I’ve been actively working on Freddie’s home birth story for two weeks now. A little at a time. Almost every day. Trying to sort out the timeline of it all, matching pictures and videos with my own already-fading memories, hoping to get the day out into words so that I can move on from it.
I’ve been having a heck of a time piecing it all together though. Something was different – and much more difficult – with this labor & birth than with my first two. I struggled to put my finger on it at first, but in the end, I realized that my labor turned out to be one huge summation of my feelings on the entire pregnancy. Because, see, unlike with my previous two births, I didn’t feel strong and womanly being pregnant this time around. This time I felt weak and anxious and awkward and just wanted the whole thing done with.
And apparently all that carried over into what became my most trying labor experience of all.
Not only were there the usual inconveniences of labor such as nausea, food aversions, heartburn, uncomfortable sleeping, round ligament pain, sciatica leg numbness, etc., but there’d also been the anxiety of making it past the 1st trimester, then a high risk result for Down’s Syndrome that required more testing, then my torn ankle tendon and limited mobility. Add to that feeling unattractive in my awkward body, and my crankiness and impatience with my kids, and feeling as though I had to put my own passions and pursuits on hold – and this pregnancy just seemed like one huge mental and physical handicap that I could barely, (im)patiently, endure.
The unknowns of labor also seemed like such an inconvenience. It was hard not knowing how it all would go. How to plan to around preschool pickups? My evening online tutoring job? What if I needed someone to watch the kids last-minute before KP could arrive? What if I delivered so fast before the midwives could arrive? Or if I was all alone? Or even worse, alone AND while responsible for my other two young kids?
WARNING: I get TMI in this post. I mean, it’s a birth story, so you gotta expect some of that. But still, if you’re squeamish or can’t handle me talking about things like poop and blood and babies coming out of private parts, then you might want to skip this post. Also, while none of the pictures are graphic, they’re still pretty authentic and terribly unflattering of me. You’ve been warned. 🙂
Thurs. 5/18 (39 weeks exactly) – Since my mom was already in town for the upcoming birth, KP and I went out for a late dinner date. It was more of a “work” date, and we each brought our laptops and talked about another movie idea we’ve been wanting to write together. We got home late, around 11:30ish. I probably fell asleep around midnight.
Fri. 5/19 (39w1d) – Around 2am, our 3yr old son came into our bedroom, asking for a drink of water. Since I had to pee anyways (yay end of pregnancy), I got up. Got him water. Put him back to bed.
But I couldn’t fall back asleep. I felt anxious. It was as though, somehow, I knew what was coming.
2:45am – I got up (again) to pee. There was some pink-tinged mucus. I wondered if it was the beginning of a “bloody show”, which is something that I hadn’t experienced with my previous labors. I got even more anxious.
3am – I felt a very mild contraction. Then, several minutes later, another one. I wasn’t surprised. I’d somehow known this was coming.
But instead of being so super excited about labor starting and pregnancy ending like I thought I would be – I was nervous. Anxious. Would labor be fast and furious and I’d be unable to mentally get ahead of the pain? What if there was an unexpected complication? A hospital transfer? What if something went wrong? What if all my luck had run out with my previous two (relatively) uncomplicated home births?
3:45am – I got into the bath to calm myself down. Dropped in some lavender oil for relaxation. Got my headphones out, pulled up the contraction app on my phone. Listened to calm music. Contractions were very mild, 4-7min apart, 15-30sec long.
Part of me seriously contemplated pouring myself a glass of wine… But I was afraid I might wake someone. And – a pregnant woman hiding in the bathroom alone drinking wine at 4 in the morning? I felt a little weird about it.
In hindsight, I kind of wish I’d had the glass of wine. Maybe then I could’ve gone back to sleep for a couple hours and rested. I definitely would’ve had I known what kind of labor I was about to enter in to.
4:30am – Got out of bath. Went #2 (my typical tell-tale labor sign). More pink-tinged mucus.
5am – sat in bed w/laptop. Researched early labor positions for rest. Tried to rest, but couldn’t.
6am (3hrs in) – contractions had been getting slightly stronger, but still only mild in intensity. Still pretty irregular, anywhere from 3-7min apart, 20-50sec in length.
I decided to wake up KP, knowing that he had a work project deadline that day, in case he wanted to start working on it early. I also woke up my mom. She was excited for me.
I spent the next little while just hanging out. Talked to my kids as they woke up and ate breakfast. Walked around the house. Paused during contractions. Ate a waffle. Tried to drink some coffee, but the caffeine (or maybe the reality of labor) made me too jittery.
Things progressed normally. Contractions slowly moved up to moderate intensity, though still only 4-6 min apart. 30-50sec long.
We decided not to send my daughter to preschool, not knowing how quickly things would progress. My mom predicted the baby would be born at 1:30pm…which seemed totally doable to be. I hoped it’d maybe be even earlier.
All in all, all was going well.
Around 8:30am – I felt a shift in my mental focus. I suddenly wanted to hole myself up in my room, alone. I closed the curtains, turned down the lights. I wondered if this meant I was entering ‘active labor’.
KP got out the Lego sets we’d bought for the older kids to occupy themselves with on the day of the birth.
I had a couple of good contractions. The midwife had previously warned me that – considering this was my third child and labor could possibly go very quickly – to call them as soon as I had 2 or 3 good contractions.
So, a little before 9am (6hrs in) – my mom called the midwife.
KP was going to head into work for a bit to pick some stuff up. I was worried he’d get caught up there and not make it back in time. I asked him to stay. He said he would have someone bring him the work instead.
My previous anxiety turned to focused excitement. This was really happening! No, I wasn’t looking forward to the next couple hours, but things seemed to be going smoothly so far, and unlike earlier in the morning – I now felt confident in my ability to give birth for a third time. I could do this. I was going to do this. It was all going to go well.
15 min. later, around 9:15am…everything just kind of slowed down.
Contractions went back to mild. Only 20-30sec. long. I lost my focus. I was confused as to why. But optimistic. I tried some walking, swaying, rocking on the back porch. I got out my clary sage oil and inhaled some.
9:30am – the midwife called to check in. She informed me that her assistant was on her way, she’d check me, and then let her know how I was doing. I mentioned that my labor had seemed to stall suddenly. She suggested changing to a new position, such as lying on my side to rest.
After I got off the phone, I thought to myself “lie on my side and rest?? I don’t need to rest – I need to move. I need to get this party started again!” After all, walking/swaying is what helped in my last labor. So I didn’t heed her advice. I kept walking and swaying. And contractions kept being mild and inconsistent.
10am (7hrs in) – the midwife assistant showed up. She checked me. 4cm, 85-90% effaced. 0-1+ station. Definitely real labor, even though if my contractions had slowed down. At least that made me feel better. At least the morning hadn’t just been false labor.
When I’d lain down for the cervical check, I’d had a strong contraction. When I was resting on the bed talking to the midwife assistant, I had another one. So she suggested – just as the midwife had – that I should try lying on my side to encourage labor to pick back up. She also mentioned that I might be distracted by everything else going on in the house…i.e. wanting to interact with and feel responsibility toward my other two kids.
And here I thought I was doing a good job shutting out and ignoring my kids, lol. Maybe I wasn’t? Either way, as soon as the midwife assistant left, my mom sent KP and the kids to the park down the street so I could have a quiet house.
After KP and the kids left, I cried to my mom. Then I apologized for crying. I didn’t think I’d been unable to focus! I thought things had been going well! Why did labor slow down? I felt stupid that I hadn’t let KP go into work, when he absolutely could have. I felt stupid that I *thought* I was focusing well, when maybe I really wasn’t. I felt stupid that I couldn’t mentally control labor, and make things happen as smoothly I wanted.
The next couple hours, from 10:30am-ish – 12:30pm-ish are a bit boring. I was mostly left alone. I took another bath. I laid in bed. I smelled more clary sage. Contractions started back up, slowly, though still inconsistent. 4-8min apart. 40-50sec long. But at least they came back and grew in intensity. Mostly moderate, even some I’d consider “strong”.
Around 12:30ish (9.5hrs in) – the midwife arrived. I was now 6cm. I would’ve liked to have dilated more than only 2cm in the last 2.5hrs, but at least some progress had been made.
The midwife mentioned that another one of her patients was in labor too. And that the other midwife in the practice was at her son’s graduation and unavailable, so she would need to cover both births. Depending on how quickly my labor went, she may need to step out and check in over there first.
I understood why she was telling me this upfront, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking “oh great. Another person I’m inconveniencing with this annoying labor of mine. Why can’t I make things happen faster??“
The midwife left, mom came into the room and I again cried to her. I apologized that I wouldn’t deliver before 1:30 like she predicted. I was turning into an exhausted, emotional, mess. Who kept apologizing for all the things I had no control over.
KP was back and offered me some lunch. I was a bit hungry, but distracted, so I declined. He brought me some trail mix and I nibbled on some. I’d noticed that my mom had stopped taking pictures of the day, probably to give me space. I told her I’d like her to keep photo-documenting the day if that was ok.
Over the next hour, after 1pm (10hrs in) or so, I stayed holed up in my room. Trying to make things happen. I stood next to the bed. I laid down in bed. I tried nipple stimulation. Whatever I could do. I may have made a couple light jokes here and there as I zoned in and out of “contraction land”.
If you’ve never given birth before (especially if not without pain meds) you might not understand what I mean by “contraction land”. I suppose it’s similar to a form of self-hypnosis, a way of dissociating the intense sensations of contractions from the idea of “pain” to be afraid of. That sounds hippy-dippy, ha ha, I know. But it’s not. It’s a natural coping mechanism that requires intense, and exhausting, mental focus.
Instead of fighting against the “painful” pressure of contractions, I allow myself to feel them and consciously accept it. I inhale/exhale to the rhythm of crashing waves playing in my headphones. Breathe in with the wave. Breathe out with the wave. Don’t think. Just ride out the moment. In. Out. I feel the pressure reach a peak…and then begin to slowly taper down. I keep breathing. In and out. Slooooow breaths. The pressure subsides.
And then I open my eyes and there are people around me again.
And that’s what I mean by “contraction land”. 🙂
Around 1:45pm I asked for a bowl. Just in case I threw up (I didn’t). But I felt like I could.
It was starting to get warm. A small heat wave was coming in and the outside high of mid-80s, and our non-air conditioned house, meant that it was probably close to 80 degrees in the room at this time of day. Not the worst conditions a laboring woman has ever given birth in, but still. Even with our Dyson fan brought in and the ceiling fan running…having been up since 2am, and not having eaten very much (nor probably drank enough water) and being in labor for 10+ hours now…everything was beginning to take its toll on me.
Around 2pm (11hrs in) I asked for a wet washcloth for my neck and forehead. Contractions were 2-4min apart, 40-50sec, strong/very strong in intensity.
Sitting up in bed, I started to feel greater pressure in my pelvis with contractions. I wondered if my water might break soon. I asked for a chux pad to be placed underneath me, just in case it did (it didn’t).
Around 2:30pm KP rubbed my feet for a bit to relax me.
Around 2:45pm my contractions were to the point where I almost couldn’t keep my focus during them.
Around 3pm (12hrs in) the midwife checked me.
And this is when it all started to go downhill. Fast.
I thought for sure I had to be almost fully dilated. After all, I was 6cm 2.5 hrs ago. And lest we forget, with my last birth, I’d jumped from 3cm to DELIVERY in only 3hrs.
She checked me. I was 7cm dilated. That means I’d dilated ONLY 1 centimeter over the past 2.5 hours of strong contractions. 1 measly centimeter. This was my 3rd labor…and turning out to be my longest! It was SUPPOSED to be quick and easy this time!
I was so over it. Over labor. Over pregnancy. Over whatever was going on that was keeping my body from progressing quicker than this.
And I was so, so very tired.
Overheated. Nauseous. Hungry. I began to question how much longer I could physically keep doing this for.
So I went into “business mode”. It was time to do whatever it took.
I was not happy.
This was not fun.
If I’d only had the contractions to contend with, I could handle it. But the frustration of a slow labor, of not knowing why things weren’t going faster, and of not even being in transition after all of this time??? I was not having this anymore.
Just like last labor, the midwife suggested I sit on the toilet to open up more. I did. She brought me my clary sage oil to smell and I thought that was funny in a way, that my oil research wasn’t totally left-field if even my well-experienced midwife knew to have me try it right then!
3:30pm-ish? I went back to the bed. Another check. I think I was 8cm now? (I can’t remember details at this point anymore.) The midwife offered to break my bag of waters if I wanted. I know that home births typically follow a more “hands-off” approach to childbirth, and I’ve done it that way before. But this time, my energy was seriously depleted, I questioned my ability to physically get through this, and I needed this baby out of me. Soon. Whatever it took. So I agreed.
The next (and final!) hour or so is a complete blur to me now. Luckily my mom took a bunch of short videos during this time, so I can piece together some things. But the time stamps on the videos were all messed up, so I have no idea of the exact time frame of what comes next. Here’s what I can remember and/or figure out:
3:45pm-ish (almost 13hrs in)
KP taking the kids to the neighbors house to play.
Bearing down and pushing as the midwife broke my water bag.
The midwife assistant saying something about needing to get the baby past the pubic bone, and the midwife saying something about holding back a small cervical lip.
Waiting what felt like 15 minutes at a time between contractions (though it was really only a couple minutes) and it felt like everyone in the room was just watching me and waiting on me. I apologized to everyone, wishing I wasn’t holding everything up.
KP feeding me bites of a popcicle, and in between bites he’d set it down in the bowl I planned to use *if* I puked (I didn’t). Thinking that felt gross to me for some reason but being too exhausted to say anything about it.
Between bites, watching the popcicle slowly melt in the bowl and wondering how much time was passing.
Telling KP that I didn’t know if I could do this anymore. Unlike in previous labors where I hit the wall of not *wanting* to go on – this time, I hit a wall of not knowing if I *physically* could go on.
Asking the midwives – or anyone – if anything was happening. If baby was moving down at all. I desperately needed to hear that something was progressing/happening.
Asking KP to bring me one of my oils listed for energizing or encouragement.. He brought me black pepper and I wasn’t sure if that was the right one. But again, not saying anything.
Hearing the midwife (or the assistant?) mention something about a hand (or maybe hands, plural?) being up by the baby’s face.
Wondering if there was a point I wouldn’t be able to go any longer. If they’d have to take me to a hospital and have someone pull the baby out of me there.
Hearing our neighbors knocking on the door to bring our kids back home, and our kids on the porch right outside the bedroom window.
Wishing someone else was around to watch the kids,
Wishing I’d planned better for their supervision,
How chaotic this moment felt.
And wishing I’d managed to have pushed the baby out a half hour ago, when the kids weren’t home, instead of STILL being pregnant.
4:30pm-ish (13.5hrs in)
Finally, I heard the midwife say that baby was under the pelvic bone. That the baby’s head was close. And that there was a lot of hair.
And then another push.
All of a sudden, the bedroom door opened. A kid ran in to the room (I don’t even remember which kid it was), whining and asking for something. KP hurried out of the room to help them. Everything again seemed so chaotic.
Then another push, and the midwife told me I could reach down and feel the head if I wanted. I didn’t, but I did. I really just wanted the baby O. U. T.
I was told that to breathe different, lighter and quicker, on crowning, I assumed to lessen the risk of tearing?
I started pushing, focusing on the extraordinary feeling of the baby’s head moving down and out of my body. I wanted to get the baby out in a single push if I could. I had to try. I pushed as hard as I could manage to muster.
Then my mom started yelling. “KP, hurry, you’re going to miss it!” He was apparently still in the other room with the kids.
Then the midwife assistant, “KP, the baby’s coming!“
Then my mom again “Hurry KP, come quickly!“
Through clenched teeth and in the middle of a push, I managed to get out “it’s ok! its ok!”. But what I really wanted to yell was ‘SHUT UP EVERYONE!‘
I did not care in that moment whether or not KP made it in time for the birth. I did not care one bit. ALL I WANTED — out of everything in the entire freaking world — was calm and quiet and the ability to do my own thing on the timeline I wanted to. And I was just so, so, so tired of trying to oblige everyone (including myself) with a convenient and predictable labor.
So I puuushhhed. Then sloooow, quick breath, quick breath, quick breath. Stretching… stretching…steady…puushh…
That unforgettable sting. Slooow push…steady…steady…through the pain… and…
KP had made it back in the room just in time to see the head come out.
Though my contraction was over, I asked if I could keep pushing the shoulders out anyway. I don’t remember if anyone answered me (or if anyone even heard me), but either way, I just kept pushing. Slow and steady and forcefully. I had to get this done with.
I felt a shoulder slide out.
I heard the midwife say I could reach down and get my baby.
I reached between my legs, secured my hands around a pair of tiny shoulders, lifted up, and felt the baby’s torso and legs slide out of me as I raised my baby to my chest.
4:47pm – There’s really no way to fully describe that surreal moment after you’ve just given birth. The sudden appearance of a fully formed infant in your arms. You may darn well know where they just were and how they got out out you, but still. YOUR baby. On your chest. Seeing them – IN PERSON – on the outside of you – after you’ve spent months and months getting to experience them while they were inside you. All those little kicks and movements. THIS, this baby, *your* baby, was the thing that caused them. And now they are here. In your arms. On the outside of you. Alive. A life. That you sustained and grew from its’ tiniest existence. In your own body. And now they are outside your body. Lying on your chest. And they are the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.
Somehow, all the pain and exhaustion and frustration of labor completely went away in that instant.
The midwife assistant threw a towel over the baby for warmth. Maybe it was the lighting in the room, or the typical purplish newborn color, but I remember thinking how dark the baby looked. “Are you ok?” I asked it. I was still a bit confused as to why labor had been so weird this time and what was going on there at the end. Had something been wrong and no one was telling me?
I then remembered that I didn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl…oh, but I didn’t care! I cried, still in disbelief that the baby was actually out, and exclaimed “I don’t care if its a boy or a girl right now, I’ll look later!”
But then of course we had to look. I lifted the towel, KP and I peeked over and I laughed – “You ARE a boy!“ Since we’d been calling the baby “Freddie” the entire pregnancy, it just felt fitting that he would end up being a boy after all. And it was!
I noticed that Freddie’s little hands were in front of his face, fingers spread out and pressed together, almost like a praying pose. My mom said “look at his hands!” The midwife asked him “Is that what you were doing in there with your hands? Praying?” We all laughed.
Then came placenta delivery, the midwives checked me (no tears! yay!) and cleaned me up, and KP brought the other kids in to see their brother. Baby was assessed and weighed, I went to the bathroom, given postpartum instructions, KP brought me food, the other kids went to bed, we announced on social media, and life was good.
And I just stared at my new baby boy, so so so thankful that he was (finally!) here. 🙂
Oh – I forgot to note: Freddie was 7lbs, 14oz, and 20 inches long.
Some bits of info I was later able to piece together:
– I had a small anterior cervical lip at the end, which means that the end of the cervix became a tiny bit swollen and wouldn’t dilate fully. This can be due to frequent cervical checks or the baby not being positioned well. My midwife explained that mine was likely caused by baby being stuck on the pelvic bone and my cervix knocking up against it, which caused the end of the cervix to swell some.
– I have a feeling that the reason why Freddie was getting stuck may have been due to the placement of his hands in the birth canal. I’m not positive (I should’ve asked the midwife more about it afterward), but my best guess is that he had his hands up by his face during most of the end of pregnancy/labor. This malposition might explain the numbness I kept getting in my left leg in the last weeks as well as why the baby’s head was being pressed up against and stuck on the pubic bone…and also why I wasn’t dilating consistently.
– I’ve intensely scrutinized the birth video, and I’m pretty certain that the baby came out without an actual nuchal hand (which means a hand comes out, at the same as, and right next to, the head). But the video is dark, and fast, and from a side angle so it’s hard to tell what exactly happened. My best guess is that the baby’s hand(s) had been up, but then slid back down lower than his chin just as he began crowning? Is that possible? The midwife previously seemed to indicate something about his hands being up – is this something she would have known before the delivery?
– In looking back, I have a feeling that my torn ankle tendon in my 6th-7th month of pregnancy, which caused me to lean slightly more on my non-injured left foot, may have caused a misalignment which helped contribute to baby settling in such a way that allowed the minor malpositioning. In hindsight, I probably should have read the Spinning Babies website and/or visited a chiropractor to work on getting myself into optimal fetal positioning. Oh well. What’s done is done.
– I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how this labor/delivery would have been different had I delivered in a hospital instead. I wonder what different interventions would have been used and how effective they would’ve been. It seems different places have different views on how to handle things like artificial breaking of membranes, stalled labors, cervical lips, and fetal malpositions (such as a possible nuchal hand/s). Overall though, I’m really glad with how my birth went, and having had an experienced midwife who knew what to do when, when to intervene and when not to, and when to let my body do its own thing.
But not gonna lie, I am soooooo thankful that it’s all over with, and that I’m no longer pregnant, and that Freddie is here now. I may be exhausted and my house a mess and have no idea how to do this three kids thing….but I’m so, so, so much happier being on this side of it all. 🙂