It has been almost a year now but I can still vividly remember the overwhelming joy I felt early Good Friday morning after lifting my newest little baby boy up onto my chest. I was feeling completely overwhelmed by the long journey we just took together and how quick that moment of final arrival feels. We made it through to the other side and the only words I was able to get out over and over like a crazy person were “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god” as I stared at that tiny perfect face resting upon me.
Let’s take it back to the beginning, not of time obviously but to when I first became a mother. I feel that to understand why I chose a home birth for number two you need to know that my first labour and delivery took place in a hospital and the whole experience left much to be desired. I know the first year of parenthood is challenging but I left the hospital already feeling like a failure. Without going into the details of it all, basically I never felt in control or safe. I felt like I wasn’t strong enough and that I wasn’t able to protect my child or myself. I knew that I wanted something different for my second experience but wasn’t sure exactly what I was seeking. I knew that I wanted to feel more comfortable with the people who were going to be around me during this mentally and physically challenging feat. I had never met the doctor who ended up delivering my first son and she was only really there for 30 minutes or so during the day long ordeal, this didn’t feel right to me. Ultimately this feeling is what pushed me in the direction of a midwife since they are your caregiver throughout your whole pregnancy, delivery and then also provide post natal care. My initial plan was to have a midwife attending a hospital birth and then if all went well we would go home within an hour or so of delivery. This seemed like the best of both worlds to me. Having access to emergency services if needed but also having the security of knowing your birth team. Then somewhere around the 37th week of my pregnancy I started leaning towards being open to a home birth. I am not sure exactly why I changed my mind but I think it had something to do with not being able to guarantee a tub at the hospital. My midwives were completely supportive of whatever I chose and said they are totally comfortable with making a “game time” decision. They said that almost all of the issues that can arise can be identified early on and then we can go to a hospital if needed. I liked the idea of deciding where to deliver the baby when I was actually in labour since I knew of the unpredictability involved in child-birth and not knowing how I might feel in the moment. So our plan was for me to call them when I felt I was in active labour and then for them to come to my house and we would decide then if we wanted to stay or go to the hospital.
Here is a picture of me at 38 weeks pregnant, this was probably the only time I had my hair done before having the baby so I wanted to get a picture!
I have never been one to get very anxious after the baby’s due date passes which I think is partly because I have always been lucky enough not to get super uncomfortable at the end of pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, it is no walk in the park. I really don’t think it is possible to have another human inside of your abdomen and not experience some discomfort. Especially when things start getting really tight and the baby starts to try to plan their escape
Here is a picture of when the baby was flipping around and you can see what I think is his back, really popping out on the left side.
I was having Braxton Hicks contractions from about 4 months on with this pregnancy. I found them fairly uncomfortable, sometimes I would even have to sit down to catch my breath. They picked up in the last month, gearing up for the real thing I guess. In fact on the night of my due date things even got to a point where I thought it might be the start of active labour but after laying in bed for a while things slowed right back down and had stopped by the next morning.
So that brings us to late in the evening at 40 weeks plus 2: Our 2.5 year old was asleep (definitely not a guarantee at this time of night with this kid) and I was replying to some emails to friends who had started asking if I had a baby yet. It’s funny because once you go over your due date you can’t even call someone without them assuming you are calling to announce a new baby. I remember my husband was out playing tennis with a friend, I suppose he was trying to fit in as many activities as he could before the baby. We were 2 days past my due date, which is the same time that my first was born. I also remember I had all the laundry in the house done, so we were definitely ready! ha. I hadn’t tried any self induction techniques since I was in no real rush. I figured the baby was easier to look after while he was still on the inside ;). Right around 10 pm the Braxton Hicks were intensifying and started to feel a bit more painful so I decided to pop into the tub to see if things would slow down. My husband got home from his tennis game and I told him I thought things *might be starting. I am not sure if my parents read me the boy who cried wolf too many times or what but I am always very tentative to call something unless I am 100% sure. I got out of the bath and started pacing around our house. Things started getting more and more painful and closer together. My husband started timing contractions. I am not really that concerned with contraction timing since in my experience you will know when you are close because it gets so painful that you can’t even bear it, nothing I need a timer to tell me. I still think it is a good idea because it keeps the man involved and gives them something to do plus I am sure for some people it really might help determine their labour progression. By midnight we decided this was probably the real deal and so we called my parents to come pick up our sleeping toddler before it got even later. I still didn’t know if we would stay home or not so I figured it was best he be out of the house so we wouldn’t have to worry. The pickup went shockingly well, somehow we woke him up put on his coat and he didn’t even make a sound, he just went right into my mom’s arms and fell right back asleep once he got to my parents’ house.
I spent the next few hours walking around, getting in and out of the tub, snacking, drinking, forcing myself to pee, you know normal labouring behaviour. When I read this, it sounds so low-key and boring, but let me tell you when you are in it, it feels very intense. Time goes by very quickly in some ways and very slowly in others. We were trying to decide when to call the midwife, this isn’t the easiest decision to make in the middle of the night since it is hard to decide when you are in “active” labour and about 4 cms dilated. I just kept pulling from my previous L&D experience and remembered it took a very long time to get to 10 cms (~24hours) and that it was really painful/uncomfortable so I was trying to wait as long as possible. The advice I would give to a friend if they ask how you know if you are getting close is that you know it’s real when you think you might die I am sure it is not that bad for everyone but that is truly my experience.
It ended up being my husband who made the decision on when to call the midwife. I remember I was on my knees bent over the side of the tub and this particular contraction was so long and strong that I started swearing like a trucker (not like me at all) and muttering something along the lines of “I can’t do this, I can’t do this”. I guess that was Jeff’s queue to pick up the phone. It was around 4 am.
4:30 am Good Friday 2013: The midwives arrive and I am back in the tub. This is starting to be the only spot I can bear the contractions. My contraction pattern was never very rhythmic. Right up until the end I would have a few short ones and then get a long break (7mins) and then I would get a really long/strong contraction. I remember the midwife asked if she could check me and if I thought my waters had broken. I didn’t think they had and was eager to see my progression at this point.
I was 8cms!! Wow, I remember feeling so proud of myself for making it this far and feeling relieved that we were almost there. Her check also confirmed that my water had not yet broken. She asked if I wanted to go to the hospital now or stay home and she made it clear that if we wanted to go to the hospital we would have to leave now. To be honest I don’t know how anyone could possibly decide to go to a hospital at this point in labour but luckily that made for an easy decision. I knew I was not getting out of that bath so I told her I wanted to stay and have our baby at home. They quickly began setting up all their equipment in our master bedroom.
I was just labouring away, alone in the tub, it was completely dark outside and we just had a couple of candles lit. For me this was a very calm and peaceful environment. My husband sat by my side on the outside of the tub letting me squeeze his hand as hard as I possibly could during each contraction. I am not sure why it feels so good but it helped me to squeeze something, preferably someone. I really felt like I was getting the hang of this labour thing, I had a bit of a pain management system. I would just keep telling myself to hold on and keep going until the contraction reached its peak and reminding myself it would subside eventually and I would get a small break to regroup and prepare for the next one. The midwife came back to the tub and asked if I wanted her to break my water. I checked with her to see if it would just break on its own and she told me that yes it will just break on its own and that there is no issue with leaving it, so that was what we decided to do. This is just one of many examples of how she was guiding me through, always helping me make the decisions myself. Then I remember that the midwives said to continue on doing what I was doing and they will just stand by until I feel like I have to push. This was comforting since even though this was my second baby I still wasn’t sure if I was doing it correctly. The midwives were very good at letting me feel like I was in the driver seat and they were just there to give me pointers and support when needed.
5:00 am: First “pushing” contraction. WOW, this was the most awful feeling ever, for all the confidence I had gained with my labouring I was totally rocked back to feeling clueless and scared. This was a feeling where I had absolutely no control, it reminds me of how it feels to have to throw up but much more intense and obviously on the opposite end. When the contraction would subside I was so scared for the next one to start again. This is the point where I thought I would die. I know this is not good or the right thing to do at this point. Some woman seem to be able to stay calm and zen but I would say I was pretty much having an anxiety attack. I put my whole head under the water with only my nose poking out to breathe. I remember pretty much trying to check out of my body at this stage. My eyes rolled back in my head and although I was screaming with each push (not recommended either but it was all I could do) I couldn’t even really hear myself.
5:12 am: The last push, the one where you know you are so close and you just don’t stop no matter what until that baby is out (also not recommended, it is better to go slow at this point if you can, I sadly could not). Ahhhhh Relief. My baby is on my chest in the warm bath water. Still lit by candlelight but bright enough to see a little tooth poking out of a his gums when he cried. Born with a tooth, My little Sullivan Victor. Entering the world in his parents’ tub early good Friday morning at 7lb 8oz & 22in. Now the tooth was a real surprise to everyone, my midwife said she had witnessed over 4ooo births and this was her first tooth. We hadn’t found out the sex in advance because I find that the waiting and wondering makes it all a bit more exciting. Both times when having my sons I don’t remember anyone proclaiming “It’s a boy!!” or anything like that although that sounds like a fun idea. I don’t even remember checking myself to make sure, both times I just had this knowing feeling as they reached my chest that they were little boys.
The third stage of labour is always a bit of a bummer but at least you have your little baby to distract you. The midwives injected oxytocin into my leg and then the placenta came right out. This is when the bath water turned into a Dexter season finale. So I got out and slipped into the shower to rinse off quickly while the MWs checked over our new little baby. It was so nice to be in my own bathroom and my own shower. The midwives cleaned everything up and there was really not much mess at all. After I dried off I had to endure the uterus poking and prodding to make sure all the placenta is out and then in my case some stitches. OOhhh the stitches….. horrible, dreadful part of having a baby. I wish I was better at holding back in the pushing department. My midwives told me that I probably wouldn’t have needed any stitches if Sully had been able to keep his hands down but he was probably sucking his thumb and so his one hand was up in his face as he came out, ouch. He is still a thumbsucker today so not really surprising that he was trying to seek comfort in such an intense situation. You can even see here in this picture of our first snuggle that he has his left hand up near his mouth, he still only sucks his left thumb.
Why would I choose to have a baby at home and would I do it again? I was much happier with my second L&D at home although to be completely honest one of the first things I said afterwards was that I am NEVER EVER doing that again. I think this was mostly because of the pain and the panic I experienced during pushing. Now that we are coming up on Sullivan’s first birthday I am still undecided on if we should have a third child or not but I don’t think a day goes by that it doesn’t cross my mind. In the end I think the biggest factor contributing to my decision to stay home was because it was the place that I felt most comfortable. I knew for me this meant that my labour would progress faster and *hopefully smoother if I was in a comfortable place. I didn’t have enough self-awareness to know I would need this with #1 but glad I figured out by round 2. A few of the other bonus’ to home birth are that you have a choice about a lot of the post natal care, for example if you want to put antibiotic ointment in your babies eyes or give them a vitamin K shot. I did my research and spoke with the midwives and in the end I went with the vitamin K shot but chose to forgo the eye ointment. The midwives I worked with were amazing at making me feel completely in control and they provided amazing support throughout the pregnancy and delivery. It felt very much like my own journey, and I have never felt so strong or proud. Lastly, I am so thankful for the cooperation of my little Good Friday baby, doing exactly what he was supposed to do to enter this world safely, he really knew how to ‘rise’ to the occasion