Yesterday we had our third natural birth in the comfort of our home. My first daughter, Ellen was born at a free-standing birth center in California with the assistance of midwives and my second daughter Jane was born at home and my midwife didn’t make it in time (see story here)
At 1:30am on June 21st (summer solstice), I started having regular contractions and Etta Mae decided that she wanted to make her way into the world. Because of my previous birth where my midwife did not make it in time, I was cautious to call my midwives and mother sooner rather than later.
At approximately 3:30am, my midwife Stephanie came over and my mother shortly followed to care for my two little girls (ages 2 1/2 and almost 4), should they wake up during labor. My husband Peter had already set up our birthing tub and was filling it with hot water halfway that would be cool enough if we timed it right (we could always add more cool or hot water later) and we were doing our best to rest. My midwife Stephanie had later told me that when she came that morning, she was not convinced that I was in active labor but I was dialated 4cm. I was up and about and chatty (I’m a marriage and family therapist by profession so it’s my job to talk). Though the contractions were quite regular, (3-10 minutes apart) the intensity was not increasing. I walked around my house, made tea, ate food, laid in my bed and tried to rest, checked out Pinterest, and talked to my husband and Stephanie. Stephanie would come in every so often and check my blood pressure and the baby’s heartbeat but other than that hung out downstairs and let me be to labor. At some point Stephanie asked if I’d like to be checked for progress and I measured 6cm dilated.
At 6am, my girls woke up and my mom and husband went through their routine of making them breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc…I was again, left mostly alone to labor upstairs while the house was filling up downstairs with another nurse Karen added to the mix. My bladder and colon emptied (sorry but i think this helped labor along) and after frequent trips to the bathroom (every 5-10 minutes) I decided to get into the shower. In the shower, contractions got closer together and more intense and I asked my husband to stay in our bedroom at this point. Stephanie checked the baby’s heartbeat while I was in the shower and said that she must like it in there (heartbeat had sped up) and the hot water helped with pain. After I got out, I changed my clothes and walked around my bedroom some more. At this point there was activity downstairs of getting my girls ready to go to tumbling class. They would pop in to say hello, and were curious about the birth tub setup.
While my husband was in the room I had one contraction where I felt the shocking pain of needing to push and said “you better get the tub filled up NOW”. He had already been doing it while I didn’t notice (guess that’s how in the zone I was at this point). I also felt a need to rush my kids and mom out of the house. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this until that day. I guess in the back of my head, I imagined a moment of girls looking on and kumbaya family-birth-love but in the moment I wanted the least amount of distraction possible so I could concentrate. Luckily, this concept was not rigid and I didn’t feel like I was losing out on any “moment” at all. As they were getting ready to leave, I heard the activity downstairs and wished they would hurry up. I spent some time in the bathroom on the toilet again and decided it was tub time now or never (I get to the point where I fear I can’t physically step in anymore if I wait any longer). Peter escorted me out of the bathroom to our guest room where the tub was full and warm. I got in and felt instant relief quickly followed by a large contraction that had me gripping the side handlebars (birth tubs have bars to hold onto).
After that, although my anxiety was high about getting the girls out if the house, I swam around a bit and thought about mermaids Peter was standing in the hall between one or two more strong contractions until I yelled “I need to push NOW” followed by “get the midwives and get them (mom and kids) OUT OF HERE”. He yelled downstairs “she’s pushing” and Stephanie and Karen ran up and my mom knew it was time to get the kids out of the door even though it was 45 minutes early. When they got there I was not sure that I wanted to do it. The tub translation seemed too quick. I only got to enjoy the water for a few minutes. Could the baby really be coming? Do I really need to push? This turned into an internal fight as I sat with my legs crossed thinking “I’m not ready”. They calmly asked me to let the baby come out if she needs to and I gave in. I had no choice because it turned into one enormous contraction with no stopping in between. I changed positions and allowed her to come. I bore down and went with it, struggling through immense pain of never-ending contraction and pushing. I think I said “I can’t do this” and some profanities under my breath and felt her head. Her head was out in on in one big push. I reached down, cupped her head and pushed more. Her body came out and I lifted her out of the water.
Shock and relief followed. “Did that really just happen? It was so quick! Is she okay? Is the cord wrapped around or anything? Is she breathing? She’s kind of blue.” They handed us some towels, we wrapped her up and then I moved to the seat in the tub. I checked her out, she started to turn pink and was covered in cheesy vernix. She didn’t cry, just took some regular, mucky, watery breaths and opened her eyes. She made slight sounds and I just held her tightly and stared. Daddy and the nurse midwives gushed about how perfect she was and healthy and any fear dissipated. I felt blissful. It’s over. My baby is here. She’s healthy and beautiful. Eventually I checked that she had all her fingers and toes and that she was actually a girl (we had one ultrasound at 17 weeks where they were pretty sure). I sat in the warm tub with her for a while before I felt the need to “do something” (my personality).
I asked if I should try to get the placenta out and my providers we’re casual about it “if you think you’re ready, sure”. So we checked her cord which had stopped pulsing a while ago and looked like she had gotten everything she needed from it and they asked if Peter would like to cut it. They clamped the cord with me still holding her in the tub and Peter cut it. They then got her a new, dry towel and asked if it was okay to hand her to her daddy. I was ready to be ALL done and also deliver the placenta. The placenta was more firmly attached than my previous two and they asked me to make some deep belly coughs which seemed to help. They asked if I’d rather get out of the tub and I declined. Water for me is THE BEST pain management and I was not willing to risk any more pain that I didn’t have to. So after some coaxing and commitment to pushing again, the placenta was delivered and placed in a bag and placed into a large bowl. It was wrapped up and sent downstairs to the refrigerator (my husband is dehydrating and encapsulating it today, yeah he’s pretty awesome).
I was toweled off, transferred to the bed, and baby Etta was handed back to me. They checked me out and everything looked great. One tiny stitch was needed. Stephanie did this while I held the baby. They let us be for a while and started the clean-up. Eventually, they came back in to fill out birth certificate paperwork and measure and weigh the baby. Etta Mae Schillinger was 21 inches long and weighed 7.1 lbs. She was born at 9:19 am on June 21st, 2013, the summer solstice. Peter made me whole wheat blueberry pancakes and I ate them while they were measuring my baby. She is calm, pink, and has light hair and blue eyes. She latched on right away after my breakfast and is a nursing champ. Her big sisters came home from their tumbling class with grandma to meet her. We are in love.