On September 23, when I woke up at 6:30am to go on our walk I noticed my back hurt, and not just an ache or pain like I'd been experiencing earlier this month. Rather, this was like a back ache similar to my period cramps that lasted for 10-15 seconds and came every 15 minutes or so?? My mom experienced back labor with my sister and myself, so I I thought my labor experience might be similar. We went on our walk with the dogs. I got dressed, went to work. I tried to focus on the tasks at hand but had to take breaks every once and a while when the pain was more distracting. I was keeping myself busy with office errands. After going to post office and starbucks I called my mom around 10am to ask her if my "symptoms" sounded like her labor. She said, "Yep, I think you should call your midwife." I didn't think it was anywhere close to the delivery time, so I was hesitant to call, I wanted to see if they got worse or went away, but finally I called midwife around 10:15 just to keep her in the loop. She said it was probably just practice labor, not to be confused with pre-labor or early labor. She reminded me that this is usually a warm up session for first time moms to get their body ready for delivery. And, for some moms it does turn into labor, but it will probably subside sometime during the day. However, she did suggest I come into her office that night around 6:30pm to check in. After talking to her, I thought it was just practice labor... my stomach hadn't dropped (or at least we hadn't noticed it) and I hadn't lost my mucus plug or anything else that happens pre-labor. So, I finished my day at work, cleaned up and prepped my desk- just in case, and headed home.
Once I was home, I told Husband I thought it was weird the cramping hadn't stopped. But we both agreed it was probably just practice since baby hadn't dropped and I hadn't lost the plug. not moments later (around 4:30) I went potty and felt an extra releasing sensation at the end- I looked in the toilet and saw the mucus plug. This is NOT nearly as gross as it sounds. It looks like dried hot glue. I made Husband look to make sure, he was not all that interested but once he saw that it wasn't gross, he was like "oh, yeah, that's what that is..." It seemed a little too real at that moment, like, oh, shit, I really am going to have to push this baby out SOON, but in an exciting, terrifying kind of way.
Anyway, Husband proceeded to make some breakfast for dinner, one of my favorite meals. He made me French toast with bananas- something I'd been craving all week, and some potatoes. It was delicious but since he made such a great meal and then had to eat it, we were actually just a bit late with meeting our midwife. No worries though, I called to give her a heads up and she's so chill, she told us to take our time, she was still seeing other clients.
At the Midwife's office, I was waiting to see her and was still getting the cramping surges, every few moments I'd have to zone out and breathe through them. She noticed this while talking with another patient, and was like, "Are you still getting symptoms??" I told her, "All day- and I lost my plug" and she replied with a simple, "oh" and smile (you would appreciate her calm sincere demeanor that isn't translatable though text).
During our meeting she asked some questions, took my vitals, listened to baby, and followed the meeting by telling me to go home, get some rest, take some calcium magnesium, drink 2 coconut waters, an apple juice, half a glass of stout beer (this is not the same as drinking throughout a pregnancy, it was to help me sleep) and call if I get more active.
Well, that didn't work so much, the surges lasted all night making me get up at least once an hour to pee and poop. I don't think I've EVER pooped so much in my life! gross, I know. But, think of my poor bottom. I had to bust out the baby wipes and A&D ointment. so uncomfortable. The cramping surges stayed in my back but had the added sensation of needing to urinate and feeling like diarrhea cramps.
At 8:41am and I was still getting the contractions. Husband stayed home to take care of me and the midwife and my mom were on their way to check in on me. I was trying to remember to eat and drink, and baby was kicking away.
When the midwife got there, she chatted with me for a bit. I was poorly dressed and my hair was disheveled. I asked her when we'd know how far I was dilated and how much longer she expected. She ended up checking me then and I was at 3 centimeters dialated and my cervix was completely effaced- which she mentioned as being the majority of work for the bodies of first time moms. She told us, we should probably have the baby that night. She was about to give me an estimated time, but she caught herself and I agreed, I didn't want to put any expectations on the labor. She left, but told us to call her once the contractions got closer together, or when I needed her for labor support, whichever happened first.
Husband and I hung out at the house, we watched some movies on the laptop in bed. We ate some lunch. I pooped, every time I peed, which was frequently. Once, when I peed, probably around noon or 1pm (I started loosing track of time) I felt a secondary gush at the end, and it looked like something else had been added to the bowl, hard to explain- not quite water but a clear-ish substance that was diluting in the bowl. I assumed it was my "water" breaking, but obviously, since I had just peed, and it was in the toilet there was no way to be sure. After that, the contractions got worse. and worse. And, around 1 or 2 I asked Husband to call the midwife.
He asked, "Are you sure?"
My polite response, "Yes, I'm Fucking sure! call her!!!"
He was like, "Okay."
She showed up maybe 20 minutes later (really, I have no idea... my internal clock stopped working and I was in pain management mode) I remember standing in the door frame of my bathroom pushing my back into one side and my arms into the other to relieve the pressure off my back. I was also walking around and leaning on things and moving my hips. When she got there though, she was practically able to read my mind, unlike my husband who had to ask what I needed. With Husband, I had to request my needs; not so easy when you're trying to focus and breathe through the pain. She walked in, and pushed down on my lower back applying just the right pressure, and after that surge passed; she gave me a hug and held me through my next contraction. Then, she checked me and told me I was 6cm dilated, and that my membranes ("water") had burst and that our baby had lots of hair (in my dream we had a daughter with tons of black hair).
I proceeded to have contractions and walk them out, or sit on the toilet during them. I tried doing the yoga pose; child's pose and being on all fours, something I saw in my active birthing book (a position I thought I'd love), but by the end of a surge in that position, I was sure I was going to puke-every time. So, I stuck with the walking. My midwife also had me do a marching position in which I held my tummy up to support it and march knees to stomach. It was difficult and challenging but I know she recommended it to help relive more pressure than I would have otherwise experienced. I started getting really hot and the midwife gave Husband a paper fan- which worked surprisingly well, for me. He told me the next day his arms were SOOO sore, but he would have felt like a douche, stopping because his arms hurt, all while I was pushing his baby out. That is why I married him :) Also the midwife's assistant was using a wet washcloth to keep me cool and soothed.
I was feeling so much pain and discomfort during the later contractions, after one passed (maybe around 4 or 5pm) I asked the midwife,"How long does this part of labor last?"
Her response, as calm and soothing as can be, "It lasts as long as it absolutely needs to."
Of course she would say that... always with the perfect, trust your body and don't judge it or set unnecessary exceptions for it type of answers. That's why we love her.
Anyway, in my last contractions while on the toilet; I had realized I was inadvertently pushing (or trying to poop-but nothing was happening) and so I asked her, "Well, is it okay if I start pushing?"
She told me that I could, of course, sometimes rarely moms will feel the need to push before necessary but that she could check me again and see where I'm at.
She checked and told me I had just a tiny bit of cervix left to one side and she was helping to move it out of the way. I pushed each contraction- it was the only sensation that allowed the pain to reduce enough to handle. She told me I pushed the last bit of cervix out of the way and suggested I continue pushing. I was laying on my back in the position she had checked me in. Not the position I had expected to deliver my child in. I was all about the concept of squatting or standing or hanging, using gravity to pull the baby out. But once I was laying down there was no way in hell I was going to stand up and move during a contraction (which were now overlapping each other) So with my bottom and feet at the edge of the bed and my head on pillows that were resting on Husbands lap (he was sitting crossed legged behind me) I proceeded to push. When the midwife realized I was going to deliver in this position; she had Husband remove the pillows from behind my head and lay me down flat- so I wouldn't be blocking the baby in with my coccyx (tail bone). Once, I was on my back FLAT, I continued pushing and she was moving things around allowing for baby's head to pass. I pushed and pushed, but every time I'd relax to take a break, Baby's head would slip back in.
She grabbed my hand and had me touch in between my legs, and she asked, "Do you feel that, do you know what that is?"
I wined, "It's. the. head..." (p.s. touching the head in the birthing videos always grossed me out- but when it was my own baby and body, it was less "gross" more just kind of slimy- don't be surprised if during labor you do things you thought were strange, you are a different person in the moment and your body has control, don't set specific expectations, otherwise you might be disappointed when things don't go according to your plan)
In response, to me recognizing the head, she was like, yeah, so push, use your muscles to keep it here and hold it, then push again.
SO MUCH EASIER SAID THAN DONE.
She asked her birth assistant to get Grandma in case we wanted pictures... but my mom can't take pictures to save her life, she didn't even have a camera. I was so far gone in labor land, I could hear them talking but couldn't tell them, "no. get my sister to take pictures instead." Plus, I didn't mind the idea of my mom being in the room. But, my mom didn't realize why she was invited into the room (no one told her it was to take pictures). So, when she came in she started talking, "oh Jenn, you're doing great... really good... great job... so close... really wonderful job..." I politely and calmly said, "No Talking" although I wanted to say, "Shut the fuck up, can't you fucking see I'm trying to push a god damn human from my vagina?!?!??!"
Early on in labor I told my husband I needed silent contractions, he was watching movies on the laptop in bed with me all day and whenever I'd get a surge I'd say, "pause." as in, "pause that movie right now or that laptop is going through the fucking wall once I'm done...' anyway, once everyone was quite I was able to focus again.
Since I was on my back, she also told me that she'd give me a few more surges but then I'd have to go to all fours or squatting if I couldn't push properly... I was in so much pain and even though laying on your back is the worst way to deliver a baby- there was no way I was going to move.
When she asked me to hold my legs up and push and I yelled, "I CAN'T" in reference to holding my legs and pushing at the same time, everyone outside of the room thought I meant, I can't do this at all... but, Husband grabbed my legs and I pushed, and held, and pushed again. I felt the pressure release (at 6:05pm) and thought I'd have to deliver the shoulders and body, but apparently, her "little" head was so big (14 and 1/4 inches) her whole body slithered out with that one final push.
I was shocked, I said something to the effect of, "That's it? that's all of her? She's out?"
Then, I saw her little head. cone head. "Oh, Baby, I'm so sorry about your poor cone head." Every time I saw a newborn with a misshapen head I was like, "gross, their head looks funny, I hope my baby doesn't have a cone head..." and yet she did, because of me. my fault. and I felt terrible. I know, what a weird thought after just pushing her out and meeting her but I just felt bad... I went to reach for her and the midwife said, "oh hold on, still a little slippery," she didn't mention the fact that her umbilical cord was wrapped around her throat twice, and that while she was getting her un-slippery, she was also swiftly maneuvering the cord off her. Husband saw the cord and didn't say anything- I think they were scared to scare me. But I had so much trust in our midwife, even if I had known, I would have also known Shell could fix it, which she did. After she was done maneuvering all the fluid and cords, I realized I still didn't know if we had a boy or girl. I asked, "Wait, what is it?" or "Wait, is it a boy or girl?" something of that sortand the midwife responded; "You tell
"Girl" I breathlessly replied with a giant smile and with that final bit of dialog she handed her to me.
Husband was crying and kissing me and Sonja; we were so happy to finally have her. Everyone else in the house rushed into our bedroom and smiled and oohed and aahed at her beautiful little face. And my sister did take pictures. lots of pictures.
I still wasn't done though. After baby comes placenta; the third stage of delivery. The Midwife noted that my cord had dropped meaning the placenta had released and that I would need to push one more time in order to deliver it. This didn't require nearly as much effort or focus, in fact, I held little Sonja in my arms and with a tiny flex of my abdomen; I felt a release. The placenta was out and Shell was offering a tour of it. She showed us all the mother side, the part that was attached to me- looks meat-y and then the baby side which was like a bag that ripped open (ruptured membranes = water breaking) and pointed out that baby lived in there for the past few months. It was amazing. Both my sister (I think) and maybe-someday-sister-in-law watched the placenta be delivered. It's in my fridge right now, which is kind of weird since I haven't had really had meat in my house for years.
Then, I was done, at least with the official delivery.
No birth goes perfect... and after maybe 10 minutes of delivering the placenta, I noticed I was still expelling liquid, I asked the midwife if this was normal (since I was covered at this point and she wasn't checking my parts any more) and she was like, "No." She checked my uterus (externally) by rubbing my abdomen to see how big it was and told me I needed to pee. Again, easier said than done. She gave me some liquid herbs (I wish I could remember what they were now...) in my orange juice and helped me to get up to go to the bathroom. I didn't. I sat there for a few minutes relaxing- but those nerve endings are so fried after birth they don't know how to work. All the while I'm bleeding (a little more than she would have liked). She offered me a squeeze bottle to administer some water in attempts to trigger a reflex but it didn't work. She gave me some more her herbs to tighten my uterus. I also tried getting Sonja to breastfeed to stimulate oxytocin production, but she was still in labor shock and not all that interested in my boobs (yet). Neither myself nor the midwife wanted me to take pitocin in order to stop the bleeding, how frustrating would it have been to go through the WHOLE labor and delivery naturally only to have to get a shot of the most over used labor drug AFTER the birth. Of course, as my midwife mentioned, we wouldn't have let our pride get in the way of my well being. LUCKILY, the herbs did kick in or the attempted breastfeeding worked, or it was the fact that I was able to get a few drizzles of pee out... somehow the bleeding did slow, and I was able to enjoy my resting time with Sonja, on the bed she was both conceived on and born on. (TMI? maybe, but how many people can say that??)
Once the bleeding issue wasn't a concern; Husband's family showed up to meet our Cupcake and take photos and I was feeling great enough to walk around and chat in the living room. We had pizza for dinner and people stayed over for a few hours. I knew I had to get some rest, but really I felt great.
I heard so many stories from friends about deliveries (which I am so glad I did, but the following might be too much info for people who actually know me...)
1. From our birthing education and a friend: Your vagina will look like an orangutan or walrus after birth, it freaks some women out. I didn't make an effort to look at my parts after delivery but from what I could tell nothing swelled too much.
2. From a friend and co-worker: You NEED a donut to sit on after the birth, everything is sooo sore you'll want to have something soft to sit on. I felt so good after delivery I was sitting on the couch and talking like no big deal- don't get me wrong it was uncomfortable but nothing unbearable and since I didn't tear (THANK GOD) I didn't have major discomfort. (I did use a little trick I found online though: take a sanitary pad, squeeze some witch hazel on to it and place it in the freezer, after delivery use these as your pads and they will soothe and replenish the damaged skin)
3. From various friends and family: You are crazy to do it all natural. You have to take some drugs (and most suggested an epidural). Nope, I didn't and neither do you. It feels awful in the moment and at one point I did think, oh I wish I did have drugs, or maybe something more along the lines; I can see now, why some people get drugs, but I don't have any at home. So I just had to deal with it... and I did (and so can you). And when I was like, I don't like this, I really really don't want to keep feeling like this, this sucks so fucking much, that's when I asked about being able to push, and you know what? It was time to push, I was able to be alert and aware of my body and I was able to trust my midwife and I was able to transition into the 2nd stage of labor- the delivering the baby stage, and I was able to walk and feel everything. I was able to control my body. If I had used the drugs (were they available) I might not have gotten these painful messages from my body, and I would have suffered a disconnect between myself and my body. In fact, as difficult of a labor as it was (with her being posterior and not spinning) I actually told Husband when I was done, "you know, I know this sounds strange, but that was easier than I thought it was going to be." not that it was easy, but it was manageable and do-able.
4. From various friends and family: Really? you're going to do a home birth? what if something goes wrong? Often these same people couldn't think of a specific issue, so I couldn't give them a specific answer. However, some of the issues I discussed with my midwife about what I was concerned about included, bleeding too much (see above to know what "would have happened") or what if the cord is wrapped around her neck? The midwife slipped 2 fingers in between the cord and neck and unwrapped - so not a big deal. What if baby is in breech or posterior position? Well, if you have a good midwife (like mine) she will help guide you in the most safest delivery and help give the baby the option of turning or spinning.
6. From me to you. Don't freak out if the day after delivery you pass a large blood clot, I was changing Sonja's diaper and I felt a release of pressure, and thought I was just getting an increase of blood discharge, but it was a large blood clot, about the size of my fist. It really freaked me out. I called my midwife and send her a text photo. she said it was actually quite normal and that my bleeding should reduce even more now. (obviously, you should call your midwife or doctor if you are concerned, but maybe this extra info will help you to not panic about this common experience)
7. Me to You. Pushing a baby out, feels an awful lot like pooping a baby out. Actually, a family friend asked me if I knew how to push weeks before. I was like no, but I assume I will in the moment. She was like well let me just tell you, push like you're pooping. Without this prior knowledge I might not have realized that I was inadvertently pushing on the toilet and that I was ready to transition into delivery. I could have been one of those women to give birth on the toilet- although, I'm sure my midwife would have recognized me pushing before I actually delivered the baby on the toilet- but now you know. Push like you're pooping.
In conclusion, a home birth does not require a perfect labor and delivery. A trained midwife will know how to CALMLY handle any situation, they will know when something is wrong, they will know what to do, how to fix the problem, or they will know when switching to the hospital is absolutely necessary. I only ever wanted to make one child, (and adopt the rest) but after this experience I know I could do it again, and I would, at home, with my family, without drugs.
If you're pregnant and considering doing a natural birth (but in a hospital setting) I urge you to investigate your options. As my midwife said in her post deliver home visit, "Even the roughest home delivery is a thousand times [easier/better] than a great hospital birth" and after seeing and hearing of my friends hospital experiences I know she's right.
Happy Natural Birthing and Home Delivering!