On Sunday, January 12th at 6:34am, our son Harvey Adam was born into this world via the most perfect home water birth experience I could have ever asked for. My husband, initially on the fence about the entire home birth idea, has spent the days since telling everyone how awesome it was (200% better than our hospital experience) and how highly he would recommend our midwife and home birth in general. My heart is so full of happiness with the way this unfolded that I can barely believe it! Our son is healthy and perfect, and I feel so much peace and joy about this, our final birthing time experience. It’s incredible.
And now, the rest of the story. 🙂
Saturday, January 13th – 40w3d
I was 2 1/2 weeks more pregnant than I had ever been (Stella was born in the early morning at 38 weeks exactly), and I was starting to get nervous that I wouldn’t go into labor on my own before 42w. That scenario would necessitate transferring to a hospital for induction instead of being able to do a home birth, and I had my heart set on doing this at home. Even though I logically knew that I had 11 days for things to change, it was starting to freak me out that I felt weeks overdue instead of days. Every comment from people around me was some variation of “You’re still pregnant? Have you tried ____?”
That day my mother-in-law texted and offered to keep Stella for the night to give us a break, but for some reason I felt like I wanted to keep her close. If her little brother was going to be born that night, I knew that I wanted her around, and though I was feeling despondent about the chances of that happening, I also felt a little bit of hope. During my HypnoBabies birth visualizations, I had always envisioned a weekend birth in the early morning. It would be the most convenient time for our work schedules, for the birth photographer to make it, and for the people who were our backup to watch Stella & our dog if things got too intense & we didn’t want them around. Charlie also mentioned at some point on Saturday that he felt like Saturday night was going to be the night, and he said that he was thinking 3am would be the magic time.
That night before bed, I told Charlie that he had helped to get me pregnant, and he needed to help me get un-pregnant. This would be the last forced sex of our marriage, I promised. No more TTC sex, and no more trying to start labor sex. He whined a bit (I can’t say I blame him), I made fun of him for whining about it (he laughed at himself too), and then the deed was done. After playing some WordFeud (Scrabble) on our phones against each other, we turned out the lights and went to sleep.
Sunday, January 14th – 40w4d
2:30am: I was woken up by a tightening in my belly, and for some reason it felt a little different than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been having for weeks. I wasn’t sure though, so I pulled out my phone to start tracking things to see if I could see any sort of pattern that would indicate this was the real deal. For the next 30 minutes, the pressure waves were coming every 4-5 minutes, lasting 1 minute, and I was able to easily breath through them and use my finger drop cue to enter self-hypnosis to handle them. They started just 3 minutes apart with my first labor, so this didn’t feel too urgent for me, but I decided that since everything progressed so quickly last time that it was probably a good idea to keep timing them in case this was it!
3:00am: (The time my husband had projected for this birth – foreshadowing much?), I phoned the midwife to let them know that this birthing time seemed to be starting. Charlie made fun of me later because he said that he woke up to hearing me tell the midwife that he probably didn’t need to come yet, and the midwife & his wife (and birth assistant) basically laughed at me and said they’d be there ASAP with their sleeping bags. If things slowed down, no biggie, we’d all just get some sleep, but that based on my last birthing time they didn’t want to take any chances of missing the birth. Charlie said that he was about to call them himself and tell them to come if they had actually listened to me!
When I hung up the phone, I realized that Charlie had jumped out of bed and was haphazardly throwing on some clothes. When I asked him what in the world he was doing and told him to come back to bed to get some sleep, he told me had to get Stella over to our neighbor’s house. I told him it was 3am, she was dead asleep, and who knew how long this was take – so leave her the heck alone! He reluctantly agreed to leave Stella be, but he refused to come back to bed. Instead he started pacing the room, so I figured I should just get up too and make sure everything was in order downstairs for the birth. We spent the next 30 minutes grabbing last minute items from around the house in between my pressure waves. I’m sure it was quite the site to see me drop to my knees, drape my arms over my big, blue exercise ball, and switch to my Hypnobabies “center switch” to breath through the pressure waves every few minutes. Charlie was also providing counter pressure on my low back for many of the waves which helped a lot.
3:30am: The pressure waves suddenly increased to every 2-3 minutes, lasting 1 minute, so I called the birth photographer and told her that she had better get on the road. She lives about two hours away, and we didn’t want her to miss the birth! I wish I’d have told her that at 2:30 when I initially texted her to say that things seemed to be starting up, but we can’t change that now. 🙂
3:45am: Bill & Karen showed up and started bringing in all of their gear. It was pretty cool to see how much stuff is involved with ensuring we were prepared for the safest birth experience possible. It was also really nice that I didn’t have to do a darn thing other than make a phone call – no struggling through contractions in the car for me this time!
For the next half hour we were all walking around the living room and guest room, getting things set up, making sure we had all of the supplies in order, and generally getting excited that this birthing time was finally upon us! I was participating less & less in the conversation since the intensity was definitely increasing, and every 2-3 minutes I’d either lean over the birthing ball or drop to my hands and knees on the floor wherever I was at and deep breathe through the pressure wave with the help of my center switch. Charlie would push on my low back for counter pressure nearly every time – something he ended up doing for a long time that night!
*random side note* For being a pretty typical guy who doesn’t get very involved in planning/talking about birthing times, my husband is a ROCKSTAR during birth. He was so incredibly attentive and patient with me, even when I felt like I was saying “do this, no that, press there, not like that.” He’s just the greatest support a woman could ask for during a really intense experience in life, and I’m so grateful that he so easily stepped up to the plate for both of our births!
4:15-6:15am: I spent the next two hours laboring in the birthing tub that we had set up in our guest room. It takes a little over 3 hours to fill, and since everything went so quickly last time, we had decided to not take any chances and had filled it up a month ago. 🙂 It was a bit of a pain to drain & fill twice a week (to ensure there was always good, fresh water in it), but I am SO thankful we did that. I really wouldn’t have gotten a chance to use it otherwise. It was a really nice AquaDoula tub that has a heater built into the wall & a lid for the top, so it stayed perfectly at temp for as long as we needed it. I highly recommend it!
At this point time got pretty fuzzy for me. For most of the time I was on my hands & knees in the water, usually leaning on the edge of the tub with my forearms and resting my forehead on them. Charlie alternated between applying counter pressure on my low back and holding onto my upper arms, just for support. I just wanted his touch on me during the peaks of the waves!
At some point I decided I needed to vomit, and I jumped out of the tub and took the two steps into the bathroom. After a good puking session in there, I climbed back into the tub and never puked again (though I did feel like I had to a few times, but all that came out were some pretty impressive pregnancy burps).
Throughout this part of the process, Charlie and I were a total team and really into the zone. Bill & Karen were very hands off, and we even noticed at one point that he was dozing in the chair in the corner and she was dozing while sitting against the wall on the other side of the room. They told us later that the average labor they attend is 17 hours and they need to conserve their energy and mental acuity for when the real medical decision making is happening. During contractions, if things are going smoothly and the husband is supportive, there’s not much they can do, so they grab that time to rest. 🙂 My contractions were happening every couple of minutes and lasting at least half of that time, so I was working really hard on doing low vocalizations – mostly “ooooohhhhhhh” and “aaaaahhhhhhh” with a few “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck”s thrown in for the really intense waves!
About that – I feel like I had a harder time using my HypnoBabies techniques this time around during the transition phase. However, Charlie said that I was “a million times” calmer this birth, and the midwife and his birth assistant both commented multiple times about how great I did with staying calm and controlling my breathing and vocalizing throughout the entire birthing time. Apparently I felt more out of control in my head than I was letting on — or I was more in control than I remember? Birth is such a trippy experience.
At one point (maybe 5am?) I finally asked Bill to check me for the 1st time. I was so anxious to start pushing and have everything be over, and I was just praying that I was getting close. Charlie and I can’t remember exactly, but I think he said that he could feel my bag of waters and I was between an 8 and a 10 — almost fully effaced, with just a lip of cervix on the top that still needed to go. He told me that being on my hands and knees would be the best position to get that lip taken care of, so we just continued in the same manner that we had been for the previous hour – me leaning on the edge of the tub, and Charlie holding onto my arms and/or providing counter pressure.
Oh – I should probably document that the fish net unfortunately did get used. LOL. Thankfully my bowels were pretty much empty, but at one point I pushed a little during a wave and felt a release of pressure. I wasn’t sure if it was gas or poop, but considering how quickly Charlie ceased doing counter pressure during that wave, I figured out pretty quickly that it was poop. 🙂 I vaguely noticed him grab the little fish net, heard the toilet flush, and heard the tub water run when he rinsed the net off. That’s it, and he was back at my side in time to provide support for the next contraction. Like I said, he was a rock star!
Around 5:30 the photographer showed up, and I only vaguely remember noticing her walking in and being thankful she had made it. It was the final thing I had been waiting for I think – I really wanted her there for the birth, and I think a little part of me was afraid I’d go so fast that she’d miss the whole thing. I remember her apologizing once about the flash, and I told her I didn’t care, do whatever… and that was it. Other than that it was all about me and Charlie and the waves.
I finally got to the point around 6am that I started feeling pretty desperate, and I kept saying “I just want him out. When can I push, Bill? I just want him out!” Bill just quietly told me to listen to my body – that when I felt like pushing I could – and to keep taking slow, deep breaths. I remember him reminding me multiple times throughout those hours to relax my forehead and to take one extra, deep cleansing breath after each contraction had completely finished. It was honestly really helpful to have that extra focus at the end of the intensity each time. I do remember saying “I don’t know how the fuck women breathe their babies out” — and seeing Charlie and the photographer crack a smile. I’m glad I had a little sense of humor left in me at that point. 🙂
6:00-6:15am: I started telling Charlie I just wanted to sleep. I wanted to rest. I wanted to lay down. I decided that I needed to get out of the tub so that I could completely relax my body & rest between waves for a bit. I crawled out of the tub and onto the bed and laid in the fetal position on my right side. I was moaning that everything hurt, and Karen was checking the baby’s heart rate. The next contraction I felt like pushing, and when I bore down, I felt a huge pop and GUSH, my bag of waters broke all over the bed. Irony. Of course it didn’t break while I was in the water!
Bill told me that the baby’s heart rate was getting a little low in that position because I was laying with my knees together on my side still. He pulled my left leg up over his shoulder (he was kneeling at the foot of the bed – complete with a headlamp on his head for light *grin*), and he let me push through two more pressure waves like that. Karen continued to monitor the baby’s heart rate, and when it stayed too low he told me that I either had to go sit on the birthing stool or get back on my hands & knees in the pool in order to get more oxygen to the baby.
At that point I wanted to be back in the warm water more than anything, but I felt frozen, like I couldn’t move, like any millimeter of movement would cause pain so I just couldn’t do it. Poor Bill & Charlie ended up dragging my dead weight off the bed and back over the pool edge & into the water. I draped my upper body out of the water to catch my breath, and as soon as the next contraction started I was pushing. I don’t remember specifically pushing with the waves or between the waves. Sometimes I’d only count to 10 in my head while pushing, sometimes I’d do that 3x in a row with just quick breaths in between; I just went with what felt right at the time.
By now Bill was kneeling right next to the tub with his arms wrapped around me from my right side – one hand supporting me from the front, and one supporting my perineum from behind. He started telling me when to push an extra second or when to hold off for a bit to let myself stretch. It was SO hard to listen to him, but I really didn’t want to tear like I did with Stella (2nd degree), so I focused really hard on doing whatever he said and letting the ring of fire feeling slowly stretch and subside a bit.
Suddenly I knew that it was time to get him out, and I did one hard push to get his head out. Bill told me to hold off for a second to give his body a chance to turn to get his shoulders out. I had been hoping his body would just slip right out, and I remember feeling so overwhelmed that I was going to have to push his shoulders out too. With the next wave Bill coached me through pushing his shoulders out, and suddenly I felt this intense feeling of relief, and at 6:34am, I knew he was out!
Charlie told me later that Bill & Karen had told him where to stand and told him that because of the way I was leaning on the edge of the tub, the baby would probably come out behind me. Bill said he would pass the baby up in front of me between my legs and that Charlie needed to grab and pull him up out of the water. In the moment, we both were sort of in shock, and Bill & Karen said Harvey looked like he was just going to swim up out of the water himself! Finally we got our wits about us and I reached in and grabbed him out of the water. I flipped onto my back, pulled him in close, and marveled in the fact that it was done. I had my baby in my arms. I had just birthed my baby at home, and he was perfect!
Read Part 2 of the story