I’ve had to update this post with a link to watch the birth on Vimeo instead of Youtube since youtube won’t let me play the selected music. Just click on the words “Reid Family Home Water Birth”
The above is a video montage that I made from the birth pictures that my friend Emeth took at Garrett’s birth. Please be aware that there are a few pictures that show Garrett actually being born.
Below is the Birth Story:
On Friday August 15th I awoke at around 5:20 am to early contractions. I went to the bathroom and noticed that I had lost a bit of mucous plug. It was a clear sign to me that I was in early labor. I waited a few minutes to see if contractions continued and they did. I sent my husband who had left for work about a half hour earlier a text message telling him to “stay tuned” and that I might be in labor. A few minutes later I threw up which was another sure sign that I was in true labor. I felt relieved that I went into labor on Friday and not the next day as both my husband and my midwife were scheduled to be out of town on Saturday. It was also a full moon so I was not shocked to go into labor. I was 39 weeks pregnant.
My 3 ½ year old, Camden, was still sleeping so I hopped into the shower so that I could have a chance to take one before she woke up. My contractions continued during the shower. When I got out of the shower I called my midwife, who lives a few hours away, and informed her that I was in early labor. She said she would send Dorece (the assistant midwife) and Susan (one of her apprentices who happened to be in town) to my house later that morning and that she would be there by early afternoon.
By 6:30 in the morning Camden was awake (she has a keen sense for waking up when I am awake) and I managed to get her some breakfast and distract her with a movie. She was a little annoyed that I had to take a break while getting her cereal to squat during the contraction. I told her that we might have our baby today and that when mommy needed a “break” she’d need to be patient and wait until I was done because I was having a contraction. She was very patient from then on. By this time I started to get antsy that Mike wasn’t home. Even though labor might take all day (labor with my daughter lasted 58 hours) I didn’t want to be alone. So I called Mike at work and told him to please come home. He carpools to work and works about 45 minutes away so he said it would be a little bit.
While I waited I called a few people to tell them I was in labor and also called my friends who wanted to be at the birth. Unfortunately, my friends Lisa and Shilowe were unable to attend the birth (Lisa was out of town and Shilowe had a family emergency) but I was able to get a hold of Shelby and Emeth who said they’d get there soon. While I waited for Mike to get home I sat on a birthing ball during my contractions and focused on keeping my hands and my jaw unclenched and willing my cervix to open rather than fighting the contraction. I just kept repeating to myself, “open, open.”
By 8:16 am my contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart while sitting on the birthing ball. I threw up again at 8:30 and was starting to get nervous about Mike not being there when thankfully he showed up at 8:34. I was able to relax after that knowing that he was available if I needed him. He did a good job of going around our room and moving some furniture out of the way to make room for the birth pool and he brought some chairs into the room so that people would have places to sit.
Dorece arrived at about 9:30 and Susan arrived shortly after that. At this point my contractions were consistently about 5 minutes apart and lasting for about a minute each. Susan checked me at around 10:30 am and I was found to be about 4-5 cm. Susan set off to get the potato soup started (a tradition at all of Sherry’s home births) and Mike started getting the birth pool set up and inflated. Shelby and Emeth also arrived at some point during this time and it was great to have them there to distract me in between contractions. Shelby wanted to know if I wanted to get up and walk or do some squats and I declined. I wanted to make sure that Sherry was there for the birth as she was the one that I wanted to deliver the baby and I felt tons of pressure when I stood up so I didn’t want to “help” things along too much by being too active. I was very content to just sit on my birth ball and lean against the bed during contractions.
By 12:10 the pool was ready to go and I gladly got in. The water felt great and it felt great to lean against the walls of the pool during my contractions. My position of preference was to be on my knees in the water in a wide stance with my arms folded over the edge of the pool and my head resting on my arms. I made myself be aware of any tension in my body during contractions and focused on “letting go” and keeping my body “loose.” When I felt my body tensing for an upcoming contraction I mentally encouraged the contraction to come and to open my cervix. I think this mental awareness made such a tremendous difference for this labor as opposed to being in labor with my daughter. I also kept my eyes open this time and when a contraction would come on I would find something to stare at (a focal point) and stare at it throughout the contraction and focus on my breathing and keeping my body loose.
When I was in the pool Camden came in the room and asked if she could get in too. We told her that she could and she went and got her swimsuit on and got in the pool with me. It was very cute. I just made sure she knew that she couldn’t touch me during a contraction because I needed to concentrate.
After I’d been in the pool for about a half hour Susan asked if I wanted some counter-pressure on my back during contractions. I didn’t think it would really matter since I wasn’t experiencing back labor but I thought I’d give it a try and see if it helped at all. I was amazed at the difference it made. My back didn’t hurt at all but the firm pressure on my back gave my mind another focal point on my body, another sensation to take notice of, rather than focusing exclusively on the contraction. It was a great distraction. From that point onward there was always someone giving me counter-pressure during contractions. I’m sure their arms got tired but it was such a blessing.
Sherry showed up at some point around one o’ clock and I was so glad that she was there. It was another relief to welcome my body to go as fast as it needed to. I encouraged Mike to take Camden and go get some lunch since last time he felt sick since he didn’t eat the entire time I was in labor. I wasn’t sure how long labor would last and I wanted him to have the energy he needed. He got Camden out of the tub and they left to get some lunch.
While they were gone my contractions intensified and I began vocalizing (moaning) during contractions. I tried to control my breathing and slow it down. Susan made the suggestion that I breathe in through my nose and out my mouth and that was helpful. At 1:45 pm my contractions were 3 minutes apart and lasting for a minute or more. Sherry checked me and I was 100% effaced and 8 cm dilated. I was entering transition. Shelby called Mike to tell him to come home and she thought she would be funny and tell him I all ready had the baby. Apparently there was silence on the other end of the phone until Shelby interjected with a “just kidding.” Poor Mike.
Mike was back home shortly after 2:00 and by 2:06 he was sitting behind me on a chair with his legs in the pool and Sherry was in the pool too. Sherry told me I was complete and that I could start pushing and I did not believe her. I had never gotten to the “wall” that I thought I would reach in labor and the contractions had never gotten so unbearable that I didn’t think I could make it. I didn’t get to the point I thought I would reach where I would beg for an epidural (something I had with my first daughter) so the idea that I could start pushing and that I would actually meet my baby soon was an amazing thing to me. Sherry convinced me that I was indeed complete and that I could in fact push. At 2:08 pm I gave my first push even though the urge had not yet come. After the first push the urge was definitely there and I began pushing with each contraction. Pushing was a new sensation for me. With my daughter the epidural was so strong that I didn’t feel any sensation with pushing and not even the “ring of fire.” I was somewhat fascinated to notice that my body didn’t feel like pushing during an entire contraction. I would give short little pushes and take quick breaks between each push. I don’t understand why people count for you in a hospital. It seems very silly knowing that your body will do it all automatically. Sherry did a great job getting me to keep my eyes open and to keep my chin down. When I didn’t feel I could push anymore her eyes gave me strength to keep going.
At this point my water still hadn’t broken and the pressure during contractions from the water was very intense. I kept wishing that Sherry would just break the water with her finger but Sherry never breaks the water. Finally at 2:35 the water broke and the baby’s head began to crown. It was good that the water wasn’t broken prematurely because there was some slight meconium staining in the water. I have heard the term that giving birth to a baby’s head is somewhat like pushing out a bowling ball. That’s about as close of a description as I could give too. There were a few points where I was like “hmm, I’m not sure if I like this. This is uncomfortable. I think I’ll stop.” Only a laboring woman would be capable of such an irrational thought. After giving it some quick consideration I realized that leaving the head where it was would be much worse and a lot more uncomfortable so I just kept pushing through it. At 2:45 the head was delivered and it felt amazing to reach down and feel the baby’s head. For the next few contractions (it felt like forever) I pushed through the contractions to deliver the shoulders. It became clear that the shoulders weren’t coming and Sherry informed me that I would need to stand to deliver the shoulders. I was a little incredulous. Umm, stand? Luckily I have a strong husband and he was able to stand behind me in the pool and support me by wrapping his forearms around me under my arm pits. So at 2:51 we stood and I began pushing while standing. Sherry helped to pull and guide the baby’s shoulders out while I pushed with all of my might. Finally, with amazing relief, my baby came tumbling out and I heard a splash as Sherry caught the baby into the water.
I looked down to see my baby and was amazed at what I saw. My baby seemed huge. It was the first thought that entered my mind and it was hard to notice anything else but how big my baby was. Then I immediately remembered that we didn’t know what we were having and opened my baby’s legs. “It’s a BOY!” I exclaimed. I could not believe it. I was so elated and thrilled. I was hoping so badly for a boy and could not believe that we actually had one. Mike was so overjoyed that he cried. It was amazing to be able to sit there and hold him and just stare at his beautiful face – the beauty that I think only a mother who has just delivered a baby, understands. And it wasn’t a figment of my imagination, he really was BIG. Holding him seemed like I was holding a baby that was a few months old. He had cute fat little cheeks and felt very hearty. I just kept saying, “I can’t believe how big he is.” Our sons apgars were 10, 10. We let the cord stop pulsing before we cut it and at 3:08 Mike cut the cord.
A few minutes later I started experiencing contractions to deliver the placenta. I started to feel dizzy and woozy. I informed Sherry and they gave me some juice and we decided we should push out the placenta. I handed our son over to Mike and we tried to deliver the placenta. My placenta was attached up front and unfortunately it had become stuck in a fold in my uterus. I began to feel even more light headed and my hearing began to fade. I could tell I was starting to black out. Mike did a great job of keeping me present and his eye contact prevented me from fainting. Sherry had to reach inside and remove the placenta manually. It was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever felt and it was definitely the most difficult part of giving birth. Once the placenta was out I was helped into our large jetted tub to get cleaned up. It was only 5 feet away from the birth pool but it felt like a mile. The amount of blood I had lost made it so that I had to half crawl to the tub and I hated the feeling of weakness and helplessness that I felt. I took awhile to recoup in the tub and I had to be helped to our bed after the bath. I was anxious to hold our baby and hated that I hadn’t been able to hold him while I was recuperating.
While I was in the tub they weighed our little boy and we all made guesses as to how big we thought he was. I guessed that he was 10 pounds 14 ounces. Someone else thought nine pounds. Sherry said he was 11 pounds and all of us said “no way!” Sherry put him in the sling scale and he weighed in at a whopping 11 pounds and 3 ounces! We could not believe it. He was 22 inches long and had a 15 in head. What is most amazing is that despite my sons large size (and no, I didn’t have gestational diabetes, he is just a healthy boy) I did not tear at all. My wonderful and experienced midwife made sure that I didn’t tear while delivering the head and the shoulders.
Finally at 4:25 I was able to lay in bed with our baby boy. I tried to nurse him but he was too tired and preferred to just snuggle. We were both pretty worn out. Before getting into bed with the baby I was exhausted and wondered how I would be able to stay awake. Hormones are an amazing thing. I was amazed that within minutes of holding him I had an amazing sense of energy and alertness. My sleepiness evaporated completely. I was in awe of our baby boy. My husband and I talked and we decided to name our little boy Garrett Michael Reid. Garrett was a name my husband practically begged for the entire pregnancy but that I had rejected each and every time. It was funny because when he was born and I first saw his face one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind was “Oh man! He looks like a Garrett!”
So that is our birth story. It was our first home birth and it was the most wonderful and amazing experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better labor and birth. Delivering the placenta was another story but I feel blessed to have been at home and been in Sherry’s experienced hands rather than going through that ordeal in a hospital. I can only imagine what would have happened trying to deliver Garrett (and the placenta) in the hospital. I also can only imagine all of the unnecessary tests that would have been run on Garrett just because of his size.
I definitely attribute my wonderful pregnancy (it really was a great pregnancy), labor and birth to the vitamins and herbs that Sherry had me take while I was pregnant. I whole heartedly believe that the Red Raspberry Leaf Tea and the calcium/magnesium supplements played the biggest role. Giving birth to my son was definitely hard work but it was amazingly easier than labor with my daughter. I never felt like the contractions were getting the best of me. I never felt panicked. I never felt out of control. I felt empowered, strong and at peace. I am so thankful that there was no fear at my birth. I am so thankful that I didn’t know how big Garrett was going to be. I think having no fear or apprehension about the birth and not wondering if he would “fit” allowed me to relax and just let my body do its work. It never even crossed my mind while pushing him out that he might be “too big.”
Now I can say that I have given birth with an epidural and pitocin and had the “blessing” of not feeling any physical discomfort (or sensation, for that matter) during birth and I have also had the experience of birthing an 11 pound baby at home without modern technology or pain relief. Without hesitation, I can say that I would choose the experience of birthing at home over and over and over again. I can’t quite put into words how much it meant to me and what a wonderful experience it was.