My first three birth stories (Part 1, Part 2, Part 2.5 video montage) led me here. The journey was long and hard but I would never change it, as it brought me to the most indescribable joy I have ever felt. The following is the story of the birth of my fourth child at home, after my first three children were born by c-section.
After so much worry and doubt that I would never be given a chance to birth this baby, I finally found a magnificent midwife and felt so very privileged to be under her care. By that time I was 32 weeks pregnant. I looked forward to getting to know her better and building the trust needed to feel safe as she safeguarded my life and that of my child. We decided to continue prenatal care with the OB, and pre-register at the hospital. I wish I could have dropped OB care altogether, but there were reasons it seemed prudent. My plan was to tell him I would come in for the c-section when labor started; then, if I had to transfer, no one would have to know I had been trying for a home birth again. I was hoping to avoid the awful mistreatment I had encountered before. I was so worried he would have a problem with this. I came up with a long explanation I would give as to why, if he protested. Then, I prayed and prayed while sitting in the exam room waiting for him to come in.
The first words out of his mouth were, "How about the 13th for the c-section?"
And I asked, "Well, can I talk to you about that?" I told him I would like to wait for labor to begin and his response was nothing short of shocking to me.
He said "Sure! You are a happy pregnant woman. Most women just want it to be over with. You just need to know that it may be as late as the 25th (my due date was the 16th)."
I assured him that was not a problem for me. I would wait.
I did not pre-register at the hospital with my first homebirth attempt and I think it made the transition for care very difficult, but the registration meeting this time around was enough to send me to homebirth, if I had not already decided on it. I asked for very few things in regard to my repeat c-section and was flat denied on all counts.
“Could we take pictures of our son's birth?”
“No. No cameras allowed in the operating room.”
“Please don't give me amnesic drugs. I want to remember his first moments.”
“Well, they usually don't.”
“But, they did last time.”
And lastly I asked, "Could my husband be present while I am getting the spinal?" I had great fear about being treated the way I had been before. The answer was again, no. I could not understand why it was OK for him to be there while I got an epidural in an L&D room, but not while I had essentially the same thing done in an operating room. I know there are sterile fields, but they let students observe, who have never been in an OR before. I know this because I was one of those students, and then, I worked as an OR circulating nurse. It was one of my jobs to ensure sterile technique was always observed. They could not give me a sufficient answer other than, "It's hospital policy." My most important request was to have immediate skin-to-skin with my baby in the operating and recovery rooms. I was told, “We will try, but it will depend on if we have the staff.” Really? The most important hour of bonding will depend on if you are staffed correctly? I told her the studies I had read showed it was very important for establishing breastfeeding. She agreed with me, but told me her hands were tied. The idea of doing it all again overwhelmed me, and I cried right there in her office. She offered that if I scheduled my c-section she would personally come in for me. She was so kind and understanding, but could do nothing to change the all-powerful hospital policy. She encouraged me to talk to the floor manager and gave her my name and phone number. When I spoke to her, it was all business. I felt like she was patting me on the head and saying "Oh, don't you worry your pretty little head." Treating me like I had no idea what I was talking about and constantly saying "Well, that's just hospital policy." I could tell it was all a lesson in futility, but I felt I had to try to make them see how wrong their policies were. I ended the conversation feeling so very grateful I would not be dealing with them, or their policies.
At 39 weeks pregnant, I had been sick with a terrible cough for nearly a month. It was so hard to sleep when I was awake hacking up a lung all night long. I was exhausted and really hoping this thing would clear up before I had to labor and birth my baby. I was taking Emergen-C twice a day, soaking in eucalyptus and Epsom salt baths, and praying I would get better soon. The 39 week mark came on a Saturday. Just like my last pregnancy. That night hubby and I were intimate, and shortly after I started to lose my mucus plug. Just like my last pregnancy. I started to panic a little bit, as it was feeling all too familiar. With my daughter, I was in labor by Monday night, only to end in the operating room Tuesday night. I felt like history was repeating itself, and it scared me. I stayed home from church on Sunday because I felt miserable, and I thought I might be able to catch up on some sleep. Some friends came to pick up my kids and take them to church. They asked, “When are you going to have that baby?” To which I replied, “Maybe today.” I was having mild, inconsistent contractions and knew it wasn’t time yet, but I also knew it was right around the corner. Though I hoped I was wrong. My sister was coming to help on Friday, and I kept hoping he would hold out at least until then. I felt a little crazy for wanting pregnancy to last longer, when most women are just begging for it to end.
I slept all day on Sunday. Then asked Kyle to stay home from work and slept all day Monday as well. Tuesday morning came and labor had not begun. It was not following the same timeline as my last experience. I was relieved and grateful. I tried to keep my mind in the present and know that this pregnancy was its own, but I was definitely struggling. Tuesday afternoon I had an appointment with the OB. I had been having mild contractions and kept praying they would not pick up in the office. I easily refused a vaginal exam and did not incur any insistence for one from the nurse, or the doctor. Why would they? As far as they knew, I was having a C-section. We mostly talked about how sick I was, and I decided to ask him for some antibiotics to clear my nasty respiratory infection. Even though I had other plans, I was so afraid of recovering from surgery with this constant cough. We left the doctor's office to run some errands. I popped into Target to get a pack of newborn diapers and just couldn’t resist grabbing a bag of Robin Eggs candy too. While Kyle filled my prescription I ate half the bag. I downed the first two pills of my z-pack, then had a sinking feeling I made the wrong choice about the antibiotics. I instantly started feeling sick to my stomach. ( I am sure it had nothing to do with the bag of candy I had just eaten ;-) When I got home I sat down on the couch and promptly barfed it all up. I saw the pills swimming in it and thought “I guess I wasn’t supposed to take those after all.” I hadn’t thrown up since week fourteen. So I knew it was yet another sign of impending labor. Soon after, my wonderful midwife came to see me. She brought the birth pool, and just seeing her calmed my nerves. Everything was falling into place. She made plans to come see me Friday, but I was pretty sure I would see her before then.
The doctor suggested I take some cough medicine, and though I usually strictly avoid that stuff during pregnancy, I knew I really needed some sleep. So, I took a dose and went to bed. I actually slept for a good 4 hours straight. It was fantastic. At about six in the morning I was awakened by contractions. They weren't very strong, but they were coming pretty consistently. There was never more than 20 minutes between them. I took note, told Kyle, sent a text to my midwife, and tried to go back to sleep. I slept on and off until about 10. I took some phone calls from people at my church. The first one was wondering if they could bring dinner (leftovers from the last night's church activity). I told her that would be great; because, I was pretty sure I was in early labor. She was confused and questioned if we would even be there for dinner. I told her we were staying home to have this baby.
She said "Oh! Have you had all of them at home?"
I said "No, the others were by c-section."
She didn't know what to say then. She wished me luck and I thanked her for thinking of my family. I felt completely confident in our plans. It felt good to finally share it. I had kept my plans pretty quiet. The second call was someone asking if we needed anything at the store. My church family is very good at being God's hands and takes very good care of us.
The contractions were getting slightly stronger, but I easily breathed through them and started chanting, "Baby down and out, baby down and out." I envisioned him moving down. I moved to the couch where it remained manageable and consistent all day. That evening the young men from my church were coming over to clean my house. This had been planned for a week and a half, and I saw no reason to stop them from finishing up what I had not been able to. When they arrived I retreated to my bedroom where things continued to slowly intensify. As I bounced on my birth ball, I ate a wonderful ham dinner complete with salad and rolls. It tasted wonderful. My babysitter and her mother stopped by, and I came out of the bedroom to chat. It only took a couple contractions for me to excuse myself and retreat back to the bedroom. If I anticipated them and started breathing before they hit, I could breeze right through, but because I was chatting they caught me off guard, and they were starting to hurt. I knew at this point things were going to pick up. I just didn't know when. After they all left, Kyle started putting the kids to bed, and I made some phone calls to get them taken care of the next day. Between breathing through contractions, I talked to 5 different people and finally got it worked out. I wrote it all down then walked around the living room picking up random stuff and put it away. They were getting stronger and closer together. Then, I was brought to my knees. I leaned over the couch as each contraction became harder and more painful. It was like my body was waiting for my other children to be taken care of before kicking into high gear. This was it.
Kyle came out from laying down with our daughter to find me struggling to get on top of the newly intensified contractions. He asked if I was OK and wondered about calling our midwife. I said, “Yes, please call her and let her know things have picked up.” He called and put her on speaker phone. She was so calm and pleasant. I remember her saying that things may still slow down, and I thought, "No way. This feels like being pushed down a hill. There is just no way this is slowing down." She said to keep her posted. Kyle decided to set up the birth pool, and I sought refuge in a hot bath. I turned on the jets, and the tightenings just kept coming. I would moan through each one. Kyle checked on me and asked if I wanted some music. I had really enjoyed music during my last labor, so I thought it might help. When he turned it on, it felt wrong. So I asked him to turn on the same artist I had listened to the last time. Then it was all wrong. I felt like I had been transported back to that place. All the awful emotions and anxiety returned. It was terrible. I snapped at him, “Turn it off! Please, just turn it off.” He was surprised, but did as I asked. I was able to get in a better headspace while alone and things were quiet. He returned to filling the pool. It took forever... We were having water pressure issues and had an appointment for a plumber to come fix it the next morning, but it was not going to happen now. The water was coming at nearly a trickle. He used a canning kettle to fill the pool one slow pot at a time.
When it was about half full, he asked me if I wanted to change from the bath to the pool. I was ready for a change, so I agreed. I had been up to the toilet several times and had lost a lot more mucous. It was thick and yellow. Not like I remembered it being the last times, but it was nice to know I was making some progress.
The pool felt good. There was more room to move, and the floor and sides were soft. Intense contractions continued, and I kept chanting, “Baby down and out, baby down and out.” Then I would say. “I.am.dying.” Positive, right? Ha! Kyle was trying to be supportive, but my daughter kept waking up and coming out of her room. So, he had to give her attention and get her back in bed. About midnight I told Kyle to call Terrie, our midwife, and ask her to come. I didn't think I was close, but she was three hours away, and I was starting to think I really needed her support. She agreed to come, and I was glad she was on her way.
When she arrived, I was still in the pool and feeling tired. She brought a remarkable presence of excitement, that I had not previously felt. She was absolutely positive I would be birthing my baby right here. I was still not sure.
After giving me some reassuring attention, she checked baby's heartbeat. I loved to hear it. It reminded me the reason I was going through all of this. Then, she asked me to see if I could feel the baby's head and tell her how far inside it was. I could feel it, but it was almost a full finger length inside. She again reassured me he would move down and where he was, was great.
Time really runs together for me after this, and I only have a few points where I was aware of the actual time. The contractions were consistent and strong, and my back was hurting so bad. I was on my knees leaning over the side of the pool. I dozed between, but if I relaxed too much when the next one hit I was a mess. When the contraction would rise, I almost felt panic as it overtook my body. The sensations running through me were unlike anything I had experienced before. I would grab for something, anything, the sides of the pool, Kyle's hand, arm, shoulder, face, whatever I could get my hands on. I felt like I had to hold on or the intense pain and pressure would overtake me. It was from my knees to my ribs, and circumferential. Terrie tried a hip squeeze and that helped a little, but not enough to make it worth it. I was hanging on for dear life, fighting to make it through each contraction. My mouth and throat were so dry because I couldn't breath through my nose, it was too stuffed up. I felt like my mouth was full of cotton, so I was doing a lot of spitting. Once, I accidentally spit right on Terrie's shirt. The look of surprise and horror on her face was just awful. I felt absolutely horrible. I had just spit on the most incredible woman I had ever met! I apologized profusely, and she quickly forgave me, but I feel terrible about it to this moment. Both Kyle and Terrie were so attentive and always had the cup of water or Powerade handy for drinks between contractions. They offered me a piece of toast, but my mouth was so dry I couldn't even swallow it without gulping water to get it down. So, I only got one bite in me.
This went on for hours, and hours, and hours. I was in a cycle. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Kyle and Terrie would take turns trying to get some rest, but if they happened to be able to doze off, they were always awakened by my relentless yelling, screaming, and moaning. When Kyle was resting, Terrie encouraged me to get out of the pool and walk. Telling me being upright would help things progress, but when I was out of the water I panicked. When a contraction would come, I didn't know what to do. Where am I going to be? What do I do with my body? What do I hold on to? How do I contain this overwhelming power? I just didn't know how to deal without the walls of the birth pool. So, she could only coax me through a few laps before I retreated back to my safe place. Those pool walls contained me, literally. I would grab the side and push against the opposite side with all my strength. I am surprised I didn't break it and flood my living room.
At about 7 in the morning, my children woke up. Just before this, both Kyle and Terrie warned me they would be up soon and to try to stay quiet and calm so I wouldn't worry them. Kyle had to get them ready and out the door so Terrie stayed by me, getting me through. All of this broke my concentration a bit, and it was very hard to stay quiet. All my kids wanted to do was come see me, but they kept telling them to stay out. I wanted them to be able to come in, but with everything going on I was not coping well at all. I needed to feel unrestricted and undisturbed. I was relieved when they were out the door and I could restore my routine, at least in my mind.
Terrie continued to ask me to tell her how far in I felt his head. At about 10 am I could feel he had moved down quite a bit. I felt his head just two knuckles in, but it felt different in there. There was a big squishy thing in front of his head. I didn't know what it was. She said it was probably one of two things, either the bag of waters or my cervix. I wanted to know what I was feeling, so I asked her if she would check and tell me what it was. She said if I really wanted her to, she would. I was so grateful for her hands-out approach. Something I learned from my last labor: checking does nothing but cause more pain. It does not help things progress more quickly or really even assess how much further there is to go. She also told me she would be checking for dilation. She wanted to prepare me because it may be uncomfortable. It was crazy, I barely felt her in there at all. When I was in labor with my daughter, every exam was excruciating. It felt like the woman was reaching all the way up to my throat. But this was nothing like that. It further solidified my complete trust in her. She told me I was at 7 centimeters, and the squishy thing was my cervix. She tried to boost my confidence, saying only three more to go. Truly, I was so wrapped up in all the labor sensations the number didn't even mean anything to me. Part of me was sure this would go on forever.
At one point I got out of the pool and tried sitting on the birth ball in my bedroom. It did not feel right. I ended up leaning back into a plastic bin in a really strange position. I’m not sure how long I stayed that way. Then I went to the bed, and she checked me again. She never said what she felt and I never asked. Every time I checked on how far in his head was, it seemed like he had not moved any closer to coming out. Each time I would show Terrie on my finger how far in he was. It stayed in between my first two knuckles for what seemed like forever. She always responded so positively with "He is moving. Millimeters, millimeters but he is moving." She continued to reassure me, as I was losing hope. "Everything is normal. All of this is perfectly normal. He is doing well and you are doing well." Her reassurance helped me carry on, even though I was starting to lose perspective. I kept wishing I could go to the hospital for pain relief. I just wanted an epidural. I really wanted some relief, but I knew the moment I stepped into a hospital they would cut me open. That knowledge spurred me on.
But those things could only take me so far. Finally, I had, had enough. I felt completely drained and was just sure I could go no further. I told Terrie and Kyle I was done and wanted to go to the hospital. I realize now, I never really saw the end. I just thought I would endure the pain of contractions until I absolutely could not anymore, then go in and get a c-section. That is pretty much how it happened last time. I had not experienced anything else. I didn’t believe I was actually going to get to experience what I had worked so very hard for. My spirit had been broken. I would willing go to the slaughter. I thought I was defeated… again. While holding me up, Kyle looked at Terrie and said, “We need some hope.” I really felt defeated then. Even Kyle had lost hope. Terrie calmly explained to us that I could go to the hospital, but everything was normal and going well. I knew she was right, but I just didn’t think I had anything left to give. She again suggested we walk. I leaned forward on Kyle and hobbled to the bathroom. I was bent at the waist at almost a 90 degree angle. I sat on the toilet, in my very small bathroom, and checked again how things were going down there. He was holding steady where he had been for hours, just past my first knuckle. But I could feel a lip of cervix for sure this time. Terrie suggested I try to push it up over his head. I tried, but I couldn’t get the right angle on it.
I told her, “I want you to do it.”
She said, “You don’t want me to do it.”
I conceded that she was right. She knew what the last midwife had done to me, and knew that was not what I wanted. While I sat on the toilet she went in the other room. I found out later, she was praying to know how to help me. I had another particularly hard contraction and I started saying, “Please Heavenly Father. Let me have this miracle.” My husband is agnostic and does not pray, but I started yelling that he needed to ask for this miracle too. He looked at me like I was a little crazy, but said it loud and proud anyway. I started to get my courage back. When Terrie returned she had a mirror for me to see what was happening. She showed me that my lips were beginning to open and told me it was all good progress. I was starting to believe it might actually happen. Then my water broke. I heard it pop and I got to see it in the mirror. It was like a little spit. No gush, no trickle, just a pffft. I stood up just as another contraction hit. Kyle was sitting on the bathtub next to the toilet and I threw my whole body over him. I had one leg on the wall and was pushing him over the half wall at the end of the tub, while nearly climbing to the top of his head. All while yelling, “I know I’m hurting you, but I HAVE TO!” Terrie said later she was trying so hard not to laugh at the sight of us. Me sprawled out on top of him, dripping amniotic fluid on his leg, and him just taking it.
Then, it was time to walk again. She told me I should keep my hips under my body as I walked. I felt like this was impossible. I asked Kyle if he would stand behind me and act as a wall that I could push my hips against. We held hands and bent our arms, his under mine holding me up. We walked, and when a contraction would hit, I would lift my feet off the ground and try to get traction anywhere I could, the walls, the banister, at one point it was the kitchen counter and the opposite window. I was instinctively pushing. No one told me to push, I just did. I made it around the loop of my house twice. Hallway, kitchen, dining room, livingroom, hallway, hallway and ended up at the top of my stairs in the kitchen. Terrie said it would be alright if I squatted or got on hands and knees. Previously, in the pool, she had advised against squatting as she didn’t think baby was down far enough for it to help. Since she told me it was now ok, I started to realize I was really making progress. This was actually going to happen. It was like everything came into focus. I was no longer flailing and trying to get footing wherever I could. I knew just what to do and how to do it. The screaming and yelling stopped. I was calm and determined. I decided hands and knees was right. They brought a foam pool float for me to kneel on (I have hardwood floors). Kyle applied immense pressure to my sacrum. It felt great. I pushed for about three contractions. I told them it felt like baby was going to blow out my butt. Terrie was so happy. She kept saying, "That’s good, that’s good." It was a strange feeling, but I knew she was right, this was good.
Knowing just what to do, I decided now I needed to go to the bathroom. Everyone was in agreement and off we went. I sat down on the toilet and reassessed the situation. I could feel the lip of cervix had thinned out. I could finally get ahold of it. I told it what for, "Get out of the way you piece of ©%*#!" I hooked it with my first two fingers and pulled it up over his head. Such triumph! I had finally gotten the best of that stubborn cervix. Next contraction I had one foot on the tub and instructed them I needed a stool for my other foot. To which Terrie responded with excitement "Yes, yes this is so good!" I pushed like that for one contraction. Then I said, "Now I want to get on my hands and knees." More great encouragement from Terrie, and a cushion under my knees. It was a tight squeeze in my little bathroom. But it was working. Kyle resumed pushing on my sacrum and l pushed with the next contraction. It felt amazing. Then I stated matter of factly, "Now I need to go to the bedroom." "Good, good!" More fantastic encouragement.
Between contractions I crawled around the corner to the foot of my bed. I instinctively got more upright. I knelt at the foot of my bed leaning slightly over and grabbed fistfuls of my blue sheets. These next moments play in my mind like a dream. I will remember and cherish them all of my life. Kyle, my amazing partner, is right behind me still pushing on my sacrum with all his might.
Terrie says "OK. Now I want you to feel where he is."
I felt and he was, "Right there." I could feel his head just barely inside.
She looked at her phone and said "6:15. What time are your kids supposed to be home?"
I answer "Seven."
To which she replies "They might come while we are in the throws of this. Maybe we should call and let someone know."
I say, "NO! I am having this baby right now. We are not calling anyone!"
Then the contraction hits. And I push with my body. Kyle is right behind me and can see him coming.
He says, "He's coming Terrie. What do I do? Terrie, Terrie! He's coming.What do we do?" He isn't worried or afraid but wants to make sure all is well.
She replies "Let him come!" Then I tell them I need someone to put their hand down there to hold his head.
She sweetly says, "You put your hand there."
It was like it hadn't even occurred to me that I could do it myself. I held my left hand on his head, as it started to stretch me open, and gripped the sheets for dear life with my right. I yell about pushing and Terrie tries to remind me not to push too hard, because I don't want to tear, and I yell "I HAVE TO!" Then the burn, oh the burn. Serious ring of fire, but only for a split second. Then his whole body slid right out. "Like a bar of soap" one of my friends said when I told her the story, and that is a perfect description. I leaned back on my feet and Terrie helped me scoop him up in my arms. I held him tightly against my chest as if someone might take him from me.
I couldn't believe he was here. I spent some time just taking it all in. I had actually given birth to my baby. The rush of emotions made me shake. Pure elation! Indescribable joy! Wonder! Astonishment! Even shock! "I JUST HAD A BABY!" My baby was absolutely the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. He was perfect. With a fabulous, lusty cry. He was covered in smooth,white vernix. Soft, sweet, ooey, gooey vernix.
As soon as our baby was out, Kyle jumped up to grab the camera and caught it all in pictures and video. I will forever be grateful for him doing that. Being able to relive it over and over has been the greatest gift. I have no pictures of my other childrens' first moments earthside. No recordings of their first cries, because cameras are not allowed in the operating room. And because of amnesic drugs, I do not even have a memory of seeing my daughter for the first time. This was all so different, so extraordinary, so amazing. After a minute or two, Terrie had me get up on my bed. My son, Declan, was still attached to his pulsing umbilical cord.
He was perfectly pink and crying. Oh, what a beautiful sound. He latched on and started breastfeeding right away. Oh, to have him skin to skin and nursing within minutes was so magnificent. After the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Terrie clamped it and Kyle cut it. For the first time in four children, he finally got to cut the cord. Even such a small thing like this, gave me so much happiness.
Not too much longer after that I birthed the placenta. Terrie told me to look at my baby, to distract me, then give a little push. It came out so easily. It didn’t hurt at all. After a baby it felt like nothing. I remarked later it felt like pushing out a steak, silly but true. After a while she weighed him and checked him over. He was 8 pounds 8 ounces. My biggest baby by two ounces. One pound seven ounces more than my daughter whom I tried to push out for 6 hours. Following my instincts and not letting others tell me when or how to push made it happen.
Then we just cuddled, skin to skin. He ate. I cried, and thanked my Father in heaven, and smiled the biggest smile I have ever smiled. It was truly a miracle.
About an hour after he was born my other children came home. It was perfect. They got to meet their sweet, new, little brother in our home so soon after he was born. What an awesome blessing!
My family was changed by this incredible journey. Mostly because it changed me. It was the hardest thing I have ever endured. Then, after the grueling intensity of labor, I was lifted to the highest high I have felt in this lifetime, as I held my baby, fresh from heaven, against my breast. I am not the same person I was. How could I be? I am more confident. I am happier. I am a better mother, wife, and dare I say, a better woman. Birth matters! Mothers matter! Women matter!
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