Click here to read the first home birth story from 2014.
I was due sometime around the latter half of March, 2017. When I started having contractions on the 10th, I was a little worried, but decided to move on with business as usual until I felt like labor was progressing rapidly. We visited Aaron’s sister for a bit and she cooked us a fabulous meal. I had plenty of energy and wasn’t concerned about the contractions much. I just felt like it would be a while. Well, it was a long while. I had not experienced Braxton Hicks contractions with either of my first two labors, so when they began to get further apart and less intense, I was a bit perturbed. They diminished completely during the night and the next morning I was a wreck, believing that my body had failed me.
Jump forward to March 13. Everything seemed to be in place. The house (the earthbag house, which has walls, a roof and windows now) was moderately clean. You can read more about our homestead here. We had plenty of snacks and juices in the fridge and I had crossed off all the things from my list that we would need for this baby. I felt normal, above average I suppose. The sun was shining and the temperature was around 65.
I did have an urgency to do some particular cleaning tasks, which should have been the first indicator, now that I think about it. There was nothing that could stand in my way of cleaning the front windows and shaking out the rugs. I used vinegar and scrubbed every inch of the front door window, as if my life depended on it, making sure to wipe every residual streak. Then I cleaned the front of the fridge. And wiped off all the chairs and tables. The mirror. The front of the stove. My 10 year old picked up on this energy and shook out the rugs for me, made his bed, and there, he ever so fastidiously placed each stuffed animal in its optimal position for comfort. Feeling very satisfied with myself, I rested on the couch. The same midwife as last time, Margarett Scott, came for our weekly prenatal visit. We discussed my mood and hormones and placental encapsulation. Then, we made an appointment for the following week and she left. I had an overwhelming urge to take a shower, so I did. In that shower I had a pang of anxiety. What if I go into labor now? My response to myself was: You are going to have to baby. You have to, and you will. Trust your body.
Why the anxiety? Let’s jump back now to the 10th. The evening of the Braxton Hicks contractions, I became very aware of all my fears about birth. With each contraction, a wave of anxiety washed over me. I kept imagining all the worst things that could happen. The baby could suddenly shift position, become transverse, and require an emergency C-section. The pain could be excruciating for endless hours, and then I’d want to go to a hospital and get an epidural, failing as the home-birth pioneer mama that I was 2 years ago. The baby could die. I could die. Aaron did his best to comfort me, but those of us with hyper-creative imaginations know how hard it is to turn off our thoughts, especially in bed at night. When I awoke with no more contractions, I actually believed I had stopped the labor with my fear.
A few weeks prior to this, (bear with me through all these time jumps) my good friend and doula, Jenna Mozingo, invited me to do a birth art session. The objective was to take the left brain technical-medical side of birth and blend it with the right brain creative energy and emotional side of the birth experience. Being a dominant right-brained gal, I knew I would enjoy this session, as I did. So she laid out a big sheet of paper and some chalk pastels. I was to breathe and relax, then begin drawing. I created a birth landscape, which you can read about in more detail here.
Basically, I did a desert landscape with a linear flow from left to right of the birth experience that I expected to have. This activity brought to the surface many of my fears about birth and Jenna and I were able to talk through them. The experience was lasting, just like when you read a great book and it keeps popping up in your daily activities and you think about it in a new light each time. It really was a beneficial “therapy” session.
The whole next day after the Braxton Hicks contractions I was exhausted, grumpy, and toting around a few extra pounds of disappointment. Margarett assured me that even though labor hadn’t actually taken place, each contraction was a step further for baby’s descent into to the birth canal, not wasted fretting. This was slightly reassuring.
Now, back to the night of the 13th. At around 7pm, I made tacos for dinner and noticed some contractions. Ok this could be it, or it could be those cursed fake contractions, I told myself. I downloaded a contraction timer app from the app store (my previous home-birth involved 3 pages of notebook paper). The app kept track of the time, duration, and frequency of each contraction with the push of a big red button. Thank you, modern technology! After dinner my contractions were 5 minutes apart and 1 minute long. They radiated around my back, whereas the Braxton Hicks were mostly just in front, in my uterus. I also had to urinate frequently and had tiny amounts of mucous seal and bloody show each time.
9pm. The fear and anxiety panged through my mind and made my palms sweat. I felt the contractions radiate through my back and knew that labor was beginning. I glanced over at my landscape birth art and reminded myself that I should trust my body. I had Julius put down the clean rug next to the barrel stove. I knew I would probably prefer to be near the ground as I had in my last labor. I spent equal amounts of time on all fours on the bed and on the rug. I kept telling myself in my head that each contraction was working to push the baby down. I even imagined those plastic replicas they have in women’s clinics where you can follow the path of the fertilized egg to the uterus via removable parts. Except the one I imagined was mine, inside of me, going through a process that it had gone through before.
11pm. I called Margarett after a tiny pang of anxiety where I imagined Aaron catching the baby. Not that I didn’t want him to, I just preferred to have Margaret’s experience in that area. Each contraction got more intense. The big red button on the contraction app actually gave me a sense of comfort. I’d push the button, brace myself on all fours, do some deep breathing while it worked the baby down, and then I’d look at the timer. 55 seconds. Only 5-10 more seconds I’d tell myself.
12:30am. Margarett arrived and began setting up all the birth paraphernalia. I could sense that Aaron felt he needed to help me more so I had him get some water hot and use a hand towel to wrap under my lower belly, while I was on all fours to distract from the pain of the contractions. In hindsight, the heat didn’t really do much, but having my partner there with me, present and supporting each contraction was extremely helpful.
1:30am. I could feel the baby moving lower. Each movement felt as natural as passing a stool. In fact, I felt I might do just that and of course, I had a bit of anxiety about it, expressed it in words, and was comfortingly reassured by my “team.”
2:00am. I wasn’t scared anymore at all. I knew what was happening and I knew it would happen very soon. I told the baby in my mind, this is you and me working together to do this. Here we go. The contractions were extreme at this point. I could barely get through them without a moan turning into a yell. Then I could feel more pressure and a slight urge to push. I can do this, I told myself in between the surges. Margarett asked where I’d like to be for pushing so she could position the birthing stool. I held so tightly to the bench and between clenched teeth, I let out a “right here near this bench,” as if it were a table keeping me afloat after falling off the Titanic. I can absolutely understand how birth partners’ hands get broken. At one point Aaron asked if I could grab more of the meat of his hand next time. Apparently his fingers were near breaking.
2:30am. I thought about the baby, I thought about Jenna and I talking about my fears. “Pushing!” I yelled. Aaron helped me onto the birthing stool. I thought about my cervix opening fully. I thought about Margarett’s words as she told me, “That a girl, that’s right. Breathe.” I thought about my husband’s cool hands and the cool rag on my forehead as he stood behind me and supported my back.
Then I pushed once and Margarett said, “Good, now breathe for the next one.” I knew it was coming and I didn’t want to have to push anymore than necessary. Don’t hold back, I told myself. We’re doing this.
2:52am. I pushed as hard as I possibly could. I used muscles I didn’t know I had. I could feel my legs shaking uncontrollably and I could feel Margarett’s support down there. “Here it comes” she said, “keep going.” I yelled, moaned, and screamed all at the same time. I felt extreme pressure which quickly turned into a ripping sensation and then warmth and a sudden feeling of emptiness in my lower belly. My head was nearly stuck in an arched back position and I realized I had been focusing on a darker colored ceiling slat, which quite possibly could have been on the “birthing stable” from the previous birth.
Margarett commented on the ridiculous predicament of the long cord which was wrapped around baby’s leg, then belly, then arm. She resolved that quickly and Aaron said, “He looks like me!” She handed him to me while I tried to catch my breath.
There is a feeling of euphoria which cannot be described in words. It is a sense of the utmost relief a person can experience. Perhaps the same feeling happens when someone just barely scratches the surface of death and then gets another chance at life. It is warm and comforting and mind-blowing. I looked down and saw his little bitty body and tears came and I loved him instantly. We did it, I said to him.
Luckily, the placenta pretty much fell out with no problems and I was helped to the bed, which felt like heaven. Julius (10yo) came in the room, after waking up from the yelling, and got to see Margarett hand him to me. He just kind of quietly observed all the commotion. Later he said, “I think he has too much skin.” Mason (2 and a half) slept through everything and got to meet his little brother the next morning. He was most happy that he gets to be a big brother too.
Now I must point out that Kyias Rowan was 6 pounds, 9 ounces, the smallest of my babies. This is one reason why this labor progressed so steadily. I will also point out that we live in an earthbag home consisting of 3 round rooms. We used Pi (3.14) in many of our calculations in the planning stages of building said home. It is quite fitting that Kyias was born on March 14, 2017 – Pi day. Ask any math nerd. It also happens to be Einstein’s birthday, I am told by a friend sharing this day.
Other reasons for the faster labor include; 1) Drinking a cup a day of Pregnancy Tea, which contains red raspberry leaf, said to be excellent for strengthening the uterus. 2) The birth art session really helped me to recognize my fears and to be better able to stop those negative thoughts when they arose. I told my fear to shut up! I continually gave myself positive affirmations. 3) Hubby gave me some side lying deep tissue massage and helped to stretch my pelvic muscles about halfway through labor. 4) Probably the biggest advantage came from my body’s muscle memory. This was my third pregnancy, so naturally, my body knows what it’s doing.
I am so proud of myself for completing the arduous task of bringing life into the world, again, from the comfort of my own home. It has been such an empowering test of wills to be able to do this. Homebirth: highly recommended for low-risk pregnancies. P.S. I am in no way against hospitals. I absolutely appreciate and value them for emergency and high-risk situations. I am blessed to have been able to birth at home and humbled that I am able to write about it.
Here’s to another successful H.O.M.E. Farm home birth! Happy Homesteading!