My due date was October 12. My mom said to plan on going two weeks over and my midwife was pretty sure I would go late as well. My mother-in-law and sister-in-laws were trying to take me shopping as much as possible to walk me into labor. My sister Matti texted me to let me know that rainy days tend to put women into labor, so I was pretty excited when I woke up in the middle of the night October 12 to a torrential rainstorm. As I lay awake listening to the hail-like storm, I started thinking about my baby. We didn’t know he was a boy at the time, so I was just wondering what the baby would be like. I started to write a letter to the baby in my mind and a little contraction came on. It was weird to feel my whole stomach tighten up into a ball, but even more strange to feel a little pop inside. I found out later that my water had broken just a little and up high so it wasn’t the “gush” that I had been fearing for the last couple weeks.
So the walking ensued again to see if we could get some contractions started. Shay and Alva (mom and sis-in-law) came to help me get my house ready for labor and delivery as I was doing a homebirth. Then we went to the mall for a couple hours. I had been warned to rest during early labor, so I tried not to get too caught up in it all with timing contractions and such. It wasn’t until I was going to bed around 11:00 pm that Dustin and I finally timed a few contractions. They were about 5 minutes apart so I told my parents to head out. They drove through the night to get here in time which I was so grateful for, and it worked out perfectly.
Funny thing is that at that point, I envisioned going to bed and waking up to deliver a baby the next morning. By 1:00 am I had contractions that were keeping me awake, and by 4:00 they were too uncomfortable to deal with alone so I woke Dustin. The early morning hours we spent together just the two of us were one of my favorite parts of the whole experience, and possibly of all our times together so far. We went downstairs to start filling my birthing tub around 5:00. It was still dark outside, and as we sat cuddled on the sofa, I felt like we were the only two people awake in the whole world. I was a little scared and a little uncomfortable, but I was most surprised by this new deeper love that I felt for Dustin as we awaited this huge change in our lives. It brought me to tears so I quickly assured him it wasn't the pain that was making me cry. I didn't want him to think I already couldn't handle it.
That's another funny story. Dustin's mom came over around noon to check on us. She asked me how my pain was on a scale of 1-10. Having never experienced labor before, I was pretty uncomfortable with what I was feeling. Looking back, I realize they were totally bearable but the frequency and intensity were new to me and annoying, so I kinda wanted to say I was at a 10. I didn't want to look like a wimp so I thought I'd be generous and give it an 8. Ha ha! Once I really experienced the most intense labor gets, I realized those were probably more like a 4.
So the morning was spent in and out of the birthing tub, hot towels from the crock pot being placed on my back, sitting on the exercise ball, lots of counter pressure from Dustin, and some chatting with visitors--my Mom and Dad, sisters-in-law Cami and Shay, mother-in-law, and my midwife Janae. It was interesting because the visitors were kind of distracting which I appreciated, but then found out that labor is often interrupted by new visitors, which I guess ultimately drags out the process. When my contractions had slowed too much Janae suggested going for a walk. Dustin and I needed a few things from Smith's so we went to the grocery store. The contractions got stronger as soon as we left the house, so I spent a good amount of our trip letting Dustin lead me slowly by the hand so I could close my eyes and breathe through the contractions. While he was paying, I was pacing, eyes closed, hands on the belly, deeply breathing. The cashier asked how many weeks I had left, so I said "We're there". "Any day now then?" she asked. "Ya, we're there," I said. I didn't want to say "I'm actually in labor right now." And Dustin said she probably wouldn't have believed me anyway.
We walked around a garage sale and a little food fair going on in Town Square, but it got pretty awkward being out in public when I kept stopping to breathe and close my eyes every couple minutes, so we went home. At 3:00 that afternoon Janae came back and checked me. I was only dilated to a "4" which was really disheartening for me. Most my contractions were only about 45 seconds long and coming two minutes apart so they just weren't making very fast progress.
I started to feel really tired so Janae suggested Dustin and I go lay down in our bedroom. That was the game changer. Almost as soon as we laid down, I got the strongest contraction yet. It was long and unlike anything I'd ever felt. I screamed. I had totally envisioned being this well-composed laborer, but in that moment I was totally shocked and that was my natural reaction. Then I cried because I realized I was gonna have more like that. I think on the next one, I just moaned loudly. These started at around 5:00. Janae and Dustin helped me through two more hours of those while I stayed laying on my side. Each time I would have a long contraction (over 1 minute) or contractions that double peaked or came on top of one another, I would ask if that was "transition." I had that in my mind's eye as the goal. I figured once I had the hardest contraction I could bear, Janae would tell me I was in transition and then I'd know I was almost done. She never said it and each contraction I thought was the hardest I could handle.
My mom, having given birth naturally four times, tried to remind me to conserve my energy by staying relaxed in the contractions. She told me to "go to my place." I knew for her she had envisioned lying on a beach. I had never really decided beforehand a "place" I would go to during labor, despite her suggestions to do so. I was pretty mad at her in the moment that she reminded me to go to my place so I replied with "I don't have a place!" Then I tried to "lay on a beach" between contractions like she suggested. I was calm and relaxed but as soon as the contraction started I called out "I can't stay there!"
Around 7:00 I decided I'd had enough. I tried sitting on the floor but couldn't find any position that would relieve me. I stood up to walk. I just felt like I needed to get away. I figure that was the adrenaline rush I'd read about. Apparently in fight or flight my response is flight. Dustin asked where I was going and I said I didn't know. In my mind I was thinking I'd walk to the hospital and get an epidural. Janae said that I was just getting away, which meant anywhere that wasn't where the pain was. But I quickly realized that walking to the hospital wasn't an option when another contraction came and I shouted, "I don't want to be standing up!" I leaned over the bed and called to Dustin to squeeze my hips and fast.
It's strange to think back on it now. Each contraction was short in the overall scheme of things, so it seems like you should be able to handle anything for a minute or two. And you can because I obviously survived. But I think the hardest thing is not knowing how many more contractions you have to handle before it's all over. The road felt very long. It was at about this time that I first threw up. Janae explained to Dustin as I was dry heaving (sorry for the graphic description) that throwing up actually helps push the baby down. I said, "I hope that worked then."
I finally asked Janae what happens if I can't take anymore. What I wanted to ask was "When do you decide I'm not cut out for this home birth thing and take me to the hospital?" but I was too proud to say that aloud. Janae said she'd check me to see where I was at. I'd been at a 6 when the hardest contractions started so I figured I'd have to be pretty close. Even if she said I was at a 9 I would feel like I have some clue of how much longer I'd have ahead of me.
I wasn't at a 9, or even an 8. I was at a 6 still. But Janae tried massaging my cervix a little and it opened easily to an 8. It was funny (although not at the time) because Janae told me all excitedly that I'd opened easily to an 8 as if an 8 was good news. I wanted to be a 10. An 8 was bad news. But then she explained that the fact that I hadn't jumped when she did that meant that my cervix was really soft and ready to deliver, but that it hadn't opened up all the way most likely because the baby's head couldn't drop down into it. She suggested we break my water to let the baby descend and that I would be able to push once his head opened my cervix the other 2 centimeters.
At 7:30 Janae broke my water. That felt good for a second until I got the strongest pressure in my lower back. I was laying flat on my back and Janae told me to push. I thought, "With what?" I felt so exhausted I had no idea how to push. I begged her to let me squat because that seemed like it would take the pressure off my back. She had me try two pushes on my back because she said the position was a good angle for the delivery, but I really wanted to squat. To my surprise, the pressure was still there when I squatted, and worse, I didn't have the strength in my legs to hold a squat. Janae told me the pressure was the baby's head in my back and that I would feel it there until the baby's head got out. That was motivation to push. But I still felt at a loss for positioning. I tried an asymmetrical squat with one knee on the ground to support me but that felt awkward. I was leaning on Janae squeezing her thighs and calling out that I couldn't push. I really did feel alone in this moment. I guess it's because only I could figure out how to push the baby down and what was going on inside my body. I realize now as I write this that I was definitely too focused on the pain and not aware enough of what I was trying to do. I just wanted to get away from the pain. I think if I could have mentally gone inside my body I might have been able to push more effectively. Something to try "next time"... :-)
I remember Janae reminded me that there were angels there to help me. I thought in my head, then they need to do something more because I can't do this. I just realized that in that moment I had the idea to have Dustin sit behind me while I pushed. I guess I didn't realize it at the time, but the picture of how to position myself and him popped in my mind so clearly. It had to be revelation. That position helped SO much. Dustin pulled on my knees and I pushed for about 15 more minutes. I had been so worried beforehand about tearing, but in the moment that his head was crowning, I only felt relief to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Janae kept asking if I wanted to feel the baby's head. I regret now that I didn't reach down, but I was so scared and confused. I just wanted the head out of me. I was afraid to move from that position that I had finally settled into.
The relief as his little head popped out was amazing. It was like all the burning and pressure disappeared in an instant. I'm not sure I even realized that meant the head was out until I looked down and saw his little head there. Janae told me to give one more big push to get the shoulders out. It turned out that Corbin had come out with his hand on his neck and the cord around his neck, so it was a little difficult to get his shoulders through, but Janae quickly took care of the situation. She was amazed that he had had such a strong heart rate while in the birth canal, especially with so much pressure on his neck. In fact, right before he was born, she was checking the heart rate and said, "I will be very surprised if this is a boy" because boys tend to go into distress more than girls in the birth canal.
That brings me to the final moments. As soon as he was born, Janae passed Corbin straight to my chest. As I lay there holding him for the first time, looking at his little purple face, I just apologized for not getting him out faster. I was instantly worried that I had hurt him. He was so precious and I just wanted him to be healthy and safe. I totally forgot that I didn't know if he was a boy or girl. I don't know if I cared at that point. He was just my perfect little baby. But everyone quickly reminded me that they were waiting to know what the baby was. I felt so weak and so overwhelmed. I thought he was the heaviest thing and I would drop him if I tried to lift him to see. I think I was even unsure how to check--haha. Dustin helped me lift him and we both called out together, "It's a Boy!" I pictured making that discovery so much more exciting, but I think nothing could compare to the climax of birthing him. It was definitely more climactic for everyone else that was waiting to know I think.
I was pretty surprised by all the after pains and the shakes that I experienced right after birth. All day I thought that once I had the baby all the pain would end. All that pain ended, but it was still a long time before I felt totally comfortable. I think I was in shock. My blood sugar was probably totally depleted. I felt cold and unable to control my body. I did however take a moment to enjoy my floppy flapjack belly which was totally intriguing to me.
Most the day I had thought I would never do it again, but within a couple days, I was already so grateful for the experience. I was grateful to have Corbin. I was grateful for the bond it forged between Dustin and me.