This is the story of my second birth-my natural, home birth free of fetal monitors, IVs, epidurals, incessant blood pressure machines, and cumbersome cervical checks. However to fully appreciate this one, I feel compelled to share the circumstances surrounding my first as well.
With my first birth, I became the receiver of care rather than the provider in an awkward case of role reversal. Since my initial wish to have a home birth was quickly rejected by my husband, I had to somehow find peace with a hospital birth. How hard could it be? I am a nurse after all, and thought I would be logically prepared for any circumstances that would arise with a hospital birth. Ironically, I did not cope well. I thought the old saying, “Nurses make the worst patients,” would somehow preclude me, but needless to say, it did not. I did not take a birth class. I did not seek the assistance of a doula. I did not have a birth plan. Essentially, I did not have the knowledge (that I preach to my patients about) in order to have to the drug-free birth that I desired. My first birth snowballed into the intervention-laden birth described in the movie, The Business of Being Born, and my desired natural birth was now being threatened with an unnecessary cesarean section. I lay in that hospital in disbelief with how the events had unfolded. Praise the Lord, I was able to birth my baby vaginally but not without consequence. Because of the many failed (11) epidural attempts, I found myself suffering from a severe debilitating headache caused by leaking spinal fluid that supposedly less than 1% of recipients experience. Lucky me! I was bedridden for a week. I breastfed my baby successfully but felt a tremendous amount of guilt because I could not care for her otherwise. That initial bonding time was stolen from me. Obviously, the pain of my first birth remains strong with me. In fact, I do not like to discuss it. From that moment on, I promised myself and unborn second child that it would be different the next time around.
Once I found out I was pregnant, I anxiously sought to fulfill my first promise to my unborn child- a home birth. My biggest challenge would be convincing my husband, Jeff. We sat down one evening and watched the movie, The Business of Being Born. We intently watched our story unfold before us. We cried. He held me. It was a very cathartic moment. He then gave me one look and said we will never do a hospital birth again. He was now completely onboard! What a relief. I called our parents and told them of our decision. I wanted to give them the choice-either be supportive or don’t be present. After each watching the movie at our request, they were also onboard. In fact, my father-in-law was in full support since he and several of his siblings had been born at home unbeknownst to me.
My second promise- attend a birthing class- was next on my list. This may seem redundant especially for the second birth but I felt I needed to amply equip myself. I attempted the home study version of Hypnobabies with the first birth and failed miserably with compliance but I still believed a natural birth without pain could be achieved. I enrolled us in a Hypnobabies class. The classes brought us closer together. We practiced often and soon listening to the CDs became a necessity in our nightly routine to unwind from the day’s worries. By the end of the classes, I was more prepared and had the tools to endure.
It was a Tuesday afternoon in February when labor began. I was busy juggling dinner preparations, feeding my little girl lunch, and putting the finishing touches on a presentation I had to give in a couple hours. I had experienced BHCs for a couple weeks now but when these began I knew this was it. I kissed my girl good night, packed my bag for school, headed out the door, and whispered to my husband, “This is it.” As I drove to class, the birthing waves became stronger and more regular. By the time class began, waves were about fifteen minutes apart and getting closer together. I asked my instructor if I could present first. As I stood there in front of the class giving the presentation, I realized the significance of a quote…
“When push comes to shove, we will seldom disappoint ourselves. We harbor greater stores of strength than we think. Adversity brings the opportunity to test our mettle and discover for ourselves the stuff of which we are made. Do not underestimate the power of a person to cope. He may be dependent now but deep within him lies the energy to adapt.” – Sister Callista Roy
I took a deep breath, got through the next wave, preceded to finish my presentation, and headed home. Classmates wished me well. On the way home, I called my husband and told him to prepare to leave work early but to stay at work in the meantime. I came home and embraced the nesting bug cleaning from top to bottom. A little after 10 pm, I texted both Michelle and my husband to go ahead and come over as the birthing waves were coming stronger and more frequently. I dimmed the lights, put on my Hypnobabies CDs and tried to find my “special place.” Shortly after, everyone arrived including the photographer. It was very important to me that this birth be captured on film as I was determined that the outcome would be much different this time around. This would be a moment in my life that I would WANT to remember forever.
We sat and joked for a while, and then the birthing waves became more intense. I asked that everyone leave the room and let us, me and Jeff, have some time alone. I had such mixed emotions. As I realized I was soon to welcome another magical baby into our world, I also realized that it wouldn’t be just me and my precious pumpkin anymore. I had the sudden urge to run into her room and hold her while she slept, to kiss her chubby cheeks, and stroke her curly locks. I cried even more wishing I would have spent more time playing dolls, coloring books, and snuggling with her instead of endless nights of studying. Jeff consoled me and assured me during this emotional time that I was, in fact, a wonderful mother.
The clock ticked on to 1 a.m. with birthing waves growing in intensity. Jeff continued to apply pressure to my lower back with each surge. Progress had seemed to reach a standstill though. This was discouraging as things seemed to be advancing so fast initially. At this point I called upon Michelle to check cervical dilation but asked that she not tell me a number. I knew if I heard a number less than 7 cm, I would fold. Instead she said that I was not quite ready yet. As we approached 4 a.m., I tried to lie down and get rest at her suggestion. I was sure that baby would be coming soon and asked her to check again. I didn’t get the answer I wanted. My bag of waters was still completely intact. My spirits began to crumble at the thought of enduring much more. Impetuously, I asked Michelle to break my bag of waters with the hopes of speeding things along. I began to pray aloud asking for His strength to envelope me. I reflected on a bible verse to provide calm.
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine. 2 Corinthians 4
I submitted to Him. In that moment, my bag of waters broke and I willed the baby out chanting over and over, “Down baby down.” Our friend tiptoed upstairs with our daughter sensing that the baby would be coming soon. After pushing only ten minutes, I welcomed our second child into the world, another girl! Cassandra Lucille entered our lives and home on Leap Day, February, 29, 2012 at 0621. And my daughter witnessed the birth of her sister! I was overcome with emotion that she was able to share this extraordinary moment. I laughed. I cried. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. I leaned against my husband and sighed appreciating that this is what birth should always be like. I was renewed in life and love thankful for my husband’s unwavering strength and belief in me. He is truly a God send. We will forever be thankful to Michelle Ray and team for making our dream birth a reality.
Here is a link to view a slide show of the birth, photographed by KS Photography.