(by Lizz Pugh, about the birth of Haven Lea, born 12.24.07)
After a scary post-Thanksgiving hospital visit I decided to look into having a homebirth. I was 37 weeks pregnant when I interviewed Christina Holmes, LM. She had such a calming presence and charming personality that I decided to ask her to be my midwife.
My due date fell on a Sunday. Friday night everything happened very quickly. Contractions came very close together. I called both Christina and my best friend Allison. My cervix was dilating, I had "bloody show"; this was it!
My labor started petering out and by five in the morning had completely subsided. I was horribly disappointed. We had tried for almost three years before I was able to conceive. I had hated being pregnant. It was time to hold my precious baby girl! Now!
Allison and Christina headed home and I got some much needed sleep. I was very thankful that I had chosen a midwife. It is likely I would have been persuaded to take medicine to progress my labor.
Saturday and then Sunday (my due date) passed slowly.
The clock was just past midnight on Christmas Eve (Monday) when the worst pain of my life started. It was such a contrast to the earlier labor that I couldn't even breath. I screamed. It was so bad that I threw up several times. My husband called Christina and Allison. I was panicking. I head read that women often vomit during transition and I was convinced that the baby would come before my helpers could get here. Turns out that transition would be hours and hours away.
Christina came and helped me labor. The only thing that got me through each contraction was looking at pictures of babies. As long as I could focus on the fact that I'd be holding a baby in my arms--my baby--by "this time tomorrow" I could breath and get through it. I had a brief period of time when I was convinced that I couldn't do it. I wanted to go to the hospital. Christina and Jay talked me through it and I got through it. Breathing more openly helped and made things tolerable. I didn't use any of the breathing I had learned through the SMH classes. I also didn't want to be touched or held. I had Jay's hand in mind and focused on the baby and my breathing.
My hubby went ahead and filled up the pool in our living room. I wasn't allowed into it for a long time. It felt like forever, but was probably a half hour or so. I didn't want a water birth but purchased the supplies just in case I changed my mind. I am so glad I did! I'm also very glad I decided not to have my hubby in the pool with me. While I prepared for the pool I felt a wonderful pressure and knew that my water was going to break. I didn't expect to feel it before it happened. It gave me strength because I knew that no matter what she was going to be born that day. Labor wasn't going to peter out again.
I laid in the pool and stared at the outfit I knew my daughter would wear the next day. It was a green pj outfit with "Elf In Training" embroidered on the front. It was a gift from Allison when she came over for the first labor session. She hadn't called us back or shown up. We figured they had gone to bed and didn't hear the phone. The outfit was more effective than pictures of other babies.
Allison walked in the door just over seven in the morning, minutes after I started pushing. She was such a life saver. My back hurt after every push and Jay just couldn't find the right place to support. Allison had had back labor and knew exactly where to press. Pushing was horrible. I had to push; there was no choice. But man, it felt awful. I got through it, knowing that each push would bring her closer to coming out. Feeling her head really helped as well. Finally, after what felt like a million pushes, she crowned.
If pushing was horrible then crowning was hell on earth. I tore in three places. Minor tears. I can't imagine what some women go through with major tears. It was the worst pain I've ever experienced in my life. "Ring of fire" is an accurate description of what it felt like. I was terrified that my more sensitive parts were going to be torn apart and I'd never find pleasure in sex again. (Thankfully that was not the case!) Eventually the primal part of me took over and pushed through it. I pushed through the fear. I pushed through the pain. It was time for my baby to come out.
We had discussed my birth quite a few times and had decided that Jay would catch our daughter and welcome her into the world. She was placed almost immediately on my chest and I was lost in love. I know that most books tell mothers not to feel bad if they don't feel love at first sight. I was prepared to take a few days to get to know her. I didn't need it. I was head-over-heels in love with her from the moment I held her in my arms. The picture I'm sending with this shows my husband behind me. I didn't know he was there. I was completely unaware of anything but my amazing little bundle of joy.
I was moved into the bedroom and settled on the bed. I waited as long as I could to cut the cord. I had decided that I liked the symbolism of cutting the cord myself rather than having my husband do it. I wanted to welcome her into the world and acknowledge that she is an individual. Having the father cut the cord made it feel more like he was coming between us. It was so much thicker than I had expected.
I delivered the placenta and tried to breastfeed. At some point Haven was taken out of my arms to be weighed and have her hair washed and I had a chance to rest. One of the birth assistants let me look at my placenta. It was one of my favorite moments. It had a strong tree of life. I thanked it for taking such good care of my daughter and for helping her grow so big and strong.
Christina and her helpers stayed for a long while. I was surprised that they drained and sanitized the birthing pool and then scrubbed my bathtub. They cleaned up any blood spots off the floor. They made sure someone fed me and brought me lots of liquids.
I'm very glad I made the choice to birth at home. I felt empowered and surrounded by love and support. I never had to deal with a stranger coming in or being treated as a number. I didn't have to worry about doing things on anyone else's schedule but my daughter's. And while it was the hardest and most painful thing I've ever experienced, I did get through it. And seeing how active and alert my daughter was made it completely worth it. If I had to do it again I'd choose home birth. No questions.