Veronika shares this story of her unintended unassisted home birth… and what it was like to nurse her toddler during early labour.
“My darling Penelope Green, this is the story of your birth…
It was a hot day on July 19th, I was 41 weeks and four days pregnant with you. I had been having weeks of prodromal labor which made me feel like i was in labor all the time and made it very hard to figure out when exactly you would come! That morning we decided to do some grocery shopping and stock the house once again for your impending arrival, Just in case you decided to join us within the next few days.
When we got home, we put your sister to bed for a nap and I fell asleep for a while as I snuggled her. I didn’t know it would be the last time we would spend that time alone together and I’m so glad we had those moments because the next few days I ended up having special snuggle moments with you too!
Around 3 PM I started noticing that I was having timeable contractions. They weren’t painful, just annoying, and they were about six to seven minutes apart. Frustrated with all of the pre-labor I had been having, I told your dad that we should either stay home and monitor these contractions or spend the rest of the day at the beach ignoring them. We chose to head to the beach. We stayed there until about 6:30. The contractions were still consistently six to seven minutes apart but very, very tolerable. I started to get frustrated, thinking that this was going to become yet another night of pre-labor and I would have to wait to get to meet you.
On our way home, I called Vanessa and told her that I was having steady contractions but I was absolutely sure it was nothing. Just in case, we dropped one of our cars off at her house and packed Isla’s diaper bag in case we would have to drop it off later.
We went about our night and I continued to time the contractions. Slowly they got closer together, but their intensity stayed the same. It was too easy to be labor. I continued to ignore them and we started our nighttime routine of showers, baths, and books. Your dad gave Isla her bath while I cooked up a freezer meal to stash away for later. I was starting to get distracted by the contractions and thought I should time them and focus on what exactly my body was doing. The contraction timer was all over the board. Some were two minutes apart and some were seven to eight minutes apart. I thought they should have more of a pattern if this was really labor, so, again, I put it in the back of my mind but decided to give a heads up to our birth team.
I emailed Leah, our birth photographer, around 7:45 to tell her that I was starting to have timeable contractions, but that I thought it was more pre-labor and not the real deal. She joked and said, “At this rate, you’re going to give birth in the car!”
When it was my turn to take a shower, I looked in the mirror and noticed that my pubic bone area and pelvic floor looked swollen. I should have checked myself at that point because after everything was said and done, I realized that bulging was already your head descending!
I emailed Leah back and said that the contractions were getting worse but that I was going to try and lie down with Isla to rest.
We got your sister ready for bed and laid down with her while we played the song that we had intended to play right after your birth. Lying there nursing her to sleep was getting too uncomfortable for me, so instead, your dad took her for a drive while I rocked and bounced on my birth ball. I noticed there was getting to be more pressure in my hips and pelvis, but still, nothing very painful.
Pretty quickly though, as I sat and rocked, bounced, and swayed my hips, I started noticing the contractions getting a little longer and stronger. I emailed Leah at 9 pm and said that I was 99% sure it was the real thing and that I would call her as soon as we were on our way to the birth center.
The only thing that felt good was staying active and swearing through each wave of contraction. I swayed my hips and bounced on the birth ball, and each time one would hit, I would hum and moan a little. When they stopped, I repeated out loud to myself, “Let it go…let it go…”
Each time I said that, it helped clear me mentally which made the physical pain disappear!
I knew that this was active labor and that it could be several hours before you would be ready to meet the world. Since I was handling the intensity so well, I guessed that I still had a long way to go and decided to try and cope with as much of labor as I could on my own at home. When I asked your dad his thoughts about when to leave, he asked if I was sure I was even in labor because I wasn’t, “…acting all crazy labor-lady like”.
During Isla’s birth, between each contraction, I felt like I was on drugs or drunk. The intensity of her labor and all of the work my hormones had to do during her birth were completely different from what my body needed to do during yours. I was so confused! I thought I should be screaming or shaking or acting like I couldn’t take another second more of this, but none of those feelings were there.
I was also having lots of anxiety about having to leave Isla overnight with someone else. She had a pattern of waking up around 10 pm every night and needing to be nursed or sung back to sleep. Your dad and I decided then that it would be best to stick it out until she woke up that first time so that we could soothe her back to sleep and then head to the birth center and maybe even be back before she woke up again in the morning. I texted your Grandma Asplund around 9:30 and asked her if she wanted me to call or text her in the middle of the night if you had come. She texted back and said, “Yes, is this the real thing??”
I gave it a few minutes and at 9:47, I texted her back and said, “Well, I’m saying the f-word a lot, so I’m almost positive this is for real this time.”
At that point, the birth ball wasn’t working anymore. I felt like I needed to be alone, so I took another shower while your dad watched a movie. As soon as the water hit me, it was instant relief from the hip and pelvic pressure I was feeling, but being on my feet was making the contractions more intense. I vocalized through two very, very strong ones with low, deep moans. I thought to myself, “This is different. This is time.”
I felt inside to try and check my cervix to see if I could tell how things were progressing. I immediately felt your head and just a bare ring of cervix. I couldn’t believe that your head was so low already, so I thought maybe I was reaching in wrong and was feeling my pubic bone instead. I felt again and bore down just a bit at the same time…I felt your bag of waters bulging out and knew we had little to no time to get to the birth center.
I called to your dad and told him to call Vanessa and tell her to get to our house to watch over Isla as soon as she could, and then to call Anja and tell her we were on our way to the birth center.
I moaned through maybe two more contractions in the shower and then got out and started getting dressed. I put on my pajama pants and nursing bra and then another contraction hit me. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Oh God…here we go.”
I grabbed a big towel, buried my face into in and made a low, growling sort of noise for the length of the contraction. Pressure overcame me and my legs started to go weak. Immediately another contraction came on and I howled once more into the towels. This was the only moment that the pain of the contractions felt like it might be too much for me to handle, but as soon as I started getting scared, they were over and I was released from the pain. I felt intense, fearful pain for all of two minutes and then it was over.
At that point, the contractions stopped and all I felt was an intense bearing down. I fell to my knees on the bathroom floor and grunted while my body pushed down. My water broke all over the floor and my pants and I knew we weren’t going to be leaving. I yelled to your dad again, told him to call Anja back and say we weren’t going to make it to the birth center after all. I told him to get me water to drink and to get my pants off…now.
He opened the bathroom door, saw me on the ground and said, “What do you mean, get your pants off? and what do you mean, we’re not going to make it?”
I growled while bearing down again, “The baby is coming now.”
I heard him get back on the phone with Anja and say, calmly, “Hey Anja…we’re actually not going to make it to the birth center tonight…Veronika is pushing the baby out right now, so can you come here instead?”
Your dad. Always so calm. In literally any circumstance.
I felt your head crowning, I needed my pants off so I could open my hips wider! I heard Vanessa come to the door. She had no idea that things had progressed this quickly. She and your dad came to the bathroom door and I snapped to them, “My pants, I need them off now!”
They helped me get them off and Vanessa made her way to sit behind me with baby Josephina strapped to her in a carrier and your dad sat on the floor in front. My body continued to bear down without my stopping it. During a pause in my birth waves, I breathed deep and said, “This is so peaceful…”, I couldn’t believe how in control I felt and how easy it all was. With each contraction, your head came out more and more until finally it was out all the way. Vanessa reminded me to breathe deeply through the pushing, and I supported and stretched my tissues around your growing head. I told your dad to get ready and we both cupped our hands beneath you.
The was a long pause and while I waited for the next urge to push, I reached in and checked to see if your umbilical cord was looped around your neck. It wasn’t, and I started to feel the next surge coming on. While my belly tightened around you for the very last time, I felt you wiggle inside of me. I looked at your dad, smiled and told him I could feel you.
Feeling you move like that at the end was incredible. I felt like we were both working hard together to meet one another and with a few last, splashy kicks, your little fish legs were waving a farewell to the amniotic pond you had spent so much time in.
With a spring of your legs, a hug of my belly, and one last unbearable urge to meet you, you slid out into our hands (and partially to the floor).
I held you up, completely stunned. You were a bit blue and slow to start breathing so I sucked on your mouth a little to try and clear it. Vanessa told me to rub your chest a little and sure enough, you started to pink up.
We guessed that you barreled into this world at 10:10 pm. As expected, your sister, Isla woke up right after and came out of our bedroom and saw all of us sitting on the floor with a strange baby in our arms. She was shocked, but then smiled and said, “Baby!”.
Anja arrived at 10:15, and was just as stunned as all of us! She sat down on the floor beside me and I looked at her and said, “I promise you…we did not do this on purpose.”
Earlier in the week, our friend Maggie told me that my birth will be whatever I need it to be at this moment in my life. Those words will forever haunt and inspire me.
My pregnancy with you was full of ups and downs. Sickness, stress, insecurity, change, and doubt. Through all of it, I felt my world spinning out of control with no way to slow down and reign it in myself.
Penelope. Your birth WAS exactly what I needed. I never felt anything but peace, calm, and control throughout. Thank you for blessing me with such an incredible story, an irreplaceable feeling of empowerment, and a renewed sense of utter strength.
I love you my darling, please never stop surprising us.”