Through out my pregnancy I had quite a few people ask me if being in doula school made a difference in how I was approaching my labor. I wasn’t really sure. I think the biggest benefit was that simply having so much discussion and information in front of my face all the time made it feel much more normal and right when I was finally in labor.
My pregnancy was rough. We really believed it was best to take a longer break after Ella was born, for my health, and also just to give us time to catch our breath and enjoy being a family. When I found out I was pregnant I really struggled with it, clear through my second trimester. I knew that God was in control, that it would be okay, and that love is a choice not a feeling, but I really, really didn’t want to be pregnant. I struggled emotionally and didn’t handle being around people well at all.
I was finally doing better by my third trimester (third is always easiest for me. The amazing second trimester is a lie.) and enjoying doing stuff with my kids and feeling more on top of life. I went well past my due date with both Miles and Ella so I was planning on that again, plus Chris was in England working on a project for two weeks in April and got home the day after I was 40 weeks, so baby wasn’t allowed to come before then. I thought of 41 weeks as my “due date” and that was the date I told everyone else as well. I hoped that thinking that way would help me be more patient at the end.
With Ella I had zero signs of labor, even at 42 weeks, but this time I’d been having warm up signs and strong contractions for weeks and was beginning to hope that meant this baby wouldn’t wait quite as long as her big sister. I was really thinking May 1st would be perfect, which was exactly 41 weeks, but I knew the chances of getting the day I wanted were really slim. Every day is such a mind game at the end of pregnancy, no matter the circumstances or how hard you work to think properly. Its just hard, and I think it’s supposed to be.
Bex, my sister in law, was going through doula school with me so it only made sense to have her as my doula. It was fun to “practice” together, and besides, we talked about all things birth together so I wanted her there for everything anyway. About halfway through week 40 I was “so ready” (if you’ve ever been pregnant you know exactly what I mean). I was concerned because I knew I really could have another week or two to go, but something in me was pretty sure things were happening and it wouldn’t be long. Bex came over and rubbed some oils on some pressure points and did some exercises with me. My midwife offered to strip membranes but I opted to wait til my 41 week appointment. I really wanted to be patient. My appointment was the last day of April and I was so nervous about the results of my cervical check. I really felt like things were happening but I was so afraid to let myself hope.
When Lisa checked me the look on her face was priceless. Her eyes got super wide and she said “Oh! Ohhhh. Oh. You’re…. There’s…. Wow. Oh… You’re a GOOD 4 centimeters, 90% effaced, and baby’s head is RIGHT there. At least a 0 station.” Christina (one of Lisa’s assistants) laughed at Lisa “You should have seen your face! You looked like you were gonna deliver the baby right there under the sheet!”. I had never been dilated before going into labor with my first two babies so we were super excited. It looked like baby would be coming that night or the next day! Lisa went ahead and stripped membranes while she was in there.
Bex had come with me to the appointment and I just gushed to her the whole way home about how relieved I was and how affirming it was to have my instincts confirmed. It really renewed my trust in my body and that I really did know what was going on and wasn’t delusional in my feelings that my body was nearly ready. Once I got home I called my mom and asked her to come clean my house and take my kids for a while so I could get some rest. She is so amazing and made it clear that she was totally on call and ready to do anything I needed during that time. I had been hoping I’d go into labor at night because Mom was my babysitter, but we were also hoping she could be at the birth, so it would be really nice if the kids could sleep through it. She hadn’t been at the other two, but I decided it would be special to have her there this time.
My husband got home and we spent some nice time together before asking my mom to bring the kids back so we could enjoy an evening with them and put them to bed together. I was continuing to have sporadic strong contractions that I was sure were doing something, but they were not getting closer together so I knew this wasn’t quite it. We watched a Stargate after the kids were in bed and I had a couple really strong contractions. I looked at the clock and started laughing. It was 9:03, and I had started active labor at exactly 9pm with both Miles and Ella. They did spread out again though and we went ahead and went to bed a little before 10. I told Chris to just plan on things not starting til tomorrow, but that I would wake him if I needed him. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it til morning but I really wanted him to sleep while he could.
I slept deeply til 1am when a contraction woke me up. I went to the bathroom and walked around the house a bit before grabbing my phone and going back up to bed. I crawled in and just sat cross legged, waiting. The contractions were definitely stronger and closer but I didn’t have to concentrate much to get through them. I knew I would likely have a fast labor and Lisa had reminded me (again and again) to not wait too long to call her, but I also didn’t want to wake anyone unnecessarily early. I sat on the bed swaying until 2:00, when I decided things had ramped up enough to assemble the team. I texted Lisa, Mom, Bex, and my photographer Lindsey. Then I gently woke up Chris. “I think you’d better get up now” I whispered. He sat up, said “Okay”, got dressed and went downstairs. He was totally not awake yet, and didn’t even stop to ask me what was going on or how I was doing. He just knew he needed to start setting up the birth pool. Ha ha.
I was excited. I did my hair and put my waterproof mascara on (Chris walked by and asked why I was putting on makeup and I told him it was just something I needed to do.) Then I decided to pick up a bit and put clean sheets on the downstairs bed. I was pausing for contractions between activities but on my way from the laundry room to the bedroom with the sheets I stopped and sat on the exercise ball through a contraction and decided I’d had enough of trying to do stuff and needed to focus. I was still sitting on the ball in the kitchen, sheets in hand, when everyone started to arrive. Mom took over making the bed, and Susan (the assistant midwife) started taking my vitals. I wasn’t sure what I would think of having so many people there, but I actually kinda enjoyed it. There were 6 people there, not counting Chris and I, but everyone kept busy and quiet and I think it went well.
I moved to the bed in the guest room so we could get clear heart tones. Baby was being a stinker and didn’t want to be found, though she was wiggling like crazy. I’d never had a baby be that active through labor. She didn’t stop til I was pushing. I did not like being on my back through contractions, and got back on the ball as soon as I could, this time in the guest room. Chris finally came in and joined me, holding a hot rice sack on my back most of the time. The heat felt amazing. I wish I’d tried that with my other two labors. I gently bounced or rolled my hips between contractions and then stopped and leaned forward onto the tv stand to relax and breathe through them. The water heater gave up on us halfway through filling the pool but it didn’t get caught til a lot of cold water had been dumped in, so it took a long time and lots and lots of boiled water to get it warmed back up enough for me to get in. My mom found it super amusing that she was boiling water at a home birth. So cliche. I was not amused, however, that I had to wait to get in the water.
All through this labor I was very in tune with what was going on in my body. I couldn’t put it into words per say, but I knew exactly what was happening and where I was in the process. All that birth talk, plus it being my third time around, really helped me to be confident and not have to deal with processing everything as much. The only thing that slightly confused me was that I was much more alert this time (probably because I was so much more comfortable and confident in what was happening) and I was concerned that maybe I wasn’t as far along as I thought because I was still able to talk and was super aware of what was going on around me.
I really enjoyed that time with Chris, talking about meeting our baby and being excited together that it was finally happening, though to be honest, there were a few “I really don’t like this part. I really don’t want to do this right now.” comments as well. We were alone in the dark guest room and I loved having that time just the two of us.
Bex reheated the rice sack for us and brought me a drink a few times. Lisa checked heart tones every so often and asked me how I was doing. I felt like I was much better at communicating this time, and was hopefully able to give her a better idea of where I actually was. She always talks about how hard it is to tell what is going on with me in labor because I am so quiet. She has been my midwife for all three babies, and knows what to expect from me. I really appreciate that she just lets me do my thing. She was even more hands off this time around than she had been with my first two. I’m sure that was partially because it was my third. There were quite a few times when I answered questions just as she was getting ready to ask them. They only cervical check I had the whole pregnancy was the day before. Lisa never checked me in labor this time.
Lisa finally told me the pool was ready right in the middle of what I was pretty sure was transition. I was having incredible pressure with every contraction. It really felt like the baby’s head was pushing down directly onto the birth ball. The low, low back pain was getting more and more intense and I felt like I was going to throw up any minute. I was starting to get the feeling that this might be a BIG baby. I just felt so much more pressure and stretching than I remembered ever having with my first two. I stopped to pee one last time before getting in the pool.
I love the birth pool so much! Being in the water really helps me to relax, and takes the edge off the pressure and tightness of contractions. It just seems to slightly soften everything. I was hitting that point of feeling slightly panicked inside with each contraction. Lisa checked heart tones and wanted to listen through a contraction, so I was leaning back a little more and trying not to move which of course made things worse. At the end of that contraction I felt a little pushy. I had a couple more contractions, and then felt pushy again and told Lisa it was time to push. She told me to listen to my body and everyone quickly made sure everything was ready for baby’s arrival and gathered around the pool. Lisa said she might have me catch my own baby and I said “We’ll see”. I had always liked that idea but from experience I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make myself move at the proper moment.
Up until this point everything had been fabulous. I had felt in control and contractions had been manageable (painful and intense of course, but manageable.) The next few minutes were awful. I had two more contractions where I didn’t feel the urge to push any more, but there was so much pressure I thought my bottom would explode. The urge to push finally returned with the next contraction and when it did my water broke with a nice little pop. I was sitting against the side of the pool with my arms on the sides holding onto the handles on each side (with Chris’ hand on top of the handle on my right.) I suddenly remembered a conversation in doula class about women who do their own perineal support being less likely to tear and managed to get one hand down there cupped around the ever growing opening. I couldn’t make myself let go on the other side and continued to hold on to the handle and Chris’ hand for dear life. I pushed through a couple more contractions and then had a couple more with no urge. This was so much more painful than anything I’d experienced with any of my labors. Someone told me to touch my baby’s head, and I did, thankful to know she was almost here. A couple more pushes and the head crowned. I purposefully stopped pushing and breathed for a couple seconds as I felt the burning, giving myself time to stretch and silently telling my body to open.
One more big push and the head was out, I was almost done. But as I continued to push the body didn’t seem to be following. At this point Lisa stepped in and began gently tugging and working to help get baby out. The shoulders were stuck and even after she got those loose it took a few more pushes to get the whole body out. Lisa was pulling so hard she lifted me right off the bottom of the pool, and I wa pushing with everything I had. It hurt so bad, and my mind was reeling, wondering why it hurt so much and why it wasn’t over yet. My eyes were closed as I pushed and I was tuned in closely to Lisa’s voice, listening for any note of worry or danger. She was speaking firmly as she told me she needed me to keep pushing, but I didn’t sense that she was scared, which comforted me. Finally the rest of the body squeezed out slowly and Lisa put my baby girl in my arms. It was 5:08, 3 hours after I decided I was in active labor. I breathed for a minute then checked to make sure it was actually a girl like we had been told. I asked for more lights so I could see her face. We all smiled and laughed and breathed for a few minutes before Lisa said it was time to get out of the pool to deliver the placenta. That part is always so comical. Once they got me standing up I looked at the side of the pool and asked how in the world I was supposed to get over it. Seriously. I just pushed this huge child out of my body, and now you want me to lift my leg almost waist high over that edge? I was sure it had gotten taller since I got in. They told me they would help me so I took them at their word and half fell, was half dragged over the edge and onto the crib mattress set up on the floor. We studied our sweet baby. Nora Renee Ong. She was absolutely covered in vernix. It was everywhere. I even got some on my nose somehow. I held her skin to skin and waited to see if she was interested in nursing yet. She didn’t actually seem that big to me when I was holding her, but there were definitely comments being thrown around about her size.
I always dread the after birth process, as I had always bled badly with my first two, and the midwife massaging my belly and all that is always so painful. It wasn’t nearly as bad this time, and I bled a very reasonable amount. I didn’t tear at all either, which I realized was a miracle once we measured and weighed her. We moved to the guest room bed and Nora got her newborn check. I was ravenous and gobbled down a whole box of strawberry fruit leathers and a couple granola bars. Everyone worked together to get everything cleaned up.
Nora was 10 pounds 2 ounces, 21 inches long, and her head was 15 ½ inches, and her chest just as big. No wonder I had so much trouble getting her out. She was a chubby, barrel chested girl.
The kids woke up around 6:30 I think and came down to meet their sister. I was really glad Lindsey was still here at that point because we didn’t have our camera til later in the day. My mom stayed a while to let them get acquainted and then took the kids to her house for the day so we could rest. Everyone was gone by 8am and we were able to get some sleep.
I love home birth so much. I love that I can stay in the place I am most secure, surrounded by people I love and trust. I love that when it is all said and done I’m home in my own bed and don’t have to deal with strangers coming in and out of my room constantly. I love the personal care of my wonderful midwife who has been with me through the pregnancy and birth of all three of my children.
This has been my easiest recovery by far. I bled so little, and felt pretty much normal within days. I still chose to rest and give my body time to heal, but the process has been so smooth. Adjusting to life with 3 young children has been as hard as I expected, and Nora has been my most difficult baby so far, but we are taking it one day at a time and growing in grace and knowing Jesus better every day because of our sweet kiddos.