Homebirth story, written by dad! (Part 1)
“I was following your Instagram and blog all throughout my pregnancy, and seeing all the beautiful, powerful women giving birth their way was extremely empowering and reassuring. Reassuring because some of my family was very unsupportive and skeptical towards my home birth plan.
Luckily my husband trusted me and my intuition and prepared for the birth of our child with me, he was truly amazing all the way through.
What I am sending you is his recollection of the birth, I wouldn't change anything but one thing: he refers to the surges as "agony" at one point and I cannot relate to that term. Oddly (or not?) enough I struggle with describing my contractions as painful or agonizing - yes, they were extremely strong and they took me to places I didn't know exist, but I cannot associate them with pain (and by this I don't mean not remembering the pain).
I haven't found the words to describe them yet - I would be interested to hear if any other Mom out there can relate.”
Here is our birth story:
"I woke very early Tuesday morning to the sound of my very pregnant wife, Fanni, pacing the dining room floor. “What’s up, baby?” I asked, groggily.
“It’s happening.” She replied.
Unsurprised but excited, I called into work and joined my wife on the couch in the pre-dawn stillness of our living room. Given the lighter nature of her contractions, we decided I’d try to get some more sleep before the marathon of intensity ahead of us.
This proved difficult, and I rolled around fitfully until Fanni roused me again an hour later. She informed me that her contractions had intensified and she’d called Christie, our primary midwife, who was on her way. So we waited in the living room as my wife rode out her short, powerful contractions minute-by-minute.
By the time Christie arrived, I was sure we were on our way to the shortest labor ever. I was wrong. After performing a cervical check and sensing very little dilation or thinning, Christie tempered our expectations, gracefully and gently informing us that we hadn’t really even started. “I think you are still very early on, and this can take a day or two; especially for first-time moms. Get some rest if you can, and even if this may seem outlandish, take a walk if you feel up to it, just to get out of the house for a little bit.”
“So, I’ve read that the contractions intensify as labor progresses, but is this not always true?” my wife asked, from between her gut-wrenching contractions.
“Ummm, no it’s generally true. They will get more intense, and once your body gets used to those, they will get more intense again, and this happens multiple times throughout the labor. It’s all normal. Try to get some rest, and call me again when the contractions are a minute long, and come within five minutes of each other.”
Though I couldn’t quite shake her casual delivery of the “day or two” statement, day-one was quite pleasant from there. Christie left again and we both laid down and took long naps.
Wow, I thought as I rose once more from my warm bed late in the morning, labor is really the way to go. Fanni’s contractions had slowed significantly, so we took a walk, played some cards, lounged around reading, and took the time to do things we don’t often have the time to do around home.
Sensing the impending demands of labor, I snacked heavily through the day: roaming around with popcorn, quesadillas, split peas and rice, chips and dried mangoes; all the while, my wife ate little.
Later in the afternoon we put on some Harry Potter, mostly to pass the time as the frequency of contractions increased.
It was an odd, attention-splitting dynamic – navigating the intensity of my wife’s contractions while Harry navigated the intensity of his life — rubbing Fanni’s back through the Dark Lord’s attempted invasion of Harry’s mind; demonstrating my absolute presence to her pain while transfixed to the computer screen as Dumbledore and Voldermort locked wands.
I kept one eye on the time, and as Harry and Co. fought back the Dark Wizards from the Ministry, the contractions had come down to 4 ½ minutes apart, at a length of 1 minute, 6 seconds each. We decided to call Christie after the movie.
It was a bit strange to experience these early labor stages from the comfort of our own living room, with Harry Potter dictating our timing decisions, but I couldn’t have imagined our experience from a hospital room, nor did I care to. We called Christie back and she arrived an hour later, finding Fanni on all fours on the bed, moaning while I rubbed her back intensively. I was certain that we were well on our way by now.
Then followed another cervical exam, and gracefully-delivered reality dose.
“Wow, you’ve really made some progress! You are at about 2 ½ centimeters now. Honestly, this morning you weren’t even technically in labor yet, so you’ve come a long way. This is all natural…” Given the seeming frequency and intensity of Fanni’s contractions, I’d been expecting much more progress, but tried not to let my disappointment show as the “day or two” statement rang through my head once more. It was about 5:30 pm by this point, and Christie was with us for the long haul.
From here on, the nature of time changed as our attentions drew un-shakably inward: into the world of our small house, and the small woman giving birth within. We set up the birthing pool in the living room, and Fanni roamed and contracted, inside and outside of the pool, as the day turned into night. All throughout, Christie delivered subtle little hints that there was time yet to go. “We can check the cervix again if you want to, but we don’t have to yet I don’t think… I’m going to call in Ariel, one of the other ladies who helps us out, so she can check on the baby while I rest for a few hours. I think there’s some unfolding left to do…”
Third cervical exam, hours later. “Oh, you’re over 4 centimeters now, so that’s really good! You’re making slow, and really steady progress, which is totally normal…”
Every so often, Christie lubed up the doppler and held it to Fanni’s bulging stomach, checking the baby’s heart rate. At every check, it was strong and steady, and we shared a smile of joy and relief.
Hours passed, Ariel arrived, Christie napped, and I sat on the couch next to the birthing pool, holding my wife’s hands through every intensifying contraction, meeting her eyes and repeating a small series of mantras as she worked through the uprising within. “Flow… Flooooooow…. This is what your body was meant to do; you’ve got this. Floooowwwww….
“Open… Ooopppeennn… Open…. Just breathe with it; you know exactly what you need to do…”
Clenching my hands in a death grip, she leaned back more intensely against me with each passing contraction. In these moments, her eyes locked unwaveringly on mine and I navigated the inner landscape of her agony, traversing the map of her face as the pain overtook her. I knew could not falter; could not display the smallest indication of doubt or unsteadiness.
Another baby check. Strong, steady heart rate. Shared smile. Contraction.
The night bore on, and this did not stop. At some point I found myself dozing on the edge of the pool between contractions. We moved to the bed, and I dozed mid-contraction as I rubbed her back through intensifying bursts of agony. “Keep rubbing!” I’d wake up and rub some more, falling asleep again before the contraction had ended.
At some point I woke, clothed and in bed, and it was morning. I entered the living room. Ariel was napping now; Christie worked on her papers at the kitchen table, and Fanni spanned the rest of the space: powerful and mammalian. As we’d slowed, tired and disappeared in turn, Fanni had embodied a deeper source of strength, and her journey now spanned from this world to another. There was no reaching her now, and she traveled on alone with the manifested power of her matriarchal ancestors. She roamed the kitchen floor slowly and methodically: swaying, rocking and stamping rhythmically; moaning to the beat of an otherworldly rhythm, undeniably powerful and true.
She squatted and swayed as the fever rose again; face concertedly focused through the earth-rattling contractions overtaking her body after every shortening break.
She remained here for a seeming forever, as the day advanced around us, well outside the bounds of our comprehension or care.
She continued ceaselessly. Another cervical exam revealed 8 centimeters dilated…back to the pool, the moans intensified as she fought back the urge to begin pushing…
(Part two will be released on Thursday, stay tuned).
Beautiful home-birth story from Fanni.