Not long ago, we celebrated my son’s 3 1/2 birthday. Thanks to COVID, this year has been a drag for him and I figured he needed some sort of excitement to get him through to Christmas. So, we rolled out a present (stickers), party game (checkers), and gluten-free cake to turn an otherwise ordinary day into something memorable. While this little celebration was truly a delight, it was also a reminder for that it has been three and a half years since we welcomed him into our family. I want to take a minute to share the story of his homebirth.
Given that it has been three and a half years since this delivery, some of the details of his delivery are fuzzy for both Zach and I. This is my best recollection of Henry’s birth.
Labor & Delivery
Our midwives told us to ignore the contractions until they couldn’t be ignored anymore. This had effectively gotten me through a few weeks of contractions, but at 5:00 am that morning, they were a bit different. I tried to sleep, but decided to get up. The contractions weren’t very regular. So, I went on with my day thinking they’d disappear like the days prior.
The day went on without anything substantial happening. I had a few contractions here and there that caused me to pause. Otherwise, it was just a normal day trying to keep myself busy.
At some point mid-evening, I found myself getting really hungry. Things really hadn’t progressed at this point, but I made myself a smoothie anticipating another evening without meeting our baby.
Around nine, the contractions started to shift and come more regularly. Zach started timing them and I spent most of the time resting on the birthing ball. About an hour or so in, he decided it was time to alert the midwives and they started making their way to us.
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I don’t really remember when they arrived, but Zach told me after delivery that it was sometime around 10:30 pm. By that time, I went upstairs and was completely uncomfortable in my clothing. (A sign that labor is progressing.) I’d periodically go from the bedroom to the bathroom and back but mostly labored near our bed. Periodically, one of our midwives would use the doppler to check on the baby. Otherwise, they allowed me to labor undisturbed.
Eventually, our midwives suggested that I try getting into the bathtub. (We opted against a birthing pool, but had a rather large bathtub in our townhouse.) I was open to changing my position, but as soon as I got into the water I started to panic. Something didn’t feel right and they quickly helped me out.
Not long after, I hit transition. The first indication of this shift came in the form of extreme nausea and vomiting. With each urge to empty my stomach, the contractions intensified. Thankfully, the throwing up phase of delivery passed quickly, but the contractions continued to be the most challenging yet.
Then things started to feel overwhelming. (Another sign things are continuing.)
Being my first delivery, I had no idea what was going on. “Transition” never crossed my mind. My body was exhausted and I just wanted to rest. A few times, I felt myself starting to lose focus. Hindsight is truly 20/20 and, looking back, I know in that moment I was experiencing some significant hanger. I felt like I had lost all ability to positively approach labor. My back constantly ached. I kept repeating to Zach that I was exhausted and just needed to rest. In between contractions, I tried closing my eyes but I couldn’t quite find a comfortable place.
Eventually, Zach started counting out breathing and helped me maintain some control. I was hanging on, but it felt like I was barely making it.
At some point during all of this, the midwifery apprentice began applying counter pressure with each contraction. It helped a little and I’m incredibly grateful to her for that. Anything that had the potential to alleviate some of my discomfort was more than welcome.
A little after 2:00 am, our midwife asked if she could perform a cervical exam. (This was the only cervical exam performed during either of my labors.) I’d been stuck in what seemed like transition for a while and she wanted to make sure we were still progressing well. During the exam, she found that I was hovering at 9.5 cm and my cervix seemed a bit swollen from the intensity of contractions. She suggested manually breaking my water to help things along and then quickly moved about to grab what she needed to do that.
Breaking the amniotic sac was what I needed to reach the other side of transition and within twenty minutes we were at the pushing phase. The difference between transition and pushing was incredible. Mentally, I felt exhilarated and clear. The fatigue was gone and a new sense of excitement hung on every contraction. I was dehydrated from labor and sucked down as much water as possible between contractions.
During pushing, both midwives kept reminding me to pant and not push full on. I had an almost irresistible urge to bear down, but intentionally tried to let my body do the work.
At 3:21 am, our sweet baby boy finally entered the world. But the excitement of the morning was only beginning.
After delivering, we transitioned from the floor to the bed and the midwives hurried about getting us settled. Henry latched easily and we relaxed for a while before the midwives came over the assist with delivering the placenta. They encourage me to push and even gave the umbilical cord a tug, but it wouldn’t budge. Eventually, they decided to cut the cord and give Henry to Zach so we could focus on trying to deliver the placenta.
One of our midwives wondered if my bladder was full, ultimately inhibiting the placenta from coming out. She helped me to the bathroom and I stayed there for quite a while without any success.
At this point, we were all pretty tired. The midwives were dozing in the hallway, I was trying to go to the bathroom, and Zach was enjoying skin to skin with our new baby. The placenta was not coming out and, while they weren’t worried, I was ready to move on to the next part of my recovery.
We migrated back to the bedroom, where Zach and Henry were hanging out. Again, we tried to deliver the placenta, but made no progress. One of our midwives began pulling out a variety of items from her bag and let me know that they were going to have to insert a catheter to drain my bladder. The simple thought of having a catheter inserted was terrifying. At no point during delivery had I felt fear, but I could not mentally swallow the thought of having to experience this procedure. I begged for one last opportunity to try to use the restroom and we agreed that if things didn’t work this time, we would go to the catheter next.
After several difficult moments trying to urinate, I was finally successful in activating my muscles. They helped me back to the bedroom and the placenta was finally delivered just after 8:00 am.
Once we made it past delivering the placenta, everything went relatively smoothly. Henry had some tension from delivery that caused pain while nursing on one side, but we were able to quickly resolve that with a trip to the chiropractor.
Overall, I cannot at all complain. Henry was born after six hours of active labor without any tearing or complications. Since then, I’ve delivered a second baby at home. My second labor was quite short. You can read William’s homebirth story here.
Henry Jordan: 6 pounds 15 ounces and 19 inches long.