12 February 2012

Of Our Homebirth: An Epic Tale

WARNING: The post you are about to read is extremely long and kind of detail-laden, proceed only if truly interested.

There was a baby born in this house today.

The short length of the whole affair (being that I first awoke with contractions at 4:40am and there was another baby boy in our family by 8) makes it still seem surreal that I am here, blogging, while Philip plays his video game, much like any other night, except that there is a cooing bundle of baby in his arms as he clicks the controllers.  The mere fact that the entirety of my son's birth occurred before I would normally even be out of bed makes this day feel a dream.

I went to bed last night slightly saddened by the fact that I would be another day in church, facing the loving and pitying friends who were all weathering this wait alongside me.  Another day of explaining, "Any day now."

Yet, when I awoke in the pre-dawn hours with contractions I did not hold much hope - after all, I'd had quite the amount of false ones in the preceding weeks.  I didn't hold much hope, that is, until I realized they were quite frequent.  Less than ten minutes later, I was walking around the darkness of the living room, cell phone in hand, contraction timer open, testing to see if these were something more interesting than what we'd been experiencing previously.  False labor disappears with a change of position.  This did not.

I woke Philip at 5am to tell him I'd been having contractions but the timing wasn't exactly consistent.  Here we were in a quandary: we had been told to call when they were eight minutes apart (being that the midwives all live an hour, or more, away), but while the vast majority of the "surges" I'd been feeling were definitely less than seven minutes from each other, some were as close as three minutes while others were as far as nearly nine minutes.  So, we delayed further while I ate a protein bar and drank a full mug of water to further test the reality of the situation.  But with the extreme intensity I was feeling (clinching my toes and not being able to talk during a contraction are sure signs) I knew this baby was coming today.

It was 6:20 when Philip notified the midwife on-call of our situation.  By this time, I was nauseated and shaking - signs, I remembered from my previous two births, of sure labor - something was going to happen and I was in denial of how soon.  For our other two, these symptoms occurred very closely to "push time," but I had only been having contractions for an hour and a half - and they were still 3-4 minutes apart!  This was definitely not going how I had imagined this process going.

After making the necessary phone calls - to the midwife (who was sending her assistant ahead to get things going and be sure this was the real thing), his sister (the photographer and transportation for our kids to a sitter whenever they woke up) and our good friend, Holly (who plans to train to be a doula someday and whom we had asked to be on-call as added assistance and support) - Philip got a quick shower while I started a bath to ease the extreme discomfort these contractions were causing - EXTREME.

It was only after about two contractions in the bath that I announced to Philip, "I want to push!" - and when I say "announced", I kind of mean "screamed like a crazy woman while enduring yet another 'surge.'"  I really did not want to have this baby with just Philip and I, but I also knew I was in a lot of pain and my body was certain that shoving this thing out would go a long way to ending that pain.

Let me assure you, I was doing the best I could to remember all I read - I was relaxing muscles as I noticed them tighten (like those clenched toes), I was breathing slowly when it occurred to me, and we had my CD of instrumental music/nature sounds playing in the background (this CD actually played for seven hours solid this morning - totally worth the $1 I paid for it back in college) -  but there was significant pain - not anything different or more intense than what I'd felt before in giving birth, but I'd always told myself that was because of the Pitocin - turns out, no, that's just what contractions feel like.  Good to know.

I didn't see Philip's face when I made my aforementioned "announcement" of needing to push, but I'm sure if I had it would have been a reflection of sheer terror; he immediately offered to call the midwife once more.  And, though I could not see her, either, I definitely heard the controlled, yet panicked, tone of the midwife's voice as she instructed him to have me kneel on the floor, leaning forward, so as to discourage the urge until help could arrive - and she was, most assuredly, now on her way.

I was sad to leave the comfort of the warm water, but, as an over-achiever, I like to do as I'm told, so Philip helped me from the tub and I headed to kneel on the carpet outside our bathroom door.  At this point, staring right at the white-ish color beneath me, I declared in a panic, "Not on the carpet!"  I realized, then, that we had no idea how to prepare this room for the reality of giving birth.  Sure, we had all the supplies on-hand, neatly packed in their boxes along the wall, but what we needed to do with them?  Not a clue.  I had always assumed the midwives would arrive, in a calm, assured manner, as labor was just beginning and I was still in a smiley, though possibly weary, state, prepared for hours of laboring.  They would then go about their business preparing the space, laying out the waterproof pads where necessary, and all would be in order.

This vision was clearly not going to be happening, but that knowledge made me no more interested in overcoming my own discomfort to do anything about it.  I simply crawled back to the tile of the bathroom and instructed Philip to lay out on the carpet of our bedroom, in the small space between the bathroom and our bed, the waterproof mattress cover we'd purchased.  Anything else could be dealt with later.

It was at this point we received the phone call to notify us the birth assistant would be arriving within 15 minutes - unfortunately, the call came during yet another contraction, during which I was leaning forward and screeching in frustration, while pounding the tile floor, "FIFTEEN MINUTES?!"  I did not want to endure one more second of resisting the urge to get this baby out, let alone a quarter of an hour.

Fortunately, it was only about five minutes or so before Holly arrived.  Though I still could not push, she immediately walked in and asked, "Where's the birth kit?  I'll start setting it up."  Oh sweet relief - someone who knew what we were doing!  I probably would have expressed more graciousness about her arrival and willingness to be put straight to work, but I was so far in the process by this point, I could do little more than stare at the floor and offer short grunts in responses to questions.

During contractions, as Philip calmly stroked my back, assuring me I could do this, it's what my body was made to do, I was leaning forward, my face buried in a towel, whispering in my own head, "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me" [Philippians 4:13].  The reality is, focusing on the truth of this Scripture truly did ease the pain - it was not eliminated by any means, but knowing I had the strength of Christ in me would cause my toes to unfurl and my breathing to slow.  Blessed assurance!  At some point in this process, Philip also whispered a sweet prayer of relief in my ear.  What a wonderful man I have.

It was 7:45 when the birth assistant arrived, rushed into the room and announced I could let my body dictate what needed to be done, even if that meant pushing.  Glory, Hallelujah!

Only one or two contractions into the pushing process, she called Philip over to be prepared to "catch" the baby and he watched, encouraging me all the while, as first my water broke and then out poked our little baby's head.  And, then, the entire body.  I'm not going to lie, it was excruciating, but it was a couple of minutes of excruciating to end a couple of hours of nearly-unbearable, I could take that.  Also, I'm pretty sure the intensity of it was probably heard down the street, as I was urged to "grunt" during this process and I took the suggestion seriously - which somehow turned into primeval she-woman screams during those last moments - my throat is still kind of sore.  Sorry to all those in the room.

And then they were handing me my baby.  I still had not been told what we had - in the excitement of catching his off-spring, Philip had not even thought to look.  So, as the baby was passed to me, I did a quick check and it took a moment in the dim light for me to finally focus and announce, "It's a boy!"  A sweet boy. With whom I fell in love immediately.

He was born at 8am - 3 hours and 20 minutes after I had first woken up.  And the midwife wasn't even there yet.  She arrived within five minutes or so, just in time to see me holding my baby boy for the first time.

Then came the wonderful part of a homebirth - I was helped into bed, my own bed, and allowed to settle in with my son for a good two hours as every indication that a birth had just take place outside my bathroom door was whisked away by people other than myself and I was left with our room in pretty much the same condition it was when we started.

Not long after moving to the bed, we heard a small knock from inside the bedroom across the hall.  The kids had finally woken up and they heard voices - the guttural screams of their birthing mama?  No.  Just voices.  As they entered the room to meet their baby brother, Micaiah was asking if "Baby Sister Penguin" was coming, too, and Emmett was just not sure what was going on - he had just woken up after all, and was now in Mommy and Daddy's bedroom, filled with people, some strangers, some not, while Mom held a strange little baby.  He was not having it.  After breakfast, though, he was at least willing to sit on the bed and look at the "be-be."  By the time the two arrived home from church (thank you, Holly, for taking them!), he was actually pretty excited to see his new baby brother and show him his new McDonald's toy.  Such a great big brother already.

Before the midwife and her assistant headed home, they finally examined baby boy, pronouncing him 9lb 8oz (Philip actually got to hold him up as they weighed him in their sling-like scale), and 20 1/4 inches long - all his vitals were perfect.  I was stitched up (from my very small tear) and then the two headed on their way, leaving Philip and I to snuggle in bed - our own bed! - with our new baby boy (who would later be dubbed Joseph Peter - Joey).

And it wasn't even noon, yet.

And that was our epic morning.  Kudos to you if you made it through the whole thing.  I'll be back tomorrow with maybe a few more thoughts on the experience (you didn't think there could be more, did you?).  As for now, good night!


  1. Yeah I didn't think I would stay up to read it ALL before bed, but it was too good not to read it all. Congrats to all of you guys! Love you all and miss you!

  2. Congratulations again to your entire family. And thank you for sharing this beautiful story!!

  3. what a wonderful story! thoroughly enjoyed reading it. congrats!

  4. Much love to all five of you.  I cry as I want so badly to be there and know that he will be nine months old before I hold him.  Thank you sweet Lord for the internet.

  5. Congratulations! That is a good story.

  6. Wonderful story, Angela!  I'm so happy for you all.  God is sooo good!

  7. Congrats! I'm so happy for your family welcoming a baby boy safely into your home. What a beautiful experience.

  8. Congrats!  What a fun birth story!  our first child (born only 4 months ago) came really fast as well (4 hrs) and I was amazed at how God has orchestrated it all!  Thank you for sharing! 

  9. This made me smile.  You're a great writer!  I liked it the second time I heard it, too.  He is utterly and adorably precioso.  Dios le bendiga.