May 28, 2013 Home VBAC birthI’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.
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