Our First Home Birth- 40 hour labor
The piece that I thought would be the easiest to write has been the most difficult; my birth story. I just couldn’t find the words to describe the amazingly difficult yet sparklingly beautiful journey. It is a private experience that I want to share with everyone but it just doesn’t seem possible to explain the joy. It wasn’t all sunshine and smiles; it was painful, heart wrenching, long and frustrating but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing. I can say that I have truly experienced birth the way that nature intended. This is my birth story...
The morning of January 20th, 2013 I was having a dream about my water breaking. I was literally dreaming about labor starting. I woke up and within seconds I felt a little rush. I immediately woke up T and told him the news. I now know that it was NOT MY WATER BREAKING! In fact, I believe your “water breaking” should be renamed to “Have your ark ready…there’s a flood!” Later in labor I would have my water broken and realize just how wrong I had been when my husband called our midwife that morning. Our midwife, Priscilla, asked us some general questions and then advised us to get some more sleep. It was pretty early so we laid back down in bed. Some silly banter was exchanged about how hard it was to relax and how excited we were before T finally fell back asleep. I was having contractions so I did get some sleep but every 10 or so minutes I was woken up by very light pains.
About 10am we got up for the day and got ready to head out to the island to walk around. Anna Maria Island is just across the bridge from us and they happened to be having an art show that weekend. After checking in with the midwife we headed out. I scheduled an acupuncture appointment for 2pm that afternoon. At the art show I purchased an amazing outdoor flower shower. Yes, you can shop while in labor! We ate a fabulous lunch at Eat Here (the best Kale and Chicken Soup EVER,) visited some family and then headed home.
The acupuncturist arrived at my house and got right to work. She placed pins in my feet, my hands, my ears and my ankles and then hooked them up to this machine that made them vibrate slightly. It was relaxing and by the time she left my contractions picked up. It was about 3pm; early labor was finished and active labor was beginning. T was watching some show about the Incas or Aztecs or something as I laid on the couch breathing.
This is when the comfort of laboring at home set in. My husband was watching our own TV, I was laying on my couch with my favorite blanket in my cute labor dress I had purchased. My dogs were cuddled up with us and we were using our phone app to monitor the contractions.
Around 5pm or so the midwife arrived and we set about checking the baby’s vitals. As expected the heart rate was within normal range. My doula and my birth photographer both arrived shortly after my midwife. I have to admit that at this point I really thought my little guy or gal would be born before midnight. I was really wrong!
As night set in my contractions got worse. I moved between the living room, my bedroom, the tub and the shower. My doula had brought along a birthing ball, which I spent most of the time sitting on. I was offered some strawberries and a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, two of my favorite things on a normal evening but during labor I really didn’t want anything. I can honestly say that even though I didn’t eat a lot during my 40 hours of labor I would not have made it had I been in the hospital. My body would not have had the energy to birth living off ice chips and an IV. I had stocked up on coconut water with pineapple and Gatorade, those liquids were vital in my birth process.
The night seemed to last forever at the time but now looking back it seems like it flew by. I caught a few zzz’s — and I mean few— in the overnight between contractions. I was literally falling asleep on the birthing ball and then waking up a few minutes later to breath through a contraction. I was so exhausted I would fall asleep by the time the contraction ended and then wake-up wondering when the last one had ended only to realize it had only been a few minutes. I wasn’t talking just concentrating. My wonderful birthing team was taking turns catching a little shut-eye. My husband got all of 3 hours. In those early morning hours I was ready for this baby to be born. I was experiencing pain like I have never experienced before. Natural labor is not for the weak minded. I say minded because I believe women were made for labor. They can physically handle it!
With the days light my hope was renewed that my baby would be born by noon. I am a schedule person so giving myself time frames was actually helping me. They were private timeframes but I needed to say to myself, “Just make it until noon and you will meet your baby.” The midwife was very cautious to not give me estimates; smart because I probably would have freaked if she had said the baby would come by midnight the night before and here I was at 8am still laboring. I could be mad at myself but I needed to love my birth team.
The midwife and my doula were invaluable. Their squeezing and massaging made everything feel just a little bit better. I spent most of the time leaning on my husband. At some point on the 21st I had a second acupuncture appointment. I don’t really remember much about that appointment except that some of the pressure points changed. Throughout my laboring I had issues making low noises, I was screaming at points instead of grunting. I had made fun of the grunting advice in the birth classes. Oops! F.Y.I. Screaming is not helpful and only makes you lose your voice the next day. GRUNT! Really, just do it!
By noon I was getting annoyed. By 3pm I had had enough! The times are hazy to me but I do know that during the afternoon I became somewhat… “testy.” I was hitting that wall that everyone had told me about. This is when the people around you lift you up, support you and reaffirm your goals for you. I asked the midwife to check me and make sure I was progressing. I was. I then asked the midwife to break my water. She did (after much deliberation and discussion as a group).
There was a point, before my water was broken where I literally declared, “I am going to the hospital and I want an epidural.” That is where the team stepped in. Sure, if I couldn’t be convinced to stay by being reminded why I was giving birth naturally they would have taken me but I was 9cm dilated and progressing. I had already made it through 30 or so hours of labor. No one was going to let me give up! My husband calmly spoke with the midwife about the transfer procedure. He got the pros and cons from her and then presented them to me. I finally said to my husband, “I am doing this for you!” I am so glad I didn’t change my birth plan.
I knew in my heart I didn’t want to transfer but I also wanted control over the situation. I hadn’t realized at the time that you don’t control birth, your body does and during the birthing process you don’t control your body. It sounds weird but your body has to do what is necessary and your baby comes first. It knows what to do so just follow it. Once I had eliminated the idea of transferring from my brain, knowing I would be disappointed in myself, I buckled down. I got quiet and focused.
It wasn’t technically pushing time but I felt the need to push…so I pushed! Eventually, I was coached to push longer as I had a tendency to produce short pushes. I was being fed a Cliff Bar for energy and Gatorade to keep me hydrated.
The next roughly 6 hours were very serious for me. I stopped focusing on the pain and started focusing on finishing the job. I wanted to meet my baby!
Once G’s head started to show I got excited. It was the coolest experience of my life. Yes, I was still in pain but it was happening, I was about to birth my baby! The birthing team was in position. I could see my baby’s head; I could feel my baby’s head. A mirror was being held for me so that I could see what was going on. I was doing it! It truly was empowering! I was in the shower now. I switched frequently between several positions: from squatting, to all fours, to standing, to the “Captain Morgan” and back standing again. At one point everyone was commenting on how they couldn’t believe I was still standing and pushing after 39 hours of labor. To my self I said, “Yay, that’s right! I’m awesome!”
Baby G’s head emerged and I heard the midwife say he had a Nuchal hand. I had no idea what that was. I was sure I knew 40 hours ago but at this point I was in the zone. Anyway, his head was out and on the next contraction he should turn. Well, baby G is a little stubborn and didn’t. No biggy! I just switched positions and in the next contraction or two the baby came out. Would it have been treated differently in the hospital? I will never know but I am very happy I was able to change positions and help him along.
When my baby was born I could feel him slide out. The midwife caught him with T close by and I sat down on the shower floor in T’s lap. My baby was immediately handed to me and I was in awe. I was so exhausted and elated that I forgot to look at whether my little one was a girl or a boy. Nine months of waiting and I forgot to look! I heard Tyler say, “it’s a boy!” Then it dawned on me to check the sex of my newest family member. At that moment I didn’t care what sex the baby was I was just amazed at the experience. Surrounded by loved ones, I gave him the best start I could have possibly provided. I had conquered it. Graham was born at 10:41pm on January 21st, 2013.
I sat there in my husband’s lap with his head on my shoulder and my new baby in my arms and took a deep breath. It was a precious moment that I hope I never forget. The first thing I said, “Thank you for not letting me transfer.”
All photos taken by Sweet Plum Photography. Do not copy without permission.