Joanna was born at home in the water on Monday, June 9, 2003 at 9:50 pm. Her “official” due date was June 11. She weighed 7 lbs 11 oz and was 18.5 inches long. Her Apgars were 10/10.
I woke up about 5:00 am on Monday having crampy contractions that required some concentration to get through. They were not lasting long at all, maybe 20 seconds, and they were coming every ten minutes or so. However, this being my third baby, I knew that the contractions were the real thing. By 7:00 am nothing had changed, so I called my midwife, Beth, just to let her know that I would need her at some point, hopefully sooner than later. She said to call her back when they were lasting closer to a minute and were five minutes apart. My other two children got up now, and I made breakfast for everyone: scrambled eggs and biscuits.
I finally woke Justin, my dh, up at 9:00 am and told him we were having a baby today. We needed to go buy groceries and go to the bank, so we all headed out. The contractions now were more painful, especially in the car, but they were still spaced pretty far apart. We got our errands run, came home and had lunch, then put the kids down for naps. I decided to lay down also since I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. My contractions had really spaced out by this time, so I was able to sleep for a couple of hours.
About the time I woke up, around 3:00 pm, my mom came over to watch the kids because Justin had to go to a training class for work. She brought over the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I watched that while she played with Lacy and Jordan. Justin’s mom came over during the movie, and I sat and talked with her for a while. We noticed that my contractions were picking up, coming about every 5-7 minutes.
Justin got home at 6:00 pm and began barbequing. Beth called to check on me about this time to see if she should make plans for the evening. I was still really upbeat and handling the contractions well, so I don’t think I conveyed to her that she would be needed at some point. Also I had been laboring for over 12 hours now, and I wasn’t sure when active labor was real ly going to kick in. So she hung up thinking I wasn’t ready yet, and I proceeded to start active labor. For the next hour I had to concentrate on the contractions, and I could no longer talk through them. Finally at 7:30 pm Justin asked me if he should call Beth. I said yes. So he called her and told her I wanted her here now.
In the mean time I told Justin to start filling the pool. By the time the pool was ready, I really wanted to get in and see if the water was as great as everyone says. But Beth hadn’t arrived yet, and I wanted to be checked because I didn’t want to get in too soon. She arrived around 8:15, and I was at 5 cm and 80% effaced. I got in the pool. It did not take the pain away at all, but I was able to relax and stay warm. I was starting to shake before I got in, and it helped to be in the warm water. The water proved to be too hot so everyone started dumping ice cubes in with me. Everything was going well, and I labored rather comfortably.
I remember my mother-in-law coming back to the house about 9:10 pm, and she held my hand through a few contractions. I was vocalizing through them, but I was still managing very well. They hurt, but I felt like I could handle it. Then things start getting fuzzy. They started really hurting and my vocalizing got louder and turned screechy, and finally I remember saying that I didn’t know how much longer I could do this. I knew that was an indicator of transition, and so did Beth. It was probably about 9:30 pm by now. She promptly checked me, and said I was complete with just a little lip, but I could push if I felt like it. Between contractions she could see me opening up which she said was great. I thought it was great too. If only the whole thing happened “between contractions” labor wouldn’t be so bad.
So after I handled stage one like a champ, I entered stage two. Things did not go as well as they had previously. Instead of pushing feeling better, it hurt worse than anything. I was in agonizing pain, and I was screaming with the contractions and even in between. I felt her moving down the birth canal, and it would be a gross understatement to say it hurt. I was not pushing well at all and I knew it, but it hurt so bad to push. I could feel pain in my tailbone, and I was afraid I would break my tailbone if I pushed. The sensation of pushing didn’t feel productive at all, in fact, it felt like nothing was changing except I hurt more. I was screaming so badly that both my husband and Beth got in the pool with me which neither one expected to do. This helped me feel more supported, but I also had feelings of failure because I did not want to be a screaming, uncontrollable mess. (On a side note: I think I must have control issues because at some point Beth asked for paper towels, and I was giving directions on where to find them! In the middle of this pain! And I remember thinking how absurd it was that I would even care if they found them or not!)
This intense pain only lasted about twenty minutes even though at the time it felt like hours. Finally I felt her crowning which actually was a welcome pain because I knew it was almost over (don’t get me wrong, it still hurt worse than anything I’ve ever experienced). I kept touching her head and screaming, “Baby come out! Why won’t she come out?” Beth and Justin were telling me, “She is coming out! Just push!” I had a hard time distinguishing when a contraction was happening and when I should rest. It just hurt constantly. Justin kept telling me to breathe, so I would scream, then gasp for breath and scream some more. Beth then told her assistant to get the birth stool out. I knew that the birth stool was only used if a mom wasn’t pushing well or there was a problem with the presentation of the baby. In my case I think it was actually both. Well, I wasn’t going to sit on that stool, so finally I made myself push a few times as hard as I could, and she was born.
As soon as she was out of the water, Beth proclaimed her ten. She was sticking her tongue out and opening her eyes before she even started breathing. She was so cute. Then Justin lifted up the towel and shouted it’s a girl before I even had a chance to say anything. I wasn’t really ready for the sex to be revealed, but then again I knew it was a girl all along so why am I complaining? After a few minutes in the pool, Beth had me stand up and sit on the birth stool and the placenta came out with the next contraction. She clamped the cord and had Justin cut it. It was his first time. Then I walked about five steps into my bed. After resting for a while, I had a herb bath with Joanna by candlelight. She looked around peacefully as she rested in the water.
I found out later she had her hand up by her face as she was coming down the birth canal and that’s why I had pain in my tailbone and possibly why it was so intense. Also the fact that it happened so fast may have been another reason why I found it so painful. I went from 5 cm to birth in less than 90 minutes. I had several small tears that didn’t need stitching and one long first degree tear up by my clitoris. Beth said I was intact when her head came out, and she thinks Joanna’s hand tore me. Beth called a Certified Nurse Midwife to come out and stitch me up because she had never done a tear like that before. The CNM stitched me up while the rest of the family passed the baby around. My tear actually hurts less than my previous episiotomies did despite being in such a nerve-rich location. I think this is because episiotomies go through muscle, and my tear was only skin deep.
Lacy and Jordan both refused to go to bed that night, and they saw Joanna right after she was born while we were still in the water. They were so excited! I can’t believe that an almost 2 year old and an almost 4 year old would be so ecstatic over a new baby. I am afraid they are going to love her to death. This was the first baby that my mother did not see being born. She was helping with the kids. Neither her or my mother-in-law were very comfortable hearing me scream. Eventually the noise got to the kids too because Lacy told them she didn’t want to hear me anymore. So they took the kids outside for a bit and then upstairs to their playroom. They hadn’t been up there for long when my step-dad told them to come see their granddaughter.
At first my feelings about the birth were pretty negative. All I could think was that I never wanted to go through that again, and if by some chance I got pregnant I would make a beeline for the hospital and beg for an epidural. Of course these thoughts made me feel even worse because I still believed in home birth as the best for my baby and me, but I really didn’t want to experience that pain ever again. However, the pain of childbirth becomes such a distant memory so quickly. So by the third or fourth day I was okay with the experience. I don’t really remember the pain although I know it happened. It is difficult to describe. I still don’t want to be pregnant again right away, but I know that I would have another homebirth.
Other than that last twenty minutes of pain, I really enjoyed everything about my birth. All of my family was around during the labor. They were cooking and visiting, and everything was just so normal. I hung out in my bedroom and the kitchen where the pool was. I gave birth right where I sit down to eat dinner every night. I loved crawling in my bed afterwards and having my midwife come check on me the next day. The newborn exam was so much fun. Joanna wasn’t screaming through the whole thing like my other two did in the hospital. Beth asked me before she did anything. I felt respected and in charge of my own baby. Justin got to put on her first diaper, and I got to dress her. I breastfed her about 15 minutes after she was born, and she pooped all over her towel. It was really great.
On the other hand, I did feel a little let down because I did not have a great experience actually birthing. I read many birth stories while pregnant, and it seemed like so many people described an incredible feeling after the birth. Empowerment or amazement at what their body had done. Some even said they wanted to do it again right away it was so great. I really had psyched myself up for this wonderful event only to be in agonizing pain. I also read that pushing should feel better, and it didn’t. And finally, during my last birth I had an epidural which wore off for pushing, and I screamed my head off through his birth too. One reason I chose a homebirth to be able to deal with the pain better and make it through the end without totally losing it. I was disappointed that this did not happen.
However, I would choose to homebirth again rather than have another hospital experience. I would endure the brief, easily forgotten pain for the chance to birth in a safe, restful place, knowing that my baby will be born gently into the world. Next time I will try to prepare myself better for the totally intense pushing stage which, thankfully, goes quickly. Things don’t always go as planned in a birth, regardless of being at a hospital or at home. But I truly believe I’ll get a better outcome at home.