The most unpredictable predictable birth
*Today's birth story was written by Mary, mom of Olivia, Leah, Will and Jacob. Shout out to her husband Dean for catching baby, to doula Tara for her unwavering support, and most importantly to Mary for what proved to be amazing strength throughout a challenging prodromal labor and unpredictable birth. Mary said all along that she and Dean just "knew" that he would be catching their babe. Read on for her full account of their baby girl's homebirth adventure.
"I think I’ve experienced it all. Baby 1, emergency C Section. Baby 2, unmedicated hospital VBAC. Baby 3 HBAC. Baby 4 unassisted (sort of) HBAC.
Here is Olivia’s birth story:
Monday from about 1 am to 5 am I was mildly laboring on my own in my room waking for a contraction every 7-12 min, but easily resting and falling asleep between each one. By morning the contractions mostly stopped. I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant.
Monday afternoon I was starting to think when things settled down in the evening and the three big kids are in bed I’ll probably go into active labor based on how I had been feeling all day. And Dean and I had a hunch this whole time that whenever active labor begun we would have little time, so we alerted our birth team. But they all reminded us to just wait and see what happened because I might actually get some rest after how tired I was from the contractions that were waking me in the wee early morning.
Based on my discomfort between contractions that evening I had my Doula, Tara, come over with the mission to help me progress things. It was obvious by the timing and intensity I wasn’t in active labor, yet I was still pretty miserable and did not want another sleepless night with no baby as the end result. We took a walk, did spinning babies techniques, and then things kind of fizzled out. If the baby was ready things should have been ramping up but instead I was in bed sleeping between contractions so Tara headed home.
Before Tara was even out of our neighborhood though I woke up to an intense contraction and told my Mom and Dean I think things are ramping up! There was a pattern where it seemed to me every time I slept I progressed. So after a few hours of feeling the intensity increase and once again not finding rest between contractions we called Kristin our midwife to come, and Tara to come back a second time. It wasn’t ideal how spread out my contractions were but the intensity was where I thought it should be just hours before delivering. I think they all arrived around 1:00 am Tues morning. From 1:00 to 4:30 I was feeling extreme guilt as it seemed all intensity and consistency was lost. I couldn’t handle the anxiety of so many people being there for me to be in active labor and suddenly it was obvious to us all that I was not progressing. Contractions were losing intensity and spreading out despite Tara’s best efforts to get me to do everything possible to progress! I could tell the baby’s head was stuck above my public bone (even after lots of Chiro visits) and was starting to wonder if that was the hold up. Tara and I did lots of lift and tucks along with other techniques to get her to move her head behind the bone to engage. I got so tired though I requested I rest in bed between contractions and because at that point I was convinced that was the way my body progressed labor these past two days.
Mikkel, the student midwife, kept taking my vitals and checking the baby’s heart rate frequently. The last time she came in my bedroom I knew we were all thinking the same thing. She asked about the intensity and I admitted these were much more tolerable contractions than from before everyone got here. Kristin, my midwife, checked my cervix, and gave me the most shocking news: my cervix was closed. This was such a disappointment and so confusing. Dean and my Mom were asleep and woke 3 hours later to a shockingly empty house, no birth team, no baby.
I cannot even explain the disappointment I had in the mistiming of this. 5 people drove great distances in the night to help a baby be born, and I just found out I’m not really in labor.
Once again when everyone left I was still awake, alone, feeling labor pains. It was so confusing. If I wasn’t really in active labor why wouldn’t these contractions stop coming?! Tuesday morning after catching up Dean and my Mom on the diagnosis I was still unable to rest. Trying my mightiest to sleep and stop these contractions so I can just have a break until “real labor” was going to start in a a day or two...or a week! I just kept complaining to Dean and my Mom of the shockingly intense “false labor” I was having, and how insanely tired I was of it all. All morning after the kids went to school we were trying to figure out why contractions wouldn’t calm down. Did I have a stomach bug, what was wrong with me? Tara was sending me every idea she had to either get rest or get baby into position to ramp things up.
By mid morning I was begging to go to the hospital, I was tired and in pain and needed a break since it sounded like the baby would not come today. I got in the pool - too intense, sat on the toilet a lot, made up all kinds of positions all over the house to try to endure these “fake contractions” I kept calling them. Because according to all basic birth knowledge these are just too far apart to be real cervical changing contractions. Then I had this crazy long contraction that made me want to jump out of my skin. I could not get it to stop. No one was timing it but my guess is it was 2-3 min long based on the amount of time spent on the toilet searching for a comfortable position and getting into my bathtub trying to make it through this horrible feeling. Hindsight I think this strong contraction pushed her head off my Pubic bone finally! But I had convinced myself I was not in labor yet so instead I must be seriously sick or dying! I’ve never been so vocally in pain in my life. I’m pretty sure my neighbor heard me!
The next contraction came quick so Dean started making the calls to My Doula, my Chiropractor, and my Midwife. We were seriously still unsure if the baby was coming but needed everyone to come help me, whatever this was I couldn’t handle it by myself. I did something I’m not normally comfortable doing but I reached up to check my own cervix. I reached not very far before feeling her head! I thought, did I seriously just go from not dilated to fully dilated in one contraction? If I’m feeling the baby’s head we are too late. It’s just Dean, my Mom, and Me. On the other hand at that moment I could care less that this is going to be unassisted, because the relief that this will be over in just minutes is too great (plus I’m married to a Firefighter Paramedic). I don’t think it took more than one or two pushing contractions and she was crowning. Dean was doing an amazing job having Kristin on speaker phone and getting his hands in there to assist the baby’s exit. My Mom was also very busy letting me squeeze her hand and helping me adjust positions between each push to search for some relief from the intensity. I’d go back and forth between squatting in the tub and laying on my side with one leg way up. This is exactly how I delivered Leah 5.5 yrs ago: not in the location of the house we planned, but our tiny little bath tub in the corner of our bathroom where I was finding a semblance of relief in the warm water, and got surprised with a pushing contraction.
Olivia’s emergence was pretty perfect. Her head delivered a little fast and her shoulders very easy. Dean brought her out of the water and to all of our relief she was crying instantly! It was so apparent that she was perfectly healthy and we would have nothing to worry about waiting on Kristin to arrive. I have never felt so relieved to meet someone in my life. It felt so good to hold her and let Dean and my Mom figure out everything else while on speaker with Kristin. I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I can just lay here with this beautiful perfect baby and help is on the way to take care of us.
She was born about 7 hours after our birth team left, at 12:36 pm on Tuesday 3/30/21. Active labor was maybe 1 to 4 hours long, we just didn’t know that’s what was happening and at what point things changed because contractions were spaced 10-15 min apart up until 10 minutes before pushing. This was apparently not textbook!"
Thank you Mary for sharing your story and inspiring the heck out of us! Congratulations to your entire beautiful family as you welcome baby Olivia into the world.
With love from the entire
Mindful Birth Doulas team