I finally have the chance (however fleeting it may be) to post on our beautiful homebirth. It was everything I wanted it to be, and more. Those who know me know me understand my level for enthusiasm for things that impress me; so you aren't surprised when I say, "Even if you feel a little gun-shy of giving birth at home, look into it. Please. Look into it." It was an amazing experience; beautiful, calm, balanced; all in an extremely supportive environment. We don't know what we are missing as a society when we dismiss the value of midwives and the beauty of a well-managed homebirth. Of course, this is not to say that giving birth in a hospital does not have its place: it just seems that we are a bit lop-sided as a culture, when so many do not know their options (or are repulsed by them). Knowledge is power.
10/20 & 10/21 - D-day(s):
Things started rolling, I realize now, around 5 am on Saturday morning the 20th. I woke up to find myself peeing ever-so-slightly in bed. Just a little squirt, but it woke me up. I didn't think too much of it, since I've been getting up to urinate with extreme frequency the last few weeks. I got up, peed, and went back to bed. But looking back on it, I believe the amniotic sac sprung a leak. When I got up and started moving around that morning, I could tell something had changed. I had an ever-present urge to pee, I was urinating every 5-10 minutes and had a very hard time holding in my pee as I waddled to the bathroom. There was also a gel-like substance accompanying my frequent trips to the bathroom. I'm fairly certain I had sprung a slow leak: not a big gusher, but a trickle. I called the midwife, Judy, who said to keep her informed of any changes, particularly if contractions picked up. At this point, they were coming perhaps a couple of times an hour. Right before I called, I had taken a shower and realized that my belly had taken on a completely different shape than it had been the last several months. It had always been very high and misshapen: the right side being much higher than the left, but now it was much, much lower and completely round.
Later that morning, though I didn't have a strong desire to leave the house, I went to the library [a Saturday morning tradition] to pick up a hold, Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters. I got to the library just as it was closing, enabling me to make the dramatic declaration, "I'm so sorry, but I'm pretty sure that I'll be having my baby today and I don't know the next time I'll be able to make it in." The librarian graciously wrote down the numbers, as the system was already off. Ah yes, the drama. Other than that, I pretty much spent most of the day indoors, even though it was be-a-utiful outside. I washed newborn diapers, cleaned, and packed Starbeans' overnight bag; Squeeze spent his day home rototilling our new garden space for next year and splitting wood with his dad. Squeeze's parents were over for the day, working for us [bless them]: his mom weeded the neglected part of the vegetable garden and his dad overhauled the wood-splitter that they had just transported here from it's previous location in Wisconsin. Starbeans "helped" Gramma in the garden, tortured the poor baby kittens (who are very playful and curious now btw), took a nap, and played.
By 5 pm, contractions seemed to be coming every 10 minutes or less. I hadn't been keeping track, but it felt that way to me. They were getting more uncomfortable as well, but for some reason I still didn't believe that this was "it" and felt complete despair as we said good-bye to Squeeze's parents. I was so tired of being pregnant and I wanted things to start NOW. Nevertheless, around 6:30 I started timing my contractions. Sure enough, they were coming every 5-10 minutes. As the hours went on, they started averaging around every 6 minutes with more intensity (but I could still walk through them). I called the midwives around 9 pm; Judy was on the road, but would go home, pick up Kara, then head to our house. They expected to be there within 2-3 hours.
We called Squeeze's parents to come for Starbeans. At this point, he was so wound up and excited about going to Grandma and Bupa's house that he was literally shrieking with joy and running in circles. For a half hour. This was actually very hard on me. I felt like I needed to draw inward and focus, so having to deal with an over-excited toddler was really rough. I started to realize how glad I was that he was not going to be around. I still cried when he left, though. When he realized that I wasn't coming with him on his fantastic trip, he didn't cry, but he did whimper, "Mama..." Poor babe. He did great, though. They said that he didn't even cry on the way home, although he was a little dazed and very quiet. I cried going back into the house, thinking about how much would be changing over the course of the night. I still had the fears of feeling like Starbeans was going to be replaced and/or not knowing what it would be like to have more than one child to share myself with.
We went back inside and Squeeze lit a fire. I wanted to be WARM. Really warm. I huddled on the floor, breathing through contractions and feeling the intensity of the pain. At this point, contractions were coming every 4 minutes.
Then Squeeze came back in the room and I sat on a foot-stool, draping myself on his lap. He rubbed my back and tickled me through the contractions, which felt very nice. I was very intent on staying in an upright position in hopes that gravity would assist my quest in expelling this baby. Incidentally (or maybe not), I had read through the stages of labor the night before. This helped me stay calm and focused on the task at hand, with the refreshed knowledge of the purpose of each phase.
At this point I really wanted to take a hot shower, but couldn't until the midwives arrived (they had asked me not to because it can speed things along so much). I was very cold and had a blanket around me. Like I said, I wanted to be WARM. [I even hesitated on getting in the shower a few contractions after the midwives got here because I didn't want to be cold afterwards. Little did I know, I was just going to go straight into a warm bath (it was wonderful).]
The midwives arrived around midnight. They immediately set to work like a well-oiled machine. Each came to me, placing a firm and gentle hand on my back and checking to see how I was doing. They unloaded their stuff and began putting pressure on my lower back, where they said the ligaments of my uterus attached. It was amazingly effective for pain relief. It still hurt, of course, but not as bad. Judy even stuck a hand in the shower (once I got in there) and applied pressure to my back, which felt so good coupled with the hot water. In the shower, my contractions started coming every 2 minutes and I noticed that my mucous was now tinged pink. I felt up inside myself and I could feel the baby's hard head right there: it was a spectacular thing to touch, firm and round. I've touched the top of his head the last couple of days and marveled at the feel of it, knowing that is exactly what I felt inside the birth canal. Simply amazing.
Once all the hot water was used, I got into the tub. There was only a few inches of warm water left, but thankfully, the midwives had been heating up water on the stove for just that. [At the time, I was amazed that they knew it would be needed, but thinking about it now...of course they knew!! This is their job!] They also had a nifty drain-stopper that allowed the water-line of the tub to go a couple of inches from the top, covering me with warm water. It was lovely. They had a nice cushion for my back, so I was able to lean back and and labor in comfort. LOL - if that is possible. They put a washcloth on my belly and poured water over it during contractions as well as applying pressure to my lower back.
With each contraction, the pressure on my pelvic floor and butt increased. During what I now realize to be transition, I finally puked. I had been feeling nauseous towards the end of each contraction for the past hour at that point (aside from my time in the shower, I believe) and at the end of a specific contraction in the tub, my stomach balled up and out I spew. Kara comforted me, saying, "I know that was very unpleasant, but it is actually a very good sign." I didn't get what she was saying at the point, but now I know: transition. After throwing up, things progressed very swiftly.
All throughout the night, I was fully prepared to labor until 5 or 6 am. But suddenly [or, at least, it felt completely sudden to me - it probably didn't surprise the midwives], a contraction hit where I felt an irresistible physical urge to push. My body actually shook and pushed without me telling it to: it was an automatic reaction over which I had no control. Completely primal. Judy told me that if my body was telling me to push and that it felt "right", to push. With the next contraction, I felt an enormously unbearable feel of the need to poop. I had been fretting about that through the day, not wanting to poop, so feeling this was disturbing to me. I'm pretty sure it distracted me and I didn't push through this one, instead I shouted out (with my eyes closed, of course), "I think I'm going to poop!" I was mortified at the thought of a gigantic turd floating to the top of the tub and wanted to warn them (as if they haven't seen everything already). But Kara said, "That isn't a poop, that's your baby!"
This was unbelievably encouraging to me, to know that my baby was so close. The next contraction, the baby's head crowned; they told me to pant...pant...pant...not to push, because I was going to tear if I went too quickly. This was the first real push, as I was fighting it with the Poop Push. So I halted pushing as best I could and panted through the contraction, then rested on the downtime (hearing Judy say, "Pant...pant...pant" was so extremely helpful: it helped me focus). My eyes were closed during virtually this entire process. When the next contraction came on, I bore down heavily and OUT popped his head. Then I rested, forgetting that I could feel down there and touch his head if I wanted. Squeeze felt his head and then reminded me that I could too. "Oh yes," I said, and put my hand down there to feel his firm little head, silky with hair. It felt so wonderful. He was still underwater at this point, of course. I kept my hand on him through the next contraction and was able to feel him slip out of me. Kara brought him up to me and I cried (I'm not kidding), "Oh...my...goodness, it is so cute!" Then I put my hand down on his little bottom and said, almost weepy, "It's a boy...it's a boy."
My sweet baby boy.
The midwives immediately set to work: clearing his mouth and nose, covering him with a blanket, putting on his little hat. We admired him and marvelled and I, like a broken record, kept on repeating how I couldn't believe how fast it had gone and how easy it was. We snuggled, started nursing, and the midwives brought in a rocker into the bathroom for me to sit in and continue snuggling and nursing after the placenta was delivered. The cord wasn't cut until it stopped pulsating. When the placenta was delivered, I said, "Boy, is it nice to get that thing outta me." I know this because the midwives included it in their notes. Isn't that fabulous?? Their notes were a combination of professional and personal. I know exactly when things happened and our responses to them. This is invaluable to me.
While I sat in the rocker, the midwives drew an herbal bath for me, with comfrey leaf, sea salt, a tea tree mixture, and iodine. I got in the tub, the midwives put Pumpkin in with me, and I relaxed in the warm water. After a brief time, they took the baby out and set to work measuring and weighing him. Squeeze stood by, taking pictures. Then he dressed the baby, swaddled him, and went to the living room to snuggle. The midwives helped me out of the tub, assisted me to the bedroom where I dressed, then tucked me in bed. It was probably around 4 am at this point. They went through postnatal mama and baby care, instructing and advising; then we all went to bed. The midwives slept on couches; Squeeze, the baby, and me in our bed. It was lovely.
The next morning, the midwives got up, said goodbye and left around 9 am. I found out later that they were called to another birth within 15 minutes of leaving our place; they also had another birth the very next day, so these ladies had one wild weekend!!
With this, I will post my story. It felt like I was never going to finish it! And...I am completely zapped. In a future post, I will collect my thoughts and reflect on the richness of our homebirth. Truly, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I believe that being home was relaxing and strengthening to me; and things probably went more smoothly because of it. It was an empowering experience. Instead of being confused and/or at the mercy of hospital regulations, I was calm and extremely well taken care of by unbelievably intuitive midwives. It was a beautiful experience, one that I am extremely grateful for.