Thank you to Amy for sharing the 2011 Kentucky home birth story of Eleanor. Eleanor was born in Lexington, KY.
Toning contractions had been happening since the 5th month of pregnancy, and had been rather intense the last few weeks. A couple of times I thought, “This might be it,” but since it was our 5th child, I knew better than to get too excited too early. So when I felt my 1st “real” contraction while grocery shopping with my boys, I wasn’t sure if labor was truly starting or not. We have four wonderful boys. At that time they were ages 2, 5, 7, and 9. They had all been born at home with a midwife, and each birth experience was better than the previous. The firstborn son took 8 hours of intense labor. It hurt. But, I had an experienced doula and midwife with me throughout the process, as well as my precious and supportive mother. Given the right support and encouragement, I believe women can do anything. And once the “anything” that can happen during labor and birth has been accomplished, there is an instant reward of empowerment, ecstasy, and elation. I have witnessed this over and over again in my work as a doula and midwife’s assistant, and have been privileged with personal experience now five times.
We “peeked” via ultrasound earlier in the pregnancy and found out that this one was a girl. Our boys are blessings, and it would have been fine to have another one, but I was really looking forward to having some pink and bows in the house. My well-meaning advice to my clients to have patience and let labor start on its own came back to haunt me during my last weeks. I did not like being pregnant and especially did not like it during the last month. I worked about 20 hours/week as a float pool RN at a University hospital; home schooled the 2 oldest boys; and became anemic the last month because I couldn’t keep up with my eating needs. So now it was 41 weeks and I was DONE. My midwife graciously did a light sweep of the membranes the evening of September 28. But I slept soundly through the night (as well as I could what with getting up to pee every 2 hours).
The next day I woke up feeling no signs of labor, so I called work and said that I could come in at 3pm. Then at 1pm while in the grocery store I had to stop pushing the cart and breathe through some contractions. Hmmm, that was a bit different. A guy who was about to go ahead of me in the checkout line took one look at me and remembered that he forgot something and let me go in front of him. Funny how impending birth seems to scare most people. It really freaked out my patients when I introduced myself to them as their nurse, they asked me when I was due, and I answered “yesterday”. When the bagger asked me if I needed any help out to the car with my groceries, I graciously accepted it.
But I still had to go to the bank. Couldn’t be in real labor yet. When I was at the teller’s window and could not push the “call” button because I could not speak, I started to think that this might be the real thing. I called my midwife and told her I was on my way home and please get ready to check me, because I needed to call in to work if there were signs that labor was progressing. I still was not trusting what my body was telling me – I wanted a cervical check and someone else to tell me what was happening. I was 5cm and 80% effaced. I called in.
By now it was about 2pm and I made the calls to my husband, my photographer, and my friend/doula that something was happening but at that moment it was not very intense so just be on alert but don’t come yet. My mother and my midwife were already at the house. Fifteen minutes later I called them all back and told them to come NOW. My husband had to find a ride home (I had wrecked our second car just a week earlier). My photographer was in the shower. My friend’s phone battery had run out, and since I had said it wasn’t urgent, she wasn’t worrying about it. My oldest son was in Latin class across town.
At 2:35 the midwife records in the chart “sounds like she is starting second stage.” I’m sure I could have pushed the baby out right then, but not everyone who was supposed to be there, was there! So I panted and breathed through contractions, and finally everyone was at the house by 3:15.
I started to understand what was meant by the term “breathe the baby down.” I wasn’t actively pushing, but I could feel the baby twisting and turning her way down. However, breathing through those kinds of contractions instead of pushing through them REALLY hurt. My midwife was speaking soft instructions and encouragement in my ear, but I only barely heard her. My head was full of my own sounds of deep groans and thoughts. My friend from Barbados once told me, “A woman is closest to death as she gives birth.” That’s what I was feeling, and suddenly I was scared to push.
But there is nothing else a woman can do except surrender. What a juxtaposition, because even as she surrenders, the woman is at her strongest as she gathers the force of creation and moves it through and out of her body. A woman surrenders herself to the possibility of death as she gives life. I had felt that moment of eternity several times as an onlooker at my clients’ births. From the moment of crowning until the baby’s first cry, time stands still and birth workers catch a glimpse of the eternal. Now I was getting ready to experience the eternal in my own body, and even though I had done this four times previously, the awe and fear of the momentous had not diminished.
So as I let go, I also became very powerful and pushed – once, the baby’s head became visible; twice, the baby was born on September 29, 2011 at 3:39pm. The focus shifted and I no longer looked inward, but was very aware of my dear husband who had caught his daughter. He was dripping with amniotic fluid that had burst as the head came out. A flood of oxytocin had engulfed the room. A wet, slippery child was placed on my chest and oh, she smelled so good! She was finally here and she was perfect. Her brothers all crowded around and tentively touched their new sister. My husband tenderly kissed me and kept stroking the baby’s hand. Eleanor Louise, “Shining Warrior-Maiden”, was welcomed into this world, into our lives, into our heart