He is #4. That means I had already given birth to 3 other kiddos. The first 3 are around 2 years apart, and my then-husband, J, and I thought we were done. Three and some odd months go by, and I realize I’m pregnant! Surprise! I could not believe it. Shocked, I was already in love with the little peanut growing inside me. I was set on another home birth. We had already had a hospital birth, home birth, hospital birth, thus far and even though I happened to have a rare complication during my home birth, I was determined to have another home birth. I felt safe about it, comforted, and confident in the midwife I had chosen. J reluctantly agreed. He was all for the statistical safety of home births, but had a little PTSD from the scare last time. (I had hemorrhaged. Thankfully the midwife is trained for this, and even though it was a rare kind, she got the job done! Which gave me even more confidence that they can handle things like this. After having another normal delivery, the odds were good that it wouldn’t happen again). Over the pregnancy he grew more at peace with the idea, especially after we came up with several plans and were prepared for any type of situation. I had been a doula and childbirth educator for just a year, so I was devouring midwifery texts as my pregnancy progressed. I wanted to be a midwife after this! One of my favorite memories was attending a couple births, 8 months pregnant. With one client we weren’t totally sure who would have her baby first! I remember attending her birth at 36 weeks, being on my feet all night at the hospital, and laughing to myself because if I went into labor there, I would leave the hospital to go home and have a baby. J I could just imagine letting the attending doctor know.
One of our big concerns was that the midwife was over an hour away, and I was due on Valentine’s day. Where we live, weather is a big deal, and even a small amount of snow can wreak havoc on the highways when it combines with our ever-present winds. Roads frequently close because they get deadly in a hurry. We talked about this, but it doesn’t usually snow much around here until closer to spring. I also tend to have pretty fast labors, and they start and stop, start and stop, but once they rev up, it’s pretty fast. So I don’t always have a great heads up (the contractions start and stop for weeks every night), to let the midwife know. My previous home birth was a whole 2 hours long. And the babies come a few weeks early.
This birth, I was determined to enjoy. I was going to do everything I had always wanted to do but never did. Make a music play list. Sew my own birth skirt. Have a couple friends attend just to enjoy the process. Invite someone who had always wanted to see a birth. It would be a party, enjoyable, and a great way to have my last.
The day of February 2 pretty much sucked. I woke up with the stomach flu, and puked so many times that day I couldn’t take care of the other kiddos, or get out of bed. I’ve never been so sick it’s made me weak. Being 9 mo pregnant made it that much more miserable. I was dues on Valentines, but of course, when all the other babies make an appearance 1-3 weeks early, you kind of count on that. By the evening, I had stopped being sick, but was grumpy because I just knew that there was no way I was going to have a baby that weekend being so weak I hadn’t eaten all day. The midwife and I had joked about having a Groundhog Day baby, and laughed that everyone was free that day. So, I may get a little grumpy when I’m pregnant and convinced the baby will never come out. I debated calling the midwife about what to eat, but then realized that was dumb, what was she going to say? Uh, try some soup later and re-hydrate? I guess I already knew the answer. I fell asleep easily that night, being so exhausted.
A painful contraction woke me up a bit after midnight. This wasn’t too unusual for me so I got up to walk around the house, calm my uterus down and have it go away so I could go back to bed. After 3 contractions, I realized they were pretty strong and weren’t going to go away. I woke up J. I said, “I think I’m in labor, but I’ve only had 3 contractions.” He jumped up, “call the midwife!” I scoffed. “I am not waking her up in the middle of the night if I don’t know if I am in labor!” “Dude, call her or I will. I do not want to have to catch this baby!” He won that argument. I called her and she didn’t answer. Fifteen minutes later she called me back. By then I was moaning through my contractions, explaining that while they were super close together already (3 min), they were only 30 seconds long. She said I sounded pretty serious and maybe she should start getting ready. And oh, by the way, there’s 6 inches of snow on the ground so it might be a while.
By then I was thinking that here I hadn’t eaten for 24 hrs, and was feeling like a huge wimp. I had only been in labor 20 minutes and already moaning out loud? Sheesh! It was going to be a long morning! And who was I to teach about childbirth when I could barely handle early labor? I was going to have to rethink my teaching points. I also smelled really bad. I came up with a bulletproof plan: Take a bath to address the smell, while getting relaxed enough to slow things down, and I could eat some chicken soup IN the tub. Perfect!
Meanwhile, J went into task mode. He was busy throwing a mattress on the floor in the living room, starting a fire (my dream birth place, to birth in the warm glow of the cozy fire), heating me up some soup, and getting the birth supplies out.
I was in the tub, shoveling in soup for the long labor ahead. Sigh of relief that my contractions took a little break. J was busy preparing, occasionally checking on me or suggesting that maybe we should just go to the hospital as he had talked to the midwife again and they hadn’t even left yet. He told me he was going to quick go outside to shovel the walk for the midwives. I was at the point in labor that I wasn’t budging, and certainly not getting in a car.
Suddenly I had an overwhelming urge to go to the bathroom. (Birth is quite glamorous, FYI). I jumped out of my 2 inches of standing bath water and on to the pot. I felt my water break and literally jumped off like a cartoon character, pretty convinced that I was about to birth my baby into the toilet. I took a knee on the bathroom floor like a football player and all I could think of was that if I just push this would all be over. I must have made a noise that made J turn around, but by the time he did, I was holding the baby in my arms. In the past I had always seen women catch their own babies, but in all my other labors could remember how chaotic and out-of-body that pushing phase was. I couldn’t see how these women could be calm enough to just reach down and catch. But when I was in this situation, it became quite natural. I suddenly knew what to do, even thinking about checking for the cord as he was delivered.
Our sweet, good-natured, laid back little man got his personality honestly. He came out ruddy red, just looking around and into my eyes, as if to say, “oh, hey, mom.” J panicked that he wasn’t making noise, but I simply wiped off his mouth with a nearby towel and looked at him and said, “oh, don’t worry, he’s fine.” J instantly calmed down and went off to call the midwife.
I’ll spare the details of the placenta, but eventually I made my way to the mattress near the fire and held the little guy. We had called my friend at some point, and while she lived 7 blocks away and flew over as fast as she could, she missed the birth. She was amazing at the postpartum support, and we had also been on the phone with the midwife.
The best part was that he was born by 1:31am. The midwives arrived at 3:30am, checked me and the baby out, gave us a bath, and tucked me into bed in the living room, and left before the other 3 kiddos woke up! #1 wandered out of bed around 6 am, found me in the living room with the baby, checked him over, declared him cute, and went back to bed.
So I didn’t have a chance to play my music, have friends over, wear my birth skirt, or even have a midwife attend! Our fear of snow and a fast labor definitely happened but the birth went perfectly. I wouldn’t trade this story for the world! We still laugh about the ensuing hilarity of our chaotic preparations for the birth.