Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chickie's unexpectedly unassisted homebirth, January 24, 2008

On Tuesday, January 22, I was 41 weeks, 6 days pregnant. Huge. Puffy. Cranky. See?

I was still feeling pretty good physically, but growing tired of waiting and wanting to meet my baby. I was also really concerned that I was going to wind up in the hospital, after months of planning for our first out-of-hospital, birth center delivery with midwives. I’d had hospital births with OB care for my two other births, including pitocin and epidurals, and had transferred my care to a group of three midwives associated with an amazing birth center at 26 weeks pregnant. I had my heart set on going to the birth center, and wanted to do everything in my power to make that happen.

Knowing my “risk out” deadline of Thursday, January 24 (their 42 weeks date was one day later than mine, and I wasn’t going to say anything!), was coming very soon, my midwife K suggested inserting a Foley Balloon catheter in an effort to help dilate and efface my cervix. At this point, I was about 1 centimeter dilated and 40% effaced. I agreed, and had the catheter placed at 1:30 on the 22nd. It is basically a balloon put in between the bag of waters and the cervical opening and filled with saline, and it puts pressure on the cervix much like the baby’s head usually does. It came out at 3:30, much to my surprise, since K had said it would likely take between 4 and 12 hours. I called to make sure she thought it had worked, and she reassured me that I was likely between a 3 and 4 and probably thinned some more. She told me she would call me the next day if I hadn’t gone into labor, to decide whether to break my water, or go forward with herbs and/or another method of helping our baby along.

On Wednesday, the 23rd, The Papa and I took Bug and Monkey to Home Depot for some serious walking. We walked every aisle! I was trying to encourage baby to move down. Then we surprised the kids and took them to Chuck E. Cheese for lunch and some fun playtime, knowing it would likely be our last day as a family of four.

When we got home, there was a message from K asking if I’d like to come in and have my water broken than evening, to give me the full advantage of having all day Thursday to labor and deliver at the birth center. We decided that sounded like a great idea and set up an appointment for 5:30.

We dropped off the boys at their grandpa’s on the hillside south of town. The Papa drove the van with the boys, and I drove the Tahoe alone. The whole way there, I spent time just talking with God and praying for a safe, easy delivery, asking Him to be with me and help me. As we drove past the inlet, there was a gorgeous red sunset over the frozen water, and I smiled, feeling such a peace from God that I was going to have a wonderful birth.

When my other midwife, B, checked me at the birth center, she found my cervix 3 cm, 70% effaced or so, and when she gave babe's head a push, it moved up enough that she wasn't comfortable breaking my water. She said she would if I were in the hospital - but she was afraid to break it, have babe move, and then have a cord issue. Also, she didn't want me to have to stay there needlessly, and she wouldn't have been comfortable sending me home with broken waters and an unengaged babe.

So instead, she suggested going home, taking 4 oz. of castor oil in Orange Juice, pumping (she lent me a double electric), and gave me an herbal B&B blend (Black and Blue Cohosh) to swish and swallow once contractions got going steadily. We decided that if it didn't kick labor into high gear within the next 8 hours, we would call first thing in the morning and I would go in to see if the babe had moved low enough/engaged enough to have my water broken the next day in a final attempt to stay at the BC.

And if all else failed – at that point, I knew I’d done everything within my power to have the babe at the BC. I was OK and at peace with going to the hospital if the “plan” didn’t work. B reassured me that she assists beautiful births in the hospital all the time, and that all would not be lost if I did wind up there. She also said she had a gal just last month who was 42 weeks, wanted to be in the BC, with an unengaged babe - she encouraged the same oil/cohosh/pumping regimen, and the gal went into labor and had a great birth at the BC.

We left the center, went to the grocery store to pick up Castor Oil and OJ, and then went out to an awesome Teppanyaki dinner. I ordered Yakisoba noodles and Fried Rice – subconsciously carbo loading? Hee. It was super yummy, and we laughed and joked and enjoyed ourselves, excited about our little secret “get this baby birthed” plan.

We got home around 8 PM, I took the castor oil in two doses, about 2 ounces in as much OJ, and then again. It wasn’t so terrible tasting, and I didn’t mind the oiliness so much, but the texture of the bubbles (I could feel them floating on top) going down was just horrid. I gagged once or twice, but got most of it down. Then we settled in to watch some movies and try to get some sleep. We watched How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days and I posted online a bit, read a few castor oil birth stories, and tried to relax.

A couple of hours later, I was afraid it wasn’t going to work, since I was still feeling ok. I had pumped for about 20 minutes around 8:30 PM, and that brought on some good contractions, and an hour or so later I pumped again for another 20 minutes. Around 10:30 PM, I started getting some cramping and needing to visit the toilet, and I started to feel sick to my stomach and threw up. I started having regular contractions, around every 10 minutes or so, sometime around 11 or 11:30. They were still hard to distinguish from menstrual-type cramps, and I thought it was mostly just the castor oil doing it’s work of clearing me out. The Papa went to sleep around midnight, and I turned on Fever Pitch to distract me.

I got in the shower at 12:30 or so and would lean on the back wall during contractions, letting the water run on my low back, it seemed to help. I didn’t need to breathe deeply at this point, it was just annoying to me – I wanted the castor oil to finish up it’s job so I could get some sleep before “real labor” began.

I got out of the shower and into bed for a couple of hours, waking up about every 10 minutes or so to breathe lightly through minor contractions.

From 2:30 to 5:30AM is mostly a blur of getting out of bed to go to the toilet, getting in the shower for 15-20 minutes at a time, then going back to bed for a few contractions sitting Indian-style, rinse, repeat, over and over. I would sit on the toilet for a couple of contractions, then get into the shower, then back into bed, back to the shower, pace in the kitchen, lean over the counter. At some point, I even ran a bath and tried to lay on my side in it, but it did pretty much nothing to alleviate the contractions - I couldn’t get submerged enough - and I had thoughts of not being able to get out on my own. They got progressively more intense during these few hours, but I still wasn’t having to do much other than slow, deep breathing.

At 5:30 or so, I got in the shower and stayed in for a while. I was starting to make a little noise at the peak of each contraction, just a low “Ohhhhh” sound, imagining my cervix opening and thinking I was likely fully effaced and maybe 4 or 5 cm. I started imagining the birth center tub and thinking I wished it was time to go. Leaning on the back wall wasn’t cutting it any longer, and I started having a lot more pain in the front rather than in my back. I couldn’t have the water on both sides, and it was irritating to me.I think I got out at 6:15 or so, and made my way back to the bed. I remember putting on my bra, thinking that I would probably want to have a bra on in the birth center tub if we did go soon. (I was totally in my head the whole time – constantly thinking, focusing, telling myself I was doing well, to breathe deeply, make low noises, don’t fight the contraction, just get through this one… coaching myself. That was a major part of why I really thought I had a long way to go at this point.)

At 6:30, after a few rough contractions sitting in my bed, I told The Papa (TP), “Maybe you need to go get your cheat sheet or something?! I need some help here!” I was more irritated that he was sleeping through my laboring than anything – and I wanted some counterpressure on my back. He groggily said, “Mmmkaaay… where’s my cheat sheet?” and went off to find it. I made myself a tower of about 7 pillows on my bed at this point, and threw myself across them on my hands and knees. I wasn’t handling contractions well out of the shower, and once I knew he was up, I wanted his support and wanted him near me, touching me during contractions – just firm pressure on my low back. I started to moan into the pillows, reminding myself “low – low – low”, as I wanted to let myself yell in a high pitch.

At 6:40ish I told him I wanted to call the BC, so he did and handed me the phone when B called back. She asked how far apart my contractions were, and I said, “I don’t know, 4 to 5 minutes for the last couple hours or so?” then had a contraction while she listened to my deep breathing. She told me to time them and be sure they were all under 4 minutes apart, and then call back, that it sounded like I was close but should wait maybe another hour or so. I told TP to get out the laptop and go to so that I could time them. I knew they were getting intense, and that they were probably 4 minutes apart, but didn’t want to go in to the birth center too soon.

At this point, I was on my birth ball at an end corner of my bed, with a stack of pillows to lean on and the laptop in front of the pillows. At every contraction, I would hit the space bar to start the timer and TP would rub my back until I hit the spacebar again. We got into a great rhythm, and I started to moan loadly through every contraction, still reminding myself in my head to keep it low. TP would repeat little things I had typed up for him on his cheat sheet, “You’re doing great.” “Good sounds!” “Would you like your hair brushed?” during contractions, and I remember thinking “Shut up! Shut up! Shut Up!” but didn’t say it. He would ask me questions during contractions, and I would just shut him out, focusing on breathing. Finally, after I had ignored him long enough and he wasn’t getting it that I couldn’t focus on anything while I was breathing/moaning, I told him during a contraction, “BE QUIET, PLEASE!”

At 7:10 I told him to call the midwife again and tell them we were coming in. He got K, and she said to meet her there at 7:40. TP started running around between contractions, loading things into the truck in two minute intervals, and racing back to our bedroom to apply counterpressure.

He brought me my robe to get into for the drive over, and I stood up and leaned over my pillows, then felt the urge to poop. “Ugh, not now!” I thought, not wanting to spend any time on the toilet during a contraction. I peed a tiny trickle down my legs and started to cry, thinking I couldn’t do it, didn’t know how I was going to get to the bathroom and then downstairs and into the truck.

TP helped me get to the toilet and as we walked there, I said, “It feels like my body is pushing.” I could feel pressure and it did feel like my body was bearing down, but I thought I just needed to poop. I had fear that I was pushing against a 5 cm cervix and was going to cause myself to swell, and actively worked not to push, even told myself in my head “PANT! I’m supposed to pant!” I got onto the toilet, pulled off my pants, and asked TP to get me more. I had two horrible contractions on the toilet and had an extremely hard time keeping my moans low – my instinct was to scream, but I just cried and yelled “Aaauuuuuuugggggggghhhhhh!”

TP helped me get clean pajama pants on my legs and pulled me up, guiding me toward the stairs. I saw the laptop at the top of the stairs and asked, “Did you get the cord? It won’t last long enough without the cord!” (Totally ridiculous! I was thinking about the laptop cord at 7:35, heavy labor, on my way out the door to the birth center.) He reassured me that he had already packed the cord in the truck.We got downstairs into the hallway between the front door and the garage, and I got hit with the worst contraction yet. TP was holding my three pillows in one arm and trying to support me with the other, and I sank into one wall. I yelled, “I need to poop. I’m pushing! My body is pushing! I’m going to poop!” When that contraction was over, another one seemed right on top of it, so I leaned into the other wall and then said, “The baby is coming. We’re not going to make it. The baby is coming!” I could feel the head moving down, feel my pelvis opening, and TP helped me down onto my knees. I yanked my PJ pants down to my knees, leaned forward a bit, and put my left hand down to feel the baby’s head sliding out. I guided the head and my body just pushed it right into my hand. I looked up at my husband and said, “Look, honey, the head is out…” He looked and then looked right at me, wide-eyed and smiling. I think I said, “Maybe we should call 911…” (He had the same thought just before I said so - that if anything was wrong, we wanted someone there, fast.) Almost immediately, the shoulders slid through and then the baby was completely out, warm and wet and slippery in my hands. The water bag broke as the shoulders slid through. I heard a little gurgle, and I rubbed the baby’s back for a couple of seconds, until I saw the arms jerk a bit and heard a cough and little cry. Then I turned the babe over and said, “The baby! Here’s the baby!” I noticed the super-long cord was loosely around the back of the neck and down between the legs, and thought I should unloop it. When I moved it from between the legs, I realized that we had a little girl, and said, “Oh, honey! It’s a GIRL! We have a baby girl! We have a -----(name)! I can’t believe it!”

TP had gotten the phone and dialed 911, and almost immediately after he did, I said in my blissed out, just gave birth joy, “Oh, we don’t need them. Never mind. Just hang up… I’ll just call my midwife and she’ll come here…”

The 911 operator wouldn’t let him off the phone and asked if everyone was breathing, told him to find a clean shoelace (Ha!), cover me and the baby with blankets or towels, and that the paramedics were on the way. I asked TP to hand me his cellphone so that I could call K. I dialed her and told her that the baby was here, and she said she’d be right over in a few minutes.

Within 10 minutes, two paramedics arrived and came in the front door to find me holding my little towel and blanket wrapped bundle right by the front door. They were so incredibly wonderful, stayed back, offering assistance but not insisting on helping in any way. They asked if I wanted them to clamp the cord and I said no, that I’d rather wait, and that my midwife was on the way. They were tickled and so excited for us, and didn’t even come close enough to bother me. They never touched the babe, just peeked to be sure she was breathing and had good color. They asked what time the baby was born. TP and I just looked at each other and giggled. We later estimated it to be 7:39, based on the time of our 911 call at 7:41. They even offered to go outside so that I could get moved back up to my bed. (I was getting pretty uncomfy, sitting in the hallway all cockamamie.

First picture, about 10 minutes old:

I passed the baby to TP and wrapped a towel around me and through my legs, and then we slowly made our way upstairs. The cord was so long, and I’m sure we were a sight, TP trooping up with a towel wrapped babe, me with the cord swinging between my legs. I got set up in bed with pillows and towels, and my brand new little girl set right to nursing before my midwife arrived, and didn’t stop for nearly three hours.

K arrived around 8:10 and sent the paramedics away with many thanks. She checked us over, helped me to deliver the placenta, checked me for tearing (just a couple tiny skidmarks! Woo!) and told us we did fabulously.

About 30 minutes later, B arrived along with one of the birth assistants, and they busied themselves doing laundry, making me breakfast, and running the babe and I a wonderful herbal bath. They stayed for about 3 hours, and we had such fun just going over the crazy events of the morning. Everyone was so excited and happy for us, and we were overwhelmed and in awe. We had a baby, at home… A girl… Just so amazing.
The rest of our babies will be PLANNED homebirths!


M said...

I love this story!

April said...

my favorite birth story EVER!!!

VanillaRose8 said...

Wow! So awesome!! I'm jealous ;) Praying my next birth is like this after two epidural hospital births though my last was less than 3 hours labor & 5 minutes of pushing to birth my 9lb 12oz baby girl with absolutely no tearing. I so wish I'd just stayed in my shower. The car ride killed me. *sigh* Thanks for sharing :)

PS- Saw a post you made on Mothering :)

CNH said...

What a beautiful birth story! :D

Newmommykai said...

What an amazing story... so inspirational about a woman's body and its ability to do such fantastic things. We are expecting our first little creation soon... and I am voraciously searching for inspirational stories to fill my head with. We also have a BC planned birth and will hopefully make it or our little one may be born on a ferry boat!! Thank you for posting a wonderful and detailed account of your experience. I will definitely keep this one in my head! :)