The following blogpost is written by Darlene, who was able to give birth on her terms the 2nd time around. A truly powerful and redemptive experience. I am sharing her story and images in the hopes that others will see them and know they are capable of amazing things, too!
I wanted a home birth. My first birth (a planned home birth) turned into a hospital transfer, with an epidural and vacuum extraction and a subsequent unnecessary 3 day hospital stay for a doctor’s wrongful diagnosis that turned out to be nothing. The whole ordeal left my husband and I feeling unhappy, slightly traumatized, and asking ourselves a lot of “what if” questions. With a new baby’s arrival, we pushed the memories and feelings aside and moved on with life. The disappointment and trauma of this birth stayed with me in the shadows of my life and memories. I have a healthy baby. That’s all that matters right?
When our second pregnancy came along, the memories flooded back and we knew we had to do something different this time to ensure the outcomes that we desired. We still wanted a home birth, but were open and respectful to the fact that anything could happen. Our ultimate goal was to feel in control, and know that whatever happened, decisions were being made for reasons we clearly understood and agreed with.
It was with this goal in mind that we decided to hire a doula; someone who understood our desires and could advocate for us in the heat of the moment. If we ended up in the hospital with a c-section that was OK; as long as we knew the decisions that led us there were in our control, and we had exhausted every other natural option.
I enjoy being pregnant, and my pregnancy; aside from the usual aches, pains, and tiredness went completely smoothly. My first labour was 23 hours in length, so I prepared myself for at least that long the second time around. I spent a lot of time listening to childbirth stories through The Birth Hour podcasts, reading every childbirth book I could get my hands on, and mentally preparing myself for birth with visualizations and mantras.
The day I went into labour I had attended my usual prenatal yoga class, and did a 2 hour hike with my husband and toddler. I was bouncing on my birth ball after dinner trying to finish knitting a sweater for my impending arrival, and I just couldn’t get the very simple pattern right. I took out the same row over and over to redo before finally getting frustrated with it and throwing it aside. I went up to get ready for bed, and as I was standing there brushing my teeth I felt a small contraction. I dismissed it immediately and kept brushing. As I was putting my PJ’s on another one came and I thought, don’t get excited, they will go away soon. After a few more I mentioned to my husband that I had had a few contractions but I wanted to ignore them and try to go to sleep. No sense in starting the labour clock and mentally exhausting myself too soon. It was 10 pm and he thought we should probably give Toni (our doula) a heads up. I texted to say that I was having contractions 10 minutes apart for the last half hour, but that we were headed to bed and would call her in the morning and see where we were. My plan was to sleep though the first 8 hours of my anticipated 23, and spare myself a good chunk of energy.
My toddler was asleep in his room. His Grandmother would pick him up in the morning. It was now 10:45 pm and as a lay in bed listening to my husband drift off I thought, Ok there’s no way I am sleeping through these contractions they are way too uncomfortable to ignore. Nice try Darlene. I poked my husband and told him I wasn’t sleeping. 9 minutes apart and lasting for a minute. Damn, the mental labour clock was now officially started. 24 hours to go. At midnight the contractions were about 5 minutes apart and lasting between 1-1:45 minutes. Toni suggested we get into the bath and said she was on her way over. My husband knew from his infinite reading that you don’t want the bath water to be too hot, but he totally errored on the side of caution and when I got in it felt more like a cool dip than a warm bath. After a few annoyed remarks he quickly added some much needed hot water. Being in the water felt great. We had a birth pool all set up to go, but didn’t want to fill it until I was closer to delivery. I didn’t want the birth pool water getting cold and then have to drain it and refill. We were only a few hours in. We had at least 21 hours to go. Since we were within the window of contraction timing, we called the midwives and let them know what was up. The midwife listened to a few of my contractions over the phone (I’m a fairly quiet labourer), and decided to make her way over in about an hour.
Just before 1:00 a.m. Toni arrived, and I remember greeting her with something like “this sucks”. There may have in fact been a choice word or two in there. She asked my husband to call the midwives back and ask them to make their way over quickly. I sat squatting against the side of the tub for a long time. Shortly after Toni arrived I went into that half aware state of labour land; breathing and quietly moaning through each contraction, unaware of most of what was going on around me, or how much time was passing. There was intense pressure at the height of every contraction, and my body would shake uncontrollably in between. At some point during one of these surges my water broke. If it hadn’t been for Toni’s calm and reassuring voice that this was normal and my baby and I were safe, I probably would have thought something was wrong. My husband definitely would have been concerned, if not downright panicked. Instead, I was able to calmly meet each surge of pressure and visualize my cervix opening.
My baby and I are a team; we are in this 23 hour marathon together. My body starts bearing down. I don’t realize this is what is happening of course. I assume it’s the contractions getting more intense. Toni asks me if I can reach down and feel the baby’s head. I ignore this request. There’s 19 hours more to go for God’s sake. Stay focused and calm.
The midwife arrives at 2:05. My body continues to bear down. The Fetal Ejection Response is in full swing. I ask if we should move to the birthing pool. Toni says if I don’t want to have the baby in the bath I should make the move to the pool. With help from my husband and Toni I walk the 15 steps from the bathroom to my bedroom where the pool is filled and ready. The bath felt great, but the pool feels amazing. My first thought was, I should have moved over here ages ago! This is sublime. It’s warm, soft, and squishy. I lay my head back and close my eyes. The midwife comes over to check me out and says I’m fully dilated. Toni can see the head. A few more contractions go by. The baby’s hand is presenting pressed against its cheek, but I don’t know this. My head is still back and my eyes are closed. The midwife says with the next push the baby needs to be born or I will have to move to the bed. Push? Was I supposed to be pushing? Thankfully, I did not get the memo. All I know is that there is absolutely no way I am getting out of this pool before my baby is born. It’s 2:40am. I push once and our sweet little girl is born. I can’t believe it. We did it. I can’t believe that just happened. I think I say that a few times out loud; almost reassuring myself that it did just happen. 4 hours and 40 minutes. I sit in the tub holding my girl with a surreal feeling of awe and accomplishment. This is the birth I always wanted. This birth redeems my first, and I am instantly at birthing peace.