Readers have requested more birth stories, so I asked my friend Kristin of Petal and Thorn to share her home water birth story!
Two weeks before Siena’s due date, my midwife Lisa checked me out and told me exciting things were happening. She said that if I were an avocado, I’d be guacamole; that’s how ready my body was to give birth. My heart pounded as I called my husband Joe and told him to tie up any loose ends at work – we’d probably have a baby soon! We made sure the house was spotless and put the etsy shop on vacation mode. Well, turns out I was to be guacamole for 2 more weeks. 2 very long weeks. My due date came and went without even a sign of labor, and I felt a little let down. I decided not to freak out, after all I still wasn’t “miserably pregnant” and this was a good excuse to pamper myself with pedicures, car washes, lunch dates, and doggy excursions. I’m actually so glad I had those last few days as a non-mommy- I may not be doing many of those things for a while!
Two days after the due date, I went to bed feeling like it might be the night. I could feel Siena trying to get into position, like her spinning head was grinding against my pelvic bones. Good girl, Siena! I knew that if she was in the anterior position, labor could be shorter and more comfortable. At 3 am, my water broke and I shot out of bed. Joe called the midwife, and she told us to try to get some sleep; perhaps tomorrow I might start feeling contractions.
So I lay in bed, heart pounding, smiling to myself, trying to sleep. There was no way I was going to sleep. I can’t believe I wasn’t scared at all. I was so ready to just do it! There was no turning back now!
About half an hour later, I started feeling cramps – very similar to menstrual cramps. They started to increase in intensity and come in waves. Were these contractions? I had no idea. I figured they weren’t because I’d always pictured contractions surging through the entire stomach. These were very specifically located in my lower abdomen only. I suffered through a half hour of them in silence, trying so hard to let Joe sleep. Then I couldn’t stay still through them. These HAD to be contractions (aka “birthing waves”- as the Hypnobirthing book called them).
Joe began timing my contractions at about 4am to see if it was time to call the midwife yet, and we were both surprised that they were coming less than 3 minutes apart. However, some of them weren’t quite a minute long, and I’d only been feeling them for 45 minutes. According to the handy dandy paging instructions from the midwife, it wasn’t yet time to call her. I maintained a sense of humor, and started walking down the hallway like a cowboy with my fingers pointing like guns. Somehow this helped with the pain a bit! I also busted out some ballet barre exercises – doing grand plies with ballerina arms while taking slow, controlled breaths helped me get through the peak of each contraction.
For about a half hour more I felt in control. The pain was pretty intense, but manageable. This was labor and I was doing it! The timing of the contractions still didn’t warrant a call to the midwife Lisa, but I asked Joe to call our doula, Leslie, to let her know how intense they were getting. She said she’d be over in a 1/2 hour.
Somehow within that half hour, things got significantly more intense. The plies and cowboy walking weren’t doing a thing anymore, and all I could do was sit on the toilet sobbing. If this was what early labor felt like just a few hours in, I was terrified at what the day would hold. First time moms typically have labors between 10 and 20 hours. Panic started to set in, and the deep relaxation techniques were out the window. Joe called the midwife and told her that I was in horrible pain. She asked to speak to me on speaker phone, and I refused. I just sobbed and sobbed. I could hear her tell Joe, “Either this baby is coming really soon, or she’s just a first time mom freaking out.” In my head, I figured I was the latter. I felt like such a wuss. I didn’t think I could go on. I remember chastising myself for choosing a home birth with no medication, but there was NO way I was getting into a car and going to the hospital.
Suddenly it felt right to squat in the hallway. And suddenly it felt right to push. An uncontrollable urge. I reached up and felt something smooth, and proceeded to freak out even more, thinking it was my intestine falling out (not the most logical assumption, but oh well, I was in labor land.) When my doula Leslie walked in the door, she found me snot-nosed and bawling in the hallway. She told me to relax my face and jaw, and told me that I looked so scared. She was right, I was terrified. I had banished Joe to the other room, begging him not to touch me. She encouraged me and led me in some deep breathing. When I told her I really needed to push, she told me to pant like a dog and try to resist the urge. Easier said than done! She knew the midwife was on her way, and that doulas are not able to deliver babies. If Siena came before our midwife arrived, Joe would need to deliver her.
When Leslie gave me permission to get into the blow up jacuzzi in our living room, I practically swan-dived into the water, determined not to have a contraction on the way from the hallway to the pool. The warm water was so comforting, and being weightless in the water allowed me to get into various positions more easily. I felt like the pain was about 30-40% less intense in the water as well.
Leslie told me that Lisa was on her way; she had just hit a bit of morning traffic. I just needed to breathe through the contractions and not push for another 45 minutes. Arrggg! Not pushing was so excruciating! I pushed just a little with each peak because I couldn’t help it. I needed to do something with the pain besides sit there like a wet noodle. At this point I was exhausted, nodding off in the few sweet seconds between contractions, taking sips of emergen-c when I could to stay hydrated.
Then at 8am Lisa and her assistant Regina walked into the house, silently and soberly. They quickly put down their bags, and Lisa knelt beside me while Regina set up the equipment. Lisa told me she needed to check me to see how far along I was. I was terrified that she would tell me I was only dilated to 4, with hours more labor ahead.
After a quick check she exclaimed, “Yep, there’s the head! You’re dilated to 10. You can push whenever you feel the urge.”
Ok, so it was a head, not my intestine! I wasn’t just a first time mom freaking out; I was so close! My spirits were instantly lifted, and I even remember smiling and laughing a little. In my birth plan, I wrote that I wanted to get out of the water to birth the baby. Heck no, there was no way I was leaving my little spa sanctuary.
For 45 more minutes, I felt contractions, but didn’t always feel like pushing as hard as I could. I felt like it just wasn’t the right moment, and I was also afraid of the pain. They call it “the ring of fire” when the baby’s head crowns. How scary is that? I was so tired that my doula was hoisting me up under the armpits so I wouldn’t slide into the water. I wouldn’t let Joe come near me. I felt horrible, but for some reason I needed to be alone. Plus, he had eaten raw garlic the day before, even though I specifically asked him not to. I was so frustrated that he smelled like garlic. At one point, I even said, “Go away, garlic breath!” My sister in law later remarked that if that was the worst thing I said to Joe during my labor, I was a saint. Haha!
Finally, I decided it was time, and gave a few primal roars from the depth of my womanhood. I had no idea I could howl like that. Joe saw Siena’s head emerge and then go right back in a few times. Lisa told me that all the energy I was directing toward roaring needed to be directed toward pushing my baby out.
One ferocious push and her head was out. Ouch! Ring of fire is right!
Another ferocious push and her shoulders were out. Then out slipped her slimy little body and I could see her bob up through the water to the surface. Her eyes were wide open and she was looking around. Beautiful gray-blue almond shaped eyes.
Her cord was wrapped around her neck a few times, pretty tightly. Lisa swooped in and took care of it. She rubbed Siena’s body and used an aspirator on her nose and mouth to open up the airway, and then suddenly Siena let out an adorable little cry.
I am not the most motherly, nurturing person, although I hope to be someday. I had never held a newborn in my life, afraid I would break them. And here I was, holding my minute old little baby. Then I accidentally let her slip out of my hands and she fell into the water again. I felt like a horrible mother already, practically drowning my baby! But babies have the instinct to hold their breath under water. They are pretty comfortable in liquid, considering they’ve been in the womb for 9+ months.
They helped me out of the water and into my bed where I could pass the placenta. I held onto Siena and she peed all over me. I didn’t care one bit.
I clutched her tiny body to my chest as Lisa gave me a shot of pitocin to stop the bleeding and stitch up a minor tear. I was surprised that after the ordeal I’d been through, a shot and some stitches could still hurt. In fact, some of the procedures they did on me after the birth hurt more than the labor itself. But all the happy hormones were flowing, and I was sooo relieved and proud that I’d done it. The midwives left me, Joe and baby to bond for about an hour and try to breastfeed. Then my doula helped me take the most refreshing shower of my life while Regina and Lisa weighed and measured Siena. 19 inches, 7 pounds 3 ounces of adorable baby. They swaddled her up like a Chipotle burrito. So cute!
For a few days after the birth, I couldn’t talk about the experience without feeling physical pain. I was a bit traumatized by the intensity of it all. I swore I’d never go through that again. Looking back now, I realize that childbirth is a lot easier than raising a newborn! I’m being totally serious. Had I known how far into my labor I was, I don’t think I would have freaked out as much. It was the unknown that intensified the pain. As my father in law told me, when he passed his first kidney stone, he thought he was dying. He didn’t know what was going on, and the pain was excruciating. The second one wasn’t nearly as bad because he knew exactly what was happening, and that there was an end in sight. Weird analogy, but I totally get it.
If I do have another kiddo (kind of the last thing on my mind right now!) I would do it the exact same way, in the comfort of my own home, with a midwife and doula I trust, in the warm water. I will however insist that Joe not eat garlic a month before my due date. I feel so bad that I wouldn’t let him be a part of the action. He was supposed to catch Siena and I wouldn’t let him.
And, we will call the midwife as soon as I feel even a HINT of labor, because they say the second one comes even faster!
Praise God for answering my prayers – a healthy, beautiful baby, a home birth, with no complications, with no drugs, in under 5 hours. Who could ask for more?