Well it only took me SIX months to complete writing out Charlie Bugs Birth Story. I can’t believe I also haven’t written a blog post in 2 ½ years. Really hoping to get back to this space in 2019 more regularly. So here we go.
In the days leading up to Charlotte's birth, I found myself growing more and more uncomfortable. Yes, physically, but emotionally and spiritually too. A good friend sent me this post about those last days of pregnancy and I loved it so much that I want to share it with all my classes. (Love you, Brooke.) It so perfectly captures that feeling of being “in between.” Of living in the waiting. On top of just normal end of pregnancy stuff, we had the worry of Chris missing the birth and being out of town for work. After my third night in a row of having a legit emotional meltdown right before bed and going to acupuncture multiple times that week, I felt what could be the start of ACTUAL contractions and not just the warm-up Braxton Hicks.
The weeks leading up to that night every evening felt like one giant Braxton Hick. But the night of the 17th, I was able to go to sleep and they were gone for the first part of the next morning.
As the morning wore on, I started having what seemed like they could be contractions, but I hesitated to get my hopes up. My labor with Clare was 30 hours, and I knew while it could be shorter, I was likely still in for a long ride. We had an appointment with one of our midwives, Lesley, that morning. We all agreed it could be labor…But it also might not. My friends encouraged me to be checked if I thought it would help but I knew if I was relatively dilated I might get my hopes up, and if I wasn’t dilated I would be disappointed. Even though I knew that the vaginal checks don’t actually mean as far as predicting labor’s trajectory. So I decided against it. Lesley left, and we made my next appointment saying “well maybe this will be a postpartum appointment.” Spoiler alert, it was.
The contractions were really starting to feel painful – no longer just pressure - though they were mild. We decided to go run some errands, including Costco, Whole Foods and a quick swing by Ginger Elizabeth. (Thanks for the gift certificate, Leah!) The contractions remained consistent, but I wasn’t timing them yet, and I was able to go about what I was doing still without needing to stop mid contraction. I guess maybe uncomfortable describes it more than painful? A clerk at Whole Foods randomly asked me if I was dilated….I could’ve gone on a rant about why cervical checks in pregnancy are unnecessary but I didn’t. She caught me so off guard that I just said I didn’t know and off we went. Why do people think these things are okay to ask pregnant women??
Once we got home, Chris and Clare went outside to play and water the plants, and I laid down to read and rest a bit, speculating with my best friends via text if this was actually real. I have no idea what we had for dinner that night, but eventually it was time to put Clare to bed. Meanwhile, Chris was giving our midwives a heads up that my contractions had continued from earlier in the day and seemed to be getting stronger. Once I finished nursing Clare, the last contraction I had in the bedroom I had to grab onto the changing table and it was like oh shit this is getting real now. I’m sure the nursing helped trigger the contractions to be stronger. I gave her a quick kiss, whispering to her that I loved her so much, checked that the sound machine was on loud enough and snuck out of the room.
I was afraid that we were going to call the midwives and our friends too early. I jumped in the shower to see if that would be helpful for contractions. I remember loving that we have a step to sit down on in there, but that whenever I had a contraction I had to stand up and lean against the wall. While I was in the shower Chris transformed the house to get ready for a baby. He had a whole list of things to do and get ready when the midwives were on their way. Boiling scissors, getting out supplies, putting pads under the sheets. He had text Nataly that things were getting serious, and she responded with “should I come?” Then like two seconds later, “What am I saying, I’m coming.” (I love you, Nat) She was here before I got out of the shower. It was around 8:30pm by now.
At this point, I was laughing in between contractions and in good spirits, so I was still concerned we were calling people too early, but it was definitely getting harder to manage during the contractions. And the dreaded “thigh contractions” were coming back that I experienced during my first labor. Contractions were not just in my uterus, but radiated down through my legs.
Not long after Nataly arrived, Rachel and Lesley, our midwives, got there. Rachel listened to the baby to make sure all was sounding good
Lesley asked if I wanted to fill up the tub. It takes 20-30 minutes to fill, so I said sure. I didn’t want to get in too early, but I also knew I could get out and then get back in later. Chris and Rachel went to go get the hose hooked to our faucet in the kitchen. Part of the instructions were to turn up our hot water heater so that the tub would be able to fill faster. But the hose was kinked and somehow when Chris undid it to take it into the living room, he ended up spraying Rachel in the face with the scalding hot water. We all laughed but he felt SO bad! That situation still make me chuckle to think about. Poor Rachel!
Once the tub was filled there was a little bit of it leaking and we had to dam it up with towels. It was proving to be an interesting birth when it came to water. As the tub was filling up Anne Marie arrived and at that point our whole team was assembled. This was at 9:15 that evening.
I tried several different positions out of the tub, leaning on a ball on the couch, sitting on the rocking chair, leaning on Chris.
I was already needing the extra help of a second person for my legs and thighs. Eventually I got in the tub. Again, I had a hard time finding a position that was comfortable...Lesley brought me in some knee pads that I could put in the tub that made doing hands and knees a little bit better. But then I wanted to sit back in between contractions and the knee pads would fly up out of the water. I think I splashed at least Chris, maybe others, in the process of that. There’s something to water and this baby!
I was only in the tub about 30 minutes and then decided to go try the shower again. Chris went in there with me and Lesley brought me coconut water to drink since I was getting so warmed up. I had the same rhythm of sitting on the bench in between contractions and then standing up and leaning forward with the water hitting my back and thighs during them. I remember the hot water helping the thigh contractions, but it wasn’t long before I felt too overheated to stay in there, about 30 more minutes. Once Chris helped me out of the shower, Rachel suggested we try and go lay down in the small bedroom for a while. I think she knew I needed to be like a cat and go in a dark quiet place for my labor to progress. I remember Bert jumping up on the bed with us at one point and Rachel petting him and saying “Yeah, this is how you guys do birth.”
Chris and I were alone in the small bedroom for a while, but I was having a hard time finding a resting position in between contractions and being on my back was feeling excruciating. Being on my side seemed to work for a little while, but during a contraction it would feel terrible on whatever thigh was touching the bed. I could feel the contractions getting strong enough that I had to nearly growl at the peak to get through them. I knew this meant I was definitely further along than earlier. But I still kept telling Chris in between contractions that I felt like I was “taking too long” and that we had called people too early. Which is funny looking back and realizing it actually was all going quite quickly. I was in the back room only about 2 hours (Another reason why home birth is amazing, Birthstream just recently sent me my chart back so I can actually see how long each comfort measure was used!) Especially compared to Clare’s labor. But I was worried about Lesley, Nataly and Anne Marie just hanging out in the living room. Even in labor I was worrying about other people and stressing out that I couldn’t “relax enough” in between contractions. How you do anything is how you do everything, huh? Rachel had been rubbing my thighs during contractions while I was leaning into Chris. Around the time I started making the growling sounds, I think everyone realized that it was getting more intense and the others came in to check on us. Then Anne Marie was massaging my thighs and reminding me to use my yoga. That I’d been training for this. Reminding me of my breath and helping me stay in control as they got worse. This helped my anxiety not spill over in those more intense moments.
Earlier in the evening, I’d been super worried about throwing up. I hate feeling nauseous and I had thrown up with Clare. At this point in labor, I didn’t even feel nausea, I just all of a sudden knew I needed to throw up. Someone grabbed the bag, I think Anne Marie got my hair and Chris was holding me from the other side. Just after 1:30am as I was throwing up, my water broke. Fully broke. What’s amazing is these pads that the midwives use. I had one under me (thanks Rachel!) and all of that water breaking and not a drop got on the bed. After that I had this moment of calm. They had been telling me earlier that I’d feel better if I threw up and miraculously I did. It was like this few minute eye of the hurricane where I didn’t even feel like I was in labor. Then as the next contraction came, I remember thinking, whoa, this definitely isn’t over yet.
At that point the midwives asked if I wanted to try to get back in the tub because I was having a hard time finding a position in the bedroom. I said “I don’t know if that’s going to be more comfortable right now.” Anne Marie said “Nothing’s going to be comfortable right now.” I laughed and another contraction hit. Lesley worked on bailing out some of the tub and refilling it with hotter water. I am so grateful to her for that! Slowly over a few contractions we moved into the kitchen. Birth ball on Clare’s little table. Nataly said this was when she thought I was gonna have another rocket baby and deliver standing up. (Luckily that was not the case!) We moved into the living room and I had a couple quick contractions in a row and made myself say “I can do it, I’m doing it, It’s not going to last forever.” (This was after a whole bunch of times of me saying I don’t think I can do it, and that I was scared to push while we were in the bedroom) So everyone kept telling me yes, you can. At this point I remember Rachel saying so calmly, “you are the perfect person to have this baby, your body knows what it’s doing” I had a standing contraction leaning on Chris and I half-yelled “I just need a fucking break!” And stomping my foot awkwardly. From throwing up to getting in the tub it was about 20 more minutes.
They helped me into the tub and I had again another moment of calm. The warm water gave me a second to breathe and reset just a tiny bit. I realize now that was probably my ‘rest and be thankful’ phase between transition and pushing.
During the next contraction, I knew I was going to have to push and I told them I was scared, I can’t do it several times.
They all loudly told me “yes you can!” I was panicking and I had to bring myself back down. I said something along the lines of “Okay okay okay, let me try.” The next contraction I got a Charlie horse in my leg and had to jump into a sort of half lunge. I felt my tissue stretch on that contraction and the midwives reminded me I needed to keep my bottom in the water. As the next contraction was starting Anne Marie said “Okay Kellie, this is the edge, this is when you step up to and push past your edge” and that teacher training yoga magic is what I needed to push past my fear of pushing and finally just PUSH. In that first push, her head was out. I said “Was that her head, I think that was her head.” Chris said it looked like Lesley didn’t believe me that it was that fast and then she checked and was like “Oh wow, it is!” At that point Anne Marie started screaming, “The head’s out, the head’s out, you’re so close!” I asked if it was okay that her head was just out and her body wasn’t yet. Which I know was a silly question, most people actually crown and the baby comes out slowly, but because I had delivered Clare standing up, she came out all in one push after many hours of pushing, so this was new territory for me. Lesley asked Chris if he wanted to come to the other side and catch the baby, and he said “No, I’m staying right here with her.” Which I was grateful for because I was holding on to him. The next contraction came and she was out! 2 pushes and less than 3 minutes.
I don’t even know how I got from hands and knees to sitting up with her on me, it was all such a blur.
But she was wide-eyed and alert right away. I checked to make sure she was in fact a girl and we all celebrated.
Chris tried to go wake up Clare at this point but she was not having it. She slept through the whole thing! (And we live in a 700 square foot house!) And from when labor started ramping up to a baby in my arms it was only 6 hours!
The midwives helped me out of the tub, slowly, with Chris holding Charlotte since she was still attached to me and we moved back into the small bedroom to deliver the placenta. It took probably 15-20 minutes for the placenta to be ready to come out and it was placed near me while they worked on the fundal massage to make sure my uterus clamped down. I guess there was a big gush of blood at this point. I didn’t see it, and I also am not freaked out by blood at birth, but it definitely freaked Chris out a bit. Lesley or Rachel said with all the calm of perfectly trained professionals, yep, that’s too much blood. And they quickly decided Pitocin would be needed. A quick shot in my thigh – my ‘favorite body part’ – we joked because of the thigh contractions. The bleeding was soon under control. (As a doula, I’ve seen similar postpartum hemorrhages treated in such a different manner in the hospital. With more panic, fear and not respecting the woman’s experience. I am so grateful for such caring and professional midwives who I had so much trust in that I never felt fear about such a complication, just trust in their care) After we got the traditional baby attached to her placenta picture, Chris cut the cord, and Lesley showed us all the parts of her placenta. It’s so freaking amazing that our bodies grow a WHOLE organ that sustains our babies throughout pregnancy.
I had the traditional Birthstream Midwives Birthday Cake.
Lesley and Rachel seamlessly cleaned up our house. Later that day it would hardly look like a birth took place there which was just so cool. So magical for me to have a birth space appear for the time it was needed and then just quietly disappear. Which is just another testament to how lovely home birth care is.
Nataly had to run home to be with her kids when her husband had to leave for work. I’m so grateful Charlie Bug came before she had to go. Chris and I both agreed how wonderful it was to have her as the continuity from both Clare’s birth to Charlotte’s. I could write a whole post about how grateful I am for her in general, but I am so lucky to have had her at both of my births and to consider her one of my best friends.
Charlotte was weighed and measured. 7 lbs, 10 oz, 20 1/2 inches long. A pound and a half bigger than Clare was! Lesley helped me to the bathroom and showed me the homemade periwash they had made and gave me more postpartum instructions. Around 5am Clare woke up and got to see her sister for the first time. She went to bed without a sister and woke up with one. So magical.
Chris likes to tell the story how we were eating fresh poke in our bed from Fish Face 8 hours after birth instead of an old cheese sandwich in the hospital.
I love that I knew that I had the ability to call the midwives ANY time I needed them. Rachel came back the very next day and we saw them at day 3, 5, and weeks 2, 4 and 6. These appointments were always over an hour and I always felt so cared for and heard.
As a birth professional, I am fully aware that home birth may not be the choice for everyone. Certain risk factors can risk you out. (It may not be the ones you think though, friends!) Some women desire medication for birth. But as far as an unmediated birth goes, the care that you get with home birth midwives both prenatally AND postpartum absolutely cannot be replicated. I am beyond grateful for this experience. The postpartum period with Clare left something to be desired…especially in those first few days…even at a “good” hospital. This experience was so healing in that aspect. I felt so supported.
Oh, and PS – our insurance reimbursed our home birth entirely! Hallelujah. I could not imagine giving birth any other way.
And this not-so-little 21 lb, 6 month old chunk will have these photos to treasure and look back on how she came into this world, thanks to the ever talented Nataly.