It was about this time (8:40pm) three years ago that my water broke all over my bed. I was watching an episode of The Wire with Mark. R was hanging out with her aunt in the other room watching a movie on the laptop and playing with the new fairy sticker book Mark had bought her just for this very day. It was L’s due date and I’d been having some mild contractions throughout the early evening. I’d called my sister and Mark before their work day ended to let them know, that despite the odds (of having a baby on their estimated due date) it seemed like I was about to go into early labour.
My sister came by and Mark came home with fresh fruit and fruit juices as per my request. I gave my midwife the heads up but she didn’t seem overly committed – given that my labour with R had been 36 hours, there was no rush especially considering I didn’t feel like I was in labour. I played with R, I puttered, I ate dinner, I showered, I settled in for a night of TV on DVD watching and warm kisses with Mark. And then I was hit with a pretty big contraction and started to climb off the bed to work through it and my water broke all over the bed. The bed I had not yet made up with the double layers of bed sheets and plastic sheets for our planned home birth. We paged Chris our midwife again and she said she’d head over to see where things were. Mark filled the birthing tub and I drank some juice, talked to R to let her know we were definitely having the baby soon and climbed into the tub.
Getting into the birthing tub was such a blissful experience for me. During my labour with R, we didn’t have one and the only place I’d found any relief or comfort had been in the shower but that had still not been great. Climbing into a pool of warm water provided me with a cocoon of heat and safety. I genuinely felt like I’d managed to carve out a safe and private space for my labour. The birth pool was set up in our living room, there were two soft lit lamps on, a music mix playing on low on my iPod, and not a clock in sight. (I had unconsciously created an environment the exact opposite of my labour with R.) R came running through the house to pour some water on me, rub my back, and then ran back to hang out with her aunt. Her aunt who wanted to stay as far away as possible from the whole “birth thing” as she put it. Being present for someone else’s labour is clearly not for everyone but my sister is the best aunt one could ask for and it was very generous of her to be there given her feelings on my nudity, blood etc.
My midwife and her student arrived shortly and set up all of their things and wanted to check me. I reluctantly got out of the tub and let them do so, asking spontaneously that they not tell me how far along I was. R came back to the living room where we’d covered our couches and floor with old but clean sheets and towels, and fed me ice chips. After dealing with my midwife and the student being horrified we didn’t have a pile of postpartum supplies in a special box (I swear they were obsessed over the fact I didn’t have 8 receiving blankets and a baby hat in the living room but still in the closet about 12feet away- our old place being small.) I climbed back into the birth tub and moaned “open” out loud, rocking in the water on all fours for what can only be described as bum labour. With R, I had twisting cramping, rolling never fully ending contractions. But this time, everything was happening in behind and it was actually something I could cope with, work through, and quite honestly, wasn’t too bothered about. Mark poured warm water on my back, wiped a cool cloth on face, fed me juice and ice chips. He was an incredible birth partner. I don’t know how he managed to do all of that in a way that made it seem like it was happening simultaneously and in exactly the way I needed it to.
Just before 10pm Chris asked me to come out of the pool so she could check me again. She wanted to know if it would be okay for the student to check afterwards. I didn’t want to get out of the tub but if I had to, I didn’t mind the student checking as well. So I lay down on the couch, Chris told me I was at around 8cm and then I got hit with a wave of contractions and I told her and the student to get out of my way and that I needed to stand up to work through them. It seemed so much harder and faster. I started to panic. I was standing and Mark was holding me, and the student was encouraging me to climb back into the birthing tub because I was screaming that I thought I had to go to the bathroom, and that I didn’t know what was going on and R was in the room and started to cry so my sister took her away. And then I felt a burning sensation. I put my hand between my legs and much to my surprise…I felt a head! I had gone from “about 8cm” to baby crowning in the time it took me to stand up and take a few steps. The panic and screaming had only been about 90 seconds long as I went through transition. I really wish my midwife had explained this to me; however she wasn’t in the room and it happened insanely fast. Knowing this, being able to explain it to myself, helped me focus. I was flooded with relief and everything became crystal clear. “Mark! That’s her head! That’s our baby’s head!” I said excitedly. I happily (yes, happily!) called for R to come back, promising her that I was okay, that our mini monkey two was coming right now. Meanwhile, baby’s head was descending rapidly, my midwife was across the room still on the phone with the backup whom she had been telling I was at 8cm not that I was actually giving birth! I now had two hands on the head and was laughing from the very pleasant sensations of birthing. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to call it an orgasmic birth; but it was tickling! R was watching from the arms of my sister, both wide-eyed, for different reasons. Mark was holding me as I stood. Encouraging me and later he would admit to thinking he was going to have to drop fast to catch our baby because he didn’t think Chris was going to walk over to us in time. But she did and knelt in front of us and said seriously and rapidly that I was going to have to do some movement as the shoulders were sticky. “Ok! What do you need me to do?” I asked and in an instant I had one leg propped on the couch and out came baby L. I honestly don’t think Chris thought I’d be able to move that fast into such a position. I went from 8cm at 10pm to holding my baby at 10:08pm.
I sat down on the couch as our baby was placed on me. They couldn’t actually bring our baby all the way up to my breast because the cord was so short. R was right beside me at this point and as she had wanted, she got to tell me that the baby was a girl. Mark told me that R just kept checking on me and when he asked what she was doing she said “Waiting to see the placenta come out too.” Eventually it did and it took a while – they had to remind me to focus on pushing and massaged my uterus too. But I was so enthralled with our new baby, I didn’t pay too much attention. I did see the placenta which we kept in and actually not only froze but moved with us to our new place for burial.
Mark dressed little L in the clothes R had picked out for her. We had a shot of bourbon. We impatiently waited in bed, where we’d relocated after my shower, for the midwives to leave. It seemed to take forever when all we wanted to do was lock the door and go to sleep. R climbed into bed beside L despite the fact that her own bed was actually attached to our bed, she wouldn’t leave her baby sister. And in the morning when she woke up and found that Mark had moved her, she climbed right back over him and put her arm protectively, lovingly, and gently around little L and it has pretty much been there ever since either literally or figuratively – and I hope it’s always there.
While I truly believe any birth that results in a wonderful new addition to the family is the perfect birth; I will admit that little L’s birth was about as midwifery home birth perfect as one could hope for.