I had planned another waterbirth at home with our midwife Dotti – she had been there for our boys’ births 8 and 10 years ago. This would be our first girl. We had all our supplies ready and waiting. Forty week mark came and went, I cried a little. Why is it so hard to wait that last little bit of time? No wonder many women cave at the thought of induction when it is pressed upon them at such a vulnerable time.
A few days later, I started leaking amniotic fluid and had a few mild contractions. We tried everything at home to get the contractions coming stronger and they were for a time. Had a big dinner and went to bed Thursday night. Awoke at 1:30 a.m. Friday with…nothing happening. No leaking, no contractions, but baby was moving regularly. In tears, I called Dotti. I knew that we needed to transfer to the hospital for antibiotics since I was GBS+ and I wasn’t in active labor yet. I could barely speak as I woke my husband at 2 a.m., I was hyperventilating I was crying so hard. (You see, I had never been admitted into a hospital before for anything, I don’t “do” needles and interventions for anything, not even numbing shots for dental fillings and I was so scared I would end up with an “emergency” c-section due to a cascade of interventions from hospital protocol and pushy staff. That’s a lot to deal with at 2 in the morning.)
My husband was so great. He prayed with me, asking God to provide just the right nurse to stay with us the whole time and for God’s will to happen with the birth. He helped me re-pack the hospital bag with what I really wanted to take. He assured me that home meant he and I together, we were taking Home with us, and that Dotti and my two close friends who are doulas would be waiting at the hospital for us. We waited until my Dad came to the house at 3:30 a.m. to stay with our boys. My hubby drove very slowly and calmy thru the beautiful night, assuring me there was no rush and it was not an emergency. I cried the whole way – feeling so out of control of my birth, like a failure, lamenting the loss of a homebirth, and I was scared of the unknown.
Upon arrival, checking in was a breeze as Dotti had already called ahead and I was shown to my room. All I could focus on was that the laminate floor and someone’s purse was pretty to me. I asked the first nurses if I could keep my own clothes on and they said to wear whatever I wanted. It was the first big step to helping me to calm down and made me feel like a person instead of a number. Staff changed over and we met a wonderful nurse that would stay with us the whole time and who wound up championing all my requests on my birth plan.
At 8 a.m. Pitocin was added to the antibiotics and IV fluid drips. (Another big hurdle emotionally for me, as I didn’t want things to get so hard thru artificial means that I had to have drugs for the pain, baby heart rate going down, etc. I knew if I said yes to Pitocin, I didn’t want any other interventions whatsoever.) We took some time to privately talk it thru – I was wondering if I should wait till I felt really excited about the birth and meeting our baby before starting it, and hubby encouraged me to just do what I needed as the next step. The kind nurse wrapped the IV arm in warm receiving blankets which helped a lot with that distraction. (My doulas kept rotating the blankets, warming up another on the hot pad on my back.)
My body started responding to the Pitocin, but it was gradual and not scary at all. I could totally handle this route. Each time my emotions got the better of me and energy would start fading, I would eat and rally again. At one point the doctor on call came in and I had to assert myself for my rights and wishes, explaining why I wanted certain things (keeping placenta for encapsulation, delay cord clamping, not being flat on back for delivery, etc). As I sat on my birth ball, I made eye contact, shook hands and spoke firmly and politely yet was persistent – I tend to get overly polite when I’m upset! I could just tell he would easily work with me on some items on my list to a point and then it would be whatever suited his style and comfort level from there on out. I was so not okay with this. Once he left, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply and the contractions that had totally ceased while I had to take care of side business resumed.
Around 3:30p.m. my water actually broke on its own as contractions intensified on my birth ball. My doulas and midwife and hubby were all so supportive, giving massages, counter pressure, warm compresses, adding essential oils to a diffuser and on me for calming and for a headache; playing music on Pandora on a tablet, letting me focus when I needed to and cry in joy and relief in between as the emotions were all over the place. When my water broke, then I finally felt excited to have this baby! The nurse asked to check me and I agreed. I was at 4 ½-5cm with a rigid edge around the cervix but soft and stretchy elsewhere, most likely due to scar tissue from a former IUD. I couldn’t even feel her breaking up the scar or the hard contractions happening inside at that moment, although they were registering on the machines.
After laying down, standing, rocking on a birth ball as I leaned forward on the bed and many trips to the toilet, things started to really pick up. By about 5:45p.m.contractions were on top of one another, about a minute apart, and really hard to get thru without much break in between. I needed support from everyone to get thru it. I was upright on my knees leaning forward against a peanut shaped ball and stacks of pillows between me and the raised back of the bed. The nurse told me to go back to normal in between; I had no idea where “Normal” was but I did sag down from my arms and relax downwards, breathing slower till the next wave came over me. Then I had to vocalize loudly and low thru each one and pull on the handles and any nearby arms/hands. I remember saying I didn’t like this part and wanted it to be over soon. The last check showed I was only at 7 cm and not ready to push, but my body was pushing. I was holding back and trying to hide that fact because I didn’t want to push too soon and tear or wear myself out.
The nurse looked me in the eye and said we’re moving to the pot. And I stared back and summoned strength to get up and move as quick as I could with all the entanglements of cords and baby quickly descending. I labored on the toilet leaning forward over a cart and pulling on hands, wondering how much longer and how was I going to get thru this. One doula helping with hot compresses said she thought the head was coming. I quickly got off and onto Dotti’s wooden birth stool, but no sooner had my thighs touched the stool - I didn’t even fully sit on it – the baby’s head was born. My body involuntarily lurched back and to one side as her little warm body shot out the other direction. I had read about the fetal ejection reflex but had never come across it myself before. A doula caught me and lowered me to the floor as the nurse caught the baby. My poor hubby had a good view of the birth but cou ldn’t get to me for a moment for all the cords and being behind the cart.
5:10p.m. I lay stunned with my eyes still closed a moment and heard a baby cry down between my legs. When all the pain had subsided I reached for her to draw her to my chest. My husband said it was only seconds before I did so. I wept and held her and bonded immediately. My husband had worked his way around to get to me and kiss me and greet our little girl. The nurse waved people back who had rushed in the room, including the doctor, so no one interrupted my moment. We moved to the bed and she nursed great right off. We declined to have the baby leave me even for a second, so heart and lungs had to be listened to on me as she nursed for a long time. Since everything had gone so well and she and I felt great, we opted to head home 2 hours later to get some much needed rest. This also took some directness and boldness, asking what could we do to help facilitate our going home when she was done nursing (having already relieved herself and pinked up and nursing well, and I had only a small tear that didn’t need stitches), and by asking to be released into the care of our midwife.
At home at 8p.m. in our own cozy nest, we weighed and measured and checked our little girl over with our midwife. I basically was blessed to have had my homebirth at a hospital. I had done it my way and been rewarded with such sweetness and bonding and a feeling that it was a really great birth, giving me courage and renewed vigor for my mothering journey.