*The midwives names have been replaced with initials since North Carolina does not allow for certification of Certified Professional Midwives. To learn more visit: http://www.ncfom.org/
My experience of Robin’s labor and birth was very different than with Reese, my first child.
I had a prodromal labor that began about three weeks before my due date: meaning, I had contractions that felt like labor contractions! I even called the midwife, and BW, one of the assistants, came to check me. Upon finding out I was 1.5 cm dilated, my brain shut off the “labor alert!” and I went back to bed (it was 3:30 am). After that for a few weeks I was able to recognize that even though I was having frequent and sometimes painful contractions, it was not the real thing. I’m even glad I got used to them, because I had early labor symptoms for about 24 hours before the real thing began. I was able to act semi-normally through that without tiring myself out.
At any rate, I was surprised to make it to and past my due date, 12/24, which was a little frustrating, but once the due date passed I just figured she would come when she was ready and relaxed (the week before my due date I was pretty anxious). I felt labor getting closer on the 26th, and stayed up late that night with contractions. Brian knew they weren’t very serious and stayed asleep. They did get more and more intense and were very regular, so the midwives came out around 6 am. I was 3 cm, with the baby’s head low, and a soft, stretchy cervix.
As soon as they got there the contractions slowed way down again, so Brian and I went out for a walk for about 45 minutes. Even though the contractions continued and were strong, they spaced out. I finally decided it wasn’t happening that day, so went in to tell them to head home. They didn’t seem to mind at all and also seemed confident that labor would begin soon – probably that night. I did want to ensure labor would begin soon as I was losing a great deal of sleep, so I took castor oil under their direction.
At first I was worried it would make me feel too sick, but they assured me that only some women reacted very strongly to it.
Upon learning it really only caused diarrhea, I took it gladly. After three months of fighting constipation, I was ready! I took it at 9 am (2 oz mixed with 2 oz lemon juice), and had mild-moderate diarrhea from 12 pm-5 pm. The intestinal cramps were hardly anything to speak of. I don’t think it did much for my labor, except keep the contractions going all afternoon. They were mild and not regular, but I knew I would go into labor that night.
We went to Reese’s birthday party that afternoon; a wonderful friend offered months before to do something for her so I wouldn’t have to. I was not very hungry all day, I think from the labor not the castor oil. I ate, but not a lot.
We put Reese down at 8 pm, and went out for another walk. The contractions finally got hard enough that I couldn’t talk at their peak, and we walked up and down our street 3-4 times. When we came in they were still far enough apart (about 10 min) that I was still checking email and Brian was watching TV. Around 10:30 pm, they got hard enough that I wanted to get into the birthing tub we had set up in our living room. I stayed in the tub with Brian timing contractions until 11:30 pm when they stopped! Boy, was I glad I hadn’t called the midwives! Brian and I went to bed and slept.
At 2:30 am we were both woken up by a contraction – Brian heard me moaning, and asked if we should call the midwives. We timed a few and found them 3-7 minutes apart and varying in intensity, though all were getting hard. We called BW again and she said to time their duration and to call her back. We timed 3 and found them to be all a minute or more, which is pretty long. BW called back after a half hour and asked how long they were. When we told her, she said she was sending MH, and to call her back if things changed before MH got there.
Brian and I went back and I got in the tub again, and the contractions got very hard very fast.
I was in a semi-reclined position in the bathtub, and there was a lot of pressure and pain in my back as well as my belly. I would push down with my hands to get my back off the floor, obviously not good for relaxation, but I was also trying to keep my mouth, jaw, and neck loose and would blow raspberries (see Ina May Gaskin for Law of the Sphincter). I felt like I was coming out of my skin, and Brian called BW to tell her and AM, the lead midwife, to come and not wait for MH. BW and MH got there at 5:50 am and I got out of the tub to pee and let them monitor the baby.
When I peed I sat backwards on the toilet and had a contraction. Miraculously, it was much better than the ones in the tub, and I knew I had to stay out and in a position to take pressure off my back. I went back into the living room, and had a few contractions on my knees while Brian provided counter pressure on my back with two racquetballs (the baby was not posterior, just putting pressure on my back as she descended). I did about 5 contractions on my hands and knees, and felt a trickle of fluid go down my legs and belly. We all assumed my water had broken.
I got tired, and moved to my side and they gave me pillows for my head and my knees (I needed about 4 between my knees). Brian continued to give me counter pressure during contractions and water in between. The counter-pressure was good and bad. It felt good on my back, but it had to be so strong that I was tensing my ab muscles so I wouldn’t roll over. The contractions varied in intensity from extremely hard to not that bad, and I asked AM why (she had arrived around 6:30 am). She said no one knew. I was just surprised because the timing and intensity of my contractions with Reese had been very regular. I learned that the contraction was harder if I was not prepared for it – if I was drinking water or a little tense when it started.
I also finally figured out that the counter pressure was causing me more pain than relieving, so for the last two contractions of first stage, I just breathed and concentrated. Brian didn’t even realize I was having them, and thought I was having a break!
After those two contractions, I felt the undeniable urge to push. I was so excited!
I told AM immediately, and she asked me how I wanted to push so I could get in position before the next one came. I knew I didn’t want to push on my side – I felt very weak that way. So I told them I wanted to be upright but not standing. They grabbed the birthing stool (about 9 inches high with a hollow middle) and got me up on it in no time. I hadn’t been in “labor land” for very long and I came completely out of it for pushing, unlike with Reese. I think I was so excited to push and it was light out (about 7:30 am) that I was able to wake up.
I had a few pushes, and AM discovered the bag of waters was intact! She said the trickle earlier was probably the outer membrane breaking. We were all really excited and hoped it would stay intact for the birth. Pushing with the bag felt great and I used a small mirror to see what I was doing. I felt so good, I even had a few bites of chocolate ice cream, which the midwives got a huge kick out of. After about 4-5 pushes the bag broke and we were all sad. AM checked to make sure the cervix was out of the way, which it wasn’t, but we got it moved on the next push.
I pushed once after that on the stool and I couldn’t get enough power to do much, so I stood up. A friend had told me that she half-squatted for pushing and that sounded just right. They turned the couch around, and I stood up and held onto it to push. I was not doing all-out pushes but rather pushes that felt good with the contractions. I didn’t want to tear and wanted to be careful about sending the baby flying out. It took a while to get the baby to descend because she was still kind of high when the water broke (+1 position). They continued to monitor her, and her heartbeat stayed very strong except for one contraction when she was getting lower and it was decelerating from head compression. Fortunately, that resolved itself with the next push.
Unfortunately, just after that we started seeing very thick, red blood.
Not pink blood mixed with amniotic fluid from capillaries, but real blood and a good amount of it. There was no way to know where it was coming from, so AM told me it was time to push the baby out. I took that to mean that we were not going to worry so much about not tearing, so I started doing my very strong Bradley pushes (three deep breaths, push with everything I had for as long as I could) and getting down into a deep squat.
Boy, I could feel her about to come out! I told the midwives I thought my butt was going to explode. They assured me it would not, and I told Brian to remind me to relax my bottom while I was pushing the next time. They finally saw her head and she crowned a little, but I just ran out of steam on that contraction. I was very, very tired from pushing and standing up and felt like I either wanted it all to be over. I asked AM if I would be able to push her out with the next contraction, and she said yes, so I made that my goal.
When it came (much sooner than I was ready for!) I sank into a deep squat and pushed with everything I had. I almost gave up, but I felt her head on the verge of coming out so I pushed out the head and then the body. She came flying out! AM was supporting my perineum, so BW almost missed her and Robin slid out screaming! They grabbed her and were taking care of her, while they told me to sit down. I needed a lot of help as I felt like I could barely see and had no strength at all left. Brian went down the hall to get Reese and my brother (he said Reese’s heart was pounding and she wouldn’t look at me, but she was brave and I’m glad she was there. No emotional scarring.).
She couldn’t be on my chest because her cord was short. She was covered in blood and vernix and just screaming away! I could tell they were anxious for the placenta so when I thought I felt it, I pushed it out. They discovered the placenta had gotten torn up a little from the thinning of the cervix and that was where the blood was coming from. They gave me herbs for the bleeding, but it was still a little too much so they told me I might need Pitocin. I had had it with Reese (4 shots!), so I didn’t care. I told them if they thought I needed it, then to go ahead.
After the shot (which hurt, ow!) they moved me to the couch to bond with Robin and they took the time to fill out their paperwork. I was drinking water and juice with green supplement and eating some toast with honey while they worked. After a while AM came to check if I had torn; I had and needed stitches. I tried to stay calm, but I was unhappy about it. I had really hoped not to tear again. When they moved me from the couch to our bed, I blacked out a little (I was sitting in a rolling chair and Brian supported me) and when they got me to the bed I threw up the contents of my stomach, which made me feel a lot better.
The stitching wasn’t that bad. BW and MH supported my legs, so I didn’t have to and AM gave me plenty of lidocaine. I was concentrating on the pain a little too much, so I finally started asking them question to distract myself. I love learning from them and hearing their stories. After about 20 minutes and three stitched up tears later, including the same tear from Reese’s birth, we were done and I got into bed, drank water and juice, rested, and held Robin. I had sent Brian, Reese, and Robin out, so as soon as AM was done I told them I wanted the baby again.
The midwives cleaned up, gave us instructions, and assured us to call if we needed anything at all and left.
As it turned out, I lost about double the normal blood loss, so I stayed in bed for the next two days. Brian and I weren’t concerned, because my blood loss with Reese had been much, much more than that. Healing and recovery has been slightly harder than with Reese, but still not bad. It has been great to be in my own house and not have to leave, eating wonderful food, and being with my two daughters and family.
The first few nights of sleep were also far and away better than sleeping in a hospital. After having a home birth, it feels like the most natural and normal thing in the world. If we have any more, we will certainly do it at home with AM.
Back to Home Birth Stories