Most of you are just dying to know the details of my homebirth….not. But there are some of you who are genuinely interested. And for you three, here it is (and it’s partly for me, too, because I’d like to have a written account for those 12 hours of my life.)
As I mentioned in a previous post, the night before Ruthie was born we went to see a concert in a nearby town. I waddled my way around and joked with the girls that this baby was gonna be danced out. I bought a bag of Tootsie Roll pops, passed them around, and silently cursed my swollen ankles. Earlier that week, I had had daily talks with the baby, reassuring it that it was free to stay right where it was or it could come early. I stressed the early part though, hoping for relief from my burgeoning body.
We arrived home around 11:30 and climbed into bed. I don’t think I even washed my face I was so tired.
Then I woke up at 12:30, felt weird, blamed the Banana Tootsie Roll pops (seriously? Who likes those, but you know that didn’t stop me from eating 5 in a row) and dropped back off to sleep. An hour later I awoke to a wet bed. Other women have said they thought they peed their pants, and they’re not alone, because I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that my water broke for 5 solid minutes. So I woke up R, who I felt made a big show of scrambling out of bed. “Settle.” I said, “This isn’t the movies.”
And thus begins R’s marathon of patience with me.
He deserves a medal. Or a baby. Either one.
We called our midwife around 1:45am and apologized for waking her up. Surprisingly she was already awake and was finishing up another birth a couple towns away. A girl in our birthing class was due a couple of weeks earlier than me and we joked about fighting over Janessa. Turns out we barely missed having that throw down. Thank goodness too, because this girl had some killer eyeliner going on, and I just don’t trust people with perfectly applied eyeliner. She’d kick my butt, I’m sure of it.
So Janessa suggested that even though she knew we were excited, to try to go back to sleep and call her in a few hours.
We decided to call our parents since they were coming from 4 hours away, and then agreed to rest.
But first I wanted to take some scary model photos in the pool. Take a look at that sleepwear too. I call it Farmhouse Sexy. Don’t judge, it was comfy.
I had debated about whether to use the pool at all during the birthing process until Janessa said that it’s the “Midwives’ epidural”. Sold. And I’m so glad I did. As soon as it was filled with warm water, my contractions were well on their way and man, the water felt wonderful.
After my photo shoot I tried sleeping, but the contractions were just slightly too much. Not enough where I couldn’t check facebook or order R about, but a bit more than would let me doze. I went into ‘hostess mode’ and began picking up around the Shack, defrosted the stew, and lit incense everywhere. I was also obsessed with getting lemonade ready and the dishes washed. If neither of those had been done, I’m pretty sure little Ruth would still be sleeping soundly in my belly to this day.
After asking R to please clean the toilets & tubs (Yes. That was second priority after lemonade), I asked him to go to Walmart for some bagels & donuts. All the meals had to be covered for the party that was coming over. You know, because I seriously thought we were going to play Charades and Twister, y’all. And you just can’t get a good left hand on a red dot without donuts in you.
When R returned home about an hour later, I was on hands and knees with my head on the couch. Things were progressing, but it was short and bearable. That position just felt the best. That, and rocking in the chair.
[Side note] I never, ever, ever, ever, ever thought there would be a photo of me in my undies posted on this darn blog. I guess you should never say never (ever, ever, ever, ever.)
At this point, we figured we may as well start timing the contractions, but didn’t know the rules. So yes, we googled it. And it was about this time that I figured out I was a moaner. I always imagined how I’d labor.. would I be quiet or loud? Stationary or mobile? A sailor or saint? Well now I know. I’m a loud, mobile sailor.
A couple of hours later things were really starting to pick up and R was running back and forth filling up the tub with pots of boiling water, trying to get the right temp. He was also keeping track of the contractions. One disastrous time, he asked, “Did the contraction start?” This really annoyed me. Didn’t I just start moaning, or was that not big enough of a clue. So I snapped, “Figure it out.”
R got scared then. We remember Janessa saying, “When she starts snapping at you, I should be there.” At the time, we joked that she should come to our house right then. But this was my first growl during the labor and R did figure it out. That he shouldn’t talk to me anymore.
The contractions started coming less than 5 minutes apart and then steadily closer and closer. We had called Janessa about an hour earlier (around 8:30am) and he held up the phone so she could hear how I sounded. She and I talked and I remember not caring about silences in the conversation. That was a signal that something was happening. I always care about silences. She said she’d take a shower and be there afterwards. Remember, she had just gotten home around 4am from another birth. I just can’t imagine the exhaustion. I’m so grateful, though, because I’m sure if I were in the hospital I’d get whoever was on call, not necessarily the OB with whom I’d built a relationship.
So it’s now around 10am and Janessa still hadn’t arrived. R was getting really nervous. The contractions were seemingly right after one another, I’d get a quick breath, and then pow! There came another. I’d waffle between laying my head on the edge of the pool, or laying back on my elbows, propping up my back and swaying from side to side. The feel of the water across my belly was soothing. In between breathing through the contractions in order to keep me from tensing up, I was now moaning really loudly and deeply. Janessa’s voice kept coming back to me (If your lips above are loose, so will your lips below be.) TMI? Just wait, it gets better.
After hearing those moans, R thought that the baby was imminent and called Janessa to let her know we’d be going to the hospital if she wasn’t here soon. He was panicking. Just as he left the message, she called and said “Getting anxious?” and that she had just pulled into the drive.
He breathed a sigh of relief as she and her apprentice, Dana, swooped in and immediately got to work. You just feel the competence as they worked around you, that was one of the reasons we decided to go through her. Not just because of glowing recommendations, but in that first conversation with her. We asked all the normal “Who would ever be crazy enough to have a home birth” questions. She answered them in such detail that calmed us immediately.
And that’s how it was for R when she came. Instant relief. They said he was running around like a hummingbird, but finally started to settle down and focus on me. I was wrapped up in my own little world at this time, but their presence made me feel better too. Partly so I could know how I was progressing.
She checked the baby’s heartbeat (sounded great!) and then me. I was at a 7 and she said, You’re gonna have this baby, mama! Crapola, I was farther than I thought.
After hearing both of these things, R forgot cardinal rule #1 and said, “Oh Carrie, Did you hear that? You’re doing great!”
I looked at him and said something which I will deny having said until the end of time. I do not remember saying it and if I did, I’ve already apologized to R and am quite embarrassed.
A sailor’s n da haaayouse!
But R didn’t get his feelings hurt and went back to holding my head and blowing on my forehead. Silently.
Out the window, I heard my parents arrive in their RV (aka: the waiting room. However, I’m sure our neighbors thought we were just adding onto the shack. “Oh, look Henry. They’re building a wing to their shack. How lovely”) My mom was originally going to be in the room with us, but at this point I did not want any new people around me. We four had already gotten into a rhythm that I was afraid to mess with. R went out to tell break the news to her, but mom immediately understood. We can always count on that… her understanding.
I was unaware that R had even left, but he quickly came back (after moving his car because my dad had to park the RV in his spot?? Poor R. He runs out there and is immediately ordered about. Nevermind that his wife’s in labor. I guess bossiness is genetic.)
The only time R could talk without me biting his head off was when he whispered prayers in my ear. I could be in the middle of a strong one and just hearing him pray for me gave me more strength than I thought I had. It was wonderful.
After a prayer, I changed positions onto my hands and knees and apologized to Dana for her having to stare at my butt. She joked that I had a nice butt, but that she wasn’t checking me out. I just stared at her.
Didn’t even laugh.
In my head I even said, “For God’s sake, Carrie, at least smile!” But I just couldn’t. And she hurriedly said, “Just kidding.”
Being a good hostess – fail.
I don’t care if you’re edging on 9cm, you always laugh at your guests jokes.
At 11:30am I started getting the urge to push. At least I thought it was an urge to push. I couldn’t tell if I just wanted to push for push’s sake or if my body was telling me to. So Janessa measured me again and sure enough I was at a 10 and that I was fully dilated. If it feels right, start pushing, mama!
Yes, that’s what I said. And I own that one, at least. I couldn’t believe I had made it to the pushing stage. It was like I had already won. At one point during the transition part of labor (when you’re going from 7 to 10cm), I begged someone to tell me when this would be over. Dana grabbed my hand and reminded me that it was the shortest, but most intense part. It wasn’t going to last as long as the first two stages.
So hearing that I could now do something besides simply enduring…. You bet I dropped the F-bomb.
And thus begins the idealistic thought process of how long I thought it would take to push this little baby out. I swear, when I was with my sister in the delivery room, it took her 2 grunts, three pushes, and out came baby. So I figured it would be the same for me. Nope, talk about 2 hours.
For the first sixty minutes, I started off on my elbows in the water, then on my hands and knees. Throughout it all, the baby’s heartbeat was good. But it was just moving very slowly through the canal. Janessa asked me to put my hand inside (sorry folks!) and feel the baby’s head. I said No. She asked again for me to do it , so I did and felt a nerf football. No joke! But it didn’t really motivate me, which is what I think she was going for, because it still felt way up there (to me). Apparently I don’t have a good idea of how long my canal is. Note to self: measure birth canal before going into labor.
She then suggested that I squat while hanging onto R’s shoulders as this would help push the baby through the canal. I was so physically tired at this point, that it was hard for me to keep my balance. R held me in place (and later complained that his shoulders hurt. Oh sorry, honey. You deserve a massage. You know, because you didn’t go through labor?) So I’d switch between squatting and leaning back on my elbows again.
She then told me to stand up and hang onto R. My legs were shaky and I felt like I was going to fall down if R wasn’t there. I wanted to go back onto my elbows, but if Janessa thought this would bring the baby quicker, I wasn’t about to argue.
After 30 minutes of squatting and standing, we moved to the bed. Janessa took out some olive oil and started to lube me up (sorry!) throughout the rest of the process. At one point, I remember her asking how often we had done the perineal massages. R said, Oh a few times. and she replied, You should’ve done it more. Too late, woman! But that did worry me. I’ve been hardly able to say the ‘T’ word throughout this whole pregnancy. (Tear – as in tearing a piece of paper, or you know, tearing a vagina. I can’t believe I just wrote that. But I’m leaving it.) So hearing her admonish us made me nervous.
The nervousness faded away as soon as they brought out the mirror. What the.
Dana asked me to look in the mirror. I said, No. She waited a few seconds and then calmly said I really think you should look in the mirror, Carolyn in her baby/pregnant woman whisperer voice. So I relented and looked and could just barely see the head emerging. It was getting close. R was holding my hand, Janessa was still lubing me up, and Dana was sending out her calm vibes. I could feel the baby move forward with each push and heard Janessa say, Don’t rest in between, build on that push!!
When I did rest, I could feel the baby move back up a little. So after feeling that, I’d do a long push, take a quick breath and then push hard again.
After 20 minutes, that darn mirror was pulled out again. I looked into it, and low and behold the head was almost out.
Janessa whispered, “You’re almost there. Baby can hear and sense us. There’s five of us in the room right now. Ease up on the pushing, let the contractions do the work.”
That was hard. I wanted to push hard and get her out fast, but still had to control it so as not to tear. After a few more contractions that I mildly helped along, I gave a final big push and out she came. Immediately I leaned back and closed my eyes. R was ecstatic and kept rubbing my head and telling me how proud he was.
This was our raw reaction to what just happened. I swear I was happy.
When I opened them, Janessa was holding her out for me. I stared at her for what felt like 5 minutes (R later said that he didn’t think I liked her, because I had no expression on my face. I was just tired.) We saw that it was a girl and she was laid on my chest. I leaned back again and closed my eyes, only to open them when R said, “Oh RuthAnn!”
RuthAnn?? That name was ruled out years ago, fella. So I had to remind him that it was Ruth Margaret.
R ran to the RV and gave my parents the news. We heard them yell and clap. (My parents later said that they thought they heard me in labor and then a baby’s cry. Turns out it was the neighbor’s goat. Thanks.) He then called his parents and his voice cracked when giving them the news. Everyone started to come over and tailgate by the RV as we were getting cleaned up.
Baby was weighed and measured (8 lbs, 20 inches) and I was given some herbs to take because I was bleeding a bit too much. I did not need stitches though, so I considered that a win, but I did lose enough blood that standing up made me dizzy. The herbal bath that mom & baby get to take would have to be on hold for the next night. (We want to do this bath again. Ruth just unfolded into the water and swayed back and forth. I think that might have been the first time I squealed at our new friend.)
After about an hour, the family started filing in and thus begins the series of scary photographs of me in my wrinkled t-shirt.
Well, you made it through this story. That was probably as difficult as labor itself. But I do have one more thing to mention to those who read about my previous fear of not having enough time to, well, groom…
I couldn’t care less about shaving my legs/bikini line. Take that, razor. And my apologies to R, Dana, & Janessa.