By Miriam Bishop
Babies love to make their big debut in the middle of the night. Perhaps they are attracted to the stillness. Maybe it’s because the world is in a womb-like state: dark, quiet, and cozy. Oliver, was no exception. I had my first contraction during these quiet hours on a Sunday morning. I had had smaller contractions throughout my pregnancy, but this one was different! I jumped out of bed and waddled down the hallway to the bathroom. At the time, it seemed like that would make the pressure go away. The pressure began in my lower back, and radiated around to my lower abdomen. My insides felt like concrete going down a drain.
Mary Anne had warned me that most hospital transfers are the result of a lack of sleep on Mom’s part. I took her warning very seriously, and tried to lay down and rest. My husband snores, so this was easier said than done. I tried to make a mental note of the contractions, but they were so intense that I would forget when they had begun once they were over. Once they would start I had to walk. They were more intense when I was lying down. After a few more contractions, and a lot more snoring, my husband made his way to the living room to camp out on the couch. At least one of us had to get some rest.
I called Mary Anne. I had no idea when my contractions were, how long they were, or if my water had broken. I had thought these things would be very distinct, and that I would know for certain when they were occurring. Not so much. All I knew for certain was that it was time. I gave Mary Anne my best guess about the contractions. She said to go back to bed because they were too far apart. I was instructed to call again after I had gotten a few more hours of sleep, and to eat a big breakfast.
I hung up the phone and hobbled into bed. As soon as my back would touch the bed a contraction would start. Oliver didn’t want to lie down, and he still doesn’t like lying down. I paced the hallway waddling from the bed, then to the bathroom, and back and forth. With my husband snoring away on the couch I began to feel very much alone. That made me nervous. I got sick once, and so I drank a bottle of gatorade. Sick again. Oh boy! I couldn’t keep anything down, and I couldn’t sleep.
Fast and furious is the only way I can accurately describe my contractions. They got closer and closer, but I was having a hard time keeping track of them. They were overlapping, and didn’t have a definite beginning and end. I knew that you were supposed to have a break in between contractions, but I wasn’t getting them. Very quickly I realized I needed some help. I woke my husband up and had him call Mary Anne. She asked him a question, and then he would ask me. My answers were usually, “I don’t know.” I just knew instinctively that he was coming. She said she was on her way.
I play the mental image of my labor over and over in my mind, and every time I think about it, it gets funnier and funnier. We opted for a water birth, but we never practiced setting the tub up. If you take anything away from this story it should be this: practice inflating the tub! My husband began inflating the tub, and then I’d have a contraction. I would fling myself down on the ground, kneel at the side of the couch, and he would press as hard as he could on my lower back. I’d feel a little bit better, and then he’d return to the tub, and then another contraction would come along. My poor husband, sleep deprived and nervous, went back and forth from pressing my back to setting up the tub.
He spent an hour just trying to put in the liner. It has several slits that fit over the handles on the sides of the tub, and he just could not get them to line up. I wanted to rip the liner in half. I would have given anything for that tub to be filled with water. At one point he tried to take the trash out, and I told him not to do ANYTHING until that tub was together and ready to go! Lindsey, Mary Anne’s birth assistant, arrived around that time. She took one look at the tub, and said, “Why is the liner inside out?”
Mary Anne walking through the door was one of the most calming things I could have seen at the time. I had been a nervous wreck up until that point. My labor was nothing like I’d envisioned. My husband was so busy setting everything up, that I felt alone and panicked. She put her hands on my face and started breathing with me. She calmed me down, and helped me feel supported encouraged me. She told me the more I breathed through a contraction the easier it would be. She checked me and told me she felt the head! What?! Already?!
The tub was finally being filled up, so I hopped in. At first the water was only a few inches deep, but it was exactly what I needed. Lindsey rubbed my arms, joked with me, and listened to Oliver’s heart beat with a Doppler in and out of contractions. My husband pushed on my back during contractions. Mary Anne put me on oxygen, and that also helped calm me down. She told me that I was dehydrated, and that had caused the incessant contractions. Previously, I tested positive for Group B Strep, and so she administered antibiotics through an I.V.
The water was amazing. It allowed me to feel the contractions while taking the edge off of them. I knew when I needed to push because I felt the urge, not because someone was shouting at me to “PUUUUUSSSSHHHH!” The water supported me in a position that would have been difficult to hold on dry land. It made me feel lighter, and the warmth was relaxing.
I tried to hold off on pushing for as long as I could, but the urge became too overwhelming. I really felt like I had to poop! I reached down, and felt something squishy. I felt his head! It was exactly the encouragement I needed to push. Lindsey told me to pretend to breathe through a straw so I didn’t push him out too quickly. I pushed for about thirty minutes, and then it started to get a lot more painful. My birth team told me to flip onto my back. Just when I thought that I couldn’t take much more—Oliver was here! I couldn’t believe it! I was expecting the pain to be so much worse than it was.
He pooped twice right as he was born, but I didn’t care. He was so beautiful, and I couldn’t believe that he was mine! He was a little bit bluish because of the water. He didn’t cry for the longest time. He just looked around, and held onto my oxygen tube. It was as if he’d always been there. As I held him, the world whizzed by and a thousand years could have passed by before I would’ve noticed. We wrapped him in a warm towel, and my husband held him while I delivered the placenta. Lindsey and Mary Anne helped me out of the tub, and into my bed. Oliver was never out of my sight the whole time.
Mary Anne helped me get Oliver latched on, and I nursed him while they straightened up. They cleaned the birth tub, the bathroom, and even helped wash my dishes! Every now and then, one would come back to check on us. Oliver stopped eating, and started sucking his thumb. Finally, they came into our bedroom and gave him his newborn exam on our bed. Mary Anne told me about the different reflexes babies have, and she showed my husband how to weigh him. She included us in the entire process, and I’m so thankful she did.
I have to laugh when people say home birth (for low risk pregnancies) is dangerous. Even though I was at home, I had all the medical care that I needed. There were no unnecessary interventions, and everything was presented to me as a choice. I received the best of both worlds with Mary Anne. She is knowledgeable about the medical aspects of birth, but approaches it from a natural point of view. She allowed me to be in charge of any decisions that were made, welcomed my questions, and administered any care that was necessary. I felt included in the process, encouraged, and a genuine concern for my (and my baby’s) well-being.
Women have become so afraid of labor that they miss out on the realization that their bodies were meant for giving birth! After I had Oliver I felt like I had been in a car wreck and won the lottery at the same time. Yes, you’re exhausted and weak, but at the same time you feel such joy and overwhelming love. The discomfort fades away, and you think I did it. You are given a sense of empowerment that you simply can’t earn any other way. It is the very difficulty of labor that makes it so rewarding. Plus, finally getting to hold your baby isn’t too bad either.