in april i started a series of posts telling the story of the bean’s birth. today i interrupt that story line and attempt to tell a short version of the story of chickpea’s birth. i hope that hearing this story (and many others) will help a fellow blogger i truly admire to have the out of hospital birth that she desires. here you go greenmamma!
chickpea is a relatively agreeable baby and she has been this way since she was in utero. on saturday july 26th i started having some light squeezing sensations in my lower abdomen during dinner. they were mild and not at all unpleasant and i hardly noticed them. while i was nursing the bean to sleep they intensified some and when i came back downstairs after that i told flash they were still going on. he encouraged me to call my midwife – we were having a planned homebirth this time around. my mom was the one who was going to take care of bean while i gave birth to chickpea and she happened to be having dinner with us the night of the 26th as my father was out of town. when i mentioned the mild contractions she said “tonight is not a good night chickpea!” she had plans she really wanted to attend the next morning. “how about tomorrow?” she inquired.
i called my midwife around 10:30 that evening and told her the status, mild irregular cramping. and also, i had noticed a little blood early that morning when using the toilet. she asked me to lay down for a bit and see what happened. i told her “tonight is just not a good night to have this baby?” and explained my mom’s request. she said she would be there if the baby came but she also had an engagement the following morning so she would also appreciate if chickpea could hold off. we giggled, asking the baby not to be born yet seemed silly, and hung up. i got in bed and within thirty minutes the light cramping had stopped and i fell asleep.
so i was not entirely surprised when the same sensation started up again the next evening while i was nursing the bean to sleep. i came down and told flash and i assured him that i would call the midwife again and also that i would wake him if i needed him and i sent him off to sleep with the bean (that was our current sleeping arrangement). i called my midwife again and she asked me to lay down for a bit again and i figured it would be the same as the night before. i did lay down and was able to doze on and off some but the cramping never really went away and slowly it intensified. i tried timing them at some points and found them to be not all too regular or close together but all the same i had a feeling that chickpea was coming. i want back and forth between sitting on my bed with my laptop listen to music and reading on the internet, and being down stairs walking around a bt and sitting on my big ball.
when i had the bean i had hated the ball so i was surprised to be liking it so much and also figured it was a sign i was still very early in labor. eventually it reached the point where walking back up the stairs to bed was taking some concentration and i decided i would call my mom and ask her to come over. she could help me get the bed ready if things continued to progress or she could go back home if they died down. in retrospect, i was deeply in denial that i was having the baby soon at that point. i was enjoying being alone and i was able to manage the surges quite nicely and i had just sort of started that birthing drift away from reality. i called my mom around three in the morning and assured her that she didn’t need to hurry but that i would like her to come over just in case. i had been touch with my midwife a few times already and so she knew there was a chance she needed to come soon and she lived about twenty minutes away so i was comfortable with not having her there yet.
after i called my mom i got off my ball (which i had brought upstairs at that point) to try to walk to the guest room and get the sheets we had set aside for the bed for the birth. i was thinking i would get them and my mom and i would put them on together. there was a slight hitch in my plan though, i couldn’t get to the guest room. when i stood i felt significantly less comfortable and the surges felt a bit more overwhelming. i liked the feeling of sitting on my ball and feel centered and confident and at ease. walking to the guest room was out. the up shot of this discovery was that one little piece of my awareness that was not entirely immersed in birthing was able to speak up and say, “now would be a good time to call the midwife and tell her to come.”
i found the phone again and called my midwife. she told me she would leave her home within an hour and asked if that sounded good. “no,” i informed her, “i am having this baby soon so you better come now.” the beans birth had be a relatively quick one so i was anticipating that the pea would be too and i was suddenly aware that things were in fact progressing. she told me she would be there soon and we hung up. my mom arrived moments later and between surges i gave her instructions on where to find the birth kit and how to make the bed etc. she was very relieved to hear that the midwife was coming – i think she was afraid that i was going to have the baby and she would have to catch her.
my midwife and her student midwife arrived at my home by four in the morning and began setting up the birthing pool. i was still sitting on my ball, breathing deeply through surges, and feel calm and confident. i was loving being in my room, surrounded by women who were here to support my birth, surrounded by my own familiar things and light and artwork. i remember thinking that things were progressing quickly but that i probably still had plenty of time and i wondered if she was going to be born around the same time as her brother was (he was born at 7:23 am). my midwife was very calm and quiet, she could see i was content doing my thing and she did her best not to interrupt me. she spoke to me softly between surges when she wanted information and mainly just kept asking me to drink fluids and asking if i wanted anything. the back up midwife had arrived by this time and all three women plus my mom were in my room with me and in the ajoining bathroom trying to get the hose to work at filling the tub with hot water. they were also boiling pots of water to hasten the process and lugging them up the stairs to dump in the tub. god bless them. i was watching all the goings on between surges, feeling a bit removed but also just loving that there was a bustle of women working quietly around me.
do you remember being in your teens and having slumber parties. i used to love laying there in the dark listening to the others girls whispering while i fell asleep. it was so comforting being surrounded by the quiet interaction. that is the closest i can get to describing how i felt about that stage of my birthing. there was nice quiet active energy and i was a part of it but not needing to interact. i felt safe and attended too but not called upon to host.
around four thirty in the morning the bean woke up asking for me (this was a normal thing and i usually would then go join him to sleep until morning). my mom went in and told them that i was having the baby and asked bean if he wanted to visit me. he agreed and he came into the room for a bit. he was groggy but seemed to understand what was going on and was surprisingly comfortable with major break in routine (i was glad we had read the homebirth book to him a million times). i held him and hugged him a bit between surges and then he asked my mom if they could go downstairs and play and she agreed.
about ten minutes after five my midwife asked me if i had emptied my bladder recently and i admitted that it had been awhile. i didn’t really want to get off my ball and walk to the toilet and i shared this with her. she tempted me by telling me i could get into the birthing pool after i tried to pee. hmm, i wavered, flash agreed to help me get there, and i finally agreed. we went slowly into the bathroom with flash supporting me and when i got to our (very low) toilet i hovered over it and was able to pee. then suddenly my whole calm, quiet birthing world exploded with a pop as my water broke and i felt like the pea moved down about thirty feet.
when i had the bean i had a moment during which i turned to flash and begged him “help me, help me!” and he had no idea what i was talking about or what help i wanted. it turned out i was in transition which lasted about ten minutes and then i was through the darkness and into pushing.
when chickpea dropped thirty feet lower as my water broke and i was hovering over the toilet in the bathroom i had that moment where suddenly everything was happening way too fast and i couldn’t process it or handle the massive changes. i clung to flash desperately asking him to hold me up, and i moaned like the best of them through several rapid surges. the midwives joined us in the bathroom and asked me if i wanted to get in the pool and assured me that everything was ok but i was having one of those “in over my head” moments and i just couldn’t calm down. i was partly so overwhelmed because i really wanted to be in my birthing pool and i knew i couldn’t get there. when the water broke and pea dropped lower i suddenly lost the ability to walk at all. even with help.
flash quickly decided that holding me up was not going to work out for long and before i knew it i was on my hands and knees on my bathroom floor. my back up midwife got down low on the floor and put her head near mine. then she very quietly told me to slow down my breathing when i was between contractions. i didn’t have a lot of time between contractions so it took me a few tries but eventually i managed to do it and just like that, with slowed breathing, i was able to get a grasp of where i was and what was happening and it was all ok again. it was intense and inescapable but it was not frightening any more and i suddenly knew, with a burst of enthusiasm, that my baby was going to be born any minute. my midwives continued to offer to find a way to get me into the birth pool but i was not moving. it felt impossible to me and i just knew on some level that this birth had taken a turn and would not be going on much longer.
within moments my midwife called out, “you are doing great. i can see almost a quarter inch of hair!” i silently screamed with shock that she could only see a quarter inch because i truly felt like the pea was about to exit her old quarters and greet the world. she was. again my midwife spoke to me, “ok she is right here but you have stretched fully yet so i need to to hold off on pushing or you will tear. just wait for me it is almost time.” i listened to her advice and waited through about two more contractions and then she said “ok on the next contraction you can try pushing if you want to.” two contractions and two pushed later chickpea’s head was out. i waited until my next contraction (1 minute and 40 seconds later which felt like eternity) before pushing out her body and then i promptly put my head down on the cool bathroom floor and gave myself a minute. chickpea was born at 5:43 in the morning on the bathroom floor.
a fast birth is wonderful in many ways but also difficult in some. everything is simply happening so fast it is hard to keep up. mixed in with wanting to celebrate that she was here and i had done it i just had this need to rest for a second and breathe and process. so i did. my midwife lovingly held our newborn, our literal new born, and i put my head down and took a few breaths. and then i pushed up and asked for the chickpea. they passed her to me between my legs and then slowly helped me up and to my bed where i sat propped up on pillows holding our new baby girl and feeling joyous. i still had work to do, i had my placenta to birth, and it hung like a question mark in the air because it had been an issue with the bean’s birth, but the greatest gift of my homebirth was that those moments that could have been filled with tension and concern instead were filled with smiles, and hugs, and peace. they were filled with faith in my body and my body’s ability to birth in the way it needed to and should. i had the gift of time to figure out what that was for me.
my midwives kept an eye on the chord which pulsed for over 30 minutes (the norm is less than 10) and they encouraged me to try pushing when i had a contraction. i latched chickpea on to see if nursing would help. i took the homeopathic remedies that had been suggested, and also we waited. we waited much longer than any hospital would ever have allowed. i was fine, everything was ok, and we were patient. finally we decided, as a group, that we would all be happier if we got the placenta birthed and we dedicated ourselves to the cause. i got up in a squat on the bed again, my midwife prepared to apply traction to the chord, the student midwife held the baby, and i agree to one small dose of pitocin given intramuscularly by the back up midwife to help my body have a stronger contraction.
that was all it took. my placenta was born on the next contraction with some help from my midwife and then we all celebrated. it was almost as joyous as birthing the baby!
i lay down in bed snuggled up with our new baby and my husband went downstairs and cooked up eggs for everyone. we ate, drank tea and coffee, shared smiles and cooing time with the new baby, and relaxed. i was not elated or over the moon or jacked up or anything like that i was something much much better, content. i was comfortable beyond my wildest dreams, i felt better than i could have imagined, i was exhausted and i was content. a mama in her nest. and i couldn’t have agreed more with what flash told me in our first quiet moment alone together, “having a homebirth was the best decision you have ever made.”
before she left my midwife asked me, “so how was your birth? how do you feel like it was for you? did you love it?” i was quiet for a minute and then, “well, i don’t want to do it again tomorrow or anything but it was everything i had hoped it would be. thank you.”
now here i am not quite eleven months later and i have to tell you, remembering it all so i can share it with some one who will be on her own birth journey soon makes me take back my words. i would do it again tomorrow. if the universe so desired, i would.
ok, how sad is it that i said i was writing a short version! i am terrible. sorry. hope you waded through the entire thing jessica and you know you (or anyone else) can ask any questions you want! meanwhile i’ll be wishing you the best and just knowing with all my heart that you are going to have exactly the birth that is right for you and your baby boy.