This is the remarkable and empowering birth story of Zonnie.
Please note that the following is my original birth story, written one-week postpartum. This is my impression of what took place.
I noticed contractions while trick or treating with my little siblings around 7PM on Halloween. They got a little more serious around midnight, but I did manage to fall asleep until 4am, when active labor started. Contractions were close together and intense. I couldn't talk through them. Based on the rule of thumb about contractions, I figured this was the real deal. But I was in for a surprise!
I labored for most of the day, sure that soon I would have a baby in my arms. DH rushed around getting everything ready. Labor began a week early, so although we had most of our supplies, we weren't entirely set up for a water birth.
The contractions were intense from when I woke up to the very end. They remained the same level of intensity, even if timing varied. I would describe them as menstrual cramps, only lasting longer with clear peaks. With DH helping me by talking me through them (acting as a hypnobabies coach I suppose is the way to put it), I thought it was an exhilarating but not painful experience.
Then a twist
By nighttime, I began to feel a sharp sensation in my lower left quadrant that was truly painful. At first the pain was matching up with the contractions, but then it started to just stay on its own, not fading or getting worse. It felt to me like "bad" pain, not the intensity of exercising or contractions, but the pain of an ankle sprain. I couldn't relax through it and the pool made it worse. I described this pain to mamas on MDC and someone mentioned that is what she felt at the beginning of her placental abruption.
I began wondering what was going on and contacted an underground midwife. She listened to the symptoms and suggested transfer to the ER as she was also thinking abruption.
We stopped by the local hospital, hearts in our throats. I was hooked up to an EFM and left for about 10 minutes. Then the doctor came in, I consented to a vaginal exam and he did an ultrasound. His conclusion? Our baby was vertex, about 8.5lbs and I was 4cm dilated. He actually smiled at us, patted my foot as I lay on the table and recommended spending the night at home. We were actually discharged from the hospital! (Which without any emergency, we were definitely going to leave AMA anyways).
After that, I found renewed strength to help my baby out. I decided I had just been too eager in the beginning of the day and must have worn myself out with high expectations. Someone online recommended making hot rice socks for the sharp pains and it worked like a miracle! (Note: I later learned that it was round ligament pain related to pelvic problems from injuries I sustained as a gymnast). We went home and labored through the night. My contractions slowed down, giving me time to rest. I was having 90 second contractions about every 5-6 minutes, falling asleep in the pool in between them. My amazing DH, who got the flu the night before Halloween, was camped out on a futon cushion next to me.
So around 6-7am, I hit transition. I started shaking, puking, wanting to give up, etc. The contractions sped up a lot, one on top of the other and I asked DH to check my cervix. He confirmed I was 8-9cm dilated. Then, nothing. Literally. My contractions died off almost completely, with maybe one or two every 10-15 minutes. I was back to normal and able to walk, talk and eat.
We were both very confused. We decided I should rest, thinking this was my body trying to save up energy for the last stretch. Keep in mind that we had been monitoring the baby the whole time and she had great heart tones/fetal movement. It was a disappointment to wait longer, but didn't seem worrisome.
Anyways, at some point during the middle of the day my contractions came back and around 8/9PM that night, I hit transition again! Yes, I puked again, isn't that wonderful? Lol. I was fully dilated and we could both feel her head. That's when the contractions died off again. I got one pushy contraction and then nothing. Finally, I just really had this instinct that this was going nowhere and we needed assistance. So we called back the underground midwife and she agreed to visit to see what was happening.
Some answers and some progress
She listened to the baby's heart beat and then asked to do a vaginal exam. She started moving things around, saying the baby's head was cocked to one side (asynclitic). I got a contraction, yay! We used some herbs to help the contractions along and I had a few very pushy contractions in the pool. Then she did another check and found the baby's head was stuck behind my pubic bone. I moved out of the birth pool and tried a few positions, but it still didn't free her up so the midwife instructed DH on how to push her head down while I pushed through contractions. That was extremely unpleasant but worked!
According to DH, I pushed for over 5 hours through the night. At one point, my mom came in to help out, as DH was very busy helping to support me and move the baby. So our private birth turned into a little party, but I had become very uninhibited at this point and found myself enjoying my mom's excitement. (She seemed a lot more excited than me haha). DH had to continually reposition the baby as she came down the canal. My right leg gave out on me (went numb), so I was leaning against a birthing ball and trying to push on one knee. This was again a complication related to my pelvic instability/injury.
Baby is almost out!
I think I pushed for 3.5 hours, according to DH, to get her onto my perineum and visible. That's when the MW gave me a mirror. I flipped around and maintained a squatting position with DH supporting me by the armpits so that I could "hang" in the air. This was extremely effective! I felt all my muscles loosen up and get used to the fullest. I highly recommend this position and wish I had tried it out much earlier. It took probably 20 contractions to crown her. Her head came out with her face towards my thigh, her head tilted to the side and forehead leaning back (transverse occiput, asynclitic, almost posterior).
Then the MW asked me to roll over onto all fours. I think she was suspecting Shoulder Dystocia after the way my baby's head was stuck. She easily slid out on the next contraction and her neck/head did not turtle so SD was not a problem.
Anyways, she came out with a nuchal hand, elbow sticking straight out and her other arm behind her back. I remember sitting there next to her, rubbing her legs and not saying a word. I was speechless. I was in bliss. The MW told DH to say something to our baby. As DH spoke, little Zonnie turned her head to him and looked him right in the eyes. Those moments after her birth are wonderful memories for me. I feel as if time stood still.
Although labor and birth wasn't painful, it was long and hard so I was exhausted. I was basically stuck on the ground clutching her but unable to move/relax. After about 10 minutes, I asked DH to hold her and to cut the cord. It was too much exertion for me to keep sitting and holding her. The cord was already flat and white by then, so I didn't feel too bad (we had been considering a lotus birth). I birthed the placenta about 2 minutes later on a birthing stool. It was almost 5lbs and looked really healthy with a heart shape. The next surprise came when we found out she weighed 11lbs, 4oz! Those ultrasounds and doctors aren't always accurate.
Post partum experience:
I purple pushed when she was crowning. It was a personal thing for me as I was so tired and just wanted to see her that I ignored the little spark of intuition telling me to wait. I ended up with a 3rd degree tear and went into the hospital a few hours after birth. We decided to go to the ER and bypass the maternity ward. It was a good decision. The ER doctor was fast and skilled. We didn't get any drama from him, although every few minutes he would pause, look up at me and ask, "She was 11lbs what?" It was cute lol. Those stitches made me tender for about a week but thankfully I did not experience any long term difficulties.
For paperwork reasons, we wanted to set up a meeting with our family physician. But when DH called to schedule a leisurely appointment, the nurse pointed out that our doctor was so busy we could get in the next day or wait 3 months! :o So we actually took her in at around 48 hours after the birth. The doctor was tickled at her weight and talked about how he had patients who birthed 15 pound babies. He joked that he knew how to draw a "big baby" growth chart from experience and that she needed an individual one!
Nursing was a slow start for us. She was obviously very sore in the neck and preferred one side. She also had a very tight anterior and posterior ankyloglossia. The MW recommended we clip her tongue tie as she was not getting a strong latch. We had an appointment scheduled 5 days after the birth. I started nursing around the clock with both of us naked. DH spent most of his day being the perfect chair for me, so we all had some great family time. Literally before walking out the door to that appointment, I confirmed good latch signs and my milk came in abundantly. We cancelled the appointment and have been nursing on cue ever since.
Regarding pain and birthing a large baby
The two top questions I get about my birth experience are about pain and macrosmia. They are both difficult to talk about as this was my first child. How am I supposed to know if it hurt more or less, or it was harder or easier to birth a large baby? Lol. But here is my feeling on the issues: what hurt? That round ligament pain hurt. The contractions didn't hurt. Feeling my body open didn't hurt. The ring of fire stung like the dickens. Sneezing with stitches hurt. I am one of "those" people who would agree that contractions are surges or waves and that birth is an orgasmic, awakening experience.
As for a big baby...I wasn't expecting a BIG baby. (She was measuring 2 weeks ahead, which is a number that could easily be position-related). Her positioning was really off and no doubt impacted the length of my labor and pushing stage. Maybe her position was related to her size, but in working with some birth professionals and my chiropractor, I think she did what she had to do to get out of my very imbalanced pelvic area. I think if I had paid more attention to aligning my pelvis and relaxing the ligaments of the uterus during my pregnancy, she would have been in an optimal position for birthing regardless of her size. Oh, and about her size...what caused it? It remains undiagnosed macrosomia. I did not have GD, or even mild glucose problems. I monitored my glucose levels daily during pregnancy. I ate a healthy diet. I worked full time and exercised until 38 weeks. I'm 5' 4" and weighed 118lbs pre-pregnancy. Who knows? It remains a great topic for birth conversations haha!
Well, there you have it. Thanks for reading!
ETA: As a first time mama choosing a freebirth, I hesitated for a long time to share this story. Choosing to birth at home gets enough judgment already! But as I get closer to Ian's birth day (whatever day that will be) I found myself biting my tongue at the question I often hear: "What happens if something goes wrong?"
What happens if something goes wrong...those words echo in my head when I read them or hear them. The general idea seems to be that if you choose to birth outside the hospital, 1) something will go wrong that would not go wrong in a hospital 2) and you will be stuck at home and forced to suffer the dire consequences.
My story shows that these assumptions aren't true. Homebirth is not "all or nothing." It's not an ordeal that you commit to, that you either accomplish or fail. This is about living out our lives and taking it one step at a time. My husband and I were drawn to birth at home without others present. Feeling that way did not take away our ability to consult with others, including doctors and midwives. And by reaching out to others in the community, we were able to experience a beautiful, peaceful homebirth.
So I just hope that my story provides some context for others who wonder what people do when a homebirth isn't a quick and easy experience. When someone says, "Well, you have easy labors, of course you birth at home!" I want her to know that it doesn't have to be easy; in fact, it's hard labor. :-) When someone says, "Well, you've had 4 kids, of course you're experienced enough to birth at home!" I want her to know that you don't have to go in flying blind and you don't have to reject the experience of others (e.g. doctors/midwives/lay people). The same goes to those who say they will birth at the hospital with their first child and then do homebirths.
Peace and happy birthing. <3