I’m over at Red and Honey today, sharing six reasons we’re choosing a home birth the second time around (as long as everything goes well, of course). So I thought I’d share Lydia’s birth story over here while I was at it. I first shared this story almost three years ago on my old blog, but I’m hoping to slowly transfer the few good posts over here to my permanent online home.
P.S. forgive the horrible quality of the photos. All we had at the time was a crappy point-and-shoot. And we never thought to take pictures during the labour. These pictures are the best I have.
I woke up around 1:30AM on August 17th 2011, with my abdomen tightening painfully, the way it had done repeatedly a few days before. I was confused. It was still a week before my “due date,” and I had assumed my baby wouldn’t be coming for another few weeks, since most first babies take 41 weeks to incubate.
My stomach repeated this painful tightening a couple of times while I lay in bed, so that I had to sit up. This woke Ben up. I told him I thought I was having contractions, though it might not mean anything. It might be another bout of “false” labour, or it could be early labour which could last another twelve hours. I decided to go to the bathroom downstairs to see what happened.
It got worse. I told Ben to start timing them, which was easy for him since I felt better if I moaned through them. We decided to run a bath to see if that either sped things up or made them stop. I got into my bathing suit and got in. The water felt wonderful and soothing though the pains got stronger and longer. We decided to call my midwife.
She listened to me labour through another contraction and decided I should take some Tylenol and some Gravol to help me sleep, return to the tub, and call back in a few hours. Ben brought me the pills and I lay down on our couch but the pain just got worse until I was almost hysterical. We tried the birthing ball, I tried going on my hands and knees, but before I knew it I was vomiting violently and yelling, “Call her back, call her back!” While Ben was on the phone and I lay yelling in pain on the couch, I started to feel warm water leak out of me. “I’m leaking! This is for real!” I hollered (Up till then I was convinced I might still have a few days). Ben reported that my midwife was on her way, and suggested I get back in the tub.
Waiting for the midwife in the tub was a surreal experience. I would yell, “Another one is coming!” so that Ben could time the contractions. I would bellow through the pain, and then everything would let up and I would lay there peacefully for several minutes.
“My baby is coming,” I would whisper. “I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl?” But before long I was yelling, “I want to push!” and I had to climb out to crouch on the floor with my butt in the air (I’d read that this was a good position if you have the urge to push before you’re ready.)
I don’t remember ever feeling scared; I was just intensely focused on making sure I did everything right. All my energy was centered on making it through the pain. I had to make it until my midwife showed up and told me what to do.
I surprised myself: I never thought I’d be so vocal in labour. I’m an introvert; I kind of assumed I would labour quietly. But I was bellowing like water buffalo; roaring like a lion. I have never made so much noise in my life. I filled the whole house with my voice.
My midwife found me an hour later slumped over the edge of my bathtub, moaning pitifully. I think she was a little shocked. She and Ben helped me to the futon we’d set up in our living room and she checked me. “The baby’s right there,” she said, sounding a little worried. I was relieved, and asked if that meant I could start pushing it out. She explained that she would need to call an ambulance and have paramedics standing by until her backup midwife showed up. “Don’t push yet,” she told me.
Being told not to push when you have the urge is like being told not to cough when you’ve got crumbs in your throat. It took all the willpower I could muster to keep from heaving that baby out of my body.
But her student showed up soon, and my midwife told me I could start pushing. I was relieved to see the student midwife – she was a young woman whom I really liked. So with the next contraction, I pushed. It was a mix of the most satisfying and most horrifying work I’ve ever done.
The two women cheered me on: “You’re doing so good! That’s exactly right! Give us another one just like that!” They encouraged me to try different positions: leaning against Ben, crouching on my hands and knees. I hollered and screamed despite what I’d heard about how you shouldn’t make noise when you push. The midwives didn’t seem to have a problem with it so I went with it.
Between contractions, I was blissing out. (If you’ve never gone through it, it’s important to remember this detail: at their worst, contractions only last about a minute long, and then you have three to five minutes of complete calm with no accompanying pain [unless you are experiencing back labour]. So really, only a small fraction of labour is spent in actual pain). I felt calm and peaceful and so, so grateful. “You guys are so awesome. Thanks so much. This is so great. You guys are the best,” I kept repeating. I couldn’t believe how much I had lucked out, having such a quick and easy birth, with the greatest midwives a woman could ask for, and a truly fantastic husband. I couldn’t stop telling everyone how amazing they were.
At some point the backup midwife showed up as well. She quietly worked in the background. I was told later that I pushed for about an hour when it finally came to forcing out the ridiculously massive head of my child. (I was later informed that her head was actually on the small size, along with the rest of her body).
When they put that monstrously huge baby on my chest I lost my mind.”It’s a baby! Look at the baby!” I exclaimed frantically. It took me a moment to realize that the baby had a sex and that I didn’t yet know it. My midwife turned the baby to my husband who said, “It’s . . . a girl?”
I was euphoric. I had so wanted it to be a girl. I told everyone that her name was Lydia.
The rest of the story is a blur and not that interesting. She was weighed — 6 lbs 11 oz. I delivered the placenta, and I got stitched up, a process that was easily as horrible as everything that has preceded it, but at this point I was also elated and chatty. My mom arrived and came in to hold my hand while Ben helped to clean things up.
I was seriously in hysterics about how perfect everything was. The backup midwife’s job was to clean, examine, dress and wrap up Lydia while the other two fixed me up.
The women made sure I’d fed Lydia, I’d been to the bathroom, and was comfortable and safe before they quietly left me and my new baby to sleep, all cozy in my own living room. I was so, so proud. I fell asleep to the thought, “That was awesome.”
It was about five hours from when I first woke up until she finally made her exit. It hurt a lot, but it was also exciting and wonderful. From my perspective, everything went beautifully. I announced to Ben that if every pregnancy and birth went like this one, I’d happily have eight more babies. We’ll see what God has in mind!