For as long as I can remember I’ve always dreamed of having a water birth. I don’t even know where the idea came from as no one in my family had done anything like that. I remember hearing about Midwifery in my nursing school curriculum and instantly being drawn to it and then being validated when I heard the supporting research on it being a safe option. So, when I found myself pregnant, I knew I needed to find a midwife and start my journey to planning my home birth. I was starting from ground zero knowing nothing and no one, but I refused to settle. I did a google and Facebook search and sent countless emails and messages to midwives all over my state. I found 2 that serviced my area but were 1.5 hours away. I had a consult with one but we didn’t click. I reached out to the other and felt like it was a better option. I attended my prenatal appointments, watched birthing videos, and spoke over myself, my baby, and my upcoming experience.
The time has come.
I woke up on July 8 and stood up out of bed and my water broke. Like a scene out of a movie, it gushed everywhere. I couldn’t believe it. I was just told how rare this was, like a 10% chance of water breaking first. I was 38 weeks even and had prepared myself mentally for several more weeks of pregnancy. I called my husband to tell him I thought my water broke to which he replied “are you for real?” Then proceeded to ask if I had taken the amnio test that my midwife had sent home in my birthing kit. It was just the guidance I needed in the shock and excitement of the moment. I took the test and called my midwife. It was dark green which confirmed it was in fact my water. I called my support person who informed me she had taken a spontaneous overnight trip 8 hours away and was in another state! But thankfully God had it all worked out and a dear friend who had just birthed her last baby at home was in town who actually lived in the other state my support person was currently in. It was as if they switched places.
At this point I wasn’t really contracting, so I started cleaning the house and getting things in order. My husband showed up at home shortly after and encouraged me to have our friend come. I showered and started cramping and feeling my first contractions, but they were very mild. We talked, laughed and visited, taking walks outside in the fresh air and soaking it all in. I tracked my contractions and kept my midwife updated. They started getting more intense and closer together. My midwife kept saying it wasn’t time for her to come yet but I was getting nervous as she was so far away. I felt like I had to beg her to come, and that was my first red flag. I eventually got into the pool after she got there. I was afraid to get in too early, but they were getting so intense I couldn’t hardly relax. I was probably going on 10 or so hours since my water broke. The contractions were so intense in my pelvis I had to hold myself suspended in the water. I cried out with every contraction although I’m not usually a vocally expressive person. I started feeling more pressure and like I had to push. I was offered a cervical exam but due to my positioning we couldn’t tell how dilated I was, only that they could feel the head.
I asked questions but was not met with any reassurance.
I wanted suggestions but wasn’t given any. I felt lost and discouraged. Finally she said it may help to go push on the toilet, so I did. I could tell I was pushing much more effectively there, so that’s where I remained. Suddenly I felt a strong distinct feeling of descent in my pelvis after over 2 hours of pushing. I thought the baby’s head had popped out. They came running and got me on a birthing stool. She said the baby is crowning to which I replied “What?! The heads not out?!” in disbelief. I was coached to pant pant push, and baby was out soon after. After 16 hours of labor, the exhaustion was out of this world and I remember looking at my baby and feeling like he wasn’t mine. There was no love at first sight. No sparks flying where my life suddenly changed. This was also a surprise gender, but we were 99% it was a girl. But he was in fact 100% a boy. Another shock. He took a few minutes to cry but thanks to @badassmotherbirther for posting her birth video, I knew this was normal and did not panic and trusted my midwife as a professional if he needed resuscitation. He finally cried to my relief. He was born with caput on the back left side of his head which remained for his first 3 weeks of life. Most events thereafter were a blur between extreme exhaustion and blood loss. She used traction on the cord to get the placenta out which was very painful, and at some point I started getting light headed and almost passed out. They laid me in the bathroom floor. I remember asking if I was losing too much blood to which she replied “Um, not enough to be considered a hemorrhage” in a squeaky, unsure voice. It was not at all comforting. It was my one fear as a nurse. I finally made it into bed, but was still filled with fear.
Baby didn’t nurse and I was not offered any help, just told to express a little milk and not to worry if baby didn’t eat for a while. I tried to make it to the bathroom again before they left and almost passed out again and ended up crawling on the floor to get back to bed. It was so hard to breathe, a feeling I was not prepared for. She said I just needed to eat and sleep it off. I was in no shape or form to care for a newborn and too exhausted to bond. It was the complete opposite of what I had dreamed of. I continued to have weakness, exhaustion, shortness of breath. I was afraid to carry my baby and could barely even carry myself. She returned a day and a half later and we found out I was anemic. I was started on iron. I didn’t carry my baby for the first week. He had a severe tongue tie which made nursing very difficult and caused many struggles. However, I met a level of determination inside of myself that I didn’t know could exist. I pushed on. I found a level of strength in the core of who I was that I now knew I was unstoppable. If I just focused and dug deep, I could do it. When we think we can’t go on, we do. When we don’t think we have anything left, we find more. It was the hardest and most empowering experience of my life, despite my poor interactions with my midwife.
Labor taught me that we are far stronger than we could ever know.
At 10 months postpartum I found myself staring at 2 pink lines again, shaking in disbelief, apprehension, and an inkling of excitement. At this point, I was 2 months into my orientation on the labor and delivery unit I had just hired on at. I opened up about my home birth on my first morning on the unit. Not something I was expecting to disclose for a long time. There were a lot of questions and discouragement. I decided to keep this pregnancy to myself for a while as I knew home birth would again be my only option, as that’s the only thing that’s ever felt right for me. I knew I couldn’t go with the same midwife, so my journey began again. I heard an acquaintance speak highly of this one group and reached out. I filled out their consultation form and was met with an email saying I was out of their service area, and my heart sank. I quickly emailed back asking for them to reconsider and call me. We spoke and I explained my situation and they made an exception. I knew God was working this all out for me again.
My knowledge the second time around was so much greater.
Greater in all the ways that I could make this a better experience, but also in all the things that could go wrong. (Thanks L&D.) My midwives were amazing. I attended prenatal appointments 2 hours away. They validated, educated, encouraged, and supported me every step of the way. I left work early due to the pain this pregnancy was causing at 37 weeks. I figured baby would come soon since my first came at 38 weeks. The Braxton hicks were picking up and I was doing all the positions, spending most of my sitting time on a birthing ball. 38 weeks came and went. 39 weeks came and went. Surely any day now. 40 weeks came and went. Okay this has to be some kind of joke now. My midwife was about to go across the country at the end of the week, and I really wanted to have the baby while she was in town because I trusted her. At 40 weeks and 3 days, my friend that lives states away was in town again, and my husband and I sat down and prayed. We prayed that all hindrances to labor would be broken off. That we wouldn’t need to go to my prenatal appointment the next morning, that labor would begin before then and we would know for certain before getting on the road. We prayed that we would have the baby before my midwife left Friday morning. Then we went to bed hoping the next day would be different.
I woke up sometime after 4am and felt a contraction. This had been happening pretty frequently. Another came. I thought ‘okay, I probably just need to reposition,’ so I did. Another one came. They were really low and felt different than the Braxton hicks I’d been having for the weeks prior. About 10 minutes later, another intense contraction. By this time it was around 5am so I got up to see if they would pick up or fizzle out before we had to leave at 6am. I started getting ready and they started coming fast. 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes. I propped one foot on the toilet and swayed through them. Holy cow this was it, this was really it! I texted my midwife that this was the real thing, it was labor contractions, and we wouldn’t be getting on the road. She said to keep her updated. They continued coming one after another. I would assume hands and knees and rock back and forth, tucking my pelvis with deep breaths through each one. I texted her back asking when she wanted an update because they were still every 5 minutes and gaining intensity. I was already breathing through them. She advised she could head that way if I’d liked. I told her I would prefer that as I had WAY too many dreams during this pregnancy of being in labor and saying “Oh no we should have called two hours ago” and then pushing the baby out. That is exactly what would have happened if she had not consistently reminded me at every prenatal appointment to tell her as soon as something was up.
My husband and toddler continued to sleep and I continued to labor.
My husband got up at 6 and we locked eyes as he walked down the hallway looking confused. I told him we weren’t going because I was in labor. We started getting a plan together. When our toddler woke he became my little doula, giving me his stuffed animals to support me through it until his grandma picked him up. My husband blew up the pool and I continued with my laboring positions and breathing. Suddenly it was super intense and I said fill the pool. My midwife texted that she was half way and asked if I was ready for her to come check on me or if she needed to go hang at a coffee shop in town. I still wasn’t convinced I was very progressed and I told her it was ip to her. The next contraction hit and I was feeling pressure. I quickly updated her to come to me. At that point I began adding in a shaking of my hips during contractions while on my hands and knees. It was the only relief and ability to get through the contractions without tensing. She arrived, 8:12 am. Thank God she was there! A couple contractions later and from the pit of my being I roared through my contraction. I looked at her and said I don’t know what that was, but I couldn’t help it. I guess I’m just a vocal laborer. This wasn’t a high pitched yell like with my first.. this was a roar from deep within. Primal. Mammalian. The pressure increased and I felt pushy. She suggested I get in the pool but I was afraid I wasn’t far enough along. She encouraged me that if I didn’t like it I could get back out.
I got in when it wasn’t quite full yet. It wasn’t my favorite feeling, still doing hands and knees rocking with my belly hanging in the water. She offered a cervical exam and I consented, afraid I was pushing too early. I turned over in the water and when she checked, there was still some cervix there. It was reducible so she helped push it back as I pushed baby. I prayed and told my cervix to dilate and it was quickly gone. The assistant arrived. They continued talking me through contractions and pushing, encouraging me, and affirming the work I was doing. It was so empowering. I was using all the strength I had, slowly feeling descent, something I didn’t get with my first. The stretch from within continued. I kept asking if he was crowning yet. She said she could see his head and kept encouraging me. I could feel him wiggling and moving in my pelvis, the oddest sensation I had ever felt. He was stalled at his eyebrow line and she encouraged me to push again and use my strength. He was out 9:19am. All 9.8 pounds with his hand up by his face. He took a minute to breathe but my baby was here!
I kissed his face and held him tight.
No life changing sparks flew but he was mine, my baby, a different feeling than my first. I requested pitocin injection as I felt a gush of fluids but no cramping and was worried about bleeding. It was an option they had educated and discussed with me and I felt informed and prepared to make that decision. They thoroughly assessed and reassessed me making sure so was stable and stayed stable. They continued with encouragement and reassurance. An amazing experience where I felt empowered and supported. My dream birth had taken place! I did it, 4.5 hours of labor and an almost 10 pound baby with the most supportive team I could imagine. Fueling my passion to be just that for my patients too.