My husband and I have been married for almost 11 years and have four children. When I was pregnant with my first son, I had a desire for natural childbirth, however, when I was about a week past my due date my OB suggested I get induced. Because of the intensity of the contractions that I felt with the pitocin induction, I gave up on my desire for natural birth and took a narcotic and then and epidural. My son was born vaginally, whisked to the baby warmer, and wrapped up like a burrito. Not my dream birth, but I had a beautiful baby boy. Just over a year later, I was ready to give birth to our 2nd son. Again I was late and again the OB suggested induction. I opted for the epidural right away, got to 9 cm dilation, and then my baby went into distress and the Doctors called for a C-Section. It was a scary experience, and because of that, my husband and I decided not to have ANY more children.
Fast-forward 3 years. I was suddenly blessed to be pregnant again. I knew that I needed some skills and I needed them fast. I did good research and found and took The Bradley Method. Happily, I went into labor just a week past my due date, and my husband and I had our third son, which was an uninterventive, unmedicated, hospital VBAC after just 3 1/2 hours of labor. It was such a great experience for us. It really healed the psychological scars of our 2nd birth. We needed to see how birth could be. How it doesn't have to be some scary terrible event. It can be joyous. Powerful.
A little over a year later we got pregnant with our fourth child. I decided that I wanted a homebirth. During the previous year, I had become a Bradley teacher. This required a lot of reading. One of my favorite books was The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. I gave it to my husband to read. I think it was this book and our last birth that brought him around. He got on board with the home birth. Then I set out to find a midwife to attend me at home. I wanted my family around me. I wanted to listen to and trust my body, my labor, and my baby in my own home, on my own sheets, with my own stuff. I wanted to be attended by people that would help me achieve that. I had a friend who had recently had a homebirth with a direct entry midwife, and so I met with her and knew that she was the midwife for me.
I was 40 weeks +2 days and expecting the baby to come, like his brothers, in about a week. I was asleep and dreaming that the baby was hitting me in the cervix and then the bowel. I woke up and went to pee. On the way back to bed I started to pee myself. I thought "What! Now I have to be incontinent too?" And then I realized it was my water breaking. I stood there in shock for several moments before I had the sense to head back to the bathroom. How many times had I said "I make really strong water bags; they don't break until 8 or 9 cm" in the past week? Well every birth is different and this one was certainly starting out different.
I told myself, like a good Bradley teacher, to calm down and go back to bed. Contractions will start when they start. Conserve your energy, blah, blah, blah. But I was too excited. Hooray! My baby is going to come. So I ignored myself and thought that I'd just get a few things ready for the birth. I brewed some hot water for tea, got out mugs, honey and snacks for folks. I called my midwife, Marilee, and told her my water had broken but no action yet. I called Grammy and told her to go ahead and come over. Finally I woke up my husband, Jeff, and told him to start the "things to do if I'm in Labor" list. In retrospect, I'm glad I ignored the teacher me and set about getting things ready. Contractions started around 12:30am and were 2 mins apart by 1:00am.
Marilee arrived first around 1:00 and then sometime later Cathi, our labor assistant, arrived. Marilee and Cathi determined that my fluid had some meconium staining. We had had meconium with our first son and the hospital had called in 15 million specialists to deal with it. I had been worried that this would mean a transfer to the hospital. Marilee was very reassuring. Not much, just a tinge, nothing to worry about.
At about 2:00 my contractions began to get much more intense and Marilee or Cathi suggested I get into the big tub downstairs. It was very relaxing. I was worried because the contractions now were so much easier to deal with. I was afraid that I had slowed my own labor down by getting in the tub too soon. Cathi reassured me that I was still making progress and that everything was OK.
By 3:00 I was out of the tub and back upstairs in bed. My back was really hurting and Jeff had to push on it during every contraction. I started shaking and felt like I was going to throw up. I knew that I had all the transition signs but my contractions were still only 30 - 45 secs long. I kept thinking, "These contractions aren't long enough". Marilee said that they were long enough; that they were just right for this baby and this labor. I felt relieved after hearing that. The contractions were so intense with so much pain in my back, I felt like I couldn't do it if they were any longer.
About 4:00am I got up to go to the bathroom. While I was sitting on the toilet, my contractions got much stronger and I got a little urge to push. I was so relieved. Thank goodness second stage was coming. I knew from my past births that 2nd stage is so much easier and these super hard contractions would stop as soon as 2nd stage started. Even though I didn't have an overwhelming urge to push, I went with it anyway. I only kind of leaned into the push and after 30 mins hadn't made any progress so Marilee did a vaginal exam. She discovered that I was only 6-7 cm with a slightly swollen cervix. She suggested I get into the shower and finish dilating. I was so devastated and discouraged. I thought I was near the end in my labor only to discover that I had quite a ways to go and probably had screwed with my own progress, wishing for my labor to end too early. The shower helped. Having Jeff standing there telling me everything was going to be OK and that I was doing good helped. But really I just wanted to give up right then and there. I lost a good deal of my courage. I certainly felt defeated.
I got out of the shower and after another exam I was 8 -9. We put on the Healing Waters CD and I got on my left side in bed. Jeff was pushing two fists low on my back and I was pushing down on my hip during contractions. In between contractions I would fall asleep. I thought that my contractions were spacing out; giving me a chance to rest. Marilee told me that they were still 2 mins apart. At one point I heard someone snoring. I thought it must be Cathi sitting over in the corner. But Marilee said it was Jeff! How he was able to put constant pressure on my back and sleep at the same time is beyond me. But he did it!
I got up to go to the bathroom again around 5:30am. While on the toilet, I felt the urge to push. Not like the little urge before. This was like a light came from above and God commanded, "PUSH". No denying. Can't stop it. PPPPUUUUUSSSH.
Marilee and Jeff got me out of the bathroom but I never made it to the bed. I wouldn't have been able to lay down anyway with my back hurting the way it did. I pushed while standing and leaning over my bed. I checked to see where the baby's head was, and could feel the head just a little more than a knuckle in but I also felt something else. I had four ridges. I thought it might be a cord next to the baby's head. I told Marilee "I feel something funny". I was going to tell her I thought it might be a cord when I got another "commandment" to push. Then Marilee and Cathi were screaming at me NOT to push and I was screaming at them NOT TO TOUCH THE BABY. They weren't doing anything it was just the baby's head crowning and turning and coming out with a fist up near the top of the baby's head. The "something funny" I had felt was the baby's knuckles. Marilee said they wanted the baby to come slower especially since they saw the hand, but that in three little movements my body pushed the baby out from crown to forehead to chin. Marilee said the perineum was stretched tight and thin but did not tear. (15" head, 9lb 4oz baby, more than a nuchal hand = intact perineum)
We all caught our breath. Marilee made sure there was no meconium in the nose or mouth, and then the baby just fell out. Marilee and Cathi practically had to catch the baby before it hit the ground. We had a 12 - 14" cord so the baby stayed low, but my second son, Walker, came and told me that we had a baby girl! I didn't believe him and had to check again myself and still didn't believe it. Still don't believe it today.
This was my 2nd VBAC, first HBAC, my fourth birth. In all my birth experiences, I have never felt so safe and secure. I've never felt so well cared for. I had things that I worried about but I was quickly reassured. I was in my own house, my own bed. Surrounded by people I love. Cared for by women I trust. My baby's labor was accepted, appreciated, and trusted. These are things for which I will always be grateful.