I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter slightly over a year ago and went immediately back to see the midwife who we'd been working with when I was pregnant with my son. I’d ended up having a c-section with my son due to footling breech presentation. I was cautiously optimistic about finally having our homebirth this second time around! I will say that there was part of me that didn't fully believe it would happen until I felt the top of her head as she was coming out...but that's getting ahead of myself.
My second pregnancy went along smoothly with few hiccups. When I arrived for my 32 week appt at my midwife's office she said "there's something I need to talk to you about". It turned out that she had just had a difficult experience at another HBAC mama's birth and it had left her with some fear and uncertainty about doing HBAC's. I was actually very appreciative of her honesty because basically what she said me was that she was feeling traumatized and that she didn't want to bring that energy to my birth. While that was certainly an unexpected turn, I was grateful to know that beforehand. After my discussion with her I actually felt more clear than ever--I was going to at least try and have a homebirth one way or another! Luckily, the amazing Sue Baelen fit me into her very booked schedule just in time before taking her yearly break. And we could not have been a better match.
Sue (as well as her apprentice, Lauren) and I clicked immediately and after a couple of unsettling weeks of not knowing who would attend my birth I was feeling positive and strong again. We moved forward with the final preparations for a homebirth. I had a positive GBS test around 38 weeks but thanks to a special protocol created by Sue's herbalism teacher I happily got a negative test back just before going into labor.
A particular day had popped into my head a few times during my last trimester as "the" day. It was a Saturday 5 days before my due date. I had mentioned it to Sue, my husband, and my Mom…I don’t think I’d said anything about that day to anyone else. When the morning arrived I decided to go to Jane's Saturday morning yoga class. Afterwards it was so lovely outside (it was during the heat wave that we had last April) I decided to walk home from the Mission, up over twin peaks, to the Inner Sunset. I remember that I felt a little ecstatic that day, as I walked home. It felt like it somehow took no energy despite my enormous belly ;). And serendipitously I ran into Sue on 24th St as I walked. We just smiled and hugged and went on our way and I remember feeling SO happy. After walking all the way home over twin peaks I sat down at my computer to write some emails and after about an hour, my water broke. Woohoo! And yikes! I go really nervous that my bag of water was now open but I had not started having contractions yet. And I was super tired from such a physically active day.
Quickly, we ordered groceries on Instacart and picked up the house. Then I remembered the hypnobirthing cd instructions-- "lay down and drink a big glass of water". By the time I got myself to lay down around 8pm...labor was beginning. Contractions were spaced quite a ways apart but regular. By 10pm I was moaning lightly through them. From 10pm to 2am we were all sleeping in between contractions and waking up every 10 minutes or so when a wave would come. My sweet husband alternated between holding my hand while we both tried to sleep and going into my 3 year olds room to try and get him back to sleep...again. He could hear me…
At 2am my husband called our awesome doula, Alli Cuentos, and my Mom. Mom smoothly swooped in to grab Bridger and take him to her airbnb for some better sleep. Once Bridger was safely out of earshot and Alli was by my side while Gary started to set up the birth tub I felt like “ok...now I can do this!”.
It was around 5am when my contractions were close enough together that Alli and Gary called Sue and Lauren. Once the whole gang was there I remember thinking, wow, I guess I'm going to have my baby pretty soon! But I was also totally exhausted from no sleep and when Alli suggested I try standing to help the contractions get stronger I think I laughed out loud and then said "um, NO". After some more coaxing, I finally stood up. And in the bathroom, I alternated between sitting on the toilet, hands and knees on the floor, and standing in the shower for a little while. That was around the time that I discovered the miracle of sacral pressure. Nothing helped to make my contractions more bearable then either Gary or Alli pushing as hard as possible on the outsides of my hips.
Around 8am Sue and Lauren wanted to do a quick Day 1 appt for a new Mama and baby who were close to my house. I said sure go ahead, no problem, because I felt safe with Gary and Alli and figured I was in the thick of the work and not about to have baby at any moment. Sue wondered whether it might be a good idea to check my dilation before the left, though. I said sure, knowing that I probably had a ways to go. Everyone else seemed a little disappointed by the result of that check, which was 4 cm. I had been having some pretty strong waves for a couple of hours at that point and I’d thrown up at one point. But I knew there was more work to be done so I wasn't surprised and just basically went back to it.
After a little while I really wanted to get in the tub but everyone else was concerned that my contractions would slow down again if I relaxed into that warm water so we struck a "deal". If I stayed upright for an hour and let some really strong waves come do their work, I could get into the tub. After an hour or so of the hardest work of my labor, I did get in the tub and immediately my contractions slowed way down. We put on some music and I finally figured out that if I danced a little with Gary in the tub and shook my hips in a particular way I could bring a contraction on. That was great and from then on I was in a rhythm that felt totally right and even “easy”. Or maybe “natural” is the better word for it. After that I think I could say that I felt like an animal. Doing them most natural thing in the world. I had finally “learned” how to be in labor. I think there was another hour and a half or so that it was like that.
The waves continued to build, getting closer and closer together. Then, I went quickly from the waves of contractions being right on top of each other to pushing with no pause. I remember Alli saying at one point "it would be great if you told us when you feel rectal pressure", which I did manage to say during that period. I remember thinking it was nothing short of a miracle that I could get the words out. I was so much in my own little world by then.
Shortly after that I remember looking at Sue, who was sitting calmly facing me as I was on my hands and knees in the tub. I remember being surprised and also happy that she looked so calm. Then I could suddenly tell from the difference in the noise that I was making that I was pushing. I had thought that transition would be more of an obvious thing, somehow, so I was kind of surprised to realize that I was pushing. I remember thinking "I hope they know I'm pushing" --which is pretty funny. Because I was not exactly a quiet pusher!
Pushing was totally satisfying and quick. After a few minutes of pushing I was aware that the midwives were setting up all their things around me. I was blissfully unaware that the 2nd midwife didn't arrive until the very last minute. At one point during the pushing I remember thinking that maybe my baby was coming out breech and no one knew. Or that maybe they knew and hadn't told me! That was some funny kind of "healing" from my first birth, I think. I also remember at one point thinking "they're going to have to cut this baby out of me, there's no way it can come out this way". More stuff from the first birth. But it was just like random thoughts that popped up. There really wasn't a lot of emotion around it. At one point during the pushing I said to Sue "this is too much". I was feeling some fear at that point as I felt the baby's head coming towards the bottom of my pelvis. Then she gave me some homeopathic and somehow that fear just disappeared.
Then I reached down and felt the top of my baby’s head. And finally I really believed and knew that we were going to do it! There were a couple more pushes then Naia's head came out and then I didn't really wait for another one. I kinda just kept pushing and her body followed right away. Naia came out through the loop of her cord, which had been around her neck. Lauren, Sue's midwife was holding it to the side so she could slip through and then Naia did a little flip under water and Lauren tapped her to me underwater. When I pulled her up...oh man. Well, that was definitely the best moment of my life. Just, yeah….words can’t express.
The love and gratitude and relief is just indescribable. It was similar when I had Bridger. Very similar, I would say. But there was kind of a weird "something missing" feeling along with the joy at Bridger’s birth. Some slight way that it was “too easy”.
Naia was totally calm and present and bright eyed and pink from the start. She had felt like that to me throughout the birth when I had tuned in to her. And she still is just like that. Gary and I just dove into her with our eyes…I don’t remember seeing anything else for a couple of hours. My placenta came out quickly and easily while Gary and I just kept gazing at our beautiful little girl. I could feel when the placenta detach and said something like "oh, it's going to come out now". Then we got out of the tub and everyone helped us onto the bed. We were able to just rest together and bask in the amazing-ness of it all for an hour before the midwives did the newborn exam.
We started to call and text a few special people that she was here, including my Mom, who brought our big boy back to meet his sister. He was amazingly sweet with her and the coming together as a family was so sweet and special. Though, he did get a little frightened and start to cry when they cut the cord. Later he told us "they cut her penis off!". It took us a couple of months to convince him that they really had not cut her penis off.
Sewing up was probably the worst pain of the labor for me. For some reason that I still don't really know, the lidicaine just did not work well to numb me. I guess I have some kind of rare allergy to it. So, I definitely needed my hypnobirthing techniques for that part! I'm not sure who was more upset, though, me or poor Sue who just hated how much it was hurting me to get stitched. But that part was relatively quick and then I got to finally experience the lovely recovery that comes after a vaginal birth compared to the c-section recovery. What a difference! Being in my own bed and home with my family and friends sweetly caring for me was worlds more fun than being in the hospital. The whole birth was such a blessing and so deeply healing for our whole family. And our little girl continues to be a joyful, sweet, and easygoing presence that we are grateful for everyday.