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My Never Ending Labor: A doula’s natural home birth story

Baby: Liam Nelson, born April 29 at 12:59am, 7 pounds, 15 ounces, 21 inches

After years as a doula witnessing other women bring babies into the world, I wanted my birth time to be a sacred ceremony. So I chose to birth at home, with midwives and a birth coach. On April 28, one week past our “guess date,” I was on my yoga mat, rolling around on my exercise ball. I’d had some contractions, and I was anxious to get things under way. Suddenly I heard a loud pop – and my water broke, gushing all over the yoga mat.

I called my dear yoga teacher, Ana Forrest, and spoke with her as I waited for my “team” to arrive. When my midwives checked me, I was 3 centimeters dilated and completely effaced. My birth coach, Kathy, arrived. I felt truly ready to birth once I saw her. I was using the Hypnobabies® techniques she had taught. The hypnosis was supposed to help me feel pressure instead of pain, but I felt pain – lots and lots of pain!

I labored nine more hours. Kathy talked me through every contraction, reminding me of cues to help me manage the sensations. Her counterpressure on my lower back opened my pelvis and eased the discomfort.

We had a kiddie pool set up in our bedroom, and I spent a lot of time in there. I also sat on the exercise ball and the toilet, squatted, and got on my hands and knees. The one position that didn’t work was lying on my side. I needed to move the energy out of my pelvis and down through my feet into the floor.

In addition to the professionals, I had the support of my husband, William, who was incredible; our friends Dianna and Matthew, who became Liam’s godparents; and Beatriz, a photographer who shot the birth. It was a large “staff,” but I needed all of them. Aside from their appointed roles, they formed a bucket brigade to keep the pool water warm. Our midwives told us they’d never been at a birth with such incredible energy; I had a special bond with everyone there, and that eased the process for me.

By 9 p.m., I had to make a choice. I’d dilated to 6 centimeters. The intensity had grown, and I needed to adopt a better attitude. I was thinking I’d been an idiot to try birthing naturally at home, and I was convinced I never wanted to have another baby. If I’d been in a hospital, I would have begged for an epidural. I considered asking to transfer to a hospital, but the thought of having contractions in the car en route felt inconceivable. I gave myself a stern internal talking-to and decided I could keep going. Later, everyone said I appeared really calm. I had them fooled!

Around 11 p.m., one of my midwives had me bear down while she rimmed my cervix. In one contraction I reached 10 centimeters, ready to push. I’d hoped that once I reached the pushing stage I’d feel more pressure and less pain – instead I felt pressure and pain! It turned out that Liam’s arms were pinned alongside his face. He came into the world Superman fashion, or like Edvard Munch’s The Scream, one hand over his ear, the other alongside his chin.

I pushed well, but it took two hours to deliver him. My midwife had to hold Liam’s arms in close by his head so that he wouldn’t wing out an elbow and lacerate my tender parts. To her great credit, I came through with one tiny tear, too small for her even to stitch.

I was on the bed pushing (clutching the headboard and screeching like some prehistoric bird) when Liam crowned. I looked at William, standing at the foot of our bed alongside the midwife. We locked eyes. I pushed with the next contraction and Liam’s head and arms emerged, followed by the rest of his sweet self. They laid him on my belly. A profound hush came over us all in the dim light (it was 12:59 a.m.). Liam looked around, alert and curious. He yawned a few times as I held him, William’s hand on his back. We stayed that way for a long while.

Since his first moments in the world, Liam has been a sweet boy. We feel so blessed and lucky to have him. And while I swore during labor that I’d never go through that again, now I feel empowered. Liam’s about to turn one, and William and I are talking about starting on our next collaborative endeavor – a brother or sister for our little boy bundle of joy.

Excerpted, with permission, from Belly Button Bliss: A Collection of Happy Birth Stories (Fairview Press, 2010), edited by Jennifer Derryberry Mann. For more information about the book, visit www.mamahhh.com.

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