Danny's Birth Story

In looking back through my birthday letters to my boys this year, I realized that I hadn't yet posted their birth stories on this blog.  In honor of each of their birthdays this year, I'll post each of their birth stories here.  This is re-posted from the Born in Bellingham blog I ran for a while, so I originally wrote it around 5 years ago, using some of my original telling and adding a few additional details.

In the three and a half years between having my first baby and getting pregnant with my second, I became a bit of a birth junkie. I HAD felt empowered by my birth, amazed that I'd done that. In reading more information and other people's birth stories, though, I came to realize that there were other choices. I read a lot of birth blogs, and then I watched "The Business of Being Born." I was hooked. I was incensed. I hated that I'd been so afraid of labor and birth when it should have been something to look forward to. I hate that we don't educate young women as to ALL of the choices available to them when it comes to birth. I hate how our country seems to view all of this as a medical condition, and I hate that people think they need a doctor when in many cases a midwife is more than enough support.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to do things very differently. I asked a long time family friend who is a hypnobirthing instructor and doula for a recommendation, and I hired a midwife. We took hypnobirthing classes. I watched tons of videos on YouTube and read hundreds of birth stories - all positive, all empowering and amazing. I couldn't wait for my birth, to really feel the power of doing it myself this time. I trusted my body.

At 30 weeks I realized I was not comfortable with my midwife. I am generally very confrontation-phobic, and I have often sat back and just accepted something because it was easier and I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. This time, I didn't. I realized that I absolutely did not want someone attending my birth who I was not comfortable with. It would have been setting myself up for discomfort and problems during labor. Luckily, I found another midwife I'd heard good things about who had room to take me, and as soon as I met her I was 100% happy with my decision. I connected with her in a way I hadn't with the first woman. We planned to have the baby at our local birth center, about 20 minutes from our home. I thought about a home birth, but we were living in a house owned by my father in law and I knew the only place we'd be able to set up a pool would have been in the kitchen, and I really wanted to be able to be in the water, and didn't want to have my baby in the kitchen. We were also 25 minutes from the hospital, and I felt more comfortable being closer just in case.

My due date was on Mother's Day, May 9, just 7 days after my older son turned 4 years old. It came and went. I was unhappy and uncomfortable. I had been having some practice contractions in the evenings, usually for about an hour and 8 or so minutes apart, then they'd stop until the next night.

On May 10, I woke up got Sam ready for preschool. I went out to Thai food for lunch (my husband plotting to feed me spicy foods) and then shopped for my husband's birthday presents since his birthday was the next day. Pretty early in the day I started having a few contractions - about one or two every hour. They were very spaced out and not very intense, but it was something different to be having them throughout the day instead of just in the evening. I was hoping that this was a good sign. I met Sam at the bus after school around 4:00 and we played outside until my husband got home around 7:00 after dealing with filing a police report because his car had been broken into at work. Since he'd had a bad day, I decided he should open his birthday presents early, so he did that and he and Sam had some cake.

Just before 8 pm, I started having some regular contractions. They felt a little more intense than my usual nightly contractions, and I started hoping that it was for real this time, but I was cautiously optimistic because I didn't want to get my hopes up only to have it not be the real thing. At 8:20, I started timing with the contraction timer on my phone. For the next hour, my contractions were 40-60 seconds long and between 7 and 12 minutes apart. I felt skeptical that this was really it because they were so far apart, and at the least thought that it would be quite a while before we'd be heading to the birth center. I was wondering if my water would break like it did with Sam, and I texted my Mom and sister that this "might be it."

There was a lot of doubt in my mind about how I would know when it was "real" and how long to wait before calling people or heading to the birth center. I knew that the "rule" was 5-1-1 - contractions 5 minutes apart, a minute long, for at least an hour, so that's the guideline I had in mind in regards to calling my midwife. I later realized I was supposed to call her when they were 10 minutes apart to at least check in according to her written instructions since it was my 2nd baby, but it would not have impacted the situation in any way. At this point, my husband was getting nervous. He kept asking me how far apart the contractions were and if they were getting more painful, but I didn't seem worried so he didn't push it.

Around 9:40, a little under 2 hours into it, the contractions got closer. For about 30 minutes, they stayed around 5-7 minutes apart and a minute long. I was starting to wonder if I was a little crazy for opting for a natural birth because they were getting pretty painful. I also realized at that point that I literally had no memory of having ANY pain during my first labor despite the fact that my family told me that I was in pain, and I said I was at the time. My husband asked me if I was able to talk through the contractions since we knew that was another good indicator in terms of heading to the birthing location. At that point, I was lying on the couch on my side and was still able to talk through them. I tried listening to my hypnobirthing CD, but quickly realized that it was not going to work. I couldn't relax. I got up from the couch and turned if off, emphatically telling my husband "This is NOT going to work!" I think if my labor had been longer and I'd had more mild contractions for longer, it would have been great. If they'd been spaced out further it would have been nice to relax in between.

My husband was packing a bag for Sam so we could drop him off at a friend's on the way to the birth center and getting a few things for himself together. I walked around the house, stopping to sway and moan during contractions. I was still very calm, and my husband was moving at a medium pace. The contractions were not really regular, and weren't getting closer together and he was thinking about how long my first labor had taken.

Suddenly, around 10:15, the contractions got very hard. They were coming every 2.5 - 3.5 minutes and I was no longer able to talk or walk through them. I was vocalizing through each one, moaning and trying to keep my voice low and remember to breathe deeply instead of panting or yelling. I picked up my phone and found myself on my knees in our family room with my elbows on the couch. I called my midwife and told her that it was time and we would be there in 20 minutes. She said she would meet us there. I was sweating and felt my body working hard at that point. When we looked back later at the contraction timer, my contractions had gone from being 10-12 minutes apart to 3-5 minutes apart in less than 10 minutes.

My husband was running around the house a bit crazily now, trying to get everything in the car. At 10:25, he called my Mom and told her to meet us at the birth center, and was about to carry a sleeping Sam out to his carseat. That's when my water broke. It was a completely different experience having my water break while in hard labor, I was caught off guard by the loud pop and flood of fluid. My husband heard it from across the house and called out to ask if my water had just broken. I could barely answer him. As soon as my water broke, my contractions were one on top of the other. That's when the pressure started.

I barely remember walking to the bathroom, one room away from where I was. I sat down on the toilet, and I could hear my husband rushing around to get ready. At this point, I knew that we were not going anywhere. I could feel my body bearing down with each contraction, I was pushing and there was no stopping it. I knew there was no way I was getting in a car. At this point I was yelling during the contractions, and my husband came into the bathroom. He told me I just had to stand up and walk to the car, and I said "I can't." He thought I meant I thought I couldn't because the contractions were painful, and was getting frustrated because he didn't understand.

I remember saying that it hurt. After only 7 contractions that were right on top of one another - probably about 10-15 minutes on the toilet - I reached down and felt my baby's head. I said, "he's coming, he's coming right now" and my husband asked what he should do. I told him to put down towels and I got on the floor on all fours with my arms on the side of the bathtub. My husband asked again what to do, and I said "catch him." And he did.

After four pushes, the head was out, and after two more, our second baby was born in our home into his father's hands. Sam slept on the couch through almost the whole thing, only waking briefly when I roared during the final pushes. I sat down and turned around, and my husband handed me our baby. I wrapped a towel partway around him, but honestly was a bit in shock. My husband swept his mouth out and made sure he was breathing. He looked up at me and he didn't cry, he just made a few noises, enough that I knew he was fine.

Daniel John was born at 10:55 pm on May 10, 2010. He was 8 lb 3 oz and 20 inches long. I held him skin to skin in my arms and my husband rushed outside to call our midwife and the people who were headed to the birth center to tell them to come to the house. He stayed fairly calm until he started making the calls, then started to get shaky and called my Mom twice. Our midwife arrived at our home about 15 minutes after Danny was born. She looked at the placenta, which I had already birthed, and clamped his cord so that my husband could cut it. Holding him for about 30 minutes after he was born, skin-to-skin, without any interruption was amazing. Once we cut the cord, our midwife helped me up to my bed and my Mom and her husband arrived. Soon after, my stepdad and my sister also got to our house.

Our midwife weighed and measured Danny and we wrapped him up in a couple of sleep sacks and a blanket because he had gotten a little cold from when I was holding him without a blanket on him. She stuck around for an hour or two and made sure we were all okay. A couple of hours later I got up to go to the bathroom and sit so my husband could clean up the bed and get it ready for us to sleep in. Unfortunately there was a bit of a mess to clean up (one of the reasons I HADN'T planned on a home birth!), so it took a few minutes. We did have chux pads on the bed, but they were insufficient. I was feeling VERY dizzy and weak, and my Mom started to get concerned. After I sat for a few more minutes and had a couple of bowls of cereal we decided that it was just a combination of getting up from bed too soon, the adrenaline rush wearing off, and not having eaten since lunchtime. With all the commotion, my midwife forgot to remind me to eat something before trying to get up, and it didn't occur to me apparently.

I moved to the floor in the bathroom, and then when the bed was done I got up to walk across the hall back to bed. My husband helped me up, but when he turned around to get something from the bathroom I was in the hall and passed out. It was really weird, I have never passed out or fainted before and I just felt my body become SO heavy and fall to the floor, then I woke up and it just felt like it was morning and I'd woken up. I crawled over the bed and climbed up, and I felt okay. Luckily, I didn't hit anything on the way down!

Danny slept like a champ, which was nice since I didn't fall asleep until after 3:30 am and he slept for a good 5 hour chunk. We had so many other people around, he just got passed from person to person who loved him. Despite the mess, I love that I had my baby at home and just like my first birth, he was surrounded by people who love him immediately as he came into his life in the outside world. It was kind of great not to have to go to the hospital or anywhere and just be at home.

My recovery was more difficult with Danny than it was with Sam, I think because he came so quickly that my body didn't have time to adjust. I didn't have any tears or stitches, but I was just really, really sore and spent most of the first week on the couch. My stomach muscles hurt a lot until my midwife suggested binding my stomach, which I did with an elastic type back brace I happened to have in my house. After wearing it for 24 hours there was a huge difference, and she told me that in a lot of countries they do that for all women after birth.

In the end I had two very different birthing experiences. Both were wonderful in their own ways, but it never stops being fun to tell people about my unplanned, unassisted home birth! Now I encourage all women I can to educate themselves and decide what they really want - you can have the birth you want, even if sometimes it happens differently than you'd expected.