My Navelgazing Homebirth Story
I discovered what appeared to be bloody show on Friday, July 17 at 10:00 pm. This being my first pregnancy I did what any rational woman might do – I began to mildly panic. You see, I had told myself that this baby wouldn’t deign to make his/her appearance until at least July 26, so rightfully I had about a week left to prepare for the birth. I got online, first to google “bloody show” and then to ask the opinion of the members of my July Due Date Club. While waiting for the replies of anyone who might be awake and bored enough to get online, I decided to pack an overnight bag, finally wash all of my baby clothes, learn how to assemble the car seat, shower, curse my lack of a nesting instinct, do some last-minute reading of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and ponder whether to call my midwife. All the while I was trying to convince myself that I could still have my baby on the 26th.
Around midnight my contractions started. They definitely didn’t feel like mere Braxton-Hicks contractions (tightening in the uterus), these felt like mild menstrual cramps with a little bit of a lower backache. By 2:00 am, my bloody show had turned red. Crap. My contractions started to pick up in frequency. Again, crap. I called my midwife at 3:30 am.
MW: Hello (barely awake)
Me: Uh, I think I have bloody show but it was brown now it’s red, tell me I’m not bleeding to death.
MW: Hmm, sounds like bloody show. If you’d had placenta previa, or placental abruption, we’d have seen signs of it by now or you’d be bleeding massively and experiencing severe abdominal pain
Me: Ok (Phew, I’m not dying!)
(Yak about contractions)
MW: Get some sleep and call me around 10:30 am or sooner if something changes.
And so, I decided to go to bed, satisfied that I wasn’t having some weird pregnancy complication. Unfortunately, my contractions kept waking me up. Around 5:15 am, the hubby, C, comes home. He’d been at a motorcycle club party and I hadn’t called him with any of the details. “Don’t plan to go anywhere today,” I greeted him.
“We might be having a baby this weekend.”
And then he fell asleep.
I tried to sleep but by 7:30 am I decided I couldn’t lay down anymore and decided to get up to actually time my contractions. My contractions were becoming increasingly uncomfortable but were manageable. I focused on relaxing my body and maintaining helpful breathing (“hee hee hoo” not “ay yi yi”) as each contraction peaked and ebbed. In between contractions I surfed the internet, finished packing my overnight bag and ate a whole container of pineapple chunks.
10:30 am came and I got in contact with my midwife when my contractions were between 4.5 and 6.5 minutes apart. I can’t really recall what we talked about but I think I called her back at 1:00 pm. At that time she said it sounded like I was in early active labor and I could come over to her house when I felt ready but if the contractions became steadily 3 minutes apart and were at least 50 seconds long then I should definitely make my way over. I decided to stay home for a while longer and get something to eat in the meantime. I sent C off to get some healthy food which ended up being KFC potato wedges and a salad. By 3:00 pm my contractions were consistently between 4 and 5 minutes apart so I made the decision to head off to the midwife’s house.
On the way I asked C to stop at Target so we could pick up a package of disposable diapers. I was planning to use cloth diapers with the baby but I wanted to use disposables with those first newborn poops. I had planned on going in and getting the diapers myself but C insisted that I stay in the car while he went to get them himself. I said to him, “Get the newborn size.” Ten minutes later C returns – with the preemie size diapers. So, I sent him back to the store to exchange them. Ten minutes later, C returns – with the 12-20 pound size diapers. This time I go into the store. When I talked to the sales clerk she busts out laughing at the fact that C kept getting the wrong size. I go get the right size, while having about 3 contractions, end up having to wait in line behind a bride returning her wedding gifts and an old lady returning cans of pop, then have 2 more contractions before finally checking out. In the meantime my sister texted me to snark that if I had time to stop at Target then I might as well catch a movie!
Eventually we made our way to the midwife’s house. She checked my cervix which should’ve been nicely dilated. I had only dilated 1 cm! However, we had anticipated that I might have dilation issues and we’d been preparing my cervix with evening primose oil in the weeks before. My midwife was able to stretch my cervix to 4 cm. She added some more evening primose oil and then C and I lay down to get some rest. At some point I felt that I needed to move around some more and C and I started out on a walk. We didn’t make it very far because every few steps I had a contraction that made me stop and hang on to C. This was the start of me politely making him rub my lower back during contractions. Somehow my dear husband got embarrassed at the thought of the neighbors seeing me having contractions and moaning in the middle of the street so we turned back. Luckily, by this time my midwife’s apprentice had shown up and she offered to walk with me. So off we went again, C included, and had a nice long walk this time. Walking felt pretty good and I managed my contractions with low vocalizations (“Ohhhhhhhhhh”) and visualizing myself going up a hill (sometimes skiing up a snowy hill) and then coming down the other side. In between contractions I managed to hold conversation about light-hearted topics such as The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, cultural competency in healthcare, Female Genital Mutilation, and my experiences with cadaver dissection.
After about an hour we made our way back to the house because my contractions had picked up in intensity and frequency and I didn’t feel like walking anymore. My midwife checked me again and I was dilated 8 cm. This was about 4 hours after arriving at the house. Around this time I got really hungry so we ventured downstairs where I sat on my birth ball while we watched a movie and my midwife made me a turkey bologna sandwich. This is when my contractions really, really picked up. It’s no fun having an intense contraction while chewing. My contractions were practically on top of each other and my “ohhhhs” were starting to turn into “eeeeees.” I was no longer politely asking for low back rubs, I was just calling out things like, “back!” and “feet!” (holding my feet down helped keep me centered). Sometimes I just made hand gestures. I think it was around 10:30 pm when I asked, “Is this transition?” Transition is that phase of labor where many women start to lose their minds a bit. I didn’t lose my mind but I did wish for one of those short, as in 30-minute long, transition periods. I ended up in the bathtub where I completed my 2 hour transition period.
The water felt really good between contractions but once I started feeling pushy, I couldn’t stay in there any longer. I really had this urge to get on my hands and knees on the bed. Sitting felt awful and laying down felt the worst. My midwife encouraged me to push a little but I didn’t quite know how to push. I realize now that I was intellectualizing the process and that once I stopped doing that I figured out how, however I also realized I didn’t really want to. That pushing sensation felt too intense. This is when I lost my mind. I genuinely started to fear that I would permanently damage myself if I pushed. I had visions of organ prolapse dancing in my head and I started to fantasize about some nice person using a cool, shiny pair of forceps to pull the baby out for me. In fact I ended up saying out loud, “Can’t you just slide the baby out?” Later I was told that I said this twice. Eventually I made a good push and out came something. “Good,” I thought, “Baby’s almost out!” Turns out I pushed out part of my intact amniotic sac (my water never broke), something my midwife and midwife’s apprentice had never seen before. It was one of those cool, rare things that sometimes happen in birth. My baby was about to be born in the caul! Next thing I know, my midwife is saying she’s going to have to rupture the sac because I needed to get the baby out very soon. I remember just really wanting to lay down under the covers for about 20 minutes then get back to pushing. I might have said something like that out loud but my midwife was pretty insistent that I needed to push. At one point, my midwife’s apprentice looked me straight in the eye and told me in no uncertain terms that I could do it. So I pushed. I made the most primal sounds I’ve ever made in my life. My midwife said to me, “You need to make three pushes on the next contraction.” Somehow I made it out of my fog of irrationality and pushed. I felt the baby descend and his head came out, then I made two more pushes and next thing I know there’s a baby underneath me crying. I just kind of stared in shock then tried to pick him. My first thought was, “Hey, you’re kind of heavy.” My next thought was “Hey, you’re a boy!” I was totally expecting a girl. Then I thought, “You look just like my father!”
Turns out the reason my midwife was so insistent on me pushing him out was that there was meconium in his amniotic fluid and she didn’t want to give him a chance to breathe it in. He was also born with a nuchal hand (hand up by his head) which is another cool, rare thing that can happen in birth.
Soon after C came up to the room. He had been downstairs the whole time and I had chosen to let him stay down there. He’s one of those people who gets really grossed out by birth and I felt it would’ve been for the best if neither of us had to deal with that type of energy during birth. C came up to meet his son, and immediately started spreading the news by text to our family and friends. Unfortunately he got an eyeful of post-birth gunk so he didn’t avoid it completely.
Our son, Baby E was born Sunday, July 19 at 1:24 am weighing in at 6 pounds, 6 ounces. I got to cut his umbilical cord.