Before my husband Chad and I decided to start our family, I knew I wanted to research pregnancy and the type of birth options available. With that in mind, I picked up Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, and fell in love with the birth stories and philosophies. Ina May’s quote “Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon” really resonated with me, and I knew immediately I wanted to work with a midwife once we were expecting. When we researched midwives in the area and found Midwifery Traditions, I was so excited to see there was a practice that very much believed in the same philosophies. We made an appointment for a consultation and after meeting Kathy at 8 weeks pregnant it was a no-brainer. We knew we wanted Kathy, Alison and Kara as our midwives, and were hopeful if all went smoothly throughout the pregnancy we could have our baby at home.
My pregnancy had been a dream. I barely had morning sickness, was able to sleep most nights, and never got too uncomfortable. I seriously had never felt better! I felt the baby drop just shy of 37 weeks after a walk at the park, and thought “Oh no!” I wanted those last 3 weeks! Even though we had all the birth supplies and had done all our research, gone to home birth classes with Brittany from Blossoming Bellies, hired an amazing Doula who also had 2 homebirths with Midwifery Traditions, I wanted the full 40 week experience. The baby and pregnancy had been so good to me, why rush it? I had heard the baby could drop weeks before labor, so I was hopeful we could make it a little longer.
The night of Thursday June 29th (38 weeks and 2 days), I got off work, and felt the need to do a huge food shop. This was kind of ridiculous, as 1-week prior our refrigerator was showing signs it was on the fritz. The new refrigerator wasn’t coming until the following week and my husband was doing his best to clean out the old one. When he came home and saw that I had done a good size shop at both Trader Joes and Wegmans, he was a little perplexed! Around 10:30 that night I started to feel mild contractions, which lasted all night and into the morning. By 8:30 am they had subsided to one every 15 to 30 minutes and they were still pretty mild. I wrote the midwives an email to give them a heads up, but also knowing full well this could go on for days.
Friday I worked on my laptop from my bedroom, and drank lots of water. I got off work at 4:30pm, and by 4:45 the contractions were back and they were not as mild as before. Chad had tried to blow up our birth pool during the week to ensure it would hold air, and the pump we had received with it stopped working after 5 minutes. I decided it was time to go get another pump just in case. I went to the store and grabbed a cart knowing I didn’t even need one. I just needed something to hold onto in case I got a contraction. When I got home with the new pump, I ate some dinner and watched some TV, timing the contractions all the way. Chad got home from work around 10:30pm and his brother Perry, who had come down from Astoria for 4th of July weekend, arrived shortly after. We were all talking in the living room while Chad blew up the birth pool, and every 10 minutes I would have to walk away and stretch out through a contraction. I still thought this was just the beginning and could go on for days. Allison’s voice kept repeating in my head “Don’t give all your energy and power to early labor.” And I was doing my best not too.
I fell asleep around midnight, but by 1:30am I was up and logging my contractions as medium instead of mild. They were starting to go from 10 minutes to 8 to 5 minutes, back up to 8 minutes. No clear pattern, but they were getting intense. I lost my dinner around 2:30am and decided I needed to shower. In the middle of the night while everyone slept, I was taking a 40-minute super hot shower. It felt awesome and I noticed the contractions started to subside a little. I drank some water and kept timing the contractions. I threw up again at 5am, and decided I needed another hot shower. This time the contractions stayed with me through it, and didn’t subside as they did earlier. I got back in bed and I started to wake Chad up to rub my back every time I got a contraction. Around 6:30am I called Kathy to tell her what was going on. I knew on paper it didn’t seem like I was in active labor. I kept thinking of the 4-1-1 rule we had learned about contractions, 4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour. Kathy said it sounded like I was in early labor and that I should try and get some sleep since I had been up all night for 2 nights now. I could have another day and a half ahead of me. I asked if I should send Chad to work, she said absolutely.
I tried to sleep but the contractions were just as steady, and I was starting to see other signs that this could be more. I called Kathy back around 8:45am, and just as the phone was ringing I started to have a contraction, I handed the phone to Chad since I couldn’t speak. Kathy answered and Chad said, “Hi Kathy, This is Chad…” and Kathy said, “So you didn’t go to work.” Still makes me smile to hear her say that! He told her of some of my newer symptoms and she said she would send someone over to check on me.
Allison showed up and I was still in bed working through contractions. Allison went to hear the baby’s heart beat and said all sounded fine, which was a relief since I hadn’t felt the baby move as much in the last couple hours. Then she asked if I wanted her to check me. This is something I thought I did not want throughout my labor. I knew psychologically if I thought I was more dilated than I was, I would be disappointed and didn’t want the mind trip to stall labor. But at this point I was desperate to know what was going on. I said yes and Allison said, “Well you’re 6 to 7 cm and I can feel the head. I’ve seen you through a few contractions and you’re not acting like someone who is 6 to 7 cm, so I no longer trust you! I’m going to go get my things. Chad, I would start to fill the pool.” Oh my gosh, I was so relieved. That entire night was not for nothing!
Allison started to set up and Chad started to fill the pool. I stayed in bed and tried to work my way through each contraction, no longer timing them. Allison would stop what she was doing and come over and give me a back rub through the contractions, which felt amazing. I remember telling her to teach Chad to rub my back; she obviously knew what she was doing! My brother-in-law Perry came to say bye since he was heading to my in-law’s house, and he looked pretty excited. Around 11:30 I went to use the bathroom and birthed my water bag intact. I naively said, “I think I fell the head!” which still makes me laugh. If only it were that easy!
I got in the pool, and it felt amazing! I don’t know why I didn’t ask Chad to fill it sooner, I immediately felt relief. I was hanging over the side of the pool and saw Kathy come in. It was really happening! The water felt great and with each contraction I would try and keep my jaw loose as I had read and let out a groan. Chad was right next to me rubbing my back or shoulders, giving me a sip of the Vitamin Water. Around noon Kara came in and I was to the point I was starting to bear down with each contraction. I didn’t want to “push” per say, I just wanted to see where each contraction took me and again keep my jaw loose and let out a good groan. I remember feeling like baby was very close, and I got frustrated at one point at let out some sort of profanity. I also think I yelled at our dog Aesop who was prancing in and out of the room to see what is going on to “Go lie down!” Poor boy, he was just excited! Within the next few contractions, I could feel her head and during one last good contraction, I felt her make her way into this world. I said “Oh it burns!” and I heard Kathy said, “I know it does, you’re almost there!” and within seconds, she came out fully and fast, with her left hand up near her face. Allison would later say she came out like super woman!
Allison handed me our little girl and I kept her on my chest with Chad behind us, we were so happy and excited! Kara gave us lots of warm blankets and towels to keep our little girl warm. I am forever thankful that Kathy grabbed my cell phone and took all those early photos. One of my good friends who’s a photographer was going to come and document the birth, but things happened so fast I didn’t even have notice to tell her to come over. As a photographer, having those images of those first moments means the world to me.
They moved us to the bed to birth the placenta. Chad cut the cord and before they started to stitch me up, Kathy said should we find out if it’s a boy or girl? It had been almost 30 minutes and we didn’t know yet! Kathy removed the towel and we saw we had a little girl! We were both over the moon! I know we would have been happy either way, but my husband comes from a long line of boys, and we just assumed that was what we were having. All my pregnancy symptoms pointed to having a boy, I even bought little newborn hats that were blue with monkeys for the birth since I couldn’t find any gender-neutral hats. We were over the moon! The first girl to be born from his side in a long time!
In the following hours I was stitched up, little Leona started nursing immediately and Chad made me a peanut butter and banana sandwich. After I stitched up, Kathy and Kara had to go to another birth, and Allison stayed behind to give our girl her newborn exam and make sure I got a shower. After Alison left we spent the night cuddling with our little girl in our own bed, and feeling so much gratitude to Kathy, Alison and Kara for giving us the most amazing birth experience we could have asked for. We were over the moon she was here!