Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Feeling Thankful: A Healing Homebirth Story

I've spent a lot of time envisioning how this birth would go. Not down to exact details, but basic things like "at home", "on Linkmy terms", "in water". I left a lot of the decision making up to my primal brain at the last minute, like who would be there and which comfort measures I would ultimately use. My planning began only months after my son was born and I began to see why my hospital birth experience with him was so dissatisfying. Mostly it was research. It was understanding what went wrong, how things could have been different, how birth *should* be. When we found out I was pregnant on March 9 of 2011, the real planning began. But outside of having this baby at home, *nothing* truly went as planned.

My guess date was November 16. I had a feeling that I would go over from the beginning. I took note of how close the guess date was to Thanksgiving and joked fairly early on that this baby was going to "ruin" Thanksgiving for me. I read an article on Midwifery Today (scroll down, under the heading "due date") which put my 'due date' ON Thanksgiving day. I told my midwife sometime around 33 weeks that I had a feeling she was coming then. I was glad not to have anyone pressuring me to induce before the holiday weekend.

Despite having had contractions since the 13th, November 16 came and went. On the 19th, we went out for spicy green curry purported to 'induce' labor in overdue women. We took a walk in the cold rain and ate a mass amount of ice cream from the shop down the block from the Thai place.

No labor.

On the 20th, I was feeling 'icky'. Not sick. Just tired. I spent the day on the couch watching Psych on Netflix and hanging out with my son. I repeated this on Monday (the 21st). On the 22nd, I was feeling a bit better and found myself moving around the house, cleaning and organizing for the birth. I posted on The Crunchy Convert that if I was a cat, I would be dragging tee shirts and towels to a closet right now.

That night, we made our final decision on baby's name. I went to bed with that "ugh, I'm just going to wake up still pregnant again" feeling.

Wednesday, November 23, one week past the guess date, I woke up around 12:20 am to a sensation that made me think I was peeing my pants. I was annoyed, but really thought maybe I had slept through the really-full-bladder sensations and a quick knock to the bladder from a big baby head might have made me leak. Sitting up caused a slight gush and I realized I was not peeing. Somehow, making a mad dash to the bathroom still seemed like the most appropriate course of action. I made it to the bathroom without so much as a trickle (which I assumed was thanks to the baby's head dropping over the cervix and plugging it off), but as soon as I went to pull my pants down, it poured out of me again.

When I sat down, my mucus plug dropped into the toilet. I continued to pass it for most of the day. I examined the fluid on the floor, then grabbed a towel off the hook and waddled back to my bedroom with the towel squeezed between my thighs. I put a Chux pad under the sheet and laid the towel over the sheet and sat down on it. I took a Benedryl and texted my midwife, Mikayla, and her student to let her know that my water had broke, but there were no apparent contractions. I made sure to add that the fluid was clear and saline-smelling and that I was going back to sleep.

I woke up around 4 to a rush of fluid. The towel was soaked. I was totally disgusted. I assumed, at this point, that my bag of waters had only sprung a leak earlier, not actually completely broken and now it had totally let go. I adjusted the towel to a drier portion and fell back to sleep. I woke again around 6 or 7 and decided to take a shower. Still no contractions and I was a little frustrated. I thought for sure something would have started by now. I was in contact with my midwife, who offered to come by with herbs to jump start labor but I decided to hold off for the time being. Shane and I got dressed and took a walk up and down our street.

Eventually, I asked my midwife to come over. She came sometime after 10 and I started taking black and blue cohosh tinctures. After a few doses, a few minor contractions started coming through in waves, but nothing I couldn't keep functioning through. I had originally planned on Flynn staying for the birth, but we decided to have my mom come and take him instead, especially as we saw how long things were starting to take.

We took another walk, more to stave off my anxiousness than anything else. Shane went and picked us up some burgers, which I devoured gratefully. Contractions were coming slightly more regularly by around 2, but still nothing to write home about.

I decided to sit with the breast pump and see if I couldn't get things going that way. I read Spiritual Midwifery while the pump worked for 15 minutes at a time, between which I took 15-20 minute breaks. After a few sessions, I definitely started seeing an increase in both intensity and frequency of the contractions, but still nothing fantastic.

I was happy for the company Mikayla offered as the hours whizzed by. I was amazed to realize it was already getting late. I was hungry again and coming to grips with the fact that we would not be having our baby that day. We ordered pizza, of which I ate very little, I took another Benedryl and went to bed around 10 pm.

I woke about twice an hour with a contraction, but was generally able to sleep well between them. They were gaining in intensity, but not so much frequency. I did stumble out of bed some time after 1 am and get in a hot shower for about a half an hour. The contractions slowed and weakened a bit, which I was glad for, and I headed back to bed. I realized in this time that the baby had dropped and was engaged. It was a strange feeling to have her no longer free floating.

The contractions that came after about 3 am were harder to deal with. I was waking as they peaked and found myself very uncomfortable on my side, which seemed to be increasing the pain of the contraction, but it was too late for me to really sit up to relieve the pressure. I was starting to groan a bit and I realized things were really starting, but continued to sleep between contractions until about 4 am. I slid out of bed onto my knees on the floor and leaned over the edge of the bed onto a pillow. I dosed between contractions until they were too close together, then started reading a book between contractions just to pass the time. I finally woke Shane up around 4:30 (maybe?) and asked him to time the contractions and hold my hand.

Time really begins to blur a bit at this point. I would consider this the start of active labor. I labored in my bedroom for a while. I tried leaning over the birth ball, then declared it 'stupid' and kicked it out of my way. I found that gravity was taking a real toll on me and made the contractions hurt a heck of a lot more when I was leaning over something (or on hands and knees). I leaned against Shane and moved my hips back and forth quite instinctively. I found myself thinking randomly throughout the labor how amazing it was that my body just kept doing that. I don't remember ever consciously deciding I needed to move my hips, I just did.

I ate half a bowl of cereal and passed the rest off to Shane. Eventually I made my way out to the living room. Mikayla woke up at some point and sat off to the side with her 11 week old, working on a sweater. I loved that. I suppose I always imagined a midwife just knitting as I labored. It was perfectly unobtrusive.

I spent some time sitting in front of the computer, chatting with Mikayla, having some contractions. I was so perfectly distracted that it caught me off guard when the contractions were suddenly too strong for me to keep sitting in the desk chair.

I remarked to Mikayla how different they felt from the ones I had with Flynn. I wonder if it was the pitocin that caused my whole abdomen to wrench and clamp down. I had also had a lot of back labor with him, but he came OP.

These contractions were focused in my pelvis. They felt as though my pelvis was being pulled apart. My pubic bone felt like it was being pulled forward. Sitting killed. I stood and swayed and said in the nicest way possible, "I'd like to get in the pool now."

At this point, I hadn't had any cervical checks. I had continued the Hibiclens protocol every six hours to help prevent infection however. At this point, we decided my labor was well established and Mikayla asked if she could check me before I got in the pool. For whatever reason, it was encouraging to hear that I was coming up on seven centimeters and baby's head was low. Shane filled the pool until the hot water heater ran out of hot water. I started to get impatient and might have shouted at him a few times. Maybe.

I decided that the amount of water would have to do and I climbed in. I was still feeling a bit modest at this point and left my shirt on. The hot water felt awesome. I moved around and tried sitting a few different ways, trying to feel out how I would be most comfortable. It was quickly apparent that sitting was not an option. The pressure was unbearable on my bottom. My contractions slowed slightly for a few minutes and, although I was thankful for the brief break, I was worried it would slow my labor more and I would need to get out. But, they soon resumed in frequency with some jacked up intensity.

Sweat poured down my face, although I didn't feel hot. I drank water like a camel and blotted my forehead with a cold rag. Shane brought a big bowl of ice out to toss the wet cloth on to cool it down between blottings. Genius!

The last semi-clear memory I have is Mikayla asking if I was feeling like I was in transition. I remember saying, "I think it's coming.. I'm scared." I laughed. But I was scared. I was in pain now.. And I knew it was going to get worse.

Transition hit like a brick wall. I stripped off my shirt and Shane joined me. I really didn't want to be touched, but having a hand to hold was excellent. It was nice to have Shane directly behind me, even if I did eventually ban him completely from touching me. I was the same with with Flynn. For a while, the counter pressure and/or light touch feels great, but then I go into some kind of a super-sensitive mode and being touch makes me crazy mad.

My feet began to tingle with pins and needles. I was irritated they were falling asleep because I knew the baby wasn't close to coming yet. I couldn't sit to give my feet a break, so I ignored them for quite some time. (I was really surprised that my brain was letting me notice my tingling feet, I sure as heck wasn't noticing much else!) The water was *fantastic* for taking gravity out of the equation. It took a lot of the pressure off my hips as I contracted, but ultimately, the pool was not where I wanted to be. I was trying to remember Ina May Gaskin's quip "a loose mouth equals a loose bottom" and focused on low tones through loose lips. I hit a few high notes and heard Mikayla occasionally, and quietly, remind me with simply "low tones". It was definitely helpful.

I was feeling pushy, and gave it a go a few times. It was a strange feeling. I really thought it would be this undeniable physical feeling of needing to push, but it was more of a mental thing. Just suddenly, I needed to bear down a little, so I did. I loved this freedom. No one telling me to push or not to push.

Suddenly, I wanted to stand. I wasn't quite ready to abandon the pool, I still wanted my water birth, but when I tried to stand and lean on Shane, we were having a hard time balancing thanks to the squishy inflated pool bottom. I got frustrated and jumped out of the pool. I was in tears and stood in the middle of my living room declaring, "I am NOT awesome!" and "I don't think I can do this!". I apologized profusely for not being awesome.

In my mind, all I could think was, "Who am I impressing?" and "What am I trying to prove?" also "What the HECK was I thinking having a homebirth? ...This is just stupid."

At one point, I had a very rational thought process that went along the lines of this, "Hospital births are normal. Why do I have to be different? Maybe it's not too late to go to the hospital. THEY have drugs. I don't HAVE to do this. In fact, I know this baby can come out a way other than my vagina. ... But I suppose that even IF we went to the hospital right now, they wouldn't give me drugs anyway because I'm too far along and they will probably laugh at me for being a hippie and thinking I could have my baby at home but I'm really a wuss and couldn't and they'll be all 'told ya so'"

It was in that random string of thoughts that it occurred to me, *I* am the only person that can get this baby out. It's on me and I need to just (wo)man up and get this baby out. So, that's what I did.

I needed to be somewhere small. I headed to my hallway and paced around there for a while. This is where much of the above thoughts happened. Or maybe just happened again. It seems like I had to remind myself of all of these things a few times.

Eventually, I headed to the bathroom thinking I needed to pee or something. Just.. OR something. I needed to do something normal besides pace around my hallway like an angry caged bear.

I *hated* the toilet when I was in labor with Flynn. It absolutely KILLED to have a contraction on the toilet with him. I was convinced the toilet would be the last place I would go. In fact, I had announced that I would likely just pee in the pool because, heck, it's MY party, right? And really, a whole lot of worse stuff was going to end up in there anyway.

I was really feeling pushy on the toilet though, which ended up being far more comfortable than with Flynn and took a lot of pressure off my hips. Shane knelt in front of me.. although I don't remember exactly what his function was. I think I was holding his hand.. maybe leaning on him.. it's strange how my memory is so fuzzy on the details. I know Mikayla came and went. I liked that she didn't hover but was very available.

I was less than gracious at this point. I was definitely having a hard time processing the pain. I may have banged on the walls out of frustration. I also may have said a few choice swear words. I pushed on and off and suddenly felt like I needed to poop.

I thought, "This is it! When you feel like you have to poop in labor, it's a baby!"

So I pooped.

And it was poop.

I shouted, "WHAT? It was JUST POOP!?"

I must have hung around the toilet for a little while longer because I remember Shane asking if he could get a "courtesy flush" and I told him to do it himself. But, soon I jumped off the toilet and ran to my bedroom. I saw my bed there, so comfy and all messy from the night before... which made me think of the night before and sleeping and being cozy and not in labor. I literally dove onto my bed and tried to not be in labor anymore.

Yep. I got pretty darned dramatic, eh?

I labored there for a while, trying out a few different positions. I got on my side and propped my leg up on Shane's shoulder. I pushed. It hurt. I tried rolling on my back and regretted it immediately. I got up and scooted to the edge of the bed and sat there, balancing on my tailbone. I refused to move. This worked.

I labored like that for quite a while. I'm not sure how long. I was falling sound asleep between contractions. I was having full-on dreams. I thought at least 20 minutes were going by between each contraction (later, Mikayla told me it was a minute or two). I was really in a primal mode now. There was no higher thought. I was very much in labor land. I wish I could remember the dreams... but I think they were mostly about sleeping and not being in labor.

I pushed a few times with each contraction. Some contractions felt different though and I just breathed through them. Based on the pain at the front of my pelvis (that felt like my pubic bone was being ripped forward), Mikayla thought I might have an anterior cervical lip. She asked if I wanted her to check... Pretty sure I shouted no. But maybe I only shouted in my head.. maybe I just shook my head. I'm not sure.

I'm not sure how long I sat there, but I started to have moments of lucidity where I realized that this was never going to work. The baby couldn't come this way. No doubt my tailbone was blocking the exit. But I didn't want to move.

Mikayla asked if I wanted to go back to the pool. I said no.. or shook my head.. something along those lines.

She asked if I wanted the birth stool. Again.. I said no and/or shook my head.

Every now and then I reached down, convinced there HAD to be a baby's head at the cusp... but there wasn't. And I would get frustrated.

I began fighting the contractions at some point. One would begin and I would shake my head and sob "no no no no". Eventually, I learned to work with them and would push a few times but the contraction would last longer than I wanted and I resorted to begging my uterus to relent. Why couldn't my brain control my own body?? I felt betrayed.

Back to those moments of lucidity... I flashed on all my friends who recently had babies. We were all due so close to one another, but most of them had their babes already. I thought about the pictures they'd posted on Facebook of their newborns, their one day olds, their one week olds.. And a thought rolled through my mind: "Today will be yesterday if I just get this over with." I shortened it to "Today will be yesterday." and used it as a mantra. Looking at it written out, it doesn't make much sense, but in my mind, it was my way to help myself realize that this labor *would* come to an end. A baby *was* going to come out of me. And soon, I would be sharing pictures of my newborn.

So, I repeated "today will be yesterday" over and over in my head. I might have said it out loud too but I think it just confused Shane and Mikayla. I knew what had to be done.

A contraction hit and I flung myself onto the floor and onto my hands and knees.

"Bad idea!" I shouted, "Oh this was stupid!"

Shane got down by me to help me back up but I shooed him off while I worked through a contraction. I had had every intention on getting back up, but the contractions were suddenly coming in waves. I realized then, this was go time.

Pause for a moment for me to explain where I am at at this point. I'm on the floor, on my hands and knees between my bed and my closet. My head was resting (and sometimes pushing against) my closet door. The bed is about 2 feet behind my butt. My nightstand and wall is about 3 feet to the right of me. There is a freestanding shelf with a wide base immediately to my left. I probably would have crawled right in my closet if there would have been room.. or even if it had just been open. Essentially, I had fulfilled my own little "if I were a cat" prophecy (yes, prophecy.. it's that epic), AND left my partner and midwife with about four square feet to work in.

Okay. Un-pause.

I was not being quiet at this point. I was having a hard time with low tones and keeping it loose. I had lost all control of myself, and I just didn't care.

I leaned my head against my closet door and pushed. I felt the "need to poop" sensation again and pushed like mad.

Again. Just poop.

Maybe I shouldn't say "just". Apparently, there was quite a bit of it. Shane had just laid a number of Chux pads down and was now working furiously to clean them up and replace them with new ones. Mikayla tracked down some paper towels. I have no idea who wiped my butt. I haven't asked. I guess I hope it was Shane.

Both left the room to dispose of the offending materials. I had a thought that I felt like a complete animal. I was grossed out by my own outputs.. but at the same time, I positively reveled in how awesome it was to birth this way. Yep. Awesome.

But I did apologize for my odor. It didn't bother me, but man.. who wants to sit in someone else's stink?

Anyway, so both midwife and partner are out of the room. I'm still feeling like I need to poop so I keep on pushing. Only.. now it felt like a big old constipated-type movement. I thought, "Oh what the crap? Really?" Then I realized.. it wasn't more poop... it was a baby's head and it was coming fast.

It's so strange to me because I remember this point being very painful with Flynn. The epidural did nothing for the pain of him coming through the birth canal. I felt him move through, crown and pop out. He did come sunny side up and I was on my back, so that might have made a difference. But here I was, pushing out this enormous baby head and it felt GOOD. I mean, I was still reeling from the pain of the contraction(s) (it really felt like one long one.. maybe it was), but her actual exit was feeling fantastic. I didn't want to stop pushing. In fact, it hurt more when I stopped for a breath, so I just kept going.

Suddenly, I realize that this baby is on her way out and no one is in the room. I'm not sure what I said, but I'm pretty sure it was basically, "Baby!"

Mikayla and Shane both came running back in. Apparently, this was an unexpectedly quick development. I continued pushing until I felt this incredible release. It. Was. Awesome.

I'm told the baby was trying to open her eyes and breathe. I pushed the rest of her out without a contraction. It was cake compared to her head. Again, so different from Flynn.

Shane and Mikayla both caught her and I continued to sit there on my hands and knees for a moment, catching my breath and feeling my faculties returning. I finally said, "Can someone give me my baby?" Or something along those lines.

I got to my knees, then up on the edge of the bed. Mikayla moved the umbilical cord under my foot and Shane handed me our baby girl, Adelynn Esther.

She was covered in vernix, which just amazed me for being 41 weeks. I held her and said, "You look just like your brother... but look at all that hair!" (Flynn was bald). Chux were placed on the bed and some pillows piled up. I was dying to lean back. Shane helped me back onto the bed so I could relax with my baby girl. Minutes later, the placenta came. The umbilical cord was so long! I had Adelynn on my chest and her cord stretched to the placenta sitting in an ice cream bucket near my feet.

Have I mentioned yet that I didn't tear?

We waited until the cord went white, then Shane cut it. It was an emotional moment, and we all cheered simultaneously. Shane said, "You're on your own now, baby."

Adelynn began nursing about ten minutes after birth. I was overjoyed to have a nursling again.

Shane came into the bedroom and asked if he could interest me in some lactation cookies. I cracked up and gratefully gobbled down a few.

It was so awesome to hold my baby after she was born. I rubbed her vernix into her skin and inspected her fingers and toes (strange how that's a natural impulse). Mikayla asked if we had checked to be sure she was a girl (strange how that *wasn't* a natural impulse!) so I did (and yep ;). She measured her length and head, then took her and weighed her (when I was ready to give her up). I called my mom to let her know we had finally had our baby (the entire family was over for Thanksgiving dinner, so it saved us quite a few phone calls). Shane made a few phone calls and announced her arrival on Facebook.

We snapped pictures and took our time getting to know this brand new baby. Finally, I gave her to Mikayla to get dressed and I headed to take a shower. Per my request, the couch was readied with Chux pads and some pizza was reheated while I showered. Mikayla brought me my night gown and robe and I got myself all cleaned up. My heart melted when I got out and found Shane sitting with Adelynn in the bedroom, just staring at her.

I sat down on the couch and enjoyed my pizza and watched an episode of Pscyh on Netflix. It felt so great to be at home. It was worth every excruciating minute for those moments after she came out. To not have anyone take her and to be in a familiar place on comfortable furniture.

It may not have been the blissful, peaceful homebirth I thought I was going to have, but it was still truly healing and very, very worth it.


Date: Thanksgiving Day (Thursday), 11/24/11
Time: 11:55 a.m.
Weight: 10 pounds 2 ounces
Length: 22 inches
Head: 38 centimeters


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  2. So RAW and beautiful!!! THANK YOU for sharing!!!

  3. Wow... amazing! Honestly, it sounds wonderful and peaceful to me. I think you SHOULD be animalistic when you give birth. It's the one time you can lose control completely. This was such a beautiful birth story. Thank you for sharing and congratulations!

  4. Awesome!! Great story I'm so happy for you =)

  5. Amazing. I'm healing a little vicariously just by reading. Thank you for sharing and congratulations!

  6. I love reading birth stories. Nice work! You mentioned the lots of fluid from the ROM. My first was the same way, but the other two never seemed as much as that. I wondered if it was because she was the smallest, but you had such a big girl-mustbe positioning. Interesting about the long cord. I never really thought there was variance. My dr said some are so short the baby wont reach moms chest until delivering the placenta.

  7. Oh I love it!!! Makes me want to have a home birth... Guess I'd have to get pregnant again and he says thats not happening.... At least for awhile.

  8. Wow! What an incredible story! Thank you for your honesty throughout your birthing journey. You are one incredible mama!

  9. Wow! Just wow! Thanks for writing and posting this. Your emotion comes across so clearly - and reminds me so much of my birth. Peaceful, blissful...ha! I took Hypnobabies classes because I was going to have the same thing. Yeah, right. When the time came, it all flew out the window and I went completely inside and yes, animalistic. Prowling, groaning, cussing - anything to ease the pain and progress the labor. It took me 2 days to fully appreciate the awesome thing I did and to get past my awful self-doubt that plagued me during my labor. And now, nearly 3 months down the line, I still cannot write my story. How to express that raw, animal place? Your story makes me see that maybe I can, after all. Thank you!

  10. I delivered my second naturally, with a midwife and doula, but at hospital. I tried all the "hip" things as well and ended up butt naked, on my hands and knees, pushing out a baby. I highly recommend that position. Congrats!

  11. I love all of this, especially how open you were about your vulnerabilities (i think that not enough women want to admit when they're feeling less-than-strong). So glad you got the experience you *needed* even though it wasn't the experience you *expected.*

    PS> Just when I thought i couldn't like you more, you watch "Psych!" That show really cracks me up

    PPS. The "courtesy flush" line made me LOL

  12. Beautiful story! Congrats, that's amazing!

  13. I related to a lot of things you said in your story! I found you on The Skeptical Mother, on FB. Congrats!

  14. I lOved reading your birth story. So inspiring!. My first was an induced hospital birth--nothing went as 'planned'. The second I really wanted a homebirth but settled for a doula and very granola midwife in a hospital and had an awesome, natural, drug free 3 hour labor...next will be a home birth !

  15. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing; I enjoyed reading about your little girl's entry into the world!

  16. This has to be the most "real" birth story, ever! This just plain rocks..you had me smiling, cheering you on and flat out laughing, so hard I was crying..Thank you so much for posting this! So real..full of pure "awesomeness" you have inspired me...and that take a lot as I have 8 kiddos..and #9 will be a homebirth(intentional) this time :)

  17. Love this birth story!! Made me tear up, and laugh too! ("courtesy flush") I've never asked for details to confirm, but I'm pretty sure that I pooped a good amount right before my baby A was born (I gave birth to twins vaginally last April), with my mom and husband watching. With my first son, I got it out on the toilet before his head came all the way down. Oh well. It's just one of those "That Of Which We Do Not Speak" kinda things I guess! :-)

  18. I laughed and cried and feel truly blessed you would share so much of yourself with us (the creepies of the internet world!) for us! I sit at almost 38 weeks and I thank you for your honesty.