Morgan’s Unassisted Home Birth Story

Rosaline Clare, born 3/27/09 at 6:03am, 9lb 4oz, 21 inches long.

On Thursday, 3/26, I spent the day doing the Quilt Shop Hop around the Greater Metro Atlanta area w/ my mother and grandmother. I was feeling really done by the end of the day, and really didn’t expect to make it through the weekend still pregnant. I was right!

Jon, my husband, rubbed my back for a while that night and I noticed that when he was rubbing straight down my lower back, I’d have really strong Braxton Hicks and the massage felt great. I had him do that for a while, and then dozed off. I woke up at around 1am, only an hour or so later, having what I first thought were regular Braxton Hicks, but soon realized were light, but regular, contractions. I dozed off and on for a while, before they were too strong for me to keep sleeping. At that point, I told Jon what was going on, but that he didn’t need to get up yet. I went downstairs to time my contractions for a while (2 minutes apart, 45 seconds long) and to update LJ/Facebook (I see now that was about 2am). I called Sarah, my friend who was coming to provide labor support, to let her know that I was in labor, but probably wouldn’t need her for a while, and then did the same w/ my mom.

I fixed myself some miso and some Emergen-C, because I hadn’t slept much and knew I’d need some energy for a potentially long road ahead. I had a strong feeling the labor wouldn’t be as quick as Donovan’s (my second son, born unassisted on 6/09/06). I went into the front bathroom and sat on the toilet for a while, because that’s a really comfortable place for me to sit while I’m in labor. The contractions were getting a little harder, but the miso was very nice and the Emergen-C perked me up a lot. Donovan woke up and I took him to the potty, then tried to get him settled back down. He kept accidentally bumping my belly while I was contracting, though, so I woke up Jon and told him he needed to handle Donovan if he woke back up again (he didn’t, though, thank goodness).

Things started getting heavier.

At that point, it was 3:12 and I called Sarah to come over. I lay down on my bed on my side and moaned a lot during contractions, occasionally getting up to pee and spend a few contractions on the toilet. At this point, I discovered my first birth mantra: the Blue Mint McBee song. Donovan, then not quote three, had called the baby Blue Mint McBee through most of my pregnancy. He made up the Blue Mint McBee song about halfway through my pregnancy and sang it to my belly almost every day. It goes “Blue Mint McBee, Blue Mint McBee, in my belly…come out my belly and get ninny milk, and blue meme [ice cream]!” When my contractions would start getting intense, I’d “sing” (it’s a fairly monotone tune) some variation of the song. Sometimes it was “come out my belly and stop hurting me” or “and get ninny and see me!” It helped to focus on the goal of this whole process and it was almost like we were working together to get through it.

Sarah got there at about 3:40. She sat near the bed while I had contractions and sang to Blue Mint McBee, then moved to the chair. At one point I had a strong contraction and when I opened my eyes, Sarah was on the floor by the bed again. I apparently asked her if she bent the space/time continuum, because I didn’t know how she got there so quickly. In between contractions, I must have been pretty funny, because Sarah said I should have my own stand up act.

Jon called my mom at around 3:50. At the time, I was kind of annoyed because I felt like I had a really long time still to go, and she would get there too soon and it would be one more person sitting around and staring at me. I get a little paranoid in labor and you must avert your eyes while I’m having a contraction. Sarah says I could notice people looking at me even if my own face was covered!

My time gets really fuzzy around here.

I know I went back into the bathroom for a while and had contractions there. I also made the mistake of checking my cervix, and it didn’t feel like anything had happened, which of course really devastated me. See, this is why we all tell people to avoid cervical checks! They don’t do anything but daunt you! I’ve had a lot of anxiety relating to my cervix since my miscarriage (11/07), which was managed w/ misoprostol (Cytotec). Even though I know misoprostol is safe for first trimester pregnancy loss, I’ve had bouts of fear throughout my pregnancy that it may have done something to my cervix to damage it in some way. I know I asked Sarah and my mom if they thought it could have caused scarring that would keep it from opening up, but they assured me it didn’t work like that. I also worried that it wasn’t strong enough to dilate correctly. I think my worries over my cervix opening may have actually been a hindrance to it doing so.

I alternated between bathroom and bed for a while. I also tried some other spots in the room for contractions, like the rocking chair and the yoga ball. This is how The List got started. The List was the list of everything I hated during labor, in order, that I repeated in between contractions as I added new things to the list. First on the list was the chair. I told Jon to remind me that I hated the chair and must not have any more contractions in it. When I tried the ball, I hated it as much as, if not more than, the chair, so I put it on The List and banished it from my sight. Later I added sitting on the bed and one particularly bad contraction to the list. I also apparently made some comments about how I should have ordered a baby from a catalog and how we should have just gotten a beagle, which made Sarah have to try hard not to laugh. I could hear her choking back a laugh occasionally, which sometimes irritated me and sometimes made me smile.

My mom had arrived at this point, not exactly sure when, because I wasn’t looking at a clock. The contractions had started to really hurt at this point, far more so than they ever had during my previous two labors. They HURT. I was in pain and it was freaking me out a bit. I made everyone promise to keep me honest when I wrote about it and not say “it was just intense, not painful” like I did about Donovan’s birth (which really was just intense, not particularly painful). Well, no problem there, because it was honestly some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. It was terrifying, agonizing pain that just kept moving lower and lower, and finally started spreading through my back in my first-ever back labor experience. I couldn’t be still on the toilet or the bed, so I started doing all kinds of movements, anything that felt right. I squatted, leaned on furniture, arched my back forward and backward, swiveled my hips, lunged — anything that would change position (mine or the baby’s) enough to alleviate the tiniest bit of pain.

I asked Sarah and my mom to leave the room at somewhere around this point, so I could be alone with Jon.

I felt my cervix again and it didn’t feel much more open than it had before, but I could feel the baby’s bag of waters bulging out through the opening. The sensation was like the bag was manually dilating my cervix from the inside, rather than my cervix opening on its own to let the bag out. The pressure was so maddening that I actually tried to pinch a hole in the bag with my fingertips out of pure desperation to relief the pain/pressure against my cervix, but apparently all that vitamin C paid off and it was an amniotic sac of steel, which was probably for the best.

Which each contraction, I could feel the baby moving further down into my pelvis. I moved beyond the Blue Mint McBee song to chanting “Down down” or “ow ow ow” or just sort of roaring/moaning in a loud, deep voice. If I moaned with my teeth together at a specific pitch, it would vibrate my body enough to ease the pain, but the pitch changed slightly at each contraction. Nothing that felt good at one contraction was guaranteed to feel good by the next one. I went with whatever my body told me to do, however strange a position. I know I contorted myself into some odd positions, because my neck, back, arms, legs, etc. were all so sore the next day.

Throughout most of labor, I had the most interesting sensation of my brain being completely divorced from my body and able to clearly understand what was happening. Sarah said that I would say, “I can do it. I can do THIS one” at the beginning of contractions, which is something that we (her labor support people) would tell HER during her labor with Bastian (her younger son, born unassisted in 11/07), that she could do this one, only focus on this one and get through it. I felt like my brain was my body’s labor support and was telling it all the things I’d told Sarah during her labor. Even when my mind and body got swept up in that labor fog, the little voice stayed clear-headed and told me that I was in the labor fog and just to go with it.

With my boys, I had very little awareness of entering transition.

With this labor, however, that clear-headed voice told me very clearly what was going on. My labor mantra switched to something like: “This is transition. I know it won’t last long, but it sucks and I need it to be over.” The baby was so low and my lower back hurt so badly. My uterus also had a sharp, burning pain directly over my pubic bone. I don’t know if it was malpositioning, and she had to rotate or move a limb and that’s why it hurt so badly, but it honestly felt like two swords had been stabbed into my back at angles right above my hips, so that they crossed and came out right above my pubic bone. I have never experienced pain like it in my life — it was worse than gallstones, broken bones, anything else. It was blinding, burning pain. I wasn’t moaning at that point, but roaring, because it kept my tone low and kept me from screaming. The contractions were right on top of each other, long and hard and painful without break. I started praying through contractions, just “God, please help me through this. Just get me and my baby through this.” The pain was so great that I felt light-headed and actually thought that losing consciousness momentarily would be a blessed relief.

I was at a breaking point, about to lose it, and I finally asked God, out loud, to give me a tiny break, just a short rest from the pain, because I couldn’t do it anymore. Suddenly I had this strong, clear pull toward the shower. It was like the shower was suddenly the only thing in focus, which gave the sensation of it being lit up and everything else being dark and fuzzy. I turned the water on hot and stepped in, aiming it at my back, thinking maybe I needed to be in there to help the back pain. Nothing. Again, I had a strong, clear sense of needing to turn around and aim the hot, hot water onto my belly. The contractions stopped! For about 45 whole blissful seconds, I was completely without pain — this was the longest break I’d had in the contractions for about an hour! When the next contraction started, it still hurt just as bad, but I felt like I could handle it a little bit better. I had to get right out of the shower, though, because the water on me during a contraction was horrible.

I went back into the bedroom and leaned onto the bed. Jon was sitting on the bed. When the next contraction hit, he reached his hands out toward me and I took them and sort of dangled from his hands in a squat off the side of the bed. This helped a lot for two contractions, but then I had to move again, so back into the bathroom. It wasn’t too much longer after that when I felt the baby start descending into my birth canal. I was leaning on the changing table in the bathroom and just kept getting lower, leaning on the first shelf, then lower, leaning on the bottom shelf, until I was on all fours on the floor. I felt the unmistakable need to push. I yelled to Jon to get everyone, to make sure Liam (my oldest child) was up, because I was pushing and if they didn’t hurry, they’d miss it. Oddly enough, Jon had predicted earlier in the pregnancy that I’d end up pushing on all fours, but I didn’t think I would, since I don’t really like to be on all fours for anything. He was right!

Pushing felt great during my previous two births.

Not so much this time. I felt like I couldn’t get enough force behind my pushes because of my position, but I also knew that moving was absolutely impossible and that I needed to be in that position. With the first real push, my water broke, but only a little came out, the water that had been in the bulging bit of bag in front of her head. I pushed about 3 times and felt her head stretching out my perineum. It hurt like hellfire. Jon was trying to support my perineum, but couldn’t quite figure out how to do it in that position. Everyone made it upstairs to the bathroom just as I was screaming at Jon, who wasn’t actually doing anything other than trying to support my perineum, “Don’t spread my cheeks apart!” It was really a banner moment right there.

I pushed hard, because I didn’t really have any choice in the matter, and felt her head coming out. I was sure her whole head had to be out, and when Jon said halfway, I think I kind of shrieked, “Halfway?!?!” and then pushed really hard again, upon which her whole head was out. I reminded Jon to check for the cord (no cord) and said I was waiting until the next contraction to push again. At one point I thought he was pulling on her head, and snapped at him not to pull on her. He wasn’t touching her at all; it actually was the sensation of her rotating, which I’d never actually experienced before. I raised myself up on my hands a little higher and dropped my butt down lower so it would be easier to push out her body, and then with the next contraction, screamed loudly and pushed hard and felt her body and the rest of the amniotic fluid come out in a rush.

I felt her drop down low and I asked Jon if he dropped her, and he said, sounding a little unsure, “No?” Apparently, he hadn’t realized her body would shoot out so quickly, and she was so slippery that she slid down his hands (which were right above the floor) and onto the floor and then a little bit across the puddle of amniotic fluid on the floor. When she reached as far as the umbilical cord would go, she kind of snapped back a little bit.

Jon picked her up and blew gently on her face, as she wasn’t breathing yet, then my mother took her and blew a harder puff across her face.

She started to breathe well and pink up. She cried one or two good cries, atwhich point I had turned over and was sitting on my bottom on the floor, and they handed her to me. She immediately calmed down and just stared directly into my eyes for a while, perfectly calm and steady and just really THERE in a way I’d never seen a newborn be before (Donovan was so mad that he cried for a long time). I asked, “Is she really a girl?” and they said, “yes!” and I said, “Did we confirm it?” and checked her myself (she was). She looked small to me, but felt SO heavy! Everyone said they thought she looked pretty big, including Sarah, whose last baby was 11 pounds, which should have clued me in that she was a good-sized baby.

Within a couple of minutes, baby girl was already snuffling for the nipple and latched on great, nursing for quite a while. I started having bad afterpains and wanted to try to pass the placenta, which I couldn’t do sitting on my bottom on the floor, nor could I get up with her still attached, because once again I had a baby with a super short cord! We sat there for a good long while until the cord was completely limp and white, then Jon got the clamps, clamped the cord, and cut it. I sat on the toilet and almost immediately passed the placenta, with comparatively little bleeding. I retrieved it from the toilet, checked it out to make sure it was whole. It, too, was very heavy, more so than Donovan’s, and was very thick across the middle and almost perfectly circular, like a slightly flattened ball. I also noticed that my amniotic fluid (which was all over the floor) felt thicker and less watery than it did with Donovan.

Jon and my mom took baby Rosaline into the bedroom so I could get showered up, which felt wonderful. I knew I’d torn again and so I took a quick peek with a hand mirror — a tiny first degree tear upward from my urethra and a long, but not deep, second degree tear downward, right where I’d torn with Donovan, though not nearly so deep.

I got into bed with my baby.

She nursed some more and stayed awake for a long time, moving her eyes to find voiced and even turning her head to look at people, such an incredibly alert baby. We rigged up a receiving blanket to use on the hanging scale and weighed her. I was shocked to hear she weighed 9lb 4oz! My biggest baby yet.

Jon made me a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, which was the most amazingly delicious thing ever, and then I spent the rest of the morning nursing my baby and dozing.

I’ve been a little shell shocked over the experience, because I had absolutely no expectations that it would be so painful. My previous two labors weren’t anything like this, and I’d really been looking forward to giving birth. I’m proud of myself for getting through it without asking for help or drugs or intervention. That never crossed my mind. I never indulged the desire to say “something’s wrong!” and have someone “save” me, because I knew nothing was wrong. I felt like I asked God for help and was given the help I needed. I also feel a little confused and angry with my body, a little let down that this was my final birth experience and it was so agonizing. Maybe it was good that I had a birth like this, because it didn’t sway me in my feelings about the important of natural home birth (or unassisted birth) at all. There was nothing I would have done differently, nothing a midwife could have done for me at home, nothing a doctor could have offered but drugs and numbness, which sure, would have probably felt incredible at the end, but would also have robbed me of the sensations and experience and power. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Back to Unassisted Birth Stories