Plus Sized Unassisted Home Water Birth

The last weeks of my pregnancy were kind of crazy.  After a perfectly happy and uneventful pregnancy it majorly sucked to have to spend the last weeks trying to arrange a care provider after my midwife DROPPED ME for refusing an ultrasound to “check for IUGR” when there was no reason to suspect that the baby was having issues.

At the eleventh hour we finally found a midwife that seemed nice enough, but I have to say by that point I was quite upset and I did not relish the idea of having a new person that I was not yet familiar or comfortable with at the birth.  I started to think maybe we just wouldn’t call her until after.

The week before my due date, my husband James was home while his truck was repaired and I fixated on him being there for the birth.  I had been having contractions on and off for days but they never stuck around for more than a few hours.  Although I had spent the previous months ambivalent about whether or not he would be there, I was suddenly desperately sure he HAD to be at the birth.  I went a little nuts and tried every folk remedy and old wives tale I could think of to jump start my labor.  I didn’t want to do anything drastic, but I was hoping I would find something that would help my body decide it was ready to go.  So I bounced on my birth ball for hours, ate tons of pineapple and spicy curry, had lots of sex, pretty much did everything but try castor oil because the risks didn’t seem to outweigh the benefits of taking it.

Nothing worked.  My due date came and went, my husband went back on the road and I stayed pregnant.  My contractions would intensify and I would get excited and send my doula “MAYBE TODAY” texts, but then they would die off and I would feel disappointed and a bit foolish.  Part of the problem was that the baby was posterior and no matter what I did I could not get he/she to rotate to a better position.  As the days crept by everyone from family and friends to my readers and facebook fans constantly asked me WHEN WHEN WHEN and I would have to explain, yet again, that this was NORMAL.  Normal gestation is 38-42 weeks and there was nothing weird or dangerous about being 5,8, or 12 days past due.  It was getting to be a bit much.

My mother arrived on May 16th, a day I had chosen because I had thought that the baby would have surely arrived by then (ha ha) and I was equally sure I wouldn’t want her at the birth.  I was afraid she would make me call the midwife too soon or freak out and try to get me to go to the hospital.  Instead, she was a blessing.  She took care of the kids and let me rest those last days of pregnancy, and it was exactly what I needed.  That Sunday James came home because his truck had broken down and needed yet another round of repairs.

On Monday, at forty two weeks and one day, I woke up at four in the morning, absolutely miserable, sore, uncomfortable and cranky.  I was so sick of the “did you have the baby yet/what are you going to doooo” questions that I announced I was taking a facebook break until the baby arrived.  I then spent the next several hours hysterically crying because I suddenly realized that my mother’s flight was the next morning and James would probably be leaving as well and I had less than a day to give birth.  I was so upset my mother and James tried to reschedule her flight, but the added fees made that impossible.  When I calmed down, I realized that my poor mom and husband were trying so hard to make me happy, and to accommodate my wishes and that was not fair to them at all.  I took a deep breath and sat quietly for a while, thinking “what is the right thing to do here?” and the thought popped in my head….  “it might be a good time to try castor oil.”

That thought surprised me because even though it had been suggested to me several dozen times, up until then I had not wanted to go that route knowing it could be a messy, uncomfortable experience and if it didn’t work I would be sore and dehydrated with nothing to show for it.  I spoke to midwives, my doula, my mom and consulted doctor google for fair measure, and the consensus was that it would have a better chance of working if my body was ready (OMG how could it not be? I felt SO ready! LoL)  and if I was postdates (I was- I knew the exact date of conception) and there was an increased risk of the baby passing meconium (which since I was over 42 weeks we had a risk of anyway) so I decided to give it a go.  At least then I could say I tried EVERYTHING for James to be at the birth!

Well, that stuff was rocket fuel, in more ways than one.

Within a half an hour, I was in the bathroom.  And I stayed in there for over an hour, questioning whether I had made a huge mistake.  That stuff is super unfun.  When I was feeling a little better, I moved to my bed to rest for a while.  A few minutes later, around four o’clock, contractions started.  And forty-five minutes later I felt a little trickle.  I remember thinking “OH COME ON! Now I’m peeing myself too?”  (seriously, why do I always think its pee?) and then I felt a gush and realized it was my water breaking.  I jumped up and looked at the puddle I had made, but the sheets were dark so I couldn’t see what color it was.  I ran to the door and gleefully announced the new development, giddy with the thought that after so long there was FINALLY something happening.  I was streaming water down my legs so I grabbed a towel to stand on, and I was very happy to see the fluid was clear and slightly pinkish, with no signs of dreaded meconium- my first concern was now crossed off the list.  The contractions were getting fairly regular, so I moved to the birth ball and whipped out my phone, excited that I would finally get to try out the contraction timer I had found.

They were four minutes apart, and quickly whittled down to three and two while I sat there timing them.  When my doula Michelle arrived, she came in the room and sat on my bed, and we talked for a little while as I rocked on the ball and my contractions moved closer together.  Sometimes the kids, James or my mother would come in, but I found I had trouble concentrating on my breathing and rocking while they were in the room.  For me, it was best in the quiet room, alone with Michelle’s gentle encouragement and calm presence and rocking, rocking, rocking on the ball, sometimes pacing the room or leaning against the bed.  At one point she told me I had been in continuous motion for four hours, and I was surprised so much time had passed.

Around nine, I asked James to fill the pool.  It was partly because things were getting more intense, but also because it was obvious the kids needed a project- they were so excited and we thought that keeping them busy would help calm them down.  While I waited, my labor suddenly got hard.  I could no longer find relief with the ball and had to lean over the bed on my elbows and rock my hips.  When I couldn’t take it anymore, we moved to the living room where the pool was set up, but the water was way too hot and I stood there while they tried to bring down the temperature as fast as they could.  Although my contractions were becoming extremely painful, I didn’t want the littles to see how hard it was to just stand there, because they were SO proud of the pool and I didn’t want to bum them out.

Once the water was cool enough, I got in and oh baby did that feel good!  The kids all stood around watching me for a while, and once they went to bed I had the BIGGEST contraction.  I think I had been holding back until then, and from that moment on things got rough.  I worked through each contraction, focused and breathed and visualized all over the place, but I was completely unprepared for the level of pain and intensity I was now dealing with.  I know now that this was because the baby was posterior, but in the moment it was just… excruciating and I was beyond thought.  My body was trying to push, but the baby was not in the right place, he felt far too high up and just plain wrong to me, but still my body was pushing.  This went on for an hour, without change.  It was the most frustrating thing I’ve ever been through, I had trouble coping because here I was in terrible pain, and yet there was no progress.  I tried various positions, and the best thing for me was alternating between my hands and knees and sitting in nearly in squat.

Everyone was quiet.  I didn’t want music or conversation, or to be touched or comforted.  I just wanted to concentrate and breathe and work through it.  It was surreal, the pool felt like my whole world: there I was screaming and grunting in frustration and pain, and suddenly I smelled coffee, I looked up and saw them all sitting there with cups of coffee watching me.  Someone mentioned that it had been over an hour, and I could hear the worry.  I started thinking “maybe I will have to go to the hospital after all,” and for a second I was calm thinking about epidurals and the end of the pain I was feeling. And then that contraction ended and I thought, “no Joni- think this through…  Going to the hospital right NOW would mean getting up, putting clothes on, getting in the car, driving down the road, waiting for a bed, waiting for meds, and all of that would have to happen while you were in the same pain you are in right now…”and I realized that would be even worse than what I was going through at that moment.  And with my next urge to push I got back on my knees and I PUSHED.

Finally. I felt the baby move down.

It was exhilarating.  I yelled “Its working!” and felt a sudden rush of energy and strength. I could actually feel the baby rotate inside of me (the coolest feeling ever!) and move even farther down.  I started chanting “open, open, open” and I was vaguely aware of James swooping into place behind me to catch the baby.  I felt the burn as the baby’s head crowned and pushed his head out with the next contraction…..  And then got a surprise, because unlike with my other babies (that slid out all at once) I still had work to do once the head was out.  It felt like an eternity as the shoulders and body were slowly pushed out, and then blessed relief and the sudden end to all of the pain.  It was 11:59 pm on 5/20/2013 and I was so excited to meet my baby!

And then we had a bit of a comedy of errors!  I didn’t get that first, special moment of awe as baby is placed on mama’s chest, because I had been on my hands and knees.  I turned to ask for the baby and felt a tug deep inside of me.  Turns out baby had a ridiculously short cord! I knew he needed to be on me as soon as possible, but there was no way I could get to him.  He was super relaxed and limp, which freaked out James, and we rubbed the baby to get him moving.  He was draped over the side of the pool and I just desperately wanted to hold him,  so I stood up and he was passed between my legs like a football!  Once I had him on my front, I could see he needed to have his airways cleared, he was super mucousy, but the suction thing had fallen into the pool, which was…. a bit yucky.  Without thinking, I sucked the mucous out of his nose and mouth and spit.

I can’t believe I did that.  It was pure instinct.

Once he was clear, he warbled a little and started to pink up.  My mother handed me a towel to wrap him in, and before I did I checked between his legs and discovered we had a boy!  The water was starting to cool off.   I handed the baby to my mother, I think, while I climbed out of the tub, and then hobbled down the hall with the baby in my arms (held against my tummy, because his cord was THAT short!) to my room to wait for the placenta.

I sat on the edge of the bed, but had no urge to push it out.  At that point, I felt a little traumatized by the intense contractions I had just finished and didn’t even want to give a tiny push.  I nursed Henry for a little bit before Michelle went and got a bowl and urged me to at least try.  Out it came, and we were dismayed to see it was in pieces.  I pushed again.  More came out and it seemed to all be there.

By this point it had been about an hour since Henry was born, and the cord was white and limp.  James cut it (another first, he had never wanted to cut the cord before) and Henry was at last free!

I wanted to get clean and dry, and Hannah happily held the baby while I showered.  James emptied the pool as my mother ran around like a little Portuguese cleaning tornado.  She is marvelous- when I came out of the bathroom I found she had already started a load of wash, mopped the floors, and changed my sheets!  I sat down, eager to hold the baby, MY baby once more.  We examined him: he weighed in at EIGHT POUNDS, THIRTEEN OUNCES and was twenty-two inches long.

Not huge by any means, but still…  IUGR my ass!

I tucked a prefold under Henry’s bottom and got myself into bed with him.  My daughter brought me something to eat and drink.  And then we all settled down to our first night as a family of seven!

And that is the home (water!) birth story of Henry Rupert.

It was hard.  This was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Henry’s posterior labor and birth was the most pain I have ever felt.  I was unprepared and scared because I’ve never had to push more than twelve minutes and had no idea how to cope with the frustration of baby not swiftly moving down as his siblings had been so gracious to do for me.  It was the worst, and the BEST thing I’ve ever been through. The pain and everything else was worth every second, and I LOVE that I got to have my baby at home, completely under my own power, hands-off and untouched. I am so proud that I did this.  It was terrible and amazing and wonderful and an experience I will remember all of my life.

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  • Janelle

    Beautiful!! What a lovely story! I have tried 2x for a water birth and haven’t made it yet. Here is hoping that I can this time!! Well done on birthing your beautiful boy =)

  • Sylvana

    My husband has been so supportive of our decision to breastfeed. It was a learning experience with our first, getting used to the on demand, 24/7 needs of a very hungry (still is–> he is 3 yrs now) boy. But now with my little girl, we are experts. He encourages me when I’m delirious, supports me through the ups & downs (thrush, allergic reaction to nursing pads, mastitis!!!) He gets how important that glass of water is, cuz u get so thirsty. Every. Time. He takes the baby & sleeps downstairs with her, so I can sleep (I’m such a light sleeper!) and brings her to me to nurse. I love him and I APPRECIATE him. He gets it.

  • Megyn

    We had so many similarities! I also had to announce a Facebook break as I got SO fed up with the incessant questioning. I finally gave into castor oil at 41 weeks and 1 day as well, although it took several hours for it to work, and she was born the next morning…also weighing in at 8 lbs, 13 oz! I love how you suctioned him with your mouth without even thinking….mama instincts are AMAZING!!

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