the home birth of Theodore
I had no idea what was coming. Unlike my last labour with Florence, where I took the labour cocktail at four days past the due date, this time around it all happened naturally four days before my estimated due date.
On Sunday night, my stomach felt more upset than usual and I had awful heartburn. I had napped two times that day, very unlike me. I was tired and sluggish and rather grumpy.
It still didn’t prepare me for a 12:30AM trickle and gush of amniotic fluid. It started to pour out of me, as I shook my husband awake. He is a very deep sleeper, and told me (in his sleep) we could talk about it in the morning. Right. I shook him harder, and he finally woke up. And then I told him to go back to sleep.
Nothing was happening just yet, and I knew I needed to get some sleep. I was expecting contractions to start ASAP, like they did with Flo.
An hour later, the contractions were lasting a minute and coming 5-6 minutes apart. I let this go on for another hour or so before calling my midwife. My midwife Dawn, told me she would be at my house in thirty minutes, at 4:00AM. I called my friend Shannon, who was my doula and the birth photographer.
I felt my body get into a pattern really quickly. I twisted and turned my foot with each contraction, and either prayed or swore like a sailor until the peak of the contraction passed.
I woke Jay with a big shove and told him he had to get up, now. He hopped out of bed, and helped me to the shower. Standing up was incredibly intense.
Somewhere between getting out of the shower and attempting to get back into bed, I found myself on my knees, attempting to apply makeup. Oh, the vanity. My midwife called, looking for the front light on our porch. I yelled at Jay, who was in the kitchen, to go find her, and secretly tried to brush on some powder while on my knees. No such luck. I gave up and started yelping. The contractions were picking up with incredible speed and intensity. Any time I let gravity take over, it engulfed my body with fierce waves.
My midwife’s face came into view, round, blue eyes, calm demeanour, a gentle hand on my shoulder. She asked if the baby’s head was coming, since I was clutching and moaning. I started to get very pushy, and she reassured me that my body would know what to do. So I let the pushy contractions come and didn’t fight them. I wasn’t sure I was ready to push, but couldn’t help myself. Dawn reminded me that my body knew what to do.
The birth photographer, Jozi Grant, arrived at this time, and we somehow managed to get me into the bath. Which was awful. But what I wanted. It was far too hard and small, and I longed for the cushy birth pool. Jay was rushing around trying to get it set up, but we were running out of time. Somewhere in here, my doula and the second midwife arrived.
I think I asked to be in the birth pool a hundred times, and Dawn gently told me that we probably wouldn’t have time.
At this point, I was 8 cm, as I asked her to check me in the bath. I felt myself crumpling a bit. I don’t think I said, I can’t do this, knowing what my birth team would say in response to me, but I did admit that it was really, really hard and intense and asked if it going to be over soon. I had a little cry, a sputter of emotion signalling transition–no turning back now and lots of hard work ahead. Someone said, you’re almost done, and I felt my heart soar. I was? Dear God, what precious music to my ears and uterus.
I told them to keep telling me that, again and again. You’re almost done. It helped so much.
I got out of the bath and into bed with the help and encouragement of the doula, the photographer, the midwife. I asked for Jay to come, since I knew the pool wouldn’t be ready. I was a little nervous to not be in water, knowing that water provides a lot of pain relief.
My midwife suggested I get on my hands and knees. The pressure was so intense and I couldn’t seem to get comfortable, but I also couldn’t get out of the position even if I tried. I started pushing at this point, and the music in the room kept me tethered to the earth. I didn’t have music last time. My birth playlist was very calming to me, and reminded me that this wouldn’t last forever. It was very grounding. It felt so much more aggressive than last time. Faster, wilder, stronger.
Eventually, I ended up kneeling, with my hands and arms across a pile of pillows and the headboard. I knew the baby was coming, because I could feel his head move down. The second time around is so different, as you know what to expect, but it can play out differently. I remember thinking, oh Lord, here comes the burning. And does it ever burn without the presence of water! However, gravity helped immensely, and I felt with my hands how close his head was to crowning. I remember pushing with intensity, so much so that I wasn’t always groaning or making a noise. I used my hands to help his head out. And then waited for a contraction.
Suddenly I heard a little gurgle and a cry, and felt his chest inside of me, moving up and down as he cried. Right there, head hanging out, upside down. He cried. It was such a relief to me. And also a wild experience! Everyone was laughing and cheering him on.
Jay told me that he was kneeling by the bed, arms and hands wide and ready to catch the baby. My amazing midwife was at the end of the bed, watching and waiting. I gave one big, long push and his body fell into Jay’s hands. He swooped our boy underneath me so that I could see him. It was 5:17 AM. A mere hour and a handful of minutes had passed my midwife arrived.
It’s a boy! He exclaimed. I immediately bent down and picked him up, although it felt like minutes passed. It was completely natural and primal–the pushing, the reaching down, the pulling him to my chest. I barely remember doing it. Jay commented that it reminded him of National Geographic, so earthy and raw and real. Quite the compliment from my man!I remember clearly, the moment the shock wore off, and I burst into wracking sobs. My baby, my baby, my baby. It was such a rich wave of emotion, and I was elbow deep in it. I could feel so much coursing through me: This was it, it’s over, it’s a boy, he’s here, he looks so strong, I have two children!
I turned over and sat down, clutching him to my chest. He looked so perfect. Round head, unblemished face, well formed features. I was amazed. I wiped the creamy vernix away from his eyes, felt his sticky, warm body. It was otherworldly, a moment you never get back. As time goes by, the scents, emotions, sounds all begin to fade into memory. Already I find myself clutching at the holiness of it, trying to preserve it.
I kept him on my chest as we waited for the placenta. Just like last time, birthing my massive placenta sucked. We waited for the cord to stop pulsating, as it sat in my favourite vintage pyrex bowl. It became limp and white, and Jay bent over to sever the tie between mother and baby. After a quick check, I was pleased to hear that I had not torn, even after birthing such a chunky boy! He weighed 9.8lbs and was 55 cm long.
I began to get really crampy and have contractions. It felt just awful. It felt so unfair but my body was attempting to clear the blood clots. The after pains were intense, so the midwife fed me some Tylenol and Advil. I kept groaning and bleeding. She kept massaging my uterus again and again and again. I had two shots of Oxcytocin and one shot of Ergot to staunch the bleeding, along with lots of massaging. I think it went on for two hours, until finally my midwife was satisfied.
Thoughts on Home Birth:
With Florence, I gave birth in the hospital, unmedicated and in the water. It was lovely, but felt very different than giving birth at home. I chose to give birth at home because Florence would be near by me, and in our city, the Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital are connected. Needless to say, the hospital is not a happy place! I really didn’t want to be there. I also had an uncomplicated 7 hours labour with Florence, and knew that I would probably have an even faster labor the next time.
My water broke at 12:30AM. Contractions started at 1:30AM. By 4:00AM I was in the zone and having very strong, pushy contractions. He was born an hour and 15 minutes later.
Leaving the house? It never would have happened! I absolutely LOVED giving birth at home, and Jay loved it too. It was perfect. It was warm, comforting, safe, peaceful, natural. And all the while, Flo’s nurse was in her room with her, she was safe and slept through the whole thing. What a gift!
1. The Shadowlands: Ryan Adams
2. Dream Baby Dream: Bruce Springsteen
3. Feel For Me: Foy Vance
4. Dear John (Born): Jason Upton —-I’m pretty sure I gave birth here. Such a fitting song, and one I listened to so many times while pregnant.
carried between the earth and sky
sons of eternity in time
born of spirit
born of water
born of blood
child of freedom
child of promise
child of God
We listened to Calling All Angels by Jane Siberry and k.d Lang; Explode My Soul by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser; Spiegel im spiegel by Angele Dubeau after the birth. I know this playlist will make me cry for years to come!