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Bathtub catch home birth baby

I feel so fortunate for having had such a great pregnancy. Aside from months 2 and 3 when I felt nauseous, tired, and craved dim sum and pizza all the time, pregnancy was wonderful. I enjoyed watching and feeling my belly grow and my body change. Feeling my baby move around was the most exciting thing of all. I loved developing such a special relationship with him, often explaining to him what we were doing and where we were going.

The days leading up to my due date were filled with joyful anticipation. I felt great right up until 41 weeks when my body finally began to slow down. Before that, I was taking long walks, doing yoga, and running around my home refinishing furniture and doing other “nesting” activities. My midwife Gillian told me that walking uphill might help my baby drop, so I did the Grouse Grind on my due date!

I wanted to avoid any interventions to bring on labour, despite wanting to meet my baby ASAP. So, on the night of being 41 weeks plus 2 days, I was ecstatic to see what I knew must be my mucous plug. Mike and I had just had a dinner of pho from 5 Elements, and were settling in for an evening of lighthearted TV. As the evening wore on, I began to get intermittent low abdominal cramps, which I believed must be contractions. They lasted throughout the night, but being mild, I was able to sleep well. I woke up now and then, which I was used to anyway, as shifting in bed was something that took effort!

The contractions all but went away in the morning, which was a little disappointing, but I knew they would be back. Sure enough, that evening they started up again, and were stronger. Again I was able to get a decent sleep, but their intensity did wake me up at times.

The next morning they slowed down again, but stayed strong throughout the day. We spoke to our doula, Morag, who agreed to come by in the evening to check in and give us her tens machine. She also suggested we do some activities that can help a stalled labour. We did the “Miles Circuit” while watching hours of The Office (one of my favorite shows of all time!).

When Morag came by around 20:00, she was surprised at how strong my contractions were. After observing a couple, she told me that they would not get much more intense. She also mentioned that many people ask for morphine at this stage. This was extremely encouraging! This news combined with her reassuring presence, filled me with optimism and strength. She explained that our experience was typical of a slow early labour, and that likely we would have another night like the last. However, things could also start progressing rapidly. And that, they did!

Within an hour of her leaving, things were very intense. We got into bed, but it became clear that sleep was not going to happen. Mike said “Your contractions are 2-3 minutes apart; I’m calling Morag.” “Please do!” I panted and suddenly felt very nauseous.

The nausea passed, and I got onto all fours on the bed. When Morag arrived, she went to gather the birthing pool supplies and run me a tub. The bath felt comfortable but I was sorry to have to remove the blessed tens machine! With each contraction, I emitted a low “Ooh” sound. Feeling inspired by a birth story from Ina May’s ‘Guide to Childbirth,’ I extended my “Ooooh” to “Oooo-pen,” encouraging my body to open enough to let this baby come gliding out (he didn’t exactly glide out, but it felt like the right thing to do!). At 01:00 during the middle of a contraction, I began emitting an “Eeee” sound. Morag recognized this as me beginning to push. She explained that the pressure I was feeling was due to the amniotic sac which was still intact. She went to call my midwife and explained that she did not think she would have time to fill up the birthing pool. She asked if I would be comfortable in the tub, and at that point I definitely did not feel like moving! At times the tub felt restricting, but I began to appreciate being able to brace myself against the firm sides.

At 0148, I felt the sac burst inside me. It felt like a water balloon, and although there was not a huge relief of pressure, it felt like another milestone. I was encouraged. Having had no cervical exams, it was hard to know where I was at. However, in fairly short order I could feel the hairy, squishy, head of my baby during contractions. My midwife Gillian arrived and checked my baby’s heart rate. It was right on track. The urge to push continued and I pushed into my hand time after time, feeling my baby’s head come closer and closer to emerging, only for my contraction to end and his body to shoot back inside. I would feel him connect with a spot high up in my abdomen. I began to feel disappointed as this kept happening, but my support team was very reassuring and kept telling me “This is what we want, the slow and gentle stretching of the tissues.” Between contractions, I rested my head on a folded towel in the bathtub and Mike gave me sips of coconut water. He, Morag and Gillian, were crammed into our small bathroom; it was a cozy time!

As time went on, my contractions slowed down. Minutes went by in between them, which felt like an eternity! It made me question whether things were still progressing. Again I was reassured that this was totally normal, and that the breaks were exactly what I needed. There was only one time when I began to doubt myself, thinking there was no way this baby was going to fit through! But, low and behold, with one final push, his head ultimately emerged. His body followed on the next contraction. Mike and I reached down into the murky water and brought our little baby out. He started screaming and I just stared at him in awe. After a couple moments and everyone saying “Put him on your chest!” I broke from my daze and hugged his little purple body close. I was flooded with emotion and cried and cried.

Archer was born at 0242, which would have been 0342 without daylight savings (it made for tricky charting!). I felt the umbilical cord become slack and thin, and with encouragement began gently tugging to help the placenta through. I felt a lot of loose tissue waving in the water and was initially concerned that I had absolutely shredded my pelvic floor. Luckily it was just the amniotic sac! After my placenta emerged, and a few minutes more, Morag, Gillian, and our second midwife Kat, helped us to our bed for more skin to skin time and Archer’s newborn exam. With Archer on my chest rooting around, and some expert positioning and guidance, he latched on, thus beginning my journey with breastfeeding.

Morag, Gillian and Kat, made sure we were comfortable in bed, with drinks and snacks within reach, before giving us hugs and telling us when they would be checking in next. When we were finally dabbling with sleep, Archer abruptly vomited all over everything he was wearing and his bassinet. We jumped into action, clumsily changing everything and tentatively placed him back down. Then it happened again. And the next adventure had begun!

I am overwhelmed with appreciation for the incredible support I experienced throughout my pregnancy and delivery. The brilliant, gentle, and empowering care that we received from Morag and our team of Midwives at Strathcona Midwifery Collective, leaves me humbled and filled with gratitude.

All images by Morag Hastings with Apple Blossom Families.

A huge thank you to my clients for sharing their birth stories with the world. It means so much to so many.

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