E/E

Our home birth story.


Ten months and some change ago, the greatest thing to ever happen to us as a couple (aside from the whole meeting and falling in love thing) took place in a little nook in our living room in rural Iowa. Once we finally realized a home birth was possible (you can read about our experience choosing a home birth here), the details all fell into place. Having our baby at home rooted us to the birth experience in ways I’d certainly hoped for – but loosely, not clinging to the idea of the ‘perfect birth.’ We rested comfortably in our decision and our intent.

I learned so much about myself and about our little one during the labor. This was the first thing we did together as a family! During the early stage of labor, I said something like, “Okay, little dude, here we go. We both have the same objective. Your dad and I are out here on the other side waiting to hold you. Let’s work together!” I made a little pact with him that we would help each other do our best. And that’s what we did.

Home birthing is a choice in reproductive health that it seems woman should have access to if they so desire, yet it’s surprisingly illegal, unavailable, viewed as archaic, or just plain hard to come by in many parts of America. While it’s not the right choice for everyone, having Lio at home was perfect for our family. I loved surrendering and following the lead of the ancient wiring inside the female body. Sharing this story is the simplest way I can contribute toward a growing dialogue to help women get out of hospital beds and to birth in the comfort of their own homes, if they so choose.

*Like all birth stories, this one has blood and mucus, and is pretty unrestricted in its graphic nature.

* * *

We were trying to watch The Truman Show. Let me back up.

Amilio had dropped the previous week, and I thought I’d have him at any moment – then a whole week passed where I felt great. Late at night, around 10 or 11, I would experience bad pains and cramping. We’d have to stop what we were doing so Adam could rub my back with a tennis ball and massage my feet and legs. Sometimes I would pose in hands-and-knees or side-lay for a while, trying to get comfortable til the scraping feeling of the baby’s head against my insides went away.

The day before I went into labor, I drank a rare cup of coffee and spent the whole day nesting. I’m definitely not usually obsessed with ‘cleanliness,’ but some force within me went right on ahead. I straightened and tidied until I couldn’t walk. When Hawk got home I had him vacuum under the kitchen sink, because I couldn’t get down there myself. It was a strange task, one I’d never done before or since, but which instinctually needed to be performed immediately. Looking back it’s funny that I was so insistent that every square inch of dust and dirt was removed right now.

Then it was Easter Sunday. I felt a little broken-down and was having a hard time moving and concentrating. I hadn’t gotten very good sleep. We went to the grocery store to shop for labor food, and it was too much for me. I was upset and wanted badly to get out of there. I felt like everyone was staring at me because I was so pregnant. We made it back home, and Adam’s mom and step dad brought over an Easter rabbit stuffed animal for the baby! At two p.m. I went to the bathroom and there was a small dot of bright pink blood. I happily informed Hawk that I was bleeding. He said, “Cool!” and nodded excitedly. I had some mild cramping and whatnot. I tried to take it easy, but I didn’t feel like laying down, and anyway I knew/thought labor could be hours, even days away.

We called our doula Maya to let her know. I said that I was having some mild contractions, nothing serious or even painful, and that I had a spot of blood. She talked to Hawk for awhile. Later when I peed I did notice some crusty spots of mucus at the bottom of the toilet. I didn’t bleed except for maybe two spots all day, of bright reddish pink.

The night rolled around. We went to bed and put The Truman Show on. We had not even started the movie when I had my first little contraction that felt like more of a “bang,” like a tune-up of sorts. Hawk asked if I wanted to pause the movie, and I said no. But a few seconds later, I changed my mind. It was just too much for me to focus. The contraction seemed like it lasted awhile compared to the little, crampy feelings I’d had the weeks prior.

Exactly ten minutes later, another one came. This time I timed it with the stopwatch on my cell phone: it was over a minute long and felt like a wave. It was intense enough that I had to stop the movie again and close my eyes. Hawk had to support me with words, and hold and rub my hands. We talked to Maya as she was going to bed, mentioning I had had my first strong, “real” contraction. She said to call her if anything happened!

Then, like clockwork, every four to five minutes I had another strong contraction where we had to pause the movie and take notice. Hawk got me to relax, and I would hold him and he’d hold me through them. After less than an hour of the movie, we decided to shut it off and try to get some sleep, since labor might be approaching the next day and we’d need our rest.

We flipped the movie off, but I couldn’t sleep. The contractions were regular and strong, lasting a minute to a minute and a half, and so heavy that I had to wake Hawk up to hold me through them and rub my hands. He slept in between the contractions, but I couldn’t. It was 11:30 when we talked to Maya on the phone and I’d had my first real contraction. By 1:30 or 2:00 I had given up on sleep. I couldn’t lay still; my body was antsy, and it was too painful to stay in one spot. I walked around the apartment and had to stop and take heed when I hit a contraction. They were still every four or five minutes apart and getting stronger.

I ran a hot bath and sat in it. It made the next few contractions much easier to get through, but it was also uncomfortable to sit in the tub for very long because of how hard it felt on my bottom and my expanding cervix. I got out of the tub and kept walking around the apartment. It started to feel like a hallucinogenic trip, where when things happen, it’s all much clearer than usual and the lines from point A to point B are very decisive, straightforward, clear and deliberate. I remember talking to Hawk and telling him I couldn’t sit still, and that I had to walk around. I lay down on the couch for awhile, and that felt better since it was a little cooler out there than in the bedroom. I had Hawk get a cold cloth that I could put on my head. The contractions really were getting strong now, and Hawk was helping me deal with them. By 2:30 or 3:00 we were both camped out in the living room, he on the floor, me laying on the couch uncomfortably with a washcloth on my forehead sweating it out. I couldn’t sit still. We talked about it and decided Hawk should go to bed while he could, and I would take another bath and see where I was at.

This time, the bath wasn’t as helpful. It was uncomfortable to sit on the hard porcelain, and I couldn’t get in a good position that felt okay on my legs and back and so forth. I decided that would be my last bath of labor simply because it wasn’t comfortable and got out. On my way out I had another contraction, so hard! They were getting stronger and stronger and had not ceased in intervals of four to five minutes apart.

I was starting to get a better handle on relaxing. I walked around the apartment, sat on the couch, sat by the couch, sat on my birth ball, and went to the bathroom several times, all while sustaining contractions that made me wince and moan very loudly. I was moaning and groaning, crying, “Oh, God,” and, “Oh, boy,” and trying to tell myself to “Relax, relax, relax,” at my body during a contraction, and “Open, open, open” to my cervix. The pain wasn’t like I thought it would be. It was spread throughout my body, centered from my cervix of course, but felt throughout. It came crashing like the waves.

At 4:00 or so I told Hawk to call Maya. I was pretty sure I would need her soon. I also begged him to call our midwife Sheryl, just to give her a heads up about how I felt. He called Maya and she said she’d be on her way shortly. At 4:45 I again asked him to call Sheryl, because she had told us she awoke at 4:30 every day. He said he would call her around 5. I said, “It is around five!” He hadn’t realized so much time had passed. He called Sheryl, who was lifting weights at home. She answered, he told her what was up, downplaying it a little I felt, and she said, “Great!” and thanked him and the conversation was that short, and they hung up. I was glad she was now in the loop, and felt a little like nobody realized how strong all this stuff was that was happening.

Between that time and when Maya showed up, I wanted to be left alone and was having a really hard time being in the same room as Hawk. I was so sensitive to energy. Even him looking at me distracted me, which made me irritated. I asked him to bring all the pillows into the living room, and changed into his infamous dark green dashiki. He made a perfect little nest for me next to the couch with pillows and blankets. I kept walking around, and asked him to please take Maya into the bedroom when she came, because although I definitely wanted her to be there, I felt like anyone’s assistance at all would be distracting. I had a lot to concentrate on and I didn’t want to think about other people.

Maya came around six a.m. I couldn’t even stand the thought of her knocking on the door, but Hawk was way ahead of me with his shoes and jacket on headed outside with our dog before she even showed up. They stayed outside and talked for awhile while he caught her up to speed. I was on the birth ball (an enormous-sized gray exercise ball) next to the couch at this point. I had every pillow stacked up in front of me, and my quilt on top that my mom made me out of all my old t-shirts, and was laying on the stack of pillows with my head in my arms. The birth ball felt amazing and was the only place I could sit with any relative comfort. My contractions were strong, steady, and very overwhelming.
I was saying things very loudly, moaning, and kept telling myself to “relax” and my cervix to “open.” I said, “Oh, fuck,” once or twice, but it felt so bad and mean and terrible to swear, and really cheap, so I didn’t again. I also said “Oh, God,” a few times, but that felt cheap, too. So I stuck to words like “Oh, boy,” and “oh, dear,” and moaned and panted and stuff through the contractions. I started really enjoying practicing my own ability to work through the rushes and to use them to mentally and physically get the baby out, since that was their purpose.

When Maya came inside, I was in the middle of a contraction. It felt like my insides were on fire, and the strength of that was pretty overwhelming. She asked if there was anything she could do and I asked her to scratch my back. During my next rushes, Maya spread her hands all along my back and placed them to line up with the small of my back. I felt all the energy concentrate there, and it felt SO good. I was feeding off her female vibes, her calmness, her touch, her energy. It felt great to have someone there who had been through this before (she had done a home birth with the same midwife a few months prior). She touched that central place on my lower back during the next several rushes, and it felt so relieving and good to have my energy concentrated. It renewed me.

Earlier on in the night I had a hard time not resisting the contractions; I told Maya this, that it was hard not to resist them, but that it felt better when I relaxed, though relaxing was pretty hard to do. I told her I was bleeding quite a bit at this point – I had to go to the bathroom several times. There was a lot of bloody mucus. I told her this, and said, “It’s probably normal, right?” and she said, “That’s good. You’re getting all that stuff out of the way for the baby to get here.” She kept saying things like that. It was so reassuring. She said, “Can I make you a piece of toast?” I declined. A little later, she said, “Can I get you something to eat? We don’t want you pushing that baby out on an empty stomach.” I told her there were some animal crackers on the shelf by the fridge; I ended up eating about three of them. I also drank a few sips of her Morning Blend juice.

The contractions continued! Of course they did. I was tripping pretty hard, going way out there with my thoughts and ideas. It was things I’d never think about on a regular day, totally hallucinogenic. I remember being really grateful that I didn’t have to decide when to go to the hospital, or deal with people once we got there, or talk to anyone or situate myself with any hospital stuff. I was as comfortable as I could be, in clothes I wanted, in my own living room, with just the right amount of light (none, except what snuck through the blinds) and the right amount and kinds of energy.

I remember Maya looking through the blinds, saying, “It’s going to be a beautiful day out there!” And I said, “Good.” That reminded me that there was still a world outside. Amilio had chosen the one sunny day within almost two weeks of rain to emerge. I was able to talk between contractions and was pretty with it, but while they were going on I was way out there, pretty much hallucinating with my head stuck in all the pillows and the blanket.

Maya kept telling me how good I was doing and asking me what I was thinking about during the contractions. I said I was channeling many strong women! I thought of Chela, my Great Aunt Amelia who Lio is named after, my Aunt Faye, one of my best friends Misty, and several other women who are very resilient. Channeling their energy was great. I was also thinking about all the women who were giving birth at that exact same time, and when I had a contraction I felt like someone else in the world must be going through the same thing, somewhere! Probably many women! Maya said she’d had an image when she walked through the door of me in a woodsy clearing around a fire with all the other birthing women; she began to describe her vision. Then a contraction started and that was as far as she got.

I was feeling the shudders of my cervix! I was still saying, “open, open, open,” to my cervix to ease it along, and “relax, relax,” to my body. I think that really helped. I had no idea how much I was dilated, but at a certain point, I could totally feel the earthquake of my cervix spreading apart starting in the middle and going to the end of every contraction. It shook and rattled and burned, and I could literally feel it parting. What a wild sensation! It felt really good. I think I told Maya that I felt that. She said to try to rock back and forth on the ball to help it spread apart, but that hurt too bad except for some of the in-between times. At this point, the peaks were so strong that even the “rests” in between were not really pauses, just less extreme contractions that I could breathe somewhat more easily through.

I asked Maya if she’d talked to Sheryl. She said no, that Hawk had, but I told her that was at 5 am! It was probably around 7:30 at this point. I asked her to call Sheryl, and I think they talked briefly, saying my contractions were every few minutes.

All this time I was experimenting with my voice. I found if I used very low moans and singing, that it resonated with my cervix and the rushes. Higher frequencies were not as soothing or appealing. So I was singing, all throughout my contractions, the same note or series of notes, humming and “mmm” ing and giving deep throat guttural sounds and light panting notes. All kinds of notes! Maya said I was singing the baby out. Somehow the chanting rhythm of the lowest notes I could make with my throat was a relieving contrast/companion to the pain.

I got up to use the bathroom. I had a contraction on the toilet and another one on the way back into the living room. Maya held me standing up through it. That felt good. Then I took one look at the floor next to the birthing ball, and felt suddenly that this was the place to be. I knew that I could no longer sit and rock, but that I had to be on my knees. I got on my knees and put my elbows on the couch in front of me and leaned into my arms. This was just what my body was telling me to do. It felt good, better. Maya slipped a pillow under my knees even though I was oblivious to the force of my body on the ground. The very next contraction, I felt something billowing inside me, coming out, like a balloon. It was my water, and it exploded, bursting all over my legs and gushing over my thighs and onto the floor and the pillow. It didn’t hurt. It felt kind of relieving. It was also surprising. I had forgotten about the whole ‘water breaking’ thing. I asked Maya to get some towels from the bathroom, and she put them all around me. She said there wasn’t a lot of fluid, which seemed weird to me because it had felt like a lot and was still trickling out between contractions. Maya asked if she should cut off my underwear, and I said no, it was fine, but a minute later I realized I was about to have a baby, and changed my mind.

From the moment my water broke, the contractions changed! They were no longer cervix-shuddering with one overlapping the next. Now they were clearly telling me, “push.” They were widening and deepening instead of stretching and pulling. There were lulls between them, a minute or two where I could genuinely rest and wait for the next one. I sat the next few contractions out, screaming and moaning wildly, not able to control my voice but feeling GREAT instead of being in so much pain. Though I doubt Hawk and Maya could tell from my screeching, I was experiencing a huge sense of bodily relief that was nowhere near as harsh as the cervix-expanding contractions had been. These contractions, simply put, felt progressive, purposeful, and amazing.

Maya called Sheryl and told her my water had broken, and that I felt like pushing! They said they didn’t realize how far along I was because I was handling it so well. (Woot woot!) Sheryl was kinda far away but they did a good job of making it seem like she was really close. It felt so good to be having these pushing contractions, that I kind of snuck a few test-pushes in there, even though Maya asked me to wait til Sheryl got there. Every contraction felt great, and I wanted to use them, lest they go away! So I kind of secretly started to push. I couldn’t control the wild sounds that came out of my mouth. It felt so amazing, celebratory, just excellent! It felt strong and remarkable. To my total astonishment, I was no longer feeling “pain.” My muscles were working in ways they never had before, and it certainly felt strange, but didn’t “hurt.” What’s best is I could rest for a few minutes between contractions, and then I could look forward to the next one, instead of bracing myself for relaxation (a little oxymoronic).

Sheryl was a ways away, but like I said they kept me to believe she would be there soon, which I’m glad for. I staved off some pushing and didn’t stave off some others, maybe I pushed 1/3 as much as I could have. I was just testing it out. I told Maya I had to poop and she said, “Sheryl said not to poop, because you might poop the baby out!” I felt like I was pooping when I pushed, but Maya said I wasn’t, which was really confusing to me at the time. Later I would realize, it wasn’t poop – that was my baby’s head! Maya told Hawk I felt the urge to push. He was up and around the apartment a few times to check on me, and each time I was keenly aware and super excited but also wanted him to go back to the bedroom!

I wanted Sheryl to get there and I thought maybe the baby would be born before she showed up. I consciously realized I could have the baby at any time, and wondered if I should just push him out so I could say we’d done it all ourselves. I decided not to! Maya asked if I was pushing and I said, “No, well kind of, it feels so good to push!” She didn’t tell me not to and I think she could tell I was holding off. I think it was 9:15, maybe a little after when Sheryl got there. My water had probably broken around 7:45 or so. When she walked through the door I was having a contraction. She took one look at me and knew where I was at. She just walked right in and assessed me. I said, “Hi Sheryl. I feel the urge to push.” She said, “You probably should.” I tried to negotiate with her about whether she should do a vaginal exam. She said, “If he’s where I think he is, I won’t have to reach very far.” It was true. She could feel his head with the tops of her fingers, just inches up in there! I could feel him moving down. So I started to push, 100%, still on hands and knees, with Sheryl coaching me. Hawk sat beside me on the floor and I was just pushing away, greeting every new pushing contraction with an awesome rush of energy and love. It still felt so good! Not painful, just nice. They put the plastic and all of the underpads and whatnot around me very quietly.

Sheryl suggested I turn around. She thought it would be easier for me to feel which area to focus on while pushing. Maya had to show me how to sit because the verbal instructions didn’t make any sense, probably from lack of sleep. I finally sat on my butt with my legs open. Then I saw everyone, and it felt so good to see their faces and to communicate. I wasn’t alone anymore, I was with two great women and a great dude who could help me, like a little birthing community. Chamero was outside. Hawk said he was yipping while I was pushing, but I didn’t hear him! He was guarding me during my earlier contractions, or with Hawk in the other room, not whining or worried, being a very good dog.
There were about four more contractions before Amilio was born. I could feel him moving down the birth canal. It still didn’t hurt. I used each contraction. Sheryl had checked his heartbeat a few times while I was on hands and knees, and now she put the stethoscope on my pubic bone, which was great, because then I knew how close I was! He sounded good, like a happy baby. I felt him slide back up a little those last few pushes, and I didn’t want him to slide all the way back up! So I was trying very hard to get him to come out. Hawk saw his little walnut head, and I reached down and felt it. Sheryl had me push and hold the last few times, to stretch my stuffs (and I did not tear! Woohoo!) and then I spat out the baby!

It was 10:30 exactly. I didn’t even feel him slide out. He came sliding out, real smooth, into my hands, and Sheryl lifted him up with all our hands on him and put him on my stomach. He was awesome and kinda whitish from the birth stuff, and so cute and loving and adorable right away. The cord felt weird going over my vagina into my insides. Like, holy Moses, this baby just came from inside of me! Kinda alien. It stopped pulsating almost right away. He was quietly sucking his thumb, nestling into my chest, not crying at all. I was saying how cute it was that he was sucking his thumb, and Sheryl suggested I put him on my boob. I did, and he started sucking right away, just like in several dreams I’d had while pregnant.

Four minutes later (which felt like thirty seconds) Sheryl told me to push. I said, “Like I did before?” “Yes,” and out popped the placenta. She showed it to us. You could see the hole in the embryonic sack where my water had broken, and the thicker and thinner parts of the sack. Lio was quiet, he didn’t cry yet. Hawk cut the cord and Sheryl showed us the arteries and vessels in that, too, like a smiley face. I had thought all this stuff would’ve grossed me out, but I was actually really excited about it. Sheryl was more than happy to give us a little educational anatomy lesson.

Maya and Sheryl drew a bath for me and the baby, and we bathed for an hour, it was wild. He nursed the whole time, trying to get something, while Hawk sat by my side and we alternately grinned and shook our heads at each other. Sheryl and Maya cleaned up the living room. I hadn’t bled much, about a half a cup, Sheryl thought. They tidied up the room and put all the laundry in a basket, then had Hawk get clothes for me and the baby. Sheryl came into the bathroom to see how we were doing. After awhile she took the baby, who squinted and put his hands in front of his face and shouted what sounded like, “Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay!” as she took him back to the living room to weigh and measure him. This made us laugh in wonder.

I got dressed with Hawk’s help. We rejoined Sheryl in the living room. Lio was eight and three-quarters pounds and twenty-one inches long. Sheryl said he had one of the biggest heads she’d ever birthed! He was healthy and looked great.
Afterward we sat and talked and drank tea while I nursed the baby. I was beaming. I just felt so alive and warm and incredible. I said, “That was FUN!” They thought that was funny. Sheryl said, “I don’t think anybody’s ever said that before.” They kept telling me what a great job I’d done. I was so proud of our new little family. What we’d been waiting for for forty weeks and five days finally made it here, and made us feel so complete.

After maybe another hour of chatting, Sheryl and Maya left, telling us to sleep as soon as the baby went to sleep to catch up on rest. But we couldn’t! Lio passed out in his bassinet, making little happy baby noises, but Hawk and I just lay there, grinning. We kept sitting up to whisper to each other about different parts of the labor, and what this or that had felt like, and what each of us had felt at certain times. I could finally talk about what had happened, and filled him in on what had been going through my head. We recapped each and every moment of the birth, and I shared some of my experiences about how it had felt that I wasn’t able to communicate at the time. We kept laughing and staring at the little guy, gasping with amazement and surprise whenever he twitched or sneezed or so much as moved a finger.

We were so pleased with how everything had gone. We felt good about the simplicity of the experience. The whole time I was in labor I was appreciative of the fact that I was at home. I distinctly remember thinking that if I’d had to to look for a light switch in an unfamiliar bathroom, that that would’ve absolutely pushed me over the edge! I didn’t have to think about being interrupted by people to check my “progress,” or about possibly being offered pain medication (because I might have accepted it!). I could go at my own pace, really trusting and listening to my body instead of to someone who wasn’t feeling what I was feeling. The whole transition from at first resisting the pain, to accepting it, to finally celebrating it, was kind of awesome, and also a totally new and empowering experience. I love that Maya, Sheryl, Hawk, and myself all trusted in my body. If we ever decide to have another kid, I’d do a home birth again in a heartbeat. For myself, I can’t imagine any other way.

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5 Comments»

  Kristi wrote @

Thank you so much for sharing this! What a beautiful morning read :) woman are completely amazing beings. I unfortunatly am in a area where homebirths are not allowed nor are midwifes even allowed in the hospital. This makes me beyond frustrated. I have had three children in carbondale hospital and would love more than anything to experience the fourth at home.

  Kristina Nickel wrote @

It’s so strange how reading your story makes me look forward to the next time I get to give birth! I had a similarly great experience. So much of your story resonates with how I felt throughout the day of Veronica’s birth.

  sarah johnson wrote @

Thank you.

  katey p wrote @

Wow, look at these comments from beautiful mamas! Woo woo!

Kristi – I hear you. I just learned about Illinois’ birth ‘rules,’ which is part of why I wanted to post this story. A birthing is magic regardless of where it happens, for sure, but it’s so disappointing (and frustrating, as you said) that you can’t make the choice for yourself. The longer I think about it, the more ‘wtf?!’ it makes me feel! Are birth centers legal in IL? I know insurance is another big issue — after conquering medical legality comes the question of again being validated by insurance institutions. I feel a lot of gratitude toward accidentally being in Iowa. I’m so looking forward to your impending family of six!!!!!! (one exclamation mark per person :)) xxo.

Kristina – That’s awesome that you could relate! Thank you! Working on this play-by-play gave me some serious baby fever, too. I’m in love with the idea of looking forward to an upcoming birth experience. I remember being so psyched before Lio was born – not knowing anything about how it would play out, but enraptured by the outcome and the idea of the challenge. Thanks for reading and sharing. Love to your family!

Sarah J – Thank YOU, sweet mama! xoxo! & <3

  nikki @ clickclackgorilla wrote @

WOOT!!! Awesome to finally read a play by play of this. What a great story. Yeah you! Yeah Lio! Yeah Hawk! If we ever decide to have any more kids I am going to have to read this story over and over again since my pushing experience was pretty much the polar opposite of this, and I’m kind of pushing traumatized by it…totally terrified of having to face that part of a birth again. Always helpful to read about some of the other ways it can go down to quiet the fear.


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