It is so hard to know where to start with this story! I guess I can begin with my decision to use Midwifery Traditions for care during my second pregnancy. My first son had been delivered at the hospital. I was 42 weeks pregnant and had nearly every intervention to try and get him to come. My labor was 46 hours long and I ended up with a painful birth injury–a far cry from the intervention-free natural birth I was picturing. When I became pregnant with my second child in the spring of 2016, I knew that I wanted to have a home birth. After meeting with the midwives at MT, I left the appointment smiling. They were genuinely excited about women and birth and eased so many of my fears in that very first appointment. I decided to start care with them and plan for a home birth.
I was due on January 19th, 2017. As that date approached and passed, I began to be fearful that I was in for another late baby and a hard labor. I did everything possible to naturally induce labor, as I did with my first. I did the Miles Circuit everyday, ate entire pineapples, drank Red Raspberry Leaf tea like I owned stock in it, and did lots of other things ;). Sadly, nothing seemed to be working. I had passed the 41 week mark and started getting serious. I was fearful of another hospital induction. The midwives were so encouraging throughout all of this. Kathy reminded me that I chose homebirth for a reason and that they would do many different things to get labor moving before sending me to the hospital. Still, I decided to try for a castor oil induction when I was 41 + 3 days pregnant on a Saturday. (Castor oil helped put me into labor with my first). I spent the entire day in the bathroom feeling awful but baby stayed put. Good friends of mine had decided to cook a turkey dinner (spoiler alert: turkey dinner is a recurrent theme in this story) and invited us over. Eating a delicious turkey dinner was the consolation prize for not having a baby. My husband, my 2 1/2 year old, and I stuffed our faces and went home happy.
On Sunday morning, I woke to mild contractions at 4am. “Oh, right. THIS is what labor contractions feel like,” I thought. They were so gentle and manageable but were coming regularly enough that I was unable at sleep. At 6 am, I woke my husband and told him what was going on. I decided that I would call Kathy at 7, knowing that second babies can sometimes come much faster than first babies (ha. little did I know….). At 7, I called Kathy and let her know that I was having mild contractions and some spotting. She told me to keep her posted throughout the day. I was group B strep positive and would need antibiotics at some point before delivery so we were conscious of that. I made arrangements for my neighbors to take my son to church and for my sister to hang with him during the afternoon if needed. My husband, Brandon, and I spent the morning resting and doing some cleaning/organizing. The contractions were uncomfortable but the spacing was ALL over the place. Some would be 7 minutes apart, or 10 minutes apart, or 4 minutes apart! I wasn’t falling into a consistent laboring rhythm.
In the early afternoon, I started to get antsy about moving the labor along. My sister was hanging at our house (with her fiancé) while our son, Norris, napped. Brandon and I decided to go for a walk in the neighborhood to get things going. I was still having discharge and the contractions were fairly uncomfortable at this point. We walked to a bake shop in our neighborhood and I had a ton of contractions on the way. When we got to the bakery and sat down to eat some sweet treats, labor completely. Stopped. For a good 30 minutes, I had zero contractions and felt so frustrated. What was happening with my body?? I was convinced that being my second labor, I would be holding a baby by now. When we walked home, I felt so discouraged. Contractions came fast and furious when I was moving and spaced out a ton when I was settled. Should I be trying to move things along or should I be resting and wait for my body to do its thing? I texted my doula, Lydia, throughout the day. She was so encouraging and gave me advice. She told me to relax, eat some spicy food for dinner, and watch a movie. I took her advice! My parents were coming late that afternoon to pick up Norris so he could go to their house. I decided that a big family dinner of Indian food would be a great distraction from my irregular labor.
At dinner (with my husband, son, dad, mom, sister, soon to be brother-in-law), the contractions seemed to be picking up in intensity. I could no longer talk through them and found myself breathing deeply when they came. I was sitting next to my brother-in-law and am sure I made him uncomfortable when I would put my head down mid-sentence and work through a contraction! They were lasting for about a minute at this point. My mom made a comment about how they seemed to be coming consistently and I agreed. I had definitely felt things pick up. After dinner, we said goodbye to my family and my son. It was very emotional for me to say goodbye to Norris. I knew our family was about to change and that he would come home to a new baby brother or sister and it felt so strange sending him away. As much as I would have loved to have him there for the birth, I realized that focusing on this baby was the best thing for me.
After everyone left, we went upstairs to our third floor and got to work. We kept the lighting dim and I worked through painful contractions. I called Kathy to let her know that the contractions were closer together. They were still inconsistent but they were five minutes apart on average. Lydia came over to help me work through my labor as well. When Kara and Alison arrived that evening, they immediately started unpacking all of their labor equipment and setting up the space for a baby. I was so excited to know that things were moving along! Kara asked to check me to know how far along I was (mostly to determine when to administer the antibiotics). I was so sad to hear that I was only 2 cm dilated and that the baby was very high. After an entire day of labor, I was barely progressing. I was having flashbacks to my first birth where I was given Pitocin due to my “irregular contractions” and “insufficient contractions” and feared that my body was just broken. Kara and Alison recommended that they leave the space and let me rest. When Kathy arrived shortly after (around 9 PM), she told me to rest and that they were leaving. I was so frustrated at my body. Lydia left too and Brandon and I were alone again. Alison told me to take some Benadryl to help me sleep between contractions and I did. That night was AWFUL. I was so groggy and out of it and my contractions became very intense during the night. They would wake me up out of a dead sleep and I would have to jump to hands and knees and moan to get through them. I had a ton of bloody show throughout the night and it felt endless.
On Monday morning, I felt so sad. My contractions, while painful, were spaced out like crazy. Some would be 20 minutes apart and others were on top of each other. I never got into a consistent rhythm. I went on a google search frenzy and tried to figure out if my baby was just not positioned correctly. I called Kara crying at one point in the morning, looking for some advice. She reassured me that my body wasn’t broken and that I WOULD have a baby at some point. In the meantime, I could do whatever was in my control to help move things along if I wanted to. I decided to set up an acupuncture and chiropractic appointment that day to help move things along.
Brandon and I walked to the acupuncture clinic in our neighborhood (my acupuncturist had seen me MANY times that past week!) and I asked for special, intense labor treatment. She put me in a private room and I was close to porcupine status with all of the needles she had in me. The contractions in that room hurt and I wasn’t able to move because of the position I was in. After acupuncture, we walked to a café to get some breakfast sandwiches. At this point, I felt like I had labored in every business in the city! I ate my food between awful contractions, moaning quietly at our table. At home, I barely rested. I did the miles circuit positions, including side walking up the stairs, for hours. I googled rebozo technique and had Brandon jiggle my belly with a sheet. I tried EVERYTHING! Around 4PM, we got in the car to leave for the chiropractic appointment. I had one contraction as we pulled out of our parking space and immediately started sobbing. There was no way I could cope with these contractions while stuck in traffic. We rounded the block and re-parked.
This was the lowest point of my labor. The contractions were so intense and while I was able to get in such a great coping rhythm with my first son’s labor, this labor was all over the place. I never knew when the contractions would hit and needed help getting through them. I draped my body over an exercise ball and cried and cried. My husband is a TV director and totally took advantage of this moment. Ha! He filmed a “confessional” and I voiced all of my fears and anxieties, thinking the baby would never come. Kara called and said that she wanted to come visit around 7PM just to check on me and discuss our options for next steps. I had been in labor for 36 hours at this point and my contractions were still irregular in spacing. Knowing that Kara was coming was a huge relief. I tried to make some butter noodles for dinner and suddenly had no appetite. I was reading a book between contractions and Brandon would use a massager with all of his force on my lower back during contractions. Since they were weirdly spaced, I would just shout at him as soon as they started and he would come running. We gave up on contraction timing!
We went up to the third floor to labor and Kara came around 8 PM. She was surprised to see how hard I was working through contractions and told me that if we didn’t have a baby by the next day, we might want to consider going to the hospital. They were afraid that I wouldn’t have the strength to push out a baby if I labored through another night. I felt completely at peace with that decision. Kara checked me and felt that I was 5cm dilated, very soft, and that baby was lower. She was so encouraged and told me she thought I would have the baby by the morning! This made me so excited. She left me with some blue and black cohosh to keep things moving and told me to take them in alternating doses every 15 minutes. We texted Lydia to have her come back and decided to take a shower to help with some pain relief. When Kara left, she said that she would go home and wait for us to call when contractions were consistently 4 minutes apart (this never happened..the entire.labor.). A few minutes after she left, she texted me back. She was going to get changed and come right back with Alison to give me antibiotics. Kathy would follow later.
Once Lydia came over around 9 PM, I was in the best mood. I was reading a book and listening to my labor playlist with headphones on. I was coping with the contractions well now that I felt the end was in sight. Brandon and Lydia watched an episode of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and cracked jokes. They alternated using counter pressure on my back during each contraction. At some point, Lydia started timing my contractions and must have gotten panicked because Brandon called the midwives to make sure they were coming. They could tell that things were intensifying for me. At 10 PM, Kara and Alison arrived and started my IV. I was still in disbelief- “Are you sure I’m going to have this baby within four hours? I don’t think I’m that close.” I was cracking jokes between contractions and felt good. We set up the birth pool in the landing outside of our bedroom. Brandon had decorated the space with lights and candles and they put my labor playlist on the speakers. It really was beautiful and so peaceful. At this point (close to 11 PM), I was still chatting between contractions and having a good time. Brandon was still directing his film project (aka the birth). Things started to intensify and I no longer spoke between contractions. I stayed upright on my knees, draped over the side of the pool. I read affirmation cards between contractions and Brandon and Lydia BOTH pushed on my back for counter pressure when contractions happened.
I remember Kathy coming in at some point and commenting on how low the water in the tub was! I don’t remember why, but we had the water SO low. I had thought I might like a water birth for this baby but didn’t have my heart set on it. I did really enjoy laboring in the tub. I started going through transition—marked by my asking Lydia “how much longer will this last” and telling Alison “my butt realllllyyyy hurts. I don’t think it’s supposed to hurt like this!”. They both reassured me that baby was moving down. Contractions were on top of each other and I suddenly felt the urge to push. I told Alison- “I think I need to push. Or poop. I don’t know! I can’t figure it out.” She told me that if I was pushing uncontrollably, I should let my body push.. but that if I just had to poop, I could do that as well. I felt my water bag bulging and wanted to know if I was ready to push. I got out of the tub and laid on the bed. When Alison checked me, she said that I was fully dilated with a little bit of lip and that the baby was low! She told me that I was nice and soft and I tried to make an awkward joke about primrose oil and how it smells like turkey dinner (seriously- open a capsule and check it out). Everyone was confused and didn’t get the joke. While Brandon was trying to clarify my nonsense for the rest of the room, I felt a crazy contraction come on and grabbed Brandon and my water broke like a huge water balloon all over the floor. I immediately felt the baby crown and asked to go back to the pool. Brandon and Lydia helped me and I got back into the position on my knees. The ring of fire was happening. It was real. I asked Kathy what I should do about the burning and she told me that I could breathe through contractions when the burning started happening. “The burning is happening,” I said. “Now??” She asked. I then calmly stated that I could feel my baby’s head and everyone started laughing. They had no idea the baby was so close to coming out.
I breathed through a few contractions because I was terrified of tearing again, but that urge to push was REAL. It felt amazing that my body was just doing it on its own, I didn’t experience that at all with my first birth. I told Brandon that the baby had lots of hair (!!!!) and he reached down to feel it. At 12:06 AM (after being in the tub for five minutes), I decided to not breathe through a contraction and I pushed my baby out in one push. Kara and Brandon guided the baby to my chest and I picked baby up, clutching and sobbing. I sobbed and held the baby for a minute until I checked and saw that it was a girl! A girl! I started sobbing some more when I knew I was meeting sweet Demi Jean. After a few minutes, the midwives helped me to the bed to deliver the placenta. They were so excited for me and so professional. They worked on helping me deliver the placenta while Lydia gave me something to drink and fed me pizza and apple slices in bed. I had a minor 1st degree tear that needed a few stitches but I was overjoyed. This tear was nothing! Demi Jean was the most chill baby ever. She didn’t cry at all during those first couple of hours and just looked around and latched like a champ. I got to take a shower soon after having her and we were snuggled in bed by 1:30 AM. The midwives checked her and me and left at 2 AM. In the morning, we were greeted by my parents and big brother Norris. He jumped on the bed and held her little finger, telling us how cute she was.
My homebirth with Midwifery Traditions was more incredible than I had thought it could be. Despite a very long and inconsistent labor, I am so grateful for a provider who recognized that labor can look many different ways and that they supported me and encouraged me and allowed me to have my baby without medical intervention.