Fierce. Fiercely intense. Fiercely powerful. Fiercely joyful. Fiercely beautiful. Birth is fierce. I have had the privilege of experiencing birth five times now. First in a birth center, then a homebirth, then again in a birth center, then in a hospital, and lastly another home birth. My fourth birth was in the hospital and although the birth was a beautiful natural water birth, the overall experience was tainted by the medical confines and regulations of a hospital and the medical approach to birth and training from the practitioner. At that moment, I knew if I would ever give birth again, it would be at home.
My husband and I thought we were done after four children, but we were surprised after 4 1/2 years with the news of another little one on the way. I am one of those women who love being pregnant and growing a little life. I was fortunate enough to find Karen and after meeting her for the first consultation, our hearts connected. My husband and I did not even have to discuss it. Her vision for birth, belief in the birth process as a normal process, trust in women to assume care for their own bodies, and passion for caring for these women and babies drew us in.
I always told Karen I could be pregnant forever. I was never one to want pregnancy to be over. But when I went a week over my due date, I started to wonder if it would ever happen. Karen calmly reassured me that the baby would come when ready. When everyone else was asking, "When are they going to induce you?," my response was always, "I am the they." I trusted my body, the baby, and the Creator of them both. Karen understood. She also trusted my body and the process of natural childbirth. My history with the last four pregnancies was my water would break, contractions would start shortly thereafter, and the baby would be born in about 2 hours after the water breaks. So Karen, being almost 2 hours away from our house, was on high alert to jump in the car at the first sign of labor. Meanwhile, my husband and I were prepared to do an unassisted delivery if necessary. So when my water broke on Sunday evening, a week after my due date, we called Karen immediately. We told her it was lightly stained with meconium and once again, she did not panic and just instructed me to drink plenty of fluids, and pay attention to baby's movement. She picked up her student, Paige and they were on their way. However, they arrived and still no contractions.
So they camped out in our living room and I slept as I could, but I was too excited to sleep much. Around 3 or 4 am I came out to the living room where the midwives were and they said they were going to another birth about an hour north of where I lived. They said they would keep in contact with me to see if contractions started. But no contractions. So midwives just went home after that birth.
All day Monday I was still leaking fluid which was less stained with meconium as I was continuing to stay hydrated. I walked, spent time quietly praying in the woods and clearing my mind to allow my body to proceed, took a nap and went to my son's T ball game that evening. I had contractions off and on all day but nothing strong, or consistent. Karen called me Monday evening and said if nothing happened by Tuesday morning, I should go see an accupuncturist. Being a NICU nurse, I was well aware of complications of meconium aspiration, prolonged rupture of membranes, and post-term babies. But in my heart, I was not fearing that this baby was in danger. I was confident my body would kick in to labor shortly.
My husband and I put the kids to bed Monday night and I started pumping off and on for about an hour to try to induce labor. No contractions started. So I finally decided to go to bed and rest. Around 12:30 am, contractions started about every 10 minutes. By about 1:30 am Tuesday morning, I went to the bathroom and noticed a large amount of bloody show. I knew bloody show meant cervical dilation and changes were occuring. Since contractions were now consistent and my cervix was changing, I called Karen again. Anticipating a quick delivery based on my history, she and Paige and Heather (another student midwife) headed down to our house. They arrived shortly before 4 am and I told her I was still contracting but one would be 8 min apart, then 12 minutes, then 10 minutes then 6 minutes. She gave me blue and black cohosh to take alternately for an hour. It seemed to help some but the contractions were still not consistent enough. Karen encouraged me to stop watching the clock and go rest while I could. I did. I slept. I woke up at 7:30 am and was still pregnant, stopped contracting, and not happy.
I was beginning to get frustrated, again wondering if the baby (we didn't know boy or girl) would ever come. I was also feeling bad for calling the midwives 2 nights in a row to travel the distance, and I was starting to consider the "what if" scenarios that I knew were possibilities after working in a birthing hospital. Karen still remained a stable force. She told me acupuncture is probably all it would take to trigger labor since my body was primed and ready. Her gentle encouragement was just what I needed. My body was not a lemon! She gently reminded me,"This may not be your normal, but I have seen this before." Those words are what I needed to hear.
My husband prepared the midwives coffee and made sure everyone including kids had breakfast. I was walking around the house in my own zone. Karen got on the phone setting up an acupuncture appointment and Paige was filling out paperwork to draw a CBC to check for infection since I had been ruptured for 36 hours. Then around 8:45 am, I started having more intense and consistent contractions which I needed to lean over the couch for and have my husband push on my lower back. I told Paige to let me know when she was ready to draw the CBC and she simply said, "We are just going to hold off on the CBC for now and see what these contractions do." Although the contractions were intensifying, I was so afraid they would stop again. I was in denial. The midwives knew my fear. They also knew by watching me that these were not going to stop. Karen cancelled with the acupuncturist. I had never been so thankful for or open to the rushes. I wanted and welcomed them each time even saying, "This is awesome! Bring it on! Keep them coming!" Slowly I was tuning out the rest of the household and began to enter my own birthing world. The midwives sensed this and decided to take a walk outside to respect our space and allow me to mentally and physically relax. They guarded and protected my birth space. Karen encouraged me to go into my bedroom if that would help me to relax. I did and shut the door.
Around 9:30 am, the contractions continued to come every 6-8 minutes although I was not timing them. But they were strong enough that I was moaning and rocking through them. I wanted in the tub. I was still questioning whether this was the real thing or not. My husband was on the same team as the midwives. He knew all along with them that this was it. He never left my side and I didn't want him to. He filled the tub. This was happening. At some point in time, the midwives came in. I was in the tub. They quietly began to set up although I didn't know it then. It was just my husband and I in my own world. Around 11:30 am, I was having signs of transition. No checking necessary.
Karen instructed me to push when I couldn't help not to push. Hand in hand with my husband whispering encouragement through the process, in the comfort of my own tub, surrounded by my two oldest daughters and support of the midwives, I felt the urge to push. I pushed fiercely. I said, "Here it comes!" My husband moved toward my feet in the tub to prepare to catch the baby. Baby descended with one contraction, then I felt my body breathe her down the next contraction. I rode each wave, picturing the waves at the shore, powerful with ebb and flow, peaks and fades, listening to my body and letting go of all fear with each breath. Relax. Breathe. It will be over all too soon. Enjoy through the intensity. With one final powerful rush, out came her head. Then quickly her body. My husband laid her on my chest. My oldest daughter cried. My second daughter gasped with joy. I cried. It was over! We did it. A girl! I told the baby she was so beautiful and that I loved her so much! The elation of that birth moment. And then I realized she was not moving or breathing yet.
We dried and stimulated her. But still she was floppy and not breathing. Paige was checking heart rate and cord was still pulsating. Paige stepped in the water and began to bag and mask ventilate the baby. Karen also got in the tub to assist the baby with breathing. I never truly feared because I sensed Karen had complete control of the situation. She knew just what to do and how to do it. With Karen's gentle resuscitation, the baby started to cough, breathe, turn pink, and then her sweet body began squirming. Oh the joy! She took her time coming out (over a week late), took her time breathing after birth, and has been laid back ever since! Once she was born, I said to Karen, "It's over!" and she replied, "It's just beginning!" And it is so true. The joy of a baby only begins with pregnancy and birth. There are so many more joys to come.
I delivered the placenta, then moved to the bed, where I was examined for tears (none!) and the baby was nursing. I was basking in the newness of birth and this little life and riding on the high of natural birth. The midwives weighed the baby: 8 pounds and 6 ounces of sheer sweetness. The midwives eventually left and we were left to enjoy our family of 7- so fiercely beautiful!