter was born at 5:18am, nearly four hours after my water had broken. Moments after she was born, my midwife’s birth assistant walked in the door, only to find she had missed the birth entirely. She was so good about it though, and handled most of the clean up while the midwife took care of the baby and me. After we delivered the placenta and got my bleeding under contro
l (which required a shot of Pitocin), I settled in on the couch with my baby, an ice pack on my perineum to bring down the swelling before the midwife checked it for any tearing. She latched on quickly and we nursed immediately, which helped my bleeding, and I just relaxed in my living room, with my family around me. My son didn’t wake up until almost 8, and was confused and bewildered to find some many people in the house, including a tiny pink thing that looked kind of slimy. After a few days he warmed up to her, but until then he completely avoided me whenever I was holding her and would cry, “Daddy, daddy!” whenever his father would hold her. Now he can’t get enough of her.
I required a few stitches, which my midwife was able to do fairly quickly. I think I texted someone while she was doing it, which made both her and the birth assistant chuckle. Then I curled back up on the couch while they weighed and measured the baby. Before she announced the birth weight, the midwife made a last call for any weight guesses. I guessed 8 lbs. My mom guessed 8 lbs, 8 oz. “Mom got it!” she said. Once the midwife checked her over and gave me some instructions for keeping my bleeding under control, she and the birth assistant left and we all ate breakfast and eventually collapsed. I couldn’t have asked for a smoother delivery and feel so blessed that we were able to have the birth we wanted. I hope to be able to birth at home again in the future. Our little girl is a dream baby and we’re all desperately in love with her. My recovery has been so much quicker and easier this time around. It has honestly been the most amazing and transformative experience of our lives.