Every day that a new soul is welcomed into this world is absolutely amazing.
Nothing can diminish that moment in God’s eyes. He witnesses births in the rice fields of Asia, in the most advanced medical settings in the world, and inside each home with equal consideration. Births are momentous by their nature, not by their environment.
Likewise, the circumstances of a child’s birth cannot define you as a mother or alter the value of the experience – although it can profoundly change you.
I believe we love to share our stories of sacrifice, struggle, and immense joy because they are etched into our being. For when a child is born, so is a mother. To share our story is to share a piece of ourselves. It isn’t always fully beautiful – but it is real, and raw, and human. It is powerful. It is a story of how our lives intersected with something divine and eternal: the entrance of a new soul into this world.
Three years ago I decided that I would bring my first baby into the world from within the walls of my own home. That day a mother was born, and I found a steel in myself I hadn’t known existed until that moment. Six months ago I drew upon that same steel as I birthed another tiny soul into this world.
My Home Birth Story: 42 Weeks Pregnant
I was two weeks past my due date and totally unfazed. Yup, 42 weeks pregnant. Most full term ladies are having mini-meltdowns at 39 weeks, so why not me?
My first daughter was born at 42 weeks + 3 days if you go by LMP (last menstrual period). She had very little vernix and looked like she was a few days over, but certainly not two weeks plus.
Did you know a due date is calculated based on a 28 day cycle with ovulation on day 14? If that sounds like Greek just know this: if you have a longer or shorter cycle than average it can totally mess up your due date estimate. I was charting my long cycles so I didn’t think I was much past full term even though the papers said I was a 42 week mama.
All that to say, the second time around I wasn’t exactly worked up about my overdue-ness. My body was happy with pregnancy (thank you chiropractic care!) and I wasn’t uncomfortable beyond average really pregnant lady standards.
My midwife appointments had been going fantastic and a recent non-stress test had shown a bouncy alert baby. I had started having painless Braxton Hicks a few days before but I had no idea if anything was happening. I hadn’t had any dilation checks (which are pretty ambiguous anyway) but I was still thinking it would happen before the week was out.
Or else I would be pregnant forever. That’s a thing right?
No One is Pregnant Forever (Or so they say…)
Regardless, I decided to enjoy my last few days of summer before my baby’s birth without stressing. The day before I went into labor was a Sunday so I decided to go out and have fun. We packed my husband, my nearly three year old daughter, and my 42 week pregnant self in the car and drove to a local wildlife sanctuary. It was about 90 degrees outside plus humidity but I was determined to make some memories.
We spent several hours walking around the sanctuary while I had Braxton Hicks contractions every few steps. Lots of people stopped to stare as I sashayed by with my little crew. I guess you don’t see many fully pregnant women walking around enjoying the outdoors on hot summer days! (Story for another day: tent camping with no bathrooms at 40 weeks, yeah… that happened.)
We went home that night and nothing had changed, but I had a strong feeling that I would be in labor the next day. I didn’t want to jinx it so I didn’t tell my husband.
I woke up around 5 AM needing to use the bathroom and saw I’d lost my mucus plug. My husband had already gone to work so I decided to go back to bed. At 6:30 AM I woke up again and had my first contraction. I started timing them at three minutes apart and 30 seconds long. I decided I needed to do some last minute cleaning. Yes, that’s right. Cleaning.
I picked up miscellaneous things around the house, re-cleaned the bathroom, wiped down the shelves in my fridge, and vacuumed the wood floors. My contractions spaced out farther but started lasting 45-60 seconds. I knew this was the real deal but I wasn’t ready to call anyone yet.
My daughter woke up at 7:30 AM and I helped her eat and get dressed while I continued to clean. The harder I worked the faster my contractions came. I called my midwife to give her a heads up that I was in early labor and I was doing ok. At 9 AM I sat down to braid my daughter’s hair and it was like I had called a time out. I only had two contractions during that whole half hour.
When I called my husband at his 9:30 AM break I told him I was in labor but I didn’t need him home yet. I asked him to leave work at lunch time if I didn’t call again before then. I also called my mother and told her she should come for my daughter after lunch. I still hadn’t decided if I was going to have my mom stay at the house with my daughter during the birth or take her.
Time to Call for Back Up
I started cleaning again and my contractions picked back up. I was confused because the spacing was all over the place, but they were pretty intense and I was needing to stop and concentrate. An hour later I relented and called my husband back. I told him I needed him to come home. He seemed surprised since we had only talked an hour before. He asked if I was sure I needed him before the lunch break, and I said yes.
After that I called the midwife. She was over an hour away. I told her I thought she should come and she seem surprised too since we had only talked a bit ago. I was working really hard to sound calm and it must have worked. Apparently I didn’t sound like someone in active labor!
I was honestly surprised at how quickly things seemed to be going myself. I knew the second labor could go faster, but my first baby had taken 23 hours of active labor and 28 hours total. I couldn’t believe my first contraction was at 6:30 AM and I was already laboring so hard.
The contractions began to take all of my focus and my little girl knew something was going on. She asked me if I was ok as I held on to the counter and breathed through each contraction. I told her I was working hard and the baby would be born soon. I made her a peanut butter sandwich and let her watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood in the living room.
On the outside I was calm, but on the inside I began to feel panicky. My husband wasn’t home yet and the birth pool wasn’t even started. To pass the time I laid down a sheet in the dining room and unfolded the pool. Then I started a crockpot with warm washcloths and essential oils and got out the birth kit.
The Midwife Arrives
My husband got home at 11:10 AM and quickly realized I was much further into labor than I had let on. He went into action mode and started inflating and filling the pool with water.
I stood in the kitchen rocking my hips while I held the counter. My steady breathing turned into little whimpers at the end of each contraction. The intensity and frequency of the surges was overwhelming. I knew I was going through transition and I was riding each wave with single-minded focus.
The first midwife arrived at 11:45 AM. The birth pool was filling and she asked if she could check my dilation before I got in. I’m not big on being checked during labor, but I knew I had just gone through transition and I wanted to get in the pool soon. I decided I was ok with it. She told me that my bag of waters was bulging and I could get in the pool whenever I was ready. She actually seemed a bit surprised that I was so far along. I guess I was pretty successful at playing it cool!
I continued to labor outside the pool since I was still waiting for my mother. I hadn’t called her to tell her my labor had picked up so she was still planning to arrive around noon. My midwife urged me to let my mother take my daughter. I had discussed keeping her with me, but my first labor had complications and I think my midwife wanted to be sure I could focus if they reoccurred. I decided to let my mom take her.
My mom arrived at the same time as the second midwife. I said goodbye to my daughter, gave them both a hug, and sent an overnight bag just in case (although I didn’t think she’d need it). I planned to have her bring my daughter back after the baby’s birth and I felt sure the baby would arrive soon.
With all the activity around me my labor had slowed. Now that my daughter had gone I allowed myself to relax and enter the pool.
The Birth Pool
Ahhhhh! Bliss. Seriously, the birth pool was like magic. The water was so soothing, and the release of gravity changed the sensation of the contractions completely. I rested against the side of the pool and breathed through each one. Both midwives had stationed themselves nearby and were quietly encouraging me. I was comforted by their calm voices and reassurance.
I could see my husband standing down the hallway. During my first labor he had been my rock. The midwife who attended my birth said it was one of the most difficult labors she had ever witnessed. Ever. He got me through that. When I was so tired all I could do was cry, he held my hand and wiped my tears. When I didn’t know which way was up, he was my anchor to the earth. I mean it when I say I couldn’t have done it without him.
This time I had two strong women by my side cheering me on and I was handling my labor like a boss. Still, I needed my husband by my side. It wasn’t the same desperate need as my first birth but I wanted him there. I asked him to come hold my hand and give me compresses from the crockpot. He seemed relieved to have a job. I could have asked one of the ladies but I wanted my husband to know he was the one I wanted in that moment.
The essential oils smelled so good and felt amazing as I draped each warm cloth across the top of my belly. The room was filled with the scent of Lavender, Clary Sage, Wild Orange, and Peppermint. Lavender to soothe, Clary Sage to intensify contractions, Wild Orange for energy, and Peppermint for nausea. Mmmm!
I was very aware of everything going on around me, but I felt peaceful kneeling by the side of the pool. After a while my legs began to fall asleep from the weight of my belly so I switched to hands and knees and rocked my hips. It felt very comfortable and my midwife told me it was a great position for laboring.
I had been in the pool for about an hour now and it was around 1:30 PM. During the next contraction I felt a sharp stabbing sensation that made me moan. It was like a balloon full of glass had burst – my water had finally broken. At the end of the contraction I informed my midwife who checked the water. It was clear and I could feel a bit of amniotic sack floating between my legs like a jellyfish.
The second midwife checked the temperature of the water. She asked me if I wanted to have the baby in the pool and I told her that I did. She warned me that it was a little too cold for the baby. We had to get the water warmed up, but we were waiting on the water heater. If we couldn’t get the temp up soon I would have to get out to push.
Let’s Have a Water Birth
Within ten minutes I started feeling mildly pushy. The water heater had caught up so they added hot water to the pool. The baby was holding up great, the water was warm, and my midwife had just started to check the heartbeat again when the next contraction started.
It was 1:50 PM and I needed to push. This was where it had all went wrong during my last birth. Internally I started to panic and fall apart. I pushed through two contractions as I felt the baby beginning to crown. The pushing had gone much faster than the first time, but I was still afraid. My first baby had a shoulder dystocia at birth and I had torn quite badly. I was terrified it was going to happen again. I hadn’t thought about it much before that point, but my body remembered and I was overwhelmed by the emotion.
In that moment I looked up at the midwife in front of me and just shook my head. I had a wordless plea of fear in my eyes. I was thinking, “I can’t do it. I know I have to do it but I can’t. Please tell me I can get through this.”
She knew exactly what I needed. She said, “Yes, you can Elizabeth. Yes you can. You are doing it.” I nodded my head between gasps of air and put my head down. I pushed my baby out with one final roar. It was a roar of triumph.
It was 1:59 PM: 7.5 hours from the first contraction, 3.5 hours of active labor, and only ten minutes of pushing…
My baby was born!
A Nuchal Hand and a Tight Cord Around the Baby’s Neck
I looked behind me to see the other midwife holding my baby. Something was wrong. The baby was limp and blue, and covered in vernix. The umbilical cord was tight around the neck and it wasn’t pulsing. The baby wasn’t breathing yet. I could tell she was concerned.
She quickly unwrapped the cord and began to rub the baby, telling it to breathe. Both midwives were working over the baby together now. They turned on the oxygen and began blowing it over the baby’s face. She put her mouth on the baby’s and blew a puff of air. Slowly the cord began to pulse again. I knew once the cord started pulsing it meant the baby was getting oxygen from me.
I turned to my husband and he was crying. I told him the baby was ok, that it was all going to be ok. It couldn’t have been more than a minute but it felt like forever.
This entire time I felt completely at peace. I was in God’s presence and His love and protection had fallen over me like a blanket. I just knew that it was all going to be ok, no matter what happened. I felt in my bones that my baby was going to be alright, but I also faced another reality.
The reality that God chose the days in this child’s life and it wasn’t up to me. In that moment I embraced whatever the outcome was going to be. I had a feeling of complete and utter acceptance. Of surrender. It was unearthly. I should have been terrified. I had every right to be, but I felt so enveloped in love that I couldn’t be scared.
An eternity later my baby let out a little cough, and then a tiny cry. It was the most beautiful sound that I had ever heard. They checked the baby’s vitals and suctioned its airway. The baby was still weak but its color was improving and the cries were getting louder.
I was crying and laughing with joy as they passed the baby to me! I turned to my husband, “It’s a boy! We have a baby boy! He is ok and he is a boy!” We were both crying tears of joy and relief.
I stayed in the pool for a few minutes soaking up my beautiful baby. I was now a boy mom. Once the cord stopped pulsing I passed our son to my husband and stepped out of the pool. He cut the cord while I delivered the placenta on a birthing stool.
I found out that my little man had been born with a nuchal hand. I couldn’t imagine things going any faster, but I wonder what it would have been like if his little hand hadn’t been tucked by his face!
A New Little Soul
I went to the bedroom to put on dry clothes and cuddle with my baby. I hadn’t torn at all thanks to the water and the perineal support – even with the nuchal hand. I felt amazing. Whole.
After my first baby I couldn’t walk upright for more than a week. I had been emotionally and physically battered and it took weeks to recover. This time I felt like I could conquer the world!
We nursed and snuggled while my husband and the midwives cleaned up. As they were draining the pool one midwife brought me the amniotic sac to look at. She had found it floating in the bottom of the pool like a little jellyfish. She told me she had never seen that happen before.
After an hour of skin-to-skin time we weighed the baby. He was a healthy 8lbs 13 ounces of pure gorgeousness. He had much more vernix than his sister and we all agreed he looked more like a 40 week baby than a 42 week baby. He looked just like my husband and my heart swelled with love and pride.
We declined the eye ointment and the Hepatitis B shot as he was at no risk for Gonorrhea or Hepatitis. We also chose not to do the Vitamin K shot as he had not suffered any bruising at birth and we were not planning to circumcise.
After the midwives left I ate a big plate of scrambled eggs and waited for my daughter to come home. Seeing her meet her little brother was absolute magic.
The birth had been very healing for me. I had faced a 42 week pregnancy, and a baby with a nuchal hand and a tight cord. My competent and skilled midwives had done an amazing job. Most wonderful of all – in my arms I held a brand new soul designed by the maker of the Universe. What a momentous day!
What was your labor like? Do you have a birth story to share? Tell me about your experience in the comments below – I love to hear baby stories!
A word on nuchal cords: Did you know approximately a third of all babies are born with the umbilical cord wrapped around their neck? It is a very normal occurrence during birth and not usually a cause for concern. The cord is very long and covered in a smooth substance called Wharton’s jelly. The length and smooth coating generally mean that the cord stays loose even when it does get wrapped around the baby. Only a small percentage of babies will have a tight nuchal cord at birth. This usually occurs during the last part of pushing where the baby rotates (which can tighten the coil) and is compressed in the birth canal.
My son had great heart tones during the entire labor so his cord didn’t become an issue until the very end. He was a good sized baby and he had a nuchal hand which probably facilitated the compression of the cord during the last part of his birth.
I am extremely happy with the way the midwives managed the situation. The best thing they could have done was to leave the cord intact and attempt to stimulate him while we waited for it to start pulsing again. As long as he was connected to me my body could providing him life giving oxygen and blood (just as it had in the womb).
(Sometimes a tight cord is cut after the baby’s head has been delivered but before the body is out. New research is showing this can be dangerous for the baby. The child gets up to 50% of its blood volume in the first few minutes after the birth while it is still connected to the mother. Without that ready supply of oxygen, blood, and iron the baby who had already been constricted for a few moments in the birth canal is at an enormous disadvantage. Resuscitation is much more difficult in a newborn who is anemic due to loss of blood.)