Anabella Mia’s Birth Story
Calm before the storm (last days of pregnancy)
Because I have had two pregnancies before this, I imagined that labor would begin again for me when I was 41 weeks pregnant (DD1 was born at 41+2 weeks, DD2 was born at 41+1 weeks– both non medicated, natural hospital births). I had been working full time all the way through the pregnancy and sought to work until I was in labor so that I could have maximum time at home with my newborn. I told all of my clients that I was due late September, but prepared them, and myself, that my babies like to “cook” a bit longer and intended to work through the first week of October. I love being pregnant, and so I was in no rush for the baby to come. The last week of pregnancy was uneventful actually. I had no signs of labor on the horizon. There was nothing outside of being hugely pregnant to concern me. I had NOT expected for labor to start at 39+1 weeks in the middle of the night!
Labor starts (early!?)
I was up late the night before labor started. By the time I actually decided to go to bed, it was about 12:30-1am. I had a dream that I couldn’t recall as I woke up at 2:40am because I was certain I had just peed the bed! I woke with a strange thought that maybe my water had broken in my sleep. Maybe I had just had a dream I was in the water and I peed on accident? But this wasn’t just a small amount of fluid, my bed was heavily saturated and it wet through my clothes. I remember being so puzzled. “Labor can’t start when I’m not even 40 weeks along yet!” I woke my husband, Milton, up and told him I think my water just broke but that I wasn’t sure. He woke up and looked even more confused than me (“what???). . He blankly looked at me, and we talked about the possibility that it was just pee. We must have talked about this for a few minutes before I used the bathroom and was able to actually pee (confirming I had a full bladder, so my waters HAD broken! Even though I still didn’t believe it yet). When I came back from the bathroom I was still dripping wetness.
I called my mom first to tell her, “I think my waters broke, please come over” since she lives 2.5 hours away, I knew I had to give her the most notice. She was nervous and excited and said she didn’t have any bags ready but she would leave soon. I called my midwife, to explain the situation, then and she said calmly and matter of a factly, “yes, your waters have broken” and I said “really? You think so?” Ha! She explained that nothing may happen for a while but to call her back when contractions started up. I think that’s when I had my “oh crap, were having a baby today” moment. Cue the “I dont have all the supplies and baby stuff I need yet!” thoughts. In fact, I had ordered the last of the birth supplies I needed offline the day before labor began, and they were due to arrive in three days! I was so sure I was going to be “overdue” again in this pregnancy too that I waited to gather all my supplies and baby items.
Because I felt gross and because my last labor for DD2 was 4.5 hours long, from first contraction to baby in my arms, I decided to shower alone while Milton busied himself with prepping the video camera for the room, while I still had a chance. The shower was soothing as I had many thoughts in my brain. “Is this really happening? Will it be a boy or girl? Will the midwife and my mom get here in time? Is this a contraction???” I hadn’t had nearly any braxton hicks before labor, but I recognized the waves of pressure and slight pain during that shower. I remember leaning my back into the warm water streams as the contractions started. I washed my hair and shaved (unsure of when I would have enough time to that for a while!). I had to stop and close my eyes during these early contractions but managed to get out of the shower alone.
I was still leaking amniotic fluid with each step and had to sit on a folded towel whenever I wanted to sit down on the bed. Being wet was annoying but I was having mild contractions every 3-5 minutes by the time I got out of my shower. I was excited but nervous. A new baby was coming and every contraction was getting me closer to meeting my new squishy!
Prepping for baby’s arrival
Milton and I fiddled with camera angles in the room, then stripped the bed of the wet sheets and redressed it in 3 layers so we could easily strip a layer if needed during the birth. We were both busy reorganizing the room and gathering the birth supplies from around the apartment. I thought about how different this experience was already in not having to consider leaving my apartment when things progressed further (leaving during active labor was a huge stressor for me during DD1 and DD2 births). Planning to stay home was actually more comforting and familiar than leaving in the middle of my most vulnerable state. But I was still having many thoughts; was I really going to be successful having a home birth? Would I need to get transferred to a hospital even though it was a very healthy pregnancy (this was my ultimate worst fear)?
Call the midwife
Around 5:20am, our bedroom had been prepared, birth supplies and towels were nearby, the birth pool was inflated and getting filled. Milton checked on me and asked if I needed anything. He brought me water but when he got back from the kitchen, a contraction had started and I silently squeezed his arm through the hardest part. I told him “I think we need to call the midwife” and he did when a contraction was over. He told her the contractions were 4-5 minutes apart and I corrected him by saying they were 2-4 minutes apart! I told him to explain that they were much more intense too. The midwife said she was on her way to my home. Milton got me some plums, as per my request, and I started to eat one slowly. Milton stayed by my side consistently thereafter.
Even in the midst of active and intense labor pains, I had a calm about myself because I was on my turf. I trusted my body to do what I needed to do. I made this baby and my body could birth it. I was protective of my space and only the safe people I wanted there were invited. How freeing was that! No strangers to poke and prod at me at any point. No nurses or doctors invading my birth space. No need to do intake paperwork while I’m in active labor. No need to have crazy artificial lights and strange sounds around me. No physicians to “tell me” (what???!!!) how and when and for how long to push. Wow! This homebirth had none of those anxieties involved and this was a huge benefit. It didn’t ease my physical pain, none the least, but psychologically my anxiety was nothing compared to what I had experienced before.
Now, even though my contractions only lasted about a minute long each, while in the middle of one, it feels like FOR.EVER. I was shaking my legs, gritting my teeth, and exhaling hard through them. I attempted to explain the pain to Milton and remember thinking it was like a rollercoaster. The pain starts suddenly, without warning, and QUICKLY escalates (realistically the peak is less than 60 seconds), but then finally subsides and breathing normally can begin again. I was full on grimacing and squeezing all of my muscles tight to get through these contractions.
I was getting into active labor, and these puppies made early labor feel like a stroll. I was feeling such fatigue with each contraction, and I felt so heavy with the urge to sleep. Of course I couldn’t sleep, but I remembered I had to keep my strength up and ate more of a plum. I sat on the edge of my bed most of this time until my mom arrived. I had to turn on the air conditioner to stay cool, and maybe this helped me stay more alert too. When she came in I was in the middle of a contraction and she was so nervous. I noted her presence in the room but couldn’t greet, or even acknowledge her until the contraction subsided. It was so exciting to have my mom there! She was present for both of my births before too. It was important that she was there. She traded places with Milton to hold my hand through some contractions and talked to me about family stories (good distraction).
I tried to remember what I had heard about labor positioning to help ease contractions, but ended up just listening closely to what my body was directing me to do, especially sit during most contractions, stand up for some, and rock for others. It’s amazing how not being limited hospital labor policies can be freeing! I had total freedom to follow my body’s instructions as I labored. I stood up and kind of bounced on my legs as I leaned against my bureau as labor intensified further. Milton was an amazing support and he continuously rubbed my lower back during each contractions. His presence and touch was so comforting, but the contractions were running into each other and I was so weak. I couldn’t wait for the midwife to come, she always made me feel at peace and calm and I really could have used more of that right then.
In an effort to help with my intense pains, I told Milton I was ready to get into the birth pool. Earlier in the labor, I was hesitant to get into the pool too early, as I heard that it can cause labor to slow down. At that point of labor, the thought that labor could be slowed was welcome! What a total relief it was to be surrounded in (very warm) water! Milton got in with me and continued to deeply rub my back. To Milton and mom’s delight, the midwife arrived a few seconds after Milton got in the water with me around 6:30 am. The sun was just starting to come up and the room was getting lighter. She was so quiet I could have missed her if I hadn’t been expecting her. She washed her hands and whispered to me that she was going to check the baby and used the doppler to check the baby’s heart rate. Her calm filled the room. Milton and Mom didn’t seem as anxious as before. She offered me water and tea, and I drank. She was quiet through the contractions but her presence was what I was most aware of, second to Milton’s touch. Mom was sitting on my bed just patiently waiting (for my daughters to wake up or the baby to come?) by this time.
The contractions didn’t stop in the water but they felt more manageable, even though the severity didn’t subside. I don’t know if I have ever felt so fatigued in my life, as in that labor. At one point I literally thought I would sink into the water because my body was so weak.
I was really listening to all the sounds of the room now, I heard the clicking of cell phone text key tones, alarms, and phone calls. I heard the plastic pool shift under me as I laid on my side and leaned on the frame of the pool, inhaling that vaguely familiar flimsy plastic beach ball smell. My music gave me encouragement and focus during those especially hard contractions. During one of those contractions, I had made a small whining sound and Kathy put her hand on my head and rubbed my hair a few times. I am not sure why, but this felt so motherly and genuine, as if she was saying, “I am really here with you, feeling this with you too.”
I was so desperate to know if labor was progressing that I asked for an internal check. I had told her at one of our first prenatal appointments that I didn’t want to do any cervical checks (during pregnancy or labor– as to reduce risk of germs and infection) and she was totally fine with that. She reminded me that I didn’t want to be checked, which I appreciated but I had changed my mind! When she did check me she said I was 7-8 cm dilated but my cervix still needed to thin more. I was so relieved by this update! Labor was working! Baby was going to come out! I started to get too excited and I pushed lightly with the next few contractions, willing the baby to descend. Kathy reminded me to listen to my body.
I was so wrapped up in my labor that I didn’t even notice for several minutes that about 7am my daughters had woken up and were in the room watching me silently. I had watched birth videos with my kids and explained that I may be loud during labor and that smells/sounds may be scary. I expected my 11 year old to be totally cool and my 6 year old to be scared to death or uninterested. My 6 year old was just sitting, looking serene and pleased. My 11 year old was the worried one.
I think I continued to push tentatively with every other contraction and finally I had real urges to push. This is when I was more vocal than any time before in the labor. I did a low growling sound during these pushing contractions. It’s strange to describe what pushing is like or how you know when to do it. It feels like you really have to go poo, but heavier somehow. It feels like a really heavy poo. Ha! It feels like I have to use the same muscles as when I go to the bathroom but with more ab work and concentration. I think I felt a strong urge to push for at least three to five contractions. Kathy and Milton were behind me as I automatically positioned myself from laying on my side in the water to relaxed squatting in front of Milton as I held on to the plastic pool frame. Someone turned off the air conditioner so that the baby wouldn’t be too cold. At this point the urge to push was so strong I almost didn’t have to think about it, its like I didn’t have a choice but to push. I pushed with each contraction and stopped when my body told me to stop. Kathy reminded me to push slowly and breathe through it, even though I wanted to push with all my remaining energy, and at her words, I slowed down a lot when I felt the most pressure (baby was in birth canal). I pushed one more time and felt relief (almost like a pop)! My baby was born!
Surprise, it’s my baby!
Immediately after the relief, Kathy passed the baby to me from under the water, and I held the baby on my chest at 7:30am. The baby was covered in a THICK layer of vernin head to toe, and had a slimy head covered in hair! I couldn’t move the baby too far because the cord was still attached (I wanted to do “delayed cord clamping” until the umbilical cord stopped pulsating on its own). I rolled over from my knees to a sitting down position and looked at the tiny human that I helped grow in my own body. A baby! My baby!
Words can’t describe that moment. Its like my heart exploded and swelled and stopped and skipped beats and time was still. It was just me, my baby, and Milton in that moment. Everything else outside of us three had a fuzzy edge. My love for this child was so clear before the birth, but meeting my beautiful baby was beyond surreal and emotional. I looked at Milton next to me and we both had tears looking at our baby. We created a life! What a joy! What a blessing! I was overwhelmed and so humbled to be a mom again!
It’s funny that I sat right away with the baby because no one had seen the sex yet! I didn’t want to know the sex of the baby during pregnancy (there are so few surprises in life– and I would know my babies sex for the rest of my life after he or she was born– let me be surprised!) but I used male pronouns nearly exclusively during the pregnancy. My husband really wanted a boy, and I would have been ecstatic to have either, but another girl was secretly my wish. After having a few minutes to revel in the moment, I decided to peek at the sex. Milton looked over my shoulder and said “its a boy!” so proudly, but I looked too, and since I had a better vantage point, I noted he saw the umbilical cord actually, and that it was in fact a girl! His face fell for a fraction of a second when I correctly identified the sex but I knew already that he would be the best daddy to a little girl. A sweet baby girl would help round out a few rough edges 😉 A first born daughter for my husband! A new sister for my daughters! A new granddaughter for my mother! A new daughter for me! A new life that Kathy helped bring into the world!
I happy cried many times that day. Our baby girl is perfect in every way and weighed 7 pounds even and 20 inches long (the smallest of my babies! DD1 was 8lbs 6oz and 21 inches; DD2 was 9lb 2oz and 21 inches). The pain of labor went away completely when my baby was born. The cord pulsated for about 20 minutes. I stepped out of the tub with my newborn in my arms (with lots of help) and laid in my bed to deliver the placenta a few minutes later. Milton cut the cord and cut the last physical tie between my newborn and me, about 20 minutes after she was born. How strange to think that until that moment we were literally one. I delivered the placenta easily in one push and Kathy examines it (so cool to see what was the bridge between me and my new baby girl. Kathy examines our newborn and quietly left us in our baby bliss.
We named her Anabella Mia after 4 days of consideration for the perfect name for our sweet love. Her older sisters named her Anabella and we had to decide between Rose and Mia for the middle name. We went back and forth but decided, “let’s nickname her “Mi Bella” (“my beauty” in Spanish) and it stuck. We were enamored. The whole family fell in love with this new human.
As far as birth recovery though, because I listened to my body and pushed when it told me to, and because I listened to Kathy’s advise to push slowly, I didn’t tear at all. My recovery was the easiest of my three births this time, and I think the water birth, squatting position during pushing, and pushing on my own accord (not when doctors told me to push) was the most helpful part of my recovery process (little damage was done).
I would highly recommend a homebirth to anyone on the fence about it. I had an amazing homebirth and plan to do it again if I’m blessed to have more children in the future. There are so many lessons to be learned in labor and birth that I don’t think I got to experience in the hospital those first two times (even though they were intervention and medication free as well). I learned in this experience that I have to trust my body above anything else that is happening. I learned that feeling someone’s presence in the room and feeling a comforting touch can help refocus and reshift anything (even one of the most intense pains!). I learned that women were made to birth and that babies know how to be born. My body not only sustained life, but birthed it (medication and intervention free!), and can continue to nurture life.
I learned that I have amazing strength and that I can lean on this experience when I am faced with difficult situations. I had a baby at home! In a baby pool filled with water! With the loves of my life around me, the newest love of my life came from within me. <3