Although he was born on Friday, Benno’s birth story starts on Monday of that week. Ok, wait. That’s not true. His birth story, or at least my journey to it, actually started years before he was even conceived. And this birth story feels incomplete without at least a little background on my journey to natural birth, and ultimately, the birth of our first son.
For as long as I can remember, I have always known I wanted to be a mother. I was what many would consider “baby crazy” long before I was ever ready to have children. One day my mom told me about a friend of hers, Cori, and about how she was going to be photographing the upcoming birth of her first child. She also told me that Cori was a blogger and had been blogging her way through the entire pregnancy. My baby crazy self was intrigued, so I started following her blog. Now at this point in my life, when I imagined giving birth to my future children, I imagined hospital births in which I would request they hook me up to the epidural at the registration desk. Heck, if they could do it in the parking lot, that would be even better! So as I followed Cori’s blog, I was intrigued, but I honestly thought she was a little nuts. It’s kind of like why I watch that Sister Wives show. I was intrigued, but no way in hell could I do it. But more power to her! I couldn’t stop “watching” her journey. And this continued through her subsequent pregnancies.
Around the time Cori got pregnant with her third child, I was just becoming serious in a relationship with the man who would become my husband. We were having discussions about the future and having children down the road. It was around this time that my mindset on Cori’s natural birthing changed and it didn’t seem so crazy to me. I think it was the combination of having years of great information given to me on Cori’s blog, combined with being with a man who not only believed in me, but also believed in natural birth.
From that point, I dove into getting as much information on natural birth as I could get. I read birth story after birth story, watched documentaries, read articles and had conversations with Cori. The next thing I knew, not only was I set on having a natural birth for our first child, I was set on having a home birth. And I wasn’t even pregnant yet! I was so excited when Cori became a natural birth educator and I knew I would be able to take birth classes from her when the time came.
Ok – now let’s get back to the actual birth story. Although he was born on Friday, Benno’s birth story starts on Monday of that week. Benno and I went out Monday night for an impromptu dinner and movie date night. This momma wanted pesto pasta from a local Italian restaurant and Benno wanted to see the movie “Home”. During dinner, I started having consistent contractions, and timed them at around 7 minutes apart. They lasted all the way through dinner, but stopped somewhere during the middle of the movie. I brushed them off as my Braxton Hicks contractions getting more organized. Tuesday I had my weekly appointment with my midwife where she noted how spry I was coming up the stairs and commented on how I wasn’t having a baby this week. She didn’t even check me at this appointment and we talked about what the procedure is for home birth in regards to going postdates.
Each night that week, I would have consistent contractions for a couple of hours and then nothing. They weren’t painful, just mostly pinchy; I wasn’t even timing them. I was apparently the only one not taking them seriously -Benno warned his boss early in the week about my contractions and my mom was prepping at work in case she had to leave abruptly. Benno’s boss even joked that he would prefer if I could wait until Friday because that would work best for him with Benno missing as little work as possible.
Thursday was my week change day – 39 weeks. After my kidney stone/preterm labor scare, I had decided that each new week I made it to, I would get some sort of a treat. The treat was different every week. I decided that this week’s change day treat was a pedicure. That morning I went to my chiropractor appointment, got my pedicure, went to my acupuncture appointment, treated myself to lunch and then got my eyebrows waxed. The acupuncturist appointment was different that day than previous treatments. Up to that point her goal was keeping baby in. But that day she did a ripening treatment to encourage him out, as well as a nice back massage. That night, the contractions happened again and there were a couple that I had to focus through that definitely felt real; but once again, they tapered out and I brushed them off. I truly thought nothing of them. I had prepared myself to go to 42 weeks. Surely I wasn’t having this baby at 39! We took my weekly belly photo next to the chalkboard where I had written “we are so close to meeting him!” I had no idea at that time just how true that was! I hadn’t slept well the previous night and I felt a need to make sure I slept well that night, so I took a Benadryl and headed to bed.
Friday morning (39w 1d) I woke up around 6am, went to the bathroom and went back to bed. It was just a normal day. At 7am, I rolled over in bed and felt a pop. I thought it was just a gas bubble, but it felt a little different. I didn’t think it was my water, but I headed into the bathroom just to check, because how exciting would that be? Plus I had to pee again. I got to the bathroom and as I pulled down my pants, I had a big, distinguishable gush – luckily most of it ended up in the toilet. I was pretty shocked, and a bit in doubt, so I grabbed a PH strip and tested the fluid – definitely not pee. Alrighty then. Looks like this is happening. I immediately called my midwife – she knew I was pregnant before Benno did, so why shouldn’t she know I was in labor before him too, right? Joking! I was still in doubt so I wanted to talk it through with her before I alerted him. Since I wasn’t having contractions, she told me to go on with my day as normal, but to fit in a walk and to make an acupuncture appointment. I had 24 hours to get contractions started. Next I called Benno who had already been at work for about an hour and a half. I asked him if he was ready, because my water had broken. I also joked that he should point out to his boss that I had waited until a Friday. I texted my mom and told her what was up, made an acupuncture appointment, sent Benno a list of things to get from the store on his way home and hopped in the shower. My legs needed to be shaved, obviously. While I was in the shower, I felt the need to clean the house, and actually scrubbed the shower while I was in it. I couldn’t have a dirty house for a home birth… There would be people here. Plus, who knew when I would be able to shave my legs or clean the house again. Priorities, right? Benno was home by 8:30 and started helping me finish the last few things around the house.
Contractions started around 9:30am. They were 3-4 minutes apart, lasting around a minute and pretty intense right out of the gate. I timed them while still attempting to perfect the house. After an hour of timing the contractions, I texted my midwife with the stats, telling her I was pretty sure the acupuncture wasn’t going to be needed. She told me to stop timing contractions and go for a walk. I really wanted to make the BIRTHday cake from scratch that I had planned to make in early labor, but it was already too intense – just trying to finish cleaning the house was too much. Benno knew how badly I wanted the cake to happen, so he even offered to make it if I coached him through it, but I needed to focus on the contractions. By 11 I threw the cake idea out the window, stopped attempting to clean the house, and told Benno to contact the midwife again and tell her the walk wasn’t happening – things are too intense and I didn’t even want to get off my hands and knees/birth ball on the floor. She told Benno to set up the birth pool and prep the bed, but not fill it the pool and that she was on her way over. I took this photo of him setting up the birth pool at 11:18am – time gets blurry from here. It took him forever to set up because I kept needing him to come back for each contraction.
My midwife arrived (around noon?) and checked me. I remember saying “If I am only like a 4, I am going to kill someone.” I had requested not to know my dilation, but I was told later that I was a 4. This was exactly why I requested not to know. Had I known I was only a 4 at that point, with how intense it was, I know the rest of this story would have been completely different.
At this point, my midwife had us take a walk around my front yard. The student midwife/doula had arrived a bit earlier and started taking photos, amongst her prep and labor assistance. This is also the point in the day that I lost my mucus plug. It took us forever to circle our yard just a few times, because I kept having to stop and work through the contractions. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day though!
After the walk, I went back inside and got back in my comfy place on my knees, draped over the birth ball. I really liked this position and I didn’t want to move. Everything was really intense. Benno and my midwife kept telling me how great I was doing and I remember telling them that they were lying, because if I was doing so great, I would be allowed in the birth tub. All I wanted was to get in the water, but they kept telling me it was too early.
The midwife was worried I was going to hurt my knees kneeling on them for however many hours this was going to take, so they had me move to the bedroom to get on the bed. I stopped in the bathroom on the way to pee and got stuck on the toilet during a contraction. Oh how I HATED the toilet contraction – that was a moment that I felt completely out of control and I just hated it. On all my previous contractions, I was able to collapse to the floor to sway my way through it and I was able to do what my body needed to do and stay out of my head. I couldn’t do that on the toilet. I had no coping mechanism on there and I got inside my head, which was not where I wanted to be. I made it through the contraction and there was no way I was doing another one there, so I speed peed and flew to the bedroom. Once in the bedroom, I was helped onto the bed and things were a whole other level of intense. I was laying on my side and really didn’t like the position, but didn’t have the energy to move.
I was already at the point where once a contraction would subside, I would almost be sleeping until the next one hit. It wasn’t long after getting on the bed that I told Benno that if I couldn’t get in the birth pool soon I wanted to go to the hospital and get an epidural because I couldn’t do it anymore. The next contraction hit and I involuntarily grunted and pushed through it. I told Benno that the baby was coming. The midwife came in and told me that she usually only checks every 4 hours when waters are broken, and that it had only been two hours, but she wanted to check again since I was sounding pushy. She checked me and told Benno to go ahead and start filling the tub. Oh thank goodness! I found out later that I was 8-9 at that point. They had the tub filling and they were boiling water on the stove and the BBQ grill because things were moving much more quickly than anticipated. They checked me one more time and I was in the birth pool by 2:30ish. It was glorious!
The midwife told me that she didn’t want me to fight my body if it pushed, but that she didn’t want me to add to it, because I still had a bit of a lip. The backup midwife and my mom arrived right around this time.
Around 2:45 they checked me one last time, told me I was complete and could do whatever I felt compelled to do. Nobody told me when to push, nobody was counting through my contractions. Nothing. It was just me and my body, doing what felt right, at my own pace.
I birthed his head in the pool, and we discovered that his hand was pressed up against his face, making his shoulders get a bit stuck. The midwives had me stand up in the pool, but I kept wanting to squat too low – his head had already come out of the water, so it couldn’t go back in, and the midwives needed more room to maneuver him – the pool was not giving them enough room to do what they needed to do. They had me get out of the pool so one of them could support my perineum while the other one turned the baby to get his shoulders loose.
At 4:02pm, Benno was born, in our living room ~ 9 hours after my water broke – 6.5 hours after the first contraction hit – after an hour and 13 minutes of pushing. I had done it! He was here!!
The midwives unwrapped the cord from his neck and he was immediately placed on my chest where the midwives attended to and evaluated him and we attempted to get him latched, but he wasn’t interested. I birthed the placenta, Benno made the first cut on the cord and my mom made the second. We weighed him at 7 pounds, 11 ounces.
I was then helped to the bedroom to asses any tears. I had one minor tear that the midwife debated even needing to stitch. She ended up stitching it to be safe, but said it was so minor that it probably didn’t need to be done. At that point, we were able to get him to latch and he was measured at 19 inches. The student midwife started processing my placenta to be encapsulated, I was able to pee, and within a couple hours of birth, the birth team left us to bond as a new family.
It was intense – it was an absolute whirlwind – he came on like a freight train, but it was absolutely perfect. Over a month later, I still haven’t quite wrapped my brain around the fact that I pushed him out of me, let alone the fact that I did it unmedicated in my living room. Crazy. Amazingly crazy. The support that I had was crucial and amazing. I could not have asked for a better birth team. Oh! And for those wondering how unmedicated labor compares to kidney stones, labor wins, hands down. Kidney stones hurt way worse. Plus, you don’t get this perfect gift at the end of kidney stones: Here are photos of the midwives’ timeline notes for more accurate times than my brain could remember.