A few weeks before Serafina’s birth, some dear friends came over to pray for us. One of the ladies prayed that I would have a “glorious” birth, and the word really stuck with me. What would that even look like? I’m not one to gush over how beautiful birth is. It’s amazing, for sure, but it’s also hard, and messy, and not something I romanticize over! Still, glorious, is a word I wanted to describe my birth. And looking back, I’d say it does! God showed up and answered so many of the prayers prayed that night, and in the nights to follow, as I dealt with fears, and pains, and hopes….
I didn’t quite realize it in the weeks leading up to birth, but I clearly had this idea of what my home birth would look like–probably from watching too many YouTube videos (“Please, can we watch another “coming out” video, Mama,” said my 3 year old). I was going to labor peacefully for at least a few hours in the birth tub, with candles in the background, and my birth playlist in my earbuds. I’d diffuse certain essential oils, depending on how things were going. I was going to relax this time. My breathing would be better. I’d know when transition was coming, and I’d spend a decent amount of time slowly pushing, unlike my first birth, where AnaBella was out in less than ten minutes. The placenta would come out easily. My baby and I would hang out in the water for a bit before we moved into the bed. I wouldn’t need stitches.
I only realized those were my expectations when some of those things happened, and some, not so much…
Contractions started around 10am and were pretty intermittent for a few hours. I spent the morning doing crafts with AnaBella (most notably, lying on my back while AnaBella traced my life-sized silhouette on the hardwood floor…not so f un during a contraction), and then had a friend over in the afternoon. The whole time, I was charting my contractions through a free app on my phone. I was a bit in denial, as I had a few bouts of false labor in the prior weeks. The contractions were getting closer together though, so after about 4 hours, I texted my midwife, Sarafina. I could still talk through them, and was cheerfully hanging out with our friends.
At 6:30, after about 8 hours of pretty easy contractions, something changed a bit in the intensity. I texted Sarafina again and she asked if I needed them to come over. I still didn’t think so – I figured I had a lot longer to go if I wasn’t in too much pain. She said she’d be over within the hour. By the time Sarafina and Jessica arrived, I was kneeling during each contraction, as I couldn’t stand under the pain. Still, they were fairly short, and about 5 minutes apart. Mark and I were chatting, setting up the tub, preparing my labor drink and hanging out with AnaBella during this time.
By 7:30, the pain was pretty intense. AnaBella rubbed my back and sang me songs during contractions, while Mark and the midwives tried to get the tub filled. Unfortunately, our hot water tank ran out of hot water, so there was a bucket brigade, trying to get the water level and temperature up. I didn’t feel an urgent need to get in the tub; I was hoping AnaBella would be settled in bed before I jumped in. She finally went to bed at 8:30, and the tub still wasn’t ready. At that point, I said to Kara, the student midwife, that I didn’t think I was dilated at all. She told me how to do a self-check on the toilet, and I reported back to Sarafina that I thought I was totally closed. I figured we all had a long night ahead of us…
During the next contraction after my self-check, I laid on the bed to get a bit of relief from the pain. As I was on the bed, I felt like my body was spontaneously pushing. Sarafina ran into the other room and told everyone to come in, “The baby’s coming!” HUH?! I just went through transition?? My waters hadn’t broken, and I hadn’t had any bloody show. I couldn’t believe it. Plus, it was nothing close to as brutal as my first labor. I remember walking around like a zombie for hours, feeling like I just couldn’t deal with the pain.
Mark dumped two large lobster pots of boiling water into the tub, and I jumped in. After 11 excrutiating minutes, I was holding my baby. I will admit, while “Jesus, help me!” was the main focus of my attention during that time, the thought crossed my mind briefly that I should just get an epidural if I have another baby. The pain was so severe. Thankfully, it was so short as well. Serafina came out with her hand up by her face, which is why it took a few extra pushes (and likely why I tore a bit). I held her on my chest for awhile in the tub and caught my breath. It took awhile to birth the placenta, which was no fun. Sarafina gave me some Placenta Out while I was in the tub but nothing was happening, so I ended up out of the tub, and had to push out the placenta on my bed awhile later.
I got to snuggle with my little lady, and AnaBella woke up shortly after. She came in (and stayed up til 3am!!) and got to meet her sister, and touch a real placenta–with gloves on, of course–before Kara prepared me a delicious placenta smoothie, and prepared the rest for encapsulation. AnaBella has been making playdough placentas ever since she read the book Welcome with Love!
Despite not having those hours of peaceful tub labor, (which, really, who needs a longer labor?!) I am thrilled with the way things went. My midwives were awesome. They were encouraging, but not intruding. They supported me, but didn’t stifle me. They also cleaned up beautifully! The environment was calm and cozy, and…normal. Everyday. Familiar. And yet–Glorious. Although I am glad I was able to have both hospital and home birth experiences, being home blows the hospital out of the water. No one woke me up to try to take my baby to be weighed, take my blood pressure, or scold me for sleeping with my newborn. I didn’t have to get in a car, eat hospital food, or be ridiculed by the pediatrician on rounds for not doing a Vitamin K injection. It truly was a perfect fit for me, and even my husband, who was a bit skeptical, said he would certainly have another home birth if we had more children.
Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year to empower women to make the best choices for their families.