Oh there you are! I’ve been thinking about how to write my daughter Keziah’s birth story for you. (I told her story as a podcast episode Here if you’re interested in listening to it), and pondering which details would be most important or rather most relevant to include. Also, if you’re interested in reading about my first birth, my son Noah’s birth is here, and at some point I’ll share Lydia’s birth as well.
You don’t know this about me, but I’m not always a calm and relaxed mother… But today I’m feeling both calm AND relaxed about life in general. My son is digging in the dirt, making piles of mud on my porch and the steps. He’s telling me his mud is “cake” and he’s using “eggs” in this cake this time. The eggs are small rocks, and the mud would annoy me on most days, but somehow not today.
My youngest is beside me on the porch chewing on a toy lizard and making sweet babbling noises. We hear thunder in the distance and the wind is picking up – blowing away the sticky 82 degree heat. We rarely experience humidity like this in Colorado. The humidity would also normally annoy me, but the breeze is so nice. I’m in the perfect relaxed mood to share my birth story. Never mind that the baby is eating rocks now.
The story of Keziah’s birth
(If you are wondering how to pronounce that name, we say Kez-EE-uh, and it’s found in the Bible, one of Job’s three named daughters) Funny that she is the only one napping today. As I write this, she is blissfully unaware that her story is being told. Dream on darling daughter. I’ll re-tell your story to you any time you wish.
The is not the story of my first-born son’s birth. I’ll save that for another day. Let it suffice to say I had him in a hospital. The pregnancy and birth were overseen by an Ob/gyn. Afterward I was determined in my heart to have the next one at home. All the stories I had read or heard about midwife attended home birth glowed with an enthusiasm and joy that called to me. Those stories drew me in and I wanted that experience for myself! It sounded so wonderful.
I even read birth stories and listened to difficult home birth stories – transfer or loss or disappointment. They didn’t dissuade me in the least. Knowing home birth might not be idyllic didn’t matter. I still knew I would prefer to be home instead of back at the hospital again.
That very cheap Wandfo brand pregnancy test was positive enough that my husband knew what the lines meant without me even saying it. We were delighted! (I only took one test, can you believe that?) It was a Saturday morning in early March when we found out our second baby was on its way. I remember putting the test down to wait, and putting my shoes on to head out on a walk. Our son in the stroller, our puppy on its leash, and nowhere in particular we had to be.
It was exciting to talk about this next baby and feel like we had a giant secret that the world wasn’t privy to. I told my husband that I wanted to have a home birth this time. “Like with a midwife? Okay, sure.” And that was that. Or so it seemed to me at the time.
Fast forward a few weeks to about twelve weeks pregnant. Had I called any midwives yet? Nope. I was savoring every moment of pregnancy, enjoying the lack of pressure and appointments. The internet had told me there were around a dozen midwives in town to choose from. Having narrowed them down to my two favorites, I wasn’t in any particular rush to interview or choose one over the other.
Then it happened. I e-mailed them both, and didn’t hear back. Then I called them and left messages. Finally I got e-mail replies, “We are completely booked for November, sorry.” and “Sorry, but we don’t travel to your county for births.” In the space of two e-mails my birth plan had suddenly and completely unraveled. Now what?
I feel obliged to say that a few days later I had a glimmer of hope that a different midwife might take me on as a client. She was new in town and hadn’t shown up on my original search. She still had room in her schedule, and would happily travel to our county for my birth. In fact, she was closer than any of the others had been! She was the only midwife my husband and I interviewed, and I’m not sure if I should be sad or glad, but we did NOT click with her personality.
In short she seemed too rigid and likely to transfer me even if I didn’t want to be transferred. In the long run, it’s a good thing we didn’t hire her. We’ll get to that part of the story later.
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. Though I don’t recall when the idea hit, or how it occurred to me, I knew “if I can’t have a midwife that’s okay, I’ll just do it at home anyway.” Shortly thereafter I discovered that this idea was “a thing” and that women call it Free birth or Unassisted birth. Hmmmmm…. Now I just need to explain my intentions to my husband.
He…. Let’s just say he was not excited about the idea. “Even the thought of having our baby at home without a midwife terrifies me” was pretty much his exact sentiment. His coming around to agree to the idea is a story all in its own. The short version is that I researched every possible fear, and what the solution or when to go to the hospital and taught him what I learned. In the end I didn’t have to twist his arm at all to agree to my plan.
That is the story of how my home-birth-with-a-midwife-dream turned into an unassisted pregnancy and free birth story. I waited too long to call the midwife at the beginning. So how did it go? There are many stories from the pregnancy (for another day) but the biggest story is… Had I hired the midwife, the most likely outcome of my birth would have been a C-Section.
Yup. My baby was breech. Breech as breech could be. From the earliest I could feel her well enough to determine position, all the way past her due date, my sweet daughter kept her head as close to my heart as she possibly could. Well, sort of. My heart is on the left and her head was nicely tucked under my right rib. All analogies break down… She just liked to be upright! And in the state of Colorado there are certain births that home birth midwives are prohibited from knowingly attending.
Twin birth tops the list, but breech birth is a close runner-up on the list. With either of those two conditions midwives are required by law to transfer care to a doctor. C-Sections for breech presentation are traditionally scheduled for 39 weeks. My child was breech past 40 weeks. That is one reason I am GLAD we did not hire any midwives!
As an aside, I bet you are wondering how we knew the baby was breech? I’ll write more about that next week.
Baby’s due date came and went without fanfare. I wasn’t even particularly stressed or anxious. Instead I was busy researching breech birth. What to know, what to do, complications, solutions to complications, etc. However my husband who was wholly on board with home birth and now free birth had his own reservations about an unassisted breech birth. I would say that he kept his fears to himself — but he didn’t. He told God, and was praying and asking God to flip the baby.
At 40 weeks and two days, as we were relaxing and watching Cake Boss in the evening, our baby TURNED head down for the first time ever. And stayed that way, answering daddy’s prayer. Boy that hurt! But we were delighted with this development, and I shifted mental gears to birthing a head-first-baby. This baby didn’t come for another four days, and there was always a little concern baby would flip back to breech. That was an unfounded fear.
Allow me a moment while I pause this story to get supper for my family… This story is growing longer than I had intended…. Okay, now where was I? Oh yes,
Labor began in the morning as I woke up with a dull aching in my belly. My first conscious thought was “Ohhhh, I’m getting my period…. Wait!! I can’t be. I’m pregnant. This must be labor!” And indeed it was. Without this single picture of me during labor… Or actually, this picture of half of me laboring… I would never have remembered that I labored in pink! I still can’t believe I chose such loud clothing that day.
Contractions were very mild to begin with, and since this was my second birth I knew it could be quite a while before baby would arrive. I sent my husband to work, and planned to labor on my own for the day.
Never before had I understood why in the world women choose to clean while in labor?!?! It had always appeared to me to be a frantic attempt to get the last bit of cleaning in before baby’s arrival (in the stories I had read). Yet, in spite of my previous amazement over other women’s choice to clean… I myself found that I was drawn to clean as well. Sitting on the kitchen floor with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge I wiped the cabinet doors to remove drips and splatters that had been waiting a year or more to be wiped away.
The beauty of the activity was not in getting work done that needed attending to (obscure work too!) but rather the unimportant of the task. I wanted to be doing something that would pass the time in between contractions. It held no mental requirement, gave a sense of accomplishment, and could be left unfinished without guilt. Wiping cupboard doors provided a nice activity to keep me going.
With that hour came my best friend for a visit. She came just to keep me company, bless her. We talked about birth and babies, prepped dinner, made beds, and let the children play together while we made a list of things for my husband. Funny enough, she put on that list “Remind Hannah to breathe!” because apparently I had a habit of holding my breath through contractions at this point! Eventually the contractions got to the point I needed to call him to come home. (4pm) My friend sweetly stayed until he arrived, then collected her children and bowed out – wishing us all the best.
After Dinner we called my mother and sister. “I don’t believe we will have a baby before the sun goes down, but I believe baby will arrive before it comes before it comes back up. Pack an overnight bag and come.” It makes me laugh to think about now, but my mother took one look at me when she arrived and said she didn’t think I was very close to birth because I was still too chipper. Baby was born a few hours later.
The evening became a blur
We watched two episodes of Downton Abby (I love that show), lots of rocking and breathing through contractions. A bath. Cold water to drink. And finally we decided to fill the pool around 11pm. At midnight I threw up. (Don’t worry. There was a nice, handy trashcan to vomit into. I had taken notes from my first birth and guessed I’d be needing something like that.)
Suddenly the intensity of the contractions increased and they began to double peak. My waters were still intact and baby was low enough that I could feel the head and bulging sack with my finger. I announced several times to everyone in the room, “I don’t like this part!!!” (I know, I know. Plain and boring choice of words. But I did not like that part!)
During a very short break I asked everyone to think of what I could use to break the waters? I had been poking and scraping it with my fingernail but it felt like a latex balloon and would not pop. My mother suggested, “a fork?” Perfect! Go get one! But before she could find one the poking I had been doing broke through and I felt the waters rush into the pool. Ahhh.. Sweet relief. The water was crystal clear.
The very next contraction was a pushing contraction. My body was pushing, HARD. I yelled for my husband to come back — He had just stepped into the next room to start warming towels in the drier for baby. He came quickly and stayed close to my head, talking softly. I gasped that my hip bones felt like they were being pushed apart. My mother calmly said they probably were.
I reached down and touched baby’s head as it eased out (I was kneeling and leaning over the edge of the pool). I snapped “Don’t touch the baby!” Nobody was… The baby was rotating itself and it was a totally unpleasant but necessary experience. Somewhat like having a trout twisting and flipping to escape inside of me.
The next contraction hadn’t come, but I was encouraged to push baby the rest of the way out. I knew they were getting nervous seeing a baby’s head underwater for so long. “No, I’m not pushing. I’m waiting for the next contraction.” Sure enough, it came. With that contraction my mind was clear and I decided not to mess around any longer and P-U-S-H with all my might! Baby came straight out into the water behind me, not caught by anyone. My husband gently nudged the baby toward me as I turned around and sat down.
“What is it?”
We hadn’t had any ultrasounds or blood work done, so we still didn’t know. Baby wasn’t breathing yet. I ignored the gender question and focused on getting baby to breathe. Let’s see. Blow in the nose and mouth. Suck out any gunk. (In hindsight I would have reversed the order of these two — suck out, then blow in. But no harm done, there was no gunk anyway) I flipped baby forward and patted its back. Talk to the baby, “You’re okay. I’m here. I’m your mom.” Try blowing into the lungs again.
I felt my breath go into the lungs, but no response from baby. Then I felt the cord. It was thick and plump and pulsing so I knew baby was fine. I kept trying. Patting. Talking. Blowing. Patting… In my heart I prayed, not fearfully but bewildered, “God, I don’t know what else to try. Help!” Immediately we found out this little baby had a set of lungs! Whew! Now to find out the gender…
We have a little girl! In the footage we got of the birth I can hear my mom and sister talking. “What time was she born?” “One on the dot, but she didn’t breathe until one-o-four.” Huh… It didn’t feel that long to me, but I’m sure it felt like an eternity to everyone else.
In case you care about stats – our daughter Keziah was 8lb 11oz, which is 7 ounces bigger than her brother. But then, she was born 8 days later gestation than he was born, so just about right for herself!
In some ways there is a part of me that wishes she had stayed breech. What?? Why?! It’s completely silly, but after carrying a breech baby for so many months that way, reading and researching and coming to terms with birthing a breech baby… I was actually kind of excited to see what it would be like! She turned on her own, for which I am grateful. (In the video, if you watch it, you can hear me thinking her for turning head side down.) But I still feel a bit wistful that we didn’t get to go through with a breech delivery.
Had I been attended by an OB/gyn it is very likely that my pregnancy would have been full of stress (from the breech positioning) and I would have ended up with a C-Section. With the midwife, I am pretty confident that I would have been transferred AND given the C-Section. If by miracle I still had a home birth with the midwife (after all, baby did flip all on her own) the not-breathing-for-a-long-time thing would have been treated as an emergency. Whether the midwife would have needed backup, or just taken the baby herself to work on and give oxygen to… It still would have been stressful for me. Instead we had a wonderful few hours together, some champagne and cheese, and then everyone went to bed to snuggle and sleep.
What a long story that turned into! It’s later than I meant to keep you. I’m afraid I may have over stayed our visit like a friend who doesn’t know when to go… Forgive me.
I did wonder though if next time you wanted me to tell a little about how we knew she was breech? I won’t keep you any longer today though. Thank you for bearing with me on that jaunt down memory lane. My darling daughter Keziah is now a feisty-and-fabulous two-and-a-half year old. Her cry is still just as loud as ever. But the laughter and joy she brings to our family is unmatched. We love having our sweet little girl.
May God bless your today. Look for Him in it.