Birth Knot: At Home and On Time

Birth Knot Cord

The day before my due date, Justin and I thought it might be a good idea to spend time with good friends. I needed something to take my mind off the fact that although the calendar was “ready” for this baby to come, my body might not be. And who knew when our son would actually make his appearance. As we sat with friends talking and laughing, I noticed I started to get contractions. Nothing too painful, but definitely coming in pattern. We went home appreciating what a great evening it had been, but brushed off any kind of high hopes that labor might be starting.

At 1:00 am on April 8, 2013th (my due date), my body awoke with a wave in my back and lower abdomen. Again, I brushed it off, tried to breathe through it and fell back asleep. If this was indeed labor, my body would continue and I would definitely have to wake up with each one. Well…I did. Each one lasted about 30 seconds, and came seven to eight minutes apart. By morning, they were steadily arriving at seven minutes apart and 40 seconds long. Justin and I agreed it would be a good idea if he stayed home from work, and we geared up mentally for a long labor. I called our midwife, Christie, and let her know things were starting. Her great advice suggested we do something fun. This was the time to distract ourselves in spite of what was ahead. I finished cleaning up the house, made sure all of our birth supplies sat in proper order, and made our son’s first birthday cake for visitors to enjoy in the first few days.
Every five minutes, I was interrupted by contractions, still surging in my back and abdomen. Leaning over the kitchen countertop and back-and-forth pacing helped relieve the pain some. But I could tell they were getting steadily more intense.

Justin and I went to Target around 1:00 pm to browse and buy some snacks for the long night ahead. I loved walking around the store, enjoying the excitement I felt. Every five minutes, I made my way into an aisle to breathe and rock my hips. I remember telling Justin, “People must think I look crazy.” But we were doing our job keeping busy, for sure!

Once we got home, we tried to take a nap. I couldn’t be still for more than 15 minutes, and realized it was just too intense to lie down. I suggested Justin keep sleeping to be rested for later, and I went downstairs to continue breathing through each contraction. When he woke up at 4:00 pm, I needed him to stay with me. He offered the best support by pushing on my lower back during each contraction. Also, he told me how great I was doing. Much needed encouragement!

At 5:00 pm, I started thinking about how much I wanted Christie to be here. We called her and she offered to come over to start setting up for the birth. I knew things were progressing, because I felt such incredible relief to see her walk through our front door. After nine months of her invaluable support, she was here, and it was almost time to meet our baby.

She sat with me through a few contractions, and helped me to remember to relax. I vocalized loudly through each one, as they were getting to be the most difficult I had felt so far. I knew I wanted to get in the labor pool soon. But she asked to check my progress before doing so, in order to know how much further we had to labor. She looked up at me surprised, and told me how I was already 9.5 cm. She said, “we might have time to get the pool ready.” I was so thrilled, in spite of the intensity each contraction brought!  Who knew things would happen so quickly for me as a first time mom!

It was about 6:00 pm at this point, and she rushed to call her assistant, Carmen, and organize necessary supplies. Justin and I continued to work together to get me as comfortable as possible. I asked God for strength under my breath. He was with me.

They got the birthing pool ready, but the water was too hot…not a usual problem at home births. Things were progressing at a rapid pace. I started having the uncontrollable urge to push, so they helped me quickly into the tub. The water provided great relief. I started getting sleepy in between each contraction.
Pushing was the most difficult part for me. I remember feeling quite out of control. It was painful, but Justin, Christie and Carmen encouraged me to push past it because it needed to happen for this sweet baby to come. Christie had me reach down and touch his head. He had so much hair!  (I had secretly wished the whole pregnancy that he would have lots of hair, as Justin and I had nearly none as newborns.) This was the perfect motivation I needed to give one last good push.

After only 26 minutes of pushing, and 16 ½ hours of total labor, I felt my son’s body slide out into the water behind me at 7:49pm. The best feeling I have EVER experienced. I turned around, Christie put him on my chest, and I looked at Justin in complete disbelief. All I could say through my tears was “oh my gosh, oh my gosh…” He was here, he was real, and I had a face to put to his name…Jacob Adam. He was more perfect than I could ever imagine.

He gave a faint cry. Christie and Carmen went into action to make sure he became more responsive. He had come so quickly, that he needed a bit of help to get going. I was amazed when Christie gave him a few breaths mouth-to-mouth. How thankful I felt that she would do that without hesitation. Justin and I stayed calm because we knew we were all in good hands. I prayed. I talked to Jacob and told him I loved him. He finally got more color in his body, and we knew everything was fine.

They helped me to the bed and got us cleaned up. I could care less about what they were doing around or to me. I couldn't stop looking at my sweet boy. They checked him, Justin weighed him, and I got to cut the cord. It was all so fun to witness and watch. 

Justin laid down next to me and we stared at our baby together. What a surreal feeling to be relaxing comfortably in my own bed, together with my husband and son in OUR home. I don't feel like I did anything heroic. I really believe that anyone who wanted to choose home or natural birth could do it. The outcome is well worth the effort!

When Christie and Carmen packed up and said goodbye to us in the living room, I didn’t know what to say at the end of such an event. I am so glad they were part of our story. “Thank you” still doesn’t feel adequate enough. Justin and I thank God for such a peaceful and safe experience. We knew we were blessed, but Jacob is no doubt the greatest blessing to us so far. 

Lauren Answers:
How did the difficulty level meet your expectations?
My expectations of childbirth were pretty negative until I started doing research when I became pregnant. I saw a documentary called "The Business of Being Born," and it opened my eyes to my childbirth and delivery options. I was aware that natural childbirth was intense, but the moment I started seeing that my childbirth could be beautiful, natural, and pure joy, I had a positive perspective going into it. That being said, I felt like it ended up being incredibly manageable. I had the right people at my birth supporting me. I have only amazing memories about my labor experience! Yes, pushing my son out was one of the most difficult things I've ever done, but the moment I saw him took away any pain instantly. And the joy I felt was just as intense and amazing as my labor.

What was the best thing you did to prepare?   
We took a natural birth class, and came away with a ton of useful knowledge and information. The class prepared my husband for how to help me, and he was my greatest support during labor. I read birth story, after birth story, after birth story. I read Ina May Gaskin's "Guide To Childbirth." The more birth stories I read, the more I realized women have done this for centuries. Women do this today! And I can do it, too! It was very empowering in a "sisterhood" kind of way. :) Having the right emotional perspective was huge for me going into labor. I tried to keep up excitement, give any worry I had to God, and know that He made my body to do this well and safely. 

What was your most effective form of pain control? 
My husband, Justin, pressed on my lower back during each contraction. It was so helpful to me that he started getting tired, and he's no small dude. Vocalizing really helped with pain management. I thought that was so silly when we practiced that in birth class, but it became a great tool for me to take on each contraction. During the most intense contractions, I relaxed every muscle in my body while I laid on my side and vocalized. I had to let my body take over and let it do what it needed to do. 

Would you do anything differently?
When my midwife first checked me, I was 9.5 centimeters, which means I was likely VERY dilated while walking around Target. Probably not too smart. Haha. But, hindsight is 20/20, and we had no idea my labor would be so fast since it was my first time. 

Do you have any advice for pregnant moms?
Know that you have childbirth options! If you are unhappy with your prenatal care at all, it's your right to find someone that will listen to your concerns, cheer you on, and support you! If homebirth is an option for your family, I highly recommend it. Thinking of mine makes me cry with joy almost every time. I have many friends that had great hospital birth experiences, also! Whatever you choose, it's important that you have the birth outcome that you want. Of course you want a healthy baby, but it's not selfish to experience that the way you envision it. 

Also, once that sweet baby comes, the best advice I can give is that YOU are your baby's greatest expert. Never underestimate your mama instinct. We have that for a reason and it's powerful! Every baby is so different, and if we looked to the textbooks for our babies to fit that mold, we will be disappointed every time. Follow your baby's lead and try not to worry. You will do great!!