An Unplanned and Unassisted Home Birthby Elizabeth MacDonald
Here I sit, holding my 48 hour-new baby boy Ollie Jack. I have been typing, deleting, and restarting this for hours now. The truth is, this birth experience was almost so indescribable, I could not find the words. I am still digesting, processing, and sorting it all in my head. I’m actually hoping that by sharing it with you, I can wrap my mind around the entire event. As you know, we were planning a beautiful, peaceful homebirth for baby #4. I have a few blogs lined up about the blessing way that was filled with women who love and support me, how we set up the birth environment to include music, inspirational birth décor, and even the smells I’d possibly want. I have blogs about birth photography, labor relaxation practice, preparing the siblings to take part in a birth, cultural birth traditions including belly blessings, henna, and candle making. I even have a blog about my midwife being my lifelong best friend, and how that changed my pregnancy and labor outlooks.
Yes, I will still work to get all of those pieces out to you. But first, I must say: Nothing Mattered. This birth was like hitting a brick wall, or a freight train plowing into me at full speed with absolutely no time to panic – only to react. No one made it to the birth in time. Ollie was almost born on the toilet, but I did manage to crawl toward the bed and have him on the floor. So in the moment, NOTHING ELSE MATTERED. That’s not entirely true. While in the moment, none of these things were my focus, they were THERE. I was still surrounded by it all. And I do think that I would not have handled all of this as well without all of the preparations, love, support, and research that I poured into the birth experience that I wanted. But Ollie had other plans.
My Unplanned, Unassisted Birth
March 3rd we celebrated making it to 37 weeks. You see, my babies have arrived at 39, 38, 37 weeks (in that order). I was terrified to deliver one before 37 weeks. So that Thursday was a HUGE deal for us. We may have even enjoyed a little glass of champagne to celebrate (unless you are judging me, then we absolutely did not). Friday, March 4th came with normalcy. Homeschool lessons, playtime, and writing. However, by about 3pm, I started feeling “off.” With hindsight being 20/20, I should have read more into all of my gut instincts, but with absolutely zero actual labor signs, I thought my gut was crazy. By 4pm, I decided it would be an early night of pizza delivery with a side of kid movies. By 4:30, my body felt as though it weighed 300lbs. My arms were heavy, and I felt as though I’d just finished the longest training run of my life. I could fall asleep standing up. John wasn’t going to get home until at least 6:30, so I needed to stay awake to keep children alive until then. My body urged me to take a shower. I don’t even think I turned the cold handle. I stood under the hottest water for at least half an hour. I may have fallen asleep at one point, but I definitely became so heavy that I had to just sit and let the water run over me. I actually had a few flashes of labor, and even thought, “Wow. I may be in labor right now.” But again, there was no actual sign of labor – no contractions, water leaking, etc. Just this lingering thought tugging at me. I managed to pull myself from the tub, get into comfortable pajamas, pay the delivery man and shovel 3 gigantic pieces of hot sauced, jalapeno’d, bbq pizza down my throat. So when the loose stool started at 10 pm (as it does before all of my births), I blamed the pizza. After round three of not leaving the toilet, I had a freight train of a contraction. I made my way toward bed, thinking that sleep is the absolute best thing I can do right now – BAM – another ‘drop-me-to-my-knees’ contraction. I nudged John and told him that we may need to start getting things ready. He didn’t seem too concerned, as all of my other labors had lasted 7 hours or so. By 11:10pm, I was texting the midwife, photographer, and doula friend that I was in labor, but that it had just started so there was no emergency or huge rush. (Again, I should have trusted my gut and told everyone to come immediately.) By 11:30, my contractions were, “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD” intense with little to no breaks between them. I was basically yelling at John that these contractions were not active labor. These contractions were on steroids and that I could not survive them. He may have started taking things a bit more seriously at this point. I could not ‘ocean breathe’ my way through anything. I couldn’t get inside my head. I couldn’t give in to the labor. I couldn’t do anything but let every MOTHER F’ING curse word I knew fly from my mouth. Remember, I’ve birthed a few times now. I believe in the body – I believe in allowing labor to take over and in the woman who can allow it to do so. And then this birth happened. John was trying to fill the birth tub, by duct taping a hose to a faucet because the fitting was the wrong size. I was sitting on the toilet leaning onto the birth ball basically crying as the waves came over me. We told the midwife to come NOW. The photographer was messaged, the doula too – but it was too late. By 12:30am, there was an inch of water in the birth tub and I was paralyzed to the toilet. I started screaming for John, who tried to grab me off the toilet before Ollie was born. Somehow, I managed to walk about 6 feet before dropping to all fours and crawling toward the bed. My body began to push. “HOLY F*$K MOTHER MARY AND GOD ALL MIGHTY SH^T ----------iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttt BURRRRRRRRRRNSSSSSSSSS.” John drops the phone and realizes the baby’s head is out. John falls to the floor behind me and as my body gives a second push, he helps me grab the baby up toward my chest. He was here. Oliver Jack had just rocked our world. And (we had no idea) my 2-year-old was sitting up in our bed watching the entire thing. He instinctively ran over, kissed the baby and gave me the biggest “YOU DID IT” smile I have ever seen. The midwife then comes running in the room, missing it all by less than 10 minutes. My placenta came on its own, it perfect condition, and I made it to bed to discover that I hadn’t even torn. My body handled this rollercoaster in amazing form. Ollie latched and nursed like the little champion he is – and the golden hour we had so carefully planned out became a whirlwind of emotions, waking older siblings, and calling the grandparents to explain that we already HAD the baby. I didn’t have words. I just laid in bed staring at this tiny human who had just rocked my world. How my heart was growing by the second, and how my mind was already dismissing the pain it had just experienced. I am so glad that this was not my first birth. I am glad that I am a childbirth educator and have spent years teaching others how to handle unplanned situations. I am glad that my husband is an amazing birth partner. A part of me will mourn the birth that I had wanted so badly, but the bigger part of me was given what it needed: a story different from our other wonderful births. A birth that was a rollercoaster of wonder and intensity – a possible final chapter to our book on birthing children. I will leave you with this: Plan. Plan it all. Be educated and supported. Fill your labor dreams with love and peace. But accept the birth your body gives you. Make peace with the labor goddess within you.
From one superwoman to another, Do not fear what lies ahead, but allow your journey to be your own. Write your own story.