Lucinda Belle was born at 1:01 am on Tuesday September 8th at home!
Giving birth was really the most amazing experience. There has been no time in my life where I have felt so utterly present in the moment. My body knew exactly what to do, I just had to relax and breathe and let it happen. It was incredible.
I found out I was pregnant a few days after Christmas in 2008. Because of my pelvic infection in 2005, I had to have a very early ultrasound to make sure the pregnancy wasn’t tubal. I knew I wanted to use a midwife, but I didn’t feel like I had time to research and interview midwives before finding out if the pregnancy was viable, so I started off at an OB practice recommended by my doctor. I liked the people I met there and they seemed to be a mother-friendly/baby-friendly practice (allowing mother-directed pushing, natural childbirth, intermittent fetal monitoring during labor, encouraged breastfeeding, etc.). However, each time I visited their practice, they sounded more and more like they intended to manage the delivery process in such a way as to limit my ability to allow my body to do its own thing in its own time. So we started looking around for a midwife.
I initially intended to give birth at a birth center, since our insurance would only cover midwifery services if it was provided at an accredited birthing center. However, there are only 3 birth centers in the area, and all of them were at least 45 minutes away without traffic. I wanted a midwife, but I had no desire to have a baby on the side of I-95 or on the Wilson Bridge in rush hour traffic (though that would have made for a very exciting story). And to top it all off, the nearest center didn’t even take our insurance!
I was feeling a little disappointed, thinking we would have to stick with a hospital birth. It just didn’t feel right. Having a baby didn’t seem like it should be a medical event if it didn’t have to be. And my husband Kevin and I both hate hospitals. That was when my sister KB sent me a book called Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife about a home birth midwife. I devoured the book in a matter of hours and was utterly enthralled with the idea of a home birth. It was something I had never even considered, but it seemed so completely right that Kevin and I decided to make it happen. We found Erin and Mairi on a natural childbirth forum and we never looked back. I felt like I was being cared for in a way I have never felt with any doctor – like I was a part of their family. It was a wonderful experience.
On Friday September 4th, I was just past 39 weeks pregnant and DONE with it, but I figured I had at least a week to go, maybe more. That afternoon, I had a prenatal massage from my friend HM and she tweaked the acupressure points that are supposed to stimulate labor. That night, I had a few really strong pressure waves that woke me up, but they tapered off and I fell back asleep. The next morning I had some spotting which made me pretty hopeful that the massage had done its magic and that the baby would be on the way soon!
The next day, I went for a long walk in the morning, hoping to get things started back up again. I visited with Kevin and T who were playing tennis in Sligo Creek Park; I chatted on the phone with family, returning calls that I had meant to return for a number of days. It felt like I was tying up some loose ends before the baby arrived.
I started having the first “real” pressure waves around in the evening of Saturday September 5th. I was hopeful, but not really thinking this would be it. And of course, it wasn’t. I tried to go to sleep that night, but the pressure waves were about 6-7 minutes apart and consistently lasted 90 seconds or more, so it was very hard to sleep for 5 minutes at a stretch. I called Mairi around 2 am to check in and let her know what was happening and she advised me to try to get some sleep (of course), take a warm bath and check in again in the morning. We filled the birth pool and I sat in that for a while, and it spaced out the waves to where I thought I might be able to get some sleep…but I was pretty much up all night.
By Sunday morning they were strong and regular, so I called my midwife and my parents, thinking surely things would pick up now! My parents arrived around noon and one of our midwives, Erin, came around 4 pm. Erin checked me and I was 90% effaced but only 3 cm dilated. And things promptly slowed way down again. The pressure waves never really stopped coming less than 6-7 minutes apart after that, they just lessened in intensity, to the point that I could doze through many of them. I was using my Hypnobabies techniques and I was generally very comfortable, just getting tired at this point.
Erin stayed with me all night. When she checked me again around 10 pm and I was still only about 5 cm. We both decided the thing I needed was sleep. She sent Kevin out with a prescription for Ambien and I took one…and I have never had such weird, psychedelic dreams in my entire life! At first, I thought I was still awake and that there were cars driving all over our bed with weird plant-like growths all over them, ala Dr. Seuss. Then, each pressure wave I had while I was sleeping was associated with some random object. There was the car wave (it was a tan Dodge Ares circa 1989), the lamp wave (a tall, tassel-fringed old fashioned lamp) and the blue-fabric-falling-out-of-my-belly wave (these were actually really nice, and I strangely looked forward to them). They kept repeating themselves over and over and I remember thinking “Not the car wave again! Those are the hardest”! It was utterly surreal and the imagery lasted well into the next day.
At around 4 am I couldn’t sleep anymore and got into the tub, which, of course, slowed things down considerably. The waves were still very strong and long, just not coming at regular intervals. I sang my way through over an hour of contractions – for some reason singing felt better than moaning or doing any special breathing. I was having heavy pressure in my back so Erin checked me and said the baby’s body was in the right position, but her head was tilted up so it wasn’t pressing on my cervix effectively. I was still only 6 cm dilated after more than 36 hours. We walked the stairs and shook my hips for 30 minutes with no changes. Erin left around 3 pm and her birth assistant Susan took her place for a while. We paced the house and walked up and down the stairs for an hour. This sped things up while I was walking, but as soon as I sat down to rest, they slowed way down again.
Kevin was getting pretty worried about me at this point. It had been about 40 hours since the first pressure waves started; I had barely slept and seemed to be making little progress. Kevin wanted to go to the hospital, but I knew that I was too tired to deal with any chemical augmentation of labor and would probably end up with more interventions than I wanted. We decided once again that I would try to rest, so Kevin and I sent Susan home, I had a glass of wine, slept for 90 minutes (no psychedelic pressure waves this time) and I woke up around 6:30 in transition (Thank goodness!). The waves were finally coming regularly and strongly and not stopping or spacing out! They felt completely different from the warm-up, but the only transition “symptom” I felt was an increase in the feeling of energy flowing through me and uncontrollable shaking. The waves were very close together, and very intense but I was still able to stay relatively calm as long as I could move or sing through them.
Kevin called Mairi (our second midwife). I had been feeling pretty pushy for a while and remember sort of moaning “WHERE’S MAIRI??” My dad had been struggling for an hour to get the tub hot again and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to birth in the water. When Mairi arrived around 7:30 pm on Monday night, she checked me and I was 9 cm dilated and fully effaced, so they had a little time to get the tub hot for me. I got in the water about 10:00 pm when my water finally broke. I started pushing around 11:30 pm. Time sort of suspended for a while there. I didn’t have to do anything or think about anything – just let my body do its work. I just relaxed, breathed and allowed the energy to move. It was nice and dark – the only light came from the candle and a red lamp, so the room was very comfortable and safe feeling. My dad had my sisters Karyn and Lynette on speaker phone so they were listening in – the next best thing to having them actually there at the birth, I guess.
I pushed for about 90 minutes. I don’t think I gently breathed the baby down the way we were taught in my Hypnobabies class, but I had very little control over how my body was working at this point. If I tried to control my voice or the way I pushed I felt like I was blocking the flow of energy that was literally steamrolling through my body. I was very, very loud, though and it felt SO GOOD to just let go of my mind and let my body work. The baby came down at first in a little ah-ah-ah-ah’s and then in loud, more sustained AHHHHHHs and grunts. At one point I really thought I sounded like a sick cow and that thought made me laugh out loud. It was amazing to feel the baby moving down! Everyone was so supportive. Erin kept telling me “You have plenty of room, you are opening beautifully”, which was so needed – for some reason my biggest fears was tearing badly.
Kevin was right beside me watching the baby come out and whispering encouragement to me the whole time. The head kept pushing down and then sliding back up after each wave – two steps forward, one step back! I think at one point I sort of growled “GET OUT!!” as I felt the head slide back up once again. When I finally pushed the head out around 1 am (what a strange and wonderful feeling that was!), we saw what had really slowed things down – Lucy had her hand up on her cheek! That had made things a lot more slow and difficult. The head slipped out beautifully without any tearing, but with the elbow coming out where it did, I ended up with two labial tears and a minor perineal tear. I guess the good part about that was I didn’t feel it at all. There was no “Ring of Fire” when she crowned at all – just a tingling and stretching feeling. I pushed the rest of her out in really quickly – even though my first instinct was just to stop after the head was born (that was a lot of work)! Lucy had her cord wrapped around her neck, but otherwise was perfect and beautiful.
I had my baby girl in my arms at 1:01 am on Tuesday September 8th. She opened her eyes immediately and looked around at everyone in the room for a full minute before she started to cry. It was so incredible! I thought I would recognize her – after all, she was so close to me for so long – but she really seemed like a little stranger in my arms. It wasn’t what I expected at all. I think I was more in awe of the fact that there was a BABY in there this whole time! The water in the tub was pretty high, so I got out of the tub to keep Lucy’s face out of the water. I birthed the placenta on the bed about 15 minutes later. Kevin cut the cord and we just stared at her for the longest time…before we realized that no one had even checked to see if she actually WAS a girl! She is so incredibly beautiful and we love her so much I can hardly stand it. We saved the placenta and are going to bury under a tree in the spring.
I am so happy we had her at home, exactly the way we wanted to. I would recommend a home birth to anyone – along with the Hypnobabies class. People have said that giving birth at home, without the opportunity for pain medication, was “hard core”, or some sort of feminist form of machoism, but frankly, I didn’t once wish I had an epidural. I never felt like I was doing anything that wasn’t completely natural and normal, and I never wished I was in the hospital. Birth is a natural and normal process and women’s bodies are designed to do it! I think women today are so bombarded with horror stories of childbirth that they are completely terrified of it and make it much more difficult than it has to be. Eliminating that fear goes a long way to eliminating pain. I also think that women don’t know that they have a choice – you don’t have to give birth in a hospital if you have a normal and healthy pregnancy. There is rarely a reason to manage the natural process. Taking the power away from the mother does not improve the outcome. The female body actually does know best almost all of the time. Childbirth does not have to be a medical event, and it has the potential to be the most empowering and beautiful thing you ever do.