Dominika shares the beautifully moving story of her son Dorian’s birth.
Dorian’s due date was on September 17th, so I decided to start my maternity leave a little earlier to give myself some downtime. My last day of work was on Friday, September 5th. Little did I know that Dorian would be taking his sweet time! The days passed, and my due date came and went. I became increasingly bored at home, but couldn’t do much about it as my mobility was steadily decreasing due to my ever-growing belly. I was also suffering from nightly insomnia caused by heartburn, which made me very tired; so I spent my days on brief social outings and naps. The novelty slowly wore off as people kept asking me over Facebook when my baby is coming. Finally, I snapped at one person’s questioning me and said, “October, clearly.” If only I had known how right I would be!
As the days went by, Ivan and I tried more and more methods to induce labor. I got an induction massage, tried numerous walks, had awkward pregnant sex, and got several stretch-and-sweeps from my midwife, which were rather painful, and although they reverberated through my entire uterus, they did not begin contractions.
Every night before bed, I wondered if I would wake up with contractions, and every day I would wake up disappointed. Finally on the morning of October 5th, I got so frustrated I began crying. My midwife had told me that 98% of women go into labor on their own if left alone between 41 and 42 weeks, and here I was at 42 and 4 and nothing was happening. I was starting to get really worried that after fighting so hard against being induced, that my body would betray me and I would have to go to the hospital and be forced into induction – or worse, a C-section.
Ivan assured me that there was nothing wrong with me, and that no matter what happens, the end result will be having a beautiful baby boy. We decided to move on with our lives and go out for lunch to an Indian restaurant to try spicy food as one last-ditch effort. All it accomplished was giving me extremely uncomfortable indigestion. I called my midwife at 10:30 p.m., and she advised me to take some Tums and a Tylenol. I did so, and went to bed.
Two hours after falling asleep, on October 6th at 42 weeks 5 days pregnant, I finally had some water leaking at 12:30 a.m. I wasn’t entirely sure if that’s what it was, but it appeared in small puddles in different sections of my bed sheet. I figured it wasn’t enough fluid to signify anything and happily just went back to sleep, once again hoping to wake up with contractions.
The following morning I was once again disappointed. My midwife Jen was supposed to come over at 9 a.m. to check on me, but called me at 8:30 to say that she was attending another birth and had to reschedule. I was scheduled to go back to the hospital at 1 p.m. for more fetal monitoring, and Jen called me back at 11 and asked me if I’d prefer to have her come see me before or after going to the hospital. I told her that I would much prefer to see her beforehand, as the hospital would stress me out and elevate my blood pressure and bully me into induction again. I also told her about my water leaking, which I had completely forgotten to mention when she had called me earlier.
Jen did a great job of acting like that wasn’t a big deal. She came over at noon and asked me whether I would prefer to try inducing naturally at home and skipping the hospital, as they would definitely bully me into staying if I told them that my water had leaked. I was more than happy to go along with this plan because it meant I didn’t have to go to the hospital. I had no idea how effective it would be and that it would actually send me into labor!
Jen called up the receptionist at the midwifery clinic, and with a wink at me, asked her to cancel my appointment at the hospital because I was “in early labor.” Then we went upstairs to my bedroom and Jen did a sterile speculum exam and confirmed that I was having a hind leak of waters. She then did another stretch-and-sweep and confirmed that I was already 5-6 cm dilated and about 75% effaced – now we were just missing the contractions!
At 1 p.m. I started taking some homeopathic medication, alternating two different ones every 15 minutes for two hours. Jen also had me hook myself up to a breast pump to see if that would also stimulate labor. She also wanted to break my water at 3 o’clock, but I managed to stall her for an hour. She kept asking me if I was feeling anything, and I kept telling her that I think so, but really I think up to that point in time it was just in my head.
Finally at 4 o’clock she convinced me to do it, and it was the last painful check she had to do as my cervix was still tilted towards my back with the baby’s head in front of it. Every time she checked me, Jen could feel the baby’s head moving and knew he was right there, ready to go! Ivan squeezed my hand as she broke my waters on my bed, and we were all very happy to learn that there was no meconium present, despite Dorian being almost three weeks late.
The effects of having my water broken were immediate, and by 4:30 I was already in active labor. However I had no idea this was happening, because I felt the same way I felt after every other time I got a stretch-and-sweep done. I thought my uterus was just reacting to being disturbed and that the sensations would go away soon. I decided to have a shower to alleviate the discomfort, and stayed there for about half an hour. Eventually I decided that I had been in there too long and should probably get out and rejoin Ivan and Jen.
Initially, Jen told me that my contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart. She updated me at first, but then stopped letting me know as my body took over, however in her notes she said that they went from 6 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart between 4:15 and 5 p.m.
After getting out of the shower, the hormones must have kicked in because I suddenly felt incredibly, horribly cold. I was covered in a towel and climbed into bed, and having a towel, two blankets, two bathrobes and a space heater on still wasn’t enough to make me feel warm and stop shivering. Jen took my temperature and discovered that it was actually elevated, and warned me that if it stayed high I would have to consider taking intravenous antibiotics to prevent a possible infection.
Ever so slowly I began warming up and peeling back layer after layer. Eventually it became extremely hot in the bedroom and I ended up completely naked, laboring on the bed with Ivan. At first dealing with the contractions was fairly manageable, but what bothered me was a constant feeling of nausea. I kept a bucket by the bed but never threw up. Jen suggested that I have a popsicle, and although I didn’t really want one, she got one for me and Ivan fed it to me one bite at a time, which actually felt wonderful.
At 6 p.m. Jen let me know that we reached the point where my waters had been broken for 18 hours, and asked if I wanted to get antibiotics in case of infection. I declined, as statistically I knew that it was unlikely.
Ivan was rubbing my back and helping me switch positions and lean over my yoga ball on the bed, and somehow eventually I made it to 7 o’clock, when Jen told me she would have to check me again to see if the dilation was progressing. I was very disappointed to hear that I was only at 7 cm after laboring what felt like eternity, but Jen assured me that this was great progress and Ivan told her not to tell me any more numbers as I have a tendency to latch onto things like that. Jen also asked me later on if I noticed that being checked that time didn’t hurt anymore – but I hadn’t.
Jen said that I could get into my bathtub after the check, and I was ecstatic to get in and turn on the jets. I sat in the bathtub sideways and had one jet on my back and another on my crotch, and it felt wonderful! I don’t know how long I stayed in there, but eventually I felt that I was staying too long and got out and back onto my bed.
Somewhere along the way, my body gave me a wonderful contraction-free break, for what felt like about five minutes. Jen told me to lean into Ivan, and while having my back to his chest I leaned into his neck and relaxed and it felt wonderful. When the contractions started again, without having planned it beforehand, we both began to breathe deeply and make synchronized “Ommm” noises with each exhalation. Each one got longer and longer, and I couldn’t tell whether I was the one leading them or whether it was Ivan. I leaned my ear into his neck and I could feel his voice reverberating through me. We did all this to the sound of a yoga-inspired soundtrack that I mostly did not hear, but all in all it was peaceful and serene and I felt safe and secure.
Unfortunately I soon reached the point of feeling unable to keep up with the constant contractions, which felt like they were right on top of each other. I started crying and saying that I can’t do this, and I desperately felt the need to escape the pain but couldn’t. Jen suggested that I try lying down sideways to see if I could actually sleep between contractions, but when I tried it the pain actually felt more intense, so I got back up on all fours and leaned over the ball again. Ivan coached me to keep up my deep breathing and began the “om” pattern again.
Jen quietly left the room and told us that she was going to get her supplies from her car. Somewhere at the very back of my mind, a thought occurred that this meant that we were actually doing it, that we were actually going to stay home and have a baby, but the thought was swept away by the contractions before I could connect the dots.
Eventually I decided to use the bathroom, and ended up laboring on the toilet briefly. I “om-ed” by myself and wondered why Jen and Ivan weren’t coming to check on me, but then decided that I must be okay since they were doing so. I then decided to get back into the bathtub and try the water jets again.
Somewhere along the way it got dark and Ivan must have lit the candles we had in the bathroom, because the room was in total darkness except for the candlelight.
Jen and Ivan soon quietly joined me and both sat on the floor in the bathroom. Wordlessly they became a team, and Jen let Ivan lead the encouragement and only occasionally interjected with her support. The jets provided a lot of relief but unfortunately couldn’t keep up with the contractions. Ivan and I were still “omming,” but suddenly I had had enough and started begging to be transferred to the hospital to get an epidural. I was crying that I can’t do it and although in my head I could hear how pathetic I sounded, I felt like I was willing to do anything to make the pain stop. I felt like time was standing still and in my mind I figured that I could endure a terrible 20-minute ambulance ride to the hospital and then have the hospital give me an epidural or cut the baby out of me. I cried and repeatedly told Ivan and Jen that I can’t do it and that they need to call the ambulance for me.
Ivan very firmly disagreed. “Look at me. Look at me,” he ordered. I struggled to open one eye at a time and make eye contact. Ivan confidently told me that I can do it and that I’m really close. Jen told me to just think about that beautiful baby in my arms. I closed my eyes again and told them that I don’t even want the baby anymore. After I said that I literally could hear the awkward looks they exchanged.
Jen took a different tactic than Ivan and said we can transfer to the hospital if I really want to, but I would have to get out of the bathtub for her to check me to see how far along I am to make sure transferring was still a safe option. I told myself that it was really stupid to have wanted a home birth when epidurals were invented for a reason. I started willing myself to get out of the tub so that Jen could check me again. “Right after this one,” I would think. Then the next one would hit me right away and again I would think, “…After this one.” Finally, I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of the tub, partially because I didn’t want to feel the pain of having Jen check me again.
Jen told me to reach inside myself to see if I could feel the baby. I cautiously did so, and to my great surprise I could feel something that was different. I was incredibly shocked and really ecstatic to realize that the pain was actually working and that the baby was there where I could feel him.
Then I lost my composure and again started crying and saying that I can’t do it, when suddenly the feelings inside me changed. With the same breath I was using to say, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” suddenly I changed my whine to “I have an urge to push.”
The change was really, really sudden and intense. I think when they say “urge to push” it’s a nice euphemism for “there is no way in hell that I could avoid pushing if my life depended on it!” My insides felt as if I had terrible diarrhea, yet pushing was like straining from constipation. My vocalization changed from “omming,” deep exhaling and whining that I can’t do it to a deep, primal, guttural grunt. In my head I felt embarrassed about being unable to control the sound, so I felt like I had to keep on my tub’s jets to create enough noise to give me the privacy to continue making the sounds, which allowed me to push. Jen told me to try and focus my energy on pushing instead of the vocalization, but I felt like I had to keep making the noise to be able to do it.
At some point in time, Jen said that she was texting the other midwives to come help with the birth. In a deep, far region of my brain it occurred to me that that meant that I was actually going to have the baby in the bathtub, but again I couldn’t connect the dots. Diane and Sara appeared very quietly and stood in the recess of the bathroom.
With each push I kept telling myself that I would get huge, and that maybe this push was it to get his head out. I ended up on my knees in the bathtub, and used my hands to stretch myself apart.
Jen told me to try to push longer with each urge, or to push twice within the same contraction. I kept pushing, then taking breaks, then pushing and telling myself, “This one is it. This one is it.”
Sara kept attempting to use a Doppler on me to measure Dorian’s heartbeat, but she had to turn off the bathtub’s jets to listen for it, which bothered me and interrupted my pushing so I kept apologizing and turning them back on.
Eventually I became aware of the sensation of his head crowning. It felt like a gigantic, gelatinous bubble between my legs. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever felt.
Jen told me that when I begin to feel the sensation of the ring of fire, I need to stop pushing and let my body take over by itself to avoid tearing. I agreed, but with each contraction in my head I was all, “F*** that. I want this baby out of me!” Finally, I felt the ring of fire, but it wasn’t quite as intense of a sensation as I had imagined it would be – it was more like a slight stinging sensation.
I pushed against the sensation and felt the “pop” of his head being born. Jen told me to lean back against the bathtub as she shined a flashlight between my legs and quickly unwrapped his umbilical cord which was loosely around his neck. She gave me the signal to push again, and Dorian somehow slithered right out – I have no recollection of feeling his body coming out!
Jen told me to reach down and catch my baby, but I told her that I can’t. I was worried about slipping in the bathtub because I was propped up on my elbows. Jen caught him in the palms of her hands and passed him right over to Ivan, who jumped in the tub fully-clothed, then picked him up and plunked him on my chest.
Dorian felt really warm, rubbery and squishy, and looked perfectly clean and pink in the dim candlelight. The first thing I said was, “I can’t believe he’s real!” as I had completely given up on ever having him come out. The midwives dried him off with a towel and he went “Meh…meh” very quietly, then suddenly gave us a startling “Wehhhh!” as I held him tightly.
Dorian was born at 8lbs 6 oz, 21″ length at 12:31 a.m. on October 7th, after 7 hours of labor and 45 minutes of pushing.
He had no meconium and zero signs of being post-term, suggesting that my normal gestation period is simply longer than average, despite the hospital’s bullying. He also had great timing; if we had made it one more day we would no longer have been allowed to have a home birth.
The midwives allowed me to hold him there while we were in the bathtub, just long enough to feel him pee on me! Then they helped me get out of the bathtub and carry him over to my bed, with his umbilical cord still attached and hanging out of me.
Ivan got to cut his cord, and while I held him on my chest, he pooped on me! I then passed him over to Ivan as the midwives helped me pass the placenta. I found it very difficult to deliver the placenta on my back and wondered how women can possibly deliver babies that way.
Afterwards I unfortunately had some complications and the midwives had a difficult time controlling the bleeding. I had very minimal tearing, but the internal bleeding was so severe they were debating transferring me to the hospital for observation. I was really determined to stay out of there and luckily prevailed!
The midwives stayed with us until I was stable and left at 4 a.m. I was ecstatic to finally be able to go to sleep, but couldn’t fall asleep right away. We slept till 7 a.m. before Dorian woke us up with a banshee-like scream, and our journey of parenthood had officially begun.