On Tuesday, 4/8/14, I felt very slow. Instead of packing my day of yoga, errands, reading baby books, etc. I watched a couple episodes of "Call the Midwife" (ha!), a Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Netflix movie (double ha!) and went to acupuncture in between. I also did a YogaGlo prenatal meditation on "a circle of mothers". My mind was a bit racy, as I would notice I didn't catch a line of her meditation instruction here and there. All afternoon/evening I had been losing pink mucus, so I knew it was coming on. I went to book club that evening and started to feel the need to record contractions around 8:30pm. I was surprised to notice that they were about 4.5 – 5 minutes apart. My book club friends were super excited to be witnessing my early labor. We took some pictures of my belly that night. The boyfriend of the book club host, Andrew, came home and asked my reasons for a homebirth. It was great to repeat them to myself. I am not sick. Jo is not sick. Birth is natural. I feel more comfortable at home. I don't want to worry about the lack of control or independence in a hospital. I trust my body to do the work. I trust my baby. Andrew played a sound recording of Patton Oswalt making fun of homebirth, and we all had a good laugh. It was great to feel at ease and laugh about the experience I was about to endure. I started to feel a little more physical discomfort at 9:45pm and got a ride home.
I called Alli, our doula, at about 10:30pm to warn her that I was having fairly consistent contractions. We decided I'd take a bath and then get to bed for the night to prep for a long day or two of birth. She said, "Now your toes and feet and wading into the ocean." (She told me I was just dipping my toes in when I told her about the mucus plug the Saturday before.) Dan was playing games with friends and got home around 11:30pm. I couldn't sleep. Dan started timing the contractions and we did that for a few hours as Dan starting prepping my labor stations downstairs and filling the birth tub. I would yell to him to start the timer and then yell him to stop. It got harder and harder to let him know. I got up from the bed after a rush to go sit on the toilet and my water broke. It was about 2:35am. I remember being a bit in denial about it because I wanted it to break further along so I could wait longer for the penicillin. (I am GBS positive and decided to have Maria administer penicillin at home.) Alli was already on her way, so Dan called to let Maria know about my water. Alli arrived at 3:10am, and I was leaning over the upstairs tub when she got there. Dan had to leave to drive to Kaiser and pick up the penicillin. I remember being ok about him leaving because Alli was there, but I was definitely glad when he came back later. After Alli watched a few contractions she said, "I think this is early labor." I didn't want to hear that because I was noticing that they felt pretty close together and were getting stronger. I expected a 5-10 minute rest instead of 2-4 at that stage. Sometimes I got between 2-4 waves in a row- usually the first was most intense and then it would lead right into another (or 2 or 3!) "half" or "full" waves. I started to want and really need my hot water bottle on my back and pressure on my hips during each wave. I remember Alli telling me I was wading further into the ocean of labor, now up to my thighs. Alli asked me if I wanted to change positions a couple of times and I pretty much ignored her. I couldn’t think about where to go and how to change positions. I was in my zone and I just needed them to witness and apply pressure to my hips. All fours with my hips swaying was my position of choice. I pretty much did that the entire labor- on my bed and on the bathroom floor. Sitting on the toilet wasn’t as comfortable to me.
Alli kept repeating "deep and low" to help me vocalize through my moans. It was extremely helpful because it was repetitive and simple. I also remember her softly saying "open" a few times to help me fixate on that word. At one point she asked what my mental image was, and I told her I was floating in the ocean. I remember mentally fixating on softening, opening, letting go, floating- all things that required a lot of energy since it is the opposite of what the body is telling you to do.
I felt like I couldn't get enough water and my throat was getting raw from the moans. I was also sipping recharge but wished it was more diluted it as it seemed a little intense of a flavor at the time. Dan had asked if I wanted the music of singing bowls and oms that a friend from birth class shared with us. I said no. I didn’t want anything but pressure on my hips and water!
While Dan was at Kaiser, Alli called and put Maria on the phone. We discussed starting the penicillin by about 10:30am the next day and she said to call her whenever I needed to. I’m sure we discussed some other things, but I can’t remember. I remember thinking, “Oh my god. Maria thinks I won’t have the baby until tomorrow evening after I have 8 hours of penicillin! I don’t know if I can do that.” When Dan returned, Alli asked me to tell Dan what Maria told me. I tried to formulate what she said and to remember our conversation, but I could hardly get it out.
It was around 4:30am when Alli suggested that we think about when we wanted to call Maria. I think Dan called her a few contractions later. When Maria arrived around 5:30am I was on the toilet. She took some vitals, watched a couple waves, and set up her equipment. I remember feeling like my contractions changed a bit when she got there. I noticed my vocalizations started to have more of a grunting sound- my ahhhhs skipping. I started to fear that I was feeling the urge to bear down, but that it was too early. Alli let me hang from her shoulders and drop my head on her belly as I went through a wave on the toilet. I did that again with Dan.
Then Maria had me go to the bed so she could check my dilation. I remember that being the most painful part of my labor- laying on my back on the bed. She felt and said, "I only feel head. There's no cervix!" I didn't quite understand what that meant so I remember asking, "Is that 10 cm?" She said yes and "Nikki! You are going to have your baby soon!" That felt AMAZING to hear! It was about 6:20am. Maria checked in with me and asked if I wanted penicillin. At that point we both knew we wouldn't be able to get the recommended 2 bags in over a period of 8 hours. We also knew that my water had only been broken for a little under 4 hours. We decided not to administer the penicillin, and I felt a huge sense of relief. It had been something I was really dreading about my labor. Maria called her back-up midwife, Laura, to get here as soon as she could.
They asked, "Where do you want to have the baby?" I thought to myself, "I haven't used my tub yet or any of my birthing stations Dan spent so much time setting up, but there's no way I'm going downstairs at this point!" Dan then whispered in my ear, “Nikki, Do you want to have it up here?" And I said "Yes, on the floor." Maria set up chucks pads and quickly got all her equipment ready upstairs. I got down onto all fours and had a couple intense rushes with a lot of grunting. I felt like my body was doing exactly what it needed to on its own. I didn't feel like I was making an effort to push at all. My baby and my body were doing the work, and I just got out of their way. I remember my lips feeling extremely chapped all of a sudden. I was using the corner of a chucks pad to wipe them off in between rushes. It was probably a great distraction!
Maria said to Alli that she would need to put on gloves and assist her if Laura didn't get there in time. That didn’t worry me. Dan and Maria were behind me and Alli was in front of me. As a wave came, I'd lean back into my hips and stick my butt out towards Maria and Dan. Maria kept encouraging me to keep it up and push when I felt the urges. Just as the head started to appear, the doorbell rang and Alli ran down to let Laura in. I remember it being a little hectic and Dan yelling, "Just push the 'door' button!" Maria said for me to reach down and feel my baby's head. I tried twice, but couldn't reach and decided to concentrate on the pushing and let Dan enjoy that moment for himself.
Maria said she saw some meconium so she would do some suctioning if that was ok. I said yes. The word 'meconium' made me nervous, but the confidence in Maria's voice made that dissipate quickly. Maria used the Doppler a couple times to check the baby's heartbeat. I found it extremely reassuring, invigorating, and empowering to hear her heartbeat! It was strange that the Doppler was so far down near my pubis when Maria got a nice, loud, fast heartbeat. My baby was so low and almost out!
I only had a couple more contractions before she was fully out! I remember thinking that it wasn't as painful as the waves and didn’t burn as bad as I thought “the ring of fire” would burn. With the next wave, I grunted and her head slowly came out and then quickly followed by her entire body.
Dan caught our little Jo as she came out at 6:42am. I felt my wet, warm baby placed gently next to my foot while Maria suctioned her mouth and nose and looked her over quickly. She then passed little Jo between my legs to me and had me sit back against Dan. I was completely overwhelmed with joy! Laura got there just as Jo was handed to me threw my legs. She said she walked in to hear, “Nikki, reach down and grab your baby.”
Dan and I sat like that for a few minutes while everyone said congratulations and good work and cried and smiled. Alli was taking pictures during the birth and while Dan and I were snuggling our little Jo for the first time. These will be some of the most precious pictures I’ll ever have!
After a few minutes, Maria had me sit on the birth stool to birth the placenta. I asked if I should push and Maria said to push a little. It happened quickly and smoothly. It felt great to release that.
We were then tucked into bed holding Jo. They all started to clean up the space and Laura came over periodically to check Jo's heartbeat and look at her color. We kept JoJo attached to her placenta.
Maria checked me and said I had a secondary tear which is the most common tear. I was surprised I tore because I didn't feel a lot of pain. I laid on the edge of the bed while Maria stitched me up and Dan held Jo. Maria did some local numbing with a spray first and then several tiny injections. I could hardly feel her doing the stitching which was a relief. I remember telling her to make it good because I'm a vagina model. Dan had to let them all know I was joking.
Then Maria took Jo and checked her body thoroughly which we got on video- so nice to have! She weighed and measured her. I asked everyone to make guesses. I knew she'd be at least an 8lb. baby all along. Maria guessed 8lbs. 10oz. We all guessed lower. We all gasped when she said Jo was 8lbs. 11 oz.! 21in.! I remember saying, "This body was made to carry large babies!" It hit me that this was MY baby when Maria was doing the checks. Wow! Dan and I made this being and it belonged to US!
Not too long after this point, Alli and Laura had to leave. Another mother was in labor that Alli and Maria were working with so Alli left to be by her side. Laura went to Maria's office to greet a couple women who had morning prenatal appointments. One was with our friends, Melissa and Paul, so I told Laura to tell them I had my baby. I found out later another appointment was with Ester from my birth class who was due that very day. We laughed about our due dates being so close together and had our babies make a pact that mine would come that week and hers would hold off until Maria was back in town the following week.
Maria told us she would stay for a while longer. She went downstairs to do some charting and phone calls while Dan, JoJo and I cuddled in bed. Jo pooped 3 times in the first few hours all over Dan! So he got into the shower to clean off and we wiped Jo down. Soon after that I got up to pee and passed a huge blood clot! Dan called Maria up to check it saying it was the size of a hamburger. She examined it and said she wasn’t concerned, but there shouldn’t be another the same size.
Alli had prepared us a bunch of food (eggs, bone broth and root stew) before she left, so we got back in bed with full tummies and cuddled with our new babe. We skyped with both of my East Coast parents that afternoon. Dan made spaghetti and a salad for dinner. I didn’t sleep a wink that night (or the next!)
As she lays on me napping at 2 weeks old, it still baffles me that she is ours, that we made her and get the absolute pleasure of watching her grow up and guiding her through this strange, wonderful world. We love her so, so much.
Some things I did to prepare for the birth:
- Community acupuncture throughout my pregnancy- about once/week
- Prenatal yoga about once/week (I’ve been practicing for 13 years!)
- 10,000 steps almost every day during 2nd and 3rd trimester
- Chiropractic care 1-2 times per week starting at week 36.
- Tried to eat very healthy and limit sugar, but indulged during special times.
- Had a mother symbol that I would envision often throughout the day- a blonde mermaid sitting on rocks at the edge of an ocean. She was very beautiful and relaxed and carefree. Her beauty, grace, and ease were very reassuring.
At week 39:
- Acupuncture 4 times that week (plus the day I went into labor)
- Prenatal acupressure massage
- Perineal massage a couple of times
- Yoga 2 times per week
- A couple birth meditations on YogaGlo (and one the day I went into labor)