As a doula I had seen a variety of births before my own and I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted for my own birth. Before I ever became pregnant my husband and I agreed on a homebirth. I also had scoliosis growing up and had rods placed through most of my mid back (from above my bra line to above my tailbone). The research I did said an epidural would be impossible which meant I was going the natural route! I knew to do a birth without pain medication that movement is key. Going through labor physiologically (a birth unfolding without medical intervention) was possible, but choosing where to birth to make that happen is one of the biggest deciding factors in whether that is possible.
I knew that being hooked up to monitors and having to be watched closely would drive me insane. I also knew how frustrating it is for clients to be constantly interrupted during surges to be asked their pain scale, the last time they urinated, if they ate that morning, and the first day of their last period (all questions I’ve had asked of clients during contractions). I knew what I wanted and as long as baby and I were healthy - I knew it was possible!
I developed gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and monitored it closely. It was controlled by diet and with a few extra ultrasounds Hank was measuring just fine. My midwife, Ray, did suggest I do very gentle induction methods starting around 38 weeks, even with controlled diet, she was hesitant to see me go past 41 weeks. I got reflexology, acupuncture, chiropractic care, I pumped, inserted evening primrose oil, and had lots of orgasms. At 38 weeks I was 1 cm and 70% effaced. I opted for a stretch and sweep which brought me to 3 cm.
The morning I was 39 weeks I was in a rage all day. I was upset about the most ridiculous things. My doula, Jess said sometimes hormones shifting means baby is coming. I rolled my eyes. That night I couldn’t sleep. I swear I rolled over every 15 minutes. I could NOT get comfortable. I peed every hour, on the hour. With heart burn and restless leg syndrome I was going crazy. Finally at 1 AM I was getting back into bed and I felt a trickle. I knew IMMEDIATELY it was my water. I rushed back to the bathroom and sat on the toilet - more water kept coming out! I was so excited! I put on a depend (a good friend told me this trick and was a great idea) and sat there for a while, leaking, and called Ray. I called Jess. I texted our photographer, and my friend who was going to do massage in labor. I called my sister and my parents. Everyone told me to go back to bed and rest. HA.
I woke up Eric and he was very happy, asked if he could do anything, I told him to get some rest, and he rolled over and went back to sleep. I knew I needed to pray for this upcoming marathon so I went and read Psalm 139, where God talks about knitting us together in our mother’s womb. I knew this baby was safe and that I would get to meet him soon! I did try and lay down but after a few minutes I got my first contraction, almost one hour after my water had broken. It was manageable. I breathed and pretty soon it was over. Then another one came. And another. Pretty soon my heavy breathing woke Eric up and he began rubbing my back. After a few more I hopped up and starting leaning over the bed. I turned on all the lights and told Eric we had to clean before the birth team showed up! So we folded laundry and organized the living room and our room, all in-between contractions. Eric started timing them and they were three minutes apart, lasting from one to two minutes.
I thought we were timing them wrong. They couldn’t be that close together. Jess is my doula-guru, mentor, person who gives me limitless advice, and now my doula, told me she always calls her clients when they say their contractions are close together. If they talk on the phone for a few minutes and no contractions, chances are its still early labor. In five minutes I had two contractions on the phone but I was honestly feeling okay. I was able to mumble through them so I assumed it was still early labor. I told Ray and Jess that they don’t need to come just yet, but maybe in a couple hours.
Things took a turn after that call and I began leaning on our ironing board during every surge. I began feeling a high pitch squeal come out and I wanted to jump out of my skin. There was so much pain in my butt I kept lifting my feet off the ground to try and escape it. I had to remind myself during every contraction to breathe, keep my feet level, and to loosen my jaw and relax my shoulders. Eric came behind me and did double-hip squeeze which instantly took the pressure off my rectum. It made the contractions so much better.
I felt hot and even though I picked out a cute sports bra so I wouldn’t have my boobs hanging out for my professional photos, I took my clothes off. Eric began filling up our bathtub because I did NOT feel like waiting for the birth tub to fill. I knew that if my labor stalled in the water that Ray would make me get out. But I needed a break. The water did nothing. I laid on my side trying to get the warm water to cover my belly but it wasn’t giving me relief. I was moaning through every contraction, LOUDLY. I could hear Ray on speakerphone with Eric asking how I was doing, she was on her way. She heard me howling and asking if I was pushing. Without realizing it I had been bearing down during my contractions. Up until this point I really thought I still had a good day or so of labor ahead of me and I felt like the biggest baby.
When they say it feels like a big poop, it feels like a big poop. It felt like a poop the size of a bowling ball trying to come out and it wouldn’t. At this point my contractions seemed non stop; I was being so incredibly vocal, and it didn’t sound like powerful grunts that I tell my clients to do. It was high pitch screams. My eyes were glued shut and I knew Eric was there but I felt another presence grab my hand. It was Jess. I had told her not to bothering coming and she came anyways. She told me to breathe deep and I yelled that I couldn’t. She said, “Okay, you’re doing a great job.”.
Soon after Ray came in, gloved up, reached her hand in the water, and said, “Oh hi baby!”. Yep, he was on his way. My body took over and I HAD to bear down harder. I had wanted the fetal ejection reflex to take over, and maybe it had, but I had thought if my body were to take over I wouldn’t have to work as hard. But I pushed. And it was not fun. I briefly opened my eyes and saw everyone crouching next to the tub. Eric wanted to catch the baby so he was ready, arms over my belly. Telling me our son was almost here.
He began crowning and I felt like I was tearing in two. I asked in my clit had ripped, Ray told me no and I didn’t believe her. Ray asked if I wanted to touch his head coming out and I had no interest in doing that. He was having a little trouble and Ray had to reach down and yank him out, all while keeping his head under water (if they touch air it signals their body to breathe, but if they’re kept under water they don’t inhale). He was finally out and plopped on my chest. I couldn’t believe it! His wet warble cry was so sweet. I was in shock.
From first contraction to Hank being born, it was four hours. People were shocked and so was I. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with it. I always thought a short first labor would be the best possible outcome but it took me so by surprise it was a little traumatizing at first. Ray told me that was normal, your body doesn’t have time to catch up to the contractions and the mental aspect is just sort of rushed through. I am very happy I had a planned homebirth, because I was in denial I was in active labor and he would have been born at home, or in the car. I am thankful for my incredible birth team, husband, and my creator who knit me together in my mother’s womb, who created Hank, my beautiful son.
Abby is the mother of an active little guy who just turned 1! In addition to being a birth doula, she is also a postpartum doula and childbirth educator. She enjoys teaching childbirth ed because it sets the foundation for expecting parents while meeting them right where they are. You can read more about Abby here.