by Lauren, USA
The circumstances surrounding Benjamin's birth were chaotic and hurried – nothing like the setting for our first homebirth. At 38 weeks I was still in full-fledged, “nesting” mode, and for some reason I apparently believed that I could, “will” our baby to stay inside me until I finished all of my projects. But Baby had other plans! Saturday (August 6th) morning, about 1 1/2 weeks before my due date, I awoke suddenly at 5:02am with what I thought to be a Braxton Hix contraction (I'd been having a lot of them for many months) coupled with some horribly painful indigestion, including a lot of very low-down pressure. Although this was my second pregnancy, it took one or two more of those intense surges for me to realize that those were not indigestion, but some massive contractions!
I began to panic a bit, and hastily shook Josh awake. We'd been having some extensive repair work done in our house (a result of aforementioned nesting on my part), and the workmen were scheduled to return that very day. I had also planned a yard sale for that morning, and even had signs posted outside. Our home was still in utter ruckus from all the remodeling, and I couldn't stand the thought of giving birth in the middle of that mess! So since we were planning a water-homebirth and needed my birthing pool in the middle of the living room, poor Josh began scrambling, attempting to bring some semblance of order to the chaos. Both of us believed, despite the intensity of my contractions, that the baby would probably not arrive until many hours from now. After all, my first labor had been 18 hours long. For a few minutes I resolutely did my best to help my husband straighten the house, but I was caught several times standing up or mid-scurry when a strong contraction would take me over, and at those times I literally had to drop down in the floor wherever I was standing in order to get through the contraction. After that happened a couple of times, I realized the contractions were coming too fast and hard for me to try to help with the housework any longer, so I lay down and tried listening to my Birthing Guide, an audio CD I'd gotten to help with relaxation during labor.
Within a few more minutes, though, I realized that matters were becoming serious – I was moaning and having a difficult time weathering the strong contractions on my own, while Josh worked on the house. It was similar to the way I had felt in late stage/transition during my first labor a couple of years ago. I couldn't concentrate on the CD; it became downright irritating hearing that would-be soothing voice telling me that everything was fine and peaceful, when I felt strongly otherwise! My contractions were rapidly increasing in both intensity and frequency, and I was certainly displaying the, “serious” emotional signpost characteristic of late stage labor. I called Josh into our bedroom and suggested to him that we should go ahead and call Debi, our midwife. He wanted to avoid unnecessarily waking her at 5:30am, and since he obviously hadn't been able to be near me during the rapid escalation of my labor in the last few minutes, he didn't realize how urgent the situation had quickly become. So he countered, “Maybe we should time a few more contractions first.” However, after one more forceful contraction washed over me, I insisted, “No, we need to call her NOW!” He picked up the phone, and by the tone of his voice on the call (and the fact that I wasn't even able to talk to her), Debi could tell, as she later described it, that there was no time to dawdle! She sped to us, arriving about 40 minutes later, during which time the contractions continued to become more unbearably painful and closer together. With the combination of such a quick, intense onset of labor, coupled with the hectic state of our house, I felt utterly overwhelmed, and I cried when Debi walked in, lamenting to her, “I'm so ill-prepared!” She encouraged me, gave me a hug, and then checked my dilation, reporting that I was 6 cm. I asked, “Is it too early to get into the birthing pool?”, and in her matter-of-fact way she replied, “If you want to use the pool, you'd better get it ready now.”
Our birthing pool was an inflatable kiddie pool, so Josh (who had been running non-stop this entire time!) immediately began trying to inflate it in the living room. However, after about 5 minutes and a few more VERY intense contractions, I asked, “Debi, be honest – do you think we're going to have time for the birthing pool?”, to which she responded, “No. Do you?” So, I asked her to tell Josh to forget about the pool because I needed him to be with me. He abandoned the pool project and finally joined me in our bedroom, where I was laboring on the bed. Upon my request, he began applying very firm pressure to my lower-back with his clenched fist during each of my contractions, as I was experiencing extreme back labor (which I also did during my first birth). Debi's sweet assistant Michelle arrived around this time, and she helped with the back pressure when Josh had to leave the room for a moment. I soon felt the need to squat/kneel down beside the bed during contractions, which, while it did not alleviate the pain, did really seem to help move the baby downward quickly. While I was still able to apply the Bradley relaxation techniques to my benefit, it was more difficult to relax in what seemed like a brightly-lit, disorganized atmosphere, as opposed to the dark, peaceful place that our home had been during my first time giving birth. The extreme onset of this second labor left me feeling agitated and did not afford me the time for mental preparation and inward focus that I had last time.
Another perhaps 10 or 15 minutes passed in grueling fashion, after which I said to Debi, “It's so annoying; I already feel like pushing” (I felt certain that there was no way I could be ready to push so soon). She responded, “Why is that annoying? Maybe you need to push!” She checked again and said I was over 9cm dilated, and that she felt I would dilate completely if I began pushing. So, I switched to a semi-reclined, “pushing” position on the bed, and, still reeling from the speed at which things were progressing, I began attempting to push. I really buckle down during the pushing stage, purposely holding my breath and giving it all I've got for as long as I can during each, “pushing” contraction, as the Bradley method instructs. It's quite an ordeal, focusing on pushing with more force than I thought possible, while holding my breath to increase the effectiveness of the push, and concentrating on keeping every other part of my body limp to focus the effort only on my uterus. Everyone around me apparently thought my breath-holding was an indication that I was having difficulty breathing, because Josh and Debi kept telling me, “C'mon, BREATHE!” during contractions. With contractions coming one on top of another, I didn't have the time nor the presence of mind to tell them that I could breathe just fine, I just didn't WANT to at that moment! So after a few pushes I heard Debi say to Michelle something about, “oxygen on the mama,” and I suddenly had an oxygen mask on my face. After about 15 minutes of my hard pushing, Debi externally checked the baby's heartbeat, and at once she seemed concerned. She told me in an urgent tone, “I need you to give me a really good push!” That was enough to worry me into quite nearly pushing my eyeballs out with the next contraction, and with that great heave, my baby's head emerged! At 7:15am, our beautiful baby (exactly 6 lbs. & 20 inches long) came into the world. I'd had the strong feeling that we would have a boy, so I was delighted to find when I peeked between the baby's legs, that I'd been correct! Josh and I tried to catch our breath.
It all happened so incredibly fast – less than 2.25 hours from the first contraction – that it was hard to believe it was real! Whew! The timing worked out perfectly; within moments of the baby's first cries, we heard 22-month-old Leah waking in her room across the hall, and Josh immediately brought her into our bedroom to meet her new baby brother. She seemed too sleepy at first to care much for this strange little bundle, but the first time she held him, her reaction immediately was transformed into love and tenderness; she gently nuzzled his soft head with her cheek, and seemed delighted by him. I enjoyed a hot, relaxing herb bath with my tiny son, and afterward, when I handed the baby to Josh, he asked, “What do you think of, “Benjamin Joshua” (the name I had been advocating throughout the pregnancy)?” We agreed on it right then, causing this baby to have a name much sooner than his older sister had. We then were thrilled to start surprising all of our family members with our early morning calls of, “It's a boy!”
Upon her newborn examination of the umbilical cord, Debi was alarmed to find that there were only two blood vessels in the cross section (instead of the normal three vessels). She used our computer to research the possible implications of this issue, and returned to gravely inform us that they included the possibility that Benjamin could have kidney problems, even to the extent that…he could be missing his kidneys altogether. I asked what could be done for him, and she replied, “If there are no kidneys, there's nothing that can be done.” She called our pediatrician, who confirmed her findings, and said there was no reason for Benjamin to visit the hospital, as there were no medical measures that could be taken in such a case. She performed a thorough newborn exam and was nearly certain that she had felt his little kidneys, but she still deemed it necessary for us to understand the possibly critical nature of the situation. Oddly enough, at the time I was not extremely anxious, because I was in complete denial. With the sound of Debi's words, “nothing that can be done,” my mind cut itself off from accepting the possibility of such a cruel twist of fate. I vehemently shook my head and said, “Well, we're not going to think about that.” She pressed me to understand the seriousness of this possibility, to prepare myself, but I could not (it was only many months after the event that I truly reflected on the weight of Debi's words, and wept at the thought of what could have happened to my sweet baby). As it turned out, upon another inspection Debi found that the umbilical cord indeed contained the three vital vessels at a different cross section (two of them had apparently merged at the first point she checked), though she said that the true test would be to see if he was able to urinate, an obvious impossibility in the absence of kidneys. She felt confident by that point that Benjamin was fine. As there was nothing more to be done, she bid us farewell, asking us to notify her once we'd seen the, “pee-pee” evidence of Benjamin's kidneys' existence. We kept up a close watch over the next several hours; Benjamin passed some meconium at first, but no obvious urine. Then, during a diaper change he began to pee, and all of the family members present cheered!
Despite the temporary scare, Benjamin's birth was a miraculous, joyous (albeit hectic and excruciating!) event, and we are all so happy that the Lord has blessed our family with another blessed little one, who looks just like his mama, by the way!