Ingrid sent in her beautiful home birth story to share…
Ocean, my three year old son, and I came home Friday night from a fun evening of hanging out with Ocean’s cousins, Emma and Andrew. We had all gone out for pizza and to the duck pond. I had felt pretty darn tired while we were out – I even had to ask Cecily to help me load Ocean into the car, which is normally something I can handle on my own just fine, but that night I felt especially beat. At any rate, when we got home, I went to the bathroom, and when I did I discovered my “mucus plug” had dislodged itself… oh boy! Behold the amazing mucus plug! This is one of the first signs of labor coming– tho… I also knew it could be very misleading as well. For when I lost my mucus plug with Ocean, it was still about 4-5 days til I actually went into labor with him.
So while I was excited to see a new sign that labor was near, I wasn’t sure what to think exactly – for I had just been through a false labor a couple weeks prior. I felt like the only thing that would make me believe labor was actually happening was if, well… labor was actually happening. But it was exciting enough to call my friend Mindy and to call my husband, and let them know, but I didn’t even bother the midwife or anyone else.
So I got Ocean into bed, and I pulled out my “what to expect when you’re expecting” book. I had him read his own book that night next to me while I brushed up on the topic of mucus plugs and bloody show. It was kind of nice to have us read our own books together in bed for once. Then I read him one book and shut off the light, and we quickly fell asleep.
I think I woke up around 1am… I was having some contractions, but at the time I wasn’t sure if that was what woke me up or if it was just one of my usual “night wakings”… I went to the bathroom and again discovered more mucusy/bloody show goodness. I noticed my contractions were a bit more “crampy” feeling – almost painful, but not quite. “Annoying” might be a better description than “painful.”
They were “annoying” enough that I finally decided to call the midwife at about 1:30am. I told her about the mucus plug and about my contractions. I hadn’t been up long enough to really time them and get a sense for them, but I figured I’d call her just in case this was enough information to go on. Turns out it wasn’t. She said, in a nice way, “I wish you had timed them before calling…” I felt bad – like I hadn’t done my homework or something. Ah well. I talked with her for about 10 minutes – noting to her when I was having them. They were only lasting about 30 seconds each, and I was able to talk through them with a bit of ease. With that information we figured – well, it might be EARLY labor, but probably not ACTIVE labor yet– as usually you think of active labor when the contractions last for at least a minute and they’re so intense you just can’t talk through them. So she told me to call her back if they start lengthening, and if they get more painful. I was fine with that proposal, and we hung up.
I puttered around the house, trying to tidy things up a little– just in case I were to have some visitors that night – and at some point, maybe 2am, I realized my contractions were getting in the way of my tidying. They were definitely more annoying – though still not super painful. I called my sister Kathy – I figured at least if it is early labor then she wouldn’t feel too bad about coming out, and she could probably just sleep in the guest room while I waited for this whole “active” labor thing to start. She answered the phone, and was on her way… it was about 2am.
While I waited for Kathy, I walked around and tidied up more (isn’t that what everyone does when they’re in labor?) but eventually I had to stop and only deal with my contractions. I laid down on the daybed in the playroom and worked through them. I still wasn’t entirely convinced they were “painful enough” to call the midwife, which is really rather silly in retrospect. Of course they were. At some point it felt like it had been a while since I had called Kathy, and so I called my friend Ann in case Kathy had gotten delayed somehow.
Ann is my neighbor and happens to be someone I went to grade school with as a child – she and I met in kindergarten – when I was only 4 years old. We hadn’t been in touch with each other since sixth grade, but we reconnected over Facebook just a few weeks ago. We realized that not only do we both live in Cazenovia now, but we actually live on the same street in Cazenovia – to boot, only about 6 or 7 houses down from each other! So we’ve been hanging out a bit since then, reconnecting and becoming friends, and in all of this reconnecting, she offered to come help with the labor somehow. So I had planned to call her when I felt like it was actually happening, and it seemed the time had come, so I called her and told her I needed her now. She headed right over.
In the meantime, I set up a little “camp” for myself in the back bathroom. I had been feeling nauseous and thought it’d be a good idea to be near a toilet. Between a contraction, I used that brief time to quickly lay out a bunch of towels out on the floor and I made a pseudo-pillow for myself out of a stack of towels as well. I turned on the little space heater, laid down on my left side just in time for my next contraction. Then I just “dealt” with my oncoming contractions. I would have gotten an actual pillow and the “right” towels – a stack I had gotten specifically for the labor – but it was all I had to just even set up this little space as it was.
I think Kathy and Ann arrived around the same time. Kathy, I think, got there first. I told her right away to call the midwife – as by then, sprawled on the bathroom floor, I was convinced this was definitely “real” labor, timing or no timing…for the contractions were actually giving me the shakes all over, and I couldn’t talk or even handle anyone touching me during them. I would have called her the midwife before that, but it was all my energy just setting up my little labor-space in the bathroom.
At this point you should know that I wasn’t at all concerned that the midwife might not have enough time to get here even though she lived over an hour away. Seriously I was still more worried about her coming too early. See, my first labor with Ocean was 43 hours long – and that’s only counting “Active” labor! It was crazy. Now I know they say your second labor is shorter than your first typically, so I was prepared/braced for a “normal” labor of like 24 hours. Even something like an 8 or 10 hour labor would have been a blessing – and of course that would be plenty of time for the midwife to get here – since I had just begun labor a couple of hours earlier. Oh how happy I am that I was wrong in estimating how long this labor would be…
Well, at this point it was a little after 3am…and now the midwife was on her way, and Kathy and Ann asked what they could do to help. Since I didn’t really want them touching me (no massaging or rubbing or anything), nor did I even want them talking to me (no “you’re doing great…” cheers) I really just wanted to be alone for the most part, so I sent them off to blow up this kiddie pool I had bought to possibly do a water birth in. I should have blown it up days earlier, but I figured since my labor would probably be 20 some odd hours, that should be enough time to get it blown up and filled up for the delivery. So they went off to deal with that project and periodically walked by the bathroom to check on me. They said later that I looked so calm and quiet in there that they assumed I had fallen asleep on the floor.
So there I was in the bathroom. I was laying on my left side facing away from the door. It was the most comfortable position for some reason. When a contraction would come on, I would say – either outloud quietly or in my head – “OPEN ….OPEN… OPEN” and I’d visualize in my head the contraction opening up the passage for the baby to come through. Sometimes I’d hold perfectly still through the contraction – on purpose, almost just to see if I could – and sometimes with that I’d start shaking all over my body – like a shiver when you’re cold only way more shaky. Those contractions are very powerful. Interestingly I found that the amount of pain I had while holding still was pretty much the same as when I moved around during it, and somehow holding still was actually more calming to me – and it definitely conserved more energy at least. This is probably why my sister and friend had thought I had fallen asleep – I was just holding so still during them and trying to relax myself as much as possible. I went deep into my head, visualizing an opening and repeating “open open open” to myself.
Sometimes during some contractions I’d pull up/open one of my legs with my arm. I’d say OPEN…and just in a sense “wish” that by this opening of my legs up and pulling upward in that way, I was somehow encouraging the baby to come through my legs – sort of like – “Here – I’ll make some room for you – just come out this way….”
It was during this time that I somehow got the impression that I wanted to push the baby out. I was so focused on opening and visualizing that I started to feel like I wanted to REALLY help the baby get out and thus I wanted to just start bearing down and pushing him out.
Intellectually I thought to myself – “No…no… it’s WAAAY too early to start any kind of pushing… “ for I knew that if you push when it’s too early, you could possibly be making things worse…thinking of people who pushed prematurely only to swell up their cervix and make it even harder/longer to get the baby out.
But boy, I really wanted to. I mean, I could tell I didn’t have to push…it wasn’t like my body was demanding it in an unstoppable way…. but the desire was definitely there.
My mind drifted to this farm nearby. I had just been there a few days earlier and had learned that a new calf had been born. I asked my friend, the farmer, about how the cow gave birth – what was her labor like? He said it was really fast – that he had left her alone for a little bit to go up to the house to get something, and when he came back, there she was – licking her newborn. I thought to myself at the time, “see- she just wanted to be left alone, given some privacy, so she could finish it up….”
So there…laying on the floor debating with myself whether or not to push, I thought, “Well, what would the cow do? Would the cow start pushing?” I thought – the cow would DEFINITLY start pushing. She wasn’t going to wait for the farmer midwife to arrive back to check her to tell her it was OK to push, she would just fricking push. So – I put my reservations aside and gave myself permission to do whatever felt right even if it seemed to make no sense. For how could I be in the push phase – I had only been in labor a couple of hours!
But I thought of the cow, and every time I got a contraction, I’d feel this point where I’d want to push right along with it, and so I did. After doing this a couple times, I felt down by my vagina to see if perhaps anything was actually happening down there. I felt a lot of mucusy gook, which I wasn’t quite sure what to make of… “was that just coming out anyway? Was it coming out as a result of the pushing?” I wiped it off on a towel and kept going.
I would get a contraction, and about 10-15 seconds into it, I’d, in a sense, “hear my turn” being called, and I would step up and start pushing/bearing down as hard as I could, whatever felt best… It was like one of those songs like “row row row your boat” – where the contraction would start the song, and I’d chime in a bit after it started with my own part, for there would be a definite spot in the contraction where I’d feel it was “my turn.”
After a few of these “melodies” I felt again at my vagina during the break between contractions to see if anything was happening. And one time – I ventured in a little with my finger (I know – gross!) and OH MY GOD – there was actually something solid in my vagina – the baby was RIGHT there – he made it past my cervix, into the vagina, and, wow – we really were in the “push phase” of labor after all! The cow was right….
Now you’d think I’d call for my sister and Ann at this point, but – well, I know this sounds nuts, but I didn’t WANT to. I felt like I was onto something here, and was making progress, and I didn’t want to stop or interrupt any of it to explain what the heck I was doing or what was happening. I didn’t even know if I could explain what was happening, I was so involved with it at that point. I just wanted to DO it. So I kept right on going. I kept singing that melody with my body – pushing when it was my turn to push, now fully confident that my pushes were doing something. Knowing that each push was doing something somehow made them a little less painful. With each one, I’d feel with my hand what was happening “down there”… and was excited to feel how each push was pushing him a little closer and closer to the exit. Eventually I could feel him emerging – and as he would come out a little bit, and then receed back in…. and at some point I realized he was still in his water sack – that is, the water hadn’t broken yet at all. Feeling him with my hand, it felt like a tight water balloon was emerging from me.
At this point, it was probably about 4:30am. I was pushing pushing pushing, and the head was almost all the way out, so I knew I had to be careful at this point – for if I went to rough or too fast with a push I could very well damage myself and create a rip. So I would push and feel carefully with my hand what was happening – how open I was, where the baby’s head was, etc. I even tried to push gentley around the opening with my fingers to ease the head out – using kind of a counter-pressure on it. It was very tricky – considering I couldn’t even see anything down there past my big belly, and I could barely reach it as it was. I’d push a little, feel a little, push a little… then the contraction would end, and I’d take my little break and wait for the “song” to begin again in a few moments.
Finally, with a push, the head came through completely, and I knew this was the end of the road. Somehow I could tell I had just one more push and the baby would be here. I needed someone to catch him. “HELLLLLLLP!!” I called for Ann and Kathy. I heard them both running from the other room, and I sort of smiled to myself knowing they were in for a BIG shock when they’d arrive. “HOLY SHIT” was what I heard Kathy say…and she’s not one to swear very often! I told her I needed her to get in there and catch the baby, for I was going to push it out shortly. Kathy didn’t hesitate for a moment and got right in there and kneeled down and gently held the baby’s head. Ann got on the phone to 911 and whipped out her camera. Amazingly Ann took pictures AND relayed all the info from 911 to Kathy. It was nutty. I have no idea how she did that. At some point when Kathy touched the baby or maybe as I pushed him out, the bag of water finally broke, and I heard and felt the gush of it while the baby slid right out in the stream. I remember telling Kathy not to pull the baby – I was afraid she thought she should pull him out or something, but she didn’t of course. She was extremely gentle.
Once he was out, I told Kathy to just put him on my stomach and cover him with a towel. DONE. Now where’s that midwife?
Ann, in the meantime was still on the phone with 911 and still relaying any instructions from them to Kathy – how to make sure the baby was breathing, etc. Kathy wiped his nose and mouth, and cleared any mucus from there. He was breathing fine…he had let out a little “squak” upon emerging and was now quietly resting on my belly, taking it all in. I was quietly resting on my back – taking it all in as well. Kathy mentioned later to me that anytime I spoke, the baby would raise his eyes up at me – as if he recognized my voice in particular, which, yea, he probably did.
A few moments later the 911 folks arrived – two very nice men – and started checking my blood pressure and things like that. They wrote on clipboards and joked with Kathy and Ann. It was clear that all was well – they could see that both baby and I were fine, and we knew the midwife would be there any second now. We made it clear to them we did not want to go to the hospital, which I think surprised them, but they were fine with that since everything was looking good and the midwife arrived shortly after them.
To be perfectly honest, I felt like she arrived at the perfect time. I was still laying on the floor, Forest on my belly, still contracting a little – for the placenta still needed to be delivered as well. She helped me with all of that. She clamped off the cord and cut it, helped me do my final push to get the placenta out, and she massaged my belly to get my uterus to tighten up. I liked that she was there for all the “cleanup” but that she was out of the way for the whole delivery. I know that sounds rather crazy, but what can I say? I am a do-it-yourself kind of person.
After all the cleanup, I got up and took a quick shower in the tub next to where I had just given birth– I looked like a giant bloody mucusy mess from the waist down. Kathy and Ann took turns holding baby Forest while I got cleaned up.
I was beaming the whole time in the shower… Can I say – I’ve never been prouder of myself in my life. I did it. I did it.. I did it! I wanted to do a little dance. I was also just SO incredibly relieved that it was all over… the wait was over…the wondering if everything would be OK was over… and best of all -the pain – oh the pain of labor was over. And it didn’t last for two days this time…it was only about 3 hours! I felt like I had won the lottery!
The rest of the night/morning was spent bonding with Forest and doing some procedural things with the midwife – like weighing him, measuring him, etc. I nursed him a little and he latched on great. He was so calm and alert – barely cried at all the whole morning. I myself felt fantastic –and the midwife happily reported I had only one very very minor tear from the whole thing, and not enough to warrant any stitches or anything. All that careful pushing paid off…phew.
Ocean…where was Ocean during all this? Asleep. Ocean slept through the whole ordeal. Even when the ambulance people arrived, he kept right on sleeping – for their arrival was probably the noisiest part of the night. At about 8am, Ocean wandered out of his room to find me. I was in the guest bedroom snuggled up with Forest. I told Ocean I had the baby while he was sleeping – and I invited him up on the bed to meet him. I unwrapped Forest a bit to show Ocean what he looked like, and Ocean immediately went for his foot and started to gently tickle him, saying “coochie, coochie coooooo…” I just about died from cuteness overload. Ocean gave him some kisses and tickled his feet some more. It was a perfect little first meeting….