Birth as a Force of Nature – Kelli shares her homebirth

This is the every detail, bring you into the moment with me version of my birth story. If you just want the gist of it just look through the pictures and it goes like this. I chose a homebirth for safety reasons and deeply trusted my midwife’s skills. After 12 hours of rhythmic pre-labor felt intensely in my hips that got me to 4cm or so nothing else happened for 4 days. Then finally I had about 3 contractions in my hips in the first hour, went to Walmart with my mother in law Susan and the contractions started coursing through me sometimes peaking twice or without breaks but it was irregular and only hurt as much as it had a few days before so we stayed for about an hour. We finally went home, our midwives and friend arrived and less than an hour later I began pushing “too soon”, or so I thought, but when one midwife saw a head and I felt it in my hand I finally believed it. After a few minutes of pushing, while my 3 ½ year talked my friend though the difference between “owie-blood” and “extra-blood”, kneeling upright in my doula’s embrace, pressing down on Susan’s hand, and discreetly guarded by my two sweet and skilled midwives, my son was born into his father’s excited trembling hands 3 hours and 8 min from the first contraction (that night anyhow) at 41 weeks. I was shocked that birthing our placenta took about as much effort as birthing our baby but I gave it all my effort and caught it myself. I was fascinated to learn it had a succenturiate lobe. After our placenta was born daddy cut the cord. My oldest son put on a super hero costume to watch over the long newborn exam and it’s one of my favorite memories. My son weighed 9 lbs and was 21 inches long. My oldest son Sage shared a plate of fruit with me while daddy snuggled Orion and we all went to bed. I had a comfortable recovery this time and so did this boy because I protected him and kept him intact and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better way to meet my son.

Now if you want to know what it was like to be there, get comfy, settle in for a long story, and I’ll try to help you understand what the very best experience of my life was like.

I believe I labored twice on two separate days to birth Orion. If I could choose, I’d have it that way for each baby I birth. For the last 5 weeks I would feel that familiar pressure, the imaginary belt tightening around my belly, after any time I was intimate with my husband. It took me by surprise at first and then I came to expect it would fade away after a few hours and it always did. It started to change near the end. One night I felt it in my hips and back and I cried. I noticed I took short panicked breaths so I intentionally took deep, comfortably slow breaths and it demolished the panic I was starting to feel and diminished the discomfort. It was very strong in my back and I had no interest in experiencing back labor first hand, I mean, who would!?! It left my back if I laid on my right side which told me it was not balanced. I had one of my chiropractors adjust me using Webster’s Technique and the next time it started it was in my hips still but thankfully not my back.

My last belly picture

 

It occurred to me that practice labor meant I should practice, so I paid attention to what helped and what didn’t and wrote my helpful reminders on a small poster board and pinned it on my wall opposite of my birth affirmations. It said things like” Big, deep, slow breaths” “Savor the breaks” “Move it through, mash it around, wiggle it out, just don’t let it feel stuck!” “Rub up on the sides of your belly” “Move those hips” “Make sexy noises” “Feel the baby” and “Eat*Drink*Pee*Relax” I think the most helpful part of that poster was simply the act of writing it out but when the work came each time I remembered my tricks.

My mother in law Susan came to stay with us on Friday when I was 40wk3d and she had to return home from Phoenix to Florida that Wednesday. I wanted her to be there for our birth and to meet our baby but I also felt very calm and determined to let labor start when it was time without coercion. On Friday night it started again as usual and was unusually strong in my hips but I knew it would die down soon. Around midnight it was not dying down as it “should” have by that time and it was so strong in my hips I didn’t even notice the tightening in my abdomen. I did not like it. It did not feel familiar anymore. I cried in frustration. I decided to let everyone sleep and call my midwife at 7am. I fell asleep around 5 am, that means it stopped. After 12 hours of rhythmic hip heavy labor, 3-4 min. apart contractions, it just disappeared. I checked myself that morning and there was quite a bit of change, I guessed I was at about 4 cm from what I could feel and compare to my text book.

 

I had some gentle contractions here and there over the weekend and by Monday strangers started calling, like from the insurance company to ask what day my doctor decided my baby would be born. That irritated me beyond belief. Three adult women literally asked me when my “new due date” was, when my induction would be, when my c-section was scheduled, what day the doctor said it would be, and actually were pretty upset with me when I had no answer as to the baby’s future birthdate. Is that what we have come to in maternity care? It’s a tragedy my happily pregnant self did not want pointed out. I was enjoying the bliss of finally having been surrounded by women who took charge of their own births and birthed with their baby’s and body’s best interest in mind fearlessly and it was refreshing, and pushy ignorance was unwelcome to the point it made me cry in anger. I did also have happy reasons to feel the pressure to “perform”, I really wanted Susan to meet her grandchild, and Joseph was now sweetly starting to say how surprised he was that he could miss someone so much that he hadn’t even met yet. I wanted to meet my baby but I was so excited for labor to start spontaneously this time.

 

I wanted a chiropractic adjustment to get the contractions out of my hips and my round ligaments on the sides of my belly were aching, especially on my left side. I tried to massage the tension out myself, I even considered driving the hour to my chiropractor but it was 3am Tuesday so I had no choice but to wait. To take my mind off it, I wrote a blog post on Off Beat Bride titled My Big Fat Pregnant Wedding With A Midwife about getting married at my 39 week prenatal under that beautiful tree outside Nurturing Hearts with Stephanie as officiant. Finally I went to bed.

 

When the sun came up Tuesday morning I told Joe and Susan I’d given up on this baby showing up before she left so I gave her another plane ticket and took a long bath with a cup of red raspberry leaf tea with a cinnamon stick in it and read Herbs for the Childbearing Year which simply reminded me why I wanted labor to start spontaneously. I spent the day with Sage and our puppy Benny in the kiddie pool in the back yard and reading with Susan. At one point I read a few birth stories from Journey into Motherhood and mentioned one to Susan called “In her own time” about an overdue mama who finally let go and then had a very precipitous birth. Three hour labors only happen in stories though don’t they?

 

I made veggie tacos for lunch and then when Joe came home he and Susan wanted Filiberto’s for dinner, she missed the Arizona mexican food. Since I couldn’t risk gluten cross contamination I said I’d make my tacos again because it still sounded really good. Susan went to get food and Sage got in trouble for stepping in the pool when there was no adult with him so he was sent to bed since he missed his nap anyway. Joe so kindly offered to relieve my tension in light of our privacy but I reminded him that it only seemed to increase my tension in the form of contractions, so we found another way to steal an intimate moment and then cuddled up to watch a show. Joe and Susan ate dinner while I prepared mine and just as I picked up my plate to join them in the living room things changed, I had to put the plate down and bite my knuckles. It’s 7:20 pm.

 

Mentally I moan, Mmmmm no, no,its in my hips, get it out, get it out! Joe and Susan notice. “Are you ok? Don’t hurt yourself.” “Are you just psyching us out?” “I’m fine it just really sucks when I feel it in my hips.” I say. I join them and eat. I finish my dinner and another one bursts through my hips. I look at the time. 27 min since the first, it sucks for nothing. I get ready to go to Walmart, Susan wants to buy Arizona souvenirs for the disabled men she takes care of at work back home. Another in my hips, I can’t help but picture it as bright white light on the sides of my hips. I mash it around wiggling my hips, sending the light, like paint, oozing into my belly and legs a little but thinning it out where it felt thickest, strongest. I take my combs with me to try, I read about it in an acupressure book.

 

I climb into the truck. “If you have this baby at Walmart we’ll have to name her Americus.” I laugh at the reference to Where the Heart Is and we go. It’s been an hour with 3 contractions, nothing is happening but maybe walking around the store will help. Three, or four, or five contractions on the drive take my breath a little, it must be from being cramped up in the truck. I tell Susan “I’m so glad I don’t have a drive to the hospital in hard labor.” She looks for Expectant Mother parking and I have to tell her we don’t don’t do that here, and besides, the more I walk the better right? We go in and she offers me the cart to lean on but I’m trying the combs right now and they’re ok.

 

We find the souvenir sections although I can’t talk enough to explain where to go so we got there with me pointing and making “follow me” gestures. I sit on the turn-table bagging area while she looks. They are coming hard and fast and totally irregular. Double peaking, 15 second break, another, a 4 min break, 3 back to back; so I say we should walk more to make this regular. Squeezing the combs is hurting my hands, I should have bought wider-toothed ones. I rub up hard on the sides of my belly, it doesn’t just help I have to do it. While looking at sports shirts Sage’s favorite movie, The Sandlot is playing and I miss him.

 

I feel short of breath and I decide to go to the bathroom to hopefully lose and then regain my composure. It’s empty. I moan. I try to pee but I can barely sit, it intensifies the feelings in my hips to bend them at all. I moan more. Someone comes in. I can’t believe I found the strength to stop that vocal freight train.

 

I rejoin Susan and tell her we should get bassinet sheets and go, I’m uncomfortable. I start a mass text to Joe, my midwife Stephanie, my doula Nikki and my friend Parri. It takes about 20min to compose. It says “I don’t think this is it. It’s really intense and I can hardly talk. I want a birth pool tonight.” It still only hurt as much as it did on Friday, 4 days ago, you know, when I did NOT have a baby but if it’s this uncomfortable I want the birth pool even if there is no birth yet. It took so long to write the text, I had to put the phone down so often and couldn’t speak when Susan asked me questions about baby stuff so still not really believing it but wanting to be taken seriously enough to get a pool ASAP I erased the “don’t ” so my text said “I think this is it.” I get questions, I try to text replies. I mime for Susan to get Sage the popsicles in front of us. Nikki my doula calls miraculously during a rare break, she says she’s checking out at the store, will swing by her house to get the tub and come right over. I’m at the store too I tell her but then immediately need to hand the phone to Susan.

 

She skips looking for a cactus and we walk to the registers. A man in line watches us pass and says sympathetically “Oh, you look uncomfortable. How much longer?” Right as a contraction lets up I am able to say “Hopefully tonight, it’s happening now so I have to get home.” Startled he says “Oh wow, well good luck!” I try to say to Susan “He’s lucky I could even speak to him.” but I can hardly form the words and just end up confusing her. I try to wait with her but can’t hold still or stay calm. I’m pleading mentally for everyone in the store to ignore me because I’m afraid someone will call an ambulance which I’m pretty sure will take me to the wrong place and not home.

 

I go sit on a bench by the door. I call my mom and leave her a voicemail somehow that says “Something might be starting but the pain still isn’t any stronger than the other night so just a heads up.” Another one comes but I’m sitting down, which means I involuntarily fly up and off the bench, and so does my phone but it slides underneath. Oh God, don’t let the greeter call 911 please! I try awkwardly to play it off as something not labor related…maybe I got a sharp kick…to the bladder….or threw my phone….ok I have to bend weird to reach it before another contraction sneaks up on me. Got it! I go to tell Susan to hurry, but thank goodness, here she comes! As we walk to the truck and I have to stop I mumble incoherently about how I wish we had Expectant Mother parking now but she can’t understand me. I try to get in the truck but can’t. I wait out 2 or 3 rapid contractions, grab a handle and throw myself in. I unbutton my pants, sitting is unbearable. The truck is vibrating and Susan mentions how annoying that must be. I tell her to just turn after Warner Rd. but it’s hard to understand me and she turns at Warner so we take the back roads through a neighborhood. I can’t give directions, I just point and nod thinking “God, she’s gonna think I’m so dramatic.” As we turn into my neighborhood I jump up, I can’t tolerate my hips being bent. I stand to keep my hips straight so I’m bending my head and shoulder and pushing them into the roof of the truck. “What are you doing!?!” “I don’t know, I just cannot sit!” Its the slowest drive ever as we inch to my house.

 

Finally! I fly into the house barefoot and pull off all my clothes “Help me, quick before another one comes. My pants are crushing me!” I grab my sports bra and panties from the music room but it’s too late, another one seizes my hips and I throw myself onto my hands and knees and beg Joe “Squeeze!” He does and poor Susan walks into the house with my bare naked butt pointing at her. I hear her say “Oh, wow! Maybe we are having a baby tonight.” and I can only think “Sorry to disappoint but no baby, I’m just not quick enough.” It ends and I get dressed. More come. I stand while Joe squeezes my hips and I rock in front of the fan. Finally I tell him I can’t wait for the birth pool and ask him to fill the bathtub. I hear him tell his mom that he already called Stephanie and Kate over. I’m embarrassed it’s too soon but want them here and can’t argue anyway at this point.

 

I labor in the music room, Joe has stacked his drum set up but still, the room looks bigger than it should be. All the lights have a warm glow, the ceiling is higher, the rooms more spacious and less cluttered than they really are, even the sounds are soft and muffled. Sage has been watching The Simpsons in the living room, the one where Bart falls in love with a girl he later tells me, but he must have heard me making noises. I don’t even know if I am making sounds but I’m not stifling myself anymore so I probably am. I’m on my hands and knees, he looks very worried. “Mommy are you ok?” I catch my breath enough to say “I’m just working to get the baby out.” It’s much easier to focus my energy on speaking when it’s for him, maybe because I really need to communicate this to him. His face lights up as relief washes over him, and in excitement he says “Can I do anything to help!?!” “Just give me kisses” He enthusiastically takes both of my cheeks in his hands and pulls me in for a big fat smooch before running off again. That kiss helps so much.

 

I get up to meet Joe in the hall bathroom as the bath is filling. I tell him I want to throw up and ask for privacy. I wiggle through another one and then sit on the toilet but as soon as I do I grab the trash can to vomit, and it feels so good. Ok maybe this is the night. Joe comes in as I stand up and liquid rolls down my thigh, I wipe it with my fingers, its watery but thicker almost like a thin gel and ask him “Is my water leaking.” He doesn’t know and in the glow of the candle light I whine almost crying “What is it? What is it?” and then suddenly I don’t care. I get in the tub. Its seems endlessly long but still shallow and narrow and my cramped up hips seem to scream at me. “Quick hand me a razor before another one comes!” I blurt out to Joe. “What? Why?” he asks. I wiggle through the contraction and exhale my plea, “JustGiveMeARazorQuickBeforeAnotherOneComes. I’mHotAndSweatyAndMyArmpitsAreDrivingMeCrazy!!” He hands me a razor while rhetorically asking me “Are you seriously shaving right now?” I am and somehow I feel much better. I sit on my knees, then cross-legged, then one leg bent and one straight, I switch sides, none of it is comfortable. I turn around and pull on the soap dish and Joe squeezes my hips. I like the pulling very much but my hips can’t tolerate this bending so I get out.

 

I go back to the music room. I try the birth ball but again can’t sit so I try several awkward positions and settle for a few minutes in a modified hands and knees where I lean on the ball but drop my butt to keep my hips from bending. I roll the red prayer beads in my hands that Parri gave me at my Mother Blessing. The bright red and smooth beads rolling in my hands are a nice sensory distraction but the emotional comfort and how much they mean to me is the best part and it’s like keeping my friend close while she is still driving to join me. Nikki is here, she tells me inflating the pool will be noisy and it is but doesn’t bother me at all. Sometime they move the pool to my room but I hardly notice. I do however notice Stephanie sitting in a chair on the other side of the music room and I’m so thrilled to see her. I still “know” this baby is not coming tonight or at least is hours and hours away, after all the pain is still not worse and it’s all irregular so I tell myself “Don’t smile at her too big or she’ll know it’s not labor too.” She seems to wait for me to come out of myself before coming to greet me but when she does I can’t help it and I really really smile at her.

 

She hugs me and says something sweet to me, something like “You are my hero, you are so strong.” With her arms around me and cheek pressed against mine I feel so safe and deeply loved, and I really melted into that comforting moment. Then I joked and whined to her “I know I’m strong but I’d like to stop showing off now.” My hips light up again and I gasp “What have I done? What have I done?” I want to explain but can’t, my mind is racing too fast. I should have known, I had such short breaks in Sage’s labor now I won’t have any breaks in this labor. My body is not normal, it doesn’t rest between contractions like it should, why did I think I could do this at home, more importantly why did I think I could do this at all? This is only early labor, it just started, it only hurts as bad as my last practice labor which is bad, and it’s rapid like transition but I’m thinking too clearly to be anywhere near the end. “If I could just catch my breath, it won’t let me catch my breath…” I tell Stephanie. I twist and turn trying to find a comforting position on the ball but I’m really only finding positions NOT to do and a few that are tolerable but not helping. I have to go to the bathroom again I think.

 

I go to the bathroom in my bedroom and lock the door. I can’t sit on the toilet so I try to hover and pee. I try again to sit, it’s just not possible. I push a little, never considering its the baby coming. I give up on using the toilet for now. I lean on the counter in the dark, a little light is coming from the small window. I try once more to sit. Stephanie knocks and says she just needs to check heart tones real quick. I later learn she was mostly just concerned about me locking the door and possibly being pushy, smart lady! I can’t move yet. Finally I open the door and sway while she gently holds the doppler to my belly. I pout “I want Joe.” I feel like a child missing her lovey. I need the comfort of his presence. She says he is filling the tub and she’ll get him. I say “Have him get the camera.” See I’m thinking too clearly. My mind is racing, my thoughts too clear. The monologue in my head is reeling 100 miles a minute. I think about c-sections and epidurals and how I couldn’t manage sitting down to drive to the hospital let alone sit down long enough to get drugs. I think about how with both of those there’d be pain afterwards. I still think this whole homebirth thing is the easiest way and so dear God, there just is no getting around this being hard! I think maybe I could be ok with just two kids. Maybe I don’t want to do this for anyone else. I think about how I’m just so tired of birth, ugh I’m not reading about it, talking about it, or listening to anything birth related after this for a long time, I’ve had more than my fill. I wonder why on Earth I want to be with women doing this. I’m a little freaked out that no matter what I can’t take this away from them and then realize that is the whole point, to NOT take this from them and I realize the seemingly insane feeling I have that I don’t want anyone to take this from me and I wonder why the hell not! Why the hell do I feel lucky to be doing this?

 

Transition...starting to push

I want to do this but I’d really like to get out of my body to take a break. I start to pull on the corner of the counter, I turn around and pull on the towel rack, simultaneously thinking that I just need to get out of my body for a minute, maybe I can pull myself out of my body, and Kelli, don’t, don’t rip the rack off the wall, just let go. I stretch open and close my hands a few times to keep from tearing the rack down. I’m thinking “Ok, this is crazy for the beginning of labor but I’m thinking too clearly, I can do this for a few more hours but not all night or I’ll panic. I’m not doubting myself here now so that’s not transition, I’m doubting if I can do this later.” This could go on all night, my legs are tired, I’m starting to panic. I feel wild. I grab the counter and catch my reflection in the mirror. I’m startled to recognize myself, I look familiar, and calm, not like the wild, primal, wide-eyed, Einstein-haired, sweaty, ravaged woman I expected to see. Ok, I’m ok, I think to myself. I look into my eyes and sternly say “Relax. Calm down.” The next contraction comes, it feels the same. I can ‘see’ my pain, see the contraction. It is bright light, electricity twisting tightly around my bones. It is bright balls of light on the sides of my hip bones, radiating about midway down my thighs and roping around my round ligaments. It gets brighter when it gets stuck, when I bend my hips or stay still. I rub up on my ligaments on the sides of my belly, spreading the light like finger paints. I wiggle and rock my hips, fluidly sloshing the light around my hips and through my thighs like water. It feels the same but now I feel calm inside, it’s tolerable, I no longer feel the need to escape my own body. When I realize what a difference this internal peace has made, something in my brain clicks, I feel like I finally understand HypnoBabies, what the point is and how it works and I think I should have done it, I have to do it next time, yes I’m thinking next time again. Joe comes in. I hug him and tell him I should have done HypnoBabies and we have to do it next time. I tell him he needs to take pictures and ask him to get my birth necklaces. I even tell him where to find them. See, I’m still thinking too clearly. I’m speaking breathlessly in awkward short sentences but still my mind is too sharp. I’m waiting to be so tired, so far into laborland that I can only think in pictures, the way I did in Sage’s birth.

 

Joe squeezes my hips and it smooshes the light out so it’s not so bright and concentrated right on my hips. He follows me as I leave our bathroom and lean over our tall bed. He squeezes, I dance my hips around. I try lying on my side on the bed. My legs just have to rest. It was a terrible idea I realize as soon as I’m down. Its agony to lie there. I plead for help up and hands reach for mine but as I’m lifted I let go, it’s unbearable, I just have to ride out this one in this awful position. It ends and I am yanked up fast. I lean over the bed more. I throw myself to my hands and knees, Parri is there in the bathroom doorway and as Joe leaves for something, to help with the pool they are now filling in my room, or to get me water, I plead for someone to help my hips. She reaches under my belly and rubs my ligament, and my tight tense left one at that. It’s not what I meant but is perfect and I try to think of how she could reach to rub both sides with Joe squeezing. I want so badly to tell her it’s perfect. Joe returns and shows her what I ‘meant’ but I can’t talk to tell them I want both. I can somewhat tolerate being bent at the hips in this position, probably because I’m …. well, I have to go to the bathroom. No, there’s so much pressure. I let it happen, but my body is heaving down hard.

 

“I’m pushing. Why am I pushing?” I say over and over. I try to ask why it doesn’t hurt my cervix as I’m sure it’s ‘too soon’ and I remember the cevical pain of pushing on a lip in my first birth. The room changed. I hear Nikki, who has been trying to fill the pool say “Pushing!?! She’s pushing!?!” Of course all focus on the pool was lost. It was fine with me. I had needed to know there would be the relief of a pool soon if the relief of pushing was far off so when pushing came first I was perfectly happy with that. Besides I was so hot, even though the room was cool, I’d been thinking I should ask for the pool to be filled with ice water but somehow that seemed unreasonable. Stephanie or Kate says “If it doesn’t hurt just let your body push. Maybe it’s a bulging bag.” I either think or say “Then it should pop already.” I get upright for a moment and feel, hoping to feel a bulge or baby or amniotic sac but it feels normal. Disappointed I pull away a bloody hand, sigh and in a childish pout wipe the blood off on my white carpet without care. Sage says “Oh, that’s blood!” almost happily. Parri quickly asks him if he’d like to go watch a movie now. He replies “Don’t be scared Parrisa, that’s not ‘owie-blood’, that’s just ‘extra-blood’. I’m just brave. Do you want me to hold your hand?” They both stay. With my long hair hanging in my face, every woman in the room takes turns offering me a hair tie, asking where to find one, asking to pull my hair away from my face. I say no and shake my head each time. I need my cave of hair, a slight sensory deprivation to keep me focused on the calm I’m barely holding onto. I need to feel loose and open. I push and there is nothing. At some point I realize I’m going to throw up although it’s not from nausea, but I’m afraid there is nothing to vomit and it will hurt. I don’t know how anyone knew but out of nowhere a clear plastic bowl is in front of me and I let go. I vomit water and it feels awesome, it’s such a relief, it makes the tension in my body leave for the moment, staying tense while vomiting now seems as impossible and opening your eyes while sneezing.

 

Sage asks if he can go watch his movie now. Someone says yes and I shout “No! I need a kiss first!” I have to have a kiss. Everyone giggles at that but I need to remember what I’m working for. He runs back to me, grabs my face and gives me a big smooshy-face kiss and there is a loud POP. I say “My water broke!” Joe says “Oh!” and I wonder why he sounds surprised since he must be soaked, which I find hilarious. It turns out he had just stood up and started squeezing my hips with his knees so he just barely missed that amniotic shower unfortunately. I think to myself “Ok maybe I am near the end. Maybe.” Everything stops. The swirl of thoughts, pain, confusion dissolves. I turn my head and look into my warmly lit bathroom and I feel like myself again. I feel normal. I take a big breath and it feels like I finally can. This is my “Rest and Be Thankful” stage and I am thankful. It must have only been a minute but time stopped. Labor stopped.

 

Pushing...baby's almost out!

Suddenly it’s back and I have to be upright. I hold the end of my bed and the trash can that was placed in front of my bathroom doorway. My body is pushing hard, I’m starting to push too. It’s bone on bone pressure, no feeling of progress. A vaguely familiar sensation, something I remember pushing past with the first push or so with Sage but it doesn’t change. The contraction pain fades but most certainly does not disappear this time, it leaves my abdomen but not my poor hips. I have no sensation of filling up with baby, no feeling of him descending, no sensation in my skin, only bones. I pant,”I don’t remember this!” I hear somebody say “Yeah, thats why we do it again.” I can’t explain but I mean this feeling is not familiar, I remember this in a milder short lived form and the contraction pain vanishing, and filling up with baby, and pushing feeling so good and satisfying. I could feel my progress and no more pain or even discomfort. Now I’m wondering where the juicy-good pushing feeling that I have dreams about is, because this pushing feeling is not it, this feels better than labor a few minutes ago but is down right uncomfortable. This baby feels stuck and I feel like I’m boiling from the inside, I am my own desert, my own sauna. I whine “I’m so hot. My legs are so tired. I just want to sit down. I just want to rest my legs. I’m so thirsty.” Nikki has been giving me sips of water and she offers me more. The bendy straw is so great, I don’t have to do anything to get a drink. Kate looks under me and says “Kelli I see a head.” My reply to this information is “Seriously!?!” I tried to calculate the odds that she’d be brazen enough to be kidding with me right now. I can’t believe a head is visible even if I do know she wouldn’t lie. I feel for myself, and there in my hand was the top of my baby’s warm, wet, hard, silky, sweet head.

 

Now I believe this is happening, I begin pushing with my body in earnest. Joe hooks his arms under mine and holds me upright. I hold Nikki’s hand and push against it, I feel like it gives me some leverage. Sage returns. Stephanie asks “Does daddy still want to catch?” He says “Yes!” as I beg “Yes, yes, please, yes!” because I can’t imagine how he can get in front of me now. Everyone miraculously shuffles. I don’t want to let go of her hand but Nikki holds me up and I snatch Susan’s hand in the swap. I’m still holding my baby’s head in my other hand. Joe is in front of me hands out ready to catch until he realizes I still have to work a little more. Kate is kneeling beside him talking him through and Stephanie stands at the end of the bed, which I later learn is where her emergency equipment is discreetly set up. Joe is saying sweet words of encouragement to me. There is such pressure on my pelvic bones and for some reason I think of it feeling the way something hard pressing into my shin bone would feel. This is so uncomfortable this time. This baby feels so stuck with every push even though I feel his head filling my hand. I start to feel a slight stretch on my lower right side and I realize that even though it’s comfortable, it’s the only place I feel anything in my skin and it’s my old scar from the botched stitches I had after Sage’s birth. I think that I better stop adding force to these pushes and slow down and I try but my hips light up with pain and my brain screams at me to get this out of my hips so I push hard. His head is out and for a moment the pain leaves my hips and the pressure briefly leaves my bones. Now the shoulders come. I push hard again and with a heavy dropping feeling from deep inside, my fullness leaves me as Orion tumbles into Joe’s shaking hands and then into my arms. It’s 10:28 pm, June 29th, 2010.

 

He is so warm, and soft, and slippery, like nothing I’ve ever felt. I love rubbing his wet skin, his butt, his back, his legs. He has almost no vernix and his head is covered in blood and I am relieved to remember Sage’s words about “extra-blood” earlier. Susan says “It IS a boy!” and I try to look for myself. As I turn my head away to look he cries out and I look back to comfort him. I try to nurse him and he doesn’t respond so I keep talking to him to soothe him. After a few attempts I finally get a peek and see that yes, I have another son! Nikki has pulled my hair into a ponytail. Kate has dried him and given us a clean towel and Sage steps forward to meet Orion. The thrill in his face is breathtaking. I sit back on my knees and Sage and I sing a welcome song. “We have come to welcome you, to welcome you to Earth. We have come to welcome you, to celebrate your birth. And we have come to love you, we have come to love you, we have come to love you, to love you on this Earth.” This was simple enough to teach a 3yr old and replaced singing the quickly worn out “Happy Birthday” song to my belly in our bedtime ritual in those final weeks.

 

Kate has monitored his heart rate by discreetly feeling his umbilical cord pulse since we have not clamped it prematurely. She asks if I’d like to get into bed now so she can monitor my bleeding. I want to stay on the floor but instead I comply, although now I’m sure she’d have been happy for me to stay put if I just said so. She needed me in one place and offered one she thought was comfortable but labor and a bed do not go together well for me. I am helped over to the bed. Stephanie and Kate try to keep pads under me to keep the blood off of the carpet but I’m not helpful about this, I don’t care about the carpet one bit as I awkwardly maneuver. I get into bed and lean back. It’s not ok. I need to be upright I say, and Nikki helps prop me up with pillows. Orion and I are still attached and the after-pains are setting in. Oh, the afterpains! Instead of building up, peaking, and then releasing, it seizes me. A sudden peak that lasts 2 or 3 long minutes and then vanishes. Kate asks me to give a little push for our placenta. I push and there is nothing. I push a bit harder and nothing, so she says to wait.

 

Our good friend Dana, Parrisa’s boyfriend, comes over straight from work. Birth terrifies him, because of our homebirth plans he spent our entire pregnancy begging us to give birth in an RV in a hospital parking lot, only half joking. We spent the entire time offering to score him a black market epidural to get him through my labor. He comes in my room to see us and he surprises me. He is bright eyed, excited, and seems fully present in sharing our joy. Parri and Dana have been with us from the moment that I told Joe the news, to our Blessingway and baby shower, to our wedding at my 39 week prenatal and it feels right to complete the circle with them and have them both here with us now. I am so happy to have my friends with us but I’m still not done laboring so I can’t focus very much on anyone yet.

 

I'm catching my own placenta

Sage and Joe join me as I snuggle Orion and try to breastfeed. He still won’t latch for more than a moment. Kate asks if she can check me, asks Dana to leave the room for a little bit, and then tells me our placenta is “right there”. I want these afterpains to stop and so I try to push more. This is not working. It’s so uncomfortable to be leaning back even though the pillows are propping me up high. The soft bed underneath me is awkward and ask if I should get up. “Sure, if you feel like it.” I hand Orion to Joe who holds him carefully making sure not to tug on the cord between us. There are tears of joy in his eyes but I’m still in laborland, I may be more in laborland than before. I’m helped up to my knees and I push. Nothing. I grab my thighs and push. Oh there is so much pressure again! I remember all the twin dreams I had in the beginning of this pregnancy. This isn’t working, I’m so closed. I steady my breath, exhale deep and slow through pursed lips. I pull the hair tie from my head to feel loose and open again, grab my thighs and bear down. There is as much pressure now as there was for the baby, but without feeling like it’s bone-on-bone. Stephanie asks Kate who is going to catch but I blurt out “I am.” I push hard and it fills my hand. I take a big breath, push on the exhale, and catch our placenta finally. I feel shaken by how challenging that was. I had no idea it could be.

 

Snuggling the baby who is still attached to the placenta in the bowl next to me

I sit back down and rest with Orion. He poops on me. We get that cleaned up, mostly. With our placenta in a plastic bowl beside us Stephanie helps us to cut the cord. I remember the way Sage’s umbilical cord felt coming out of me while he was uncomfortably far away being bathed. It was firm like a garden hose, warm, and pulsing. This cord felt that way at first but now, it’s cold, thin, and limp like left over linguine. Joe is still trembling with adrenaline and mishears Stephanie when she says to cut close to the metal, (referring to the hemostat now clamping the cord) he asks “The middle?” and is told “No, the metal.”This only confuses him more and the dialogue is repeated a few times until the wording is changed. “Not the center, the clamp, cut close to the clamp.” He cuts it finally. I had discovered cord bands instead of clamps months before and Stephanie taught me how to use one. She asks if I still want to do it but I still don’t feel like myself and say no. She puts the cord band on, and ever the teacher, she talks Kate and me through the process, and I’m so so delighted that she sees me and treats me as a student. The cord band is a tiny rubber band, like some people wear on braces but smaller. Stephanie kindly supplied it when I brought it up in a prenatal appointment and now I find it nicer not to have a bulky plastic clamp between us.

Baby Orion with the cord band on the cord.

 

Stephanie takes our placenta into the bathroom to examine under brighter light. Joe finally gets to hold Orion on his own terms and he sits beside me in bed and kisses me, all teary eyed. We marvel that we have a baby boy and then I’m struck with a bittersweet feeling. I say to Joe “Oh no. He’s a boy, he’ll never get to do what I just did!” Joe says it was still pretty amazing for him as daddy, which is a good point. Stephanie steps out of the bathroom and asks me if I know what a succenturiate lobe is. I say no but the term is familiar. She brings out our placenta and shows me an accessory or satellite lobe on one side of it. I say maybe that was why I dreamt so much of twins before, because I had a twin placenta, and no wonder it was so hard to birth. We discuss the way to look for smooth edges ensuring no pieces have been left behind especially in this case and then she holds open the amniotic sac for me to see. It is still fresh and beautiful. I am amazed by this life-giving shelter my baby grew in for so long.

 

When we finish admiring it and it gets packed up for Nikki to take and encapsulate for me. Six months later these magic pills will save me and my sanity, will return my absent-for-months appetite full force in 3 days, and level out my moods and motivation so drastically that my once skeptical husband will frequently proclaim “I love placenta pills!” He will also notice within 48 hours if I forget to take them until I feel like a person again on my own after about 4 weeks. This was by far our strangest childbirth choice but it was by far one of the most beneficial. I only wished I had made 3 smoothies with a small piece of placenta hidden inside to get me through the 3 days of afterpains before my pills were ready. It was dehydrated on low heat to keep it raw and preserve the nutrients and hormones. In light of the horrible after-pains in the first few days I am even more grateful that there was no pain in my bottom, only slight paranoia over the pain I felt after my first birth and a mild “I sat slouched too long” ache in my tailbone for most of the first day. That comfort didn’t convince me well enough to stay in bed and my hips would hurt after walking around too much in the first weeks. It was so helpful to not have pain to cope with while trying to take care of my new baby. That night I didn’t know how comfortable my recovery would be but I could already tell it would be much easier than before.

 

Kate asks me to lie back so she can check for tears. She and Stephanie tell me I have a scratch on my old scar, a small part of which was held open by the stitches and left an open wound for 6 weeks so I’m not surprised it was a weak spot. Still, my heart sinks a little. They tell me it looks like a tiny upside down 7 and that it doesn’t need any repair but we could use surgical glue on it if I prefer. Out of my own fear from my first post partum experience I ask for the Dermabond. I ruin it a few times as I bleed and prevent it from drying, so I bear down to expel as much blood as possible before they apply the glue again. I am shaking. Stephanie tells me again its from the adrenaline and that oxytocin counters it so she reminds me to focus on my baby. I do and stop shaking until I think of the scratch and old scar again. I jump and gasp a few times as they touch me, they apologize but none of it hurts, I am just startled and very nervous. I am still feeling the fear from my first experience and its hard to let go. Finally, the glue sets and I start to settle down. There is no pain and so my fears start to subside. I finally can focus on my baby and so we cuddle and nurse.

 

Stephanie sits besides me and with genuine concern asks me how I’m feeling. I say to her something to the effect of “Remember how I told you I felt so proud but shell-shocked after Sage’s birth and how I trembled in horror at the thought that there was even a word for sibling?…”Mmmhmm” she says gravely. “Well, thank God I can only do that once a year because my legs feel like they climbed 7 flights of stairs and need at least 9 months to rest, but I cannot wait to do that again! That was so amazing!” She giggles but I’m serious. I think I even tell Joe he better remind me how much I like our kid’s age gap and not to let me “knock myself up” in the next few months.

 

Big brother Sage watches over his baby brother

Phone calls are being made. Long before this I’d asked for my mom to be called. Joe and Susan made many attempts but she was not answering. I call her many times and no answer. I call my dad and sister and no answer. I think the people around me feel sorry and worried that my entire family is unreachable but I’m not bothered, I just worry about them, my mom in particular. I know she’ll be disappointed she missed the birth but I was hoping that meeting her hours-old grandson would sweeten that up for her. I call my friends Candace and Ryan, he answers sleepily and congratulates me. My sister Kate calls me back saying she can’t believe that while I was giving birth at home she was dancing at a gay club in San Francisco but I ask her what she expected to be doing while I labored and she has no answer. Joe asks me what I want to eat and fruit is the only thing that sounds appealing so he heads to the store. To Walmart no less. I am helped into the shower and I rinse off. I get back in bed to watch the newborn exam. Sage runs into my room still wearing his Spiderman swimming trunks but now he has his ninja turtle mask and super hero cape on. He watches closely over Orion telling him “I’m your big brother, I’ll ‘fortect’ you!”

Kate checks out Orion while big brother sage "fortects" him!

The newborn exam is much longer and more thorough in a homebirth, after all the medical team doesn’t wake us up every hour like they do exhaustingly at the hospital, so after quite some time Stephanie starts getting sort of giddy and frantic demanding Kate to stop the exam or she’ll be too late. She scoops Orion up and says it’s almost not his birthday anymore, it’s almost midnight.

Stephanie sings "Happy birthday"

She sings him happy birthday softly and holds him cheek to cheek like he is her own, the way she held me a few hours before. She whispers in his ear, thanking him for the honor of attending his birth. I love how she loves us.

She whispers privately into his ear

 

Kate snuggles him a bit before finishing his exam and then takes him to the digital scale that’s been set on the floor to weigh him. I already knew by his plump cheeks and soft squishy baby legs that my Celiac Disease had been controlled successfully and this baby was not malnourished as I’d feared but I was happily relieved to hear it confirmed. He was 9 lbs even and 21 inches long. Perfect, healthy baby boy.

 

I’m finally feeling like myself again. Joe returns home and brings me a plate piled high with cut up fruit. Sage snuggles up with me to share while Joseph cuddles our bundled up little Orion. Susan has gone to bed since she still has to catch an early flight. Stephanie asks if I’m ready to go to sleep and if I’m ok with the birth team leaving. I am. Sort of. There are perks to giving birth in the morning, like taking a nap while friends and family take turns cuddling your newborn, I did that after Sage was born. Now everyone wants to sleep, except Joe who is not ready for bed, that was too much energy for him to just drift off now. Stephanie later says he was like a little kid on Christmas morning.

Joe holds his son

He tucks us in. I move very cautiously because I’m paranoid about my little scratch and also afraid to bleed all over the bed. I realize in frustration that while I may know how to nurse lying down, this brand new person I’m trying to nurse does not, so I prop up his back a little with a rolled up blanket. Just as we get settled in Orion starts to cry, I try to burp him, Joe comes in to help, and eventually we realize he has a dirty meconium diaper. This happens 5 times. From 1:00 am to 4:30 am we change 5 mec diapers, thank goodness Stephanie told us to put olive oil on his bottom at each change because it made clean up so much easier. We had put him in his little brown and teal footed sleeper with the octopus and ” I love Daddy” on it, but, we changed him into a sleep gown after the first 2 or 3 diaper changes. Finally, at about 4:30am, Joe went to bed with us and we all fell asleep.

Orion and me with our birth guardians. Steph and Kate were great, they stood stand-by monitoring closely, ready if we needed them but not interfering and 'making' us need them. They really gave us the space to do our thing and the security of having their skills on hand. Just what I needed.

It started as a rumble, coursed through me, left after shocks and then a calm washed over us. Unlike an earthquake that leaves behind destruction, Orion came to us in a birthquake, shaking things into their perfect places. Orion Rhythm Case Crawford I could not have imagined a more wonderful way to meet you.

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