Giving birth is a time when I feel my Savior's presence with me in such a real way. During Ella's birth, the "wave" imagery worked until I reached transition. Then when I thought I couldn't do it any longer, I felt Jesus's presence with me and He spoke to me. "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." From that point until Ella came out, "My grace, my strength" become my mantra and helped me deal with the pain. With this birth, I started having some fears a couple weeks ago. I wasn't looking forward to the intensity of the contractions and was talking to God about this and playing some hymns to calm me down. That's when God let me find this hymn and I sang it repeatedly over the next couple days. I'm sure you've heard of it. It's entitled, "He giveth more grace" and the first verse reads,
He giveth more grace when the burdens are greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.
To added affliction He addeth his mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
His love has no limit; His grace has no measure; His pow'r has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!
Then a few days later as I was looking through an old devotional from church, I found these verses and knew God was giving them to me to claim for my birth.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,they will walk and not be faint.
I felt better about the upcoming birth with these reassurances. I knew I wasn't going to be alone going through it-He'd be right there beside me.
Now here's a timeline for you as Caleb's birthday approached.
9 days before Caleb's birth, Ella got a stomach virus.
8 days before his birth, I caught it. You know when you're on the toilet w/a trash can-yep, that was me-it was horrible.
7 days before, I lost my mucus plug tinged w/blood and went outside to get Will off the lawn mower believing I would start labor in a few hours, as that's exactly what happened at Ella's birth. So, he came in, we cleaned up the house and then reluctantly went to bed several hours later.
6 days before, we went walking hoping to get something started as Ella and I were fully recovered now from the virus and I was ready to meet our little one. I had a couple contractions but they petered out.
5 days before Caleb's birth, Will finally caught the dreaded virus.
4 days before, I went to see Lisa for my 39th week prenatal visit. The baby's heart rate was good (it averaged in the 140's, which by the way reinforces my theory on predicting the sex of the baby) and Lisa said from her experiences, women usually go into labor w/in 2 days of losing their plug. I was on day 3 at this point. But she also said how glad she was that I hadn't gone into labor in the last few days as she had 3 births in 5 days and had gotten hardly any rest.
3 days before-Will finally feels better.
2 days before the birth, Will went into work late because I had a couple contractions but after an hour had passed and I had no more, he went on in.
1 day before the birth, we went to Mama's house. On the way there I had 2 contractions but once we arrived they had stopped and I had nothing else the rest of the day. By this point I was feeling pretty discouraged and thinking I might just stay pregnant until November! However, I indeed was thankful that I hadn't gone into labor while we were sick.
So now, we begin the real story. I was awakened from sleep at 3:45am Sunday morning with a contraction. It was stronger than I had been having during the week. When the next one came just 5 minutes later, I knew this was finally the real thing. I woke Will up at 4am to tell him I was in labor. For the next 30 min. in between contractions, I helped him sanitize our house, clean bathrooms, doorknobs etc, as we didn't want Lisa to catch the virus we'd all had. Pretty soon, I let Will take over and began leaning into the contractions using Will's chest of drawers for support. I knew I was going to wait until 5am to call Lisa to give her some extra time to sleep but as it got closer to 5, I started really questioning whether I wanted her or anyone to come at all. What effect would it have on me to have people "invade" my labor space? I was really quite content at that point with just having Will there with me. When I mentioned this to Will, he said very emphatically, "Call her!" So I did. After explaining to her that I was 4-6 min. apart lasting about 45 seconds in length, she said she could be on her way. I hesitated, still unsure if I wanted other people coming so soon and she said I could call her back at 6 and let her know. By 6, the contractions were much more intense and this time it was me telling Will, "Call Lisa NOW!" I was afraid if I waited much longer she wouldn't get her in time (she had almost an hour's drive) and we would be doing it ourselves whether we wanted to or not.
Backing up to 5am, it was then that we decided to start getting the pool ready. I had decided on this one after reading good things about it from people who had used it for a birth. Lisa also had the aqua doula which is what I used with Ella, but I wanted something w/softer sides that I could lean on. Ella was still sleeping in our room, but I was afraid that if we started pumping it up it would awaken her, so I asked Will to move her into her room. Sometimes this works and she'll stay asleep; this time it didn't. Will tried lying down beside her to get her to go back asleep but she was still crying. Finally, I called out, "Forget it. I need you in here. She'll just have to stay awake." Ella of course was thrilled to watch the pool being blown up in our room. When having contractions at this point, I was leaning into Will's chest of drawers and counting through them. God was also bringing to my mind those wonderful reassurances. It helped to speak truth to myself, "He understands. He gives strength and power to the weak. He gives-He has no limits." After having a few intense contractions while trying to drown out Ella's babbling in the background, I asked Will to call Kimberly to come over. She had agreed to watch Ella during the labor. Since it was Sunday, Laurance could keep Jonathan at home, so she'd just have Ella to focus on. Kimberly arrived around 6:45 and Julie, Lisa's apprentice, arrived shortly after at 7am. Lisa arrived around 7:30am and after checking the baby's heart rate and my blood pressure (both fine), she and Julie got some prep work done-putting new sheets on the bed, unloading the home birthing box kit I had ordered, arranging chux pads, etc. and left me alone to labor.
Will had already begun filling the pool up but of course ran out of hot water so they began boiling water and dumping it in. After the first go at the heater Will noticed some brown stuff in the water. By the time it was full enough to use, it was pretty cloudy. Lisa later asked had we drained our water heater completely before filling up the pool. We were supposed to do this a few days before but she had forgotten to mention this to us, and thus the brown stuff was sediment from the bottom of our heater. I still decided at one point to get into the water-even if I wouldn't birth in it, I was interested to see if it would help w/the pain. I stayed in through 2 contractions but couldn't get comfortable so decided to get out. Just like with Ella's birth, the only comfortable position for me was standing up or leaning through contractions. With Ella's, I leaned into Will the entire time (before getting in the water prior to pushing), but with this one, I moved from the chest of drawers to my dresser and put 2 pillows on top of it for comfort. When I would get a contraction, Will would stand behind me and move with me-it helped so much just knowing he was right there with me. Before the contractions got too close together, I would sit/bounce on my exercise ball while waiting for the next one.
During the really intense contractions, I felt Jesus with me in such a real way. I was still counting through them-if I could just make it to 30 seconds, it would start easing up. And I felt as if He was saying "Okay, Laura, here's another one, let's count together." And we did. However, after awhile, the contractions got less intense. I remember thinking at one point, "Wow, this isn't that bad." I had prayed for a pain-free birth or at least something close to that but I guess I didn't really think it could happen. (Oh, ye of little faith!) I even got scared thinking my labor was slowing down. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom and Will came with me. It was then that I asked him to ask Lisa and Julie to leave the room. They were both sitting on the bed at that point. I think Lisa was writing some things down, but I just started feeling like I was on show or something and that maybe that was why my labor was slowing down. Lisa listened really quickly to the baby's heart rate and then left w/Julie and stayed in the kitchen.
However, as it turns out I was in transition; my labor wasn't slowing down at all. In fact, I felt the baby moving down inside me-such an amazing feeling. And I had prayed specifically that God would let me feel that this time as I didn't w/Ella. About 30 minutes later I told Will, "Call Lisa back in here; I'm feeling pushy!" Lisa came in and asked me if she could check me-she had done no checks thus far as I hadn't wanted any. I still didn't. I told her there was no way I could lie down on a bed. She said I could stand and she would just see what she could feel or I could do it myself. I let her do it. She felt my bag of waters and said, "It's bulging-when it pops, it's really going to go." I quickly said, "Don't break it!" Of course she didn't and then said from what she could tell I was about a 9 and could start pushing if I felt like that was what my body was telling me to do. The amazing thing? That check didn't hurt at all! With Ella, Amy checked me when I got to the birthing center and I was laying down. I was an 8 then but that check was excruciating.
I saw that Lisa had the birthing stool set up and decided I would try pushing on that. Kimberly had told me how good squatting felt when she was pushing and I knew from Birthing From Within, that your pelvis opens 28% wider when you are squatting versus lying flat. The one thing I definitely wanted to do differently this time around was not to be in even a semi-lying position as I had in the water with Ella (Will was supporting me from behind in the pool). I think that's why the pushing hurt so much with her-it was 54 minutes long and much more painful than the whole time I was dilating because I didn't have gravity working with me. However, when I tried using the birthing stool at first, I couldn't get comfortable and standing wasn't helping either. I was starting to panic. I even considered getting in the water again on all fours but Lisa said she'd rather the baby not be born into water that murky w/sediment floating around and thus the water birth plan was finally nixed.
Finally I had to push and the really amazing, wonderful thing this time around? No one had to tell me how to push, how long to push, when to hold my breath-I just knew. I couldn't help but push. In fact, the intensity of it was so much bigger than myself-I finally understood what people were talking about. With Ella it was as if I was making it happen; with this one, I was just letting it take over me. At first I just had small grunts and pushes. But it was during this time, that I really felt the baby move down and I was shaking my head back and forth. I was thrilled to feel it but at the same time inwardly thinking, "No, I can't do this." It helped to hear Lisa say, "It's okay, Laura, let your baby come out. You want the baby out." Then I had an intense push and my water exploded and went all over Will and Lisa. (And our carpet was completely dry afterward as we had a tarp for the pool down and an extra shower curtain liner.) Now before this Lisa had been applying a warm compress of ginger root to my perineum and it felt wonderful. I think everyone was so surprised when my water broke that she just forgot to continue that. The next push was the most surreal thing-I couldn't stop pushing though I remember Will saying, "Slow down." But Lisa said, "It's okay." Of course, had we all known what would have happened next, everyone would have been saying, "Gentle pushes, baby pushes." Because that next push after the water broke produced the baby's head. In one push-I couldn't believe it! It took me forever to get Ella's head out. It would slide down a little and them move back up. Yes it was intense but there was no ring of fire like with Ella-just pressure. I felt his head a couple times with my hand and was amazed. I didn't do this with Ella though I did see it in the mirror. I remember Lisa saying, "Okay one more push and you'll have your baby." Will said it was just amazing to see him just "hanging out" there waiting so patiently-he didn't get such a close view w/Ella b/c he was sitting behind me in the pool.
Sure enough he wriggled out with that next push and Will caught him! He said he was quite slippery as he was completely covered in vernix, even more so than Ella was. He said he thought it was a boy at first but had to take a second look-he couldn't believe it. Then he handed him to me and I said, "You have a son!" Oh, what relief I felt-that it was over, that we had survived and thrived with our home birth. That I was holding a new miracle in my arms. But at the same time it was an out-of-body experience. It didn't seem real that it was over, that this was my son. Very surreal-I felt the same way after Ella was born. Thankfully, God had given me the clarity of mind to call Ella into the room when the head "popped out" so she got to see her baby brother being born. That was really important to me and I'm so glad it worked out that way. She wasn't scared at all seeing it or the blood, etc. I had prepared her by letting her watch her own birthing video. Of course, you all know her first words, "But I wanted a baby sister!" Thankfully, she's warming up to the little guy.
Oh, speaking of videos, I had my camcorder in the room but things happened too quickly and we failed to ever set it up on a tripod, so unfortunately, Caleb has no video or pictures for that matter. :-(
I think we all were surprised with how fast it happened-Julie knew she could take pictures of the baby being born but unfortunately we didn't get any. At least she took one after he was born. I'm still on the birthing stool and Will is on the birthing ball. That's another interesting point. When I started squatting I could tell Will was uncomfortable as he had nothing to rest on. I was just much more aware of things this time around-I was in total labor land state w/Ella by the time pushing came around, but this time, I had the clarity of mind to say, "Will, go get a chair to sit on so you don't hurt your back." He found the birthing ball and used that instead. I think it helped as well that I had gotten a few hours of sleep before going into labor-with Ella I was up all night.
I moved to the bed with Caleb and he began nursing. A few minutes later (about 20 minutes after he was born) I delivered the placenta while standing-all was intact thankfully. After the cord stopped pulsating, Will cut it and we all lay in the bed and bonded with our newest miracle.
So would I do a home birth again? Absolutely. I prefer it over a birthing center because for one I don't have to drive while in labor or after labor and two I'm more relaxed in my own home. I would make it a matter of prayer though just as I did this one should we have another little one. God gave me the assurance that this was good and right for us this time around. I would want the same for each time because as we all know, each pregnancy is different and could produce different concerns. One neat thing is that Lisa had 3 births still to attend the last week in Sept. and 4 ladies due in October by the 16th. Had any of those women gone into labor when I did, we would've had to go into the birthing center (or else do it by ourselves at home) b/c she would be with them there. I had prayed God's will be done b/c if He wanted me at the birthing center, closer to the hospital (and a better one I might add), then I would want to be there. As it turned out, Lisa finished all her September deliveries by Sept. 30 and I was the first October one; I don't consider that a coincidence at all.
I most likely will use Lisa again if we have another one. I think it was just hard for me to get used to her and her way of doing things after having such a close relationship with Amy, my midwife w/Ella. However, now that I've given birth with Lisa attending, I can truly say she's wonderful and does a great job at offering competent care in a non-invasive way. She only checked the baby's heart rate about 3 times, and only the 1st time was for about 30 sec-the others were quick, 5-10 sec. checks. And she checked my blood pressure twice and did a quick check when it was time to push. But it was my call. That's another good thing about home birth-you have even more of a say so on what happens and what doesn't. After the birth, she checked me for tears and unfortunately I had somewhere b/w a 1st and 2nd degree tear at my perineum-I'm sure I got that when I pushed the baby's head out. She said the tear lay together nicely and should heal fine on its own, so of course, I opted for not going to the hospital for stitches. What I would love is for SC to change their ridiculous law about midwives being able to do everything but stitch a woman up if she needs it. Lisa knows how to do it and could in most any state but this one. Anyway, so now, like with Ella, I'm walking around the house w/my legs together-such fun.
There are a few things I would have done differently. First I would set my tripod up for the camcorder beforehand and also designate someone to take pictures and somehow make sure it happens. :-) Second, I would have drained our water heater down so that I could have gotten in the pool for pushing if I so desired. Who knows-maybe that would have helped w/the tearing. I do like though that now I have had both experiences-a water and a land birth. I think I prefer to stay on land until the pushing stage for sure. My body just can't handle contractions as well in any position but standing or leaning. But squatting in the water might be an option for pushing if we have another one. Third, I would try to remember that if I have a land birth again, someone should be applying the warm compress to my perineum at all times during pushing-it's just no fun to tear. And I would do perineal massage a couple weeks before birth. I would also try to remember that once my water goes, I need to try my hardest to go slow on the next push. Honestly, I don't know if I could have this time-I felt as if I had no control over that push when Caleb's head emerged-it just took over me.
So that's it. It really was an easier, faster labor than with Ella. 5 hours and 21 minutes versus 14. Of course, with this one, I know now that I had probably been in the beginning stages of labor for a week and when I awoke I was heading towards active labor pretty quickly. Ella's really didn't start at all until the night before she was born. I prefer Caleb's way. :-) The only downside was the tearing and the afterbirth pains. I had hardly any with Ella but tons with this one. For awhile, I was wondering if there might be another baby in there that needed to come out. They finally subsided on day 3 or 4. I've heard they get worse with each one. Fun, Fun!
We're truly blessed to have our little man and I give God all the glory for his safe and wonderful birth. Thank you all for your prayers as well!