The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:3On Saturday, two days after my membranes were stripped, nine days after my due date, one day before my next scheduled midwife appointment, and two days before my deadline to have a homebirth, I started having contractions. They were real contractions this time. Only I didn’t know it – didn’t believe it – didn’t want to get excited in case they were *just* Braxton-Hicks….again. There had been periods in the past few weeks where the contractions had been fairly regular – just never progressed. And each time, I would wonder, ‘is this it’? Only – it never was.
This day, however, I started contracting early on. I remember waking up wondering – ‘is this it’ and thought maybe I should take it easy today, just in case. I think I even took a late morning nap – just in case . The contractions were no more intense or regular than they had been. I guess the only difference is that they kept coming – all day long.
As evening commenced, I asked Scott to go for a walk with me. I think we managed 3 laps in 30 minutes. We came home and my Mom gave me a reflexology massage on my feet. When it was time for Rebecca to go to bed, I layed down with her and thought – ‘hmmm, these are coming a bit more regularly and a bit stronger, hmmmm’ . When I came back downstairs, I thought maybe I should keep record to see what’s really happening. This was about 9:30pm and by 10:30pm, they were anywhere between 3 – 5 minutes apart. But still – I refused to believe it was really happening. They weren’t very intense, I was managing just fine by myself, breathing easily. I called Jo and Faith to let them know it may happen and then texted Emma. Just in case.
I took a shower and tried to sleep. I couldn’t sleep. Everyone else was sleeping.
So I got up, got out the birthing ball, sat myself down and watched TV. I remembered that Emma had left her TENS machine with me, so I found it and attached it to my back. That actually helped relieve some of the pain. At 1:00am, instinct kicked in and I must have realized that this was real. I woke up my Mom, told her we needed to call Emma. Apparently – I was past the point of doing it myself – Mom took one look at me and realized we also needed to call Jo and Faith. She woke Scott up, who woke up Rebecca and a mad dash ensued. We had to pack the car and get over to Faith’s house. Thankfully she lives 5 minutes away. During this whole time, I sat motionless on the birthing ball – focusing on the contractions that were suddenly intense and very real. I remember Scott telling me it was okay to moan or groan through them and realizing that was very comforting and helpful. He says when he called Jo at this point, the contractions were about 2 minutes apart.
All of a sudden, the car was packed with homebirth essentials like towels, sheets, shower curtains (for waterproofing), cameras, baby essentials, labor necklace and book, etc. Mom and Rebecca were also in the car waiting. Scott was running through the house making sure he got everything and then when he was done, he came over to me while I was in the middle of a contraction and said, “Okay, that’s enough! We have got to go!” I could not believe he said that to me – I was furious. Later- he would say he meant that was enough stuff to pack and take with us – where I thought he meant that was enough of me sitting through contractions.
Faith met us at the door – I felt so bad waking her and Todd up – but she was happy and so excited. I promptly found my spot on the birthing ball in the living room. Everyone else was flitting around, unpacking, getting settled – I was only focused on the increasingly intense contractions. Shortly after we got there, Emma and then Jo arrived. I was relieved to see Emma. As it was, I was unable to listen to anyone else who tried to help me through each contraction. She was able to come to me, get close and talk quietly and gently, reminding me to breathe through each contraction. I was nauseous, so she took some peppermint oil, put some drops on a napkin, and left it under the straps of my shirt. I remember that helping some – and being thankful for it.
The next couple hours are all a blur – Jo arrived and only intervened when I was unable to relax. She was the stronger voice telling me to get a grip when I was forgetting to breathe and relax. However – on a sidenote – for me, at that point, it was impossible to relax! I remember bits and pieces of happenings: Rebecca coming in to check on me, leaving as I was having a contraction, Faith’s perfect presence and prayers relaxing me during the height of a contraction, Scott trying to have a normal conversation on the couch with Faith, and me telling him to ‘shut up’. I didn’t mean it maliciously, but it was all I could muster at the moment. At the time, all of my senses were so heightened, that I couldn’t handle anything extra coming into my presence. While still pregnant, I remember talking to Emma, my mom, Faith, and Scott about what I would like during labor: music, massages, etc. – but what happened was I needed silence, no touching me at all (Emma was able to help me from time to time by helping me relax my shoulders) and darkness – I could barely manage to open my eyes. I wasn’t hungry at all and barely wanted anything to drink. Anything extra in the room I was in was too much for me to handle. Scott carrying on a normal conversation – as if he was oblivious to my pain – while I was in the middle of labor – most likely transition – was unbearable.
During all this time – everyone was attempting to get the birthing pool ready. Jo had brought it in and it was blown up – but a liner had to be put in it and it had to be filled. My mom, Scott, Todd, Rebecca, and maybe at times, Jo and Faith – all helped put it together. Originally, there was an issue with finding the proper liner and how to put it on. And then, it was an issue filling it up. There was not a dual hot/water nozzle that fit the hose – so they had to use the separate hot and cold water from the laundry room sink. So – the water was at first too hot, then too cold, then too full, then they ended up removing some water with buckets and reheating water on the stove to make it warm again. I kept asking Jo when I could get in the pool and she said it wasn’t ready or it was too cold. I told her at one point that I was okay if it was cold, b/c at the time, I was awfully hot and thought the cool water would soothe me. She replied that it wasn’t safe for the baby and would be too much of a shock for him if he was birthed into cool water. I understood, but I was frustrated.
About this time, I had all these internal thoughts going on…I was really frustrated I couldn’t get in the birthing pool, I was very frustrated and angry about how intense and immensely painful the contractions were. I had read in a lot of books that some women were surprised at how painful and intense labor was, and I guess I was surprised, too. I had been living with a certain level of pain all day – and it was completely manageable. I had contractions with Rebecca and didn’t even realize it. Also – I had an epidural with Rebecca at about 6 or so cm – so I these transition contractions were all very new to me.
At any rate, I remember thinking, ‘oh my – how much worse can this get? I am so glad I am not in a hospital b/c I would be asking for an epidural right about now. How much longer is this going to take?’ The more the contractions came, the more frustrated and angrier I got. There was nothing that was helping- I was only comfortable on the birthing ball – sitting still. I could not rock, or get on all fours – I was just uncomfortable anywhere else. Emma tried though – thinking it would help me – I did for one contraction, lean over the couch – but that was worse. And I did try rocking/swaying on the ball, but that didn’t help either.
They kept asking me where my pain was – which I thought was a funny question – in my uterus, of course! The pain was constant in my lower abdomen – thankfully, I had no back labor-whatsoever- the entire labor. This was another prayer God answered. I had thought all along I could handle anything except back labor – I had that with Rebecca and remembered it so well. This time, I didn’t have a single back contraction. I was so grateful for that. Still am, actually.
All this time, the TENS Machine was still hooked up to my back. I guess it was helping – after a while, I forgot it was there. If anything, in the beginning, it helped mask the pain and kept my focus off of the contraction and more on the electrical pulses on my lower back. It came with a nifty button so that when a contraction started, I would press the button and the electricity would go from a flowing current to a more pulsating current. Generally – it feels like ants crawling around on my back – but I could alter the amount and make it stronger, which helped move my focus some.
Every once in a while, I would have fairly long breaks between contractions – perhaps 5 minutes or more – and these were such a nice respite for me. I would sit quietly, eyes closed, and just breathe deeply – reconnecting with my body and baby and wondering when they would start up again.
Around 3:30am – I felt like I had to pee. I had last peed when we got to Faith’s house, which was around 2:00am. Emma encouraged me to try since I kept complaining and also b/c she said it may help with the pressure I was feeling. So – I mustered to get up and went into the toilet. While I sat there – waiting while nothing happened – all of a sudden my body spontaneously pushed. I was like, ‘whoa!’ And promptly got up and went back into the living room where I told Emma and Jo that I was pushing while on the toilet. Jo didn’t seem surprised – but I was b/c I wasn’t feeling this unbearable pushy feeling I had read so much about.
Jo asked if she could examine me so she could make sure I was past 5 cm and ready to get in the pool. (Uh – hello! I was pushing while on the toilet!) This meant having to lie down on the floor – which I was totally adamant against, at the time, b/c as I said – the only comfortable position I could get in was on the ball. But I relented and got down on the floor – but as I did and as my back touched the ground, the pressure on the TENS pads started to shoot insanely intense electrical pulses into my back. I freaked and had them take them off of me! Once they were removed and I was laying down, the contractions started coming one after the other and were extremely hardcore. I was also uncomfortable and frustrated being in this position b/c it reminded me of being in the hospital bed with Rebecca. I couldn’t lay still and kept rolling over to try to alleviate the pain. It was during this time that I lost control – and Emma and Jo had a hard time reeling me back in – but eventually I was able to gain composure and Jo palpitated my stomach and then examined me. While she did this, my water broke – I had completely forgotten that it hadn’t yet broke – and the cervix was gone and Jo could feel the baby’s head come down. I was really glad my water had not broken yet – thinking that the contractions would’ve been more intense if my waters had already gone – but at the same time, was nervous wondering if there was any meconium present. Jo was unsure and quickly took the pad the water had broken on and left to examine it under the bright kitchen lights. She came back and said that yes, there was some present, but it was too late to call for an ambulance or to try to transport to the hospital. I remember being vaguely concerned – as there was quite a bit of thick meconium present with Rebecca – but I couldn’t dwell on that just yet. I had just been given the ‘okay’ to get into the birthing pool.
Once up on my feet – I made it to the dining room where the pool was set up. I climbed in and immediately fell to my knees. I leaned over one edge and held onto Emma’s and Scott’s hands. And then I took a breath. The water was cool, but it did feel good. And as soon as I got into position, it was as if the contractions stopped and I was at peace. I didn’t feel any more pain here on out. I started pushing – not necessarily b/c I felt this strong urge, but simply because I could and because I knew there was a baby on the other end. For one brief moment, I became fearful about not being able to do this part – b/c I wasn’t able to do it with Rebecca and forceps were used – but that moment passed and I carried on with the business at hand.
While pushing, I all of a sudden realized that I had not been given Gas and Air – In England, an alternative pain measure, that is allowed for homebirthing, is 50% nitrus and 50% oxygen. And so, b/c I had been told I could have it, I asked for it! Jo laughed and said it was too late, I was already pushing! At the time, I realize it was funny – and I didn’t need it anyway – but I felt duped b/c I did need it just a little while ago. I wish someone had reminded me that I could’ve tried it out during the most painful and hard contractions.
Another funny – while I was pushing Jacob out – I think his head was out, or mostly out, I asked Jo why she wasn’t pulling him out. Again, this was b/c of my experience with Rebecca and having a hospital/medicated birth. Jo laughed again and reminded me we weren’t in a hospital, she wasn’t going to pull him out, I had to push him out. Alrighty then – back to business.
The whole time it took to push Jacob into this world – which was all of 10 minutes – it was perfectly serene in there. The lights were dim, it was very quiet, I could feel everything and loved it. Jo, Rebecca, my Mom, and Faith were all behind me watching Jacob being born. Scott and Emma were in front of me being my support system. Emma would later say she was glad of Scott being there b/c I was pulling so hard on her alone that she was afraid she was going to end up in the pool with me. With Scott there – he helped balance out my pulling while I was pushing to keep her and him on the outside!
Jacob’s head emerged and I could hear them say so – I could feel that part – but it was nice hearing them comment on his nose and eyes and then his mouth. Then they exclaimed about how quickly he turned – and then it was time for his shoulders to emerge as well as the rest of his body. All of a sudden Jo was saying, “Pick up your baby, Christina! Pick up your baby!” And I was shocked that it was over – I leaned back while Jo pushed him forward and grabbed him to my chest. Beautiful.
Those first few moments are some I hope to never forget. So sweet. He was awake and alert and quiet – we all were quiet. There was a ton of vernex still on him which I thought lovely. We were able to gaze at each others eyes. And it was amazing. Bliss.
A few minutes later, Jo asked if we were ready to cut the cord. She said it had run clear – so we said yes. Rebecca wanted to do this – so Scott and her participated together in this special moment. I loved that Rebecca was there for the whole thing – that she was able to witness what a natural, unmedicated, healthy birth is like, that she is old enough to remember it all, and that she was able to be an active participant in it all. Lately, she has asked me to tell her this story – and at times, I have heard her tell Jacob his own story. This makes my heart smile.
Jo took Jacob for a moment to give him a quick once over and then helped me out of the pool. I was moved to a reclining chair and given Jacob back – he latched on perfectly – and stayed that way for a good long while. I had opted for a shot of something like pitocin to birth my placenta. It was a good thing – as I started to gush blood. At first, Jo didn’t seem too concerned, but then it gushed again. And ultimately, she gave me another shot to help stop the bleeding. The placenta birthed and she took it to examine it. She assured me it was fine, all there, with a bit of tears in it – nothing to worry about. When she returned, she mentioned I did tear some, and could use stitches, but she would be quite happy to let it heal on its own – which I agreed with. Later that week, after I mentioned how wore out and tired I was, she would remind me how much blood I lost – and if it continued, I could go to the hospital to see if it warranted a blood transfusion. Interestingly enough, I began to immediately feel better.
So – my fears of revisiting a similar birth like I had with Rebecca were washed away. I was fearful of meconium – hers was thick and very present, his was barely there. I was fearful of the cord being wrapped around his neck – it wasn’t. I was afraid I couldn’t push him out – I did. I was concerned about bleeding heavily and tearing immensely – the bleeding was a lot, but under control, the tear wasn’t an issue. Lastly – I was fearful of the GBS presenting. So far – he appeared a very healthy baby. Jo didn’t seem concerned at all. Regardless – she wanted us to hang out at Faith’s house until around noon – so she could come back, give us another once over and then send us on our merry way home.
During this time, I showered and tried to nap. Tried to get Rebecca to nap. That lasted for 30 minutes. Then we got up and I ate some groaning cake muffins that I had prepared earlier. They were so good!! I resumed my position on the reclining chair and continued to nurse Jacob – it seemed it was all he wanted to do! Scott napped on the couch – Faith’s girls woke up and entertained Rebecca. They were smitten with Jacob and amazed I had him in their dining room while they slept. Sweet.
Jo returned as was expected – and Jacob and I were both doing well. No fevers, normal pulse and BPs. My blood pressures – coincidentally – were normal the entire pregnancy except for my last OB visit at the NHS hospital. Even then it was only 130/80 – but besides that, it never got more than 120/78. Seems I just might have a touch of ‘white coat syndrome’. At this point Jo released’ us to go home. We packed up and shipped out – a mere 12 hours since I woke my Mom up and said it was time to go.
Life is good.
Jo came to visit us each day that week – on Day 1 (Monday) she noticed he had a touch of Jaundice and said we should take him in right away. Jaundice isn’t necessarily a dangerous thing – but when it happens before day 3 of a newborns life, it can indicate a medical jaundice which is a bit more serious. Usually – this occurs with an O+ mother whose blood has cross-contaminated with her babies. And as it happened – this was our case.
We did take Jacob in to the hospital that day – I was unable to get him an appointment with the pediatrician because it was a down day at our base hospital. Our only option was to take him into the ER there – so we did. But because he wasn’t born on base, he hadn’t been input into their ‘system’ so they couldn’t see him. Not for lack of trying though – they tried to put him in the ‘system’ but couldn’t get past a certain point. So – not wanting my 1 day old son hanging out in the ER, we left and said we’d try again tomorrow when the rest of the hospital was open. Which we did – and Jacob had a series of bloods done, one being a bilirubin check – his numbers were high so they called for a DAT test, which indicated that my blood had cross-contaminated with his and that my antibodies were attacking his. Sounds awful. I felt horrible – as if it were all my fault. When I asked the pediatrician why and how this happened, he indicated that it was because I was 0+ and Jacob was not and that it probably happened through some tears in the placenta. Hmmm….Jo had mentioned tears in the placenta.
Regardless, on day 2 of Jacob’s life – we received a call at 7:30pm from the on-call Pediatrician saying Jacob needed to be admitted into the hospital for bilirubin light therapy. I was frightened – really scared about leaving Rebecca – wondering how long he would need to be there and how long it would take to determine if it was working. As it turned out – the hospital staff, nurses and Pediatrician were amazing. They allowed all of us to stay the night with Jacob. All of us. My mom, Scott, me, Rebecca – all of us. Rebecca and I shared the twin bed, Scott sat in the chair all night long, and my Mom stayed in the break room. Soon – my fears eased – and by morning when his bloods were drawn again his bilirubin had decreased by 4 points, the Doctor was releasing us at noon after a few more hours of therapy.
On a side note – the Pediatrician was a bit alarmed when he learned that Rebecca was a GBS+ baby and I hadn’t received routine antibiotics during labor for Jacob. On his own, he had extra blood tests done and was happy to tell me that Jacob didn’t have GBS. I knew that already – but it was still nice to see it on paper.
So – for 15 hours, we all crashed at the hospital. It was actually kinda nice and relaxing. Jacob was perfect the whole time and slept beautifully. The rest of the week we would go back and forth for routine bili checks – he continued to improve and at the end of the week the jaundice was no longer a concern. Praise God!!
As I write this – Jacob is now 5 weeks and 1 day old and he sleeps soundly attached to me in a Moby Wrap. His legs are now too long for him to sit in the fetal position – so they are hanging out. Sweet – but wow, he’s growing so fast!! My Mom left to go back home last week and we are all mourning her departure…it’s sad to think about Rebecca and Jacob growing and living without her and the rest of our family nearby. We all enjoy the daily activity of having extended family close in proximity and in our hearts.
I feel more complete now – having two children – and have been blessed beyond my imagination to be able to achieve the birth I had desired with Jacob. From the very beginning I poured out to God the desires of my heart – and our story is God’s most merciful and loving answer to my prayers.
Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…” (Psalm 37:5-7a, NIV).