It's funny how we can spend so much time planning and imagining every detail of a long awaited moment... But when it comes down to it, it happens exactly the way it's supposed to.
Since before we even conceived Baby GB, when she was still only a hope for the future, I always pictured my homebirth completely different: At the first sign of labor, my husband would sage the room...no, the whole house. We'd have our incense and music and I would be all over the place, going about daily life and posing in every labor position in the book with each contraction, while birth affirmations were repeated to me like mantras. It seems so silly to me now!
Baby Gummy Bear's birth was perfect.
Days before I went into labor, I felt drawn to stay in my room as much as possible. I had been a little sick and just wanted to stay in bed and rest those days. One morning, 2 days before I went into labor, I went to back to sleep while having strong regular contractions, and I had a very vivid dream. I dreamed that I woke up and I was in transition, I knew the baby was coming, and she arrived very quickly, within just a few pushes. In my dream, my baby was born in the caul (membranes intact) and it was a girl (we never found out the gender of our baby). I was so sad that my labor had happened so fast. But my midwife arrived very quickly and also the birth photographer and they did the best they could to make the best of everything. I woke up, so relieved it was only a dream, and the contractions had stopped. Later that day I texted both my husband and my midwife about the dream I had. The dream made me realize that the entire experience of having a homebirth... having the support of my husband and my midwife and being in the birthing tub and listening to music.. Those things were also important to me, more than just "getting the baby out". (being overdue, I had been feeling quite impatient to have the baby, I tried so many ridiculous "natural induction tricks" to no avail). After that dream, I gave up all efforts to encourage labor, and I decided to let my baby come on its own perfect time.
I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant.
The first thing the morning before, I had a bloody show. But other than a few hard but irregular contractions, and pink-tinged TP, nothing really happened. I got Nuni to sleep that night and spent some quality time with BluJay. I felt very restless that night, so I stayed up. Around 1 am or so, I realized that the contractions I was having were really getting intense. I laid there moaning lowly through contractions for a while while BluJay and Nuni slept. I began timing them on a phone app, and found that my contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart, lasting about a minute.. And within the hour, they got closer to 3-5 minutes apart. I realized I had not eaten for several hours, and I didn't want to go into labor hungry, so I ate a bowl of organic "toasted oats" (like Cheerios) and milk. Around 3:45 am, I decided to text my midwife and let her know that the contractions were intense and that I was going to take a shower for some relief. The shower felt so nice and made the contractions feel less intense, but they were still coming regularly. After a little while, I got out, and as I was drying off, the contractions were much more intense, causing me to stop everything. I couldn't talk or walk through them at all.
I finally woke up BluJay, telling him I'm pretty sure I was in labor. He checked his phone, it was about 4am. He kept trying to go back to sleep, but I finally insisted that I needed his support, so he got a Jones Soda cola, which we shared with hopes that the caffeine would give us an energy boost. I lit candles in the room and BluJay lit an incense in the living room for the occasion, but I didn't feel like leaving our bedroom much. I walked into the living room once and I swore that getting out of my "comfort zone" made the contractions hurt more, so I didn't leave the room again. I started bouncing on the birthing ball, but I had to stop through each contraction, as they were getting so intense. I kept reminding myself to breathe deeply, to allow oxygen to flow through my body. My husband brought in our labor and birth boxes into our room and got out some of our coping items.. I grew very fond of the two tennis balls in a tube sock.. It was amazing. At this point, I was now kneeling on the floor, leaning over either the edge of the bed or the birthing ball, while my husband pressed and rolled the tennis balls against my lower back during contractions, which helped tremendously. Nuni soon woke up and he was being amazingly good for us. Soon he chose to assist my husband in comforting me. He would rub his little hands on my back while I was having a contraction, and he would say in his sweet little toddler voice "it okay mommy. It okay." The love that flowed through his little hands to my laboring back literally eased the pain of the contractions entirely a few times. It was incredible.
We texted the midwife to head our way around 5am. She lives over an hour away, but I realized that time seriously flies when you're in labor! It didn't seem like long at all, but at around 6:45am, our amazing midwife Shannon, her doula assistant Trina, and the birth photographer Abby, were walking into the room, carrying loads of supplies. I had just begun getting very nauseous and was throwing up with contractions. I was so relieved when everyone showed up, and it was great to see friendly smiling kind faces. Shannon checked my vitals and we were all very relieved to find that my blood pressure was perfect! (the weeks before, my BP had been high, and we were worried it may present a problem in labor). Baby's heartbeat was perfect as well. Abby asked me if there was anything I wasn't comfortable with her photographing. I told her to go ahead and capture it all! I had never seen pictures of any of my births before and I was finally ready to see the process! A little while later, as I labored across my bed and began feeling nauseous, I turned around and jokingly told Abby to capture everything... EXCEPT for me puking! Trina got the birth pool blown up and filled. The air pump that was filling the birth pool was quite loud! Then again, all of my senses felt very heightened at the time. I just remember once the loud noise of the air pump started, suddenly my contractions totally stopped. My concentration seemed shattered, yet I couldn't bear the thought of leaving the safety of my room, so I continued to sit there through the noise. Nuni cuddled closely with me, unsure of the noise himself. As soon as the noise stopped, my contractions continued, now with an even greater intensity.
I breathed and blew air, closing my eyes for focus. I sunk into the music on my "birth playlist" as the midwife and doula worked to attach the hose to the sink and fill the birth tub with warm/hot water. I breathed in time with whatever Colplay, Beatles, Cranberries, Bob Marley, Eisley, or Iron and Wine (& ect) song happened to come on as I sat on the bed, waiting for that little turtle thermometer to reach the ideal temperature that would allow me to get into the pool. I asked BluJay to hang up a tapestry of a mandala that I believed would make a very good focal point, as the circular sections had always reminded me of the various stages of dilation. He hung it on the wall right in front of the birth pool.
After this point, time no longer exists. Everything moves in either fast forward or slow motion. I lost all concept of time as I fell into "labor land" as they call it.
The most welcome words I ever heard at that point were when I was told I could get into the water. I didnt hesitate at all. I was already in my swimsuit. My midwife complimented my pregnant belly. That's the last memory I have of actually looking at my belly while I still had it.
I dimmed the lights and got into the water and it felt so warm and amazing. The weightlessness of my body helped tremendously in reducing the pain of my contractions. I was almost afraid that my labor would stop, since I felt so comfortable. The birth attendants sat back and let me do my thing.
Nuni decided that he wanted to "swim" with mommy, so BluJay got him ready and put him in the pool with me. Nuni clung to me at first, hesitant to stand in the pool. I would cling to him right back while I was having a contraction. Finally Nuni got braver and started playing and splashing in the water, having a great time! After a while, he got a little too brave, and leapt across the pool and accidentally dunked himself under the water. He started screaming! I held onto him, comforting him, and right then a contraction hit. BluJay scooped him up and dried him off and got him dressed, and Nuni never got back into the pool.
The rest of my labor, I was completely zoned out, almost unaware of what was going on around me. If you were to ask, I couldn't tell you much about what anyone was doing. I remember hearing bits and pieces of conversation between Shannon, Trina, and Abby. BluJay would come and rub my back or press the tennis balls into my lower back every now and again. Nuni would talk, sing and play with his toys, he would check on me periodically. I would get out of the tub every so often to empty my bladder. I remember at one point, I stepped out of the pool, realizing that it was daylight outside. The contractions that happened while I was out of the water were so intense. All I wanted was to get back to the comfort of the pool. While having a contraction in the bathroom doorway, Trina came and started shaking my hips (in an experienced doula way). The pain of the contraction was immediately relieved when she did that and in amazement I told her "that felt so great!".
I started moving into transition. It became necessary for me to moan in order to cope with the contractions. At one point, I asked BluJay to get into the water with me. His comfort was indescribable. He held me in his arms and rubbed my back gently as I would have contractions. Being with him felt like exactly where I needed to be. I was not afraid at all. I felt so relaxed (and tired from being up over 24 hrs!) that I would fall asleep against BluJay in between contractions. BluJay was afraid that me falling asleep would stop my labor, so he would wiggle my hips and a contraction would come. I finally told him "do NOT do that!". As I moved further into transition, part of me wished that my labor would just stop, give me a break and let me sleep for a while. But it didn't. One time I got out of the pool and tried laying in bed to rest...but after 2 contractions, I decided that I could NOT go through one more contraction out of the water, so I got right back in the pool.
Nuni was being such a sweetheart while I was in labor. A few times he would come up to me as I was leaning across the edge of the pool and he would tell me "it okay mommy" or kiss my face. The little rush of happiness I got from that would always make the contractions hurt a little less. Abby tried to get a picture of Nuni giving me a kiss, but he shied away from the camera. I got so incredibly hot and sweaty during labor, and the box fan that was set up next to the pool was such a great relief! Trina would place a cool washcloth across my head every now and then and that also felt so nice! I started becoming nauseous again and with every other contraction, I would need the "pink tub". Anything that would break my concentration was almost painful...anytime a song would change, anytime someone spoke to me. Little things started to bother me, like the volume of the music being too loud or too quiet, or hearing the garbage truck outside. It was then that I realized that the mandala tapestry was not a good focal point. It seemed almost violent with it's RED and YELLOW and BLACK and GREEN contrast, and the chaotic design. I absolutely could not look at it during labor. (however, it did make a great backdrop for pictures). I decided that it was time for my swimsuit bottoms to come off.
The contractions became incredibly intense. As each one approached, it felt like dark clouds descending on a horizon. With each contraction, my closed eyes would visualize violent, giant crashing waves over a tiny boat. I thought to myself "if I were in a hospital, I would most definitely be asking for an epidural right now". I cried out to my midwife "please tell me this is almost over! I just want this to be over!" It almost surprised me how calm she sounded as she said "I would say, judging by how you sound, that you don't have too much longer." As she said this, a Bob Marley song was playing, the lyrics said "Lord, I've got to keep on moving.." It was right then that I realized that I had no choice but to keep going through labor until the end, and I had to stop fighting the pain. I sunk inward, began listening to my body, and it guided me. On my hands and knees, I began rocking my hips. I focused in on the music and the rhythms. I pictured my baby moving further down. I remembered a quote from Ina May Gaskin. My visions of violent waves in an ocean became visions of steady foamy waves washing upon a shore. I totally surrendered to the labor process and told myself "this is it. It's happening." Although I declined an internal exam for fear that it may discourage me, Shannon guessed that I must be about 7-8 cm. She told me to tell her when it becomes "unbearable".
The contractions were taking my breath away, but I kept reminding myself to breathe deeply. Trina would remind me to keep my face relaxed. When I couldn't, she would come and stroke my face in the places that I was flinching to help me relax. My husband was no longer in the water, as he had been caring for Nuni who was starting to get antsy at this point. I felt the need to empty my bladder once more and as I sat on the toilet, I noticed that my body was involuntarily continuing to push. I felt tremendous pressure on my bottom. As I got back into the pool, I asked BluJay to get back in with me, for some reason I insisted that he not wear a shirt this time.
I told my midwife I was feeling "pushy" and she sprang into midwife mode, opening up her cases and getting out her gloves and everything. They were telling me I was doing great. Although I was feeling "pushy" I was in doubt that I would be pushing the baby out soon. Although the contractions were intense, they never felt "unbearable" and although I had no real sense of time, I felt like there was too much of a relaxation time between my contractions to be close to pushing.. I was expecting contractions to be on top of one another before I would get to that time.
I felt very in tune with my body and continually felt drawn to do certain things... To rock my hips, to float my bottom in the water, to turn around and lean forward against the tub, to lean against my husband, and various other things. With each contraction the pressure became more and my body would begin to "push". Somehow I was still in doubt that I would be giving birth soon. I was leaning against my husband, with my body laid spread out across the pool while I was half-floating on my back. Shannon suggested I tried pushing a little. I felt the urge to stand upright on my knees through the next contraction. Suddenly I felt very powerful and full of energy. I got that familiar feeling of being connected with the eons of women throughout time that had given birth before me, I almost felt their guidance and comfort in spirit. Everything around me seemed interconnected. Every word that was spoken was meant to be said, every song that came on was meant to be heard, every contraction was perfectly timed. I started vomiting again during contractions, which drew my contractions out even longer. Trina assured me that vomiting was actually helping me, as it was causing my muscles to contract my baby downward. My moans intensified and my voice started getting higher. My midwife began moaning along with me in a lower tone to try to help me focus on keeping my tones low. I tried, it seemed impossible. Shannon commented that she believed the baby could be stuck behind my pelvic bone. With the next contraction, I felt the sudden urge to lean forward against the pool, and grab on to whatever I could get my hands on. Luckily some genius who designed the Birth Pool decided to put handles on the outside of it, and they were exactly what I needed. I began rocking, almost thrusting my hips back and forth. My midwife was now standing by my side, and advised me to try pushing with my next contraction. I thought surely I wasn't ready to really start pushing... Although very intense, labor wasn't quite "unbearable" yet.. But I gave it a shot. My next contraction approached and I half-heatedly gave a little push (I was afraid to start pushing hard, since I was convinced it wasn't time)....I sat up a little and the next thing I know the baby slid right down into my birth canal and my body completely took over, continuing to push and push without me even trying!! I remember thinking to myself that I could really trust my body, it felt comforting to know this. I exclaimed that the baby was coming and my midwife reached down to hold my perineum to prevent me from tearing. This reminded me of my fear of tearing and I hesistated to continue to push. I wanted my labor to stop altogether, I felt like telling everyone I give up, I'm not doing this anymore. That's when the next contraction happened and I suddenly felt such a pressure on my bottom that I almost stopped everything to announce that I needed to go to the bathroom..NOW!! My midwife asked me to give another big push, so I did. I no longer cared that I felt like I was about to poop. (Luckily I did not!) Shannon announced that the baby was crowning! I felt the "ring of fire" and my mind was teetering between wanting to stop everything, and wanting to get it over with ASAP! Getting it over with seemed more logical, so with my next contraction, I grabbed ahold of the handles and pulled with all of my might as I pushed as hard as I could!! My mind got a flash of a picture I once saw of a birthing woman holding onto a tree limb. I focused in on that closed-eyed vision, and I roared as I pushed my baby's head a little further. The midwife informed us that the amniotic membranes were still intact. I screamed as I pushed. I think someone may have said not to scream, but I screamed anyway. Nuni got frightened of my screaming and he started to cry, but someone (I think Trina) picked him up and explained that I was about to have the baby and held him up near the birth pool to watch. He calmed right down as he watched his sibling being born. My midwife told me to take all of that screaming and put it towards pushing in my bottom. That made sense, so as my next contraction came, I did just that. It totally worked! I bore down with all of my might! I could feel myself tearing in exactly the way I was afraid I would. I yelled so loudly and so powerfully, in a way that I was not even aware that I was capable of. The midwife announced that the head was out! The worst was over, and I felt such a sense of relief! I reached down and felt my baby's head. It was round and very slippery. My baby was almost here! I was so close to meeting my little one, I couldn't wait! With my next contraction I bore down with every fiber in my body, and I suddenly felt my baby's body slip out of me! Never in my life have I felt such an incredible, remarkable sense of whole-hearted relief!! At 11:52 am, after a 10.5 hour labor, and 18 minutes of pushing, my baby came Earth-side. My husband caught the baby as I lay face-down against the birthing pool, panting. Time stood still. The world was spinning around me as I heard the midwife and my husband exclaiming that the baby was born in the caul! I laughed in disbelief! "Just as I had dreamed!" I said. Shannon peeled the sac off of baby's head, and she asked if we had a boy or girl, and I heard BluJay say, "It's a girl!" in a tone that sounded as if he could hardly believe it! (my whole pregnancy BluJay was convinced the baby was a boy. Girls are very very rare in his family). I absolutely could not believe that my dream had come true!! I had a baby girl born in the caul! How could I have possibly predicted that?!
Shannon and my husband helped me get turned around, and lift my leg over the baby's cord. I saw my little baby girl floating in the water in my husband's hands. She was a purplish tint and I recall being surprised with what a big healthy looking chubby baby she was! Her face was so squishy. When I got settled in a seated position, my husband placed her in my hands, and I laid her across my chest. I stared at her in awe. I took a brief note as to what song she was born to, and I thought to myself that it could not have been more perfect. Shannon advised me to talk to her. I said "Hi baby. I'm your mommy. I can't believe you're a girl." Shannon urged me to keep talking to her, as she was slow to transition and hadn't cried yet. I tried to rouse her as she looked around the room and at me in wonder, but at last Shannon decided to give her some free flow oxygen to help her pink up. BluJay held the oxygen near her nose, and she pinked up soon enough. I caressed her little body, rubbing the vernix into her delicate new skin. I had the strangest sense of dejavu, as though this moment had happened before, or I had dreamed it. I asked someone what time it was, and I was told it was just before noon. I was in disbelief! Time flew by so fast! It definitely did not seem like I had spent 5 hours in the birth pool.
I felt my uterus continue to contract as I held my baby girl. I wanted so badly to kiss her face and breathe in her scent, but her cord was still attached to the placenta which was inside me, and the cord was too short to allow for me to bring baby girl up to my face. The contractions intensified and Shannon noted that there were membranes inside me. BluJay said "Is it another baby?" My eyes got huge. Luckily it wasn't. I tried nursing Baby Gummy Bears. She didn't seem too interested in nursing just yet. She latched for only a moment, but she was very alert and much more interested in looking at the world around her. Shannon exclaimed that this baby was one of the most alert newborns she had seen!
Shannon asked me to go ahead and try giving another push. I did and the strangest feeling squishy matter came out of me..it was the placenta. Shannon noted that it came out "Duncan". I asked what that meant and she explained, although I only slightly remember now. BluJay saw a big cloud of blood start to fill the pool, and he promptly got out. After this, time just went in fast-forward.
They helped me out of the pool and I couldn't believe how much blood was spilling out of me. I remember thinking how crazy my belly looked.. an empty pregnant belly. It was such a relief to lay in my bed. Trina held Baby Gummy Bears, who was still "lotus" (attached to her placenta and cord) while Shannon helped me into bed. Trina said that baby peed while she was holding her! I turned off the music, which had been shuffling many of the same songs on my "birth playlist" for the past 7 hours or so. I was able to hold baby GB again, skin to skin. Shannon evaluated my bleeding and tear. Just as I had suspected, I tore upwards. My perineum was perfectly intact though. Shannon remarked that I had not even a "skid mark". I received drops of Shepherd's Purse tincture to help the bleeding. I also nursed Nuni to help my uterus contract. Nuni fell right asleep. The after pains were terrible, they felt exactly like the labor pains, if not worse. I got nauseous and started to vomit again. I took some After-Ease tincture to help. After a while I forgot all about my pledge to be med-free and I was asking for Ibuprofen. Shannon decided that my bleeding was not slowing adequately, so she gave me the option between a shot of pitocin or a cervidil suppository. I chose the shot of pitocin, which I received in my leg. It stung, but felt like nothing compared to what I had just been through. The pitocin did its job and the bleeding slowed.
Everything after that is just a blur of bloody towels, people coming in and out of the room, light conversation, the smell of bleach and ammonia, cups of warm 'mother's milk' tea, peroxide bottles, receiving drops of different tinctures and throwing them up into the trusty 'pink tub', the deflating birth pool, and various instructions or questions. I was so exhausted. At this point I had been awake for almost 30 hours straight.
I was able to get Baby GB to nurse. Her first latch was priceless. She had been "lotus" for about 2 hours before Shannon asked us who would like to cut the cord. I assumed my husband would want to, but he declined and said that I should do it, since he got to cut Nuni's cord. I had never cut any of my babies' umbilical cords before, so this was a first experience for me. Shannon handed me the scissors, and at last I severed the connection that my baby had known her entire life, with what was once her source of living, connecting her dependent little body to mine. It felt almost ceremonial as I silently welcomed Baby GB's vital 'independence' on this Earth. Trina grabbed up the placenta in it's pan to prepare it for encapsulation later on.
After plenty of skin-to-skin time, Shannon asked if I would like her to do the newborn exam. I was very ready to find out how much she weighed and everything. As soon as Baby GB left my arms, she let out her first cries. We made our guesses as to her weight. I guessed about 9 lbs, Trina guessed 9 lbs 2 oz. Shannon laid her in the sling and weighed her... 9 lbs 2 oz, just as Trina had guessed! She was 20 3/4 inches long. Her head measuring 14. Her apgar scores were 7 and 9. Her gestational age was right on at 40+ wks. Baby Gummy Bears is my biggest baby of them all! After the newborn exam, baby napped with my husband as Trina and Shannon prepared the herbal afterbirth sitz bath. She asked if I would like Baby GB to join me, but I declined as I wanted to delay her first bath for a few days/weeks, to allow the benefits of the vernix to remain on her skin. I was stark naked at this point and standing felt incredibly awkward, not because I was naked but because everything felt so out of place on my body, and
I was still heavily bleeding. I waddled over to the tub with a huge chux pad around my waist. Shannon explained to me that I must keep my bladder empty or risk hemorrhage, so I made a pit stop before going into the bathtub. As I stepped into the brown, herbal-infused shallow water, I dreaded sitting down on the hard tub floor, as my bottom area was so very swollen and sore. I felt like a mess and although the water smelled like a nice cup of tea, I was ready for the bath to be over almost as soon as I got in. I asked Shannon if she could hand me the handheld mirror so I could "pull myself together", and I fixed my hair a little. After 10 minutes or so, Shannon helped me out, advising me to take it easy since I had just given birth 3 hrs ago. Had it been 3 hours already?!! Time was flying! Shannon chose a tank top for me and I put it on, along with those mesh undies that go with the giant postpartum pads.
After Trina and Shannon did the last bits of cleaning up, they started a load of towels in the wash, and got me all tucked into bed with my sleeping family.
They asked me what I thought of my birth and I told them with a smile
"This is exactly the way it's supposed to be."
Shannon, Trina and Abby said their goodbyes and showed themselves out, leaving me to rest in bed. Everyone was snoozing away, and despite my exhaustion from being awake well over 30 hours, and giving birth, I still felt a little restless and filled with new mom joy. I kept replaying the events of Baby GB's birth in my head. I was so happy and thrilled to finally be able to say that I had a perfect birth experience with no regrets whatsoever. I finally had the homebirth that I had always dreamed of. I finally had our baby in my arms.