Jeri's Story of Calvin's Birth

Our baby was due on December 16th, but my husband John hoped he or she would be born on 13th since that is both his birthday and our little girl Ellen's birthday. The 13th came and went with no real signs of labor.

After John got up at about 4:10 AM to get ready for work, I told him I thought I was in labor. Since I acted so calm, he didn't realize how real my labor was. I turned on the tub so I could take a nice warm bath, and then went into the kitchen to make some red rasberry leaf tea and toast to have with my bath. I laid down and timed my contractions while my husband finished surfing the Internet. I called my mom at about 4:45, and I talked until I had a contraction. . . then I became quiet, and Mom asked if I was having a contraction. Yes, I was! She said she'd come over and suggested that I call the midwife.

I called my midwife, Suellen, and told her I was having contractions that were at the most four minutes apart and 45 seconds long. She said she would come if I wanted her to, but I said she could wait a while. She said to let her know when the contractions got more intense. Soon after I hung up they started lasting 60 seconds. My husband realized that this was probably the real thing, and asked if he should fill the waterbirth tub. I said "Yes!" The tub was already inflated, cleaned and sitting in the living room. My husband soon found out that he needed to wait until we had more hot water, since I had used it up when I took my bath earlier.

Mom arrived at about 6:00 AM. Contractions were getting more intense. Mom thought I should call the midwife. The contractions required my full concentration, so my husband called our midwife a little after 6:00, and she said she'd leave right away. John brought me some Recharge, a sports drink. It tasted delicious! Soon after I drank it I had to throw up. I remember thinking that some women dilate when they throw up, so I took it as a good sign. Mom cleaned up, and John got me a wonderful cold rag for my forehead. It felt so good.

Suellen, our midwife, arrived at about 6:30. A few minutes later, Lauri arrived. Then soon after that, my 3 year-old daughter Ellen woke up. Suellen checked my blood pressure, which was fine, and used the doppler to check the baby's heartbeat between contractions and during a contraction. It sounded great. It was 140 between contractions--the rate it usually was at my prenatal appointments.

For quite some time I felt that I handled the contractions well by myself. I didn't feel panic, like I remember feeling during my first birth. I didn't do any special breathing this time. During my first birth I did Lamaze-type breathing. For this birth I just kept slowly breathing in and out. . . and then I began breathing a little faster as the contractions got stronger.

I wasn't sure if I wanted anyone around during labor except my husband. I wish he could have been with me more! I felt relief when each person we had called arrived--even though they all had something they needed to do, and I didn't have someone who constantly stayed with me until I got into the birthing tub. As the contractions intensified, I really appreciated someone being with me.

Laurie mentioned that kneeling and leaning against the bed or getting on all fours were helpful positions for her when she was in labor. I really just felt like lying on the bed on my side. Soon I saw some blood and mucous on the toilet tissue. Laurie came in to check on me, and I excitedly told her about it. I tried several times to get up off the toilet, but I kept sitting on there because I found out that I could handle the contractions better on the toilet. Whenever I tried to get up and walk away, I had a contraction and quickly sat down again! After a while Suellen told me I could get into the birthing tub whenever I was ready. . . it was finally full enough. I made a quick dash for the tub. A lamp with a sixty watt bulb dimly lit our large living room and light filtered through the curtains as the sun rose.

Someone helped me into the water. I sat down and leaned back against the soft sides of the tub with my legs floating in front of me. It felt good going down into that warm water. The contractions still felt strong, but the warmth helped. For a little while now I had been feeling the contractions down in my vagina. They started in my back and radiated around to the front and then down to my vagina, where they felt the most intense and I found it hardest to handle the intensity.

As I sat there enjoying the warmth of the water and breathing through the contractions, my husband kept filling the tub, and Laurie braided my hair. The hot water in the tank had been used up, so John boiled water on the stove. He alternated pouring pans of hot water and cold water into the tub until he filled it high enough to cover my tummy. As he filled it up, the midwife splashed warm water on my tummy because she realized the importance of my tummy feeling the relaxing warmth of the water. I wish I could've had a whirlpool. Suellen, Laurie and John took turns rubbing and pushing hard on my lower back because it hurt so much. That really helped. Sweet little Ellen reached down and tried to rub my back, too.

My husband sat down on the couch in front of me. I had a cold rag on my head. After every contraction Laurie gave me a drink of water from a glass with a bendable straw. I grabbed onto my husband's hands and squeezed really hard during contractions. The strength of my grip surprised him. It was wonderful having him there. I felt very supported by the people present at the birth. My daughter was great! She came by sometimes and give me pats of encouragement on my arm. I started to feel like pushing, sort of, but wasn't really sure, so I gave a few gentle pushes and kept breathing. I prayed and asked God for a little break. As time went by, I felt more like pushing. The midwife said I could probably reach down with my fingers and feel the head, but I told her I really didn't care. I just wanted to get the baby out. When we had interviewed our midwife, she had told us that she was good at telling what stage of labor a woman was in by the way she acted. I loved it that she didn't give me any internal exams. She said my water hadn't broken yet. She gave me counterpressure on my perineum and told me I could push whenever I wanted to. By her pressure she gave me a place to kind of focus my pushing.

Mom was busy cleaning and baking cinnamon rolls. Suellen and Michelle mentioned that moms find it hard to see their daughters in pain. Suellen mentioned that soon I would probably feel like pushing and not stopping. I started to feel the "ring of fire" and I did start pushing more intensely. Suellen told us that the baby's head was wiggling, trying to help me out! She put a mirror in the water and someone held a flashlight so they could see the baby coming out. Mom told me how much she enjoyed seeing that. I remember being grateful that during the pause I had between pushes I didn't feel pain. I really pushed hard because I wanted my baby to come out, and it felt like he was right there! And he was! My baby's head came out, and the midwife told me I could feel it. I reached down and touched his hairy head for a couple seconds. I was amazed.

John said he saw the baby's face in the water with his eyes closed. His body came out much slower than Ellen's did. . . she had shot out like a bullet. The student midwife later told us that the baby had his cord around his neck, but they just unlooped it and it was fine. About a minute after his head came out his body slid into the water and the intense pressure on my perineum disappeared. I felt immense relief and excitement. I reached my hands into the water and picked him up. With Suellen's help I lifted him to me. His body felt smooth and slippery. He didn't need suctioning and he breathed right away. He looked peaceful and content. They laid blankets over his body as I held him while we were still attached by the umbilical cord. I felt joy, elation, and amazement! Ellen said, "Hi, baby," and reached down to touch her new sibling. She had a huge smile on her face and excitedly commented that, "Baby come out!"

A few minutes after his birth, our baby brought his fist up to his mouth, so I tentatively asked him, "Do you wanna nurse?" Suellen said to go ahead and try, though he might not nurse right away. I lifted my shirt up and held him close to my nipple. After a few tries he nursed a little, but at this time he mostly mouthed my nipple.

He had vernix on him. Mom commented on all the white stuff floating in the water, and the student midwife explained that it was vernix and told her about what a great moisturizer it was. I offered him my breast again, and this time he nursed really well with a strong suck. I started having mildly painful contractions while I nursed him. The student midwife looked to see if my placenta was ready to come out; it didn't seem to be ready as far as she could tell. Suellen assured me that it would be fine if it took up to two hours to come out. Finally I decided that I wanted to get out of the tub. My midwife handed Calvin to John, and she and the student midwife helped me stand up in the tub. Suellen said she thought the placenta would probably come right out when I got up. She took a look and asked me to give a push and it slid right out. After that, the contractions mostly stopped, though, for a few days, I had a little mild cramping while nursing Calvin.

After a while, John came back into our bedroom, and it was now time to check out little Calvin. Michelle laid him on a warmed heating pad and checked his heatbeat, looked to make sure he had two soft spots, etc., and checked his reflexes. Also, they commented that he was indeed 40 weeks because his ears went back into position after they were bent. Calvin didn't cry during his checkup and looked around with bright, alert eyes. They weighed him in a cloth sling. He weighed eight pounds and was 22 inches long. She put a length of string around his head, and then measured the string to check the circumference of his head. It was 13 1/2 inches. The student midwife examined the placenta while we watched. She wanted to make sure it was all there. She showed us how it fit together and made a sack. She also showed us how it looked like a tree. The placenta was the top part of the tree, and the umbilical cord hanging down formed the trunk. . . . She called it the "tree of life." Michelle explained to Ellen that she liked to call the umbilical cord the "food tube." It amazed us that our baby had lived in that perfect little home and had received nourishment through the cord.

They wanted me to try to go to the bathroom. Before I went, Suellen checked me while I sat on the toilet to see if I had any tears. I didn't have any tears, but I did have a prolapsed cervix. Apparently it was hanging down, so she pushed it back up and told me to stay in bed for a day. Soon after that, Suellen, Michelle, and Laurie left. Mom stayed the day to help clean up and take care of Ellen. My little baby and I snuggled up in bed and went to sleep.