Tuesday, September 28 was our due date but there was no sign of baby Caleb coming. Tyler and I decided to try to help speed things along by having intercourse because the prostaglandins in sperm are known to help thin out the cervix. I had been experiencing lots of back cramps (very similar to period cramps) leading up to that day but I hadn’t felt any real contractions yet. Within 3 hours, I began having regular/painful contractions. I started timing them and they were about 5 minutes apart. I asked Tyler to stay home with me on the 29th because I didn’t know if they would get closer together. We went grocery shopping for an hour, walked the dogs for an hour, and then went back to the grocery store for about an hour. They started hurting badly but I was managing them OK at home with deep breathing exercises but the contractions never got any closer.
Our midwife (from Rainy City Midwifery) called me a few times and checked in and told me to take a bath and 2 Benadryl and to sleep. I got in a few hours of sleep but kept waking through each contraction. Because the contractions weren’t getting any closer the midwife thought he was making his way down and that I needed to try to sleep as much as possible. She was willing to come check me but I didn’t want her to drive out here to find I hadn’t progressed too much because that would have been discouraging. So the prescription: beer and sleep.
Tyler was amazing the whole time. I could tell he was getting anxious and hoping this would pick up. He helped me track my contractions, made me lunch, got me water/tea/juice, rubbed my back and applied comfort measures we learned from Penny Simkin’s class during my contractions (which felt like heaven), and let me rest all day. I think he got little to no sleep. Around 11pm on September 29th, my contractions came back with a vengeance. They were about 3-4 minutes apart and lasted over a minute.
At this point, I completely understand why some women opt for an epidural! I was having severe back labor. In fact, the pain in my back was so much worse than the pain in my stomach and I was bracing myself for how much worse it would get. Tyler paged our midwife at 4am and she arrived around 5am and two students midwives came shortly after her. She checked my cervix and I was 4cm dilated. She and the students then began setting up for the “main event” and let Tyler and I labor in the room alone for a while. Things quickly picked up and my contractions became extremely intense.
I labored laying on my side with Tyler applying counter-pressure and rubbing my back…and my butt. It seems silly but him rubbing my butt felt amazing when every other part of my body was in pain. I spent some time in the bathtub and have to admit that the tub felt AMAZING. I actually started to fall asleep at one point but had to get out because I noticed my contractions slowing down…and I was not willing to slow down. As the contractions intensified, I labored through them on my hands and knees on the birthing (exercise) ball. Tyler applied intense counter pressure to my hips and talked me through each contraction. By 10am, the contractions were so painful and I couldn’t control my tears; it hurt like hell and I couldn’t control the pain. Our midwife checked my cervix at 11am and I was 7cm dilated.
From here on, I have to admit that the contractions were the worst thing I have ever felt. I walked around our house, went outside, laid on the bed, and hovered on the birthing ball to deal with them. They were less than a minute apart and the only thing that felt good was to have Tyler with me through each one. At one point he had to pee and I told him “you can’t pee!” because I didn’t want him away from my side for that long. The midwives kept saying that Tyler should teach a Doula training course because he was so amazing at supporting me.
Around noon I went to the bathroom and while sitting on the toilet I had a tremendous urge to push. There was a loud “pop” and my water broke and gushed into the toilet and flooded the bathroom floor and Tyler heard me say “oh geez”. We knew ahead of time that I had excess water and that it would be a flood so I am thankful my water didn’t break in bed! From here on out, things get pretty messy/intense so you should stop reading now if you don’t want to know…
Once my water broke, the urge to push was very very strong. I sat on the birthing stool for my first push and I screamed like a banshee. I have never felt pain like this in my life. I tried to be quiet and deal with it but my body took over. With each push, I screamed and I started to get really scared that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I then asked to go into the shower for back relief. (At this point, my back had been killing me for a very long time). I was still screaming with every push and I started to become discouraged. At one point I demanded they take me to the hospital and “give me drugs”. Our midwife kept telling me that I was the only one who could push my baby out. I have to admit, it pissed me off because I just wanted the baby out. I knew that even if I had gone to the hospital – they wouldn’t give me anything because Caleb’s head was already visible.
As I got out of the shower, I had a little breakdown and started crying. I had a one on one moment with our midwife and she got me through the worst part. We then transitioned to the bed and she told me how I would need to push. Since I had been screaming, all of my energy was going into the scream. I had to stop screaming and focus on delivering Caleb. This was the most painful thing I have ever experienced and my back hurt so badly that I asked them to give me a beer. Thankfully, they let me have some and even though I only got a few sips in- it made me feel better. I barely remember pushing because I had to mentally “go somewhere else”. I couldn’t think about what I was doing and just had to let my mind go blank to get through it.
The most interesting part about the pushing process was that I could actually feel Caleb getting closer. Everyone told me that once the baby crowned, I would feel the “ring of fire” and it would be the worst pain ever. That is complete BS. Well, it was for me anyway. Once Caleb’s head came out everyone began yelling for me to “blow” because if I pushed I would cause damage to my perineum. This is the one area where delivering with midwives differs heavily from most hospital births: our midwife did not want me to hurry and wanted to save my perineum any unnecessary injury. As Caleb’s head emerged, I looked at Tyler and I will never forget the look on his face. He looked amazed and shocked at the same time. At one point they told me to reach down so I could feel his head. It felt so strange but it helped me get him out quicker.
I pushed for a little over an hour and a half and after Caleb’s head emerged, I pushed his body out pretty quickly. The midwives placed Caleb on my chest and I will never ever forget the way he looked at that moment. He was bluish and he looked so long and squishy. I just kept looking at Tyler and back at Caleb. It was pure love but it was also an unbelievable moment because I felt so much more connected to Tyler and thankful that he and I made this baby together.
I did hemorrhage pretty badly after the birth (which thankfully, our midwife didn’t tell me until the next day). This is pretty gross, but I could feel all of the blood gushing out of me. I had a feeling something was going on because they gave me two Pitocin shots to contract my uterus and the midwife was aggressively massaging my uterus (which hurt like hell). After the cord stopped pulsing, Caleb’s cord was cut. Tyler didn’t want to cut it because he knew it would gross him out. After my bleeding was controlled, we tried nursing. Caleb picked it up right away and with a little help from our midwife, we learned how to make nursing easier. I was pretty spaced out at that point because of my blood loss so I am glad Tyler paid attention; he frequently has to help me with nursing because he remembers what our midwife showed us.
After the birth, we learned that Caleb never rotated during delivery and his shoulders got stuck– this is called shoulder dystocia, or “sticky shoulders”. This can be very dangerous in some circumstances but we weren’t told about it until after Caleb was delivered…and we are thankful for that because there was no need to know otherwise since he was OK. It also explains why I had such horrid back labor. After we nursed, our midwife took me to the bathroom and helped me shower. She then showed me how to use a peri bottle to cleanse my perineum. I had a very minimal tear that is so small I didn’t even need stitches because it will heal on its own. The midwives mixed a giant pot of herbs to be used with the peri bottle and it smells and feels amazing! I am sure my tear was so minimal because we let Caleb come out only when I felt the urge to push him out. The midwife was also massaging my perineum to help it stretch and that probably helped prevent tearing.
Our midwife suggested I explain how I “got through” each contraction in a way that new moms might understand. I thought of each contraction like a bell curve; the rise to the peak was unbelievably painful but I always knew there was an end and that made me work harder to get through. I actually felt relief once I hit the vertex and could see the end was in sight. It also helped to have Tyler telling me to breath and that it was almost over. Whenever I had a tough time (especially with the contractions that brought on tears), everyone in the room began exhaling slowly to get me to breath with them. It was really amazing how much that helped me to get through each contraction.
I had very minimal post postpartum bleeding and I feel back to myself already. Caleb and I are both doing wonderfully and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that there were no drugs in either of our systems. Caleb has been alert since he was born and he never experienced the “groggy” look. While this was the most painful experience I have ever been through, we loved our decision and will definitely have another home birth in the future. I am very proud that we had a successful homebirth, especially since many first time moms end up going to the hospital. It was tough but the treasure at the end is more than worth it! I definitely have the feeling that I can do pretty much anything now.
Welcome to the world, Caleb Charles. Born 9/30/10 @ 1:46pm after 14 hours of labor weighing 8lbs 14oz and 21 inches long. You are a beautiful blessing!