New Mama Musings

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Henry's Birth Story

Our bundle of love (among other things) has arrived. Here is the story of his entry into the world.

Tuesday August 2, 2005. I had mild lower back cramping that day; it was nothing serious, but enough that I joked to my husband that "it could be the start of labor!" He was at work all day and when he left for band practice that evening I realized we still hadn't come up with a plan in case I went into labor while he was there. (The guys can't hear the phone while they're playing and we don't own a cell phone.)

We agreed that I'd leave a message on the lead singer's machine and my husband would check it if they took a break. "I'm sure nothing that urgent would happen in just three hours anyway," he said. Remember that part.

10pm. My husband arrived home and by that time the backache was pretty uncomfortable. I asked if he'd give me a massage after his shower and I laid on the bed to wait for him.

11pm. Suddenly I felt a sensation like a poke from inside and a gush of water spilled out. I had wondered when my water broke if I'd know for sure what it was, since sometimes it's just a trickle and not always obvious. This was obvious.

I wrapped a towel around myself and went downstairs. Standing outside the bathroom door, I said, "Ummm, my water just broke."

I got onto the toilet while my husband called the midwife, Helen -- oh, did I mention that at 38 weeks we decided to do a homebirth? I'll have to explain that decision in another blog entry -- who said she would come down and check me over. She asked me if I were having any contractions, but I wasn't sure, since I'd been having more intense Braxton-Hicks contractions in the past few weeks. She told me to time them if I noticed a pattern.

I started to feel queasy and sent my husband off for a bucket, though I ended up never throwing up, and the nausea passed (soon to be replaced by other sensations).

11:35pm. When Helen arrived I was definitely having painful contractions and they were three-and-a-half minutes apart.

11:45pm. At this point I was 100% effaced and 2 centimeters dilated. Helen told my husband to call her apprentice Jennifer (who was also our doula) and tell her to come over.

Helen told me later that since there was a bit of meconium in my water she had debated whether or not to transfer me to a hospital, but ultimately decided that it was only a small amount and not an immediate hazard.

Meanwhile my husband was setting up the birthing tub in our dining room. I wanted to get in the bathtub while I waited, because even though Helen said I should save the hot water for the birthing tub all I could think about was getting into some water. I told my husband to fill it up and I immediately stripped off all my clothes and climbed in. Those of you who know me know I'm normally reserved and modest, but all bets were off in labor.

12:37pm. By the time Jennifer arrived I was in a lot of pain. The contractions were coming on strong and quickly -- I went from 2 centimeters to 7 centimeters dilated in one hour.

I had pictured labor as this wonderful time of bonding with my husband, relying on him for comfort and gazing into his eyes, but I pretty much wanted nothing to do with anyone. I didn't want anyone to touch me, I didn't want to look at anyone, and even words of encouragement were mildly annoying.

To cope I kept my eyes closed and yelled my bloody fool head off. I'm surprised Henry ever came out with me yelling "OW OW OW OW OW" the entire time. Again this was very unlike me; I'm generally a quiet person. Who knew?

In the background my husband was running around boiling pots of water for the birth tub, getting extra towels for the midwives, keeping washcloths cool for my forehead, wrapping a mattress in plastic, and basically doing whatever he could to help out. He also kept a log of what was happening and when (which is how I know the time that everything happened; I was too out of it to have any sense of that). I love that man.

12:10pm. The only time I expressed any doubt about continuing -- I told my husband, "I don't know if I can do this." But in a way even as I was saying it I knew I could and would do it. I think it just helped me to put the words out there.

At one point while I was in the bathtub my husband told me I was "large and in charge," which I think was supposed to empower me.

1:17pm. When the birthing tub was full everyone helped me out of the bathtub, which was by now filled with bits of meconium, and into the birthing tub. I remember thinking that the walk from the bathroom to the dining room was so difficult that I couldn't imagine trying to get to a hospital. This is where I started to feel the urge to push.

My husband asked me later what the contractions and pushing felt like. The contractions were a lot like the cramping I get in my back during my period, only amplified 100% -- like someone was clenching up my muscles very, very hard. The pushing was almost a plunger-like motion, for lack of a better analogy. The muscles in my abdomen were plunging everything downward and I had little choice but to go along with it.

1:45pm. Helen had told me that while I could labor in water she didn't want me to deliver there, since the meconium she saw earlier meant she would have to suction the baby as soon as his head emerged. So at this point they hauled me out of the tub and onto a mattress that had been dragged into the diningroom. For the most part I labored on my back -- not generally considered to be the most effective position, but the way that felt best to me.

Pushing was hard work. My husband put his hands on my lower back and applied counter pressure, which felt good. He told me later he was happy to be doing something for me. He also supported one of my legs while Helen supported the other. At first I just pushed without focusing on any area. I had never done this before, after all, and I didn't know how to best direct my energy.

I started to feel Henry's head coming through the birth canal, though, and once I focused on pushing it down my pushes were much more effective. I could feel his head moving down when I pushed during a contraction and then moving back up slightly while I rested between them.

It was in between contractions that my husband joked to Jennifer that, hey, this baby may actually be born on his due date. Keep in mind that it was about three in the morning, which is why I felt justified in telling him to "shut up" -- words that are forbidden in our house. But I knew he was joking and I was joking too.

Helen and Jennifer kept telling me how great I was doing and tried to get me to breathe in, hold it, and then push as hard as I could. At one point Helen told me I should try a different position because she didn't think things were progressing enough, but I shook my head and tried harder.

3:43am. It worked; Henry's head was out, though I wasn't really aware at the time that his entire head was out. I remember them telling me how much dark hair he had. My husband told me later that Henry was facing my left leg, eyes closed, making a sucking motion, and that it was strange to see me laying there with a baby's head sticking out of me. I bet.

There was some panic at this point because when Helen tried to help Henry the rest of the way by easing his arm out (his hands were up by his face), she found that his arms were intertwined. When she pulled on one of them the other held it back. After a few minutes she told me I had to turn over onto all fours and they helped me get into position on the plastic next to the bed. Jennifer started yelling at me to PUSH! and I was trying, but was so tired at that point.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005, 3:47am. Finally Henry came out and I laid back down on the mattress while they wrapped him up and put him on my chest.

I have to say I expected that to be a Hallmark moment -- Mom and Dad crying over this beautiful new baby, so sweet and pure. But in reality I was just in shock over the whole experience and in awe that this was actually my baby. I always had trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that I was pregnant and there was a baby inside of me; now I was amazed that I had given birth and the baby was on my chest.

And I was still having contractions and had to get the placenta out. I was finding it hard to concentrate on the baby while trying to push through yet more contractions, so my husband took Henry. After that the placenta was delivered fairly easily. Meanwhile Henry christened my husband in the way only new babies can.

Henry was a little wheezy, so Jennifer suctioned him out. She also rubbed him a bit since he was a dark purplish-gray color and he started to pink up.

It was around this time that my husband paid me one of the nicest compliments he's ever given me. He said, "I'll never look at you the same way again." (And yes, he meant it in the good way.) Really, I'm still in awe that I was able to birth a baby at home, with no pain medication and no interventions.

While my husband and Jennifer did some cleaning I was able to nurse Henry, who had no trouble latching on. He did, however, have a gigantic meconium explosion that took us both by surprise.

I ended up with a bit of tearing. Helen said she could stitch it up and warned me it would be painful, or if I agreed to a week of strict bedrest she thought it would heal on its own. After all I'd been through the choice between more pain or a week of being waited on hand and foot was fairly easy.

The placenta had been placed in a large plastic bowl from our kitchen -- formerly known as the muffin container -- and Jennifer brought it over to me so I could watch her examine it. It was big and looked like some sort of bloody gelatinous sea creature. She and Helen both commented on how healthy it looked and how nice and thick the cord was, which made me strangely proud.

Some people save their placentas to plant a tree over -- heck, some people eat them -- but my husband and I opted to dispose of it. Sorry, Henry. Still, we felt a little sad when my husband set it out with the trash on garbage day. The placenta came from the same cells Henry did, after all. I guess it served its purpose, though, and we ended up with the best part.

I took a quick shower (remember the meconium bathwater?) and my husband and Jennifer helped me upstairs. Jennifer and Helen did the tests on Henry right on our bed, with my husband and me close by. He was eight pounds, six ounces, and 22 inches long. Everything else was normal. Jennifer wiped the meconium off his legs, but other than that he still has not been bathed.

8am. When Jennifer and Helen left it was time to make some phone calls. My husband and I hadn't told anyone about doing a homebirth, since we wanted to keep our positive feelings about our plan untainted by any input. So when we called to tell our families about Henry we also had to explain that we weren't at the hospital.

The response to that varied from words of support to "Isn't that risky?" (we felt we'd be more at risk in the hospital!) and "But who did the episiotomy?" (my husband joked that I did it myself). But mostly, because everything had turned out alright, they just focused on the fact that Henry was here.

After the phone calls the three of us laid down in our bed for a long nap.

And so Henry's birth story ended as it began, eight-and-a-half hours earlier, with me and Henry lying in bed. Only this time Daddy was there, too, and we both marveled at the tiny human the two of us had created.

Happy Birthday, little one.


  • Hey Mama!

    He is so beautiful. What an awesome story. Sounds like a beautiful birth experience for both of you (even beyond the fact that I think all natural births at home are beautiful) and for New Daddy too!

    It's funny because I see a lot of what I fantasize my experience is going to be, in your story. Especially that "shut up" is also forbidden in my home, and I can see me using it at least once!

    Thanks for sharing with us, and I am so glad that you trusted your body and your baby. YOU DID IT!!

    Love, chiro_kristin

    By Blogger Kris, at 7:22 PM  

  • You did a great job of writing your story!! I hope you forgive me for asking (yelling) at you to push harder ;o). I needed you to get that sweet little baby born. You did a great job and are an amazingly powerful woman!! Much love, Jen

    By Anonymous Jennifer, at 9:04 PM  

  • Welcome, Henry and Good Job, Mom and Dad!

    He really is awesomely beautiful.

    By Anonymous bessiemae, at 3:39 PM  

  • Hey Henry! Welcome to this crazy world of ours. You're a lovely little boy and I can't wait to get to know you better.

    You'll be pleased to know your mom and dad are two of the coolest people on the planet, and that they'll be helpful in figuring out life, which unfortunately comes without an instruction manual. You'll also be pleased to learn you have big brothers and a big sister who will be there to alternately protect and harass you, depending on their moods. Finally, you have many very charming people who, though of no blood relation to you, are cheering you and your family on. I'm one of them.

    Finally, I think you should thank your mom and dad at the first available opportunity for giving you such a cool name, and be sure to tell your mom I won't be using any nicknames when I come see you. :)

    Mommy, when you're ready for visitors, I'd love to snuggle that baby. I'm so pleased and proud for you.

    All my love,

    By Anonymous Donna, at 8:07 AM  

  • Congratulations on the birth! Even though it was a long time ago. lol. I wanted to comment on:

    "I have to say I expected that to be a Hallmark moment -- Mom and Dad crying over this beautiful new baby, so sweet and pure. But in reality I was just in shock over the whole experience and in awe that this was actually my baby. I always had trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that I was pregnant and there was a baby inside of me; now I was amazed that I had given birth and the baby was on my chest."

    That is EXACTLY bow I felt. It didn't sink in for weeks that I was a mom, despite my also having a completely drug-free birth.

    By Blogger Andrea, at 4:49 PM  

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