OUR RAINBOW BABY
This is the birth story of our rainbow baby Jonah Eugene, born in the water at home on October 12th. This pregnancy and birth was special to me for a couple reasons; one being that this was my last pregnancy and two because Jonah is our rainbow baby. Two years ago in November of 2019, I had an unexpected pregnancy and miscarriage that left me feeling like there was meant to be one more in our family. When we got the news in early 2021 that we were expecting a baby in October, we were overjoyed. I knew right away that I was going to decorate his or her nursery with rainbows and butterflies. I wanted all things colorful, hopeful, bright and full of light after the dark and depressing year that was 2020.
BIG FAMILY CHANGES AND THE HOME BIRTH DECISION
As it turns out, 2021 has been a year of big changes for our family. This summer we sold our beloved Lancaster City row home and moved just outside the city to a home surrounded by big trees in a quiet neighborhood. I know it sounds silly, but I remember when we were touring the home we ended up buying I said to my husband, “we can fit a birthing pool right here in our bedroom!”. At the time I was still undecided about a home birth. My first two babies were born in the hospital and though I had mostly positive experiences and both were unmedicated vaginal deliveries as I desired, I wanted to try something different with this last birth (you can read our second child’s birth story here). It seemed only fitting to christen our new home with the birth of Jonah and of course because I am a mermaid at heart, I really wanted a water birth.
My other main motivation for the water birth was to help me relax and not tear when it came time to push the baby out. In the hospital it was very clear that my doctor preferred me to push lying flat on my back and I ended up with a 3rd degree tear with my first birth and a 2nd degree tear with my second birth. I’m sure there were likely other factors involved in my tearing but I really wanted to try the water birth for that reason and that wasn’t an option in the hospital.
LABOR FALSE ALARM
Fast forward to the night of my due date, October 7th, when I woke up with my usual Braxton Hicks contractions and some back pain. My mom happened to be staying overnight and I noticed that the contractions seemed to be happening consistently so we started timing them. After an hour or so I notified the midwife and my doula that they were happening consistently but didn’t seem to be intensifying at all. To me it just didn’t feel like real labor and I was so tired so I decided to go back to bed to see if the contractions would go away and they did. False alarm!
For the next several days I was in a real depressive slump. I felt apathetic about wanting to give birth or try to get labor going. I just wanted to sleep forever and forget about the world. I was second guessing everything and doubting myself. I felt too old, too tired, too weary to endure another unmedicated labor and delivery. When I imagined giving birth in our bedroom, I did not feel excited. I just felt blah. I realized I had been carrying a lot of fears and doubts with me throughout the pregnancy. With all of our moving craziness and my daughter starting kindergarten, I really had not been able to mentally or physically prepare for this pregnancy and birth the way I had for my others.
During the last couple weeks leading up to Jonah’s birth I read bits of the Hypnobirthing book and tried to get in some prenatal yoga. I am a firm believer that the mind has intense power especially when it comes to the mind body connection in giving birth. I realized I needed to start thinking positively about the birth and stop doubting so much. So after a depressing rainy weekend when Monday rolled around I decided it was time to shift gears. I took the kids on a walk to the park and did some curb walking (said to initiate labor). We ordered Mexican food for dinner (spicy foods do the trick they say!). And I decided to paint another arch accent wall in our family room (start an involved project and you’ll go into labor they say). I also did many other things of course like eat dates and drink pregnancy tea, eat a pineapple core, etc.
JONAH’S BIRTH DAY
Monday night, October 11th, I finished painting the accent wall around 11 p.m. and went to bed (FYI I later decided I hated the accent wall so we have since painted over it and now refer to it as the ‘labor arch’). As per usual I woke up a couple hours later needing to pee and had my usual Braxton Hicks accompanied by lower back pain. Usually the back pain would go away once I got up and used the bathroom and went back to bed but this time it did not.
Around 1 a.m. I decided to get up and walk around the house and start timing contractions. At this point they were not very intense and I was able to talk and breathe through them just fine. After timing them for an hour and seeing that they were consistently 3-4 minutes apart and lasting about a minute, I texted my midwife and doula. I told them no rush because they weren’t intense yet but wanted them to know they were consistent. I was so worried about making everyone drive out to our house for another false alarm.
My midwife Marielle of Woman Kind Midwifery was the first to arrive around 3 a.m. She got her things set up and asked if I wanted her to check my dilation. I said yes I wanted to know but was also nervous that I wouldn’t be that far along. Meanwhile Dave had the birthing pool inflated and was starting to fill it (very slowly via hose hooked up to our bathroom sink). The contractions were still consistent and I was still able to walk and talk in between them but definitely had to stop and focus on my breathing more as they were coming.
THIS IS WHEN MY MIND WAS BLOWN:
Around 3:30 a.m. Marielle checked my dilation and to my utter surprise she said, “Yep, you’re going to have a baby soon. You’re 9 centimeters”. I cried tears of relief and joy in that moment because I was so astonished. With my first birth I could barely handle the intensity at 5 cm and with my second I was dying by the time I reached 7 cm. And here I was still calm, chatting and smiling at 9 cm!
When I heard that I was almost there it was a huge answer to prayer as if God were saying, “I heard your fears, trust me, you can do this”. It was also a reminder that I should never have once doubted my ability to birth this baby. I immediately commanded Dave to call our videographer Vanessa of Vanessa Joy Films (yes that means I was at least 9 cm in all of these photos and the video which still astounds me because I appear so peaceful!)
Our doula Marie of Move It Doula arrived soon after and she and Dave took turns applying counter pressure to my hips through every single contraction until Jonah was born. That pressure helped SO much to relieve the intensity of my back labor. The pool still wasn’t full enough for me to get in and I kept staring over at it between every contraction. One of my favorite memories from this birth is when Dave had to start filling the pool with our largest soup pot in order for it to be full enough for me to get in.
Like my other two labors I found that being on all fours, sitting or leaning on the birthing ball and swaying or rocking was my preferred way to do the contractions or “waves” as the natural birth folk like to call them. I also preferred to keep my eyes closed because it really helped me to focus on what felt good/right to my body and my breathing and shut out all other distractions. Hypnobirthing helped me visualize how to breathe with labor breaths. At the start of every contraction I would take a deep breath into my abdomen and then slowly let it out along with a deep open mouth moaning. My daughter overheard my moaning and later said she thought I was brushing my teeth and saying “Ahhhhhh” with my mouth open as I brushed.
Somewhere close to 5 a.m. the pool was full enough for me to get in and it felt SO SO good to float my belly in the warmth. About 15 to 20 minutes later I was feeling his head starting to stretch me open (hello ring of fire!) and the contractions were forcing me to kind of grunt as he was coming out. It took 2 pushes for his head to emerge (on the first push my water broke which basically felt like a water balloon popping between my legs) and then on the third push his body was born. Oh what a relief it was to see and hold my little screaming water baby! I was delighted to see he was born with hair on his head because my other two were bald. It is probably my favorite feature about him. Also hallelujah I did not tear this time! Praise God we had a healthy baby boy born at 5:13 a.m. weighing 7 pounds 5 ounces. If I had to do it all over again, I would hands down choose a home water birth.
All of the birth photography images were taken by Vanessa Joy Films along with the video. As I write this I am now one month postpartum and so thankful that Jonah’s home water birth was just what I hoped it would be (minus the false alarm and the pool almost not being filled in time).
I think the thing I liked most about the home birth compared to my hospital births was that I truly felt that I, the laboring mother, was calling the shots. Yes of course my midwife would have stepped in if she felt it was necessary, but it was up to me if she did cervix checks. I never once felt pressured or hurried or constrained and I was free to push in whatever position I wanted. Also I never had to wear the belt monitor though they did regularly listen to baby’s heartbeat with a handheld doppler and check my blood pressure. I love this photo below of the midwife and her assistant bending over into the pool to get his heart rate.
The other nice thing about a home birth is that you are at home! I got to climb right into my own bed after the birth. Even the first couple postpartum visits for me and baby were done at home so we didn’t have to worry about venturing out to the doctor’s office. I’m sure it was more work and stress for Dave however; he had to figure out everything with the birthing pool as well as dig a hole and bury the placenta (we put it under the fig tree in our yard that apparently has yet to bear fruit). And then he waited on me hand and foot for a full week postpartum and did a thorough deep clean of our bathroom along with keeping up with dishes and laundry etc. Given the choice I would definitely do a home birth again but alas we are not planning to have any more children.
I think you will get a good sense of the home birth experience from the photos and video below. Vanessa has this incredible ability to pull at all the heartstrings with her visual storytelling and I tear up watching any of her birth films (of course I have watched ours over and over many times now).