You were born at 2:25pm on Monday, February 6th, little David. Your birth in our home was everything your Dad and I had hoped it would be and a whole lot more. Here is the story of your birth as told by your mom…
It all started on Sunday afternoon. I had been having strong contractions on and off for weeks, but I had a feeling this was it. I felt like I had been waiting forever for you to finally arrive and didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. Your due date had come and gone two days earlier on Friday, February 4th. On Saturday we went to Mom and Dad’s, and I wasn’t having any contractions, but I remember mom saying, “This will probably be the last time you are at our house pregnant…” and she was right! Sunday I got up and didn’t feel different, “nothing doing” as I would tell the people that texted almost daily to see if we were in labor. But by the afternoon I was having fairly strong, regular contractions. I remember taking a walk up the hill past the farm and thinking, “This is it!” The contractions kept on coming, regardless of what I was doing. I still didn’t want to alert anyone, even your dad, just in case I was wrong. We had dinner and, as usual, I could hardly eat anything because I was getting full so quickly with you taking up all the room in my belly. After dinner, your dad and I sat on the couch, and I continued to have regular contractions. I think they were anywhere from 3-5 minutes apart at that time, and they were strong enough that I decided to go to bed since it was hard to concentrate on what we were watching.
I fell asleep after a while and didn’t wake up until around 1am when I got up to pee and was feeling the contractions still fairly regular and strong. I was getting back in bed when I felt a little plop and my mucous plug came out. I was feeling like it would be hard to go back to bed and decided to go downstairs and work through some of the contractions. Your dad was awake and asked if he should get up with me. I told him to go back to sleep, and I would wake him when I needed him. I went down to the kitchen and started making a soup with whatever we had in the crisper. There wasn’t much in the fridge, but I wanted to keep busy and also wanted there to be food for the midwives when they came. I felt excited, even though the contractions were pretty strong at that point, and every few minutes I would get down on all fours and let the contraction pass through me as I tried not to be too loud; I didn’t want to wake your dad or our neighbors. I pulled the birthday (“Placenta Cake”, as your Dad called it) out of the freezer and took out the cream cheese to soften so I could make frosting for it. I had baked it for us to eat after you were born, and it had everything in it, including carrot, coconut, nuts, and all sorts of exotic spices, like Fenugreek, cardamom, and nutmeg. I hoped it would be good.
I ate a bowl of Cheerios with blueberries and had the feeling it would be the last thing I would eat for a while. I finished making the soup and sat in the rocker in the sun room enjoying the peace and quiet of the night. I remember looking around at all the plants and all of our things and feeling so cozy and happy that I could be home for my labor. I knew in that moment that we had made the right choice in wanting to bring you into the world in our home.
Around 4am I was having stronger contractions and they felt more frequent. I don’t think I was timing them at that point. I texted Shivani and told her I thought this was really it. She called, and I talked to her between two contractions. I set the phone down on the floor and she listened while I went through the next contractions. When it was over, she said, “You are doing so well! That was a good contraction.” I am a little fuzzy on whether she said she would come over at that point or if I told her to wait and not come yet. I think she told me to go wake up your Dad and that she would be over sooner than later. I asked her if I should send Chris to work, as I was not sure how long I would labor and didn’t want him to miss a day of work for nothing. She said, “Don’t send Chris to work!” That turned out to be very good advice.
I woke up your dad and remember that I had two contractions pretty close together down on our bedroom floor, and I think he was a little shocked by how strong they were. He called Shivani then and told her to come over soon! I think Shivani got to our house around 5am. She did an internal exam to check how dilated I was, and though she didn’t tell me what she found, I figured I was not very far along because she recommended that I try to rest and eat something if i could. I felt nauseous and didn’t want to eat anything. Shivani recommended taking a shower, and Chris and I both got in the shower for a few minutes. I was worried we would use all the hot water that we needed for the birth tub, so it was a short shower but it felt really good. After the shower I got in bed and was able to doze a little between contractions. Shivani stayed for a few hours to make sure we were OK, and then left around 8am saying she would be back anytime we needed her. I got up around 11a when the contractions had become too strong to sleep through. I was still felt really nauseous and remember throwing up in the bathtub. At that point, Chris went out and got a crusty 5 gallon bucket that he then carried around the house wherever I went in case I needed it. I was having a harder time getting through the pain of the contractions. I kept changing positions to try and find the path of least resistance for the strong grip of the pain. Chris was by my side almost at all times, doing whatever he could to make things easier for me. He would rub my back through the contractions, and sometimes I would grip his shoulders and he would hold me as I rocked through the pain. I knew even in the worst of pain that I was lucky I was not having back labor. I felt like I could handle these contractions and told myself more than once to just take them one at a time and not think of how long this labor might last.
At times it felt good to be on the floor on my hands and knees, at other times I would hold the back of the couch and rock through the waves of intense pain and pressure. I felt a little feverish and nauseous and threw up again in the bucket in our room. It was hard to move because my belly was in the way, and I kept having to get up and down, which was so uncomfortable. I would just get comfy laying on the floor, the bed, or the couch, and then another wave of pain would start and I would get up as quickly as I could. The contractions felt easier when I was on my hands and knees or squatting. I remember feeling like each contraction was like a roller coaster and that I just had to crest the top and then it would be all down hill. Even between contractions, I had a persistent, cramping pain. Chris filled up the birth tub, and I got in and the hot water felt amazing. I remember thinking, “People say the birth tub is like nature’s epidural…but that, apparently is a crock of sh*&!” The contractions were just as strong in the water as out, but changing positions was easy in the water and that seemed to help as did the heat. I took another longer shower and that was also really helpful.
Shivani must have sensed that we were getting closer to meeting you, because she came back around 1pm, and I don’t think Chris had called her. I was on the couch at that point and got up when the next contraction was coming on, and as I squatted to get through it, my water broke. I had imagined there would be a lot more water, but it seemed just like a little splash or splurt. As soon as it did, I felt some relief between contractions. The pain seemed to shift downward. Shivani had me lay down after the next contraction so she could check my cervix. She said I was about 8cm dilated. What she later told us was that I was really 9.5 cm dilated but she didn’t want to alarm us. We were all surprised. I got back in the birth tub, and Shivani started getting all her supplies ready for your arrival. Chris was next to me at the edge of the tub. He was very emotional through much of the labor, and I remember thinking that it was one of the few times he was crying and I wasn’t. I had too much to think about and work through to be emotional. I felt like I was on a mission, and nothing could distract me.
It was around the time Shivani got back to the house and I got in the tub again that I started feeling some pressure to push. I thought, “Wow, this means we are going to have a baby soon!”. I also kept wondering when I would ‘hit the wall’. I had heard so much about ‘hitting the wall’ and had experienced the feeling during many of my marathons, so I felt certain it was just a matter of time before it happened, and I wanted to be ready.
I never did hit the wall, though. It didn’t seem like long before I started channelling my yelling (or grunting or whatever you would call the noise I was making) to try and push you out. I remembered other moms or midwives or someone telling me that you can use the power of the voice to help the baby out. I never thought I would yell that loud or hurt that much. I could feel everything! I had thought that the body would mask some of the pain with adrenaline or something, but I felt your head pushing and pushing, and it hurt so much. I just kept pushing with each contraction, though, because I thought if I didn’t, the pain would never end. I think I pushed about six times, and by the last push, I was hoarse from yelling so loudly. Your dad was right in front of me, leaning over the birth tub, and I was gripping the handles on the side of it with all my might. Mary, the labor assistant, got to our house a little while before you were born, and I was aware that Shivani seemed relieved to have another set of hands. Even in the midst of labor, I was thinking of my experiences as a labor assistant and what I would be doing or thinking if I was not the one laboring. Shivani was laying everything out for your delivery, and I knew you were coming any minute. At one point, Chris asked Shivani something, and she said, “Oh, Chris, do you want to get in the tub with Jennie?” Both Chris and I immediately said “No!” I said “no” because the tub didn’t seem big enough for both of us, and he said “no” because of all the stuff that was about to be floating in the water. We both laughed about this later.
The ‘ring of fire’ is a real thing. Like I said before, I thought maybe my body would produce some painkillers and take away some of the sensations of birthing you at the end, but that did not happen. I can distinctly remember what it felt like to birth your head, and it was all at once the most painful and most relieving thing I have ever experienced. I was so focused on getting you out of me and being done with the whole crazy experience that when Shivani asked me if I wanted to touch your head, I remember thinking, “Not really…I just want to be done with this!”. When I did reach down in the water and feel your head, I was struck by how much soft hair you had. There was a minute or two between birthing your head and the rest of you, and it seemed a very long, quiet time. Shivani later told me that you were perfectly content and just moved your head back and forth as if getting into a better position. I was surprised again when I pushed your body out and you were born! It was 2:25pm! I had always imagined you would be born in the middle of the night. Shivani and Chris helped lift you out of the water and onto my chest and covered you with a towel. You cried almost immediately. The first thing I noticed about you was your little face. It was all scrunched up and a little blue. You had a TON of vernix on you. It was so thick, and I was surprised since you were not early by our dates. I must have sat, still in shock, in the pool holding you with Chris right there next to me for a full 3-4 minutes before we decided to look for your gender. When I first held you, I called you “he” twice before I really knew. I must have known on a subconscious level that you were a boy. Heidi, our other midwife, arrived just after you were born, and it was so nice to see her face. No one had thought that your would come so quickly! I could only thank my lucky stars that you didn’t take longer. I felt so happy to not have to labor for days on end as I had seen many moms do. I was so relieved to have the labor over and behind me. Little did I know what lay ahead of me over the course of the next few hours and days.
After what seemed like a very long time, but was probably only a few minutes, Chris took you, and I slowly climbed out of the birth tub. Birthing the placenta had been a piece of cake, and we had cut the cord just before I got out of the tub. Mary, the labor assistant, was on one side of me and Shivani was on the other, and as we walked up the stairs, I asked if I could take a shower. I felt surprisingly good at that point. It was one of the most amazing showers I have ever taken. It felt so good to let the water carry away all the residue of the last twelve hours of hard, hard work.
Someone had prepared the bed for me with chux pads, and I climbed in ready for a rest. Heidi checked to see if I had torn and found that I would need a few stitches. It felt like a very long time before the sutures were in. There were a total of five stitches. I thought it would hurt more, but I guess after what I had just been through, nothing really phased me.
I am not sure if I want to write about what happened to me after you were born. Part of me feels like it is bad luck to put it down on paper (or in a computer), and another part of me feels like I never want to forget what happened because it was such a powerful and pivotal moment in both my life and Chris’s. I think some day, years from now I will be glad that I recorded the experience though, so here goes…
Everything after delivering you seemed to be pretty routine until I tried to get up to pee in the crusty bucket by the bed. I made it halfway to the bucket and started to feel really light headed, sweaty, and weak. I just wanted to curl up on my side, but Heidi had me lay on my back and she felt my fundus and said it felt ‘boggy’; not a good thing. She massaged my uterus and a lot of blood came out. I could feel it leaking out, and the feeling of it made me feel weaker still. Someone took my blood pressure and it was low, like 68/45. I felt a little better after laying back down, though, and the lightheadedness seemed to subside. I can’t remember all that happened right then. After a while, when my blood pressure had come up, Heidi and Shivani went downstairs to clean up, and Heidi said if I had any big gushes of blood to call her back upstairs.
It was probably not more than five minutes before I felt what seemed like a lot of blood leak out, and Chris called Heidi to come back up. My memories of what happened next are a little fuzzy. I think Heidi decided to give me the IM Pitocin shot since I had already lost a lot of blood. I remember getting the shot in my thigh and the ceiling started turning yellow and black, and I thought I was going to pass out. I remember telling myself I could not pass out or I might die and I could not leave my baby. Heidi felt my fundus again and decided to manually check for clots. Using both hands she reached up into my uterus with one hand while massaging from the outside with the other. I felt large clot after large clot sliding out between my legs. I knew it was a lot of blood and tried not to let it scare me. It seemed to take forever before Heidi was satisfied that she had gotten all the clots. I felt strangely better after she was done. Heidi had been talking about putting in an IV so that they could give me fluids, and I had tried to put them off saying I would drink a lot, and besides, only 60% of IV fluids end up in the intercellular space. By the time Heidi had finished removing the clots and my blood pressure was low low low, I didn’t have much say in the matter and Shivani tried putting a line in my right arm. I decided if she couldn’t get a line the first time that I would put it in. I knew the IV supplies that we had were complicated and I was the one who knew how to use them from doing so hundreds of times in the ER. Someone ran out to Heidi’s car and grabbed her supply of IV fluids and I put an 18 gauge needle in my left AC.
It is interesting looking back how calm and focused I remained during the whole experience. I kept telling myself that I had to hold it together or things could get worse. I was so grateful that no one had mentioned transferring me to the hospital. I just had the feeling that I was going to be OK and that leaving my home was the last thing on earth I wanted to do at that point. The IV fluids had been out in Heidi’s freezing car, and as they flowed into my veins, the cold added to my already shaky body, and I started shaking like crazy. Thank goodness Shivani had two heating pads. We put them on my chest and piled quilts and blankets on me and propped up my feet on pillows. Slowly my blood pressure came back up, and I felt better and better. Mary came up and fed me soup and beef jerky. The soup I had made earlier that day was not very good. Heidi asked Christine, who had just gotten to our house if she could go out to the nearest health food store and buy Chlorophyll for me to drink. She said it was the closest thing to a blood transfusion. It turned out to be the worst tasting thing, but I wasn’t about to complain. I drank it by the liter for the next two days.
During all of this Chris had been off to the side holding you, David. I remember thinking how glad I was that he remained so calm. I knew it would not have helped me at all if he had been nervous. I did not realize until I overheard him talking to his brother Jesse the next day how scared he had been. He told Jesse, despite all that had happened, that he would do another home birth if we ever had another child. I couldn’t help but feel so happy and proud of how well he had dealt with everything.
I have never felt so in love with or connected to you dad as I did on the day you were born. He is literally the only person I can imagine going through such an experience with, or the only person I would ever want to go through labor and birth with. He was an amazing support the whole day and the sweetest, most concerned and attentive labor assistant I could have asked for. I was glad that for most of the labor it was just he and I. I did not feel like I needed a lot of support or help most of the time. I just wanted peace and quiet and space to move around. I can’t even begin to put into words how much I loved the experience of bringing you into the world. It was the hardest thing I have done in many ways but also the most rewarding. I felt so powerful at the end of it when I realized I had done it! And the best gift ever was that you were so healthy and alert from the get go. All along I had imagined that there would be some complication with you, small or large, and when there wasn’t I felt like the luckiest girl alive. I never expected that it would be me who would have the complications.
At some point after everything had calmed down, Heidi and Mary measured and weighed you. You weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce and were 21 inches long! I was so happy. After your newborn exam, I began to nurse you, and Chris helped. I can’t describe how much love and gratitude I felt for my midwives, including Mary. They were so calm and experienced, and I felt total trust that they would take care of you and I and all would be well. I cry to this day thinking about how wonderful they made the experience of your birth, little David. It was the happiest day of my life. I have never felt so lucky to be alive and to have you safely in my arms as I did that day.