I'm trying to write this while it's still fresh in my mind. I'm still kind of in awe of everything that happened.
Two days before I had Luca, I lost my mucus plug and then lost more of it in bits and pieces the following day. I had a few contractions that just screamed, "These are different!" and I had the urge to call my midwife. I don't know why, because I knew that losing my mucus plug didn't mean anything, but I just had this intuition-like feeling that I needed to give her a head's up.
On Thursday&Friday, I got some important things done. I picked up the carseat and finished shopping for my daughter's Hayden's birthday present. I confirmed the information about Hayden's party. I cleaned my room.
Friday night, I had some weird pressure/pain. It was really bothering me, so I decided to take a shower and try to go to bed. I texted my friend, Maysa, and told her, "I don't know what's happening to me, but, it hurts. My legs, pelvis, and back hurt." It didn't feel like tightening, it felt ... weird. I felt like I desperately had to poop. Throughout the night, a contraction would wake me up and I'd go to sit down on the toilet. Finally, I pooped - and I felt so much better. I then had a contraction that woke me up at 5am and I couldn't go back to sleep.
I knew that I had to get up out of my bed at 5.30am. Unfortunately, my 2-year-old, Vincent, who had been in my bed, woke up too. I woke up my mom, who was there to keep an eye on my kids for the birth, and we went downstairs. I ended up on my hands and knees on the couch, contracting every 3-5minutes. It still didn't FEEL like contractions - it felt like a burning period cramp. I told my mom that I didn't remember contractions feeling like this. I was silent when working through them and I was talking in-between them, so I told my mom that it was too soon to call Mary (my midwife).
My mom called anyway and she asked me, "how painful are they on a scale from 1-10?" while I was having one. I said, kind of tense, "I don't know. 6 or 7?" I was annoyed that she asked me while I was contracting. Mary told my mom that she was getting dressed and she'd be right over. I then announced that I hate that stupid pain scale.
I decided to call my friends, Sarah & Maysa, but they both had an hour drive ahead of them and I didn't want them to leave if I wasn't in true labor - since my contractions felt so "different." I told them both that I'd call them back after Mary checked me. I remember scoffing/laughing when I spoke with Sarah, and then thinking, "There's no way I'm giving birth today. I'm in a good mood!" When I spoke with Maysa, I ended the conversation with, "I need to go before I have another contraction."
Vincent was awake the entire time and, surprisingly, didn't bother me. He sat with me a few times and hugged me. The damn cat came out into the living room, though, and SHE bothered me. I made my mom chase her down and lock her upstairs.
Alice, my mother-in-law (and who's home I gave birth in!) had been dropping a friend off at the airport and came home extremely surprised to find the house well-lit. When she figured out what was happening, she kind of squealed with delight. I had been coming from the bathroom, which always caused a heckuva contraction, and she embraced me in this excited hug. I returned to the couch and got back on my hands and knees and Alice asked me, "How are you feeling?" It annoyed the crap out of me and she must have seen my emotions on my face, because she left me alone.
Alice got kind of panicky in this moment and was asking my mom about what they should do. Luckily, Mary got there and eased the tension. I finished up a contraction (which I was still moving through silently at this point) and then we went to the bedroom. I expressed my concerns with Mary, that I wasn't very far along. I told her that my contractions felt "weird" and she said, very matter-of-factly, "I know." She remembered that I didn't want to know how many centimeters dilated that I was, so when she checked me, she said, "the baby's head is right there and your bag is bulging." She wanted to check me through a contraction, and I wasn't able to be silent through that one. Mary asked, "that wasn't a very strong one, was it?" and I said, "no - but it hurt really badly because I'm on my back." She then turned to Alice and said, "let's set everything up." She told me that when I felt like getting in the pool, just to let her know, and she'd check me again. After I had Luca, I learned that when she had checked me, I was 6cm.
I had my mom call Maysa, Sarah, and my doula, Victoria. I went upstairs to shower (and shouted from atop the stairs, "Oh, and call my husband!") The water felt so wonderful, but I hated having to stand. I remember thinking, "This is why people want to be in the birth pools." I put on my birth skirt and my sports bra and went downstairs. I asked for my mom to grab the exercise ball, and I sat on that, leaning against the bed. One of the birth assistant's checked the baby's heartrate (perfect) and then they continued to set up the bed and fill the pool. I was starting to make a little bit of noise during my contractions, but not too much. I didn't think they hurt that badly. Especially since the birth ball took pressure off my pelvis, and I was able to sway my hips. I swear on my life that contractions hurt less when you're at home.
Victoria got there and I asked her if she knew how to do french braids since I had a feeling that Maysa wasn't going to get there in time to do them. She did, and she pulled my hair back for me as I sat on the ball. It was distracting, which was nice. When she went to start on the second braid, I had a contraction that I really had to moan through. She told me, "I could tell that one was different." I chalked it up to it being a double-peak contraction. Around this time, my mom brought Hayden in and I gave her a hug. Vincent ran into a few times and then Andrea showed up. I told her, kind of harshly, to "get them out of here." I remember feeling extremely exasperated that no one was keeping them out of the room. My mom and Alice kept asking me questions, and I got extremely frustrated with them as well (do you know how hard it is to answer questions while you're in labor?) I know they were trying to be helpful, but I was not in the state of mind to think about whether I wanted to eat or not. After awhile, everyone seemed to realize that I wasn't going to be holding any valuable conversations.
I told Victoria that my butt really hurt and I thought it was because the baby was so low and my bag was bulging. She applied counter pressure with a tennis ball, and it felt heavenly. After another contraction that made me moan and groan, I requested to get in the pool. Mary asked me if I wanted to be checked, and I said no. She then said, "if you feel like getting in the pool, get in the pool!" I just stripped my skirt off at this point and sat in the water. It felt soooooo good. It wasn't deep enough, however, and I asked Victoria to fill it up more. She told me, "It's coming out ice cold. I'm going to have to go put a pot on the stove." I moaned through another contraction and then started laughing. I turned to her and said, "The faucet! It's backwards." I had forgotten that detail. She turned it the other direction and we got some hot water going. Once the water was over my butt, my "problem area," it felt awesome. Well, it didn't feel "nice" but it didn't hurt so much.
Victoria asked me if I wanted Sarah - who had just shown up- in the room, and I said yes. At this point, the only people in the bathroom were Victoria, Sarah, and me. It was really, really nice. I was extremely happy to see Sarah and I remember really wanting to be able to hold someone's hand - so I was really glad when Sarah offered hers. I also remember asking her to get my camera because no one had gotten any photos yet and one of my biggest fears was not getting a single photo of the birth. At some point, Alice came in and asked if I wanted music and all I could do was shake my head "no." Victoria mentioned that I wanted quiet. Somewhere in here, I saw that Maysa (who was photographing the birth) had shown up. I remember thinking, "Awesome. Photos" and that I was in a bad position for pictures - but, frankly, I didn't care. I was leaning over the pool with my head down and I didn't want to move.
It was amazing how out of this world I felt. Like I was in some distant universe. I did not care about how long my contractions were lasting, or how far apart they were. I didn't care how many I had. I didn't even care what time it was. All that mattered was what was happening to me at that moment.
During my contractions, I would just moan through them and sway my hips. I kept thinking that I couldn't be that far along because I still felt "aware" and 'with it.' However, I started crying. I don't even know why. It hurt, but was still manageable. Yet, I just started crying. I remember Victoria was really with it and got me tissues. I also remember passing my snotty tissues on to Sarah and feeling bad that she had to take them from me. I was holding back, so I was glad when Victoria told me, "sometimes, we just need a good cry. Just cry. Let it all out now." So, I did.
Mary came in at some point and told me that she could check me in the pool or on the bed. She then said something about how I didn't want to birth in the water. Victoria repeated what Mary said to me and included that I could change my mind (about birthing in the water) and I just shook my head. I was beyond words at this point (yet, I still thought I had awhile to go - I didn't believe I was close to pushing). After another contraction, I asked to get out. Mary came to help me and I wanted a bathrobe. I didn't want to be completely naked, because I was cold. Alice had a bathrobe that I ended up wearing (and, destroying. Luckily, it was old and she needed a new one anyway). I peed, which caused a horribly painful contraction, and I was thankful that Victoria came in the bathroom and helped me lean forward. I then made my way over to the bed.
I was in a side-lying position when Mary came to check me and I said, "I don't want to move!" and she told me that was fine. She said that I had a lip left that was behind the baby's head. She discussed 3 options with me. 1) I could try a different position to see if that resolved the lip 2) she could move it out of the way and I could push past it or 3) we could do nothing. I decided to get on my hands and knees. They brought over the birth ball and I leaned on that. Victoria was on my left and Sarah was on my right. It was at this point in labor that I hit the point of, "Oh, God. This.is.it." I was screaming a bit more loudly, and kept hearing reminders to keep my voice low. I remember saying, "Ow" a few times. I could hear the kids outside and I wanted to shout, "Can someone SHUT THEM UP" but, I didn't.
Hayden, who turned a 5 a day after I gave birth, had heard the noises I was making and kept saying that I was having the baby. Originally, I had decided to let her in the room while I was pushing, if she wanted to be in there. However, when my mom came in and asked if Hayden could come in, I said no. I didn't want her to see me so out of control. I think I would have been worried about what she was hearing/seeing if she were there - and that would have hindered my labor.
Plus, the room was packed full as it was (it didn't bother me though - it was a room full of women who were all respecting my birth process). I was really surprised at how quiet it was. The only person making noise was me. I heard words of encouragement from Victoria and Sarah. I heard them remind me to just let go, to take deep breaths for my baby, to use a low voice. I said, "I don't want to do this anymore" and I said, "I can't." I can't remember whether I wanted to be checked or if Mary offered, but I remember distinctly not wanting to push on hands and knees. Of all the positions in the world, I wanted to be on my back. I don't even know why, but that was where I wanted to be. Mary said okay, but made me sit up - so I was in a semi-reclining position. The lip was still there.
At this point, I asked her to break my bag of waters. I wanted to do anything and everything to get the baby out, because I couldn't go through one more contraction. As soon as she broke the amniotic sac, I started getting really long breaks between contractions. I remember discussing how nice the breaks were - they were just what I needed. Mary then mentioned how she could move the lip out of the way and everyone explained to me how this was probably in my best interests. I agreed to let her move it - I just wanted things to be over with.
During my next contraction, she moved it out of the way - and I screamed with all of my might for her to get out. It was the most painful thing that I have ever felt. Mary moved her hand away and said, 'Okay, okay.' I think this is when I started freaking out. I hit that point where I realized that if I didn't push my baby out, that meant that I was going to have to continue to be in labor - and, in pain. However, pushing my baby out was going to hurt. No matter what I chose, it was going to hurt. I started declaring that I couldn't do this and Mary said, "Cassie, you have to. And, by the time we got to the hospital, you wouldn't want to be there anymore, anyway." Victoria told me that once I pushed past the pain, it was over. I decided to try again.
With the next contraction, Mary moved the lip out of the way. I screamed and shouted and fought - but I somehow found it within me to push. I did this twice, maybe three times, and I felt instant relief. I could feel that the head was there, but not quite past the pubic bone. I remember Mary getting hot compresses and other things to protect my perineum. With my next contraction, the baby started crowning, and this is when I feel like I lost it. I screamed- shrill screams. Mary was trying to convince me to give little pushes. My rational mind knew that she was suggesting this as a way to help protect my perineum, but my instinctual mind was saying, "NOOOOOO way." I screamed and shouted and yelled - including the cliche statement, "GET IT OUT." I just wanted to push with all of my might, so, I did. I pushed and pushed until I felt the relief of the head come out. I felt like this took ages. Later, Mary would tell me that I only pushed for 12 minutes. I also found out later that Luca had her hand up by her face when she was born - no wonder it hurt! (However, I did not tear!)
I remember people asking me if I wanted to feel the head, and I didn't. I then heard Mary say that they were going to do this "without a contraction" because I had "too much power." She told me to push again, and I remember thinking, "You're crazy! I feel so much better now. I'm not pushing ever again" I did though, screaming again (my birth video is slightly embarrassing for me to watch because I can't believe how shrilly I shouted!) when the shoulders came out. Then, at 8.34am - just 3 hours after I began active labor - Mary told me to reach down and grab my baby, and, I did.
All of a sudden, everything just kind of disappeared. I think I started saying, "Oh my God, oh my God." She was on my belly, looking at me. She was pink and letting out little cries. They gave me a towel and I rubbed her back and she let out a few good cries. She had a ton of vernix, and I remember noting that. I heard Mary said, "What the heck?" and I asked if there was anything wrong, and she assured me that everything was fine. She told me, kind of sternly, to keep my legs open and "help her out." I was on a birth high and not really paying much attention to her, which I feel a little bad about because she was dealing with a kind of serious situation - I just didn't realize it. Mary saw pulsing blood and clamped the cord quickly (Alice cut it) and then gave me a shot of Cytotec in the leg. She then told me to pull my legs back and I pushed with a contraction, feeling the placenta come out. It almost hurt. The assistant took the placenta right away to make sure it was all there and Mary stayed to monitor my blood loss. Apparently, I had a partial placental abruption as Luca was born (which Mary says can happen even in the healthiest of pregnancies). I couldn't tell, but Maysa said there was a large blood gush as she came out and that there was blood pulsing out. I'm glad Mary did what she had to do to take care of it though and that I didn't need to transfer.
Anyway, back to my baby high. I realized after holding Luca for a minute that I didn't know what she was. I couldn't really move her to tell because of the position she was in, so I just stuck my hand down by her butt and start searching frantically for a scrotum. I felt and felt and felt and couldn't find her balls. Then it hit me and I announced, "is it a girl???" I wanted someone to verify it for me, and I heard Mary let out a small, "Yep" and then heard squeals. I couldn't believe it. I was seriously stunned. At this point, I had someone call Jarrod and I said, "Honey, you do make girls!" I then asked if that's what the doctor had written down. A week or so earlier, Jarrod had 'slipped' and said, "Tell him to hang on longer." He then made kind of a big deal about our boy name. I didn't tell Jarrod that I heard his "oops'es" - but I was convinced that this baby was a boy. I found out later that Jarrod made those "errors" on purpose. I should have expected that. That sounds like something he would do. I'm glad he did, too. I can't even begin to explain the utter celebration that was the moment of her birth. Obviously, we would have loved a boy all the same- but I wanted a girl and I was so attached to her name. It's been 5 years since I've had a baby girl, so I wanted another. Discovering that she was, indeed, a little girl was such a cool moment. I'll never forget it.
I basked in my baby for awhile, nursing her and staring at her, and then I handed her over to Alice so that I could clean up quickly. I took a quick shower and I changed into a nursing gown and got back in the bed. They did the newborn exam. When she was first born, she looked tiny. She looked short and tiny. Even Mary said that she was probably 7.5lbs. However, when they did the exam, she said she changed her mind - she appeared bigger. Luca was 20.5 inches long (same length as Vincent) and 8lbs even. My smallest baby yet!
I actually kind of wonder if my dates were off (which is completely possible - I did use the due date of February 4th for awhile). Luca was covered in vernix and her earlobes were soft and given her weight, I'm curious if to maybe she was a 38-weeker and not 39 weeks. Anyway, not that it matters since she decided to be born. (Can I say how happy this makes me? I did absolutely nothing to even encourage labor, aside from walking, maybe. Luca came when Luca was ready).
I nursed her again and then handed her off so I could eat my first meal (HoneySmacks cereal, ha!). The kids came in to meet Luca. Hayden was told that it was, indeed, a sister. Vincent didn't really care. I got them out of there soon though because I was in a lot of discomfort. My afterpains were horrendous. I think that if you have a natural birth, you should be exempt from having contractions afterward. People were beginning to leave at this point and, eventually, it was just Maysa and me (and Luca). I was thankful for that because I was able to kind of talk out my emotions (such as the fact that I felt horrible that my pains were so bad, it was hard for me to focus on the baby). I took some pain medication and drank some water and just kind of relaxed. Maysa left soon after that and I nursed the baby and then we both took a nap. When I woke up, I felt a ton better - and I stayed in bed just staring at Luca and looking her over. I called Jarrod back and we talked about how she looked like him and about how cute she was. He asked if my birth went well and I told him, "You know, I'm proud of myself" and he said, "Yeah - and I'm proud of you too."
Looking back on my birth, I'm really, really pleased with how it went. I'm thrilled that my daughter was born safely at home. I can't begin to explain the "birth high" that accompanies natural birth - and the recovery has been excellent. Quick and easy. It really was a beautiful, intense birth.
I do wish that Jarrod would have been here - but, what could I do? And, I did have a group of people that offered amazing support. Some probably think that I had far too many people there, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Everyone respected what was happening - and everyone knew when to be quiet and when to offer words of encouragement. Another thing that makes me a little sad is that the cord did not stop pulsating before it was clamped and cut - however, I'm not hung up about it. I had blood pulsing out of me and Mary was concerned that there was a tear in the cord - which would have meant that the baby was losing blood. I would have clamped it too. I'm also a little confused as to why I wanted to push on my back. I always envisioned myself pushing on my hands and knees, or squatting. I did what I felt like doing though, I'm just curious as to why listening to my body put me on my back! Everything else went perfectly.
It really was just an amazing experience. Having a homebirth makes me want to have 10 more homebirths. I don't even know how to put it into words - there isn't a sentence I could write that would explain how awesome I feel. How beautiful it was. How perfect she is.
Luca Lynn Hope
Born at home on 1.22.11 at 8.34am
20.5 inches long