We’re nearing on two important birthdays around here: Sweet Miss Co turns 7, and two days later, the Wee Man turns 1. Their sweet dispositions are completely reflective of their births- both Co and Wee Baby were my easiest deliveries, and they couldn’t have come in more different ways. If you’re new to the blog, you may not have heard my first home birth story. I just loooove birth stories, and as a habitual over-sharer I’m always more than happy to share mine. I find though, that in sharing my home birth story, I should also share my c-section story, since there are so many negative c-section stories out there, and since most crunchy moms will have less than favorable opinions toward c-sections. While I consider myself incredibly evangelical when it comes to home birth, its also my opinion that all birth is beautiful, and the circumstances that surround us, whether they’re the ones we envisioned or ones beyond our control, help shape us as mothers.
With Sweet Co, in stark contrast to my crunchy-mama inclinations, I opted for an elective cesarean. Shocking, I know. And I had an absolutely fabulous experience. The control-freak in me was in overdrive. I was a senior in college, on a scholarship that was only renewable for 4 years, and I timed her conception and delivery like a magician. I scheduled her delivery for the Friday before my Spring Break, delivered her at 5:35 pm, and went home 36 hours later. I recovered at home the week of Spring Break, and returned to school the following Monday, like nothing ever happened. The end.
Not quite the c-section horror story you read on the internet, right? I lucked out. I also didn’t have an epidural (they give me horrible headaches and shooting pains in my legs) and went with local anesthesia. I opted out of any other intervention (no other pain relievers or anesthetic, and was able to walk the night of her delivery, which also helped the healing process). It wasn’t a scary c-section experience that moved us to birth at home. My choice to go the home birth route was born more from the fact that we hope to have more children, and that multiple c-sections weren’t exactly a safe option.
The Wee Baby came in a far different fashion. After our long home birth with his brother, I was afraid I’d have another challenging experience with the littlest fella, and I prepared for an all-night experience without much relief. I took a lot more steps this time around to prepare myself for a home delivery- I found a midwife from the beginning (unlike switching providers at 34 weeks, the way I did previously), I ate with much more caution, and exercised more regularly. I drank my pregnancy tea every day, and I watched Hypnobirthing videos on YouTube (because I am entirely too cheap to take a chance and spend money on something I’m not sure will work).
I watched the companion videos to The Business of Being Born, and one features celebrities telling their non-traditional birth stories. I remember hearing Gisele Bundchen talk about “riding the waves” of each contraction, and “peacefully” letting her baby come into the world, and thinking “what a load of freaking crap.” The absolute last thing I felt in labor was peace. Holy smokes. It is the WORST. But, I figured I’d give it a shot, since ultimately I preferred a peaceful labor to the screaming and swearing I did the last time. Of course, I also figured I’d have a week following the big Princess-Spa Birthday party we were throwing Miss Co to get my mind ready to peacefully birth the little prince.
It wasn’t to be. I started having strong contractions the week before Miss Co’s sixth birthday. I’d planned a big spa party for her, complete with manicures and yogurt parfaits, and we had 13 six year old girls coming over for a few hours. I saw my amazing midwife Charlotte, who assured me I was still dilated at 3 cm (I did that with James- stayed at 3 for nearly 3 weeks), and encouraged me to see a chiropractor to take the pain off my back and hips. I did- two chiropractors in two days, and felt immensely better. I threw Miss Co the party (with the help of my mama, my aunt, and some dear friends), and collapsed to rest for as long as I could.
The next day, I skipped out on church and went for a walk with the hubs, and came back to relax on the couch before making dinner. As I worked to get the dinner together, the girls started fighting (about what, I’ll never remember), and I seriously lost my mind. I remember raising my voice as my water broke, then rushing upstairs and calling Charlotte. Bless her heart, she was driving her son to the airport and had the worst traffic to deal with. Once she got to the house (around 6:30pm), I was uncomfortable, but not more than 5 cm. She promised me she wouldn’t check me again until it was time to push, and maneuvered me into a position to encourage dilation. Then she stayed a bit longer, and left around 9:00, telling the hubs she’d be back around 7:00 the next morning. She told him to be sure I was eating honey sticks (to keep my energy up) and staying hydrated. My mom, who had come to help with the kids, but who refused to leave with the girls for fear of missing out on the exciting part, stayed downstairs and cleaned up after the dinner I’d started. Thank God she stayed.
Y’all, at about 9:30 pm, hardly any time after I heard the garage door close behind Charlotte, I was screaming for my husband. I’d been using the hypnobirthing- fighting instinct to tense up around pain and relax the muscles to allow baby to descend peacefully, and between that and my precarious positioning, I’d shifted from uncomfortable but livable contractions to absolutely unbearable ones. I begged the hubs to take me to the hospital. I told him to call Charlotte and tell her I was sorry. He coaxed me into the tub and then listened to me scream about how much I hated it. I thought maybe I had to pee, and that may have been the worst decision ever. As he walked me from our bathroom to our bed, he called Charlotte. I feel so bad looking back on it now. “Charlotte, she’s lost her will. She doesn’t think she can do it. She’s saying she has to go to the hospital and she is begging me to take her.” I was mean to him. I listened as Charlotte encouraged him and asked to speak to me. And then it happened. I had to push. Like, seriously. I had to push or I was going to die. I told him I needed to push really bad, and I heard Charlotte saying “no! Don’t push honey. Save your energy, and I’m on my way!” But it was too late. I couldn’t help it.
I begged the hubs to check and see what was going on, and I heard him scream for my mom, as I screamed and pushed. Y’all- there is absolutely nothing you can do when that urge strikes. I now watch these depictions of frontier women being told to push by country midwives in movies, and I call serious bullshit on them. That is some nonsense right there. In those moments, with no pain relief, the only release is from pushing, and I’d be damned if somebody tried to stop me or had to tell me to keep going. My body was commanding me, and I had no choice but to obey. My sweet hubs, who fainted watching Kevin Ware’s infamous injury in the Louisville/Duke game, caught our littlest fella while on the phone with our midwife.
The beauty of a home birth is that you’re prepared for just such things. People asked me, “what did you do to tie the cord off?” Well, we didn’t. We had a cord clamp in our birth kit, but there was no need to do that, since we practice delayed cord clamping, and Charlotte walked us through the next steps (me laying down, wrapping the baby in the warm towels we’d set aside and planned for him to be wrapped in, nursing him prior to delivering the placenta and checking for his responsiveness). He was perfect. And my mom and hubs were the perfect birth team. My mom made sure I had some of my tea to drink, and the hubs went down to meet Charlotte and help bring up her bag (about 60 lbs worth of medical supplies up three flights of stairs).
It was all such a blur after that- she delivered the placenta, checked to be sure I had no clotting or hematoma issues, and let the hubs cut the cord. Then she examined the sweet little guy, and put him in his comfy little shirt and wrapped him in the blanket I made him. My poor hubs was in such a state of shock- it all happened so fast- we sent him on an errand for hydrogen peroxide (which, incidentally, will get blood out of anything and won’t stain or bleach it), while my mama held the light for Charlotte and acted as her assistant while she tended to me. (Yes, I needed some stitches, and yes, I got anesthesia for that.) My little 9 lb fella was a total champ, and my mama sat with me and chatted with Charlotte till the hubs got back. 10:44 pm was his delivery time, and by 1:00 am Charlotte was headed home, leaving us sleeping in our comfy Tempur-Pedic bed with our boy safely tucked in with us, and my mama safely downstairs in an adrenaline-coma.
We laughed and laughed at how effective that little pretzel position was, and how the relaxation through contractions actually contributed to Wee Man making his way without a fight. We also promised that next time, we’ll just keep the midwife with us once my water breaks. How crazy. Nothing ever goes as expected- but that doesn’t mean it won’t go well. As I gear up to celebrate my two peaceful pumpkins, I’m thankful for the way they teach me to expect the unexpected, and to take joy in the moments that surprise me, for better or worse. Will I do this again? You can bet your life on it.