Reader beware: this is long and detailed!! I didn’t want to forget anything.
It took us a while to find the right environment for the birth of our second child, but after visiting three different doctors and still not being totally comfortable with the one we chose, we heard about a midwife who would do a VBAC. (Our first baby, Lucy, was breech so our planned drug-free hospital delivery had suddenly become a c-section.) We had to drive an hour across state lines to do it, but we had a “home birth” in another couple’s home and it was well worth all the trouble.
I had been having practice contractions since the fifth month of pregnancy, and they had been getting stronger and more frequent over the last couple of weeks. On November 4, they started getting strong enough to slow me down and closer together, so we called our midwife around 6:30that evening to let her know things were starting to change. She suggested I shower and try to rest and see what happened. The shower seemed to slow things down, but a couple of hours later the contractions were picking up again, and we called again and decided to start the drive for the birth center. We gathered a few snacks and other things, carried our sleeping two-year-old to the car, and called my husband’s mom, who was coming to watch little Lucy during the labor.
The drive was uneventful except for some fairly thick fog. My contractions were still very manageable, and we happened to time the trip so that we heard Barak Obama’s victory speech on NPR on the way. When we arrived, Kami, our midwife, was waiting for us outside. I headed inside, and she and my husband went to try and turn on the water, which the water company had turned off because of a leak in the pool in the back yard. I spent a few minutes trying (unsuccessfully) to get Lucy to go back to sleep.
After a little while, my husband’s parents arrived. His dad had decided to accompany his mom because it was so late and she had never been to the birth center. After a failed search for matches to relight the water heater, Craig and his dad went out to buy a lighter. I made yet another unsuccessful attempt to get Lucy to sleep and rested myself as well as I could. By the time the guys got back, lighted the water heater, and finally came back to me, I was more than a little annoyed thatCraig had deserted me for so long.
Craig’s mom took Lucy and Craig and I spent some time puttering around. Kami made ginger tea to help with my indigestion. Then we tried to rest for a little while since the contractions weren’t too bad yet. Lucy started watching Tom and Jerry’s A Nutcracker Tale in another room. The most difficult part of the whole experience was that Lucy refused to sleep until around 4 AM, and I could hear her yelling intermittently through the whole night, but didn’t have the energy to try and help her myself. We had considered several ways that the birth might be hard for her, but it hadn’t occurred to us that she would keep herself awake all night.
After a little while, I decided to go the bathroom, since the contractions were getting harder, and then we woke up Kami, who had also been resting, and ran a hot bath. Craig put on his swim suit, and we must have spent several hours in the tub (actually a large jacuzzi) trying different positions. I went back and forth to the toilet few times, and the contractions kept working. In the background I could hear “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Lucy’s movie. She finally went to sleep, but she was up again around 6 AM.
Craig went to get Kami around that time and the sun started to come up. Kami suggested I spend some time on the birthing stool to see how that felt. When I first sat down, it felt awful! I thought all my insides had fallen right down onto my cervix. Kami checked me then, and found that I had a cervical lip on the front side. So I spent some time on my knees with a birthing ball and miserable compared to being in the water. After a few contractions with the ball, I laid on my side on the bed, and the urge to push started to assert itself. I was convinced I could not move from the spot, despite how much more uncomfortable it was. It was amazing to feel how things were moving and changing, and I was fascinated by that even through the tough contractions. But with a little encouragement I headed back for the water, making a side stop at the birthing chair on the way.
As I sat on the birthing chair and a contraction hit, Craig looked at me and said, “The head’s coming out!” I couldn’t see her, but I can picture Kami’s face as she said, “Well, get over there and catch it!” It was a good thing he didn’t move too quickly, because it wasn’t the head, but my bag of waters. It exploded and made a puddle a good five feet past the puddle pads on the floor. Craig thought it was one of the coolest things he had ever seen.
After that, I headed back into the water. The pushing urge was getting more and more overwhelming, and before long I had settled into a squat with my husband behind me holding me up and pushing me back up after resting between contractions. The sun was getting higher, and it started to come through the cord holes in the venetian blinds right into my eyes. Kami had to hang a towel in the blinds so I wasn’t blinded every time I got up to push. She did a wonderful job of encouraging me when I was afraid for my C-section scar (“Let it go. Give it to Christ!”) and helping me to push and breathe more effectively. Of course I had read and heard how I should do those things, but I certainly forgot until she was there to gently remind me! Towards the end Craig’s mom brought in Lucy. She did amazingly well with the whole scene. Every now and then she would say, “Mama cry?” when I was groaning/yelling through the pushes, but she was totally absorbed by it all, and not at all upset by it as we had feared she might be.
After about 50 minutes of pushing, I started to feel the stretching that meant Samantha’s head was ready to come out. In retrospect, I wish we had thought to have a mirror available, although I’m not sure how much we would have been able to see under the water and from that awkward angle. After a couple more pushes, her head was out, and I reached down to feel a fuzzy tuft of hair! Our first baby had no hair until she was over a year old, so I was really shocked by that. The next contraction I tried to push her body out, but it felt like there was nothing left to push on! I finally did it, though, and as I sat back in relief Kami lifted the baby up onto my stomach. The black hair was so surprising, but it was quickly covered by a hat, and between trying to kiss and otherwise love on this new little person, I managed to move her leg to see that we had another little girl. My mother-in-law snapped pictures, Kami watched the baby’s vital signs, Craig peered over my shoulder at the little one, and I started the process of rubbing in the vernix on her skin. I suggested that Samantha, one of the names Craig had always liked, seemed like a good fit, and Samantha Elizabeth was the working name at that point.
I pushed out the placenta a few minutes later (which we brought home to nourish the tree we’re going to plant for Samantha) and Craig got to cut the umbilical cord. Samantha was only a little interested in nursing, and we moved from the tub to the bed soon after that. There she nursed and we curled up for a nap before the rest of the weighing, measuring, and checking happened. She only left my side to be spirited away to spend time with her grandparents. Craig’s dad started working on breakfast for all of us from the supplies Mom and Lucy’s early-morning shopping trip had procured. Scrambled eggs, orange juice, and muffins were very welcome, since I hadn’t been interested in eating much during the labor.
After the nap Kami filled out the paperwork and tied up lose ends. Samantha was 8lbs 4oz and 20 inches long. She was the picture of health. I lost a little more blood than was probably good for me, and since I have low blood pressure anyway, it was very low after the birth. I almost passed out when I sat up too fast on my way out of bed to the bathroom. But some more time in bed and lots of fluids soon had me right enough to make it to the bathroom, get dressed, and finally get on our way back home, less than 24 hours after we had started the drive the evening before. Other than the blood loss, I only suffered a minor tear (no stitches!) and some bruising to my tail bone which plagued me for a couple of weeks.
Every time I think back on any aspect of the experience, I am filled with such a sense of peace. The setting was beautiful, and very home-like, even though it wasn’t our own home. Kami was so calm and helpful through the whole thing, and I know that is her job, but I was impressed with how easy and straightforward she made everything. The extra time in bed gave us a chance to sit and talk with her more about the birth process and what she did, and about the politics of it all, which had driven us out of our own home and across state lines to seek the birth we wanted. We decided that Samantha’s middle name should be Rose. I am amazed by the contrasts between the two births I have experienced, and I am overwhelmingly thankful that I had the opportunity to bring my baby into the world with no drugs, no poking and prodding, in the presence of her sister and father and grandmother, in a safe, loving, gentle environment. Daily, if not more often, I have little realizations of how wonderful this birth actually was. “Everything worked.” “Lucy was right there.” “Samantha never really left me, except in the arms of family.” “I chose how she was born.”
When we got home, I looked again to see what the name “Samantha” means. I could have cried. It is the female form of Samuel, which means “God hears”. It was so true, so perfect. I was nearly in despair about how this child would come into the world, and God heard my distress and gave me another option, as well as the courage to pursue that option. Then, when He had completed His miracle with us, I am convinced Samantha’s little angel whispered a name in my ear to remind us of His hand in it all. God heard, and He answered.