Vanessa: There’s no place I feel safer than in my own home – it’s a haven.
Josh: We planned a home birth. We hired a nurse midwife and her assistant, as well as a doula for our family.
Vanessa: Both of my older children were born in a hospital; this time, I wanted a different experience. I was four days past the due date, sick with bronchitis and a sinus infection. I’d been in early labor for days, having episodes of regular, mild contractions minutes apart.
Josh: She bounced on her exercise ball a LOT. Tried acupuncture, spicy food, massage – everything.
Vanessa: The same contraction episodes started early in the morning on the day David came. It was dark outside, a few hours before the first snow had fallen for winter. I thought to myself, “Screw this. I’m going back to sleep.” When I woke up, the contractions were gone, but when I started walking around and they came back, I called our midwife Lisa. These were annoying contractions; they weren’t progressing or increasing in frequency – for DAYS. “Why don’t you go ahead and have Josh set up the pool because we know you’re a fast birther, so you’ll want it to be ready when it does finally happen,” she said.
Josh: I started setting up the pool because she wanted to labor in the water and then get out when it was time for the birth.
Vanessa: David’s godmother Erica came over with dinner and told Josh, “She’s acting like a woman in labor.” But I didn’t feel any pain. Did I mention yet? I. Had. Them. For. Days.
Josh: At noon, the midwife listened to the baby on her doppler, watched Vanessa intently, and said, “Well, I think we may have a baby arriving sometime tonight. You should try to take a nap and get some rest while you still can. Since you’re progressing slowly, I’ll come back later when you’re ready so you have some privacy today.” A moment before she walked out the door, she asked, “Do you want me to stay?”
Vanessa: I told her “No, it’s not happening yet.” I got in the bathtub to relax before a nap, and I asked Josh to call our doula.
Josh: At about 1:15 p.m., I called the doula because it had started to snow. No problem. Plenty of time. She’d be here by the evening.
Vanessa: What happened after that is a blur. As I sat relaxing in the bathtub, I said to Josh, “You know, now I know why women must like to have their babies in the water. I feel so calm.” Afterward, I went to our bedroom to sleep, but the contractions were frequent and bothersome, so I moved back to the bathtub. Josh called the midwife to come and suggested I move to the birth pool. I agreed, but when I tried to stand up, CONTRACTION. That one hurt.
Josh: I tell Vanessa to stand up and I’ll get her to the pool. She tried to stand up and –
Josh: She tried to stand again, then had another.
Vanessa: Right after the last one!
Josh: She sat back down, and then the pain came. I called the midwife a second time at 1:58 p.m., and while I was on the phone, Vanessa groaned, “I have to push!”
Vanessa: I checked myself to find out what was going on, and instead of feeling myself, as I expected, I felt a head, skull plates overlapping and all. When I realized what was happening, I yelled, “Uuuuuuuuuugh! I can’t… _________!!” You can fill in the blank with anything: stand, walk, move, do this…… I dropped to the bathroom floor, and Josh put the phone in front of me with Lisa on speakerphone, and said “you can.”
Lisa started coaching me to breath. I remember feeling a pop in the middle of another contraction and saying, “That was my water. My water just broke!”
Josh: Three pushes in three minutes.
2 p.m, First push: hair and head
2:01 p.m. Second push: his head came out, just like the videos I’ve seen. I reminded myself, “No breaths yet. Oxygen is still from the cord.”
Lisa said through the phone, “Just let him stay there, Josh.” It didn’t take long. Seconds? I stared at my son’s beautiful face, just suspended there.
2:02 p.m. Third push: shoulder, torso, pulling him out. Fumbling a slippery body. Supporting the head. And the cry! He was there. Crying and breathing.
Vanessa: I heard Josh whispering, “You’re OK buddy… you’re OK.”
Josh: There were no tears – just raw joy. I handed David to Vanessa as she tried to navigate the umbilical cord. We sat there staring at this tiny new person wrapped in a towel.
Vanessa: Lisa asked us questions through the phone about David’s reflexes, his color, the amount of blood on the floor. She asked me how I felt, and said, “You’re in a bit of shock. That was really fast.” The doorbell rang. Our doula had arrived, and Josh greeted her with goo on his hands!
Josh: I said, “He’s here!” She was like, “What?!” I was silently glad they were a little late. I got to catch my own son, and this was such a rare way for a child to begin his life – with just his two parents as a team.
Vanessa: When the midwife arrived a few minutes later, she and our doula coached me through the afterbirth, while Josh got fresh air. Sophie and Jude arrived at the house; they cautiously walked into the bathroom.
Josh: We’d covered the mess with towels, of course. We were all sad that they’d missed it because we’d prepared them for it, but honestly, it was so fast.
Vanessa: Their faces were so delighted! Jude wanted to see David’s umbilical cord, and they wanted to see the.placenta, too. They were fascinated. Jude said, “It looks like a braaaaaiiiin.” They got to see everything exactly as it was. The midwife gave a lesson as she examined the placenta and membranes, explaining that it was, indeed, a 41 week placenta, showing us where it had been attached to my uterine wall. Jude reached out to poke at a piece of the amniotic sack that had been David’s home for almost 10 months, and Sophie cut the umbilical cord after it had stopped pulsing and become white. I could feel them processing how this had once been them, coming from Mommy’s belly in this same way.
Josh: The entire time we bonded with David in the bedroom, the midwife’s assistant cleaned and sanitized the bathroom. She started laundry, did dishes, prepared food and tea for Vanessa, emptied the unused birth pool (after big brother and sister put on their swimsuits and put it to some use!). Our doula cheerfully attended to our older children, having them make their own books about their experiences.
Vanessa: I felt so nurtured by these three women, and I knew my family was comfortable and happy. Lisa told me to sleep. But I stared at David the whole night.
*Photos courtesy of Sacred Hour Doula and Photography, 2014.