We arrived at The Farm on July 22, 2013. I was 39 weeks pregnant to the day and hopeful we would soon meet our baby. The first week was spent excitedly exploring The Farm, meeting like-minded people at the swimming hole, getting to know the midwife whose basement apartment we were staying in, playing board games with the kids and enjoying non-stop time together as a family of 4.
The 39th week passed. The 40th week passed. We were still enjoying ourselves but my husband, Taylor, and I found ourselves very much ready to be at home with a newborn in our arms rather than playing the endless game of waiting for labor to start. Baby was not in optimal fetal position and my nightly bouts of prodromal labor complete with an aching back and hips had me doing all I could to help baby rotate out of the posterior position as fast as possible. I spent my days doing the tricks of the trade to help baby rotate to the anterior position as I meditated and practiced deep breathing on the words “calm, safe, open, low, down, baby” and constantly visualized my perineum stretching in anticipation of my first birth without a painful 2nd degree tear.
The eighth day past my estimated due date was spent aimlessly wandering around Wal-Mart shopping for an impromptu birthday celebration for our daughter Liza’s 3rd birthday the next day. We were happy to find the “blue scooter” she desperately wanted and I was feeling bummed that it seemed likely our baby would be born on his big sister’s birthday. After all, they already shared the due date of July 29 so it didn’t seem too outlandish to think this baby would also hold out until August 7th to be born.
That night I organized her little pile of 3rd birthday presents on the kitchen table and prayed I wouldn’t still be pregnant for our son Henry’s 5th birthday on August 17th.
After a half-hearted attempt to watch an episode of “Are You Being Served?” and not understanding the most basic jokes, I went to sleep hoping I would wake up perkier for Liza’s special day. I slept very fitfully that night, getting up to pee no less than a dozen times and noticing a contracted but painless belly each time I got out of bed. At 4:00 am, my tossing and turning woke up Liza and after getting her settled and back asleep I got out of bed at 4:30 am and laid down on the couch in the living room. I was 100% sure I was in labor as both of my previous labors started the exact same way and quickly progressed but my doula brain never stops working and I reminded myself to rest as this was early labor and I needed to save my energy.
At 5:00 am on the dot, I got off the couch and turned on my “Birth on The Farm” playlist we had worked on since arriving 2.5 weeks earlier. Every song on the 8 hour playlist is a favorite and specifically chosen because it gave me a sense of calm and control. The music started and I experimented with what felt best as my labor grew stronger with every contraction. I paced the floor, leaned over the counter, dropped to all 4s and swayed my hips as I consciously enjoyed laboring alone knowing my instinct had been correct all along and our baby would be born after a very short labor.
Even with the ever-increasing power of my contractions I felt completely safe and trusted I would know exactly when I needed to wake up my husband and call my midwife. After the first contraction that emitted a deep, low breath and required complete surrender to the powerful sensations, I knew the time had come to assemble my birth team.
At 5:10 am I woke up my husband with a quiet “I’m in labor” and gave him time to get up as I called my midwife, Stacie. I told her “I think I’m in labor” and then quickly changed to “I’m in labor” as she told me that it would take her an hour to get to our house on The Farm and to wake up Sharon, the midwife who lived upstairs, if we needed her. Considering one of our main reasons for birthing at The Farm were concerns about a precipitous labor and an accidental unassisted birth, remembering Sharon asleep upstairs and her 30 years of midwifery experience was a wonderful thing.
As we had planned, Taylor began picking up toys, folding clothes and making sure things were organized around the house. I was still laboring on my own, enjoying finally being in labor and doula-ing myself with reminders about the signs of progress during labor. I could tell by my breathing and low tones that labor was moving right along and at that point, I was easily handling my back labor by leaning over on the coffee table and swaying my hips during each contraction. My doula brain reminded my laboring brain that baby would likely rotate on it’s own with an active labor and I had no need to fear a posterior birth even with the intense back labor I was experiencing.
I was hungry and ate a fried egg on toast I had to shove in my mouth and chugged a huge glass of water because I salted it during a contraction and it was disgustingly salty. But I knew that if I didn’t eat something soon I would be turned off by food and my hungry belly was telling me to eat!
Stacie and her apprentice, Laura, arrived at 6:15am and the strength of my contractions increased almost immediately. I told Stacie I felt nauseous but was scared to throw up because it would make my contractions stronger. She told me that would be a good thing which I knew perfectly well but I still chose to hold back the vomit because I wasn’t ready for the next phase of labor.
Then I needed Taylor to rub my back. Hard. I needed him to put down his coffee, stop folding clothes, stop busying himself with the list of things I had created to keep him busy during early labor....and I needed him to know exactly what I wanted without me having to say a word. Obviously that didn’t go well and I ended up being very bossy about where he needed to sit, how he needed to look at me and how I needed him to affirm me. I made a comment about being “pissy” to Stacie when she asked how I was doing and I tried to laugh about it because I knew I was being ridiculous but laughter wasn’t happening at that point.
Then things get hazy.
I needed to pee and thought I might finally have the notorious clearing of the bowels that typically occurs during early labor but as with my reluctance to vomit, I had no desire to willingly propel myself to more intense contractions. I reminded myself that emptying my bladder was important to help reduce immediate postpartum bleeding I had experienced with my first two births. I remember sitting on the toilet with my tippy toes on the floor desperately trying not to sink too deep into the toilet and encourage stronger contractions.
I took one step out of the bathroom and dropped to the floor in hard labor. My back labor was intense intense intense and I instinctively went into the “polar bear” with my chest and belly on the ground, knees spread wide and butt in the air. I have no idea how long I labored like this but my moans got lower and LOWER and louder and LOUDER.
Transition was here although that word never crossed my mind. This is what I remember during that point of labor....no specific order.
- Looking up at Stacie and telling her I needed her. She got on the ground and I grabbed her hands as she reminded me I was doing exactly what I needed to do.
- Taylor became an amazing labor partner and told me all the things I needed to hear without me having to say a word.
- I asked how much longer it would take knowing perfectly well that it wouldn’t be too much longer with the way I was moaning but I really wanted somebody to tell me it was almost over. Somebody asked if I wanted my dilation checked and Stacie spoke up and said I had already declined an exam and didn’t want to be checked. Then she pulled my panties down a bit and checked for “the purple line” on my natal cleft. She said it showed I was about 7cm. I was not happy with that number and very glad I didn’t have an uncomfortable hand up my vagina to give the information. I asked her to show Taylor the purple line and as expected, he didn’t see a thing but my butt crack.
-Stacie asked if I could take off my underwear and I told her just to cut it off because I couldn’t move to take it off. Taylor had spent the previous week sharpening every knife in the house so cutting off my underwear with the sharpest knife available seemed like the right idea to him.
- Henry woke up! I heard Taylor tell him that I was in labor and our baby would be born soon. He was so so so excited and years of preparing him to witness a homebirth immediately showed. He knew exactly what was going on and never showed an ounce of fear or anxiety about his mama rocking on the floor with her butt in the air moaning as loudly and deeply as she possibly could. He echoed everybody’s affirmations and told me I was doing a wonderful job. I don’t think anybody in the room will ever forget my precious little boy saying “You can do this, Mama! You did it with me and with Liza and you can do it with our baby!”.
- Liza stayed asleep even though I was two feet from her bedroom door and I was LOUD!
At some point, Stacie asked if I could stand up and allow gravity to bring my baby down. I feel sure I resisted but I soon found myself standing up holding on to Taylor’s neck and looked around to see myself surrounded by four women....two Certified Professional Midwives and two apprentices...all who birthed their babies naturally at home. It was powerful knowing they were there to help assist me through this birth and seeing them gave me a renewed energy. A strong female presence of women experienced in birth was a top priority during my pregnancy and even with back to back contractions, I felt the power of their support. Taylor pointed out that one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs was playing and told me I was safe. I repeated “I am safe” over and over again as I labored holding onto his neck....and contorted his body into the most horribly uncomfortable positions possible. He experienced his own labor pains!
As soon as I began to feel pushy I also felt dizzy and lightheaded. During Liza’s birth, I blamed too hot water in the birth tub for my dizziness when I began to feel pushy but maybe it’s just the way my body reacts to that certain feeling of needing to push a bowling ball out of my butt. Stacie guided me to the bathroom to sit on the toilet and labor sitting down but that didn’t last long and we quickly moved to the couch for me to lay down. A midwife, Sharon, said “Ahh, now that’s the waddle of a woman who has a baby between her legs” as I walked across the room to the couch. Hearing that made me realize the end was near!
I laid on my left side and grabbed the back of the couch as the apprentices rolled me over to cover the couch with chux pads. With the next pushy contraction I felt a stream of fluid and asked if I was bleeding or if it was my bag of waters. After learning that it was my waters, I asked if there was meconium present and was quickly reassured everything was clear with no meconium present. My doula brain turned on and I reminded myself that side-lying is an excellent way to facilitate a slow, patient pushing phase with lots of hands on support to minimize the risk of tearing. I braced my left leg on Sharon and Laura, an apprentice, lifted my right leg with Taylor sitting by my head holding my hand. Liza had woken up at some point and she and Henry were sitting in another apprentice’s lap in a chair near the foot of the couch and I was glad they were in a good position to watch their baby being born.
This pregnancy centered around mentally preparing myself to push only with contractions, pant through crowning and not suffer through another painful 2nd degree tear. My months of consciously telling myself that I would push slowly with my contractions and my recent weeks of intense visualizations of my perineum stretching stretching stretching became my reality as I let my body bare down without actively pushing and when I felt his head crown I panted heavily during the next contraction. The only time I purposely pushed was when Stacie said “ok, now push out your baby”.
And then it was done. My baby was here at 7:55 am -- 3.5 hours after labor began. Midwife Sharon quickly made the observation that we likely would have had an unassisted birth had we stayed home in Mississippi and she was right. My instincts about a short labor were exactly right.
After the cord was limp and white, Henry cut the cord as he had excitedly planned for the past 6 months and Liza lifted the baby blanket and announced we had a boy with a “look at his big penis!”.
Even with controlled pushing I had a first degree tear needing 3 internal stitches and a short running stitch on my perineum. The consensus was that I wouldn't have torn if he hadn't had a compound presentation with a hand by his cheek and his other hand trapped under his cord which was wrapped around his torso. His awkward hand placement explained his persistent posterior position during late pregnancy and late rotation during labor.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t even see the wet little thing on my chest at first. I was just so happy. Happy the months and especially those final weeks of anticipation were over. Happy his labor was short and straightforward. Happy his birth was so much better than his sister’s homebirth because of all the emotional support from having 4 women present. Happy I didn’t hemorrhage all over the couch. Happy I didn’t have a bad tear. Happy the time away from home to birth at The Farm was 100% worthwhile to bring my baby into this world in the safest way possible for me and my family.
48 hours later that wet little thing was named Oliver Pace Dearman. Just like his birth, he is 100% perfect!