Read Part 1 of “A Home Birth Memoir” here. Part 2 continues below.
The night was just cool enough to pinken my cheeks as I journeyed down my quiet suburban street back toward home. The sight of a very vocal pregnant woman, waddling with the aid of two people, may have caused concern for several neighbors who witnessed it, but it didn’t matter – I was doing the work. During a particularly intense contraction, I threw my head up to the sky. There were the same stars and moon from earlier. There returned the same gratitude, strength, and solidarity with everyone else doing the work of birth.
Shortly after 11, my midwife Sarah arrived and just as my water broke an hour later, our other midwife Hayley walked through the door. The mood shifted as I felt a wave of energy and encouragement. With the birth tub sufficiently chilled, I dropped all my clothes except for the blue tank top that read “Raise Good Humans,” and stepped into the warm water. A wave of relaxation took over. The house was completely quiet; Jordan, Kelsey and our midwives talking in low voices and the gentle sound of water rippling as I continuously changed positions through contractions.
The next couple of hours passed quickly as I fully entered Birthland in our dimly lit living room. At some point Kelsey braided my hair, Jordan turned on the playlist I had created, the birth kit was set up, the herbal sitz tea was brewed, and we listened to the baby’s heartbeat. I drank coconut water and was fed peanut butter and local honey I had purchased for the occasion. When I felt called, I reached down to feel how far I had opened and connect with my body.
The tub was highly effective as an agent of relaxation and I eventually felt my contractions become less frequent. Hayley asked if I’d like to know how dilated I was, which was the first time that measurement was offered. We all knew the birth was progressing as it should without that piece of data. Nonetheless, I was curious and she checked while I was in the tub, reporting I was at nine centimeters with just a small amount of cervical lip remaining. My midwives encouraged me to focus my energy on opening, rather than pushing, with Hayley lovingly repeating, “this is the way.”
With some persuading, I went to the toilet in an effort to support the final opening. The Royal Throne of Birth. Sitting backwards, I screamed at the wall; pushing, pooping and progressing all at once. I was in transition. I had half a dozen contractions this way, pressing my back and head firmly into Jordan, who was standing strong behind me. My first birth happened on the toilet so when Hayley confirmed I was crowning, I made my way to the tub, eager to experience a water birth. I let out loud, guttural yells and curses until finally, my baby’s head was born. Never have I experienced such a feeling of relief. I’m done, I thought – their body will just slide out with the next push. The next contraction came but bore with it no body. Another contraction and still, I felt just my baby’s head suspended between my legs as I knelt in the tub. Without the slightest trace of alarm, we realized the baby’s hand had also made its way out, as if aiding to stretch the opening. This was far from the first nuchal presentation my midwives had witnessed. I shifted my weight to one knee as they quickly maneuvered to ease my baby’s hand back in, cringing at the sensation of something traveling the wrong direction on a one way. Just moments later, my baby fully emerged. The umbilical cord was just long enough to bring them to my chest and discover that he was a boy. A sweet baby boy with a head as large as the average one-month old’s, weighing in at nine pounds, nine ounces. He was breathing, beautiful and I was so proud of the work I had done. I spent some time taking him in before leaving the birth tub to lay down on the couch. His cord was still attached and pulsing as our midwives did the work of checking his vitals while he worked to latch for his first feed. I lay there naked, wrapped in all my favorite blankets and eating oatmeal, the music still playing beneath the sounds of our cheerful conversation. Eventually, I climbed the stairs to my bedroom and settled into bed – where I would happily stay for the next five days. My baby was here, the work was done. This is homebirth.