Kerry shares with us the incredible story of her daughter’s freebirth at home.
This was my first unassisted pregnancy and planned unassisted birth, after two beautiful midwife- assisted home births. At around 37 weeks I began experiencing intense exhaustion; I couldn’t rest enough. All I wanted to do was sleep, and I felt extremely fatigued. Fast-forward to 38 weeks, and my energy level took a 180. I couldn’t sit still, dragging my poor husband and children out for walks even though it was mid-December and raining in Washington. This continued for a few days. On Sunday, December 13 (38 weeks 5 days pregnant), I stayed home from church, not having slept well the night before. We were in the process of selling our house and packing for a cross-country move, so things were pretty hectic.
That Sunday evening, I experienced lots of mild toning contractions; but that was very typical for me.They didn’t increase in intensity, and even though it was typical for my body to do this, I sensed that my body would soon be in labor. I went to bed at around 10:30 p.m. and finally fell asleep at around 12:30 or 1 a.m. A toning contraction woke me at around 1:30; so I emptied my bladder and went back to bed. A strong contraction woke me at 3 a.m.; I went pee, and tried to go back to sleep. Another wave came a few minutes after I’d gotten back in bed, and it was uncomfortable enough that it required me to get on all fours in bed until it passed. I tried to sleep again. This repeated every five minutes or so for half an hour before I decided I wasn’t getting any sleep and it probably was labor – excitement! Yay!
I planned to labor quietly on my own until things picked up in intensity before waking Forrest, my husband. This resolve lasted for about 15 minutes before I knew I had to wake him to start filling the pool (my other labors were only four hours long). At 3:45 I sat down next to my sleeping husband and gently shook him, “I’d like the house straightened… Can you help me?” “Right now??” “Yes, right now!” Looking back, I now understand the crazy look he gave me. He tried to go back to sleep, and that’s when I told him that I thought I was in labor. He got up, and began the task of dealing with the pool and hose while I decided it was a good time to sweep the house and change the sheets, having to stop every few minutes to lean against the wall and sway through a contraction.
My youngest, 3-year-old Phoebe, had woken up at this point and was meandering about, helping me with the bed and asking why I couldn’t talk and why I had my eyes closed when I leaned against the wall. The waves were picking up in intensity; I got in the shower and let the water run down my back through a few contractions, but wanted to conserve hot water for the pool so I got out quickly. It was around 5 a.m. when the pool started getting filled, and I jumped in as soon as there was a few inches of water in it. Phoebe was still awake and wanting to help, so she got her big cup from the bathtub and brought it to the living room and would take turns with me pouring water over my back or belly when a wave would hit. Forrest continued to fill the tub, having to boil water on the stove since we ran out of hot water pretty quickly. I was able to comfortably labor sitting down while pouring water on my belly till around 6:15 a.m. or so.
I was leaning over the side of the tub as Forrest poured water over my back when a double wave hit, and lasted about two minutes or more. The tightening of the previous contractions changed as I felt my body begin to bear down. I was no longer comfortable in one position or sitting still, and became extremely active in the pool, attempting to get into any position to get some relief, vocalizing through each wave. This was the first unmedicated birth Forrest had seen, and also my most vocal; he asked if I was alright and if this was “normal;” “Yes, dear,” I replied, smiling; “It’s normal.” He may have ended up with a bruised calf with how tightly I was holding onto him through some of the waves!
I put my hand down expecting to feel a wedge of baby’s head, but there was nothing. Another strong wave passed over me. I felt a bulging bag of water right inside, but the head was still a few inches up behind my cervix. Fetal ejection reflex took over and I had a contraction with my body bearing down as hard as possible. I like to feel my baby continually throughout this stage, so I kept my fingers near baby’s head. Baby’s head didn’t budge, but the bag of water continued to grow/descend. I knew I needed to break the bag to bring baby down, so I pinched it and it emptied into the pool.
Another wave hit, and I roared as I felt the baby fully descend into the birth canal and out into my hands in that one wave. It was 6:30 a.m. The tentative plan had been for Forrest to catch, but the baby descended so quickly that I wasn’t able to verbalize what was going on. I sat back and began to pull the baby out of the water; the cord was wrapped once around the neck, so I unwrapped it and brought the baby to my chest. This all happened in a matter of a minute; and Forrest kept saying, “I can’t believe there’s a baby! Just like that!” The baby felt so tiny in my arms! Levi, our oldest at 6 years old, had woken up about 15 minutes before, so two of the kids were standing in the doorway and got to see their baby sibling being born. (And they’ll tell you alllllll about it!) Sadly, we didn’t get any pictures or videos of the birth itself, but we got the gender reveal on video, which I’m grateful for. We were both certain this little one was a boy, but turns out… she was a girl – our third daughter!
Baby and I cuddled in the pool for a while, just soaking in this amazing new person in my arms. I finally got out and onto a stool to try to expel the placenta; even though she was nursing, contractions had halted. The stool wasn’t very comfortable so we moved to the toilet and nursed and hung out there for a bit until the placenta delivered. At about 9 a.m. or so we cut the cord, weighed and measured her (she was my smallest baby by quite a bit… no wonder she felt so little!) and spent the rest of the day cuddling in bed. Two days later she finally had a name – Penelope (Poppy) Eileen – after her great grandmother. This pregnancy and birth were such an incredible journey. Trusting my body, learning to listen and be in tune with my baby, and experience the undisturbed wonder of this process that God created so perfectly and that brought our daughter into the world.