In honor of my son Charles’ first birthday, I am FINALLY posting his birth story. I may edit it a couple more times after I post it because it’s hard to remember and reflect on everything my husband and I experienced that wonderful day!
The night of November 28, early labor contractions began. Before I went to bed around 9:30 P.M., I had noticed that I was getting somewhat regular contractions, but thought they were just Braxton-Hicks. I woke up every hour after that to pee and continued having moderate contractions. Still, I was unconvinced that it was early labor. Baby was due November 17 and I didn’t want to get my hopes up like I had so many times before when I felt contractions; but by 2 A.M. I knew this was it—early labor had finally begun! I got on the phone and called Aly, our Midwife, and she instructed me to get as much rest as possible. I went back to bed feeling excited and anxious. Baby had chosen today as the day.
My husband had already taken the week off in anticipation of our baby’s arrival, so when he woke up I requested that he take me out to IHOP for breakfast. I was still getting regular contractions, but they were light and easy to walk and talk through. After some delicious French toast and hashbrowns, we made our way to midwife Aly’s office in St. Paul. She gave us a few “releasing techniques” to do at home. Next was a visit to my chiropractor Amber. Then we met up with my brother Tristan to have a late lunch at Olive Garden. He came to our house afterwards to pick up his dog because we had been taking care of the dog for him. Tristan agreed to take his dog during the first couple of weeks that we had our new baby. Once Tristan left, my husband helped me perform all the “releasing techniques” and helped me climb into bed. I was feeling tired and wanting to nap. I no more than laid my head on the pillow when—POP!—I asked my husband, “Did you hear that?” He told me no and then I said, “It felt like something popped…” He asked, “Did your water break?” I sat up and said, “No, I think I just need to go to the bathroom.” Well, right when I stood I felt a gushing and said ohhhh, all while racing to the bathroom and holding my legs together. My husband was right—my water broke!
It was about 4:30 P.M. I immediately got on the phone and called Aly. To my surprise, SHE WAS ALREADY ATTENDING ANOTHER CLIENTS BIRTH! (I remember Aly telling me that in her 7 years of practicing, she never had 2 clients go into labor at the same time.) She told me to keep her posted on my contractions and that her intern midwife Rebecca would be coming over. Then I called my mom and my sister Chastity, both of whom would be at the birth of my first child. Mom was excited; I could hear it in her voice as she kept asking me if I wanted her to come over “right now.” Chastity was equally excited. She was my photographer for the big day. By the end of my phone conversation with Chastity, I had to stop talking in order to get through each contraction… things were picking up!
I went upstairs and got completely undressed because each contraction was sending more fluid down my legs, and wearing shorts/underwear seemed pointless at that time. At the same time, my husband was frantically working to try to fit the hose to the bathroom sink in order to fill the rental birthing tub. He discovered that the attachment he bought didn’t fit the faucet! (In retrospect, I think it was a good distraction for him while my contractions were picking up. I was starting to get uncomfortable.) Meanwhile, I tried to find a good position to get into in order to try to make the contractions “feel better.” IMPOSSIBLE! I tried laying on the bed first… I mostly just laid on my side and kicked my leg back and forth, trying to distract myself from the pain of each contraction. It was during this time that my body made me throw up lunch and part of my undigested breakfast. I actually felt better after that happened. It also made me feel like my body was preparing itself for the arrival of the baby.
Then I moved to the bathtub. I sat cross-legged facing the side wall of the tub. That last about 5 minutes! However, it was during this time that my mom showed up. I vividly remember her sitting at the top of the stairwell (located right outside the bathroom), talking with my husband while I was in the tub. When I got out of the tub and stepped into the hallway, I looked over at her and said, “I’m dying.” She laughed and it was at that point that I knew she was thinking, here we go!
I also remember laboring on the bathroom floor with my legs tucked under my butt; but that didn’t feel right either. Finally, I laid a towel on the exercise bath and sat down with a hand on each knee—PERFECT! Now I was really feeling powerful contractions. I started moaning, then screaming, through each contraction. I had been keeping track of when and how long each contraction was occurring, but when the contractions got that strong, I made my husband keep track by telling him, “Donncuan, NOW!” whenever another contraction began and ended. To this day, we still have notes on our iPhones of contraction start/stop and duration times.
Rebecca arrived around 7-7:30 P.M. I distinctly remember her coming into my bedroom and hurriedly setting up all her gear and thinking, wow, I must really be having this baby soon! Rebecca got the fetal heart rate right away and began hounding me to eat something. Having already thrown up, I was in no mood to eat anything. My body was rejecting the very sight of food. My mom made me some oatmeal. I took one bite and the consistency made me want to vom. Then my husband made me a piece of toast—again, one bite and no more! My sister Chastity then showed up. She stared at me in my bedroom from down the hallway and said, “Oh, you’re already naked.” It was pretty funny, but I wasn’t laughing. Chas brought me Pocky sticks (thin breadsticks covered with chocolate) and set them on my dresser. Rebecca persisted with the food issue, so I finally slammed my hand down on the box of Pocky sticks, opened them up, and begrudgingly ate them while giving Rebecca the stink eye. (Sorry Rebecca! You know I have nothing but love for you hun!)
Sometime after eating the dreaded Pocky Sticks, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom. I moved to the toilet, but I definitely didn’t need to go. Rebecca recognized what I was actually feeling and asked, “Kelsey, do you feel like you need to push?” I nodded my head in agreement and then she asked if I wanted to move to the birthing tub. Yup! I was ready for the warm, welcoming water! (Chas had been helping my husband warm the water in the tub by adding boiling water because our hot water heater was out of hot water.) The water felt so good. I settled into a comfortable position and screamed through each contraction. At one point, Rebecca asked me to reach down and tell her what I felt; so, I reached down and said, “I just feel my opening.” Thinking back on my response, I laugh and reflect on how it probably wasn’t the best reply, but in that moment I was so focused on each contraction that I had no time to think about what I should say. I was simply finding the strength inside me to get through the next contraction. I fancied the thought of asking Rebecca how much longer it would be before Charlie arrived, but I thought better—I knew I wouldn’t like the response she would give me so I just kept that question to myself. (Later, when I told this to Rebecca, she informed me that her response would have been, “As long as it takes.” We had a good laugh at that!)
I believe it was around that time that Kate of Twin Cities Midwifery arrived–because my main midwife Aly was already attending another home birth, Rebecca called on Kate to be the official midwife overseeing my birth. Kate was 8 months pregnant and had a very comforting tone of voice when she spoke to me. Having only met her that night, it was wonderful to of her to be so cool and calm. She suggested that I move into a different position to move the process along. I didn’t really want to get out of my “comfortable” position, but she suggested it so nicely that I obliged. I was glad I did because the birth moved right along! Rebecca had me recline on my back (mom holding my head and shoulders above water) during the breaks between contractions. The breaks were really short now and I could feel baby coming stronger now. I felt his head crown and started whimpering. This was my point of no return. (Later, after birth, my husband told me I had said, “I can’t do it!” Something very uncharacteristic of me, but in that moment, I felt such a pain that I do believe I said it!) I realized that I needed to commit–there was only one choice–just pushing! I gave it one last hard push and baby’s head come out. One more gentle push and the rest of baby’s body slid out into the birthing tub. Rebecca said, “Okay daddy, grab your baby!” But I still had a death grip on his hands and Rebecca swooped her hands in to help. She then told Donncuan to put the baby on my chest… there was no greater feeling in the world… I cradled him in my arms and against my chest and cried. Donncuan joined me on the right, my mom on the left and Chas took a picture of us all admiring this sweet little baby.
It was probably 4-5 minutes before I asked Donncuan, “Did you see?” I had no idea what our baby’s gender was, as I made it very clear prior to the birth that I wanted to see it for myself. Donncuan said, “Take a look.” I peeled back the blanket cover baby’s little body, pulled baby’s leg back and exclaimed, “IT’S A BOY!”
Charlie’s birth went by so fast; it’s hard to remember every detail of it. After his birth, I was on an adrenaline high for days. My husband couldn’t believe the energy I had to take care of Charlie every time he cried to eat, have a diaper change, or simply wanted to be held.
When all is said and done, I am extremely thankful for the home birth we had. I’m a big proponent of birthing options and love to talk about home birth. I totally respect every woman’s right to choose where to birth, and home birth remains to be the right decision for my husband and myself. I love the fact that I could stay in the comfort of my own home, surrounded by people that I care about and that care about me. I loved being able to have skin-on-skin contact with my son. I loved birthing in the water. I loved being in the capable and caring hands of my midwives.
Here’s a final picture of Donncuan and I with baby Charlie, before I even knew he was a boy…