Before I start, as a photographers blog, I need to comment on the lack of photos here. I am a pretty insecure person, especially in front of the camera. (I can relate to most of my clients in this way.) I wasn’t interested in having anyone else in my house that night for fear it would keep me from being able to relax and let nature take over. We had counted on Jen and Paul taking a few pictures as it happened, but as you will see-it all happened too fast for any real “action” shots. I’ve included some of the shots Jen was kind enough to grab after he was born. Some with her phone, some with my camera. Thanks Jen!
My due date was slated for August 23rd. I thought I would have a baby by then because Sophia came a few days before her due date. August 23rd came and went with no baby. I realized that I actually hadn’t gone into labor with Sophia (my bag of waters ruptured prematurely leading to induction), so I was okay with the new “going over” territory. It had helped that weeks before on the first day of class, Jen introduced the inconsistencies and questionable science behind estimated due date. Also, I knew that a healthy baby was anywhere between 37 weeks and 42 weeks and that would be considered a normal term (40 weeks being the due date). Even though people I knew considered me as “going over”, I knew I was still not actually ‘over’ until I passed 42 weeks. My midwife was okay with this as long as the baby and I were doing well. In reality, I was glad to have more time. Anxious as I was to meet him, I had done the newborn thing before and knew it was hard and demanding, so I focused on getting more done at work and around the house. I was doing fine, keeping busy, and finishing all sorts of things I never thought I would until one thing I hadn’t prepared for happened: September.
Jen had advised us to “embrace our birth month” for our own sake and to keep me sane, so instead of clinging to that particular day the doctor told me I was due, I tried to tell people I was due in August. This had been extremely helpful-until it wasn’t August anymore. Paul’s birthday was in September, I didn’t want Kal’s to be too. Midnight on August 31st was a hard moment for me. From then on, I became a bit more obsessed with determining ways to get this baby out.
I had been having contractions, mostly when I’d go for a walk. So even though it was super hot, I was out walking for hours. Then I’d come in and sit down and they would go away. Some nights I’d feel some contractions. I would get excited. “Tonight’s the night!”, I would think. Then I’d look at the time and decide I should go to bed so I could rest up in case the hard labor would come on in the next few hours. Of course that also caused the contractions to stop. I see the problem in my reasoning there now and I feel a little more than foolish, but it made sense at the time. The good thing is, with this false labor (or start/stop labor), I was making progress. Whereas I was dilated to 1cm when I got to the hospital to have Sophia and 0% effaced, I was already at a 4 and at least 50%. Yay for work that I didn’t have to do later!
There I was, trying every Old Wives Tale that claims to facilitate induction. And EVERYONE had advice on what had put them or their daughter into labor. And folks, let me tell you: it is all a lie. Well, maybe some of the big ones really do work for some people: walking and black cohosh for instance, seemed to really give me some contractions. And maybe this is the bitterness of going crazy eating spicy or greasy foods, sucking my thumb, drinking gross red raspberry tea, doing jumping jacks in my living room, or spending hours with my Medela breast pump. But I think you get to this point (most every mother does) where you are desperate, so you try all of these things and eventually you have the baby, because you were going to anyway and you say, “Hey! This last thing that I had tried did the trick—that must be the secret to having a baby!” In my experience, nearly nothing works. Or at least that’s how I was starting to feel at the time. But I kept trying and it was exhausting. In retrospect, I think some nerves were in the way. The mind can be a powerful thing, and I think somewhere deep in mine, I was stopping labor from progressing because I was afraid. Afraid once again because of the pending pain. I was also nervous that with all this start/stop labor, the actual labor would go fast. Worst case scenario, Paul would be delivering the baby while Jen and Dana were on their way (I think something Paul was secretly hoping for). What I needed to do was to let go and allow my body to do it’s thing.
Dana, my midwife and I had decided that September 4th would be the day we would try to pull out all stops and try to get this baby to come. September 6th would mean 42 weeks, so it was time. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, one of my top reasons for wanting a home birth was to completely avoid an induction with Pitocin. I was so grateful we had switched to a midwife because I didn’t know very many people whose doctors let them go this far past 40 weeks. We both felt such an emotional confirmation that we had made the right decision. But now, it was time to try to get my body to get to work.
Tuesday the 4th was a nice day. I decided we’d consider my evening appointment with Dana as an induction. I told myself we were going to have a baby that night or the next day, hoping that saying that aloud would help my mind surrender to the inevitable. That morning I had an acupuncture session scheduled in my attempt to try anything to get the baby out. I cancelled it and we just spent time together as a family, enjoying our last day as a family of three. That was the right decision. We finished the day with dinner at PF Changs and then dropped Sophia off at her Aunt Kelly’s to spend the night.
My fortune the night I would eventually deliver Kal.
Dana stripped my membranes which was uncomfortable, but bearable. I went directly home and drank a castor oil concoction she called a liquado (which was uncomfortable, but bearable). By 9:00 pm I was feeling contractions. I needed them to continue this time. No resting. If I sat, they would go away. So Paul and I watched back-to-back-to back episodes of Parks and Rec while I paced from our kitchen to the living room. I texted Jen, who we had also hired as our doula (we had both grown to love her so much we really wanted her with us for this) and asked her if she recommended anything to help bring on real labor. She told me to go up and down the stairs taking two at a time on the way up, with a slow, assisted descent. This seemed to help. My legs were so swollen at this point and they ached, but no big deal compared to what was to come, right? So Paul gave me a few foot rubs, but I spent most of my time pacing. Things started to feel stronger around 10:30 pm. I was feeling more pain and had several contractions in a row that made me stop and catch my breath. Then Paul and I started to get excited and made final preparations. He ran the water into the birthing pool. I made our bed and got out all the towels and changed into the tankini and dress I had planned to deliver in. I got Kal’s clothes out and turned off the lights and had just a few lamps on. About 11:40, I called Dana and texted Jen. Paul put a cute sign on the door that said something like: “If you are here for baby’n, come on in” directed to Jen and Dana.
Jen came in at 12:18. I was still feeling good and was happy to see her and tell her how things were going. I knew it was happening and I was getting excited. I had been trying to time my contractions on my phone but was a little confused. Sometimes my contractions were seven minutes apart, sometimes five, most of the time three. And sometimes even just a single minute between. The sporadic pattertn didn’t seem very textbook which made me question the legitimacy. She turned off my phone timer and told me to ignore it. I wanted to chat and be excited with her, but then a contraction came that blew me away. From then on, it was go time. I had to focus. I think my mind was ready to let go a little more now that a pro was here to help.
As this more powerful labor continued I moved from leaning over the birthing ball to standing in the kitchen and also to the toilet (the effect I had been warned about from the castor oil had not hit and it was hard for me to relax my butt for fear that I may poop all over my living room – so I spent some time on the toilet – just to be safe). My lower belly hurt, so Jen heated up a rice sock and applied it to the spot to help relieve the ache. She also reminded me to use my energy wisely and use low moaning tones when the contractions came. This not only helped me get through them, but helped make the laboring contractions more productive. At some point, while leaning over the ball, I started to shake. I was trembling all over and I couldn’t control it. Jen told me that this hormonal shaking was normal and a good sign. I ended up laboring on the toilet again when my midwife came.
Dana arrived at 1 am. I was in pretty intense labor, shaking and moaning. She immediately accessed the situation and asked me “Where do you want to have this baby?” It was a simple question, but the way she said it made me look at what was going on in that bathroom and step outside of my trance long enough to realize that the long hours of labor I was expecting would not be happening. All those stages I had learned about were meshing together in a insanely quick blur. I was about to have a baby on a toilet.
We wanted to deliver in the birthing pool, which I had asked Paul to set up upstairs. I had been having contractions a minute apart and could barely catch my breath or stop the hormone-induced shaking, so getting up there seemed impossible, but I needed to do it! Once again, there is amazing power a determined, desperate mind. I was able to hold off a contraction long enough to not only make it upstairs, but lay down on the floor (which was covered with absorbent sheets). Dana had a nurse assisting her named Susan. They worked fast. They had to and they rocked it. Dana examined me and I heard something about being dilated to a 9. Tunnel vision had taken over again and contractions were back. Paul sat behind me holding me through those contractions as I closed my eyes. I was helped into the pool. It was 1:04 am. Dana and Susan had been in the house less than five minutes.
Again, as if the short hours of this evening hadn’t been evidence enough, I wrongly assumed I still had some time. The water felt amazing. I got in ready to relax for a while. Since leaning had felt best this whole time, I just plopped right over the side of the pool in front of me as I got in. Everyone else took position after I chose mine. Jen poured some warm water over my tailbone which felt great. Paul got me water to drink and helped prop me up in the tub. I tried to relax, but was getting really scared. There was a brief moment free of contractions. I was in the zone and trying hard to release my fears and let my body take over. With no warning, an incredible and powerful contraction took over my body and I started to push. Mad at my body, I fought this. I was not under the impression that my next contraction would be a pushing contraction. There had been no warning like my experience with Sophia (maybe the absences of the epidural and Pitocin, maybe because it was my second time?) I felt like my body had betrayed me and I didn’t want to give in. The force was so strong my legs drifted up behind me and I yelled out, “I’m pushing and I don’t want to!” Somehow I made it through that, fighting it the whole way. I got a minute or two to catch my breath and listen to the words of my birth team. Paul told me I could do this and to not be afraid. Jen told me what I was feeling was my baby and I needed to welcome him. Dana told me when the next contraction came I needed to push. So I started to prepare myself. She was right, I couldn’t keep fighting it. Paul was in front of me, holding me, and I had my arms wrapped around his neck. The next contraction came. I started to scream, then Jen helped me by reminding me to relax and focus on making a low controlled sound. Jen and Paul have described the sound I made as “primal” and “guttural” -I just let out this deep, crazy roar that I could never repeat unless under the same circumstance. With one huge mother of a push, Kal was delivered. He was born at 1:13 am. We had wanted Paul to be able to catch Kal, but with how fast he came and the fact that I had Paul in a death-grip, that wasn’t possible. Dana initially caught him, and Paul got there to bring him out of the water. He held him as everyone else assisted me in getting turned around to hold my son.
It was amazing. We sat there in this warm tub in a dim room in our own house just looking at each other. I was trying to take it all in. I’m not sure if there were a million things going through my mind or none. Kal didn’t cry. He had come into this world so peacefully, what was there to cry about? (I actually didn’t hear him cry for a couple of days). That moment, with all the relief that swept over me from the labor being over and holding his perfectness, was breathtaking.
When I was ready, Dana clamped and Paul cut the cord. I handed him off to Paul. He took Kal across the hall into his room to dry him off and wrapped him in a towel. Everyone else teamed up to get me out of the tub. Dana had a birthing stool that I sat on and delivered the placenta. Then she had me lay on the absorbent sheets which covered the carpet to investigate me. I hadn’t torn. At all. I was relieved, as I had understood that in order not to tear I needed to push slow. I didn’t have that kind of control over the situation and it had happened faster than I had wanted it to, so I thought there would be a tear for sure. Then they helped me to my bathroom where Susan had drawn a bath. I was a little too lightheaded to stand in the shower. Both Dana and Susan were careful to make sure blood didn’t end up in my house. Susan used hydrogen peroxide to get a little drop off our bathmat. I appreciate their attentiveness.
I was so happy that through this time, Paul was the one holding our son, getting aquatinted with him. After I got dressed and in our bed, Kal and Paul came in and I held Kal again. Then I got to nurse him. He latched perfectly on his own. When I was ready to let go of him again, Dana and Susan took his stats on the bed next to me. He was 19 1/2 inches long and 7 pounds 6 ounces. He wasn’t the 10 pound baby everyone thought I would get for going to nearly 42 weeks, and he was perfect!
Dana and Susan made sure that I was fine, that Kal was fine, and that we didn’t have any questions. They left, saying they would be back in two days to check in on both of us. Jen helped Paul clean up the tub and whatever else while Kal and I snuggled in bed. It was a great night and I feel like the bond that we were able to develop that night, uninterrupted by tests or drugs has done something great for us. I’m not sure what it is, but I feel strongly that something about those first few hours has had a huge effect. Sophia met Kal the next afternoon and was instantly in love with her baby. We are now a very happy family of four!
My biggest takeaway from this experience is not that home birth is the only way, or even the best way. It was an amazing journey for us-one that we will never regret and always look back on fondly. However, my takeaway from the whole experience with Kal is that ownership of your birth story can be amazing. It is something I would like for all women to have, regardless of whether a midwife, home birth, water birth, doula, birthing center, or hospital is selected. Knowing your options can make your story your own. Paul and I have been empowered by this and our relationship with our son is all the better due to the decisions we made for ourselves before he was even born. I do want to add as well that I’m thankful for modern medicine, it is saving lives for sure (my sister and my three beautiful nieces to name a few). Sometimes interventions are wanted or even necessary, and we women have that choice. We do live in a wonderful time, where we have a vast amount of options. I’d like to encourage couples to seek excellent education when expecting, so they can learn about the choices that will lay before them and be prepared. After all, birth is one of life’s big moments (the biggest, I suppose).
A special thanks to Jen who, as part of her doula services, typed up her notes from the evening. And great love to all of you who have read this. Thanks for your encouragement in getting me to write it down. XOXO!
Dana, my midwife, and her assistant Susan taking Kals stats. Susan in white.