It began on Tuesday, January 10th, I woke up a few times in the night with noticeable contractions. They didn’t feel stronger than the Braxton-Hicks I’d been experiencing for the past month, so I brushed them off and went back to sleep. The following morning, over breakfast, I confided in Sean. The contractions, while still mild, had become more noticeable. Although they didn’t last more than than a few minutes, they were definitely ten minutes apart. I wanted so badly to believe that I was in pre-labor, but had heard so many stories of false alarms. Sean’s excitement showed in his eyes, although he held off from any verbal proclamations.
I went about my day with hope bubbling inside. Could this really be it? Every moment that lay in front of me was unknown, like some vast empty space. I was both unwilling and unable to imagine what would happen next, but I felt peaceful inside. I took a shower, and the contractions grew stronger. Under Sean’s persuasion, I reluctantly texted Mindy, my midwife's apprentice. My midwife, Brandi, had been out of town. Beforehand, she had provided an associate midwife, Gay, to accompany Mindy. I did not want these wonderful women to drive thirty minutes only to tell us that I was not in labor. My text message had let Mindy know the status of my contractions, and she asked me about cervical mucous and bloody show. I told her no, and she had requested that I keep in touch. Sean and I decided to try to take a nap. The momentum of the progressing contractions, and my suppressed excitement made it impossible to even close my eyes. My mom randomly called me on her lunch break. It was as if she’d received the message telepathically. She listened as I described how I felt, and told me she believed I was in labor. I tried to deny it. I just didn’t want to be disappointed. She told me that she hadn’t been convinced when she had gone into labor with me or my brother. I sighed, and began to accept it. We decided it was time to call Mindy and tell her to head our way.
Around 6 o’clock in the evening, Mindy arrived. She was as calm and loving as she had been at each prenatal appointment, and promptly checked the baby’s heartrate with the small Doppler. The heartrate was at 130, and stayed that way throughout the rest of the labor. I recall it changing twice, once it was 120 and another time 140, during transition. About thirty minutes after Mindy arrived, Gay showed up. At this point, the contractions were strong enough to take my breath away, and I found that kneeling was the most comfortable position in which to ride them out. Somewhere in between 6pm and 10pm, I was craving Cheerios with milk and honey. The midwives had left to grab some dinner, so we asked Sean’s mother to bring some O’s over. I had struggled with pre-gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and had restricted sugars and starches. My lust for cereal was almost unbearable, and I was so excited to eat a bowl. My mother-in-law showed me a few positions, to help open up my pelvis. I remember the contractions growing more intense as she left to fill Stone’s jeep with gas, and the midwives came back to the apartment. I began to withdraw from my apartment, my husband, and the midwives. This is when a kind of “veil” seemed to fall over my eyes and I was in my own world. I was still able to communicate with them when needed, but it was always a hand gesture, or a few words.
The next twenty three hours were grueling. I lost track of time, and almost felt as if I was slightly outside of my body. The contractions had gone from ripples, to rip tides. Sean fed me drops of Bach’s Rescue Remedy, sips of water, and bites of food which were eventually regurgitated. I cannot recall this span of time chronologically. I know there were periods when Sean and I would try to lie down to rest. This was bittersweet. I was able to drift into a deep sleep for about one or two minutes between contractions. Being horizontal made those waves feel more intense, so we were never in bed for long. I remember snapping my fingers at Sean when I was unable to speak, and motioning for him to help me out of bed. I dealt with the majority of my contractions on my hands and knees, often rubbing my face against Sean’s or the knees of my midwives. I spent time in and out of the birthing tub, and was only vaguely aware of my caretakers emptying and refilling it.
A few hours before I felt my baby’s silky head emerging through my body, Sean joined me in the birthing tub. The midwives had encouraged me for hours to relax my pelvis. I was struggling with that. Sean spent two full hours coaching me in the water. On my knees, legs spread about a foot apart, I would lean over the edge of the tub. Sean planted himself behind me, applying counter-pressure to my buttocks and reminding me again and again to breathe through the pain. He would notice me favoring one side of my body, and instruct me to shift my weight. This was probably the most difficult chunk of time. I suppressed the recurring negative thought, I will never do this again! I recall asking for Mindy, and holding her hand through a couple of forceful waves. I also remember asking for water, and having it squirted into my mouth like a gerbil. After working so hard to open my pelvis, the midwives suggested that I take a break from the tub and walk down the hallway. They, along with Sean, assisted me in hobbling out of the water, and inching down the hallway. When I reached the end, I turned back around and was brought to the floor by an excruciating contraction. An unbelievable amount of pressure overtook my body and my bowels moved. On my hands and knees, I knew that I was progressing. Gay said, “If you want to have your baby in the water, we need to go now.”
The tub, only six feet from me, seemed impossibly distant. I took a deep breath and gathered strength to limp the distance. Once in the water, Sean joined me and I almost immediately felt a jolt of power as my body moved the baby down. This is what people refer to as the ‘urge to push.’ I never felt the need to consciously push, the surges just overtook my body. Sean reached out to comfort me and I barked, “Don’t touch me!” I needed my space. I knew this was it. Mindy slipped on her gloves and knelt in front of me, outside the tub. I gripped her hands as I heard myself expelling loud, primal tones. She asked me if I wanted to see if I could feel my baby’s head. I reached down. The head hadn’t crowned yet, but I could feel unbelievably soft hair. A couple more “pushes” and I felt a popping and a burning sensation. “I felt a pop!” I called out, terrified that I was tearing. Mindy calmed me, and I soon felt the baby’s head pass through me like a bag of rocks. She asked Sean to see if he could feel baby’s head. “No! Don’t touch the head!” I snapped. For some reason, I felt that him touching it would make this more real, thus intensifying my pain. At that moment I was sure that I was torn to shreds down there. I decided it didn’t matter, and that I had to get this baby out. I relaxed, and let the pushing urges take over. I remember thinking, Will I really think this was worth it when I see that little face? The baby slipped out and passed between my legs.
Sean asked Gay to grab his camera at this moment. We hadn't planned on taking photos, but I treasure this one. It is so raw, capturing our exhaustion, relief, and sheer awe.
The time was 9:43pm and it was January 12th, about 40 hours after those initial, faint contractions. Stone caught the baby and passed him back through, and I lifted the tiny body halfway out of the water. The baby gurgled and cried softly, experiencing air for the first time. I was shaking, and sank back into Stone’s arms. I looked at that face and asked “Is it a boy?” The midwives chuckled, “Why don’t you find out?” I raised the baby out of the water and saw that yes, he was indeed a boy. "Jehryn Andrew," Sean whispered, his arms around me as I hugged our son close. His skin felt soft and clammy against mine. The veil that had covered my eyes during labor was lifted. I felt energized and alert. Love began to fill my heart as I held my beautiful newborn. His eyes were wide and he was already jerking his head about, seeming to take in his surroundings.
I feel so blessed to have met Brandi Wood, CPM. She and Mindy, her midwife apprentice, provided excellent prenatal care. I loved how involved my husband was able to be. Each visit was thorough and lengthy, especially compared to the fast-paced, conveyor belt model of our current healthcare system. I am so thankful we chose to have a home birth. It was more beautiful and sacred than I had even hoped.
If you live in central Indiana and are looking for a midwife, please consider www.home4birth.com