Preface: This birth story was originally written in April 2009. I was expecting a shorter labor than with my first daughter but was trying not to assume anything about this new baby and how or when she would decide to join our family. (My maternal great grandmother’s labors were cut in half with each pregnancy – the 3rd baby born after a mere half-hour of labor. She received no sympathy from her friends, even after informing them that “it was short but it still hurt!” Again, I am incredibly thankful for having these labor genes passed on to me.) My due date with Vivienne was April 19th, but seeing how I was ten days early with Lily, I decided to make April 2nd my last day in the office. Luckily, I listened to my intuition and stopped working four days prior to that.
I made the decision to have a home birth before I was even pregnant. After Lily’s birth, I realized what my body and mind were capable of and felt confidant that I could do it again at home. Jake was always very supportive, partly because he was born at home, which made my decision very easy. I was healthy, “low-risk” and had no complications during my pregnancy or labor with Lily. I wanted, again, to avoid the traditional medical interventions used in the majority of births today.
I knew during our initial phone call that Sandhano was my midwife. Her calm demeanor, knowledge, experience, attitude, and bright spirit made me feel right at home. I cannot express the difference in pre-natal care when you don’t have to leave your house for appointments! I looked forward to every visit and appreciated the time and care Sandhano took to answer my questions and to get to know me, Jake and Lily. I realize that home birth is not for everyone, but I am so grateful that it was an option for me.
The morning of Vivienne’s birth day, I awoke feeling rested and relaxed. Due to baby feet/butt/knees poking me at all hours of the day and night, I had not been sleeping well for weeks. Jake and Lily went grocery shopping while I finished some home projects that had remained on my to-do list for months (framed and hung some artwork, organized photos, etc.) Some may call it nesting, I just call it good time-management.
Jake went to work early that afternoon, and I put Lily down for a nap. At 2:30pm, lying on the couch watching America’s Next Top Model, I switched positions and felt a gush. Liquid leaked when I walked around, as if I was constantly peeing against my will. After a quick phone call to Sandhano, I found out that only 10% of labors begin in the movie-scene-water-breaking way. (How unfortunate is it that labor is so inaccurately depicted in the media…but this is another post for another day.)
Jake, my mom, my mother and sister-in-law were put on alert, but told not to come over yet because nothing was really happening. After Lily woke up we had a snack and relaxed on the couch for the next couple of hours. At that point, it suddenly hit me – I was going to have this baby today! I was excited, nervous and anxious, but felt strong, healthy and ready.
Around 5pm I made Lily dinner (well, my version of dinner, which is mac & cheese), did some dishes and walked around to see if I could get things started. My contractions picked up, but I didn’t really feel them in my uterus at all. The pressure remained in my lower back and tailbone. All of my family arrived in the next hour and one of my sisters took Lily out for ice-cream, as I decided I didn’t want her to be at home. Suddenly, I couldn’t keep track of timing my contractions.
All of my energy became focused and I didn’t want to be around anyone. At the top of our flight of stairs, I rested my arms on the top step and my knees on three steps lower. This position helped me maintain my breathing, let me sway back and forth and enabled me to ride each wave. I was still somewhat aware of what was going on downstairs: my mom and sister talking, my mother in law taking pictures and my dad answering pages (“Yes, this is the doctor. Yes, he needs to stay hydrated.”)
Sandhano arrived around 7pm, checked in with me and started setting up her equipment and supplies. Jake rubbed my back gently and gave me strength and courage by simply being present with me. Whenever I got up, the contractions became overwhelmingly strong, so I went back to my position on the steps. During every contraction, I still felt intense pressure in my tailbone and lower back and not really anything in front – completely different than my contractions with Lily. I focused on breathing in and out, slowly and steadily, over and over.
Around 7:20, Sandhano checked Vivienne’s heartbeat, and I changed from leaning on the steps to a seated upright position. The next contraction lasted forever and would not ease up – the intensity remained in my cervix and I could feel it widening. This particular contraction took me to 10 centimeters, and the pushing sensation took over. I hadn’t made any noises up until that point, but everyone downstairs heard me start groaning and knew it was time. I managed to climb onto my bed and mentally prepared myself for the final stages of birthing my daughter.
Pushing was painful, but it also meant the end was near. With every contraction, Sandhano told me to push a little and breathe a little. I listened to my body, closed my eyes and did exactly that. My family became my own personal cheering squad by encouraging me and reminding me that Vivienne was almost here.
And at 7:45pm, in one moment, our three became four.
Sandhano immediately placed her on my chest and my face widened in a grin of happiness and relief. I asked, “Is it a girl?” (The previous weekend my mom and I were talking about the baby being born on April Fool’s Day, the joke being an incorrect ultrasound reading.) As I held Vivienne in my arms, my sense of pride swelled. I had accomplished the climb up the motherhood mountain for the second time.
Jake cut the umbilical cord and Vivienne latched on quickly and nursed for a long time. Sandhano weighed and measured her, and Dad checked her eyes, ears, hips and reflexes. She was so strong right from the beginning and almost seemed to jump out of his hands. Christina brought Lily home and she excitedly bounded up the stairs to meet her new little sister. She kept bringing Vivienne toys and kissing her and touching her head. It was wonderful to have my family all together for the first time – it felt so natural, as if it had always been this way.
We cuddled in bed and Sandhano made a “Tree of Life” print from the placenta. I took a shower while Jake made dinner, and soon our living room was filled with wonderful smells, radiating with laughter and love. Slowly everyone went home with promises of visiting the next day.
Lying in bed that first night, I felt lucky and blessed for all the things in my life. Vivienne’s labor and birth went smoothly and she and I were healthy and happy. This experience erased any doubt in my mind that something bigger than ourselves exists. I am so grateful for my life. I am so grateful to be a mom to two incredible little girls. I am so grateful to be surrounded by so much love.
This was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Thank you, dear daughter, for letting us participate, even to the point of the two of us kneeling together on the steps (& photographed for eternity). It was so much better than your first birth & reminded me of my 2nd birth as well – nurse mid-wife, although we were in the birthing center of Family Hosp. in Milwaukee. You watched, with Judy R. attending you, & commented, “I’m NEVER having babies!” haha
I am also so touched by your acknowledgment of a higher power. I suspected such, since you allow us to take your children to church. Life is so incredibly difficult, I can’t imagine surviving without His/Her/Whatever’s love and guidance.
I give thanks for the blessings of the the four of you. Love, your Mum