Years leading up to planning a family, I spent a lot of time researching pregnancy and birth. Along with listening to the experiences of friends and family, I read birth stories, read up on research on interventions and birthing methods, researched options in my area, and interviewed midwives. It didn’t take long for me to realize that home is where I wanted to birth. I could go on about the reasons why this model of care was right for us; I just couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. I found so much comfort knowing the midwife I chose would be the one I would spend my entire prenatal care with and she would be at my delivery when the time came.
I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy up until just over 38 weeks when my blood pressure spiked a bit. Speaking with my midwife, Ingrid, she was very clear saying that if it came within a certain range, we wouldn’t even be attempting a home birth and I’d have to transfer care to the hospital due to the risks associated with high blood pressure. This is when I realized that the last 10 months of me saying “I’m ok with any birth option as long as we’re safe” wasn’t even close to the truth. I was crushed, heart broken and scared. Spending the last 9+ months trying to prevent something like this, I felt defeated. I really had to talk myself into being ok with this possibility but I don’t think I ever got to a point of comfort with that.
The Friday before I went into labor, I was following up with Ingrid on my blood pressure. We were both overjoyed when it was in a normal range and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Honestly I was shocked because I had worked myself up so much about it. I had been crying scared tears for days and they now turned to happy, grateful ones. Ingrid also confirmed my suspicions that my cervix had been effacing and dilating. She told me she thought I’d be going into labor soon and it was in my best interest to encourage it along. She sent me home from work with strict orders to do some relaxing and pampering and take “love baths” which essentially means doing things that makes my heart happy. I got a pedicure, made some last-minute purchases for post-partum, got an acupressure massage, went to an antique mall and had dinner with friends and family. I remember feeling like whenever I was talking to someone that day wanting to exclaim “Hey I’m about to go into labor soon!” but fortunately decided not to alarm the whole town.
I woke up on Sunday morning feeling crampy and realized I had what I thought was bloody show so I called Ingrid to check in with her. She wanted to come over early on to check my blood pressure and progress since she had seen me last so she could evaluate whether we would be staying home for sure. I was super nervous. She instructed me to sit down and relax and take my own blood pressure within an hour and report back to her. I did that and my reading came up a little borderline. She told me to try to get some sleep and call her back in an hour. I hadn’t started having contractions (that I could feel) when I first talked to her but as soon as we hung up, I couldn’t go back to sleep. I checked in with my birth photographer and hung out in our living room for a bit just trying to calm myself and take it all in. Eventually I woke up my husband Brian and that’s when I started to have timeable contractions and the idea of labor started to feel very real. I had Ingrid on the phone again and when I set the phone down during a contraction, Brian picked up to talk to her. She asked if we still wanted her to come over or if we should all meet at the hospital. She was assuming with my last reading being on the high end, that this is where we would end up. Brian asked her to at least come over to check herself and I’m so glad he did. He made me some food per Ingrid’s instructions and we hung out in the living room timing contractions until she arrived.
Ingrid and her student Miranda arrived shortly after 9am and helped me relax for a bit while we all chatted before taking my blood pressure. It was in a good, normal range and if I had it in me, I would have jumped up and down. We realized I hadn’t been taking it correctly on my own which was to blame for the bad reading that morning. Ingrid still let me know she would still monitor it every 30 minutes regardless of the positive reading. She also checked me and I was about 5 cm and 80% effaced. The four of us spent the next few hours hanging out in our living room watching Schitt’s Creek. It was a scene I never would have anticipated with my birth but it’s one I won’t forget. We were laughing and talking about the show and Ingrid was walking me through labor positions on the couch. I was in and out of conversation of course with my contractions. Brian was baffled at how I would “come back to life” and carry on conversation at the end of each one. It was such a fun, distracting environment and perfect for that point in my labor.
I was rotating from side to side laying on the couch while Ingrid rubbed a labor oil on my feet. As the intensity increased, I felt like I was physically present in the room but not mentally anymore. I remember hearing Brian talking with the midwives and listening to their conversations during contractions but not being able to participate. Days later I answered a question they had about the characters on the show that I knew and wanted to chime in with but just couldn’t at the time. Ha!
Within a couple hours, we decided we could move upstairs to our bedroom where we had decided to have the pool. I was about 7cm at this point so Ingrid wanted me to do some more laboring before getting in. She walked me through a position she called mountain climber and I immediately objected based on the name alone. I can’t imagine a lot of laboring women get excited about this one. Ingrid reminded me that it’s very effective and told me I just had to work through 3 contractions on each side. I liked being given end points or deadlines and realize now I was always searching for them; when will my water break? When can I get in the pool? When can I push? When will this be done? The mountain climber position is essentially lying face down on the bed with one leg bent and arms at your side. I think the idea is that your body can’t fight against the contraction or hold anything back. I wanted to stop and get out of bed the whole time but I was reminded how these intense contractions were doing the work we needed and that it was a good discomfort. That’s something I struggled with throughout labor. I kept seeking comfort and physical comfort wasn’t what I needed.
When it was time to get in the pool, I was so excited. I did a laboring woman’s version of ripping my clothes off and diving in. That translates to me taking my nightgown off and waddling / hobbling into the pool as my midwife assisted me. It was everything I dreamed it would be. I felt the pressure on my hips and bones melt away and I instantly never wanted to leave. I had to though. Every two hours I had to get out and labor for two hours out of the pool. I was nearly fully dilated but my bag of waters was bulging and just not breaking which we suspected was holding me back from fully dilating.
During the two hours I spent out of the pool, I walked stairs, hung out on the toilet in several directions and even did the dreaded mountain climber again. No progress. In certain positions, counter pressure felt really good on my back and hips. I had no idea who was doing it but I hollered at them all the same if they weren’t doing it right. As I complained about my progress, Ingrid reminded me that my water didn’t have to break to move forward so not to focus on it and to keep doing what I was doing.
Eventually the sun went down and that’s when I realized the entire day had passed. You would think that in such an intense situation that time would just drag on but in the throes of labor, time flew by. Everyone reminded me of Ingrid’s words earlier when I asked her precisely when my baby would be born, she stated that babies like to come at night. I laughed in her face at the time not being able to comprehend how I could possibly still be in labor at night but here I was still not quite fully dilated and facing the dark of night.
Around 10pm, my time was once again up in the pool and I had to come out. I was less than thrilled about this as I knew I couldn’t get back in for two hours and I was just so wanting to push and be done with it all. Ingrid decided to check me again and this time she let me know she felt more comfortable with the baby’s location and asked if I wanted her to break my water. It’s funny because I felt like I had been begging her to break my water all day (although I don’t know if I ever even vocalized it) and when she finally she asked me, I answered ‘Do you want to break my water? Do you think it’s a good idea?’ I hired Ingrid because of her experience, knowledge and because I trust her more than anyone with these decisions. I wanted nothing more than her to break my water but still felt like I had to consult with her to make sure it was the best decision. Of course, she wouldn’t have offered if she wasn’t comfortable or thought it wasn’t safe. The actual process of breaking my water is a blur to me, I don’t remember feeling anything other than small warm gush and then everyone celebrating at how well it went. (i.e. no complication) I was relieved and ready to get back in the pool but we had to change out some of the water as it had cooled down a bit by this point.
I got up from the bed to head to the bathroom while they did this and I remember a midwife asking if I wanted to carry a towel with me as my water was still dripping. I waved it off and said I didn’t want anything on me. I wasn’t in my right mind to realize this meant someone had to follow me cleaning up as I waddled to the bathroom. I laugh at these random points of how rude I was!
I sat on the toilet laboring as my midwives shuffled back and forth with pots of water emptying some of the cool water so they could refill it. The hose leading coming off the faucet was resting on my leg and as they filled it, the hose got hot! I was sitting there complaining about it and my sweet photographer who had been at my house all day with her newborn baby held it away from my leg with her barefoot. I was feeling so grateful for all the women around me and all they were doing to make our birth safe, empowering and everything that it was. Once that was done, I knew it was game time. Miranda reminded me that since my water was broken, contractions were about to get intense. I laughed in my head because I couldn’t comprehend a higher intensity though it was an intimidating feeling of knowing you’re decisively (yet not so much) going into something like that.
At this time, I said I was ready to get back into the pool. I was past the point of asking questions and just started making statements to see if anyone would oblige. To my surprise, Miranda said ‘OK! Let’s get in!’ I could feel the baby’s head like a bowling ball between my legs. I don’t remember why but I remember having the feeling that I was the only one that knew the baby was on it’s way out soon. I remember feeling like I should tell everyone or ask them to check but never being able to say anything. I think I was just too scared they would say “Oh no, you have HOURS of pushing ahead of you” At some point after stepping back into the pool though, Ingrid gave me the go ahead to start pushing. The best way I can explain my state of mind heading into and during the pushing phase is it felt like the last moments of a Super Mario Brothers level when time is running out and the music speeds up and panic sets in. When I replay it in my mind, I can almost hear it! I felt like I was mentally trying to hold on to something and couldn’t really grasp what was happening. The actual scene outside of my head in my bedroom was actually pretty serene with the lights low and a window open to the cool night.
Ingrid walked me through several pushing positions including holding my legs while Brian held me up in the water pushing on my back (which I hated) and then laying on each side. I pushed for a few contractions on each side and eventually I heard someone say that he had hair! That’s when it occurred to me that he must really be coming soon. Denial is such a weird thing. Going into my last contraction, Ingrid told me not to push along with it and to just kind of let my body do it. That’s exactly what happened too. I felt his head and then instantly his body was out with a small splash as I turned to grab him. He was crying and covered in vernix as Ingrid handed him right to me. I still remember how slimy his body was and how his lips were quivering as he cried. My first thought was to admire how adorable and perfect he was and my second was to exclaim in my head over and over that I wasn’t in labor anymore.
We spent the next little bit in the birth pool hanging out with sweet Adrian before stepping out to deliver the placenta and for my exam. During my exam Ingrid broke the news that she suspected I had a 3rd degree tear and that she doesn’t repair those. I knew what that meant and while it was devastating that we would now be making a trip into the hospital after all we had been through and accomplished at home, it was hard to feel disappointed at this point. I was safe, our baby was safe and we had a birth that I can’t imagine I would have anywhere but at home. I was feeling immensely grateful and ready to get the last part over with before coming home to rest in our own bed. My midwives helped us pack up and brought us to the hospital where they stayed and helped answer questions. After some stitching up, we were sent home where the three of us snuggled up in bed as a family of three for some much needed rest.