Galen’s Unassisted Birth
by Kristen, USA
The weather that day was crazy. We saw strong wind, heavy rain, and even hail…
Very Early Labor
I woke around 4am Sunday morning to a pretty strong Braxton-hicks contraction and couldn't get back to sleep. Around 5:30 I got out of bed and went to the bathroom where my body did a good job of clearing itself on out. I stayed up a bit and checked the Mothering forums to see how other moms in my due date club were doing and to try and get tired enough to sleep again. Went back to the bathroom and saw a little bit of bloody mucous when I wiped, then went on upstairs. At 7am I woke Scott and told him “I think we'll meet our baby soon.”
Shortly after Scott got up and made breakfast, then got the birth tub set up. I called our midwife, Kathi, to let her know I thought something was happening. At this point the braxton-hicks were 8-10 minutes apart.
We decided we'd like to take a walk when the tub finished filling. I started baked potatoes for lunch so we could eat before the walk. We were sitting inside waiting on the tub and potatoes when we heard lots of clattering against the house. We looked out the window and saw hail coming down. It occurred to me that Brennan had been outside playing… and as soon as I said “Brennan!” we heard “thud, thud, thud…” and he ran up onto the porch. It was cute just how fast he made it to shelter!
The tub finished filling but the potatoes weren't done. Since hail had stopped we decided to go ahead and walk. We headed down the library and put the books in the book drop, then walked back. The wind was very cold on the way there but I was so glad to be walking and glad the kids could work some energy off. The walking felt wonderful – I really felt like I was opening with each contraction I had while walking.
After we got home and ate we decided it would be good to nap. I was comforted to know I'd had a good meal, the tub was ready to go, and there wasn't much to do other than wait.
We got the kids settled for quiet time, then Scott and I went to our room. I dozed a little bit, but I'm not sure for how long. It felt good to be snuggled in bed though. After napping a little we made love, which was very nice. I stayed in bed for a little while after, enjoying the pretty half-sunlight coming in our window and relaxing and letting the contractions come freely to open me up more.
The weather continued to be strange through the afternoon with lots and lots of rain and more hail. I really wanted to go walking again, but it was hailing again and I was frustrated. Walking really helped and I could feel things starting to pick up. Being upright helped a lot. Finally there was just rain so we outfitted Cassidy, Asher, and Brennan each with a smaller sized umbrella and Scott and I used a big one to make a quick walk around the block. We got home and I started a spaghetti supper, and by this time I was having to pause through contractions. While the sauce was heating through I gave the kids a shower – it wasn't easy to keep talking and cheerful! I wanted to be sure they were warm and dry after our walk in the cold rain.
I had to get up during supper a couple of times because standing and swaying was what felt best during the contractions. While Scott read the kids their bedtime story I sat on my birth ball in the office, just working and willing my body to open. After the kids were in bed I called Charlie, my midwife with Cassidy, Asher, and Brennan, to let her know the baby was on the way. We have a pretty close relationship after three babies and I still some work managing a website for her. She was excited and said it felt like she was waiting on a grandbaby 😉 I was happy to talk to her.
After hanging up with Charlie I called Kathi and let her know that my contractions were about 40 seconds long and 5-6 minutes apart. She said she'd head over after her supper and see how things were going.
She arrived about 30 minutes later and set her things up. I was having to work through each contraction but was cheerful and happy between. I'd had some more mucous show throughout the day and felt sure the baby was well on the way. Scott was on the couch and I sat in front of him on the birth ball while Kathi set up.
After she was done getting set up and checking my vital signs she listened to the baby and all looked and sounded good. She asked if I wanted her to check me. I didn't really want a check because I didn't feel like it was time for a check yet. But I did want to know if I could get in the tub. Scott said later he could tell I didn't really want a check. I said ok so I'd know if I could get in the tub and Kathi said I was only 3 centimeters and 60% effaced.
I Want it to Get Heavy
Kathi and Katy, her apprentice, decided to go home and try and get some sleep. This started the surreal part of labor for me. First everyone seemed to be trying to comfort me and right then it was annoying me because I was ok with thinking I had some work ahead of me. I also have a hard time telling people “I'm ok, please just let me be,” and trying to communicate this and avoid overwhelming-feeling eye contact at the same time was tough.
Finally everyone headed out and Scott and I went up to our room. We lay down and I knew I would not be able to sleep through the contractions. By the third or fourth one lying down I just knew I couldn't be in bed. The self-doubt had started though… I felt like I should be able to sleep being so early in labor. But Scott asked if I wanted to go downstairs and I admitted that yes, I did.
I'd started shivering in the bed so Scott had me put on his robe. Even with it on I kept shivering. I covered up with blankets and eventually Scott turned the thermostat up. I didn't think I was really cold but the shivering wouldn't stop. This is the only birth I made it through mostly clothed.
I have no memory of time at this point – I labored some on the edge of the couch and was able to rest a bit with my head in Scott's lap. Then I felt I couldn't do that anymore. I sat on my birth ball some, stood and swayed some, and labored on the toilet some. The house was dark and silent. I told myself to open, and thought over and over “I want this to get heavy” – a thought from a birth story in one of Ina May's books.
Doubts also crept in – I was no longer sure I could do this all night, I was being a wimp having such a hard time so early, I didn't remember it being intense so quickly with the others… I even said that out loud to Scott. I remember him saying at one point “these are not 5 minutes apart!” At that point I had enough doubt that I didn't want to call Kathi back yet.
Each time I went to the bathroom and wiped there was lots of mucous streaked in red. On a final bathroom trip I told Scott it didn't feel like the contractions were stopping. The shivering was also driving me crazy because it made it impossible for my body to relax. I told Scott I wanted to get into the birth tub and I didn't care if it slowed my labor down.
I think it was at this point that Scott lit the candles on the table next to the birth tub – all the candles from my Blessingway. Until then we'd been in the dark.
I got in the tub which was nice and warm. The shivering, however, continued. Scott pulled a chair up beside the tub. I was on my knees inside and he held both of my hands in his. I had two contractions which felt very intense, even in the water. I involuntarily sat up during both of them. I remember thinking that was a little strange. After one of these contractions I reached inside myself and felt the curve of the baby's head. I felt something over the head which I thought was my tissues and meant I was still dilating. The head felt very low down.
My next contraction started and my body started bearing down. I looked at Scott in surprise and said “pushing contraction!” Seconds later I felt a release of pressure and we heard a “pop” sound as my water broke. I said “water broke!” to Scott. He said something about calling Kathi and when the contraction ended and I was sure it was over I told him “get the phone now.”
He called Kathi and told her my water had broken. As soon as he hung up and set the phone down another contraction started. I could tell it was going to be a strong one and I called out “God please help me” (and he did) – I held Scott's hand tightly and felt my entire body bear down with the contraction. I could feel the baby's head come down and crown. There was a split second of stretching and stinging and then I felt his head be born. I had enough time to think but not say his head was born when I realized my body was not going to stop pushing. I felt the rest of his body rush down the birth canal and out into the tub.
I reached for him immediately, asking Scott to help me keep his head above the water. We got him up to my chest and I noticed his cord was wrapped around his body. I'd thought and said to Scott that his cord was short but when I slipped it off him there was plenty of length to it. I could hear him gurgling and breathing. I took two little sucks at his mouth and spit the mucous I got out to help him get going. Then I looked and saw that he was indeed a he. Scott helped me lean back against one side of the tub.
He turned on the light so we could look at his color – which was good and pink. My breasts were under the water in the tub so Scott put a little plastic stool in there for me to sit on. He got one of the baby hats from the birth kit and put it on the baby's head, then got our video camera – which we never even had time to turn on – and took a picture of our new baby.
He was born at 11:45pm – about 2 hours and 15 minutes after our midwives left.
Sitting back in the tub I felt the cord lengthen even more as my body continued to work.
Kathi walked in the door around midnight. My placenta had already separated from the uterus so she and Scott helped me out of the tub. I sat on the birth stool and after several pushes the placenta was born and I was done! I liked having the birth stool for delivering the placenta.
Katy got there shortly after and they got me and the baby snuggled on the couch. He started nursing a short time later. Kathi checked me out and found that I hadn't had any tearing even with such a fast birth. She told me I could probably have twelve babies (hah!) Scott brought the kids down (who had slept through everything!!!) to meet their new baby brother, then tucked them back in bed. After all the checking was done and I'd eaten something and had plenty of liquids they helped me upstairs to bed and we settled in with the baby.
Kathi and Katy left and I called my dad. I told him we'd named our new baby son Galen Napier – my dad's middle name is Napier and it was his mom's (my grandma's) maiden name. Then I called Charlie and told her about the baby.
And finally, finally we snuggled up with our son Galen and went to sleep. A few hours later I sat with Galen and watched the first snowfall outside our window. It was a little touch of magic after such a wonderful experience.
Also see my Reflections on Galen's Birth!