Since photographing my first birth at the end of 2013, I’ve been pretty excited to find another family who would be willing to allow me into their inner circle on their birthing day. When I got a message from Cassie right after the holidays that she was due in just a few weeks, on January 16th, I was beyond excited. Cassie and her team were planning a peaceful homebirth with baby #2. She shared her birth story of her first child with me, who was born at the local birth center. After hearing Cassie’s experience with baby #1, I knew that baby #2 would have an amazing birthing day and it would be amazing to photograph. Cassie used Hypnobabies for her first birth and I’ve read such amazing birth stories from Hypnobabies use that I was excited to see it in practice. Let me tell you, I am a believer — Cassie had a fear free and very empowering birth.
Cassie and I had planned to meet for a play date with our kiddos prior to baby’s arrival, but we had to postpone our meeting. When we postponed, I told Cassie that I had the ‘vibe’ that she might birth that coming weekend, and I wanted to make sure she was still comfortable with me coming even if we hadn’t met yet. She was, and that was good for me because I got the call from her Sunday night at around 8pm that baby was coming that night or next morning. She said that someone would give me a call when I needed to come and about 3 hours later, Cassie’s doula, Leila, called and said baby was on its way! I got dressed, made tea, and put my gear in the car as I made the midnight drive to their home. When I arrived at midnight, I could hear the moans of labor from inside and it sounded like baby was near. Cassie was truly a birthing goddess and I was in awe of her strength and power. Her husband was a pillar of support and strength, although Cassie had it all under control. The midwives watched and checked her, but they stayed pretty hands off, because Cassie’s body was doing what it was supposed to. At 12:31 baby girl Lumen was born, surrounded by daughter Aster, her grandmother, and best friends. She is beautiful and a lucky girl to be brought into this amazing family. Here is the pictorial of her peaceful birth.
Cassie moaned through contractions, and talked or kissed during the break. It was empowering to watch.
12:24, baby started crowning! Cassie pushed her out through the waves.
6 minutes after she was crowning, she was born. 12:31. Caught by her mama <3.
Baby sister announcing the gender! This was SO priceless and cute. It went something like this: Mama to Aster, “do you want to tell us if you have a brother or sister?”... Aster looks for a sec, then innocently asks “is that a penis?” and Mama said, “nope.” Aster says, ‘then its a vulva, a girl!!!’ And it was very exciting! Can you see the recollection on her eyes on the photos below?
Pure bliss! Want to read more? Here is part 2 of baby Lumens birth, on the night she was born
1) Figure out what your health coverage insures. If it is slim or nothing for a home birth or midwifery care, go over your finances and consider what you can afford (keeping in mind that some midwives offer income based sliding scales as well as payment plans.).
2) Interview Midwives and Doulas:
-It is good to interview several before deciding on one. In some areas home birth midwives may be scarce so it will be easy to find their names and plenty of reviews. In other areas, there may be a lot of midwives that service the area and it is a good idea to do lots of research, read reviews, along with speaking with them in person. A good way to find positively reviewed midwives and doulas is on birth community sites that have forums for specific locations (IE: mothering.com offers “tribes” that connect you to mothers in your area of the world). Most midwives and doulas offer a free consultation before they become “yours”.
Examples of what to ask at a Midwife consultation:
- Who certifies you? Are you a CPM, CNM?
- What is your training background?
- What is your educational background?
- Why did you become a midwife?
- How long have you been in practice?
- What is your whole cost, do you offer a sliding scale?
- What is your transfer rate?
- Do you do any “routine” screenings, tests, etc and how do you process them?
- Do you have any hospital affiliation?
- For what reasons would you suggest I don’t deliver at home or need a transfer?
- What equipment do you come with to a birth (and in case of emergency)?
- Do you bring a nurse or apprentice to births?
- Do you offer birth tub rentals if I desire a water birth?
Examples of what to ask at a Doula consultation:
-Who certifies you? (CAPPA, DONA, CBI, BAI, etc)
-What techniques do you use to help me cope with labor/birth?
-How many times do we meet before/after birth?
-How long will you stay with me during/after labor/birth?
-How much is your whole cost and do you offer a sliding scale or bartering system?
-Do you have a lending library or other resource rentals (birth tub, birth balls, etc)?
-Can you help me write a birth plan?
-Do you offer any other services (placenta encapsulation or preparation, childbirth classes, Blessingway hosting, etc)
3) Prepare yourself with information as you deem appropriate. There are lots of great books and resources to help you prepare for birth. Below is a list of books that may be worth a read:
- “Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin
- “The Thinking Woman’s Guide To A Better Birth” by Henci Goer
- “Childbirth Without Fear” by Dr. Grantly Dick Read
- “Gentle Birth Choices” by Barbara Harper
- “Homebirth” by Sheila Kitzinger
- “Spiritual Midwifery” by Ina May Gaskin
- “The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth” by Sheila Kitzinger
There are many, many wonderful home birth resources on the internet as well. As a pregnant woman it is best to work under the philosophy that images and words will greatly affect how you feel and view birth during this childbearing year. So, although there are plenty of things to discover on the world-wide web, discretion is always good. Some sites that I recommend are below (these sites have categorized headings so you can navigate what will be useful and what you wish to see and avoid what you wish not to see):
Consider hiring a private childbirth educator (or speak with your Doula-they often offer crash courses in childbirth for their clients) to meet you and your partner in your home for a childbirth class. (Or even split the cost with an interested or other pregnant friend!) . You could also find a class through hospitals or ask your midwife or doula if she knows and recommends any childbirth courses in your area or online.
Some find attending a natural childbirth class to be just what they need to feel comfortable with home birth while others find their own research and support of their doula and midwife to be enough to prepare. Whatever you choose to help inform yourself, do so at a level that is comfortable to you-over researching and under preparedness have both posed issues for pregnant mothers as our minds can be particularly vulnerable during this time. If you find the more you dig for information the more anxious you become (or the more tempted you are to absorb negative stories and visuals), take it down a notch, tell your support people and advert your attention back to the positive thoughts for YOUR birth.
4) Speak openly with your partner. Decide what your hopes and wishes are for who will be present at the birth of your child, what roles you hope them to play. Discuss your partners comfort levels and work together to become comfortable with your plans. Think about the possibility of having a water birth, what music you may want, anything special you wish to be used to enhance or mellow your birth environment, sit down and consider all the aspects you wish to cover in your birth plan, specifically what roles everyone will play. Enjoy this part of the planning, find common grounds with those you intend to include and make sure the people who support you believe in the process. Reading a book together or sharing helpful articles can be a nice way to bond while preparing for your home birth. If you intend to include your older children, introduce them at age appropriate levels to the idea of mommy having her baby at home. There are several children's books out there that talk about what they can expect.
5) Make an “in case of emergency” transfer plan with your midwife and inform everyone that will be present of the plan. Prepare a separate birth plan for the event of a transfer if you feel it suites to calm you. Most midwives will have you fill out a form that will include what hospital you wish to transfer to if possible, ambulance service if you are rurally located, etc.
6) Trust in the process and have faith that you picked people who will support you. This step is consuming affirmations, day-dreaming, picturing your birth, connecting with your baby, enjoying the fact that you are going to join the ranks of every mother that has ever lived(for the first or subsequent time), as well as give birth in the comfort of your home like so many generations before us. Cool, huh? Remember, you are strong, you are capable, the hands around you offer healing knowledge and support, the space around you offers peace, and your baby knows how to be born just as you know how to birth him. Allow yourself to feel the spiritual aspect of your pending home birth and enjoy every second!
WARNING!!! – Not for the faint of heart!
Two weeks before my due date I was getting strong practice contractions (Braxton Hicks) on and off throughout the day and night. Although it was my 4th pregnancy, I had never experienced labour before, not one contraction so there were many times where I thought ‘is this the real thing??’
During the evening and night of Sunday 26th June I was having Braxton Hicks contractions every 5-10 minutes that kept me awake but I felt sure that they were just practice and by morning they were still around but only every 30 minutes or so.
I carried on as normal as they didn’t seem to be ‘real’ contractions. It was a heat wave and I was so uncomfortable! I did the school run as usual and at lunch time my husband, Joe, decided to come home and take the afternoon off work. We now believe he had a feeling he should be here with me and we were right all along. In the late afternoon the pains continued and by evening I had to really concentrate through them and could find no relief no matter what position I got into.
At around 10pm I got into bed and tried to sleep but the rushes kept coming. I left Joe to rest and went to have a bath, sure that the warm water would ease the pain, but I was very wrong!
I had a contraction in the bath that was much worse than the ones before. I practically jumped out of the bath and wobbled downstairs to wake my husband. I felt we really needed to call a midwife as I was having very strong contractions.
I called ‘Medicom’ (a bit like a midwifery switchboard) at 11:30pm and was told the midwives would be here in 2 hours as they were at another birth. That seemed like forever to me and I felt things were getting out of control. I was very tired and wasn’t sure if I was even in labour. I had a ‘show’ and was bleeding quite a bit on and off.
I spent a lot of this waiting time leaning over the sofa breathing through the pain with Joe massaging my lower back hard every time I had a contraction.
The midwives turned up and I immediately asked for gas and air! I was not a happy bunny when I was told that I couldn’t have any as they didn’t have much and didn’t want to use it all at this early stage.
The midwives got me to lie down while they felt my tummy to see where baby was positioned. This hurt a lot and I jumped up and rolled over with another contraction. I was told that the baby was posterior (baby’s back facing my back). This really upset me because the baby had been anterior (baby’s back facing my front, often called the optimal position) all the way through the pregnancy, mostly on the right but pivoted towards the left in the last few weeks. Now I was worried how everything would progress now that baby’s position had changed.
I carried on contracting while everyone chatted around me, really not knowing what was going on. I was then told I was not in established labour and this could take a while. I have to admit that this crushed me. I was in a lot of pain, very tired and nobody could do anything to help me. I was advised to have a bath, relax, and try to get some sleep. I didn’t see how this would be possible as I was having painful waves every 5-8 minutes. I did have a bath, however, and although I hated being in the water due to not being able to move around fully, I did feel a bit calmer afterwards and managed to rest in bed between contractions.
The next day (Tuesday, day before my due date) was my husband’s birthday. I contracted quietly while he opened his presents and then he got the children ready for school while I moved into my ‘nest’ which was our boys' bedroom (the biggest and most comfortable room). We had planned to celebrate his birthday and I even made a cake the day before that never got iced!
By this time, I had been getting a lot of pain around my lower back and these strong pushing urges in my bottom that were impossible to control. I had never read anything about this before so I wasn’t sure if it was ‘normal’ or not but it was not nice! I now know it was the baby’s head pushing down and part of the posterior labour I was having. The contractions were still 5 minutes apart and occasionally closer and I wasn’t sure if I was any nearer to giving birth. In fact, through the whole labour right up until she was born, I still thought I had days left!
I spent a lot of this time on all fours. My whole plan had been to stay active and walk the contractions out. Although a couple of times I did walk fiercely and stamp with a contraction, mostly I just couldn’t cope with the pain of being upright. Joe encouraged me to walk so gravity could do its job but it felt like I was being torn in half every time I contracted standing up! When I wasn’t on all fours I was on the toilet with the strongest pushing urges in my bottom that made my uterus and lower back convulse. That scared me.
While having contractions I breathed in Ylang Ylang essential oil on a tissue which was very soothing. It had an almost trance-like quality to it, which was comforting during this time.
At about 12:30pm I was on the toilet with another strong contraction that made me push in my cervix and my bottom and I felt something come out of me like a plastic bag. That was my bag of waters!
The next contraction propelled me off the toilet with such force that it landed me on the floor. I had a tremendous involuntary push and screamed as my cervix burned. I shouted for Joe, this really scared me. I thought the baby was coming right away and my husband knew it was time to call the midwives again.
During the pregnancy I didn’t know how I would feel about having midwives in the room with me and I worried it would slow things down. But when actually in labour I was SO grateful when they turned up at 2:30pm. They quickly felt baby and listened to heartbeat and said baby is now anterior which was such a relief.
I was really starting to lose it at this point. I remember saying I want to go to hospital and just have a c-section. The pain was more than I could bear and I hadn’t slept in a long time. I was so tired I just wanted it over with at that point. I am so grateful to my husband for keeping me strong. He reminded me how long I had wanted this birth at home and that we were close to our dream.
I still thought I could be here for days and I said as much! The midwives thought it wouldn’t be too much longer though. I was still on all fours and sometimes on my side to rest. Joe massaged my lower back hard during each contraction. I was not a quiet labourer, I have to say! I was becoming very scared and out of control too which was a feeling I did not like.
I was told later that I had a small round bulge at the base of my spine where the baby’s head was pushing down. No wonder I was so uncomfortable (to put it mildly)!
I asked for gas and air and the midwives started to set it up but I couldn’t get it working! Joe tried to show me how but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take long enough breaths to get anything out so gave up on the only pain relief I could have.
I started having more stinging pushing urges and was asked to be examined. I initially said no but I really believed I had a long time left and the midwife wanted to reassure me that we were close. I had to get on my back for this due to needing to be ‘looked at’ rather than felt (as we didn’t know where the placenta was the midwife didn’t want to feel blindly). It took a while, and many contractions, for me to be able to get into a good position.
I didn’t actually get to be examined though. As soon as I was on my back a mammoth contraction took over and the baby’s head started to crown. This, for me, was the most painful and I did scream a fair bit I must admit. I put my hand down and felt the baby’s head. Everything was surreal at this point. In just three more pushes she was born at 5:34pm on her daddy’s birthday, just 3 hours after the midwives turned up. She weighed 7lb 12oz and was perfect!
It was during a lovely storm and I laboured through thunder and lightning which now seems very fitting.
She was put straight on my chest and I was left to find out that we had a baby girl. That definitely balances out the hormones with the three boys and one girl we already had!
The cord was left alone until it stopped pulsing while our daughter gently nuzzled at my breast. Within just a few minutes the midwife could tell my placenta had come away from the womb and I was helped to stand to dispel it. It slipped out easily without me really needing to push.
I had 2 vaginal tears and lost a bit of blood but all in all everything went smoothly and was a ‘textbook’ birth. The old c-section scars are always the focus when VBAC is mentioned but I’m pleased to say I felt no pain at all around my scar and the thought of rupture never entered my head during my labour.
I have to say I was worried about having NHS care while striving for my HBA3C but my Community midwives were fabulous! Every one i met read my birth plan and I had no pressure from them.
I also want to praise my wonderful husband. He was the perfect birth partner. He kept me strong, and supported me and stayed with me through it all while also doing school runs and making sure our other four children were happy! He was my rock and I will always remember that. He is my hero.
My thoughts on my HBA3C? It was hard and it was painful. I won't pretend it was 'orgasmic' or anything like the ideal 'Ina May Gaskin' birth I had in mind. But it was what it was and that was real and natural and exactly how it was meant to be.
At 41 weeks pregnant, I woke up late Wednesday evening feeling pains stronger than the "menstrual-like cramps" of Braxton Hicks. I let my husband sleep as I started to get excited and braced myself for the journey ahead. Thursday morning, I told him that he could finally stay home today, because it was time to start laboring! He was so awesome through the whole pregnancy and I knew he was going to shine now, too. So we started hanging out around the house, doing our pre-labor stuff. I was feeling strong contractions that were starting to locate in my back, and we thought we would call our midwife to let her know what was up. She came by a few hours later, and after checking my cervix for dilation, saw that I was 2 cm dilated (where I had been at for a few days now). Bummer. No progress really then. She said we should get out of the house and try to lose the labor focus. So we went to the Lowes down the street to pick up a plant; we wanted to have a living reminder of this labor and something that our baby could see "grow up with her." We came home; planted the bonsai juniper tree we bought, baked cupcakes, watched a movie, and then settled into bed.
I was still having contractions, but I was able to get some sleep, until around y water broke! I heard a pop and felt a surge of warm fluid while sleeping, and woke up to run to the bathroom, yelling, "Erich, wake up! My water broke!" Thankfully, we had layered the bed with a plastic sheet the previous day in preparation of our home birth. As I sat on the toilet, leaking, my contractions were already getting stronger and closer together, so we called our midwife again to let her know what was going on. About 4 hours later, I was starting to enter labor land, so we timed the rushes again. They were coming about 5 minutes apart and lasting about a minute each, so our midwife headed over to the house. Once she was here (around 9:30 am Friday morning) I was really contracting, and the back labor was becoming very intense. With every contraction I would need my husband to push as hard as he could on my lower back until the rush was over. My midwife seemed to think everyone was doing well, so we pushed on through the day. We were laboring in and out of the house, walking around the neighborhood, still in good spirits. I was really looking forward to getting into the birthing tub! However, knowing that it would be best to wait until just the right moment, I did not enter the tub that night.
So now it is Friday evening, and I had been laboring through the day. The back labor was exhausting, and the rushes were coming close together, but they did not have a strong pattern to them. We decided to try to get some sleep that night and start again in the morning. By “we” I suppose I mean my husband and midwife, as they got some sleep; I was still laboring. I was attempting to rest in bed, with a heating pad underneath my back, but every contraction was powerful and I needed the counter pressure to be able to bear it.
In the morning, as tired as we were, we put on our labor hats and plunged deep into the canyon again. My husband and I went for a long walk, and I lunged on the walk. We went up and down the stairs, lunging. We tried every position known and unknown. We bounced on the birth ball, sat on the toilet backwards (I spent a lot of time there, with a pillow to lean into), got on my hands and knees, tried to dance the baby out. All the while, I was experiencing the worst back pain I could possibly imagine. My husband's hands are probably still sore from the counter pressure. I moaned low and loud, I grunted, I sang, I focused my breath, my energy, I asked the baby to prepare herself. I clung to this process and hoped that the Goddess would deliver us from it.
Around 5 pm Saturday our midwife checks my dilation again, and sees that I am at 5 cm now, and that our baby is OP, or "sunny side up" meaning her face was pointing towards my pubic bone. This is causing the hard part of her skull to rest on the bony part of my spine. Thus causing my back labor, and making it not ideal for her to come down into the birth canal. On top of that, her head was resting off centered on my cervix. This was giving her a "top hat" and swelling my cervix without dilating (because she was not putting the right pressure, in the right place). With this new information, we know I still have a ways to go, and our baby and I need to do some work to get her positioned correctly for the vaginal birth I so craved. When night came, we thought it best to try the "resting" thing again. I took some herbs to help strengthen the contractions, and my midwife and husband tried to lay their heads down. I paced the house and eventually got in the bath. With each contraction I screamed to my husband to get out of bed and turn on the jets on our garden tub, and then turn them off again. Because my water was broken, we didn't want to chance an infection by leaving them on the whole time, so for three hours I sat in the tub, and my husband tried to sleep in bed, between helping me. Looking back on it, we both think “Why the heck didn’t Erich try to sleep on the bathroom floor so he was close to the switch for the jets?” The lack of thought process going on here shows how tired we all were at this point.
Come Sunday morning, I was suffering for lack of nutrition from not eating or drinking, so we started an IV of fluids (still at home.) We also decided that getting some antibiotics into my system would be best for our baby and lower the infection risk, so we started that too. Three bags of fluids later I was feeling better and a bit more energized so we started trying EVERYTHING again. Because, damn it, I was going to have this baby at home! I cannot express how much I wanted to sit in the birthing tub and push my baby out. All I wanted was to feel an intense sensation to push, to feel my baby's head in my birth canal, to connect with every woman out there who has done this and will do this; I wanted to feel the energy of the world soaring through my vagina. So we tried. We walked again, we bounced, we sang and I moaned. I felt like my back was being split open, like an alien was about to rip its way through my spine! I was still taking herbs, and homeopathic remedies. I was visualizing, I was opening to my baby. I was doing everything they said to do and anything I thought I should do.
Sunday afternoon, after four days of active labor, our midwife checked my dilation again, (still at 5 cm! What!) and we decided to try to turn the baby to a more favorable position. Our midwife reached in through my cervix, and gently put pressure on our baby’s head to encourage her to move into the birth canal. She succeeded in turning her a bit, and then the little butter bean moved right back into the same spot she had been in. We tried again, but alas, she did not want to be in the "right" position. So as I leaned on the bed, bracing myself through yet another mind bending, back searing, contraction, I saw what I knew to be a bad sign, fall out and onto the chux pad underneath me.
There was meconium. My poor baby was stressed (gee...I wonder why?). I called for our midwife and we assessed the situation. She listened to her heart tones, and felt they were dropping. My husband and I were scared, tired, and starting to feel like we needed some help outside the house. So tearfully, we decided to transport to the hospital.
When we got to the hospital Sunday evening, I already knew I wanted an epidural. I was in so much pain, I couldn't stand, couldn't think, couldn't see straight. After what felt like hours of questions, I finally got some relief as I slept for the first time in days, numb from the epidural. We also started pitocin, as my contractions were still not consistent enough to position the baby. At this point I still had hope for a vaginal birth. I thought the epidural will relax me, the pitocin will work and I can push this baby out. Looking back, I feel that my midwife and the doctor were probably thinking differently, and we started the pitocin just to be able to say we tried it. Which I am thankful for; I know at this point I really did do anything and everything to try to have a natural, then vaginal, birth. But two hours later, I am still at 5 cm, my cervix is extremely swollen, and there are no signs of things changing. It's been almost 5 days of labor, and our baby needs to come Earthside. So with a heavy, scared, and very emotional heart, we know that a Cesarean birth is our only option. I looked to my husband, and he said "this is the right thing," as we prepped for surgery.
I told my husband later how I am sad that I don't fully remember the next few days, and he said "Well, even if you don't remember, you knew how to do it! As soon as she was out, you were telling me what to do! Say her name, touch her, stay with her!" Having the knowledge that she was never out of our sight, at any time, while we were at the hospital, helped to relieve some of the emotions from being there in the first place. Also, the staff at the hospital understood our wishes, and never fought back on them. The nurse even asked if I wanted to take my placenta home!
The hardest part of the whole experience came after the procedure, while I was in the recovery room. Alone, but for the nurse, I had all these emotions and no baby to hold. I will never forget lying there, feeling as though time had stopped and the agony of having to wait. Finally she was brought to me, and I put her right to my breast. There she stayed for the next three days as we recovered in the hospital together, as a family.
The last place I ever wanted to give birth was in a hospital, but if not for one, my baby and I might not be alive today. I learned a lot through this process. It taught me to trust my baby and my body. Even though I was not able to birth vaginally, my body WAS working in harmony with my baby. If I had been contracting stronger, her little body might have been damaged, her neck might have been broken! I know I did everything I could to birth my baby... and in the end I DID bring a beautiful, strong, magical being into this world. Her path here was not mine to decide. Her path around the Earth will not be either. I am merely the platform from which she can jump from. All I can do is accept her, love her, and foster joy every day, from now on. And whenever I see her sweet face and smile, I know I would do it all over again.
Chapter Thirty One – The Conception
There I sat in a dimly lit dive in south Ajax. The odour of stale beer and second hand smoke hang in the air as though the grimy yellowed window in the corner hadn’t been opened since the honourable Kim Campbell had served as Canada’s 19th prime minister. The mundane chatter of past their prime labourers aggressively critiquing the Toronto Maple’s hummed in the back ground as I received a text message...it was from her. This dame I went to high school with and later had two children with. Her text read “When the hell are you getting your fat ass home, I’m horny.”
Crap... Allie just told me to skip the conception part...
Chapter Thirty Two – The Office
There I sat at my desk. The Jays were playing the Yankees. I had just Face booked that Rogers is a bunch of douche waffles because “their watch every game online” wasn’t showing the game. (A problem which I must commend Rogers for as they had corrected the problem by the second inning). My sister had just emailed me that her and my dad were sitting in the back yard watching the game with some cold beers in hand. Allie, the boys and I had lunch in the mall food court that day, which made it hard to drag myself back into the office.
The sun danced through my desk plant, flickering beams of summer on my paper work and mocking my confinement. I had serious thoughts of taking a half a vacation day to join my family in my parent’s yard to watch the ball game. I strained to conjure up the will power to remain motionless at my desk. Just as I thought I would break and start packing up my belongings I received a text. “I think my water just broke” I picked up the phone but was too nervous to remember our number which I have a hard time recalling at the calmest of moments. I tried three numbers with no success. Another text message comes though “Yep, it did.”
I finally pull myself together enough to dial the right number. “Serious” I say as Allie picks up the phone. “Oh, yeah, this is fucking gross.”
“Ok, I’m on my way home, or do you need me to come home? Of course, I’m coming home”
“Ok, but I’m fine, no contractions, it just really gross”
“I’ll see you soon.”
I called my daughter and my parents and worked out some details. My office mates over heard me say that Allie’s water broke and were all over me. I think I did a good job of hiding my nervousness. After some jokes and well wishes I was out the door and on my way home.
I took the most traffic polluted route home, forgetting that there was construction at our high way cut off, listening first to some classic rock then some classical music to calm things down.
Chapter Thirty Three – The Murray McBride Manor
I sped into the drive way, slammed the car into park then put my cool as a cucumber persona on again. I gather my bag from the back seat and went into the house. Everything was normal. The boys doing their thing, and Allie chilling, except for a few washroom breaks.
I was nervous, but seeing Allie’s calm brought me into the right groove. I looked at the mess the boys and ourselves had accumulated over the last little while and started cleaning so that the eminent arrival of the midwives and guests would have somewhere toy and laundry free to park themselves. As we folded laundry, picked up some toys, and move some things around Allies friend Jordan showed up.
We got the birthing pool in place and then sat to relax for a bit. I was nominated to go the beer store. (This is my story, that’s how it happened).
Chapter Thirty Four – The Beer Store
Nothing “contraction wise” was happening at home so I went to the grocery store to gather supplies. Muffins, trail mix, ginger ale, fruit... all the essentials necessary for extracting one human from another. I rushed through the grocery store crossing items off my list and buying about 20 items that weren’t on the list. After running through the cash and loading up the car, I can see my next stop from where I was parked. The beer store, standing strong and proud at the other end of the parking lot. With its oversized frothing beer-mug-store-front guiding my way, I pulled the car around and entered the store.
The only cash open is the bottle return cash. I rush in narrowly beating a man with a shopping cart full of loose cans, but lose my place as I veer off to grab my standard 28 case of Moosehead lager. As I head back towards the cash the man with the cans is nice enough to let me go first. I say “Thank you, my wife is in labour and she will probably appreciate me getting back quicker”. The man looks at me for a second then just laughs. The lady working the cash says “Really? Your wife’s in labour and you’re out buying 28 beers?”
“Yes, It’s our fourth kid” I respond.
“Wow, I don’t know what to say” she says next.
“Hey, she’s having a home birth and she’s the one who send me out to the grocery store, which is very close to the beer store.”
The lady chuckles, she and the man wish us luck and I am on my way home.
Chapter Thirty Four – The Wait
I spent the next couple of hours asking what I need to do and getting it done. We filled the pool. We got blankets and towels ready, we watched dancing on TV??? I eventually changed it to baseball. The midwives showed up. First one, then the second, and later a third. I was expecting one, but towards the end didn’t know how many would show up. Regardless of the number of midwives I found each one just as pleasant and accommodating towards Allie’s needs as the last.
A few hours went by without much progression in Allie’s labour. First Willy went to bed (which I think happened before the midwives showed up) then Dewy followed a few hours later. It was as Allie fought off contractions while putting Dewy down that things started getting juicy.
Chapter Thirty Five – The Big Squeeze
Contractions went from, “ouch” to” WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT!” in a matter of minutes. Next thing we know Allie is being checked for dilation, and minutes later she is in the birthing pool. This is where all the ladies shined and I took a step back to make sure my oafish demeanour didn’t step on anyone’s toes. Though I’ve seen my other three children born from start to finish, I find others are better prepared at encouraging the labouring mother through these moments. My strengths lie in repeating the encouraging words of others, being a hand holder and water boy.
Allie has found her position in the pool that offers her the most comfort. The midwives and Jordan are incredible. Allie is howling through the pain with Jordan soothing her the whole way. The midwives are prepared with everything you would need. That is when I’m asked if I would like to catch the baby. For a split second I think “Sure, I haven’t done that before” followed by “No way, I’m not dropping a brand new baby into the water”. I decline. Luckily Jordan didn’t even let me finish my sentence before she was already putting on the gloves and jumping into position.
I don’t know how many minutes passed but looking back it seems like it was two. I heard Jordan exclaim that she could feel the head, and then the midwife said something about a girl part being in the way, then that part wasn’t in the way anymore and Allie was good to start pushing.
Chapter Thirty Six – Welcome Declan
I swear it was seconds after Allie started pushing that the ladies said “...and the head is out” which I’ve known from my other children to be the most challenging part of giving birth. A couple of seconds later, mixed with some guttural primal screams from Allie, and Jordan is holding up our brand new son... she shows me the baby and gives me a look, I swear I see a penis, it must have been the way the cord or some other birthing goop was sitting but I swear I saw a tiny little wiener.
Allie is passed the baby and goes nuts... “We have our Emilie!!! I have my little girl!!!” That’s about when I clued in that look that Jordan had given was “It’s a girl!” I’m stunned, sitting absorbing Allie’s reaction to having the baby. My heart is warm. She is so estatic. It is then that I’m reminded that I should have been taking pictures. That’s when I fetch Jordan her camera and go and join Allie and Emilie. It is then that I see my daughter’s face for the first time. She’s precious.
Chapter Thirty Seven – The After Party
I cut Emilie’s cord and got to hold her for the first time. She’s so tiny compared to Willy, so fragile, so not a pain in my ass yet. She’s precious. We move our party upstairs to the bed. Allie gets to feed her for the first time. She’s a natural, which is good because she’ll need that baby fat and muscle to defend herself again her older brothers until they turn into her protectors.
We send out our texts and call our family. Everyone is relaxing in the room. A job well done. I don’t think it could have went any more perfect.
I drive Jordan home before the midwives have to leave. I could really hear the excitement in Jordan’s voice as we chatted on the drive. She is truly a great friend to be there for Allie with such emotion and passion.
When I arrive back home I help the midwives out and Allie and I sit in the bed and soak in all that has happened that evening. Our daughter is beautiful. She’s perfect. We’re wired and can’t sleep. I grab a beer and make some bagels for us. We eat and talk, our eyes almost never leaving this beautiful little girl who has made our family complete.
Here we are...a place I hoped we’d never be... it’s 3:30am and time to discuss a hospital transfer...
I’ve been out of the birthing pool for just over two hours and am laying on our couch wrapped in all the towels and blankets we could find. I’m freezing cold and shivering as I hear my midwife say, “It’s time to discuss the options.” We had previously selected a specific hospital for transfer – if needed – but that no longer seems to be our best option so we run down a list of nearby hospitals. The house suddenly turns into a command center. Both of my midwives and my doula are walking around the first floor of our townhouse calling hospitals to see who is on-call and how they will handle my case.
You see...I’m breech. Well, my baby is breech, and I’ve been in labor for 48 hours now. I’m 7 centimeters and entering transition as we decide to make the transfer. All the nearby hospitals say they will do an automatic C-section if I’m brought in, but I don’t want a C-section. I know I can deliver my baby vaginally even with a breech presentation. The midwives begin calling OBs directly. They know of one female OB in the area that will allow moms to deliver vaginally for breech presentations, but she says she won’t take me because it’s my first baby. The odds are against me. It isn’t looking like I’ll be able to deliver vaginally after all. I’ve worked so hard these past two days to get to where I am and can’t believe I’ll have to be cut. The feelings of defeat begin to set in. There is one more possibility though. It’s a male OB that is in another county. It’s an hour drive to get to him. We make the call and wake him. I’m not expecting him to say anything different than the others, but within a few minutes my midwife enters my living room and says, “He’ll take you! I told him you were breech and wanted to deliver vaginally and he said to bring you in.” Thank you God! Off we go...
It’s after 4:00am, and my midwife is driving at the head of the pack. We’re on the Florida Turnpike with a general idea of where the hospital is. We’re relying on her memory for what exit to take. My husband is driving me, and my parents are following us. Behind them is my doula. It’s a four-car caravan in the middle of the night driving north for my last chance to deliver our baby naturally.
Surprisingly, I remember most of the drive. My pain is more intense and constant than it has been. I’m shivering cold and telling my husband to turn off the A/C one minute and taking everything off and asking for the A/C colder the next. I can’t get comfortable. I ask him to slow down. Each and every bump makes the contractions all the more difficult to manage. I’m screaming in pain. I’m in and out of sleep the entire ride.
My parents must think I’m crazy. I didn’t prepare them for this. They don’t know that there’s plenty of time before the baby arrives. They must be scared that I’ll have the baby in the middle of the road. I had told them I’d go to the nearest hospital if I needed a transfer. That hospital is a 3-minute drive from my house to the emergency room entrance. But I can’t go there. I can’t walk in there knowing that I won’t be given a chance to birth my baby. I have to make this journey to the one place where I have a shot at a natural birth.
About an hour later, we arrive at the hospital and I am admitted. The OB enters my room and does an internal exam to check how I’m doing. I’m still 7 centimeters. He then announces, “This is an automatic C-section.” In that moment the last bit of hope that I had remaining of delivering my baby naturally disappeared.
Over 48 hours ago, my mucus plug released, and my contractions started at 6 minutes apart. I wasn’t expecting it to happen like that. I know plenty of women who lose their mucus plug and don’t go into labor for days or even a week. I settled into the couch downstairs and kept timing the contractions to be sure this was the real thing before I woke anyone up. It was 4:00am, and I was certain I’d meet my baby within this day.
Two hours later, my contractions were going strong at about 4 minutes apart. I woke my husband with the good news and texted my midwife to give her a heads up. I began what turned into a marathon of vomiting. My contractions continued. My midwife and doula came by. Halfway through the day, I was 1 centimeter dilated and 100 percent thinned. Seemed unreal, but I knew better than to let the actual number disappoint me. It could be worse, so I took it in as progress.
My midwife left to return later in the day. My doula stayed. I rode out the contractions sitting on my recliner with my husband on his knees in front of me. The warmth of his hands on my thighs alleviated my pain more than he could understand. I slept, if only for a few seconds, between each contraction. My midwife returned. Time passed. I showered. Then, it was nighttime. I thought, “This should do it. I am more of a night person anyway. I’ll feel more relaxed and make good progress once the sun is down and I’m surrounded by darkness.” We all spent this first night together as my contractions continued. The TV was on, and although I was not focused on it, I was relieved that it was helping the time pass for everyone else. Everyone (except for me) took a few hours to nap. In the morning, I was 3 centimeters—progress, but a long way to go still. My midwife and doula left for several hours. My husband was exhausted. I decided to call my mom and ask her to come stay with me while everyone rested. I didn't tell her over the phone that I’d been in labor for over 24 hours already, but she suspects something is going on.
I continued to vomit and feel tremendous strain as I got every bit of liquid bile out of my stomach. The next time I went to the bathroom, I saw a dark colored discharge that I hadn’t seen before. I was concerned it might be meconium. I called my midwife. My other midwife was closer to my home and got there quicker to check my discharge. It was meconium. My contractions continued. My mom spent the day with me while I continued to labor. She left in the early evening to return later on with my father, who stayed upstairs without my ever seeing him. Nighttime arrived for a second time as my midwife and my doula returned. All were present now along with my husband, who was able to get some rest upstairs. They were concerned about the marathon vomiting and were trying to get me to drink and eat as much as I could keep down. I managed to keep down some drinks and miso soup, but only temporarily.
My pain was increasing. The sleep I'd gotten between each contraction over the last day and a half gave me the stamina to continue. But the pain was increasing, and I needed to try something else. I asked for my birthing pool. My husband and doula prepared the water. I got in. It was absolutely magical! I was so happy to be in the water. I was so impressed with how much pain relief it provided. I enjoyed this stage of my birthing process as much as one could while experiencing the mounting contractions. My contractions intensified and my body temperature began to fluctuate. This was one of my concerns (the other was fear of having a migraine during labor). As a thyroid cancer survivor, my body’s temperature tends to fall lower than normal. I was hot from the birthing pool, but my entire body was shivering.
I had been in the birthing pool for some time, and it looked like my midwives felt things were moving along. I heard them preparing for the birth. They started to set up the table with all the birthing supplies they would need when the baby was born. My midwife wanted to check me again while I was still in the water. I was now 5 centimeters. Five centimeters! Five centimeters...unreal. I had the stamina to continue. I was not giving up. But I became aware of the time. I saw that we were about to hit the 48-hour mark. And I started to worry about what that meant...
My emotions began to speak. Internally, I called upon every woman that had ever birthed naturally. I asked for their support, their wisdom, their guidance and their presence. I called upon the spirit world to give me the strength that I needed in this moment. I found myself getting upset as I silently screamed for help. I heard myself saying, “Where are you?” as if the generations of women birthers had forgotten to come for me. I called on my own birth experience, as I was born weighing almost 12 pounds to a 5-foot mother who birthed me without drugs or interventions. “It’s in my genes! I can do this!” And as I was going through this catharsis internally, my baby’s heart rate started to rise.
I was no longer in the comfort of the birthing pool. I was cold, wet, and shivering, wrapped in all the towels and blankets we owned, laying on the couch as I heard the words I never wanted to hear. “It’s time to discuss the options.” “Options,” I thought, “what options? I don’t want options. I want to birth my baby. That’s my only option.” But I trusted my midwife wholeheartedly. She didn’t use the words, but I knew if she was saying this, then it really was time to discuss a transfer. And a hospital transfer was what we did at 4:30 in the morning, just over 48 hours from the time my contractions started on that early Tuesday morning.
It’s now almost 6:00am on Thursday morning, and my one last chance at a vaginal delivery has just announced that I should be given an automatic C-section. You see, my baby is not just breech, but a bit transverse. My water has broken, and I have meconium present. I’ve been vomiting for days, and apparently I broke a fever on the drive up. My baby’s heart rate continues to reach peaks that are too high and begins to plunge below the norm, and let’s get real...I’ve been in labor for two days now and am still at 7 centimeters.
As the sound of the word “C-section” rolls off the OB’s lips, I hear my husband’s voice. He’s speaking with full certainty and with a clarity that I’ve never before heard from him. He says to the OB, “We drove an hour for YOU!” My heart stops. My leg kicks my husband. I’m not breathing. I’m thinking, “Shut up!” Such few words, but so much is implied. I’m even beginning to feel fear. I think it’s because I don’t want my husband to lose his temper with the OB. I think it’s because I don’t want this OB to be upset with us since we need him on our side. But the truth is that those words have solidified our destiny. What I feel is the power of those words and how in that split second my life has taken the path that I was born to take...
The OB doesn't skip a beat. He says, “OK, let’s see what she can do” and leaves the room. He too must have felt the power of those words. By now my concept of time is nonexistent. All I know is that I’m in the hospital room with my husband, midwife, and doula. The hospital nurse also comes in and out. She insists I lay on my back. I beg to be able to sit up. My midwife turns me on my side. I’m no longer vomiting, but the pain is unbearable. I’m hardly awake. All I remember is darkness and the voices of my birth team. They say I’m doing great, but deep inside I am waiting for my C-section. You see, I begin to believe that it’s over. It’s not so much that I believe that I can’t do it, but I feel the C-section knocking at my door. It’s in the air. It’s seducing me, and I surrender to it – emotionally, I give in.
The OB returns, and I’m 8 centimeters now. I fall back to sleep and don’t hear if there is a decision made. More and more time passes as I wait. I’m confused. Why are my husband, midwife, and doula encouraging me? Why do they want me to keep bringing my breath and energy down? Why do they want me to keep laboring? Don’t they know I’m having a C-section? Don’t they feel the devastation that I’m feeling? Aren’t they in as much disbelief as I am in? I’m awake for so little time between contractions that I can’t ask them why they are saying all those things to me. I remain confused and continue waiting to be taken away to the OR.
I manage to get some words out and ask the infamous, “How many more?” referring to contractions. I know there is no answer, but I can’t help asking. I hear the OB's voice pierce through the darkness: “Do you want an epidural?” Before I even get a chance to consider, he says “No? Ok.” It’s as if he doesn’t want me to have one. He asked, but wasn’t really offering. That’s interesting. And why did he say, “No?” Don’t I need one for my C- section? I fall back to sleep before I can think this through.
I’m lying on my left side facing my husband and midwife. They are holding my hand and touching my thigh. I see their faces go blank. I feel the fear that just came over them. I suspect it has something to do with what I just felt. I see them staring at the external monitor—there is no heartbeat. I know what has happened and do my best to get the words out. My baby’s heart didn’t stop. I look at my midwife and say, “I PUSHED! I can’t not push! I HAVE to PUSH!”
It was such a divine feeling. My body had to push. It wasn’t mental or even physical. It was divine. I was moved by spirit to push. My body knew exactly when and how. It was time for my baby to be born...
Because of the baby’s breech position, I knew I’d be checked again. Everyone had made it clear that they needed to be certain that I was a full 10 centimeters before pushing to avoid the baby’s head getting trapped once the body had come through butt and feet first. A possible complication with breech births since the head is bigger than the body. The hospital nurse checks me, but neither my husband nor my midwife feel confident with her so we wait for my OB. My contractions stop and in those moments I feel a rush of life and absolute ecstasy come through me. After all we’ve been through, after giving in emotionally to a C-section, after more than two days of natural labor...the moment is finally here. I am going to PUSH my baby out!
About 7 minutes later, at 7:55am on Thursday morning, I give birth to a baby boy weighing 5 lbs, 14 ounces and measuring 19 inches long. He is born in front of an audience. Seems that the rumors had spread across the hospital that there was going to be a vaginal delivery of a breech presentation, and the hospital staff wanted to witness something they thought they’d never see. My husband recalls hearing a few of them say, “She’s going to do it natural? But they didn’t teach us natural birth for breech presentations in medical school!” to which he responded, “Watch her do it”. And I did it. Our son came out butt cheek, foot, and testicle first. A strange sight indeed, but a true testament to all that birth can be when allowed to take its natural, raw course.
My son is about to turn one and is as healthy and full of life as can be. Over this first year of his life, I have come to fully understand the power of those words my husband spoke. Those words that he spoke for me when I couldn’t speak them for myself. Those words that set us on course for a natural, vaginal delivery when we came as close as one can possibly come to getting a C-section. It was those words that paved the way for me to slip right through the massive “C-section Net” that catches so many of us. It was those very words that saved me. Not just from getting a C-section, but also from losing a piece of myself that I know I’d never get back. Had I ended up with a C-section that day, an essential piece of me would have died on that operating table. You may not understand, but I know I would have lost the very piece that makes me who I am. I would not have been aligned with what I know to be truth. The self-betrayal would have cut so deeply that I would have remained wounded for life far deeper than the scar I would have had on my abdomen. I would have been changed in a way so profoundly that I would not have survived the experience as myself. It would have affected my mothering, and it would have affected my marriage. My life would not be as it is. I would not be as I am – as I was born to be.
We live at a time when it’s the norm to make people feel comfortable about what happens in their lives. A time when we allow people to feel like they’ve done everything they possibly can even if things don’t go their way. But I feel we do each other a disservice in doing this. I didn’t need my birth team to make me feel ok with getting a C-section...I needed them to hold my vision of a natural, vaginal birth when I couldn’t do it for myself. I needed my husband to speak my truth when I couldn’t. I needed to be able to surrender to the devastation of having a C-section at the depths of my inner being while my birth team held my destiny in check so that I could peek out from within the disparity I was feeling and still feel the presence of the possibility of having a natural birth.
We are survivors. With that said, we adapt to what comes our way and make peace with it in order to continue to live. I assume I would have done some form of this had I ended up with a C-section and would today be a profoundly altered version of myself. But in all honesty, I thank my midwives, my doula, my OB, my baby, myself and most of all, my husband, each and every day because I don’t have to do that. It is because of this that I know birth. It is because of this that I know birth in the way that I was born to know it. It is because of this that I know myself.
As I prepare for my son’s first birthday I feel into the gift my husband and I gave him on his BIRTH-day. I remind myself of what we transmitted to our son with every choice we made and I remind my son to never betray himself as we did not betray ourselves throughout his birthing journey.
You will want to have a room that will comfortably fit everyone and your birthing tub (if using). A warm cozy area where light levels can be adjusted as needed is also very beneficial. If you are using candles look into having some flameless candles, as candles can heat up a room very quickly. Most women labor best in a darkened quiet area. Make sure there are curtains or blinds on the windows so they can be closed to allow for additional privacy.
Make sure your birthing supplies are easily accessible and everyone knows where they are. If having a waterbirth, make sure you have a stack of clean towels next to the tub. Also make sure there is water or an energy drink available to you at all times, along with snacks.
Set up your cd player/mp3 player and make sure your care provider or doula know how to use it, so they can start or stop it as needed. If you want photos or video makes sure your support people also know how to use them and what moments you want captured from the labour and birth.
Prepare the room for any religious beliefs or practices, including plans for the placenta. Some women find personal items that make them feel good important to have, whether this be a favorite photo or a focal point to concentrate on when labour gets tough. And last but not least, make sure you have items for baby like clothes, blankets, towels, hat and diapers.
Go back to: Step #9: Birth Support
Go ahead to: Step #11: Birthing Day
Go to: Birthing Methods Main Menu
In having a home birth you will not have hospital protocol around you. Having the knowledge that a class can give you may be priceless in the end! Your care provider may be able to give you some insight during your appointments, about what to expect. However this does not substitute taking a class and doing hands on learning.
So how do you choose which to go with? There are so many choices, here is a brief synopsis of some of the choices out there.
Go back to: Step #7: Gathering Birthing Supplies
Go ahead to: Step #9: Birth Support
Go to: Birthing Methods Main Menu
Some providers will give you a list of items for you to purchase typically a kit that they have set together at specific websites and it’s a one click shopping trip. There are even a few who provide everything from your birthing tub, to post partum products, it will just depend on your care provider.
Things you may want to have:
Go back to: Step #6: Creating a Birth Plan
Go ahead to: Step #8: Should I Take a Childbirth Education Class?
Go to: Birthing Methods Main Menu
Creating a Birth Plan is a great idea regardless of where you are birthing. This makes sure that you and your care provider are on the same page in terms of what you want for and from your birth. When you're in labour you will not want to spend a lot of time explaining your wishes. It's nice to have people just know their role and what's expected of them, this makes for no suprises with conflict in your wishes.
Some considerations of things to include:
To learn more about birth plans visit this site or any other resources you can find online.
This birth plan article may also provide you with additional things to consider in your birth plan.
Go back to: Step #5: Tests and Ultrasounds
Go ahead to: Step #7: Gathering Birthing Supplies
Go to: Birthing Methods Main Menu
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