Today's story is from my friend, Erika, who has 3 beautiful children and is currently expecting number 4! This story is from the birth of her second child, Elli, who was born at home. I look forward to sharing her other stories in the future!
"After having a less than desirable hospital birth with my first daughter, I decided I would have a homebirth this time. My original due date was Dec 31st, 2005 but after two weeks of not showing any signs of labor, even after trying natural induction methods, we decided to visit a doctor. I had not received an ultrasound because we didn’t want to find out the sex and really did not think it was necessary, but once we went to the hospital they thought we should have an ultrasound to determine gestational age, and we agreed. They projected my due date to be mid-February, an entire month away! Neither my husband nor my midwife nor I thought it would be that long, but I was still very anxious. The days after the visit were long and hard because I just wanted to see our baby.
Then, as on every typical weekend night, my husband, Shay, my daughter, Cristiana and I went to a nearby friend’s house to hang out. I was feeling what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions the whole night, but I didn’t think anything of it. We went home around midnight, and Cristiana instantly fell asleep in our family bed. Shay stayed up late watching a movie, and when he came to bed I was still awake. The contractions were just strong enough to wake me up each time I was about to drift off to sleep. Shay fell asleep, and after much tossing and turning, I couldn’t sleep. I thought this might be labor, but I still wasn’t convinced. At about 2am, I decided to get out of bed and do a bible study because reading usually makes me sleepy. Whenever I had a contraction, I stopped and concentrated on relaxing and getting through it. I almost finished the study when I realized the contractions were getting stronger and closer together. I had to use the restroom and prayed, “God, if this is really it, please show me something clear and tangible.” When I used the restroom, I had bloody show, and I was certain I was in labor because that’s exactly what happened with Cristiana. I was very excited because I knew after weeks of waiting, this was it, and I was finally in labor!
At about 3am, I told Shay I was in labor. He was exhausted from such a late night, he just muffled, “do you need me?” I said, “no” because I really didn’t. The contractions were bearable, and I did not fear being alone. I just wanted him to get some rest until I really needed him. Next I called my mom who lived in Houston because she wanted plenty of time to drive the three hour trip to San Marcos so she could be there when our baby came. She was very excited and said she would call me when she was leaving. Next I called my sister, Maria, because she was going to keep Cristiana during my labor & delivery. Cristiana was only 22 months old at the time, and we weren’t sure how she would react because she is highly sensitive, and I tend to be very loud during the pushing phase, so we thought it would be best for her to be with her Auntie. After talking with Maria, we decided she should come when my midwife came since Cristiana was still sleeping.
Contractions continued getting stronger and closer together, and I cleaned to prepare for our new baby’s arrival. During each contraction, I would pause, hold on to the couch, and concentrate on relaxing through it. Though they were painful, I realized squatting, kneeling or sitting on the edge of the couch was the most comfortable. I got a little bit tired so I decided to recline to a semi-sitting position on the couch, but my contractions were much more painful this way, so I quickly adjusted myself. I thought back to my hospital birth and remembered I was in the semi-sitting position for a large portion of my labor and thought, “no wonder I screamed so much and felt the urge to push at only 7 cm!” I was so glad to be laboring in the comfort of my home.
Around 4:30am, I woke up Shay because I felt like I really needed him by my side for support. We timed my contractions, and they were 45 seconds long and 5-7 minutes apart, so I decided to call my midwife, Amber Clarkson, around 5-ish. I told her the interval and duration of my contractions, and she said she would like them to be 60-90 seconds long before she headed over. I was a little hesitant because I was starting to get anxious, but I reluctantly agreed to her decision. By this time, my younger brother Doug, who lived with us, woke up and asked me what was going on. I told him I was in labor, and he said, “ohhhh.” He had constantly teased me throughout my pregnancy that he did not want to be there during my delivery, but I knew he was half serious. He was only 21, so that kind of thing freaked him out. He stayed awake with us though and we all just talked and laughed in between contractions. Cristiana slept through it all.
I decided to call my mom because I still hadn’t heard from her, and she was just getting out of the shower. She had been folding clothes and making sure the house looked perfect because it was on the market for sale, and she had to have it ready before she left for the week. She left Houston between 5:30 and 6am. Finally, contractions were getting really close together and lasting a little over a minute long, so we called Amber sometime after 6 am. She was on her way, and then I called my sister, Maria, again. She lived half an hour away in Austin, and her husband had to be at work at 7:30am, so she quickly came over. She arrived around 7am and noticed my contractions were coming quickly, one after another, and assumed I was really close to delivering the baby. She hurriedly got Cristiana and left so she could get home to the kids in time for her husband to get to work.
Amber arrived with her assistant, Salli, around 7:20 am, and by this time, I was having a more difficult time getting through the contractions because they were extremely painful and very close together. Amber asked Shay if I had been in the water, and he said no, so she filled the bathtub with water for me. I got in the water, and the warmth was incredibly soothing during my contractions. I was thoroughly amazed. I noticed a major difference in the level of pain, and I knew why they called water a natural epidural. Amber told me I could start pushing, but I couldn’t believe it was already that time. Although the contractions were extremely painful, the entire time I labored everything was so natural and comfortable and relaxing, nothing like the excruciating pain and unrest I experienced in the hospital. I just couldn’t believe it was time to push. I thought for sure I would have to be screaming and crying and writhing in pain before that could happen. Amber sensed my hesitancy and asked if I wanted her to check my dilation. I agreed, and she did so and said I was 9 ½ cm dilated, fully effaced, and ready to push. I asked, “really, are you sure?” because I still couldn’t believe it was time. She reassured me, and I heeded her suggestion and started giving light pushes.
I wanted to know where my mom was because I knew she really wanted to see the birth. Shay called her and found out she was past Columbus, which is more than halfway to San Marcos. Amber said she could break my water, and it would likely make the baby come quickly, but I wanted to wait longer so my mom could make it in time. This was nothing like my hospital birth where I was begging to push at 7cm and anxiously had them break my water to make things go as quickly as possible. At this point, I was in pain, but it was tolerable. Time past, my contractions got stronger, and we thought my water broke. I started intensely pushing at around 8 am. We found out my mom was 10 miles from Luling, which meant she was about 35 minutes away. I was in a lot of pain because my baby’s head was descending, and I could not wait any longer. My water bag burst from the pushing, the pain became more intense, and I started screaming. Whereas some people prefer to try to continue relaxing at this point, I feel better when I scream and just let it all out. I could feel my baby’s head, and once it crowned, I felt the excruciating burning, or ring of fire as they call it, and I finally exclaimed, “I can’t take this anymore!” By this time, Shay was halfway in the tub supporting me, Amber was verbally encouraging me, and her assistant Salli let me squeeze her hand. They were all incredibly wonderful to me.
Our baby entered our world at 8:27 am, born in the water, and Amber immediately placed the baby on my chest. I was crying tears of relief that it was over and joy to finally see our precious little one. Shay and I embraced and kissed and were thrilled. We both looked, and Shay said, “she’s a girl!” We already had the name Eliana Eve picked out for a girl, and Shay asked if that’s what we still wanted, and I said “yes.” We were both overcome with emotion. As for Eliana, she did not cry at all. Just as she started to, Amber turned off the lights, and she simply opened her eyes and looked around in awe of her new world. She was at total peace. I was amazed at her reaction.
Soon after, my grandma and my cousin Natalie arrived. My mom arrived around 8:45 am. Eliana and I were still in the water, and I really didn’t pay attention to anyone else but her. After the cord stopped pulsating, Amber cut it, but she left it long enough so Shay could cut it once we were in bed. I delivered the placenta in the water and felt more relief. Shay took Elli in his arms for the first time, Amber drained the bath water, and I took a shower. I got into bed around 9:30 am, Shay cut the cord, Amber weighed Elli, and a little while later Cristiana arrived. When she saw Shay holding Elli, she immediately cried. She seemed overwhelmed, but she quickly adjusted and hugged and kissed Elli. Shay and Cristiana climbed into bed with me, and I nursed our new baby for the first time. She immediately latched on, but the session was brief. She drifted off to sleep and literally slept the entire day, waking only once to nurse. We couldn’t believe how much she slept! It was such a delight for me to be able to rest and sleep the entire day, have as much family as I wanted in my apartment to care for our newest little one, and not have anybody come to wake me up every hour or two to check her and make sure I fed her. Things couldn’t have been better. This was definitely a more gentle birth experience than I could have ever imagined."