Our first son, Ewan, had been planned to be a homebirth, but had to be born in a hospital because of a partial placental abruption in the third trimester. Although we were lucky that he was born healthy, his birth was still a terrible experience for me and my partner, Mary.
With our second son, we again planned a homebirth and worked with an amazing midwife, Cindy, and her apprentice, Julia.
When we went to bed Wednesday night it was actually around 1am Thursday. We laid down and as I was nursing Ewan I noticed a contraction, then another. I was 41 weeks pregnant and had been having a lot of prodromal labor. Mary suggested we get back up.
She asked if she should call Julia, and I said no because I still wasn’t positive and it was the middle of the night. I had a couple more contractions on the toilet, but they weren’t as distinct as the earlier ones. Even with all the prodromal labor and now these contractions I still wasn’t having any bloody show, so I was continuing to feel up in the air about whether this was it.
At that point I got in the shower. If this wasn’t it the contractions would lessen or go away. They stayed about the same. They definitely got my attention and I pulled up a little on my belly with each one. The warm water really helped. Mary came through again and informed me that she was, in fact, calling Julia and Hannah, Ewan’s doula.
Despite feeling more sure this was it I thought it might be too early for the midwives to come over. When Mary came through a couple of contractions later with Julia on the phone I was less ambivalent. I said something to the effect of the baby was definitely coming tonight, it did not yet feel imminent, but they should start heading this way.
I got out of the shower because I wanted to help Mary set everything up while the contractions were still mild. I had grossly overestimated how much “help” Mary needed. She had already put a show on for Ewan, picked up, called everyone, gotten out the birth kit, and was in the process of inflating the birth tub.
I got in the shower and had more contractions. I pulled up on my belly slightly with each one. Mary came through and told me that she was calling Julia and Hannah, Ewan’s doula.
The midwives got there quickly. Julia listened to the baby with the doppler, He sounded great. I asked her to check me. I was at 8cm! That was quick. I got in the birth tub. Ewan came over to see what all the fuss was about. He brought me a play-doh heart, gave me kisses, then asked to get in with me.
The contractions really picked up. Until this point I would classify them as “discomfort”. Now I was hanging over the side of the tub and it started to hurt.
Labor took another intense turn and I threw up. I was having those searing, hot transition contractions. I would grip the hand of whoever was in front of me and scream. It’s amazing that one’s body can squeeze itself so hard and not do damage. I ended each contraction breathless. The breaks in between were great, this deep relaxation, but as soon as I caught my breath another one would come on.
I would thrash around and knock off my washcloths, which were the only things that felt good besides screaming. Occasionally I would have two contractions back to back, or the pain wouldn’t completely go away in between, which didn’t let me rest or catch my breath. That was brutal. I started saying that I couldn’t do it. Julia would reply “You’re doing it, sweetie!” Mary was telling me how great I was doing which was incredibly generous considering that I was squeezing her arm so hard I was afraid I would dislocate it.
I cried to Cindy about how tired I was. She told me to take the contractions one at a time, which did help for a while. Eventually having that much pain barreling at you non-stop gets too overwhelming. I asked to go to the hospital. I don’t remember what Cindy’s reply was, but it was lovingly negative.
Cindy told me to hold my breath and push all my energy and vocalization downward. That was magic, it felt great.
Cindy told me that if I lowered my vocalizations (i.e. blood-curdling yells) it would help open me up. I pulled on her and Mary, gritted my teeth, and tried it with the next contraction. I don’t know if it helped, but I would do anything to make this be over faster. Julia checked me and I was complete. I had been doing what I assumed was involuntary pushing for a while, and now I started pushing with each contraction, but it didn’t seem to be doing much. Cindy told me to hold my breath and push all my energy and vocalization downward. That was magic, it felt great.
I pushed for what felt like forever. I could never tell whether he was about to come out or if I was making any progress at all. Cindy asked me to get out of the tub because she wanted to make sure he wasn’t stuck. I crumpled on the mattress we had moved into the living room. Mary was up by my head, comforting me and giving me her hand to squeeze. I did the next contraction on all fours, holding my breath and burying my face in the pillows.
I pushed non-stop the whole time, between contractions, whatever. The pain didn’t let up during the (supposed) breaks anymore, and continuing to push, although extremely painful, was better than not. Pushing was going to at least end this sooner. The contractions were so close now it was hard to tell when I was in between anyway, all I needed was enough of a break to exhale, inhale again, hold my breath then push. The sensation was heinous. Everything stretching apart from deep inside outward through my whole abdomen.
Very soon afterward they told me his head was out. In all the birth stories it’s like “What a relief! Whew, take a breather!” I felt no difference.
Julia suggested that I turn over on my back, hold my knees and push. It hurt so much, but pushing was going to get this over with. Someone exclaimed about a head and asked if I wanted to touch it. I replied “No, I want this baby out of me!”
Very soon afterward they told me his head was out. In all the birth stories it’s like “What a relief! Whew, take a breather!” I felt no difference. It wasn’t a relief, it didn’t hurt less. They asked Mary if she wanted to catch, but she felt like I needed her and declined. I pushed a couple of more times, then, FINALLY all the pain stopped and someone said that he was out. My first words? I looked at Cindy and said “That was horrible!”
Taj was born in the caul, so my water didn’t break until he was almost all the way out. It took them a few moments to take the caul off of him. I knew he was fine, so I didn’t care very much about the slight delay in holding him and to be honest I was so overwhelmed at not being in pain anymore that I couldn’t focus on anything else.
Ewan and Hannah came through, and Ewan briefly met his brother. By then he was tired and cranky and soon fell asleep.
The midwives wrapped Taj up and handed him back to me and we cuddled for a while before they did his newborn exam. 2 hours, 59 minutes of labor including 32 minutes of pushing. Taj was 8 lbs, 11 oz., 21 inches long. He was born at 4:39am Thursday, August 12, 2010, a beautiful, healing homebirth.