This post is a long time coming. Little Bear is just about nine months old now! Luckily, I jotted down notes about his birth not too long after it happened because I knew some of the details would be lost otherwise. This birth story has been approved by my husband for accuracy (if you’ve had a baby, you know how things just kind of get foggy at a certain point).
Also, I’d just like to mention that since this is a birth story, I’ll be talking about birth things and body parts. So if you’d like to avoid hearing about birth things and body parts, feel free to skip this blog post.
And this is going to be long. I didn’t want to break it up because it just felt right to me to keep it all together. So grab a cup of coffee or something.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 – Hurry Up and Wait
Around 2:00am, I got up to go to the bathroom (which, at this point, I was doing an insane amount of times every night). As soon as I hopped out of bed, I felt a pop and then immediately I started gushing from below.
I waddled my way into the bathroom and, lo and behold, my water had broken. Like, a lot. As in it wouldn’t stop leaking, so I spent a good amount of time in the bathroom until the whole process was over with.
I was in total shock at this point. I had absolutely zero signs of labor leading up to this. None. So to see that my water had broken (and knowing that your water breaking like that is actually not a common thing, even though it’s portrayed as otherwise in movies and on TV) was pretty surprising.
I headed back into the bedroom and woke up my husband and told him the news. I’ve never seen a man fly out of bed as fast as he did. With a shrug and a “I’m fine – nothing is really happening”, we both went back to sleep. We knew we’d need our rest for the day ahead of us because, obviously, our baby was going to be born on this day (or not)!
Once we got up in the morning (my husband took this day off), we gave our midwife a call and let her know what was up. Since I wasn’t feeling much – maybe a contraction here and there – we took a “wait and see” approach and told her we’d call her if anything changed.
Yeah. Nothing changed. Every so often I’d have contractions, but nothing was consistent or uncomfortable. So we spent the rest of the day just hanging out. I did some walking to try to get things going. We had a great big dinner (pizza and salad), called the midwife yet again to tell her everything was the same, and headed to bed.
Thursday, September 12, 2013 – More Waiting and Finally Some Action
On Thursday morning, I woke up – again – feeling relatively fine. I had some contractions throughout the night, but it wasn’t anything too intense. I just continued having sporadic contractions throughout the morning and tried to do everything I could to get things moving.
At this point, I started to get stressed out. I knew my water had broken. It had been over 24 hours since that happened. I was concerned for the baby’s safety in that there wasn’t a protective bag of waters at this point. But what I learned from our midwife was that amniotic fluid is always being created and it’s likely that not all of it was gone. Also, as long as I was doing fine (no fever) and the baby was doing fine (heartbeat is good), then there wasn’t anything to worry about in that moment. So, once again, I was able to relax a little bit.
We had been on the phone with our midwife pretty regularly throughout the day. She knew I was getting frustrated, so she offered a lot of reassuring words (I heard “get some rest” a lot).
She also put forth the idea that the baby wasn’t quite lined up right down there to be regularly dilating my cervix. I was starting to have regular contractions (mostly in my back – which, actually, is mostly where I felt contractions throughout the whole process), but they weren’t getting closer together or stronger. So she gave me an exercise to do. It’s called the “Open Knee-Chest Position”. Here’s what that’s all about. Basically, I was in this incredibly uncomfortable position for 45 minutes or so, which allowed the baby to back up a little bit and rotate slightly so the baby’s head would be hitting my cervix right-on and the contractions could be more productive. It was the most horrible part of my labor – but I knew it worked, because things started to pick up after that (not a lot, but some).
Our midwife stopped by that evening just to see how things were going. She let me know that I wasn’t really in active labor yet (which I knew, but hated hearing). She gave me some herbs (Black Cohosh and Blue Cohosh) to try to speed things up (with the recommendation that I don’t try until the morning, when I had had even more time to rest). She also suggested that I do a Hibiclens rinse, since it had been some time since my water had broken. Really, the risk of an infection after your water breaks is significantly reduced when you’re not being messed with down there (perk of a homebirth), but I did the rinse anyways just in case.
Around 9:00pm, as I was settling into bed for the night, things started to pick up. The contractions started to get more intense and a little bit closer together. I couldn’t sleep, and I knew I was keeping my husband awake, so I sent him out of the bedroom to go crash on the futon to get some rest.
For a few hours, I just soldiered through contractions in our bedroom on my own. I used a heating pad. I prayed. I inhaled Lavender essential oil. I bounced on our exercise ball. I listened to music. I watched TV (my husband had brought the TV upstairs for me). If I’m being honest, I found it much easier to labor on my own during this time. I thought I’d be wanting a lot of support during my labor – a lot of hands-on help – but really, it was quite the opposite. I went all “cat in the closet” and just wanted to be alone during that time.
But, of course, I reached a point where I needed my husband to help me stay calm. So I called him in and he started timing my contractions. They were five minutes apart.
Friday, September 13, 2013 – Today Is the Day!
My husband called our midwife around midnight and let her know that things had picked up. She said to give her a call back in an hour and let her know if the contractions were still at that pace (since my contractions were coming and going before this, she just wanted to make sure it was actually time to head to our house).
An hour later and things were still as intense. My husband called our midwife back, and she was on her way.
This is when I started to get frustrated. I felt like I couldn’t get comfortable (that’s labor for you). I felt everything in my back. I tried a lot of positions to try and relieve that back pain a little bit and nothing worked. I was barking at my husband to put pressure on my back during every contraction, but I couldn’t communicate what I needed when I needed it (I think I was a little bit demanding and less-than-sweet during this time to him). This is when the reality of “this is labor and it hurts” started to kick in for me.
About an hour or so after we called her (she lives that far away), our midwife showed up. She checked me and told me I was dilated to about a six. I was both annoyed (just a six!) to hear that, and happy to hear that (finally we’re getting somewhere!). After she checked me, she headed downstairs to get some sleep. After all, no one knew how long we were going to be at it.
Just being in our bedroom was starting to make me crazy, so I decided to go take a shower. Feeling the hot water on my back during contractions brought a ton of relief. I don’t know how long I was in that shower, but it was a long time. I think I even attempted to shave my legs (I have no idea why).
Eventually, I got out of the shower (pausing every couple of minutes to grab on to something to stabilize me through a contraction) and headed back to our bedroom to continue coping through contractions with my husband. I listened to more music. I switched positions often. I felt most comfortable on my knees leaning over the bed, on my hands and knees on the floor, and bouncing on my exercise ball.
Around 4:00am, the scene was this – me totally naked (I didn’t think I would be one of those women – but seriously, I hated clothes at the end) on our bedroom floor, dazed, and just trying to make it through as contraction after contraction hit me. This had to be the end. There was no break between contractions at this point.
All of a sudden, I felt the incredible urge to push. I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried. I told my husband how I was feeling and told him to get our midwife (later our midwife told us that she couldn’t believe I was actually ready to push – it hadn’t been very long since I was at six centimeters!).
Ever so calm, our midwife came upstairs and confirmed that I was ready to push (she could tell just by looking at me, I’m sure) and started preparing our bed (where I said I wanted to deliver the baby) and the room. As I coped with even stronger and faster contractions (I could feel the baby’s every movement at this point), I let out a, “I can’t do this!”. My midwife just stroked my arm gently and quietly said, “Yes, you can.” I’m positive that the quiet confidence of my husband and my midwife (and the grace of God) gave me the courage I needed to finish the job.
As the room and the bed were being prepared, I looked up at the ceiling and saw a huge black spider (the ones we get every year around season changes – I hate them). I remember staring at that spider for some time. Funny enough, I think it distracted me for a little bit from the intensity at this point in my labor. Eventually, I told my husband about the spider. He ignored me (I think he was focused on other things at this point).
Once everything was in place, I was helped to the bed. I reminded my husband about the spider (which had made its way to the other side of the room at this point, closer to me). He finally killed it for me – but he left the smashed spider guts on the ceiling! I get that he was focused on me and not missing anything, but that just drove me nuts and cleaning it off is one of the first things I made him do after the baby was born.
Our midwife took another look and confirmed once again that I was ready to push (which I already knew because I had been having that uncontrollable feeling of needing to push for a little while now).
Here’s something no one told me about childbirth – when it comes to the pushing phase, your contractions (or at least my contractions) slow down, giving you some time to catch your breath in-between intense bouts of pushing. So once I was helped on to the bed, I had a few minutes to catch my breath. When I step back and see how God designed childbirth, I see His grace and mercy in the slowing down of contractions at this point.
So, the contractions had slowed down to every couple of minutes. As the contractions built up and during the contractions, I would focus on pushing down towards my bottom (making horrendous noises that left my throat sore after). That instruction (push down towards my bottom) by my midwife really helped me focus all of my pushing efforts.
After I had been pushing for some time, my midwife checked me and saw that I had a cervical lip in the way, preventing me from being totally effective with my pushing. During a contraction, my midwife attempted to move the cervical lip out of the way (which hurt – a lot). Another check not too long after showed that the cervical lip had gotten in the way again, so she once again had to move it out of the way (this time it was successful).
Not too long after that, I was able to see the baby’s head with a mirror. I actually found that to be kind of distracting, so I just closed my eyes and focused on bringing this baby into the world.
Finally, He’s Here!
My midwife told me to really focus on the next push in order to get the baby’s head out – so I pushed with everything I had left, and out came the baby’s head and whole body (caught by the midwife) and the baby (a very loud screamer) was placed on my stomach.
I looked over to my husband and he was crying. The only thing I could muster to say was, “Is it a boy?!” (we had been told it was a girl, and then we were told it was a boy, so we weren’t sure what we were going to get). He confirmed that it was and I burst into tears (I wanted this baby so badly – boy or girl – but God knew that my heart’s desire was for a boy).
Little Bear latched on immediately and began to nurse. I delivered the placenta about 15 minutes later. I was in heaven staring at my little boy. I didn’t even notice my midwife attending to me at this point.
After the cord was done pulsing, my husband cut it. We just sat in bed staring at our little boy as he nursed. Eventually, my midwife inspected me for tearing (just a small one that didn’t even need stitched up), looked over the placenta, and did a newborn exam. Our little guy was 8 lbs 4 oz and 20.5 inches long.
The woozyness started to set in when the adrenaline started to wear off, so I started rehydrating (with water and coconut water popsicles). My midwife went downstairs to make me a protein-packed breakfast (scrambled eggs with cheese and ham). I started taking Arnica to help with the healing.
After some time had passed, I was helped to the restroom (another thing they don’t tell you – the second I stood up I was winded, probably because none of my organs were in the right place). Our midwife stayed for a couple of hours, did the laundry, gave us postpartum directions, and then left (we saw her the next day and several more times after that). Then we shared the news with friends and family and just laid in bed as a family of three. My mom arrived that night and stayed with us for several days (which was a huge help to us).
Looking Back on It All…
I know we made the right decision to have a homebirth. There’s no way I would have had such a gentle birth experience anywhere else. Being at home – in my own room, using my own bathroom, lying in my own bed – allowed me to relax and focus. It was such a blessing to bring Little Bear into the world that way.
Whenever the words “I can’t” cross my mind, I’m taken back to September 13, 2013 – and I remember just how strong I am (and how strong God has made me).