Here is a sweet home birth story from last summer...enjoy!
The week before you were born, we had 3 guesses on your due date based on different sources – July 14 (Sunday), July 16 (Tuesday), and July 18 (Thursday). We had told everyone that you were due July 20 so that people wouldn't bug us too early. We expected that you'd be late because our midwives kept reminding us that 8 days late was average for first time moms with low risk pregnancies. But even so, it was hard not to get antsy to meet you as the week came and went. We knew that the full moon was coming on Monday, July 22 (a super moon!) and that there was a storm system coming through over the weekend that was supposed to break the heat wave, so we had a feeling we might meet you during the weekend.
On Thursday after work, we went out for a movie date, guessing that it might be a while before we got back to a movie theater. During the movie, I was fidgety because it felt like you were moving around a lot, especially down low, and it was uncomfortable to be sitting for so long. It was 97 degrees that day and still daylight when the movie got out, so we drove over to Walden Pond for a swim.The water was really warm from all of the heat we had lately, and like usual, swimming felt really good on my big pregnant body. We swam to the sand bar and back and then stopped for a pizza on the way back home.
All day at work on Friday, I felt achy in my back and needed to move around a lot. I just thought it was from having sat too much the day before, but looking back now, I bet it was everything getting ready for your big performance. It was too hot to walk outside, but I stretched and walked at our gym at work and cleaned up some work tasks in case I didn't come back the next week (I really hoped I didn't!). When your dad and I both got home that evening, we camped out in our only air-conditioned room and ate dinner and watched a weird movie called The Science of Sleep.
On Saturday, July 20, we went to brunch with my parents in the morning. It was still hot – probably around 95 degrees – and the electricity went out while we were waiting for our crepes. So instead, we went to another restaurant, where the staff kept telling us not to have our baby during brunch! We had plans to go into Boston for the Outside the Box performing arts festival in the afternoon, so after brunch, I took a nap to rest up while your dad worked on some photographs. About ½ way through my nap, at around 3 pm, I started feeling a little strange – like I was having cramps that were out of the ordinary. This had happened about 3 week ago and then stopped, so I was skeptical that it was anything to think about at first. But by the time I got out of bed, they were unusual enough that your dad and I talked about waiting to go into the festival. I called Catherine to ask her advice, and she said that it sounded like I might be in early labor, but that it would probably last a while, so we should go into Boston if we felt like it. We decided to skip the first performance but to still go in for the later one, which would have meant leaving the house at about 5:30. I took a walk down the street and chatted with a neighbor to see if walking would change anything. But by the time 5:30 came around, I was pretty sure that I was having real contractions, and when I timed them, they were only about 4.5 minutes apart. We decided that going to Boston wasn't such a great idea.
I called Catherine again, and she said that it sounded like labor really was starting, and that I should do something fun but low-key to distract myself in this early stage. At about 7 pm, we decided to pack up dinner and go have a picnic at a nearby lake. Your dad hopped in the water and swam for a while while I sat on the dock with my feet in. The water felt warm and relaxing, and it was a very lush, green, warm summer evening. Pretty soon, though, the contractions were strong enough that I couldn't just sit through them – I needed to walk and concentrate when they came. I was pacing up and down the dock, and your dad thought that the sight of a very pregnant woman pacing around with a strong look of concentration was making all of the mothers on the beach nervous. By the time he was finished swimming, I didn't think I could stay there to eat, so we packed up and walked back to the car. I called Catherine on the way, at about 8 pm, to tell her that it was getting more intense, but she still thought it was early in the process.
When we got home, I tried timing my contractions again, and now they were about 2.5 - 3 minutes apart and lasting over a minute. I tried to eat dinner while we watched an episode of Downton Abbey, but by the end of the episode, the contractions were so strong that I couldn't focus on the show at all. Pretty soon, I threw up all that good dinner, so I called Catherine again, and she said she would start on her way to our house and also tell Audra and Tara to get ready. My labor was moving along pretty quickly! I needed your dad's help to get through the contractions now, which was a challenge for him because he had a lot to get ready but only little bits of time to do it in. He filled the birth tub, got ice packs ready, made a mango lassi in case I wanted to eat again, and brought our boxes of supplies to the room we were laboring in (the downstairs guest room). I took a shower to get more comfortable, and your dad put ice packs on my back and massaged my head, which both felt really good. I tried using a yoga ball to lean on and also tried the tub, but it felt too strong in the tub at that point, so I didn't stay in for long. Sometime around 9:30, Catherine arrived and checked your heart rate and said you were doing just fine.
I didn't have much of a sense of time at this point, but looking back on it, I think I was in transition as we moved back to the birth tub. I propped up on the side and your dad held my hands and I squeezed them really hard through each contraction. Pretty soon, I started to feel like I wanted to push in the middle of each contraction. I think Tara arrived around this time, and I was really happy to see her. A little later, Audra arrived too, so our whole team was there. They assured me that you were already moving down my birth canal, and that you were on your way into the world with a strong heartbeat. Your dad kept holding my hands and getting me coconut water to drink. It was warm in the tub, so he also brought ice and cold washcloths to drape over my head. Pretty soon I really started pushing, and I surprised myself with how loud I was getting! One of the midwives told me to try to see if I could touch your head a few inches inside, and I did, but I wasn't sure if that soft, fuzzy thing I was feeling was actually your head or not – I was afraid that it wasn't and you were still way up high, but thinking back now, I am pretty sure it was the first time I touched you.
Everyone helped me move from my knees to a seated position so that I could rest my arms. I was pushing really hard with each contraction now – it was such a strange sensation, less like I was pushing and more like my body was just doing it and I was along for the ride. I knew not to try forcing a push, so I just let myself follow the work that my body was doing.
The pushing seemed to go on for a very long time (I think it actually was about 2 hours). At some point, I could tell that you were getting very close to coming out into the world. You took two steps forward and one step back with every contraction, which was exciting but also discouraging when I would feel your head slip backwards as I was resting between contractions. Audra, Tara, Catherine, and your dad kept reminding me that this was really good, because it meant there was a lot of good stretching going on that would help to prevent a tear. It seemed like forever as your crept your way forward, bit by bit, until finally I could reach down and feel the top of your head just beginning to poke out – it felt so soft and fuzzy because you had a lot of hair, but it surprised me! Your dad could see your little head pushing out, too. You hung out there for a while, your head coming out just a little more with each push, until finally your head was out in the world! The few minutes when your head was out but your body was in were very strange to me – one of the strangest things I have ever felt. My body wanted to take a short break before it pushed the rest of you out, and I was worried that you couldn't breathe because your head was out but under water. Everyone told me that you were OK and that you were getting oxygen though the placenta. Before I knew it, my body wanted to push again, and this time, the rest of you came squirming out as well – another one of the strangest things I've ever felt! Your little hands and arms and knees and feet felt like little fish swimming out of me. So quickly, you were out – after so long carrying you inside of me, I couldn't believe it!
Catherine quickly put you up on my chest and helped me scoot down so that I could hold you mostly in the water. your dad draped warm wash clothes over your head so that you stayed warm. I think you were crying good and loud as you came to my chest for the first time, but I don't know when you quieted down. It is all a bit of a blur – I just remember being totally amazed that here you were, all cuddled up on me, and the birth was over, and we were all OK. You were all scrunched up and so tiny! Your dad was still helping to support my head behind me, and he reached down to touch you for the first time. We spent a few minutes in awe looking at you and catching our breath before we even thought to see if you were a boy or a girl. When I looked, I was so surprised that you were a girl that I wasn't even sure I was right at first!
We rested in the tub for about 20 minutes. Your dad fed me some pieces of watermelon and the last of the coconut water in between all of the gazing at you we were doing. Your heartbeat was good and your apgar scores were high, so we knew you were OK. We were so happy that you were strong and healthy. I couldn't believe how beautiful and tiny and amazing you were. I hadn't delivered your placenta yet, so everyone helped me slowly and gently get up and out of the tub and onto the bed in our guest room, where the labor had started just around 11 hours ago. On my chest, you cried and rooted around, trying to find your way to some food. Pretty soon, I delivered the placenta – it was so easy after everything else, just a few pushes and it slid right out. You kept trying to get to some food but seemed to be getting frustrated, so we helped you in the right direction, and soon you got to take your first little sip of colostrum. I hardly remember what that first feeding was like, but I am sure you were very happy about it.
In the next few hours, it felt like we were having a middle-of-the-night party to celebrate your arrival. I felt so close to everyone – you and your dad of course, but also Tara and Audra and Catherine. They all started to get some food ready and to clean up. Your dad made mango lassis for everyone – what a great celebratory drink! Audra gave us a “tour” of the placenta, which was fascinating. Luckily, it looked in tact, so we didn't have to worry about any being left behind. At some point, you fell asleep on my chest, all bright red and warm and cozy. Tara helped your dad to cut the cord about an hour after the birth, which gave it plenty of time to transfer all the good blood from the placenta to you. While you were snuggled on my chest, Tara fed me a breakfast of eggs and kale that your dad had cooked up – yum! When we had had a few hours of cuddle time and everything was cleaned up and everyone had eaten some food, the midwives checked you out to make sure you were OK – they weighed and measured you, tested out your movements, and told us that you looked great. They also thought that my uterus was shrinking down just fine. I just couldn't believe how perfectly everything was turning out for our little family. Your dad got to hold you for the first time as Catherine helped me clean myself up and showed me how to care for myself in the next few days as my body recovered.
At around 5:30, the midwives gave us all hugs and helped us get settled into bed so that they could take off and leave us to get some sleep. I remember hearing all of the birds starting to sing just around the time that they were leaving. You slept between your dad and I on the bed for about 5 hours. I had a hard time sleeping because I was so excited that you were there with us and also a little nervous that you were OK. I didn't know much about you yet, so it was hard to know what was normal! But really, you were just fine, all warm and cozy and peaceful sleeping between your two parents for the first time.
Now it is 1 week later, and I can't believe we have had such a beautiful week. I have only been falling more and more in love with you every day. I had no idea how powerful this feeling would be – I remember my brother telling me that I would love you so much it would hurt, and now I know what he meant. A lot of birth stories that I read described the instant when the baby was put on mama's chest as the strongest moment of love. For me, I think that my love only got stronger and stronger in the next day or two, as the awed feeling of having just given birth faded away and the sheer amazement at how incredible you were and how much I loved you grew in its place.
It took your dad and I a while to decide that we were ready to bring a new life into ours, because we love each other very much and really loved all of things we got to do together as a pair. But we knew that some day we'd be ready to set out on the adventure of having a little baby of our own and getting to explore the world as a family. I am glad that we waited for the right time, because it means we got you – sweet, strong, perfect little Baby Girl.