My doula Leda came for a postpartum visit today and presented me with a lovely birth story. This inspired me to finally write down my own version. Note- if you do not like birth stories and do not want to read about mucous plugs, contractions and amniotic fluid, stop reading right now. Otherwise, consider yourself warned and read on:
During this pregnancy, I started having Braxton Hicks/ pre-labor contractions pretty early on, around 34 weeks. I was surprised, but my midwife Miriam reassured me that it was normal for symptoms to appear earlier in subsequent pregnancies. On November 7th, in my 36th week, I had a day of more intense contractions and all around weird sensations and I thought I may be in labor and that my water had broken (it had not). The sensations went away in the evening though and for the next few weeks, I went about my regular business, having some days with more contractions, others with less. I tried to rest up more, especially at nights. I always knew the contractions were not real labor because they did not hurt that much and because they stopped when I was lying down.
I saw my midwife Wednesday before Thanksgiving and she said everything looked great. We scheduled our next visit for Thursday, December 1st, my due date. My husband laughed and said there was no way we were still going to be seeing her pregnant that day.
Friday November 25th started out as a pretty regular day. The kids were all home so we spent time at the park in the morning and then the afternoon getting ready for shabbos. A little bit after candle-lighting, I noticed that I was having a lot of discharge, more than usual. This continued on for most of the evening so I asked my husband if I could call the midwife just to check in and see if it might be amniotic fluid. I told her what was going on and she told me she thought it was my mucous plug and not amniotic fluid. She also told me how to check to be sure, to go to bed early and call her if anything changes.
I went to bed early and had a pretty good night's sleep although I just felt something was going on. I was not having a lot of contractions, but something felt different. I also remember having a few contractions lying down and thinking it was weird, because I had never had contractions in bed.
Shabbos morning I woke up and soon after started having real contractions. They felt different than the Braxton- Hicks because they were stronger, although still not very painful. They were coming about every 15 to 20 minutes. I told my husband to go to shul but to make sure the janitor would pick up the phone in case I needed him. I was not sure if I should go to shul, but once I saw that the contractions were still irregular and not hard to deal with, I decided to take the kids. I figured it would distract me and also keep them busy. It is hard for them to be home all day so I wanted to take them out.
Shul was pretty uneventful. We only went around 10 45 and left about 12 so we were not there for that long. I was able to daven and interact with people at the kiddush after, while every 20 minutes or so taking 45 seconds to surreptitiously breathe through a contraction. Around 12 I decided it was probably best to head home. We then had a pretty normal shabbos lunch. I wanted to go about with my routine as much as possible until I felt like I could not anymore. So I served everyone lunch and I ate a good meal to make sure I was well nourished and hydrated for labor. We sang songs and talked about the parsha with the kids.
The contractions started feeling stronger and coming closer together. At some point my husband walked into the kitchen while I was leaning into the counter and breathing/swaying. He shook his head and said something like, "It's a good thing you know about this stuff and are calm."
By now I knew this baby was coming that day, it was just a question of when. We discussed dropping the kids off by friends but there were some teenage girls coming over to play with them around 3, so we decided to wait and see what was going on once the girls left. Maybe we could stall till bedtime or at least till shabbos was over when we could distract the kids with the iPad.
We finished lunch around 1 45 and I told my husband to go rest because I could not sleep with contractions anyway. I decided to read on the couch while the kids played. The contractions were closer together when I was actively moving around so I was trying to stall a bit by staying lying down. The contractions were more uncomfortable that way. The kids still had no idea anything was going on. They did not really notice me breathing through contractions and I wasn't doing anything else at this point.
When the girls arrived to watch the kids around 3, I excused myself to go lie down. I called Miriam to tell her what was going on. Because the contractions were still spaced out when resting, she thought I probably still had some time but told me she would be close by, awaiting my call. I was a bit disappointed because I thought she would come right over, but decided Miriam was probably right and there was still more time.
I tried to lie down and rest a bit, but I was too excited by all the happenings. Plus I could not stay lying down during the contractions which were now 7-8 minutes apart and getting stronger.
The turning point came at 3 45 when I went to the bathroom and all of a sudden, started having contractions every 2-3 minutes. I stayed in the bathroom for a bit because I felt more comfortable there but when I saw that they were not slowing down and also thought my water might have broken, I realized I needed to call Miriam back.
I called Miriam around 4 10 and told her I was ready for her to come ASAP. I also called my doula Leda who happened to be on her way to the West Side anyway. She said if I was calling her on Shabbos, something must really be going on. It was a little strange making all these calls on Shabbos, but I knew it was the right thing to do. If anything I probably should have called earlier!
From here, everything went really fast. My husband asked the girls to stay so he could daven mincha. He would watch the kids till the end of shabbos and then put on a video for them. There was only 45 minutes left till the end of Shabbos so that seemed to make sense.
He also brought me some water. Meanwhile I decided to get in the shower to cope with the contractions. By now they were really intense but thankfully they were very short, maybe 30 seconds or so. Maybe 45. I wasn't timing anything at this point, just trying to get through one at a time. The shower was incredibly helpful. I let the water run down my back while leaning into the wall and moaning.
I could have just stayed there. I did not really want to move but I realized I was close to pushing and decided to call Miriam again to make sure she was really coming! Just as I came out of the bathroom, Miriam walked in. It was 4 45 and I was so relieved to see her. I told her I thought I was almost ready to push and she took one look at me and agreed. She checked the baby's heartbeat and said it sounded great.
About two contractions later, Leda walked in and I started to feel a real urge to push. At 4 57, with one of my first pushes, my water broke. At first I was pushing standing up but then I decided to move onto my bed. This was my first time pushing self-directed rather than the counting way they do in the hospital. It felt better this way to push when I felt the need to, rather than when the doctor tells you to. I could feel the baby moving down, although I could not see anything because of the position I was in.
At this point, Leda asked if she should go get my husband and take over the kids. I was very much in the moment and did not want her to leave my side. I also was not sure how he could be in the room for modesty reasons. Looking back, I regret that decision. I did not realize how soon the baby was going to be born and I wish he could have been there. I was also just really focused on getting the baby OUT. Throughout my labor I had been pretty calm and in control, even through what must have been transition while I was in the shower. But now I was starting to lose it and just wanted it to be over. With every push I kept asking if the head was crowning yet. I actually only pushed for 10 minutes but it felt like forever at the time. Finally I felt the baby crowning and the head emerged. I was assuming that from that point on, he would slide right out like the others did, but instead I felt incredible pain as his shoulders and the rest of his body came out. It was the only time in my labor when I actually screamed really loud. I remember saying, "What's going on?" because I thought something was wrong.
But then the baby was here! Miriam and Leda helped me turn from my knees onto my back and handed me the baby. They covered us in towels so we would be warm and I got my first look at the baby. I checked the gender and announced "It's a boy". He was covered in vernix and cried right away. In fact, Miriam said he started making sounds before his whole body was even out. She also told me that the pain I had felt was him coming out straight with both shoulders, as opposed to rotating one shoulder at a time, so she had helped him along a bit. Even so, I only had a minor tear that did not need any repairs. The baby looked great. His APGARS were 9 and 10.
As soon as the baby was born and I was covered, Leda went to get my husband so he could meet our new baby. It was a very special moment. We were waiting to cut the cord until the placenta was out so I just lay there with the baby on me, getting to know him. I felt the cord pulsating, which was pretty cool. The baby cried a bit and at first he was not so interested in nursing but after 20-30 minutes, he latched on like a pro.
Soon after,I delivered the placenta and we cut the cord. The kids came in at some point to meet their new baby brother. They were very excited.
After about an hour, Miriam examined me to make sure my bleeding was normal (it was) and did a newborn exam on the baby. He measured 21 inches and weighed in at 8lbs 6 oz, although I think Miriam's scale might have been a bit off and he was probably more like 8 lbs 2 oz. He passed his newborn exam with flying colors- his color was good, all his reflexes were in order and, as a bonus, he was beautiful!
I could not believe how normal everything had felt. I also was feeling very good for just having given birth. When I told Miriam that my perineum felt a bit sore, she laughed and said, "Well you did just have a baby come out of there!" I got up to take a shower, while Leda and Miriam changed the sheets and cleaned up the room. The mess was pretty contained and it was easily done. I also got dressed so we could take some pictures with the baby.
Miriam left around 6 45 after making sure we were all settled and okay. She told me to call her anytime if I had any questions and that she was available to come back if I needed her. Leda stayed for a bit longer. She got some laundry started and brought me dinner- orange juice and cereal.
My husband put the kids to bed and called our parents to share the news. By 8 pm, everyone had left, the kids were sleeping and I was lying in bed with the baby. I marveled at him and at how smoothly things had gone. It's truly a miracle how one moment you are pregnant and then all of a sudden there is this little person. We felt incredibly blessed.
PS: I know a lot of you are curious about the logistics of home birth. I plan to do a more comprehensive post about it in the next few weeks, including frequently asked questions, the safety of homebirth, etc. so stay tuned!