August Harper’s home birth story

My due date was March 30, but I started expecting a late baby, as he was posterior and lying pretty comfortably on my left side.

I went to the chiropractor on my due date, and he did an adjustment that also included the Webster Technique and some stuff to try to loosen me up. We set another appointment for April 2 – a Thursday – because he said he really couldn’t see me having this baby before Friday.

On Tuesday morning, March 31, I nursed Atticus when he woke up like normal. For the past few months when I’d done this, I’d had contractions that just went away when he stopped. This morning, though, they didn’t go away, even though he’d finished. So, I got up and took a shower and made sure to shave my legs, just in case I did go into labor.

I went about the day normally. My mom and I took Atticus to the library for story time and then I puttered around the house after trying to take a nap. Contractions were coming every 4-5 mins and lasting about a minute, but I was able to just try to ignore them at that point. I called my midwife around lunchtime and told her I thought I would have the baby later tonight or tomorrow.

When Atticus woke up from his nap, I took him to play at a friend’s house like we had previously arranged.

I just really wanted to keep ignoring the contractions the frequency/regularity of them. I was there from about 3-5, and by the end of my visit, I was having a very hard time focusing and keeping my thoughts on taking care of Atticus.

When I got home, I noticed that the contractions were taking more focus now, but I wanted to make a groan cake. (http://www.thebirthhouse.com/recipes.htm) I was able to make the whole thing, but I needed my husband to help me quite a bit at the end and do the clean-up. I called my midwife at that point, and I told her she probably needed to come. That was around 6:30. I started just hanging out in my bedroom and rubbing oils on my belly as it contracted, which felt good.

When Robyn arrived, she organized some of her stuff and just watched how my contractions were looking for a bit. Her assistant, Mary, arrived shortly after, and my friend and doula, Ame, came soon after that. When I was checked, Robyn said I was at about three centimeters, but my cervix was still very posterior. I expected this, as I knew I had a long labor ahead of me. Robyn had Michael start setting up the pool, and I just worked through the contractions mostly the on the birth ball. I started listening to music at the point, too, and Robyn and others helped my back while I was contracting.

When the pool was ready, I got in that, and that was marvelous.

My contractions seemed to slow down a bit, but it was helping me relax, so I was okay with that. I listened to more music, drank a ton of water, and I even remember cracking jokes between contractions. For the bulk of the night, I went from the pool to the bed to the birth ball, never really staying in one place for too long. When I was lying on the bed, between contractions, Robyn or Mary would rub my back, and that was wonderful, like I was at a massage parlor or something. It was also getting pretty late, and I got on the ball again, and the midwives took turns taking cat naps. After a while, I still was at a four, but my cervix was a lot more effaced, so we knew we were making progress, albeit very slowly.

I saw myself going in two directions. The first direction was my natural inclination and the easiest: to freak out. The second direction took a lot more brain and will power. And that direction was to be stronger and act tougher and step it up. I remember specifically telling Robyn that women throughout all time have done this just like this before me, and there is absolutely no difference between us. There is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it, too. I was back in the tub again, and after that, there were no more jokes between contractions, because it started getting tougher and more productive. I drank a lot of water, ate honey sticks and did it. I had a Hypbirth birth hypnosis CD, and I had it playing in the background.

During this point in labor, I found that self-talk and visualization were both very helpful.

Between contractions, I actually found myself falling asleep, probably because the water was so relaxing, the hypnosis CD was going and I was just so dang tired, as it was like 4 or 5 in the morning at this point. I also kept telling myself – out loud – that I could do it. I said this over and over again, just in a lot of different ways. I told myself that it would be over and that tonight I’d be holding my baby. I told myself that my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing, and that I was doing the right thing for my body and my baby. It was hard, but it was supposed to be. I was bringing a human to the world, and that is big.

During contractions, I held on to one of my helper’s hands and repeated mantras and did a lot of visualizations. I repeated “It’s okay” over and over again while imaging climbing a mountain, and during the peak of the contraction, I’d visualize I was standing on the mountain with my baby, and as the contraction started to subside, I had to leave the baby up there and come back down alone, but that I’d see the baby again soon. I also visualized standing in the ocean with the contractions being like waves that crashed around me but that I couldn’t let knock me over. I just had to let them crash around me and do their work.

Another big help was picturing faces of women I knew who had done home births, too, and knowing that if they could do it, I could, too. Also, at a recent Friends of Missouri Midwives meeting, I was given a lot of beads that symbolizes different things to remember in birth, and I thought of those beads, too. Though I was in a lot of pain, these visualizations really helped as long as I kept staring into one of my helper’s faces at the same time I was imagining them. I felt so strong and powerful, and I felt so proud of myself and that I was actually doing it!

Toward the end of this phase of labor, I was on my knees rocking through the contractions and just saying “open,” as I held onto someone’s hand.

I just kept thinking of my cervix opening, and that’s all I would let myself say over and over again. At this point, my back started hurting really bad toward the end of the contraction. Robyn said that meant I was getting toward the end, as baby’s head was getting a lot lower. She decided to do a check. We were nervous that I’d still be at a five, but thankfully, I was at an 8.5! I started crying; I was so happy to be almost done. At this point, my water hadn’t broken yet, and Robyn said it was up to me if I wanted her to break it or not. We talked about the pros and cons, and I decided to let her do it when I found out that I could be done in the next half hour or so. Unfortunately, the amniotic fluid was stained with meconium, and that made me nervous, but Robyn seemed confident everything would be okay. She and Mary had been regularly checking the heart rate and it was always perfect.

Since I was almost dilated, Robyn said she could try to stretch my cervix while I pushed to get it to a ten and get baby’s head through. I got back into the tub and did this for three or four contractions, and it was excruciating, but I knew it would help the process go faster in the end. Through this, they frequently checked baby’s heart rate, and it was always perfect.

Finally, baby’s head was fully through my cervix and I started pushing him down the canal.

With Atticus, pushing was this wonderful release, and I loved it, but this time it was very painful. After a couple of pushes, his head was crowning and both Mary and Robyn were applying a lot of pressure to the area while his head came out. When his head came out, I kept pushing, expecting the rest of his body to just slide out, like I’d seen in many birth videos.

That didn’t happen, though. I kept pushing, and it was quite evident he was stuck. Robyn had to put both hands in me and get him out, as he turned out to be quite the case of shoulder dystocia. I’m so thankful I was at home, though, because in the hospital who knows what kind of interventions I would’ve had. They had resuscitation equipment ready, but he didn’t need it. Swallowing the meconium caused him no distress at all!

This is another reason I’m thankful I was at home. At the hospital, he probably would’ve been whisked away to the NICU, because that’s just procedure, but he was perfect! His birth time was 9:25 a.m. From first contraction to birth, this labor was around 25 hours long.

Our ultrasound said that August was a girl, and when I turned around and held him, he was covered in a wet towel, and Robyn told me to look at the baby’s gender. I looked and said, “Oh my God, it’s a boy.” Everyone started cracking up. April 1 – April Fool’s Day – proved to be the best day for August to come.

I just held him for a few moments. Katie & August

Robyn noticed, though, that I was losing a lot of blood and the placenta still wasn’t detaching all the way. She quickly gave me a shot of pitocin and had Michael cut the cord. She had me get out of the water and get on to the bed so she could get a better look. I had to give a couple of hard pushes, but it came out, fully intact thankfully.

After a bit of an inspection, I was told that I had a second degree perineal tear and a labial tear, too. I was able to take a bath, though, before getting stitched up and Robyn helped me wash my hair. I was also able to give August his first bath. It was so awkward holding a newborn again. I also couldn’t believe how good I felt after just doing all of that. I felt so alive and powerful.

After August was able to nurse again, Robyn stitched me up, which took over an hour, as she made sure to take her time with each stitch. I had a lot of trauma trying to heal from Atticus’ birth and even had to have some reconstructive stuff done, so the fact that she was taking her time with the stitches was a-ok with me.

Michael spent some time cleaning out the tub, and he and Robyn worked on putting things away. I was able to sit and enjoy August for a while, and then I took a much -deserved nap.

I feel so blessed to have experienced my birth this way. It was just what I needed to do, and God knew it, too. I feel like a different person, and I’m looking forward to healing and being a mother to two boys.

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