Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Henry's Holiday Home Birth

As my 38th week of pregnancy came, I realized I had gone from "happily pregnant" to "need this baby out". I am lucky in that my first pregnancy was fairly easy, and I didn't have much to complain about even at 38 weeks, aside from the usual side effects of being the size of a planet. I also knew that my home birth dreams would be out the window if I went past 42 weeks so I suddenly felt I was running out of time - I decided I was ready to meet my baby.

At 38 weeks and 6 days exactly, December 10th, we took Braden on a walk to help him fall asleep as we had been doing for weeks prior since it was good for me to keep walking as well. During the walk, I took long lunge-like strides and repeated to myself "down, down, down" and "soften, soften, soften" to encourage baby to engage in my pelvis. When we returned home I assumed child's pose in our living room to give my back a rest while TH put B to bed. Laying there I felt a small pinch/twinge internally, but thought nothing of it since sensations like that are fairly common that late in the game. TH came back downstairs and as I sat up to talk to him I felt that unmistakable gush of fluid pour out of me, just like the first time! TH ran to get me towels and I crawled to the guest bathroom, feeling excited my plan had worked!

Since it was "go time" I started texting my birth and support team, then hopped in the shower. TH cleaned up the house and set up the birth tub and our bed with layers of sheets including a plastic one. I was feeling some very mild cramping, but it was already 10:30pm so I knew it was best to simply go to bed until things ramped up. Sadly, 6:00am came and no surge pattern had emerged, in fact they seemed to have stopped altogether but I was still leaking tons of fluid. We had my mom come pick B up as planned anyway, and I ate a protein packed breakfast to fuel my birthing body.

Later that morning our midwife suggested to get walking, so we decided to make a grocery store run to make the best use of our time. I was beginning to panic a bit about having my membranes released so long already, since I knew that after 24 hours the risk of infection increases and that may mean a transfer to the hospital. I took my temperature every few hours to check for signs of infection, but the clock was REALLY ticking down now. After the store we took Sandy on a long neighborhood walk to keep things moving. I put on my headphones and listened to my HypnoBirthing affirmations on repeat while we strolled along, talking to baby again in the hopes he could work his magic once more. We ended up getting caught in a huge rainstorm (thanks El Nino!) and had to hurry home, but we both commented on how it felt symbolic of a need to cleanse ourselves of negative energy and anxiety. Once home we took a warm shower together and I turned my phone off (the influx of texts was increasing my anxiety) to lay down for a nap. At some point before my nap our midwife Lindsey came over to check on us, and after seeing everyone was perfect I expressed my fear of transferring to a hospital after 24 hours of membrane release. She assured me that she would only suggest a transfer if I showed signs of infection, and that her licensing (she is a CPM - Certified Professional Midwife) didn't require it - she once had a client "ruptured" for 2+ days, so I instantly felt relieved.

When I woke up there were still no surges, so we ate some pizza and decided to go to the mall for another round of walking since the weather had turned foul. I thought the mall would also provide a nice distraction from my worried mind, and luckily it did. On our way home we stopped by Lindsey's house to get some truly foul tasting herbs, and made an acupuncture appointment for the morning if my surges still didn't pick up by then. I rubbed clary sage all over my ankles and diffused it with some lavender in our bedroom. We even tried a bit of nipple stimulation before bed, and I listened to more hypnosis tracks to encourage baby to come out.

FINALLY at 3:30am on December 12th I awoke to surges I could no longer sleep through - like mild/medium menstrual cramps. I laid in bed with excitement, breathing through them and timing to see how close together they were. They stayed 15 minutes apart until about 6am when I gently woke TH up to let him know what was going on, since I needed to get out of bed at that point as the surges grew in intensity. He got up and began to get to work filling the tub and supporting me as needed. We kept our team updated but an hour later the surges went from 10 minutes to 4 minutes apart and I couldn't let TH leave in between them anymore as our sweet slow dancing helped keep me feeling safe and grounded. The surges were collecting right at my pubic bone, which was such a different sensation than my previous birth where I had so much back labor. While grateful, it was an interesting challenge to find comfortable positions as all my go-to's were better suited for back labor! This baby was in a PERFECT anterior position now that he was engaged, so all my hard work that last month had really paid off. Thanks Spinning Babies! Holding TH close while standing and swaying was blissful.

By the time Lindsey's assistant, Mel, arrived (I want to say it was around 8am) my surges were already 3 minutes apart and I could no longer time them myself. Instead I was lost in my primal birthing body, moaning and swaying with each surge, doing my best to breathe up as fully as I could to let my wonderful uterus do it's job. When the tub was almost full I got in and let the warmth relax my lower half. Sitting wasn't very comfortable as it pinched the area that seemed to collect all the tightness, so I draped my body over the side of the tub where TH sat outside so I could hold onto him like I did when we were swaying together. Here I stayed, letting my body float behind me in the water as my team continued to fill it with boiling water. Em arrived during this time (she could probably give a clearer account of this) and lended her help however she could.

Birthing naturally (that is, without any medication) is interesting in that your body drugs you up anyway if you let it. I felt so "high"; my whole body was limp and numb except for where all the important work was being done to get my baby earthside. In between surges I'd open my eyes and either answer a question or request something like water or a cool cloth. I remember it being extremely hot - we turned up the heater so the newly born babe wouldn't get chilled - so those cold cloths were heaven on my neck and back. Sandy laid dutifully beside TH and I'd pet her every so often, which was extremely calming... she had a knowing presence that only animals do.

At around 10am my body began to push downward, a fantastic sensation I had never experienced! With Braden I began actively "purple" or valsalva pushing before I felt this  - some people call it an urge but that implies I'd feel the need to "do" something which wasn't the case at all... my body was doing everything for me. With each downward surge I could feel my baby move through my body and I began to visualize an opening flower to encourage my tissues to open gently. The birth worker in me found this whole process extremely fascinating, while the laboring woman went to another level that I've never experienced... my eyes literally rolled back into my head and I was having a true out of body experience while also being completely in tune within my body; birth is truly indescribable!

My loud, low moans turned to instinctive quiet grunts, and I felt my baby's head begin to emerge. Thanks to pushing for 3.5 hours with my first, my vagina had lots of lovely time to stretch open so I never experienced the "ring of fire" I'd heard so much about. Well now it was my turn! This babe came so quickly that we didn't get as much time for his head to mold and my body to adjust fully, so that ring began to burn quite fiercely. With my next surge his head came out, but I remained focused on my task and suddenly a choir of supportive voices rang out saying "you are safe, you are strong". Another surge came and I decided now was the time for me to start helping so I pushed right alongside my body with a birthing roar and he slipped out into the water, guided by Mel's waiting hands as she said to me "Ok Nicolle reach down and grab your baby!" Henry was born at 10:29 am, in our little bedroom surrounded by more love than I've ever known.

Again, my birth worker brain kicked in and thought "make sure he stays underwater until you can pull him all the way up" since I knew he'd start breathing once his face hit the air. So I turned over and awkwardly pulled him up with Mel and Lindsey's help... we both had to turn quite a bit to get into a comfortable sitting position! I felt a sense of relief and gratitude I can't describe, and more love for every single person in that room than I've ever felt - OXYTOCIN IS WONDERFUL! I stared at my sweet baby, studying his face and talking to him gently, making sure he knew he was safe and loved. He didn't cry really, just made a few noises as he reached his arms up to cradle my face while I held him close to my chest. One of the first things I noticed was how "cheesy" he was! He had a thick coating of vernix that soon covered both of us and made my hands stick to his back. I started rubbing it into his skin, knowing what a powerful emollient it was. Sandy was practically scaling TH's back to see what was going on, something I didn't notice until I saw pictures and thought was pretty neat. At some point someone noticed his hair - it was RED! That was probably the biggest surprise of the entire event, since there are not really any redheads in our family.

10 minutes later we moved from the tub to the bed, to await the birth of our placenta. I removed my bra and laid with Henry on my chest as we let him crawl to my breast for his first feeding. While he worked Mel gave me a lovely leg massage with oil, and my body began to surge again. 30 minutes after Henry was born my placenta came out without anyone forcing it along! As a result, my bleeding was minimal - another deviation from my first birth. After an exam it turned out I only tore a little, where I had torn with Braden, which irritated me feeling that it could've been prevented all along... but I also felt grateful given how forceful it seemed Henry emerged. I'm constantly in awe of my body and her capabilities!

A few minutes passed, and with a little help from me Henry latched beautifully - this boy had a seriously powerful suck! We continued to lay together while my midwives cared for us and stitched me up. TH gave me juice to drink, and sat beside us falling in love with his new son. The room vibrated with a gentle excitement as we all chatted about the birth and other things. I laid there, fully naked and exposed, feeling so grateful for every single person there.

A full 2 hours after the birth, TH cut his cord and finally got to hold his son while I hobbled rather ungracefully to the shower to rinse off and go to the bathroom. Standing up for the first time with a newly empty body was a strange feeling and I had a little trouble catching my breath as my lungs moved back into place. The shower felt lovely, and I put on a robe just in time for all the grandparents to arrive with Henry's big brother. Braden's reaction to his new baby was just as sweet as I hoped, he called out "baby!!" and came over to give us a cuddle. We all exchanged lots of kisses, and Braden played around on the bed as we finished up the day's thrilling events. One by one people left our new little family of 4, and although I was extremely tired, my heart had never been so full.

Every day since I have enjoyed falling in love with my new sweet boy. There have been MANY challenges, but I'm so over the moon about this birth experience and the calm manner in which Henry got to enter this world. It's fascinating to read Braden's birth story and how different that experience was, even how I spoke about it. Most days I'm extremely sad I'll probably never give birth again!

During a rare lengthy newborn nap I'll be back to detail not only why I chose a home birth, but why the postpartum period is so delicate and deserves respect - and how to get it. But first, some thank you's...
  • All this awesome imagery is thanks to the wonderfully talented Ruby Rose Stocking, thank you for your soft presence in capturing this magical day!
  • My midwife, Lindsey, and her assistants Melanie & Jessica - my hope is one day all pregnant women receive the quality of care you provide because it's literally unparallaled. You are all so, so talented and I've been blessed to have you in my life!
  • Thank you Em, for being there. I didn't need more than that, but your loving presence was palpable. I can't imagine having gone through such a sacred experience without my wife by my side!
  • Of course my wonderful TH, who not only supports my passion for birth but trusted me to know what was best for our baby's arrival. 
  • To my children, who may never even read this... thank you for choosing me. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for being unique and wonderful. Thank you for making me a better person, and the mother I was always meant to be. 

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