Mom Monday: The Homebirth of Sweet Lennon

It all started really when we went to bed on December 27th, which was Lennon’s due date. I had spent the night before putting away all of our Christmas decorations in yet another mad flurry of nesting pregnant craze. We went to bed, and like every other night, my body ached and was uncomfortable. I didn’t think anything of it.

Until it kept waking me up every few hours. Eventually I woke up to get some water at 5 am and as I was walking back to bed, a very subtle stream trickled down my leg.

Did I just pee myself or was that my water breaking? I crawled into bed and told James that I thought my water had just broken and he said that was nice and continued sleeping. He’ll never live that one down.

The contractions were stronger when I laid down, and try as I might to get some rest before what I knew was to come, I couldn’t really sit still.

I walked out to our living room and looked out the window. It was still dark and it was snowing. I noticed a bright, white star in the sky. I’m certain it was Venus, out for a visit as Lennon prepared to enter the world. I sort of wandered around the house, trying to lay down and rest, needing to move. Eventually I woke James up at 7:30am and called our friend Leila who was going to be attending Len’s birth. I was having contractions every ten minutes or so and they were mellow. We ate breakfast and chilled out until 9, when I called our midwives to let them know my water had broken and things were happening. Anne Marie said that she was already busy with another birth, which was happening at the Malachite House, where we had intended to have Lennon. And because it was Christmas break, our other midwife was away visiting family for the holidays.

Things sort of slowed down when all of this was realized. I had been playing reggae music all morning and wasn’t really too fussed about things speeding by. I was excited though.

I wanted a change of scenery and it had turned into a gorgeous winter day with a fresh snowfall and warm sunshine. James and I were wearing these ponchos that we had gotten for Christmas and we walked with Leila, Dave and their 8 month old daughter Myla through the little bird sanctuary near our house. I stopped a few times with contractions, hanging on James’ shoulders to help ease the sensation. We made our way back to the apartment. Once we settled into a game of scrabble, things evened out, and I ate some lunch. Deciding I needed a nap before the fun really began, James and I went into our bedroom to cuddle and love each other as his kisses were making my contractions stronger. It was crazy! But like the night before, I couldn’t lay down without having intense contractions. Ten minutes after we went into our room, I was puking up my lunch on the toilet and everything in my body was shifting.

The contractions were much more intense, my whole core stiffening to become the passageway for Lennon. I started to pace around the house, reggae music still keeping the beat for me as I swayed from side to side. I was kicking my legs, saying fuck a lot, and eventually, whipped my pants off as my lovely friend Leila called my midwife to say “I think we need to come to the house now” as gently as she could. I later found out that Anne Marie wasn’t feeling well and had just finished getting herself cozied in a bath after delivering another baby only a few hours earlier when we called to tell her we needed to come now.

Everything was all packed to go, and Leila very kindly asked me to put my pants back on as I swayed from side to side, leaning over flat backed, my hands gripping the side of the crib. Dave and James packed the car up as Leila put pressure on my lower back. By this point, I had no idea what time it was. No idea how far along in my labour I was. I hadn’t seen a midwife or had the heartbeat listened to or anything. Full active labour had begun at 3 and it was now about a quarter to 5, so I had been actively labouring for about 2 hours. Who knew what the journey ahead of us was going to look like? I had read many places and heard from different stories that transferring from one location to the other could be difficult and possibly slow labour down. Either way, we hopped into the car and took off: it was only ten minutes away.

I sat in the backseat and had my eyes closed the entire ride, moaning over and over as the contractions slowly bled into one another, becoming one long, continuous rush as Lennon moved lower and lower in my pelvis and down my uterus. James said he must have ripped at 90 kmh to the midwive’s house. We got there in no time at all.

I kicked the door down, almost literally, while James brought the bag and stuff inside. Because we were having a home birth, we had quite the suitcase full of towels and blankets and bowls and cookie sheets. Everything to deliver a baby safely and happily at home. Anne Marie met me as I came inside and told me she had just finished running the bath. I pulled all of my clothes off and careened into the tub, feeling amazing as soon as the water hit me.

But then a contraction would come on. And I was stuck. There was no way I was sitting in a reclined position, and the tub’s ceramic bottom killed my knees as I leaned forward, holding a bowl as I was vomiting constantly. A really pretty sight, I’m sure. So I sort of did this dance for the next little while of moving in and out of the tub, hoping it would help but realizing it wasn’t doing the job. At one point, Anne Marie told me to focus, to just breathe and surrender to the experience and allow my new surroundings to help me instead of hinder me.

And I did.

We played some awesome flamenco music, and a bit of reggae, and I danced, swaying my hips from side to side, doing a little two step move around the house as Lennon and I worked through the intensity to bring her into this world.

As things became more and more intense, James continued to pat down my entire body with cold, wet clothes and kiss my head and cheeks, telling me I was amazing and reminding me that he loves me. I really moved. I was in the tub, then on the toilet, then puking, then dancing, then back in the tub. Leila and James vividly remember me dancing while doing a breast stroke, air swimming I suppose. This eventually moved into a full blown arm swinging motion, where I was gathering the energies and imagining that my swaying, open arms would help my body open and help Lennon move lower and lower until I could finally push her out. The sensation eventually became so overwhelming that I was throwing my body around the bathroom recklessly, nearly smacking my head against one of the mirrors before stopping, hands resting on the bed, and looking directly into Leila’s eyes and saying “I’m losing control”.

I had spent so much time towards the end of my pregnancy focusing and thinking about what my biggest fears where and one of them was losing control. Seeing a part of myself that I wasn’t totally sure I was ready to see. And of course, there I found myself, my whole body feeling as though all of the muscles are opening and loosening and tightening and releasing at the same time, and not knowing if I was strong enough to keep going. Leila smiled at me and said “It’s OK, just breathe”.

And I did.

I calmed down before picking up the beat and continuing to move the only way that felt good. I had to shake it or else I couldn’t take it! (Corny, I know, but its late, and I’m sleep deprived as is).

What felt like this bizarre timeless moment of continual contracting and puking and peeing and moving was really only 45 minutes. Finally I had the sensation to push. Earlier I felt like pushing and did subtly, but it hurt, and Anne Marie said to wait before I tried to push again. As I hurled out of the tub I cursed the tub “I’m sick of this shit!” and peed the whole way, my body pushing without me even focusing on pushing.

I was sitting on the toilet when Anne Marie came in, having heard that I was pushing. She told me that we could check my dilation now to see how far along I was and if it was time to start pushing or I could just go with it and push. I hadn’t had a single check before then and I didn’t really care either way. So she checked, telling me that I was fully dilated and it definitely was time to push as Lennon’s head was only a few inches away from popping out. She told me to reach in and feel her head. It was the most remarkable sensation I’ve ever had. A head. Emerging. What a trip!

I was stoked that it was time to push because all I kept asking for was release. I just wanted a release from all of the energy building up and moving within my body. It had to go somewhere, and when it was time, my body really knew it was time. I sat on the toilet and gave a long, growl-filled push and Anne Marie quickly said “OK, time to move to the bed, I can see the baby’s head already”.

We moved over and I literally had to waddle, her head almost ready to come out. Once we got to the bed I went onto all fours, quickly hated it, so moved to a semi-reclined position. It didn’t feel much better with Lennon’s head bearing down so heavily against my tailbone. But I didn’t have time to think about it. I became this crazy animal who was willing to do anything to birth her baby, right then and there. James sat on my left and Leila sat on my right, her partner Dave and their daughter Myla out playing in the living room. No one timed my contractions. No one told me when to push. There were no monitors. Nothing keeping track of her heart or my heart or my oxytocin levels or telling me to “push, push, push”. The only thing guiding the process was Lennon and my body. When the intensity of a contraction came I pushed harder than I have ever pushed before, holding tightly to the bed sheets, my arms rigid, my hands near my naked bum. Every time I pushed I growled so low and for so long, I thought the sound was endless. That it would climb over the mountains and reach my family in Vancouver, who waited for the news of Lennon’s birth.

It wasn’t long before the widest part of her head was about to come out. And I had to pause. Every ounce of my being wanted to force that baby out as quickly as I could, but everyone told me to wait, to hold off, just a little bit longer, stretch, stretch, stretch. I envisioned yoga. I breathed. I waited. I held the stretch. Finally I could push lightly, slowly, quick little nudges as she moved out of my body. And then it all happened so quickly. I pushed out her head and her shoulders followed quicker than I had expected. James had moved down from beside me and was there, ready to catch our baby girl. She had her torso out half way when he grabbed her, pulling her chubby bum and legs the rest of the way out, her cord the only thing attaching us. James placed her on my chest and it was the most surreal moment in my life.

I said oh my god about a million times in a row as Lennon used her lungs and heard her own voice for the first time. She was so tiny and perfect. Her body was remarkably clean and her head perfectly round. Me, James and Leila were all laying there on the bed together and crying as we looked at this beautiful baby for the first time. We tried to latch Lennon on but we were having difficulties sitting up and nursing. I pushed out the placenta moments earlier, was wrapped in a blanket and tidied up, and then rolled over onto my side and with the help of our second attendant ( a woman who has been to over 400 births in the Okanagan) began breastfeeding Lennon for the first time. She eventually fell asleep on my chest, totally naked and wonderfully content.

She was so gorgeous with her long fingers and chubby thighs. Her skin was a ruddy complexion and her head was covered in dark brown hair. James and I kissed and cuddled, Leila, Dave and Myla left us to make their dinner and go to bed. Lennon arrived at 6:01 on December 28th, 2010 and weighed 7 lbs 6 ozs. She was and still is strong and healthy, nursing frequently and sleeping well (sometimes). Anne Marie finished our records, our other midwife arrived two hours after Len was born to say hello to our new daughter, and then they left us to lock up the house. We stayed until 10 and then went home, bringing our baby girl into our love nest of cuddles and relaxation.

By the end of the entire experience, I was so grateful to have had amazing care provided by our midwives. Leila was instrumental in helping me prepare for birth and reminding me how to breathe when I was in the thick of it all. And James was exactly what I needed: always there to cool me off and keep me collected but never coaching me through it. He knew Lennon and I had it in the bag. I can only hope that my next baby comes into the world in such a wonderful and inspiring way.

Birth was an intense and at times highly painful experience, but it was also enlightening and awakening. I am glad to have done it at home where I felt safe, secure, and powerful in my ability to birth my baby.

No Comments

  1. Jenny -  December 17, 2012 - 11:21 am

    Hey Erin: Fantastic experience and story. So nice to be able to have a home birth for your little Lennon. Are you planning on doing the same with the next one?
    I am curious: Did your midwife do any blood tests or urine screening while you were in labour? The reason I ask this is because I was diagnosed with HELPP syndrome while I was in active labour (literally right before I had to push Avery out), and I needed immediate hospital care after I gave birth or else I would have gone into seizures and possibly worse.
    I thought about doing a home-birth but decided against it, and I am glad I decided against it because I was actually really sick. There were no indications of HELPP before I went into labour, my blood pressure was always normal, no swelling in the legs, no tenderness in my liver. The only way they knew was from urine samples at the hospital (or something like that–I actually have no idea how they diagnosed me, but my liver enzymes were extremely high which was how they knew I had HELPP). If I had a home birth, I am wondering what would have happened to me and avery.
    I would love to do a home birth but now am so so scared that the same will happen (25% chance) again.
    My question is basically how do you trust yourself and a midwife at home where medical care is not as readily available in case something like that happens?

    • Erin -  December 17, 2012 - 4:47 pm

      Hey left a little novel for you to read but forgot to comment as a reply to your original. Hope it helps answer your questions!

  2. Jenny -  December 17, 2012 - 11:23 am

    might i add: I didn’t actually feel sick either, so I wouldn’t have known anything was wrong

  3. Laney -  December 17, 2012 - 11:27 am

    Beautiful! I cannot wait for our homebirth in April. I won’t lie and say I am not scared, because I am, but I so hope for a story like yours. Also, Lennon-the-newborn is an angel!

    • Erin -  December 17, 2012 - 4:48 pm

      Have you had a home birth before? Many thoughts can be scary but it can also be empowering teetering on this edge that only life and death can take you to. I hope you have the birth you desire Laney!

  4. Erin -  December 17, 2012 - 4:43 pm

    Hey Jenny. Thanks for reading my story and commenting!

    We are planning a second home birth except this one will actually be in our home, which most of my labour with Lennon was as well although the actual birth took place in a birthing center which was really just a house. I’m excited to experience it in my own home the whole way through (hopefully).

    Did you have a midwife or an OB? Their care is very different, and while your HELPP went undiagnosed, it isn’t to say that there were no symptoms or possible foresight by a health care provider who operates differently. By this I refer to the ideology of a midwifery practitioner in their attention to nutrition, exercise, and regular meetings lasting up to an hour or more. Midwives run the same types of tests that OB’s run, they are regulated by the government, except their approach is one of educating their patients and then allowing the patient to make an informed decision, as opposed to presenting information that is strongly advised to be followed. While this can be scary because it leaves a lot decisions in your hands, it is also empowering because it leaves a lot of decisions in your hands!

    When you go into labour with a midwife and are doing a home birth (in Canada, anyways) they must send your current files to the nearest hospital you would transfer to in the case of complications or emergency. This enables you to avoid the ‘check in’ process at the hospital and they are up to date on your pregnancy should you have to transfer. There are two main ‘fears’ of homebirths, or situations where you often cannot be at home any longer or at all, and that is breech positioning and excessive bleeding. Most other things midwives have the necessary equipment to aid with: oxygen, oxytocin, IV, etc. They of course cannot perform surgical birth which most breech babies are born this way, and they cannot set up a blood transfusion. At the end of your home birth, as your HELPP may still have been undiagnosed, it is likely you wouldnt have started clotting. This is the fear that your OB would have had and why they said you could have had seizures or even a hemorrhage. These moments are critical at a homebirth, and many women have had tense seconds of waiting to see if the bleeding begins to slow. If you hadn’t, you would have been transferred immediately as an emergency to hospital. The care you received would have been quite the same after your homebirth had you have needed it.

    It is not to say that something could not have gone wrong. But many statistics show that there are far more medical interventions that lead to complications than there are homebirths leading to complications. A large difference for you the second time around is knowing you are prone to HELPP and even eclampsia. Home births only happen in low risk patients, which both of these syndromes would disqualify you from being. Many women face fears after first labours: failed inductions, c-sections, vbacs, failure to progress, and so on. Finding the proper midwife who is trained well enough to deal with these particular situations can help alleviate a lot of fear. As well as really educating yourself on birth and all that is possible and normal with little to no interventions.

    If you really want a home birth, Jenny, you should try your hardest to have it. It is an experience you wouldn’t trade for anything. But a big part of a succesful home birth or natural birth is knowing you are strong enough and safe enough to have that kind of birth.

    I of course still have my fears, even after the birth I had with Lennon. Now, I worry about transferring to an American hospital, losing the care of my midwives and possibly having a c-section. Fears that I had with Lennon as well. Acknowledging them and accepting them makes them a whole lot more manageable if they become a reality.

    Books I recommend to check out are Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, Birthing From Within, and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.

  5. Laney -  December 18, 2012 - 5:45 pm

    Erin, no, I haven’t had a homebirth, my first was hospital, and second an intervention free (except for initial monitoring and ARM) waterbirth attended by a midwife.. In a hospital. 🙂

  6. Mitzi Austin -  December 20, 2012 - 12:16 am

    Loved and felt every word of the story.

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