I just attended a mama who had her 3rd baby with me. It is amazing to see the family grow and change, the babies so full of personality and charm. While things are similar with most every birth, every birth is also quite unique, and these three births, although they were to the same mother, with babies in the same size range, the births were very different!
Denise has herself been a student midwife, and now holds a bachelors degree in holistic health care. The first birth I attended with her occurred in Massachusetts, outside of Boston. I flew up close to her due date, and stayed for a week. She usually carries her babies to 41 weeks, so we were sweating it a little when 41 week mark came and went, worried that I would have to extend my trip and buy a new plane ticket, but labor came at 41 weeks and 2 days.
Denise had invited two of her friends from midwifery class to attend, as assistants/doulas and it was actually the first birth I ever attended with the help of an assistant (which was bliss, and I have never attended one alone since). This was her fourth child, first homebirth. Her labor started slow and easy, progressed in a textbook manner, she felt pushy, climbed on the bed and pushed a couple of times and out slid a beautiful baby girl (if you ask her son, who was around 4 at the time, he will tell you that she just JUMPED out of his mom's crotch). The only thing even slightly out of the ordinary was her partner Pete, who was slightly squeamish passed out shortly after the placenta delivered. I still give him a hard time about that. The birth was perfectly textbook, about 12 hours from start to finish. Lovely, normal postpartum, lovely normal newborn in the 7ish lb range.
About 4 months after after that sweet baby girl, Nova, was born, Denise and her family moved south to the city I lived in, with plans that when her baby was older, she would begin to attend births with me. Denise and I had been great friends for a long time prior to that birth, I think we knew each other when we were planning the births of our now 10 year-olds. Before she could get Nova weaned and be ready to work with me, she became pregnant again.
At precisely 40 weeks, a little earlier than Denise's norm, labor began. We expected things to progress along the same lines. While the early and middle parts of the labor went very much the same way as the first, transition this time was hard. Denise spent hours at 9 centimeters. I have no real understanding of exactly why it happened, but it was hard. Hard for her, hour after hour, being told "I know it hurts" and "No, I don't know why it is taking so long, but you both are fine". Hard for me to see my dear friend suffering, knowing there was little I could do to help her, but to trust birth and trust her strength. She never gave in, she kept fighting the hard transition fight, until finally, after 6 hours of incredibly intense end stage labor, with a roar and two hard, unexpected, spontaneous, pushes, another sweet baby girl was born, caught by her mother's own loving hands. This baby DID actually jump right out of her crotch. I didn't even have time to put on gloves. She had a very short cord, and I suspect this was the reason for the slow descent, but we will never really know. Lola was almost a carbon copy of her sister, a bit heavier, but they could literally pass for twins at birth.
This last birth was an exercise of shooting from the hip. This was a surprise pregnancy, She has moved, and I have since relocated my midwifery practice to Southern West Virginia, so we have a considerable distance between us. Denise is nearly 40 and not was feeling as fit or healthy as she has in the past. Certain health issues created minor hiccups in the course of prenatal care, and all along, Denise considered the strong possibility that she might have this baby in the hospital. Part of it being realistic, and I think part of it was her fear of transition. The stars aligned, and I found myself nearby during the holidays. Denise was still not 100% committed, but willing to see what happens, the plans were made for me to hang out, and for Denise, her partner and her beautiful 19 year old daughter Amber to rock this last birth out. The thought of Amber catching the baby made us all excited and proud, proud of the deep trust that this young woman has now in birth and the power of love and life.
The labor began at 41 weeks and change, and was relatively quick, judging by her earlier patterns. About 4 hours of active labor, and about 6 pushes, and handsome little David slipped into the world, with a blonde fauxhawke and looking as adorable as his older sisters. Things got a wee bit hairy at the end, but the family performed amazingly. Over all, this birth was perfect. A perfect end to an era of creating wonderful little people to populate the earth with their wit and wisdom, the wisdom passed on to them through their mother and father, their loving brothers and sister, their connectedness as a family. I am proud and honored to have been a part of the creation and evolution of this family.
I love you Denise and Pete You are great parents.
I met J. and C. through another midwife who practices about 2 hours from me. I spoke with J. online many times before they finally came into care. J. was receiving care from a local OB, and was having a normal uncomplicated pregnancy. This was her second child, and she wanted a low tech, intervention free birth. They spoke with several previous clients, and did lots of homework before actually committing to care. C is a surgeon in a local hospital, so he had lots of questions. Finally they called and set up the appointment, and transferred care completely.
J is a sweet, soft spoken southern belle, certified as an elementary school teacher, but currently teaching their only child at home. They both asked lots of questions at prenatals, and maintained a healthy lifestyle throughout the rest of the pregnancy, to ensure a great birth. Their little boy was quite possibly the smartest two year old I have ever met. There is much to be said for genes.
The afternoon her labor began I had just pulled into the parking lot of a community pool where my daughter was having a end of summer pool party with her softball team. It was about 4pm. J. texted me that her contractions were mild but regular and she would stay in touch. We texted and talked a few more times throughout the evening, and then bedtime rolled around. I laid down and tried to sleep, but it just wouldn't come. I realized much too late that I am in the wrong profession for someone who is as sleep sensitive as I am. I got another text that her contractions were 5 minutes apart and getting stronger, so I got up and showered. I called her when I got out of the shower, around midnight, to check in and see if she wanted me to come. Her mouth was saying no, but she sounded like she was working hard, and I had an hour drive, so I made the call to go ahead and go. Haylea was still up in the northern part of the state, and had to have her toddler into the doctor in the am, so I didn't even bother calling her. I texted Sandra, and she met me at the house and we left together.
We got to J's home around 1:30am. I got in and said my hello's and took a set of vitals. Listened to the baby and he sounded perfect. She asked me to check her, and the exam showed her to be 3-4cms dilated and about 80% effaced. She said she was tired and wanted to try to sleep. Sandra and I went into the other room they had set up for us, with a coffee pot and sleeping space, should we need it. We made a pot of coffee and chatted quietly in the other room. Every 5 minutes, I heard J softly moan through her contractions. I went in a couple of times to check on her and listen to the baby. At one point, not to much later, I heard them up rummaging around so I peeked in and saw that she was getting into the bathtub. It was about 3:30am.
Since she was up and running a bath, Sandra and I decided to go ahead and fill the birth pool, and set up our equipment. Her bathtub was a spacious jetted garden tub, but had a sliding glass door which offered NO access to mom and baby, so we decided the pool was the better option. We got the pool inflated, and went to attach the hoses and found that every single fixture on their upstairs level was too small to fit any of my hose attachments. Frustrated but motivated, Sandra and I set to work filling the pool with pots, stopping every 15 to 20 minutes to take a listen to the baby. J and C were such an awesome team, working together during her suddenly very intense contractions.
Around 4:30 we got enough water into the pool that she could move over, and in the process of getting out of the bathtub, her water broke. She got into the pool, and was immediately in transition. I have never seen a woman have such an intense transition. Sandra continued to work on filling the pool, while I offered what support I could. It seemed as though nothing we did helped her in any way. Her husband, who was a larger man, was working hard to do counter pressure on her back, while she clutched and grabbed at his clothing, screaming with the peak of each contraction. Each contraction seemed to be more intense, and she was having a lot of pain in her sacrum and lower back.
I was sitting on the birth ball beside the pool, gently encouraging her through every contraction, while her husband struggled to do counter pressure on her back leaning over the pool and reaching around behind her. while she grabbed his shirt and pulled on him, trembling and screeching the whole time. In hindsight it was quite comical, but at the moment, it made everyone anxious, her pain was so intense, and there was a very real chance that she might actually pull her fully clothed, very large husband into the pool with her, on top of her! I listened to the baby after every other contraction, knowing she was very close, as the heart tones were very low, just above the pubic bone. I tried to encourage her to reach inside and feel the baby's head, she was adamant that she was hours from finishing and it was just too hard.
At one point, around quarter after 5, J. looked me dead in the eye, and serious as a heart attack said "I can only do this for 15 more minutes". I remember thinking, "Or what"? but what I said was "One at a time honey, one contraction at a time". Luckily for all of us her baby was born EXACTLY 15 minutes later. I guess she was serious. Baby Cameron was born into his father's hands smooth as silk. Baby was pink and happy, mama hardly bled at all. Perfect birth in my eyes, but hard, hard work in hers.
Every birth I attend humbles me. Every woman who births her baby in her power and on her own terms shows me how strong we really are, but also how fragile. I am never cocky, for I know at any moment, no matter how much I trust birth and believe in women's power and strength, it can change. I know that birth is as safe as life gets. We can never be fully prepared for the unexpected tragedies that occur in our lives, but we can soften our hearts and be of humble spirit, listening to the wisdom of God in every thing. We can't be prepared for every little hiccup that might occur along the way, but we can be flexible enough to change our minds about what exactly constitutes perfection, about what brings us to our knees before our creator, and trust that there is a bigger picture, a larger destiny than we can see.
Oh... and we ended up bailing that pool with the same pots we filled it with.