It’s taken me almost 4 weeks since Evie’s birth to get the story down in writing, but there has not been one day where I haven’t thought extensively about my birth experience and how it was one of the best moments of my life. I will warn readers up front that this is veryvery long. I wanted to get all the details in there for myself, so it might not be the most thrilling read, but it’s definitely comprehensive
The story starts on Friday, January 6, 2012 when I was 39 weeks 3 days (or 5 days if you estimate using ovulation instead of LMP) pregnant. I had worked a full day from my home office and labor felt nowhere close to happening. I did send a document to my coworker so she had it “just in case I wasn’t in on Monday.” When I sent it to her though I thought to myself “yeah right, I’ll definitely be in on Monday.”
After I signed off from work, I was in the mood to go out for dinner. It was Friday night after all and I didn’t know how many dates nights we would have left as a family of 2, so I got ready and tried to look as cute as I could for wearing DH’s sweater. This was the first and only point in my pregnancy that I felt huge (none of my maternity clothes even fit) and “just done.” Perhaps I should have taken that as a sign…
A new brewery opened up in our town a few days prior so once DH got home from work we decided to walk down the avenue and try it out. We held hands and I had to walk verrrry slow. I attributed this to the hugeness. The wait for a table was 2 hours! Screw that! So we went to another little pub down the block. We were standing waiting for a table and so many people offered me their seat and asked when the big day was. I must admit, I kinda liked being so pregnant and out with dangle earrings on. It was fun and it just felt like people were excited for us
We had an awesome meal. We did our usual thing where we order 2 apps and split a main course. (In case you were wondering we had fried brussels sprouts with blue cheese vinaigrette, veggie flatbread, and a half beef half venison medium rare burger.) Once we finished up, we made the walk back home and headed upstairs because DH was planning on giving me a foot rub. I went to the bathroom first and discovered I had lost some of my mucus plug! yay! I was really excited. I made DH look at it and he thought it was nasty (it kinda is). I also felt a bit relieved because at 39 weeks, 3 days I figured the plug was a good sign that I would not go past 42 weeks and be risked out of our homebirth or forced to use castor oil. I had been somewhat worried about going late the entire pregnancy because my mom brewed us all for 42 weeks and like I said before, labor never seemed close to happening.
Instead of a regular foot rub, DH youtubed labor induction pressure points and worked on those for a little bit. Shortly after, we headed to bed. Then at 4 in the morning I got up to use the bathroom and while I was trying to fall back to sleep I noticed my normal Braxton Hicks contractions, didn’t feel quite as normal. They didn’t hurt, but there was slight cramping with each one. I was able to sleep through them until 7 when I woke up DH to tell him about them. I was trying to contain my excitement because I knew they could easily disappear. I let twitter know, but that was it.
I decided to head to prenatal yoga like I normally would on a Saturday morning. Here is a pic DH took right before I left. Notice I am wearing the birth beads I got as part of an exchange I did with 16 women throughout the world all due in January. Those beads gave me the strength and confidence to birth!
During yoga, contractions were coming about 10 to 15 minutes apart and were very mild. I told DH I would be happy having the baby by Tuesday at this rate. Whenever I got a contraction I needed to pee a little. I went to the bathroom several times during the class. Everyone there was really excited for me and it was an awesome energy. I’m so happy I went.
I drove home and we decided to run errands and get a good healthy lunch in me. We headed to whole foods and I filled up on proteins. We walked around the store and my contractions were starting to hurt a bit more but were still far apart. I leaned on the cart and walked very slowly through them. I don’t think people would have known I was in early labor though. We picked up yummy food for the midwives to snack on and more labor food for me. I also bought pretty yellow mini tulips for the bedroom, where I was planning on laboring and birthing. Next we headed to IKEA. I got a little grouchy there so we made it quick. Picked up the desk we went for and headed home.
We were supposed to meet my family for dinner at a place about 25 minutes away at 6:30. I called them to let them know “I wasn’t feeling great” and asked if we could meet in our neighborhood instead. I didn’t want to get everyone excited in case this wasn’t the real deal so I just said I was feeling crampy and didn’t want to be in the car. Jeff and I met my parents, grandparents and little sister for sushi down the block. My plans to conceal labor did not work well because every ten minutes I had to say “hold on” and squeeze my eyes shut through the contractions. I remember my grandmom saying “oh you’re in labor, this is definitely it.” I said it could still be a long while. My mom told Jeff they were going to hurt a lot more than they were now. She was right.
We got home around 9. I was contracting every 7 minutes and they lasted about a minute. They hurt. I tired to watch the GOP debate but couldn’t really concentrate so we moved to the bedroom and tried to rest. I could not lay down during the contractions. I need to be on my hands and knees or leaning on the birth ball. I decided to call my doula and midwife to let them know what was happening. I called my doula first who asked me questions and we talked for a bit. She said she didn’t think they were going to go away but to try and get as much rest as I could. My midwife said “Go to bed!” Well, that’s much easier said than done! It’s probably fair to say that it was the longest night of my life. As much as I wanted to let DH sleep, that’s as much as I needed him. Thankfully I was able to doze off in between contractions which were coming 5-7 minutes apart. I couldn’t wait until it was morning. I was just counting down the time until 8 am which in my mind meant I could call my doula back and come up with a plan. Contractions were getting old fast.
I tweeted “I wish I had more exciting news but things here are slow and steady. Intensity progressed but not frequency. #twitterbirth” I need to mention here how AMAZING my twitter friends were to me throughout labor. I didn’t tweet as much as I had planned but I read every single encouraging tweet, and there were a lot! I found comfort in the fact that many of the people sending messages and vibes knew exactly what I was going through. When they said I could do it, I trusted them.
My doula headed over to check on me before she had a prenatal appointment at 10:30. She timed contractions and we just talked about how they felt. She gave DH some tips for how to support me through them. She told me to keep eating and drinking and resting. She thought I was in very early labor and it could be a while. I cried a little bit just disappointed and nervous that I would have to last another whole day and night. The thought of another sleepless painful night really discouraged me and I doubted I could do it. She let me cry and reassured me that I could do it and to only worry about one contraction at a time. She told me to walk outside, keep taking showers, and relax with DH.
I ate a second breakfast and then tweeted that some contractions were so strong that I was getting the shakes but that they were still not getting close together.
DH put on relaxing music and I leaned back on him sitting between his legs on the bed and we swayed together. We both cried happy tears but exchanged no words. Just thinking about that moment brings tears to my eyes again. I felt so overwhelmed by the love we have for each other and how life was going so fast right before our eyes. We were about to become parents together and I just felt so happy and so emotional. It’s hard to explain the intensity, but it’s one of the most memorable and positive parts of my labor.
It was somewhere around this time where I totally understood why women get epidurals. Contractions hurt! I know some people can call them “pressure,” but I am not one of them. I just thought about how if someone came in and said “I can make these all stop now,” that it would be hard not to take them up on their offer. That said, I never considered transferring or actually wanting an epidural, I just totally got why many women choose that route.
After relaxing for a bit, we moved the labor party outside. I was supposed to walk the neighborhood, but I felt strongly that I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to feel safe and secure, so I opted to walk in circles in our tiny backyard! I leaned on DH and swayed through each one vocalizing quite a bit. We didn’t stay outside for long because I started to crave the shower.
The shower felt great. I alternated standing up and sitting on the shower chair. I ordered this to use as a birthing stool in case I didn’t like the birthpool and wanted a land birth instead.
Around 2PM my doula came back to check on me again. Again she timed contractions and we talked about how they felt. I kept complaining that I had a lot of rectal pain and it felt like there was a poop in there blocking baby from coming! She said that that was just what my contractions felt like and it was normal, but if I really thought there was something in there I needed to get out that I should take an enema. I had never taken an enema in my life but there’s a first time for everything, right? Once again, I cried to her. This time I was really mad about the labor I had been dealt. Why couldn’t I have a normal progressing 12 hour labor? Would I be doing this for another day? I was crying how it was unfair and how I wanted a different birth story.
At this point my contractions really hurt and I was being very noisy through them. They were on average 5 minutes apart but sometimes more and sometimes less. No reliable pattern. DH called my parents to ask them to come over and get the dogs and bring them to their house. The plan was always to have the dogs leave as they are velcro dogs and I didn’t want to have to worry about them annoying me during labor. In retrospect they could have stayed, but still we went with the original plan. Before he hung up with my mom he said, “oh and could you bring us an enema?”
My parents arrived at 3 pm. They stayed for about 15 minutes and I had 3 contractions while they were there. The rectal pressure/pain was intense so at 3:45 I opted to take (use? do?) the enema. Looking back, I CAN’T BELIEVE I TOOK AN ENEMA! You are supposed to squeeze this liquid up your butt, hold it in for as long as you can, and then use the toilet. I could not really hold it in so I just went right to the bathroom. Beautiful birth details, huh? As soon as I sat down, I got really nauseous and started to throw up a lot. Soon after I tweeted that I was not in transition but I vomited a bunch, and oh yeah, I took an enema.
Maybe it was mind over matter or really I was doing a good job listening to my body, but the contractions felt better. They still hurt a bunch but it was not in the same awful place it was hurting before. Over the next hour I got back in the shower twice and used the birth ball in the bedroom. DH was being a great birth partner telling me which parts of my body to relax.
We decided to call and update my midwife since we hadn’t talked to her for a while. I couldn’t talk through contractions and I wasn’t in the best mood, so DH talked to her. She said she planned on eating dinner and getting a shower and that she would come over after that.
Five minutes after they hung up, I was standing in the bathroom holding on to the sink and I got 5 contractions back to back. It was incredible. Out of nowhere, boom. boom. boom. boom. boom. Keep in mind they were 5 minutes apart up to this point, so not only did the contractions hurt like hell, they also blew my mind. I had no idea what was happening and I started to panic saying “help me, please help me!!” DH was standing in the hallway looking at me when I felt something in my vagina. I reached down and my bag of waters was bulging. As soon as I felt it, it broke all over the bathroom floor! (water was clear…whew!)
Now here is where the story gets good. As soon as my water broke, my body started to bear down. It was instantaneous. I said something along the lines of “Oh my god, I think I’m pushing! Jeff, I’m pushing! Oh my god, I can’t stop. Holy shit, I’m pushing!” I was half terrified, half reeealllllly happy because I knew it was almost over and it definitely would not be a whole other night. The sensation of your body bearing down is very intense. That’s probably the only way I can really describe it. I said “I am so out of control.” It felt like I was handing over my body to some other thing that was doing all the work on its own.
DH called our midwife right back and told her I was pushing. All she said was “I’m on my way!” (Side note: She lives an hour away.) He then texted my parents who we had planned on witnessing the birth of their first grandchild and told them to hurry. Next he called our doula and said we needed her immediately. Thankfully, she lives down the street so it only took her a few minutes to get to us. When she showed up I was standing in the tub that only had a few inches of water in it and begging for someone to just help me while grunting through these intense pushing contractions. Afterward she said it was quite the scene finding me in the tub only filled up to my ankles. She helped me out of our bathtub and got me on my hands and knees in the hallway so she could see what was going on down there. She took a look and then told DH to get our midwife on speaker phone and start filling the birth pool.
When our midwife answered she was so awesome. She said “Leeeesh! You’re about to meet your baby! You’re doing this! So proud of you!” I loved that she was not worried she wouldn’t make it, that she didn’t use all medical terms, and that she never made us feel like we were in a bad situation. She was just congratulating me and telling me I was doing great. Another memorable part of my birth experience.
Our doula told her my labia were staying separate and maybe some other details. I was half listening half dealing with the pushing contractions. After every one she would update again with how much of the baby she could see, if it was past the pubic bone, etc. My midwife was also updating us with where she was so we could gauge if she was going to make it. I remember thinking, “Okay midwife is on Stenton Ave. and baby is past the pubic bone. hmmm??” While our doula stayed with me, DH was busy getting the bed ready. At this point he knew we would not be having a water birth because we weren’t paying attention to the water and it was way too hot. But instead of turning the hose off, he turned the water to cold and continued to fill it.
Once he was done making the bed, I moved from the hallway (where I was on a cat litter mat! don’t ask) onto the bed. I switched from hands and knees to lying on my side but quickly switched back to hands and knees because that was more comfortable. I asked if I could move onto the birth stool but my doula asked that I stay in the position I was in because it was easier for her in case she needed to catch the baby. I remember feeling a little disappointed but not caring too much.
As the baby started to crown, I heard people coming in the front door downstairs. I told DH to go down and tell my parents they could come up if they promised not to freak out. They were excited and supportive of me having a homebirth but they probably wouldn’t be too comfortable with it being an unplanned unassisted homebirth so I wanted them to stay cool when they realized this baby was about to be born and the midwife still hadn’t arrived.
They came in and my mom came around to my head and said something nice, to which I responded, “shut UP, mom! I want everyone quiet!” I have to say, this was the only time I got a little nasty. I think I was overwhelmed and over exposed. To my surprise despite our midwife living an hour away, she was bounding up the stairs right behind my parents. She said she did over 100 miles per hour on the highway so she ended up making it to us in less than 45 minutes. When she walked in, one of the first things she said was, “the pool is overflowing!”
In all the craziness that was going on, no one noticed that the birth pool was overflowing! My dad ran and got our shopvac and quickly began getting the water up before it did any damage. It was a nice comic relief.
I remember our midwife asking for gloves and a washcloth. She covered my butt with a warm washcloth and told me to push slowly. I (unfortunately) didn’t listen and just wanted the baby out. I pushed hard and out came the head!
I didn’t tell anyone this, but once she was out, I looked under my arm and saw her body which was facing me and there I saw a little vulva! It was a few seconds later that DH figured it out (we had planned on him announcing it to me and everyone else) and he said “It’s a GIRL!”
I turned around and she was placed in my arms.
This little baby was crying and crying and pooping and peeing! She peed all over my stomach and took a huge meconium poo on my leg. Nice one, Evie! I didn’t care at all though. I just was so happy to meet her. It was an odd feeling, like this new person just entered the world, but we knew her her whole life. Incredible.
I felt on top of the world. Just like that, all the pain was gone and I was filled with energy and excitement and of course, love. For as much as I cry watching other people give birth, I just got teary at my own. DH and I just sat and stared at her for a while. I gave a little push and the placenta was delivered about 10 minutes later. Once the cord had mostly stopped pulsing, DH cut it. Then the midwife assistant came busting through the door out of breath to find us already with a baby! She was so disappointed to have missed it but happy to find us cozied up as a new little family.
Both she and my midwife examined me and I needed stitches to repair a first degree tear down my perineum. It was long but shallow. In the hours that followed, there were a lot of baby snuggles, a big pesto pasta and bruschetta dinner, a nice hot shower for me, and a newborn exam for the babe.
Our daughter was 8 pounds, 5 ounces and 20 inches long. We named her Evie Ryan about 24 hours later.