Thursday, August 1. My sister’s due date. I texted her first thing in the morning to say, “Happy due date! It will be any day now!” She texted me back right away: “Actually I think I’m in labor now.” I spent the whole day texting and calling her or my mom (who was with her in Florida) until she had her baby boy at about 8 pm. I had random contractions all day long. I kept thinking, could this be? no! no way, this can’t be. I told my husband, Adam, “I’m having a lot of contractions…” and he said, “you’re just psyching yourself out because your sister is in labor, don’t worry about it. It would just be too coincidental for you to go into labor now.” My due date wasn’t for another 2+ weeks, and I was really hoping my baby would stay in for at least another week because I wanted my aunt to be here to help out with my 3 year old daughter, Avery, while I was giving birth. I had enough contractions and low cramping to make me wonder if it could be an early labor sign. However, I still thought it would likely be days or more before real labor began.
All during that week (my 37th week of pregnancy), I had random contractions that seemed a little different from the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had all along. But I still thought it would most likely be another week or so before the baby came. Avery was born at 38 weeks, but the midwives said that didn’t necessarily mean this baby would come early too because my water broke at the beginning of labor with Avery, which made that labor a wild card.
By the afternoon and into the evening, the cramping and contractions became more frequent. After dinner I said to Adam, “I’m having so many contractions I’m really beginning to wonder…” Neither of us really believed at that point that I was in labor. I tried to ignore the contractions and got in bed with Avery to try to sleep. I didn’t want to go into labor at that moment! There was no one around to help with Avery. My friend in the neighborhood offered to help out if I needed it, but I didn’t want to call her in the middle of the night, and I didn’t think Avery would be happy for too long being just a few houses away from us and not understanding why she couldn’t come home. I thought, if I lie very still and fall asleep, the contractions will stop and we can deal with everything tomorrow. Well, a couple hours later, I was still awake, and still having somewhat regular contractions, so I got out of bed and came downstairs to ask Adam if I should call the midwife.
It was about 11:30 pm. I didn’t want to call Terri and wake her up, but I was having enough contractions that just felt “different” – lower down and crampy instead of the painless all over tightening of Braxton Hicks – that I thought I should at least give her a heads up that something was going on. She asked if she should come over then and I told her no because I wasn’t sure it was labor, and I was still hoping they would stop. She told me to try to sleep, and to call her if anything changed. I felt better after I called her. At least she knew something was going on with me, even if it turned out to be false labor. I got back into bed and tried to fall asleep.
I laid in the dark next to Avery and kept thinking, if I could just fall asleep, the contractions would stop. Mentally I was not ready to be in labor! I kept thinking maybe this was early labor and the contractions would taper off and I could fall asleep. The contractions weren’t painful, but they were noticeable enough that I couldn’t sleep, and they seemed to be coming pretty regularly, so around 3 am I decided to start timing them on my phone. Sure enough they were pretty regular, about a minute long and coming every 5 minutes. I started to think this was probably the real deal. Adam and Avery were both sleeping and I didn’t see any need to wake Adam yet so I just laid there timing contractions and practicing some hypnobabies techniques.
At about 5:30, I woke Adam up and told him I was pretty sure I was in labor and we were having a baby today. I think he still didn’t want to believe it because he just laid back down! I went downstairs and called Terri at about 6 am and told her things were still going. She thought it would be a good idea to come by and check on me and I agreed. Then I headed back upstairs and nudged Adam and told him Terri was going to head over soon. We went downstairs and I sat on the couch listening to my hypnobabies affirmations. I texted my mom: “looks like we’re going to have a baby today.” She couldn’t believe it. My sister had her baby less than 12 hours earlier! I was really worried about who would take care of Avery, but she said she would talk to another aunt who lives in Washington DC and ask if she could make the 3.5 hour drive down to help. Less than an hour later my aunt was in the car on her way to us. My mom also got on the first flight she could from Florida.
Avery woke up soon after we went downstairs, and she was pretty upset that she had woken all alone and mommy was in a weird mood on the couch. She cried and wanted to nurse, but I couldn’t handle that at the moment, so she just snuggled in my lap. My contractions weren’t painful, but they were getting more intense and I wanted to get Avery squared away so I could focus my attention on labor. I texted my neighbor friend and asked her if Avery could come over to her house for a while until my aunt got here, and then Adam got her breakfast and dressed her.
Terri and Jenn arrived at about 7:30. They checked in with me (took my blood pressure and listened to baby) and said things were moving along, and that my labor would probably pick up after Avery was out of the house. I stayed on the couch until Adam left with Avery, just listening to my hypnobabies tracks and relaxing. Then Terri said it would be a good idea to get up and putter around to keep my labor progressing, so I headed upstairs to brush my teeth, put in my contacts and pull back my hair. I paced around upstairs for a while, and sat in the recliner in our bedroom when things got intense. The whole time I listened to the hypnobabies, and really didn’t feel any pain. I could feel pressure and sometimes it was really intense pressure, but I just had to relax when I felt like it was getting overwhelming and I was fine. It was nothing like my labor with Avery, which was completely overwhelming, to the point where I felt out of my mind like a crazy person, yelling and asking for drugs every 10 minutes! My contractions with her came so fast I had no break in between to catch my breath and regroup. This time, I felt really relaxed, and was talking and feeling normal in between contractions. Adam came upstairs to hang out with me, but I was mostly doing my thing by myself.
Terri and Jenn came up every hour to check on me and baby. At one point I asked if I should be moving around more to speed things up, but Terri said no, just do what feels right and comfortable to you. I alternated between relaxing in the chair, sitting on the ball, and pacing around our bedroom. Whenever I relaxed in the chair for too long, I could tell things would slow down because I got so relaxed, so I would get up and move around to get things going again. Finally I said I thought I would like to get in the tub, so Adam went to talk to Terri and Jenn about getting it started. They had to fill it up with water, and then get it the right temperature. It was probably around noon.
After about 20 minutes, they came to get me and asked if they could check me to see how far dilated I was before I got in the water. Jenn said I was about 4 cm, but very stretchy. I was a bit disappointed because of how long I had been in labor, but I remembered my experience with Avery, when I went from 5-9 cm in an hour (and in fact it was only a couple more hours before the baby was born).
It seemed like it took forever before I could get in the tub. After it was full, they had to cool the water down to the right temperature with ice. The whole time I just sat on the edge of the bed. I felt like things were getting more intense and I really wanted to get in the tub and just feel weightless! Finally the temperature was right and I could get in the water! It felt wonderful!
Terri and Jenn left and Adam sat with me. I was having a hard time finding a comfortable position. I leaned back against the side for a while, then sat cross-legged, and then leaned over the side on my knees. I flopped back and forth trying to see which position felt best. My labor slowed down for a while, and the contractions stretched out enough that I was almost falling asleep in between them. I was feeling pretty tired from having been up all night. Before too long, things started picking up again, and getting really intense! After laboring quietly all day, I finally had to start vocalizing during contractions, and I stopped wanting to listen to hypnobabies. Terri and Jenn could hear the noise I was making and came back into the room, and they helped me along by reminding me to relax in between contractions. I was starting to feel overwhelmed and that I just couldn’t take any more! Adam said that means the baby is almost here. (Terri said afterwards that it was only about 45 minutes later that the baby was born).
I could feel that I was starting to push with each contraction, but I was totally in the moment, not thinking about what was to come next. All I could do in between was try to catch my breath before the next one came! I reached down to see if I could feel the baby’s head, but I still couldn’t feel anything. Terri and Jenn asked me to try changing position a couple of times to help the baby descend. That was so intense and made the contractions overwhelming! Then suddenly my water broke. I could feel a big pop, but it didn’t really register what had happened until I heard Jenn say my water had broken. The release was all that was needed for the baby to come flying out. Almost instantly I felt the “ring of fire”, and I reached down and felt his furry little head crowning! Terri and Jenn told me to try to slow it down to allow the tissues to stretch, but that was impossible. I had no control over the pushing, my body was just working on its own! One more contraction and his head was born, and then moments later, I felt the rest of him slide out. (It was 3 minutes from the time my water broke to him being born!) It was 2:32 on August 2, after about 15 hours of regular contractions.
My first thought was to collapse in exhaustion on the side of the tub, but I heard Jenn asking me to turn around and step over the cord so I could bring the baby up to my chest. Oh yeah, the baby!! I was still in a bit of a daze. I took the baby from her hands and he was tiny and floppy and new and perfect, and covered in a ton of vernix! I couldn’t believe it was over! I couldn’t believe I just birthed a baby at home, unexpectedly on that Friday!
As soon as I sat back against the side of the tub, Terri gave me an herbal tincture because of the bleeding. It wasn’t a hemorrhage; they guessed it was from the cord pulling on the placenta when Jenn unwrapped it from his neck (it was wrapped twice around). Then they started checking out the baby and listening to his heart. I was talking to him and rubbing him, but he was still blue and hadn’t cried yet. I started to get a bit worried, and I asked if he was ok. Terri said he was fine, his heart sounded good, but he just didn’t realize he had been born yet because he came into the warm water and was still submerged. He would open one eye a bit, take a look around, purse his lips, and close his eyes again; then he would take another peek out of the other eye. It was kind of funny! After a few moments they decided to give him a small puff of air to get him breathing well, and he coughed and sputtered and took his first good breaths. Finally he started to get some color and peek up at me with both eyes open.
Still holding the baby, they helped me climb out of the tub and onto the bed where I was able to hold him skin to skin. It was so amazing! I absolutely loved that I was at home, and that no one was coming to take the baby away from me, no one was going to poke him or bother either of us! I was so proud and relieved that I got the beautiful home birth I wanted.
Adam and I took some pictures and marveled at our new baby while Terri and Jenn started tidying things up. The placenta came out and they wrapped it up in a glass bowl next to us on the bed (Kieren was still attached to it). Then they left us alone for a while to bond with our new little soul. I was on cloud nine! Kieren was rooting a bit so I helped him get latched on and he had his first nursing. He was alert and stared up at me with his deep, newborn eyes. It seemed he was just relaxed and content being there. He never cried. Eventually Terri and Jenn came back, and Adam got to cut the umbilical cord. Then they did a newborn exam – with no crying at all on the part of the baby! He weighed 6 lbs 9 oz, so he was a bit smaller than my first baby, but also a week earlier!
They started emptying the tub and cleaning things up. When they left there was no clue that a birth happened in our home – they cleaned up everything and took the tub with them! Not long after they left, my aunt and Avery came back and Avery got to meet her baby brother for the first time. She was immediately in love with him, and excited to tell us about all the fun she had with Aunt Di Di all afternoon. Thank goodness my aunt was able to come down and help with Avery – that was such a blessing and a lifesaver for me! I was able to relax and not worry about my first baby because I knew she was in good hands. A couple hours later my mom arrived, and got to hold her second grandson, born less than 12 hours after her first grandson! I was so happy Mom was there for Avery – it helped so much that she had her Yaya to buffer the shock of her world becoming totally upended!
This birth was such an amazing and wonderful experience! I’m so grateful to Terri and Jenn for creating the space for me to have my perfect birth.