Thursday, September 27, 2012

R's birth - Our amazing home birth

I have to warn you, this is long. It's one of my favourite and proudest posts yet...

My estimated due date was Sunday, May 27th. I had two weeks off work prior to this date in vacation time with a number of things I still needed to do like pick up all of my home birth and postpartum supplies.  I had a midwife appointment on Thursday and they were surprised baby was still cooking!

My youngest sister, M, arrived on Tuesday with plans to stay for a week to help me prepare, attend the birth and help out once baby arrived. M had returned from India just a few weeks prior from an intensive international yoga teacher training program. It was awesome talking through what I had learned so far from my prenatal yoga classes and now having my very own private instructor. M also came prepared with books on prenatal yoga and was even reading through The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin!

Although it had been weeks since I hit that mental readiness for birth, it wasn't until Wednesday that I felt mentally ready for a new baby in the house. All the supplies were finally ready. The following few days were spent doing the extra and day to day things to keep busy. On Friday, M and I did some baking to stock the freezer, I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed floors, we mowed and raked the lawn and ended the night off with a dance party in the living room with E. We had finished the lawn right before it started raining and I mentioned on Twitter that with a storm rolling in, it felt like the perfect night for a birth. I went to bed early, around 9pm, exhausted from a busy day. Before I fell asleep I texted Hubby (who was attending a work related dinner and social that night) to ask him what time he was expecting to be home (and also to make sure he had his phones near by). He said he would be home by midnight. Getting a hold of him was the only stress I had leading up to this birth and for that reason I had a strong feeling that I would go into labour on the weekend when he was home with me, just like it started for E's birth. He had both his work and personal cell phone on him and was quick to answer.

At 11:45pm I woke up. I went to the bathroom and realized I was having contractions. I grabbed my phone and started timing them with a contraction timing app called "Full Term". They were sporadic -coming every 2-6 minutes and lasting anywhere between 20 seconds to 1 minute long. Not intense at all. I waited until I had a few to make sure this was it and texted and called Hubby. He was already getting ready to head home. I don't think this was a coincidence at all. My body knew what time to start.

My system flushed itself out (again - my body was getting ready!) and I noticed a slow leak of my waters with some bloody show. I had a nice relaxing shower and I put on the clothes I had set aside for the birth - a sports bra and bathing suit bottoms and some comfy clothing over top. When Hubby arrived we went downstairs to get the tub ready and wake my sister. I quietly told M, "It's time", and she said she also had a feeling that tonight would be the night. We blew up the birthing tub and since I could feel my contractions gradually getting stronger we decided to also start filling it with water. 

M helped create my ideal birthing environment.  We dimmed the lights in our living and dining room (the tub was set up between the two rooms). She lit candles and turned on her peaceful yoga music cds - the same ones we had practiced yoga with leading up to this day. M made me a snack to help fuel my body for the marathon ahead - peanut butter on toast and a cup of tea, and when she felt she was prepared and looking for her next task I asked her to bake a Groaning Cake that we had gathered ingredients for earlier that week. I rubbed some lavender oil on my skin and added a few drops to the birthing pool to add to the relaxation.  I also had a glass of water with a few drops of Rescue Remedy to ward off any anxieties or stress. When we were all just relaxing with the excitement of this birth upon us I also found the time to text my closest friends and family, "Let's get this party started!".

During my contractions (better yet, "waves" as per my Hypnobirthing training), Hubby supported me by doing the "Double-Hip Squeeze".  This was a technique we had practiced and it was similar to the deep lower back massages he gave me during E's birth.  I had learned about this technique earlier in my pregnancy and was excited to put it to use. It was amazing - such relief!

Around 2-2:30am my other younger sister, R, arrived, whom I had called when labour started.  R and I had chatted about her role in caring for E when she agreed to attend the birth weeks earlier, but since it was the middle of the night and E was sound asleep she stayed close to help where needed. We laugh now about her abrupt arrival (after driving 2 hours to get here in the middle of the night) and how she was thrown in to the situation a little caught off guard.

At this time my waves were becoming much stronger and I could no longer talk through them.  When each new one arrived I used the end of our dining room table to lean over while Hubby massaged and squeezed my lower back and hips. He hadn't missed a single one and stayed close by. During the waves I made sure to keep a strong wide stance to encourage the baby to descend. I also used my visualization practice to visualize the baby coming down.  I relaxed my face and body and focused on steady breathing and lastly I practiced a low humming like moan to help calm my body. I am proud of myself for keeping with these motions for each and every wave. I was completely focused for each one. In between waves, M would remind me to return to my breathing and to take deep breaths. It was amazing having her there to remind me.

Hubby asked me a few times if we should call our midwife, but I declined each time telling him that I was not seeing a set pattern yet in the timing of my waves.  I think he was becoming anxious around 4am when he asked me again.  I took a look back (on my phone app) and realized that yes, now was a good time to call! My waves had been coming every 5-6 minutes and were lasting 45-55 seconds (the golden rule was to call when they were 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long). I was hesitant to call my midwife, P, because it was the middle of the night and I didn't want to wake her, but I went ahead and paged her.

P quickly returned my call and I told her my status. Our conversation is still so very ingrained in my mind and makes me laugh now.

P: Okay, Alicia. Tell me what's going on.
Me: Well I've been up since midnight and my contractions seem to be coming now every 5-6 minutes and lasting anywhere between 45-55 seconds. Just one moment, P, I'm having one now.
*Puts phone down on table. Assumes leaning position, wide stance, visualization, humming/moaning loudly. When wave finishes, picks phone back up.
Me: Yeah, so what do you think?
P: Alicia, I'm on my way.

This is where I realized that I was really close. I had been so focused on taking each wave at a time, that it was suddenly 4am and the baby was almost here! I suddenly had two waves on top of one another that lasted three minutes with only a split second to prepare for the next one. Soon after I felt the urge to get in to the water, but I made myself wait until P arrived. I didn't want to have to get back out of the pool for an examination if needed. At this time, I also asked my sister to call our birth photographer to come quickly.

When P arrived at 4:25am she asked to examine me. We set up on the living room floor where I felt the most comfortable with space around me.  While she was almost ready I felt a wave coming, so I quickly flipped myself over and assumed the child's pose (yoga pose). It was the one and only wave that Hubby didn't get a chance to assist me through and it was intense. P then did a quick cervical check and told me I was 8cm dilated and full effaced. My membranes were absent and she noticed that I had a slow leak through the evening. Wow! She asked me if I wanted to get in to the tub and I quickly got in.

As I was so focused and not paying to attention to what was happening around me, I did not hear the quiet phone conversation my sisters told me P had with my second midwife. She called her to come immediately but obviously did not want to cause a panic in the room so she sternly told my second midwife, S, that I was progressing quickly and that she should get on the road.  We giggled later, because it was a very polite way of saying, Get Here Now!

Throughout the next 30 minutes I was having very intense waves while I stayed on my knees, leaning on the side of the birthing pool. Hubby sat on the other side of the pool behind me, still assisting me throughout. The water felt amazing on my body. The pressure eased and I felt much calmer. My support team stood by, letting me do my thing, never interrupting, never telling me what to do. My sister M, refilled my water bottle time and time again as I chugged it back and replaced a cool cloth on my forehead after each wave passed. Around 4:55am both my second midwife, S, and my birth photographer, D, arrived and quickly set up. I started feeling the urge to bear down and P could tell by my sounds. She asked me how I was feeling and I told her just that. She encouraged me and told me I was doing a great job. I felt empowered.

Through the next few waves I let me body bear down and I tried my best to breathe through it. Something I was hoping to do for this birth was to focus on breathing the baby out rather than pushing, but the urge to push was much too strong.  At this point I realized E was still sleeping and since we had prepared him to be at the birth, I called out to my sister to get him. I stayed in the same position kneeling and leaning forwards for the first few pushes. P monitored the baby's heart rate and had a small mirror under the water to see what was going on.  After my next wave she told me the baby's heart rate was slightly elevating because she believed I was squeezing his head in my current position.  She asked me to lean back in to Hubby's arms and to try to push in this new position. I resisted at first because I felt so comfortable where I was, but Hubby helped me lean back and I felt much more open to push there, with Hubby supporting my body in his arms.  After only a couple pushes I felt that beautiful burning ring of fire and pushed the baby's head out. What a relief! I relaxed and when I was ready and with some coaching from P, I then pushed baby's shoulders out. With one quickly swoop from Paula's arms, our baby was placed in my arms! May 26, 2012 - 5:05am.

Birth Photography by Danielle Lynn Photography

I can not even begin to explain my feeling at that moment. Relief. Bliss. Thankfulness! P and S rubbed baby, covering his skin with blankets. He took what seemed like forever to take his first breath but when he did he was loud and clear.  We sat there in bliss for a few minutes until finally someone asked what sex of the baby was. Oh yeah! P checked and announced, IT'S A BOY! I'm pretty sure Hubby did a fist pump behind me.

We relaxed in the tub for the next five minutes and P showed me when the umbilical cord stopped pulsing. We then decided to cut the cord, which Hubby completed and we sat in the tub a little longer, soaking up our little miracle. Then our baby boy was passed to M while P and Hubby assisted me out of the tub and on our blanket covered living room floor.

I birthed the placenta within the next five minutes and I held our baby boy skin to skin in front of our fire place. It was amazing to lay back and relax and feel the warm heat in front of the fire. S showed me the placenta which was really cool to see and bagged it up to put it in our freezer. She then assisted me in breastfeeding and once I was ready both midwives attended to my small tear with a few stitches. I moved to the couch after this and P went home after congratulating me and telling me how awesome I was (turns out she had been running on just a few hours of sleep after attending another birth all day). E was tired and groggy and finally came around to check out his new brother. He was pretty quiet and fell asleep with Hubby on the couch. Our birth photographer, D, was like a fly on the wall and snapped away. S tended to our baby, weighing and measuring him (8 lbs even, 20.5 inches) and doing the normal newborn screenings. She assisted my sisters in cleaning up and M served us all some groaning cake (I ate three pieces!).

I kept commenting on how fast my labour went even though I was expecting a quick labour again. I know that my preparations and focus helped immensely. Not once did I think I couldn't do it. Not once did I tense up. Not once did I lose focus. Having a home birth was the best decision I ever made and I couldn't have planned it better myself (thanks for cooperating baby R!). I feel extremely blessed for the amazing support team I had with me that day.

Hubby and S assisted me upstairs and we put some cartoons on for E and all snuggled in our king-sized bed. Soon enough all three boys - Hubby, E and new baby R - were snoring and I stayed awake, still high on adrenaline, staring at my beautiful little miracle. And so our life as a family of four began...

Snuggled in our bed only hours old.


  1. Beautiful story & beautifully gentle welcome for your new son! Thanks for sharing it with us birth junkies :)

  2. Love your story.. It reminds me very much of my own with my daughter (now 7 months old). We opted for a birth center since this was our first child.. I'm considering a home birth for #2. Never heard about the groaning cake but when we took our birth class, the instructor spoke about having your 'labor project,' something that you work on during your labor to help pass the time. My labor also had started at midnight (Penelope was born at 8:40a) so I would call that a relatively quick labor.. If I had time on my hands, I probably would have baked a cake too. :)
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Beautiful!! Love the story - and love to hear that E was OK being there. This has been our "big worry" all along. If it's the middle of the night, my argument is that we shouldn't disturb her and let her sleep. And if she wakes up, well....we'll just figure out what to do and see how she's reacting to everything. Hubby thinks we should just wake her up and get her out of the house, but I think it would be really traumatic for me and her (given that the person she's most comfortable with is my mother, who lives a 4 hour drive away). You and I should chat and you can help me decide what to do, lol :)

  4. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing.