Shanna’s Home Water Birth Story

The Story of Zephyr.

After waiting not very patiently for a week past my due date, I woke in the small hours of July 8th with real “this is IT” contractions.

No more of the “is this IT or was it the pepperoni?” contractions: the real deal. I got up and tidied up the kitchen, put a batch of vegan chili in the crock pot and got my comfort supplies together. I gently woke Jon around 5:30 with the words I had been hoping to say for SIX days, “honey, wake up, our baby is coming today.”

We called all the appropriate people and started to ride out the long, quiet storm that is early labor. I have always thought babies came in morning. I was born early in the morning, Nova was born early in the morning, and somehow it just seems right for them to come with the new day. So, naturally, I thought that my labor would be short, and made much of letting anyone who would listen know this.

Our midwives checked in periodically and sent the apprentices to get set up. Our wonderful doula, Christy, arrived. We played my labor mixes on the iPod, ate, had tea, chatted. I just moved myself from one position to the next to manage my contractions. We filled the birthing tub. The midwives arrived. They checked my progress and I was an impressive 5 cm. I was feeling good, I was enjoying this. You know, within reason. I have read books about women who experience labor as “pleasant,” some even go so far as to say it was “orgasmic.” I will tell you that was not the case with me. Labor hurts. Its manageable, but “orgasmic?” I think not.

Some time later, probably hours, I started to feel like I needed to push.

I was checked by one midwife, she informed me that while I was not fullydilated, I could go ahead. So I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. Gloves were donned, sleeves we rolled up. I heard my favorite Avett Brothers song play in the background, and I thought “this is it, the baby is coming out, we did it.” So I pushed some more. A whole bunch more. And nothing happened. So another midwife checked me. Nope, not ready.

Gloves were removed. Everyone went back to quietly doing whatever it is that people do while waiting for the miracle of birth. I started to question whether I was going to make it through this, I was getting so tired. I did my best to rest. And then the pushing urge started again. So I pushed. They were all telling me what a good job I was doing, that the baby was coming soon. I asked them, without raising my chin from my chest “If I am doing such a great job, why wasn’t anyone putting their gloves on?”

Eventually the time came, and the pushing got serious, the gloves got put on and I felt their was an end in sight, again. I pushed and looked down into the water and saw a dark little head emerge. I waited for the relief, the moment when the body just slides out. It didn’t come. I pushed again. I heard one midwife say to the other “This is a big baby.” And then a whirl of activity.

Before I had much idea of what was happening the head midwife lifted me out of the tub and onto my hands and knees on the floor of our living room. She told me I had to push, that I HAD TO PUSH HARDER. It seemed like forever. And it seemed like I might not survive if I pushed any harder. And then he came out.

There was no sound. No cry.

Just the quiet words of the midwife and reassuring sounds from our doula, something about heart tones, blood oxygen; relaying some kind of information I couldn’t understand. They said “he.” And then finally…. a cry. I was turned over to a seated position and held my son for the first time. He was so beautiful. And finally breathing. It turned out that it was four and a half minutes from the time his tiny head emerged in the tub to when the rest of his body was delivered. He was blue. He wasn’t breathing. His initial APGAR score was 2.

He got stuck, they call it dystocia. Upon measuring him, the problem wasn’t his average sized head or that he weighed 8 and half pounds. It was the fact that his rib cage was 3 cm bigger around than his head. The size of his rib cage, if it were his head, would have put him in the 99th percentile. Babies have big heads on purpose, they’re designed that way so the big part is generally the first thing out.

Dystocia is one of the true emergencies in vaginal deliveries. It’s rare, and can be very serious. Terminally serious. None of this occurred to me that day. Nor had it occurred to me before that day. While our decision to have a home birth was made in a relatively short amount of time, it wasn’t lightly considered. I read, research, and talked the issue into the ground. We decided that we believed it was safe. And we still do. No amount of ultrasounds or fetal monitoring would have prevented the same thing from happening in the hospital. And the reaction of the OB or hospital midwife would have been the same.

Our midwives carried all the gear that was necessary for resuscitation, had that been necessary. They could have done everything short of a c-section right there in our living room. The only difference was that we got to keep our new son right next to us and I was able to heal in my own bed. I wouldn’t change a thing. I think it is an amazing testament to the ability of our midwives, and a wonderful home birth story. And, as scary stories go, its not that bad. Compared to some of my friend’s stories-from hospitals or not, ours was a cake walk. And although while talking to friends whose newborns spent weeks upon weeks in the NICU, I feel a twinge of guilt, to us, it was frightening and dramatic. Things could have turned out differently, and we will never forget that Zephyr was pulled, rather than pushed, into this world.

Of course, in the end, everyone is fine.

There some debate as to whether his collar bone was broken in the process. Either way, it doesn’t matter, as they heal quickly, there was no damage, and there was no alternative. And because our midwife had the good sense to reach in and pull him out, it took me much longer to heal this time around. Months later we are all healthy and grateful. I already remember this birth, as with Nova’s, thorough lovely rose colored glasses, and wouldn’t change a thing. I still credit our midwives Nora and Regina with saving our son’s life, and would do it all again tomorrow to have our little boy.

Bringing a child into the world is a transformative process. People do it many different ways, but no matter how you do it, it changes you.

And not just by making you a parent. For me, it definitely changed the way that I see myself, how I am in the world. Every woman who gives birth, or welcomes a child in another way, has a story to tell about that day. Each one is, I imagine, in some ways as terrifying as it is beautiful. And each story is the tale of transformation and growth. Laboring with and delivering a child is just the first day of that process. As I am finding, every day parenting my two beautiful children changes me. For the better.

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