This blog post will cover only our home birth story. Other details of our pregnancy, home birth and postpartum journey will be covered in later blog posts. You can find all the topics I’ll be sharing about here.
Thank goodness I wrote down Andrew’s birth when it was all still fresh in my mind. I can recall most of it, but there are still some details that I forget about until I re-read them in my pregnancy journal. This post comes straight from the pages of that journal. Here’s the story of Andrew’s birth!
It was Saturday, May 21 and I felt pretty normal that whole day. I was a little disappointed because it was two days before my due date and I felt like there weren’t any major signs that labor would begin soon. I was doing lots of things to naturally, gently induce labor because I was so ready to meet our baby (sitting on my birth ball, squats, moves to get him in a good position, walking, eating pineapple and spicy foods, acupressure with clary sage and rosemary essential oils). Earlier that day we walked up at the elementary school that’s right up the road from our house. It was really hot that day. That evening we picked up pizza and watched a Marvel movie. Little did we know that just a few hours later we would be in labor!
Around midnight I got up to pee. For some reason I felt like I should turn on the light and check to see if there was anything going on down there. Sure enough I saw the bloody show — or a piece of it. That was exciting! I felt like it was for sure an early sign of labor, so I went back to bed on high alert. Just 20-30 minutes later I had my first real contraction. It felt like a slow burn over my whole abdomen. I had to concentrate and breathe through it. It wasn’t too intense, but it was definitely a real contraction and not just a Braxton Hicks. I wasn’t sure when the next one would happen, but about five minutes later I had another one that felt the same as the first. I had five total contractions while laying in bed and just breathed through them. I felt like this was real labor, so I got out of bed and walked around the kitchen and dining room while breathing through each one.
A few days before, I created a cozy a little space in the dining room next to the big bay window to be my place to hang out while I worked through contractions. We rearranged the dining room so I had a space to put a soft rug down on the floor and I used the window seat to hold some things I’d use during labor. I hung out in this space and got down on my hands and knees for most of the contractions and took 10 slow breaths, closed my eyes and swayed back and forth. Almost every time, right around the eighth deep breath I felt the contraction subside.
After about an hour and 15 minutes of breathing through these very consistent contractions, I felt like it was time to wake up Daniel. I had been timing the contractions and the app showed that they were already about four minutes apart, which I felt like was really soon for them to be so close together! I had been told that most first time moms average around 18 hours for the first stage of labor, so I wasn’t expecting it to all be happening so quickly!
I went into the bedroom to wake up Daniel. I rubbed his back to wake him up slowly and calmly so I wouldn’t startle him. I told him I was pretty sure I was in labor and he was groggy for a few minutes as he woke up. He watched me breathe through contractions on my hands and knees on the ground next to him. He said as he watched me focus on the contractions and breathe through them that he could tell it was real labor. It was about 1:30 a.m. at this point.
We went back into the dining room and he started cleaning up, doing dishes, and walking around anxiously. He told me later he was trying to get things ready to go because he thought we would have all day to slowly prepare, but things were progressing fast. I remember being on the rug in my little area in the dining room and breathing through contractions and just wanting everything to be quiet. He asked me if I wanted him to call our doula. I felt like it was still too early to be having contractions this close together and I didn’t want him to call her too soon and have her waiting around if my contractions were to slow down or stall. However, we both felt like we should call her since I seemed to be progressing quickly. He called her and let her know what was going on. She agreed that it was still very early in the labor process and we likely had a while to go, so she was going to try to get some sleep before heading over. Daniel also called our midwife to let her know labor had started. I don’t think any of us realized how far along I was already! For those who don’t know, there’s really no need for supervision until active labor has begun, which I don’t think any of us thought I had reached already.
But about 30 minutes later I started vocalizing through contractions, so Daniel decided to call back both our doula and midwife to let them know I was likely in active labor. Our doula got to our house while I was having contractions in the bathroom. All modesty goes by the wayside when you’re in labor, folks. She suggested I labor in the shower for a while. The hot water felt nice, but there really wasn’t a great position for me to relax in there. I propped one leg up on the side of the tub and held onto the handle while I leaned over. My arm was so sore the next day from hanging from that arm.
Our midwife arrived at our house while I was in the shower. While she was getting things set up I began grunting involuntarily during my contractions. I remember saying that I was about to have a bowel movement and our doula said, “That could actually be your baby.” It was indeed a bowel movement, but it was also Andrew making his descent and putting tons of pressure on me down there. After that, I got back in the shower and kept having to grunt. I believe I was in transition at this point. Our midwife came into the bathroom and said that there likely wouldn’t be enough time to get the birth pool set up before our baby arrived. It would have taken a while to fill up the pool and get the water to the right temperature. Initially, my desire was to have a water birth, but this news was so encouraging to me! I had only been in labor for about four hours at this point, so I was thrilled thinking that our baby could be here soon!
I got out of the shower and had a contraction on the ground while leaning over the tub. Afterward I got up and they all helped me back to my little space in the dining room. They asked me where I wanted to go since we didn’t have the birth pool set up. I said I wanted to go to our bed. There, I tried a couple of different pushing positions — on hands and knees with my face buried in the pillow and then on my left side with Daniel holding one leg up in the air. I kept my eyes closed the entire time and just focused on what they were telling me to do. I was very vocal at this point. There was a lot of yelling happening. I’m sure it seemed like I was really struggling, but it was just my way of managing what I was feeling with each contraction. Our midwife advised me to redirect the energy I was using to yell out into the room to instead hold it in and bear down. This helped make a lot of progress.
I could tell when Andrew’s head started to appear because they all got really excited. Daniel said that pushes 3-5 during each contraction were the most productive for his head coming out. When each contraction ended I just lay there quietly with my eyes closed and recovered (thank the Lord for those restful moments during childbirth!). Each contraction slowly built up and I prepared myself mentally to make it through each one and to push when I felt ready. The best position for me was to lay slightly on my left side with my legs hiked up close to my torso. Daniel held one leg and our doula pushed my right foot toward me while I pushed so that I had something to work against.
The pushing stage lasted around two hours. Our midwife checked Andrew’s heart rate intermittently during this stage. She advised I be put on oxygen to help him out because his heart rate was lower than she liked. He was also working very hard! I remember reaching down a couple of times to touch the top of his head. I can only imagine what it looked like from their perspective to see his head emerge! It was encouraging to feel the top of his head, but I also wondered how much longer I had to go. While I never got to a point where I felt like I couldn’t do it, I was getting tuckered out. Little did I know I just had a bit more to go.
I had several more contractions. During the middle of pushing during the final contraction, our midwife said to pant and out came Andrew at 7:09 a.m. after just seven hours of labor! I remember the feeling of him coming out in one fluid motion! She put him on my chest immediately and cried right away, which was an answered prayer. It was all over and I felt relieved immediately. I remember staring down at Andrew and his eyes were wide open, probably just as shocked at what just happened!
I don’t remember crying or being overly emotional because I was wrapping my head around the fact that labor was over and I was done and our baby was here! I held him and stared at him and recovered mentally and physically from the pushing.
While I held him on my chest, our midwife and doula were tending to me down there because I was bleeding a lot. Daniel told me later it was pooling. I’m not sure why I hemorrhaged. I could tell they were concerned as they worked on me. They worked quickly and after two shots of Pitocin (one in each leg), some suppositories and starting an IV, the bleeding was under control. I could definitely tell I lost a lot of blood because my vision was a little spotty for a while afterward.
After that, we finally checked the gender. We almost forgot! We were still convinced it was a boy even though we waited to find out the gender, and we were right! Daniel looked and announced it. Our doula asked about his name and we said we were set on Andrew Shepherd.
Daniel was beaming by my side. They got me all cleaned up and we tried to get Andrew to latch for the first time. His latch wasn’t as good as it should have been. He wasn’t very eager at the breast, but we agreed to just keep trying. Our midwife then gave us a tour of my placenta, which was fascinating! It looked big and healthy.
After a while, our midwife helped me to the bathroom to take a short shower. I remember feeling pretty good for just having given birth, which I think is one major pro to a drug-free birth. Daniel had some skin on skin time with Andrew while I got cleaned up and the rest of the day was a blur. We rested in bed for most of the day and made more attempts at breastfeeding, but not much changed there. Andrew sucked two or three times at the breast and then he would fall asleep. We were able to hand express some colostrum for him to take in, but he didn’t act very interested in eating. He worked very hard during labor and he spent the rest of the day wrapped up in his swaddle in our arms.
I don’t remember much about that first night except not sleeping much and trying to get Andrew to breastfeed multiple times. Finally, we got some sleep from about 3:00-7:00 a.m. We were exhausted after having spent the whole night before laboring.
The next morning, our midwife and doula came back for his 24-hour check up, which is where I’ll share about Part II of Andrew’s birth — our NICU story.
Andrew’s birth was fast, empowering and a truly amazing experience. God designed our bodies so perfectly to be able to birth our babies. I’m so happy we were able to welcome him into the world in the comfort of our home ❤️
The second post in this pregnancy, birth and postpartum blog series: When things don’t go according to plan — Our NICU story.