Our family was blessed to welcome a baby girl into our home last year! Yes, finally a girl. Although my husband desired a girl more than me, now that she’s here, I’m so thankful God has given us the privilege to parent a girl. She is so different from her brothers. A good kind of different. But more on that in another post. This one is about her birth story.
After an exhilarating birth experience with my third son, I was so looking forward to this birth. I felt like I knew what I needed to do to make it a good one. I was ready. I thought I was ready…
But things did not go according to plan!
I’d had labor pains the Friday before and even called my husband home from work because I was having a hard time keeping up with my 3 boys. He came home but then labor stalled. So when I woke up with some contractions the next Tuesday, I assured my husband he could go to work. I’d call him if I needed him.
By 9am the contractions seemed not to be abating. I called Archie just to let him know what was going on. He suggested I invite a friend who lived in the same neighborhood to come and help with the boys. She came over within the hour. Archie came home. And I called the midwives just to give them a heads up. They were an hour away so they’d need a bit of lead time to catch the birth. Given their distance from me and that this was not my first birth, they decided to head over.
Now began the less than optimal conditions.
My friend offered to take the boys to her place. In hind sight, maybe that would have been a better option. My friend brought her 2 daughters and they were playing downstairs right below my room. And while hearing my kids play was comforting, it was also terribly distracting.
Additionally, I would have preferred to call the midwives when I was a little further along in labor but they wanted to arrive early on in the process to prepare. You see, during the final couple of months of the pregnancy, I’d allowed my iron levels to drop to the point that I even had to get an iron infusion. It being so close to my due date, we could only schedule one infusion and we were not able to check and make sure that my iron levels were up. So, out of an abundance of caution, the midwives inserted a line in case they had to give me fluids during the birth. It was either that or a hospital transfer because my most recent iron levels (before the infusion) didn’t make the home birthing cut. The line in was so uncomfortable.
Because they had the line in and they were concerned about my iron, the midwives kept coming into my room to check on me. For all intents and purposes, the midwives had become friends, but I wasn’t feeling very friendly. And yet I was too polite to ask them to leave the room when they would get chatty.
The combination of intrusions and the distracting children playing downstairs prevented me from finding my groove, so to speak. Contractions became contracted. They felt less intense and got further apart.
By lunchtime, I had begun to feel like the baby wouldn’t come. Not only that the baby wouldn’t come that day, but that the baby would NEVER exit my body. I know it sounds silly, but I literally felt that way. Here I was at the end of my pregnancy journey feeling like I’d be pregnant forever. I’m so glad we can live by faith and not feeling.
Archie brought me something to eat. I hadn’t even realized I was hungry. And while I ate, I asked him to tell the midwives to leave since the baby wasn’t coming. One of them came to the room to discuss it with me. “When you’re done eating, why don’t you lie down for a bit, and let us know how you’re feeling after a short nap.”
Once my food had settled, probably around 2:30pm, I followed the midwife’s counsel and lay down for a nap. Archie was rubbing my back, and I remember drifting off into sleep. He says it wasn’t even 5 minutes when I yelled out, “My water has broken!”
This was a new experience for me! With my first 3 births, my water didn’t break until was pushing the baby out. But I’d read about that warm moist feeling and the attendant gush confirmed it was my water breaking.
Archie ran to call the midwives as I dismounted from the bed and went to kneel beside the couch where I’d envisioned birthing my baby girl. One of the midwives had been there for my 3rd birth so she surmised, as I had, based on previous experience, that once my water broke that baby was popping out!
But as soon as the midwives came into the room, my contractions stopped. I mean, there were ZERO contractions!
There I knelt, next to the couch, waiting for the baby to come but she wasn’t moving and I was having no contractions. Behind me, Archie and the midwives chatted about everything from basketball to babies. I remember just wanting so desperately to ask them to leave me alone, but I couldn’t muster the strength to say it politely so I said nothing. I just hoped they’d notice that I was not participating in their chatter and take the party out of my room.
I had known, in preparation for this birth, that privacy was important to me. I didn’t want anyone in the room with me until it was absolutely necessary. I considered not telling anyone, even Archie, how intense my labor was, until the baby was all but born, just to make sure I could labor alone. But then the anemia and childcare situation…
Eventually, one of the midwives asked if I’d rather they leave. I gave an emphatic, “YES.”
Almost as soon as they left the room, the contractions started up again!
Archie wanted to call them back in, but I knew that my body would shut down again. No, they should only come in when baby girl was coming out.
The contractions grew so intense that my body expelled my lunch. [Thank you for cleaning up, Archie.]
It finally came to the point where I could no longer breathe through the contractions. The only relief that presented itself was to push with the contraction. When I did, I realized that just one contraction strong enough and that baby would be out. I told Archie to call the midwives who were waiting in a room just down the corridor.
The moment they walked into my room, a contraction started, and I pushed, and the head crowned.
A lot happened in the next contraction. It was so intense that I screamed…not out of pain…but in sheer response to the intensity of the experience. The feeling was wild, almost feral. One of the midwives actually stepped up to me, placed her hand on my shoulder, and said, “Calm, mama.” I needed to hear that. And as I relaxed I felt the head and then the body slither out of me.
I’m always taken aback when people talk about how heroic someone was to assist in delivering a baby. If we would let the experience happen (complications notwithstanding), babies would deliver themselves. Many (if not most) complications are a result of our interventions anyway.
The baby was out, but I felt nothing. The rush of warmth and bliss I’d experienced with my 3rd delivery didn’t happen. And when the oxytocin didn’t come, my bleeding didn’t stop. So the midwives had to give me pitocin. And since I lost more blood than was comfortable for someone so recently anemic, they hooked me up to the IV and pumped me with iron.
The whole thing was kind of a catch 22. Because I had low iron, we had to prepare for an intervention so I wouldn’t bleed out. Because we had to prepare for an intervention, I didn’t feel safe and relaxed during the birth so I didn’t release oxytocin. Because I didn’t release oxytocin, an intervention was necessary.
The birth experience wasn’t what I had hoped for. And I’m so sad about it because that was my final pregnancy. I blame myself for letting my iron levels drop so low since that’s what really started the whole spiral. But I’m thankful, nonetheless, for another safe home birth.
My fourth and final birthing experience taught me, in practice, what I’d known in theory – that interventions breed interventions. I am not against interventions, but I do believe that prevention is always better than cure. I failed myself on the prevention side of taking care of my health, and reaped the fruit in a less-than-ideal birthing experience.
Yet as frustrated as I am about how the birth transpired, it’s never the first thing I think about when I look at my baby girl. In fact, I never think about it unless I’m actively trying to recall her birth. All I think about when I see her (and my second born – another less-than-ideal experience) is how much I love my baby, and how blessed I am to be her Mama.