For the majority of my life, I have been a night owl.
I enjoy the quiet calm that is night. The world is asleep, and for those few hours, you can pretend all is well. It should be of no surprise to me that the most gratifying experience of my life would take place at night. This is the story of my planned, unassisted childbirth at home. It’s quite long, so thank you to anyone who has the patience to sit through my ramblings.
In the early morning hours of July 25th 2008, I found myself increasing restless.
4 am came and went, as did 5am. My husband, who arrived home from work only a couple of hours before, decided to go to bed and leave me to my peace and quiet. That’s when I noticed the first twinges. At first my contractions felt like I had moved wrong and was having odd muscle pain. The first one came and went without me really noticing. It wasn’t until the third (maybe fourth?) that I noticed there was a kind of patter to it. They weren’t painful, or even uncomfortable. They felt like hugs from the inside really. I remember looking at the clock and seeing that it was rounding 7am and that I better go to sleep. I had one more contraction on my way up to bed that was a tad uncomfortable. I worried that I might have taken too long to decide to go to bed and that I would be forced to spend my entire (first time) labor on no sleep.
I think I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next thing I remember is being woken up at 1:00pm on the nose by one very long, strong contraction. I sat up and realized I had to pee, badly. With an empty bladder, the contractions subsided. I waddled my way down stairs. My husband had woken up hours before, but learned 5 weeks before to not wake me up on his way out of the room. I didn’t say anything to him right away as I still wasn’t sure it was labor. All of the women in my pregnancy groups were experiencing bouts of prodromal labor, I was half convinced that I was experiencing the same. I was forty-one weeks pregnant exactly. My due date came and went, and the only babe born that day was my beautiful niece. Yes, my sister and I were only a week apart.
After being awake for about an hour, the contractions returned.
I was hydrated now, and I think the strong contraction was caused by my coma like sleep. Generally I had been waking up to pee/grab a glass of water, but not that night. Anyway, they were coming about 15-20 minutes apart and very mellow. My husband was going to have to leave for work in an hour, so I decided to tell him that I thought I might be in labor. The news stopped him in his tracks, as he was still a bit nervous about the unassisted aspect of our home birth. He dutifully called off from work, and suggested we go run some errands because if I was in labor, we weren’t going to get another chance for God knows how long. Looking back, he couldn’t have been more accurate.
Fast forward to 7:00pm.
This is when things started to pick up. My contractions jumped drastically from 15-20 apart to 10 on the money. They were still quite bearable, but the idea that “this might not be labor,” started slipping away. I was staying hydrated, and after every contraction I would have to waddle out to pee. That got so annoying. My younger sister was living with me at the time, and started joking that I might as well just put a diaper on. Ha, believe me, if I had one big enough I would have!!
From 7:00-10:00 contractions moved from 10 minutes apart to somewhere under 5, but a little sporadic. It was during that time that I had to start using coping methods to get through. At first I was content with my husband pressing into my back, but after a few contractions I had to find something new. The little bit of clothing I had been wearing was torn off. Fabric touching my skin became very irritating, and even though the thermostat read a comfortable 72 in my living room, I felt like I was burning up. Completely naked, and now rocking on hands and knees, I was able to work through another series of contractions.
If I wasn’t on my hands and knees, I was bouncing on my birth ball (or waddling to the bathroom).
At 2:03 am I had one very long, drawn out feeling contraction, and of course had to pee immediately afterwords. Contractions were only a minute apart so I knew I had to hurry. I quickly got the little trickle out (I should mention that throughout all of labor, I couldn’t completely empty my bladder) and upon wiping, noticed a very slimy, bloody, gooey, green blob on the toilet paper. I had finally lost my mucus plug. No turning back now, this was really really happening.
In my excitement to show my husband (the things he puts up with from me lol), I neglected to keep an eye on the time. Out of no where, another huge wave crashed over me, and I was stuck on the toilet. I know many women find relief while sitting on the toilet, I however was definitely not one of them. That was the second worst contraction of the entire labor. I cried during that one, and then of course peed.
The first pushy contraction was confusing to me.
You hear women say, “…And my body just pushed,” but until you experience it, you really don’t know what that means. In the middle of a contraction I held my breath my body pressed down on my babe. My husband, unsure of what was going on reminded me to breathe. The next contraction came right away, and again, my body held my breath. Again my husband told me to breathe. I looked at him and said something to the effect of, “I can’t breathe hun, I think I am pushing.” It felt amazing to let my body bear down. To feel this inner consiousness do exactly-what-it-was-designed-to-do.
At 5:00 was my first pushy contraction, at 5:08 I felt him move down.
Ahh, he’s past the cervix, I can help him out now. I offered a guided push and felt him slide far down the birth canal. I reached in to feel him, he wasn’t within yet. Not wanting to use up the rest of my energy, I let my body resume pushing. I didn’t push again. With every contraction he came down further. I started to feel the burning ring of fire, and shrieked in excitement, “He’s coming! He’s crowning!” I asked my husband if he still wanted to wear gloves to catch him with, he said he did and began putting some on. In his hurry, he snapped 2 pair of sterile gloves.
All the while, our son was rapidly approaching.
I reached down again and felt him, he was right there, a knuckle away from actually crowning. He did the crowning dance 3 or 4 times before starting to work his way out. In one push he was out to his eyebrows, as I tried to get my husband to hurry. He decided, “Screw the gloves,” but before he could get to me, my body pushed and his head was out. Immediately after, my body pushed the rest of him out. It happened so fast! Luckily my rear was only a couple of inches off the floor, as my husband’s reactions just weren’t quick enough.
I quickly turned and swatted my husband’s hands away from reaching the baby before me.
To this day, I see that as a very primal instinct. Mom holds baby first, it’s like an unwritten law. I scooped up our slimey little green boy. He had passed meconium, but the brunt of it was only from his chest down. He had only a tiny bit above that, and hardly any at all on his head. I cleaned off a spot on his head and kissed him. He was crying, and especially gurgly sounding. Upon further inspection I noticed a large glob of mucus in his mouth. My fingers kept slipping off it so I had to use to bulb syringe to secure it and pull it out. He didn’t require deep suctioning at all.
Dominick Allan was born at 5:20am on July 26th, 2008.
I noticed his size right away, and was worried. He was absolutely tiny, I guessed no more than 6lbs which was unexpected, especially since my “shadow care” OB had estimated his weight at close to 8lbs just a few short weeks ago. We sat there on the floor together, him still connected to me, and we got to know eachother. I offered him the breast, but he had no desire to nurse. Not worried just yet, I decided to give him some time to come around. We waited for the cord to go limp, then clamped and cut it. I handed a now sleeping baby to his father so I could get off my arthritic knees and clean up.
We called my in laws, and my little sister ran to get my mother, who lived a few blocks away.
I called my older sister, who I desperately wanted to be a part of it all. However, she lived an hour away and had a 1 week old. We didn’t let anyone know I was in labor. It wasn’t a conscious decision to leave them out, we just never felt compelled to call.
My in laws arrived, stayed an hour, then left us to bond. The whole time I was waiting for the placenta. And waiting. And waiting. My mother arrived by this time and suggested I try to give the cord a tug. Walking my fingers up the cord and keeping resistance on it, I felt the placenta sitting there. D’oh! I had no more push left in me, so I opted to pull it out instead. It was beautiful, to me at least.
Adding those things to his low birth weight, I decided to have him seen. We loaded up and headed to the hospital and were of course, immediately seen. A glucose test confirmed he was severely hypoglycemic, and would need to be cared for. It took a few days for his blood sugar to stabilize, then a couple more for his electrolyte levels to come around. But, he was otherwise healthy. He was strong, his oxygen levels were always perfect, and he had no trouble maintaining his body temp.
By the end of his 7 day stay, he had also developed a rooting reflex finally. I spoke with the neo-natologist who assured me that I not only made the right decision to bring him in (I already knew that), but that my choice to birth him without medication in my system could have saved his life. Had I been in the hospital, I would have most likely received pitocin, and there’s a very high chance that in his weakened state, he couldn’t have survived it. At the very least, I was practically guaranteed that I would have had a c-section. Had that been the case, he would have most likely spent longer than one week in NICU.
Dominick is now a perfect 20 month old little boy. He’s a daredevil, and very witty. He’s the most affectionate child I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
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