Jonah: Home Water Birth

Jonah’s story starts before he was even conceived, when his big brother was nine months old and I started having terrible baby fever and was therefore trying to convince my husband that he also wanted another baby. At my six week post-partum visit with my OB/GYN after having my oldest, I decided to have the Mirena IUD put in, so the first step towards conceiving was getting that removed. I went in on March first and started my period that night. Now, while my husband and I weren’t actively trying at this point, we weren’t being super careful to protect against pregnancy either because we had read that it can take a while to conceive after removing the IUD, yet we managed to conceive our sweet baby on March fifteenth. We were so excited, but also pretty shocked to be pregnant so soon.

I knew right away that I wanted something different with this birth, I didn’t want to be at the hospital. So, after researching A LOT and talking with a friend who had recently had a home birth, that is what I decided was best for my baby and I, and I also knew right away that I wanted to try for a water birth. I never imagined the amount of flack I would receive for making this choice. One family member no longer speaks to me because they so strongly disagree with my choice-even after everything turned out fine and I later had another homebirth-I just had to brush it off and continue on knowing that this was the best choice for us.

My husband and I were lucky enough to fall in love with the first mid-wife we consulted with and hired her on the spot. I can honestly say that my husband and I looked forward to each and every appointment because our midwife was so wonderful and she made sure our pregnancy was as peaceful as we wanted it to be. That meant rarely doing internal exams (I can count on one hand) and very few pokes or tests.

His was a relatively easy pregnancy. I was really only sick for the first 13 weeks or so, and started having Braxton Hicks (practice) contractions around 22 weeks but more towards the end, around 30-ish weeks I started having severe pain around my pubic bone and after doing my own research, diagnosed myself with  Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction. Its common and it hurts, for me it hurt a lot. Some nights my husband would have to physically roll me over in bed because I couldn’t lift one leg without the other to roll, without putting myself in tears…but I got through it.

Around seven pm on December eleventh, I noticed contractions coming on pretty regularly but not really getting all that much stronger, so I gave it a little bit longer-just to be sure and then called my mid-wife Carol and her student (at the time) Julia and my friend Kate who was going to be my photographer. It was around eight-thirty when I finally thought I was in labor. Carol, Julia, Kate and another student midwife Janine showed up around nine and sat with me while I labored for several hours, rubbing my back, doing the hip-squeeze, and making sure I was using the bathroom every hour. Kate was so supportive, she sat with me the whole time, telling me how amazing I was doing, and that I looked beautiful. Around midnight contractions were leveling out, not really coming on as strong or as consistently as before and that is when I noticed Carol starting to sit back, becoming less and less involved, and just letting the students monitor me and report back to her. This is also when I remember thinking that I might be experiencing false labor. Everyone was so wonderful, supportive, understanding and just all around encouraging when Carol finally stepped up around three am and said that she was going to go home because labor had not only stalled, but it had stopped all together. I was devastated.  Here I was thinking that I was going to be holding my baby today, only to find out that he was not coming that day at all. I had even called my parents to drive down from their house five hours away so that they wouldn’t miss the birth. My dad used his vacation time for the week and everything-only to turn around after three days of no baby and go home.

The feelings that accompany false labor are horrible, or at least they were for me. I felt like a failure, like I had let everyone down, like I just wasn’t a good mom because I didn’t know what “real” labor felt like, now I know that was due to having the epidural with my first. Julia was my saving grace at this point. She stayed with me, re-assuring me that I was not a failure, that I did not ruin their night, and that they did not hate me for calling them out and making them all lose a night of sleep for nothing. She just kept saying “we would rather come for nothing than miss the birth!” She made me feel so much better about the whole situation.

The next week was absolute torture. I did everything I could to try and naturally induce labor from walking, to eating spicy food, to bouncing on a birth ball, to sex- with no results. Every contraction would give me a tiny bit of false hope, thinking “Is this it?!” “is this for real?!” all the while being fearful of calling everyone back out for nothing, wondering how in the world I was supposed to know when it was real. I just kept thinking he was coming any minute, so when he stayed in for another eight days, each day got progressively harder for me to handle which resulted in many tearful, sleepless nights.

Finally, on December nineteenth at three in the morning I awoke with a very strong urge to pee, so I got up and walked to the bathroom and had two VERY intense contractions while sitting on the toilet. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I was afraid to call anyone, so I labored alone until six-thirty am when my husband finally woke up and asked me why I was awake. I told him that I had been having regular contractions for a few hours so we called Carol to let her know what was going on. Carol and Julia arrived around seven and Carol immediately started to set up supplies and fill the birth tub while Julia checked baby and I. Around eight I asked for a cervical check to see if I could get in the tub or not (if you aren’t far enough along in labor there is the possibility of the warm water relaxing you too much and causing labor to stall). Julia said I was about seven cm and gave me the green light to get in the tub. I was so excited.

The water felt amazing and because of the size of the tub, the midwives were constantly boiling water to make sure I was comfortable and that the water was as warm as I wanted. Carol would dump a pot of boiling water into the tub during a contraction and the warm water would just swirl around me and hug me in its warm embrace, I felt like I melted and it was wonderful. I labored in the water by myself, switching from sitting on my knees, to leaning over the edge of the tub with my husband doing the hip squeeze until nine thirty-four when my water broke and I asked my husband to get in the tub and sit behind me so that I had back support and someone to lean on when it came time to push.

Because of getting the epidural with my first delivery, I never got the urge to push that everyone told me about, I felt some pressure down south and I remember the doctor yelling at me to push…but I don’t ever remember feeling ready, because of that I ended up with severe tearing. After my water broke I looked up at Carol, who was sitting ever so peacefully on my couch watching me labor, and said “this is the part I’m worried about, pushing. What if I tear again” and Carol, bless her heart, got down on my level, held my hand, looked me dead in the eyes and said, “You can do this. I believe in you.” When that next contraction started, I knew right away that it was different and I remember saying something like: “I feel like I should push”, to which Julia responded with: “so push!” I braced my feet against the tub and pushed myself back into my husband’s chest and pushed as hard as I could. My amazing Jonah was born at nine thirty-seven in the morning, just three short minutes after my water broke, not even giving Carol or Julia time to put gloves on. This time Kate had to wait for a babysitter and therefor didn’t arrived until nine thirty-five and Carol said “you better get your camera out!”. She managed to snap a few foggy shots of Jonah joining us earthside, but the majority of our pictures are all of our first moments together and big brother meeting little brother for the first time…they are precious. My husband later informed me that when I braced and pushed against him I actually scared him because my body went straight and it looked like something out of ‘The Exorcist’. Haha

The three of us sat in the tub memorizing each other’s faces for somewhere around forty-five minutes. He was perfect and I brought him into this world exactly how I wanted to, in our home, naturally. When we finally decided to get out of the tub, my husband got out first and took our son in his arms for the very first time while Carol and Julia helped me get cleaned up and into my bed, where he then placed Jonah on my chest and Julia helped him with his first latch. He was a professional right out of the gate and he nursed for forty-five minutes while Carol gave me the few stitches that were needed. I do remember getting really light-headed as I was attempting to get out of the tub and I had to sit back down and put my head between my legs to regain composure, but during this time Carol was running warm water down my back so that I wouldn’t get cold because she was also draining the tub.

Jonah’s first hours of life were so peaceful and full of love…and I remember every minute of it, for that I am beyond thankful. Without Carol, Julia, and my amazing husband I could never had done this…I am truly blessed. I feel that Jonah joining us earth-side in such a natural, peaceful way would not have been possible for me at the hospital.

Carol and Julia cleaned my house, started a load of laundry, and made sure we were all taken care of before they left, constantly reassuring me that I could call anytime with questions or concerns. They came back the next day for the newborn screening test and to make sure we were all still doing well. They also came back on days three and four because my milk had not yet come in and I was becoming concerned. Carol was so helpful and managed to track down a periodontal syringe and I had a friend who, so selflessly, donated a few ounces of her pumped milk to supplement with until my own milk came in. My husband and I like to joke that my boobs got jealous at the thought of someone else nourishing our baby because that night after only one try with the donated milk, my own milk came in and Jonah immediately started to gain weight. 🙂 Breastfeeding, for the most part, was easy except for a case of mastitis when Jonah was two months old. At this time Julia recommended I take a series of four different vitamins and the mastitis cleared up in just a few days, no antibiotics needed. Jonah nursed for one wonderful year and would have gone longer but I found out I was pregnant and I think the change in taste caused him to self-wean at twelve months.

I am so thankful for Carol and Julia. They have been a huge part of our lives since the very first appointment and I have a feeling they will forever be a part of our lives….and always a part of our hearts.