April 3, 2024

Anita's Birth Story

Thursday morning, June 8. I was having a relaxing morning bath, complete with a pint of NORA tea and flickering candle on the edge of the tub. And I was sobbing.

My name is Anita.  In my free time I love to cook and bake, take photographs of the natural flora around our Rockingham County property, design various sewing projects that may or may not ever come to fruition, and read young adult fiction.  As a stay-at-home mom to four young children (and soon-to-be homeschool teacher) I have precious little of that kind of time.  Raising a family is my life now, and I can sew, cook, nose around with my camera, and clean my house later.  In about 18 years.  All four of my children have been born at home, the last two attended by midwives from Brookhaven Birth Center.  This is the story of my fourth.  Spoiler alert:  the baby does finally come out!

Thursday morning, June 8.  I was having a relaxing morning bath, complete with a pint of NORA tea and flickering candle on the edge of the tub.  And I was sobbing.  My husband sat on the stool by the tub and patiently heard me out:  “I don’t want to be getting ready for another prenatal appointment and ultrasound!  I don’t want to cook another lunch and supper!  I want to be lying in bed with my baby while other people cook for me and pull meals out of the freezer!!  I don’t want to have to go face everyone’s sympathy that I’m still pregnant and answer their sweet questions without crying!”  Sob, sob, sob.  Then, “I know I’m going to be laughing at myself in a few days, but right now I’m just so p****d off!!”

I had thought the week before that I was pretty much the queen of waiting actively and patiently for my baby to arrive.  I’d gone to 41 weeks with two other pregnancies, so I knew how to busy myself with projects.  Up to 41 weeks I was feeling rather chipper about still being pregnant, but hit 41 + 1 day and I was done.  Done with all my projects and done waiting.

I started reading up on all the natural induction methods and haphazardly tried numerous ones.  The days crept by with no indication of impending labor.  I tried to distract myself.  I loaded up the three kiddos on a field trip to the Route 11 chip factory in Mt. Jackson.  We went to my parents’ house for an afternoon.  My husband and I frequented our local Red Box.  No labor.  No baby.

At 41 weeks and 3 days I had a scheduled prenatal appointment (one I had been sure I wouldn’t need to go to).  We were to meet with a midwife then have an ultrasound to check on baby’s health and make sure it was okay to keep on waiting.  This was the same morning I was having my not-so-relaxing bath.  After hearing me out, my husband kindly took the morning off and stayed home to give me time to compose myself and to help get the kids ready to go into town (we live about 40 minutes from Brookhaven).  He met me at the birth center for our appointment with Zazi and stayed for the ultrasound.

What an amazing experience!  Up until then I’d never had an ultrasound with any of my pregnancies.  Since we were having one so late this time, we decided to go ahead and have the sonographer tell us the sex of the baby if it was obvious.  How incredible to see our baby as it—he!–was still living inside me!  All the healthy organs, the sweet little face, the hands, feet, even his tongue sticking out of his mouth were there on a screen before us even as he remained hidden away from our direct sight.  I think we both cried a little.  We got excellent scores on baby/mama health which was reassuring.  There was nothing at all wrong with this little guy, he just wasn’t ready to come out yet.  We left with a ream of ultrasound images of our baby’s face to show off and our own little secret—it’s a boy!–to savor for however many days we had left until meeting him face to face.

My spirits were greatly improved that evening, and even more so the following morning when I finally had some bloody show!!!  This was it!  Each of my previous labors had begun with the loss of mucus plug one day, laboring through that night and part of the following day until a baby was born.  I was sure this baby would be born sometime on Saturday.  I called the on-call number and let Emily know I had some bloody show.  I also told her, “If nothing happens overnight, I’m going to take castor oil in the morning”.  She texted me some recipes.  I put my mom (one of my faithful labor assistants) and mother-in-law (faithful childcare provider for the older children) on alert, and e-mailed my sisters.  My husband cautioned me, “this labor could be different—don’t get too attached to your own time line.”

Well.  Was he right.  And was I a bit mad about it.  All day Friday nothing more happened than losing a little bit more mucus throughout the day.  Too little.  No developing labor pattern through the night.  Just some of the same old Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been having for weeks now.  I woke up Saturday morning a bit huffy to say the least.  All I could get out of my mouth was a bitter “you were right” to my husband before getting out of bed, jamming on some tennis shoes and vigorously walking up and down our gravel lane a few times (about 1.5 miles altogether).  As I walked I talked coaxingly to the baby about what a beautiful day it was and didn’t he want to come out and see it?!?  Almost the entire time I walked my belly felt tight, and I had to stop once or twice and sway my hips a little.  Braxton Hicks!  Ugh!

By the time I’d returned to the house, I had calmed down a little.  I had also decided not to take castor oil.  For one, I didn’t have any on hand.  I also knew this baby was healthy and just fine inside me, and I wanted to hold out on using the “holy grail” of a castor oil induction until I really, really, REALLY needed it!  I decided I needed to just get out of the house and try not to think about how pregnant I still was.

My husband did a few odd jobs outside then came in mid-morning to take over with the kids so I could go do some things that I just wanted to do.  I was out for about three hours, and almost the entire time I felt like my belly was tight.  I had to stop walking a few times until the tightness subsided, but I was mostly trying to ignore anything pregnancy-related (though I did note that the grocery store had a small bottle of castor oil.  If I needed it.  In a few days).

I got home, ate a late lunch and laid down for a nap.  When I got up I decided maybe I should pay a little more attention to this belly-tightening thing.  It didn’t feel like the kind of contractions I associated with labor, but it was pretty persistent.  I worked around in the kitchen and wrote down when I thought the tightening was starting and stopping.  Because of the baby’s position (his little back putting a lot of pressure on the front of my uterus) and his level of activity it was actually hard for me to tell when the tightening started and stopped.  But when I looked at my little paper, I could see it was happening more or less every 4-6 minutes.  Hmmmm . . . I called Emily to check in.  “Sounds like early labor,” she said.  She thought maybe the baby’s position was just causing it to feel different.  I told her I was going to take it easy—have a bath, watch a movie with my husband, and let her know if anything developed further.  She was with another laboring mom, so she let me know who she had on back-up for me.  Fine.  I’d had appointments with at least six midwives in my last few months, and I felt comfortable with them all.*

We decided to go ahead and call Grandma to come pick up our three other children for dinner and a sleep-over.  While we waited for her to arrive I sat with them on the couch and read books.  The contractions spaced out.  After the kids left we had a light supper and I relaxed in the tub with a magazine.  Then my husband and I settled in for a movie—Big Hero 6.  I wasn’t really paying much attention to the contractions, I was just hoping that the slowdown was temporary.  After the movie I set out snacks and a note for the birth team, and we went to bed around 10:30 with nothing new to report to anyone.  I thought I would sleep off and on through the night and have a baby the next day.

An hour later I was up and into the tub again.  The contractions were coming often enough to keep me from sleeping and I just felt restless.  My husband came along to pour water over my belly and time contractions.  They were 10, 7, 5, 4 minutes apart and anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute long.  Not a typical pattern for calling the midwife to rush over, especially at midnight!  I was a little discouraged, but continued to labor in the tub.  I told my husband I wished we could call someone who lived 10-15 minutes away to just come and check on things then go home.  But since our birth team (midwife, assistant, and my mom) lived 40 minutes to an hour away it seemed like locking them in for the night to call too early.

When I got out of the tub, though, the contractions intensified and I changed my mind.  The baby had been so active between contractions the whole time I was in the tub, and I wanted to make sure he was handling everything okay which I had no way of assessing myself.  My husband called the midwife and  my mom, while I went to lay in the bed.  All of a sudden I was scared that this could happen too fast, and the baby might be born before anyone else could arrive!  I remember looking at the clock at 1:44 and asking my husband, “you called everyone and they’re on their way, right?”  As I lay there I had a little talk with God and came to the decision that if this baby was ready, then I was going to be ready too.  If need be, I would give birth with God as my midwife and my husband as the assistant.  I had waited impatiently all this past week, why hold back now!?

I went into commander mode.  “Get the crockpot full of water and turn it on high.  The compresses are in a bag in the kit.  Fill the tub with water.  Line it with the striped towel.  Bring the birth tray!”  I had decided that the tub was where I wanted to give birth if the midwife was not here in time.  Back into the water I went, laying on my side and doing my best to surrender to the contractions and breathe big and deep (a la hypnobirthing).  We stopped timing anything, since it seemed rather like active labor by this point.

Around 2:30 am the birth team arrived.  From three different locations they ended up driving up our mile-long lane all in a row.  The baby had waited.  Since the other laboring mom had seemed to stall, Emily came after all, along with Megan as her assistant.  The baby’s heart rate and my blood pressure were checked right away, and then after Emily and Megan set up the birth supplies I got out of the tub for the internal exam I was requesting.  Emily thought I was 8-9 cm!  That was good to know—things were moving right along.  I labored on my hands and knees by the couch for awhile and had my mom read some of the notes and blessings I’d been given earlier from sisters and friends.  What an encouragement!  My husband also read off some phrases I had put on the wall to keep positive focus during labor.

After a while I asked for a birthing stool.  I also requested a steady flow of warm compresses to hold on my perineum which felt amazing!  Though I wasn’t straining to push, I was using the hypnobirth “breathing down” technique through much of this part of labor.  At one point I asked Emily to check me again and she said I was completely dilated with a little bit of cervix left.   While she could feel the amniotic sac, the baby’s head still felt high to her.  I had the idea that she said something to the effect that if only that head would press on my cervix, this baby would be born soon!

“Any ideas for what to try?” I asked, wanting to keep things going.  She suggested I stand with my husband behind me, going into a supported squat as I felt a contraction coming on.  It sounded easier than it was to perform.  I tried a few times, but asked for other ideas pretty quickly.  Next up, “rotisserie Anita”!  To get the baby more centrally aligned and head pressing down, Emily suggested getting in the bed and laboring on my side, back, hands and knees, and other side through two contractions each.  Without pushing.  Besides the actual pushing, this was by far the hardest part of my labor.  I remember  being on my back and just waving my hands around while trying not to push when I really felt like it!  Throughout the labor my husband and mom kept a steady pressure on my lower back.  Even though I was using some hypnobirth breathing techniques, I wasn’t in hypnosis but was able to talk, joke, and make requests between contractions which always had good rest periods in between even to the end.

While laboring on my hands and knees, Emily and Megan started talking about having me do a sidelying release (see the Spinning Babies website if you don’t know what that is) through the next two contractions, which would have been very uncomfortable.  I knew what the maneuver was, and as they were explaining to me what they wanted me to do, I thought, “to heck with that, I feel like pushing and I’m going to give some big ones!”  I did and my water broke!  I was still on my hands and knees on the bed.  The sidelying release idea was quickly abandoned and everyone got in position to receive this baby!  I pushed another time or two, feeling that major pressure on my perineum.  “Come on little baby!” I cried, and heard myself give a high-pitched yelp as I pushed, which I quickly turned into a lower, more grunty sound.  When the baby crowned I reached down and felt his head.  I held my hand there even as I panted a bit under Emily’s instruction, then his head came out.   At this point I had a mini panic attack because two of my other babies had stuck at the shoulders a bit.  “Help!” I said, but was assured that everything was fine (in fact, I had been thinking that I wanted to be on hands and knees for this birth so that my pelvis would be optimally open).  I continued to push once or twice more, and out came his slick little body.  What a relief!!  It was 5:13 on a Sunday morning, and the whippoorwills were just wrapping up their nightly chorus.  I collapsed onto my elbows and listened to the beautiful music of my healthy baby crying.  My husband confirmed that he was indeed a “he”, and soon the baby was in my arms, staring at his parents with wide, alert eyes.  “You’re here!  You came!”  I kept saying.  Our little Faraday Thomas.  He weighed eight pounds and was 20 inches long.

Faraday didn’t seem to want to nurse right away, so we just held him and enjoyed looking at one another.  Mixed with the joy and relief of having the baby in my arms was an overwhelming gratitude for everyone who was a part of this journey with me, and I just had to say “thank you!” to my husband, mom, Emily and Megan.  I have been so blessed to have each of my babies born at home (three different houses!) with wonderful midwifery care (four different midwives!).  Ilove the relaxed and calm atmosphere of home birth where mom’s and baby’s needs are put first and the birth attendants devote their time and attention to the process at hand.  After all the waiting for a baby to come, after working through my anxieties about birth (yes, those were still present the fourth time around!), after coming through the challenge of labor, after the after pains have subsided, I had a pregnancy and birth experience I will treasure always.  And, more importantly, a treasured new member has been added to our family for keeps!

*The last few months of my pregnancy overlapped with some transition time at Brookhaven after Maya had left in March and before Emily came on in June as a second midwife.  In the interim, Zazi and the two midwives from Ten Moons Midwifery (Aimee and Desiree) filled in for appointments and on-call.

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