I’m kind of a baby when it comes to pain. I stub my toe, I scream; I get a sunburn and I whine until it goes away; I get a paper cut and everyone hears about it. Additionally, having a home birth isn’t for everyone; it’s an uphill battle from the beginning, friends and family often advise against it – they’re only expressing their love through concern, and most other people go to the hospital.
Knowing these things, still, I decide to have a natural at-home birth with my second son. Let me back up a bit, because there is a reason for my difficult decision.
My first son was 2-weeks overdue. My water never broke and I never naturally went into labor; I was induced with (do they have anything else?) Pitocin. I had a terrible time in the hospital, on Pitocin for two days. I took every kind of pain killer offered and it all ended with a c-section. I felt like a failure. I didn’t want to feel that way again.
Since I had a c-section, having the next baby at the birth center is out of the question. Not because I don’t want to, but because FL laws regulate against it. (The men in Tallahassee know a lot more about child birth than anyone else, so I feel good about their decision to forbid me from having a birth center birth.)
We decide to tell next to no one that we are planning a natural home birth. If I can’t control the pain, at least I can control what people think by omitting some of the details. This time around, because I was induced the first time, I, 1. Have no idea what it feels like to go into labor naturally and 2. Assume my second birth will also be 2-weeks overdue and am fearful of another hospital setting.
On Monday, May 27, 2013, only 2-days past my due date, I think there’s a slight chance I’m in labor. Between 10:30-11pm, I ask my husband, Tim, to time my seemingly-regular contractions. At about 5 minutes apart lasting about 1-2 minutes each, I’m still unsure whether it’s Braxton Hicks contractions or labor, and I don’t want to cry wolf, so I suggest we sleep and see if it progresses through the night. This is supposed to be a busy work week for Tim, so I feel good about this decision. He dozes off but I shift and move for several minutes and then get water to see if dehydration is causing Braxton Hicks.
At midnight, my mind agrees with my body that this is labor when the contractions get very intense. I make my way for the shower to help relieve some of the pressure. I can feel the contractions in my back and it hurts, a lot.
When I first met Christina (midwife) at Birthways, she asked if I had any back labor with my first. I’m thinking of her question now, because this back labor masks the pain from the (frontal) contractions and cramps. At the time, I told her I didn’t remember and didn’t think so. Yes, though, yes in fact, now I remember having this exact, same pain with my first. It feels like a 298lb muscle man is squeezing my right Latissimus Dorsi muscle with every contraction. He’s squeezing and shaking. I’m not sure how anyone could forget having back labor and suggest to myself that while I’m a baby when it comes to pain, I’m also generally a little dense. (Okay, in my defense, either a little dense or Mother Nature really does make you forget!)
About 1am, I get out of the shower and make my way for the living room in just a towel. I want to labor as long as possible before waking or calling anyone. I lay down on the couch, but quickly realize the pain is unbearable while laying on either my back or side and so I flip to my front; I’m on all fours. My 2-year old, Charlie, is in the next room, so I try to be as quiet as possible. Me as a quiet laboring woman is like trying to get a dying cat to be quiet. (I can’t say I’ve ever been around a dying cat, but I’ve heard they’re loud!)
At 1:30am, I’m back in the bedroom on my bed, loosely hanging onto the damp towel. I’m fearful that something’s wrong, I mean, my back really, really hurts, and I can sort of feel some contractions and cramping, too. I need Tim’s support, so I weigh different waking-scenarios in my head. There’s the one where I turn on all the bedroom lights, ring the dinner bells and yell out the fact that I’m definitely in labor. I decide that’s a bad idea – I don’t want to have to field his protests after being startled awake, “no, you don’t understand, I really AM in labor!” Also, we don’t actually have any dinner bells. So instead I crawl over to him, and as calmly as any laboring woman can, I gently wake him and ask if we should call the birth center. We decide to time my contractions. At 1:38am it’s 1:17 long, next one at 1:40am is 0:59. This, and my continual wailing, is enough to convince Tim – he calls Birthways.
Kaitlan (birthways midwife) arrives at about 2:30am – I’m kneeling on the ground, the towel is long gone, and I’m banging my hand on the flat surface of the armoire and begging for relief. I don’t think I can do this, but Kaitlan and Tim assure me that I can. Kaitlan is followed by her student midwife at 3am – I’m back on the bed, holding onto the footboard and spitting over the back, onto the floor (I’m having pretty bad reflux). I don’t want to do this, but (the student) and Tim reassure me that I can.
Deb Fuentes (birth assistant and breastfeeding expert) arrives at 3:30am – I’m yelling expletives out the side of the birth tub and suggesting that I’d rather be asleep. “I just want to sleep!” Yes, seriously, I’m really, really tired. (I’ve never been one for all-nighters.) I’ve given up, but Deb and Tim tell me I can keep going.
Each woman that enters is an added force of support. Their and Tim’s presence and encouraging words gives me understanding that I can get through this night, that the pain is only each contraction long, the baby is fine, and the birth is close. “This too shall pass,” something my mom always says, and something Tim reminds me of as I hug, hang off of, and lean on him, for moral and physical support.
From 3:30am-5:30am: I change positions. Tim calls my mom to pick up Charlie. I remember that I haven’t yet prepared the after birth herbs, I’m only 2-days overdue after all, I still have time, right? But I ask Deb to prepare them, just in case. (She kindly agrees!) I get in and out of the tub and bed. My water conveniently breaks in the shower. I labor on different spots on our tile floor. I do a lot of moaning and complaining. My mom, who’s unaware of our having a home birth picks up Charlie. (I find out later she doesn’t hear my noises, something I still can’t believe.) She asks Tim a lot of questions, but he assures her that everything is okay, we’re in good hands, and we want to labor at home for “as long as we can.” (Wink.) (She was totally on to us but trusted our judgement and took Charlie home with her.
At 5:30am Kaitlan says she thinks my labor has stalled from being in the tub and asks me to get on the bed where she can check. I hesitate through a few more contractions, mostly because I don’t agree that labor has stalled. I think I’m doing just fine now and have finally found a way to cope with it, but also because I’m simply exhausted and don’t want to move. I don’t believe it, but she’s correct, labor has stalled, and I am helped onto the bed. I’m on my back, for the first time since deciding that was a terrible position to be in. Kaitlan tells me there’s a bit of a lip at the top of my cervix and moves it out of the way. She says that it’s time to start pushing and I should do so with the next contraction.
At 5:40am I push as hard as I’ve ever pushed.
Oliver Michael-Thomas, born May 28, 2013, at 5:40am, at home in Sarasota, FL, VBAC, OP.
Had I been at a hospital, I would have pleaded for an epidural, at around midnight, since all the back labor was because Oliver was OP. I imagine it would have progressed to another c-section, and so I’m glad to have avoided the hospital altogether.
For someone who is a baby at dealing with pain, I hope my story offers encouragement to others seeking this route since I’ve been in both settings and especially if these services are available. A couple months ago, we moved up to a small town called Truro, in Nova Scotia, Canada, and there are only three centers with midwifery services in the whole province. None of those sites are in Truro. In other words, if we want to have another baby up here, it will have to be in a hospital. No thanks. Good thing Tim and I are enjoying our little family of four. Four is just right… for now.
Jason and I found out we were pregnant on August 27, 2010. From that day on we decided that we did not want to find out the sex of our baby. I began my morning sickness at about 9 weeks and it never went away. I actually ended up throwing up my entire labor as well. It was interesting to hear what everyone’s opinion was, mainly that I was carrying all out front so they thought it was a boy. We had our ultrasound on December 14, 2010 and my mom came into town to see the baby on the big screen. Since Jason is a Chiropractor and looks at film all the time, I told the ultrasound tech to make sure and not tell us. He was telling us all about the baby and saying everything was normal but then got very quiet so I assumed he was looking at the genitals and Jason was focusing on the screen because he wanted to know the sex. He said he thought it was a girl because he didn’t see anything sticking out and later on we found out he was right.
My last day of work was April 30,2011 and our due date was May 8. How neat that it was Mother’s Day and my grandfather’s 85 birthday. My mom changed her flight and flew in on April 29 just in case the baby was early. It was my cousin Kyle’s birthday party on April 30 and everyone went over to celebrate. My mom is on chemo at the current time and her immune system is very weak. A plate accidentally fell on the floor and ended up cutting the back of her ankle. We didn’t think much of it but eventually took her to the Dr. on Monday to get antibiotics. It didn’t get much better and on Wednesday we were sitting in Sarasota Memorial ER with masks on waiting to see the doctor. We were there from 2:30PM until about 10 PM. They did an entire work up and thank gosh for Aunt Shelley who brought this extremely pregnant mama some food. At about 9 PM, the Dr. came in and said they had to keep mom because her infection was very bad and almost turned to gangrene. Of course my mom started to cry but I kept myself together. She ended up staying in the hospital until Friday and then she got to come home. The following week, we ran her to many doctor appointments and our stubborn baby had still not arrived. Mother’s Day came and went, and on May 13, my dad said he had a feeling the baby was going to come and drove himself to the airport and flew in from Tennessee. He stayed until May 16. On May 15, Jason was driving to work and a belt on his 2003 Civic ripped to shreds so we had to pick him up and have his car towed. Thank goodness my brother Trevor was in town because we gave Jason his car to take to work. On Saturday night, the air conditioning broke and a good friend came to fix it. My dad left on Monday afternoon, May 16, and I had my doctor appointment this day as well.
My midwife Christina told me that I was 2-3 cm and at -2 station. She tried to strip my membranes but said that she was unable to at this time. She said the baby is very healthy and so was I but that the baby was still slightly posterior which is why she isn’t dropping into the birth canal. We then discussed how if I didn’t have the baby by May 22, I would have to go to the hospital for a non-stress test and would no longer be able to have the baby at the birthing center. I could have a home birth, get induced, or wait until the baby came and have it at the hospital. At this point I started to freak out, I have planned for a birthing center birth with my midwives, have taken all the natural child birth classes and now I am going to have to go to the hospital and get pitocin and a possible c-section. I was 3 weeks late when I was born and if you based Emersyn’s due date off my last menstrual period she would have been 19 days late. Since I ovulate so late in my cycle, the birthing center went off my date, which the ultrasound confirmed as May 8. I called a few friends, freaked out and then called my cousin Casey who was in town for the weekend just in case the baby decided to make an entrance. Since Jason’s car was in the shop, Casey came over and we had to pick up Jason from work. I also took Jason to work that morning and had been up since 8 AM. Prior to doing that, I went home after seeing Christina and was on my hands and knees for 40 minutes and then laid on my left side to try and turn the baby. I did this twice before we went to pick up Jason. When we got to his office, I had him adjust me and he said that my pubic bone was very out. After he adjusted me, I felt a gush and when I got home I tested the fluid and it said it was amniotic fluid. When we got home, Aunt Shelley and Uncle Dennis were here as well as my mom and all 7 of us ate pizza and salad. At about 8 PM, I started to feel contractions that I timed. This was the first time I really had something to time. The Burkes left around 9:30 and Jason and I went upstairs to watch TV and he fell asleep around 11PM. This is when things started to speed up for me, or get rather painful. I sat on the toilet, laid in bed, laid on the floor and nothing was helping. At 1:30 AM I came downstairs where my brother was watching Braveheart and sat on the birthing ball. He kept telling me I needed to wake someone up, and he changed the channel because he said it was too intense for me at that time. I was paying no attention to the TV and he said again to wake someone up, I told him to shut up. I thought I was being quiet but he said I was making some interesting noises.
At about 2AM, I took the birthing ball upstairs and around 2:30 I attempted to wake up Jason. I waited as long as possible because he is horrible with little sleep and was only at about 3 hours at this time and I had had no sleep since the night before. When I finally woke him up, I told him to call Christina and he was freaking out. Where is the number? What do you want me to say? Then he called and ended up giving me the phone in the middle of a contraction. Christina asked if I was comfortable. I said I could handle being home a little longer and she told me to take a shower and call her back. The low back pain was so intense. I had learned in my birthing class that if you have a bad back labor to have your husband push on your low back for counter pressure. He was pushing on my back while my mom, who we finally woke up and was so excited, was rubbing my head. At about 3 I started to throw up but luckily the pizza had already digested. I switched from having the birthing ball on the floor to putting it on the bed and at about 4 we called Christina again and she said to meet her at the birthing center in 30-40 minutes. In my head I knew that the drive was about 20-25 minutes and my contractions were about 5 minutes apart so I got my birthing ball, trash can, and all our supplies as well as mom and Jason and we drove to Sarasota. I had about 5 contractions in the car and was in a lot of pain in my low back when we arrived. Christina checked me and I was 5-6 cm. Kristin arrived shortly after we did and helped out a lot while in labor. They had to hook me up to an IV because I would not stop throwing up. I had an amazing bag of food and drinks that I was allowed to have and all I wanted was ice chips. What is wrong with this situation?
I continued to squat on the birthing ball and lean over the bed but was so weak that my legs began to shake. Jason put a hot compress on my back and that helped. At one point I tried to lie on the bed and jumped up faster than I ever have in my entire life. The pain was so intense I couldn’t handle lying down. I had so many plans of updating my friends and family but the labor was so intense that I didn’t call anyone. At around 5:30 I told Jason I might want to go and get an epidural because of how bad my back hurt and it was at this time that Kristin began to fill the tub with water. It was about half full when she said they were having problems with the hot water. I thought what am I going to do now? My dream was to have a water birth. It eventually started to work again and the tub felt like it took 2 hours to fill up. Finally I was allowed in the tub around 8 (if you get in the tub too early it could slow or stop your labor). Around 6:30 I had Jason text Kelly and Kara who were also going to be at the birth and he told them that I was in labor but not to come yet. Kara freaked out but was excited and called Kelly. Kelly told Kara to calm down that I probably wouldn’t have the baby until around 3 PM. Kelly called in a sub and Kara who was walking out the door told her work that she had to take her pregnant friend to the hospital because no one could take her. Jason also called his mom Peggy who stopped at Publix to get Jason food on her way. For all of you who know Jason, know that he needs food or he turns into a bear. Overall he did awesome for only having 3 hours of sleep and eating about 4 protein bars over the period of time we were there.
When I got into the tub my pain went from wanting an epidural to relaxing and falling asleep in the tub in a matter of minutes. My mom thought they put a relaxer in my IV because it happened so fast. I guess that is why they call it the aquadural. I relaxed for a while but the pain started to get intense again as I turned from lying on my back to a squatting position. The rectal pressure was so intense that I began pushing against it without even knowing. Kristin said I was allowed to push if I felt the need and I told her I already was. She then had me flip over which was very hard to do because of how much pain I was in and she said no wonder, I was completely dilated and my cervix was totally thinned out.
At this point, Jason sent a text to Kara and Kelly that said “ PUSHING COME NOW”.
Kara got there first, she was going about 90 on the interstate, and then Peggy arrived. When Kara arrived, I was in the middle of a contraction and I looked up at her and told her to “Snap Away”. She captured some of the most amazing moments I have ever experienced in my entire life. Christina called Peggy to see where she was at and she was on her way and arrived around 9:00AM. I kept pushing but the entire time in the back of my mind I was wondering where Kelly was. The pushing was intense at times I would start to push take a breath and then make myself push again. Other times I would push and try to relax but my body would make me continue to push about 6 -10 more times. The pushing was a lot of work and I reached down and could feel the top of my baby’s head but she still had the bag of water around her. At some point in the 45 minutes of pushing, my water bag finally broke, which is normal. We thought it would have been neat if it never broke but it did. I could feel that our baby had a lot of hair and felt like I was making progress but when I stopped pushing, she would creep back up. I said out loud “why does this baby keep going back up?” I began to push at 8:45 AM and the baby was born 2 minutes after Kelly walked in the door – she had gotten a speeding ticket. Jason was in the tub pouring water down my back, which felt really good for the back pain. Jason delivered the baby at 9:33 AM and we pulled her out of the water together and discovered the sex. I was so excited that I yelled, “It’s a girl” so loud you couldn’t even hear Jason say it as well. I delivered the placenta out of the tub on the bed because I was bleeding a little more than normal and ended up with 2 stitches.
We named our baby girl Emersyn Mae Fielding, Mae after my grandmother. She was 8 pounds 6 ounces and was 20 inches long . We bonded as a family and had a few visitors come to the birthing center. At 2 we left and went to see Dr. Amy Tafeen, the baby Chiropractor, for Emersyn’s first adjustment. Then we drove home and relaxed. I had the most amazing birth ever, however painful, but you soon forget about all that. I would have a natural birth again and would say it is definitely worth it. I healed so fast and feel like that is because I didn’t have any drugs in my system. We look forward to a beautiful life together and thank our wonderful midwives for such an amazing experience.