I can’t believe it – she’s finally here. 16 months ago, we set out to conceive a daughter and birth her at home in a tub, and on the morning of April 21, 2011, our dream finally came true.
This is my long, first hand perspective of the events. The live-blogged version is available for viewing here. There are time-stamped updates, pictures, and short video clips available on the live blog version, and I did not see any of that before I wrote my own version of the story.
Here are the quick stats:
Jolene Estelle, born at home in water at 8:22 am, April 21st 2011.
9 lbs, 9 oz – 21 & 1/4 inches long – 37.5 cm head – APGARS 9 and 9
- 2 Certified Nurse Midwives
- 1 Assistant Midwife (midwife in training)
- 1 Doula
- 1 Person Documenting
- 1 Awesome Husband
- (Yes, that’s 6 people total – bigger than most wedding parties.)
If I had tried to script out the ideal birth experience for me, I never could have planned it out as well as the birth actually went. I feel so incredibly lucky for how the entire thing played out. There’s not one single thing I would have done differently, and if I could bottle a birth like that and sell it, I’m sure I’d make a mint.
I complained and complained about the prodromal (start/stop) labor I had that started two weeks before the birth. It was terribly frustrating, and made me very nervous that I could lose my homebirth. But in hindsight, my body gave me the best gift in the world, and that was the gift of making it to near full dilation without ever experiencing a painful contraction.
On Wednesday, April 20th, I was 41 weeks gestation, and told myself that I was absolutely going into labor that day – come hell or high water – I was making it happen. I just knew it was time. My body had tried to start labor more times than I could count, and I really believed that my very full, very strong amniotic sac was the only thing stopping the show. I believed that my baby was ready, and I was ready, and it was TIME. I had my husband stay home from work, I got a chiro adjustment to make sure that the baby and my pelvis were lined up correctly, and I took a 3-hour afternoon nap. When I woke up, we sent the kids off to Grandma’s for the night, ate some dinner, and set out to stir up some natural oxytocin. I called my midwife and told her what was going on so she could be prepared if things got rolling.
At 5:30 pm, we had some really great sex, and then hooked me up to the breastpump to keep my nipples stimulated. I started contracting pretty regularly at 6 pm, and kept contracting until I took a shower around 9 pm. The contractions felt like they had for weeks – relatively painless, yet a little uncomfortable. The shower stopped the contractions for about 20 minutes, but when I got back on the pump, they started up again.
At 9:45 pm, I called the midwife and asked for her opinion. I told her that I had been having contractions about 4 minutes apart for over 3 hours. Even though I knew I wasn’t really in “active” labor, I felt like I needed her to come over see what was going on. She agreed and offered to come over to check me because she thought perhaps I was making more progress than I suspected. I was so relieved that she chose to come even though things didn’t seem imminent because I really needed someone professional to be here with me. I felt like I could easily go to bed and stop the contractions if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to do that. I was ready to do whatever it took to make sure my body stayed on board with labor this time. Being postdates already meant that if things went on much longer, I could risk ending up with a hospital induction, and that was the last thing I wanted. She said I had another week before that would happen, but I didn’t want stop the great momentum that I had going, plus I was scared that if I made it stop, I might not get it started again before time was up.
Around 10 pm, my midwife was on her way, but the minute we hung up the phone, my contractions stopped completely. After about 20 minutes of zero contractions, I got so, so angry. I called up my doula and ranted about my frustrating body and how I knew the midwife was going to come over to find I was totally not in labor and it was a waste of her time. I know that sometimes labor can slow down when we get nervous or new people are brought in, but in that moment, I didn’t care about what I knew – I was just mad at my body.
At 11 pm, I was back on the pump when the midwife came in. I told her the contractions had completely stopped and the pump wasn’t working like it had before. But, she wasn’t bothered by that, and told me she was so confident that the baby was coming tonight, that she had called the other midwife on the drive over and told her to come over too. After a little chatting, we both decided that maybe my bag was just in the way, and perhaps an artificial rupture of membranes was the only thing I needed to get the job done. I had been so scared of my bag being broken because I feel like it is a fairly risky intervention, but at that point I agreed that if we found my cervix to be favorable, I was okay with AROM to get my baby on the outside safely. If I stayed pregnant much longer, I’d probably be faced with a Pitocin induction in the hospital, which seemed like a much less safe option.
At 11:30 pm, she checked my cervix, and found that I was 7 cm dilated and the bag was bulging during a contraction. We were right – my bag just didn’t want to get out of the way. I had such a strong sac, and so much fluid, that the baby was basically just able to float at -1 station, and her head wasn’t applying enough pressure to the cervix. The midwife told me to call the rest of my birth team and have them come over. She didn’t want to break my bag until everyone was there because she thought labor would go very fast after that.
At 12:45 am, everyone was in place, but my contractions had miraculously picked back up, so nobody seemed in any hurry to break my water, or my rhythm. We all sat around talking and joking and having a great time. Contractions were still not painful at all – just uncomfortable. I really just felt a ton of pressure when I was standing. It was nothing at all like any labor I’d felt before.
After about an hour I did a hydrogen peroxide cleanse, which was something I chose to do as a precautionary measure because I had declined GBS testing. More often a midwife will recommend doing a wash with Hibiclens©, but I had mentioned to my midwife on an earlier visit that I got a yeast infection the few times I tried douching when I was younger, and she said that Hibiclens© could do the same thing to me. She recommended hydrogen peroxide as a safer option with no risk of giving me a nasty postpartum yeast infection.
A little while after the cleanse, we crawled in bed to break my water, but we got a fun surprise instead. I was 8 cm dilated, but the baby had tucked her hand up above her head and was basically high-fiving my cervix. The midwife was actually able to feel all of the baby’s fingers and actually touch in between each of them. She said it was one of the coolest things she had ever felt! We decided that, with Jolene’s hand in the way, breaking my water wasn’t a good idea. If we broke the bag with her hand near my cervix, her whole arm could slip down (necessitating a hospital transfer), or she might be born with a nuchal hand (a hand by her face) which could cause me a quite a bit of tearing. Instead, they instructed me to do some pelvic inversions until the baby got her hand out of the way.
I got on my hands and knees for the inversion and joked with my doula and photographer about the fact that I was 8 whole centimeters dilated and not feeling a bit of pain. I really could not believe it was true. I felt like everyone had to be lying to me – that maybe I was really 2 cm and they told me I was 8 just to throw me a little bone. It just didn’t seem possible to be that far along while cracking jokes through each contraction. Honestly, they were absolutely not painful at all. In my last two labors, I was screaming for an epidural at 2 cm dilated, so this was completely bizarre and uncharted territory for me.
After another hour or so, we checked me again and found that Jolene cooperated, and her head was the only thing up against my cervix. The midwife put a tiny tear in the bag to start a slow leak. We all assumed that as soon as I was ruptured, with being 8-9 cm dilated at that point, that things would pick up at lightening speed. That was actually a huge fear of mine because I’ve seen that happen, but that’s not what happened to me at all. Because the leak was small, I let go of just enough fluid to get her head applied, but not enough to make things feel out of control. All I felt was tons and tons of uncomfortable pressure, but contractions still weren’t painful.
I got in the tub and the pressure was instantly relieved, too much actually, because things slowed down again. After a little while, I asked everyone to leave the room so I could make out with my husband to try to get things to pick up. Then, I got a little overheated in the tub and decided to go sit in the boys’ room on a stool where it was about 15 degrees cooler. While I was sitting there, I decided that I needed to sleep. It was around 5 am, and I felt so sorry for my whole team who was awake in the living room. When I asked the midwife if it was okay if I napped, I thought she was going to tell me that it wasn’t, but she actually encouraged it. She told me several times that she trusted my body, and I loved hearing that. It was one of the very best things anyone could have said to me. Everyone got to take a little nap while I climbed in bed with John and fell asleep.
I woke up from my blissful nap at 6:45 AM when I started feeling a little rectal pressure, along with more fluid pouring out. Again, I still wasn’t feeling any pain at all, which actually scared me because I thought maybe labor had stopped all together and that I had made a terrible choice to have my bag broken.
I woke John up and went back to the stool in the boys’ room. I sat there and confessed that I was scared that my body was never going to finish labor and that breaking my bag hadn’t worked. Shockingly, within 5 minutes of saying that, I had the hardest, most painful contraction that I’ve felt since my last labor. A few minutes later, I had another one, and I realized that it was business time. We woke everyone up, and my midwife told me to try to handle as many contractions as I could on the stool, and we’d move to the tub when I felt the urge to push. Two contractions later, I was yelling for the tub, and couldn’t talk at all by the time they put me in. Pretty soon, the contractions were Holy-Mother-of-Crazy-Insanity™, and I quickly doubted my ability to handle them. There was nothing I could do but hang on to the edge of the tub and moan/grunt through them. I felt like I was screaming bloody murder, but everyone said that I wasn’t screaming at all and that I was handling each contraction beautifully. I was bearing down through contractions, but it felt like I was just pushing against pain and that it couldn’t possibly be moving the baby down. Then John told the midwife that I’d had an anterior lip in my last labor so he wondered if I was pushing against another one of those. She reached in to check me from behind and said confidently that the baby was +2 station and I was completely dilated with nothing in the way. I was shocked to hear that the baby was already that far through, and it gave me all the confidence I needed to believe that I could keep pushing until she was out.
At one point, I remember a hard contraction that had me crying “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” but as I started to lean into it, I changed to saying “I can, I can, I can” until it was over. When I began to feel her head crowning, I said something to my husband like “Oh my god, John, there’s a baby coming out of me!!!!!!” It was the most unreal feeling I’ve ever experienced. I reached down and felt her head only a few centimeters inside my vagina. I was doing it – really doing it!
Pretty soon, that ring-of-fire came blazing onto the scene, and a midwife shouted out that the baby was crowning. Everyone was encouraging me, and oh holy hell, I was in so much pain that all I could do was follow it down and push it out of my body. I could feel every little bone in her body, and even though it was painful, it was an unbelievably magical feeling. I felt so connected with this person emerging from me. As her head was crowning, I stayed pushing as hard as I could until I heard everyone say that her head was out. Since I was on my knees facing away from the midwives, I couldn’t see what they were doing, but apparently they were all holding my butt down so I didn’t pop out of the water. The baby needs to stay fully emerged in water until she’s completely born because babies take their first breath as soon as any part of them hits air.
The shoulders were actually much harder to get out than I thought they’d be, and I needed an extra big push to pass those through. I was scared for a second that maybe they weren’t coming as easily as they should, but the midwives said later that there was no sign of dystocia and it didn’t take any longer than it normally would. As soon as I felt all her little bones and flesh pass out of me, I flipped around as fast as I could and scooped my brand new baby up out of the water. It was 8:22 am.
I remember crying, “I did it! I did it!” and then immediately checked between her legs to see if she was still a girl. All the sudden it hit me – I got my dream. I had a healthy baby girl in a tub in my bedroom after an almost completely painless labor: I am the luckiest person alive.
After the cord stopped pulsing, John cut it, and put the baby on his chest so that I could take care of delivering the placenta. Everything came out exactly as it should, and I lost very, VERY little blood (only 200 cc’s during the birth, and about another 100 in the few hours postpartum.) It’s quite normal for a mom to lose around 500 cc’s during the birth, so I was on the very low end of the spectrum.
After that, they checked me for tears, and I only had a tiny 1st degree tear on one side of my labia. No perineal tearing, yay! They said my little labial tear didn’t necessarily need any stitching, but since I have other kids to take care of and can’t stay off my feet for that long, they recommended that I get one little stitch to help it out.
About an hour after the birth, the boys came home to meet their baby sister, and fell in love with her immediately. Then, the midwives did the newborn assessment and John got to be the one to weigh her. We found that she was a healthy 9 lbs, 9 oz and just over 21 inches long. She also had a head circumference of 37.5 centimeters, which is quite large – and yet – I pushed that head out of my body without so much as a Tylenol. THAT. RULES!
Over the next two hours, they fed me, monitored my vitals, and cleaned up the house. By the time the midwives left around 12:30 pm, I was resting comfortably, and the house was right back to normal. I’ve gotten so many questions from people over the months wondering about the mess of homebirth, but I can honestly say that once the midwives were done, there was no sign at all that a birth had just taken place in my bedroom.
The experience was more perfect and blissful than I ever could have planned or hoped for. I had a team of 5 women surrounding me with love, professional support, and encouragement in all the right ways, and a husband who stayed 100% with me in the birth process and was the best birth partner anyone could ask for.
So many people wondered and worried whether having a house full of people would distract me, or if my birth would be negatively affected by the live blogging that was going on, but honestly, it was absolutely, 100% perfect for me. Once we turned on the live blogging, I never thought about it again. I put it completely out of my mind, and Erica (my photographer) did an amazing job of producing that whole show without ever letting it enter my conscious birth space. Every person on my birth team made themselves useful, and kept themselves out of the way when they weren’t needed. I wouldn’t change a single thing, and I can hardly believe I got lucky enough to have a birth that was so incredible.
I had my homebirth. I’ve got my Jolene. I still can’t believe it’s real, but everything was absolutely perfect.
I’d like to give an extra huge thanks to every member of my amazing birth team, along with Brio Birth, who sponsored the Live Blog event and made it possible for a whopping 18,000 readers from all corners of the world to watch my birth story unfold live as it was happening. I’m so touched by everyone’s support and encouragement through this process. Thank you.
Here’s the video from pushing through delivery.
And here’s the photo slideshow!