As the evening of September 27th wore on I grumpily resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to meet my baby that day. Josh and I put the girls to bed and settled in to watch a mindless movie on our new free HBO. Around 10:30pm I decided to try what I tell all my clients to try..which is simply, “What gets the baby in, gets the baby out.”*wink*
Less than an hour later I began having Braxton Hick’s contractions. Josh decided to head to our complex gym and work out as we were both filled with a restless energy. I began to pace the living room and I noticed that these BH contractions were coming regularly at about 5 minutes apart. But they were neither painful nor progressing so I knew they were not changing my cervix…or were they?
When Josh got out of the shower I suggested we go for a walk outside. It was a beautiful clear night and the air was amazingly crisp,I breathed deeply. Comfortable in my favorite
Anyways, the contractions stayed consistent at 5 minutes apart but again not in any way were they becoming painful. So I told him if they weren’t painful in the next hour we would just go to bed and either I would wake up with painful contractions or I would wake up to another day of being pregnant.
It was about 1AM when we got into bed and I fell quickly into a dreamless sleep….
A few hours later I woke up out of a sound sleep and thought to myself, Why in the world am I awake right now? And at that moment I experienced the very slightest of a Braxton Hicks contraction and felt a trickle between my legs and before I could even wonder what it was, that trickle became a WHOOOSH of amiontic fluid gushing between my legs. I was in awe as I lay there and felt the warmth pour out of me. I smiled in the darkness…didn’t we just talk about this? Quickly I reached over and shook Josh’s sleeping form next to me, “Josh…my water just broke.” To which he sleepily acknowledged with a grunt and seemingly was going back to sleep…and then it hit him…and he jumped straight up. This was when my doula training kicked in and I began firing instructions at Josh, “ I need to know what time it is right now..I have to check the color..amount..odor!!” And I rushed into the bathroom to do all that and call my midwife.
Our youngest daughter sleeps on the floor next to our bed and occasionally Grace wakes up and crawls into bed with her. This was one of those nights unbeknownst to us so all the commotion woke both girls up. Josh was running around trying to remember all the things we had talked about prenatally that I would need him to do one of which was, FILL THE TUB. But the girls were upset and confused so he had to tend to them while I talked to Eloisa in the bathroom.
I was sitting on the toilet and as I answered Eloisa’s questions my legs began to shake uncontrollably and my stomach quivered. You know how it is when you are nervous or really anxious and you just can’t stop shaking. Thoughts flooded my head about how the birth I had been so impatient to begin was now imminent. I allowed fear to creep in about pain and other things as I sat there feeling overwhelmed. My water had broken but I had yet to have a contraction. She asked me if I felt baby movement..but the baby hadn't moved..oh no, I thought. I began pushing and jiggling my belly, Jakob..you ok in there? I reached down to check to make sure there was no cord between my legs (prolapse) all the things I had learned in my doula training dominating my actions. Which I was grateful for and thought was comical in the moment.
However, I became fearful that my painless contractions from earlier were going to just all of a sudden become unbearable with ruptured membranes. And yet 15 minutes after my water broke I had a contraction that was no more painful then earlier when Josh and I had been walking. I began to calm down and was able to slow my own breathing and gradually my legs relaxed. Eloisa said she was worried about me (probably because I sounded so worried) and offered to come over and help us set up. I quickly and gratefully accepted her offer and was finally able to relax deeply knowing that she was on her way. I got off the phone and made my way into the living room. The girls were settled back into their own beds and sleeping soundly. I walked over to the glider rocker and sat down to watch my husband’s erratic attempts to fill the tub as he was also very nervous.
He connected the hose and made his way over to the tub to begin filling it and I began to make requests and suggestions as politely as possible.
Josh, honey. You should put the tarp down under the tub first.
Josh, honey could you get me my robe?
Josh, could you light my candles please?
Honey? Could you turn on my play list?
Josh, start boiling the water for warming the tub..
Can you cover the tub with a blanket..
Josh. Can you bring me my recharge..
Finally around 4AM the tub was filling, the candles were lit and filling the air with the delicious aroma of Harvest Pumpkin Spice Cake, worship music played softly in the background, and I took a deep breath. My home birth had begun and I was deeply content.
Contractions continued to come about every 5 minutes as before but without pain. I simply grabbed the edge of the birth tub and rocked in the rocking chair during each one. Rhythm and Ritual are so important for a laboring mom and as a doula I always look for them as most times they show up on their own but are immensely helpful for mom and coping.This was to be my rhythm AND ritual until I got into the tub..the same action...the same breathing...every rush. Being able to know what was going to happen every time and being able to lose myself into the rush by rocking was amazing.
I asked for the phone and began calling my photographer and good friend and birth support, Heather. Everyone was on their way.. Eloisa had just arrived and was busy unpacking all her things. The tub was full and covered with a blanket to keep the heat in until we needed it. Excitement was growing inside me with each gentle rush as I imagined meeting my son in the warm waters of the tub. Eloisa and I hugged warmly and then she set about getting our vitals. She listened to baby’s heart beat and kissed my belly, smiling widely, as she was as excited as me to meet this baby. Baby and I both looked and sounded good…it was wonderful.
Sitting in my chair I surveyed my home in candle light, my best friend and midwife charting away with her legs crossed, my husband sitting in a chair next to me rubbing my back, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Shortly after Eloisa arrived Heather walked in smelling of the wind and outside and I was thrilled she could make it. Heather had never attended a birth let alone a home birth. It took her less than 20 minutes to gather herself and find her place in the rhythm of my labor. We chatted and laughed in between contractions as I continued to just hold the edge of the birth tub and rock, rock, rock right through each rush.
Sandi, our birth photographer, showed up in a whirl of camera bags and curls around 5am. She told us about how Orion’s Belt was shining brilliantly that morning of Jak’s birth. It was a good birth omen we decided…
I continued to labor painlessly, breathing deeply, and continuing to rock through them..literally. There was laughter and smiles in between them until around 6am or so I decided I was ready for the tub. I exhaled deeply with bliss as the warm water enveloped my laboring belly. It felt amazing. And the effect on my labor was significant as Sandi noted that after getting into the tub I experienced two contractions in 4 minutes! Needless to say things ‘picked up’ pretty fast. As the rushes came on top of each other I still wouldn’t describe what I was feeling as pain..as this was my 3rd labor I was familiar with what labor ‘pain’ was and would describe my other two labors as painful. But this was simply intense, embracing my baby into this world is what I thought about.
I was surprised that I hadn't had to tone or cope yet(movement,position changes etc) but was able to simply breathe through them. I repeated this phrase in my mind during each rush, “Thank you Jesus! Strong and gentle all the way to pushing…Thank you Jesus! Strong and gentle all the way to pushing”. I was deep down afraid of my contractions becoming more painful, afraid not in the way that I couldn't do it if they became painful but in the way that I was thoroughly enjoying my gentle labor as it was. I was sure if they stayed the way they were I could labor for HOURS that way until it was time to push. And in a way it probably was a plea to the Lord to allow my labor to continue this way. On some level I was hoping that all the heart and soul I had poured into the laboring women I had attended would somehow be measured back to me in my own labor, silly I know but I was hopeful. :) The mood of my labor continued to be light, bursting with joy and I somehow managed to keep my sense of humor throughout.
I did ask my husband to kneel in front of me so I could lean on him and connect to the strength he provided. It was a wonderful, intimate moment that was missing in all our previous birthing experiences together and I thank God that I was able to be vulnerable enough with this birth to invite others in for support. It is one of the biggest factors I believe why I experienced this beautiful orgasmic birth.
At one point I moved from being on my knees to sitting back on my bottom because I felt like I was hyperventilating. I mentioned to the midwives that my hands, arms and legs were tingling. I recalled this sensation with Samantha’s birth shortly before transition and pushing. Without hesitation all the women in the room, both midwives and Heather, surrounded the birth tub and reached into the water and began rubbing my hands and arms while Heather rubbed my head. Silently they began to simply tend to me in my labor; I just closed my eyes and surrendered to the absolute love they offered me. Josh was in awe of what was happening and remembers just moving out of the way, sitting back and watching me have this amazing moment with these women whom I adored. He recalls it as, Beautiful.
I then delegated out some jobs because that’s the doula in me. I told/asked Heather to sit in the chair and be in charge of offering me drinks and for Josh to sit next to me and be in charge of the cool cloth. I was in labor I can order people around right? He just smiled and moved into this position happily, apparently he was about to hand the cup to Heather before I asked. He had been taking good notes while I attended all those births during my pregnancy.
Back up on my knees I began to worry that since I wasn’t really having any pain that perhaps my cervix wasn’t changing and this was going to drag on forever. I reached down to check myself and for the first time felt the membranes hanging out. They felt amazing.. they were the softest thing I have ever felt.. you would think they would feel slimy but surprisingly they feel just like silk. I giggled out loud as I realized what I was feeling. My baby boy is wrapped in silk right now, I thought and smiled. Josh asked why I was giggling and so I invited him to reach into the tub and feel them, which he happily obliged.
I changed position again in the tub as the intensity mounted I felt the need to GRAB something..and squeeze. I had Josh sit in a chair in front of me so I could hold his legs and rest my head in between. As I entered transition Josh was smart enough after ONE contraction to put a towel across his lap and have me grab that instead rather then lose hair, skin, or muscle.
I began to feel a burning at the top of my pelvic bone which was SO familiar to how Sam felt coming down the canal. It was at this time, since I felt that birth was imminent, that I decided to ask Eloisa to check me for the first time. She maneuvered herself around, as I was in an awkward position for a check, and as her fingers went in I expected her to just ‘run’ right into my son’s head. Much to my disappointment her fingers went WAY up and were searching around. My heart sank at this point even though I possess the birth knowledge and experience to know that labor can change in an instant I began to doubt how far I was. The time was now 7:15am and I had been laboring for only 3 hours. Eloisa informed me, gently, that I had no cervix left in the back but a lot left in the front and that I was probably at a five. She had only BEGUN to utter the word ‘five’ she got maybe got as far as “fuh” when the next contraction hit and it HURT. And let me tell you why….
The entire time I was laboring I was deeply content. I was at home where I wanted to be, surrounded by people I loved and trusted that I had hand selected for this day, I was confident in my ability to birth, I was thrilled to be meeting my son, I was praising God with EVERY rush… and the moment Eloisa said the word, five, FEAR was introduced for the first time in my labor and with it, pain. I buried my head in Josh’s lap and threw my leg back to push against the tub wall behind me and a low toning came out of my mouth. And I felt my son begin to descend as if he knew I was afraid and wanted to reassure me. I had to re focus and quickly. I found a spot on the floor and many women can relate I think to finding a ‘spot’ to stare at during transition. I began to repeat this mantra in my head, “I can do anything for one minute. I can do anything for one minute.” Over and over since rushes usually last around a minute..this helped me IMMENSELY through the next..ummm…4 minutes before I birthed.
2 rushes after being checked my body began to bear down and I got quiet. My support thought I wasn’t breathing and began reminding me to breathe. Which I obliged by taking a small breath and continuing to push. None of them knew I was pushing since Eloisa had said I was only 5 cm I didn’t want them to tell me it wasn’t time to push. Even though my midwives would never say that to a mom…I was afraid in a little kid getting caught kind of way. The next rush I felt his head begin to crown and I felt a unique kind of panic and I heard this little whiny voice come out of me and say, “Eloisa?! HEAD!!: Now what I really wanted was for her to apply counter pressure but that’s what came out. She quickly dived under my arm to check me and sure enough I had almost crowned during that contraction.
Now this is always my favorite part of any birth I attend.. the moment when the baby’s head is at the perineum and birth is imminent. The air crackles with electricity and excitement but mom is not aware because she is so focused on her job. But all the support people are exchanging happy smiles and knowing looks with each other and slapping high fives. (well maybe not high fives)while the care providers busy themselves warming the blankets, readying the hats, etc. And it’s so much easier to encourage a tired or frightened mama when her baby is RIGHT there. So awesome.
Well, my moment was no different and is captured wonderfully in this picture where everyone is smiling but me because they know baby is almost here..and so do I but I still have to push him out.
I always want to slow down pushing and achieved it with my 2nd birth but with my son I just wanted him out. So as the next contraction rushed him DOWN towards the waiting world it made me push UP like I could somehow ESCAPE the feeling of his head coming out. My midwife lovingly reminded me to keep my bottom in the water.
Breathlessly I replied, “Oh..Sorry!!” because I knew (from a friend’s experience) that if his head came out and his face touched air I would have to get out to deliver him. No thanks. It was then that I had a pep talk with myself and once Eloisa said, ‘Baby’s head is out.” I knew it was only one more push until I could have him i
Oh that feeling….that amazing indescribable feeling of when your baby is released from your body. It’s incredible, much better than any orgasm, the knowledge that the pain is over and your angel is here…all processing at the same time. I love it.
However, Jakob was all tangled up in his cord so there was some momentary frustration followed by discussion on logistics of how to free him as I waited for someone to GIVE ME MY BABY. His chord was tightly around his neck…his waist.. across his chest..it was a mess. However, with all hands in as it were they were able to turn him to unwrap him and I had him in my arms.
This was the moment.. the moment I want over and over and over again..that I can’t get enough of.. that first moment when you meet your baby. I clutched his warm, vernixy precious body to my chest, amazed that he was here and he was beautiful. I noticed he took a few moments to decide that breathing was a good idea but I wasn’t worried. I just cried and looked at him then hugged him… looked at him…hugged him and cried some more. (and double checked his equipment) Someone threw open the curtain in front of me and brilliant sunshine flooded the room as I held my son for the first time, I’ll never forget it.
Within moments both my beautiful daughters were at my side meeting their brother through sleep filled eyes. I couldn’t believe it.. I had given birth at home, without pain, surrounded by love and filled with the deep belief that I could do it..9 pounds 6oz and 23 inches long! I then held my son out in front of me allowing him to float in the warm waters of the birth tub. An ordinary miracle had happened… in my living room @ 7:22am in the morning.. He sputtered a few cries, enough to make us all happy, then began peacefully taking in his surroundings. Meanwhile my left leg was being propped up outside the birth tub and I was getting a shot of Pitocin to ensure that I didn’t hemorrhage like last time. Only a very brief interruption to my blissful birthing moment.
I moved to the couch and this is always my other favorite/awkward moment of walking with a baby connected to a cord between your legs. Odd feeling. I settled onto the couch and while talking to one of the midwives my son wiggled into nursing position, latched on and began to nurse on his own in true Jack Newman, Baby Led Nursing style. Go Son!! I was both surprised and delighted as it didn’t look like we were bound for any initial breastfeeding ‘issues’ as it were.
Eloisa hugged me and let me know she was so proud of me, again, as this was the 3rd birth of mine she had attended and the 2nd baby she had caught. She is so incredibly special to me and my family…
It was so fun to watch my midwives who have become friends…admire my son while giving him excellent care at the same time.
After his initial check Eloisa helped my children become acquainted with their new brother exploring his tiny toes and hands. I was on top of the world.
I could hardly wait to be done with the business of delivering the placenta so I could get into my own bed and get down to business snuggling my son. Much belly pressing ensued...ARGH...the cord was cut and then I was able to head to the bedroom. Heather had remembered her job from our prenatal meeting and had made the bed up with the birth linens and I slipped between the sheets with my little bundle. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply his new baby smell. I was in love. The belly pressing continued in the bedroom which always makes me want to punch my dear friend in the face but I know every time it's necessary. Still...unpleasant.
Once they had decided I wasn't bleeding to death and no repairs were needed, Josh and I took some time alone to admire ours and God's amazing creation. We didn't talk much..just stared in disbelief as usual that the one who had been kicking us from the inside was now on the outside. It never ceases to be a miracle. I marveled at his length and suppressed the urge to flip him upside down to figure out HOW IN THE WORLD THIS GIANT BABY HAD FIT INSIDE ME..
It was at this time that my parents had just arrived to meet their first grandson. I heard a sob catch in my mom's throat as she laid eyes on Jakob for the first time. It's always magical when the grandparents meet the next generation.
I quickly set about delegating more important tasks after my parents had some time with the baby...important things like sending my Dad to Jack in the Box to get me a cheese burger, sending my husband into the kitchen to pour the meade, and accepting a gracious offer for a Starbuck's latte from Heather.
Exhausted but happy I sat by and watched each of my little girls take a turn holding him.check out all his parts, and covering him with kisses. Afterwards I got 'clearance' to take a shower and get dressed which felt AMAZING. In fact often when talking about my excitement about home birth this was what I would talk about...being able to give birth, get in my own bed and take a shower after.
I wandered into the living room, baby in arms, and was greeted with the smells of bacon cooking and the sight of midwives laughing and playing with their babies after all the husbands had dropped them off. It was an absolute celebration of new life in full swing. Even though I had just eaten a #5 from Jack in the Box I hungrily accepted the plate of Eggs Benedict and Bacon when it was handed to me..and did I eat it all? Yes I did.
We ate, we laughed, babies were kissed, toddlers were tickled, and songs were sang. (Oh, and Facebook was undoubtedly updated).This was without question one of the happiest, most memorable days of our lives...
Welcome Jakob Asher, blessed and happy are we to have received you first in our hearts and now into our arms. May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His countenance to shine up on you all the days of your life....