Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Home Birth

It’s said that every birth is different. This is true. A woman who’s given birth more than twice knows this as well. Just like her children will be different, how they choose to enter the world will be different. The great unknown, of course, is the degree of that difference. And with the unknown can come fear.

Despite having successfully birthed two beautiful children naturally before, as my third pregnancy came to a close I found myself feeling anxious and fearful of the process for a variety of reasons.

While I strove to deal with my feelings, I was comforted by the fact that I had never had a pregnancy that was shorter than 41 weeks. I assumed I had at least until then to prepare myself as emotionally as I had prepared physically.

We had chosen to birth our son in the comfort of our own home and with that decision came preparations commonly provided by most hospital birthing wards. As our birthing stock grew and grew the spare bedroom in our home was looking less and less like a bedroom and more and more like a childbirthing stock room.

There wasn’t a contingency we hadn’t planned for. By 38 weeks I was more than physically ready to have my baby (including an emergency birth kit I was encouraged to keep in my car), all of my social commitments came to a close and I had nothing to do but sit and wait for the moment my baby would arrive.

I took this time to not-so-productively stew in my anxiety and finally to determine to do something about it by re-reading some of the more positive childbirthing books I had stocked up on over the years, talk with supportive friends and my midwife. I knew that fear and anxiety could negatively effect my birth, stall or even reverse the labor process and cause any number of complications. I would not let that happen.

I was determined to be rid of all anxiety by the time of birth which, by my 39th week, I assumed was at least two weeks away.

On the morning of Sunday, June 8th, I was 39 weeks, 4 days along in my pregnancy. Nothing much of anything was happening and my husband, John, asked me if it was okay if he took the afternoon off to take some time for himself and go see a movie knowing that he’d probably not get the chance for a while once baby arrived.

I told him that was fine and we spent the morning finishing cleaning the house and by noon I felt I needed to rest. I was happy that after two babies I’d finally learned to listen to my very pregnant intuition. When my body said to rest I didn’t talk myself out of it, I rested.

I applied an essential oil blend called Peace and Calming to my shoulder, Lavender to my legs and Orange to my palms and slept peacefully until around three in the afternoon when John had said he’d wanted to leave for his “Daddy Day Off.”

After he left I promised the kids I would make them grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner and upon looking in the refrigerator I found we were out of cheese.

I loaded up my daughter into the stroller and my son on his tricycle and we were off to the local grocery store where we picked up cheese, a watermelon and chocolate chips under the premise the after dinner we would all have a good time making chocolate chip cookies before it was time to go to bed.

The bag of chocolate chips would remains unopened. The cookies never happened.

After the ham and cheese sandwiches I leaned across the table to start cleaning up the dishes when I felt a gush of fluid.

Greatly annoyed by the possibility that I may have wet myself I ran to the bathroom where I discovered this fluid was just not stopping.

It began to occur to me that my water may have broken.

Included in all of the medical supplies in my spare bedroom was an amino-fluid test and I rushed into the room, searching through the supplies until I found it. But in that time the fluid that continued to come soaked through a pad and a towel. Even when I found the test I was pretty sure taking it was moot at that point.

I called my midwife. She didn’t answer her phone.

I called John. He didn’t answer his phone.

I called my birthing assistant. She didn’t answer her phone.

My neck felt hot with anxiety and I had to remind myself that I was not contracting and labor could be hours if not days away. There was no need to panic.

Shortly after my internal pep talk my phone rang and I was greatly comforted to see it was John calling me back.

“My water just broke,” I told him.

“Are you serious?” he said with the tone that had far less excitement than disbelief in it.

“Yes. You aren’t in the middle of your movie, are you?”

“I was just watching the previews when I saw you called.” He sighed an ironic but amused sort of sigh. “I’ll be on my way home.”

I wanted to tell him to go ahead and stay and that I would call him when labor started but not knowing when that might be or how fast it might go I was happy to have him coming home.

I spent the next few minutes calling everyone else on the birthing team—the babysitter, photographer and midwife's assistant—to let them know that while I was not actively in labor it was bound to start sooner rather than later and I would let them know what my midwife said when I talked to her.

John got home a little after seven to find his very pregnant, agitated wife just sitting in the living room. He busied himself with getting the birthing tub out and inflating it, arranging the furniture the midwife thought would be best and once that was all complete my midwife finally called back.

She asked me if I wanted her to come and check on me or if I wanted her to wait until I felt labor had started. Knowing that labor could start any time and that with broken waters comes the possibility the umbilical cord could have descended and gotten pinched I told her I would feel much better if she at least came down to check on me and baby.

She agreed and said she’d be on her way.

My birthing assistant also called back and said she’d be on her way as did the other midwife and birthing assistant.

That being done there was nothing left to do but sit and wait and with that came the tidal wave of my anxiety. This was happening. I didn’t feel ready and it was here.

I started to cry.

John assured me that everything was going to be fine. That I would rock this birth like I’d rocked the others and there was nothing to worry about.

He massaged my favorite essential oil blends of Valor and Release into my shoulder’s and neck and told me to relax on the couch while he put in a movie to distract the kids.

He also started diffusing Peace and Calming and Lavender into the living room.

By the time my midwife and her assistant arrived I was feeling much better. Still nothing was happening on the labor front. I was annoyed with the continued feeling of wetting myself and restless.

She listened to the baby and felt his position. She assured me that he was in a good position for birth and sounded perfectly healthy. She asked me what I wanted to do and I said I felt very restless. I wanted to move.

She suggested I get dressed do just that.

As I got dressed John got the kids into bed and we went out for a stroll around the block. We walked and talked about every day things and I felt better.

While we walked my birth assistant arrived and when we came back my midwife checked baby again and again asked me what I wanted to do.

It was now going on 10 at night and still nothing was happening labor-wise. I was feeling watched, pressured and anxious again.

I told her I was feeling it was necessary to be alone and that I wanted to go upstairs to my room and rest.

Once again she said if that was what my body was telling me to do then that was exactly what I should do.

She had asked me not to use any essential oils that might have labor inducing properties in them until she got there and now that she was here and labor still didn’t seem to be happening I asked her if it was okay to use the labor blend I had made up with at least two labor inducing oils in it.

She said that was fine and so John and I went upstairs where he applied the labor blend to my ankles and more Peace and Calming to my shoulders.

He turned down the lights and asked me if I wanted him to stay or go.

I told him he was the only one I wanted around and to stay so he lay beside me and promptly fell fast asleep.

In a matter of minutes after he started to snore I felt relaxed, calm and at peace. The house was quiet and the contractions started but in a way I had never expected.

They were irregular and didn’t seem strong enough to be what would conventionally considered “active labor.” When I felt one starting, as long as I remained relaxed and calm they didn’t hurt in the least, but if I fought them at all they would start to get uncomfortable.

I resigned myself, then, to simply relaxing and breathing through these contractions that would come in waves of two or three and then maybe one and at no particular time interval.

As a result, I was not at all convinced that I was actually in labor.

I wasn’t sure how long this went on for but after what seemed like quite some time I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. I woke John and we went downstairs and I was very happy and excited to see everyone.

After going to the bathroom the midwife asked me how I felt. I reported to her that I was, indeed, contracting but that I wasn’t at all convinced that I was in labor because the contractions were so irregular and didn’t hurt as long as I was relaxed.

While we talked I started to have another contraction and simply laid down on the couch, breathed and relaxed through it and was at once up and talking again after it was done.

I laughed and joked with my birthing assistant and the assistant midwife and only when a contraction came on would I lie down and rest and be right back up laughing and joking.

There was only a few moments of this before I was told later that my personality completely changed. I went from being bubbly and talkative to very solemn and focused.

My midwife at once told the attendants to start filling the birthing tub.

At the same time I felt a huge increase in the quality of my contractions and a difficulty in relaxing through them. I felt a panic I usually only feel during transition but, again, I was not at all even convinced that my labor had started!

I thought, “If this is only the beginning of my labor, I am in for the longest night of my life and I am going to have to find a new way to cope!”

Because my water had been broken a cervical check had not been done but I needed to know how I was progressing. I asked my midwife to check me.

She did and announced that I was 8 cm and definitely transitioning.

I couldn’t believe it! At the same time, I recognized that “transition” feeling.

I wanted desperately to get into the water but it wasn’t ready and as I started to fidget my husband asked my birth assistant to apply more Valor to my back, another blend called Common Sense to my forehead and a back labor blend of essential oils to my back even though I wasn’t having any real back labor.

I immediately recognized the grounding aromas of the Common Sense and felt calmed.

As soon as the water was to the required temperature my midwife said I could get in and I was thrilled to finally be in the comforting warmth of the tub. I held onto the side, my belly hanging into the water and immediately started to feel urges to push.

John climbed into the tub behind me and continued to rub my back. His constant presence and attention to me was like a rock that anchored me. His hands responded to me as I tensed and relaxed and I didn’t even have to tell him what I needed before he would adjust pressure, call for an oil or encourage me. Despite the activity around us, he was all I wanted or needed.

The assistant midwife checked baby’s heartbeat and all was well.

My goal was to gently nudge my baby into the world. I was afraid of the almost explosive delivery I had experienced with my daughter and wanted, instead, to have a gentler, calmer decent.

I was encouraged when I felt him nudge into the birth canal and then breathed him through a few more pushes down further.

At that moment there was a pause. I was more than happy for the break but feeling anxiety rise in me once again.

John called for more Common Sense and it was promptly applied to my forehead and I called to my birthing assistant and asked her to pray.

She knelt beside me, took my hands in hers and started the most beautiful prayer. She declared God’s blessing on me and the birth. I don’t remember everything she said but it was filled with affirmations of blessings and God’s power.

As she prayed I felt that same surge I had felt shortly before Olivia’s birth. I tried to fight it and screamed but there was no stopping or slowing it. And hindsight being what it is, the last thing I should have done was fight. I would have been better of to surrender to it.

Either way, baby was not deterred. He (as my midwife would later say) swam right out of me.

I heard the midwife ask John if he would like to receive the baby and he did. My birth assistant thanked God and told me how beautiful our boy was.

I heard him cry.

I heard all the fawning and oohing and ahhing going on over him but I was still having the raging surge going through my body and needed time to come down from that no matter how much I also wanted to see my baby.

Time of birth was called at 12:59 am, June 9th.

In a few moments I was composed enough to be helped around and handed my little boy and immediately he stopped crying as he nestled into my arms, blinked his eyes and worked his hands and mouth.

He was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful! He had a full head of dark hair and gorgeous blue eyes. He had the faintest resemblance to Olivia but his own unique jaw line, lips and nose. I was instantly in love, endeared and amazed.

They let me snuggle him a bit in the water when the midwife’s assistant came over and told me there’s been a little more blood than they’d like to have seen and just as a precaution the midwife wanted to give me a shot of pitocin in the arm.

After that they helped me out of the tub and onto the couch where I was encouraged to nurse and bond with my little boy.

The contractions were still coming but it seemed to take forever for the placenta to come. While we waited we were back to joking and laughing while the midwife or her assistant took my blood pressure and pulse regularly and monitored me and baby for signs of infection or blood loss.

When the cord stopped pulsing it was clamped and cut and baby was given to my husband so that we could all concentrate on delivering the placenta. 

My birth assistant applied Release to my abdomen and there was starting to be talk of starting an IV of pitocin when I finally delivered the placenta.

Everyone was relieved to see what I already knew. There was no additional bleeding whatsoever. My uterus had clamped down wonderfully.

The next step was to stitch some tearing and even while that was taking place we were still making jokes and generally enjoying the new, joyful energy of the room.

I watched in a love-struck stupor as John sat on the floor with his newborn son and rocked him to sleep, just staring down at him like the miracle he was.

The newborn assessment was done. And FINALLY, around 4 in the morning, everyone filed out of the house with lots of congratulations and the three of us climbed the stairs to our room where I calmed my excitement with Lavender, Peace and Calming and Orange oils, snuggled in with my new baby and fell fast asleep nursing him.

I woke hours later to the sound of chirping birds, the fresh spring breezes coming through the windows of my bedroom, the warmth and comfort of my own bed and the gentle breathing of my newborn.

I couldn’t imagine a more serene way to bring a baby into the world and spend our first moments together. No poking. No prodding. No beeping or doors slamming. No pages. No machines and no drugs. Just the sounds of our sleepy house and the spring around it. The smells of spring and frankincense from the blends that had been applied to me in labor.

Before long I heard the familiar footsteps of our eldest son in the hallway and his sleepy face appear in our door. He came to his Daddy’s side of the bed and I tapped John on the shoulder.

John said, “Hey, buddy. Guess what?”

His sleepy eyes focused, “What?”

“You’re brother is here.”


Knowing there was no place else a new baby would be, our son stood on his tip-toes to look over his Daddy’s shoulders at the space between us and saw his brother for the first time.

He made an, “OOH!” sound and promptly crawled over his Daddy and snuggled in next to his little brother and gentle touched his head and held his hand.

Once again, I couldn’t imagine any better way to meet a sibling.

I drifted off to sleep again with my two boys snuggled between myself and their amazing father while their sister still slept in her bed.

I couldn’t imagine a better family or birth.

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