Reba had always had a sense that she wanted to have a home birth. We did some research, and we confirmed for ourselves that this was the best choice for us. One of the many things we did to prepare was take a childbirth class taught by the fabulous Mary Esther Malloy-Hopwood. It was focused on home birth, and we got to know our fellow home-birthers over the eight weeks. Below is the message we shared with them on Friday, September 3, 2010 — the day Rosalie Elizabeth joined our family.
I’m happy to share that yesterday, Reba pushed out a gorgeous little baby girl in our home. Rosalie Elizabeth arrived at 935AM on Friday, September 3, into the supremely capable hands of our midwife Miriam. Our lovely doula Colleen provided every kind of support.
Labor came on pretty quickly and unexpectedly, about a week before Reba’s EDD. At about 5pm on Thursday, we had a prenatal visit with Miriam. Reba began feeling some strongish cramps around then, and mentioned it, but they were infrequent and irregular. We joked while booking our next visit that it might be a post-natal — maybe we knew something! After our midwife left, we went for a walk and picked up dinner (panini from our favorite place in Astoria, Il Bambino)*. We watched the Simpsons at 7 (Secrets of Successful Marriage – a classic, and perhaps a sign of some sort), and by the end of the episode the cramps had become more pronounced and more regular, and were clearly contractions. I started timing around 745, and they were already about a minute long, about five minutes apart (where they ended up staying for a long time — although they got longer and more intense). We called both Miriam and Colleen to let them know, and then we got Reba into the regular tub for a bath, to relax through the early part of labor. She took two baths, and in between was mainly on the couch sitting upright leaning forward or in hands-and-knees. She began working harder soon there after. By 9 or so talking during the contractions was hard, and they kept gaining in intensity. (The chronology here is a little fuzzy, because Reba was already working very hard, and I was helping her relax during each one and then doing all kinds of stuff, like getting pillows and drinks, futzing with the lights, texting her sister, and timing some of the contractions.) Around 1AM Colleen came over, saw that we were doing ok, and immediately began blowing up and filling the birth tub. (That took about 45 minutes, and there was no way I could have done it while helping Reba through the contractions). The contractions kept getting more intense, so I called Miriam, who arrived around 230AM. Both Reba and I were convinced she was about to have the baby — but there was still a ways to go. The main issue was that she was very physically engaged during each contraction, and had a very hard time finding a comfortable position. Hands-and knees, standing and leaning down on the arm of the couch, and sitting on the toilet seemed to be the best. Until about 4AM or so, when she really surrendered, Reba was tiring herself out by not being able to use all of the rests between contractions. Miriam forcefully voiced her concerns about the amount of effort around that time, so either that got through to Reba or it was just a natural surrender. At any rate, thereafter Reba was in a zone where she was at least still during the breaks. Around 730, she began her pushing phase, and finally gave birth at 935 in the morning. I was sitting on the couch in our living room, holding her as she squatted just above the floor. Post-delivery, we both got to hold Rosalie right away, which was amazing. Reba was basically completely wiped out, and had to hand the baby over to me almost right away. After about an hour, we moved her up to sitting on the couch, from sitting on the floor where she had been during the delivery. After a few hours, she started feeling better, but Reba was really drained for that first chunk of time post-delivery. Miriam took great care of her.
Really, it was all amazing. I cried a lot during pushing and after delivery, and I still feel a little bit emotional. The labor totaled about 3 hours of gearing up, 11 hours of active labor, and 2 hours of pushing, but those numbers don’t do justice to the simultaneously grueling and amazing physical feat Reba performed.
I guess there are lots of things I could advise, but since even among our stories here the labors are so different, and we are well-prepared from class (really, we are — so much stuff came in handy), all I would say is, to the partners, watch the faces of your midwives and doulas, that will tell you if things are OK; and to all, try to figure out a way to allow the woman use the rests.
I can’t imagine either of us having made it through this wild, awesome, primal experience (to echo some of the sentiments below) without a real understanding what was going on, and that understanding was brought about mostly by the wonderful class we took — thanks Mary Esther!
Congratulations to all the new parents, and best of luck to those of you who are next — it is great, and there is nothing like finally having your baby enter your lives.
Kevin & Reba
*I was corresponding with one of our birth-class colleagues shortly after I sent this, and he inquired about the sandwich (they are fellow Astorians, and his wife had yet to go into labor). I shared that Reba had the artichoke-onion panini and the beet salad. They went and had that exact meal, and lo and behold – she went into labor few hours later. That’s some sandwich!