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My life changed on the first of May in the year 2015 wholly and completely. On that day at 4:29 in the afternoon, I welcomed my firstborn son into the world surrounded by friends, family and a fantastic birth team. The experience was so life-altering that I wanted to step outside, but for now this story will have to do. I knew way before my husband and I ever met that I wanted a homebirth. Want to know why? Click here. We wanted to be fully educated, so we took The Bradley Method classes. You can find more information on those classes and local instructors at www.bradleybirth.com. We did our research and took responsiblitilty for our own birth story. Here is how Michael was born at home.
Born at Home: Michael’s Birth Story
It was a day like any other. Contractions started at three in the afternoon and I convinced myself that they were just Braxton Hicks. After all, first time mothers that went into labor naturally usually went to 41 weeks and 1 day. There was no way I was in labor at 39 weeks 2 days. Everyone told me that first time mothers rarely went early and I clung to that idea because I simply was not ready.
I was supposed to pick up my husband from work at six so we could head straight to bible study at seven, so I cooked up spaghetti for dinner and left the house. The first contraction was recorded at 5:11pm and lasted just shy of a minute. They were still super mild and I could still do all my normal activities (like cooking, driving, talking etc). Contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and lasted about 45-60 seconds. My Bradley Teacher called them “interesting sensations” during class and at this point, I thought that was a perfect description.
When he got in the car, I handed him his dinner and told him what was happening. I made it a point to make sure he knew not to get too excited. I just wanted him to know in case he “caught” me recording them during group later.
Everything continued as normal. I was able to participate in the discussions, laugh with friends and by the end of the meeting, they had spaced out to approximately 8 minutes. With such a drastic change, I guessed they would taper off for the night and that would be the end of this episode of Braxton hicks. Boy was I wrong. I refused to time anymore for the rest of the night, thinking that they would fade. Around 11:30, we fell asleep for the night and I wondered if I would wake up in labor.
Only an hour later, I woke up to use the restroom. I felt a few contractions during the short time I was up, but again I brushed them off. Surely they would be stronger.
I once again woke up at 1:30am and used the restroom. This time I realized they continued, but they were still very mild. I reasoned that it was just night time and that’s when things seemed to happen anyways. Back to bed I went.
After another hour passed, I woke for the last time. The list of things to do to stop Braxton hicks crossed my mind and honestly I was tired of being woken every hour. I decided it was time for the annoying sensations to stop and started checking off the list:
- Eat something. I couldn’t think of anything to eat because I had planned on going to the grocery store that morning so our refrigerator was fairly empty of meal-type munchies. In the end, I settled for the only thing I could think of: Ritz crackers and cheese. Healthy? Not so much. But at least it had carbs for energy and protein and fats to hold me over until I woke up for breakfast.
- Drink something. This was not hard. I downed two massive cups of water easily due to my thirst. Still no change.
- Take a bath. The warm water felt glorious. I soaked for a good half hour and felt them ease away, or so I thought. As soon as I got out of the tub, they returned with a vengeance. Apparently, the water just felt that good. Good to know that it worked since I planned on a water birth.
- Take a walk. That was not happening at three in the morning all alone. Just no. So I moved onto the last option.
- Sleep. I returned to bed and laid down, assuming the relaxation position that we learned in our Bradley Method class. At first it felt good and I felt myself start slipping away, but then another contraction would hit.
They were too close for me to fall asleep again and too strong for me to sleep through. Around 3:30am, I pulled out my phone to begin timing them. They were 2:30-3:00 apart each time. I tried to wake my husband a few times, but he was sound asleep. Just after 4am, the strongest contraction gripped me and I realized this could really be it. At the height of the contraction, I called out to my husband, but he didn’t respond. Therefore, I did the only thing I could: I hit him. My hand flew out behind me to find him (I was facing the other direction) and I smacked his knee several times before he began to react. All I remember saying is, “I think this might be the real thing.”
Within a second, he was wide awake and asking what I needed. For a while, we tried relaxation, but it proved much more difficult than I could have imagined. No amount of massaged or sweet words could get the tension completely away, but he kept repeating the one thing I needed to hear over and over again: “You’re doing a great job.”
We contacted my mother at 4:05 and left her a message to call when she woke. She responded just fifteen minutes later, saying that she had been anxious all night and had been waking every forty minutes to check her phone. Her instincts were correct. We decided to wait until six to call the midwife unless things began getting more urgent. Meanwhile, Hubby made me a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios because the energy from my cheese and crackers was long gone. Those two hours were honestly the longest in the entire labor because we did nothing but wait, anxious and excited.
As soon as the clock hit six, we sent word to our Midwife. My mother arrived around 6:45 in the morning and started moving things around and setting everything up. I moved out to the couch and she made me a protein shake which I could barely drink. I stayed on the couch while Hubby and Mom set up the bedroom by lining the floor with plastic and pulling out the many supplies we had set aside.
The fuzzy children kept me company for those few contractions. All morning I labored and they grew stronger, but never regular. I was able to lay down for an hour or so and nap between contractions which had spaced back out to eight or nine minutes between. Eventually, I got annoyed at only getting two minute naps that I got up and resolved that I would not be sleeping again until I met our baby.
I tried to keep moving by rocking during contractions, but it was not easy when all I wanted to do was curl up and ride them through. Hubby noticed me moving less and less and suggested a walk to get things moving a bit faster. Honestly, it sounded like an awful idea, but when we saw the mailman arrive, I decided we could start with getting the mail. With Hubby and the dog in tow, I hauled myself up and shuffled to the mailbox. Feeling such a sense of satisfaction, I decided to leave the mail and continue walking around the cul-de-sac. We completed three laps with me sitting down on the curb during contractions before I got thirsty and had to return inside to guzzle down a few cups of water. The air conditioning won me over, so we stayed inside for the sake of comfort.
I was now going to the bathroom every half an hour and during one such visit around 1:00pm, I called urgently for a bowl and vomited the few crackers and cheese I had just eaten minutes before. My brain clicked and I remembered the story of my own birth and I knew it was time to call My Midwife who had been kept updated all morning. At first, Hubby just sent her a text, but I told him a call was required and that I thought I was going through transition. We also called my mother who had run to the store for a few things.
My Midwife, it turned out, was at her day job and wasn’t able to arrive until 2:30pm. At that point, I requested a cervical check, hoping that the number she would say was above five. Her face showed some surprise when she confirmed I was seven centimeters dilated. The backup midwife and doula were immediately notified. My midwife seemed convinced that it could be well into the night before the baby was born, but I instinctually knew it would probably be before dinner. Hubby kept me company, all the while encouraging me and telling me how proud he was of my progress and how excited he was to meet our child.
My Mother-in-Law arrived soon after and offered her assistance wherever she could; we gave her the task of timing contractions so Hubby could focus completely on me. My two best friends were the next to arrive. Lastly, my father walked through the door around 4:00 right after my body decided to push for the first time. I never felt the urge to push like I thought I would, but my body instead just decided to begin without warning. My midwife checked me once more and confirmed I was fully dilated and only had a tiny anterior lip on my cervix.
We used this kiddie pool that I got off amazon. (For my second birth, my midwife had a heated birth pool that she allowed all her mothers to use if they so desired. Not boiling water sounded like a good plan, but next time I will be going back to my first birth pool. It was much softer, with more padding and I LOVED that the sides were transparent so lights could be used to see everything clear.) I had already gotten in the pool, but it was entirely too cold due to our water hookups unknowingly being installed backwards. I decided to labor in the water regardless while they boiled water in an attempt to bring up the temperature to an appropriate level. Forcing myself into a squat, I had to rock back and forth to move the lip out of the way so baby could begin descending.
Unlike I was expecting, pushing was NOT my favorite part of labor. I had been looking forward to active labor so it would not be a waiting game and I could participate, but as soon as I tried to push the first time, I wished that I could go back to first stage labor. Compromising with my body (and listening to it), I refused to add my own pushes on top of the pushed my body was contributing. Each time I tried, it hurt beyond words and I knew it was not the best move for my body or my baby. My own hand supported myself as my baby moved down further into my birth canal.
At some point, I realized I could feel the head in my pelvis. At that point, I added a small push to a natural push and suddenly I had the sensation of a water balloon popping between my legs. Before my mind registered what had happened, my mouth announced that my water had broken. Only when the words had escaped my mouth did I look down to confirm that there was color in the water with the gush of fluids.
My hand was still supporting myself, but I felt a small bulge where there hadn’t been one before. It did not feel like a head, but then again I had never felt a newborn head in such an intimate location before. Looking back, I wish I had requested a mirror to see such an awesome sight because Hubby and my Midwife both announce they could see a hairy head. Only after they said that did I register that there was hair on that tiny little bulge.
Upon physically feeling how close we were to meeting our baby, my overwhelming urge to push finally arrived. It took several pushes before he fully crowned and I could feel the burn of the ever so popularized “Ring of Fire” shoot through me. During one good push, I knew the baby was not going to get all the way out that push and tried to stop, but the head stayed set with the burn still cutting through me. I bared down with all my strength and felt immediate relief as the head popped out.
I wish I had looked down to see my baby, but my focus was so intense and my euphoria so great that it did not cross my mind. My hand, however, explored my baby’s face and stroked the soft hair lightly for the few seconds before my last contraction forced the full body out and immediately all pressure disappeared. Hubby was behind me and pulled our baby out of the water. Before I even turned to see our child, I heard the first scream.
Since I gave birth on my hands and knees, turning was a bit difficult minding the umbilical cord. It was confusing, but I had guidance of those in attendance to help me swing my leg over the cord and I took my little one in my arms for the first time.
My mind was stuck on the same statement: “I just had a baby. I just had a baby. Holy graciousness, a child just popped out of my lady bits.”
The squirmy ball of flesh in my hands calmed at my chest and I giggled at all the “birthday frosting” that coated every inch of skin. A warm towel was wrapped around us both and I wondered if we had a son or daughter, but decided that it could wait until the fact we had a healthy baby had fully sunk into my brain. Cliché as it seems, I did count two eyes, two ears a nose and a mouth. I counted five fingers on each hand and was about to count toes when someone finally asked the big question: Boy or Girl?
Moving the towel made it quite obvious that we had a handsome little son. Everyone cheered at my announcement and excitedly started using gender-pronouns. I quietly continued my examination of his lean belly, pulsing cord and ten toes. I confirmed that all his body parts were present and perfect, he got wrapped back up. It was at this point that I felt my placenta detach and the water was suddenly dark. My midwife, with a sense of urgency in her voice, ushered me out of the water. It was not very easy standing with a slippery newborn, shaky legs and adrenaline rushing through my blood, but an undetermined amount of hands supported me as I stepped out of the water and onto the plastic lining our bedroom carpet.
Getting on the bed was a challenge itself due to its height (I had been struggling with it the entire last month of my pregnancy if that tells you anything) With help, I got up onto all the wet pads and liners that were laid out to keep the sheets clean. Since my placenta detached under water, the bleeding was rather significant and my Midwife began to get nervous. I never felt any sense of fear, but there was a rather large amount of bleeding. Fear struck me for the first time. As soon as my Midwife said the word “ambulance” due to the bleeding, I froze and felt a slight panic. The last thing I wanted to do after all that hard work was go to the hospital and be frowned upon for my homebirth and going natural.
My midwife was ready to call for assistance, but the backup midwife caused her to pause. Both looked at me and I remember my Midwife saying bluntly, “you can either stop bleeding or we can call 911.” It was an easy choice for me. I immediately said a quick prayer out loud for all to hear: “In the name of Jesus, I’m done bleeding.” What felt like seconds later, the bleeding slowed dramatically and I’m convinced that divine intervention was the answer. My midwife relaxed and the backup midwife simply smiled. With the blood loss significantly less, they were able to examine me to make sure there was no extreme damage.
I had three internal tears, probably caused by the few times I tried to bear down without feeling the need to push. One was a simple first degree and nothing to be concerned about, two were “dog-ear” tears that I could get corrected. If I wanted to go, I would need to head to the hospital within a few hours. Again, that was an easy decision to make and I decided to trust my body to heal itself just like I trusted it to grow and birth my son.
All the while, I was able to cuddle my new bundle and his instincts had him rooting around my chest trying to get his first meal. Latching him on with me on my back proved almost impossible, but everyone helped me scoot up on the bed so I could lean against my pillows in a reclined position. Once we figured out that first latch, he was nursing like a champ and kept going for a good half hour.
A little earlier, my Mother-in-Law had asked for his name. I gave her the same answer as I had given her the last nine months: “There is no name.. yet.” While he was feeding, Hubby came to whisper into my ear my favorite name on the list. During our discussions, he never seemed fond of the name so I could hardly believe he was making the suggestion now. Grinning ear to ear, I nodded and at three hours old, we introduced our son to his family:
Did you have a homebirth? Tell me in the comments! Want to be featured on this blog? Submit your story here.