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Slow birth Home Birth Story

I had a fairly smooth pregnancy. Other than feeling quite sick for the first half, it was rather uneventful, though definitely not an experience I loved. I was grateful for a healthy pregnancy and for the unexpected gift of an intense feeling of calm and unwaiverability that I chalked up to pregnancy hormones and was totally glad for. Being pregnant during a pandemic is a trip. As this was my first pregnancy, I was sure the baby would be late so I was counting on the last few weeks of pregnancy to get all the final bits and pieces ready, cram in some final appointments and fill our freezer with prepared home-cooked meals. Wednesday night, 2 days away from my due date, I started to feel cramping as I logged onto zoom for my weekly class with my meditation group. The cramps got worse throughout my class. Halfway through my computer died. Like fully dead, not just the battery running out of charge. As my work is almost completely on the computer it felt like the universe helping to clear my plate for what was about to happen. I called back into zoom on my phone, kind of relieved no one would see my face as I grimaced and squirmed around in discomfort for the rest of the night.

After my class I texted Morag to let her know and she responded “excellent!” and encouraged me to rest and we would see what would happen. I didn’t feel excellent but appreciated her positivity and the reminder that this was indeed good and normal and a part of the process.

The cramps continued through Thursday getting more uncomfortable. I didn’t want to leave the house and had to cancel appointments I had made, including an acupuncture appt for cervical ripening – clearly, that was already happening. Thursday night/ early Friday am contractions began. I think around 2 am, and I had to get up around 6 am when I couldn’t ignore them anymore. All-day Friday they increased and I wondered if something might happen that night. I spoke to Morag on the phone in the afternoon. She talked me through a contraction. I was starting to feel kind of tired and unsure how things were going and wanted some support. She had a sinus infection and couldn’t join us but she sent her mentee, Martha, Friday night to help. It was so reassuring for her to be there; validate what I was feeling and help me be more comfortable, and Tom, my husband, got to have a rest and eat dinner. Martha headed home late that evening, told us everything was on track and to reach out when we wanted support again. After she left it was full on all night. Tom was there through it all, with every contraction squeezing my hips and trying to offer me things to eat in between. Holding back my hair as I vomited. Rubbing my back. The next morning, Saturday, I was so tired and feeling defeated. I didn’t know if I could do it much longer without any pain relief. My preference was for an unmedicated home birth. So the agreement was no one would offer or encourage drugs, and we would go to the hospital only if it was necessary or if I was too uncomfortable and adamant I needed something for the pain. Tom did a great job of reminding me of our plan when I was starting to have doubts. The thought of leaving the house was insurmountable so we carried on with hip squeezes, a hot water bottle and the bathtub.

Labour with doula

Labour in birth pool

Saturday morning Tom checked in with Morag and she sent another doula, Jessica, who came around 730am and supported us almost all day. Jessica got me to nap and rest and eat a bit. And Tom had a nap too. She was a lifesaver. She suggested different positions I could try but all I wanted to do was sit on the exercise ball and lean against my bed, or stand rocking back and forth holding onto the wall, so we stuck with that.

I couldn’t pee by the afternoon. I tried everything but it wasn’t happening, so Jessica called the midwives to come to help empty my bladder with a catheter. Jocelyn came around 6 pm, and emptied over 1.5 L! It was a relief and pretty amusing when they had to scramble for another container to catch it all. She also checked my blood pressure and baby’s heart rate to make sure we were both doing ok, and went on her way, reassuring me I was doing well and to page when we needed them. Jessica left shortly after her for a well-deserved break.

My water finally broke around 8 pm. And the contractions immediately got more intense and I had this incredible urge to bear down that surprised me. It felt too intense and too painful like I was going to break open if I followed the urge. Tom suggested I get back in the bathtub. I was able to slow down the intensity and control the urges with my breath. Tom texted Morag and they coordinated coming and bringing the birth pool. At the time I didn’t think it was going to happen imminently. It felt like I had been in labour forever and I was just in this neverending marathon. It’s funny after days of labour I would have thought I would be eager to push and for it to be over but at that point, it was almost the opposite. I had grown accustomed to the waves of contractions. Active labour and pushing was the new scary hurdle and I was kind of apprehensive of what was to come. In hindsight, I think maybe I was in transition. I think I also was waiting for our doulas or midwives, or someone with some knowledge of birth to be there. Then Morag arrived shortly after Jessica. There was a hushed whir in the living room of getting the pool ready, rearranging the furniture, adjusting the lighting, while Morag and Jessica tag-teamed to support me in the bathroom. Morag got me on the toilet. I was scared of the toilet because it made the contractions feel so much more intense but she coached me through them and assured me it was okay. With each contraction, the pain changed from sharp and painful to a deeper duller stretch. Jessica and Morag helped me into the pool, which felt like heaven and then with their encouragement I just surrendered and let pushing take over. It was like letting a wild animal out, and I just took a back seat and witnessed. In the background of my awareness, I heard our midwife Kat arrive quietly, and our dog Lewis rush to greet her. I had read about women feeling like they leave their bodies during childbirth, go to labour land or into the ether ‘to bring back their baby’. I didn’t experience that kind of leave taking. I felt both holy conscious and present and located in my body but so focused I couldn’t spare much attention beyond the intensity of the pushes surging through me. Jessica held my hands and encouraged me and gave me sips of water between each contraction as Morag took photos and Tom poured water on my back. Earlier in the day Jessica had reminded me of affirmations which helped me to have something to lean on through each contraction. While I was pushing my affirmation became just simply “I can do this”. In the face of the fear and surprise of the intensity of each push, just simply that Yes, I can, helped me through.

It was so hard to tell where the baby was in my body until I started to feel her moving through my pelvis. Morag asked if I could feel her head and encouraged me to reach down and feel with my hand. Crowning was totally bizarre and intense and surreal and painful. I thought I was going to split in half. I felt her head with my hand pushing through in one contraction and then back again and then in the next contraction, her head was out. So painful and also so exciting because I knew I was finally almost done. Morag said you can catch her! But it was too hard to reach down that far across my belly. I cried for Tom to catch her and then pushes took over and her body shot out. It was so crazy and overwhelming and amazing. That final push and she was born and I was a mother and we were a family. I could hear Tom behind me say “oh she is cute!”. After almost 3 days of labour, pushing was only about 20 minutes. I was stunned, shaking with adrenaline in the tub as they helped me get into a seated position and navigate the umbilical cord still attached. And then Tom put this slimy, crying, wide black-eyed little human in my arms. I wish I had a more poetic or spiritual moment as I held my brand new baby in my arms but honestly, all I could think for a few minutes was “WTF?” as my body and the room buzzed with all that had just happened.

Dad catch baby at home birth
Dad catch baby at home birth
dad catch

Labour with doula

The placenta came pretty quick after. Morag told me to push into my bum when a cramp came. But it didn’t quite make sense to me. I tried engaging my transverse abdominal muscles like I had learned in a pilates class but never got to employ them during labour but couldn’t tell if it was doing anything. I felt like I didn’t even know how to push because my body had just done it on its own. Kat our midwife helped by giving the cord a tug and the placenta just slid out. It was a very weird sensation, kinda hurt, but mostly just slimy and also another relief. We stayed in the pool for a bit just taking it all in, while Tom and Morag took pictures. Kat and Jenny, our second midwife who arrived at some point in all of that, wanted me to get out of the tub so they could get us warmed up, and they thought it would be easier to cut the cord before we moved. Kat clamped the cord and Tom cut it and Jenny and Jessica got us out of the tub and into bed. That was one of the sweetest parts, just hobbling into our bedroom and being taken care of by the midwives and doulas and just living into all that had just happened in our home. Hands were holding me, placing towels around me, putting pads between my legs and helping me lay down. There was Tom holding Evie, Jessica and Morag on the bed with me. Kat helped me nurse Evie as I lay down and Jessica brought us a snack as we lay in bed together. Then Kat and Jenny checked me for tears and checked my BP. Then they checked Evie, weighed her and wiped her down. Morag helped Tom put a diaper on her and a little hat and Tom held her again wrapped up in towels at the foot of the bed. Another midwife, Amy, came to tap out Kat who had to rush to another birth. She stitched me up right there in my bed, I was so relieved we didn’t need to go to the hospital for that. And then they made sure we had what we needed for the night, said their goodbyes, tucked us in and left us peacefully in bed. Tom brought me a piece of leftover pizza and we just lay there in disbelief with this little baby lying between us. We slept our first night together like that. I probably fell asleep around 330 and woke up at 630. Too excited, still in disbelief. The next day was a beautiful day, as we stared in awe at our little baby, in our cozy home, surrounded by the echoes of the last few days and the oxytocin afterglow of birth.

It was such a special experience to give birth at home. I am so grateful for the skilled and tender care we were held in by our doulas Morag, Jessica, and Martha, and our midwives, Jocelyn, Kat, Jenny and Amy who all worked in respectful agreement to help us have a positive and empowered birth experience. What a godsend doulas and birth workers are. My body knew what it was doing. I just needed the support and encouragement and reassurement that we were okay and this was the way. Birth truly is transformational and I feel blessed and forever changed by our experience. 

Thank you Jessica and Martha for helping me with this birth. Sinus infections are not fun!

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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