For those of you who follow my social media accounts you know that just over 6 weeks ago I had my second baby in the comfort of my own home.
I figured it was time to write a more detailed Home Birth Story post, since this birth definitely was a pretty huge deal, the labor itself seemed to drag on forever because of the prodromal labor, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
You may or may not know that with my oldest the first sign of labor was my water breaking at around midnight on his due date. That was a very obvious sign that active labor would start soon, which was not the case this time.
If you are a first time pregnant mama I want you to know that it really isn’t like in the movies where there’s this big dramatic gush of fluid when your water breaks and you have incredibly hard contractions immediately and shout “IT’S TIME!”
I mean…maybe it is like that for some women, but my own experiences and everything I’ve heard from ladies I know, labor is a much slower progression than that. So, just settle in and relax, wait for your body to do it’s thing. I was so impatient this time and feel a little embarrassed about it at this point, but it is what it is.
August 28th 2020, the night before we reached 39 weeks, I was woken up by fairly intense contractions. I had a general sense of “something’s different”. I was shivering pretty bad then I was having some hot flushes and I knew the contractions weren’t braxton hicks, so I began timing them. I was so sure this was “it” that I messaged my mom and sisters that I thought it was time and then tried to get some rest. Eventually I managed to fall back asleep and in the morning my husband called in to work and we waited for baby to make his arrival.
and waited some more.
I had some more contractions off and on throughout the day, we took a walk and just waited…and waited…and WAITED.
This continued on for the next 3 WEEKS, in varying degrees. I would have contractions off and on during the day, they seemed to get more intense when I was showering, but then they would die down again. They seemed to progressively get stronger every few days, to the point of keeping me awake every other night or so.
My husband’s parents came to visit and were planning to stay for around 11 days, hoping to be here for the birth and leave a few days after. They had to reschedule their flight home two different times! we enjoyed having them for so long but I was feeling so upset with my body. I was so done being pregnant, I wanted to just be able to hold my baby and let his grandparents see him and love on him before they needed to return home.
My due date came and went, and the last few mornings I didn’t even want to get up out of bed. My husband was amazing through the whole thing, he had so much patience for me and encouraged me so much, I truly am thankful because I don’t know how I would have handled all of that without him. I was terrified that I wouldn’t go into labor and I would go past 42 weeks and risk out of having a home birth. My husband prayed with me pretty much every night to help me calm down.
We went on multiple hikes, I took hot showers, ate spicy food, bounced on my birth ball, googled all of the “how to make labor happen” tricks, even asked my midwife for a membrane sweep. Nothing “worked”, because my body just apparently needed more time. (in retrospect, it feels like “no duh!” but in the moment I was so desperate that I was ready to try almost any natural induction method I could think of. Aside from castor oil, blech.)
I had spent my whole pregnancy mentally preparing for birth and postpartum. I had everything ready; the pool, my affirmations I had made hung on the wall. Brand new, clean towels and rags sat safe from cat hair in a plastic bin in our room, and I felt mentally prepared to go into labor and birth this baby in our own home and I was excited. I hadn’t even put an ounce of thought into preparing myself mentally for early labor symptoms coming and going, or for going a week over my due date. No, for some naïve reason, I figured this baby would come more or less on time, like his big brother. (Because babies are always predictable, right? *hint* NO)
The worst part about having such prolonged early labor was feeling as though I couldn’t trust my body. I have always been pretty in tune with my body, knowing to listen to what it needs and what was going on, but with prodromal labor I had so many moments where I felt like it could be labor starting, but it wasn’t, so the whole process was pretty emotional. I was SO grumpy the last day leading up to when I went into labor. I had been trying so hard to be patient and to enjoy time with family and just wait for this baby to arrive, but every little thing was starting to get to me. My husband was so patient and I’m very thankful for that. I think I probably apologized about a million times to him for being so snippy that last day.
I kept telling myself it would happen, this baby would be born, I just didn’t know when and I just needed to relax. I wouldn’t be pregnant forever, even though I felt like it. My husband went to work a few days in there, just so he wouldn’t waste all his leave before the birth, and on one of those days my in-laws took my oldest son for a hike and I had a couple hours to myself. My mother-in-law told me it would probably be the last time I’d be completely alone for a long time and to enjoy it. Come to think of it, she was right, that really was the last time I’ve been truly alone.
I took a hot bath, lit some candles, listened to relaxing music and read my Bible. It was exactly what I needed for that moment and I am very thankful. It helped me feel more grounded and sane, which honestly surprised me because I have never been someone who felt like she needed time alone, but maybe that’s changing as I’m aging and especially as this season of motherhood gets even more complex with added children and responsibilities.
Finally, at around 10:30pm on September 13th I couldn’t sleep, again. So, I got up and grabbed my crochet hook and yarn to continue working on the baby hat I had been trying to finish for the last week or so. I’ve crocheted hats before but for whatever reason, this one was giving me fits. I think it was just really intense pregnancy brain so I kept missing stitches or messing them up randomly so I kept needing to start over. Anyway, after maybe half an hour I could no longer crochet through contractions and knew something had changed. I was pretty tired so I got up and went back upstairs to bed so I could hopefully get some sleep until I knew I needed to call the midwives.
Attempting to sleep didn’t last long. My husband, who also couldn’t sleep and had been struggling with insomnia pretty much since the beginning of my prodromal labor, asked me how close together the contractions were and I got out my phone to try timing them again, at this point I was so fed up with trying to time contractions that I pretty much had stopped thinking about it, but these felt different so I knew I needed to. We timed them, as we watched episodes of The Andy Griffith Show with my tablet propped on the bed, and realized they were pretty consistently around 3-4 minutes apart. Definitely time to call the midwives. My husband did that for me since I only had a short break during contractions that I could actually speak.
The midwives immediately got ready and showed up pretty quickly. By this time it was around 1:30 – 2:00am, I believe. They checked me and said I was dilated to 6 and my water was very low and tight so that could break soon. The midwifery team hung out downstairs for the majority of the labor, only coming up to check on me every thirty minutes or so. They told me to let them know if I felt like pushing but other than that to just let my body do it’s thing.
You guys, I can barely put into words how wonderful it was to be allowed to labor how I wanted and needed while also being secure and safe with people who knew when to recognize an issue and what to do in case there was one. I’m still so overwhelmed by how wonderful the entire experience was.
Somehow, I managed to sleep in between contractions while I lay on my side in bed still watching/listening to The Andy Griffith show with my husband beside me, reminding me every so often to breathe when he noticed me holding in my breath during a contraction.
After a while I decided I wanted to labor in the shower, so I got up and made my way to the bathroom. The hot water helped so much with the back labor which was getting more intense and I listened to my birth playlist, singing along when I could and swaying and rocking my hips to help my body open and also to relieve some of the pressure from the contractions. A lot of the songs in my playlist I had added those last few weeks and they happened to be worship songs. I remember finding it funny that most of them had something to do with waves, which I hadn’t intended but was pretty perfect while experiencing contractions washing over me like waves.
I was honestly pretty surprised with how well I could still move and speak between contractions. I felt almost normal, which seemed strange to me, but I was mostly just glad labor was finally really happening.
I returned to bed from the shower and labored on my side a bit longer. Eventually during one of the checks I was told I was 9cm dilated! I was pretty surprised since I didn’t “feel” that far along, but the contractions were getting more intense so I was glad they were doing something. At this point, unbeknownst to me, I was actually closer to 10, but I needed to do a little more thinning (I think I’m using the right term) and she didn’t want me to start pushing too early so she told me 9cm. Clever girl.
I gave my sister who lives only about ten minutes away (the only one in the same state as me) a call and let her know it was baby time! It was around 5am at this point and I was hoping she didn’t need to work that day. She showed up within the next half hour or so and we chatted in between contractions. She stayed with me through the rest of labor and got to see her nephew birthed into the world, it was really special. I’m so glad she could be here.
Anyway, by this point my water still hadn’t broke. I had been given the option for them to break my water for me, since it was really low and pretty much the only thing keeping baby’s head from fully engaging. I had put it off for a bit, hoping my water would break on it’s own but I was getting really tired and I knew if it went too much longer I’d just be even more exhausted by the time it came to pushing so I asked them to break my water. It actually took a few tries because the water bag was so thick but pretty much as soon as my water was broken the contractions were so much more intense. I could no longer lay on my side, and wanted to stand so I stood by my dresser and anytime I had a contraction, I leaned over on my elbows and my husband applied pressure on my lower back to help relieve the pain.
I should probably mention, the whole pregnancy I had been planning a water birth. We actually had the pool inflated for nearly a week in preparation for birth. But as labor progressed I decided I didn’t want the birth in the pool, I wanted to be standing or maybe laying on my side on my bed. But as the contractions grew stronger I just knew I did not want to be sitting down at all, once I told the midwives how I was feeling they said to follow my instincts and listen to my body. So we packed up the pool.
Within about 20 minutes of my water’s being broken I felt the urge to push. I told my midwife during one of their checks that I was pretty sure I was feeling the urge to push and she told me to go ahead and follow my body’s lead. At this point, I had two midwives and the assistant midwife there with me. I hadn’t expected all three, but it was wonderful to have their support along with my husband, sister, my five year old and my in-laws. At this point, the contractions were so strong that I really wasn’t super aware of who all was there in the room with me, I had a general sense of things going on, but I could barely open my eyes because if I wasn’t concentrating and breathing/moaning through a contraction I was resting for that tiny little break between them. I remember between contractions toward the end I felt my husband hugging me from behind, lips pressed close to my ear telling me how amazing I was doing and encouraging me to keep going.
With the next few contractions I felt my body begin to push and I bore down. I breathed into it, legs wide and sinking into more of a squatting position with each one. The contractions were so intense, I vividly remember the quick transition of my thoughts ranging between “Oh God, why am I doing this?”, “it’s so not (effing) “pressure” it’s PAIN, WHY AM I DOING THIS? there are drugs for a reason!” and “This is my last baby, I’m never doing this again!”
I was making loud guttural moaning sounds that I had no idea I was capable of. Breathing deeply and exhaling with this loud moaning from the back of my throat.
Then it was the second to last push. It felt like his whole body was coming out. I heard them say his head was out and we just needed one more push. That last contraction took forever to arrive, we all waited. I could feel myself start to lose it, not wanting to pain to wash over me again, but also not wanting to stay like this forever, knowing that I HAD to push, just one more giant push. I summoned up my strength and just breathed for that minute or so and as the contraction began to wash over me I bore down. I sank deep into a squat and with the loudest roar I’ve ever managed to bellow out, my son came gushing out with the rest of the water that had apparently been stuck behind him. I reached down and grabbed my baby, his cord was so short I could only hold him at stomach level, and he felt SO heavy! a wave of oxytocin washed over me. Relief that the contractions were gone and that my baby was here, finally, gave me the strength to stumble to the bed and hold my baby.
One thing I hadn’t mentioned yet, was that when the midwife team first arrived, the midwife who checked me asked how big I thought the baby would be, I had told her that I thought he would be around 8lbs, since my older son was only 7lbs 7oz and we hadn’t thought he was especially big during the pregnancy checks. Well, apparently as she was feeling my belly she thought he would be bigger than that, but she kept it to herself so she wouldn’t freak me out. She went downstairs and I guess they were all guessing my baby would be closer to 10lbs. I had no idea of any of this until the day after baby was actually born.
It turned out that she was right, Abraham was 9lbs 9oz (and 21 inches long) of perfect, chunky newborn. He was a whole 2lbs 2oz heavier than his big brother was at birth and about two inches longer.
We waited for the cord to stop pulsing, then my husband cut it and I was finally able to hold my baby up higher on my chest. Everything is very blurry in my memory after that but I’m pretty sure this sequence of events is right: I know I was holding Abraham and laying back on the bed when I birthed the placenta. At some point, my husband took the baby and the midwives helped me change into different clothes. Then I was able lay in bed and nurse him and big brother got to get a closer look at him. It was so special that he had been there to witness his brother enter into the world. He did so great too, just quietly watching from grandma’s arms. My whole pregnancy I had been mentally preparing him as well, he had told me he wanted to see his brother be born, so I had found some birth videos on youtube to watch with him, ones that weren’t overly graphic or traumatizing, just to gauge his reaction and help him understand what actually happens during birth. He was completely fascinated by the entire process and continuously asked me questions. Afterwards he told me “Abraham came out exactly how I expected he would”.
Anyway, the midwives gave us about thirty minutes or so to ourselves before coming back up to check on us and make sure I wasn’t bleeding excessively.
I did bleed a bit more than they were comfortable with and they had a syringe of pitocin ready just in case, but thankfully they didn’t need to use it. The scariest thing that happened was, at one point they helped me up to go to the bathroom and while I was sitting there I passed out, still sitting upright, three times in a row. It was pretty terrifying, I’m not going to lie. I have never passed out before, so it was a new experience for me that I would prefer never to have again. I remember that the second time I came to and everything that had just happened, namely birthing my baby, rushed to the forefront of my memory and I prayed. I asked God to fix whatever was wrong that was causing me to feel faint, to let me be okay so I could take care of my baby and just to keep us healthy. Then everything went black again.
As I came to, I could hear the midwives saying if it happens again they wanted to call an ambulance and someone asked if they should lay me down. I think I remember saying I was okay and asking for water. I breathed deeply and drank some water and thankfully didn’t pass out again. They helped me to bed again and had me eat more and drink a lot more water. The color was returning to my face and they told me it wasn’t completely abnormal for that to happen, and to take it really easy. At one point after this, I vaguely remember that I actually apologized for passing out and scaring them, because I’m weird like that, apologizing for things way out of my control.
I attempted to sleep but I was so anxious I kept jerking awake every time I started to fall asleep, so I asked my husband to pray with me. After that I managed to fall asleep with Abraham beside me sleeping peacefully. After a bit of rest and food, the midwives finally were able to help me to the bathroom again (this time everything went fine and I walked even slower and breathed more deeply) so I could pee and get cleaned up a bit and then they checked me to see if I had torn at all. Amazingly, I hadn’t! a 9lb 9oz baby and I hadn’t torn. We were all amazed. I asked the midwife if maybe it was because of having such a long early labor and they said it could be, but that it was probably because I took my time in labor, didn’t push until I felt my body doing it and my breathing was so good. Apparently all the mental preparation for birth really paid off because it was honestly a fantastic birth experience. I’m still ecstatic that I got to have a home birth, I’d love all my future children to be born at home as well. The environment is just so much nicer to birth in.
I have to say, I really have had fairly easy pregnancies, and so far I’ve been blessed with good deliveries, but I really am not too big of a fan of all the postpartum healing that goes on. I had a few nights of anxiety where I couldn’t fall asleep very well, the balancing hormones, cramping, bleeding, anxiety about bleeding…not very fun. On top of needing to care for a newborn and still be present enough for an older child, it’s rough. I’m just glad I had my husband and in-laws with me the whole time for that first little bit, and that my husband is home every night from work and not having to be away for extended periods of time.
At this point, a bit over 6 weeks postpartum, things are much easier. Aside from being a little more tired, I feel fairly normal again and we are settling into more of a routine and working on homeschool now as well.
We had our 6 week checkup October 26th and Abraham is 13lbs 4oz and 22in long! here are some more recent photos of Abraham:
But even with all the tiredness, the balancing of hormones and the changing of life in general, we are all extremely happy that Abraham is here and smiling at us. A new life is always something to be celebrated and we are grateful.
Welcome to the world, Baby Bramcracker, we’ve been waiting for you.