My midwives told me they would break my water on Sunday, May 8th. So, when they called me Saturday morning and asked, “How about we do this today?” I jumped at the offer. “We will be there this afternoon,” they said.
I started calling around making arrangements. The 3 youngest kids would go to grandma’s house. My sister would come over to be with Lizzy during the delivery. We busied ourselves with last minute errands and made sure we had everything ready for the birth.
My midwives showed up at our house promptly at 3 p.m. They had asked if they could bring a doula-in-training with them and I said, “Sure! Free doula.”. Once they had loaded all their equipment into the house and done a quick check on the baby’s heartbeat and my blood pressure, they broke my water. It was 3:30 p.m. I expected a tsunami of Biblical proportions and was surprised with the relatively small amount of water that I lost. I was 5 cm dilated (slightly less than I had been a few days before).
While we waited for contractions to begin, the group of us hung out in the kitchen eating snacks and chatting. There were seven of us: Mr. Darcy and I, my midwives (Kristin and Lorri), Anna (doula-in-training), my sister and Lizzy. I was beginning to get contractions, but nothing very painful or regular so Mr. Darcy and I decided to walk around outside for awhile. The pains started coming closer together, but still weren’t in a strong labor pattern.
After my walk, I was talking with my sister when suddenly I felt a huge gush of water. And then another. I was completely drenched. I went to change my clothes and quickly noticed that the contractions had increased in intensity already. I could breathe through them, but they were definitely demanding more of my attention. It was sometime around 5:45. I was finally in real labor.
Now that the contractions were coming stronger and stronger, I couldn’t keep up my end of conversations. I just wanted to lie down and go limp. I went upstairs to my bedroom and tried to rest while Mr. Darcy sat with me holding my hand. I was breathing through the pains, feeling like I might be able to manage labor better this time around. I was thinking, “This breathing thing really helps. I can do this.” And then it hit… One contraction came on so strong and hard that it overwhelmed me. I loudly moaned and whimpered while it peaked higher and higher.
Suddenly, I heard a burst of activity downstairs. My midwives had heard my groaning, hurried up the stairs and quickly got to work filling up the birthing tub. “The tub will be ready in just a few minutes, Mary.” and I was relieved. Each contraction came stronger than the last. I couldn’t get through them silently anymore, the pain was too intense. As I remembered the pain I was facing I started to whimper, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this.” It was 7:15.
But, the tub was ready and I very eagerly stepped into it. The warm water soothed the contractions, the water lifted and supported my huge, awkward body. For a few contractions, I felt renewed. But, they kept coming stronger and stronger. I felt too hot. I felt like I was going to throw up. And I told myself, “This is good. You are in transition.” But, it didn’t feel good. While logically I could understand that transition was desirable, physically I wanted to punch transition in the face. I wanted to run over transition with a bus. I wanted to kick transition in the private parts.
I moaned louder and louder. I started to plead with God to help me. At 8 p.m. my midwife checked to see how dilated I was. Only 8-9 cm. And then I started to swear. I had been sure it was almost time to push. I couldn’t do another couple hours with this pain. I wasn’t aware of anything that was happening in the room except the contractions. And Mr. Darcy… he never left my side, but kept putting cold washcloths on my forehead and whispering encouragement. “You are doing great. You can do this.” “I CAN’T DO THIS!” “You can do this. You are doing great.”
My midwives suggested that changing positions might help with dilation, so I tried to get on my hands and knees. That was so uncomfortable, I quickly vetoed it. “Try standing up.” So, I held onto Mr. Darcy’s shoulders and stood up. Immediately, I could tell a difference. I felt the baby sink lower, I felt more intense pressure than I could have ever imagined. Each contraction pushed her farther down. I could feel her moving into position.
At 8:20 I couldn’t stand it anymore, I asked to sit back down in the tub. As soon as I laid down in the water, my body started pushing. I couldn’t stop it. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to push yet, but I was pushing. And yelling. With my eyes closed, I pushed and felt the burning, ripping, splitting sensation of the baby crowning. I heard my midwives saying, “There’s her head! Here comes her head, Mary.” And then another push took over my body and I screamed and pushed again. “Her head is out. Do you want to feel it?”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” And I pushed again. I felt more ripping and burning and remember thinking, “Ohh, Ring of Fire. I get it.” And I suddenly felt my midwife reaching around inside me. I wanted to yell at her to stop… she was hurting me, but I trusted there must be a reason. After a few minutes they said, “Grab her legs and pull them back. You have to push NOW, Mary.” Someone grabbed each leg and I roared as I pushed with everything I had. Pushed through the burning, ripping, crushing pain.
And instantly, I felt a release. And excited voices and I cracked my eyes open enough to see a long, gray baby being lifted into the air towards me. Her arms and fingers spread wide, reminding me of a pet frog I had in college. And immediately, the pain was gone. “That was amazing,” I said in a daze. “That was amazing.” Lydia was born at 8:29 p.m. after about 2.5 hours of active labor and 9 minutes of pushing.
And my girl… my little gray frog. Her shoulders had gotten stuck on the way out which is why my midwife had been feeling around inside me. I didn’t realize anything was wrong… to be honest, I wasn’t aware of almost anything happening in the room most of the time. But, we were able to un-stick Lydia quickly and without any trauma to her or to me. Within minutes of being born, she pinked up and was perfect.
1. If you are a believer in drug-free births, I can’t recommend a home birth strongly enough. It was an incredible experience. I felt loved and encouraged the entire time. I felt like I was in extremely capable hands. It was much more comfortable and… dare I say, spiritual? than my drug-free hospital birth with Kitty.
2. Mr. Darcy is the man. He never would have chosen this option, but I only felt love and encouragement from him the entire time. And he will even tell you that it was a much better birth than Kitty’s.
3. I struggled with the idea of having Lizzy there. She came up with the idea of attending entirely on her own. I honestly had no idea how things went with Lizzy during the labor since I was so focused inward, but as soon as the baby was born she was at my side crying with us and said, “You did really good, Mom.”. My sister told me that she left the room 3 times when things got to be too intense, and became very clingy. But, Lizzy says that she was glad she was there, although it was very different than she expected.
4. Home birthing a 10 pound baby sounds impressive, but if you could have seen all whining and bawling I did while trying to birth the placenta you would laugh me to scorn. Seriously… I cried like a baby. (“Ow! Ow!! Ow!! Get it out! Get it out!!!”) It was embarrassing. When it finally came out (45 minutes too late if you ask me) my midwives said, “WHOA. That is a HUGE placenta.” I guess I didn’t do anything on the small scale this time around.