Luke was born at 11:37pm on Saturday, December 19, 2009, after less than one hour of labour.
A week overdue, I was feeling frustrated and impatient that day. I had thought I was in labour two days earlier, having weak but steady ctx all evening, but they disappeared overnight and came only sporadically on Friday and Saturday. There was nothing strong or regular about them. Because the baby had been alternating between OP and ROA, I spent a lot of time on my hands and knees trying to get him turned the right way. I also spent a lot of time walking with my MIL, who was in town to take care of our 2.5 year old son Jacob during our planned homebirth.
After playing a game with Isaac and MIL, we started preparing to go to bed at 10:30 that night. As we sat there talking for a little while, I had a few strong ctx, strong enough that MIL noticed, as I had a hard time carrying on the conversation through them. I thought it might be labour starting but wasn’t certain as they felt very unusual; also, by this point I didn’t want to get my hopes up until I was sure it was the real thing.
I felt an increasing desire to use the bathroom, which was one of the signs I had been waiting for. After one particularly strong ctx, I asked Isaac to help me to the bathroom and told him I would call him when I was done. It was approximately 11:15pm. At the time, I intended to let my body clear its bowels and then settle in with my laptop to time the ctx and begin to focus on labour. I knew it was definitely labour when, as soon as the door was closed, a hot flash hit and I peeled off all of my clothes.
It was a relief to use the bathroom, but I was still on the toilet when another ctx hit, even stronger than the last. I started to get nervous at the thought of several hours of labour with such painful ctx – it was nothing like I remembered with my first labour. I was just preparing to get off the toilet and find a place to settle in to labour when another ctx came and, after an intense pressure, my water broke in a big gush. It was both a relief (physically) and a disappointment (emotionally). My water hadn’t broken during my last labour until right at the end, so having it break at (what I thought was) the start of labour wasn’t my ideal, as I had tested GBS+ and would have preferred my waters stay intact for as long as possible.
I called Isaac to tell him my water had broken and he should call the midwife. It was 11:25pm. As he began to do that, another ctx came, even stronger than the last. Everything is a bit of a blur from this point on. I knew I needed to move now because I wasn’t going to be able to move soon if they were hurting this bad already. I yelled for my MIL to come, fast. She rushed in and asked if I wanted to move to the bedroom. I managed to get out “no…tub!”, as I still didn’t realize the baby was coming and I wanted to labour in the tub. She started to fill it when suddenly I felt the baby descend through the birth canal. I reached down and felt the head crowning. I yelled that the baby was coming. Poor MIL was trying to figure out what to do and Isaac was on the phone with the midwife. The head didn’t stop, it just kept coming, so (not wanting to give birth right there on the toilet!) I managed to get myself onto the floor on my knees, leaning on the tub with one hand and holding the head with the other. MIL shoved a towel underneath me. I was most definitely “vocalizing”, to put it mildly, and recall reminding myself to keep my voice deep rather than high. The rest of the head came out quickly. All of that happened within the span of one ctx.
By this point, the midwife had told Isaac to hang up and phone 911. He was talking with them as the head emerged. I let go of the head and leaned on the tub to rest before the next ctx came. It came almost immediately and the rest of the body was delivered into my MIL’s waiting hands. I don’t recall pushing at all with either of the ctx. It felt like my body and gravity did all of the work. She laid him on the towel and I rested on the edge of the tub, exhausted and relieved and shocked. It was, as best as we can estimate, 11:37pm.
After catching my breath, I looked back and the first thing I saw was that our little baby was most definitely a boy! I brought him up between my legs and just held him. Isaac came in to see and to let me know the paramedics were on the way. I replied less than positively to that, but calmed down when he got the deer-in-the-headlights look and said the midwife had told him to, poor guy. (In hindsight, of course, it was the obvious and wise thing to do, but at the time all I could think was that we were fine and I didn’t want paramedics there.) We admired our new son together. My MIL came in next. I thanked her over and over, and she thanked God over and over. Now that he was here and everything seemed fine, there was such a sense of awe and relief and shock.
The paramedics arrived at this point, finding me still on my knees facing the tub with my back to the door, clutching the baby and trying to get my mind around the fact that I had just given birth. The huge paramedic maneuvered his way into our small bathroom and started talking to me. This man deserves a medal for having to deal with me, as I wasn’t at my most cooperative at this point. He wanted me to lay down, which sounded incredibly unappealing to me, as the bathroom floor was cold and hard and covered in blood and water from the birth. I didn’t want to lay down, I was perfectly comfortable where I was. He wanted the baby lower than the placenta, which seemed impossible to me at the time, since I didn’t want to just lay the baby on the floor. I’m not sure what all happened in the couple minutes after he arrived. I know I was repeatedly covered with a towel, which kept falling off, and he kept trying to move me when I didn’t want to be moved. At one point he stepped out to get something and I quietly delivered the placenta, still on my knees and still holding the baby. I told him the placenta was here and I was ready for him now.
He came in and started trying to move me again, but I was tangled in the cord and didn’t know where exactly he wanted me in the first place. Finally I told him to stop. I asked him to please just tell me what he wanted me to do and I would do it, just stop trying to move me and stop trying to take the baby. He said he wanted me to sit back. This was still really unappealing to me, but I felt bad for being so difficult when he was just trying to do his job so I figured I should make an effort to be more cooperative. I got myself untangled and allowed him to help me sit back on the floor. He clamped and cut the cord. The poor guy, his hands were shaking so hard as he clamped and cut. He checked to make sure the placenta was whole (it was) and placed it in a plastic bag. He tried again to take the baby, but I told him no, I wanted my husband to take him. (I feel mean about that now, but at the time I just wanted Isaac to be the first one besides me to hold the baby.) I called Isaac and handed him his son.
I was shaking a lot, as expected, and the paramedic had them bring me warm towels from the dryer. He told me then that I needed to get up so they could get me to the hospital. I said I didn’t want or need to go, and the second paramedic stepped in to reassure me that there was no rush and maybe I could go lie down on my bed for a few minutes so they could check everything out. I didn’t know whether to believe him or whether he was just trying to get me to stand up. Isaac tells me that no, the second paramedic really was okay with not transferring, since we had been planning a homebirth anyway, while the first paramedic was quite adamant that I be transferred. I asked where my midwife was and Isaac assured me she was on the way.
I did allow them to help me stand up. The second paramedic wanted me to move to the bed, but I was covered in blood and really didn’t want to spread that all around. The first paramedic kept offering me a pad, which felt to me a bit like offering a bandage to close up a surgery site. There was a lot more blood than that little thing was going to take care of. I asked the second paramedic if I could shower first. I laugh about the ridiculousness of that request now, but at the time it seemed entirely logical – I was a mess and I wanted to rinse off before moving to my nice clean bedroom. He said no, I couldn’t have a shower, so I handed him the bag of blue chux pads I’d had ready for the homebirth. He put a couple of them on the bed while I grabbed a towel and wiped myself off as best I could, then finally accepted the continually offered pad from the first paramedic. We moved to the bed and I was handed the baby and encouraged to continue to try to latch him (he had been trying to latch in the bathroom but hadn’t quite managed it yet). He latched on right away this time. The paramedic took my blood pressure and asked me some questions.
My midwife arrived around this point and started checking us over. She talked to the paramedics and they agreed to leave me in her care, since we had been planning a homebirth anyway. I thanked them repeatedly, appreciating both their care and their patience with me. Isaac went with them to sign all the release forms on our behalf. It felt very important to me at the time to convince everyone that the unassisted birth truly had been unexpected. The paramedics, the midwife, MIL – even my husband carefully asked later that evening if I had known the baby was about to be born when I’d gone into the washroom. But no, I hadn’t the slightest idea that after only a handful of hard ctx that had started less than an hour ago, my water would break and the baby would be completely delivered two ctx later.
I didn’t see them, but four firemen followed my midwife in the door. Jacob was pretty much over the moon at this point. He had woken up sometime when all the “the baby is coming!!!” yelling and chaos started. MIL and Isaac had taken turns watching him while the other helped me. He was pretty much occupied, though, when first the ambulance came, then the firetruck (“Are they going to climb up in the ladder??”), and then four firemen in uniform. He was wearing his firetruck pajamas that night. One of the firemen pointed that out to him; I recall hearing that, but I didn’t realize at the time that there were four firemen crowded in our little entrance way, talking with my very excited little boy. He kept telling them, “my name is Jacob, and there is a firetruck outside!” They all left as soon as it was determined that I would not be transferred. They had come because we have a very steep set of stairs, sharp turn, and narrow walkway, none of which would have made a transfer easy.
Once the firemen and paramedics left, everything settled down. We made our phone calls to family to share the news. The baby and I were both doing well. The baby’s temperature was a bit low but warmed up quickly after some skin-to-skin contact. He weighed 8.5 lbs. I hadn’t torn at all. I was finally able to have that shower I’d asked for earlier, which felt wonderful. The midwife was impressed with the “efficiency” of my body – the fast delivery, the lack of tearing, the quick delivery of the placenta, and the way my uterus had clamped right up and the bleeding had already slowed down.
The midwife left after two hours. I couldn’t believe it had already been that long. We were all too keyed up to sleep. Jacob laid down on our floor and played with cars, MIL went to bed but didn’t sleep at all, and Isaac and I spent some time on our computers and watched a bit of a show before turning out the lights sometime around 4am. Our new little boy dozed on my lap, nursing off and on and being thoroughly admired and marveled over.
I was surprised at how little pain I felt afterwards. My stomach has been uncomfortable any time I stand up since then, but otherwise I’ve been feeling great. I had been so sore after Jacob’s birth and I expected to feel the same way this time – but then again, nothing at all has been the same this time, not the pregnancy, not the labour, and most definitely not the delivery!
It took us several hours and many discussions, but we finally settled on the name, Luke H____ K___. Luke was a name we both liked, Isaac in particular, and comes from the apostle Luke. It was originally a name we had been considering as the middle name, but my husband so rarely has definite opinions on something that I agreed to let it be his first name since he liked it so much. H____ is both my dad and my granddad’s middle name. K___ is a masculine form of my MIL’s name, as she was the one who caught him when he was born and it felt right to honour that as part of his name. Coincidentally, it is also a form of my FIL’s middle name.
We are so grateful that everything turned out well with this unexpected unassisted delivery. Although we had been planning a homebirth, we very much intended to have our midwife be there for it. Thinking back on the “what if’s”, many thanks have been given to God for the safe arrival of our son. At the same time, it has been so affirming to us to have witnessed my body and instinct take over and achieve what is today typically viewed as a medical procedure. Everything happened as it should and with no need for any sort of intervention or active management. Even so, I appreciate that medical management is available when needed and will always be grateful that it wasn’t necessary for us and that our son is here and healthy and safe.
Everything is going wonderfully so far. He is a very calm little boy, easily settled and very mellow. He is perfect, absolutely beautiful. Nursing is going well, no problems at all. Jacob adores him and loves to hold him, stroke him, look at him and cuddle next to him. It is amazing how seamlessly this little boy has become a part of our family. We feel so blessed right now.