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Sophie's Birth Story

by Becky Jackson

At around 9:30pm, I noticed one pretty intense contraction that seemed like a signal of labor. They continued sporadically, and I stayed up cleaning house, thinking I would stay busy to keep them coming. I was ready to go to bed around midnight, but by then my back was so tight and achy that I couldn't sleep. Of course, the excitement of wondering if this is the real thing kept me up too.

Around 1:00 or 2:00am, I took a hot bath to try to relieve that tightness/achiness in my back area. I still couldn't rest very well. I kept timing contractions and updating my husband, Mike.

I started feeling pretty uncomfortable pains and realizing this was the real thing around 3:00am. I was still afraid the pains would stop, though, and started consulting with Mike about when to call the midwife. I called her around 4:30 to give her some warning.

I started wanting Mike to get the kiddie pool set up. He was hard to wake up and seemed grumpy at first, but he worked really hard at getting it the right temperature once he was fully awake and realized that I was really in labor.

I sat in the pool for about an hour through some pretty intense contractions. Mike called the midwife again around 6:30 and told her my pains were about four minutes apart. He'd been timing, but they ranged from three to seven minutes.

My five-year-old son woke up and thought I was making some funny noises. He told me my moaning sounded "silly."

I got out of the water around 7:00am. Sitting up in the bed felt more comfortable in giving my backside support. The lightness of my body in the water had made the pains feel more intense.

The midwife arrived just afterward and listened to the heartrate. She and her apprentice monitored baby's heartrate pretty frequently.

I asked Mike to wake up my oldest daughter, who was seven. My pains were starting to feel really tight and intense. I took slow, deep breaths and pushed against my back with my hand. At this point, I was still talking normally between contractions and making sure the kids knew I was fine.

After awhile, I felt like I needed to lean forward, and I started getting out of bed onto the floor. I was on my knees, and the midwife scooted over an ottoman for me to lean over on. After not much longer, the pains got almost unbearable, and I started feeling pelvic pressure. Mike was on the phone giving directions for someone to take his basketball team to camp. I thought it was getting close, so I sent my daughter to get him. He practically ran back into the bedroom and threw up my gown and got behind me. If I wasn't in so much pain, I would have laughed at him. I knew it wasn't THAT close, but he stayed poised to catch the baby.

The apprentice was putting olive oil on my perineum between contractions. Amazingly, I had still not passed a drop of blood or fluid.

For the next ten minutes, I grunted, groaned, and eventually screamed through continuous contractions. I realized that I was making more noise and was in more pain than in any of my other three births, including natural birth in the hospital.

I had really expected to have a quiet, low-pain birth because of all my mental preparation, information, confidence, and the freedom to move around and choose positions. None of that seemed to matter much during those last few minutes. I had fully intended to push in the squatting position, but was too consumed with coping to think straight.

Those ten minutes seemed long, and I remember some things that went through my head. I was wondering what I had against artifically rupturing the membranes. I reminded myself never to preach natural childbirth to women, because they would hate me at this point. And mainly, I just wondered why I was in more pain than with the others.

Finally, my water broke. What a relief! Mike noticed it and told the midwife. She checked for a cord, then stepped back aside. Within a minute, I felt the baby's head, then whole body slide out. The midwife started to tell me to stop after the head was out, but I wouldn't listen and just kept pushing.

I then realized the disadvantages of the hands and knees position I birthed in. For one thing, I couldn't see my baby. Another drawback is that I couldn't see my husband's face as he caught her into his hands. But within seconds, I could hear my baby cry, and I could hear Mike say, "It's a girl!" Even though I'd had no ultrasound, we almost expected a boy, but the excitement in his voice reassured me that he was just as happy, and I thought no more about gender after that.

I was still too weak to move and the pains were still coming. They passed my baby girl underneath me and helped me to sit down to hold her. I pulled my gown off to hold her skin-to-skin. I heard the midwife say that she was coming down the birth canal with her fist turned sideways beside her head and that might have cause me more pain for those last few minutes.

Mike and the kids bonded and videotaped, and I nursed Sophie right away. My two daughters had seen the entire birth. Someone asked them later if they thought it was yucky or neat, and they replied without hesitation "Neat!" They had been well prepared from all of our discussions, reading, and videos. The midwife even gave them a "lesson" on the placenta, explaining each part on it and how it worked. I feel good that my daughters, at seven and six, have probably developed healthier attitudes toward childbirth than most adult women.

Baby Sophie Rose weighed 8 pounds, 14 ounces. We got to make a lot of choices we never got to make in our hospital births. I was hooked up to nothing--the midwife simply monitored our baby's heartrate with a doppler periodically and checked my blood pressure once or twice. I had no IV. My cervix was only checked once because I was curious how dilated I was. I got to walk freely to the bathroom and could get in any position I chose without permission. I believe the olive oil and upright position helped keep my perineum from tearing; I had required stitches in all three of my hospital deliveries.

Our baby did not have to undergo the hospital routines of vitamin K, eye ointment, blood tests, shots, bathing, sugar water bottles, or warming incubator. It was such a relief that she received no needle pricks in her first hours of birth. She was also our first baby not to get jaundiced. Our midwife believes that was because she didn't get the vitamin K shot.

I was very happy to have gotten to share this experience with my husband and children. I felt strong and proud that I birthed my baby on my own, without assistance or medication. My midwife was completely in tune with my wishes, and I was glad that we chose to have this baby at home.

This article was first published on Suite101.com and is reprinted with permission from the author.
Copyright 2002 by Becky Jackson


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