by Lauren, USA
My due date came and went, and I surprised myself by not being too desperate to do anything about it. I was, of course, ready for the end-of-pregnancy misery to end, but I knew my baby would come when the time was right. I had been experiencing bouts of fairly intense, closely-spaced contractions off and on for over a week, so I was beginning to wonder if I'd even know real labor when it began! To my discouragement, despite the strong Braxton Hix contractions I'd been experiencing for many months, my prenatal appointment 2 weeks prior had revealed that I was barely dilated, and that my cervix didn't seem to be ripening at all yet. I had begun taking evening primrose oil immediately after that appointment, several times per day, in hopes of changing that situation. We had a prenatal appointment scheduled with our midwife, Debi, on the afternoon of Thursday, May 3rd: one day past my official due date. She called me that day and offered to conduct the appointment at our house, instead of our having to drive to her home in Athens, since she had other business to conduct in our area. I gladly accepted that offer, and so she arrived that afternoon around 4pm. Josh had fortunately left work early to be with me for this appointment, so he was also at home when Debi arrived.
During my appointment, Debi discovered that I was about 5cm dilated (hooray for evening primrose oil!), and her, “rough” cervical exam (per our request, to help encourage labor) caused me to start having a few significant contractions even before she left our house. Still, I didn't anticipate that that alone would bring the baby very soon, so I asked her if she had any black & blue cohosh to help stimulate my uterus. She said that she would acquire some, and meet us with it in a couple of hours, following another appointment she had to conduct across town.
After Debi left, around 5pm, I called my mother and mother-in-law to tell them about the appointment, and that I was dilated and having contractions, but nothing serious. Since I'd been having so many strong contractions for so long, no one thought much of it! By the end of my phone calls, however, I could tell that the contractions were increasing in intensity, so I called Debi to let her know that I was pretty sure that I was having, “real” contractions, and that she probably shouldn't travel far. I was still convinced at this point that we had a long time to go, because even though the contractions themselves were intense, I was still able to talk and walk around in-between them, just stopping to focus & relax during them. I sat down and read a book to Leah and Benjamin, and then decided to finish up some laundry & tidy the house while I could. As I was walking around doing this, though, the pain from my contractions started becoming much more noticeable. During one contraction I found it necessary to grab onto Josh and hang from my arms around his neck as I relaxed through it. I called Debi back and let her know that I was starting to feel some low-down pressure, and that the contractions were picking up in intensity. I also called my friend Libby, who was planning to be present at the birth, and warned her that she might want to get ready to head our way. For some reason, I suppose because the contractions hadn't forced me into bed just yet, I still didn't take this very seriously, though, and I even told both of them on the phone, “I'm sure we still have hours to go.” I asked Josh to make a quick 10-minute run to the store, though he protested, and I assured him that I wouldn't give birth while he was gone.
Just a few minutes after that point, however, the contractions suddenly became much harder and more frequent, such that walking around was no longer an option. I laid down in our bed and asked Josh, as soon as he returned, to go ahead and start filling the birth pool (following the experience I'd had last time of not having the pool ready in time, I had pre-inflated the pool weeks ago, so that it just needed to be filled with warm water, using a hose connected to the sink). At this point I was having alot of, “back labor,” so during contractions I was begging Josh to press with his fist very firmly on my lower back; the counter-pressure helped. I rapidly became pretty vocal during contractions, making low moaning sounds like I always do during late labor. I could tell that Josh was becoming nervous! He called Debi again and let her know that things were moving along quicker than expected, so she had better hurry, which she was wisely already doing despite my naive nonchalance with her on the phone.
Poor Josh was running around in a frenzy, trying to care for our two children, prepare the birth pool, and coach me through contractions. I was SO thankful for his help, and my Bradley Method training came through for me again, as well; my relaxing during the contractions was the only thing that seemed to keep the pain from overtaking me completely. I had quickly reached the, “self-doubt” stage, the point of feeling as if I couldn't do this. I attempted to combat my despairing thoughts and feelings of desperation by reminding myself that I had survived this labor twice already, murmuring to myself, “I've done this before, I've done this before… Shortly after 8pm, I asked Josh to please go ahead and put the kids to bed so that he could help me. So he hurriedly tucked them in, while I tried to be reassuring by calling to them from my bed that our baby would be coming soon. I had sincerely hoped to have our children present for the birth of their youngest sibling (especially 3-year-old Leah, whom I had prepared for the birth by watching natural birth videos and reading children's books about homebirth with her. She was fascinated at the prospect of seeing the baby come out of mommy's body). But I felt at this point as if I needed my husband's undivided attention. During one of my next contractions, I started feeling something dribble onto the bed. Worried about ruining our sheets, I told Josh, “I'm bleeding, I'm bleeding on the bed!” He informed me that I was not bleeding – my water had broken. The unfortunate effect of quick-onset labor is that it makes relaxation more difficult because it is much harder to focus inward while there is so much activity going on around me. I believe I actually prefer a longer, slower labor, like my first, to the, “fast and furious” method my two subsequent babies took!
My dear husband had the birth pool filled and ready at the foot of our bed. Although I had intended to wait for Debi's arrival to get into the tub, the water was just too tempting, so I proceeded to slip in. Ahhh! I was so thankful for the bit of relief that the warm water provided. I was becoming worried myself at this point, because I felt distinctly as if I could push, so I asked Josh to call Debi again. She assured us that she was just a few minutes away, going as fast as possible. I wanted to lean over the side of the pool so that I could have Josh continue to put pressure on my lower back, but as I started to lean forward while squatted on my knees, I felt tremendous pressure from the baby's head pressing downward. I decided that I'd better not try that position until Debi arrived, lest our baby arrive before her! Desperation to escape the pain, while having to fight my natural urge to push, kept me from being able to concentrate on relaxation during contractions, which in turn served only to heighten the pain and desperation. Make it stop!
Then it happened: one more contraction, and I suddenly knew that this baby was coming quickly, and I couldn't stop it. Everything seemed to start happening in a flash: Debi flew in the door, kneeled by the pool to check my dilation, and asked, “feeling pushy?” I told her YES! She reported that I was about 9 1/2cm, so I should wait just a moment. She dashed out to grab supplies from her car. Another contraction took over, and I yelled, “I'M PUSHING!!!” as she ran back in the door. In reality, though, *I* wasn't pushing – I just couldn't stop my body from doing it. I'd never felt that sensation before . . . it was indescribably overwhelming. With my other two children I had to push with all my might, but this time my body was doing the work on its own. As Debi reached the side of the pool, the head began crowning, and I literally felt for a few moments as if my entire body was being torn apart at the seams, I suppose because the baby was coming through the birth canal so quickly. I screamed, “I'm going to rip in half!” and Debi responded, “No, you're not!” But then, the next thing I knew, the head was out. I looked down, astonished that it had happened so quickly, and asked, “Is that a head?!” (as if it could have been anything else!). I relaxed for just a moment, then during the next contraction I gave a good push, and our baby was born! It was 8:33pm. I'd been in labor for about 3 hours.
Debi handed me our baby while I still sat in the birthing pool, and I stared in wonder at the child I held against my chest as her wet, pink little face looked back up at me. I peeked to see what gender the baby was. For some reason I'd felt fairly certain that I was having a boy, so in surprise and delight I smiled up at Josh and softly announced, “It's a girl!” Josh dashed into the kids' bedroom to get them up (they'd only been in bed for 20 minutes, and with all the commotion were still wide awake), and they excitedly ran to the side of the pool to meet their baby sister. Leah announced, “I heard you push the baby out!”, then immediately asked if she could swim in the birthing pool, too! Josh began happily calling all of our family members to share the news. My wonderful friend Libby, who I'd called earlier, arrived and began helping Debi in the absence of her assistant Michelle, who was on her way. A few members of our families arrived, and Leah excitedly introduced everyone to her new baby sister. Following a relaxing herb bath with my baby girl, I got dressed and climbed into my bed, all of my children cuddling with me. I sat back and took in the warmth and happiness of the scene – how perfectly natural, and yet so special, it felt to have our baby at home with us in these precious early hours of her life, with her adoring siblings, grandmothers, and several aunts & uncles present to share in our joy. It was cozy and perfect. Our baby girl weighed in at 6 lbs. 2 oz. (the exact weight guessed beforehand by my brother Stephen!), and was 20 1/2 inches long. Unlike our first two, who were born sleepy and lazy, I glanced down at the baby, who was lying beside me on the bed, to find her looking all around and moving her mouth hungrily. I picked her up to nurse, and she enthusiastically latched right on.
After the crowd dispersed, Josh and I sat in the quiet dark of our home, marveling at our newest little blessing (and I marveled at how much pain I was still experiencing!). Our third beautiful homebirth experience left us blessed with yet another precious miracle; we have no words to express our gratitude. We're also quite thankful that Debi made it to us in time, since Josh made it clear that he did NOT wish to deliver a baby on his own! We discussed name possibilities over the next day, and by the following evening we had decided to name her, “Miriam Helen.”