Our daughter was born at home at 1:42pm on Sunday, August 19, 2012, after approximately four hours of labour.
On Sunday morning, five days overdue, I wasn't feeling very hopeful. I'd had only the mildest of preparatory contractions in the past week, no signs to point to the beginning of labour.
It was after 9:00. Everyone had been up for a while, but Sunday is my morning to sleep in. My husband gets Saturday; that's the way it's been for a long time now. I wasn't really sleeping - my loose pregnancy joints made that difficult - but I was lounging in bed anyway, enjoying the quiet and the lack of pressing responsibilities.
The contractions began as I lay there in that place between fully awake and fully asleep. They were different than the contractions I'd been having on previous days. They were low down, crampy, and wrapped around my lower back. They weren't intense or even regular, but by 10:30 I was starting to think a back rub would feel nice. I texted my husband out in the other room, but he didn't have his phone with him and so I received no response. After laying there for another fifteen minutes, I got up to find him.
He came into the bedroom with me and we talked for a few minutes. I told him these contractions were different and I planned to phone the midwife after having a shower. I said I'd just give her a heads up; they were mild and infrequent enough that I didn't expect anything to happen anytime soon.
In the bathroom, I discovered bloody show and took that as confirmation that things were indeed beginning. I poked my head out of the bathroom to let my husband know and then got in the shower. I had only one notable contraction while in there, and it too was easily bearable.
At 11:30, I phoned my midwife to give her a heads up that I was in the beginning stages of labour. I let her know I'd give her a call back when things began to pick up. My husband and I quickly prepared the bedroom for our planned homebirth, putting extra sheets and waterproof covers on the bed and clearing a few things away.
I spent the next hour idly wandering around the house. My mother-in-law was there to watch the kids, and my father-in-law had also flown in for a weekend visit. I could feel everyone watching me. I made myself some toast with peanut butter, took my daily iron and other supplements, and tried to make lighthearted non-labour-related conversation. Eventually I retreated to the bedroom for some privacy. I drifted around the room, clearing away bits of clutter and making sure everything felt ready.
By 12:30, the contractions were getting much more intense. I sensed an urgency to call the midwife even though I didn't really expect anything would happen until much later in the day. Deciding it was safer to call than to have another unplanned unassisted birth, I went ahead and paged her. Another contraction hit as she promptly returned my call, so I motioned to my husband to answer the phone while I dealt with what was now definite pain. As the contraction ended, I took the phone and told her she should come. Now.
It was a cool, overcast morning, so I went to sit outside and await her arrival. My husband continued to hover nearby. I was quite inwardly-drawn by this point but found his presence comforting.
At 1:00, the midwife arrived. She moved her supplies into our bedroom and began setting up. I was having a more difficult time managing the pain by this point, unable to find a comfortable position. I worried about how I'd make it through the next hours if I was already having such a hard time.
The midwife asked if I was okay with an internal exam and I readily consented, wanting to know how close I was. I expected I would be about 5 or 6cm dilated. "You're 8cm already," she told me, "but I'm sure you already knew that." I didn't tell her I'd had no idea I was that far along, but it was a relief to hear.
The boys continued to wander in and out, giving me little hugs and kisses and excited smiles before heading back out to play with their Oma and Opa. The boy still wanted to see the birth itself, while the toddler's decision changed moment by moment. I was glad their grandparents were there to care for them.
By 1:30, I was moaning and whimpering through the pain. The contractions were so different from my other two labours - which, interestingly enough, were also very different from each other. My first labour's contractions were very much like waves. My second labour had a few contractions that felt like little pinches behind my bellybutton, followed by the three full-body-slam contractions that broke my water and delivered my baby with no real warning. These third labour's contractions were very low down, very crampy, and nothing at all like waves or pinches. Funny how three labours could each have such unique contractions.
Then came the contraction that brought with it some pressure and a slight urge to push, along with a great deal of moaning and whimpering. The boys were both in the room at the time. Their dad reminded them that I was making a lot of noise because it was hard work to help the baby come, and it hurt quite a bit too, but I was okay. They both accepted the explanation without any upset, having heard it ahead of time as well.
I knew that my water would break with the next contraction. I had an intense desire to be in the bathroom instead of the bedroom, so I told my husband and midwife and immediately headed there before the next contraction came. They followed me in and closed the door behind them. I hadn't planned to give birth in the bathroom because of the size and poor layout, but when the time came, that's just where I wanted to be.
The next few minutes were almost exactly like my previous delivery, only this time my midwife was there, my husband was with me instead of on the phone with the paramedics, and my mother-in-law was in another room instead of catching a baby she hadn't even planned to see delivered. I sat on the toilet and the next contraction came. The midwife said the baby was right there and suggested I move to the floor. I refused until the water broke, and then, as with last time, I moved to the floor on my knees and let my body do all the work. I was glad to be leaning on my husband this time instead of clutching the edge of the bathtub.
I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that this was it, the baby was coming, and it would all be over far sooner than I had expected. Two contractions later, our baby was born. It was 1:42pm, less than an hour after the midwife had arrived.
The birth itself was, oddly enough, the easiest part of the entire labour. I had only held on tightly to my husband as the contractions pushed the baby out; again, as with last time, I didn't push at all myself. I asked my husband later whether or not I had hollered through the delivery (as I most definitely did with my other two) and was surprised to hear that I hadn't made a sound this time. Just hung on and gratefully let it happen.
After collecting myself for a moment, I realized the midwife was telling me she would pass the baby up to me; I shifted position and took the baby from her, holding the baby against my chest. The baby had been screaming but immediately quieted and snuggled against me.
The boys came in soon after. They were both excited to see their baby sister or brother, but the boy was a bit disappointed he'd missed the birth. I was disappointed for him as well; it had all just happened so quickly.
The boys wanted to know whether they had a brother or sister. None of us had checked the gender yet, so I pulled the baby away from me to look. It was a girl!
I sat there a while longer, waiting for the placenta. Eventually I chose to cut the cord and give her to my husband so I could get into a better position. The midwife clamped the cord and my husband cut it, then took her out to show everyone while the midwife stayed with me. The placenta came (in good time, but it felt very much like a "finally" to me). I was able to get a close look at the placenta this time, which was a first, actually, despite it being my third birth.
The midwife asked if I'd like a shower and I gratefully nodded, remembering how I'd asked for one last time and been refused by the paramedics. I rinsed off and headed to my nice clean bed, where they brought me the baby. She promptly and easily began to nurse.
Eventually the midwife checked us over. I hadn't torn and everything else was fine as well, but the afterpains were nearly as bad as the contractions themselves had been. I was given Tylenol, Advil, and arnica pellets. Everything looked fine with the baby too. She was 8lbs 8oz, 51cm long, with a head circumference of 34cm.
She and I made ourselves at home in our bedroom for the rest of the day. Her daddy kept us company and her big brothers wandered in and out to look at her. The boy was thrilled, while the toddler was a bit more cautious. He soon came around, though, and began inspecting her ears, eyes, hands, and toes. I made my phone calls to share the news with family.
Later that evening, I left the bedroom and let my in-laws have some time with their new granddaughter. I sat outside for some cool fresh air and some quiet. My husband soon joined me. I tried to wrap my mind around the idea of having a girl. Even though I'd been prepared for and excited about either gender, there was still part of me that just assumed it would be a boy. But here she was, a girl!
The kids began getting ready for bed. Since the baby was still content after a full day of nursing, I went into the boys' room with them to put them to sleep, our usual bedtime routine. The boy kept telling me how excited and happy he was about his little sister being born. The toddler kept reaching up to touch my cheek and tell me he loved me. It was a lovely quiet time with just the three of us until the toddler fell asleep; just what each of us needed.
More than 24 hours later, we finally settled on a name for our little girl. We are all completely in love and so happy she's here.