The process of giving birth is truly amazing. The wisdom that your body has to deliver another human being is nothing short of a miracle. I am forever grateful for the experience of giving birth to Harper. I was so blessed to have my midwives, birth assistant, doctors and of course my wonderful husband by my side throughout the entire journey. Their support and encouragement was unbelievable.
It was February 19, 2011. I woke up in the middle of the night to some uncomfortable cramping. Having never been in labor before I wasn’t quite sure what I was experiencing. I tried to go back to sleep but the cramping kept coming and it seemed to be happening in some sort of pattern. Finally, at 4am, I decided I should probably time them to see if there was something significant going on. About an hour later, Freddie woke up and asked me what I was doing playing with my blackberry at 5am. I told him that I thought that I might be in labor. At this point, the uncomfortable cramping turned into waves of contractions. But that didn’t distract me from my goal. I needed to get the house cleaned and make food for the midwives.
Since Freddie and I were planning a home birth, it was important that our space was ready for our little girl to arrive. We pretty much already had everything set up but there were a few minor details that we needed to complete. One of which was to clean the bathroom, and the other was to get snacks ready for everyone to enjoy during labor. Freddie took the bathroom while I cut up some apples in the kitchen. I was able to get through a few slices before a contraction came on. I would just grab the counter, lean over and moan my way through. When I was done I went back to business as usual.
Around 8am, I decided to call my midwives to let them know what was going on. Being that they had just checked me and not much was happening down there, they suggested I try to get some rest. Well, lying down seemed to be the most painful, so sleep wasn’t an option. So we headed to Costco to stock up on paper products. By this time, my contractions had gotten pretty strong. As we walked the aisles of Costco looking for the paper towels, I would grab on to Freddie and slow dance with him as I moaned my way through contraction after contraction. After our cart was full of everything we needed, we checked out and made our way to the car. On our way out, as the man was checking our receipt, I had another contraction. The clerk looked at Freddie and said, “you better get her to the hospital!”, to which I replied, “it’s ok, I’m having a home birth!”.
On our way home, we decided to stop at Trader Joes. I wanted to pick up some lunch meat and a bouquet of flowers for Harper. We didn’t last long as it seemed like my contractions were lasting longer and getting closer together.
When we got home, we called our midwives again. Freddie talked to them for a bit and gave them the statistics on my contractions. Then he handed the phone to me. The first thing I heard when I answered the phone was, “Are you having fun yet?”. I couldn’t help but smile. I love the way they helped me to reframe this uncomfortable pain. They then asked me if I needed them to come over. I told them I was ok and that Freddie was doing a great job supporting me. But as soon as I gave the phone back to Freddie I was moaning my way through another tough contraction. When they heard me in the background, they told Freddie they would be right over.
One of our midwives, Alice, arrived around 4pm or so. At this point, I had been in labor for about 12 hours or so. She decided to check me and I was only at 3 cm. Are you kidding?! She looked me in the eye and said, “This is going to be a long night”, I stared back and said, “I’m ready”.
In the midst of working through my contractions and dancing around the house in my underwear, our changing table arrived. Hooray for perfect timing! Alice asked Freddie to put it together, which left me to labor on my own. Easier said than done. But she wanted me to own my labor, work through my contractions and experience some of this journey by myself. Looking back, I am glad I was able to have this time alone.
About 3-4 hours later, my birth assistant Jen arrived. At this point, I had been in and out of the shower, the bath, the toilet, the bed, the couch…it was like musical chairs. But I loved how I could move around my house, listen to my music and feel free to labor the way that worked best for me. I continued to move around from room to room for a few more hours and then at about 10pm, they wanted to check me again. This time I was only at 5cm. And Harper wasn’t really dropping. At this point, my midwife asked me how I would feel about her breaking my water. She said she is normally not a fan of interventions, but she felt it was important in this case and thought that maybe it might help Harper to drop a bit and hopefully speed up the labor. I told her I trusted her and was comfortable with whatever she wanted to do. She said she was going to think about it a little more and went out on the couch to rest for a bit.
An hour later, Alice came back in and I was still at 5 cm. So she said she wanted to go through with breaking my water. As I laid on the bed, I felt a warm gush of liquid between my legs. To be honest, it was a little comforting. But the words that came from my midwife’s mouth were not. She looked up at me and said, “I’m sorry, Heather, but we are going to have to go to the hospital”. My first reaction was a cry of “No!”. I had worked so hard with maintaining a healthy diet and monitoring my blood sugar levels so that I could have a home birth. I had also already labored for almost 20 hours at home. But as soon as those thoughts came into my mind, they left. And the only thing that was important to me was the health of my baby. “Is she ok?”, I asked. “Yes. She is doing great. Your water is just full of meconium. So we want to be able to deliver at the hospital in case there are any complications with Harper aspirating it.”
Luckily, we were in no rush. In fact, at one point, Alice asked Freddie to charge her phone. This helped Freddie to relax a bit because if our midwife had time to charge her phone, then this must not have been an emergency.
I had already packed a bag just in case, but to be honest, I didn’t pack my “best” things. So I had Freddie throw in my comfortable jammies, my glasses, socks, and a few other items. Then Freddie, Alice and Jen started to drain the birthing tub and clean up a little bit around the house. By 1am, we were ready to go to the hospital.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2, and the conclusion of Harper’s Birth Story.
Photo taken by Rachel Bradshaw of Little Sparrows Photography.