Ryan’s Home Birth Story
I went into pre-labor on Saturday around 2am. My contractions were light and variable, but my husband (Bill) and I decided to keep track of them anyway. They didn’t interfere with walking, talking, etc, and we even went to the store during the day to stock up on some things just in case we wouldn’t be able to get out in the next few days.
I had spoken to Christy around 8pm Saturday night just to let her know what had been going on all day, and she told me to call her if anything changed. You always hear that a woman knows when her contractions change, and boy did I know it! It was around 11pm when they started coming about every 10 minutes. I called Christy to fill her in, and she said that it sounded like it was the start of something and that I should try to get as much sleep as possible… but not in the recliner I was trying to relax in. Overnight, I took a couple of baths and napped when I could. My poor husband fell asleep outside the bathroom door.
When we woke up Sunday morning, Bill asked if I wanted him to call Karen, and I said, “Yeah, we better.” At this point, I was still talking through my contractions, and Karen decided to come over to check things out. When she arrived around 9:30am, I was doing circles on the birth ball. I was discouraged to learn that I was only 3cm dilated ☹ It should have clued me in on the battle to come….
We didn’t yet have the birth tub set up, so Karen and Bill immediately set to getting that together. She left to go get us a hose and shower attachment, and by the time she got back, my mom and sister had arrived from Ohio (after leaving at 1am and driving 8 hours straight through) and were eager to help. I continued to labor through all the activity and wasn’t feeling any stress at all. I walked and talked and sometimes laughed through my contractions, and to be honest, I don’t remember when they began getting longer, stronger, and closer together. I do remember my first heavenly dip in the birth tub!!! The warm water washed over my body and instantly relaxed both mind and tired muscles.
Karen left that afternoon, knowing my family was there to help me, and Susi soon arrived. Bless Susi’s heart for she was with me for almost ALL of my labor. I really don’t know what I would’ve done without her there. She was my quiet strength, and it was her that seemed to know when I needed a boost. She read my affirmation cards to bolster my confidence, calmed me during the couple times I just couldn’t “do it anymore,” and it was her that gave me what became my mantra as I moaned through my labor. “Down and out.”
Clothes became too much, and as I was in and out of the tub for the rest of Sunday and some of Monday, I spent the remainder of my labor without the annoying brush of clothing or having to remove them just to put them back on after getting out of the tub. Surprisingly, modesty wasn’t an issue, and it was just easier for me as well as Karen, Christy, and Susi. During that time, I was able to take a couple of naps while listening to various relaxing CD’s. Those breaks proved to be a blessing from my son. Also a blessing was how little my cervix was checked.
My water broke Sunday night around 9:30, and I thought, “Finally, maybe I’ll have this kid tonight.” But, night turned into morning, and morning into noon….
Sometime Monday afternoon, Christy arrived and changed the whole atmosphere of labor in general. All the blinds had been down, leaving it dark with calming music on, and all of a sudden, the blinds were open letting in this glorious energizing light, and there was one of my favorite jam CD’s: Keith Urban’s Golden Road (I’m sure Cassi, my sister, suggested it). Despite the atmosphere, or maybe because of it, everything intensified until I found myself almost meditating during contractions. There were a few that felt like they lasted an hour each, but I still hadn’t reached the point of not wanting to be touched or screaming for everyone to just leave me alone… which surprised me because I tend to be a bit of a drama queen.
Christy massaged my shoulders, Karen blessedly kept the coffee pot outside on our little porch, Cassi made sure I drank something in between each contraction, my mom and Bill took turns bringing me little things to eat or chicken broth to sip on, and Susi was on hand for encouragement. Each member of my labor team was an integral part of the process, and I’m glad they all took turns sleeping… one on the couch, a few on the floor.
It was still light out when I got the urge to push at the end of each contraction, but as it turned out, I had a small anterior lip on the right side. It had been a long while since my water broke, and things weren’t progressing as they should. I found some superhuman strength the second “hospital” was mentioned, and I worked HARD to get rid of it as quickly as possible!!!! I took some homeopathic “uppers” (as I thought of them at the time) to help speed labor along, and I did lunges on our kitchen stepstool to put more pressure on the right side of my cervix during contractions. I used the birth ball a lot, but finally, Christy had to intervene. I found myself laying on my back in my bed while she very painfully yet patiently and gently worked at pushing the last little bit of cervix over my son’s head. I remember at one point screaming, “I just need a break!” But I am eternally grateful she did what she did!!!
What seemed like hours later, I was pushing… sometimes with someone in the room, sometimes all by myself. I tried many different positions, including the VERY INTENSE birth stool, but what turned out to be the most effective was the one I most hated: on my back. My mom, Cassi, and Bill took turns holding my legs for the over 4 hours of pushing because it was too painful to put them down in between. I had no concept of time until the pushing stage, and only because my mom said, “Wow, Gretchen, if you hurry, you could have him at 7:11!” Everything with my mom involves a time of day ending in 11, so this was a joke that everyone laughed at. There were thankfully many moments that I was able to laugh and lighten the mood. I will never sing Josh Groban again without thinking of the “singing vagina!!” Thank goodness Bill wasn’t in the room for that! haha
As much as I wanted a short pushing stage (what woman doesn’t), my son had other ideas. There we were, all 7 of us on the bed, each with a different “job.” It must have been an amazing sight! It took so long, Karen began to sleep in between my contractions (I couldn’t blame her!) while everyone guided me on my pushing technique. I kept wanting to ask Susi if his head was under my pubic bone yet. My mom asked if I could feel him, but I couldn’t feel his position. FINALLY, Susi asked me, “Gretchen, do you want to touch your baby’s head?” I nodded and reached down to feel his head, and shrieked with surprise! For some reason, I didn’t think it would be so hard! I still laugh about my reaction.
A most odd thing happened at this time, one that I didn’t know could happen, and no one else had experienced. My son’s head rotated in the birth canal, and it was the weirdest feeling in the world!!! I asked Christy if she did that, and she said, “No! He did!” We laughed when he did it again after the next contraction. I knew babies turned and twisted to find the easiest path, but I never imagined he would do it while he was crowning!!
Over the next few contractions, I felt the stretch and burn and then with a slippery slide, he slithered out like he was shot from a cannon! There was no waiting after his head came out to push out his shoulders. It’s like he said, “Enough! I’m coming out!” His body followed as soon as his chin was out, and it was such a feeling of relief that I just laid back on the pillows and shut down for a minute. He was born at 11:11pm, and I heard the little chuckles after Susi announced the time. I was barely aware of my son’s little cries, but I came alive the moment he was put on my stomach. Unfortunately, his cord was too short for him to nurse to help me deliver the placenta, but I held him and talked to him. I turned to my mom with tears in my eyes and awe in my voice and said that obvious: “I’m a mom!”
As tired as I was, the placenta was delivered fairly quickly and actually felt kind of good coming out… very slippery and easy. Bill cut the cord. Ryan took to nursing very quickly, but it was awkward trying to nurse while I was laying down, and he left a hickey on each breast when he slipped off my nipple. The initial latch was a shock! The strength in the suck took my breath away! Sometime after he nursed, Cassi brought in a plate of chicken, toast, and cantaloupe, and everyone laughed at how quickly I ate it all. Labor makes a girl hungry!
Bill’s parents had come into town Sunday, so he called to tell them while Cassi called our other sister and dad. Bill’s parents came over briefly, and his mom actually held Ryan before Bill did. She handed him over the instant I made that observation! They left, and Bill & I were suddenly alone with the life we had created and just worked so hard to bring into the world. We held him and talked to him and just gazed at his beautiful face. It was amazing to me how familiar his face already was when 30 minutes before I had never seen it!
Karen, Christy, and Susi came in after a half hour or so to get things moving. Christy helped me to the shower while Susi went through the newborn exam while Karen observed. As good as the shower felt, I wasn’t there when Ryan was weighed and measured or when Bill cut the remaining cord, but thankfully we have a couple pictures.
It was definitely the hardest and most empowering experience of my life! After this, I felt like I could do anything. My only regret is not having pictures or video of my labor or Ryan’s birth. I felt cheated that I was the one doing all the work yet I was the only one who didn’t get to watch my son come out. There are things I also wonder about, even now 20 months later, like if the birth stool would’ve made pushing quicker or if I could’ve done anything differently to speed up my labor. I was ready for labor and birth but not the motherhood that followed, and I often wonder if that thought being in the back of my mind was a roadblock for my labor. At least I know for next time….