With our usual work complete, and no plans for the weekend, my husband, Ravi, and I slept in on Saturday morning, October 8th, not knowing it would be our last opportunity for such a wonderful luxury. That afternoon after a walk in town, a few minutes into lunch I said to Ravi, “I think we should start timing these. They feel different.” I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for 2-3 months, but these did feel different.
Ravi paused mid-bite and said, “Really?” He downloaded a contraction timer on his phone and for the next several hours I had light contractions every 10 minutes or so. I knew this could last for days, so I tried not to get too excited. But as they continued into the evening hours, I decided to call my mom to let her know that I was having early labor contractions and that I may call her again in the middle of the night to start the candle-lighting phone tree. She and six girlfriends attended my Blessing Way a couple of weeks before and were going to light candles at the beginning of my labor to keep us in their thoughts and send positive labor energy. That evening I strung the prayer flags they created at the Blessing Way and hung them on our beam in our living room, and Ravi started setting up the birth tub. Just in case.
That night I kept timing the contractions. They were about 6-10 minutes apart. I was able to sleep between them so I wasn’t too tired the next day, my birthday. We got up and went out to breakfast and gladly sat at a corner table. I had some French toast, fruit, and a few intense contractions for breakfast that morning! After, we decided to go for a walk on a nearby hiking trail.
We’d never been before and as we got deeper and deeper into the woods, I wondered if this was such a good idea. Contractions were now about 4-5 minutes apart, but not that intense. We made it to the river, took a few photos, and headed back. On the way, Ravi convinced me to call the midwives. Robin, my primary midwife, said that it sounded like we were doing great, confirmed that I was in labor, and to call her once my water breaks or contractions become more intense.
Wow. We couldn’t believe we were going to have this baby soon. Was my baby going to have to share a birthday with his or her mom? Though it could be neat, I hoped not, because I wanted our baby to have his or her own special day.
On the way home we stopped at the market to stock up on groceries. I got a call from my close friend, Leigh, who said, “Happy Birthday! Are you in labor?” I replied, “Well actually I am!” I thought she knew after reading an email I sent the day before, but she was actually jokingly asking and got very excited when she realized I was serious! She and her family were with my brother and his family and offered to come down to wish me a happy birthday and distract me.
It was such a beautiful, record-setting warm (near 80 degrees!) day that I welcomed the distraction and opportunity to enjoy the weather some more. Contractions slowed down a bit after that phone call, which was a little discouraging. They got here an hour later, I had some moussaka we made the day before for lunch (which I would later regret), and we went outside to the garden and picnic table. Contractions soon picked up to every 4-5 minutes again and were a bit more intense. My brother looked at me as I was breathing through one and said, “I think you need to call the midwives. Right now. How far away are they?” I agreed that the contractions were getting more intense so I went inside and called Robin again. She said that she’d call the other midwives to let them know so they could start to get ready, and suggested I call again if anything changes or gets more intense.
Ravi and I weren’t sure what “more intense” really meant, but we agreed to give it some more time. A half hour or so later I had a granola bar and promptly threw it up. We both agreed that’s what “more intense” meant and called again. The midwives were on their way.
It was around 4:45pm, Sunday, October 9th and the midwives arrived. They checked my blood pressure, temperature, and baby’s heartbeat. All looked good. I was having a hard time talking through the contractions, but was perfectly fine in between. As I sat on the exercise ball Ravi and I told stories about each of the photos on our photo wall, stopping to breathe through contractions as they came. We rented “Due Date” from the Red Box that afternoon, following the suggestion to watch a funny movie during early labor. I was technically in “active labor” at that point, but I’m glad we had it to put on so the midwives could have something to do.
I tried watching it at first, but quickly became distracted by my contracting uterus! Ravi, on the other hand, was distracted by the movie, turning to look over his shoulder at the TV, and NOT in my eyes when I needed him! I decided it was time to head upstairs for a quieter, less distracting environment.
Labor was definitely getting more intense, with more breathing necessary, and some more vomiting (Ravi’s sink was the closest one. Sorry honey!). The midwives came up to check baby’s heartbeat again, and suggested we go outside for a walk. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but knew it would help progress the labor. Thankfully none of our neighbors came to get their mail at the mailboxes when I was violently vomiting in the trash can around the corner! Ugh. At least that meant things were moving right along, and my hormones were doing their job.
We kept walking around our driveway for a few more contractions before I insisted we head back inside. Ravi and the midwives started filling the birth tub. I had no idea how long it took, but I knew it took a couple of rounds since our hot water heater is only so big. This is also when things start to get a bit blurry. Probably around 9 or 10pm I asked if the tub was ready. I knew it could slow the labor down, but I just needed a little relief. The midwives said I could get in any time and it was wonderful! I certainly still felt the contractions but they were a bit more bearable.
Awhile later, as the contractions got stronger, I asked for some guidance. Robin came right over and looked me in the eyes and talked me through the next ones. I stayed in the tub for a couple of hours while Ravi and the midwives all took turns feeding me, giving me water or Recharge, and taking naps. I got up to use the bathroom and immediately felt the difference in gravity on my contractions. I tried to stay out for awhile to continue to progress the labor, but eventually got back in the tub and thoroughly enjoyed the warmth and lighter feeling.
Lights were off, candles were lit, and Ravi had flute music playing that a friend had loaned us. It was very quiet and very peaceful. I was able to sleep in between the contractions, which I think is what got me through the labor. I would wake up to a contraction and start saying “oooohhhhhhh” throughout the 60 seconds or so. Deirdre suggested I say “Oooopen and soften, ooopen and soften.” This worked well for me up until the end when I groaned, “F*&% open and soften!” My one drama moment.
Somewhere around 2:30 or 3:00am, I felt a different sensation of pressure on my bottom. I quietly said to Deirdre, “I think my body is starting to push.”
She said, “Okay. Have a few contractions like that and then I’ll check you.” I did; with each contraction and pushing sensation feeling a bit more intense. She checked my cervix and said that the baby was right where he or she needed to be, but that my cervix still had some dilating to do on one side. She suggested I get on my hands and knees. I did. The new position was hard at first, but being in the water still made it comfortable. My whole body was tired so any help in making my body feel more light was welcome!
Not long after I changed positions my water finally (and forcefully) broke. Experiencing this in the tub was pretty neat since I could actually see the gush of amniotic fluid in the water. This was another reason I was glad to be at home: my amniotic sac broke on its own, when it was ready.
Ravi joined me in the tub, rubbed my back, and encouraged me through the next contractions. Since my cervix wasn’t quite ready, Deirdre said, “Don’t fight it when your body pushes, but don’t add to it either, okay?” This was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was amazing how my body just took over and contracted this baby down. It was incredibly hard not to add to it. My body pushed. I grunted. Deirdre said, “Whenever you feel the pushing, breathe out like this…” and proceeded to make horse lip sounds. For the next half hour I got through each contraction like this:
Looking back, this must have been pretty amusing. But it helped! Deirdre checked my cervix again, said I was fully dilated, and gave me the go-ahead to help my body push my baby down. I was exhausted and it was painful, so I really didn’t want to! The forceful feeling in my abdomen was too close to the earlier experiences of vomiting which were mighty unpleasant. Thankfully the contractions were still a few minutes apart (I think), and I used every second of those breaks to rest. I pushed when my body pushed and not a second more. Time seemed to pass so slowly.
Despite what the midwives and Ravi were telling me, I didn’t believe I was making much progress. I started to doubt if I could do it or not. I didn’t feel the strength I felt like I needed. At one point I looked at one of the midwives in the eyes and said, “I think I need you to help me.” What I meant was, ‘Can you just come and get the baby?’
Robin said, “Think of all the women before you who have done this. Think of all the women who have a candle lit for you right now and are sending you strength.” Amazing. I thought of those women and I looked at the prayer flag Leigh created that said “I am strong. I can do this.” What an amazing affirmation. I knew I could do it, I just wasn’t sure how.
The midwives continued to monitor his heartbeat during each contraction throughout this pushing phase and I kept helping my body push with all my strength. I remember feeling the pressure of Ravi’s hand on my lower back as if he was trying to help me push the baby out. It irritated me so I made him move his hand. (He later told me that he could tell the baby’s head was coming out and since I was squatting he was afraid I was going to sit on his head!). When Bode’s head finally came out at 5:34am, I yelled, “Get him! Take him!” I just wanted him out!
Deirdre reached down, grabbed him, and put him up onto my chest. I held my baby in my arms. I repeated over and over, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.” I was so relieved and so amazed to be holding my gorgeous (and loud!) baby in my arms. I could feel Ravi weeping behind me and I realized we still didn’t know if this was a boy or a girl. I looked between my baby’s legs and low and behold, “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!” Ravi sobbed and I sighed with joy.
Five to ten minutes later another contraction expelled my placenta. Ravi got out of the tub and
the midwives handed him our son, still attached to his cord and placenta (wrapped in a chux pad). The midwives helped me out of the tub and over to our couch (covered in chux pads). I was in a lot of pain after pushing out our 6lb 15oz boy (so glad he wasn’t any bigger!), but luckily didn’t have any tears that needed repairing. (The labial tears, however, would prove to be very uncomfortable for weeks to come.)
The next hours were filled with the midwives fixing us breakfast, including a placenta smoothie (you read that right), examining Bode (perfectly healthy!), and teaching me how to care for my postpartum self (Hello peri bottle. Nice to meet you!). They tucked us into bed, Bode skin-to-skin on my chest, and encouraged us to sleep during this restful stretch. They advised having no visitors for at least this first day, but I knew it’d be pretty hard to keep my family away that day.
They put a sign on the door with Bode’s info, and instructions for visitors to keep visits to no more than 15 minutes and to help out by doing the dishes, laundry, or any other helpful task while visiting. It was an intimidating sign, but appropriate. We woke up a couple of hours later to Deirdre taking photos of our new family’s first nap together. She was back with a preservative-free Vitamin K injection which she administered to Bode quickly and easily. Robin returned the next day to check on both Bode and I and to fill out the birth certificate information.
We had always pictured spelling his name “B-o-d-e” but were having doubts. Should we spell it “Bodie” or “Bodhi”? She asked us to think about it and call her when we were 100% sure. She came again on Day 3 to collect blood from his heel to send out for the state metabolic screen and to fill out the birth certificate info. By that point we had decided on “Bode”. She or Deirdre came again at 1 week and 3 weeks. At 6 weeks the three of us went to their office for our final visit.
We couldn’t believe our journey with them had come to an end. It seemed like it had just started. Despite the anxieties and doubts that went along with this decision to have our baby at home, I am so glad we stuck with it. It was amazing and just what I had hoped. I feel so lucky to have had such a healthy pregnancy and birth experience. Now let our journey with our Bode boy continue!
Kara Kaikini, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
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