I'm not sure where Isabella's birth story begins. I'd been having contractions that started and stopped for about 10 days. The night of Christmas they woke me up around midnight. I couldn't sleep through them, so sometime after 2, I got up. I had a bite to eat, read a bit and was able to fall back asleep around 4. Another false start I figured.
We went to my dad's on the 26th. I had a few contractions there again, but nothing big or regular. I napped with Abigail when we got home.My midwife called and woke me. She was at the airport and leaving town due to a family crisis. If anything happened, I should call Helen (her partner) who, by the way, was at a birth.
After napping, I had this strange need to exchange the weird Christmas presents, so we went to Wal-mart and Target. My contractions started becoming more regular, about 7 minutes apart, and it was more comfortable to stop at the peak. Since the contractions has started and stopped so many times already, I didn't really believe it was the real thing, but I did call Helen about 7:30 just to let her know what was happening. She was still at the birth and wasn't sure when she would be able to leave as it looked like that mom might need to transport. She apologized profusely, but said she would call another midwife, Edie, to be on call just in case. I'd heard glowing things about Edie and knew her apprentice, Cindy, through LLL, so I really didn't mind. I'd had a really good feeling about Edie when I was interviewing DEMs, so maybe this was God's way of leading me to the right birth attendant.
I nursed Abigail to sleep and realized the contractions were now about 5 min apart and much stronger in my back. About 11, I knew this was real and felt it was time to call Edie. Luis was afraid the contractions would fizzle again and tried to convince me to wait, but I really felt it was time. Helen was still at the other birth, so Edie said she was on her way. We called my mom in case Abigail woke. Mom also doubted me (being called out twice before had something to do with that I think), but I told her the contractions were different and suggested she come then. Good thing she did because Abigail woke about 5 minutes after she got here.
The pain in my back was awful. I'd hurt my back 4 years ago and the one vertebrae that was never the same is the one with all the nerves going to the uterus. Edie had suggested kneeling on the bed with my upper body draped on the birth ball when we talked on the phone. That helped with Luis rubbing my back, but I was still moaning pretty loudly. I'm not one of those women who labor quietly! It's a good thing we warned the neighbors about the homebirth. I was also freezing! I made Luis turn the heat up as high as it could go in every room and still had to have a quilt wrapped around me or I was shaking.
Edie got here while I was in a contraction and the first thing I heard her say was "Things sound like they are much farther along then they did on the phone!". She and Luis brought all of her equipment in and she called her apprentice, Cindy. Edie was fantastic. She is a very hands off midwife. No internals unless I wanted them, gentle suggestions about things to try, but quite relaxed. She truly believes that women's bodies are made for birth and we should just follow our natural instincts.
She told Luis to go ahead and fill up the wading pool if I wanted to try that, so he did. The warm water was heavenly on my back! It felt especially nice during contractions when someone poured warm water on my stomach. Abigail kept bringing me her duckies for my "bath" and really wanted to play in the water with mama. :) During a couple contractions, I felt this cool little hand on my forehead; she was brushing my hair back and leaning in close to make sure mama was okay. It was so sweet, something I will never forget. I get so teary eyed thinking about that now. I had a few doubts about having her at the birth (she was only 21 months), but I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do. She had a few hard times, partly because she wanted me and I was in my own world and partly because it was the middle of the night and she'd had very little sleep.
The contractions were getting stronger, and I got up to got the bathroom, but couldn't of course. Things are blurry here because I kept dozing between contractions. Somehow I ended up back in bed on my hands and knees draped over the ball. Someone had to push in on my hips during every contractions. Poor Luis has tendonitis in both shoulders and it was flared up already. He was hurting so much, but he gave it his all. He would also put his head on my back while pushing my hips and the heat felt great. I should have asked for a heating pad there, but never thought of it at the time. I was living so completely in the moment that I couldn't step outside of the labor and think of these things. The contractions were getting stronger quickly and I was pushing a little without trying. Since it happened so quickly, Edie asked it she could check me for dilatation. That might also be because I said that if this isn't transition, I was in trouble. I said the internal was okay. She checked and I was only at about 6 cm, but she said that didn't mean I wasn't in transition.
I knew I needed to get back into the tub and the water helped immensely. Things became much more bearable and slowed down. I could hear Edie and Cindy talking in the kitchen and knew they would suggest changing my position to help in case baby was posterior. I don't truly believe she was posterior, the pain was simply from my injury, but to play things safe I knew they'd suggest this. Cindy gently suggested it about 15 minutes later. I didn't want to, but I knew it was for the best, so I said I'd get out of the tub in a few contractions. I needed the break. I laid down on my side (kind of the Bradley position) and Cindy rubbed my back firmly during contractions. During the peaks I found myself talking to baby, telling her to turn, to come down and help mama out. I remember that I was calling baby "her" even though we had not had any testing done; I'd known in my heart all through the pregnancy that Isabella was girl, and in labor I simply spoke from my heart. Things slowed down here and I got some real rest between contractions. Afterwards, Cindy told me that is was odd the way things seemed to completely stall here, but in fact my body was finishing dilating and I went from approximately 6 cm to pushing within less than 90 minutes. She said it reminded her that every labor is different and you must trust in the power of the body. You can't
tell what is going on inside and this was just the right thing for my body. Cindy, thank you for your quiet words and your strong hands helping my back pain during this time. You helped me more than you know.
After a while, things got stronger again and Edie got back up from resting herself. I was pushing (beyond my control) during part of the contractions and at one point told them I really needed to poop. Edie asked if she could check me again then. She said it was no wonder I felt like I had to poop, baby's head was down to her first knuckle. Since I was in the bed without the waterproof layer, they suggested I move to the other bed. I did and got back into the same position. As the pushing urge hit, I didn't fight it, just did what my body told me to do. No one told me when to push or for how long. Eventually I was definitely pushing. I knew I should change positions (prone is not a good position to push in), but just couldn't bring myself to do so. I was so focused, so in the moment that I just couldn't get my body to move. Edie suggested the birth ball position again to help my back and because she finds moms tear the least on hands and knees. It was like all I needed was her suggestion to make myself move. I still needed the hands on my back during contractions, though not exactly for the pressure anymore. It was the heat that was so important. I also think that the physical connection to another woman was important. Birth is women's work and not something I believe we are meant to do alone. I'd had my confidence in my ability to give birth shaken when Abigail was cut out of my body. I needed the connection. I was also still falling asleep between contractions. Luis told me later about one contraction when Edie started to ask me a question after it ended. In the time it took her to take a breath and start talking, I had fallen completely asleep again. I could hear everything in the background, but it was as though nothing was real. Baby was really moving down and it was amazing the way the sensations changed as her head started emerging. There was stretching and burning, but nothing like what I had expected. We can try to capture the moment with phrases like "ring of fire", but they don't give this moment, with it's incredible sensations and feeling of power, justice. It's something you simply must live to understand. I was talking to her again, telling her to come down, come out and meet her mama. My moans at this point had changed to a completely primal call, one that I imagine every unmedicated birthing mother must make. It wasn't a shout, not a yell, not a moan, but a primitive, gutteral noise that came from deep within me. You know what I mean if you've made the same noise during birth.
Isabella was born at 6:40 am. She was nearly born in caul! I pushed for 1 hr 40 minutes and my entire active labor was about 7 hours. I had a small tear because I just couldn't stop pushing with the shoulders and caught Edie off guard with the compress (she thought I was done pushing with that contraction). No stitches as long as I promised to take it easy for a while and keep my legs together. Isabella's cord was very short, 18 inches, and I couldn't get her to the breast until they cut it after it stopped pulsating. She was wrapped into one of our green towels and I cradled my second daughter, the first baby I gave birth to, in my arms. It was amazing to stare at her sweet face, to touch her soft skin just seconds after she emerged from my body, while she stilled smelled like birth and her skin was still damp with amniotic fluid. After a couple minutes, we looked to see if we had a boy or girl and welcomed our Isabella Marie to our lives. Abigail was so exited and proud; she kept saying "Baby! Baby!". Isabella nursed after about half an hour and has been going strong since. She was 7 lb 14 oz and 19.5 inches. She has the greatest chubby cheeks, blue eyes and a fair amount of dark hair. My only regret is that I didn't reach down and touch her head while her body was still inside me. Edie suggested it, and while I wanted to, I simply couldn't get my body to move. I know that sounds very strange, but it's true.
Part of me can't believe I really did it. In fact the first thing I said to Isabella was "We did it, baby! We really did it!" I'm so glad I wasn't in a hospital. I was very loud and someone would have tried to shush me. Plus, with the horrible back pain it would have been hard to say no to drugs. I never even thought about this being a VBAC once labor began (it hit me a few hours after she was born that I finally had my VBAC), but a hospital would have considered me high risk. Homebirth rules! I just wanted to shout from the rooftops because I felt so great. There was no comparison to Abigail's c-section birth. This is the way birth is meant to be!