Today’s Daily Tip: Re-purpose items you already have to keep costs down.
Halfway through my third pregnancy, I made the decision to switch to a home birth midwife. I was unhappy with the care I was receiving from my doctor and the final straw came when he told me I “had no choice” about getting non-stress tests twice a week. (I had high blood pressure in my first pregnancy that had not been a problem since then. So once high-risk, always high-risk).
My pregnancy progressed nicely and I was eating and taking much better care of myself than I had in my first two pregnancies. I loved the prenatal care I was getting from my midwife and I was really looking forward to having doulas at my birth.
By 36 weeks, I was having regular Braxton Hicks contractions and began dilating quite a bit. I kept waiting for labor, not sure if I’d know it was happening (I had two prior inductions with Pitocin). As I entered my 39th week I was beginning to feel like these “fake” contractions were going to last forever and I would never go into labor.
Boy was I wrong.
One morning, after much deliberation about whether he should go in or not, my husband headed out the door for work. I put on a TV show, sat down next to my son and pulled my almost one-year-old daughter onto my lap (no, that’s not a typo).
Before the show was halfway done, it started.
The contraction was much stronger than the ones I had been having for the last few weeks and lasted longer. I picked up my cell phone and sent my husband a text message that said: “ow, ow, ow.” I then told him labor might be starting. (I found out later that he told his co-workers there was no way I could be in labor if I was still texting.)
He was wrong. My body quickly transitioned from the warm-up contractions it had been having all month to full-on labor. I got up and started walking around my house. After about 15 minutes, I called my husband and told him to get home (he’d only been at work for about 15 minutes, but he was about 30 minutes away).
Next, I called my midwife, who lived a few houses away from me. She asked how close together my contractions were and all I could say was, “very close.” I’m not very good at timing contractions by myself.
She told me to keep breathing and moving and that I was in labor and to call her when contractions were closer together. I called her back less than 30 minutes later.
After that, it was kind of a blur. My brother showed up (had I called him? I think so) to take my kiddos. (In hindsight, I wish they would have stayed. Thankfully, they were all present at my next birth). By the time he showed up, I was walking around the house, breathing between contractions and stopping to do a low moan during contractions.
I decided that some hot water might help, so I got in the shower. For a long time.
My husband and my midwife arrived while I was in there. Ian quickly got to work, moving furniture so he could set up our birth pool. While he filled it with hot water, my midwife checked on me in the shower.
“How’s it going?” she asked. “It HURTS!” I said. She smiled at me and said, “Ok then.” And I went back to moaning during contractions. She quickly checked the baby’s heart rate and stayed with me until my husband asked if I wanted to get in my birth pool.
It was the longest trip from my bathroom to our dining room I had ever taken. (Thankfully, I remembered that in my next labor and ran/waddled to my birth pool in between contractions). I stopped a few times to breathe/moan through contractions and finally got in the pool.
It was heavenly. But I still hurt.
I saw that my mom had shown up, but saw no sign of my doulas, who lived about 45 minutes away. I found a semi-comfortable position on my right side and parked myself there while the contractions came.
After several more contractions, I was done. This felt just like labor with pitocin – how come it wasn’t any better? Where was the break between contractions? Mine were right on top of each other. I finally asked my midwife to check my cervix – I needed some encouragement.
I was almost there. Just a little lip of cervix left to get out of the way. She suggested changing positions to see if it would help, so I got on my hands and knees and rested my head on the edge of the pool. My mom and midwife were near my head, one was stroking my hand. It felt so lovely. I felt the water move as my husband got in the pool with me – something he swore he was not going to do. I was so grateful to have him in there.
Shortly after, I felt the urge to push. It was strong, so I started pushing during contractions while moaning at the same time. My midwife asked if I was pushing and suggested I stop the moaning so I could concentrate on pushing. I tried that and it worked much better.
On the next contraction I felt a whoosh as my water broke. Instantly, I thought, “Oh no! This is when it got really painful in the hospital. I need to get her out NOW!” I pushed and remarked that it felt weird – I could only feel it in my butt. My midwife nodded, and reached in the water to support my perineum while I pushed. Much better!
I remember thinking, “Why had nobody done that in my other births? And hey, when did she get her gloves on? Woh, my birth kit is out!”
The support on my perineum made a huge difference. Around that time, my doulas walked in the door. They were pretty surprised to see I was pushing – I had called the midwife only two hours before.
I pushed again with my next contraction and felt her head come out, and like with my two previous births, Johnny Cash’s “Burning Ring of Fire” played in my mind. Nothing like singing a song in your head to get you through crowning.
My midwife had me pant a little after her head was out so I wouldn’t tear, then gave me the go ahead to push again with my next contraction. Gladly! I pushed and felt the wonderful relief of her shoulders, then her tiny body leaving mine.
My husband pulled our little girl out of the water and held her while I turned around. (That was a little tricky as I had to lift my leg over the cord so I could sit down). He handed her to me and I stared at my precious Ella May.
It was only three hours from that first “ow, ow, ow” contraction to the time she was born. (My midwife remembered that and showed up very quickly to my next birth).
I was amazed at what I had done, that I had been able to give birth intervention-free on my own terms. And I loved that my midwife always asked before checking Ella’s heart rate and didn’t check my cervix unless I asked her to. It was a wonderful birth. It was intense, transformative and left me feeling completely empowered.
I wouldn’t do it any other way.