People think a home birth is crazy. “Weren’t you worried about the pain?” “But what about an epidural?” “I could never do that!” But I promise you, it had nothing to do with how strong I am. (Which is not very.) I was lucky to have an uncomplicated labor and an amazing birth team.
Here’s baby Amata’s birth story.
It was a Monday. I was 5 days past my LMP due date and 1 day past my ovulation due date. I was grumpy, exhausted, sick of being pregnant and also kind of terrified of having a baby. Kyle took the day off work and I was finishing up a freelance project, (Because why not take on a job when you’re 39 weeks pregnant?) We went to the bakery to get out of the house and send some files over faster internet. (I live in New York Freaking City and still have internet through a phone line because my building isn’t “optimized”. Anyways.) It was a warm, sunny November day. We walked and walked and walked. I enjoyed some sweet treats and (decaf) coffee. I think I sort of knew in my gut that this would be the last day that it was just Kyle and I.
Later that night, we blew up the birth pool. I didn’t tell a soul, not even Kyle, but I could tell early labor would commence soon. I was getting more crampy as the night went on. We crawled into bed, Kyle grumbled about how he hoped we would have a baby by now but if he had to go into work the next day, he would do so with a good attitude. I secretly thought to myself, “You aren’t going anywhere tomorrow.” But I didn’t want to set any expectations so I quietly cuddled next to him saying everything would be ok and baby girl will come when she’s good and ready.
I woke up around 2AM with contractions. Now that I know the real deal, I know how minuscule these contractions were. But at the time, I was like “Okay here we go, this is it. Let’s start this marathon.” I was using the yoga ball and moaning through the contractions. We called the midwife who was quick to say, “Woah woah woah, Go take a warm bath, drink a glass of wine, we need to stall labor as much as possible and you need to get as much rest as you can. Go back to sleep. Don’t waste your energy mustering through these small contractions because you need to save it for later.”
So I did. I took a warm bath (which helped a lot a lot.) And I went back to sleep, waking up every 30 minutes or so for a contraction. I finally woke up around 10am and this time I couldn’t go back to sleep. We called the midwife again, Kyle attempting to soothe me and also time the contractions. Karen asked, “How far apart are they and how long?” Kyle (whose strong suit isn’t exactly time keeping) sputtered “Uh, 7 minutes. And they last like 5 minutes. Or like, they’re 5 minutes apart but last 2 minutes. Well actually I’m not really sure.” To his defense, it’s probably stressful as the husband watching me go through this and look at a clock. Karen curtly replied, “Put her on the phone.”
She asked me how I was doing. I can’t really remember exactly what I said, but it was probably some grunts that I hoped translated to, “I think I’ve transitioned and I’m ready to have a baby.” Once a woman has transitioned, and I can attest to this, you get super focused on one thing and one thing only. Getting through the contractions. You don’t care for chit chat, you get completely zoned into your body, your baby, and your self. It’s so frequent that when we’re doing one thing, we’re always thinking about 4 other things we need to do. In labor I knew there was only one thing in the world I needed to be doing right now and that was having a baby.
I had two contractions within a few minutes of each other on the phone and she knew this meant it was time. She told Kyle to fill the birth pool and get the doula on her way. Naturally, I wouldn’t let Kyle leave my side for a moment. The doula was stuck in train traffic and said she was doing her best, but running a little late.
I always thought I’d be swearing and cursing and screaming in labor. But in actuality, I was just super focused. I was very economical about my energy and knew I needed every ounce to get through each contraction. I don’t even know if I said f*%&# once. Kind of an achievement, actually. The only words I used energy for was “No.” Kyle kept trying give me gatorade to which I often would say, “No.” Kyle kept trying to massage and rub me to which I would abruptly say, “No.” There was one point where he had this wet washcloth on my head and I said “No” at least 6 times, but he must not have heard me because he kept it right there on my forehead. Finally I realized I would have to speak in sentences. “What is this thing?!” I exclaimed. “Get it off of me!!” Poor Kyle. He was just trying to help.
We alternated from the shower (which felt amazing for my posterior labor) to the bed to the yoga ball for a while until the doula arrived and we were finally able to try to fill the pool. Kyle yelled from the kitchen, “I think I broke the sink!” I wasn’t having any of that. I think I just muttered, “No.” Even though we had done a dry run and tested the hose to make sure it hooked up days before, Kyle couldn’t get it to work. He tells me he ripped the faucet part out and shoved the hose up in there, but I’ll never really know what happened during Amata’s birth to the sink.
At some point (I can’t really remember when) the midwife and midwife assistant arrived. Here I was buck naked, they walked in with all their bags and gear and I weakly raised my hand as if to say, “Hi, this all the energy I can use on this”.
The pool was nice. Very nice. I kept begging Kyle to make it hotter (I’ve always had a fondness of hot hot tubs. I mean borderline boiling water, here.) And Karen kept ordering him to make it cooler (I’m assuming for safety of baby. But I just wanted a damn hot spring in my apartment, okay?) I reached this oddly blissful point in the pool. I thought, “This really isn’t so bad. If this is labor, then I can do this.” This had to be hormones talking. No sane person thinks this.
And then it happened, I had the urge to push. And pushing was AWFUL. I was like, “Dear heavens, let’s go back to contractions. All I had to do was get through those. Now I have *do* something?!?” The doppler wasn’t working as well as the midwife wanted for the pool so she encouraged me to get out of the pool. Which at the time seemed like someone taking away the one good thing I had going for me in life. This must have been around 2pm.
Karen kept pressuring me to get 4 pushes at each contraction. In typical Cassie fashion (I’ve always been the tortoise in the tortoise and the hare story) I stubbornly chose to do 3. But I hit a point where I looked despairingly at my midwife and cried, “How much longer? I can’t do this anymore.” Karen replied, “You have to push. It’s the only way out now. You can push in a cab, you can push at a hospital, you can push here in your bedroom, but this baby is only coming if you push her out.” I remember whimpering a little to myself, thinking that this was just a cruel joke and God was definitely a man. A woman God would not wish this on anyone.
My midwife told me that on the next contraction I could reach up there and feel her head. So I tried. She looked at me encouragingly, “Did you feel her? She’s right there!” I declared that there was no baby. I had legitimately convinced myself that the past 12 hours of labor were for nothing and there was, in fact, no baby. I repeat, hormones make you think crazy thoughts.
Eventually, through a myriad of positions, little Baby Amata turned herself (from posterior to anterior). But since I was still stubbornly only doing 2 or 3 pushes a contraction I could only get her head out. So there was a full oh, I don’t know, 2 or 3 minutes in between final contractions where her little baby head was out to see the world but the rest of her body, not.
But then I got the rest of her out and she pooped and peed and cried real tears all over me and I didn’t even care. My first thought was, “That was f*&#@ing crazy. I need some chicken broth and like 12 hours of sleep.” Then I was like, “Wait that’s what was inside me??”
The birth team quietly stepped out of the room, and gave us some alone time with our newly formed family. They cleaned up the apartment, I got my chicken broth, and then the midwife assistant hosed me down in the shower so I could feel (relatively) clean. They made sure baby Amata (who was yet to be named) was latching ok. I would later find out that while her latch was ok, her suck was not. But that’s a whole other story.
Even though Kyle and I had picked out a handful of names – it still took us 5 days to sign the birth certificate. We just couldn’t decide! Those first days were such a whirlwind. The transition from pregnancy to parenthood was a shocking one. And while I wouldn’t change a thing, I think when/if I do it again, I’ll know to cherish the moments more because when they’re gone, they’re gone.
Mamahood is unimaginably demanding, totally overwhelming, and I can’t tell you how many times a day I ask myself, “How is it that the most common job in the world is *this* difficult?” Nothing, and absolutely nothing, prepares you for it. But then again, this must be why babies are so darn cute.