Two weeks ago I had the most amazing experience. I gave birth to my fourth child. At home. In the water. With no pain medication. I did it, even though I didn’t think I could! Initially I chose home birth because of the cost. Once I met my midwife, Richelle Jolley, and got more involved with natural and home birth, I started to become passionate about it and had quite the different experience from what I had had in the past with OB’s and hospitals. I”m not sure I could ever go back to having a baby in a hospital now that I’ve seen the difference a midwife can make. Also, once I did natural childbirth, I felt that I could literally do anything. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I’d love to share it with you.
I have historically had very fast labors (7 hours with the first – induced, 2 hours with the second, and 4 hours with the third – induced), so my midwife and doula were constantly on alert to hurry to my house since I had been in preterm labor for about 6 weeks and on modified bed-rest and then up and going again once I reached 37 weeks (you can read all about it here on my blog). My husband and I even learned how to deliver a baby on our own in the event that the baby came before the midwife arrived. I hadn’t gained much weight during my pregnancy (about 17 pounds) and I was a little worried that there might be something wrong with the baby or that he was very small.
August 2, 2013 was a beautiful, warm sunny day here in Orem, Utah. I woke up around 9 am as I heard my kids shuffling around the house and eating their cereal. I decided to get up and go give them hugs. I got to the bedroom door to open it and I felt a gush of water coming out of me. I yelled to my oldest daughter who is 12 and asked her to go find her dad and tell him my water broke. I ran into the bathroom. I wasn’t positive if it really was the water that broke or not. Then a big gush came out and didn’t stop “leaking” and I knew my water had really broken this time. We sent our other 3 kids off to play with cousins and focused on the impending labor. At this time, I wasn’t having any contractions or other signs of labor, but since we were worried about things going really fast, my midwife decided to come to our home right away. Her assistant Liz arrived first, then my doula Laurel, Richelle the midwife was next, and then another assistant Katrina came last. When my midwife arrived, she checked me and I was dilated to a 5. I was dilated to a 4 for several weeks before so a 5 wasn’t surprising to any of us under the circumstances.
I had a huge burst of energy and was on a serious labor high. I was going around cleaning the house, picking the garden, making phone calls and other arrangements, and getting food out for the birth team when they arrived. We filled up the birth pool and got everything ready in case things happened fast. I still wasn’t having many contractions and the ones I had weren’t very painful or long.
Once everyone arrived, my midwife observed me for a few minutes and said she thought it was going to be a while and that she was going to run some errands close by and that she would pick up some colloidal silver at the health food store to ward away infection since my water had broken and it looked like things might take a while. I was a little disappointed because I had it in my head that things were going to go super fast and by the time the birth team got to our house, I’d be pushing out a baby… However, my life rarely goes exactly as planned, so I had some patience to learn! Once my midwife headed out, Liz suggested we watch Babies, a movie that follows 4 babies from around the world from birth to young toddlerhood. It was totally amazing and I’m so glad we watched it! I highly recommend it as part of a birth plan or even to watch when you are pregnant. I watched while bouncing on a birth ball. I don’t think I had one contraction during the whole movie!
After the movie, Liz suggested we go for a walk around the neighborhood. I was anxious to get out of the house, so we went for a walk and visited a few neighbors, including one who just had a baby. I had several big contractions while we were out on a walk and my water started leaking out of the large pad I was wearing and starting runing down my legs so we rushed home, worried that things were kick-started now. We came home and had some snacks to keep our energy up.
My midwife came back suggested another, longer walk. I was having strong contractions while we were walking but once we came home, they tapered off. We went on a third walk and I didn’t make it very far as contractions were coming hard and fast. I was getting quite sunburned with all of this walking around outside! My midwife checked my cervix again late in the afternoon and after my husband and I had lunch. I was dilated to a 6. At this point, I have to say I was quite disappointed that this labor was going so slow. I had anticipated a quick and easy labor and this was turning out to be easy but not quick! Everyone sat around and talked for a while, and I tried to stay on my feet to keep the contractions going and to let gravity do it’s job.
About 7:15, Richelle suggested that we needed a change of pace as she felt labor had stalled. Either the birth team could leave for a while, or we could all go out to dinner together. I panicked about the birth team leaving, so I decided on the dinner, but I wanted another cervical check before we left. I was dilated to 7. We went off in our minivan with the whole birth team to Zupas and got salads. When we were in line I was having some contractions and I yelled at the guy making my salad because I said no milk products, and he put a milk-based salad dressing on my salad and then had to throw it away and he gave me a dirty look because I didn’t stop him from putting on the dressing soon enough. Don’t mess with a pregnant woman!
We sat down to eat around 7:45 and I had a few bites and then started having really strong contractions. They felt like I was getting run over by a truck. My doula and midwife sprang into action doing counter-pressure for the first time in my labor. My midwife squeezed my hips and my doula did counter-pressure/acupressure on my hands. I wouldn’t have been able to get through those contractions without them! It was so amazing that the entire birth team came together with every contraction to support and help me. I asked later if people at the restaurant were staring at us and they said they didn’t think anyone noticed what was going on! I ate a little more of my salad and then decided it was time to go back home around 8:15.
We got home close to 8:30 and all I wanted to do was get in the warm pool and listen to the hypnobirthing scripts on my Ipad. My wonderful husband got in with me and helped with counter-pressure. My husband was so patient and kind through out this long, marathon day. He spent the whole day holding my hand and supporting me and going with me and doing whatever was needed. I felt very loved!
I wasn’t sure what the best position was, so I sat down for a while and during every contraction, my midwife and doula got soaked from supporting me in the pool. I was having a hard time feeling comfortable in any position, so Richelle suggested squatting in the water. As soon as I squatted, I could feel the head descending. The next 10 minutes were really intense and I was SCARED out of my mind. I had no idea what to expect since this was my first natural childbirth. I could get through the contractions relatively well, but I panicked when the baby was coming down through the birth canal. I thrashed in the pool and got into a few different positions and didn’t know what to do (my midwife did not realize this was my first natural birth for some reason). I thought I would instinctively know what to do, but I didn’t. The head came and I screamed my head off. Get it out! My midwife just looked at me very calmly. I continued to scream “What do I do now???” She said very calmly, “Well, Rachel, you need to push.” I never felt the urge to push on my own. One small push and he was out. Born at 9:05. The only strong labor I felt was about an hour long. Not bad. I guess I did get my quick labor, in a way.
They put the baby on my belly in the pool. He coughed a little to clean his lungs and then just lay peacefully in my arms for a whole hour while still connected to the placenta and the pulsing umbilical cord. He never cried, just laid there peacefully on my belly while my husband poured warm water over him from the pool. I expected to be grossed out being in the pool with all that blood and birth goo, but I wasn’t and my husband said he wasn’t either. I was worried that I pooped in the pool, because apparently I had pooped during all of my other labors. As the baby descended, I totally felt like I was pooping as he was being born. I asked Laurel, “Did I poop during the labor?”. She said, “Yep, you pooped a baby, but you didn’t poop in the pool!” I guess I did poop a baby, or at least that’s exactly what it felt like.
Christopher (I have changed his name for privacy reasons) was born at 9:05pm and was 7 pounds 15 ounces (not bad for 38 weeks!) and 19 inches long. After he was born, I started having monster after-birth contractions. Apparently, they are longer and more intense with each successive birth. I wasn’t expecting this since my other labors were medicated and I didn’t feel them. I think these after-pains were the hardest part of the whole labor for me. They were almost worse than the labor pains and everyone was busy taking care of the baby and other post-birth things. I went into a bit of shock and was in a lot of pain at this point. I wasn’t aware of anything except the pain. I remember asking if the baby was ok, because he wasn’t crying, and everyone assured me he was just fine.
My midwife gave me 4 Ibuprofens and a placenta smoothie. I was very tired, sore, and mostly out of it – not aware of anything but the after-pains. I thought I might faint or just waste away. I could hardly think. Richelle suggested carrying me out of the tub and onto the bed. I wanted to get there myself, so I stood up and then quickly realized I wasn’t going anywhere on my own. I was very faint! So, everyone took a part of me and lifted me up, literally. Those strong, capable hands all worked together to make my birth meaningful and special and I loved those hands!
After getting out of the tub, the midwife looked to see if I had torn. I had, and needed a few stitches. She numbed the area and then stitched me up and suggested that I nurse my baby.
We called a friend who happens to be a lactation consultant and lives in our neighborhood to come help me get a good latch. She came and he latched on well and nursed for a half hour or so.
My husband and I got situated in bed. I was still a little out of it and very very tired. The midwife and the team cleaned up everything from the birth and I mean EVERYTHING. The towels used were folded on the dryer, the pool was cleaned, drained and put away, the Chux pads and anything used during the labor and birth were probably taken with them to dispose of because I didn’t even see them in my trash can. They left the house spotless. They all left at 1:30 am and in my stupor I asked, “Why are they all leaving, I’m still having contractions?” My husband then sweetly answered, you had the baby 4 and a half hours ago. It’s time to go to sleep now… I rested but I don’t think I slept a wink that night. I held my baby and stared at him all night long.