Thank you to Erin for sharing this lovely story of the 2010 home birth of Liliana in Louisville, Kentucky.
My 3rd daughter was born on a Wednesday morning, on the 25th of August 2010. For those doing the math, she came at 41 weeks gestation. Her birth story, however, begins a looooong 4 weeks before.
I had a fantastic pregnancy. I felt amazing (other than the 23 weeks of “morning sickness” but that’s my normal, so whatever). I spent June and July nesting like a crazy person. I’ve never wanted to live in a closet before, until I made the ones in my house so neat and tidy. Things went beautifully well, in spite of the hottest summer in 30 years. I never swelled and tried my best not to complain.
I saw a midwife (actually 2, plus one-in-training) for my prenatal care. Each visit went well and every time I left happier with my choice to homebirth than before. I hired my doula as soon we found out we were pregnant. We decided to take a refresher childbirth education workshop towards the end of the pregnancy, which really built up our confidence that, yes, we could do this again. I saw my chiropractor regularly during the pregnancy and also made it a point to get prenatal massages as often as I could manage.
My to-list was pretty involved and I was fearful that I’d go before my due-date and not get everything done. That fear led to me being convinced I’d go early. So I worked harder to be ready. My house was set up and ready the day I turned 36 weeks. Well, that’s not true. The final touches were put in place I think 36w3d. Still — I was ready to launch.
The last week of July, we were set to travel 3 hours NW to my grand-father’s 80th birthday bash. Two evenings before we were set to leave, I began having contractions. Five minutes apart, lasting about 30-40 seconds long — for three hours. They were intense (but not long enough to kick me into real labor, I believe) and we embraced them as good practice. Next night, same thing. And again. I later found out that this was during the Full Moon phase. We quickly decided not to go out of town — and while I didn’t end up going into labor that week, I don’t 100% regret that decision since we might have rushed home for nothing.
I had a few days off, but tended to contract for at least an hour each day, not always as intense as my “big sessions.” But always — always — during dinner time. I’d have a few days on and a few days off. After a while, I was pretty convinced that we didn’t need any more practice, thank-you-very-much, and so I was ready for labor or just I wanted these good-for-nothing-contractions to go away. This feeling led me to a lot of tears, but much encouragement from my husband.
The New Moon came and went, with some good contraction sessions. After those few days, I’d have periodic contraction-sessions but nothing quite as intense nor as long-lasting.
My due date came and went. Having gone into labor on my “due date” with my 2nd daughter, I was half expecting to do that again. In fact, others imagined that would happen as well, and someone referred to that as a “very Erin thing to do.” It sounded good to me, as I officially announced to my husband and the friendly people at my local Target that I “was done!” on the Saturday before my due date.
I had a prenatal appointment with my midwife on Tuesday the 24th — I was 40 weeks, 6 days. All looked fine and well, and I began asking the bigger “what if” questions that had to do with going truly ‘over due’ down the road. Towards the end of my visit, my husband told on me and mentioned that I had been going to bed late each night. [For the record, I AM a night-owl, but at 36 weeks, I began going to bed early. That lasted a few weeks, but fizzled]. My midwife gave me a “talking to” and said “well that’s why you haven’t had this baby. You’re tired! Go to bed early tonight, OK?” My husband, who would go to bed at 9pm each night if I’d let him, gave a big grin.
I did go to bed early that night — though I forget what time it was. Probably around 10. I couldn’t sleep for a bit, but I laid there with my eyes closed.
….. a very colorful zebra in a cartoon-land full of animals walked up and looked me square in the face. “You’re having a contraction,” he said in a dopey, low voice. The animals told me that a few times. And I finally woke up as a contraction was running its course. It took me two more “somethings” [contractions, but I hadn’t recognized that yet] to roll over and look at the alarm clock: 3:17. A couple more contractions. About 3 minutes +/- according to the bedroom clock.
“Ugh, great,” I thought, “more of this.” I decided to go downstairs, walk around and drink some water. While I paced around hydrating, I got out my laptop and went to the contraction master site. I wrote two emails to 2 friends — saying that I thought this might be it (but no promises). I felt very alert mentally and not at all in labor-land. After a while, I tried to analyze the contraction pattern. They made NO sense. Alllllllll over the place. Me and my mac went back upstairs (it took a while) and I woke up my husband at 4:30am.
“I’m having contractions. They feel very real. But they make NO sense. And I make sense, so this must not be ‘it.’ But these are really really hard and I need you to help me now.”
My husband got up and looked at the screen. “These make perfect sense. They only vary a few seconds at a time.” Contractions were a solid 3 minutes apart, lasting a minute long.
I ‘argued’ with him about whether or not they were real, in between contractions. Then I explained how alert and “with it” I was. He asked if he should call anyone (doula / midwife) and I said no — this isn’t it.
I was having lots of trouble coping with the contractions. My husband reminded me to relax, but I couldn’t get comfortable, or find a position that made them manageable. These didn’t feel much like contractions that would be building…. they felt built. I didn’t cope gracefully, and couldn’t even get through my last-stitch ‘I can do anything for one minute’ mantra. “One-min… One-min” is all I could get out. I tried to pray but could only say, “Mercy, mercy, mercy.” I never really nailed being relaxed at the start of the contraction, and usually only after the peak I could get on top of it.
Then — I got a break. My body skipped one contraction My husband had been waiting for it and asked if I’d had one. No….. I didn’t. I gave out a sigh, and said “well, I guess that was it,” thinking they’d petered out again and I was done for the night.
BAM! They started back up again — MORE intense, longer, stronger, and closer together. I started a rhythm and kept heading to the toilet from the bedroom. I was still talking and rationalizing, and my husband and I were both waiting for me to go inside myself and get lost…. I was NOT going to call our birth team too early this time. In the bathroom, I’d sit on the toilet and put my feet up on the bathtub in front of me, left hand on the sink, right hand on the wall, and I’d brace myself — pushing out during the contraction. [reeeeaaaal good…. I know]
I apparently kept saying “I want to push, but I know it’s not time.” I was feeling a lot of internal pressure. Finally, I decided that my squeezing and pushing things wasn’t good so I told my husband to squeeze my hand as hard as he could during a contraction. “You squeeze, so I don’t have to.”
My husband called our doula at 5:45am when I began vomiting/gagging, as a heads up call.
Finally, at 6:30am, he called everyone and I kept asking “is the pool filling up?” It was. In fact, my poor husband was racing through the house at the speed of light. He never missed a contraction by my side – and in between he was darting downstairs to check on the pool or set something up.
When he called the midwives’ labor pager, he got a call back right away. He explained the pattern and while I heard him talking, I was working myself up for the courage to talk to the midwife on the phone. I was afraid she’d listen to me and say this wasn’t it, or it wasn’t time. While I prepped myself, he said “OK” and hung up. The midwife said “’Other-midwife’ is on her way Now!”
My doula (S) arrived at 7am – while I was having my crazy hot flashes [transition] on the toilet. Her notes say that I appeared to be resisting the urge to push. The memorable quote here is “This was a very bad idea.” And I meant it too. Homebirth – natural birth – doulas – the future of the human race — this was all very bad. I decided I didn’t want to be a doula anymore, and I didn’t think anyone else should be one either. Who would want to watch this happen as a job??
I think I said something about wanting to get in the pool, and S said let’s do it. I explained that I, “Wasn’t allowed til the midwife came.” S said, “Oh, you’re fine.” As we stood up to start the long journey of contractions downstairs, Midwife (who’d arrived a bit before then) checked the baby’s heart tones. I remember getting nervous — thinking, “If that doppler is placed up high on my belly, I’ll just die.” She put the wand on me, and then kept lowering, and lowering, and lowering. That was a good feeling to finally hear the tones, and know the baby was quite descended. I also had the hiccups — which really irritated me. “I don’t want these!”
We made it downstairs and I got in the pool. I asked that it be filled up more. My midwife was setting up her supplies. I mentioned that it was too quiet and my husband turned on my labor playlist (which I’d worked Super hard on — and had enough music for hours and hours of labor). I heard something upstairs, and said, “I hear my kids.” S said, “That’s OK” (my mom had been there since 6:30 or so and was waiting for my girls to wake up and she’d take them to her house. I never saw Mom or heard anything else from up there).
My midwife finally sat down by the pool after setting up and I felt the urge to push — and did it. I was sitting, leaning back on the wall of the pool. After a few contractions, I moved to my knees and to the other end of the pool (out of the corner and closer to my husband and team). I pushed hard. And yelled. I’d dropped the whole low moans, open vowel thing…. this hurt. I remember seeing my husband’s face and he was all lit up and smiling. I wanted to tell him to quit smiling, that this was hard, and it was going to take forever, so I don’t know why he’s so excited. But I couldn’t…. too busy. I felt the ring of fire (something I didn’t feel last time). I also wanted to share that detail, but couldn’t.
I felt the PING of my water breaking, but couldn’t do anything other than mentally note it.
I pushed again and realized that I could probably touch her head if I reached down (something I had regretted not doing in my 1st hbac). I reached down, and felt her head slip out.
I wasn’t sure if anyone knew what was going on.
“I feel a head….. a baby’s head….. I’m holding a baby’s head in my hand!”
Everyone smiled calmly — I still wasn’t sure they were aware of the gravity of the situation.
After a total of 9 minutes pushing, at 7:39am, my baby was born into my hands. I caught my baby!
After a bit, we lifted the towel, and found that we had another girl. We had our Liliana.I’m not sure what my first words were. I cuddled with the baby and in between joyful, happy, motherly feeling and coos, I kept saying “That.Was.Hard.”
I pushed out the placenta in the pool, cuddled some more, and finally moved to the couch to get checked out.
My mom with my 2 and 4 year old daughters came down and met the baby. My husband made some calls to his family and they started showing up.
We did the complete newborn exam an hour later.
7 pounds, 2 oz and 19.5 inches long.