My Third Home Birth Story: Baby J

Today Baby J turns nine months old, so he’s been out in the world for as long as he was growing inside of me. In celebration, I am finally posting his birth story. Read on if that kind of thing interests you!

Warning: it is not a cute story, but it’s also not terribly graphic or scary. I hated this birth, though technically everything went fine. There is some swearing, because I am a 35-year-old woman with a shit-ton of trauma and I am done sugarcoating things.

But first, to set the stage…

This pregnancy had been unplanned. I did not want another baby. I was not excited to have another baby.

The pregnancy was awful. I had gained almost 60lbs over the course of nine months. My hips ached. It was hard to breathe. I had a crap-ton of trauma from my last child’s infancy — I was having regular panic attacks that wiped me out emotionally.

Both my other labours (stories here and here) had happened around 39 weeks, so I expected the same this time, especially since my midwife had estimated that the baby was already about 8 lbs at my 38-week appointment. So starting around week 39, I woke up every morning expecting to go into labour that day. That week stretched to 40 weeks. My estimated due date came and went. And then another day passed, and another, and another. My midwife performed a “stretch and sweep,” which was excruciatingly painful. Nothing happened. She did another one at my next visit, and it hurt just as much. We started talking about a possible induction if labour didn’t start in the next few days.

I didn’t feel particularly passionate about having a home birth, but it was familiar to me, and I hate hospitals, and it was still the middle of a pandemic, so I decided to go for it. It’s just one day of grisly suffering, right? I’d done it twice before, I could probably do it again.

It was now a full week past my due date, but since I had expected to go into labour around 39, it felt closer to two weeks. I woke up miserable, as usual. No signs of labour in sight. I did not want to do this anymore. I was SO. DONE.

The first thing we did as a family that day was go for a walk to see if it might get labour started. We only lasted about six minutes when I had to turn back — I was huffing and puffing, everything ached, my swollen feet were jiggling with every step. 

Felix didn’t have school that day, so I spent the day waddling around the house after him, cleaning up his messes as he ate puffed rice out of his sensory table and splashed in the water fountain on the deck. Eventually my sister came to help with Felix and I made supper. By then I was completely wiped out. I went to go lie down on the couch to rest before eating because I couldn’t move anymore. I was still standing and talking to Ben when I stopped mid-sentence: water was leaking out of me and running down my leg. Oh shit. My water was breaking. 

Labour

I had a history of short labours and my midwife lived an hour away, so I called her right away just to let her know what was happening. I called my mom. I put on disposable incontinence underwear. I ate supper. Finally, I rested. I planted myself on the couch.

I was finally having regular contractions, but they were mild and painless. My sister left, and Ben brought the kids to my mom’s. I figured I was probably in early labour, and I’d be able to sleep most of the night, and in the morning either I’d go into active labour or I’d go to the hospital to be induced. I was looking forward to a good rest before I started the marathon of birth. I was SO TIRED. Ben and I both laid down on our sectional couch to see what would happen.

Around 11pm the contractions started to be painful. Ohhhhhh, shit. This was going to happen at the worst possible time, wasn’t it? I was not going to get that sleep I badly needed, was I?

After just a few regular, painful, one-minute-long/five-minute-apart contractions, I called the midwife back. We both knew this was probably going to happen soon. Ben set up and started to fill the birthing tub we’d rented.

By the time the midwife arrived around midnight, the contractions were painful enough that I had to breathe and rock through them to cope. I had just changed into my bathing suit, but I dropped my bottom where I stood so my midwife could check my cervix. I was at 7 cm.

I got into the tub. The backup midwife arrived.

UGGGHHH, the contractions hurt. I leaned my head against the tub and breathed through them loudly and ritualistically, and then tried to float in between contractions. I was already so tired. How long was this going to take? The midwives set up their stuff and then stayed out of the way, chatting quietly on the other side of the room.

The contractions got harder and stronger, and soon I couldn’t help but moan loudly through them. The moans turned into bellows. Oh GODDDDDD they hurt. Why the HELL had I opted to do this unmedicated again?? I could be on an epidural by now. My midwife noticed the shift in my sounds and said I was probably getting close. But the tub water was too cool to deliver in — we hadn’t quite figured out how to get it to the right temp quickly enough. She told me I should probably get out. That was fine, I was finding it chilly and wanted to get out. I’d been labouring hard for about an hour.

They helped me lay down on the futon and checked my cervix again… Not quite ready to push. Another cm or more to go. On their recommendation I tried sitting on the toilet — I HATED it. I stood and rocked through a few more waves — TORTURE. I laid down on my side, back on the futon, and my midwife pushed my hips together, which made it a little better. But every contraction was still agony. I ROARED through each one. I wished it would stop. I regretted every decision that had led up to this horrible moment.

Suddenly I had to puke. I said, “I’m going to throw up,” and then immediately did, onto the floor. They cleaned it up and put a garbage can there in time for me to puke some more. The vomiting took over my whole body and was almost a relief — I didn’t have to do anything, my body just did it all for me. I was covered in sweat, completely disgusting. And the excruciating contractions just kept coming and coming. I was so, so tired. 

Finally my midwife said if she manually stretched my cervix just a little more I could start pushing. I said okay. I pushed a little with the next contraction – I hated it. No. I said I couldn’t do it. It was all too much, I could not do this. Nope. 

She told me plainly that I had to.

Birth

The next 25 minutes were just absolute hell. The midwives had Ben sit behind me and prop me up; they had me hold onto the backs of my knees and push with all my strength. I cried, I wailed. I said I couldn’t do it. Then with every contraction I held my breath and PUSHED, until it was too much and I screamed in agony. Over and over and over again. I screamed “NOOOOOO!” and called out for Ben. I crushed his fingers, I begged it to stop. My whole body was going to explode. My face was going to explode. I was SCREAMING. Finally, I could feel the pressure of the baby’s head through my cervix and it was unbearable. They said I had to push HARDER even though I was already beyond capacity. So finally I just fucking did it. I PUSHED.

All of a sudden the head burst through, and soon they were slipping an entire goddamn body out through my vagina.

And suddenly there was an ENTIRE baby between my legs, and the midwives were deftly unwinding a long dark cord from around his body. I started to hyperventilate and was momentarily blinded, but then they were plopping that warm, slippery little body onto my chest. HOLY SHIT, he had The Hair!! The dark head of hair that Ben, Lydia and I had all daydreamed about. Oh my god, suddenly I was euphoric. I had somehow done it! I made it through that eternal miserable pregnancy, pushed through that hellish labour and delivery, and the beautiful baby boy of our dreams was here! He looked healthy and perfect. It was about 2:15am.

He immediately squalled. He was not happy about his circumstances. I held him and kissed him. He was exactly right. He was incredible. He cried so loudly. It was just…surreal.

While I was taking him in I had to deliver the placenta. They kept asking me to push but I felt like my muscles were all gone. After a few hard pushes I could feel it slip out — GROSS. My midwife surveyed the damage, and said I could opt out of stitches if I promised to take really good care of the area. I said yes please — I didn’t think I could manage any more pain.

The midwives left me and Ben to bond with the baby while they did the paperwork. I surveyed the scene around me and was horror-struck: it looked like a scene from a horror movie. The sheets under me were bloody and slimy. I turned my attention back to the baby on my chest. Bloody goop oozed from his mouth and nose. I wiped it up and asked Ben to take a picture. The baby clearly wanted to nurse — he was already rooting around — but I wasn’t sure if I should wait until the midwives gave the go-ahead.

At one point the midwife came to check my uterus — she unceremoniously jammed her fingers in the center of my belly and hot liquid gushed out of me. I yelled in pain and surprise. “Perfect,” she said, and went back to her paperwork.

The other midwife finally came and helped clean things up — she and Ben removed all the gross bedding and gave us clean towels and a warm blanket. Then she weighed and measured the baby: 9 lbs 4 oz, which wasn’t as big as I’d feared, but was still big. He wasn’t particularly chubby. They pointed out that he was long — almost 23”.

Finally I asked if I could start nursing because he was eager. They helped me get set up on the couch and I got him latched on. He got right to it! I realized how much I had missed that feeling.

Other stuff happened, but the memories are fuzzy…. The midwife had to stay for a certain amount of time to make sure we were well, and chatted idly for a really long time and I had zero interest in participating, but I knew it was required so I did my best to engage until she left around 4am.

FINALLY, I could rest. But first, I showered — I was absolutely repulsive, and starting to shake violently. The warm water helped. I ate a bowl of cereal, and went to sleep on the futon with my new baby snuggled next to me.

In the end, was I glad I had another home birth?

I don’t know. The pain of labour was horrific, but as Ina May says, the thing about labour pain is that unlike an injury, when it’s over, it’s over. It just disappears. It was dreadful during the four hours it was happening, but then it was just gone, never to be felt again. I did like being in my own bed that first night, taking a shower in my own bathroom and wearing my own pajamas, eating my own cereal. 

The experience didn’t feel as empowering as it had the first time, but I was like, well, I guess I feel proud of myself for doing this. Yay me! I’m kind of a badass.

I would never discourage someone from getting an epidural if they wanted one, but I was proud that I had managed to do it all by myself a third time.

Baby #3

Anyone who follows me on Instagram already knows that Baby J has been the greatest, most unexpected blessing for our family. He is an absolute ray of sunshine. I mean, he keeps me incredibly busy, and I haven’t had a moment’s rest since he was born and feel like I will never feel rested again as long as I live; but he brings us immeasurable joy.

I’m glad I didn’t have a say in whether or not he would join our family, because I would have said no, and I would have missed out on knowing one of the most delightful human beings I’ve ever known.

(I share a bit more of my feelings here).

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Comments

  1. I’m so glad to read this Kathleen! Your experience mirrors mine in many ways (unplanned, miserable pregnancy, would not have said yes, greatest gift possible to my family). Aren’t babies amazing? Isn’t motherhood? I’m so glad this sweet baby is brightening your days. It’s wonderful to hear from you. ❤️❤️

    xo from @huiswerks on Instagram (I deactivated so don’t get to see your updates anymore!)

    PS all of my births were medicated and in the hospital but the epidural didn’t take on my first birth. You are the first person to describe it as feeling like your body is going to explode. Yes!! That’s exactly it!!

  2. I just wanted to thank you for writing this and mentioning the trauma that impacted you during your pregnancy. I had a very difficult labor/recovery with my first son and honestly, at the time, I didn’t even realize that birth could have the impact on me that it did. I’m pregnant with my second right now and my doctor was actually the first person to tell me that what I’ve described sounds like PTSD from his birth, and it was *so shocking* to hear someone tell me that. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard/read someone say, “Yeah, it’s a horribly painful experience but the second you see your baby it’s so worth it,” because, no, to me, what I went through shouldn’t be brushed aside and made so small that the only acknowledgement is “but it’s worth it!” It sucked! It was scary and painful and life-altering and I wish very much that somehow it was more widely known that it’s not rare for a woman to feel that way. I hope that my upcoming birth is a “better” experience, but it really does mean a lot to hear other women talk about their experiences in an honest way.

  3. This was the most amazing post! I too have three kids and your story took me back :)
    It is very important to talk and share these experiences – the process of childbirth is painful and messy, but when we see it on TV it is so beautiful and the mother does not have a hair out of place!
    Enjoy your lovely baby and blessings on your family xxxx
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