Planned home birth – second baby

Struggling in the last few weeks of my pregnancy with an insane lack of sleep and major discomfort in my pelvis, my husband, Chris and I finally decided to schedule a membrane sweep at 41 weeks, 5 days. 

We went in to Donna’s, our loved midwife’s, office at 4:45pm on August 20th. My first “stripping” experience with Peyton, two years before when we’d finally made it to 41 weeks, was awful. The first two days were extremely uncomfortable, the third and final sweep – miserable. But this sweep was different. This go around was unbearable our first try. Let’s just say Donna knew what she was doing.

We left the office in high hopes – we were expecting a full moon that night and we’d seen a good amount of discoloured mucus from the stripping. I continued to experience irregular pre-labour contractions, but this was no different than what I’d been feeling for the last several weeks. Donna had instructed us to enjoy a hearty, greasy and/or spicy dinner – so we headed on to Tripps to see my sister, Nicki.

By the time we arrived, almost 2 hours since my sweep, my contractions had become fairly regular (every 7-ish minutes, lasting maybe a minute each), but they were so very minor and manageable, we never began truly timing them. I ordered shrimp and grits, something I’d never choose if not for my circumstance. It was very rich, greasy, and even a little spicy – not my favourite, but I was hoping it’d at least clean me out! We enjoyed our meal with my brother-in-law while Nicki waited on us – it was nice to be around family while we were so hopeful and excited!

Once we’d arrived at home, around 8pm, I was rarely noticing any contractions. I was experiencing a little cramping discomfort from the sweep itself, but I was otherwise discouraged by the normalcy. We put Peyton, our soon to be big sister, to bed and watched a bit of TV before going on to bed around 9:30pm after I’d showered. Rest that night was the same as it’d been, uncomfortable, difficult to fall to sleep, and once I finally did – I of course needed to pee. I was awake at 12:10am, disappointed that I was not yet in labor… until I was just about to hoist my big self onto the bed and I realised this contraction was different.

I grabbed my water, went to stand in the bathroom to wait for another, and then on to the living room to labour alone. I mentioned to Chris on my way out of the room that I really thought this was it, “Sleep while you can!” I don’t know that he was awake enough to believe me. I rested in the recliner for a few contractions before alerting my midwife – I wanted to be very sure of myself if I was waking her in the middle of the night! I did finally text her at 2am, hoping not to wake her, with a short summary; my contractions were coming a bit closer together (every 5-6.5 min) and were feeling much more intense. But I was fine. Coping quite well and resting as much as I could.

I thought often of how much easier this labour was than Peyton’s. I was sure I’d be doing this for awhile, but I was so busy being annoyed with the flickering street lamp, I found it hard to concentrate on much else. I eventually moved myself from the recliner to the loveseat so that I could lie down. I wasn’t uncomfortable in the chair, but I thought I might rest more on my side. I was continuing to cope effortlessly, I thought I should plan to ignore these contractions – surely I would be spending most of the next day in labor. I did have trouble keeping my eyes closed, and so I noticed the flickering even more so from where I was now. I fought with the idea of getting off the couch to close the blinds more tightly, but relaxing felt much better so I allowed the street lamp to be my distraction.

By 4:15am my contractions were crashing over me every 4.5-5 minutes and lasting 60-90 seconds each. I was in and out of the bathroom, somewhat nauseous and noticing an increase in intensity. I decided that it was time to wake Chris. I did not yet need his constant support, but I was feeling a strange sense of urgency to wake him. I called my midwife with an update and she assured me she would be on her way shortly – but I asked her not to come. I was coping so well, I just didn’t want to keep her with me too long if she could be sleeping or with her family. She insisted and I felt relief knowing that I did not have to leave the comfort of my nest. I continued on in the rhythm my baby and I had become familiar with – steady breaths, swaying through contractions – a slow labour dance.

We called my mom as she would be coming to care for Peyton once she woke. She was eager and on her way quickly – with the snacks we had forgotten for our wonderful birth team. Chris became rushed and a bit panicked as he worked with the hose and attachment piece to prepare for the tub my midwife would be bringing. He was frustrated that we had not taken care of these things before, but he was quiet and helpful when I needed him. 

My contractions remained manageable as I settled in to the reality that my baby would be born here, in a place she belongs, surrounded by warmth, familiarity, and love. Very soon after, Peyton surprised me in the hallway outside of her bedroom door. She hugged me gently and stayed with me in my bedroom. Two or three contractions on my hands and knees and Peyton became very curious about what was going on. She talked with me and I loved on her. I felt a calm rush over me, my contractions not nearly as intense as they had been. Peyton assured me she could help. She ran to her room and came back with her favourite baby doll and pillow. She gave her pillow to me, “I help you Mommy”.

I had a couple of minor contractions after that, with Peyton by my side. I started to feel worried that I had called my midwife unnecessarily – my contractions were fading. Surely this was false labour. With that worry, I realised Donna had arrived (at 5:50am). A light contraction came over me and I assumed my favoured hands and knees position. Donna was by my side immediately, her first words, “Good work Momma. You are so capable.” And I felt peace. Thank you God for our midwife. Thank you God that we are comfortable at home.

Donna asked me to lie down on my bedroom floor after my contraction, if I was ready for a cervical check. I wasn’t curious, but I was happy to be in her care. She said with confidence, “Good. 8-9cm…” I will never forget the uncertainty I felt with her words. I loved my midwife, I trusted her… but why was she lying to me?! I couldn’t understand. And I couldn’t be happy about this finding. Labour was not difficult enough for me to have made it to 8cm. I had not yet felt the discomfort I experienced even when we left for the birth centre during our first labour.

Now, looking back on our birth story, I realise just how obvious it was that I was in transition during the time Donna and her nurse assistant, Megan, arrived. My contractions had spaced out a bit, I was feeling very unsure of myself and lacking confidence in my birth team – even if only briefly. After my cervical check, Donna and Megan asked me to labour in my living room while they set up the birth tub. I thought it was a bit early for that, but I was also a bit excited. Chris and I settled in the living room just before 6:30am and I noticed Peyton was happy to be with my mom at the recliner. Our background music was Daniel Tiger, my daughter’s favourite TV show she watched only during special occasions.

I was delighted by the normalcy and continued to labor on my hands and knees. Rather suddenly, my comfort came in Chris applying pressure to my lower back. I also began to cope with my contractions in the knee chest position, rocking and moaning deeply – but feeling so relaxed and in control of myself. I was so reassured by my husband’s warm hands and the bit of humour he provided between contractions.

At 6:45am my midwife returned to me and asked me to sit on her birth stool during my next contraction. I was happy to try the new position, but also concerned about my ability to endure the discomfort outside of my most loved position. With that next contraction, I regained confidence in myself and my midwife. She asked that I apply a bit of downward pressure during the coming contraction – I was hesitant, but anxious to move forward. That second contraction was much more uncomfortable and I didn’t want to do another like it, so I asked to move to the tub.

The birth pool was amazing. Just as I remembered with Peyton, only better. The lights were dim, the water was deeper, the people surrounding me where quiet and peaceful, my husband offered a new security with his fearlessness. At 7:15am I began bearing down during my contractions in the water. I was not feeling any urge to push, but my midwife had given me the “go” as I was fully dilated and effaced. The downward pressure wasn’t so much relieving, but it felt nice to actively participate during each contraction. The room became a bit louder. I was calm and focused within myself. Resting between each contraction and beginning to push with intention during each surge. My legs were supported by the pool and my team, my back against the pool. My water broke on it’s own at 8:05am and I was fully expecting the “cushion” of water to be gone, causing more pain – perhaps even the sensation I needed to feel like pushing. But even still, there was no overwhelming urge to push.

My birth team was encouraging me to push longer, with more strength, lower. I was feeling discouraged – I was doing all of those things! Even still, with every push, I was praised. My husband joined me in the water so that he could support me as I tried a new pushing position on the stool. I was having trouble staying focused as the birthing mom. I was becoming more curious as a doula – why wasn’t there more progress? Why wasn’t I feeling that my pushes were effective?

With another contraction and more “give it all you’ve got” coaching, I finally exclaimed “She’s stuck! I am pushing!” And they encouraged me. At 8:30am, Donna suggested that I rid myself of the birth stool and squat in the water with Chris’ support. And so I did, but it hurt, and I said again repetitively but very quietly, “She’s stuck. I can’t do it. Why is she stuck? The baby is stuck.”

Donna lovingly and with great assertiveness told me that it was time to get on the bed at 8:33am. And that was the most torturous few moments of my entire experience. This baby was so uncomfortably low in the birth canal. I needed a good bit of help getting to our bed, which was only a short distance from me, and especially up on the bed. Chris hurried to change, and after one contraction at the bed, Donna begged him to move more quickly. My midwife expertly moved me to my side, the left side that my baby had nestled in to during the later part of my pregnancy, so that I could apply pressure on her just a bit as I rested between contractions. During contractions, we moved so quickly to a reclined position still somewhat on my left side. My lover supported my back and both my nurse and midwife helped me to hold my legs as I pushed my baby down the birth canal.

In only three contractions on our bed, my baby, Harlowe Nicole, was born at 8:45am. I birthed my baby at home, where I was most comfortable and she was surrounded by love. My initial reaction was shock. For so many reasons – one being that she was just so big. And she looked nothing like my Peyton, but so much like my Uncle and my Papa. She was her very own person. And she was warm, and soft, and so content on my chest. Ah, love.

I began to shake with the hormones that came over me like a wave. My placenta (that we would keep for encapsulation) was delivered very shortly after Harlowe was earth side. I needed some minor care to control my bleeding and repair my birth wounds. My squishy baby remained with me while my midwife skillfully and carefully tended to my needs. My husband wrapped me in a warm blanket and admired his new baby. 

We made great effort to initiate breastfeeding and finally at 9:12am we achieved our first latch. Harlowe proved to be most content on my chest, skin-to-skin with me nearest my heartbeat. And so there she stayed. At 9:40am I was sitting upright with my baby, eating the most wonderful infamous cheesy eggs prepared with love by my midwife. Only my husband and daughters were with me for some time. Peyton loved on her new baby sister. She was intrigued and so gentle with her. She sat with me for a bit just watching us together. I loved on her, my newly big girl, and admired her. I was so proud.

Harlowe was weighed and measured at 10:30am. She was 10lbs 2oz (no wonder I thought she was stuck!) and 23 inches tall! She returned to me quickly, and calmed on my chest almost immediately, though she offered very little fuss with Donna. Donna and Megan worked like home birth fairies (They cleaned everything and even started a load of laundry for me!) while we visited briefly with my mom, Granny and Papa, and Chris’ parents.

We could not stop singing the praises of our birth team. Chris and I were so appreciative of their care and attention to our desires. The few stresses we had in our first birth experience were non existent now – and we kept comfy at home with our family.

I can hardly wait to experience this again.

Birth Wise