Newly married and sitting in a college psych class, I doodled two names. Noah Christopher and Audrey Eileen. On December 3rd, 2008, I gave birth to my son, Noah Christopher. A long, difficult labor filled with fear and apprehension- a posterior baby, lack of labor support and a hospital environment (nurses I was unfamiliar with, midwives changing shifts, a resident placing the epidural...) all made for a less than ideal time. I felt scared and uneasy for the duration of the stay. My son however, opened up my heart in a way that I could have never imagined. Eighteen months later, I found out I was pregnant with baby number two. As I held those two pink lines in my palm, I knew she was a little girl and I decided to have her at home. This is her story.
Audrey had been fooling us for weeks with many braxton hicks contractions and a lot of cramps... she rested low in my pelvis. Sore and tired, I prayed she would come out SOON.
Sunday, I had been feeling low cramps and braxton hicks which was nothing unusual. The cramps had changed however, and were now in my back, leading to a somewhat temporary panic about the position of the baby. I spent a lot of time leaning forward and on hands and knees to keep her anterior and not posterior.
Bryan and I (sort of) watched the Superbowl with my parents while we ate and laughed. Bryan kept looking over- expecting my water to break at any minute... surely, I'd go on Superbowl Sunday.
I said goodnight and carried my swollen belly up the stairs. I felt different but kept it to myself- partly to keep myself from getting excited but also to kind of relish the knowing without anyone else knowing.
Feeling sore and exhausted, I went to bed while attempting to convince myself that she would be a Valentine baby. Waking up to one more morning with no changes seemed unbearable.
4 am Monday morning rolled around. A strong contraction surged through my hips and back. Yes, this was definitely different. I had to r breathe through it. 10 minutes later, another. 7 minutes later, another. Nervously, I would sway into them in the bathroom, in the dark, my heart skipping beats because I knew. This was it. The surges continued this way- 7 minutes apart until 7:30 am...I went from the birthing ball to the bed to the bathroom...
I had woken up Bryan early- shoving my foot into his side...reaching around Noah... he sat up and looked incredulous. You're in labor? For real? I couldn't keep myself from grinning.
The strength of each contraction had me convinced I'd progress quickly. He cleaned the kitchen and living room and set up the birthing pool. Our excitement hung in the air in between contractions. Called the midwives to give them a heads up and said we'd call back when they gained in strength and rhythm.
Noah woke up- his blonde hair everywhere, sleepy kisses and cuddles, he had no idea his world was about to change. We went about our morning as usual- making scrambled eggs and watching cartoons ... my contractions slowed to 10-15 minutes apart. Intense but not regular. They stayed this way till well past noon. I worried it was maybe another false alarm, however, they were so intense that I knew that SOMETHING must have been happening. Noah went down for his nap and my contractions picked up again... sometimes 5 minutes apart...usually 7-9 minutes. I lost my plug...like...really, obviously, lost it. As soon as I walked out of the bathroom- there was a significant marked intensity with each surge. The daylight streaming through the curtains, I leaned into them.
Around 3:00 after Noah had woken up and eaten lunch, I decided I needed him to leave to actually get my labor to progress. I'm pretty sure his presence was slowing it down as if my body knew I couldn't take care of a toddler and give birth at the same time. My need for focus and peace intensified as the hours went by. Bryan brought him over to my mom's and sure enough my contractions ranged from 4 minutes to 8 minutes apart....still not regular but definitely closer together and strong. The afternoon is a blur in my memory as I had entered "labor land" and was not aware of the passage of time.
Rebecca (my good friend since childhood) met Noah over at my mom's and took over with him. This helped ease my mind because I knew he had two awesome people to play with. She also transitioned him back home so that Bryan didn't have to leave me. I had become tearful and sad and wanted Noah to be home. The realization that I was losing his babyhood hit me and I was flooded with thoughts of him. All I wanted to do was hold him. The sun was setting on the snow.
Things were happening faster than I realized. We were about to call the midwives to ask them to come but again my contractions spaced out when Becky and Noah came back. At about 7, we did call because the sheer intensity of each contraction was enough to make me want the midwives there.
Still not convinced I was very dilated, I told them not to rush.
Originally, I had asked Becky to stay the night so that Noah would have someone if he happened to wake up during the birth but I had an intense need to be alone. My contractions were strong enough that I felt I needed space to truly concentrate through them. When Becky left at 8, my contractions immediately picked up and thankfully, Annie (the midwives apprentice) was here shortly after.
She took my vitals and the baby's heart rate and supported me through a couple of contractions. They slowed a little and I worried that my labor would slow down if they were here. I began to feel nauseated and anxious. I thought I was in transition but I didn't want to say it just in case it was going to be another 12 hours of contractions.
I remember the feeling in the apartment...Annie and Bryan there beside me .... everything glowing from the lights and through the blue curtains I had hung to create more privacy by the birth pool. The music played and it was peaceful. My anxiety that my labor would slow down caused me to overstep my inner voice and I asked Annie if she would go home. She didn't mind returning home (since she could be back in 15 minutes) and left to do so.
About ten minutes after she left, my body began to shake uncontrollably. My contractions went from 7 minutes apart to 3 to 1 minute apart. Bryan called them as soon as he could free a hand from mine. Annie and Chenoa hadn't even had time to have a cup of tea before they left again for our home. They got here about 15 minutes later and immediately began filling the pool. I was probably at 8 or 9 cm at this point. I did not want to be checked for fear they would tell me I was at 4 or 5 cm....they didn't ask to check me. (They could tell where I was at by my contractions/body language/etc). Although my body was doing serious work, I was not scared, I focused more and prayed.
Clinging to Bryan, I breathed deeply and quickly into each contraction... Annie helped relax my shoulders and apply counter pressure as well as talk me through each one. There was always a point where the pain felt insurmountable but as soon as I relaxed the rest of my body, the contraction would start to subside. My hypnobirthing class came in handy during transistion. I kept remembering to let my breath guide the sensation down and out. I knew that each contraction could not be stronger than me, it WAS me. They were incredibly powerful but as long as I kept myself as relaxed as possible and let my body guide me through it, I could do it. They felt as if they might take over my body but if I focused on the sensation of it, it eventually went away. Vocalizing "ohhhh" through all of them helped my body do something with the energy without tensing up my muscles.
Bryan and Annie helped me into the pool as it was ready. The water made my body feel weightless and unreal. I had probably 10-15 minutes of space...I just floated. A little voice in my head said that sometimes this happens before you start pushing. Immediately, my brain overrode it and refused to believe that I could be fully dilated already.
I had two HUGE contractions... my body felt foreign. I floated there in between them just looking down at my legs thinking... wow. My water broke. Another huge contraction hit me and as I vocalized, I began to grunt...I felt her crowning. Immediately my brain panicked. I told them I wasn't ready to push. Chenoa (my midwife) and Annie both kept smiling at me and held my hands and told me, "your body is ready Sarah...you don't need to be ready, your body is already doing it".
Bryan was there by me encouraging me through each contraction. I could feel his excitement and the midwives excitement but my brain just kept fighting the pushing....I didn't feel emotionally ready. Losing my calm, I cried out to God and my mom. My other midwife, Katina and the other apprentice, Juliana showed up and sat by the pool. Katina (or someone) kept checking baby's heartbeat with the doppler. Her heartbeat reassured me.
God, give me strength.
Chenoa looked into my eyes again, and somehow I connected with the fact that she had done this before twice and I could do it too. I gained some sort of power and strength from the presence of these women just totally trusting that my body could this, that I found I was able to just release and let my body do what it was trying to do.
Another couple of contractions, I felt her crown at each one and then go back inside. I reached down and felt her head, soft and wrinkly. The next one, she crowned and kept crowning. Annie supported me so I wouldn't tear and the infamous "ring of fire" was felt...(not as bad as everyone makes it sound)..and then she just kept coming. Her head was born. I immediately lifted my bottom kind of out of shock that she was actually out and my midwives kept my hips down in the water (baby takes a breath when she hits the air, they didn't want her doing that until she was completely OUT).
Slightly hyperventilating at this point out of shock and intensity of situation, I asked if the rest of her was going to come out... (of course!) . Chenoa reminded me , "breathe, Sarah, you need to bring your oxygen to your baby!"
My next contraction birthed her body into Annie's hands and I found myself with a yelling little girl on my chest....she pinked up quickly and I just felt amazed....12:04 am
After she was born, I simply felt ...normal and elated. I felt normal and amazing. I felt great! I just birthed my baby without fear or interventions. My body did it! It was an incredible feeling.
We waited in the pool for the placenta to be born and although those contractions were painful, it was pretty easy to ignore while holding a beautiful baby girl. We did not cut the cord until well after the placenta had been born and the cord had stopped pulsating. Noah woke up from Audrey's cries and Bryan went to get him. He came downstairs and was hesitant at first but then wanted to kiss his little sister right away. The midwives took care of me and the clean up (although there wasn't much) and fed me while I nursed. Audrey nursed as soon as we got out of the pool and stayed latched for a long time. I called my mom and dad and sister and they came over to meet little Audrey for a couple of minutes. (I knew they would be up worrying anyway) .. We wondered how long it had been since this house had seen a baby born inside its walls. Bryan brought a very sleepy Noah to his bed after the midwives left around 4 am. Annie stayed an extra hour to help Bryan and I into bed and to make sure we were comfortable- and allowed us to gush more about the birth.
I woke up a couple hours later, reveling in the peaceful morning light and gazing at my new, sweet, beautiful baby. 7 pounds, 10 ounces and 21 inches. An ounce more and an inch short of her big brother's birth stats and MUCH smaller feet. :-)
God is so good.
My whole labor and birth was manageable and I felt able to truly breathe into each contraction to get through it. Compared to Noah's birth, it was a completely different experience. I think the combined fact that Audrey was faced the right way and that I was at home made this experience MUCH more manageable. I won't say "easier" because it's not really quantifiable that way. But manageable. Both of my births were beautiful but the difference with Audrey's was that I did not feel fear (until the very end) and allowed my body to do its work.
My decision to have Audrey at home was made after months of research and nights full of prayer. I knew this was the right decision for us and am incredibly happy I did not let popular opinion sway me from it. Had there been any problems, we would have gone to the hospital in an instant and would never have questioned our midwives expertise. Because of our close relationship with them, we were able to truly trust their ability and decision making for our pregnancy and birth. Because they watched over me (literally) during the birth, they felt a bit like guardian angels for me and my daughter.
I felt on top of the world after her birth and I feel so BLESSED that she is healthy and perfect in every way. I am so thankful for my midwives and for Bryan. Bryan supported me through each contraction and I truly felt 100% supported and loved the entire time. Ultimately, I give all the praise to God who sustained me and delivered into my hands a beautiful, perfect baby a second time.
Audrey's Home Water Birth from Sarah Campbell on Vimeo.