(This is really super long – and photo heavy. Just a heads up!)
It was finally April, and my mom was here from out of state to await the arrival of baby3. I was due April 5th, 2013. Near my due date, I was offered checks for dilation and membrane sweeps to see where we were and to kick start labor. After my previous 2 births, I desperately wanted an intervention free home birth, so I declined. I didn’t want to be induced in any legitimate way. That’s not to say I didn’t humor those around me with eating different foods, bouncing on a ball, walking, and other similar wives tales. None of them worked, and I didn’t really think they would. Baby would come when she was ready.
Sadly, my mom left on the 8th, but little did I know that on April 11th my childhood BFF, Hillary, would waltz through my front door to help take care of me & my brood. I was worried about not having help, and it kept my mind in a state of fear. I relaxed a bit after the shock of her surprise visit wore off. The next day, I had a 41 week visit with my midwife, Nedra.
I had been made aware that we would need to make an effort to have baby3 out before 42 weeks to prevent being seen and reviewed by an OB. Since my homebirth was so important to me, I felt a little panicked that baby wasn’t ready. We had agreed to do a membrane sweep at 41 weeks if she stayed in that long, so I went to my appointment alone, somewhat mentally prepared to do so. When I got there, I had a little emotional breakdown, and Nedra helped me pick up the pieces and make sense of everything. (I’m telling you, this woman is amazing!) I also decided to procrastinate a few days on the membrane sweep. We did measurements, a little NST, heard a perfect little beating heart and I was sent home on my merry way with a little bottle of homeopathic caulophyllum to help kick start things.
I walked in the front door to hubby in the kitchen with my girls and Hillary. He asked how I was feeling and how it went; I told him that I decided against the sweep. He laughed at me, wondering why I even went to the appointment. I just shrugged and smiled. He soon had to leave for work, but we decided to (somewhat irrationally) pile everyone in the mom mobile to go see if the feed store had gotten their baby ducks yet. They didn’t, but the chicks we had ordered for our coop were in and ready to go, so we took them home instead. In the parking lot, before we split ways, I said to Colin, “You probably shouldn’t go to work today.” He smiled and said, “Just call me if you think something is happening.” “I already told you.” I said. He hugged and kissed the girls and me and drove off.
Meanwhile, I still was contracting and started timing them on my phone with an app (how did women know they were in labor before there were iPhones?) I went home, put the chicks under their heat lamp, and started packing a suitcase for Z and A. Hillary ended up finishing it while I bounced on the yoga ball and gave Allister a bath. Then she made us delicious grilled chicken sandwiches and I called my father in law to have him come get the girls. It was about noon and I called Colin and told him it was time to come home. (He should have listened to me!) I also texted my midwife a heads up that things were moving along and I thought today was the day.
Soon FIL showed up and in his true character poked a little fun at me and made me laugh a lot. It helped release some of the anxiety I started to have. He waited until Colin got home (not until about 1:45- he was seriously slow!) and then we packed up the girls and kissed them goodbye. Alli didn’t even flinch; she just said a calm “bye mom!” which almost made me cry. It was the easiest goodbye we have ever had. FIL reminded me to think of him while I was pushing, and then they were off. I hiked up our steep driveway and put on my favorite pop punk station on Pandora and started singing and contracting to Jimmy Eat World, New Found Glory, and Sum 41. I texted Nedra a screenshot of my contractions and she decided to head over after a quick chat on the phone.
I paced the living room mindlessly for a while. Colin blew up the birth pool (and also blew a fuse with the air compressor) and made our bed with a plastic liner and clean sheets. I sat in the baby’s room and rocked in the glider- it was calming. Soon Nedra showed up, took my vitals and when her assistant Jessica arrived they became busy setting up the room. Colin had the pool halfway filled and we realized he forgot the liner. Whoops.
I started getting hit with longer and stronger waves of contractions, and I put on a swimsuit under my long purple tank top. We dubbed it the lucky labor tank top because I wore it when I birthed Allister, and I put it on that morning coincidentally. I was swaying and leaning on my dresser during contractions, and soon my MIL and photographer friend Katherine arrived. Colin kept my lavender oil and lip balm in his pocket for random use. He brought me Gatorade with Sonic ice with a straw and a little drink umbrella. He held me while I swayed. I heard his mama hug him and whisper into his ear “she’s giving you a baby!” And it made me feel a renewed sense of joy over our birth. Katherine, our sweet friend and birth photographer came a little bit later to help document the occasion. (the non-iphone photos are all captured by her, www.katherinepaynephotography.com)
After a little while, I got into the pool. It felt perfect and really helped ease the pain I was beginning to feel. Lavender was diffusing into the room. Mumford and Sons was playing loudly and sweetly through iTunes. Sunshine was bursting in through the windows and I remember focusing on little beams of sunlight inside the water. The contractions were a lot stronger now and I started to vocalize o sounds with each one. I would inhale through my mouth for as long and as slowly as I could, and oooooooooohhhhh it out. Suddenly I popped my head up and asked Hillary to go check on the baby chicks. Everyone laughed at my silly, yet genuine concern.
My midwife reminded me to take my swim bottoms off before I felt too pushy, and Colin took that as a cue to let everyone there know we were going to be alone during the actual birth. I had a minor panic attack the night before about being naked in front of everyone and being watched. It suddenly embarrassed and overwhelmed me and he was so sweet to help me feel comfortable. I felt bad making that choice but i was able to focus harder after it was made. It was just Nedra, Jessica, Colin and I. When Colin got back, I asked him to get in the pool with me. I did a contraction on my back holding onto him but flipped immediately back to my knees, it was too intense. We adjusted and got comfortable in the pool and shortly after I started getting a little pushy. It was 6:09pm. I did a few short trial pushes, but nothing was moving. I saw Nedra put on gloves so that encouraged me to know that we were moving forward. Each contraction was increasingly difficult. A few times I felt so panicked and I remember irrationally thinking that I needed to go to the hospital to ask for a C-section under general anesthesia. No asking for an epidural this time, I just wanted to be knocked out! I just wanted it to be over.
I pushed a few more times, and then Nedra asked me if I wanted her to check our progress. I agreed and she discovered baby’s head was being held back by just a little lip of cervix. I could push past it with her help or wait for it to move. I chose to wait. I flipped to my left side and Jessica held my leg up for me, I was too weak on my own. A few minutes later, at about 6:36, I felt a big popping sensation as my water broke. I almost rebroke Colin’s fingers because the intensity of each wave drastically increased immediately. I almost bit them off too. I’m sorry honey!
Baby moved down much quicker and after a few minutes I was pushing her head out. It felt like a year. Jessica told me to listen to Nedra who was encouraging short little pushes, and I remember staring into her eyes and telling her, “I can’t listen!!” But somehow with the two strong women at my side guiding me, and my husband holding me up and telling me how good I was doing, I managed to do it.
At 6:47 I pulled my beautiful sweet baby girl out of the water and onto my chest after Nedra unwrapped her cord from around her shoulders She was almost harnessed, and it was probably why we struggled a little bit to get her out. She’s already a base jumper at heart, like her daddy! When I first looked at her sweet, soggy face, immediately I saw much familiarity. She had a small resemblance to Zoelie and a very large resemblance to my amazing husband. Colin held her as we got out of the pool, and laid on the bed. The placenta came shortly after. An answer to prayer, I had no tearing, thanks to the guided small pushes and skill of my midwife and her assistant. I truly felt like the birth was a total team effort, and it was so incredible to be totally supported in every way.
Colin cut our baby girl’s cord and then he held her to his chest as I got cleaned up. We called everyone in to meet little Penelope Lauren. Lots of FaceTime and some photos were taken, but I had a hard time staying coherent. I can’t even remember the order of events at this point but I started bleeding a little more than my midwife preferred. I started getting some awful afterpains, and was given some arnica & rescue remedy, as well as some Tylenol. I was layered in hot towels, with warm washcloths on my belly with frankincense oil (which really helped!) and a mix Jessica created of lavender, grapefruit and peppermint in the diffuser. All I wanted was to hold Penny but I was in so much pain and so I couldn’t. My bleeding continued to be a little on the scary side and so I was given an oral dose of cytotek to help my uterus contract and stop bleeding so heavily. She wanted to use pitocin instead because it is somewhat milder, but it was an injection and I freaked out about it.
The drugs definitely did their job, I don’t know how long it took but it felt like forever. I was in labor all over again, with constant waves of strong and very painful contractions. I vocalized through them as Nedra rubbed my back and never left my side during the torturous pain I was in. I developed a fever and there was talk of transferring to the hospital, and Nedra sternly told me that I had to will myself to be better, right then. My mindset changed and I focused on being healthy and let myself relax a little more, as I was so tense and distraught. It helped a lot. We turned the thermostat down, the fan on, opened the window, and uncovered me from the blankets. Eventually the contractions spaced and slowed, but I was still a bit feverish and simply exhausted. Penny was then looked over and deemed to be perfectly perfect. She weighed 8 pounds and was 20.25’ long, 14” head circumference.
Finally I got my sweet Penny back.
She was perfect and beautiful. We finally nursed for the first time and she latched like an old pro. My temperature finally dropped below 100 and my midwife packed up and got ready to go home. It was about 10 something at night, and we were finally alone, just Penny, Colin and I. We were safe, warm, and quiet in our room, completely in love with our third precious child. I am so happy that we let it happen naturally, and I feel amazing that we had an intervention free birth. It was so empowering to have my dream birth after my previous experiences. Penelope is now a week old and I still can’t stop staring. Her big sisters love her, and I feel like our family is finally complete. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthing experience.