(This family wanted to keep their names anonymous but were happy to share the story of the birth of their little baby!)
Our doula Yael came over around midnight once my husband told her I’d stopped really talking to him and started making more animal noises. Having her there was great for me because I didn’t have to tell her what to do to be helpful, and reassuring for him because she could tell him that this was all normal and help out so he didn’t feel like he had to do everything himself. After what felt like ages (but I’m sure was not long at all), my husband had finished setting up the pool while the doula tended to me. It was a relief to get in the water. I remember being in the tub and thinking to myself, “What have I gotten myself into? Why am I not in a hospital getting good drugs? Did I have something to prove? Was I trying to be a hero? This is so uncomfortable I can never do this again, we’re going to have to settle for an only child.” As our doula reminded me later, I never said any of this out loud. I spent the night laboring in and out of the pool, which really helped a lot. Some time in the night, even the pool wasn’t helping as much, so Carol came over and checked me around 3am (mostly because I wanted her to). I remember her saying I was about 5 cm, which felt reassuring because I knew I was progressing, but also discouraging because I knew it could still be ages until the actual birth. She said we could either try to get things going or I could rest a little and I knew immediately I wanted to rest. It just felt too late and I could tell everyone–me, my husband, the doula–were all really tired. My husband had already been napping, and although Carol woke him up to give him the update, he barely remembers anything she said.
Carol had gone home but it was still the middle of the night, my husband was napping on the extra bed in the second bedroom, our doula was next to me but on the couch dozing, and I remember feeling discouraged because it started to feel endless. I asked for more hot water in the pool which did help a bit, but my contractions were so strong it was hard to get any rest. I would lean back against the edge of the tub in between contractions, and then when the next one would come I would throw myself forward onto my hands and knees. I thrashed around in the pool the rest of the night, feeling kind of like I wanted to push at the crescendo of each contraction and grunting a lot. When it was the doula’s turn to take a nap, and my husband was sitting with me next to the pool, I remember saying to him, “Remind me why I’m doing this.” And he said, very logically and honestly, “You wanted to have this experience” which, very unsurprisingly, wasn’t satisfying at all. But then he started repeating over and over like a mantra, “You’re my queen, I love you so much” and that raised my spirits and helped me through the last hours of the night. At some point when I got out of the pool to get on my knees on the bed for a bit, our doula was doing the hip squeeze during a contraction when my water broke – the sensation was dramatic, like a big water balloon popping. I was so worried I’d sprayed her in the face (as a midwife that has happened to me, and although it’s part of the job it’s not the most fun thing in the world), but she consoled me with a story about one of the midwives having someone’s water burst onto her vagina. I realize now I never got the details of that story.
Then it was the morning and Shar came over and checked me and I was 9 cm – hooray! But the baby’s head was a little tilted, so she had me walk around a bit while swaying my hips, and the birth assistant came soon after. Shar told me afterward she tried to get me to smile a few times and I wasn’t having it. I remember telling our doula later that I felt like a wild animal and she said “yes but you were a very contained wild animal.” Then Shar checked me again and although she had just sent me an article about why NOT to reduce an anterior lip, when she checked me I had an anterior lip and we decided she would try to reduce it.
I couldn’t believed I’d just delivered my baby standing up. After Shar caught him, she handed him to my husband and then had me sit down very slowly. At some point it was my turn to hold the baby; I remember he was so slippery he kept sliding around in my hands and I think I’d turned him 360 degrees. He was all gurgly and it took him a few moments to clear his throat. My placenta hadn’t yet delivered but I remember sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning back on some pillows with my husband curled up next to me, still crying and sniffly. We had wanted to meet him in person before deciding for sure on his name. Once he’d arrived we knew the one we’d picked was the right one for him. We spent some time with me propped up in bed, eating and drinking an calling our families; I hadn’t told anyone I was in labor so no one was prepared. It took a few tries to get through to my mom and sister, and I finally ended up talking to them while I was in the shower. Because my iron had been so low (I’d ended up going for IV iron infusions because I couldn’t tolerate any of the oral supplements I’d tried), we’d agreed to do active management of the third stage. I don’t even remember getting the pitocin shot as the baby came out. Then delivering the placenta seemed quite easy. I’d somehow managed to get both a laceration and a hematoma, which Shar was really concerned about. I remember her saying very firmly that if it started to grow, we were all off to the hospital. Even though I’d spent so much time considering various scenarios for hospital transfer before labor, once I was in labor I’d forgotten that was even a possibility. Between icing my hematoma, eating and drinking a ton while laying in bed, and finally taking a shower on my knees just to be safe (during my first trimester when my morning sickness was out of control, I’d fainted and cracked my face open and I think everyone was worried that would happen again), we were all very careful. But thankfully, the universe was kind and I felt great and no catastrophes occurred so we could just stay home in our little nest.
We were immediately completely mesmerized and in love with our new friend. I think those first days of cuddling up at home together, as our families and friends and midwives and doula came to visit, are going to end up being some of the happiest days of my life.