Amos’s Birth Story
My due date with our second child was April 24. I was hoping to get pretty close or past that date, and was especially hoping to still be pregnant by April 21, which was “Mom’s Night” at my daughter Lillian’s preschool, where all the moms come to see activities and special songs the kids have been preparing just for them for many weeks.
At 7:30 pm on April 20, I was sitting on the living room couch after supper, looking at a magazine while my 3.5 year old daughter Lillian climbed on me. My husband, Noah, was vacuuming in the next room. Suddenly, I felt a warm wet gush and realized that my water had just broken. I was very surprised. My water had not broken on its own when Lillian was born, so for some reason I just never expected it. I called for Noah but he had moved out of our room and into the kitchen and couldn’t hear me. I asked Lillian to go get him and tell him to come. She did, but he told her he was busy, wait a minute.
So I crawled across the room and unplugged the vacuum. That got his attention! Luckily I had put a washcloth in my underwear an hour or so before so the situation was pretty well-contained. I asked Noah to run to drugstore to pick up some Depends for me to wear around the house now that I was randomly gushing fluids. Lillian was wondering what was happening, so I told her that I needed to get upstairs in the bathroom and then I would explain. Once I was kneeling in the bathtub with my pants off as we both looked down at the clear liquid spurting out of me, she looked at me and said “Explain, Mom!” I told her that my water had broken, and this was probably the start of the baby getting ready to come. It was possible that when she woke up in the morning we would have our baby, but it might not be that soon.
After the initial shock wore off, and Noah got back with the goods, I read Lillian a bedtime story and helped her get ready for bed. It was just like any other night, but it had a surreal feeling and I was filled with a jittery excitement. Noah went downstairs and set up the hose for filling the birth tub that was already set up in our family room (we planned to birth at home). He then took over with Lillian and finished putting her to bed while I got things ready for birthing. I made some “labor-ade” (coconut water and orange juice), changed into my laboring clothes (a black sports bra and some loose pants), and filled water bottles. I got the bin of birth supplies out, going over the list our midwives had given us to pull together a few last items. No contractions yet.
I didn’t want to alert our families yet since labor hadn’t started and I didn’t want to feel like people were waiting on me, but we wanted to make arrangements for Lillian to be cared for tomorrow in case I was in the thick of it during the day, so Noah called his aunt to see if she was free the next day in case we needed her to take Lillian, and she was. I emailed my mom with “just in case” directions for her to take Lillian to Mom’s the next night, a contingency plan we had previously discussed, although I realized that it was pretty much a certainty that I wouldn’t be the one going.
I was a little disappointed, but the excitement of getting to meet our baby made me feel better. I wanted to give my office a heads up that I wouldn’t be in the next day and to give a status update on my docket items, but again I didn’t want to send an email yet being that we were early in the process…Noah had the brilliant suggestion to type up the email now, and then just hit send in the morning, so that’s what I did.
Noah came down after getting Lillian to bed and we excitedly got things set up, set up the video camera near the birth tub, and snapped a few last belly pictures together by the tub. I called my midwife again before going to bed to give her an update (no contractions yet, which was fine). I went to bed at 10:45pm, but couldn’t fall asleep for awhile from excitement. I was still awake when Noah came to bed at 11:30. I know I fell asleep at some point, though, because I later woke up to go to the bathroom. I think I slept about an hour.
While I was laying in bed the baby got very active, and it was not very comfortable without the cushion of my bag of waters. I went back to sleep and kind of dozed. At some point I started to have some contractions, but I was mostly asleep so I didn’t note what time they started. They were not too intense and I could easily breathe and relax through them and doze off in between. Noah slept on beside me.
At 2:15 am I decided to move to the guest bedroom to labor, because I wanted to use the contraction timer app on the phone but didn’t want to wake Noah. Looking back, I think I consider this to be when “active” labor started. I went downstairs to get my headphones and some crackers, then got set up in the guest room. I was kind of in the “excited” emotional signpost stage of labor. I timed a few contractions and they were about 5-6 minutes apart and only 45 seconds long, so I figured it was still pretty early in the process. Since I was a dark room, the bright light of the phone display was annoying so I didn’t bother timing more than 3-4 contractions.
By now, I no longer wanted to lie down and relax during the contractions. Instead, it felt better to be up on my hands and knees during the contractions, and during each one I would rotate my hips around and look at the light of the moon through the window shade. It actually felt pretty good to do this during the contractions. I did that for awhile, and tried to find the hypnobabies relaxation audio tracks on the phone that I had listened to a bit during the pregnancy, but I couldn’t find them. I went back and forth between the guest bedroom and the bathroom, as I felt like I had to use the toilet somewhat frequently.
At 3:35 am I called my midwife Jane, to check in with her and get some advice. I wondered whether I should keep trying to lie down and relax during the contractions like I had been doing before, rather than getting up to kneel. I worried that I was wearing myself out being up on all fours every few minutes, and wondered if I should be conserving energy. I thought that I was probably moving into the “serious” emotional signpost stage of labor, because I was worried and needing “advice” about what seemed like a small detail. Jane suggested that I try to relax if I could, as it might be awhile yet. She also suggested that I eat something with some protein in it. I told her that I had noticed some pinkness now to the amniotic fluid that was coming out, and she said that was good and meant that I was dilating. We hung up around 3:45 am.
I went back down to the kitchen to get a snack, and now for every contraction I had to drop to my knees and hang my head down, and I also had to moan gently through them a little. At one point I really felt like I might throw up, so I kneeled over the kitchen garbage for awhile until it the feeling passed.
Ready for some company
4 am Shortly after this, I looked at my watch in the kitchen. It was 4 am, and I decided that I needed someone with me now to help me through the contractions. I thought that I’d wake Noah up now, and then maybe our Doula Rebecca could come over around 5 am, so that she’d be there in case Lillian woke up and Noah had to go to her. I was pleased that 5 am was only an hour away–the thought of having her come soon cheered me.
4:05 am. I went upstairs and woke Noah, telling him that I needed some help dealing with the contractions. This was the first he’d heard that I was in labor. He asked if he could go to the bathroom first, and I said sure. While he did that, I had another contraction in our bedroom. I had to moan more loudly through this one, and at the end of it my body felt a little pushy, as though it was pushing of its own volition. When he came back, I said, “I don’t know if it’s just because I have an audience now, but that one felt a lot more intense.” I also got the shakes for a few moments, and my teeth chattered together uncontrollably. I vaguely remembered that this was a sign of transition.
4:20 am. We quickly headed downstairs to labor in the family room, so as not to disturb our sleeping daughter. As we walked down the stairs, Noah called our midwife and doula. As he was telling them that I was feeling a little pushy and they should probably start heading over now, I was thinking that they did not need to come NOW now, maybe just in a little while. Even as I thought this, I told Noah to relay to Jane that I had been having the shakes, hoping that she would understand that I might be in transition even though I couldn’t quite put it into words.
Things get intense
4:23 am. We got to the kitchen and another contraction hit. This was definitely much more intense. I got the pushy feeling, only stronger, and I also felt like I needed to poop, NOW. When that contraction ended, I spluttered a single word to Noah– “TOILET!” and dashed downstairs to the basement bathroom (in our house the only bathrooms are upstairs or in the basement). I had already gone several times in the hour and a half before waking Noah, so by this point my body had already really cleaned itself out, but evidently there was more to do. I got on the toilet and had a hugely intense contraction during which I hollered pretty much at the top of my lungs. This was the beginning of the most intense part of the labor. I yelled during all the remaining contractions, because it was what I needed to do to deal with the sensations. It was an intense, out-of-control feeling with an immense feeling of downward pressure. I could no longer relax my body whatsoever to deal with the contractions. It felt like I was on a runaway train, and all I could do was hang on for the really uncomfortable ride, and yell.
Noah had come down to the basement then but I told him to stay out of the bathroom because I wanted to clean up and flush. Before I could even catch my breath from that contraction and get up off the toilet, another one came, and again my body bore down uncontrollably while I let out a ferocious holler. I was amazed that I hadn’t woken Lillian with my yelling, as the sound carries pretty well up to her bedroom through the heating ducts.
The contractions were very close together now, so I had precious little time in between them to do anything at all. When that contraction ended, I knew I had to act quickly. I got off the toilet, washed up and ran upstairs to the birth tub in the family room. Earlier, I had thought that I would probably not get into the tub until the doula or midwife told me that it was a good point in labor to do so, because I didn’t want to slow things down by getting in to early. Ha. No one had to tell me now that it was okay, I was getting IN because things were obviously moving along.
I stripped off my pants and underwear as quickly as possible, an awkward process at best at 9 months pregnant, trying to get in before the next one hit. I cried out in frustration as I discovered “I have SOCKS on!”, feeling the next contraction coming on. I got the offending socks off, and as I climbed into the tub, I told Noah, feeling petulant, “I don’t want to do this anymore. YOU do it.” He replied sincerely, “I would if I could.” Quickly submerging myself up to my shoulders, I commented, “It’s hot.” And, “I hope someone gets here soon.” Noah replied, “I know.”
In between contractions I felt wonderful, with a delicious lack of discomfort, but during the contractions the sensation was a very intense downward pressure, and I remember thinking I really did not want to be doing this right now, and wishing I could just have a 20 minute break from the contractions. That would be really nice. No such luck. They were very frequent and so intense and lasting longer. We had set up the video camera the night before, but now I told Noah “let’s not turn the video camera on yet, this isn’t very fun.” I didn’t feel like memorializing this out-of-control feeling.
During the next few contractions, I was kneeling in the tub facing outwards with my arms resting over the edge. When a contraction came, I would squeeze Noah’s hands and look intently into his eyes. I drew strength from him as we locked eyes, and I roared at the top of my lungs at the pressure. He later told me that he wished he had earplugs. He reminded me to relax my body, to relax my arms, but I could barely hear his words of guided relaxation over the sound of my vocalizations. I appreciated the thought, though. During Lillian’s labor, his words had been really helpful to focus on, and I had been able to relax my body during contractions which made the sensations more manageable. This time, it was more his presence I drew strength and comfort from. I remember reaching for his hands as another contraction began to wash over me, and he tensed his hands, immediately bracing himself for the intensity of the grip that I’m sure I gave him at the peak of the last contraction. I told him, “Loosen up.” (Which kind of amused me). I needed to feel a relaxed feeling.
A few minutes before, when I had been about to get in the tub, I had been trying to work out how I was going to manage to push the baby out, and how I was going to deal with the rest of the labor if it was going to go on like this for a few more hours (classic transition thoughts). In my last labor with my daughter, the pushing stage had lasted over 3 hours, me being a first time mom with a posterior baby. I was expecting that I still had a lot of work ahead of me.
But at some point now in the tub, I had a realization. In between contractions I said to Noah with a quiet confidence, “You know what? I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to do this, because my body is just going to do it for me.” I realized my body WAS doing it. With each contraction, my body pushed involuntarily. I can’t even remember if the contractions hurt, I just remember the intensity and not particularly liking the intense sensations. With each one I felt an immense pressure in my bottom that was NOT comfortable. I heard my vocalizations getting higher during a contraction and wanted to tell Noah to remind me to keep my tones low, but I couldn’t manage to speak, so I just told myself in my head “keep your tones low.” It kind of helped.
All by ourselves
At about 4:35 or 4:40, Noah called Jane our midwife again to see if she would be arriving soon. I heard her ask him, “Are you guys having a baby?” Even then, I thought, “No, silly, not before you get here!” I just didn’t think it could happen that soon. She was just several minutes from our house by then, but just in case she gave Noah some tips for what to do if the baby came before she got there, and they hung up.
On one of the next contractions, I began to feel a LOT of pressure down below, and I reached my hand down and felt a half-dollar sized bit of squishy baby head RIGHT THERE. I hadn’t cared to reach down to feel the head when I gave birth to Lillian, but now I did it, and it felt just like I’d heard it described by others. I told Noah what I felt. He didn’t seem as concerned as I thought he might be. Maybe he was remembering how with Lillian we had baby head for a long time before we actually had baby. I asked him to turn on the video camera.
After the next contraction, which was shorter and less intense, I felt an extremely full feeling down below, like I was massively stretching. I suppose that was the baby crowning. It didn’t hurt and I didn’t feel the “ring of fire” sensation. I was just immense. I couldn’t say a word. I could not speak to articulate to Noah what I felt, in this moment between contractions. I could only hang there suspended in the water, filled with awe and baby head, with all my senses focused on feeling this very big expansive sensation in my body. I could tell “something” was “happening,” but as it was all so fast, my mind was a few steps behind in catching on to the full knowledge that I was having this baby right now.
The next contraction finally came, and I started to moan again as I had during the other contractions, when suddenly the contraction cut short and I felt the head expelled from my body, POW! Taken off guard, I swore, “Sh**!” Not because it hurt (it didn’t), more because I was startled and was not expecting THAT to happen before any of our birth team had arrived. Noah, not yet realizing what had just happened, thought I’d just had a rough contraction and began to murmur soothing things. I promptly filled him in, saying, “The head is out!” He got up quickly and came around to the other side of the tub to get a better look. Remembering the many birth videos I’d seen, I said not to touch anything, that the baby’s body would probably slip out on the next contraction.
He said “Ok, but I think it would probably be good if you could push the baby out as soon as possible.” He asked, “Do you want to catch it, or do you want me to?”
I had planned to wait for the next contraction to push again, but now while he was saying these things I decided to bear down a little, and with that the rest of the baby slipped out before I could answer him. That was the only time in the entire labor that I intentionally pushed; the rest was all my body’s doing. I reached down, and Noah reached into the water too and kind of guided the baby to my hands. I scooped the baby up onto my chest, navigating around the cord, and turned and sort of sat on my heels and leaned against the wall of the tub. So we kind of jointly caught the baby, or he helped me catch, or something. This happened at 4:45am.
After a few seconds, the baby let out some lusty cries, and we all just sat there and caught our breath. I was completely stunned at what had just happened. I couldn’t believe the baby was out already, that my labor was over. In a way, it was almost anticlimactic (that’s IT?), because I somehow had it in my head that things would take longer, using my daughter’s 14 hour posterior labor as a gauge. Not that I was sorry it was over. My mind was just having a hard time catching up, trying to wrap itself around the fact that I had a baby in my arms. I realized, “I did it!” Noah chimed in, “We did it!…all by ourselves!”
After a minute or two I asked him to get a towel to put over the baby for warmth. After another minute, Noah said, “Let’s check if it’s a boy or a girl! I’m so excited to find out!” Oh yeah. I hadn’t gotten that far yet. I turned the baby’s body a bit so we could peek. “It’s a little boy!” Noah said, with such sweetness in his voice. “It is?” I asked. I couldn’t see very well from my angle, but took his word for it. I said, “Maybe we should call someone.” So Noah called Jane, who had just pulled up in our driveway. She walked in and saw the three of us just chillin’ there, and told us “You guys are awesome!”
She walked over and observed the baby and me, and said we were both doing great. She had arrived at 4:50, five minutes after the baby. Our doula rolled in 5 minutes after that, and the baby latched on and started nursing like he knew just what to do. Next came the apprentice midwife, and then awhile later our birth photographer (she lived the farthest away). Everyone (except Jane) was surprised to walk in and find an already-born baby awaiting them!
About a half hour after he was born, I decided I was ready to get out of the tub, so Noah cut the cord, and I was struck by the strangeness of my baby moving out of my orbit and across the room away from me for the very first time. I remember thinking “I’m not ready for this!”, but it was already done. In the same moment I felt a contraction, and out the placenta came. I soon settled in on the pull-out bed and got back to nursing and admiring my baby.I’m so happy we have the video of the moment of birth and afterward (although pretty much the first thing you get to see is the very last contraction and then me swearing…nice). Needless to say, we didn’t have any photos from the labor or birth, but our birth photographer got tons of beautiful pictures of our first moments as a family of four, when our daughter woke up around 6:30 am to her new baby brother. She had slept through the entire thing. The timing could not have been better.
She got to help with the newborn exam, with the dude weighing in at 6 lbs, 14 oz, and measuring 21.5 inches. Our doula and the midwives made us scrambled eggs and toast and cleaned up. After a few hours the midwives helped me upstairs to my bedroom where I was tucked in with my sweet little boy and enjoyed muffins and tea. We named him Amos.
Amos was born at 4:45 am, which was 9 hours after my water had broken, 3-3.5 hours after I woke up to contractions, an hour after getting off the phone with my midwife the first time during labor, and 40 minutes after I woke up my husband.
The labor and birth were not at all what I expected, from the breaking of my water, to the intensity and speed, culminating in the very private, unassisted birth of our son. I had read many such stories but NEVER imagined that it would happen like this for me.
Looking back, my husband loves how it happened. Now that the reverberations of the intensity of the experience have faded somewhat from my consciousness, I can appreciate the experience, and those precious five minutes on our own as my husband and I quietly took in our new baby, as something very special.
Although it sounds rather dramatic when people hear that we had our baby at home before the midwife even got there, it felt like it really was just kind of something that happened as a matter of course, with no heroics on our parts. We had our baby, everything went great, incidentally the midwife got there afterwards and not before. Just a woman’s body doing its thing, birthing her baby whether a professional is there yet to witness it or not.