My Unassisted Homebirth Story
by Jennifer N. Ayers-Gould, BA LPN ICCE
My EDD was April 29th and contractions started that evening while watching the movie "Big Fish" :) although I had been having kind of "intense" Braxton-Hicks contractions throughout the day. I knew something must be happening when I went to the bathroom around 10pm and saw pink-tinged mucous on the paper. I had never seen any "bloody show" before when I was in labor, so this was a first!
My birthmother and her husband had flown in from Texas to Michigan that afternoon as they were hoping and planning to be here for the birth. My husband was at class until later that afternoon, but took the next 4 days off in anticipation of the birth (which he assumed would be taking place in the hospital...hehehe...)
My birthmother was aware of my plan for a UC and was supportive. I wanted her to witness the birth if she was able (and I felt like it at the time). I took her in another room around 11pm and let her know that I thought I might be in labor and that the baby may be born that night.
We went to bed, but the contractions continued at irregular intervals...10 minutes, 15 minutes, 5 minutes apart...becoming more intense. I waited until my husband was sound asleep (heard him snoring) and left the bedroom around 12:40am to go labor in the nursery and get my birth supplies ready. I lit candles and got out my blue pads to put on the floor and rocking chair; got out my little supply kit (bulb syringe, cord clamps, scissors, newborn hat, Shepherd's Purse, Lady's Mantle, etc.). I also made sure to use one of the ThermaCare disposable, stick-on, menstrual cramp heating pads I had purchased just for this occasion. That actually felt very nice as this was exactly the area where the contractions for this and previous labors had been focused.
I didn't want to make much noise as to alert my husband that I might be in labor and didn't want to wake anyone else either as I just wanted to be ALONE. I sat in the rocking chair for a while holding a bed pillow in front of me, then I moved to the birth ball for a few contractions, then I decided that they were somewhat irregular and I was tired and wanted to rest in-between if I could, so I laid on my side on the floor. I actually dozed between contractions from 3am until about 4am when I decided that I should start filling the whirlpool bathtub so it would be ready for me.
I tried to assess my dilation a couple of times, but my cervical opening was very posterior and hard to reach. I felt it once when I was on the toilet and it seemed to be halfway open. I was just encouraged that I continued to have moderate amounts of pinkish tinged cervical mucous, which for me, was as good as any cervical dilation number could have been. At least I knew SOMETHING was happening.
As the tub filled, I walked around and stopped for each contraction. I found that massaging my lower front abdomen during contractions felt good and that worked to relieve the pain for a while. Throughout the entire labor I had made sure that my hands and mouth were totally relaxed and that I wasn't holding any tension. I recited many mantras over and over again..."Open...." "Surrender" "It's just a sensation" and "I am opening up in sweet surrender to this beautiful baby in my womb"..(from a birth chant CD).
Around 4:15am I got into the tub. It was nice and hot and felt good. I tried different positions...all upright...squatting and sitting "pretzel style" and on my knees...I didn't like how it felt to lay back, and knew that wouldn't benefit me in any way for labor. The contractions got more frequent and I found that visualizations and mantras no longer worked to alleviate the pain. I was NOT prepared for the pain. I had done a lot of work before this birth to prepare my body and mind for a painless and pleasurable and orgasmic labor/birth experience. (My previous births were hospital births and had been quite painful). But it was not happening :( I then began to vocalize with the contractions which were now every 3 - 5 minutes.
I didn't want to make much noise and did a low hum with each breath. It made it more bearable. After about half an hour, I found that my vocalizations were getting much louder, but still low and almost like a chant with different notes. I had to close my eyes during the contractions and go deep within myself. I started to feel nauseous and grabbed a small plastic container into which I could throw up if need be. I was comforted to know that the nausea, for me, had always been a sign of "transition" so it was another validation that I was getting closer, even though I did feel yucky. :(
The contractions were coming more frequently and I had little time to relax in-between. How I desperately wished I could have a break! I heaved with the contractions now and thought about the pizza, salad and breadsticks I had eaten earlier and how they might be making a return appearance, but fortunately, that never happened, I only vomited up some clear fluid from my stomach. I normally hate the feeling of throwing up, but it felt good to have something else to do other than feel subject to the ever-intensifying and overwhelming pain of the contractions.
My moans became louder and louder and longer and longer… “Oooooohhhhhhh……ahhhhhhhh…….” Continuing to try and keep myself opening. The sound became almost like a counterpressure to the force of the pains within me. Around 4:50am I heard someone coming up the stairs. It was my birthmother who had heard me from downstairs and came up to the bathroom to see if I was okay. I was glad to have her there to comfort (or try to) at the time. She rubbed my back and hair and let me hold (squeeze) her hand through the worst parts. About 10 minutes later, my husband wandered into the bathroom, finally having woken up and realizing that I wasn’t in bed and then hearing my moans. He asked how far apart the contractions were and it was now fairly obvious that there was little to no break in-between them and I was beginning to automatically bear down with each one now. The first thing he did was close the window in the bathroom which I had opened because it was so warm in there because we live in the city and I’m sure the neighbors had been intrigued if not mortified and/or annoyed by all the sounds emanating from our home at a time when the world should be sleeping. He was taken back by the whole situation, not prepared for an unassisted home waterbirth, but was aware enough to know that we wouldn’t be going to the hospital at this point, so he got supplies from his van (he is a nurse and grad student) even though I already had the supplies we would need ready. I continued to surrender to the incredibly intense waves of force moving through my body. I found myself leaning back onto my left hand, holding onto my mom’s hand with my right hand and raising my bottom off the floor of the tub as the contractions occurred and my body heaved and pushed. After a few of these pushing contractions, I then started to feel the head move down with them. It was obviously very painful and almost desperate for me, but I distinctly could feel her little round, hard head moving downward and I pushed along with my body to get her out. As it approached the perineum, I felt it begin to burn and found myself naturally in a sort of panting breathing pattern to slow things down. The way I was sitting, I was unable to reach down and feel anything with my hands. As her head moved down, I felt my whole pelvis being pushed open. It was all so intense. Her head continued to move down and out with a burning sensation and then for a moment, I felt it retreat back inside, which felt wonderful as it took away that burning sensation. I realized that it was her head moving back in a little so that the shoulders could slide under and through the pelvic bones. With one more push, her head was out and shortly after, quickly slid out her shoulders and the rest of her body. My husband reached in and pulled her up out of the water. He said she was really slippery as she was somewhat covered with vernix and she briefly slid back into the water, but he quickly pulled her back out and suctioned her mouth and nose very quickly and handed her to me. She did not cry, but just looked around quietly as I held her in disbelief! She was so little! And it was so incredible that the pain had stopped! I just held her against my abdomen under the water to keep her warm and stared in disbelief and joy. She was absolutely beautiful. My husband was still in shock, having been woken only moments before from a deep sleep to participating unexpectedly in an unassisted home waterbirth! My birthmother stayed with me and we just marveled at the baby and the birth. I tried to nurse Jadyn, but she wasn’t at all interested. She just wanted to peacefully gaze at her new world. I was afraid that if I didn’t nurse, the placenta wouldn’t come out or I would bleed, but after only about 10-15 minutes, I started feeling mild contractions again and after 3 of them, it was fully released from me, intact and as perfect as the new baby I held in my arms. After I pulled the placenta up from the water and examined it and the cord, I asked my birthmother for the cord clamp and told her where and how to place it on the umbilical cord and had her cut the cord.
In the meantime, my husband was getting the video camera out and talking to our two boys, ages 9 and 11, who were asleep across the hall. Of course, they had not been sleeping during the bulk of the noise and they were only slightly interested in what had taken place across the hall. They knew about birth and all, but were never really interested in participating, so they kind of did their own thing amidst the excitement which infiltrated the air of our home after this excruciating and exhilarating event. My husband videotaped me and the baby in the tub, making a comment about how mommy got her homebirth that she’d always wanted. :)
After wrapping the baby up in a towel, I got out of the tub and dried off. I went and sat in a rocking chair in the nursery and held my new precious daughter in my arms. She was now a little more interested in breastfeeding, so we took some time to bond in that way while my husband began making phone calls and my birth mom cleaned up the tub.
Jadyn Ilyssa was born at 5:23am on Friday, April 30, 2004, an unassisted home waterbirth. She weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces and was 20 inches long.
Now my husband brags about our experience and tells everyone about how he really didn’t do anything and that I did all the work. My recovery has been amazing. It is 3 days postpartum and my bleeding is already very light and pinkish in color. I never had any tears nor passed any clots. My uterus contracted very well without any uterine massage, Pitocin or even the herbs I had on hand to help with any possible postpartum hemorrhaging. I put nothing on the umbilical stump – no alcohol, goldenseal or Betadine -- and will see how soon it falls off compared with the 2-3 weeks it took for my hospital-birthed babies where alcohol was applied at each diaper change. It looks fine and healthy and I assume that it will be gone soon.
I had the birth I wanted without any of the unnecessary interventions I would have had to fight for in my hospital birthplan. Physiologically, it could not have gone any more perfect. The only thing I wasn’t prepared for was the pain. I thought that I had adequately psychologically prepared myself to alleviate the pain and replace it with pleasure. I guess it’s just not in my destiny at this time, but regardless, it was still and awesome experience and I’m so glad that I was able to welcome the soul of my daughter into the world in the most peaceful, joyous and unhindered way possible.