Born at home
Written by Patrick
Both mom and baby are very well and we are getting settled into our new life as a three member family. Alex's water broke 7 days earlier than her due date at about 10:30PM on Friday evening
(before any contractions). It was nothing to worry about and we were happy to get another full night's sleep. During the day on Saturday the contractions started and settled in at 30 minutes
apart. We used most of the day to prepare for the planned birth at home by setting up the birthing tub, getting food for the coming week and other final preparations. Shortly after midnight on
Sunday morning the contractions started to come at a higher frequency and at 3:00AM they were only 3 minutes apart.
We continued to labor though out the night and by 7:00AM we called our midwife as the contractions were only one minute apart and Alex was feeling the urge to push. From hearing the many birth experiences of first times moms we were expecting a very long labor and took our time calling in the troops. At about 7:20AM our midwive(s) arrived and were a little (pleasantly) surprised to see that Alex was fully dilated (which means in laymen terms ready to give birth). At this point she was allowed to get into the nice warm tub of water set up in our living room.
After just 2 hours of continued laboring and pushing, Alex gave birth to a baby boy at 9:16AM. We named him Kirian. He was 8 pounds and 7 ounces heavy and about 20.5 inches tall. Just minutes after the birth mom and baby got to do their bonding by letting Kirian do the "boob crawl". (The baby gets placed on the mothers tummy and it crawls it's
way to it's first drink). Of course there are more details, but for now we will spare you those.
Giving birth at home was an amazing experience: calm, relaxed, with no or little uncertainty about the environment. The midwives were so experienced that we never felt a sense of worry through out the process. All in all it took us 8 hours of active laboring with only 2 hours of active help by the midwives. For this gift we are truly grateful and are enjoying the time we can spend with our new baby at home.
Born at home
Written by Alex
It's March 31, 2010 and I am sitting in our living room, looking at the corner that changed my life. 374 days ago, on March 22, 2009, I gave birth to a little boy in that exact corner. And it
went something like this.
It was Friday night, a week before my determined due date. First babies come late – everyone knows that - everyone but my mother that is. She was convinced, as I was a week early, that this, her first grand-child would be no different. And yes, my mother was right. We were watching some movie and just like that my water broke. There is no question – you can’t not know, because suddenly you are leaking and leaking and leaking some more. All the way down the hallway, into the bathroom and then some. I was overcome with this euphoric sense of giddiness and sheer terror – knowing that I was about to embark into the land of “who knows what the hell is going to happen.”
I had had no contractions. I knew this was as normal as having contractions first and the assurance of my midwife, whom we called immediately, didn’t totally satisfy me. I proceeded to make my first rookie mistake. I went straight to Google and typed in "water breaking before contractions". Women in labor should not be allowed access to Google. Nor should sleep deprived parents or parents of an infant who has their first cold…the list goes on. Though each search result assured me that this was in fact very normal, it also demanded I contact my care provider immediately and head straight to the hospital “because of the increased risk.” Any woman who has a tub in her living room and a supply of homebirth accessories waiting in the corner doesn't want to read these words. My trained mind knew that the risk was increased mostly by internal exams and if I had no internal exam I should be fine. So off went the computer and I tried to follow Abigail’s strong suggestion to sleep.
Sleep? Really. With thoughts like “I am probably going to have a baby by tomorrow and Google says that its high risk that my water broke and I am at home and...” running through my distracted mind, I tried to get some sleep. I can't remember now if I was able to sleep though it seems more accurate that I was feeling like the night before the first day of high-school - that eager anticipation of complete excitement and sheer terror running through your veins at the same time, which keeps you from falling into deep and restorative sleep. But I tried. And Patrick tried. Actually, he didn’t try, he just slept.
Saturday morning arrived with little change: still no contractions and still no worry or concern in Abigail's voice when I checked in with her. There had been flutters of internal tremors but nothing that stopped me in my tracks. The results of the internet search from the night before were tucked into a small little alcove somewhere in my brain, where I let them rest. We just had to wait.
The waiting and the seeing gave Patrick the opportunity to go to Trader Joes and return with groceries enough for a small army. In our heads, we still had a week and since the unproven standard
for first babies is overdue instead of early, we hadn't filled the tub or set up a call list. But we had time now. I made myself comfortable on the couch while Patrick took on the dubious task of
assembling the birthing tub. Instructions, birthing vest, water bottle, and hose - the whole adventure was more like watching someone put together an IKEA dresser for the first time. I watched,
as he with meticulous precision and grounded stillness, laid the foundation, erected the walls and began to fill it with water. He was as calm and focused as a master builder working on his craft
- he showed no signs of worry or distress about the fact that he would soon be watching and experiencing his wife move through the known yet unpredictable stages of childbirth.
More internal tremors, still no real action. We even had two friends stop by who came up the stairs wide-eyed and jaw dropped to find such a quiet and serene scene. "We thought we'd be able to hear you screaming from Haight Street" he said. And I simply laughed and said, "Oh, that might still come."
How and what happened next is not exactly clear as I write this a year later, but somehow we both wanted fresh air and we both wanted food and somehow the logical destination was Memphis Minnie’s, just a few short blocks from home. We figured we'd be close enough to get home if necessary. I remember walking down Haight Street and the early scattering of Saturday night party goers were starting to mingle in the open bar doors. Everything seemed exaggerated - the sounds, the colors, the movement of the Muni buses and the rustling of the trees above. And yet, nothing was different. Just another Saturday night, with a laboring woman walking down the street – nothing to abnormal for San Francisco, right?
In line at Memphis Minnie’s, I noticed another big belly a few people down. Please forgive the reference to the belly and not the woman, but at this point of the process, I identified only with the big round belly that was navigating most of my existence. We smiled at each other in acknowledgement and I asked when she was due. With a tinge of eager anticipation, she chimed "In a few weeks and you?" to which I replied, "My water broke last night". I wish I could have caught the image of her eyes popping out of her head on film but it will simply have to live in my memory as I remember it. I explained that we had planned a home birth and assured her that everything was fine. I wonder if Memphis Minnie’s has ever had a woman in labor eating their BBQ ribs and downing 3 glasses of their Sweet Tea, which by the way was my second rookie mistake but that I’ll explain later.
Regardless, we ate and giggled, slightly blown away by our present circumstance that was secret to the urban and hip dinner goers around us. Well, except the couple a few tables down from us who kept leaning in to see what we were up to. Maybe she was checking to see if I was doing some sort of special breathing. Mostly, I think she was just looking to see if I was real - who the hell sits and eats BBQ at a restaurant in San Francisco after your water has broken?
Still later that night, there was no worry or concern in Abigail's voice and the tremors from my belly were coming every few hours. It had now been 24 hours. Had we planned a hospital birth, this would have marked their boundary and the required interventions would no longer be optional. Again, Abigail said to try and sleep. Without quantifying the potential of the experience, she simply said, "You need to rest. You will probably have a baby by tomorrow."
And if Friday night was the night before the first day of high-school, this seemed like the night before my wedding, only worse. There was no way that I was going to be able to sleep. I hadn't been sleeping well for the last 5 weeks, maybe more, and now I was supposed to just go to sleep. Between the body discomfort and the frantic excitement pulsing through my veins, I had no idea how this would go.
Patrick on the other hand, effortlessly and blissfully nodded into slumber land after having asked my permission to do so. I watched longingly. And I tossed. And I closed my eyes. And I wondered. And I talked to myself. And I talked to the baby. And I got up to pee. And I read a book. And I tossed some more. And then I felt it - like a jolt of lighting into the depths of my body: my first real contraction. It was midnight.
At 3am, we called Abigail. Still not close enough, she encouraged me to go back to sleep and told Patrick to keep track of the timing between them. But they hurt. It hurt. And it hurt between the contractions in my lower back - the pain spreading like a wave crashing against the hull of a fishing boat in a winter storm in the Bering Sea. I could not lie on my back, I couldn't lie on my right, I couldn't lie on my left. And still, Patrick could sleep intermittently - quickly attempting to catch a few more minutes as long as he could.
For hours, we moved from floor to bed and back to floor again, he reminding me to stay in the moment. Staying in the moment was the only way that I managed to get through the many moments that happened between midnight and the rising of the sun the next morning. I cried, I "om"ed, I closed my eyes, I thought about the fact that if I were in a hospital and someone asked me if I wanted something for the pain I would have said yes, I thought about how long I would be able to handle this, I thought about the spaces in between my contractions that were supposed to be pain free but weren’t, I thought about my immediate and extreme nausea and that BBQ was quite possibly the worst choice for dinner, I thought about this baby who was working just as hard as I was and I thought about the thousands of other women who had done this before me. I was never afraid and I never questioned our decision to have this baby at home, even as I lay on the cold bathroom floor, hoping I wouldn’t lose my dinner, again.
Most of the night is a blur, though I remember the distinct feeling of the pile of our carpet as I was trying to find a comfortable position to sleep and the ice coldness of the bathroom tile as
I crawled on hands and knees to the toilet. But what I remember most distinctly is the moment when I was overcome with the intense urge to push and I calmly yet forcefully told Patrick that he
needed to call Abigail, now.
For the last early hours of the morning, my contractions progressed quickly, very quickly, catching all of us off guard. I should have remembered that many women vomit at transition, but at the time I was faulting myself for my dinner decision and not telling Patrick that this was a vital piece of information for our midwife to know. Now, we were in go mode. I could hear Patrick on the phone with Abigail. It was a short conversation that went like this: "Alex has the urge to push" and then “I’m on my way.” Minutes later I was overjoyed to hear her walking up our stairs. The light of day was streaming through the windows and I met he in the living room, after a slow and concentrated crawl from the bedroom. I perched myself up against the side of the couch and all I remember is her saying "You are fully dilated. You can go ahead and get in the tub." and Patrick pausing with relief that the professionals had arrived.
Two hours and 17 minutes later, our baby was born. It took a few moments before we actually looked and learned it was a he.
We had not planned a water birth. In fact we had not planned anything besides a homebirth. But even that in the last weeks of my pregnancy became a fluid and malleable concept. Our birth plan consisted of two simple words – Safe Passage. That was it. And if that meant a hospital or an unplanned cesarean or the use of forceps or for that matter a water birth, that’s how it would be. And I believe that this acceptance for whatever was going to be our birth experience, allowed us to have the experience that we did.
I heard someone say once that luck happens when preparation meets perfect timing. Were we lucky with our birth experience, certainly. But that luck may have been more the result of our intense mental, relational and spiritual practice than some kind of spontaneous cosmic happening. And that practice was the simple yet extremely difficult practice of staying in the present moment, no matter what. On March 22, 2009 that practice did not come without several four letter words and some tears. But it came, and it allowed me to be there, to really be there. In those early hours, I watched the world go from darkness to light, from stormy weather to cloudless blue over the roof tops of San Francisco. This was just another homebirth in a one bedroom apartment in the city by the bay, only this time, it was ours.