– C.’s Birth Story –
Here’s how my labor story went:
Just before 39 weeks, I lose my mucus plug at night before bed. This was an exciting indicator that labor was near, but I knew it could be anything from a few hours to days or even weeks. The next morning, on Thursday, December 3rd, I lose a little more mucus plug. I had felt exhausted for two days, which in retrospect I think may have been a sign of impending labor. I decide against going to a prenatal Aqua aerobics as I’m not sure if labor is near. At around 10-1030am, I start getting surges, very light, and I’m not sure it’s really labor as this is my first pregnancy. By 11am, consistency of surges is around 15-20min apart, 30-45 seconds. I call my husband, J., and he decides to leave San Jose and skip his lunch meeting and come home.
We have lunch at around 1pm with my brother and J. at home (I eat a delicious bowl of udon!) while my brother helps J. start prepping the bedroom. At 230pm, my brother leaves. I’m having surges but can still walk around. I decide to continue with a scheduled prenatal induction massage at 3pm with Kari Marble. J. joins me so Kari can show him some acupressure points for labor and massage techniques. During the labor, surges become a bit closer together and more intense. When we are leaving, Kari suggests J. prep the birth tub as soon as we get home. I can’t walk back to the car so J. comes to get me (car is only 2 min walk away but that feels too far).
We’re home at 5pm and the surges are intensifying in duration and closeness (more like 5min. apart). J. calls our doula, Annemarie, who lives far away in Bolinas. He readies the birth tub and bed. I eat a little more udon soup, some banana bread, and I think an apple. I keep drinking water and coconut water. I labor in living room and have a bizarre urge to watch this terrible old movie, My Father The Hero, which I find on Netflix. J. finds me laboring on floor mat and suggests we go upstairs. By this point, I’m naked, having abandoned my pants and underwear in our downstairs bathroom and my sweater in the living room.
I can’t get up the stairs so I have to crawl up them. This is a sign to J. that things are really progressing. I labor in bed for about 40 min listening to Rachel Yellin’s hypnobirthing labor audio track (we had attended her class two months earlier and practiced our hypnobirthing techniques daily). We labor on a floor mat in bedroom for a bit. J. and I have an emotional moment of kissing and telling each other how much we love each other (like “tent time” as Rachel Yellin calls it). He tries using the rebozo wrap technique on my belly and that helps. Then I have to pee so I labor on the toilet for a while. Nipple stimulation while on toilet feels good and helps relax me. J. suggests I get in shower. That feels amazing. When in the shower, surges are definitely more and more intense and closer together. J. is in the shower with me for some of this and he uses the sacral massage technique Kari showed him along with a warm facecloth. At 630pm, Annemarie arrives and helps me get out of shower. She asks if I want to do a vaginal check but I say no. I feel like things are moving so well and I don’t want to scratch the soil or feel like I haven’t progressed as much as I think I have. I’d rather trust my body and my intuition. She says that’s fine and calls our midwife, Kristen, to come over from Oakland. Kristen is at her daughter’s multicultural dinner so doesn’t hear the first call but eventually gets the note. I have a powerful surge in the bathroom doorway and Annermarie holds me. She feels so strong and I lie against her chest and can feel her heart beating. I feel very connected to her and like she is supporting me. This helps me relax. We go into the bedroom and get back on floor mat. Surges are more intense and for a while I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure very low down. Not quite the urge to push but nearly. I bite J.’s hand or shoulder hard during a surge. Finally, Annemarie suggests I get into tub and this feels amazing. I labor there with much more powerful surges. J. puts on my chanting playlist and this also feels like the right musical accompaniment.
Kristen arrives around 810pm. I can hear her and Annemarie moving quickly, prepping things and readying for the birth; I grow hopeful this means they think I will deliver soon. This also gives me added focus and I continue to ride surges in the tub. I start feeling the urge to push and Kristen and J. keep directing my energy down. At some point, J. gives me positive affirmations, telling me how great I’m doing and how strong I am and my reply is a sarcastic “yeah yeah yeah, okay okay okay” which makes J. and Annemarie giggle. I talk to the baby a lot telling her that she is strong and can do this. At one point, she has the hiccups and I can feel them very low in my groin. I also feel her kicking off during surges. Staying connected to her keeps me focused and relaxed. I use tons of deep, low vocalizations. I’m very loud but I don’t care—perhaps that’s a great benefit of a home birth! Being loud feels right and helps me continue to progress the labor.
Kristen does an internal check at around 830pm and says the baby’s head is right there. This is very encouraging. At 909pm, our back up midwife, Sue, arrives. I’m already pushing (in total, my pushing phase was around 45min). I’m in the tub but feeling really hot. I want to stay in but I also can’t get quite the grip I need to push. I feel tired. At some point I softly say I can’t do this and J. and Annemarie tell me I can and I repeat aloud, “I can do this, I can do this.” Kristen brings me a glass of kefir to keep my energy up. The kefir tastes amazing and I take big sips. On one of the strong pushes, I feel a pop. I tell Kristen I think the bag of waters has released. I keep asking Kristen how much longer until I will have the baby out and she just says “soon” (I want a definitive answer – ha!). After a little longer, I decide I will get out of the tub to keep pushing because I really can’t get in a good position and I’m feeling too hot. I get out of the tub and am in a supported squat with J. holding me but it’s way too much weight for him. J. sees Sue mouth to Kristen, “That’s not sustainable,” so they urge me to move more into a seated position. I lean back on Annemarie who supports me while J. holds me from the front. I can feel the “ring of fire” at this point and the team is coaching me to direct my breath down and to breathe like I’m slowly puffing a balloon. Kristen tells me I’m crowning. She rubs coconut oil on my perineum and holds open my skin. I just want the baby out so I push very hard and soon enough, her head emerges. When I feel this (my eyes are shut), I push again and quickly I can feel the rest of the baby slide out, along with a rush of all the amniotic fluids. This feels amazing. They put the baby on my chest and J. says something like “We have a baby!” Our sweet baby C. screams and it’s the most beautiful sound I’ve heard in my life. We are in love. I like that I can still feel the cord attached and coming out from inside my vagina. Kristen and Sue do a quick internal to assess my placenta.
We look at the baby for a long time then suddenly I realize we don’t know the sex. J. lifts up her legs and says “I think it’s a girl”. Kristen looks and confirms. After 10 min. or so, I birth the placenta, which feels bigger than I expected and also good to get out. Kristen moves the chux pad and the fluids spill on the floor. I say, “Don’t worry, we can clean it up” and J. laughs and says, “Um, no, we can’t…” (Apparently, it’s quite a mess but Kristen manages to clean it up without a stain!)
We get into bed and hold baby C. with the cord and placenta still attached to her. We don’t clamp the cord for a long time (upwards of an hour). Then J. cuts the cord while I’m still holding her. J. takes her for skin to skin time (he’s still wearing the pants I told him to take off after the shower but things got too busy!) and Kristen and Sue assess my tears. They decide one tear is too hard to access so they call CPMC hospital to see if they will admit me as a home birth (CPMC usually doesn’t admit home births unless in emergencies). They allow me to come in at 1am. I get the stitches there while J. and Sue stay home and measure the baby. She is 7 lbs 3 oz, 20 inches. Apgar score of 10/10.
Getting home feels amazing and we lie in bed and stare at C. for hours. Our amazing team of Annemarie and our midwives leave and it’s just the three of us as a family for the first morning. In bed. At home. Quiet. In love. This is amazing.