My husband and I have been married 6 and a half years and he is active duty Air Force. We had our home birth in base housing here in North Dakota.
As I lay here in bed on Father’s day, with my son wrapped tightly beside me and Aaron catching up on some sleep he’s missed in the past few days I struggle to remember how I felt just 4 short days ago. 4 days ago it felt like I would be pregnant forever, but obviously that isn’t ever the case, we just get impatient. 4 days ago my 8 pound 13 oz boy was still lazily kicking any part of me he could reach, and had kept his butt under my ribs for the better part of 10 weeks. 4 days ago I was still incomplete as a person, because I had never held my beautiful son in my arms and kissed his cheeks as Aaron cooed to him and told me how amazing I am and how proud he is of us.
My labor and delivery wasn’t what I had planned so painstakingly. It wasn’t what I had envisioned as I listened to Hypnobirthing tracks and helped Aaron set up the birth pool. With all of that being said, my son’s entrance into this world was nothing short of a miracle. It healed things inside of me that I didn’t know were broken and brought Aaron and I closer than I ever imagined we could be. I guess I should start at the beginning…
I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant and hadn’t felt even a whisper of a contraction, but as of 3 days prior, I was already 4 centimeters dilated. I was convinced my whole pregnancy that I’d have Jensen at around the 38 week mark and he proved his stubborness by hanging in almost to his due date. I had struggled with impatience but I had woken up the morning before with a sense of peace that he would come when he was good and ready.
Wednesday wasn’t an extraordinary day by any means. Aaron and I spent the day relaxing on the couch, doing chores as we had the energy. I made supper that we were supposed to be sharing with friends at our house. I don’t know if it was a feeling or what, but I didn’t want our friends to come over for dinner and mess up the recently cleaned kitchen and vacuumed living room (they have 2 older boys that like to chase our cat around). There was this feeling that I just didn’t want people to “invade” my space. I texted to ask if it was okay if we brought dinner to their house instead. After that was agreed on, Aaron and I went over to their house and ate dinner and talked a bit. I wasn’t even feeling twinges, but was anxious to get home and take a shower before bed.
Once we got home Aaron and I hopped in our shower and began our routine of talking about the day and just enjoying some time alone before bed. I felt my first contraction ever while in the shower at around 10:15 at night. By the time I had gotten out and dried off, I’d had 3 contractions that were evenly spaced and fairly strong. I was determined to get some sleep so I headed to bed and put a pillow between my legs, and kissed Aaron without telling him I thought labor was starting. I spent 30 minutes trying to sleep before I realized my contractions were coming every 5 minutes and that it was difficult to lay still during them.
I got up and made my way down to the couch to try and allow Aaron to get some sleep during this early part of labor. I laid down on the couch and did my best to breathe through contractions that were getting progressively strong. After a couple of hours I decided to let Rebekah know that today was probably the day. That was at 1:45am. I told her to get some sleep and that I’d let her know when they got unbearable. Turns out that wasn’t much further away. At 2:45 I was actively having to remind myself to breathe and relax during contractions that were now 3 minutes apart. I texted Rebekah and she told me she was on her way. I knew I had an hour to handle things on my own, and went upstairs to wake Aaron so he could start filling the pool.
I kissed Aaron and he smiled up at me as I told him that it was time for the baby to come. He sprung to action and began filling the pool. I laid on the couch, or sat on the birth ball, or leaned over the coffee table during contractions until I heard “Oh crap”. Aaron had gotten the pool almost a third of the way filled but had forgotten to put the liner in first. He started draining the pool and I lamented the loss of all that hot water. Sometime during this process I asked Aaron to call the doula so that she could make her way over. I was leaning over the birthing ball during these contractions and she wanted to listen to me through a couple of contractions. She listened and said that she was on her way. The next bit of time passed with me listening to music and breathing deeply.
Rebekah didn’t even ring the bell, I just looked up after a contraction and there she was with her quiet confidence. I felt a sigh of relief knowing that I was in good hands, and that I was well on my way to having my son in my arms. It’s amazing how quickly you forget the details of things, but I remember the emotions I felt. I was happy and excited and I was so glad to have the quiet and dark of my house to labor in. Shortly after this, Rhonda showed up and we all answered some questions and they watched me through some contractions. I know the pool was being worked on during this time, and at some point it was filled enough for me to get in. I labored in the pool and out of the pool, and was reminded to pee and drink water. This time was best called “Laboring quietly with the support of Aaron and 2 wonderful women”. I didn’t even call or text people to let them know what was going on and Facebook was the least of my concern. We were in our own world in the living room as the sun rose and I kept my eyes closed for most of this.
We added water as needed and Aaron spent some time in the pool with me as we figured I was nearing pushing by an external check from Rhonda. At some point I felt pressure and asked Rebekah for a check to see how I was progressing. 9 and a half with a lip in front and a bag that was still intact. I was asked if I wanted to get up and do some walking to get rid of that lip and get baby moving. I was completely for this and I climbed out of the pool to get dressed. This was around 10:30am and we quickly made our way out to the sidewalk in front of our house. It was one of my favorite memories of labor because during contractions I would stop and lean on Aaron and dance on the sidewalk in front of our house.
After only a handful of contractions I felt the urge to go to the bathroom and we quickly got back into the house and I sat on the toilet for a bit. I started to feel pushy and wanted to get back in the pool. Once there I asked to be checked again to make sure the lip was gone. It was and we spent a few contractions trying to push my water into breaking. It wasn’t going to budge. Rebekah asked if I wanted her to break the bag, because I had stated several times that I felt like once my water was broken things would get moving (how wrong I was). She pinched the sac and it gave way immediately. We realized there was meconium in the fluid. The time was marked. 11:19am. I asked if the meconium meant we were on a “clock”, but Rebekah stated calmly that this wasn’t a hospital and the only thing she cared about was how I was doing and how Jensen was doing. With that settled I breathed a sigh of relief. Aaron and I tried to get situated in the pool for pushing, but I stuggled to get enough traction to push effectively, and I couldn’t seem to find a good position. We took it to the toilet and I did some contractions there. It seemed to be easier to push on the toilet and I worked hard on bringing him down into the birth canal. After some back and forth on what would be best for getting his head under the pubic bone I got onto my back in the bedroom and we rigged up a sheet with knots at both ends and began doing tug of war with leg lifts. This was at 1:20pm.
Lots of pushes later I got up and tried to pee and realized I couldn’t. We ran some water in the tub and I got in, hoping the water would help me relax enough to pee. That wasn’t the case so I got up onto the bed and Rebekah gave me a catheter so that I could empty my bladder (I requested this because I felt like I was going to explode if I didn’t pee). After this I seemed to be making some progress. Pushing became the only thing I was focused on. Each contraction began with a good deep breath in and then I would pull on the sheet that Aaron was pulling on. Rebekah would lift my left leg, Rhonda would lift my right and I would bear down as hard as I could. Rebekah placing her fingers just inside of me and telling me to push her fingers out with each contraction.
We checked my sons heart rate periodically and he tolerated contractions amazingly, his heart rate never dropping below 120 despite hours of pushing at this point. Each push brought him just a bit closer, but his head kept sliping backwards with something seeming to make this extra hard work. Rebekah explained that my Hymen was still intact and was creating a “rubber band” that I was having to push him past. Each push brought us a little closer to him, and Aaron’s eyes went wide with each push. “He is so close, babe! You are doing great!” His encouragement was exactly what I needed and with each contraction I focused on Aaron’s words to help me push as hard as I could and we began to see his head slipping back less with each contraction. Finally his head began crowning! With that announcement, I shouted that “I need to get up right now”. I didn’t tell anyone, but since I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way back down stairs to the pool, I really didn’t want to deliver on my back. I asked to get onto the birth stool to finish the delivery. Standing to walk to the birth stool was like walking with a cantalope between my legs and I was so glad to sit down. Once on the birth stool we began to see a little bit of his head at a time, and I started to get excited that I was actually going to be able to do it!
He crowned for 31 minutes, and there was twice when I told Rebekah that I couldn’t do it. This wasn’t because of pain, I was surprised throughout my labor that it wasn’t nearly as painful as I had been led to believe. I was able to breathe deeply in and out during each and every contraction and I didn’t scream or roar while I was pushing. She calmly told me that I was doing it, and that if we got in the car that I would almost certainly deliver in the car, and if by some miracle I made it to the hospital they would have to push my son back into my body to give me a c-section. I was going to be pushing this baby out no matter where it happened. I just needed to hear that to finally give myself over to it. As a side note, Aaron had planned to catch our son, but at the time that he mentioned it was time for him to move from behind me and catch I couldn’t let him go. I needed him behind me supporting me. When his head finally finished coming out I looked into the mirror and exclaimed “His head is so big!” I was told to blow like I was blowing out a candle for the next contraction so that his nose and mouth could be suctioned out. That was the longest contraction of the whole delivery. It took every ounce of strength in my body not to push, but with the meconium in his fluid it was important to get him suctioned before he breathed it in. After that I pushed out his body and fell in love with my son. Rebekah pulled him up to my chest and Aaron and I began rubbing his body and trying to get him crying.
The long labor had taken a toll on him, and he was very purple and not breathing just yet. His eyes were open and he was moving his arms so I wasn’t too worried, but I knew we needed to get him pink. I started talking to him and telling him that it was time to start breathing and that I loved him and that he had done amazing. I apologized for taking so long to get him out and kept telling him over and over how much he was worth it, and that I would do it all over again for him. Aaron and I rubbed him as Rebekah blew 4 breaths into his mouth and he finally decided he was ready to breathe on his own. I apologized again for taking so long to get him out and Rhonda reminded me that I said “I’m sorry you were born to the nerdiest parents in the world”. Aaron and I both told him how much we loved him and couldn’t believe he was there in our arms.
This story doesn’t do my birth justice, it doesn’t show the gratitude I feel toward Aaron and those two wonderful women who believed in me and my son. They supported me during what was a long, tiring labor, but one during which I never once screamed or cussed or told Aaron “you did this to me”. Although my son was born completely happy and healthy, in my local hospital I would have either been a c-section or at the very least an episiotomy and a vacuum. As it was I delivered my son with no tearing and no stress. I said to Rebekah I couldn’t do it not because of the pain, but because I was tired. Women are just as strong as their labor, many just have a fear of birth that makes the pain worse than it is.
This story also doesn’t share some of my very favorite memories from my delivery, like singing “Child of mine” while in the pool between contractions; Rhonda complimenting my painted toes to help take my mind off a difficult contraction; the insistance on resting for about 30 minutes twice during labor (I had hoped to catch a quick nap). Aaron wore pajama pants during the delivery and we were able to climb into our own bed afterwards. My son’s labor and delivery was beautiful and peaceful. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Jensen Lowell Barrett | 06/14/12
11:19am waters break
4 and a half hours of pushing | 31 minutes of crowning
Born at 4:31pm
8 pounds 13 oz | 21 ½ inches long | 14 ½ inch head
4:46pm placenta delivered
Photography by Rhonda Huot with Heart and Hands Doula