Emma & Rob
At our very first refresher class with Samanda, she told us to “empty our glasses” of the expectations we held from our first birth. I think I needed to go further, emptying my glass of all expectations of birth. My birth did not go as expected. I expected the baby to arrive a week early, but he was 16 days early.
I expected to go through the phases of labor like I’d read about- this didn’t happen. I expected to have plenty of time to make it to the birthing center- and that didn’t happen either. But, because I had emptied out fear of birth and need for control, the birth that actually happened was better than I ever could have expected.
I had a few contractions throughout the day, very short and sporadic- maybe 15 seconds long, and up to an hour or more between them. I didn’t really think anything of them. They weren’t painful, just noticeable. It seemed like my Braxton-Hicks (which I’d been having since before 20 weeks) had just geared it up a notch as my due date was getting closer.
So, happy that my pregnancy might be over in a few weeks or something, I worked, had meetings, and ran some errands right through those early contractions. However, somewhere in myself I knew labor might be a little closer, because I spent most of my day on plans for when I was away on maternity leave, instead of the sermon for the coming Sunday.
It wasn’t until after my husband and I put my daughter to bed (around 8) that the contractions changed. We were cooking dinner, and at some point in cooking, I couldn’t just carry on through the contractions. I had to stop and lean over the counter, while Rob (who is awesome as a labor partner) rubbed down my back. It was once I had to stop cooking all together that I realized this was the real deal, and informed Rob we were not going to sit down and eat dinner. I think he was hungry, because he pouted a bit, and then sadly ate a protein bar, then packed what we had cooked into Tupperware and put it in the fridge for another night.
I went downstairs to our basement bedroom/living room and started packing the last minute things into the birth center bag, working and walking to get through the contractions. At this point, Rob called our friend who was going to watch our daughter while I gave birth, and she said she would pack up and be right over. She lives in Illinois (45 minutes-1 hour away), so we knew we still had some time to labor at home and finish the last minute preparations. Rob also called the midwife, who said she would meet us at the birth center.
Rob also brought down the ball for me to use for contractions, but sitting on it and bouncing and rolling got uncomfortable really fast, and I ended up using it for head support while I got through contractions on all fours with some mantras in my head and vocalizations starting to come out.
After I started vocalizing, labor seemed to progress even faster. We were timing the contractions and they were around 45-60 seconds long and about 3 minutes apart. At some point, I moved from the living room with the ball to the bathroom since the baby’s head was pushing hard on my bladder, and noticed blood when I wiped. This was the point when I think we both realized that the baby was coming a lot sooner than we planned.
I remember apologizing to Rob, because his work had planned to surprise him with a baby shower the next day, and he would now have to miss that party. With our friend still not at our house, we couldn’t leave our 2 year old alone, and didn’t want to wake her and take her with us to the birth center. So, Rob ran across the street to get a neighbor to sit in our house with her until our friend arrived.
Labor kicked up another notch when Rob left. My vocalizations definitely got louder, and I started using counter-pressure on my hips to help with the contractions. I assumed this was transition and I still had some time. But then one contraction didn’t let up. I think I freaked out a bit at this point. I stood up and felt between my legs realizing a baby might be REALLY close, when my water broke, all over my hand and I felt the baby’s head right behind it. I heard Rob coming back in the door at this point, and yelled for him to come downstairs.
I wanted to tell him that the baby was coming right now and we needed to do something like call the midwife, but apparently what came out was “Call 911!” Not my finest moment- but to be fair I was super in labor! Luckily, he gets me, and did call the midwife, then put the phone on speaker and on the counter as he got ready to help with the baby.
I felt the urge to push for the first time, and it was a STRONG urge, so I pushed, and the baby’s head came out. I pushed one more time, and the shoulders were out. Locke was born at 9:59, less than two hours after active labor started. Rob caught him, handed him to me, and the midwife started talking.
What happened next is really blurry. Rob helped me walk to our bed after he put some trash bags and towels on the carpet we had just gotten installed a few days before (I was NOT going to mess up our new carpet!) and on the bed.
Eventually he tied the cord with dental floss, cut it with kitchen shears, and delivered the placenta (like the rock star dad and husband he is). Our neighbor came and went, our friend came and went, and eventually the midwife told us to just come see her tomorrow afternoon.
And then we were alone in our room with our baby, and we were a family of four. Rob brought us both ridiculously large brownies (we had a pan in the fridge) to eat, and we ate in our bed while holding our baby before we turned off the lights and didn’t sleep one bit because of the adrenaline high.
I would never plan an unassisted home birth, but ours was amazing. It was peaceful (except my call 911 moment!) it was in our own space, and it was incredibly intimate. I am in awe of my husband for his spur of the moment doulaing/midwifery, my body for getting a baby earth-side so quickly, my daughter for sleeping through it all, my son for his spectacular entrance, and our downstairs bathroom, which I will never look at the same way again!