When my water broke at 1:00 in the afternoon, just two days after my estimated due date, I was shocked. I prided myself in not being anxious for my son’s birthday to arrive; I knew it would happen. I knew stressing about it wouldn’t help. I kept in mind that first babies, on average, are born 8 days after their EDD, so that’s what I was expecting. I was even cool with going two weeks over!
It was a Monday and I was with my husband, John, at our church where he worked, so he sent a few emails and we headed home. Exactly forty-five minutes after my water broke, as I was climbing the stairs I experienced my first contraction. This made my heart leap with joy! Finally, it was time, and labor was in progress. I hopped in the shower, expecting the next day to be a slow, steady progression of labor. I figured I might as well pass the time and get squeaky clean. I was in the shower for about twenty minutes, but my contractions were getting stronger. I started getting very shaky and it became harder to stand. So, I got out and hung out in the bathroom for a while.
My friend Samantha, who was to attend the birth, saw my labor announcement on Facebook and called to see how I was doing. I talked on the phone with her for about ten minutes, during which I experienced five or six contractions that were hard enough to make me pause and forget what I was saying. I felt very scatter-brained and figured this, along with my shakiness, was attributed to not having anything to eat yet. I moved to the living room and John made me some peanut butter crackers and an egg. I knew it was extremely important that I eat to retain strength while in labor, but the crackers and the egg tasted awful. I forced myself to eat a little bit, and tried to drink a significant amount of water. Samantha, recognizing that I was much further along in my labor journey than I thought, showed up to our apartment. Her sister Grace went shopping for a few last-minute items, like snacks and bottled water.
The whole time I had been texting my mom, but at this point, about one and a half hours after my first contraction, I could no longer text. I was still shaking all over and the contractions required my full attention. Grace and their Aunt Beate, who is the sweetest woman and who has had four home births of her own, arrived at the apartment just as labor was becoming extremely intense. We had been on the phone with my midwife, who figured I still had a few hours to go.
When Beate showed up she confirmed what Samantha had been trying to tell me for the past hour — that I was in active labor, and was going to have this baby any minute now! At one point, during a very hard and painful contraction, I cried, “I don’t think I can do this for twelve more hours!” And Beate looked directly at me and said, “Oh sweetie… you are not going to be in labor for twelve more hours. This baby is going to be here very soon!” The birth pool was filled, my midwife was beckoned, and I started feeling a pushing sensation.
I didn’t want to push until my midwife checked my dilation, so I blew through contractions until she arrived. She had recently broken her ankle, but she said when she heard my laboring sounds she literally ran up to our apartment! She is my super hero! She checked me while I was in the water and told me that I was at 10 centimeters on one side of my cervix, and 9.5 centimeters on the other side; I could blow through the next few contractions, or I could push while she pulled the lip of my cervix back, which may hurt. At this point I just wanted him out, so I decided to push. It only took a couple contractions and to be honest, I barely noticed the pain.
When I started pushing, I could feel how low River was, and the sensation of him moving through my body scared me. I could feel how large he was, and I kept having to tell myself that ‘millions of women before me had given birth, and that this is what my body was made to do. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.’ I vocalized my pain and fear with each push. During a rest, my midwife said these magic words: “Take all that energy, and move it downward. Use that energy to push your baby out.” Even writing it now gives me chills and makes me cry! It was at that moment that I truly succumbed to my body, believed in my strength, and pushed past the fear and the pain. That energy worked with me, and not against me.
After an hour of pushing in the pool, my son River Jeremiah was born into the hands of his parents, in the privacy and comfort of home! I was able to hold him as long as I wanted, and we bonded with breastfeeding within minutes of his birth. No one took him from me, no one cleaned him off before I got to hold him, fresh and new. In those moments it was just me, John, and River. Giving birth at home was the most amazing experience. It was intense, calm, safe, and comfortable. Powerful in every sense — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I think back to that day and am still in awe that my body was created to do such a thing. To birth a human being!
Picture captured by Beate Beuscher