After many eager pushes by dear friends, 11 glorious weeks later - I'm finally getting around to writing Willow's birth story. I've been thinking about it for a couple of months now, and to be honest I have just been hung up on what to write about. I mean, what IS my birth story? The more I recall Willow's birth and the circumstances around it - the more I realize the push for me to tell my story is not so much because it is such an amazing story to tell, yet because it is something so uniquely different - almost unheard of in our culture . I feel the need to not write my story for myself, but because many don't understand what it really means to have a home birth - and the big question ... "WHY would I be crazy enough to want to do that?".
If you have been following any of my facebook posts over the last 11 months you probably have labeled me as crazed at some point due to all my "natural birth" and "anti-western medicine" posts. To be honest, I have felt that way about myself every now and then and have questioned and re-questioned my real motif. ...And while I'm on the topic I PROUDLY state that I'm one of those "crazy" home-birthing, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, make my own baby food kind of mothers. :) However crazy this world may seem to many - I have read, watched, and researched myself deep into one of my biggest passions . I feel confident in my self-education , and feel ready to continue taking on this roll of an educator that knowledge has so gracefully dumped into my lap. I have big plans to continue education in this field and incorporating that knowledge into my birth photography and into "now I lay me down to sleep" ministries. I now realize, more than ever, that having both a hospital births and a home birth is one of many necessary preparations for God's vision for the rest of my life.
So, homebirth? My birth story can not really be told effectively without knowingwhere I've been to bring me to my current decisions, mostly by the stories of my two previous births. However, after sitting down to write this for the fifth time I've come to realize my past experiences and new education are just that - the past. I'd love nothing more to share with you in depth what I've learned and how I've grown from a high school student - very naive to what it meant to have a baby much less to be a mother to who I am today, but I realize that is meant for another time. After all, THIS story is about my new precious gift - and not about saving the reader or defending my choices.
And, so, her story begins:
After a month and a half of braxton hicks, and a week or two of timing my contractions the date on the calendar I'd been watching was here. March 28th was the beginning of my "Due week" - and I was so anxious to be able to hold my little boy. Yup, I said it - little boy. . Don't get me wrong, I wasn't one of the moms that was wrapped in misery and wanting the baby out just because pregnancy had played it's toll on me. I honestly cherished every moment and every kick knowing that at any time it could be my last moment to have this beautifullife inside of me - all to my own. My grandmother had flown up to be here for the birth, and the real reason I was so anxious. She was due to leave April 3rd, and secretly I was worried that my baby would make a late appearance and she would miss the opportunity to hold my sweet bundle until her next visit. To add to my excitement and anxiety over my own birth, a dear friend had her baby that day. As I read her updates of labor and birth I could just imagine kissing the sweet face of my own baby. I was ready.
The next few days our family poured into spending time with one another knowing that these were the last few days that Thomas and Lily had to themselves. Plus, all the activities kept me on my feet and walking. The time was perfect as I got to spend countless dinners with my parents and grandmother as well as a few last minute outings with friends. We brought the kids to the science museum, circus, mall, and spent time painting. In order to keep our schedule as "normal" as possible I brought the kids to church Wednesday night (March 30th) like I always do, and did my rounds to friends dishing out hugs and constant conversation about "When is the baby coming?", "You're still pregnant?", and "Aren't you overdue?" I walked out of the church that night at 9:00 a little sad for the first time ... However busy I kept myself, still, I was unable to keep my mind off of when baby would come or not come. For the first moment in my pregnancy I wanted it over with. Since I had made the choice to homebirth that also meant I made the choice to go into labor on my own and to not be medically induced (which actually added to the excitement), but I was really getting sad that my grandmother may miss the birth.
This is where God's funny timing in the story begins (but does not end). I came home, sent the kids to bed, and only thirty minutes after leaving the doorsteps of church I lost my plug and had my first contraction that was for sure not just braxton hicks. In pure excitement I went ahead and made it known to a few family and friends then continued on with my night as normally as I could. As it got late Loren went on to bed, but I quickly realized that contractions were toouncomfortable to sleep through and since I had just a two hour labor with Lily I thought it would be best for to stay up just in case. At midnight, with contractions getting stronger still, I could not convince myself this was IT (mostly due to 10+ weeks of braxton contractions). I then attempted to throw contractions off by doing the things I've been taught such as taking a warm bath, walking around, and changing my pattern of activity. At 1am I settled into the latest episode of Grey's and thought it best to start timing my labor since I was now having to concentrate on breathing when a contraction hit. It didn't take long for me to realize I was only at 2 minutes apart, and forced myself to finish a full episode before calling the midwife and waking her. Talking, now, was impossible and the pain was getting too strong. I woke Loren for fear of being alone and we stayed up for another hour. If we had chosen a hospital birth this would have been the time we would have left for the hospital, but what a relief it was to not have to get in a car and instead I got to be in the comfort of my own home. 3am I was already getting worn out, and thought it best to attempt to get some rest (thankfully in my own comfy bed). It was obvious at this point labor was going to be quite different from my last labor of only two hours and I knew I would need all my strength. "Sleeping" was a big joke. I was so tired I would fall asleep only to be woken by pain every 4 - 5 minutes - stand up to ease the pain - rock, and thankfully would fall right back to sleep before the next surge hit.
7am - my mother and grandmother arrived to take care of Thomas and Lily and see them off to school. Instantly a new stress hit for some known but many unknown reasons. The smallest most unreasonable things were upsetting me, and just as my midwife predicted due to my emotionsmy labor slowed to now 15-20 minutes apart. I continued to rest but was getting disappointed in myself and a new anxiety had hit. I've never done a homebirth before, and like so many didn't know what to expect despite having birthed two other babies. It was so odd not having nurses constantly in and out - poking me, checking me, and injecting unknown things into an iv. This seems like a good thing, but for someone like me who is so comfortable with hospitals it seemed uncomfortable to not know what was going on. Looking back, now I'm thankful for this experience because I know how horribly different my story would be. Slowing labor in a hospital is "dangerous" and if pit hadn't already been started it would be soon. I'm positive my slowed labor and stress would have then led to some twisted made-up story about how the baby was in distress and an "emergency c-section" was in order especially since I had been in labor for nearly 12 hours with my third baby blah blah blah. Instead I was given soft spoken hands off advice from my care giver to continue resting, stop entertaining guests (both family and friends had arrived at this point), and to allow my body to work because God made me capable.
The day then progressed slowly, but peacefully. Labor continued to be inconsistent, but overall I was able to enjoy a quiet intimate day with my husband. It was just the two of us, and it was wonderful getting to have my best friend the most active participant the birth processinstead of a team of strangers. My biggest complaint with my past labor was that Loren was not an active memory in my experience. I vaguely remember him standing behind me out of site ... possibly holding my hand? I can tell you more about the nurses running in and out and the doctors than I can of my husband. Sad. This day was beautiful and different. The day was packed full of calm excitement that almost seemed like a much needed date with the kids being gone. We ate, enjoyed each other's company, napped, and even got to cuddle on the couch and watch netflix with brief pauses for me to focus on my breath every few minutes. Now who gets THAT experience in a hospital?
11pm - Now past the 24 hour mark, exhausted by labor pains, and still allowing stress to seep in by the unknown - Margret (my midwife) called to check in one more time before she called it a night. Labor was still all over the place. It would get stronger, then slower, then faster, etc. With this news she gave me calm advice again to continue on with a normal night and to get my mind off of things the best I could. 11:20pm - We then called our best friend, Stevie, whom was to attend the birth, to go ahead and come over to help me relax with good conversation (and a warm bath). We visited a short time before I decided to go ahead and prep the house and blow up the birth pool as if I were in active labor in hopes that this would help me progress. I figured that my body was dragging things out because I didn't have the things around me to suggest that it was time. 11:50pm - The birthing ball was the first item on the list to ready, and boy was I happy to get this item into my possession. Stevie then pulled out a secret weapon she had prepared for the day: meditation recordings, and left me on my birthing ball in a dark room to relax while she and Loren went to prepare the pool to be inflated.
12am - The meditations were working - and the contractions were really starting to feel "real" now, however, they had still been bouncing between 3 and 20 minutes apart. Very odd . Five minutes into the relaxation techniques I could feel my body begin to transition into active labor. My idea of getting the house prepped was apparently the best idea. Seemingly out of nowhere three surges hit back to back so severe I had to stand off of the ball and sway my hips like I had learned in my dancing for birth class. Dancing was the only relief of pain. I remember, then, doing a quick scan for my phone to call Stevie and Loren back into the house from their trip to the car to blow up the pool, but it was nowhere to be found. I then nestled back into the ball keeping my head rested on the bed trying to calm down before the next contraction hit. Rest - meditate - breath - surge. I stood again and began my dance and sure enough my water broke. At this point it was only about 12:10am and things had made an official turn from my slow paced day. Almost as if a telepathic message had been sent, Loren and Stevie decided to take a break from the pool (which was blowing up way too slowly with our very underequipped pump) , and walked in the door just in time. Loren was quickly relieved of pool duty and instead became my dance partner while we awaited the arrival of Margaret.
12:25ish am - 2 minutes apart! From this point on time was a blur. although the pain made it seem like days. With Margaret in attendance, a calm came over allowing my body to let go. Loren and I danced, swayed, rocked, and breathed while the midwife and Stevie worked quickly to get ready for some baby catching. I look back on these moments with my husband and sweet memories of his gentle touch will always be with me - a wonderful blessing after such vague memories of him with Lily. The beautiful part of this is Loren had just finished his Reiki (healing hands) classes and was able to use everything he had learned to remove quite a bit of the pain from me. It wasn't apparent to me at the time, pain was still god awful, but when we transitioned from dancing to the pool each surge was amplified what seemed to be a thousand times more than when he was standing with his hands on my belly.
1am - The pool felt wonderful, warm and comfortable, but unfortunately Loren was no longer able to comfortably reach my tummy and Reiki ended. What a painful difference that made. Part of me wanted so badly to get back out of the pool yet another part of me told me to stay in to help my body stretch in order to prevent tearing not to mention I was physically unable to get up. Contractions came back to back, and I honestly felt that standing in the path of a moving locomotive would have been more favorable. Labor was not this intense or hard hitting with either Thomas nor Lily, but I knew I was doing great things for my baby this time by not allowing harm via mediations. Margret's calm voice and encouraging words helped wonders, and was much more favorable than the high strung doctor's voices of the past. I tried my best to rest between contractions and listen to instruction, and for the first time out of all my labors I allowed labor to do to me as it wished and I surrendered to the pain where with Thomas and Lily I remember concerning myself with others first (rolling my eyes at myself). Everything EVERYTHING was different this time - and despite the pain - the calm quiet in the room allowed me to focus on my baby, my body, and my breathing. An added blessing was getting to read a friend's birth story just days before and her words kept repeating to me "With each surge I envisioned breathing my strength into my baby and breathing the baby down so he could make his appearance." And boy did I! I breathed in strength and envisioned light - each breath out was breathing away the pain.
1:32am - A status on my facebook page (posted by Stevie) reads: "Completely dilated!!! Time to push!!!"
Nearly against my will contraction one hit and I bore down and could feel great progress. I'm not entirely sure if it was just my own perception, but time and contractions seemed to slow here. It was all I could do to calm my body in order to envision every muscle relaxing allowing my baby to come to me. The wait between my second and third contraction felt like an eternity, yet the pain snuck up on me as if by surprise. Three pushes total into delivery I recall Margret asking if I wanted to feel the head, to which I refused oddly enough. Looking back I'm not sure if I was too wrapped in calm concentration or if I was truly uninterested. My sweet angel was almost here, and although it seemed improbable that I could survive another contraction I knew it would be the last. My eyes stayed closed, almost too tired to reopen - or maybe I was comfortable for the first time. Peace filled the room - quiet consumed me - and the wait was long before the next push.
1:55am - 29 hours into labor - In near silence a precious baby was lifted from the water and placed in my arms. No crying, no rushing about, no poking or prodding. Just us. The moment was perfect and serene - beautiful by definition. In perfect tranquility we locked eyes and breathed in one another.
2:00am - Stillness began to diminish and was replaced with cooing and ogling over a sweet blessing. It was then ... 5 full minutes later that it happened. With a squeal of excitement I heard the words "and it's April Fools Day!" escape from Stevie's lips. Gasp! The words almost stung as I processed the date with something my mother had joked about nearly a month before: "You know, wouldn't it be funny if you deliver on April Fools and have a girl?" Before I could even clearly think I remember blurting out that we better check to see if we in fact had little boy in our arms. Sure enough ... "It's a GIRL?!?!"
Laughter immediately filled the room from not only myself but from Stevie and Margret as well. Only Loren was left in stunned silence as we discovered that our much awaited little boy was mysteriously swapped with a baby girl in a last minute switch-er-roo. April Fool's indeed!
The next couple of hours were amazing. I was so happy at this point for my homebirth as I climbed into my warm clean sheets of my own bed with my baby tucked in my arms - not once being swept away for blood tests or measurements. We went straight from the pool to nursing in bed for the next hour and a half with the most beautiful bright eyed baby you'd ever seen. It was only when I was ready to hand her off did Margret proceed with getting her weight and such. What a wonderful way to be brought into the world.
That night we snuggled tightly with her wrapped in my arms and slept soundly with no one else in the house. The following morning and days to follow were perfectly relaxing as well while my two older children popped in to visit their new sister and a small amount of visitors flowed in and out at a comfortable pace. The stress of postpartum simply was not there in comparison to my last experiences. No waiting on doctors, no being woken up from my only sleep by nurses, no uncomfortable stale rooms. This time I was not forced to sign papers with a painful iv still stuck in my hand nor was I expected to pee on command in order to be "ok'd" by a cold staff. We didn't have to force my tiny baby out of my arms - not once - not even to put into a car seat. Needless to say my hormones were stabilized, rest was easy, and healing was quick. Three full days passed before myhome visit and blood was ever drawn (which was done so gently that she didn't even feel it). I will always remember the severity of pain that my little angle caused my unexpecting body, but if given the chance I would duplicate my homebirth experience again. If nothing else the sweet calmness of Willow, hardly crying more than a whimper, proves to me how ideal this process of birth is.
8lbs 2oz, 20 inches long.