Elizabeth Joy’s Birth
A Healing Home Water Birth at ThePromiselandFarm.com
by Rashel, USA
This is the story of the home water birth of Elizabeth Joy, our second daughter.
The story begins three years before Elizabeth with the home birth of our first daughter Isabella. By most standards Isabella's birth was text-book perfect; labor was 10 hours and I progressed normally, contractions were as expected, baby did well the whole labor, midwives arrived at the perfect time, I never tore, baby and mommy had all healthy checks through out labor and birth, etc. However, the truth was, Isabella's birth was traumatic me (and my husband!).
The pain with my first birth was unbearable and nothing about it seemed natural, it was horrific, so painful that just the thought of having another baby for the next two years would bring tears to my eyes. I screamed so hard I'm sure you could hear me miles away.
I read every natural birth book on the shelves, watched every movie and documentary on birthing and pregnancy and the experience I had was nothing like what I read about. When Isabella (first baby) came out, I had no emotion, none of this instant joy or love that I saw in the movies or read about on the Internet. I was numb, I could not believe that I was still alive and the intense pain of the birth traumatized me.
I WANTED A DIFFERENT BIRTH STORY THE SECOND TIME.
Three years later, pregnant again, we decided to rent a birth pool from our midwives at Labor of Love in Tyler, TX and hire a professional Doula, birth photographer and placenta encapsulator Kali Parks from MamaMatters.com. Those two decisions took us down a completely different birth path.
This pregnancy was different, I was tired, I constantly had Braxton hicks hardening throughout the entire pregnancy, and especially when I'd squat down or be on my feet all day. Also, my groin… oh my goodness, I felt like the baby was going to fall out, so much pressure down there, pretty much the entire pregnancy! J I was a big complainer almost the entire pregnancy; very uncomfortable. Kudos to my husband for putting up with me!
I went almost two weeks over-due with my first baby, the second time around when I was 5 days over 40 weeks, I figured I had at least a week left, how wrong I was! The first sign, I should have paid more attention to, was 24 hours before labor started, my bowels start cleaning out naturally. I mean going to the bathroom three times a day, until you are totally clean. This exact same thing happened right before my first birth. I should have realized my body was preparing for labor!
The day I went into labor, I worked our honeybee hives. I had a difficult split to do with the hive because they were making swarm cells. It was hot and stressful; I sometimes wonder if the combination of the full moon, and the stress of working the bees at ThePromiselandFarm.com is what gave Elizabeth her eviction notice! :)\
Saturday afternoon, we ate lunch and my husband, Andrew and Isabella (now 3 y/o) spent the evening blowing up the birth pool and rearranging the living room furniture to make the pool fit. We were advised to get the pool set up because there might not be time for it when labor started.
After dinner, we had a little photo shoot for our daughters 3rd birthday and maternity pictures of my very “preggers” belly.
We went to bed and I slept hard until Andrew work me up at 1:00 p.m. by asking me if I was okay. He said I was groaning in my sleep and wondered if I was all right. It was then I felt something different than my typical hardening or Braxton hicks, something stronger. It was like a hardening in my belly that made me focus and groan.
I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and lost my mucus plug, which is like a cap on the cervix. It was then that we started timing intervals between contractions (there's several free apps on the iPhone that are great tools for this!). Surprisingly, the hardening was about 60 seconds long and 5 minutes apart. We timed this three times, so 15 minutes later I started to freak out a bit because I knew labor had started.
Andrew started down our call list. The first on the list was my Mom, she lives 3 hours away and I really wanted her support at the birth this time around. Second on the list was to page our midwife team and then leave a message for our Doula. Both the Doula and Midwives were 1.5 hours driving time away.
I went through another three sets of contractions and they moved to three minutes apart, 60 seconds long. This happened before my birth team had even head our way… I knew I needed to slow down labor because we wanted their help! So I got in a hot bath and put in lots of magnesium flakes and lavender essential oil in the water. This did the trick and the intense contractions calmed down, but they stayed consistent at three minutes apart.
This was not my husband's first rodeo and he knew exactly what to get ready while I was in the tub. We live in the country, so if we want to eat well, we have to make it! Andrew took out quarts homemade frozen soup, sourdough bread, sausage, bacon and homemade waffles to get us through breakfast and lunch. I had stocked the freezer with food for the months after the baby arrived, so we were prepared to fed our birth team and ourselves.
Andrew knew I liked things dark, really dark for labor so he made sure all the blinds were drawn and took out flashlights for everyone. He also got out my labor drinks of a smoothie of strawberry banana kefir and egg yolks, and a bottle of coconut water, all in mason jars with a straws ready to go.
The first of our birth team to arrive was our first midwife, Sarah. Then my doula (labor coach), Kali arrived. I had just gotten out of the tub and contractions were starting to get stronger. Between contractions, we'd talk and laugh about silly things but we'd all get quiet when a contraction started. I labored standing, leaning on Andrew, sitting on the couch and made sure to move around and sway to help my baby move down. It was this time that Vicky the head midwife arrived around 3:30 a.m. My Mom arrived an hour later around 4:30 a.m. to help run the house, kitchen and our take care of our 3 y/o if she woke up.
When Vicky arrived; I asked her if she'd check me. I really felt like my contractions were bringing this baby down. To my surprise, I was actually fully dilated and effaced. Ha, I didn't believe my ears!
Then she told me I could start pushing if I wanted to. What?!?! I didn't think I'd had enough pain yet to be fully dilated? Remembering the pain from my first birth, I didn't have any desire to push yet, so I told her “nope” not yet I need more time, I don't feel like my body's ready yet.
I went though two contractions standing up leaning on my bed and then Vicky suggested I should eat something. It was here I drank the smoothie Andrew had made earlier. Then my Doula, Kali said that if I wanted to get in the birth pool, now would probably be a good time. She knew I wanted to wait until the very end of labor to get in the tub. With my prior birth, I labored a lot in the bathtub and at the end I got too hot to stay in there! Our bathroom and tub are small and not ideal for birth.
We put the birth pool in the living room that had lots of room, air circulation and a fan. The birth pool felt soooo good!
As with my first birth, I liked my birth space pitch dark. I mean dark, really dark, no lights. We had also hired our Doula Kali to be our birth photographer, and she mentioned that if we wanted some pictures she'd have to turn some lights on. I told her how about between contractions we can turn the lights on and you can get a few pictures and then we need to turn the lights off so I can focus on the contraction. She agreed and this is the only picture I have in labor.
Contractions started to get really really really strong and I started to say things like, “why am I doing this again”, “Kali how did you do this four times?!” That's when Kali told me, “you're going through transition and doing so well”.
Although the contractions were very intense, I never realized it was transition because it was so much more manageable in the birth pool! I never felt like I wanted to jump off a building or be rolled in the ER for a C-Section like with my first birth. The birth pool totally made the pain manageable. I'd have 60 seconds of very strong contractions and then about 2 minutes of break where I could talk, take a drink or drift off to sleep. My husband held my hand to my right and my Doula was behind me putting counter pressure on my shoulders during contractions. Kali knew exactly what to say and do to encourage me.
Then contractions come closer together and didn't give me a break. All I could focus on was breathing. My team encouraged me to take long deep breaths instead of short shallow breaths.
I naturally kept mouth open in a large O during contractions (which is recommended in all the natural birth books, my favorite book was Ina May Gaskin's book “Spiritual Midwifery”). Keeping your mouth open and loose is mirrored down below to open for the baby. Being able to keep my month open and loose was really incredible, because even though I knew about this technique before, I didn't do in my first birth. I bit down so hard during contractions that my gums permanently receded! I gave Andrew a bite guard to have on hand if I started gritting my teeth again, which amazingly, I never needed!
It was at this time we started hearing the birds chirping outside and the sun peaking through the windows. All I remember is, I have to get this baby out because I don't want the light during contractions!
My contractions were strong and they did the work for me. All I did was make sure I was breathing, which was all consuming! The birth pool and water supported me and I could feel the baby move down the birth canal with each contraction. The natural force of the contraction would push the baby down and after the contraction the head would draw back and recede about a half inch. Which is awesome because the baby drawing back between contraction is natures way of gently opening things up so I didn't tear.
I had a sense that I did not need to force the “pushing” this time around. So, I asked to just be left to do it myself; I asked them to please don't coach me to push… “these contractions are doing it”, I said, “just give me time.” They informed me that this could be a crucial time for the baby in the canal and that I needed to push. I told them, “No, leave me alone; my body is doing it, don't talk please, just trust me it's working.” Between the contractions, my Midwives monitored my blood pressure and the baby's heart rate with their Doppler. Neither one of us had any issues so they were patient to let me go at my own pace.
I knew my body was doing it's finest work and no one could really coach me when and how to push. Every contraction was different, and my mind and body were working together naturally in response. Afterall, who needs coaching to go to the bathroom…it's really very similar except more painful 😉 I would have a lighter contraction and then a harder one, and I could tell that each one had a different for purpose maneuvering the baby through my pelvis. And being in the water of the birth pool, I could feel all of it!
I could feel the baby spinning, rotating and moving down! This was not the case with my first birth. My first birth I was coached though every push and looking back it all seemed more forced and un-natural that resulted in unbearable pain – it was hell.
At this point, I reached down and could feel the entire top head of the baby right at the entrance; it was an amazing and powerful experience to actually feel it right there. It was then I felt a pop and gush and I told them my water broke. They turned on the lights (to my dismay!) to check the water and make sure it was clear, which it was. Then my contractions were really strong and I had the natural desire to push for the first time. Holding my husbands hand to my right and Kali with her hands on my shoulders, I entered the last phase of labor.
I pushed hard and screamed loud for the first time, and out came the baby's head! The scream woke up my three old who had been sleeping back in her bedroom thus far, through the whole thing. My Mom went to get her. It was several seconds before I felt another contraction and I screamed for the second time pushing hard to get the shoulders out. My Mom came back into the living room with my daughter just in time to see Vicky catch the baby and bring it up out of the water!
Elizabeth Joy was born Father's day at 6:07 a.m. Sunday morning. The whole labor had lasted five hours! Vicky kept her facing down and she immediately let out a cry and turned pink! I wanted her instantly and reached out for her, a wave of beautiful emotions ran over me… instant love, happiness, joy and excitement. It was so powerful! A much different feeling than I had with my first birth.
We had decided to opt out of all ultrasounds during pregnancy, and so the gender of our baby was a surprise. The Midwives told Andrew to “unwrap your Father's Day present”, so Andrew pulled away the towel and discovered a little girl! Kali caught the moment in this picture…
We named her Elizabeth Joy. Because she gave her Daddy and I so much instant Joy! She came out with a perfect 10 APGAR ((Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration). This birth was beautiful and I bonded with Elizabeth instantly. Little Elizabeth wanted to suck right away and latched on in the birth pool!
After a few minutes soaking in the moment and holding baby Elizabeth in the birth tub, it was time to get up and do all the post-birth stuff. The placenta didn't seem to want to release while I was in the pool, so I got out of the water holding Elizabeth. One step away from the pool and I felt some strong contractions, Elizabeth had already latched on and wouldn't let go…the sucking triggered the release and I passed the placenta, which hurt (thank you very much!).
While we were still standing there, holding Elizabeth, the umbilical cord stopped pulsing and Vicky clamped the cord. Andrew cut it and then he gave the scissors to Isabella (my three year old, held by my Mom) so she could pretend to cut it too!
Then we all moved to the bed where Vicky checked the baby and I… no excessively bleeding and I didn't tear; everything checked out perfect – praise Jesus!
Our three-year-old had learned about the birth process with a doll from MamAmorDoll. We also used a play doctor kit to show her what kind of tools would be used in the birth. She brought all of these toys to the bed with us for the check-up.
The picture below shows her holding the pretend “placenta”; the MamAmor doll is laying on the bed (in the green dress) and I'm holding the infant baby doll. The doll is pretty neat; it has a place for the baby and placenta in her tummy and the baby comes out just like a real one. The doll also has snaps for the infants mouth so the infant doll can pretend to breastfeed. It was a good way for our toddler to understand what was going to happen to her real Mommy! 🙂
We also used some story books to teach her about birth; here are some of our favorites: Before You Were Born, by J. Davis. Our Water Baby by A. Maelean Born Right Here at Home by C. Austin Hello Baby by J. Overend
Our little 3 y/o slept through most of the labor, but did really well at at the grand finale and we were so glad she was there to be a part of her sister's birth!
During my first pregnancy, I never prepared a written “birth plan”, but this time I did at the encouragement of my Doula, Kali, I put it all on paper. At both of my prenatal with Kali, we worked though all of my concerns. This mental preparation and writing my thoughts on paper that made all the difference, and really helped me have a better birth experience. I had given a copy of my birth plan to both my Midwife and Doula. Surprisingly, everything happened according to the plan!
I had also planned for a better postpartum experience. I had been reading that eating your placenta will shorten the time with postpartum bleeding, speed up recovery, boost your energy and relieve postpartum blues. It seemed like a pretty wild idea, but then again, I had seen cows naturally and instinctively eat their afterbirth here on the farm, so there had to be something to it.
So, I took the plunge and employed the help of Kali once again, who also offers a placenta encapsulating service, where she simply dehydrates it and puts it in pill form. After four weeks post baby birth, I can tell you all the things I read are true. I totalllly recommend eating the placenta, and everyone around you will love you for it, because you'll be such a more pleasant person. Trust me – placenta pills are pretty close to magic pills!!
I was so blessed by my Doula, Kali with MamaMatters.com, my Midwives Vicky and Sarah from LaborofLoveTyler.com, my Husband and my Mother. I highly recommend rallying a support team to help you through birth and afterwards.
You have to ask people for help; having babies is one of the times in your life when you need support.
I will be forever grateful to my team.
Two-day postpartum check up at Labor of Love in Tyler Texas.