On Wednesday, September 28, Erinn had a visit scheduled with her midwife at 11 am. At 10 days past her guess date, they were ready to get labor started, and had made plans to strip her membranes in hopes that it would help do just that. At 12 pm that same day, my October client, who wasn't due for almost two more weeks with her first baby, called to tell me that her labor had begun. I knew that Erinn had a history of relatively quick labors, so I was very concerned that I would be with the other mama when Erinn's labor started, and still be there when it ended! I informed her of what was going on, and contacted my friend and backup photographer, Angela, so that she could be on standby in case I had to miss one of the births. I kept in touch with both of my mamas throughout the day. At around 3:30 pm, Erinn told me that contractions were 8-10 minutes apart but not really consistent. My October mom had been sent away after checking in at the birth center, so she was laboring peacefully at home. At 8:30 pm, she was admitted to Natural Beginning Birth Center at 4 cm. Since she had been in early labor for 16 hours already, I was hoping that things would continue to move slowly and I would be able to make it to both births. Angela was no longer available to back me up, and wouldn't be able to until early morning, so I contacted my friend Vanessa, who would have to drive in from San Antonio if I needed her.
At 9:31 pm, a text came in from Erinn: "Labor is progressing. Might want to head over."
Time to go! I had just had a baby three weeks ago myself, so I told her that I was feeding Nova real fast and we'd be on our way -- and we were, within 20 minutes.
When I arrived, the door was unlocked, so I let myself in. Erinn's mother met me at the entrance, letting me know she was in the master bathroom and that she thought the baby was coming. I grabbed my camera and ran in, she was pushing and the bathroom was well-lit, so I abandoned my flash for the time being, not sure if I even had enough time to mount it to my camera. The timestamp on my first frame was 10:18 pm, and baby was born at 10:21 -- just three minutes later!
Here, the entire story from Erinn's perspective:
Preface: About 4 years ago I started seriously considering a natural home or birth center delivery for our next child. I was feeling more comfortable with how my body births (fast!), and that I could have a less invasive birth experience. While my two previous births were great, I love epidurals, I wanted something simpler. I started reading lots of books - HypnoBirthing, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth & Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way were among my favorites and eventually became my guide books for May's birth. Andrew & I talked about home birth, discussed risks verse benefits, and eventually agreed home birth would be a good fit for us. Thankfully my pregnancies are low risk, my labor and deliveries relatively easy, and my babies healthy. The ideal candidate for a home birth.
Labor: I was 10 days late, and headed to my next weekly check up. Genevieve & I had planned on stripping my membranes, attempting to naturally induce my labor. I was 3-4 centimeters dilated, and 80% effaced at 11am. I was instructed to pump 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off for a few hours that afternoon, as well as take an herbal tincture, cotton root bark, every hour. I started having light contractions all afternoon. A little uncomfortable but I kept up my usual routine. Pick up from school, walks around the neighborhood, and bedtime for the boys. Around 8PM, the contractions picked up. They were coming 3-4 minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds and more uncomfortable. I wasn't sure if it was false labor or real, and kept timing them to see if they increased. I found myself restless, and pacing around the house. Andrew was working in the garage and I in the bedroom putting things away. At 8:30 I texted my midwife a screenshot of my contraction timer. I told her not to come but just letting her know. We kept texting back and forth for about an hour. The contractions became stronger and required me to stop to work through them. I would lean over the counter, while Andrew rubbed my back. I was feeling overheated and sweaty, I had Andrew bring in a small fan to blow directly onto me. Such a life saver! At 9:30PM, she asked if she should come over. I was reluctant to have her come, fearing this wasn't real labor and wasting her time. I texted back yes, and immediately began shaking uncontrollably. A sign that you've entered transition, 7 cm. The most difficult part of laboring.
Transition: Right after texting Genevieve I got a huge contraction. It surprised me how strong it was. My technique of leaning over the counter while Andrew rubbed my back no longer calmed me but actually made it feel worse. I started to panic a little not knowing how to calm or center myself. I immediately took off my pants and shirt - modesty went right out the window (another sign that you've entered the hardest part of labor). I kept needing to use the bathroom, and found lots of relief on the toilet. I had not expected to labor so much on/near the toilet but I did. During my research I had heard many people describe contractions as intense. Now that it was my turn - intense is the only word to describe the feeling. Each contraction took me over completely. I felt like I was out of body, only aware of each contraction as it came. I found that putting one leg up on the toilet seat (opening the pelvis), while wrapping my arms around Andrew for support, and breathing deeply and heavily let me relax the most. When a contraction ended I would be breathless from the work. It was hard work! At one point, I even told Andrew how tired I was. Each contraction would come, and Andrew would tell me to breath, compliment me on how strong I was, that our baby was near and to focus on each contraction. I relied upon those words so much. Your natural instinct is to hold your breath and grit through the contractions but focusing on allowing my uterus do it's job helped keep me focused. My midwife arrived around 10PM, and immediately started setting up. During one contraction my water broke, just missing the toilet bowl by inches, oh so close!
"My water just broke!" It was at this point I finally realized I was in real labor. This was it! My midwife came in the see how I was doing. She told me that when the baby was crowning I would have the urge to go to the bathroom. I still thought delivery was hours away, and assured her I just needed to sit down and go to the bathroom. The instant I did, it was full rectal pressure. I've never experienced anything like it in my life. Honestly, and probably too much information for most of you but it felt like my bottom was going to explode. Not from pain but intense pressure. I moaned so loudly, or at least it felt like I was loud. Genevieve & Andrew insisted that I stand up between contractions and move into a bigger place. At that point I was laboring in the tiniest corner of my bathroom. She checked me briefly and told me the baby was crowning. "The baby is coming out?!" I was in complete shock. How could I be delivering already, we literally just got started. My birth photographer hadn't arrived yet, and I knew she was going to miss it. My heart sank knowing I wouldn't get the first photographs that I had wanted. I walked over to the bathtub, desperately asking to get into the warm water.
Delivery: The warm water was a great relief, a perfect spot for delivery. I was able to squat near the edge of the tub, holding Andrew's hand for support. The only thing I could say was, "oh my gosh, oh my gosh!", over and over. I gave one large push, reached down and felt her head nearly coming out. It was burning a little, and immediately backed off. Just then, Kayla, our birth photographer walked in! Perfect timing. I was so grateful to have her here. Considering she had only a few minutes or seconds really before delivery, she captured beautiful photographs. Genevieve and Andrew told me it was time to push hard and deliver our baby. I pushed again, then waited for one last contraction and gave a final push. Genevieve caught the baby and handed her to me while she was still under water. I grabbed her tiny body and brought her to my chest. I vividly remember feeling her tiny legs in my hands. So small, but completely tangible. She was here! A moment to never forget. 10:20PM, only 50 minutes of active labor.
I leaned back and snuggled our sweet baby. She was crying and absolutely perfect. Andrew was near me the whole time, he gave us both love and kisses. Some of my all time favorite moments. I easily delivered the placenta and handed the baby to Andrew, so I could move to the bed for skin to skin.
Skin to Skin: Andrew, Baby May & I snuggled in the bed for over an hour. No new born checks, no one in our space taking the baby away, just us. May screamed the entire time. She was unconsolable. It was funny then sad, sweet girl was overwhelmed by such a quick birth. After about an hour, she relaxed and began nursing. She has been calm and relaxed ever since. At one hour and fifteen minutes old, we finally cut her umbilical cord. The midwives checked and weighed her, 6 pounds 8 ounces, 20 inches long. Perfect in every way. I unfortunately came away with a 2nd degree tear and required stitches. Never imagined I'd be getting my lady parts sewed up on my bed but birth can be unpredictable like that.
As midwives were packing up to leave for the night, Andrew woke up the boys to meet their new sister. They amazingly slept through labor, delivery and a screaming baby. Eliot said he was too tired to come down, but Benny happily came to visit. He was shy, silly and quickly asked to go back to bed.
Around 1AM, everyone left and it was just us. Andrew made me a heavenly grilled cheese sandwich. My mom made me a cranberry/apple juice cocktail that has never tasted so good. I didn't get much sleep that night, running on pure adrenaline. Holding my baby girl, cozy in my own bed with Andrew right next to me. Life couldn't be better.
Looking back on my experience, it's amazing how perfectly it all fit together. Every thing went, strangely, exactly how I wanted it. A sweet gift from God. All my mental and physical preparations for a home birth, paid off. Grateful for such a beautiful, healthy birth experience. I wish all women could feel so loved, appreciated, and strong during one of the greatest moments of their lives. I come away feeling the need to help share my experience with others. I'm not sure how I will, whether it be by becoming a doula or possibly a midwife myself, or maybe just by sharing and encouraging more women to find their path to their own birth and delivery.
Welcome to the world, May Maxwell. We love you.