Homebirth: A Partner’s Perspective

I walked over to the drugstore around 10pm to get a hot water bottle for Lori because her lower back hurt.  She’d been having contractions here and there throughout the day but nothing regular, Shar had told us over the phone to try and get a good night’s sleep and we’d see what was up in the morning.  When I walked back in the apartment I heard Lori pounding on the wall, according to the system we’d put in place — so she could alert me without speaking when a contraction began.  I went in the bedroom and I knew it was on.  My mind became very flustered and I’m sorry to say that I never really emerged from that state.

Lori was up on her knees on the mattress, holding on to the back of the headboard.  I was trying to fill the hot water bottle, start timing contractions, my phone was dying, the pen didn’t work in my notebook, it was very dark and I couldn’t really see but didn’t put a light on.  This is the sort of confusion I was in throughout her labor.  Anyway, she needed water in between contractions as well as pressure with the hot water bottle on her low back.  By the time I got it together to start timing the contractions they were about 4 minutes apart.  I called our doula and told her I thought she’d better head over.  I then called Shar who wanted to listen to a contraction.  Lori had gotten very cold and was in a hot shower at that point, and yelling alot.  I put Shar on speaker phone so she could hear a contraction from start to finish.  Based on what she heard, Shar estimated that we were still a few hours out.

Daisy arrived around 1am and instructed me to fill the birth pool in our spare room.  This kept me occupied for the next 45 minutes while she and Lori worked it out in the bedroom.  I poked my head in every so often to see what was going on.  Daisy was supporting Lori in the purest way — helping her move around, suggesting positions, offering water, and encouraging her as she went from the bed to the floor, side-lying to all fours, helping the baby make his way down.  It was very intense hard labor.  I am so glad Daisy was with us, she was perfect in her role.  I don’t think Lori remembers much from this period.

After about an hour, Daisy came out and told me to call Shar as the contractions were stacking up one on top of another.  Shar arrived quickly — in about half-an-hour, and determined immediately that Lori was completely dilated.  In fact she had already had some pushing contractions.  Shar gave me some simple instructions  — a few supplies to gather from the birth kit, and to clear a space near the birth pool.  I completely failed at these simple tasks.  I think Daisy did them.  Things were happening fast and Shar took control in serious fashion.  We had gotten to know her well during her many visits to our home for checkups and we both felt complete trust and admiration for her and Carol.  But obviously we had never seen her work during a birth before.  She saw everything that was happening and gave direction with complete focus and assurance.  Looking back, I am so profoundly impressed with her skill and confidence.  It’s a very deep knowledge she and Carol carry and I am so grateful they came into our lives.

Once Lori was in the warm pool, the labor slowed a bit and she was able to get a good break and rest in between contractions.  I think we all took a breath.  Daisy fanned her while I gave her sips of water from a straw and put a cloth on her forehead.  She returned to the conscious world for this period, was talking and making jokes a little bit.

We had candles lit and nice music playing in the bedroom and it was all set up for the baby to be born.  But we never made it out of the spare bedroom.  Lori got out of the pool and stayed right there next to it, kind of scrunched between the pool, the changing table, the closet, and a mattress we had leaning against the wall.  This was the final stage of labor.  It was coming fast again and Shar instructed Lori to reach down and feel what was happening, to help the baby ease his way out.  He was crowning — we could see the hair on the top of his head.  Lori leaned back against the mattress, squatting with her feet planted firmly on the ground.  She was opened up in the iconic pose of life-giving womanhood.  A perfect posture that reaches back through the millennia of human life on earth, the most powerful image I will ever witness.  Of course she was cursing and demanding that Shar reassure her in very specific ways.  She also repeated a mantra that she had taken from one of the birth stories in Ina May’s guide — “I’m going to get HUGE!”  She was huge.  She moved down to her hands and knees, then up almost to standing, whatever the baby needed to make his way.  Eventually she ended up on all fours.  I looked down and saw my son’s head coming out of Lori’s body.  My brain exploded, and with one more push he was out completely.

So now I too had been knocked out of our regular experience of time and consciousness.  I don’t know how but I ended up kneeling beside Lori and she was holding our child, repeating over and over, “I’ve got you, baby.”  He knew who his mother was, and that he was safe and protected as she held him tight.  His umbilical cord was thick with the lifeblood that was flowing from her body into his.  Meanwhile she was losing alot of blood of her own, covering the cloths and towels on the floor beneath her.  I was vaguely aware of this, and I think Lori was too, but we were both only partly there in the room, and partly elsewhere in the galaxy with our child.  Luckily Shar was completely in the room, working to make sure that Lori would stop bleeding.  She said “I don’t like how much you’re bleeding,” then gave her a shot, some suppositories, and another shot in quick succession.  In about 45 seconds, it was under control.  Shar later told us she’d only ever had one other mother bleed so much.  I don’t think anyone called it a “hemorrhage,” although Lori had been worried about that beforehand.  In any case there are no two women in the world I’d trust more to handle a situation like that than Shar and Carol.  Besides, we had set an intention early on in Lori’s pregnancy to keep fear out of the equation — fear was given no place in our experience of Lori’s birth.

We moved Lori into the bedroom and as Shar stitched her up, I was washing dishes in the kitchen, knowing that my life had changed forever.  As I write this, almost a year later, I can hear my baby laughing and playing with Lori in the next room.  She is such a beautiful mother, quite different from the woman I first met, softer and happier and wise with the experience of having a child.  Our sweet little family made it through.

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