My birth story begins on Tuesday, October 15th, at 41w1d. My midwife, who lived over 2 hours away, was in town for another birth and came over to sweep my membranes. I had been in prodromal labor for close to 2 weeks and hoped that a gentle stretch and sweep would be the push I needed to get active labor going. So at around 11am I had my membranes swept and had my first (and last) cervical check of my entire pregnancy which revealed me to be about 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced.
About 2 hours after the sweep I began having contractions that convinced me I would be meeting my little one within a day or so. I updated my doula and my photographer, who also happened to be close friends, so they decided to come by and keep me company while I went for walks and tried to encourage active labor. We had so much fun just hanging out. We walked a LOT, my photographer had the bright idea of having me do walking lunges, which I later regretted due to the soreness in my legs. I even asked to jump on my neighbor’s trampoline! After a delicious dinner we all decided to get some rest so my doula and photographer crashed in my living room and I took my 2.5 year old son into my bedroom to nurse and hopefully get things moving.
Throughout the night I had some really intense contractions that were about 3 minutes apart. So strong that I almost woke my husband a few times. Of course eventually they tapered off and I woke up at 7am the next morning still in early first stage of labor. By noon nothing had really changed so my midwife suggested that I try the breast pump and if that didn’t work everyone needed to just go home and let me relax because it could be all of the activity that was keeping me from reaching active labor. So at 3pm everyone packed up and headed home.
My 3 older boys were pretty upset because they expected that when people left we would already have the baby, so I sent them outside to play and distract them. While they played I curled up on the couch with my iPad and read birth stories on Birth Without Fear while I waited for a regular contraction pattern to form. I specifically remember reading one birth story about a woman delivering a baby with a nuchal hand, and for some reason that story stood out to me. Before I knew it I was having contractions steadily 6-8 minutes apart, 1 minute long and they were definitely getting much stronger. So at about 7:15 I texted my midwife and doula to update them and let them know this was it.
My husband put our kids to bed and my doula and photographer arrived at about 9pm with my midwife coming shortly after. I remember when they came in I was on my knees leaned over my yoga ball resting. When a contraction would start to build I rocked back and forth with the ball and when it was over I would sit back and take in the amazing atmosphere that we had created for my beautiful birth. It could not have been more perfect, my doula massaged my lower back during a contraction while i gently moaned and swayed, my midwife quietly say back watching me and taking notes and my photographer documented the whole thing.
My 2.5 year old, who had been sleeping on the couch, woke up while I was laboring. I was really nervous about how he was going to react, but he did wonderfully. While I labored he stayed by my side, quietly rubbing my back and my belly, cuddling me between contractions and comforting me. I remember thinking how perfect this was…and how easy! I never imagined that my labor would be so easy. Sure, my contractions hurt, but they were manageable and the time in between was completely restful.
At around midnight we moved to the bedroom where I tried various laboring positions just to see how they felt. At one point I was dancing and swaying with my husband in the beautiful space he had assembled for me while I was laboring in the living room (he surprised me by changing the linens, making the bed, cleaning the room and lighting candles, major points for hubby!) My midwife suggested that I get into the tub, but I wasn’t sure I was ready. She assured me that I was progressed enough that the water wouldn’t stall my labor, so I got in the tub.
Laboring in the water was amazing! The contractions were still just as intense, but in between I felt completely weightless. Totally relaxed. It wasn’t long before I found myself feeling the urge to bear down at the end of each contraction. At one point I did get a bit frantic trying to figure out what position I wanted to push in. The pressure was so intense, but no matter what I tried I couldn’t seem to find a position that I felt like I could get enough power to push. During this time my doula and my midwife’s assistant woke my boys up and brought them into the bedroom to welcome their new brother. I remember looking up and seeing their sweet faces all lined up on my bed smiling down at me.
After pushing for awhile my midwife suggested that I get out of the tub and sit on the birth stool for a few contractions.
I wasn’t thrilled about the stool, but I did it. While sitting there I was hit with super hard contractions and an overwhelming urge to push. After a couple contractions of struggling to find the leverage to push I reached down and grabbed the base of the stool to pull up while I pushed as hard as I could. With my midwife on the floor in front of me my water broke, or more accurately exploded, soaking her and my husband completely. We were happy with the progress I made so it was back in the tub.
Pushing was so hard. I remember thinking that I don’t know how I did this on my back in a hospital bed 3 times, because I felt like this baby was just not coming out. I finally found my pushing position, kneeling in the tub with my arms around my husbands neck and shoulders. Unfortunately that position was basically breaking him in half over the side of the tub, but he never complained. I screamed and growled like a wild animal while I pushed with all my strength. Finally I felt his little head coming down and then promptly back in when I stopped pushing to take
a breath. I freaked out for a moment but my midwife assured me he would come right back out with my next push, and he did. I remember reaching down to feel his head and then quickly saying, “Okay, he’s there, now get him out!” It felt like I was pushing forever, I just couldn’t seem to find that little bit of extra strength that I needed to get him out….and then it happened. That feeling of being stretched to the limit, like my entire body was going to split in half. At that point I was instructed to stop bearing down and just give little pushes, so I did and it all happened so fast. Then it happened, at 4:13am on October 17th I scooped that slippery little body up in my arms and collapsed into my midwife’s arms. My head was spinning and I just remember saying to my midwife, “Holy sh*t, that was SO HARD!”to which my midwife informed me that my sweet little boy had his hand up by his face. A nuchal hand! Just like the story I had read while I was in early labor.
Right away my doula worked quickly to get my boys undressed and into the tub with me so we could bond right away and my husband traded places with my midwife behind me. I was so overwhelmed with emotions and so happy and relieved that I had done it…..I had my homebirth!
Shortly after my boys got in the tub with me I started feeling dizzy, I said aloud, “I feel like I’m going to pass out.” I figured it was just from the adrenaline and exhaustion from pushing so hard, but as my midwife instructed to get everyone out of the tub I looked down and saw a cloud of blood expanding under the water. So after all that I was hemorrhaging! After getting me out of the tub and in to bed my oldest son cut the umbilical cord and I delivered my placenta while nursing our sweet new baby. We had hoped that nursing would contract my uterus enough to stop the bleeding but it didn’t. I clearly remember looking up at my midwife while I was laying there in the bed and saying, “I know what’s happening and it’s okay, I know you’re going to fix it.” It was so awesome to never for one moment feel scared about my bleeding because I trusted her completely. After some medication and eventually having my uterus manually emptied (ouch!) my bleeding slowed to normal and all was well. Turns out it was just a stubborn blood clot. After it came out I felt amazing! In the end I lost about 1,000 ml of blood in the course of my postpartum hemorrhage.
Even with the nuchal hand and the postpartum hemorrhage I am still so very happy with my beautiful homebirth that left me with the most perfect, sweet baby boy. Even during my hemorrhage when I felt as though I was incapable of holding my baby, I knew that he was with my husband, skin to skin, with his big brothers and surrounded with love. Not one single person ever touched my baby that didn’t love him and care about him. He never laid in a warmer alone, he was never roughly handled or aggressively suctioned. Every moment of the beginning of his life was filled with gentle love and tenderness.