I became a mom for the first time in October, 2013. I was blessed with an amazing birth team, a quick 8-hour delivery at home, and a healthy baby boy who arrived earthside at 40 weeks + 4 days. Fourteen months later, after a couple tries for baby number 2, we had decided to wait a few months before we tried again so that we could get some home renovation stuff done. Then, SURPRISE - a positive test the first month we stopped trying. I immediately called Elizabeth to set up an appointment and begin our journey together of achieving my second homebirth, and first water birth. (Brother was intended to be a water birth, but a bathroom break had quickly become something else and he was born in our bedroom.)
Morning sickness set in almost immediately. With big brother I was ill almost to the point of hospitalization; exactly 13 weeks of hell and then all was fine again. This time the sickness was less intense, but lasted more than half of my pregnancy.
I felt that my pregnancy was different enough this time around that it could be a girl, but was afraid to get my hopes up. We both wanted a little girl to complete our family and to name after a beloved grandmother, but the idea of a baby brother was almost as exciting. Some differences between my pregnancies besides morning sickness were the way I was carrying (my belly was low and wide with big brother, and was high and out with this baby), and my emotional levels (WAY more emotional/anxious this time). Finally on the day of the gender ultrasound, after 45 minutes of trying to get baby to shift and open his/her legs, the tech was able to capture a split-second shot that revealed - A GIRL! While big brother had been spread eagle during his gender ultrasound, little sister kept her legs crossed almost the entire time, and at the one point she uncrossed her legs she stuck her little hand right in front of the money shot. Thankfully we were the only appointment that morning and the tech waited her out.
The second half of this pregnancy was pretty similar to that of my first pregnancy: kidney stones, nerve and back pain, fatigue. I had intense back labor all throughout my first birth, and so I practiced the Spinning Babies exercises this time to encourage optimal positioning and to hopefully discourage back labor. Baby girl was head-down and on the left side for weeks and weeks, which I took as a great sign for the labor and delivery. I was optimistic and excited for sister to get here. I just had a feeling that she would arrive “early” unlike brother who took his time.
Another big difference between this homebirth and the first was the mental preparation. We took Bradley Method classes with brother and I remember not feeling much anxiety over the idea of labor, just nervous anticipation. However this time I knew exactly what I’d be doing again, and it was more difficult to mentally whip myself into shape. I made myself a couple of banners with birth affirmations to hang and look at while laboring, as well as gathered relaxing music and unscented candles to make the birthing atmosphere more comfortable. Thankfully I did this several weeks before my due date, as baby sister did indeed decide to arrive early.
Twelve whole days early.
On Thursday, August 6th I woke up around 5:00 a.m. completely unable to go back to sleep. I waddled to the kitchen for a snack and then decided to kill time by filling out some of sister’s baby book. I’d been telling The Husband for days to be ready to come home if I called; which I did again before he left for work that morning. Labor began gently, almost frustratingly so. With brother my labor shot off like a rocket; it burned fast and bright until baby boy arrived less than 8 hours later. With him I lost my plug and then my water broke in one big gush, all within a few hours. Then contractions were immediately five minutes apart and never stopped. I also had back labor the entire time. Sister came slower. My plug slowly presented itself over a few hours and no other symptoms began for some time.
I got brother up around 9:00 and made him breakfast like normal, then sat with him at the table and called Elizabeth and our moms while he ate. I had just gotten off the phone with Elizabeth when I stood up to take brother’s bowl to the kitchen, and my water started trickling down my legs. Instead of one big gush this time, it just trickled and even stopped when I sat on the toilet. Then light, irregular contractions began, about 5-15 mins apart. I called The Husband and told him to come home, still not positive that this was the real deal, even though we now had a definite deadline to beat.
It took several hours and a round of breast-pumping for my contractions to really begin. I had been sitting, leaning, and gyrating on my birth ball to try and encourage things along, but nothing worked like that breast pump! Contractions jumped to 4-5 minutes apart, although they were still manageable. Elizabeth arrived about this time, and then the family who had been invited. It was so nice being able to chat and laugh between contractions, something I was not able to do with brother because of the back labor. So having zero back labor this time was definitely a blessing, but also made it hard to gauge where I was with labor because it felt so different to me.
Hours passed with a steady growth in the intensity of the labor, but very little physical progression. Sister’s head was at an odd angle, making my body labor harder but keeping me from dilating and effacing efficiently. Elizabeth and The Husband were ever-present and wonderful. Elizabeth suggesting different positions and calming me with her presence, the husband staying close just in case I needed anything of him. With brother’s labor, The Husband stood over me giving counter-pressure literally the entire time. He was totally involved and I could not have done it without him. This time I didn’t want or welcome his touch. I was very internal throughout the middle to end of this labor and wanted very few distractions, especially touch. Even so, he never left my side and was a rock of encouragement when I needed it.
Finally at around 10:00 p.m. or so, Elizabeth suggested leaving the birth pool to try and rest for awhile. Then we moved to laboring on the toilet for 30 minutes to see if that would help move things along. It didn’t. Time to change tactics. If we could get sister to back up just enough to reposition her head, things might go smoother and more quickly. At this point I would’ve tried anything. Elizabeth had me lay bottom-up in bed with my chest touching the bed, and labor like that for 30 minutes. Not. Fun. But like I said, anything to get sister out and in my arms at that point, I would’ve tried. Enduring those 30 minutes have convinced me that I am a warrior and can accomplish anything.
Finally, blessedly, and so so thankfully, the 30 minutes were over and Elizabeth had me flop to my side to rest. With brother I never had to consciously push him out. My body took over, it went fast, and I was simply along for the ride. I don’t even recall any pain, just immense relief. With sister, by this point, I’d pretty much given up the hope that any part of this would be easy. I’d resigned myself to the conflicting thoughts that A) I really don’t want to do this anymore (transition phase), and B) I’m going to have to fight to get my girl here.
So imagine my immense surprise when, after I flopped to my side, during the very next contraction my body took over once again.
Not as bad laying down like this.
Body taking over.
Feeling my baby crown.
Holy crap this is happening.
Elizabeth: “Whoever wants to view the birth better get in here!”
The slight burning.
Here’s her head.
Two more involuntary pushes.
Elizabeth: “Reach down and grab your baby.”
“Yes you can.”
Oh my God.
I love you.
I love you.
I did it.
Thank you, God.
I love you.
Damnit, I still didn’t get my water birth.
I couldn’t believe it. The relief was so supreme it was comical. Twelve days earlier than expected, after keeping me awake for 23 hours, 8 of them deep in hard labor, little sister came with all the flair and drama she could muster, and we couldn't love her more.
I am so thankful for Elizabeth and her assistant Kristen. I shiver to think of how my story may have been different in a hospital setting. Not able to move. Pressure to have surgery. Feeling hopeless and disconnected. Without a doubt I would've succumbed to negativity and the defeat of my birth plan if not for these ladies and their care. They, and those in their profession, are a blessing beyond measure to women and to the institution of motherhood. Love you ladies!
Mom of Everett and Marlo, both born at home with Elizabeth