I wish I could give every mother the gift of a beautiful birth like the one we had with Christian. It was everything I dreamed it would be . . . And more. I’m not going to censor very much about this story because some of the most intimate details are the ones that make it such a wonderful experience for me and that’s what I want to share.
Birth is Imminent
The morning of Thursday March 12th began with me waking at 6:45 a.m. for my usual (in pregnancy, anyway) morning pee. I had been having ‘surges’ (the word I will use for contractions) all night long. Even dreaming about them. But nothing so uncomfortable as to wake me from the uninterrupted night of sleep I had been praying for. Thank goodness for that restful night. It had been weeks since we last had such a peaceful rest. Olivia (5) and Dominick (3) had been routinely taking turns paying us nocturnal visits and the discomfort of my last weeks of pregnancy was making it very difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. Needless to say, I was overjoyed to finally be in labor. I came back from the bathroom and woke Chris to tell him that it was time; I had the birth-is-imminent sign I had been waiting for (bloody show.) He looked at the clock and said, ‘Well, at least it’s not too early. We got some sleep!’ He asked what I wanted him to do first, I told him to call Kate (our midwife.) He said he would start filling the birth pool first and then call her.
We both went downstairs and started preparations, which didn’t entail too much since we had gotten most of the prep work out of the way about a week before during an evening of false labor. When Chris got on the phone with Kate, she told him that she was on her way to another birth and asked us to call her as things progressed. I wasn’t in hard labor yet, but it was only a matter of time. We called my mom and sisters-in-law, Shanni and Patti, to let them know to come over, as was the plan. Chris made me some breakfast and we enjoyed a quiet morning together before family arrived and the kids woke up. Surges were getting more serious, but still not serious enough for me to go lay down. Whenever one was coming I would go to the kitchen counter and lay my head down while Chris rubbed my lower back. It was really soothing and helped eased the surges more than I would have thought. Shanni arrived first – probably less than an hour after we called her and even before the kids woke up.
High Blood Pressure
By the time Kate had arrived, it was 11 a.m. and I was busy getting cameras ready and directing others. My surges were being notated – start time and stop time – on a memo pad in the kitchen and whoever was closest to me when I had one was summoned to rub my back for the duration of the surge. They had become serious enough for me to seek comfort laying over the exercise ball while getting my backrubs. I finally settled into the spare bedroom – where we planned to labor and deliver – so Kate could check my vitals. It turned out that my blood pressure was high (for me) and that concerned Kate a bit. She checked to see how much progress I had made – 4 cm. We talked about preeclampsia and a hospital transfer and what that would entail. Chris and I talked it over and decided to wait 30 minutes and check my blood pressure again after I had a chance to lay down and rest. (I hadn’t stopped moving since 6:45 a.m.) While we were alone I told Chris that I was not trying to make a statement by insisting on a homebirth, that all I truly wanted was the safest outcome and if that meant a trip to the hospital then so be it. I told him that I was leaving it in God’s hands – whatever will be will be.
The birth pool was ready for me and I couldn’t wait to get in it. The surges were approaching transition-intensity. (Basically, that means even the most granola crunchy mama might start insisting on drugs when they get that intense – but it’s almost over at that point anyway.) I requested the birth pool knowing that I would appreciate any type of relief at that point – and Hallelujah to that! I was so happy to have had that foresight. I asked for Kate to come in and check my blood pressure again so I could get in the tub if we were going to stay home. The 30 minutes hadn’t completely passed yet but I couldn’t wait any longer; I needed the tub! Kate checked my BP and it was back down to a comfortable number; We all breathed a huge sigh of relief. She told me to stay laying on my left side in the pool. I got in and immediately felt the comfort of the warm water wash over me. I was able to breathe through the next few surges without moving. This allowed my body to open faster and I could literally feel my cervix pulling upward and open. It was freaky and cool!!!
Once I got to transition I was feeling the need to get vocal through the surges. It actually helped make them more tolerable to moan through them. I felt a slight urge to push and said so out loud. Chris knew then that he should probably get in the tub. He asked if I wanted to call the kids in the room. Due to the “birth fog,” it took me a while to process the question but then I replied, ’Yes.’ Liv and Dom came and stood next to me outside the pool and we told them that the baby was coming. Dom seemed a little confused and agitated and maybe a little worried, too. We assured both of the kids that I was okay and that everything was going exactly as we had planned. I felt another surge coming and knew I wouldn’t be able to hold back so I hoped that someone would get Dom out of the room before it peaked. Thankfully, someone whisked him off to play with his Uncle Ty in the family room. Liv chose to stay in the room for the birth. She was amazing and totally composed. After that surge and my accompanying moan, she asked if I was okay. I told her that I was just fine – that it helped me feel better to make all that noise. Chris told her that if she felt uncomfortable at any time that she could leave if she felt like it. She said she was comfortable and that she wanted to stay. Chris told her that she could rub my head to help me feel better. She had a very soothing touch and it made me feel good to have her there. My mom was standing right next to her, encouraging her and explaining things to her.
Birthing in the Pool
I’m not sure how many pushes it took, more than with the other 2 babies as he was bigger and I was doing it right this time. If you are familiar with the ‘Ring of Fire’ you will appreciate knowing that giving birth in a pool of warm water pretty much renders the fire extinguished. I think I can attribute my intact perineum to the fact that I didn’t feel that burn and consequently didn’t forcibly eject the baby from my birth canal as I had done with Dom. Maybe it was 4 or 5 pushes, about 10 minutes total. I felt the bag of waters break just before the head came out. After the baby’s head was out, I heard Kate quietly talking Chris through the delivery. She had him check to make sure the umbilical cord hadn’t come out ahead of the baby. After a minute or two, I had another pushing surge and gently pushed him out the rest of the way. Chris caught the babe and brought him up to my chest and they covered him with a towel. Liv and Mom and I checked out his face and somebody said something about ‘him.’ I asked, ‘Is it a boy?’ and everyone said they didn’t know, that no one had checked yet. So, we took a little peek and by golly, there were the family jewels. All along we had thought it was going to be a girl and here we had another gorgeous little man. We were surprised but overjoyed, nonetheless!
Birthing the Placenta
After I birthed the baby, we had planned to draw the blood from the umbilical cord for banking. I had to get to the bed before birthing the placenta for this to happen, so Chris helped me out of the tub while I held the baby against my belly to keep him warm. Kate helped me hold the baby on me while we all walked together in a carefully executed choo-choo-train-sort-of shuffle to the bed. I laid down with the baby on me and Kate said that the cord had already shut down. This meant our only chance of drawing any blood was to get it directly from the placenta after I birthed it. While Keisha (Kate’s apprentice) was taking care of me and the baby, Kate and Chris took the placenta to the kitchen table and proceeded to violate it with their syringes! Ty came into the kitchen, saw what they were doing and said something about not knowing we would be having Flank Steak for dinner. Kate and Chris spent a very long time trying to draw as much blood as possible from the placenta and it was a valiant effort, I will give them that! Unfortunately, we came up short on nucleated cells but there isn’t much we could have done to change that outcome. After Kate and I talked, we figured that it was probably the blood pressure issue that caused the cord to shut down so quickly.
Getting to Know Him
The baby had pooped and peed on me within minutes of being born and started nursing not long after that. He was hitting all of his milestones right out of the gate! He had a superbly rounded head and a smooshed face with a deep crease across his forehead and another across the bridge of his nose. Both the creases filled in after a couple days. He has stork kisses on his forehead and under his nose which should fade in the first year (but I think they are adorable!) Chris and I had not prepared for the eventuality of having another boy and so we hadn’t even talked about a boy name. It took us a full day after the baby was born to come up with it.
Liv and Dom are still smitten with Christian, more than 2 weeks later. I never discourage their kisses and affection which is bountiful if not completely smothering at times, but baby doesn’t seem to mind! He will hopefully continue with his astounding ability to sleep amidst the jungle atmosphere of our home, with all its interesting sights, sounds and smells. We are all so thrilled to have another person in our lives to love.
Welcome to the world my darling, perfect and whole son!
Special thanks to Earth Mama Birth for sharing this beautiful first hand account of an at home water birth.