Just a few days before I went into labor myself, I read a beautiful birth story where the mom was surprised by her labor starting at only 1 day past 39 weeks. I thought to myself that this would be nice to go early, especially since both my other boys came after their due dates, but I never actually considered it a possibility. I just knew baby was going to come the weekend of my due date.
Friday night, 39 weeks, I finally lay in bed after a long exhausting day. I was the kind of tired that makes your eyes weary to be open. I tried to go to sleep quickly, even asking God to put me to sleep, and I repented of doing so much. I vowed to rest more over the next week to prepare my body for labor. Then, I got a contraction. Now after having two previous spontaneous labors, I know what a contraction is. This was one. No Braxton hicks stuff. I thought to myself, “crap”! Not tonight. Not being so tired. I couldn’t do it tonight. I waited to see if another would come and about 10 minutes later, one did. I went into full on prayer mode. “Jesus, I can’t tonight. I am too tired. Please let me sleep tonight!”
I woke up the next morning to my kids yelling for me to open the door (they are not allowed out of their room in the morning until I open the door). I got up, made breakfast, and started our normal routine. My husband was already at work. It was 10 am, and as I was doing morning chores, I felt a contraction. It is only then that I remember the night before. I was grateful to God that he spared me from labor with such little sleep.
This was for sure prodromal labor. I had been here before.
Thankful for a good nights rest, I knew I should keep my energy and rest as much as possible. This is easier said than done when you have two toddlers and a few more things to get done before you have a baby. So with keeping calm in mind, I finished laundry and dishes, got the birth stuff together in one place, and periodically laid in bed in between request for cheesy rice and milk.
Contractions occurred every ten to fifteen minutes lasting only about a minute until just after I put the boys to sleep for their nap at 2:30 pm. These were early labor contractions and did not feel much different than period cramps. The house was quiet, and all my chores were done so I could finally lay down to see if I could nap for a while.
At 2:58 pm, though, I had my first active labor contraction.
If you have never experienced labor before, this is very different from early labor contractions. This feels like a tightening of your lower abdomen that increases in intensity with a distinct pulling downwards. It is not necessarily painful, but powerful. I takes all your force to not tense up during one.
I sent an email to my church family for prayer and made a quick prayer request on Facebook. I knew that I was going to need my sister in Christ backing me up on this. As usual, my husband arrived home at 3 p.m.. Other than a quick phone call in the morning where I warned him labor might be starting, he was coming in not knowing the situation. I wanted to be alone, so I gave him
a quick list of things to do and showed him where everything was. He went to work blowing up the birth pool, lining it, and filling it with a foot of cold water (hot water to be added when needed). He also put all our big pots on the stove with water to boil (you can never have too much hot water).
I closed the door to my bedroom and continued to labor in the bed lying on my left side with a pillow between my legs. I installed a contraction timer on my kindle just to track contractions for a while. I was definitely in active labor and my contractions were coming every 4 to 6 minutes lasting for a little over a minute.
The funny thing about labor for me is all about saving the best things for later. Every few contractions I would go to the restroom to relieve the additional pressure from my bladder and would consider trying a contraction on the toilet, but I would quickly jump back into bed not wanting to open up that position until I really needed it, like it had some kind of limit for working. Silly. What I learned is that good positions work multiple times during labor (like the toilet).
I labored a little while longer in bed and then during a potty break, I decided to stay. This was such a good idea. It changed the way I was experiencing the contraction pressure. I rocked back and forth during the contractions with my hands on my legs rubbing them back and forth, as well. In between contractions I circled around at the waist in small circles. This had added benefit, as the circling caused me to go #2.
After only a short time on the toilet, and since I was right there, I decided to jump into a steaming hot shower. The heat helped me relax even more. I faced the shower head between contractions and let the water hit my lower back during them. I just stood there like a limp noodle. I left my hands open and down by my sides. I really enjoyed it, but in the back of my mind I knew with a limited hot water supply I should get out before the heat runs out. I dried off and sat back onto the toilet for a few more contractions.
The toilet and shower are great during contractions but I found I could not do those positions for very long as there is no real good resting place for in between them. Resting in between contractions is a gift, too, as you can completely relax and let go of the last contraction. I decided to try the birth ball for a while. I laid over it during contractions and again, tried to keep my hands and arms limp. During these contractions, though, I felt a lot of different sensations that made me feel like I was further along than I really was. I was trembling in between contractions and feeling nauseous right after one would end. These are traditionally signs of transition (the last 2 cm of dilation).
I decided to tell my husband that I was ready for my midwives and sister to come over. It was about 5:30 pm.
After a lot of thought, I decided that I wanted my sister to act as my doula. She is not a doula, but has been at my last two births and is my best friend. She also can tell me things in a way so hat I hear them and has earned the right to talk to me a lot more frankly than most. She helped me in
my last birth try for just a little longer when no one else could talk sense into me. We had gone over all my birth wishes and she had hear me talk a number of times about my heart’s desire. She is also a great Christian woman and I only wanted those that could support me both physically and spiritually at my birth.
My sister arrived within the hour. By this point I had done the birth ball a little more and the toilet again. I remembered having a plastic hand massager in a bag in my closet, so I had rummaged it out and was using it on my lower back during contractions. I was not having back labor, but I did enjoy the extra pressure on my low back. When she arrived, I had her take over the massaging.
Shortly after she arrived, at 6:30pm my midwife Heather and Salli and midwife in training Randi also arrived.
They encouraged me to get in the shower again, so I did that again for about 25 minutes. I lay over the ball again, but at the peak of my contractions said that i was feeling a lot of pressure. Again, this threw me off a little because I thought that I might be getting closer to the end. I was not, but as soon as I got off the ball only 15 minutes later that sensation went away. I think because you are so open when lying over the ball that it caused more pressure in that area than other positions.
I went back to the bathroom to see if I could relieve some of the pressure i had on my bladder and ended up sitting there for another 15 minutes. Then into the bathtub. I was hesitant to use the water again because I was concerned about the hot water needed for the birthing pool. And sure enough when I was drawing the water, the temperature was far from ideal. Lucky I had told my husband to put those pots on the stove, because they ended up pouring all three big pots of boiling water into the tub and then it felt good.
I was a little disappointed with the bathtub because, even though it is a garden size tub, it is hard and not large enough to move your hips around a lot during contractions. At first I just lay still and used a cup to pour water over my belly. My sister brought me a glass of wine to sip on, and although I was not in need of calming down, I went ahead and downed it in two or three sips. I tried to move my hips from side to side, but as I said, this just wasn’t happening so I got out and tried the toilet for another couple of contractions.
I really didn’t know what I wanted to do next so I just walked around the bedroom for a couple of contractions. My midwife encouraged me to rest on the bed where they had chux laid out. I was hesitant because during my last labor I hated that position, but it just goes to show me that every labor is different. For another example, I loved the tub during my first two labors and this time, not so much.
I lie on my left side while my sister rubbed my back with the massager and Randi rubbed my feet with coconut oil. I was surprised I was able to do this for about half an hour without tensing
up. During one really intense contraction I had a big urge to push and bear down a little but luckily the power to throw up was stronger. I ended up throwing up for almost a minute but it felt surprisingly good to feel a different sensation from the contraction.
Needing again to relieve my bladder, I went back to the toilet. I stayed there about 10 minutes while I ate a slim fast bar. I loved the toilet during this labor. It felt so much better but I never wanted to stay in any position too long.
This is when things kicked into high gear.
I stood up and wasn’t sure again what I wanted to do. My sister told me that I should go enjoy the backyard, per my suggestion sheet, and despite the fact that I did not really want to (really I didn’t want to do anything at this point), I did. I walked out the bedroom for the first time since 2:30 pm and now at 9:10 pm, things had gotten dark, my older boys were in bed, and all was quiet. I walked out on our back patio and started walking immediately for the patio chairs that sat out on the lawn. I was planning on lying over one when the contraction hit, but once one started I found that I couldn’t stop. I kept walking.
This was a very interesting time because I was very very tired. My head hung down and curled towards my breast (very low) and my shoulders slumped over. I kept my eyes closed and took steps no longer than a couple of inches. I honestly thought I probably looked like a character from “The Walking Dead”. I sure felt like one.
My husband had run out to get some pizzas for everyone and had made it back. I looked into the house and saw him in the kitchen with the pizzas. i knew that the last thing that I would want is to come back into the house to push the baby out and have the house smell of greasy pizza so I told my sister to have him put it into the garage.
He then came outside. My sister said “Louis is here” and I almost made a joke that he better not call me a zombie, but I couldn’t get the words out. He later told me he was thinking he might say “better not let Rick see you” but he refrained. We obviously watch too much Walking Dead.
As I made my way closer to him I decided that I would lean on him for support. I put my arms around him and continued walking. This means that he was walking backwards but since we were going slower than a snails pace, there was no danger.
It was getting increasingly hard to fight the urge to push at the top of the contractions, but I knew it wasn’t time.
In my mind I was reaching the point of desperation. Surely my water would break soon. Surely something would change that would mean that it was over. Finally that something did. I started to feel something hanging between my legs so I reached down to find out what it was. When I looked at my hand, it was bloody and mucusy. I said “oh thank God!”. I knew this was the end of the dilating phase. Now, or within a few contractions, I would be complete. It was what I needed to push me through to the end.
I continued to walk for a few more contractions when I finally decided that I wanted Heather to check me. I knew that I needed that reassurance that I was in fact complete. I did not want to start pushing before it was time. I called Heather out and after she asked me if I was sure, she checked me and said I was 9 ½ and she thought I could just push past it. I told her that is what happened the first time and I started to swell. She still thought I could do it, but I decided to try one last thing. Knee/chest. I dropped down in the grass with my head on the ground and my butt up in the air for three contractions. This was intense. I was holding on for dear life onto the grass and blowing like a mad woman, but it was what I needed to try before trying to push in earnest.
After three contractions like this, I decided to give it a try. I sat up right where I was and started pushing. I think everyone thought I would deliver this baby in the grass in my backyard, but I knew that I was heading for the birth pool if this one push worked. Heather held back the little lip of cervix and the babies head slipped past it with ease and did not go back. With this news, I jumped up and headed in towards the birth pool.
It was 9:55. At the next contraction I gave it all I could.
I was leaning over the side in a pool and was sitting up on my knees. I pushed with all my might. I was quiet for a few pushes but got increasingly vocal. I was not scared or in pain (though the pressure of stretching and opening is extreme), but I needed to make these noises.
My sister encouraged me to reach down and I felt inside and could feel a little bit of the bag only a few inches in. It wasn’t long before that bag was at the perineum and then “pop”, the bag broke and babies head was in my hand. They said one more push and sure enough, with the next push he was born.
I grabbed him up, pushed myself back against the other side of the pool and cried out, “it’s over”.
I was so relieved to be finished. It took me a few seconds to even settle down enough to pay too much attention to my baby boy. Once I did, I just did what I have been doing for the last three years. I mothered him. I cleaned vernex off his eyes, talked to him and fell in love. Finally my beautiful baby boy that I carried in my womb for 39 weeks and 1 day was in my arms. He was perfect, and just like it did before with my first two sons, my heart doubled in size.
After about 30 minutes in the tub holding my baby boy, I decided I would hand him off to daddy and try to deliver the placenta. I rested in the tub for another 10 to 15 minutes before I decided it might be easier in the bed. Within a few minutes of moving to the bed, I pushed it out (no fun… I was supposed to be done pushing).
I got my homebirth, but the story didn’t end there, unfortunately. After only four hours at home, we decided to take baby Samuel to the hospital for oxygen treatment for what was later diagnosed as transient tachypnea of a newborn. I short term breathing issues caused by not getting all the fetal lung fluid out of his lungs during labor and birth. It was never dramatic, but we did spend 3 days in the NICU before we were able to return home again and finally get some needed rest.
After the experience I had with my first two birth, I finally had a win. Even with the transfer to the NICU, the experience was positive from beginning to end. I was so happy to be able to forget about labor and focus on my baby. That is what I missed during my first two births. I was so hurt and disappointed that I couldn’t give 100% to my new baby. This time, 100% was on him.
I owe a lot of thanks for the outcome of my birth. Yes, yes… I did the work, but I truly would not have had this opportunity with some help.
First and foremost, to my Creator God for allowing me to conceive and carry another wonderful blessing. He was the only power that could sustain me through the trials of pregnancy and labor. He was the one I leaned on during those contractions I just knew I couldn’t do myself. He was in my thoughts, and thanks to a lot of prayer from my church family and friends, I did it with Him.
My amazing midwife and team. Heather was a great support through my second pregnancy, believing in me the entire time, and even after I totally lost it during my that delivery, she still believed in me. She supported me in so many ways during this pregnancy and was the only reason I was able to attempt another homebirth. Her whole team from partner Salli, midwife in training Randi, and support staff Amy and April are amazing and made me feel like I was a special member of the family.
My sister, the best doula for me ever, without whom I would not have had nearly as “fun” and special of a birth experience as I did.
Finally, my husband who still supported me after all the previous drama and did not doubt my ability or sanity to want to do it again.
Now only if I can have a home birth and stay at home after it is all said and done… wells, there’s always a next time.