My Leap Day Birth Story at the Farm
My daughter’s birth story begins right about where her brother’s leaves off, 2 1/2 years earlier. His birth took me about a year to process. If you’d asked me any earlier than that, I’d have told you that I loved everything about the experience (hospital birth with a CNM) and had no regrets and wouldn’t change a thing! It took me awhile to realize that if I hadn’t gotten induced, Pitocin would have never hurt his sweet little heart, leading to internal fetal monitor and me being stuck in bed on my side, which led to epidural and pushing on my back against gravity and a very painful second degree tear. But, I digress. Right around the time I was finally no longer physically hurting from my awful tear, and the pain in my back where they put the epidural in was starting to go away, was when I was finally able to start processing all the emotional trauma my sweet boy and I had experienced in the hospital. Every time I re-read my son’s birth story, I find new things I would have done differently. It’s hard to not have regrets. I love Maya Angelou’s quote – “I did then what I knew to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
I first started researching home birth after a good friend of mine who’d had an awful hospital birth experience told me that if she ever had another baby, she’d like to do a home birth. I’d always thought of home birth as pretty extreme, unsafe even, so I went into it with the attitude of, “This is absolutely not for me, but I want to know everything I can about it just to make sure.” Ha. Funny how our minds can change, huh? I had a couple friends who had recently homebirthed, and I became fascinated with their birth stories and read them over and over. I started joining Facebook groups like Birth Without Fear, and reading all the homebirth blogs I could find. I watched the Business of Being Born and Pregnant in America.
By this point I was pretty sure I was going to homebirth if I ever had another baby, but I still had a lot of fears to work through and questions that needed answering. I wanted to be prepared so that I didn’t have to do a ton of research after I was already pregnant. I started looking up local homebirth midwives. I found a few of them that I thought might be a really good fit for me. I also started checking out this neat place an hour and a half away called The Farm that I’d learned about from the two documentaries I’d watched. It was this world-renowned midwifery center that people traveled to from other states and even countries to study midwifery and to have their babies, and it was only a 90 minute drive from me. Wow! I thought it might be cool to give birth with the midwives there, but wasn’t too sure about the drive. I e-mailed one of the Farm midwives and asked if they ever came to my area for homebirths, and she said, “Sometimes. Call me.” I told her I wasn’t pregnant yet, just researching my options, and thanked her for her time. (I thought I still had all the time in the world!)
Two months later, on June 6, 2011, I got my two pink lines. I started cracking up laughing when I saw them. I went out and bought a two-pack digital test right away just to be sure, and it told me very clearly that I was not pregnant. I’d so enjoyed that hour that I thought I was pregnant, and I was disappointed to learn that I was not. Well, two days later, still no period, I tested again, and guess what? (Talk about a roller coaster of emotions!!)
Remember how big I was into researching home birth before I got pregnant? Well, now that I was actually pregnant, I became a sponge! I could not soak up enough information. I got a library card and read every home birth book I could get my little hands on. Some favorites were Pushed by Jennifer Block, A Midwife’s Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin, Birth Your Way by Sheila Kitzinger, Birthing from Within by Pam England … the list goes on and on. I couldn’t stop reading, and the more I read and learned the more I wanted to read and learn. It got to the point where I felt so safe and comfortable with the idea of home irth, I couldn’t imagine ever going back to a hospital for a normal, uncomplicated delivery. I was so stoked to get to experience this awesomeness for myself!
We started meeting with prospective midwives right away. For our first interview, we went down to the Farm! I was only 5 weeks along at this point, so nobody other than God, the 3 of us, our chiropractor, and our prospective midwife knew our little secret. It was fun not telling anyone where we were going, and just taking a little family trip down to Summertown for the day. The midwife we were scheduled to meet with ended up having an emergency and not being able to meet with us or get ahold of us (cell phone reception is super sketchy down there), and our appointment with her had been two hours before the clinic was set to open, so nobody was there when we arrived. We decided since we’d already taken the day off and made the drive down, we’d spend a couple hours playing in the woods and eating the lunch we’d brought, and just enjoy our day off as a family and see if we could meet with whoever arrived at the clinic when it opened.
This turned out to be a total God thing, because the midwife who arrived was the amazing midwife who I ended up picking! We clicked right away. Despite the fact that I didn’t even have an appointment with her, she took an entire hour with me and let me ask her all the questions my heart desired. I loved her personality and knew I’d feel very safe with her if I chose her as my midwife. She met all my preferences and more! I loved her personality and felt very comfortable with her right away. She wouldn’t be able to come to me for a homebirth at our place though, so if we did decide to go with her, I’d be giving birth at the Farm. (They have cabins that you rent out if you live too far away for them to come to you.) As we hugged and said our goodbyes, I remember thinking that she set the bar very high for the rest of the midwives I was about to interview! (All the midwives I interviewed were huggers. Can I just say how much I love that?!)
Because of how far away the Farm was from us, we decided to go ahead and meet with some local home birth midwives, too. Two of them were good fits for me personality-wise, but didn’t fit all my birth preferences. The other two fit more of my criteria as far as birth preferences, but we weren’t good fits personality-wise. All the while I kept thinking of how much I liked the midwife I’d met at the Farm and wanted to deliver there. But then there was that hour and a half drive. And I was due in February. Sometimes it snows in February. Visions of us careening down some backwoods road in the middle of the night in the snow while I was in active labor danced through my mind (I tend to be a “worst case scenario” kinda gal). I wasn’t sure what to do. I prayed on it a lot and the Lord told me to go with the midwife who I liked best and felt safest with. He told me not to make my decision out of fear.
So, with that settled, I excitedly got ahold of her and asked if she’d like to be my midwife! She said yes, and I was over the moon. I knew I’d made the right choice. At 10 weeks along I had my first prenatal checkup. I was so amazed at how they did the first prenatal checkup. In order to confirm pregnancy, instead of doing an early ultrasound as is the policy at so many other places, they just felt my belly. I was so amazed that at just 10 weeks along, she could tell I was pregnant simply by feeling my belly with her hands. Wow! (Becoming more naturally minded these past couple years has just given me this huge respect for people like midwives, chiropractors, acupuncturists, masseuses, and the like – they can tell SO much just by feeling with their hands. It’s such an awesome skill. Pure talent.) I remember there was this one spot on my tummy that she felt and asked, “Are you having any round ligament pain right here?” (I was, and I was also very impressed that again, she could tell that just by feeling.) Anyway, that first appointment was amazing. I got to spend almost two hours with the midwives, mostly just chatting, getting to know one another, asking a million questions, and taking our time. SO different from how it would have been in an OB’s office, or even with a hospital midwife. And so wonderful!
The rest of my prenatal appointments were all very much like that first one. My husband, son, and I so looked forward to our little monthly, then twice monthly, and then weekly road trips down to Summertown. We’d pack a lunch and make a day of it. I got to know all of the wonderful midwives, and I had checkups with all of them except one at least once, which made me very happy. We knew there’d be a second midwife at our birth, and I remember telling my hubby that I’d be genuinely stoked with whichever one we got! I adored how the midwives always took their time with us at each appointment, how fantastic they all were with my son, all the natural remedies they suggested for various things, and how much they all adore babies. I loved seeing how passionate each one was about what she did, and how even though they’d been doing it for a long time, you could tell they all genuinely loved it.
Toward the end of January we started thinking I’d go into labor early, maybe even at 37-38 weeks, because I started having contractions almost every day at 35 weeks! I even had a couple nights of practice labor (once at 38 weeks and once at 40) where we thought this was *for sure* it, and we were about to load up the car and head down to the Farm, but then it would taper off. We even packed our bags at 38 weeks, and then they just sat there for a month, taunting us. Ha.
Due to a stressful non-pregnancy related situation I was dealing with, my blood pressure went up at the end of January. My midwives had me doing bedrest as much as possible (my blood pressure went down whenever I was horizontal). February was the most physically and emotionally exhausting month of my life. Every day I woke up still pregnant and still with high blood pressure, and my hubby still had to go work his 12+ hour shifts and then go out and do any errands that we may need afterward, our son and I didn’t see much of him. I spent my days mostly on the couch or the recliner, doing my best to keep my blood pressure down while entertaining my baby boy as best I could, all while trying to rest as much myself as possible. Everyone told me, “Enjoy it while you can!” and they meant well, but I would never wish bedrest on anyone. It’s exhausting. (Ironic, huh?) The second half of February met me with the sinus infection from hell that just about put me at my wit’s end, and I hit a wall at the end of February when the city’s sewer exploded all over our yard and they wouldn’t fix it. I sobbed hysterically to my hubby that I needed to either go into labor, get rid of this sinus infection, or not have our neighbor’s poop on my lawn, any one of the three would be fine, but I just could not handle all of it. It was too much.
I had to deal with some fear that month too. My entire pregnancy had been worry-free, and I’d spent it preparing for and believing in a low-risk, complication-free delivery. But when my blood pressure went up, something I’d never dealt with before, I found myself imagining every possible worst-case scenario. Even though my midwives were keeping a close eye on me and I had no other warning signs (like protein in my urine, swelling, etc etc), I was paranoid that I’d develop pre-eclampsia and have to get induced at the hospital. I was SO scared of a repeat of last time. I remember at my 41 week appointment, my midwife asked me if there was anything I was scared of, and that was the first thing I said – I was scared of getting induced, and I was wondering if my body even knew how to go into labor on its own. She was very reassuring. She reminded me that my blood pressure wasn’t in the danger zone, but even if it did go up more, or if anything else happened that would make them want to induce (like low fluid levels), there were natural ways to induce (like herbs, castor oil, etc.) that we’d try first. Knowing there were ways to induce, if it was necessary, without going to the hospital for Pitocin put my mind somewhat at ease.
At my 39 week checkup one of the midwives had suggested I try acupuncture to get things going. My “due date” came and went without flair or drama, since I hadn’t told anybody when it was. That was nice. At 40 weeks when I found myself still pregnant, I decided to give acupuncture a shot. She had also mentioned that it could make labor easier and faster too, which I was all about! I found a reasonably priced place and checked it out. I LOVED IT. It was so relaxing, and I could definitely feel it doing something. The baby always moved a TON during acupuncture, and I felt soo relaxed during it. (I even fell asleep in the chair for an hour the last time I went, about 24 hours before going into labor!)
And that brings us to the good part.
We had our 42 week appointment scheduled for Wednesday the 29th at 9 am. State law says if you go make it to 42 weeks, the midwives have to have you checked out by a doctor to make sure you and baby are a-okay, and we were fine with that, so that’s what this appointment was. The doctor we were scheduled to see used to be a midwife and is very home birth friendly, so I wasn’t nervous about seeing her. The birthing center she works at is a good 2 hour drive from our house, though, so we decided to spend Tuesday night at the Farm to save time and not deal with rush hour coming out of town on Wednesday morning. (I’d gladly drive 2 hours to see a home birth-friendly doctor who will understand that my body just takes longer to make babies vs. drive 10 minutes over to our local hospital and have them see 42 weeks on my chart, look no further, and sign me up for Pitocin!)
I did acupuncture Tuesday morning, and it felt so great. Tuesday afternoon ended up being a bit of a headache; we had a plumber set to come out to the house to fix the sewer explosion at 3 and he didn’t show til after 5, so that put us behind 2 hours later than we wanted to head out to the Farm, and we didn’t arrive at our cabin until 9:30 pm. Sure enough, as soon as we were on the road, car packed up for the birth (just in case we ended up staying), it’s like my body relaxed and decided it was finally okay with going into labor! I wonder if I’d been holding on to some fears about making it down to the Farm in labor, or if my body just knew that my labor was going to be super fast so it wanted to hold off ’til we were on the way? Who knows. Either way, I had several good contractions on the drive down. I was giddy.
As we drove up to our little cabin in the middle of the pitch dark woods, I remember grinning to myself and thinking that this was about as different from the hospital as it got – which was exactly what I wanted. It felt so good to be there. We snuggled up as a family and my son nursed for a long time, and eventually we all passed out. I woke up not too much later. I had a really hard time sleeping. I’d been struggling with pregnancy insomnia for awhile now, and on top of that, for one thing it was raining really loud on the cabin’s tin roof, plus we were due for tornado watches all the next day (you birth junkies are grinning right now, aren’t you?), and for another I was anticipating labor and still having contractions, so I was pretty anxious and excited. I finally managed to sleep a few hours, and before I knew it the sun was peeking through the windows and my husband and son were waking up.
Wednesday, 2/29/12 – Leap Day!!
42 weeks + 1 day
We needed to hit the road by 8 to get to the doctor on time, and you know how it is getting a toddler out the door, so we started getting ready right after we woke up at 6. The 3 of us ate breakfast and got dressed and headed out. Google Maps decided to play a fun joke on us and take us to some guys’ house 45 minutes away from the birthing center instead of the actual birthing center, so we showed up to our 9:00 appointment at 9:45. My son mostly did great on the drive; he even napped a little, but I was still pretty stressed, especially since we were so late and I knew they’d be taking my blood pressure. It had been running high ever since that appointment at 36 weeks, and I’d been good about doing bedrest as much as possible to keep it down along with taking a few different herbal remedies and doing acupuncture. But I was still afraid that it would be high and they’d tell me it wasn’t safe for me to home birth.
My midwife was in the waiting room waiting for us when we got there, and I felt so bad for making her and the doctor wait, but she was very sweet about it. I was SO glad to see her! She made my first doctor appointment of this pregnancy a lot less nerve-wracking. They got me back right away, and I ended up seeing a nurse midwife instead of the doctor. She was really sweet. I let her do an internal exam and I was very encouraged to learn that I was a stretchy 4 cm dilated all the way up (I had been dilated to a 4 on just the bottom half of my cervix and only a finger’s width at the top at my last checkup), 80% effaced (I’d only been at 20% the week prior), and baby was at -3 station. She said she could do a stretch and sweep, but that the baby was still pretty high and it might be hard to do. Then we did an NST (non-stress test); she chose a pink monitor to put on my belly and said something like, “We’ll give ya a little pink here, just in case!” (Everyone and their mom guessed I was having a girl! It was so, so fun leaving the gender a surprise. For sure the way I’m going to do it for any and all future pregnancies!)
Baby wasn’t moving much so they had my hubby go get me a snack to wake baby up, which worked eventually. I was stoked to learn that I contracting pretty regularly (about every 7 minutes or so, some of which I couldn’t even feel!). The NST took 20 minutes or so, and then we decided to go ahead and get a BPP (bio-physical profile, aka ultrasound – my first one of the pregnancy) at the hospital down the street. My midwife had to head back to the Farm for prenatal appointments. She asked if we would be OK going to the BPP without her, and we said we would. She said we could give her a call when we left and meet her at the clinic after. (I was so glad she’d stayed with us all that time at the birthing center! We were there for close to 3 hours. I never really realized how freakin’ BUSY she and the other midwives must be, giving that kind of care and personal attention to all their ladies!) We parted ways and headed for the hospital for our BPP.
I didn’t like the hospital. I wanted to be back at the Farm! The whole environment felt like I was walking right back into my experience from my so ‘s birth. The medical environment made me nervous, and I had to answer a million questions to be seen, and then the ultrasound lady kept asking me questions like, “Is this your first ultrasound this pregnancy?” and acting like something was wrong (but they can’t tell you if something is), and recounting the harrowing details of her traumatic c-section after learning I was planning a home birth at the Farm. Then she kept saying how the baby wasn’t moving, and she needed the baby to move. I explained to her that I’d been doing kick counts daily and that the baby was very active, and had been active during our NST an hour ago, but he/she just happened to be sleeping right then. Finally in the last five or so minutes of the ultrasound, baby moved enough to make her happy, and then we were done. Fortunately she respected our wishes to not know the gender… if she had blown that surprise after we’d waited so long, I’d have been livid!
I was really sore from lying on my back and dealing with contractions during the ultrasound (again, flashbacks to my son’s birth), and I was just ready to be out of there. We were way the heck down near the Alabama border, and we had an hour drive back to the Farm. It was starting to storm, we were in a tornado watch, and I was having regular contractions. They were letting area schools out early so the kids could get home before the storms hit. Storms and I don’t get along. I’d spent my whole pregnancy praying away snow; I hadn’t even thought about tornadoes, which are way scarier! But I wasn’t too nervous because I was distracted by my contractions; they had picked up in number and intensity from their usual daily routine. I texted my best friend and told her I thought I might be in early labor, but I tried not to get too excited yet because I’d thought I might be in early labor a couple times already in weeks past and I didn’t want to be disappointed if I still had a few days. But I knew things would be starting soon.
At this point we still weren’t sure if we were going to head home that night and wait for labor to begin, or just stay at the Farm. Initially our plan was to hang out at home ’til labor started and then go, since hubby only got 5 days off work and we wanted to save them all ’til the baby was here. But now that we were at the Farm with all our stuff and I was having regular contractions, it felt like the right thing to stay. My midwife and I had been texting about it, and she thought we should stay too. We decided to have lunch and take naps, and stay through dinner and then make a decision. (We didn’t end up having to wait that long to decide!)
It took almost an hour to get back to the Farm, and it was past my son’s nap time so he was pretty frantic; as soon as we got to the cabin we snuggled in bed to get him settled. My husband and son fell asleep and I tried to nap too, but I was too excited. I was pretty sure labor was starting, and I knew I needed to conserve my energy, so I just relaxed as best as I could. (I’d gotten an epidural at the end of my labor last time because I was so exhausted from being up all night and day in labor, so I wanted to avoid exhaustion at all costs this time!) At one point I called my doula and my mother-in-law to let them know what was going on and that I thought I might be in early labor but wasn’t sure yet. I told my doula that since we were due for storms, I wanted to give her the heads up so that she didn’t end up driving to the Farm in a tornado later! She said she’d get her daughter home from school and settled and then we’d touch base from there. My MIL offered to come get my son, but between the storms coming and her being an hour and a half away and him having already pretty much reached his limit of car trips for the day with how frantic he’d been on the ride back to the cabin, I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew he’d scream the entire way back to my in-laws’ place, and I didn’t want to put him or my MIL through that. Plus, I didn’t want her to come get him and get all the way back to her place and then have me not even be in labor. We decided to have her come get him first thing in the morning, that way he’d get a good nights’ sleep and if labor was still going it would be more for sure by then. Besides, if labor went really fast I might even have the baby in the middle of night while he slept!
Hubby got up after not that long and offered to walk down to the Farm store to get some stuff, and also to stop by the clinic and let the midwives know that my contractions were picking up. A few minutes after he left baby boy woke up and wanted to nurse, and darn it if I didn’t climb back into the loft and nurse through three more contractions, which I’m pretty proud of myself for if I do say so myself! But then I decided I was over nursing in labor and I told him he was all done. He was cool with that, and we climbed back down the ladder and played for a few minutes ’til hubby came back. The nurse from the birthing center called and told me that she’d heard back from the hospital and baby had scored an 8/8 on the BPP, which was was no surprise to me. I knew everything was fine! At the end of the conversation she referred to the baby as “he… I mean he or she!” and I wondered if the ultrasound lady had leaked the gender to her and she’d just spoiled my surprise, especially since she’d been guessing it’s a girl earlier. But decided not to focus on that. Baby was doing great, that’s all I needed to know. Even though I’d known all along baby was doing good, it felt nice to have that extra confirmation.
My midwives came by to check on us that afternoon after they were done with prenatals at the clinic. They’d been by earlier, but they’d seen the lights off and figured we were napping, so they’d decided to come back later. I was glad they got to see me during contractions, because I figured they were a better judge of how things were progressing than I was since they’d done this a few more times than me! At this point I had to stop talking and breathe through contractions, and my midwife very encouragingly told me I was doing a good job. She said with my high blood pressure, it was best to just relax as much as possible and let this happen on its own instead of trying to walk around too much and get things going. I liked that idea. I wanted to rest. (I remember at one of my last prenatal checkups, one of the midwives had said that with my blood pressure being high while up and about but normal while I was laying down, my body was very clearly telling me what it needed – rest! Isn’t it so awesome how God made our bodies to tell us what they need, if we will listen?) The girls stayed for a bit and then left so we could get settled.
After they left, the boys went outside to play. It was a little after 4:00. I laid down and started timing my contractions, and was giddy to discover they were coming regularly at 10 minutes apart, lasting about a minute, even while laying down. I texted my midwife and a few friends, including my doula, to let them know. My doula said she was on her way! I decided then and there that natural labor kicks induced labor’s butt! It’s seriously NOWHERE near as painful as Pitocin-induced contractions. I had to stop what I was doing and moan my way through contractions when they hit, but as soon as they were over I was right back to my normal self. I texted a few close friends to update them, and went outside to try and play with the boys for a bit. Our cabin was right next door to one of the midwives’ home, and they were playing in her yard. She had chickens, a huge swing, and a cool sandbox with a bunch of dump trucks and stuff in it, so my son was in seventh heaven. After hanging onto my hubby through one or two contractions, I wanted to be back inside. Still though, the thought crossed my mind that it felt kind of awesome hanging onto my husband moaning through a contraction in the middle of the woods at the Farm, like I was smack dab in the middle of one of Ina May’s Spiritual Midwifery birth stories from the 70’s, heheh. As I headed back in hubby called after me, “Hey, should I call out of work tomorrow?” I laughed and exclaimed, “YES!”
Once I was back inside, I bounced on my birthing ball while listening to the Dixie Chicks and playing on the computer, and fixed dinner. It felt amazing to be up, dancing around listening to music, eating, wearing my own clothes, and doing whatever the heck I wanted. After waiting SO long for labor, I was pretty giddy to finally being able to experience the real thing! And since I’d been induced last time, this was my first time actually going into labor. I was stoked. Each time a contraction would hit, I’d stop and breathe or moan my way through it, and afterwards I was literally just giggling and praying, thanking God for sending me into labor. I probably looked pretty silly – “Oooooooohhhhhhhhhhh ow ow ow ow… YES!! Thank you Jesus!!” I was so happy! I had wondered if my body even knew how to do this, and was realizing that yes, my body works just fine, thank you very much!
When the boys came back in, my son seemed concerned about me during a contraction. At first I would try and go in the other room and moan quietly so as not to scare him, but then I decided to just to talk to him about it. I told him that Tiny (his nickname for the baby) was coming, and that Mama needed to make some load noises to help him or her get out! He seemed cool with that, especially after I showed him out to moan through a contraction with me. (Even now, if we talk about Tiny coming out of my tummy, he grins at me and goes “oooooaaaaahhhhhhh” like he’s moaning through a contraction!) After that, he didn’t seem too phased by me, and he went about his night like usual.
Hubby fed baby boy his dinner, and at 6:19 pm, while we waited for our chicken enchiladas to be done, I texted my BFF with “I am FOR SURE in labor. :)” I joked with her that the baby had 5 1/2 hours if he or she wanted to be a Leap Day baby. I was giddy. I knew at last that this was it. I was without a doubt, for sure, absolutely, in LABOR!!! After waiting for so long and with so many false alarms, and after being told with my first pregnancy that my body wasn’t able to go into labor on its own in time for the baby to be born safely, after wondering for so long if my body even knew how to go into labor at all, this was IT. I was doing it!! AMAZING.
My doula arrived around 6:30. I had started timing my contractions again, and at 6:34 pm I texted my midwife to let her know contractions were 7 minutes apart and lasting about 1 minute. She said yay! She reminded me to eat some dinner and rest as much as I could, get baby boy settled in for the night, and keep her updated. I was giddy. At this point we were all kind of figuring I’d give birth in the middle of the night. (She told me later she was guessing she’d get a call around 10:00 pm saying that things were picking up. Heh. My next text, “Please come!!” went to her at 8:11 pm! But we’ll get to that in a bit.)
Anyway, back up. 6:30 rolls around, my doula’s there, I’m laying on my side on the bed and we are chatting a bit in between contractions. Then I decided to shower and see how that felt. Well, the shower felt amazing but it also REALLY got things going. I had probably half a dozen painful contractions close together in the shower, and then I was done standing. (We think it really moved the baby down into position!) When I got out, my doula remarked that it sounded like the contractions were a lot closer together. Hubby made a joke about how if we weren’t doing a home birth, now would be the time to head to the hospital. In hindsight I should have called my midwife, but I still felt great and thought I still had a long time left to go!
I wanted to lay down, which was pretty much par for the course for me lately anyway after a shower, so I put on a bathrobe and went to go rest alone in the bedroom for a little bit. I wanted to be by myself and try to sleep. I was figuring I had a full night’s worth of labor ahead of me, and I wanted to try and conserve my energy. But that didn’t last long. About 10 minutes or so later I asked my doula to come in. At this point it was a little after 7:00 pm. My son was done with dinner, and hubby started getting him ready for bed, which takes awhile with a toddler in a new environment. I was resting on the bed in my bathrobe and getting really hot.
At this point the details start to run together in my head, and everything started to happen really fast. I remember grabbing my doula’s hand during a contraction, and asking her to grab me some pj’s from my suitcase. Lights were bothering me, so I had the room pretty dark – just one small lamp was on in the far corner of the room. I got changed and was leaning against the bed during some contractions, and on my knees holding the birthing ball on the floor during others, I think. The contractions were about 4-5 minutes at this part. I knew it was time for the midwives to come, but I couldn’t talk on the phone, so my doula started making calls.
It was getting PAINFUL and I really wanted that birthing tub! Out of nowhere contractions were coming close together and FAST. I think this was when I sent that text to my midwife asking her to come. She was at her daughter’s game just down the street, but as it turns out some people decided to cause some trouble and police weren’t letting ANYONE out! So she’s stuck in the parking lot, a mile or two away, trying to get out of her car to explain to the cops that she’s a midwife and needs to leave to catch a baby, and the cops are just yelling at her to get back into the car, and she’s telling them, “No, you don’t understand!!” FRUSTRATING!)
After hearing from us, my midwife had been making calls too, and help was already on the way! She called her apprentice, who lives an hour away, and she also called the midwife whose cabin we were renting, who lived right next door. Thankfully she was home! Everything just happened SO FAST!
I could hear my hubby singing our son to sleep in the other room. Baby boy wasn’t going down without a fight. He knew something was up. It’s now around 8:30, and my mother in law texts and asks for an update. I don’t know what possessed me to even reply, but like I said, it wasn’t painful at all in between contractions, so as soon as one ended I quick texted a reply – “Cntrx 2-3 mins apart lasting over a min. Its getting painful but im doing good. My doula is w me, midwives r on their way :)” Then as soon as I hit send I threw the phone back up on the bed and went back to moaning my way through a contraction! My doula laughed and said that was the fastest she’d ever seen anyone text!
My lower back was killing me, and I asked my doula to push on it during contractions, which helped a TON! It was getting harder and harder to talk, and I don’t know how much sense I was making (“Push as hard as you can NO NOT THAT HARD yeah like that NO DON’T RUB JUST PUSH” etc – she was a trooper and just went with it!) We got through a couple contractions like that and then we were very relieved to hear someone coming in the front door. Like I said – it went SO FAST!! It sounds like it took forever, reading all the details, but at this point it had only been about 45 minutes since things got super painful. Our next-door midwife walked in right as I was finishing a contraction, and I remember looking up from the birthing ball and saying hey to her before going right back into moaning my way through a contraction.
It was getting hard to do the low “oooohhhhh” moan I had been doing, and I was starting to cry and yell a bit during contractions. My doula stayed behind me doing the counter pressure that felt so great on my lower back, and I could hear midwives behind us setting stuff up. Things were getting REALLY intense. I started crying for my birthing tub (my primary midwife still had it with her since we all thought I had awhile to go!) and praying that God would just make my son relax and go to sleep, and help me and the baby to wait til my hubby was there.
My wonderful next-door midwife asked if it was okay if she checked me to see how things were going. I said yes, and she checked me up on the bed quickly in between contractions and told me I was very open. She said she could feel my bag of water bulging. I asked what I was dilated to, and she said about an 8. I knew I was close. This was the point I’d gotten stuck for several hours, gone backwards to 6 cm and then back to 8, gotten exhausted, and eventually gotten the epidural last time. I’d wondered my whole pregnancy if I’d be able to handle getting from 8-10 cm without an epidural! Since I thought I’d be in water, I figured that would be how I would handle the pain, and knowing that the tub probably wasn’t going to be ready in time really hard for me to deal with. I told the girls that I didn’t know if I could do it without the tub, and that this was where I got stuck last time because I was scared, but that this time I wasn’t scared. Even though the pain intense, it was bearable. Still nowhere near that “I’m gonna freaking die” feeling that Pitocin gave me in transition last time. I felt so safe and supported there in the dark on my hands and knees, being taken care of by world-renowned midwives and one of my dearest friends, and with my husband and son right there in the next room. I knew I’d feel even better once my husband was in the room with me. I found out later from my doula that the girls were all grinning at each other when I made that “I don’t know if I can do this” comment, because that meant that I was CLOSE!
My doula told me she couldn’t hear my lil’ man talking/fussing anymore, and that my husband had come downstairs. (The cabin was L-shaped, so she could see him through the windows.) I relaxed instantly. The baby was coming, and now that hubby was on his way in, I was okay with it. I knew I could handle this without the tub. It was about 9:00 pm at this point. My doula said she could feel my tailbone expanding, and that meant the baby was on his/her way down. I knew I was doing this!! Hubby came in and knelt down next to my head, held my hand, and talked me through contractions. It’s all a blur to me now, and I can’t remember much of what he said, but one thing in particular that stood out in my memory was, “You are so strong.” I was very vocal at this point, crying, moaning, yelling, doing horse-lips (that stuff’s legit!), trying to breathe and moan in a low voice with my mouth loose and open but doing a good bit of high-pitched crying and loud roaring as well. (Looking back, it’s nothing short of divine intervention that my son fell asleep and stayed asleep throughout all of this!) My midwife put her hand on my lower back at one point and said, “Breathe” in a very soft and gentle voice, and I relaxed instantly and felt safe again. She was amazing. Contractions were right on top of each other at this point. I said something like, “Not another one!” and the girls said, “Yes, another one!” My midwife’s apprentice had come in at some point around this time, but I didn’t notice her ’til after the birth! (Hubby said she was just as happy as can be, saying, “You’re having a baby!!” What a sweetheart!)
I felt something trickling out of me and told everyone that either I had just peed my pants, or my water broke. My midwife suggested taking off my PJ bottoms to check, and sure enough, my water had broken. She checked the baby’s heart rate, and baby was doing great. The girls put some pads underneath me, and then the next thing I knew my midwife told me that I had grunted during that last contraction. She asked if I was pushing. I said I didn’t know. She said if I wanted to, I could go ahead and try a push on the next contraction. She didn’t even check to see if I was at a 10 like in the hospital, she just knew from my voice. (Pure talent, right there. She was amazing!) I tried pushing on the next contraction, and my water broke some more with a big dramatic SPLASH!! all over the floor (and probably the girls as well). This is all such a blur in my mind, and I’m trying to piece each detail together chronologically in my mind, but it really is true about how you forget the most painful part. Transition to pushing is all just a really fast blur in my brain. I was definitely in my own little world off in Laborland. Anyway, the girls told me I only pushed about 4 times total! I attribute a lot of that to being in the position I chose, hands and knees. A stark contrast to the hour and 45 minutes of pushing I did on my back with my legs up in the hospital last time. Amazing the difference gravity makes, huh?
With each push, my water seemed to break more. I thought it was all done breaking after that second time, but more and more kept gushing out with each push! That last push was like a geyser erupting; it was insane! It felt AMAZING; it was a very welcome release of pressure. I’d read birth stories where it hurt more after the water broke, because that cushion was gone, but for me it was nothing but relief. I felt the infamous “ring of fire” and started crying that it burned and I couldn’t do this. The rational part of my brain, the one that had read all the birth stories, was grinning and going “YESSS I’m almost done!!” but the emotional part of me honestly wasn’t sure I could handle much more of this. Of course, I’d only been pushing about 5 minutes, and I thought I still had an hour or so to go! My midwife calmly said, “Well, the head’s out!” I could feel her holding the baby’s head. I pushed one more time and felt the baby slide out of me, and I cried, “Is it out?!” and they said it was, and hubby started crying and saying that the baby was here! I collapsed on my birthing ball and said, “Thank you Jesus, I did it!!”
I was still leaning on my birth ball, and I didn’t want to move because I didn’t know where the baby was, so I couldn’t see anything yet. Hubby leaned over and after a freakin’ ETERNITY said, “We have a sweet baby girl!!” I let out an excited gasp-y yell! Toward the end of my pregnancy I’d thought for SURE it was a boy! She started to cry, and hubby asked me if I heard our sweet baby girl crying for her mama. I looked over my shoulder and said, “It’s okay, baby, mama’s here! I need to hold her!” The girls were already fenageling her under my legs and into my arms. I leaned back on my knees, cradled her, rocked back and forth, and just bawled my eyes out. I tried out her name and told her how much I love her, and told hubby, “We have a daughter!” I told everyone that I couldn’t believe I did it, and that it really wasn’t so bad!! (It really, truly wasn’t. I’d happily do it all over again in a heartbeat.) Everyone laughed.
Baby girl wasn’t crying, just staring at me with wide eyes and sticking out her tongue. I asked if she was okay, and they all assured me she was. Hubby told me, “She’s a strong girl.” The girls and my husband helped me stand up and get into bed. My doula grabbed the camera and started snapping pictures, which I didn’t even notice until much later when I looked through my camera. She got a ton of awesome ones. Hubby got the birth on video, too! When I was about to push he asked me if I wanted video, and of course I said I didn’t care, but he got the camera up on the tripod real quick and turned it on, and I’m so glad he did. You can’t see much on the video because I had the room as dark as a cave – I didn’t even realize how dark I had it til I watched the video and saw the midwives using flashlights!! (That’s how you know you’ve got yourself some awesome midwives, right there!) Even though you can’t see much, though, the video came out awesome and I am so glad I have it to remember everything by.
So I’m in bed snuggling my baby girl up skin to skin, and a few minutes later, my primary midwife arrived! I was SO stoked to see her, and so proud to show off my brand new baby girl! Even though I was bummed everything happened so fast that she missed the actual birth, it almost felt like she didn’t miss it since she’d been with me for most of the day already (which I so appreciated, because I mean she’s got little ones too!), and she arrived so quickly after. It was really neat to see the midwives work together; even though my next-door midwife had caught the baby, as soon as my primary midwife arrived she took over and held my hand while I delivered the placenta (which came out very easily and barely hurt at all), and checked on baby. The girls helped me get set up on the bed with lots of pads underneath me, and laughed with my primary midwife about how she’d arrived just in time to miss the clean-up of my massive bag of water breaking!
Once the placenta was out I was just tired and so done with pushing, and I asked a couple times if I there was anything else I needed to push out. They reassured me that I was all done! I snuggled baby girl up skin to skin and covered us both with blankets. She wasn’t interested in nursing yet, just snuggling me and checking things out. She was SO alert and very happy! I was amazed! My son had come into the world screaming and stayed that way almost the entire time we were in the hospital, so to see my next baby born peacefully and arrive happy was rather astonishing (in a good, life-changing, amazing kind of way).
My husband, brand new baby girl, and I snuggled for quite some time, and the girls were checking on us but also giving us plenty of space; it’s all a blur. I was just crying and so happy. She started to nurse after not that long, and she felt so tiny and adorable in my arms. I started crying, “She’s nursing!!” She nursed for a good hour, but it only felt like a couple minutes. After she was done my midwife asked if I was ready for them to do her newborn exam, and I said not yet. The midwives were so kind and understanding and just amazing! We snuggled for probably a couple hours, and then I was ready for them to do the newborn exam, which they did right there on the bed next to me.
Hubby snuggled our girl skin on skin while the midwives checked me and made sure I was okay, and then they weighed and measured her and checked her over real good. She weighed 8 lbs, 2 oz and was 20″ long with a 36 cm head circumference. Her head wasn’t cone-shaped at all due to how fast she came, and she didn’t have a hint of jaundice. And *drumroll please* I didn’t tear!! Just a little tiny skid mark that didn’t even need stitches. YEAH!! I had that excruciating second degree tear with my son, and it took almost a year of healing before it wasn’t painful anymore, and I had been so scared that it would re-open when I had this baby. But again, since I was able to get into the position that was comfortable for me and push whenever and however the heck I wanted (instead of being flat on my back and being yelled at to hold my breath and push against gravity for a count of 10, take a breath, and do it again 3-4 times per contraction), despite how fast she came out, I didn’t tear at all. Amazing. SO rad what God designed our bodies to do.
The girls helped me to use the bathroom and I passed a few blood clots. After I was back in bed, the midwives suggested that I eat something, and hubby got me some veggies and a second helping of the enchiladas we had for dinner. I scarfed that down, along with some more of the Gatorade and water I’d been chugging during labor, while they examined baby girl. We made a few phone calls to family, my best friend, and the gal who would be encapsulating my placenta. We took some more pictures, got baby girl into some comfy clothes and a hat and got her all snuggled into bed next to me. I loved that they didn’t give her a bath like they do in the hospital. Babies are born with vernix on their skin, and it’s very good for them to not have it washed off right away. Her hair looked all messy and adorable (and dark!).
We took some more pictures, and then my midwife showed me how to massage my tummy and make sure I could feel this little knot where my uterus was. She said if I couldn’t feel it, I’d need to rub it some until I felt it again, otherwise my uterus was retaining blood. (SUCH a stark contrast to the painful, rough massage the nurse gave my tummy immediately after my son was born, causing a ton of blood and fluids to come gushing out of me!) Once I was settled back into bed and doing good, after awhile my midwife asked if I was okay with them leaving. I said I was, and we said goodbye and joked about how nicely timed this birth was because she was born just in time for bedtime!
Then it was just our new little family, snuggled up for the night. The storms had passed by hours earlier and it was a cool, clear night. Hubby brought the laptop in and asked if I wanted to make an announcement on Facebook. I told him I was too overwhelmed and asked him to do it for me, which he did, and then he announced it on his page too. Then he conked out, but I stayed awake for probably a few hours totally in love and high on oxytocin, just snuggling my adorable sleeping baby girl and thanking God for how amazing this night had been. Around midnight our son started crying, and hubby went in to be with him. We opted not to tell him his sister had arrived right then, or else he’d never go back to sleep! He ended up falling asleep in the bed with him, and lil’ miss and I snuggled in bed together the rest of the night. I think I finally drifted off around 3 am, and slept very light. Baby girl and I snuggled and she nursed off and on throughout the night. I was amazed at how much better and stronger I felt already… amazing how quickly you recover when you don’t have an epidural that needs to wear off!
Around 6 am I heard the boys waking up. I’d told hubby earlier that I wanted to get a video of the babies meeting for the first time, and I was giddy to see him come in and distract baby boy long enough to turn the camera on and capture their first meeting on video just like I wanted! Lil’ man was all kinds of adorable with his sister. At first he was more interested in my bottle of Gatorade that I had next to me, but once he finally noticed her he grinned and said, “Hey, where’d that come from?” HAHA!! He warmed up to her really quickly and told her that she’s pretty, per hubby’s suggestion, and then all on his own he turned to me and said, “You’re pretty, too!” Melt my heart.
Anyway, the next three days were a blur of awesome. The boys spent a ton of time outdoors hiking and just enjoying some much-needed father-son time, and baby girl and I hung out in bed snuggling and getting to know one another in between nursing and naps. Our wonderful midwives came by and checked on us once or twice a day, which I loved. On our last day the amazing midwife who caught my daughter came over for probably two hours and just hung out with me and baby girl, which was so sweet. She was very encouraging about my ability to handle my new role as a mother of two, and she really helped me to process my fast and amazing birth, too. After she left baby and I had a long nap, and I woke up feeling strong and energized. Up til this point I’d felt rather woozy if I was on my feet too long, but that night I felt really good. The four of us decided to go for a little walk down to the Farm store, which was baby’s and my first time leaving the cabin (other than walking around right outside a bit). I had so much fun showing my sweet girl off to all the wonderful people at the store (everyone who lives at the Farm is just so dang nice).
Our whole week there was just so emotional and wonderful. Hubby and I both agree it was easily the best week of our life. We had very limited cell phone reception and internet access (we had to hold our phones up to the window to send texts, and Internet pages took about 5 minutes to load), which was a blessing in disguise. I so adored having that little babymoon there in our cabin in the woods, just me and my sweet little family, taking our time and relaxing and bonding with our new little miracle. It was like the best vacation ever… with the most amazing souvenir to bring home. 😉 We so loved our first little family vacation, and the bonding time we shared was nothing short of incredible. We knew having a home birth would be life-changing, and it was. Giving birth all on my own, without the “help” of any drugs or interventions, seeing how God designed me to carry and deliver this baby, was nothing short of spectacular. Natural birth is single-handedly the most amazing, empowering thing I have ever done in my life. And doing it without my precious birth tub was pretty empowering, too! I still want to water birth if and when the Lord blesses us with another baby, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like a freakin’ rock star for handling it without!
I carried a lot of fear and doubt from my first birth, wondering if my body even worked right, if I could do it, if I even knew how to go into labor on my own, if I could make it past 8 cm without an epidural, etc etc… and my fears and doubts were shattered with a resounding YES! as my precious girl came quickly, quietly, and smiling (seriously!) into the world on Leap night. Yes, my body works, and works well. Yes, I can do it. Yes, I can handle the pain on my own just fine (it’s really not that bad! I promise!) and yes, home birth is safe, spectacular, and amazing. I love telling people that I’ve done it once with an epidural, and once without, and that it was more painful with. True story. (Nothing can compare to pure oxytocin!) I adore that I was able to bring my daughter into the world peacefully, without a single drug in her precious little tiny body! Other than the day I delivered (15 days past my “due date” both times!), everything about my two births was different as night and day, from the prenatal to the birth itself to the postpartum recovery. I hurt for almost a year after I had my son. This time? As I’m writing this paragraph, it’s two weeks and six days later and I am 100% better. No pain in my back from any epidural, no tear to recover from (praise the Lord!), and emotionally I am feeling way better already too.
I just can’t quite put into words how amazing and wonderful my daughter’s birth was. I wish I could. I wish I could find some way to describe it to you so that if you are considering home birth even a little bit, you’ll go for it! I wish that every women who wanted this type of experience could have access to it. It breaks my heart that only 10% of American women have access to a midwife. I’m seriously considering becoming a midwife myself somewhere down the line, after my kids are grown. I just want to give other women and babies the quality of care that me and my baby got to experience. I am so, so grateful to the wonderful Farm midwives who took such excellent care of me and my sweet girl during the most vulnerable and precious time of my life. They’re all family now as far as I’m concerned! I love those women so much! I am so dang proud of my dear friend and doula for pursing her passion as a career, and so grateful to have been her very first client! I don’t know what I would have done without her! I am so proud of my amazing husband and son for how well they have handled everything; hubby for taking such great care of us (you should have tasted all the delicious meals he made for us at the Farm!), and baby boy for what a terrific big brother he is. And I am so in love with my precious baby girl, the most beautiful, happiest little one I’ve ever met in my life, who is sleeping on my chest as I type. (I keep stopping every few minutes to breathe in her sweet baby scent and kiss her soft little head!) I feel so blessed. I am so honored that God would see fit to make me the mother of these two amazing children.
And yes, I already want to do it again.