Thishome birth was a long time coming. Two years ago I was a few months pregnant with our second baby and really wanted to have him at home. I was born at home, and loved the idea of having my babies at home. My husband wasn’t comfortable with the idea though, especially after working in the ER for 5 years and seeing a few emergency births. We decided to have baby #2 at the hospital. Unfortunately, since we live in the middle of farming country and I have short labors, the 45 mile drive to the hospital ended up being while I was in transition. Pot hole laden country roads, a car going 85mph, and transition… Please Lord, let that be a once in a lifetime experience!
Seven months later I was pregnant with our third, and had the ok from my husband to have this one at home. We went to a “meet the midwives” get together put on by a group of home birth midwives in our area and immediately felt assured that we would be in good hands with them. My midwife came to our house for my first appointment somewhere around 18 weeks. Even though I had used midwives at the hospital for my first two babies, the experience with the prenatal appointments was drastically different. Every appointment was half an hour to an hour long, and we would just sit and talk about the pregnancy, my diet, birth, and babies, some of my favorite subjects! She took the time to get to know me and my family, and always involved the kids in measuring my stomach and finding the baby’s heart beat. Unlike the prenatals from my previous two pregnancies, I actually looked forward to my appointments. Having them at our house was amazing. We chose to not have any ultrasounds or tests run this pregnancy, so I didn’t have to do any of the running around that is usually involved in prenatal care.
My due date was June 9th.. My first was born at 39 weeks, the second at 38 weeks, and this time I alternated between thinking I’d go to 42 weeks and thinking I’d have the baby on June 1st (39 weeks). The whole 42 week thing was solely for self preservation. I knew it was a possibility and didn’t want to be miserable if I was still pregnant at the end of June.
Saturday, May 18th my husband took our kids to the fair to give me a few hours alone so I could clean the house. It always makes me grin when I think about the romantic gestures that now seem precious and so thoughtful. Seven years of marriage and a few babies change your whole outlook on life. I went a little crazy that morning, cleaning closets, moving furniture, scrubbing floors on my hands and knees, and carrying loads of stuff to the thrift store pile in the basement. Nesting, anyone? Around noon, my mother in law called and we talked all about the plan for when I went into labor, and I adamantly insisted that it was at least another 2 weeks away, June 1st, because I wasn’t feeling like anything was happening with my body. Phil brought the kids home for naps around 1. Our amazing friends had offered to come stay with them, so that we could have one last pre-baby date. We rarely leave our kids, and we were both really looking forward to having lunch together and hanging out. We went into town 45 minutes away, ate lunch, and then tried to decide what to do. Phil wanted to go see a movie, but I said no, that the baby was in a weird position and it was giving me cramps. The thought of labor didn’t even cross my mind; I just assumed there was an elbow poking out in an uncomfortable spot.
We decided to look for an outfit for the baby at a cute little children’s boutique in town. We had bought each of the other kids something to wear home from the hospital, but this was the first time that we didn’t find out the gender and wouldn’t be making a trip home from the hospital. We didn’t find anything gender neutral that we liked, so from the children’s store we walked over to World Market just to look around. As we walked into the store, I suddenly felt really wet. I’ve never had the whole pregnancy incontinence issue, but I booked it to the bathroom, assuming there was a first time for everything and laughing at the irony of peeing my pants on the first date we’d been on in months. I mean, if you want anything to add to the glamor of being nine months pregnant, having nothing to wear that fits right, being 20lbs heavier than normal, and having a huge stomach… peeing your pants for the first time is it.
By the time I got in the bathroom, my underwear were soaked. Luckily I was wearing a skirt, and that was dry, but I was desperate for a solution to the soaking wet undies. Around this point, I realized I really needed to pee, and started wondering what that was about since I had already peed my pants. Approximately one minute later, after using the loo and realizing that the dripping was not ending, I entered complete denial about it being my water. 36 weeks and 6 days was not part of the plan for when to go into labor. My water breaking again (3 out of three) was definitely not an option for starting labor. I’m convinced that labor is more painful when your water breaks at the beginning. It’s a precious little bit of denial I’ve clung to since my first labor. Someday, when I go through transition with my water intact it isn’t going to hurt as much, in fact it will be painless. Maybe.
I left the bathroom, waddling slightly from being soaked but mostly from the 10 paper towels I had stuffed in my undies (hey, desperate times call for desperate measures), and had a serious deja vu moment with Philip, circa Feb 1, 2012, same exact conversation.“Babe… I think my water just broke” “Are you kidding me? What do you mean you THINK your water broke? Shouldn’t you know if your water broke?” “I’m not sure. Give me a minute and I’ll let you know. It’s not my water, because I’m not starting labor with my water breaking this time”
I proceeded to explain the theory about peeing my pants and suggested walking around the store a little longer to see what happened. A suggestion that could only be prompted by an intense denial that labor was imminent. For some reason we (ok, I) took off towards the back of the store, away from the exit. Scurrying back to the furniture section did nothing to impede the trickle, that was quickly becoming a gush of water running down my legs. Those ten paper towels were not cutting it. Phil looked, with way too much amusement, at my sandals which were filling with water, and asked if I was about ready to go to the car yet.
An hour later we were home and there was no question about my water being broken. This time though, unlike the last, I wasn’t having any contractions. We called our family to start the 3 hour drive to come for the birth, hung out with our friends who stayed to make sure our family got there to watch out kids in case labor started, and eventually decided to go to bed because labor was not starting.
My midwife had shown up around 8:30 planning to sleep in the birth room since my previous labors were short. We went to bed around 9:30. I started wondering what we would do if it was all a false alarm now that 15 people were in town waiting on me! My mom and sister were at our house, and Phil’s whole family was right down the road at Grandmas. I kept picturing getting up the next morning with my water some how sealed back up and having to tell everyone I was wrong about this being the time. Nothing like the pressure of having two houses full of people waiting on you to go into labor. I timed a few painless contractions until 10:30, then finally decided to stop thinking and go to sleep.
1:30 AM A certain 3 year old woke up needing to use the bathroom. I took her and had several hard contractions as soon as I got up. I put her in bed with Phil and went in her room and tried to go back to sleep, knowing it wouldn’t happen.
2:00 I got up and sat on the glider in her room and started timing contractions, rocking back and forth during them. They were about 1 minute long and 3-4 minutes apart, painfully strong, but not strong enough for me to admit I was in labor. I was kind of enjoying everyone being asleep and didn’t want to wake them up and have it not be labor. This whole denial thing runs deep.
2:20 I woke up Phil and asked him to move Charlotte back to her room in case it was labor and I needed him.
2:25 I text my sister in law, who was at the other house, that I was having some contractions, but maybe it wasn’t labor and in half an hour I was going to wake up the midwife IF things didn’t slow down
2:30 Two contractions later I asked Phil to wake up the midwife and hurry up and fill the birthing tub. I was definitely in labor. They got the water going and my midwife came in to try and assess my progress. After watching a few contractions, she asked if I was going to stay that cheerful in between contractions the whole time making it impossible to tell if I was getting close, or if she’d know when things got more serious. I laughed and relayed a quick story about panicking and biting Phil when I was in transition with my last labor*. So, no, I was not all cute and happy once it got really intense. *disclaimer- bite is a really strong word, it was merely a gentle closure of my teeth over his hand before I came back to my senses.
3:12 As soon as the tub was filled I made a mad dash into the other room between contractions, declining when the midwife asked if I wanted to get checked first, and got into the birthing tub. Immediately the sweet relief of the warm water made me feel better. I knew I was getting near transition from the intensity of the contractions. Usually transition for me means back to back contractions with no chance to catch my breath, but this whole labor I didn’t have a single contraction that was right on top of another, thank you birthing tub.
I settled in and labored away in the dark, the only light coming from the bathroom across the hall. Both of our moms and 3 sisters had shown up, and I quickly hit transition. Aside from a few whispered encouragements it was silent, and that was perfect for me. I’m not a loud laborer; I prefer to suffer and die in silence 😉 Labor is an incredibly unique event. It does feel amazing in a sense, hard and effective, purposeful work. But I’m not going to lie; it is excruciatingly painful. There is hope; it is different than any other pain and the pain has a purpose. It is leading up to the most precious miracle that there is. But still… it really hurts. I breathed calmly, slowly, reminding myself to try and relax and that there was no way to run away from this. Knowing I had no other choice but to finish, I skipped the crying, complaining, and moaning, and instead spent transition making an elaborate plan in my head about how baby #4 was definitely going to be a hospital/epidural birth, in fact I would be getting the epidural hours before labor started and never feel a thing. I’ve often heard labor compared to running a marathon, here’s the thing. I’ve trained for a marathon. The more you run, the easier it gets. Unmedicated labor, however, does not get easier no matter how many times you do it.
I’d love to say that at the time I was basking in the beauty of the moment, surrounded with the reassuring presence of so many amazing women who have given birth whispering words of encouragement in the peaceful dark, with the dim light stretching across the hall, reflecting on the pool…
but I wasn’t basking.
Not even close. I was silently planning my escape for next time and making laps in that tub like a caged animal. Phil recalled the next day that the only sound in the room was me paddling around in the tub and thats what lulled him to sleep while I labored. Cute, babe.
At some point, I felt my contractions switch from transition into pushing contractions. They spaced out and felt distinctly different. Unfortunately, as with my previous 2 labors, the baby didn’t budge and I had zero urge to push. I tried every different position I could think of in the tub, but the baby wasn’t descending. It would have made sense at this point to inform my midwife of what I was feeling, but I was at the very peak of my pain tolerance. I knew what she would suggest and I didn’t want to hear it. I was afraid to get out of the pool, because I knew it would hurt more and I couldn’t handle more hurt! Eventually the sun started coming up. That was my first indication of how much time had gone by. I wasn’t thrilled to know it was morning and I was still in labor. I knew I needed to get out of the tub, that it was preventing the baby from coming out. I don’t know how long I sat there trying to convince myself to get out. It was probably less than 10 contractions, but it seemed like hours. My sweet sister in law whispered a suggestion that I get out and get in the shower. I grunted with the least amount of commitment possible. Fifteen minutes later, or maybe it was fifty minutes, time is irrelevant when all you can do is try to breath and survive another second, another contraction, after a few more encouragements to move, I was out of the tub with the plan of laboring in the shower for awhile.
I barely got in the shower when I felt the baby move down. I was in the bathroom alone, everyone else was scrambling to get the supplies moved for the birth since I had changed locations, and it was way to intense for me to even talk at this point. I managed to squeak out “baby” hoping that someone would come back in and catch it. My babies don’t come out nice and slowly. They sit up high, stuck in my narrow pelvis, and then when they do come out it’s in one fell swoop from the tip of their head to their toes in about one one hundredth of a second. I wasn’t worried about giving birth alone, but I was sure I would drop the baby onto the tile floor of the shower. I could have sat down, yes, but thinking rationally in labor is not something I have mastered thus far! The midwife, her assistant, and Phil came rushing back in, turned the shower off and got a towel down on the floor. Pushing went exactly the same as with the other two. I felt the baby move and assumed it was coming, then tried to push through a lot more contractions and nothing happened. Pushing was completely ineffective and felt like pushing against a brick wall. All the while my contractions were getting harder and harder as my body tried to get the baby to move. About 15 minutes later, sitting in the same spot on the shower floor, sopping wet and in the worst pain of my life, I looked at Phil and whispered “I hate this, and it’s not working”. He told me I was amazing and my midwife calmly replied that I should change positions until it did work. I stood back up, hoping that my body would end up in whatever position it needed to be to get this baby out, and when the next contraction hit I dropped down to my knees, then rocked back to a squat and sure enough the baby came flying out just like the other two with no pushing on my part. Regardless of how quick and easy that sounds, it really is my least favorite part of the whole thing. Not so much from the pain, it’s just that I can’t imagine anything feeling more intense.
But then he’s here, and it’s infinitely worth every bit of pain.
He was born at 6:47 AM. We didn’t find out the gender beforehand, but I was positive it was a boy for the last 3 months of my pregnancy. As I reached down to gather him to my chest, I knew for sure we had another little boy and that he was Ezekiel Zane. We hadn’t settled on a name beforehand and had two or three options at that point. Phil always picks the final name, but I knew who this baby was as soon as I saw his face. I sat and stared at him, thinking how excited Phil would be when he found out the gender, but I was too exhausted and overwhelmed to say anything. Plus, I had wanted him to announce what the baby was. A few minutes later the midwife reminded him to check, and he looked at me with a huge grin exclaiming that we had another boy. Everyone waiting in the hallway heard, and quickly the bathroom was full, our other two precious babies running over to meet their brother.
After a little bit we moved to the bedroom, and enjoyed the most relaxing part of having a home birth- being at home with our kids and family. We stayed upstairs for an hour, waited for the placenta, delayed cord clamping, let the baby nurse, and took a hundred pictures. Then Phil took the baby to meet the 20+ aunts, uncles, cousins, and great grandmas who were waiting downstairs. Afterwards we weighed and measured the baby, 6lbs 13oz and 21 inches long. Only a few ounces less than the other two were, and a full 2 inches longer! I was suddenly very thankful that he came 3 weeks early.
This was by far the most peaceful labor I’ve had. Immediately after this labor I would have said it was more painful than the last one. But time is the greatest easer of pain, and I don’t know if this was harder or if the memory of the last one is just more distant. I’ve ditched the epidural plan made irrationally during labor, and reverted back to the plan that next time my water isn’t going to break and my labor isn’t going to hurt. Even if that doesn’t work out, I do pray that the Lord blesses us with many more babies and that they are born in the peace and safety of our own home too.