If you missed my previous post on the details leading up to labor, be sure to read up here. This is the rest of the story…
It was 5 AM and I lay in bed, realizing that I was having consistent contractions that were starting to hurt. They were not too long, yet, but they were low in the front of my abdomen and felt like painful menstrual cramps. And they came every few minutes.
“Hmmm…” I thought to myself. “This feels real – like I’m going to have this baby today…” and I started to think of all I had planned for the day and how much I could get done before I got to intense labor… I continued to think about that until 5:45, when I finally got up to go the the bathroom and realized that my underwear and pants were a little too wet.
Had my water broke? Nothing was actively leaking, but unless I peed my pants without realizing it, my water seemed to be broken. I also had bloody show. So… I got up, got dressed, and proceeded to make some breakfast before my husband, Mike, left for work.
Things were rapidly getting stronger and I had to dance around and sing through my contractions that were coming in waves with less than a minute off between them. But I had always taken so long in labor with my others, that I really didn’t think that baby would come too soon. Still, at 6:30 am I called one of my home birth midwives, Cindy, to let her know I was in active labor.
“Should I come now? Or should I wait?” she wanted to know, but I was indecisive. I kept thinking of the hours I spent in active labor with my others, so she decided that I should lay down for a bit and see how things were in 30 or 45 minutes.
I did know that my husband should NOT leave for work, though, so I told him he had to stay home. He believed me (unlike my 3rd labor – LOL – read that story here) and started to send out emails to his students and colleagues letting them know he would not be coming in that day.
I decided that a bath would be relaxing, so I ran a hot bath. The night before I had turned the water heater to high so that we could practice filling up the birth tub the next day. But still thinking I was hours away from birth, I only got into the regular bathtub. My contractions were so low down in my abdomen still that the hot water covered the most painful part and felt very good.
I knew 30 minutes had passed when my kids got up at 7 am, like clockwork. I let them know that they were going to have a baby that day. My oldest, Clayton was nervous about it. My second, Micah, was super excited and started dancing around the house. Our youngest, Addamay, really didn’t know what to expect…
At that point, I felt like the intensity of labor was ramping up even more. I knew the midwives needed to be on their way. It was 7:10 am when I called Cindy back and told her to come. She had gotten ready and was waiting to hear back from me.
“Okay,” she said. “I’m on my way.” No questions asked, which was nice, because I couldn’t talk much at that point.
I called my mom next, only to discover that she was snowed in (she lives over the mountain from us). She wouldn’t be able to come for hours until the roads were open.
My brain raced with all the things I was planning to do that day, and what I wanted to do before the baby arrived. Should I call a friend to come get the kids? Should I call my photographer friend who wanted to take pictures? Should I call the kids school to let them know they would be missing their home school classes that morning?
All of these things flew through my head, along with everything we still needed to prep before the baby arrived, but they all flew out of my head quickly. I was way past the point of calling people and arranging anything at that point!
I curled up in a ball on the floor, letting the contractions roll over me, one after another , after another. I could barely catch my breath before the next one hit. I pictured ocean waves and boogie-boarding at the ocean (the closest I’ve ever come to surfing). The water crashing over me and the pull of it down, and the slight panic of wondering if you will ever make it to the surface again before resurfacing, and the water rushing back out again. I remembered Ina May Gaskin, the famous midwife’s, description of rushes and waves for contractions and focused on riding each one out.
I know that my husband knew that baby was coming today, but like me, he had a hard time believing it would come quickly. These things take time… but apparently NOT fourth babies… When he saw me in fetal position on the floor of our room, he knew we were getting really close. I had to be in transition and he recognized the signs. Mike was rushing around trying to get things ready for baby’s eminent arrival.
I was giving him the instructions of how to cover the bed with a sheet, a plastic shower curtain, and another clean sheet. He made sure our oldest was getting breakfast for his siblings and they were all watching Netflix in the living room.
Next he hooked up the hose to the hot water spigot behind our washer machine and started to fill up the birthing tub. It holds 150 gallons of water and we were told that we would likely have to fill it up with one hot water heater’s worth of water, then wait as the heater filled up again before adding more water. Thankfully we have a pretty big hot water heater. After 1 tanks worth of very hot water, and then letting the cold water continue to fill up the tub so it was not too hot, the tub was about 2/3 full.
At about 7:45, I moved from the floor to the bathroom and labored on the toilet briefly until the tub was ready. At this point, the contractions were not any more intense than they had been on the floor, but I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. Wave after intense wave hit me with barely a chance to breathe before the next one.
“Please God,” I remember praying desperately. “Please let this baby come soon.” I didn’t realize how quickly He would answer that prayer!
“It’s ready,” Mike said from where the tub was outside the bathroom door.
Taking advantage of a quick break between contractions, I got in the tub, stripping down to just my bra.
Oh, wow, that water felt amazing. The heat brought instant relief. It also brought the longest break between contractions that I’d had in over an hour. This longer break often occurs when labor switches from the end of transition (fully dilated at 10 cm) to the pushing stage. When the next contraction hit, not only did I feel like I finally had a chance to catch my breath, but I also I felt the urge to push.
At this point it was almost 8 am. I knew the midwives would be here very, very soon. I also knew that I had never pushed for less than 20 minutes. It seemed safe to just go with the flow and start pushing. Surely the midwives would arrive before baby made it out!
So I pushed once. It felt so good, but I figured I should tell my husband, who was right there with me, that I was pushing.
“Are you at 10? Should I check you?” Not that he knows what 10 cm feels like or what he should be feeling for, but he put his hand down to see if he could feel anything.
“Uh, Amy,” he said, kind of in shock. “That’s a head.”
I knew that was the head, but it wasn’t crowning yet. It could still take some time.
However, with the next push I could feel the baby move down, start to crown, and as I put my hand down, the head popped out. My husband’s hand was right there with me.
“The head’s out,” he said, sounding apprehensive. “Push the rest out.”
So I pushed and he lifted the baby out of the water and onto my chest. The baby gave a quick cry – Thank you, God – but then stopped.
“The cords around the neck,” my husband noticed before I did and quickly unwrapped the cord and the baby cried again. The crisis averted, I took that time to move the cord from between the legs to see-
“It’s a girl!” I cried, absolutely overcome with joy. We wanted another girl – a sister for Addamay. As if on cue, Addamay came into the room. She had heard the baby cry and came in to see what was going on.
Our baby, Bethany, was slightly purple, but started to turn red. She was still very quiet and Mike was concerned she couldn’t breath. Neither of us was sure what to do next, but I knew that since she had cried, she must be breathing. But why wasn’t she making any more noise?
At this point, only about 1 minute after Bethany’s arrival, Cindy, the first of the midwives to arrive, entered the room. The look on her face was priceless. She expected to see us laboring in the tub, but instead saw me with a newborn in my arms.
“Oh!” she said, surprised.
“She’s here…” I said.
“She?” Cindy asked.
“Yep, it’s a girl.”
Cindy came to the tub and checked her out. Everything was perfect and she was breathing fine.
The boys were still in the other room, mesmerized by a show on Netflix, so we called them in.
“Come meet your baby sister” Mike said.
“Yes. This is,… Bethany?” I looked over at Mike to make sure he had not changed his mind. He nodded.
“This is Bethany.”
And it was perfect. We were surrounded by our three older children, gazing at this perfect baby girl in my arms. Covered in vernix and still attached to her thick long umbilical cord. Her little eyes squeezed tightly shut. She was tiny, but chubby. She was everything we ever dreamed… She was our rainbow baby, born right there in our bedroom.
I stayed in the tub to deliver the placenta. I kept thinking that I wanted to keep all the mess confined to the tub. That worked perfectly. Afterwards, we moved to the bed – my soft and cozy bed! That was amazing!
No hospital gowns, no IVs, no needles. No constantly monitoring the baby or being poked and prodded. No strange nurses coming in and out at all hours.
Our midwives were there, but by then they were like family. They busied themselves cleaning up and doing everything that they needed to do. Our family was able to cuddle on the bed and bond with sweet Bethany. I am convinced that home birth is exactly the way to go and I am so glad we decided to switch in the last trimester.
Because of her very fast arrival, and the fact that it was only my husband and I, we did not get any pictures of the birth, or even soon afterward. We did take some pictures when the midwives were there, but due to a faulty SD card, those did not make it. These pictures taken 1 or 2 hours after her arrival are the youngest we have, but they will have to do!
I am beyond thankful for our little girl and her fast and safe entrance into the world. From the first contraction at 5 am to her entrance at 8 am, she beat her siblings records by well over 13 hours! Two of those hours were painful, but only 45 minutes were what I would call intense. I am so very thankful we were home and NOT on the road to the hospital!
She has already become a wonderful addition to our family and we could not imagine life without her!