Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Simon's Birth Story | An on-purpose home birth

Thirty-five weeks and five days pregnant, I'm sitting back in the big, comfy couch at my midwife's home office. I've officially been pregnant as long as my entire pregnancy with our firstborn lasted. I'm measuring on track; Baby sounds great, and feels to be at least six pounds. 

"I think you'll make it. At least, I'm hoping you do." She says. "Do you think you will?" The question we've been wondering since Ralphie was born: Did he come a month early because I spent 3 days sick in bed, or do I just deliver early? (Read his birth story here.)

I nod in agreement. I have no expectation of going early. I'll make it. Or later. I was pretty sure I deserved a 43 weeker the second time around. A 43 week 10 pounder.

(Realistically, an eight-pound baby a couple days before or after my due date was more what we all were thinking.)

With everything so fine and dandy, my husband plans to attend a men's retreat with our church Friday evening. Just a day and a night, four hours from home. For some reason I sob uncontrollably when he leaves, and spend the day an emotional basket case.

4:30am July 27th I hear a whimper from the nursery and know Ralphie has lost his pacifier. As I snuggle him for just a moment I notice my belly is rock-hard and tight. I grimace and think that's not quite Braxton Hicks. A bathroom trip before I crawl back into bed confirms yet another sign of labor: a lost mucus plug.

I toss and turn, a nervous wreck. I try to  text and call Daniel, but in my mind I see him clearly: comfortably curled up, snoring, in a cabin, in the mountains, with his friends. Completely oblivious.

At 6:45am I get up. I shower, then text my midwife a head's up. She suggests the tub for 30 minutes. It feels great, but four strong contractions make me contemplate tracking their progress. Closer than they had been. Stronger, too.

My boy and I eat breakfast - at least I try. I'm nauseous, and almost everything is making me gag.

We cross the street and go to the park. At least a distracted toddler will help keep me distracted from whatever this was. I google "false labor signs" before we leave the house, just for some reassurance. I get none.

9:00am comes, contractions are 5-7 minutes apart and at least 30 seconds long. I still cannot reach my snoozing husband, so I text our pastor and tell him to wake up Daniel. He texts back, "What, you in labor? ;)"

I laugh out loud.

The next hour and a half fly by as I pace the perimeter of the playground, talk to sweet, supportive friends, and anxiously wonder how long it will be before Daniel can get home.

10:30am my midwife arrives. I meet her outside the park, her eyes are all sympathy. Back at my house she checks the baby's heart rate. He is active and sounds great. More with her eyes than with her words she tells me this is definitely real labor, and I swallow hard and try to get excited about meeting our second baby boy.

She leaves our house to get some last minute supplies. She texts Daniel, "She will wait for you, but not long. Hurry." He is still about two hours from home, and the rain is pouring like a wet monsoon. Hazard lights on he books 80mph, and prays harder than anything that the birth will go smoothly, whether he makes it or not.

Left alone with Ralphie, I quickly realize I'm about at the end of my capabilities in carrying for an active toddler who has no idea of the pain his mama is experiencing. Another half hour goes by and I decide to send him off with a friend. One last bump picture, first: with my baby on my baby bump. There is a giant lump in my throat as I kiss him goodbye and tell him he is going to be a big brother today. He had no way of understanding, but somehow I think he knew.

Once alone I try to regain my focus, and calmly work my way through each contraction. But my body is tense, and each attempt to accept the pain and pressure is met with a resistance I don't control. Please bring Daniel home soon I pray over and over and over.

My midwife and her assistant arrive. Their presence brings peace. I feel safe. She suggests all-fours, maybe in the shower?

Cool water pounds on my back, and I rock back and forth. In my mind I'm repeating breathe your baby down, breathe him down. I'm imagining this beautiful process unfolding.

But my hips are locked, and my back is stiff. I don't want to move. I can't. 12:30pm. I've been fighting like this for a half hour.


Then! I hear his voice. He is home!

I push the shower curtain aside and throw my arms around his waist. My dripping hair soaks him. The flood of tears fall freely, and a wave of relief passes over me. I cry his name over and over. You made it! 

And he just holds me.

Time slows for just a moment. It's just the two of us in the whole wide world, until another contraction comes and I brace myself.

Laboring after that was not easy, but it was natural. I knew how to do this, and I felt a new surge of power with my husband now beside me. I rocked and groaned and rolled through each contraction. Unlike Ralphie's birth, this time I felt purpose behind the pain. I knew what that load of pressure was, and I half smiled as I sensed my body quickly progressing.

My midwife clocked the second stage of labor as a whole 13 minutes.

The shower began to feel confining, and my legs and arms where achy from holding the weight of my body, so I moved to the bed on my side. Daniel ran his fingers down my back, and rubbed my shoulders. My midwife pressed deep and hard into the small of my back through each contraction. These were different. They were intense. The pressure - Oh, the pressure.

No one told me to push. No one checked me to see if I was complete. But my body knew.

Two spontaneous pushes through a contraction. Back to the bathroom to squat and let gravity help my baby down. A burst of fluid, followed by another. More pushing. He crowns. I scream. I'm yelling things I don't remember. I hear soft, calm voices from my midwife and her assistant encouraging me on. "Yes, that's your baby!" "Push through the burn, that's great." "You're doing it!"

I dig my head into Daniel's side, and pull down on his arm for support. He is rubbing my arm and kissing my head, and when I take a split second to catch his eyes they are both bright with excitement.

And while I knew all along my heart would only expand to make room to love each of my babies, I had my doubts and fears. How could anything compare to my love for my firstborn?

Then, a load of pressure, and a burn of fire. I know his head is about to emerge. My eyes close tight, and I grip my husband's arm with all I have in me.

I scream, but with excitement: His head is out! I stand, and the body quickly follows. Then, he's up to my stomach, now oddly soft and empty. Short, short cord, so I hunch to kiss him. Oh, his sweet, sweet face! So much happiness, so much joy. I'm crying, but the tears won't fall.

Daniel can't stop smiling.

Words fail. Time stops.

And my heart expands a bazillion times over. It's hard, fast, deep love-at-first-sight, and we can't take our eyes off of him.

Everything slows down after that.  The bathtub is filled, and my baby and I soak in the warm water. He nurses, and as his daddy talks to him he opens his little eyes. What to name him? What to name him? We go through our list. Once. Twice. Then one more time. Eventually, I'm persuaded, and Daddy calls his son Simon Patrick.

We are smitten.

His chord stops pulsing, the placenta comes, we clean up and climb into our own bed. He is gently weighed and examined: a healthy, happy boy.

Then, Ralphie is brought home, and my heart swells full to the brim. He squeals with delight as I place his baby brother in front of him. "Gentle," we command, and he ever so softly strokes his little head. Then, curious of course, he tries to pull off the tuff of hair that is standing straight up. We laugh. Ralphie smiles. This little brother thing is pretty cool.

With Ralphie's birth I learned going unmedicated was worth it. With Simon's birth I learned going unmedicated at home is beyond worth it. It will take a medical emergency to get me to deliver in a hospital again. And I had a great hospital experience. I'm also considering, in the event that we move out of Rock Hill, kidnapping my midwife so she can attend all our future births. Kidding! Well... kind of.

We are full of thankfulness to every person who was part of Simon's birthday, and to all of the friends and family who have poured love upon him and us in the days following. 

Our hearts are full to think that this tiny, helpless being we cradle in our arms has been given to us to love, train, and enjoy. Yes, a gift. A blessing. 

A miracle.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above." James 1:17


  1. He is so beautiful.

    Reading this was amazing. I am so so happy for you all!

  2. Aww! This is the kind of birth story that I love to read-- no complications, no scary long labors, just joy! Thanks for sharing. :)

    Blessings on your family!