As I sit to type this story, I’ve got the most precious newborn baby girl napping on my chest. Fresh, healthy, and the sweetest thing to look at. Her smells and cute face bring me to tears daily it seems. But it was so hard to picture this moment before her birth, and even harder to see during labor.
Jordy and I decided on a home birth somewhat early in our pregnancy. We’d had several friends go through the process at home and loved it. Giving birth in the peace of your own home sounded ideal to us, and we had a hospital nearby if needed! But we knew midwives had been delivering babies for centuries, and many other countries utilize midwives more than we do in the US. We trusted our care with Hearth and Home Midwifery, and they were incredible through the entire process…and it was a LONG process.
May 5, 2020 – Early labor
It was about 4 or 5AM when I started to notice the signs. Feelings of menstrual cramps and abdominal discomfort, coming at regular intervals. So I started to time them. Every 15 minutes I was getting a moderate contraction, and I knew I had to get as much sleep as possible…this could be it! The start the midwives were talking about!
All day the contractions persisted, staying at 15 minute intervals. We were in the middle of packing to move, so I rested and slept as much as possible to anticipate the impending workout of labor. By nightfall, no changes, so it was off to bed to get as much sleep as possible.
May 6th, 2020 – early labor progresses
1 or 3AM (I’m not sure, it was early)
Contractions start intensifying and getting closer. 9 minutes apart. I woke up and tried to use the restroom, mostly to see if these were contractions and not something else trying to pass. No relief. This could be the day!
All morning and afternoon, no big change. Contractions were now 6-9 minutes apart, growing more uncomfortable. After two nights of interrupted sleep, I knew I had to get some naps in if I was going to have energy to get this baby out.
One of our midwives showed up to check dilation and my progress – 3cm dilated and my cervix was fully effaced! This was excellent news, the baby could be here in a matter of hours. We called our doula and my mom to fill them in on the progress. As they made their way out our midwife left and said to call when the contractions were between 3-5 minutes apart (I think, they gave my husband, Jordy, instructions).
The contractions kept intensifying, as Jordy and my doula, Katy, helped me with breathing and movement to handle the pain. Low-pitched hums and breathing, there’s no room to feel self-conscious or ashamed during labor, no matter what you do to find comfort.
Hours passed that night and still no baby, and the midwives had yet to be called as we continued to time contractions. We went upstairs because I felt the need to lie down and took a quick 10 minute nap, which seemed to slow contractions, so I got up. Side note: I learned there isn’t much you can do to slow or speed labor, but that the baby and hormones will ultimately come when they are ready!
May 7th, 2020 – The day our lives changed
1AM-ish the midwives finally arrive. My contractions are close, and very intense, and dilation was about 8cm! But my amniotic sac hadn’t ruptured and was putting major pressure on my cervix. My husband Jordy, doula Katy, mom Jan, and best girlfriend (and photographer) Kari were all there encouraging me and helping manage the continued rushes of contractions. Jordy was giving me water and small bits of food to sustain my body and energy. You can snack and drink all you need during a home birth since there aren’t any drugs or an epidural to consider. Katy and Kari were using oils and encouraging my breathing, as well as helping affirm my efforts alongside Jordy. My mom was encouraging and a steady presence, as she has been my whole life.
It all felt like too much – how long can these last? The baby has to be here soon. But the midwives were working and getting things set up, not concerned with a quickly approaching baby…I knew we had more time. We hadn’t even filled the birth tub yet! All I wanted was a sign that something was close…
A few hours later
I finally got into the birth tub and felt immediate relief – but the contractions continued. From there on, I don’t have perfect recollection of the labor and timing of events (though my birth team does). I labored in the tub, on the toilet, on the floor, in a squat, in the shower, standing, you name it. To put it bluntly, it just felt like one long, never-ending process. I’d love to talk about how strong and prepared I felt, but I want to be as candid as possible, I’d never wanted to give up so many times in my life. The birth process is incredible, beautiful, and so empowering, but I’ve also never felt so defeated by something I romanticized about my entire pregnancy.
The midwives suggested Jordy and I rest if we could. I was worried this was taking too long, but my midwives assured me this was normal, and our baby’s heart rate was stable and strong. We were okay. We lied down in bed and tried to sleep for a couple hours, and my birth team rested as well.
I woke up with a huge urge to push. My amniotic sac still hadn’t burst and I had been 10CM dilated for a couple hours. The midwives could feel the baby behind what felt like a hyper-inflated water balloon. It was time to get that thing to rupture and get this baby out. So I returned to the toilet to push. On the second or third one, the amniotic sac ruptured. Jordy said he was lying in bed praying for it just as it happened – very grateful for that, because I was at the end of my rope waiting for this birth to progress.
During our three hours of pushing and changing positions and places of labor (tub, bed, shower, floor, toilet), the midwives kept noting our baby’s heart rate would drop in specific positions. They hypothesized the umbilical cord was either squished or wrapped around baby’s neck. We knew umbilical cords being wrapped around a babies neck isn’t always a medical emergency, but needs to be monitored before it becomes one. We weren’t afraid with the information but knew we needed to find a position our baby was happy in. And the midwives also wanted to start me on oxygen to get more to the baby. My mom later told me this was hard for her to see, but the whole time I had our baby in mind. If it needed to be done for the safety of our child, I’m on board.
As the baby’s head began to emerge, the contractions were coming on top of one another – I couldn’t catch a breath between pushes. Her heart rate kept fluctuating but stabilized when I got on all fours. Before I knew it, after what felt like a few more pushes, her head came out quickly followed by her body. It was a girl! Side note: Jordy and I were waiting to be surprised on the sex of our baby…but it may have ultimately been my decision.
Her umbilical cord wasn’t just wrapped around her neck once, but twice, and another time around her body (the cord ended up being 4ft long). As the midwives got her untangled, I stared in awe of this little baby we had been waiting so long to meet. In the next moment, they handed me our baby. Removing my oxygen mask they instructed me on giving her rescue breaths, just enough force to feel her chest rise with tension. One breath in both her mouth and nose. And another. After two breaths came the coughs and cries of our little girl. And tears. Those were from Jordy and I. Finally, the battle was over.
From her head presentation after delivery, the midwives could tell Blake took so long because of her positioning. She was brow facing, which put her in a difficult position to deliver quickly, but we did it. These types of birth will often end in a cesarean procedure, but if able to move and find proper positioning, the mother can deliver naturally. This was always a goal with home birth, a natural delivery if possible but if medical intervention is needed we were ready to transport. The end goal is always to feel empowered and at peace, no matter what route you decide for your birth plan.
It’s hard to go through an event like this and immediately think about going through it again. Even looking at these photos the day after the birth brought me to full sobbing tears. Thinking about future children, the birth process, and the possibility of another long labor does intimidate me. Jordy and I both admit it was a lot harder than we anticipated, and we left feeling a little traumatized. One major source of light from this dark spot for us was our birth team. Each and every person there was incredible and we agreed they were the perfect crew to help us, and our girl Blake, get through it.
I couldn’t have done all of this without Jordy too. He was and is the perfect life partner. It brings me to tears thinking of how much he took on for me during that whole process. Being strong when he was scared, encouraging me when we were both feeling defeated, and staying calm and steady while I was falling apart. It’s not easy being that person when you have no control of a situation, and Jordy played his role with more courage than I’ve ever seen.
Our sweet little girl is the best thing that has come into our lives, and we didn’t know we had the capacity love another human this much. This home birth experience is something we won’t forget, and is certainly not something we regret. We understand being able to deliver her safely and naturally into the world was such a gift, and we are super blessed to have a healthy, beautiful baby. Next adventure to tackle…parenting!