Birth of Henry (Hank):
Labor had always mystified me, amazed me, and honestly freaked me out quite a lot. Much of that anxiety came from the thought of intervention snowballing into intervention. Loss of control. Beyond that, hospitals have always terrified me. In my adult life it seemed that every time I exited a hospital it was in a sadder and more broken state than when I had entered. So when a friend of mine chose to birth her daughter at home it piqued my interest. The more I learned, the more it opened up a future for me in which maybe I would someday become a mother.
Fast forward 10 years and I’m married, pregnant with my son, and planning a home birth of my very own.
It was a relatively uncomplicated pregnancy for the most part, and I had every intention of not experiencing the sort of impatience that I’d seen from other 40-weeks-pregnant mothers. I planned a fun “due date” for my husband and I to set out on, on 12/03/17, to keep our minds off the fact that we were told our baby would be good and ready to meet us on that very day. I was looking forward to some shopping, an amazing dinner, one glass of wine, and likely a bubble bath when I got home. So you can imagine my surprise when at 6:00am on 12/02, I woke up, laughed at a joke my husband had made, heard and felt POP! (he’s really not all that funny), and fully believed that I had peed the bed only to discover that I had lost my waters. I made my way to the bathroom and with each step I felt a rush of water gushing out from under me. I was filled with so many emotions - excitement, nervousness, euphoria, and sheer terror. This was really happening.
We contacted our midwife to explain the development. She didn’t seem bothered, and we were well aware this could literally take a few days to culminate. She recommended rest, very light (if any) exercise, hydration, and keeping ourselves nourished for the adventure ahead. I felt no different than before I had gone to sleep the night prior, so I was prepared for a very long road. I decided to take a nap around 3:00pm and I kept waking up with severe lower back pain that came in waves. It would hurt for a moment, dissipate, I would doze back off, and then it would wake me up again. I believed it to be just normal third trimester discomfort, but looking back it was definitely early labor contractions.
Before dinner, Ryan and I decided to go for a walk. Although it was early December, the weather was mild, and actually downright pleasant. During our walk, the back pains I had experienced began to spread clear around my midsection, into my abdomen, and at points I actually needed to stop walking to ride them out. Ryan started to time the waves (okay, we’ll just call them contractions at this point), and they were surprisingly regular, occurring roughly five minutes apart.
At this point, the pain was still relatively tolerable, but it had all of a sudden become quite clear that I was officially in labor. Time to update the midwife again.
We arrived back home and warmed up dinner. Contractions were regular, but weren’t changing in intensity. Our doula suggested to us that we begin a 90-minute circuit of different movements which were designed to get the baby into the optimal position for birth, as well as get my body ready. We nearly made it through the 90 minutes, but about 15 minutes before we finished the circuit my sensations had become so strong that I needed to lie on the bed. And then I needed to throw up. And then I needed to once again lie on the bed. It was clearly time to call the doula and it was time for Ryan to fill the birthing pool. I had some essential oils diffusing (clary sage), my birthing playlist going, and all I could think about was how I was going to meet my son so very soon. And how fucking annoying my birthing playlist was. And how badly I had to poo. And how much I was burning up despite having stripped down to underwear and a bra. And how it was just not quite dark enough even with all of the lights turned out.
When my doula arrived I was already out of my mind. I just wanted her to fan me with a hand fan, breathe with me, and help me drink water through my straw. So this is what active labor felt like, I guess. In my imagination, I would be dancing around the house, pacing, bouncing through each contraction gracefully, and this was the amazing thing about home birth, right? Freedom! But all I really wanted to do was ride out the contraction on the bed, on all fours, swearing that when it was over I needed to go to the bathroom to have a BM; but then as soon as it passed I only had the energy to belly flop back onto the bed, regain my strength and dread the next wave. I moaned and groaned as I powered through each contraction. I was having an out of body experience. I remember that I felt overwhelmed, but I kept telling myself to focus on one contraction at a time, and for some reason I actually listened to myself for once. Time stopped making sense entirely. How many days have I been in labor?
The doula brought me back to earth for a moment when she said, “You are sounding really ‘pushy’ right now...”
“Sorry!” I said.
“No, don’t be sorry!” She responded, “I just think you may be a lot closer than you think you are. We need to make sure your midwife gets here soon.”
I’m not sure how much time elapsed, but it felt like my midwife arrived very soon after that moment. The intensity and the pressure of my contractions was really starting to feel overwhelming. My midwife asked me to go sit on the toilet in a squatting position. She may as well had asked me to stick tacks in my eyeballs, because the thought of squatting at that juncture seemed like hell on earth. I did it anyway, and I cried. And I cursed a lot. I’m pretty sure I tried to make a few bargains with God at that point. Maybe the devil too. It felt like my butt was turning inside out, y’all.
My midwife told me that if I stick my fingers inside I could probably feel the baby’s head. I did, and I did. But it certainly didn’t feel as close to coming out as it should, and it didn’t exactly boost my confidence in the way I would imagine she’d hoped for. But all the same, it was surreal and magical, and he was almost earthside.
Ryan and the midwife had just finished testing the temperature of our birthing pool, and all I wanted to do was crawl right in to relieve the pressure. It was really starting to feel like more than I could manage. Ryan crawled in with me and it just felt like go time all of a sudden. After a few contractions, about six pushes and the dreaded/aptly named “ring of fire,” I heard Ryan say that the head was out. WHAT. He had his hand on it and I remember yelling at him to move his hand. I’d barely gotten the words out and I felt the biggest rush I’ve felt in my life. It was as if someone had let the air out of my body. Henry’s body had come tumbling out and I could see him floating in the water like a merman. It may sound cliche, but when Henry was pulled out of the water and placed on my chest, well that was hands down the best and most exhilarating moment of my life.
I felt so strong! And then it came time to latch, which didn’t come easily. Then it came time to birth the placenta, which honestly was the worst part for me. All I wanted to do was relax and luxuriate in what I’d just accomplished, and this god damned placenta wouldn’t come out. Eventually, my midwife deemed it necessary to give me a shot of Pitocin, and if that didn’t do the trick it would be hospital transfer time. Fortunately, the placenta removed itself (intact) shortly after the shot of P, but not before I lost a massive blood clot on my floor, which was so huge I actually believed it to be the placenta, and the stains of which are still evident on my bed frame. Birth is nothing if not glamorous.
In the end, Henry was born at 11:47pm in December 2, 2017, during a super moon, just 13 minutes before his due date.
Thinking back on myself pre-baby, I was really a bit arrogant. I thought my choices were the best choices. But birth changes a person. It propels one to a higher plane of existence. It’s such an honor, and it is just so insanely humbling. I am a massive proponent of home birth - that’s not changed - but I realize it’s not for everyone, which is much more understandable to me now. No matter how a baby is born, the important thing is that they are born safely, that the mother can let go and trust the outcome despite how it may divert from plan, and that there is love.