Birth is unpredictable. I now know this is true.
My daughter was born on November 26, 2020, Thanksgiving Day, at 40.2 weeks. My labor actually started a few days before that when my Doula arrived. Let me explain. My sister is a Doula and lives 6 hours away in Charlotte, NC. She is also currently in nursing school. Leading up to her arrival, we were talking daily about when she should come up to DC, what I was feeling, trying to make the right call so we could avoid her having to drive 6 hours through the night to possibly miss the birth. The Monday before Thanksgiving, we decided that after a test she had to take that morning, she would head up and stay through Thanksgiving. She arrived Monday night and sure enough on Tuesday, I started to feel some period cramps. They were mild but definitely signaled that something was happening.
Later that night around 1am I started to be able to time contractions, 15 minutes apart for a few hours and then 10 minutes apart for a few more. My partner Chris suggested we text our midwife, Story, in the morning to let her know. She was happy to hear it and said my goal for that day (Wednesday) was to rest, hydrate, and eat nourishing food. My sister made us breakfast and I tried to have a somewhat normal day. I lost my mucus plug around 9:30 am and early labor continued for the rest of the day. I laid down for naps multiple times and did my best to conserve my energy. By the evening the contractions were more intense but also the feeling had moved almost completely to my back. I had a feeling that maybe the baby’s position had shifted because of the back pain. We checked in with Story again to see if she had some tips about the back pain and she suggested trying some spinning babies exercises to ensure the baby was in the optimal position. My sister and partner took turns helping me with exercises. Story assured me that these shifts tend to work themselves out and again my goal for the evening was to try and rest and hydrate. She suggested I take a Benadryl to help me sleep; so I did.
Around 3:30 am on Thanksgiving morning the contractions came back strong and over the next hour, I timed them 4 minutes apart. I woke Chris up at 4:30 am and told him I wanted Story to come now. Funny thing, when he grabbed his phone to call her, there was a text from Story from just a few minutes earlier that said, “I am awake, how’s Heather?” She was soon on her way and I was deep in contractions that took all my focus and energy.
Story and Christine (our birth assistant) showed up within the next hour and soon my other birth team members showed up as well – my mom and two close friends, one specifically for photography. The team started to set up the birth tub as I moved around the house. I spent the next few hours laboring in various places and positions. I enjoyed the birth tub, sitting on the toilet (yes, it was a very comfortable position to labor in), standing and hanging onto Chris, hanging over a birth ball on the bed, and leaning on the TV stand downstairs.
I was downstairs when my water broke around 9:30 am during a contraction. It literally made a POP sound and when I looked down it was mostly brown – definitely meconium. Story heard the sound and came downstairs to check. I turned to her and said, “Isn’t that bad?” And she calmly responded as she started to clean up, “In rare cases, it means the baby has undergone some stress, in most cases, it means the baby has just pooped.” With that, I let go of any fear I had about the presence of meconium and went on laboring.
I started pushing around 10 am or so, again moving around in different positions. I tried pushing in the tub but didn’t end up liking the tub as much for pushing. I just didn’t feel stable or grounded enough. I was pushing on the toilet when Story checked me and said, “If you put your finger in about an inch you can feel your baby’s head.” I did so and burst into tears, she was right there! It was such a cool moment, and I am so glad it was caught on camera. I actually think of it often when I use the bathroom.
Towards the end, I was laying on my side with Chris behind me with my top leg up, my foot literally resting on my midwife’s shoulder and neck as I felt more power rushing through my body than I thought was possible with each push. Story then suggested I squat on the floor at the end of the bed, leaning back on Chris’ knees. I slowly moved from my side to all fours, to squatting, and once I got into the squat position, our baby came flying out within 30 seconds! It was incredible!
As she laid on the floor at my feet, I paused to admire her, stroke her, talk to her and exhale myself. Her cord was super short so I could barely pick her up off the ground, but luckily my placenta came out within the next few minutes. She had come out red and screaming, which is definitely what you want if there was meconium present in the amniotic fluid. And she was big! I had no idea I was carrying a 9 lb1 oz baby. My team helped me up to the bed and I spent the next 15 minutes in awe that I had just birthed this beautiful, big baby girl named Eliana.
I am still in awe, in awe of my body, my team, and the immense power that came out of my life.
After getting in bed with Eliana, Story checked me and told me that I had a 4th-degree tear and that I needed to go to the hospital for a repair. WHAT?!
Go to the hospital after my beautiful home birth?! I didn’t need to leave immediately, but I definitely needed to go, she said. Luckily I was able to spend about 3 hours skin to skin and nursing before I left. Fortunately, I didn’t feel anything with all the adrenaline surging because 4th-degree tears are pretty significant (tearing into the rectum).
Story called GWU Hospital and verified they were ready for me coming in. We decided that it would be best for my sister/doula to take me to the hospital and my mom and other members of the birth team to stay home with Chris with Eliana. I cried
at the hospital, wanting to be back home with my new baby and family, but after being examined it became clear that I needed to be at the hospital for this repair, and once I accepted that, it was actually a pretty enjoyable experience.
The labor and delivery wing was empty, so it felt very safe, and every single staff member we came into contact with was so kind and caring. Soon enough I was in the operating room getting a spinal, numb from the waist down, and having my lady parts literally sewn back together. My sister/doula was able to be in the operating room with me and we were laughing and taking pictures and listening to music during the procedure. We couldn’t help but laugh about the irony of the situation. Transferring to the hospitals with my doula for the repair was the right choice. She was able to help me navigate the hospital setting and advocate for me amid the slew of decisions and information that came my way.
Seven hours later I was back at home with Chris and Eliana. It has been a whirlwind since then, adjusting to this new life that is so brand new and yet so simple and familiar at the same time. My sister was able to stay with us and provide postpartum doula support for 5 days after the birth which was also invaluable. Recovering from labor and the 4th-degree tear took extra care and having another set of hands to help Chris with literally everything as I stayed in bed was amazing.
Having a newborn has been both rewarding and challenging! But having her here with us outside has been beyond our expectations.
Written by Heather Davis 2020