This is an actual birth story. If you don’t want to know all the gory details, I suggest you stop reading now. (AHEM. BROTHER.)
(All times are approximate, based on what I remember.)
3am- I wake up and notice two things: it’s thundering and lightening and I’m in labor. For some reason, based on the contraction I’m having, I’m sure of it. (This happened with my other labors too; weeks of prodromal labor, but when it was real I knew from the first contraction.) David put a contraction timer app on my phone (of course he did!), so I try to use that to time them, but I’m pretty sleepy. They’re about 6 minutes apart, not a good pattern yet, and only about every 3rd or 4th one hurts enough to breathe through.
4:30am- The henna drying on my belly (from my Blessingway the night before) was starting to itch. Washing the henna off becomes the only thing I can think about, so I get up and take a shower. I have 5-6 contractions in the shower, convincing me more and more that I am, in fact, in labor. After my shower I go back to bed and manage to sleep pretty soundly between contractions.
Somewhere during this time, I wake up David and tell him I’m in labor. He promptly falls back to sleep. He’s not, ah, a morning person.
7:30am- Marin wakes up, and I take her downstairs to eat breakfast. As soon as I get up, the contractions are much more intense. I get David up and he starts filling the birth tub. I’m debating whether to call my midwife as I have a history of LONG early labors, and I don’t want her to drive over (from 45 minutes away) if I’m going to have 12 hours before I’m in “active” labor. Instead I call my good friend/midwife student who lives in Tiny Town and ask her to come over.
8ish- My friend arrives and confirms that I’m in actual labor (I both KNEW this and was also in denial about it). She gets Joan and Kate up and dressed and fed and takes all three girls over to a friend’s house. She also calls my midwife and tells her to come over. Meanwhile, I’m standing in the kitchen, leaning over the counter for each contraction and having to breath through them all now. Before she left, Marin, eating her cereal, sighed “Geez Mommy, I’m sure sick of you making that noise!” I wasn’t sure if the girls were going to stay home for the birth or not (if, for example, it was happening while they slept, I saw no reason to wake them), but as soon as they were up and I was contracting I had NO DESIRE to have them around.
9:30ish- The tub is set up and ready, the contractions really hurt, so I decide to get in. It’s just David and my friend and me; the midwives and my doulas are on their way. As soon as I get in the water, I’m SO MUCH more comfortable.
10am-noon- I am mostly in the tub. Everyone starts arriving, but I’m in “labor land” enough that I barely notice. Contractions SUCK. I had forgotten HOW MUCH labor sucks. My midwife doesn’t do many cervical checks (if any) during labor, but I am both wanting her to check me and NOT. What I wanted, honestly, was for her to check me and say “YES, you are only TEN MINUTES from giving birth!” (Ha, ha, ha, ha) (??) Also, around noon, I start to feel my body giving a little push at the peak of each contraction. The midwife checks and says simply “There’s a little cervix left.” I found out later I was only about 4-5cm… I’m SO GLAD she didn’t tell me that at the time, as I would have been SO
(I look at this photo and I think “I had NO IDEA that person was putting a washcloth on my neck and that person was holding my hand. NO IDEA.” So odd, how out of it I was.)
Honestly, from here to the end I have very little concept of anything other than THIS FUCKING HURTS. I guess the midwife checked me twice more (I was pushing a little more all the time). At 12:30 I was 8cm and at 1pm I was complete. (That means I went from 4-5 cm to COMPLETE in an hour. NO WONDER IT HURT.) I was in the tub the entire time, and I remember everyone trying to convince to change positions once in awhile and not wanting to. I remember being on my knees (the tub was deep and inflatable– including the bottom of the tub– so there was NO pressure on my knees, which was wonderful) leaning over the side of the tub for most of the time. I also remember sitting on the chair and using the handles to support myself during contractions (like in the above photo).
I was SO LOUD, you guys, SO SO LOUD. I was, like, CRAZY PERSON loud. I was aware that I was loud so I would tell myself “Ok, self, tone it down a bit next time” but then the next contraction would come and I was all fuck that noise (ha!), I no longer CARED how loud I was because HOLY HELL did those contractions hurt!
I also had little episodes between (or during? details are fuzzy to me) contractions where I would proclaim “I CAN’T DO THIS you guys. I just CAN’T.” But then, I’d realize what I was saying, and I’d become very clear in my thinking so the next thing I would say was “I can DO THIS. I can DO THIS,” over and over. It was weird, because sometimes I was SO VERY out of my head, and other times I was SO VERY PRESENT in what was happening. The weird thing is, even when I was saying I couldn’t do it, I never really felt like I honestly COULDN’T do it… it was more like I didn’t WANT TO do it, didn’t want to keep feeling each contraction.
I also had this (now) hilarious line of self-coaching going on. See, I teach the damn childbirth classes AND have been a doula for eight years, so I KNOW birth. So I’d be telling myself “keep your jaw loose… a tight jaw makes your whole body tense” or “just one contraction at a time, don’t think of all the others, just get through THIS ONE”. I was also re-thinking and re-writing parts of our classes in my head, rethinking my approach when teaching, based on what I was experiencing.
I don’t think from probably 11am on I opened my eyes very much at all, both during and between contractions, because whenever I DID open my eyes, I was always surprised. I would think David was holding my hand, for example, and find out it was my doula. I was not aware of anyone moving around the room or changing positions or taking turns holding my hands, but they must have been doing just that.
About not using drugs: I can tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if there had been a drug (ANY DRUG) for me TO take, I would have taken it. The ONLY reason I had a unmedicated birth was because there WAS NO MEDICATION available to me. In fact, the pain was so terrible, awful, no good, VERY BAD (I seriously thought I might die from it at certain points), that if I could have figured out a way to hop out of that tub and give MYSELF a Csection right there in my living room, I WOULD HAVE. Oh my LANDS, you guys, it fucking HURT.
I remember one line of thinking I entertained regarding transferring to the hospital for a Csection (not because I thought I needed one, but because I wanted to be DONE and the pain to be OVER). I realized that in order to DO that, I’d have to get out of the tub, put PANTS ON, ride in my car to the hospital, ride up the elevator, get an IV placed… all while having these AWFUL MOTHERFUCKING CONTRACTIONS. Suddenly, staying in my birth tub in my living room seemed EASIER. I think that was the point where I finally surrendered to the damn labor and pain and put my mind toward getting the baby out FOR THE LOVE OF GOD as soon as possible.
2pm-ish- I don’t remember how long I had been pushing (I started a little bit at the peak of each contraction and slowly worked up to pushing for the entire contraction), but I remember the midwife saying that the baby was “right there”. This was maybe 15 minutes (or a half hour?) before baby was born. I was positioned on one knee, with the other knee bent in front of me (hard to explain, but maybe like how runners position themselves at the start line of a sprinting race?), so I put my hand down and felt the baby’s head. And it WAS right there, maybe an inch inside my body. From then on, I had my hand/fingers touching baby’s head with each contraction, and it REALLY HELPED. It was at that point that I could FEEL how to push effectively, as when I was pushing effectively, I could feel the baby’s head move.
From then on, I took charge of my own delivery. I felt the baby’s head crowning and tried to take it slow so as not to do any damage. It burned, and as I waited for another contraction I told everyone “there’s no tears yet!” as I felt the perineum intact around the baby’s head. I was VERY VERY aware of everything that was going on at this point, and very “in” my body and in the moment. I kept asking everyone if they could see the baby’s head because it was RIGHT THERE, but they politely told me NO they COULD NOT as my hand was in the way. I asked David to feel the baby’s head at one point, which he did. His hand was in and out of the water lightning fast though, which cracks me up when I watch the video.
I was thinking at one point that I had NO IDEA how people delivered their own babies, because I felt so immobilized by the pain that I thought there was no way my arms would work well enough to be able to grab my baby as it was being born. However, shortly after I asked David to feel the baby’s head, at 2:37pm, I announced that the baby’s head was out and the very next second the baby was in my arms. I totally delivered her myself; the midwives didn’t even have their hands in the water. I yelled/cried “It’s a GIRL!” followed shortly by “I did it! I DIDN’T HAVE TO HAVE SURGERY!!”. I couldn’t believe it was really over, that my baby was here, that those gawdawful contractions were DONE.
(This was minutes/seconds after birth. I love David’s hand on my shoulder.)
The room was filled with whoops and hollers. My doula was crying, I was crying. My midwives helped me get seated on the chair in the pool, and we all just stared at the baby. One of the first things I noticed about her was that it looked like she had teeth (she doesn’t). At first, she didn’t look like the other girls to me (though now I think she looks like newborn Marin), and I just couldn’t believe she was here; I wasn’t pregnant anymore! The baby let out a few wails but was mostly calm, looking around. The water in the pool was nice and warm, so she was warm and content, I think. As for me, I was absolutely HIGH that my labor was OVER and that it ended the way I had hoped and planned it would. I couldn’t believe it. I had DONE IT, something that I had tried to do twice previously and “failed” both times. It was a pretty amazing time for me.
(The water was clean and clear for the entire labor, but it did get nasty fairly quickly after the baby was born.)
During my labor, I never was fearful for my safety or of the safety of having the baby at home. The midwives were so calm and confident that everything was going smoothly, and I had decided weeks before to surrender those kinds of worries to them; THEY were the experts after all; THEY would tell me if I needed to be worried about something. The only times I thought about going to the hospital were in times of wanting DRUGS or wanting an easy way out of labor via surgery.
After the cord stopped pulsing, the midwives helped David cut the cord and take the baby from me so I could concentrate on the placenta delivery. This took much longer than I anticipated, since I was used to seeing hospital births where moms are given a bag of pitocin after delivery and the placenta comes very quickly after birth. It took probably close to an hour before I finally delivered mine, which wasn’t the most fun, I’ll be honest. I was just crampy and uncomfortable and frustrated because I really just wanted to hold and nurse my baby but I COULDN’T focus on her until that damn placenta was out.
(Here I am on the “crash pad” in my living room. David drug Marin’s mattress downstairs so I had a place to rest until I was ready to climb upstairs to my own bed. That blanket over Olive is the same one I– and all of my girls– came home from the hospital in.) (Please ignore my unfortunate expression and weird hand signal to David. I… I have no idea.)
David and I are done having children (GOD WILLING), but if we were to have another, we would for sure– hands down, no contest– have homebirth again. Yes, that labor was easily the worst, most painful experience I’ve endured so far in my life, but the experience as a whole was wonderful. I felt so loved and supported throughout the entire labor and delivery, and I loved having providers around that trusted that my body would be able to birth my baby naturally.
I am not by any means a “homebirth expert” but I’ve already received a few questions in comments and emails. I’m planning on doing a Q and A post based on my experience in homebirth, so if you have any questions, let me know!
(This is Olive and I shortly after I finally delivered the placenta. It’s probably my favorite photo of the day. I’m wearing my birth necklace that the ladies made for me the night before. None of us knew I’d be wearing it so soon!)