Our daughter was born at home, into a tub of warm water right in one of our bedrooms. There were no medical interventions at all, and as a matter of fact, our midwife was present only for a short time in early labor, and then again in the last few minutes before she was born. [Jan’s note: I was actually there only 6 minutes before the baby was born!] The feeling that I’m left with following our daughter’s birth is one of pure power and strength, and the knowledge that I can accomplish absolutely anything. A few months have passed since the birth, and these feelings have not diminished one bit. I just wonder what the world would be like if all women started taking back their power through the amazing experience of natural birth.
When people tell me they think I’m brave for choosing to birth at home without drugs or medical intervention, I always think, “Wow, I now think it is very brave to give birth in a hospital, where these days, a whole long list of terrible things could happen to you against your will and for the supposed best interest of you and/or your baby.” After having had my first and second child in the hospital with pain relief with the first and a spinal with the second, I can say without reservation that the medication takes away much more than just pain from a laboring mama. What most women do not understand is that medication takes away the experience of labor and birthing, which is much, much more than just pain. Being able to feel my daughter coming through my body, despite what I said in the moment, was absolutely the most spectacular physical sensation I think I will ever have. So, here I am writing my very first birth story. I have never had the desire to write about any of my birthing experiences. Those births weren’t traumatic or horrible, but they didn’t leave me feeling like I had accomplished anything more than just having a baby. So, here it is: Everything I can remember happening the day my 3rd little angel, Jadyn Michelle, was born.
February 24, 2004 – My birthday
Tuesday started out like any other day for the most part. My husband left for work and I glanced at the clock: 6:30 am. Great, I still have an hour before I need to get Alexis up for school. I decided to get up and start my cleaning. I was convinced that the baby would be born February 26th, so I wanted to get some cleaning done. Besides, I had this INTENSE need to clean. The rest of the early morning was spent cleaning, getting kids up and ready for the day and feeding them breakfast. I was feeling great. I had more energy than I had had in WEEKS!! I barely felt pregnant. My back didn’t ache, my feet weren’t swollen, the baby wasn’t using my ribs as a soccer ball and I wasn’t feeling the annoying contractions and Braxton-Hicks that I had been feeling for quite awhile. As a matter of fact, I made a mental note that no matter how much I bent over, picked up my toddler or walked around, I felt NOTHING. I was going to plan a fun-filled day of shopping and cleaning. However, after I took Alexis to school at 8:45 am, I just went back home to clean and play with Peyton.
About 10:30 am, I noticed that I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions again, only this time they felt different. They weren’t painful at all, they just changed. I was only feeling contractions when I bent over or picked something up that was a bit too heavy. I finished the morning by reading to Peyton and finally making lunch. After lunch, as usual, Peyton and I went to nurse down to sleep. About 1:15 pm, she was finally sleeping. As I began sneaking out of bed, I had my first real contraction – only I didn’t know it then. This contraction was very different. It was very low and I only felt uncomfortable up to about my hip bone, even though my whole stomach was rock hard. Painful? I couldn’t decide at that moment. Little did I know, that was just the very beginning of my indecisiveness. Anyway, the contraction shocked me enough that I didn’t move during it. I had planned on finishing laundry up while my toddler slept; now I lost all ambition to do anything. I was getting these contractions throughout the afternoon, but they weren’t falling into a predictable pattern. I felt that these were the type of contractions that would bring my baby into this world but I also knew that they needed to get stronger and become more regular.
I was relaying events to my husband Michael via instant messaging on our home computer. I would tell him when I was getting these contractions. At one point when only 10 minutes had passed between contractions, he suggested I call our midwife, Jan, just to let her know. I thought he was crazy; after all, this baby was a week early in my book and I was still 3 days from my due date. Nonetheless, after a few minutes of prompting, I called Jan. I told her that I had started contracting. We talked for a few minutes about how far apart they were, how intense they were and how I felt. I could not decide anything and I just didn’t feel a sense of urgency about her getting to our home or even getting the tub set up and filled. We decided that I would just keep on an eye on the contractions and keep her posted and that anytime I wanted her to come, she would.
I called Mike back and told him what Jan and I had decided, to which he said “Chandi, get the tub”. I laughed. He felt that we should get the tub because it was going to take quite awhile to fill. With my history of fast labors once active labor starts, he feared it wouldn’t get filled in time and he knew how much I wanted to use the tub. He had a very valid point, so I called Jan back and told her to bring the tub.
In the meantime, I drove to pick up my daughter Alexis from school. I didn’t have any contractions while driving, but once I was parked in the school parking lot, I had another contraction. With this one, I looked around and felt this real NEED to walk. I wanted to get out of my car and just walk. On the way home from school, I announced that we were going to go for a walk. The look on Alexis’s face was priceless. Her response was “We are going to WHAT?” It wasn’t exactly warm that day, but I really needed to walk. I was really hoping that by walking the contractions would start to become more regular.
However, that did not happen. I didn’t have one single contraction on our walk. After the walk, it wasn’t long before Jan arrived, around 4:30 pm, with the tub. I was actually relieved to see her. She started setting up the tub and discovered that we needed a tarp for the tub. I had NO idea where the one was that we had. She ran out to get the tarp and while she was gone my kids became really, well, wild is probably a good word. Mike came home from work about 530pm. Between the kids being wired and excited to have company, Mike coming home and myself wondering if I was really in labor, I was completely overwhelmed.
I attempted to make a simple supper of grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, and I just couldn’t do it. All I could think about was being by myself. I remember telling my mother on the telephone, “I have a real NEED to be alone right now, I just don’t know how to make that happen.” After the tub was up and Jan gave Mike instructions on how to keep filling it and getting it warm, we decided that since my contractions were so sporadic, she could go home. I was to call her if things changed or whenever I felt I needed her to be there. I remember her saying that if things settled down, I just might go into labor. I just twisted around what was said to me in my own head to mean- If I put the kids to bed, the contractions would stop. I think they call that denial.
Around 7:30 pm, the kids were finally fed and ready for bed. As they began to settle down and the phone stopped ringing, I began to relax and the contractions started to come a little more regularly. However, in my mind, I was still NOT having a baby that night. 8 pm rolled around and off I went to lay down with Alexis and nurse Peyton like I always do. However, that night I just couldn’t. I NEEDED to walk. The contractions were about 10-15 minutes apart now, and though they didn’t hurt, I knew that nursing Peyton was just something I could not do. Because I couldn’t lay down with them, they didn’t go to sleep. Alexis, who is 6, had no idea that I was in labor – at least I didn’t tell her. I just kept pacing around the house announcing when the next contraction started. Michael was still filling the tub and the kids were still not sleeping. Finally around 8:15 pm, I got on my birth ball and away we went. I was on one side and the kids were on the other. We bounced with every contraction that was coming – every 6-7 minutes. When Michael said “Those are only 6 minutes apart, honey,” I laughed at him. I told him he looked at the clock wrong. He didn’t say anything more and just kept filling the tub. Later, he said that he never pushed the issue of my calling Jan, because he trusted me and trusted that I knew what my body was telling me better than he did. He had complete faith that I would know when to make the call. At 8:30pm, I finally told Alexis “I am having some pains that make me think we might have a baby tonight, so if Grandma is beside you when you wake up, don’t be scared.” After I was honest with her, she said “I love you, Mommy, good night.” She was asleep in 5 minutes.
Somewhere around 8:45 or so, Mike suggested I call Jan, to which I responded “Why?” Mike smiled, put his arm around me and said very firmly, “because contractions were only 3-4 minutes apart.” I didn’t believe Mike when he told me that. I said “No way, I am still walking and talking through them.” So much for knowing when to call anyone! However, I made the call anyway. When I called Jan, I couldn’t decide how I felt. I knew contractions were close, but still didn’t feel the urgency that she needed to be there. After all, *I* wasn’t going to have a baby that night. She gave me the option of her assistant, Lucky, coming over to check on us. She might be able to tell by my actions how far along I was and if Jan needed to be there now or could wait a bit longer. I finally decided that was a good idea. While waiting for Lucky to arrive, I called my Mom to let her know what was happening. She lives in Sheboygan and so was 45 minutes away yet. I wanted her there in case the kids woke up. While on the phone with her, I kept telling her I didn’t know if she should come or not. When I announced another contraction and couldn’t talk through that one, she said “Chandi, we have been on the phone for 5 minutes and you are working on your second contraction. That’s too close. I am on my way.” All I could do was agree and hang up because the contractions were getting more intense. I just kept walking and bouncing on the birth ball.
Lucky arrived around 9:40 pm. I was still walking and talking through every other contraction, but was getting more and more agitated. They were about 2 minutes apart. I remember thinking they couldn’t have been that close together because they didn’t really hurt that much, and I was awfully calm in comparison to previous births. However, at that point I really wanted to get in the pool. I wanted it more for stress relief than pain relief. We decided to check to see how dilated I was. Jan was still 40 minutes away and I was really indecisive. This would at least give us something to tell her. When Lucky checked me, she said I was pretty far along and that she was going to call Jan and get set up. When Lucky went outside to get something out of her car and call Jan, I announced to Mike that I wanted to get in the tub, but that I still wasn’t having a baby. [Jan’s note: Chandi was actually 9 cms at this point. Lucky’s single word to me in her phone call was a whispered, urgent “Hurry!!”]
Lucky came back inside and began getting set up. She also told me I had to wait until she was at least set up to get in the tub. I wasn’t happy. My Mom arrived around 9:45 and at 10 I could get in the tub. I will never forget how it felt to be in that water. It was amazing. I felt every muscle in my body just relax. The contractions spaced out a bit. Contractions were getting harder and harder to talk through. The pressure started too. I probably could have started pushing as soon as I got in the tub, but I remembered that I really wanted to let nature run its course this time. I didn’t want to start pushing until my body was doing it for me. So, even though I felt like I “could” have pushed, I didn’t feel the uncontrollable urge yet. So I just hung out in the tub. What happened after that is really blurry. I remember Peyton having a mini meltdown and that really bothered me. I felt guilty that I couldn’t be there for her to nurse her to sleep. She did go to sleep on Grandma though. I also remember telling Mike to stop making jokes or his life was going to be in danger.
I don’t remember Jan actually getting to our house at all. I only remember hearing her voice, when I announced that someone had to get this baby out of me. To which everyone replied that it was MY job (the nerve of them!) to get the baby out. Contractions were really, really intense and the pressure was unbearable. For some reason, the sensation of the pushing urge terrified me. I still cannot explain why, and it’s the only part of this birth, I didn’t like – probably because I can’t find a reason for it. [Jan’s note: it was probably because Chandi’s bag of water was intact, an experience she hadn’t had before at this point in labor, that her pushing urge was confusing to her.]
I felt the baby coming down and through me and I was having a really hard time staying on top of the pain. I did remember that when I was pregnant, I had promised myself that I was going to listen to my body. I really wanted to let my instincts rule in this birth. After all, I was at home and could do that. I had a brief urge to turn and get on all four’s, but had remembered that earlier I tried that and it was awful for me. So, I dismissed that urge. My water broke and just moments later [3 minutes, actually], I announced that she was coming and out she came. That was the only time I remember really actively pushing. It was amazing. I had done it!
After Jan told me to grab my baby and I brought her out of the water, I asked what time it was. Jan laughed and said it was about 10:36 and it was still my birthday. “Happy Birthday, Chandi!” I moaned. I really wanted Jadyn to have her own birthday. I also took note that she was bald compared to my other babies. She didn’t cry right away, and I was so used to thinking that babies had to cry when they were born that I got concerned. My midwives assured me that water-born babies often don’t cry right away. It was so neat watching her as she took her first, what looked like painful, breath. She coughed a little then let out a wail, and kept wailing. I asked if I could nurse her, right away, because in my mind she was a crying baby and I knew the one sure way to stop crying babies was to nurse them, and at that point I really needed her stop crying. I was still awfully out-of-sorts though, and I didn’t like that feeling either.
After a few moments, I got out of the pool and went into our bedroom. The mattress that Alexis usually sleeps on was on the floor and that’s where I laid. Alexis was in bed asleep. Jadyn was really crying and that woke her up. She sat up briefly and lay back down. About 15 seconds later, she sprung back up in bed, dived to the edge of the bed to look down at her new sister. Baby had a short cord, so we decided to cut it sooner than I really had planned on. I had originally wanted to wait until the placenta had been delivered to cut the cord. However, with such a short cord, moving around and holding the baby was a pain. Alexis cut the cord. She still talks about “cutting baby Jadyn’s tail.”
At this point, I lost all concept of time. We weighed Jadyn and she was 8lbs. Measured her and she was 21 inches. I put a diaper on her and just let her be for awhile. I was in a bit of pain. I was not prepared for the afterpains of a 3rd baby. I was in bed when someone told me I could take some Advil. PERFECT, I thought. Jan and Lucky were busy getting everything cleaned up and making sure baby and I were doing okay. I started vomiting. Jan told me I should eat something and I thought to myself “Should I break it to her now or later that I hadn’t eaten in probably 12 hours.” I had begun throwing up due to taking Advil on an empty stomach, I presume. So the thought of eating was not appealing. I managed a banana and some Pepsi.
About 1:00am or so, Jan and Lucky were packing up to go home. Baby and I were doing fine and I was beat. After they left, my husband brought the baby back to me. Peyton joined us in bed too. It was the best moment ever. I decided about 2:00am to get up and eat, since the banana didn’t stay in my system. I walked to the bedroom door and turned around. I saw Michael, Jadyn and Peyton cuddled together almost asleep. I looked in the next room and my Alexis was sound asleep in her room. That’s when it hit me. The wonderful miracle of birth had just happened and my family was there with me. I didn’t have anyone telling me what I could and couldn’t do. No one took Jadyn from me unless I wanted them too. No one stuck her with needles or dumped gook in her eyes. She was treated like a person instead of “just a newborn”. I was able to hold and hug ALL my kids after the birth. Best of all, I was able to sleep in my own bed with my husband and kids. That’s the best feeling in the world.
We owe an enormous amount of gratitude and love to Jan and Lucky for all they did. They bring such wonderful energy to a pregnancy and birth. I will forever be grateful for their help in making this birth so wonderful. I have always heard from other homebirth families how wonderful their midwives were, how home is really where a birth should be, how beautiful and comfortable it was. Now, after my own home birth, I can see how very right those other families were.
For months, I was still on a birth high. My heart still overflows with joy when I think about her birth. She is and always has been so peaceful. The transition from womb to world has been noticeably easier and more secure than for my other babies. Jadyn fits so wonderfully into our family and I am so happy we chose to give her such a gentle beginning.