Almost a year and a half ago I was trying to make sense of things that had happened during my second birth. My son was almost a year old and I still had a deep sense of frustration at the lack of control I had during his birth. We had experienced one hospital birth that felt very dangerous to me. It ended up with forceps delivery and a posterior presentation that was diagnosed at birth. We learned many lessons from this.
The second birth was a planned home birth with non-professional midwives. We transported at their insistence. The only problem was a heavy bloody show. I knew there was no real problem. They knew I was resistant to transport so they went “around me.” They took my husband in the other room and worked him over about the “life-threatening” situation I was in. I know they meant well and I have forgiven them for this. I have found that most people who attend births are willing to tolerate more risk in their own births than they would advise others to take. The attendant still feels responsible though the birthing couple actually bears the responsibility regardless of what kind of birth it is. The birthing couple lives with the consequences of what happens whether it be rough treatment or unnecessary intervention or having their choices taken away by some well intentioned person.
I found some internet sites with information about unassisted birth. I was drawn in immediately! I lurked on one site in particular for a while, wondering what this could mean for my next birth. I first thought that I was being carnal in feeling tempted to birth this way. But after getting to know some of the people who related their experiences I felt differently. Many of the people had integrity. They took the responsibility that was needed for a safe birth. They also had good reasons for the choices they made.
I was told at both of my prior births that I should be thankful to have avoided c-sections. That is more true than I ever cared to admit. It has always been my desire to bear children. I always believed that the Lord provided me with a vessel that is suitable. I read about how the overly cautious OBs and nurses can actually impede and complicate a potentially safe birth with their interventions. These facts made it impossible for me to consider a hospital birth for my next child, unless some emergency came up. I wanted foremost to do what was safest . I do believe there is a place for medical intervention but I desired a natural birth. I did not want to be burdened with others inflicting fear on me. This should be the safest way to birth for most people.
I had already done a lot of reading and preparation for childbirth. I read mostly midwifery books but I also had my nursing books on hand for reference. I had talked with my husband about all these things. He had insights as well from being at our other two births. We found out we were expecting again! Now there was a big question mark about what to do. My husband felt unprepared for us to birth unassisted and wished to find someone who could attend our birth as a resource person.
We interviewed some potential midwives. They were very nice and well organized. I felt uneasy about having them attend my birth though. It seemed wrong to give authority to people that did not know me well. My husband knows instinctively what is encouraging to me while in labor. He would be the only vital person to be present. And I did not want to be bothered with people hovering over me while I labored with their dopplers and invasive checks and telling me to push so they could get home! I communicated this to him. He was a bit perplexed about it at first.
I was not tempted to force this decision on my husband. If he had said no, I would have lived with it. My husband is a wonderful man and I treasure our marriage. He has always demonstrated a deep sense of caring and respect for me. He cherishes me enough that if he did not want to go unassisted there would have been good reason for it. Even if we did not agree, I would not sacrifice the harmony of our home for something that concerned him that much. He took the manual called “Emergency Childbirth” and read it cover to cover one night. The next day he told me we could go ahead and birth unassisted. I was overjoyed!
We are Christians and we believe that God has afforded us certain protections. We had prayed all through the pregnancy for His intervention. We knew that things could have been much worse for us in the past but for His hand in our lives. We believe that he created us with the ability to birth. We feel that the tendency of Christian people to focus on their doctors as savior is grave error. We were approaching this birth as two people who had become one flesh. We were harmonious in our reasons for what we planned to do and would approach this situation as a team. We each had our burden to bear.
On a Sunday night as a beautiful snow blanketed the yard, my contractions started up. I was so excited! I contracted throughout the night and as morning approached I would glance up to the clock radio to see how far apart they were. It looked roughly between 3 and 4 minutes. My dh, B. decided to stay home from work as I had some strong contractions while we were talking around 7:30 am.
My contractions stopped shortly after that! I thought they could start up again at any time. The day and night wore on and nothing happened. I was not hung up on due dates (this was the day before my actual due date), but after the contractions began I felt desperate to have the baby all of a sudden! I wanted to have the baby before my husband’s five vacation days were used up! The pressure mounted when B. decided to stay home again on Tuesday. I knew I needed to do what I could to encourage labor. B. took our older son to gymnastics in the morning. While he was gone I blew the dust off one of my weight training videos and did the whole thing with light weights (save for the abdominal routine!). I felt great afterwards. Then in the afternoon I took my boys to Walmart and we briskly walked around the store until I got tired out. After being there over an hour I bought some diaper pins and left.
After we went to bed, I did nipple stimulation on myself for about an hour and a half. I felt contractions but decided to get some rest. At 12:30 am, my two year old son got up and was crying. He was feeling under the weather. I got up and put him back to bed. My husband was asleep and he is a heavy sleeper. I was getting excited, so I decided to get up and flip through the book “Special Delivery”. I read the labor section over and over. I found a wrist watch, and over the next hour and a half I watched my contactions go from four minutes apart to three minutes apart. My cervix had been dilated for weeks at around two and a half to three centimeters. I felt up there and the cervix was far out of reach.
At two a.m. I woke up my husband. He got up and built a fire in the fireplace. That was a nice touch! At the time I was walking through the contractions. It felt good to march around with my knees up high for some reason. I felt rested and had a lot of energy reserves. I checked myself again after a while and some blood spurted down from the cervix. It was a small amount, but I decided not to check again for a while.
I felt free to move around as I pleased and go from room to room. The contractions were pretty strong and now I was feeling back labor. It was different from my first birth, in that it stopped between contractions. It did, however, make things a little more difficult to cope with. I got down on all fours and did pelvic rocks for quite a while. Between contractions we would talk and look up things about labor and enjoyed each others company. I announced that I needed to get into the tub, as the contractions were getting tougher to handle.
I ran the the water and got in the tub. The pressure moved from my back to my belly now. I splashed the warm water on my belly and that helped me cope better. B. came in and said that he had just prayed for the back labor to leave. And it did! I stayed in the tub for a while and started feeling drowsy. I decided to get out of the tub.
It was nearing six a.m. B. was talking about shipping our two boys out until after the baby was born. That appeared to be necessary, since I didn’t know how long it would take for the baby to come. My husband, was dead-set against having to divide his attention between me and two potentially needy little boys. He bundled them off to the house of a neighbor who was awaiting our call.
I went to the bathroom and checked my cervix again. My fingers were in a v shape so I figured that was around four centimeters. That seemed discouraging, but B. reminded me that that was very good, as the next stage of labor would go the fastest. I sat back on the couch for a while on pillows while he got the boys ready to go next door. I put my arms back behind me so my hands were relaxed and not touching anything. The pain seemed to float away from my hands as I relaxed them. I sat there for a while feeling rather drowsy and decided to get up again. I was thinking it might take until noon for us to have this baby.
I decided to get back in the tub again. The contractions were getting more difficult to breathe through. The water was still warm. The contractions slowed down to around 4-5 minutes apart. My husband returned from the neighbor’s house. I got out of the tub again and went into the family room and did some more pelvic rocks. Nothing was helping the back labor much now. B. rubbed my back for a long time. I would sometimes get on all fours or lean against a chair during contractions. Once in a while I thought I might be shaking just a bit but wasn’t sure. I always had shaken with my other labors. I had taken a huge dose of calcium with magnesium early in this labor. That may have been why I didn’t shake more. I went to the bathroom again and felt up to check my cervix. I felt no cervix at all, but did feel the amniotic sac bulging! Oh how I longed to feel the baby!
I went out and told B. I thought we would be having a baby very soon. No pressure! Baby could come in his/her own time. I breathed through some more contractions. They seemed unbearable. I was feeling a lot of pressure on my back and lower abdomen. My bones felt like they were spreading and the pressure exerted downward as the baby descended. I relaxed and resisted the pushing urge. My body was going to do this without any interference from me!
Now I started getting demanding. I told my husband to get the washcloths from the crock pot and put them on my back and belly. Ah… counter pressure! That helped a lot. I forgot that those washcloths were for perineal care. We both forgot.
After a little bit, I started to spread my legs apart a bit more to make room for baby. This was not a conscious action. I thought about changing positions–maybe squatting. I tried a modified squat with one foot on the floor and the other knee down. During the next contraction the water broke. It was clear and yellow. I put my fingers up there to feel baby’s head. I couldn’t resist ! I felt the little head covered with fine downy hair. I was getting excited! I didn’t feel confident squatting, so I got back on all fours. With the next contraction, my body started to push the baby out. One… two… three contractions and the head was out! There was no cord around the neck. B. got a bit worried seeing the breathless baby’s head sticking out . He worried about the baby getting choked! He decided not to mention it to me since I was still pretty busy at the moment. One more contraction and the shoulder came. Rotation happened and another shoulder was out. Then baby slid out into his daddy’s hands.
B. said, “It‘s Benjamin!” The baby cried a beautiful cry! B. handed him off to me and we took a towel and dried him off a bit. No need for suctioning. B. said that all the junky secretions came out of baby’s mouth as he slid out of me. He sounded and felt clear to me! I kept looking at him in disbelief. What a perfect creation! He was a tiny ruddy little blonde haired boy with dark eyes! He cried and cried until I got him latched on the breast. What a vigorous little boy! He nursed well right away, just like a pro!
We sat nursing on the living room floor. To show God’s grace, the little towel clad baby quickly gave his mommy a gift of meconium on her leg! A few moments earlier could have changed our outlook on things quite a bit! It was right around 9am and B. said he had only looked at the clock when my waters broke at 8:40 am.
I felt a little gush between my legs. I wasn’t as aware of any contractions I was having due to the baby excitement. The next hurdle was the delivery of the placenta. We sat for a while and waited–not quite sure what to do. I got up to sit on the couch. As soon as I rose, the placenta just popped out! It was smaller than I thought it would be and had already ceased pulsing. What a relief! We sat and nursed for a bit. After a while B. clamped and cut the cord.
After a bit we weighed and measured little Benjamin. He was seven pounds and eight ounces. His length was 19¾ inches. He was the exact weight and height of our first son! He had a tiny little head that was twelve inches around.
We discovered later that I had torn. On the outside it was a perfectly straight tear along the old episiotomy scar (I have had two episiotomies). On the inside it was hard to tell what all the involvement was, but it looked pretty raw inside. It happened because the back labor had distracted us from doing the proper perineal care we had planned. We decided to get the tear sutured. I knew I didn’t want a permanent episiotomy. My husband preferred to do it this way plus I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay in bed for very long to heal the natural way. The OB that had delivered our second son agreed to see us in his office and do the job. He was very kind to us. Our total medical cash expense for this birth came to $60!
We have no regrets about our UC. The baby and I are healthy. We have peace in our home. My husband and I functioned as one organism during the birth. I drew from my husband’s strength and encouragement. My thoughts were always clear during the birth. I love my husband now more than I ever have. This has been a high point in our married life. I give all the glory to the Lord for this. He has been our protector all along.
Birthing in a natural and unconstrained way was such a blessing! I honestly think that if more people birthed in this way there would be more large families! I look forward to birthing unassisted again, if the Lord wills.