Since Levi was born, I've turned into a birth junkie in search of answers as to what happened physiologically during my first labor. I've read countless articles about labor and progression of labor. However, everything I experienced during my first labor, and everything I read worked against me. If I were just a normal laboring mom timing contractions, this birth story would have a very different ending. But alas, here goes.
One of my main reasons for wanting a home birth was to reclaim my healthy view of birth, and to birth without fear. In preparation for my labor, I bought the Hypnobabies home study. I was horrible about listening to the tracks and practicing; I'm not sure it worked. But I digress. I can say that for the most part, I was very calm and relaxed for most of the labor.
I was having what I thought were crampy like contractions on Sunday night, February 9th. When I woke up Monday morning, my contractions were about 12-15 minutes apart. I took it easy that morning, ate some breakfast, and called my boss to tell her I thought I was in labor. I called Matt at work to ask him to drive me to the chiropractor for one last "I'm in labor" adjustment around lunch time from Dr. Paxton. By then my contractions were about 10 minutes apart, and still very manageable. We picked up Levi from school on our way home. When we got home, Levi took a nap and so did I. I made the mistake of "working hard to establish labor" with Levi and by the end I was exhausted. I knew that since I was in early labor still, I needed to rest as much as possible. So I laid down, dozing on and off, most of the afternoon.
Earlier in the day, I alerted the birth team that "today might be the day". My best friend Meredith was supposed to provide childcare for Levi, because we wanted him to be there. Our photographer, Melody Hood, was going to photograph the birth. My friend, Kristen, was set to be my doula. And of course, Michelle Ray was our midwife. Around dinner time, the contractions had reached 6.5-7.5 minutes apart and stayed that way for a few hours. I was texting and calling Michelle periodically, but because I was still able to go about my daily tasks and talk normally through the contractions, we really didn't think that I was "serious" about labor yet. Every birth junkie and well trained natural birth practitioner knows to judge labor progression by the emotional signs (laughing, talking, normal activity, etc) rather than the time span between contractions. I think it was around 9pm or so when I went to the bathroom and lost my mucus plug. That thing was gross. I never saw mine with Levi. But there again, that can happen days before a birth, so that's not really a sign either.
I had convinced myself that because Clara was in the same position that Levi was in during labor (spine on the right side of my uterus), that my labor with her was going to be long like it was with Levi. My labor established itself as "active labor" fairly early on in the day with Levi and I was "serious" about labor and the strength of my contractions for over 12 hours before I got my epidural. Because my contractions had been fairly mild all day, I had convinced myself that I was in for the REALLY long haul and not to get too excited too early. Then my contractions started to space out again. I knew that with second and after babies that labor could start and stop several times, and because I didn't feel that labor had established itself as "active" I thought that when they started to space out that night that they labor may stop and let me sleep and start back in the morning. Michelle told me to lay down and try to rest, so I did.
I laid down about 10:30pm. Once I did, I felt like my contractions were still pretty far apart, but they got MUCH more intense. In hind sight, this would have been the time to call Michelle and tell her to come. I tried to stay in bed, but the contractions were too intense, I had to get up. I looked at the clock, 11:45pm, as I got out of bed. I came into the living room and stood in front of the fire, talked to Matt, swayed back and forth, did some belly lifts trying to get Clara to turn, and labored through about 4-5 contractions. I looked at the clock again, 12:05am. For whatever reason, I still did not feel the need to call Michelle. I didn't believe labor was actually "getting serious" because the contractions had gotten close and spaced out again so many times during the day on Monday. Instead, I called Kristen, my doula. I told her that things were more intense but I still wasn't sure if it was time to call Michelle. She said she would grab her bag and be right over.
Again, this would also have been an excellent time to call my midwife.
Kristen arrived at the house about 12:25am on February 11th. I was moaning through some fairly intense contractions, telling Kristen I was a horrible Hypnobabies student because I didn't think my anesthesia was working. Because I was convinced that Clara's position was going to cause me to have a long labor, Kristen and I decided to try to get her to turn. Kristen did some Rebozo belly sifting with me. Meanwhile, Matt was in the living room reading his birth partner Hypnobabies literature about belly lifts and getting a baby into proper position for birth. At the bottom of his reading material there is a big disclaimer, "Do not do this unless you are where you will give birth. If you are having a home birth, make sure your birth attendant is with you." And he walks back to the bedroom to find us doing belly sifts. Oops.
I stood up to go to the bathroom and felt a TON of pressure. I ran my hand down the front of my belly, and there was Clara's spine...right in position for birth. All I could think was, "Uh oh." I looked at Matt and said, "Call Michelle. She needs to come, now." That was about 1:00am. Matt gets on the phone and calls Michelle, who lives at least 45 minutes away. He also calls Meredith (in case Levi wakes up during any of this) and Melody and told them to come as quickly as they could. Then he calls Michelle back.
Cut to me. I can feel Clara descending. Michelle asks to talk to me. She told me to check myself and see what I feel. My calm response, "Hang on, I gotta wash my hands." She asks, "What do you feel? Is it a head?" Nope, it was a bag of waters. Then I sat on the toilet and it WAS a bag of waters that broke. Then I felt intense pressure and Clara coming down. I yelled at Matt that Michelle needed to get here now. His reply, "Hun, she hasn't left her house yet." Me, "She's not gonna make it and someone's gotta be here to catch this baby!" Matt asked Michelle if he should call 911, she told him to go ahead.
Now I had heard of this phenomenon called "involuntary pushing", like if a pregnant woman were in a coma and went into labor, that her body could deliver her baby without any conscious effort from her. I now believe this to be true. When I realized that my midwife might not be there to catch my baby, I obviously did not make any effort to actively push even though I had the urge. I also did not fight what my body was doing because that would have REALLY HURT. So I just "relaxed". I put this in quotation marks because I was relaxed as one can be while screaming bloody murder. I really think my emotional state would have been different and I may not have screamed AS MUCH bloody murder if Michelle had been there. But there was nothing I could do to stop her arrival once Clara decided to come. I would not describe it as painful, just very intense pressure. My body literally expelled her on its own.
We laid down the plastic table cloth on the bedroom floor, and Kristen was ready with her gloves to catch Clara (who started to crown before anyone arrived). Matt was on the phone with the 911 operator and proceded to tell me to lay on my back, to which I responded "EFF HER!" (not abbreviated). Greg the firefighter walks in (while I'm screaming again) and starts asking, "Ma'am, is this your first baby? How far apart are your contractions?" My response (in a not so nice yelling manner), "STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS! THERE'S A HEAD COMING OUT OF ME, JUST CATCH IT!!" I look and the second firefighter is covering his mouth laughing in the hallway. So Greg the firefighter decided he was going to "check" to see how close she was to arriving without telling me, to which I responded "DON'T TOUCH ME!!" I think Kristen said something like, "You can just wait for the head." I yelled out, "Somebody get Matt, he's gonna miss this!" Two contractions and involuntary pushes later, Clara was born. I looked up at the clock right in front of me, 2:00 am exactly on 2/11/14...HER DUE DATE.
THEN the ambulance personnel arrived. Meanwhile, my daughter is wet/cold/screaming and they laid her down on a chux pad on the hard floor while wiping her off with another chux pad. I'm [still] yelling, "Give me the baby. She's cold. Her body temp is dropping. Give her to me!" Greg the firefighter & Crystal the EMT "We need to clean her off." Michelle on the phone to Crystal, "PUT THE BABY ON THE MOTHER'S CHEST!!!" As my sweet doula waits patiently with a clean, fluffy towel to give to us after Clara is with me. When they finally gave her to me, she stopped crying...obviously. We got her dry and a fresh, dry towel to warm both of us up. Then here comes Greg with a cord clamp. I calmly put up my hand and said, "Don't clamp her cord yet. Just wait for the midwife, she's almost here." I didn't want to explain the research on delayed cord clamping to Greg. He looked confused. Luckily he just accepted the "Wait for the midwife." instruction as something that made sense. I think he and Crystal felt like they needed to be doing something, so they just kept suctioning her mouth. Whatever. In retrospect, I think Kristen would have done a fine job catching her but I digress!
Matt likes to joke that even in the throes of labor and after giving birth, that I was totally in charge of the room and everything that happened...just the way I wanted! Meredith arrived just after Clara is born. All she said was, "Wow, that was fast!" Then Melody arrived. Both later stated that they nearly lost it when they pulled up to the house with 2 police cruisers, 1 fire truck, and 1 ambulance in the driveway. Matt never got a chance to call them back after the initial "Come as quickly as you can." call to tell them what was going on. Poor Melody said she might need a cardio work-up for the possible heart attack she had. THEN Michelle came in and took over, I could finally relax. ;-P
The poor EMT was so confused as to what to do in a normal birth situation. She admitted that the only births she had responded to were 4lb, trouble breathing, no prenatal care, crashing babies. She said something about transporting me and not knowing whether she could discharge me to the midwife's care without transport. Matt's response, "She's NOT going to allow you to transport her or the baby. There's nothing wrong with either of them." Crystal had to get the ok from her supervisor on the phone to discharge two perfectly healthy individuals, bless her.
After all the strangers left my house, everything was just as I imagined it would be with a home birth! I nursed Clara for the first time in my own bed. Kristen and Meredith brought me food and juice and made me laugh. Melody took awesome pictures and may or may not have held Clara before Matt, woops. Clara made a big poopy all over my belly and Michelle was trying to clean me off. I didn't realize Matt hadn't held her yet and I handed her to the nearest person so we could get both of us a little cleaner. Matt totally busted Melody with, "Are you holding my daughter before me?" Melody's all like, "No, that didn't happen. No, not at all. Here she is!"
Anyway, they made my herbal sitz bath in my tub where I got cleaned up. They brought Clara to the tub where she immediately calmed down. While I was in the tub, they changed the sheets on our bed and put towels and sheets in the wash. Once I got out, Matt and I laid in bed while Michelle did Clara's newborn exam on the foot of our bed and told us how healthy she was: 7 pounds 2 ounces, 19.5 inches long. Then Michelle and Kristen packed up to leave after a few hours of hard work! Melody and Meredith stayed for us to wake Levi up, because yes he slept through everything!
Matt says that waking Levi up and bringing him into our bedroom was better than any Christmas morning ever. As my sweet boy rubbed his eyes at 5 O'early in the morning, Matt said "Levi, who is that with Mommy?" Levi said, "CLARA!" He immediately wanted to hold her. It was the sweetest family moment and I will never forget it. I'm so glad Melody was there to capture it for us. Once I get the DVD of pictures, I'll add some to this post.
Although it wasn't the peaceful, intimate home birth we planned. It was lovely, and quite a fun story. I delivered my baby safely, in my own home, and had the support of the people around me. Oh, and I was totally in charge!