I am sharing Further’s birth story here for several reasons. Mainly, I wanted to write it down so I wouldn’t forget it – it is amazing what happens to your brain when you are breastfeeding! Also, it was really helpful for me when I was pregnant to read other people’s birth stories. I think it is important for us to hear/read stories of successful homebirths – and my midwife especially wanted me to share mine because it is a story of a successful loooong homebirth. So here it is. It is incredibly long, so if you are not interested or you dislike the details of birth or don’t want to see a photo of me and my son a few seconds after he was born, just pass on by!
Saturdays are my day to milk Lily, so I called Cher early to let her know I didn’t think I would be able to do it that morning. The night before, I had a little mucus and bloody show and Jesse and I were feeling giddy with excitement – the baby was coming! Jesse, while doing some last minute research in one of my pregnancy books, read that passing the mucus plug can mean that labor could begin within a few hours – or a few weeks. That calmed us down a bit.
We spent the day taking walks around the farm and enjoying a lovely pre-Christmas lunch with the Smiths. We had one of our turkeys, mashed potatoes, and gravy. I had contractions all day, but they were light and very similar to the Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d had throughout the pregnancy. That night, the contractions became much stronger, sort of like heavy menstrual cramps. They were’t painful, but they were coming pretty regularly at five minutes apart and it was a struggle to get any sleep.
The next day, Sunday, we called Tracey, our midwife, and filled her in. She told us that everything sounded great and I should try to get some rest. We took some more walks and I tried to sleep, but it was difficult when we were just so excited! We began to think the baby would be born that day, on our 3 year anniversary.
Well, another sleepless night passed and I was still very pregnant. During the night (always at night, it seemed) the contractions had intensified again and I was having to really focus on riding through each one calmly. It helped to think about specific women in my life during each contraction – to picture her face and then the face of her child or children. I cycled through practically everyone I know…my mother, grandmothers, family, friends, farmwives. I felt connected to them all and truly in awe of what I was about to do.
We called Tracey again, early Monday morning. She sent Renee, our other midwife, out to check on me. After talking over how I was feeling and examining me, she said everything was progressing well and I was 2 cm dilated. While offering to stay if I needed her to, Renee said it would probably make the most sense for her to leave and let me continue opening up on my own. “Things will probably get rolling later this evening.” So, we thought, this baby will be born on its actual due date!
Nope. Yet another night of little rest and intense contractions. By the early morning hours, I was standing and rocking back and forth through each contraction, sometimes softly humming or moaning my way through them. Jesse called the midwives and they headed our way. It was a relief to know they were coming, because at least that meant things were progressing.
Tracey, Renee, and their assistant Melissa arrived and immediately settled themselves on the kitchen floor – spreading out paperwork and knitting projects to work on while they waited. It is hard for me to remember the details of this day, Tuesday: continued contractions every 5 minutes, alternating between swaying back and forth or on my hands and knees on the bed, one of the ladies checking the baby’s heartbeat every 20 minutes, eating lots of soup and drinking lots of water. Eventually, at the swell of every contraction, I would feel a powerful, tightening surge. Feeling my body squeezing itself without any prodding from me was a crazy feeling. Someone brought in a birthing stool, a sort of u-shaped seat where I could sit in a squatting position with Jesse supporting me from behind. This was incredibly helpful, as squatting was very tiring but also seemed to speed the contractions along. At one point, Renee checked and found that the baby was slightly off in position – turned and not making good contact with my cervix. She had me rotate through a series of yoga-like positions, holding each one for the length of several contractions. This was really difficult – having to stay still through the contractions – especially having to lie flat on my back. All of this eventually worked, causing the baby to move back up and then into the correct position – but I remember having a good cry once it was over. Tracey called out from the other room that crying was normal and actually a good thing.
As the baby began to move back down, it felt like things were beginning to progress, but I reached a low point on Tuesday evening as I watched the midwives head upstairs to go to sleep. I could NOT believe that I was going to through another night with no baby. Jesse was holding me up from behind on the birthing stool, and I knew he was on the verge of total exhaustion as well. I could feel him falling asleep between each fast-coming contraction and then jerking awake as I would crush his poor fingers with my grip. We entered into a sort of delirium state, with one of the midwives coming downstairs every 20 minutes to check the hearbeat. Every time, I would hope she would bring news that something, anything was happening. I remember Tracey saying to me at some point, surely sensing my failing confidence, “I wish there was something I could do to help you, but this part is your work to do.”
This was the bottom for me – I was so close to vocalizing what I had begun to feel inside – “I can’t do this.” But a well-timed clip from A Charlie Brown Christmas came on the radi0 – the sweet voice of Linus telling the true meaning of Christmas. And I knew I could do it. I didn’t know how, but I knew I could.
And somehow, we did. We just kept at it through the night – a rhythm of contactions and baby’s heartbeat and Christmas carols on the radio. In the early hours of the morning, I had a tremendous urge to go to the bathroom. I was horrified at the thought of squatting over our makeshift toilet while having such strong contractiions so often – but I HAD to go. I called upstairs because there seemed to be a lot of blood when I wiped and Renee came downstairs to check, saying that sometimes the urge to poop is actually the urge to push. I stretched out on the bed so she could examine me and sure enough, she was right.
“Go ahead and try to push,” she said. As silly as it sounds, I didn’t really know what push meant – I didn’t know what I was supposed to do! “I don’t know how,” I said. “I just really feel like I need to POOP!”
“Yes, that!” Renee laughed. “That is pushing!”
OH! Well why didn’t anyone say so!? I immediately started pushing and it was the most GLORIOUS feeling of my life. I roared as I felt the baby moving through me, and it was so satisfying. After days of sitting around and letting the contractions happen, I was actively birthing this child. Tracey told me to try not to yell, to save my vocal chords and put that same energy into the push. She and Meliessa joined us downstaris and began spreading out equipment and I suddenly realized that it really was happening this time, Christmas Eve.
I moved back down to the birthing stool and Melissa took over Jesse’s position so he could watch. Bless her and her sweet, crushed hands! I pushed for about 2 1/2 hours, but it truly felt like 2 minutes to me – I was so happy to feel progress after all the waiting. Tracey asked it I wanted to push on my hands and knees, and her intuition was correct. I fell forward off the stool and propped my arms on a stack of quilts. Jesse and Renee were behind me, watching the head poke out further and further each push. This was probably the only part of the whole birth I would call painful – the stinging feeling of stretching. But having read many birth stories myself, I knew this meant the baby was almost out. There was an incredibly intense push and then a sort of POP! feeling, and the head was out! This was completely surreal, as I paused to wait for another contraction and Jesse held the screaming head of our child who was still half inside me. “One more push!” Renee said, and again, she was right. The baby slid out into Jesse’s arms and I screamed “THANK YOU JESUS!” and I meant it.
The baby was handed up to me from between my legs because I was still on my knees and the cord still attached. I immediately saw it was a boy and kissed his messy face, and all the exhuastion was gone and I could have run a marathon with all the energy and joy I suddenly had. It was perfect. Yes, it was long. But there is nothing inherently wrong with a long birth, especially when mama and baby are fine. There is NO WAY I would have been allowed to labor so long at a hospital. Although I can’t know for sure, doctors would have most likely given me Pitocin to speed things along, which often to leads to irregular hearbeat in the baby, which often starts a chain of events that often ends with a cesarean.
I am so grateful to our beautiful midwives, who had faith in me and always knew that I was fine, that the baby was never in any danger. They allowed me to do my own work, and now I have this tremendous sense of accomplishmment. Birth left me feeling so strong, so powerful, so proud…all feelings that women are sadly not often inclined to feel, especially in birth.
Further Collett Frost was born at 7:49 AM on Christmas Eve, at home. And he gets more and more wonderful every day.