May 11th 2013
Grace’s story begins on her due date, May 10th. My husband had just finished his first semester of nursing school the day before, and all throughout the pregnancy I had told people my goal was to keep this baby in until he was out of school. Toward the end of the pregnancy as my belly and discomforts grew, I changed my mind and wanted her to come just a little early, but baby Grace didn’t get that memo. She wanted daddy to do good on his finals. He passed his exams and Grace was now welcome to come.
On May 10th I had strong Braxton hicks contractions all throughout the day. They were no more painful than what I felt the last few months of pregnancy, only I could feel these lower in my abdomen and cervix and I started having a bloody show. I was hopeful it was a sign I was dilating and prepping for labor; but my midwife had just checked the day before at my 40 week appointment and I wondered if it was just a side effect of that.
So on that day, we did many of the tricks that people say start labor. I started the day with worship and praise and prayed that baby would come soon, bounced on the birth ball, went for a long walk, spent quality time with my husband. At the end of the day, my mom watched our two little ones and Aaron and I went on one last date. We ate at Chili’s and then went to walk the mall. All day I had been having “strong braxton hicks” but didn’t see a point to timing them because they weren’t really uncomfortable. I was a little confused and cautiously excited. Even though this is my 3rd baby, I was worried I wouldn’t know when I was truly in labor. My 1st labor was induced and my 2nd started with my water breaking. So what would I do if this one was different? At 9pm as we were settling into bed I noticed they were coming 8 minutes apart. An hour later, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I had the biggest contraction yet. It felt as if Grace kicked me, and at that moment my water broke with an explosion all over me and the bed. It was almost as if she broke the water bag herself. I was drenched from the waist down but, oh, so excited! This was really it!
Since we were planning a homebirth I called my midwife to let her know tonight would be the night. She asked if I wanted her to come now and I said no because I was completely comfortable. I told her I’d call her when contractions were closer together. Over the next 4 hours I labored and laughed and smiled. I listened to my hypnobabies and my birth affirmation CD’s. Contractions were lasting a minute and coming 4-7 minutes apart. I was drinking tons of water and eating peanut M&M’s. Life and laboring at home was, simply put, grand! Around 2am my wonderful husband and birth partner fell asleep just as contractions start coming more frequently. They were a little shorter now, but only 2-5 minutes apart. I decided I wanted my midwife to come because everyone else was sleeping. I wasn’t sure how fast this labor would progress because my last was less than 6 hours. I woke Aaron and we called the midwife.
Sally arrived at our house at 3 am. I felt a little silly having her get here when I was still so comfortable, but we both suspected this labor might go by quickly. Her presence made me feel calm and safe. She set up her supplies, checked my vitals and monitored baby’s heart rate. She started an IV so that I could get a planned dose of antibiotics. I had tested GBS+ which is something that hospitals treat very seriously. IV antibiotics was not something Sally required, but I knew that the hospital would make a really big deal about it if we needed to transfer, so I chose to get them. The IV was done in about 15 minutes and I continued to labor, merrily. My favorite spot was in my rocking chair, covered in a warm, fuzzy blanket. I rocked and visualized Grace’s head dilating my cervix with each contraction. Laying down was not an option for me because every time I did amniotic fluid soaked the bed and I felt bad for making Aaron continuously wash and change the sheets. My midwife just watched, waited and let me do my own thing. She would monitor that baby periodically and every time she checked it, the heart rate was perfect.
Eventually, I started feeling more pressure and wanting to get in the water. My goal was to get in for transition and birth in my large garden tub. I had visualized and dreamed of my baby gently, easily sliding out and I couldn’t wait for that moment. I got in the tub at 5:30am still fairly comfortable and wondering if I was still early in labor. My contractions were more intense now, but they were shorter, maybe 30-60 seconds. The water felt amazing. There were many things that I loved about it: how easily I could change positions, how I had my own little cocoon of space, how I had my husband, mother and midwife there; but I still felt in control of the entire process. My midwife had called her partner, Alina, to my house about this time, to assist with the birth if needed. Within that first hour of being in the tub something shifted and I knew I was in transition. Thankfully, I didn’t get the nausea I had last time, but I needed help. I need Aaron’s hand on my forehead. I needed someone to fan me. I needed to know I was almost done.
Around 7am I felt like my body was starting to push but I wanted to “breath my baby out” like hypnobabies teaches so with every contraction I let go and relaxed. I didn’t have an unbearable urge to push, so I didn’t. Around this time the kids were waking up and started wandering into the bathroom. I was disappointed because I’d hoped to have the baby before they woke. They weren’t really phased by mommy having the baby in the bathtub. My 3 and 5 year old had seen many home water births thanks to you tube. That’s what happens when your mama is a birth junkie.
At 7:45am I asked Sally to check me because I was feeling frustrated, tired of working through these painful contractions and feeling like I wasn’t making progress. This was my first and only cervical check during labor. She confirmed that I was completely dilated with a slight lip of cervix left and +2 station. She said the baby just had to get past the pubic bone. I questioned why it was taking so long when my last labor was so much faster. I had only pushed 30 minutes with my 11 pound son. Now, I was going on round 3 of listening to my Hypnobabies (30 minute long) “Pushing baby out” track. It was at this point that I dreamt of the hospital, an epidural and knew that if there was any way to be transported in time to an OR I would have asked happily asked for a c-section to get this baby out. And that is a lot coming from me. You know how every mom has the moment in transition where they get unrealistic, crazy thoughts like that? Well, that was mine.
Sally suggested after the check that I try pushing with the contractions. Breathing the baby out, just didn’t seem to be working for me; and she was right. I took her suggestion and started to push with the contractions. At that point I called every natural mom who says pushing feels good, a liar! “Pushing is not fun!” I said. It hurt if I pushed, and it hurt if I didn’t. I just wanted it to be over so I kept going at it.
I think it was about 8:30am when the baby finally slipped below my pubic bone and I could feel the baby descending. My once futile pushes were finally making progress and we were nearing the end. What was crazy about this time was the fact that I could feel baby Grace literally trying to push and maneuver her way out of me! It was the oddest sensation ever. About 20 minutes of working the baby down the birth canal (Grace and I working together) her head finally crowned. Once again, I did not feel the burning “ring of fire” and I thank hypnobabies for that. I felt stretching and pressure, but no burning. As a matter of fact, I was on my hands and knees and didn’t even know her head was out.
My midwife was calmly guiding me through the process of birth and telling me exactly what was happening. She told me her head was rotating and I would push her body out with the next contraction. When the next contraction came, I pushed and Grace didn’t budge. Though I had envisioned and dreamed about this baby girl just sliding right out into the water, that‘s not what happened. We were both well prepared for this as my last baby was a shoulder dystocia. My midwife hopped in the tub with me and told my husband and mom to help me to a standing position with one leg propped on the side of the tub. I stood up amazingly fast, continued pushing, while my midwife worked her shoulders out. Not only did she have to work out her shoulders out, but her body too. She was a 10 pound baby coming out of a petite 5’2’’ mama. It was such a tight fit no wonder it took so long for her to descend. It was a little over 2 minutes from her head crowning to body being born. Sally placed her directly in my arms I sat back in the water. Grace was blue, a little limp, but her eyes were blinking and I could see her beginning to take her first breaths. I knew she would be just fine. My mom held a little oxygen to her face to help her pink up as she began to cry and kick away at my belly. How strong she was!
I was crying and laughing all at the same time. That joy, relief and rush of hormones is like no other. I was finally holding my wet, slimy, sweet smelling newborn. The one I grew for 10 months, finally outside my body. As a nurse, I work with newborns all the time and I was overjoyed the mine looked so healthy, she was so perfect! I couldn’t stay in the tub long though because Sally noticed I was started to bleed. Within probably 5 minutes of the birth, Grace’s cord was clamped and cut by daddy. I got up and my placenta delivered itself as I exited the tub. It was huge! That as well as her umbilical cord. The midwives wanted me on the bed so they could monitor my blood loss. As soon as I laid there, I felt the gushing begin. When uterine massage didn’t stop it, they busted out the pitocin. I got one shot in the right thigh and a few minutes later, still bleeding; another shot in the left. That did the trick but there was blood everywhere. I had baby Grace on my chest the entire time. I loved no one coming in to whisk away my baby. The assistant midwife went work cleaning up the mess as Sally continued attending to me, checking my blood pressure, bleeding… oh and changing out of her soaking wet clothes as well.
The midwives checked my perineum for tears and to all of our amazement, all I had was one or two “skid marks” or scrapes that would easily heal on their own. Not even a 1st degree tear and no stitches required! I was amazed but it was truly an answer to prayer. I had 2nd degree tears with my previous two, so I’m not sure if it was the water birth or slow descent/stretching that did it, but on day #2 I don’t even feel like I pushed out a baby!
My immediate postpartum period was quite an adventure as my first two attempts at getting up to pee left me passing out on the way to the toilet. After being carried back to the bed twice, my midwife said I earned myself another IV and gave me 2 liters of fluids while I rested in bed. After staying up with me all night in labor, my midwife stayed 5 hours after birth to make sure I would be ok. By the time I got that 2nd bag of fluids I felt great and was able to get up without passing out.
By the time the midwives left for the day, the bathroom was spotless, all the sheets were washed and about 95% of the evidence we’d had a baby at home had been completely cleaned up. These midwives have this home birth thing down to an art! And even though I made them work for their money, it was amazing experience being able to birth in the comfort and safety of my own home, surrounded by love and competent caretakers.
What else astounds me is the way my complications were managed. I’ve now had two shoulder dystocias (where baby’s shoulders get stuck), one in hospital with an OB and one at home with a midwife and they was a huge difference in how they were treated. In the hospital, everyone went into panic mode, my OB laid me flat on my back legs spread and practically ripped me to get the baby out. Then my baby was taken away for 6 hours for observation. At home, my midwife stayed completely calm and confident, somehow managed to maneuver my baby out without injuring me, and gently let my chunky baby girl transition in my arms. There was no sticking tubes down her throat and nose, no blood sugar checks just because she is big, no jabbing the baby with needles or putting gunk in her eyes, and no rough scrubbing the baby down as soon as she comes out. And when you think about it, what OB would be willing to jump in a bloody bath tub for a shoulder dystocia? Now that is a midwife who loves her job!
I’m so blessed to have this experience. So is my husband. My mom who witnessed it. My children who grew to love our midwife. My baby who was delivered gently into this world and birthed in her own home.
Instead of spending my recovery in a hospital I get to spend it in my warm, cozy bed with my sweet smelling newborn at my side. My husband and mother are serving me so well. Friends and family are helping with the children. I am so blessed. I feel like this just wasn’t my experience. But one we all had together. I praise the Lord Jesus for his grace, beauty and provision through it all. But most of all I thank Him for this precious, healthy, beautiful baby.
View her birth slideshow here: