For some reason I have been putting off writing this out and sharing it with you. In a way I feel like I am taking something sacred, something very life-changing and personal, and putting it all out there to be viewed and judged… and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that.
But I do know how much I enjoy reading other’s birth stories and how they impacted our birthing journey and I want to do the same for someone else. I also want to document this for my family, so I guess now it’s time.
We had a homebirth. Yep, you read that right. Baby Haakon was born at home, in our bathtub… and it was the most amazing experience of my life. Everything about it… the good, the bad and the ugly… was perfect for me and I wouldn’t change a thing. Our midwife and support team were amazing and we are so grateful for their support!
I believe that God brought us to our midwife because He knew she was exactly what we would need in our most difficult, yet most amazing, moments. From the moment we met, I knew that I trusted her completely to guide us on this journey we were taking… and I was right. She helped me find peace and strength I never knew I had, and for that I will be forever grateful!
Now let’s get to the actual story…
Haakon’s BIRTH day:
I started realizing that this was the probably the ‘big day’ on Wednesday Dec 1st in the early morning hours. I was woken up a few times by contractions and as this was my second birth, I knew what was coming. I didn’t know, of course, what the time frame would look like… but I did know that there was no turning back now.
When Andrew woke up I let him know that things were starting and he probably shouldn’t go in to work for long. He took our son Navy (my almost 9 year old stepson) to school and then stopped in to work for a few minutes before heading back home (with a quick stop at Starbucks for me on the way home… What better way to start the ‘big day’ than with a peppermint white mocha!).
My contractions were consistent but pretty mild at this point, so we spent most of the day relaxing, playing with our 19 month old son Bjørn and enjoying the process that was just beginning. For lunch we ordered some spicy teriyaki (why not!) and then around 3pm we went for a long walk (down to the mailbox and back… it’s longer than it sounds!) and during that walk gave our midwife a quick call to let her know things were beginning. She was just leaving a birth so went home to rest before we needed her!
Things were not moving quickly, and I started to feel bad that I had kept Andrew home from work, but I’m glad we got to enjoy a relaxing day together. After we put Bjørn to bed for the night, things began to pick up a bit and I kept myself busy and as distracted as possible by readying the house and double-checking our supplies.
Around 10pm or so I started really getting in to that place where I had to focus and lose myself into the contractions so we moved into the bathroom and got to work. I got into the shower for a bit, but that didn’t last long as I had to use the bathroom in between every. single. contraction. (Thank you very much spicy teriyaki!).
When each wave started I called to Andrew and he came to support me. And I mean literally “support me”. I needed him to stand firm and let me hang off of him while I swayed and focused on relaxing through each wave. They were coming every few minutes at this point but I was getting good rest time in between and it all just felt good… or rather, it felt ‘right’.
We decided to call our friend and doula Kim at this point, as well as our friend Mackenzie who would be there to take care of Bjørn if and when he woke up. Not too long after that we called our midwife, Carol, and asked her to come.
I knew that we didn’t really need her yet at that point, but I wanted her there. I needed to know that she was close by, ready and waiting in case it all got to be too much to handle. And I needed her there to ‘guard my space’ as I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the other people around.
By this time, we had moved into our bedroom (I wanted only darkness and quiet… all those hours of working on the perfect ‘birth’ playlist were such a waste!) where I knelt, leaning forward on my large excercise ball, and rocked through each contraction while holding Andrew’s hand.
Andrew slept in between many of the contractions at this point, with me squeezing his hand to wake him up when one started. The crazy thing is, even I fell asleep in between several of the contractions! It was such an amazing feeling to be able to relax so fully in between waves of such intensity.
The one constant through this labor was my need to hold (and squeeze!) Andrew’s hand. Mostly because that was how I was able to channel my energy so that I could keep the rest of my body relaxed through each wave, but also because that kept me grounded. His grip kept me focused and reminded me that I was not alone, even though I was otherwise unaware of anything outside myself.
At one point Carol asked me if I wanted to be checked. I remember saying “sure, but if I’m less than 5cm… I don’t want to know.” Well, she checked me and then asked if I wanted to know. My only thought was “oh crap. I’m not even halfway there!” but I said yes anyways. It turns out I was at 8cm… and I have never felt such relief at hearing a number!
I decided then that I wanted to get in the tub (with Carol’s blessing). The water felt so amazing and I could really feel my body relaxing and at the same time focusing through each wave. I was still getting good breaks in between contractions, and I now realize that, subconciously, I had a part in that.
I wanted my labor to take its time. Not because I was scared, or trying to delay the inevitable, but because I wanted to really experience each moment and also to savor the breaks in between contractions. I wanted to truly experience this labor… not just ‘get through it’ as quick as possible. I don’t remember everything about my labor with my firstborn and I hate that. I wanted to make sure and cement each memory this time so that I could find them in my heart always.
I really found my zone when I was in the tub. I was reaching transition, making quite a bit of noise – low moans, the kind that tighten your stomach muscles like when you have a stomach-ache and groan about it! – and disappearing into the contractions. I really had no concious thought during them anymore… or rather, my mind didn’t connect much with what was going on around me.
I remember feeling like I was in a fog. I couldn’t see beyond myself and I didn’t want to. I was in a deep place, facing my weaknesses and at the same time finding strength I never knew I had. I still can’t believe how powerful I felt through all of the pain!
Somewhere right around this point of transition (time was basically a blur, but I did have snippets of clarity) I had a mental break. I don’t know why or how it happened, but I felt like I was separated from labor for a bit. I felt like I was just relaxing in a tub and visiting with people that loved me! I even remember laughing for a bit… probably at my husband.
Then the vomiting began and I was back into the deep. I don’t think there was much coming up, mostly water, but it was intense and we knew it was getting close to birth time!
I reached my ‘wall’ right about there. Anyone who has had an unmedicated birth will understand what I mean by ‘wall’… the ‘I can’t do this’ wall. The point where fear and reality collide and you have to decide to conquer the fear in order to attempt the seemingly impossble and not give up.
I never got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t do this or that I wanted to give up and go get that epidural… but I did feel pretty lost. I was starting to feel like I was drowning and couldn’t find a hand to grab!
Right at that moment, Carol came in and saved me. She reached out through her words and gave me that hand I was desperate for. Or rather God reached out through her and saved me!
The last few days I had been especially drawn to my grandmother’s Bible that is full of margin-notes. She died when I was 4, but I have always felt like her Bible is a glimpse into her heart and a way to feel close to her.
Carol found the Bible sitting on the bathroom counter and read to me a few verses that my grandma had underlined. (Psalms 116:1-2 “I love the Lord because he hears my prayers and answers them. Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I breathe!” 116:16-17 “O Lord, you have freed me from my bonds and I will serve you forever.” 118:5-8 “In my distress I prayed to the Lord and he answered me and rescued me. He is for me! How can I be afraid? What can mere man do to me? The Lord is on my side, he will help me.”) Then she prayed for me.
I have never felt such a strong feeling of peace wash over me before! My fear was pushed aside and power took it’s place! I could do this… I would do this… and God was right there with me holding my hand.
When it was about time to start pushing (my water still had not broken) Carol had me change position in the tub, Andrew climbed in to sit behind me for support and I gently pushed once to break the bag of waters. Things got so much more intense at this point as baby moved down into the birth canal to make his way out.
Somewhere around there I remember being given honey. Spoonfuls of it… for energy (it had been a long time since my last meal!). Wow, that’s not something I want to repeat. Yuck. But it sure gave me a boost!
(Side note here: Carol asked me a few times if I wanted Andrew to get in the tub with me for support. I kept saying “no” because I was afraid to move and wasn’t sure if I wanted to share my space. Finally she just said “Andrew should get in now.” and I’m so glad she did! Lesson learned? Listen to your midwife!)
At this point it was about 6am and Bjørn woke up for the day. Mackenzie went and got him and brought him in to see us. That was exactly the boost I needed! Seeing him brought a smile to my heart and reminded me what all of this was for. I was so happy to see him, and in retrospect so happy that he got to see his little brother be born!
As the baby started crowning, I began to lose it. I was staring to tear and trying so hard not to push so baby could ease out slowly, but it was incredibly hard. I just wanted him out now! I remember crying, “I can’t do this!” as Carol was telling me not to push and just to breathe…
I threw my head back and panted to keep from pushing, which I think got me hyperventilating a bit, so Carol gave me a little oxygen for a boost. A few pushes and minutes later and out came my beautiful baby boy! Haakon Andreas was born at 6:16am on December 2nd!
Carol and I lifted him out of the water and brought him to my chest. He looked, felt and smelled AMAZING! I couldn’t believe how wonderful it felt to have him in my arms instead of in my tummy. Yes, I know I have done this before, but it certainly doesn’t get old!
Haakon was a little blotchy when he was born and took a few minutes to catch his breath so he got a little oxygen too… His heart rate was just fine though and since he was still attached to his placenta, we were not too worried. His apgar was a 4/5 at birth, but quickly improved in the following minutes.
I was actually not aware of any of this at the time, as exhaustion hit me pretty hard after Haakon came out. My uterus essentially gave up and refused to be helpful in the placenta removal process. Carol had to massage my belly for quite a while (and it hurt so good!) to help the placenta to come out and the bleeding to stop.
I was given some spicy tablets (no idea what they were!) to dissolve under my tongue and lots of water and juice for energy. When things calmed down a bit I got into the shower to rinse off, and boy did that feel good!
It wasn’t until a while later that I really was able to process what had happened right at the time of birth. Haakon was born with a very low immediate and 1 minute apgar (meaning he wasn’t trying to breathe, wasn’t very responsive, was limp, etc.) but I was hardly, if at all, aware of it.
He was calm and ‘there’. His heart rate was just fine (and monitored continuously). He was in my arms and I knew that he was just fine, and he was! If we had been in the hospital, he would have been whisked away the second he was born, cord cut, and quite possibly spent several hours or more away from me in the nursery. My heart would not have been able to handle all of that. And he wouldn’t have done as well as he did, I am sure of that!
I was free… happy… unhindered… and I really, really can’t wait to do all of this again someday!!