The estimated due date was July 4, 2012… and I thought as everyone else did, I would go even later than that. As June rolled around, we were busy preparing for her arrival. I was working late nights at my office with my husband getting him organized enough so that when I left to stay at home with little one it wouldn’t be too chaotic. I was planning on taking the last week of June off to relax and do some final prep at home (cleaning, organizing, food freezing etc)… well little did I know…
Thanks to Sarah for sharing this great story of the 2012 birth of Gretchen. Gretchen was born at home in Ludlow, Kentucky.
Gretchen’s story, is one I hold so dear to my heart. She is my first born, and I waited so long for her.
After seven years of dating, my husband Standish and I finally were married and got right down to family business. She is our very much loved and adored honeymoon baby. We decided to wait until the baby was born to find out what we were having.
My husband and I decided a long time ago (sometime during our first year of dating when I was 21 and he was 30) that we wanted to have our babies at home. Actually I believe my husband said, “In a little cabin in the woods.” We don’t have a little cabin in the woods yet, but we do have our home here in Kentucky where we had our first child. We both believe that most mamas are able to have babies in their homes just fine without any intervention or need of a hospital.
On June 22nd around 5:45am I woke up because I needed to go to the bathroom again. I was so tired from working the night before that I laid there telling myself I didn’t have to go that bad, I should just go back to sleep. I rolled to my right side to get up to go, and felt a pop (I swear I heard it too). I rolled back over to my left side and woke my husband up. I told him I thought my water broke. Sure enough when we pulled the covers back, the sheets were wet. We ended up changing the sheets and putting on our shower curtain/drop cloth and going back to bed. I knew my midwife had been up late the night before with another home birth, so I sent her a text telling her my water broke and that I wasn’t having any contractions yet, so we were going back to sleep to rest up. I also texted or emailed a lot of my family that my water had broke so be on alert for baby news. This would later come back to be something I regretted. I slept for another couple hours, and then contractions started and I was too excited to sleep any more. At first they were pretty mild, just like the beginning of a tummy ache. Since we knew we had some time, my husband went to our office to get some work done and bring home things I left at work not thinking I was going to go into labor before my due date.
Around 2pm I called him freaking out because the contractions had amped up a little bit and I didn’t want to be at home alone. He picked up some groceries and premade dinners from Whole Foods since I didn’t get my week off to cook ahead of time (Good man!).
Everyone throughout the day (okay not everyone, but mostly my cousin who was 19 and so curious about birth, especially home birth, and my sister who was just too excited about becoming an aunt) kept texting me and asking what was happening. Finally at 3pm, I just started ignoring my phone and decided to concentrate on my baby and the contractions. I really think if I would have ignored my phone to begin with, the whole process wouldn’t have been so drawn out. My husband finally got home around 3 and I wanted to take a walk, but it was so hot outside. So he talked me into taking a drive to downtown Cincinnati to drop off our recyclables. Well that kicked my contractions into high gear. When we got home I just paced the floor, sweating like crazy and breathing through each one.
I felt like I was going to throw up, so I leaned over our kitchen sink for half an hour. After the feeling passed, I grabbed a coconut water popsicle (Trader Joe’s!) to keep hydrated and because I hadn’t eaten since noon. I ate it slowly through my contractions an was still feeling ill. I started getting into positions I learned in prenatal yoga to help relieve pain. At this point I had my husband call our midwife’s assistant so she could come give our midwife a better idea of how we were progressing. I found myself sitting on the toilet because it helped me breathe through the contractions better. I laid half on my husband, sweating and sitting on the toilet saying to myself, “Your body knows what it is doing, it’s preparing for birth,” over and over. At this point it was 8 or 9 o’clock and I thought I would see how the tub felt. I really had to pep talk myself into getting up off the toilet, which I found so comfortable, and walk across the house to our bathroom with the big tub. I waited ten minutes, walked into the bathroom, and my husband hadn’t even started the water yet. I was so angry and the contractions were so uncomfortable. I just stood in the shower while he finished scrubbing the tub and filling it.
That tub of warm water was the best pain reliever ever. The contractions weren’t letting up but the water really helped me through them. I was able to close my eyes and relax. After 30 minutes I felt like I should push, so I did. Then I felt inside and could feel what I thought was a head (at least I thought it was a head). I talked to the midwife’s assistant since my midwife wasn’t there yet. She told me the water really sped my labor up, so I should get out of the water and try something else unless I was okay having the baby without my midwife there. I didn’t want to have a baby without my midwife, so I got out.
I had a place set up at the end of our bed on the floor to give birth. By this time it was 10pm. For the next two hours I worked on getting the baby further into position and pushing. The head would come out just a little bit, then go back in. Each time, a little farther and farther she came out. Over and over, I started to feel so defeated. The midwife’s assistant kept telling me this is what should happen as she held warm water compresses to keep me from tearing. I kept thinking, “Please, I just want to hold my baby.” I was getting tired. My husband got up and gave me a glass of juice to perk me up, it was just what I needed.
My midwife arrived and was able to coach me in some better ways of bearing down and pushing than what I was already doing. The head, like everyone says, is the hardest part. I felt the ring of fire. I grabbed my own washcloth that was warm and held it hoping it would ease the pain, but at that point all I could do was breathe and push the head through. Once I had pushed the head out, I straightened up my squat position and stood up. I could feel the shoulders on my pelvic bones. Something inside me said “hula hoop,” so I made those hip swirling motions, and got the baby to rotate. The shoulders came out and my husband was ready for the baby. She slid right out into her papa’s arms at 12:07 am on June 23. He gave her right over to me. I stepped carefully over the umbilical cord and sat down. I found myself leaning back on a throne of pillows. She went right to the breast which helped the placenta come out easily. I took a couple teaspoons of an herbal mix that would help stop any bleeding since I am a redhead. There was no unusual blood loss at all.
She was coated in vernix which we let soak into her skin. I had one of my baby blankets on her as she gazed up at me from my chest. Finally I asked my husband what we had. He looked down and said, “It’s a girl!” I thought he was kidding. I thought we were for sure having a boy. But a sweet baby girl was in my arms. After a while my midwife and her assistant went to have a midnight snack, and baby and I got to bond. An hour later I went to shower off before we got into bed for the night. My daughter got some daddy time laying on his chest. About three hours after she was born, we did the basic reflex tests and cut the umbilical cord. We declined all “vaccinations,” shots, and the eye drops since all my tests had come back clean. She spent the next 6 weeks sleeping on my chest rather than in a crib in our room.
I am so thankful for my midwife and her wonderful assistant that were there that day and the 9 months before our little one was born. The amount of quality care one receives from a midwife for a homebirth is so much more than a usual OBGYN visit. Our meetings were so relaxing and informative. She really, truly cared about our well being and our preparation. You build a relationship with your midwife that just isn’t there with an OBGYN, she becomes a friend, one of the family.