a dream homebirth: fourth time's the charm
Originally written May 2016
This is the intriguing narrative of the midwife-attended, natural homebirth of my fourth child, Nikolas.
I have very late babies, typically, and Nik was no different.
Now, I am a self-proclaimed crunchy mama, in all its permutations and possibilities.
Knowing that I seem to have never-ending pregnancies, and knowing that we were working within the legal limitations of licensed midwives in the state of Texas - I could not “officially” go past 42 weeks of gestation.
In addition to being as liberal as possible with my due date given the evidence we had - we also decided early on to be semi-aggressive with multiple natural remedies to support a so-called "timely" labor.
My midwives also happened to be two of my best friends, and I didn’t want them to risk their licensure just because my pregnancies tend to fall on the outer edge of what’s considered ‘normal’.
My last baby came at 42 weeks, 6 days--and while it was a natural birth, it was also a stress-filled fiasco that I couldn't bear to repeat. Maybe someday I will write about that--but at present I prefer it to be a mostly buried memory..
WHY are there laws around when a woman’s body is allowed to finish a healthy pregnacy?
Liability protection for medical professionals.
It has just about zero to do with protecting outcomes for mothers and babies…but I digress. Onward!
Due date by my own estimate: Nov 1st
...by my midwives' calculations: Nov 5th
...by the 25-ish week ultrasound: Oct 25th
For obvious reasons, we made the "official" due date the latest one that was reasonable--November 5th.
Nov 9th (40w4d): I had been having bouts of semi-convincing contractions nearly every day for at least two weeks already. I'd gotten my membranes swept several times as well, and had been taking labor herbals since 37 weeks. I took 4oz of castor oil, which gave me many more contractions but no luck.
Nov 10th: went to the city and paid out-of-pocket (thanks to my mom's generosity) for a non-stress test, which showed a completely non-stressed baby, who looked to be due exactly on Nov 5th (so 40 weeks, 5 days at that time), and was supposedly 8.5 lbs already.
At this point I was having near-constant, regular contractions, that would sometimes stay at 3 minutes apart for hours and hours....but nothing.
I was also already in an end-of-pregnancy stupor, half-convinced the whole thing was a sham, and that I was never going to go into labor!
Since I was already an hour away from home, I opted to go eat at my favorite vegan restaurant :)
Several days that week, I was up having the kind of contractions that make you go, "hmm...should I call somebody?" but every time I'd go to sleep, they'd either peeter out or stay in a holding pattern instead of getting stronger.
Twice I did call my husband home from work, which was making him crazy and not really endearing him to his new boss, either.
Sunday, Nov 15th (41w3d): I thought it'd be a good idea to take a walk, so I rounded up the kids and stroller and went to the park with the nice walking trail. We walked for about 1.5 hours, 'til it got dark, and then I stopped for an Auntie Anne's lemonade (YUM), and thought I might as well pick up some more castor oil too.
I figured I'd rather try castor oil again, before I'd even consider going to the hospital. At this point I was 3+ cm dilated, and 50% effaced, and had been for a week at least (?).
6pm-ish: I thought, it was early enough, and I was such a night owl anyway, that I should have another go at some castor oil tonight.
I figured if anything happened, it'd be recognizable within a few hours (um…what?).
I did NOT want to take the full dose again though, so I only had one ounce. It didn't even give me cramping, and so I figured it was a waste and went about the evening--dinner, kids to bed, etc.
I have NO IDEA if that 1oz of castor oil did a thing, or if my body was just ready, or WHAT! I know my midwives were annoyed I didn't call them when I took it--sorry!
9pm-ish: I set to work on my college paper--you know, the one I'd procrastinated about until the very last minute. Actually, it was due Monday at midnight--so starting it as early as Sunday night was some sort of record for me.
I had a CD of random Euro-dance music playing throughout the whole night--for some reason it was what I wanted to hear. All the while, I was having contractions, but no physical feeling of it being different than the last 3 weeks.
On the other hand, I knew the new moon was on the 16th, and I had a curious vibe about that in the back of my mind--but it wasn't anything I felt like I should share, lest I was wrong again!
Whether it was the labor hormones, the dance music, or just a particular interest in the subject matter, I don't know--but I wrote a really bang-up paper: Eleven pages on the problems with America's public school systems and how to fix them.
Nov 16th, 4am: I had been having to pause my typing to focus on my new, orange tree-of-life tapestry during contractions for who knows how long. I was tired at this point, having walked for 1.5 hours earlier, and given that I usually go to bed around 3am, but I felt like I shouldn't go to sleep for some reason.
I called up my husband and we talked; I told him something might be starting to happen, but not to hold his breath for it. I stayed up and did a bit of crash cleaning--I think I scrubbed the bathroom floor, even.
(Again, obvious--nesting--why didn't I really believe it?!!)
5am: I was having to hold onto the countertop to brace myself against contractions as I finished up the dishes. I still didn't think it was "real labor" though, and I was half-expecting it to go away once I lay down. All the same, I felt like I didn't want to be alone, and my husband only had one more hour of work anyway, so I called him and he came right home.
I sat on the couch folding laundry, and things didn’t seem that serious, so he played video games for awhile.
6am: I was trying to put away laundry but was hobbling across the apartment like an elderly person.
My husband told me I should call the midwife then.
Once I finally sat down, I realized that I barely felt up to talking, let alone finding my phone.
I think he called, and then gave the phone to me--I can't remember....
7am-ish: My lovely midwives get there, and I'm sitting up in bed looking cranky and feeling sort of like I wish I could go to sleep and do this later!
They check me, and I'm at 4-5 cm. Gahh, ONLY?? Did we call them for another false start?
Things keep going, and at some point I start needing to hum, then moan, then holler through the contractions.
They're not painful so much as they make me want to crawl out of my skin--I always experience labor that way, tho I'm not sure it's a good description...
8 or 9am, something: They check me again, cause I'm feeling pushy, and WOO, I'm 9+ cm....but there's a lip of cervix in the way. Apparently his being posterior made me dilate and efface "crooked", so I need to change positions to put pressure on this lip of cervix to get it to move.
Now this sucks. I can't push yet, and I have to be in a position that makes me lean forward.
The contractions are noticeably more intense this way, so I'm whiney and changing positions with great bursts of energy in between every contraction, and sometimes in the middle of them, trying to "get away" from this feeling.
I was on my knees on the floor hanging over the bed, on all fours, on the toilet even--and wishing I could fall asleep in between.
Almost 10am(??): Finally I'm sitting/kneeling in the middle of my bed and CANNOT NOT PUSH. I think my water broke about then, I'm not sure.
I remember feeling like I needed their ‘permission’ to start pushing, and was delighted when they simply told me I couldn't push baby out so close to the bed - so I rocked forward onto all fours.
My sweet husband is holding my hand, in my face whispering encouragement to me, my midwives are behind me with hot oil compresses, and I'm excited now, cause I know it's almost over.
I think I must have forgotten how hard it is to push a baby out, cause Nik didn't just slip out after his head came--I had to really work to push his shoulders and belly out, too.
It was funny, because I was on all fours, they had to pass Nik to me through my legs so that I could sit/lay down and hold him.
I have no idea how long it took to push him out, but it felt longer than my others, so I was curious about his weight.
Nikolas was born at 10:11am on the new moon of November. I was 41 weeks, 4 days.
Earliest that I've ever gone into labor "on my own"--!
My husband's dream-premonition of the birth date was, annoyingly, correct. What I didn't know until then was that this date is also his uncle's birthday--the very uncle whose generosity and support for our family was absolutely crucial in our early, difficult times. We gave Nik his middle name in thanks for that support.
Nik’s birth will also be forever connected with my mama, because while she wasn’t in attendance - it turned out that she fell and hurt her hip the night before he was born.
True to her nature, she didn't tell anyone about the fall, but simply said that she "wasn't feeling up to coming over" to see my new baby, even though we lived a mere 10 minutes apart.
That seemingly minor event was the start of a sharp downward spiral for her. Two weeks later, she fell again and broke her hip.
The surgery that was supposed to replace her hip sent her body into multiple strokes instead, and we never got to hear her voice again.
We had had a misunderstanding on the phone the day before, and I am so glad that I rushed to the hospital to speak with her one last time before that surgery happened.
We used to talk on the phone for at least an hour, almost every day. It took me months to figure out how to cope with day-to-day life without her patience and encouragement just a phonecall away.
I grieved a lot when she first got hurt--moreso than lately, almost.
I am still incredibly upset that I deleted her last voicemail, not realizing at the time that I'd never hear her voice again. She only got to meet baby Nik once before the strokes happened. My sweet mama passed away 14 months later.
All that said…
I am SO THRILLED that I finally got to have a homebirth, and I will be forever thankful to my two dear midwife-friends for supporting me, and helping me to take care of myself!
After my last, traumatic birth, Nik's was soul-moving in its calmness and simplicity. My NEXT homebirth story was even more incredible!
Courses | Services | Consults: RethinkBirth.com
birthawakening is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
MORE BIRTH STORIES: