Copied & pasted from my blog. My home waterbirth story, Nov. 2008. I'm new to this community & hope this is the appropriate forum to post this.
As strange as it may seem, I keep using the phrases “wild and crazy” and “an adventure” when I tell K’s birth story. It’s such a long and complicated story that I’ve felt too intimidated to type it, but I’ll give it a shot.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with my story or with homebirth in general, K was my 4th natural, unmedicated birth, and my 3rd home waterbirth. I love pregnancy and birth; researching these topics is my big hobby. This birth story is a bit atypical, even for a homebirth, and it was vastly different than any of my other births.
I have to give the back story of my last month of pregnancy for you to understand HOW ON EARTH it came to be, that my midwife missed the birth despite the fact that she lives less than 7 miles away from me.
The last few weeks of my pregnancy were so hard on me in so many different ways. My one year anniversary of my due date with Evan (who I lost at 15 weeks along in 2007) was approaching (only 9 days before K’s due date), and it was hard to cope with what “should have been” his first birthday. I was also a lot more uncomfortable, particularly with joint pain, for reasons that are now obvious (9+ lb. baby). I was really hoping that God would give me a break and allow me to have this baby shortly after the 37 week mark (full term and cleared for a homebirth) rather than making me wait until 40 weeks or later. I didn’t think I could handle much longer of the emotional rollercoaster of waiting for this baby and being finished with this turbulent, trying pregnancy.
October 13. 37 weeks 4 days. I woke up at 2 a.m. with contractions that were strong enough and painful enough to keep me awake, 2 to 4 minutes apart but not strong enough to wake Rick or call midwives. They were consistent and intense, albeit not painful, and I had to get up to rock through them. I felt hopeful that this could be “it”; October 13 is my mother’s birthday and I was excited that it looked like I could have the baby on her birthday. How special that would be! After all, I had 22 hours to produce the baby; surely I could get it done in that amount of time.
11 a.m. I had to focus enough attention on contractions that I wanted to send the kids to my friend’s house (who lives a few doors down). I figured that I could either get rest to make up for all night’s lost sleep, or else contractions might get down to business; either way, good stuff. After the kids were gone, my contractions continued at 2 to 4 minutes apart and had done so for around 10 hours or so. I felt energized and hopeful. I called my backup midwife, Jennifer, (as my primary midwife, Angy, was out of state at a midwifery conference) and asked her to come. Even though nothing felt urgent, it’s hard to tell how labor will develop with a fourth birth, and considering that contractions were that close together, what else was I waiting for? I didn’t want to end up with an unattended birth by mistake, waiting for some “obvious” sign. (Oh, the irony.)
My contractions slowed down around 8 p.m. and were pretty much non-existent by 9 p.m. I measured 5 cm at the time and the baby was at 0 station. In hindsight, I know that her positioning was less than optimal, which hindered progression. These things happen. However, I was devastated that I had my hopes up that this would FINALLY be over and I would FINALLY have my baby in my arms, only to have my hopes dashed. I didn’t know how I’d have the physical or emotional strength and stamina to go through labor all over again. The midwives packed up and went home, and we all went to bed after what had amounted to around 18 hours of labor “for nothing.” Had this been a hospital birth, I can guarantee you that they would have forced labor augmentation to no good result, possibly even C-section. Even the birth center would have pressured me to have my water broken, putting me on a time clock for delivery or C-section. Thankfully, since this was a homebirth, there was no harm done to me or to baby.
In addition to being physically and emotionally exhausted after 18 hours of contractions 2 to 4 minutes apart, I was mortified at being the girl who cried wolf. I was embarrassed to still be pregnant, embarrassed that my family and several friends knew I had labored and called in the midwives to no avail. At least I could be encouraged that if I rested up, labor would probably resume in one or two nights. Not so much.
I labored about every three nights for 5 or more hours at a stretch for the next 3 weeks. No kidding. For a while, I would get my hopes up that “this could be it.” Then it just crushed my spirit and made me question whether my body was capable of birthing this baby. What was wrong with me? Why hadn’t he/she been born yet???
Eventually I gave up on my contractions and refused to take them seriously. I wouldn’t get out of bed if it was during the night; I did as little as possible to acknowledge them during the day. I couldn’t afford to take off a day of homeschool and/or chores just because I hadn’t slept due to those obnoxious, inconvenient contractions.
Nov. 3. Four days after my due date, I was scheduled for an afternoon prenatal checkup with my midwife, who was back in town again. My contractions were a lot more painful during homeschool that morning, during lunch, and as I wiped the counters down as I did every day. I didn’t have time to waste working through contractions! I had things to do! I really had to sway and vocalize through my contractions, even though they weren’t that close together (5-6 minutes apart). Nevertheless, I called Angy to tell her that I’d rather she came sooner rather than later for my checkup, so that I could have any idea of whether I’ve made progress and whether my posterior baby had turned anterior yet. I needed to know whether to continue to ignore these contractions or whether I could hope to have this baby tonight.
Angy arrived with her midwife apprentice, Ashley, around 3 p.m. and performed all the standard prenatal stuff. To my surprise, I was around 6 cm when she checked me at 3:30 p.m., but she said that I wasn’t very effaced at all, and I was probably very early into it. We both figured that I’d have this baby late in the night or early in the morning.
Angy told me that she had another mother’s prenatal checkup scheduled for 5 p.m. at her house (less than 7 miles away), but that it would be no problem for her to call the mother to cancel it, if I wanted her to stay, because a laboring woman always takes priority. It was close to 4 p.m. by this point, and I hated to inconvenience that other mother, since I surely wasn’t going to have my baby in the next hour and a half, so I told her to go ahead and go home for that appointment, and come back when she finished. Angy agreed, and Ashley offered to stay with me so that she could keep an eye on the kids for me downstairs while I labored alone in my quiet, darkened, cave-like bedroom upstairs and waited for Rick to get home from work.
I had called Rick around 4 p.m. to relay to him what Angy had said, and he said he’d be home as soon as he could, after he would pack up his laptop, gather up what files he needed, and fight his way home through the rush hour traffic. I told him to stop at the grocery store at the bottom of the hill near our house to pick up a couple of gallons of milk (we go through 3-4 gallons a week), along with grapes and apple juice for fuel during labor, which I figured would last all night.
I called him between contractions… who knows when (4:30?)… to ask, “WHERE ARE YOU???? I don’t CARE about the apple juice, just GET here, you have no IDEA how bad these contractions hurt.” I wanted to call Angy to tell her to come back, but I felt so silly doing that, since I had JUST sent her away. “If I can just make it another hour…” I kept telling myself, “after all, I’m not going to have this baby before then.” (You can see where this is going.)
Incidentally, Rick was at the grocery store when I called that time and had already gotten the items from my list, and was on his way home to me.
Rick had called my sister-in-law, Candi, after the first time I had called him, to ask whether she could come get the kids for me. Candi arrived around the time Rick did, somewhere around 4:45 p.m. The kids weren’t packed and Ashley, the midwife apprentice, was still watching them for me. I had labored alone the whole time. To my memory, I opened my bedroom door to tell Candi that she would have to wait on Rick to pack the kids’ clothes and load everyone into our van for her; I just couldn’t do it. Birth memories are funny that way, how they can distort reality. When I asked Candi later what I had told her, she said that I told her that I just couldn’t wait until Angy was going to get there, and I was going to have this baby right now. Interesting.
Rick loaded the kids and luggage in the van (along with our nephew, Candi’s 2 year old son) for Candi to take home with her. Then the van wouldn’t start. Oh goody. So, Rick had to UNLOAD all the kids, car seats, and luggage, to position 4 kids age 6 and under in Candi’s station wagon. Fortunately, I was unaware of all of that drama.
Angy’s call log had Rick’s call at 4:58 p.m. to tell her, “Sarah says GET HERE NOW.”
I told Rick to run water in our bathtub to ease the intensity and pain of my contractions because they were nearly overwhelming during the peak of each contraction. I had been using an electric heating pad on my lower back, and sent Rick downstairs to microwave a gel heating pad to use on my back in the bathtub. It takes 4 minutes to microwave. A lot happened in that time.
I was laboring standing, leaning against my bathroom sink counter, with Ashley nearby. Right at the end of a contraction, I felt a pop and the warmth of my water breaking. I think I knew it was all over at that point. Here came that familiar sensation of a train coming. I told Ashley to help me get my pants off NOW because I NEEDED to get in the water… NOW! Hurry UP! Get my SOCKS OFF TOO, here comes another contraction…
Rick was still downstairs waiting on the heating pad to finish microwaving. I was pushing already. I couldn't help it; the feeling is, to me, just as involuntary as sneezing or vomiting (sorry TMI... but isn't this whole post TMI?). I told Ashley to yell to get him upstairs NOW. Ashley had called Angy’s cell phone when my water broke and was still on the phone with her through the whole thing.
I remember telling Ashley that I felt the baby’s head. I was really incapable of clear, articulate conversation at that point, and I remember Ashley asking me if I wanted her to check me (for dilation and completion). I didn’t have the words to explain to her that IT WAS TOO LATE, what I meant was “I feel the baby’s head in my hands,” not “I feel the beginning of the baby’s head’s descent.” It wasn’t her fault, I just couldn’t convey it.
The tub wasn’t even all the way full yet when I was pushing. I remember turning off the water between contractions. I tried to slow her descent. I tried to let this happen gently. She had other ideas. I don’t know how many pushes, but it can’t have been many. 3 or 4? I have no idea. Out popped the head. This was the first time I ever had to push again to get the shoulders out after the head; the other kids’ bodies just slithered out like Jell-O after I got the head out. It made sense after I learned her dimensions (14 ¾” head, 15” chest, 9 lb 1 oz). In between the delivery of the head and the rest of the body, I seem to remember telling Rick to get ready to catch the baby and telling him to stop pulling, don’t pull! He wasn’t pulling. It was just a really odd sensation.
So she was born at 5:07 p.m. Just like that. Unbelievable.
Rick immediately pulled her out of the water and placed her on my chest. Ashley reached for the towels we had ready to keep her warm on me after the birth. Baby K began crying lustily immediately after she was placed on my chest, which was reassuring. My midwife was speeding down winding country roads to get here and heard the whole thing on her cell phone. She arrived 10 minutes after the birth, while we were still cuddling in the tub of warm water.
After the birth, I asked Rick to help me check to see whether it was a girl or a boy. This was the first time that we had left the gender to be a surprise at the birth. I really had built up that moment in my mind, from all the people who told me how wonderful and magical that moment would be, to see “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!”. I don’t know whether this is because it really didn’t matter to us which we were having, or whether that moment was so eclipsed by a remarkable birth, but let me tell you, finding out it was a girl was very anticlimactic. I couldn’t believe I had waited all those months… for that. It was like, “Oh, it’s a girl, OK.” I had a gut feeling all along that I was having a boy, but I wasn’t at all disappointed that K was a girl. It just wasn’t the exciting moment everyone said it would be.
Angy had called my other midwife, Jennifer, after my checkup that afternoon and told her that if she wanted to make it to this birth, she ought to go ahead and start this direction. Jennifer was at another mother’s birth in Ohio about an hour and a half away, but there were two other midwives with the mother, and that mother appeared to be early in her labor, so Jennifer left her to come to my birth. She arrived when I was in the shower after the birth; when Jennifer told me K’s birth weight I burst out laughing and just couldn’t stop laughing. My midwives had estimated her to be over 8 lb, but 9 lb 1 oz was quite a surprise! After visiting with us for a while, Jennifer went back to Ohio to assist with the other birth, and opened the front door just as she heard the baby’s first cry. Jennifer drove 250 miles that day to attend 2 births and missed them both.
It was so soothing to curl up beside my new daughter in our king-size bed and nurse. That has to be one of the greatest perks of a homebirth. Since early cord clamping and cutting can deprive a baby of 20-40% of their blood volume and contribute to such complications as jaundice and anemia, we delayed cord clamping and cutting for a few hours to make sure that she had gotten the bulk of the benefit. My midwives stayed for a few hours to observe us and make sure that all was well. Ashley, apprentice-turned-primary-....birth-attendant, picked up dinner for us at Bob Evans, and nothing has ever tasted so good as that beef roast dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, which I ate in bed.
K’s birth was amazing and I still shake my head over it as I write this four months later. I’m still not sure what happened or how, but I guess she was born regardless. I have a few little regrets and “what ifs,” wishing that Angy and Jennifer could have been there to support and reassure me, but all’s well that ends well, and it happened how it needed to happen. I still can’t figure out how it came to be that I made it all the way through transition before caving in to call my midwife.
I feel a lot more ownership over this birth than I do regarding my other births. I did it all myself, labor and delivery. It’s hard to believe, even as I write it.
Candi's comment about my birth:
"I am so glad to be a part of your amazing birth story, but have to add my Two Cents...I was still in the driveway when K was born! Rick had run upstairs to check on you "real quick", came back down LESS than 5 minutes later and simply said, "It's a GIRL!". I believe I stood there dumbfounded for about five minutes before I came to terms with the fact that I was an aunt again! It was just a moment ago that you were standing at the top of the steps saying, "I just can't have this baby yet!" Unbelievable! I didn't tell your kiddos until you called to check on them, though! (although, that was pretty difficult to keep in!) Amazing!"
Mommy to unmedicated hospital birth DD 2002, and home waterbirths DD 2004, DS 2006, and DD 2008. Angel baby 2007.
Babywearing, bed-sharing, tandem-nursing, non-vaxxing, homeschooling mommy. Breastfeeding counselor, birth hobbyist, and someday childbirth educator.