our second birth…

At 40 weeks, three days, I knew that we would have a baby the next day. Coincidentally, that was the exact same time I started labor with our first child. Knowing we wouldn’t have much time to bake in the next weeks – something my son loved to do, we decided to make cookies. We made up a double batch of oatmeal cookies, since oats help with milk supply. 

My husband called to tell me he was on his way home. I told him we would have a baby the next day, a Saturday. We had planned to have my father-in-law help us haul some wood for us to use to make an art table and play kitchen for gifts. Since we wanted an uninterrupted babymoon, we decided my husband should call his father and see if he could come help us that evening.

That night I was out installing the second car seat while our two year old pretended to drive the car when my in-laws pulled up. My husband and his father left to get the wood while my son and I entertained my mother-in-law. When they came back, we all sat in the kitchen enjoying the oatmeal cookies and caffeine free iced tea I had made earlier in the day. His parents left, never realizing that I was having contractions.

We played for the rest of the evening. Around 11:30 PM, my husband asked what we should do. I said that since everyone was tired, I thought we should go to bed. I snuggled with my son, and he went to sleep very quickly. I was aware of having contractions through the night, but for the most part I slept. There was a huge thunderstorm that night. I got up around 3 AM to the sound of hail. I padded out to the kitchen and looked out on the deck to see quite a bit piling up, thinking what a wonderful story that would be to tell the baby later on.

Around 6:30 AM, laying in bed was no longer comfortable. I went into the bathroom to draw a warm bath and soak for a bit. The running water woke my husband and he came in to see how I was. We sat there, me in the tub, him on a stool, holding hands and kissing. We spoke of all sorts of things. Intimacy isn’t always physical; it’s about sharing with someone you love. 

My son woke up around 9:30 AM, and came in to see me. I suggested to my husband that they go get donuts as a special treat and some father-son bonding. He asked if there was time, and I assured him that there was.

They came back, a bag of donuts proudly carried my my son. My husband brought me some ice water with a straw. What is it about ice water with a straw that I love in labor? I was occasionally getting in the tub, but mainly I wanted to be on the bed. My guys headed downstairs to play and would check in from time to time.

At some point, I started visualizing a white flower opening to reveal a baby inside during contractions. I don’t know where that image came from, but it seemed to be important for this baby. Around noon, I found myself chanting, “Let my body do what it needs to do” during contractions. My husband and son came in around 12:30 and asked what I needed. I told them to stay close because the baby would be here soon.  

They went and got drinks and then sat on the bed. It irked me at the time. I had said to stay close, not sit there and watch me. I had just enough time to think that before my body decided it wanted to push. I reached down and felt the baby’s head was coming, and my water broke as the head was on its way out. I birthed the head in a half back bend, then flipped so that I was on my hands and knees. I reached down and between my legs and caught my precious baby, as she let out a wail to tell me she was not happy about being cold. I brought her up to me and she immediately quieted. A girl. She was born at 12:38 PM on 18 September 2004, weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces and measuring 20 ½ inches.  It was a good thing my husband decided to stay in the room, otherwise he might have missed the birth of his daughter.

I took my new baby and went and sat in the nice warm tub, which she seemed to appreciate. My husband explained to our son that this bath was just for Mommy and the baby, as he was all set to strip and join in. Our new daughter was busy looking around. I brought her up to nurse and my son was not happy about that. He tried to keep her from nursing until I explained that the baby needed Mommy, too. Then he tried to make her nurse. 

We waited until after the cord had stopped pulsing to cut it. The placenta still hadn’t come out, so we went and curled up on the bed for a while. Four hours after her birth, I went in the bathroom and felt the need to push. The placenta came out and we put it in the freezer to plant with a tree.

our first birth…

We decided to go grocery shopping late Saturday night, as we knew the baby was going to come soon. While there, we ran into some friends and spoke to them for a while. It was during this time that contractions began. I was smiling inside, because finally this was it! I had started having contractions off and on a couple of weeks prior. They would always stop eventually. When my husband would ask me if this was it, I never had that feeling and always answered that I couldn’t say that for certain. This was different, and I knew
we would be holding our baby soon.

I kept the contractions a secret until my husband and I had driven home. He was a little upset that I hadn’t told him yet, but he quickly got over it. It was after midnight and we sat talking for quite a while. He fixed us a snack. I then told him he should go get some rest. I couldn’t sleep; I was so excited. Throughout the night I made my way between reading in bed and sitting in the bathtub. I woke him up around 7:30 AM and asked him to run a fresh bath for me.

Throughout the rest of the morning, the contractions became stronger. I really enjoyed sitting in a tub full of warm water. My husband attempted to fill the birthing pool, but for some reason our hose would not connect to the kitchen sink. He was torn whether he should leave me and go find a fitting or stay. I told him not to bother; the baby might be here soon. I really just didn’t feel the need to have the pool filled. The pool was going to be in the living room, and I think I would have felt vulnerable close to the front door. 

My husband helped me make a nest on the bed with a chux pad and towels, blankets to pull up and be warm, and a big stack of pillows to arrange behind me to be comfortable. Throughout labor, I went back and forth between the warm water in our bathtub and this little nest on our bed, not bothering with clothes, just feeling secure and into the contractions.

At first my husband would come in and try to talk to me if I was having a contraction. It really bothered me, but we finally realized that we were not communicating; he was trying to distract me during contractions, while I really just needed to be there during those times. We rectified this and he only spoke in between contractions. At some point that morning, I was sitting in the tub and he was sitting on a stool in front of me. We were really sharing in between contractions, and during contractions I was letting out some good little noises, which I was told were really sexy.

I vomited some bile at 11. I just didn’t feel like eating, but I was very thirsty. My husband kept me in supply of water with crushed ice in it. It felt so nice to drink icy cold water while sitting in a warm bath.

The rest of the day continued like this. I went back and forth between the bed and the bathtub. I really needed to be by myself for most of this time. My husband or one of our two little dogs would come in and check on me. Our dogs were amazing. They instinctively knew what was happening and were reverent of the experience. My husband was there to get anything I might need or want.

The contractions were close all day Sunday and this continued on into Monday. I was losing my mucous plug that afternoon. By Monday evening the contractions felt like they were almost on top of each other. At one point, my husband asked me if the contractions were painful. I replied that they were intense. The word choice seemed very important to me. I continued going back and forth between the bed and bathtub, but now I was also squatting on the toilet some.

At some point I wondered why I had never felt like pushing. I checked and felt some cervical lip left. I thought, “Oh, that’s why,” as if this was an every day occurrence. Around 9:30 PM on Monday, I was squatting on the toilet when my water broke in a big gush.

After that the contractions became extremely intense. I was spending most of my time in the bathtub. I wanted my husband in the bathroom with me, although I really didn’t want him to speak much. I just wanted him there. Part of me was in the moment completely while another part was observing. I remember thinking that I sounded like a goat. 

The baby started coming down after my water broke. The experience was so intense that I needed to talk to the baby through contractions. “Okay baby, let’s go slow. We will do a little bit and then take a little break. Mommy needs to take a break, and then we will go a little more. It won’t be long and then I can hold you. Just a little bit and then Mommy needs a break.” I spoke to him with each contraction. My huabsnd was concerned because he thought I was giving up right when the baby needed to come down. I told him that the baby and I were working things out together and that he just needed to be there. I was still sitting in the bathtub. I would raise myself up with my arms during the contractions, but I knew there wasn’t enough room to have this baby in the tub. I also knew I couldn’t give birth in that position. I got out of the tub and tried some different positions. I was reminded of cats and dogs who will sometimes pace around trying to find the best position to birth in. I was still getting back in the tub at that point. I reached in and felt the little head. I kept going back to one position – standing, facing the bed, with my hands on the bed supporting me. Because of his head, I had to bend my knees some. All other positions felt wrong, but this felt like it would be okay and I realized this was where I needed to be for the birth.

My husband was standing behind me and had placed towels on the floor between my legs. I had been the first to touch our baby, and he was the first to see our baby. He cried, “I see a head. She’s looking at me.” Then he told me not to push. I know there was only a split second at this point. However, I still had time to think about how well he had done throughout the entire labor and how this comment was so wrong. I thought about how he wasn’t birthing this baby and should just be quiet. And almost as soon as he said this, I felt this huge urge to push hard and get the baby out. Our first son was born at 11:45 PM on 11 November 2002, after almost 48 hours of labor. (Later my husband told me that he thought the shoulder was caught and was reaching to unhook it. I’m not sure why he thought he should do this. I’m also not sure if I realized this on a subconscious level or if the baby told me to push him out.)

Together we lifted him up. I lifted one leg up and over the cord and brought this precious little person close to me. I hadn’t wanted either of us to say the sex of the baby, as I wanted us to be able to discover this for ourselves. Luckily I saw before my husband’s excitement overwhelmed him. He exclaimed, “She has a penis!” The panicked pause was followed with a relieved, “It’s a boy.” 

My husband put two more chux pads on the bed and I sat there briefly holding our new son. It was a little cool, so I wanted to go back into the tub. My husband ran a clean, warm bath for us. I climbed in with our new little son who never cried. He just looked around, curious about everything. We waited to cut his cord until it had stopped pulsating. My husband had managed to make a few calls while we were in the tub. In his excitement, I had to gently remind him to get off the phone. I remember later, after our son had fallen asleep, we just stared at him, completely amazed by this tiny little person. I hadn’t slept in over 2 ½ days, but I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I still can’t. He is such an amazing little person.

Check back on April 9th for our second birth story and on April 16th for our third birth story. We should have a fourth birth story soon.

Read more about Lamaze’s Healthy Birth Practice #5: Avoid Giving Birth on the Back and Follow the Body’s Urge to Push.

a birth legacy…

Birth Activist is hosting a blog carnival in honor of Women’s History Month, asking that individuals write about their herione when it comes to childbirth and pregnancy. I briefly considered writing about Laura Shanley. She has done quite a bit to advocate for unassisted birthers. However, while I admire what she has done, I’ve always felt an internal strength when it comes to our decision to have unassisted childbirths (UC), and it reminded me of someone else.

My grandmother was a nosy, persnickity old woman who didn’t have any problem telling you just what she thought you should be doing. She had homebirths with the first two of her three children, including my father, but after the treatment we received from my husband’s parents and family after just mentioning homebirth, we decided to keep our decision to UC to ourselves until after our first child was born. My grandmother found out after our son was born, and the next time she called, I waited, half expecting to hear a rant from her. Instead, she stated that I was a “strong girl from good stock.” She then asked if that baby was sleeping with us, to which I replied yes, mentally cringing for any backlash. Instead, she said, “Good! That’s where babies need to be – snuggled up to their mamas!” It surprised me. She spread the word through my father’s family to anyone who brought up our decision that my husband and I were highly intelligent, well-educated individuals who knew what we were doing and would then repeat her phrase about me being a “strong girl from good stock”.

I waited again when I was pregnant for the second time, as she obviously knew we would be having another unassisted birth. She didn’t say anything until after our little daughter was born. I was speaking with her on the phone when she asked if I had had that baby by myself again. When I replied yes, she told me that was how her grandmother had done it. I was intrigued, as I never had heard this story before. Apparently her grandmother, my great-great-grandmother had birthed all 12 of her children unassisted. My grandmother told me that “she would come in from the field and have the baby. The next day, she would strap that baby to her with a piece of cloth and head back on out to work.” That was all that was ever said. I later recalled seeing a list of names at some time in my childhood. I happen to share my great-great-grandmother’s first name, albeit by coincidence, as my mother never knew the name.

When I think about who my heroines are when it comes to birth, I am reminded, not of a single person tangled in our generation’s technology and hysteria, but of all the women who have gone before me, lovingly birthing their children. These are the women who have perpetuated our species, who have raised us, and who have passed on their knowledge and strength to subsequent generations through the legacy of birth and child-rearing.