Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Fierce, Fearless and Fast Home Birth

For the last two weeks of my pregnancy, I could tell that my body was slowly getting prepared to birth, so I worked on visualizing a peaceful, smooth home birth and imagined my body as a flower that was slowly opening. Looking back on my amazing birth experience, I'm sure that this meditation, coupled with the generous support of my husband (Patrick), other moms and my wonderful midwife (Carol), lead to the fast, fearless birth of our son.
I highly recommend the opening flower visualization to every woman who is approaching her due date

After a relaxing day at the pool with friends and a few indications that I might be in early labor, I sent a sort of "on call" text to Carol before going to bed. She replied with "rest and then maybe baby." Wise advice. I had tried hard to do everything my midwife told me to do up to this point (with great results), so I got in bed and read my HypnoBirthing Birth Affirmations out loud -- now a nightly ritual -- and started to read some birth stories in Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery. Patrick was laying on the bed and playing the guitar while I read.

As I was getting into the beginning of a birth story, I felt a POP and a warm gush. I looked up and said "My water just broke."

We both hopped up from the bed and witnessed a gush onto the carpet next to the bed. I knew I needed to check my water for meconium so got on the toilet as quickly as possible and checked the towel that Patrick had gotten me to hold between my legs as I shuffled to the bathroom. Everything was clear, so I texted Carol to let her know that labor had begun. It was 10:30pm. She again recommended that I rest up (it was bedtime), so I changed my underwear and got back in bed. I mentally prepared myself for a long night and possibly another day of labor.

Shortly after I got back in bed, I felt my first real contraction and another gush. I got up again to go to the bathroom and change my clothes.
Then I went to the kitchen to see what Patrick was doing and saw that he was packing a bag.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm packing a hospital bag just in case. I want it to be ready if we need it."
"Patrick, my water was clear and contractions have started. We're having this baby at home and we're having it tonight."

He smiled and followed me back to the bedroom where I lay down, yet again, and attempted to rest. But contractions became instantly intense and I soon had to moan through them. I started experiencing all of the signs that I was in transition -- needing to sit on the toilet, feeling nauseous and chilled, and puking. But I couldn't believe that I might already be in transition. It shouldn't be happening this fast!

As I rode out another incredibly intense contraction followed by a slightly less intense wave of nausea, I clearly remember thinking, "How many more hours of this!?", but knowing in the back of my mind that all of the signs pointed to transition and that meant that I was already close. Even in this moment, I wasn't scared at all, just feeling as if I was on the brink of something immense; something that I couldn't measure the size or weight of.

I leaned on Patrick the most in the very beginning of labor, when I was going through transition. He got me something to puke in, he squat in front of me as I sat on the toilet (brave, brave man) and helped me to and from the bathroom. He managed to balance his birth-support duties with texting the midwife, my mom and friend (all planed on attending the birth, but only the midwife made it). I was so grateful to have him by my side. He was the perfect blend of calm and excited.
Soon after I made it through the feverish chills and nausea of transition, my body started to bear down. It was an uncontrollable thing that my body was doing on its own, and I had to just let it take over and do what it needed to do. However, Carol wasn't at our house yet and I didn't want to start pushing before she got here.

I told Patrick to tell Carol that I was feeling the urge to push, knowing she would head right over. She did Somewhere in this time frame, when it was still just us two, Patrick got my birth candles and asked me if I wanted to light them. The plan was to send a picture of the lit candle to my support system so that they could all light their candles and send me strength. But I was on my knees on the side of the bed and most certainly couldn't spare a moment to light the candles like I had planned. He lit them for me and set the candles on top of the dresser as the intense pushing contractions kept rolling over me.
I needed to fight the urge to push since the midwife wasn't around yet, so I tried to "blow out a candle" with my breath to keep from pushing. It felt nearly impossible to fight the urge to bear down, though; my body was doing its thing and I couldn't stop it one way or the other.

Carol arrived and allowed me to move through a few contractions before checking me, declaring I was fully dilated and allowed to push. Thank god! I didn't have to try and fight it anymore. Patrick tells me that this was around midnight. I had lost all sense of time, but was fully aware that labor was going very, very fast.
I spent the next two hours pushing, which wasn't as awful as it might sound. My body was doing most of the pushing itself, and I would just follow the urge and put some extra "oomph" behind it. I went from kneeling by the bed to hands and knees on the bed, and finally, as I got more tired, to laying on my side with one leg bent up. This is the position I was in as I slowly, slowly pushed our baby boy out. Carol reminded me to keep my body relaxed and to push into the burning, not "bust through" it. I tried to stay as in-tune as possible with my body as I slowly urged him out, and Patrick was right there talking to our baby as his head finally came out.
Patrick says our boy looked right at him. The work wasn't over for me yet, though, and I pushed his body out as Patrick picked him up and set him on my stomach.
Just born!
I did it! We did it! It's our boy! He was covered in white vernix and making gurgling sounds as he lay on my stomach. It was completely peaceful, joyful and surreal. He was born at 2:23 am in the warm, happy comfort of our home. I have never felt so proud in my life.

Wait. My pride was tinged with complete disbelief. A 4-hour labor?! Did that really just happen? Did my birth really just go even better than I could have ever imagined? Am I really a mother? That was fast. That was so, so fast. Wow. I did such a good job. My body is amazing. I am a superhero.

Moments after birth
We took the next couple of hours to get to know him, try breastfeeding, and then finally burn the cord and say "Thank you" to the placenta. The sun was rising and the birds were chirping as Carol left us alone with our brand new baby boy. Patrick and I lay in our comfy bed and watched the dawn sky change colors as I held our baby in my arms. We were so overjoyed and I was so proud of myself.

Patrick and Carol burning the umbilical cord

Another shot of the cord burning
One of the best things about my birth is that no one can ever take the experience away from me -- the most amazing, life-affirming experience of my life. I'm so happy we were able to have our baby in the comfort of our home.
Our first selfie! The morning he was born
The next day, we named our boy Aldo Paddock, and he's been the biggest joy of our lives ever since.

*While it would be neat and tidy to end the story there, I feel that I wouldn't do other moms and soon-to-be moms justice without at least touching on the postpartum experience. You can read about it here.

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