Finding out I was pregnant with our third child was a surprise. I was still nursing our second son, then 20 months old, and had just returned from vacation. I had been charting my fertility signs for a few years and knew there was a chance I had conceived, but fully expected the pregnancy test to be negative. But it wasn't. So much for travel delaying ovulation!
I believed in non-medicated births and our first two children were delivered at the hospital using the Bradley method. This time we didn't have insurance and decided to use a midwife. We looked into homebirth and birthing centers, and set up interviews with several midwives. after visiting a popular birthing center in our area, I realized I really wanted a homebirth.
I had chosen a midwife but still had one interview left that I'd forgotten to cancel, and decided to keep the appointment anyway. As soon as I drove up the driveway and Michele, the midwife, said "Hi!" I knew she was the one for me!
During the course of the pregnancy I was awed by the care I was receiving. I knew Michele truly cared about me and the baby, it was nothing like seeing an OB. She sheduled an hour for each appointment and encouraged my questions, never making me feel rushed. I felt as though she was a friend.
The most wonderful thing was that Michele was very supportive of nursing throughout my pregnancy, provided there were no problems. I was not ready to wean, neither was my son.
The pregnancy was routine. I took vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Beyond the usual pregnancy fatigue and some varicosities, for which I took extra vitamin E and white oak bark, I had no problems and continued to work.(I clean houses as a business). I felt wonderful!
Around the third month of my pregnancy, my milk supply began to decrease and I no longer felt the let-down reflex. My nipples were sore but I continued to nurse my son. Around the eighth month he began to nurse less, but this would soon change! The baby seemed determined to stay posterior until the last couple of weeks.
We had been planning a big birth-day party with friends. family, cake and lots of food. I read lots of birthing books, talked with my oldest son about what to expect since he would be present, and we discussed ways he could help me and what to do if it became too intense for his comfort. Sometimes I felt almost too prepared!
My due date, July 10th, arrived and I was feeling some contractions. It was a Saturday so we decided to go for a long walk with the kids. My contractions picked up, but stopped when we got back home. Later that afternoon my five-year old son and I went for another walk. More contractions. My son told me to "Walk through it Mommy" and "You're doing great"! Later at home, again things seemed to slow down.
I felt crummy that night, as if I were coming down with the flu, sure that labor was beginning.
The next two days followed the same pattern. By Tuesday morning I felt great again (not a single contraction) and resigned myself to let things move at their own pace. I told my husband to go to work, my mom came to the house and we decided to go downtown to eat and go to a few shops.
We walked into the Hallmark store. Five minutes later I had my first real contraction. I ignored it, thinking it was probably just hunger. I had several more in the store, then we walked to the restaurant. By the time our food arrived I realized I was in REAL labor and decided to head home, get in the tub and call Michele, who lived 30 to forty minutes away to give her, Patty, her assistant and Cynthia, her apprentice, time to get there.
Then I called Mark, my husband, to tell him to start heading home, and called my friend Jennifer, who was picking her mom up at the airport and would come as soon as she'd dropped her off at the house.
I quickly set up my birth altar. It included newborn and birth pictures of our two boys, a moonstone necklace that was a "birth-day" present from my mom, a small statue of the Egyptian goddess Bastet, a crystal given to me by my mom, incense in a holder, and a statue of a kitty I had made at the "Birthing From Within" seminar I had attended months before. Then there was a beautiful copper cross from my mother and several beaded bracelets made by my oldest son as a gift to the new baby.
Christine, another friend, was the first to arrive. Cynthia and Patty came next, around 2:15 p.m. I got out of the tub and asked for an exam which revealed I was at 2 cm. and about 75% effaced! Ugh. Just as I had feared. The baby was also at -3 station so I had a long way to go and technically I guess I wasn't even in "real" labor. Ha, it sure felt real!
The boys were excited, especially our oldest since he would be taking part. I tried to while Cynthia and Patty went downtown for coffee. Michele arrived at about 3:20 p.m. By then my back had begun to hurt with each contraction, so she and Christine applied gentle counter-pressure, which helped a lot. I was up and about, rocking in the living room, chatting with everyone and feeling just wonderful!
My Dad came by on his way home from work and stayed a while. At about 4:00 p.m. I was given a shot of antibiotic because the Group B Strepp test was positive. It hurt worse than the contractions, but was infinitely better than the continuous IV of antibiotic I'd had with my second labor!
Jennifer arrived and we exchanged presents. I gave her a tiny "birthing goddess" figurine, and she gave me a beautiful candle and a "mother goddess" figurine! We definitely think alike. These gifts went up on my birth altar. Mark and I went for a short walk, hoping to speed things up but it was too hot to stay out long.
When we returned my mom and Jennifer were busy preparing the birthday feast and the food smelled so good! I ate bites of toast, cantaloupe, watermelon, and drank Recharge to keep up my strength. Around 7:15 p.m. I was only at 3 cm. and still 75% effaced. I let my youngest son nurse, hoping that would kick labor into gear. It didn't. Oh well.
I walked around, sat in the rocking chair, and spent a good while on the birthing stool, talking to everyone in between contractions, basically trying to stay upright, then tried for a nap, then around 8:30 p.m. my mom took the boys to her house to help me relax.
Sometime around 9:00 p.m. Mark's sister and her fiancé arrived. Jennifer and I decided to go for another walk. I squatted, assisted by Jen, with each contraction. By this time I was moaning a little with each one. I was feeling tired, but was energized by the fact that our baby would soon be here. Besides I generally enjoy labor and birth anyway!
I tried to nap again after we came back, but that didn't work. My contractions had definitely picked up and lying on my side made them strong. Around midnight, Mark and his sister went to pick up my son. I really wanted him to see the birth and knew he would be disappointed if he missed out. He had prepared and studied so much during the pregnancy!
At about 1:00am I was still at 4 cm., so spent more time on the birthing stool or in a supported squat to help bring the baby down, then walked around and snacked to to keep up my strength. Everyone but Cynthia and Jen were sleeping. The house was peaceful and so happy, relaxing, definitely the antithesis of my hospital births. No monitors, nurses, shift changes, etc...
By 3:00 a.m. I had definitely settled into a labor pattern and was moaning with each contraction. The vocalization helped me relax. The contractions were stronger and closer together. At 3:45 a.m., Michele did another exam: I was 6 cm. and 80% effaced, baby was at -1 station! I was progressing! The bag of waters was bulging, so the baby still had some cushioning. My contractions were 2 1/2 to 3 minutes apart and getting stronger so I sat on the birth stool again, with Jen supporting me.
As a contraction was beginning to fade and my moaning quieted down, Jen said she felt a little funny (she was a couple of months pregnant herself). Suddenly she just passed out and began to fall backwards. I turned on the stool, just in time to catch her hands.
Michele rushed over, and put her head down between her knees. Jen was entirely limp. She quickly came to, looking pale and weak. She said hearing me moan and the intensity of the moment had taken her back to her previous labor, overwhelming her. Michele had her eat something and take a nap.
I got back in the tub and let my body sink deep into the water, moaning with each contraction. The water felt wonderful. I talked to Cynthia in between contractions while Michele listened to the baby's heart beat.
By 4:00 a.m. my contractions were very intense but my waters were still intact. I asked for another exam and it showed me to be about 8.5 cm. with a very bulging bag of waters.
Michele suggested I give a very slight push with the next contraction, and when I did my waters broke and the baby's head became fully applied to my cervix.
We had planned on having pictures and video of the birth, so I loaded our camera with film in-between contractions, told Patty where the coffee-making supplies were, helped Mark find more tapes for the video camera, told Jen where to find the film, and joked: "What was it about labor that I like?".
I began to feel a slight urge to push with each contraction, but that faded as the contraction receded. I lay down and immediately the contractions became incredibly strong. We decided to wake our son.
He lay down beside me, half dozing. I had about two contractions while I lay there, each time with a stronger urge to push that faded away with the end of the contraction. In the middle of the third one I felt an incredible POP! and had an intense urge to push. Unlike in my previous labors, the pushing felt excruciating and engulfing.
My son jumped up, grabbed his camera and began taking pictures. It was 5:20 a.m. and after a few pushes I could feel the baby move under the pubic bone. Mark's sister had heard me moaning and come downstairs just in time to see the head begin to emerge. The baby crowned while Patty and Cynthia supported my perineum and used warm olive oil to help it stretch. Mark supported and Jen took pictures while Michele video taped it all! Another two pushes and the baby's head was born. I reached down to touch it. Then the baby opened its eyes and looked around briefly.
My contractions had stopped, so Patty rubbed my belly to stir up another one. Mark gently pushed the baby's head down, then up. The baby slid quietly into his hands as tears welled in his (and everyone else's!) eyes. It was 5:42 a.m. on the morning of July 14th and our baby was born!
Mark brought our child to my belly and Michele asked what the baby was. He said he thought it was a boy, then, in a very excited and slightly shaky voice said, "It's a GIRL!".
Everyone cheered! With the exception of my mom and our son, we had all been sure the baby would be a boy. A few minutes later the placenta came out and the birth was complete. Our little girl lay on my tummy contentedly nursing, wrapped up in the same warm blanket that had swaddled me as a baby. She was beautiful. Everything seemed perfect. After a little while Jennifer cut the cord.
We admired our little one, Cynthia and Michele did the newborn exam while Patty gave me three stitches to repair a very superficial tear that ran along my old episiotomy scar.
Soon after my mom and our youngest son arrived to see little Tessie and my dad came by. The midwives packed up, exhausted, and I sat in bed with our little girl while our family and friends sat with us. It was so incredible to be at home, holding our new baby, and surrounded by people who love us!
A dose of Afterease tincture helped me with the afterpains.
That night after everyone left we settled in to sleep. Our son had neatly summed it up: "This is a good day because our baby is coming out!". And it was.