birth story: Part 3

Hi everyone! Here is the last installment of my birth story. Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to read this.

In case you missed the two previous posts you can catch up by reading PART 1 and PART 2.

I was mentally prepared for the second phase of labor referred to as Active Labor and knew that it would be intense and could last up to several hours.  When our primary midwife, Evelyn arrived at our house around 4 o’clock she did an internal check and said I was 8 cm. That was HUGE mentally for me. The final phase of labor, just before you start pushing, is called Transition (aka advanced) Labor. In this stage your cervix opens from 7 to 10 cm. Based on some discussions with friends and a bit of reading that I had done I knew that this phase would be very difficult. Transition generally lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. It’s hard to know exactly how long mine lasted because I had already progressed to this stage by the time Evelyn arrived. However, I think it’s safe to assume that the huge contraction I had that nearly knocked me off the front porch was my body hit the transition threshold.

As Evelyn tended to me and set up her medical equipment, Mark was running around upstairs filling the birthing tub that was set up in our bedroom. He also made sure to call our parents to give them a little update. At this point they knew I had been laboring at home since the morning but they still didn't know that we planned on having our baby at home. Mark called them around 5 o’clock and let them know that I was 8 cm, that we would be having the baby at home and that he would call them as soon as the baby was born. I think they all thought that the labor must have been progressing too fast that we didn’t have time to make it to the hospital {that was 10 minutes away}. Everyone sounded a little surprised but I think they were just so excited that the baby was set to arrive. When we told them that our intention was to have her at home the entire time, most of our immediate family told us that they were happy they only had 2.5 hours to stress about it. Ha!

The contractions from 8 to 10 cm were very intense. I spent most of the time on the bed while Evelyn and Mark were setting up. I recall lying on my side, on my hands and knees, and just continued to move around on the bed trying to get “comfortable”. At this point, I really couldn’t talk much and was just doing everything I could to breath through the contraction discomfort. I remember at one point Evelyn asked me of couple questions and I looked at Mark and said, “I have no idea, you decide”. This was definitely when by body took over and my mind went elsewhere to cope with the pain.

Once the tub was filled Evelyn said that I could get in whenever I wanted. This was music to my ears! I love being in water and the warmth of the water really did help ease the contraction pain. Mark was outside the tub and I held onto him as I worked through the contractions. Evelyn continued to check me while I was in the water and when she did another internal check she said that I was almost at 10 cm. She suggested that I get out of the tub and walk up and down the stairs to try and progress further. I looked at both of them and said I didn’t think that I wanted to do that. Ha! Mark somehow coaxed me to get out of the water and make the trek up and down our stairwell. I was about to get back into the tub but I thought I needed to use the bathroom. I asked Mark to come with me and it’s a good thing he did because just as I was about to sit down I grabbed hold of him and had a huge contraction. If he wasn’t there, I’m pretty sure I would have ended up on the floor.  We stood there swaying back and forth, breathing together until the contraction passed.

I remember asking other mom’s how you know when you were supposed to push. They all assured me that you just “know”. No joke, you know. After this contraction I told Mark I needed to push. He walked me back to the room and Evelyn asked if I wanted to try to deliver the baby in the water like we had talked about or on the bed. I said I wanted to try it in water, and got back in the birthing tub. Evelyn told me at this point she was frantically {although we had no idea} texting the other midwife, Caitlin to get out to our house ASAP. Things were moving a bit faster than they were anticipating and when I got in the water to start pushing she wasn’t there yet. At each birth you have your primary midwife who looks after the mom and the secondary midwife is there to look after the baby when he or she is born.

I pushed for 28 minutes in total. The first several minutes of pushing weren’t very successful. I recall feeling like the Incredible Hulk and thought my head was going to explode. Needless to say, I wasn’t pushing quite properly. Evelyn had her hands on my lady parts trying to encourage me to push down, as if I was going to the bathroom. It was about 5 minutes into pushing that Caitlin made her way upstairs to our bedroom, said her hello’s, checked over all the medical equipment then came over to the tub and helped to encourage me with Mark and Evelyn.

For the first 10 minutes or so Mark was outside of the tub trying to hold me up by locking his arms under my underarms. Evelyn was on the other side of the tub trying to help me to push and I was holding my legs. It was a little awkward and I think I wasn’t able to push quite properly because I felt like I was going to fall under the water. Evelyn asked if I wanted Mark in the water with me and I said no. She asked me a second and third time, too which I replied, "no".

When Mark tells the story, he says I didn’t say “no” as politely as I think I did. All I knew is that I wanted the baby out!

Here we are in the tub between pushes.

That's the look of exhaustion. Ha.

After a couple of more minutes Evelyn told Mark to get in the water. He whipped his shirt off and jumped in the tub. It was a really good idea he did. He provided amazing leverage, was able to help me hold my legs and was so encouraging. He kept telling me to breathe, how proud he was of me and how close we were to meeting our baby.

Pushing is obviously very intense too. You push when you are having a contraction and then stop pushing when the contraction ends. I’m not even sure exactly how long I had between contractions, it might have been 30 seconds or so, but I just tried to catch my breath for the next round. After Mark got in the water with me, things happened pretty quickly. I figured out the “pushing thing”, and my coaches on the sidelines continued to encourage me.

In previous discussions, Evelyn explained to me that I didn’t want the baby to come out in one push as this can cause unnecessary ripping and tearing. Instead, you want the baby to kind of work his/her way in and out through several contractions until the head is completely out of your body. Evelyn continued to monitor Sloane’s heart rate to ensure that she was stable – and she was doing great. Once her head started to show they asked if I wanted to see the head in the mirror – to be honest, I just wanted the baby out. It was right around this time that I remember I had the first feeling of doubt enter my mind… I didn’t know if I could do it anymore. I was tired, it hurt a lot and the thought of a whole baby coming out, didn’t seem possible. I had been warned about “the ring of fire” when the baby is crowning and boy they weren't kidding. That's exactly the way it should be described.

When Mark tells the story, he says that I whispered to him between a contraction, “I don’t think I can do this”, too which he replied, “You have to, there are no other options”. Oh hubby, always a realist! Ha. They told Mark to look at the baby's head crowning in the mirror and he did. Then Evelyn took my hand and said, “Feel the baby's head, you are so close”! It was just what I needed to muster up enough energy and push the baby out. Out came the head, one shoulder, another shoulder and then the rest of the body then she was immediately put on my chest for skin-to-skin contact. Talk about an emotional moment – whew! I am tearing up as I type this. At that moment, everything was just perfect. This baby that we had dreamed about, and prayed for was finally here in my arms. My husband and I started to cry and just held each other. It is without a doubt the most amazing moment of my life.  At 7:53 pm Sloane Marguerite was born - all 7 lbs and 8 ounces of her.

After a couple of minutes Evelyn asked if we wanted to know the gender. At the suggestion of our friends, I told Evelyn that I wanted Mark to tell me the baby's gender. He looked and determined it was a GIRL! We stayed in the water a bit longer and then the midwives told me that I needed to push out the placenta. They pushed on my stomach a bit as I gave a couple more pushes and then it came out. Now that is amazing! Caitlin referred to it as "the tree of life" and it absolutely is. The fact that your body produces another organ and grows a baby inside of it is beyond comprehension to me. Simply amazing!

Once they removed the placenta they told Mark to help me walk to the bed. We stood up, stepped out of the birthing tub and walked over to our bed. I felt a little woozy when I first stood up but I think by the time we reached the bed I got a burst of adrenaline. We lied in our bed staring at our baby girl while Evelyn and Caitlin helped to clean up, and do various routine checks on baby Sloane and I. They also helped me to start breastfeeding her - so that she could get the colostrum which was another very special moment. While they were checking us over Mark called our parents and siblings. Within minutes they had all assembled downstairs in our home. It took the midwives about 3 hours to finish doing everything and then they left our home around 11 o’clock that evening.

Already daddy's girl. First snuggles at just a few minutes old.

As Evelyn and Caitlin were finishing up we had family come upstairs to our bedroom to meet our sweet little girl. They were in awe that we stayed at home and now we were in our bed with our healthy baby girl. As we all talked and cried, we told them how we had planned to stay at home the whole time. In conversations since, some of our family shared that they thought it was unsafe to have a baby born at home but now that they have seen how our birth went they have a greater understanding of midwives and home birth.

In my opinion, midwives are specialists of child birth.

This is what they deal with day in and day out. Evelyn and Caitlin were both very highly skilled and professional. It was a blessing to have them be a part of Sloane’s birth and provide care until she was 6 weeks old.

Evelyn and Sloane on the night that she was born.

Our country home in Canada is a very special place for Mark and I. It provides that stability and grounding that we need for our family when we move around for his job. It is where we got married, it is where we want to raise our children and it now holds even more memories as the place that Sloane was born.

As I mentioned in Part one, a home birth and even a natural birth for that matter isn’t for everyone. We chose to have Sloane at home and everything went smoothly. I think the belief that we were lucky something didn't go wrong - isn't necessarily accurate.  The midwives use their expertise. I was deemed to be a great candidate, the baby was in the right position, I was physcially and mentally prepared for a home birth and if something had gone wrong that I needed a hospital we were 10 minutes door to door. Being at home provided such an amazingly calm, relaxed and natural environment.

Well friends, that's our birth story. I hope some of you have found this informative and empowering. The human body is amazing and so too is the power of our minds. Looking at Sloane gives me such an unbelievable sense of accomplishment - I did it. I hope that when we have our next child we can have a similar experience.

For those of you who are looking to become pregnant, are pregnant or maybe even gearing up to give birth in the near future - good luck, you will be fabulous! It can be such a truly amazing experience.