Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A labor of love

Rebecca's birth was a planned water birth at home. As promised, here is the birth story. It is not too graphic or explicit for men or children, although I doubt any of them would be interested in reading this.

As is the case with most home births, two midwives were going to be present. The ones I had chosen were the same that had attended Miriam's birth 20 months ago, Marinah and Connie. Unfortunately, one of them, Marinah, had since moved to Mexico, so our plan was to fly her up here just for the birth. Due to scheduling conflicts, she could only come for 11 days rather than the 2 weeks that I had in mind. Still, since all of our babies had been born within a couple of days of their due dates, we felt confident that I could "make it". In case that didn't work out, there was another midwife we could fall back on as a backup.

Marinah arrived in Phoenix on the evening of the 9th, and both her and Connie came by for a prenatal that night. Nothing much happened for the next week and a half, other than me having lots of contractions at night that would go away again during the day. By the time this last weekend rolled around, I was getting pretty tired from losing so much sleep at night, and also starting to wonder if I would have the baby before Marinah had to fly home again on the morning of the 21st.

At a prenatal this past Friday, the baby had still not descended at all, but I was 60% effaced and dilated to 1 cm. On Saturday, my contractions finally didn't go away during the day, although they did space out quite a bit. They were uncomfortable, but not too much so. I started taking some herbal supplements that would either make the contractions stronger and more regular if this was in fact the "real thing", or make them go away altogether if this was another false alarm.

All Saturday night, I had very painful contractions every 3-5 minutes apart, which I usually only get when I am pretty far advanced. Since Miriam was born within a couple of hours of active labor, and only shortly after the midwives had arrived, I decided to play it safe and called Marinah at 3 AM on Sunday morning. Both her and Connie came out, but much to my dismay I was still only dilated to 1 cm, and the baby still had not engaged at all. I was very, very tired because I had not slept well in a couple of weeks and hardly at all the last two nights. The midwives left all their birth supplies at the house and went home to get some more sleep themselves, while I tried to rest between contractions. I was also very nauseated and had a bad headache at this point, and I think this is when I started throwing up.

I was feeling a little better during the early part of Sunday, although I did stay home from church because my contractions were about 5-10 minutes apart (but milder). By the afternoon, my labor picked up again, with pretty hard contractions every 3-5 minutes. After several hours of this, I called Marinah to come out again at 7 PM on Sunday night. Based on how hard the contractions were, I has hoping I would be dilated to somewhere around 5 cm, but when she checked me I was only 2 cm, almost fully effaced, and baby still not engaged.

At this point, I got extremely discouraged. I had been in what I felt like very active and painful labor for 24 hours, after two weeks of prodromal labor that had left me sleep-deprived, and I was hardly even dilating at all. Worse yet, I had hardly been able to eat anything since Saturday night, and had been throwing up pretty much the whole time since then, mostly bile because that was all I had in my stomach. Worse yet, I found out that Sunday night that Marinah was leaving for Mexico again on Monday morning, not Tuesday as I had wrongly assumed. At this point, going to the hospital and getting every pain medication available sounded like the best thing in the world. In fact, I would have been begging for a C-section because I was so tired and in so much pain, with no end in sight.

Marinah stayed at the house and supported me during this time. At 9:30 PM, she checked me again and I was about 3.5 cm dilated. Though still not much, I started feeling better because I felt that I was at least making some progress. She said she would go out for dinner and be back in one hour to see how things were going. Well, she didn't get back until about 11:30 PM because she had gone all the way to Connie's house to pick her up. When they finally got back, she checked me and I was at 5 cm. This whole time, the contractions had been about the same strength and frequency - every 3-5 minutes and very painful, but manageable because they peaked for only about 10-15 seconds, which I would be counting down. I had been in and out of the birth tub until this point, but stayed there for the rest of this labor from there on out (except to use the bathroom, which I had to do about every 10 minutes). My attitude improved, even though I was still very very nauseated and so tired I was sometimes shaking uncontrollably. I would have a contraction, then throw up violently, and doze off for a couple of minutes before the next one. By around 12:45 am, I was dilated to 7 cm, with the contractions still the same that they had been for about 30 hours at this point. I was fully dilated just 20 minutes later (shortly after 1 am) and felt like pushing, but baby had not had a chance to change its position as quickly as I had dilated. While still painful, the next 20 minutes or so were a sort of "calm before the storm" as I was waiting for the baby to rotate and descend. My bag of waters was still intact at this point. All of a sudden, baby turned during a contraction, and slipped into the birth canal. I could feel the huge difference in position, and started pushing. It only took about 5 minutes (maybe 2 or 3 contractions) until the baby's head was crowning. With one more push, the head was born and the bag of waters broke at the same time. The rest of the baby slipped out moments later with the next contractions. Marinah immediately scooped her up and put her on my abdomen, but the cord was a little short so I had to sit back on my husband's legs (who I had asked to get into the tub to support me during the pushing stage) to be able to hold the baby high enough so the water wasn't covering her face. She gave a couple of little squeaks, and then just started looking around with bright, curious eyes. I was just overwhelmed with gratitude that it was all over, and in a bit of shock because everything had suddenly happened so fast.

The kids had all gone to sleep around 8 PM on Sunday, but Miriam woke up just minutes before the birth. Connie got her from her bed and sat her on my bed next to the birth tub, from where she watched the last few minutes of the birth. She was fascinated and started laughing and pointing when she saw her little sister being pulled out of the water. A few minutes later, Connie woke the three boys and they got to meet their new little sister as well before being tucked back into bed.

During my pregnancy, I was so convinced that this was a girl that I didn't even bother to check for about 10 minutes or so after she was born. Sure enough, it was a girl.

I got out of the tub and got all cleaned up and into bed while Marinah and Connie checked the baby over. Then the midwives fixed some food for me, because I felt absolutely famished and not nauseated any more at all. About an hour after the birth, I cut the baby's cord - a first for me, because my husband had done that with all the other babies. The midwives then cleaned up the house, started the washer, and made sure we were all well and taken care of. They left the house around 4 am, just in time for Marinah to take Connie back home, then go by her parents' house (which is where she had been staying) to grab her bags and have them drive her to the airport, where she had to be by 7 am. It really was a very close call, but she made it onto her flight in time and arrived home safely (and no doubt tired) on Monday evening.

Connie came by for the 1-day checkup on Monday evening and found us both in perfect condition. Other than still being a little tired, I don't feel like I just gave birth at all. I am not sore whatsoever, and even the afterpains and bleeding have been very minimal, which I attribute to the herbs I took in early labor. Of course, I am still going to take it very easy on myself and the baby, and not leave the house at all for at least the next week. My husband and the kids are taking care of all the housework, and thanks to the meals I precooked I won't have to cook for at least 2 weeks, so I pretty much just spend all day in bed resting.

Rebecca is a very alert and content baby. She is awake for hours at a time, but never cries. She loves to look around at all the faces, and as soon as she hears her Daddy's voice she tries to turn her head in that direction. She nurses like a pro, and my milk is already coming in so she is getting plenty of dirty diapers.

All in all, this was a very long and tiring labor, but that was made up for by the fact that the contractions never really got so painful that I could no longer manage them, probably due to the fact that I labored in water (HUGE difference!).

Here are some pictures from the big night:

Connie holding Rebecca, who is meeting Miriam up close for the first time

My husband holding Rebecca

Me cutting her cord

Marinah weighing the baby

Marinah and Connie with Rebecca

Johnny, Rebecca and I in bed together shortly after the birth


  1. What a wonderful story. How exciting to have a new family member.

    God Bless
    You are all in my prayers.


  2. What a wonderful story! I think your story is very empowering to women everywhere. I always wanted a home birth but was unable to because of pre-ecclampsia both times. Congrats again! She is beautiful!

  3. What an amazing blessing!! May God keep her healthy and safe. I am so happy to hear all went well and you are now enjoying your time with your new child.

    Many blessings!

  4. Congratulations on your beautiful baby girl! What a precious blessing!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am so glad that you had your babe at home, I suspect if you had had her at hospital you might have been encouraged to use all sorts of pain relief which would most likely have resulted in a cascade of intervention. I adore that last shot of you with your two children; you look so happy, your daughter looks content and your son looks so proud
    I hope that the breastfeeding continues to go well. As you know it can be tough those first few weeks getting supply established but once that settles in, it's so easy!

  6. I enjoyed reading your story. I can certainly see why you prefer to have your baby at home. Rebecca's siblings got to interact with her more at home. They would have probably be somewhat limited if you had Rebecca at the hospital. Hospital settings can be depressing sometimes. I am sure that you are very thankful to God that everything went well. I loved the picture of John smiling at Rebecca.

    I have some things I'd love to learn. Do Connie and Marinah ever do deliveries at hospitals? One of my friends had three of her children delivered by a midwife at the hospital. This particular midwife only delivers at hospital. Can you please tell me the difference between midwives who only do hospital births and those who do home births? It would be great if you could write a blog on that someday because I am sure that a lot of women who read your blog are probably interested in knowing more information.

  7. Congratulations!! What an awesome birth story. She is precious. You have a beautiful family.
    God Bless

  8. Congrats! She is beautiful.
    I love her name.

  9. Congratulations. Thanks for sharing your story.


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