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We found out we were pregnant about a month after our first anniversary, in the fall of 2012. Julia’s parents had been in town the week before, and although we were starting to suspect we might be pregnant, we didn’t want to take the test until after they had gone home. So, Sunday morning rolled around, and we both woke up early before heading in to worship. We looked at each other and asked if we wanted to take the test that morning, then decided to go for it. Tim was holding the directions, which told us to wait 3 minutes before the “results” would be complete, but to our surprise, two little pink lines showed up almost immediately. Tim was telling Julia not to look yet because it hadn’t been three minutes, but Julia kept trying to tell him that it didn’t work like that, if the line showed up, that meant we were having a baby! We went to our worship gathering that morning with smiles on our faces.
After church, Tim decided to cut some flowers for Julia from the church garden, and in his excitement to do so, also cut his thumb with the knife he was using! We thought it might need stitches but it ended up being okay. Here’s Julia on that afternoon with the flowers:
We waited until about 8 weeks to tell our parents. When we called Tim’s mom and dad, we asked if it would be okay if we brought another person to Christmas that year – Tim’s mom asked, “Is it your roommate?” and we said, “no…” then she tentatively asked, “…is it a baby?” to which we excitedly replied YES! Julia’s parents were equally fun – Julia’s mom was characteristically very excited, and her Dad was just about speechless (the good kind) and then very joyful.
So, we were super excited from the start and after talking and researching some, we decided we wanted to think about an out-of-hospital birth with midwives. We ended up choosing the first birth team we visited, at Birth Roots in Chula Vista. We had looked a couple places online, and Birth Roots was about halfway between our apartment at the time and Tim’s job in National City, so we checked them out first and really loved them. Later on we found out that some friends in San Diego had also used Birth Roots for both of their kids’ births and loved them as well.
At our first appointment, we had one of the coolest God moments. Julia was born with a birth defect (semi-rare, it occurs about 1 in 5000 births) that we were afraid might make a natural birth risky, but to our amazement the first midwife we visited (Darynee at Birth Roots) had had a mom as a client with the same birth defect before, and she had had no problems and a normal, natural delivery! After having been almost certain that this was going to be some kind of issue, we were so relieved to find out that a natural birth could be possible and that we would be considered low-risk. And how amazing that of all the midwives we could have found, that God led us to one who had already had a client with the same thing! I (Julia) still feel like I need to take more time to meditate on what an amazing provision of the Father this was.
9 weeks (can you believe I was starting to think I had a belly??)
Birth Roots does both out-of-hospital births at their birth center in Chula Vista and attends home births. At first we thought we wanted to have the baby in the birth center. We (of course) watched the controversial documentary the Business of Being Born and found a lot of the information helpful (although I wouldn’t recommend swallowing the entire film whole without cross-checking some info!!). Basically, we wanted to do a med-free, intervention-minimal birth, and the more we thought about it, we figured if we were going to do it naturally, we might as well be as comfortable as possible and do it in our own home rather than in the birth center. The problem was our apartment in Imperial Beach wasn’t super birth-conducive, or baby-conducive for that matter. Eventually we decided that we were going to look for a new place, and it was at that point that we decided for sure we wanted to have the baby at home. There are also some legal restrictions in the birth center as far as how long you’re allowed to continue to labor after your membranes have ruptured, and we felt like we’d have more freedom at home without sacrificing safety. And once we decided to move from our apartment in Imperial Beach to our new place in North Park, we were less than 2 miles away from UCSD Hospital in Hillcrest, which is a major hospital with a level III NICU, so that helped us feel a little safer as well. We did take the time to pre-register at UCSD in case we needed to transfer, even though we weren’t “planning” on delivering in the hospital!
In preparation we took a 12-week course in the Bradley Method with Jenna Demarest of Starfish Birth Services – I would say this was the single most important “prep” thing we did for the labor (aside from good nutrition, etc). We loved the Bradley Method (although like anything there are a few philosophical items we disagreed with) and felt like we were equally prepared to take on the challenge of birth as a team. Bradley Method stresses the husband’s role as a coach in the birth, and helps the husband to become just as educated and prepared for the different stages of labor as the mom is, so that he can be responsible for taking the lead in decision making when the mom is focusing on labor, and for encouraging her and knowing what to expect. Basically, we felt like Bradley Method helped us to approach labor and birth the same way we approach other challenges in life: as a team, with Tim as the team leader.
During the months of pregnancy, we had one ultrasound with XDI Ultrasound in University Heights, and at that appointment (around 20 weeks) we found out that the baby was a girl! Everything looked healthy and awesome from the ultrasound. It was after this appointment that we started to explore the University Heights neighborhood, and ultimately ended up in North Park for our new place! While we didn’t have strong feelings one way or another about the gender, looking back at it, Tim felt like God had been opening up his heart to having a girl during the fall before, in a variety of ways. After going through a list of potential names, we chose the name Eleanor Ruth.
29 weeks (same outfit… Easter Sunday!)
Our “due date” was June 11th, but we were expecting to go to 41 weeks at least since we had learned in our childbirth education that without intervention, average gestation (for first time moms especially) is usually about 41 weeks, 1 day. Julia’s parents and brother arrived June 14th (40 weeks + 3 days) and we got to spend the weekend with them – while on baby watch we watched the Orioles game, and went to see Balboa Park, and did a bunch of other San Diego things. Brooks and Dad Owens even got to go see Switchfoot at the fair at Del Mar the night they got in. We all went to worship together on Sunday morning and had a good evening together Sunday as well.
Saturday night in Ocean Beach
Monday morning (40 weeks + 6 days) Tim went into work for a little bit while the parents, Brooks and I went for Carnitas Snack Shack and Balboa Park. My parents waited in line for the food while Brooks and I sat in the car. While we were waiting I started having my first contractions that felt a little bit painful, and after a few hours they were close enough together that we started timing them as a team – my mom would write down the times and duration of each. We hit up In N Out Burger late in the afternoon while Tim went on a 10 mile run. We continued timing the contractions all the way – they were between 5 and 10 minutes apart and lasting about 1 minute. We were for sure that I was headed into labor and started getting excited.
That night we went for dinner at Island Pasta on Coronado and walked around, saw the beach and the Hotel Del, all the while timing contractions – I was thinking to myself, “I’ll always remember this as the night before I went into labor!” Little did I know… it was a nice evening though.
After our Coronado time, the contractions slowed down and spaced apart some. We went to bed.
So the following morning was our 41-week appointment. We went in to Birth Roots and Darynee offered to strip my membranes if I was dilated enough for her to get in. We talked about it for a few minutes and decided to do it – at the time it seemed like it hurt like a mother! (no pun intended there…). I waddled out of the appointment with Tim and we ran a few errands, including picking up two homeopathics: black cohosh and blue cohosh, before heading back to the apartment. That afternoon we kept timing contractions and I took the homeopathics, alternating every fifteen minutes. The contractions got closer together and were still a little bit painful. Pretty quickly they went from about 7-8 minutes apart to about 3-4 minutes apart, so we called Birth Roots and talked with Darynee. She told us that usually when contractions are 3 minutes apart, it’s the husband calling since the mom usually can’t talk through them, but that I might just be one of those women who have them closer together, to try and get some sleep and to call back when I couldn’t talk through them!
Julia laid down to go to sleep that night. Tim, excited as ever, decided to make his final preparations: he contacted our church leaders to let them know we were headed into labor, changed his email account to a vacation message, cleaned the whole apartment, showered and shaved, and took pictures of everything in ready-mode.
our birth plan posted on the wall
Julia resting Tuesday night
Eleanor’s corner of our room all ready for her!
Tim got to sleep around 1 am. I had only maybe 5 or 6 contractions that were strong enough to wake me up through the whole night (although I’m sure there were other, less strong ones throughout the night). The next morning our friend Renee came down from Oceanside to pray with us and just be a support during labor. Our roommate Katie was also hanging out for the day – both of them were awesome – just hanging out and keeping things light, rubbing my back, helping me through contractions.
Renee providing “counterpressure” during a contraction.
By that night I felt like I was about ready to get in the tub, so we got it filled and I started going through contractions in the water. Around this time my parents came by with some food. We also had the Orioles game on! My mom came and sat by the tub and went through a few contractions with me – Renee’s husband Mike also got off work and was able to come by around this time too! We had called Birth Roots and Darynee (our midwife), Jhoanna, and Alicia (two student midwives/doulas) also arrived! It was a full house for a few minutes. During this time, I asked if Mike would read from Isaiah 40 – when he started reading, I immediately started bawling! My parents left around the time the Birth Roots team came.
I was still in the tub – first thing Jhoanna used the doppler thing to check Eleanor’s heart rate, which was good. Then they asked me to get out of the tub so we could do an internal exam to see how far along I was. We went back into the bedroom and it went something like this…
Darynee: Well, you’re 90% effaced, which is great and that’s usually the hardest part for first time moms.
(the rest of us quietly cheer)
Darynee: You’ve still got some work to do on dilation. Do you want to know a number?
Julia: Is it going to break my heart?
Darynee: (smiling) I don’t know…
Julia: Okay, tell me.
Darynee: You’re 3.
(many of our hopes are quietly dashed)
So, they gave us an herbal tincture to slow down and space out the contractions to try and make them a little bit stronger and then the team left, since likely it would be a while longer. We tried our best to get some rest, although the herbs gave me some hallucinations, literally it was the two spinning wheels with a cackling cartoon face in the middle every time I closed my eyes – totally freaky. It also gave me the feeling like I would forget to start breathing again after I exhaled. I remember saying to Renee, “Will you make sure that I keep breathing? I feel like I keep forgetting to breathe again.” Around the time the Birth Roots team left, Tim had gathered the forces together (Renee and Katie) to explain what the plan was to get through the night. They decided that Renee would take the first shift helping Julia while Tim and Katie both got some sleep, then it would go Renee, Katie, then Tim. This kind of turned into Renee and Katie taking the first shift together, then when Julia started thinking she wasn’t breathing, Tim overheard them sounding concerned and got up to see what the commotion was about – it seemed like everyone was kind of freaking each other out. Tim decided to try and calm Julia down and took over the first shift. Katie and Renee were going to get some sleep – Renee headed home to Oceanside since she had to be somewhere in the morning but planned to come back if she was needed.
Tim and Julia labored together for several hours, sleeping intermittently from around midnight to 4 am, then from around 4 to 7 laboring again, enough to see the sunrise. We got back to sleep for maybe another hour, then woke up and started laboring again – in and out of the shower, walking around the apartment, sitting down, standing up. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.
By this point, Tim had been in communication with Julia’s family, each night expecting the baby to be born, and making a plan with them about how he would communicate news of her birth depending on what time it was. We were all growing a little weary, but things were still progressing, so we kept going!
We kept laboring through that morning, with Tim pulling out every Bradley Method trick and tip he knew (like a boss) then the day turned into afternoon. Katie had gone to stay at a friend’s house to give us some space, and after having labored alone just the two of us, we couldn’t tell how much progress we were making and weren’t sure if we were helping labor move along or just coasting. Tim called Darynee and they decided it would be good for us to have some doula help, so a little while later Jhoanna and Alicia came over to help us.
Jhoanna’s first suggestion was that we get out of the apartment a little bit and walk around in the sunshine. During this time, they had Julia go through contractions in a modified lunge, with one foot up on a bench or chair, rocking back and forth until the contraction passed. We would walk around slowly in between contractions, then when the next one came, find another bench or low wall to put Julia’s foot up on through the next contraction. We did this exercise for about an hour.
After that hour had passed, we came inside to do a few more “positions.” At this point, Tim laid down for a nap on the couch and the doulas took over helping Julia. We went through a cycle of positions – I have no idea what the doula terms for all these are but I’ll do my best to describe them since they were both the most painful and probably the most efficient part of the whole labor. I think part of what was taking so long was that my pelvis was taking its sweet time to open up and let Eleanor’s head come through, and these crazy positions did the trick:
1. The first one was a position using a rebozo technique – I knelt on hands and knees on the bed, and Alicia took the rebozo (a scarf) tightly over the small of my back and hips, and shook the scarf back and forth, shaking my back and hips with it. During the contraction I would lean back and forth.
2. The next one was in a side-laying position – I’d lay on one side with knees stacked in between contractions, then when the contraction came, Jhoanna would bring the top knee up until I was as close to doing a split as possible, trying to open up my hips more and more through each contraction.
3. Here comes the most painful part of the whole labor – not pushing, not transition, this thing: I got down on the ground with one knee up, one knee on the ground behind me (another lunge) and elbows/arms on an ottoman we have in our bedroom. Side note: Tim came in to experience this part, and in his words, “It looked terrible.” So, I’m in a deep lunge, and when the contraction comes, I rock back and forth through it, literally feeling the bones in my pelvis separate and open up.
I don’t know how to describe it besides that – it hurt so bad, but it did the job. This was late in the afternoon or maybe early evening – I didn’t know then but we were about 75% through the labor, time-wise! It sounds weird to say it was downhill from there, because I was about to go into transition and start pushing, but in a lot of ways the hardest part was over at that point. I should also say that this was the moment in which, kneeling on the floor, I looked up at Tim and said, “I can’t do it, you gotta take me to the hospital and I’ll get the epidural,” to which he replied tentatively and gently, “Well… we’re not going to do that…”
Julia looking slightly unsure and Tim saying something encouraging probably.
We kept laboring through the evening, and after checking in with Darynee over the phone, Jhoanna suggested we try the herbal tincture (hallucinogen one) as well as the homeopathics (not as bad) to keep things moving. We declined the tincture but went for the homeopathics as we kept laboring, in and out of the shower, still walking around and sitting, whatever we could do. Around 9:30 pm Jhoanna suggested I sit on the birth ball (she covered it with a towel first… there were a lot of gross things coming out this whole time, forgot to mention that!) and Tim rubbed my back, sitting behind me on the same stool as I had used for the pelvis-separating thing before. During one contraction, all of a sudden I exclaimed to Tim, “Ahh Tim I’m peeing, I’m so sorry, I’m peeing so much!” to which of course he said, it’s okay, don’t worry about it, just keep going. Then with the next contraction, I peed again, a lot!! Jhoanna suggested I move to the toilet and asked if I was sure it was pee. I thought so, but she checked the towel just in case, and as I walked from the bedroom into the bathroom, she called out, “uhhh… I think you’re leaking!” It was confirmed – my “forewaters” had broken – this just means the little pocket of amniotic fluid between the baby’s head and the bottom of the uterus. Once it breaks, a lot of times the baby’s head comes right against the cervix and creates a seal, preventing the rest of the fluid from coming out (Bradley Method knowledge for you right there!). Anyway, it was an encouraging milestone.
Around this time I started feeling like maybe I wanted to push. I didn’t really know what that felt like, but it got more intense as the contractions kept coming. They had been intense before, but the whole time I had been able to breathe through them if I focused and just kept breathing. Then, some came that at their peak were so intense that they took my breath away and I would hyperventilate through the whole rest of the contraction. This was a little scary (both for me and for Tim as he watched my terrified expression); even though the labor had been long and we were both really tired, I hadn’t felt that loss of control yet during a contraction. Around this time, Jhoanna called Darynee and asked her to come to the apartment – it seemed like we were getting close.
Once Darynee got there, Jhoanna performed the initial internal exam (since she’s the student), then Darynee also did an exam to confirm Jhoanna’s exam (since Darynee is the licensed midwife). With a big smile on her face, Darynee stood up and told us I was dilated to about 8 or 9 cm. I remember looking at the clock right then – it was 11:44 pm on Thursday night, June 20. What a relief! The birth team started getting the tub ready again so I could get in and push, and Tim and I kept laboring.
Focusing through a contraction a few hours before Eleanor was born
This whole time I was having those crazy out-of-control contractions, so I don’t remember too much. So, I’ll have Tim tell what transpired during the next few hours:
I (Tim) yet again contacted Julia’s parents, telling them to get some sleep because it looked like it was really going to be tonight. Later on I found out that Julia’s dad didn’t get that text until early the next morning, after Eleanor was already born. I should also mention that during the last few days I had also been contacted by a bunch of people wondering where the baby was, so it felt so good to finally be in the home stretch. After checking Julia, the birth team began to scurry around the apartment, preparing for Eleanor’s arrival. They filled the tub, which took a very long time, and then the water wasn’t warm enough, so they pulled out all the pots and pans in our entire house and boiled as much water as possible to raise the temperature to where it needed to be.
One of the pots they put on to boil, they put some essential oils in and before long, the house would smell suddenly of lavender, and then they would change it and the house would smell of wonderful, deep peppermint. At any other time I would think this was kind of hippie and weird, but perhaps in my deep state of exhaustion, I thought this was the most wonderful thing ever – it brought energy, cleanness and life to everyone. I gained a second wind.
I could tell that Julia’s contractions were reaching new plateaus of intensity. Jhoanna kept reminding Julia that her body would respond in dealing with the pain by normalizing at each plateau. We had to highly encourage Julia to eat and hydrate and she reluctantly accepted food we would give her. Backtrack – around 10 pm, I was in charge of feeding her a turkey sandwich. She promptly threw up, and for some reason, my reaction was to try and catch it (?!) to keep it from going on her, or me, or the bed… suffice it to say there was too much for me to catch.
Back to about 2 am: as the midwives were making their final preparations for the tub, Julia and I were left alone and she went into the most intense, perhaps scary state I’ve ever seen any person before (see above: crazy out-of-control contractions). Up until this point, she had been able to communicate, if not during contractions, in between contractions, and if not in sentences, then in words, and if not in words, in some kind of communication. But this, this is what they call “transition.” Julia went completely silent for about an hour. She looked… I don’t know how to describe it. Pale, but with eyes beating out, and breathing like a stampeding horse. I was not concerned for her safety, however, I have never seen anything like it before.
We got Julia into the tub once it was ready; it was time to push.
I (Julia) remember climbing into the tub, so glad that it was finally time! I don’t really remember how long I was in there, maybe an hour? At first I tried leaning back against the far end of the tub, knees bent, kind of the classic pushing position you see in the movies. This was a little easier for me but unfortunately it’s not the most “efficient” pushing position. We had learned throughout our Bradley Method class that a squatting position opens up the bottom of the pelvis and is a really good position for pushing, but dang if I wanted to hold my days-tired, 40 lbs of extra weight self up in squatting position while a human descended through my pelvis! Anyway, I tried it. Jenna, our Bradley instructor who is also a doula, told us months ago that she had never seen anyone do what’s called an asymmetrical squatting position (scroll down and look at the “kneeling” sketch under “second stage positions” – this is similar to the pelvis bone-opening position above) but that we could try it. Of course this was the first position Jhoanna suggested once I was in the tub. I got into the position between contractions, and once the contraction came, it was unlike anything I had experience yet in the birth or in my life. It wasn’t pain (although it hurt) as much as just intense POWER – like a hurricane bearing down through my body. To me it sounded like I was growling like a bear (this was the only part that thinking about it later, I’m a little nervous for the neighbors) but Tim said it wasn’t actually very loud. The crazy part was that it didn’t feel like I was doing the pushing, it was like my body was the vessel for this immense power moving through me, and I just had to hold on and help it move through. After one contraction like that, Jhoanna had me switch sides and take in another contraction in this position. It was really amazing and exhausting – at the risk of being misconstrued as an animist, I felt like Ursa Major, the giant ferocious mama bear growling at the starlight. After two contractions, I remember kind of falling backwards out of the position and saying, “I need a break, I need to rest.”
I leaned back against the tub again and tried pushing that way for a little while. Jhoanna reached in to see if she could feel the baby’s head – she could! She showed me on her finger about how far Eleanor’s head was from the exit – it was maybe to her second knuckle. Darynee told me, “I think if you reach in and feel her head through the next contraction, you will be greatly rewarded.” So I tried that, and it was amazing. I could feel her wrinkly little head moving through, and feel the progress we were making with each contraction. Feeling how far she would move down with each push was motivation for me to hold it longer through the contraction, and I felt so much more aware and able to participate in the work my body was already doing. Still, leaning back I wasn’t making a ton of progress with the pushing.
It was around this time that Darynee asked how long it had been since I had peed. Everyone looked around at each other and realized it had been several hours (this is a no-no in labor!). They had me try to pee right in the tub but I didn’t have the urge at all and wasn’t able to go, so between contractions we moved to the toilet. I later learned that Darynee was starting to think that my reclined position in the tub wasn’t making too much progress, and that I was too tired to hold myself up in the Ursa Major position which was much more powerful for getting the baby out. So, the toilet was a good in-between – it still simulates a squat but the porcelain throne holds you up! I couldn’t pee on the toilet either but we kept pushing.
Throughout all this, Jhoanna kept reminding me not to back off when I felt that peak of intensity, but that however crazy it felt, to keep pushing through it because that’s when the most work is done. This little reminder helped SO much. Again, I’m not sure how long we were in the bathroom, maybe another hour?, but it wasn’t that long before Tim, Jhoanna, Alicia and Darynee were all saying with every push, “That’s good!! Good good good keep going you’re doing great go go go!” And it felt like I really was doing great and all of a sudden I felt Eleanor’s head plop out and she started talking and making little baby noises! It felt exactly like I had imagined it would, slippery and like so much relief. It was like I’d been running a race through a dark tunnel with no real knowledge of how far the other side was, and then all of a sudden the end of the tunnel was there, not a small light in the distance, but like turning a corner and all of a sudden you’re 10 yards away from the end of the tunnel. Amazing.
The birth team had me stand up and on the next contraction, in maybe two pushes, I delivered her shoulders and the rest of her. Tim and Jhoanna caught her and as I sat back down, they put her in my arms, with three giant rockets of meconium shooting out and blood and goop all over all of us, and I saw our sweet girl’s little face for the first time, with dark eyes looking right at me with the same expression that now I know she makes when she’s nursing or just feeling peaceful. I was holding her in a way that I couldn’t see if she was a boy or a girl – I asked, “Can someone look and see if it’s really a girl?” and Darynee said, laughing, “You check!” So I did, and she was a girl, our sweet little Eleanor Ruth. It was 4:51 am on June 21st – there was morning, the fourth day.
In the next few minutes I really don’t even know what all was going on. Somewhere in there as we were working on delivering the placenta, Darynee said some version of, in her very calm and non-alarming way, “So, you’re bleeding a little bit more than I’m comfortable with, I know you wanted to wait to cut her cord, but I’d like for us to go ahead and cut it so we can take care of you.” Which Tim and I were both fine with, so I handed Eleanor to him and I ended up being the one to cut her cord (we had originally planned for Tim to do it). See here for why some people wait to cut the cord. Darynee gave me some Angelica to help expel the placenta, and told me it might burn a little under my tongue. It has been a long time since I have tasted what little scotch/whiskey I have tried in my life but that Angelica tasted like a delicious victory sip of bourbon. Delicious I tell you. I stood up and as a few more contractions came, the placenta came out.
Now the rest of this I have no idea what order it transpired in:
1. Another student midwife, Tema, arrived and helped get the apartment and all the people cleaned up. This was the first time we had met Tema – she has been an amazing support and encouragement in our postpartum appointments, especially as we have tried to figure out breastfeeding!
2. We moved to the bed and Eleanor got weighed (8lbs 4 oz) and measured (21 inches) and had her Apgar tests (she got a 9 and a 10! woo!). I don’t remember this happening although clearly from the pictures I am sitting right there, super out of it evidently.
3. Jhoanna came into the bedroom and closed the door at some point when just Tim, Eleanor and I were in there. I still had not peed. She picked up the catheter that they bring in case they need it, and said, “Darynee is going to use this on you if you can’t pee. You don’t want that. You’ve gotta try and pee right now here in this bed.” There was a chux pad under me, so I went ahead and tried, but no dice. So, Darynee came and did the catheter. To my amazement, I had 800 ml in my bladder!! For reference, a Camelbak water bottle or a bottle of wine are both 750 ml (about 25 oz). Dang! The cath wasn’t really that bad after having pushed out a baby.
4. My parents arrived to meet Eleanor!
5. I was sitting on the toilet, trying to pee again I guess, and Alicia was in the bathroom with me. I started to feel like I was going to pass out, then all of a sudden I woke up and there were two more people in the bathroom looking at me and saying, Julia, Julia! I think it was at this point that…
6. I could only get a little trickle of pee out, but Darynee did this ninja move where as soon as I got the trickle, she did this karate chop thing on my bladder and like swiped downwards and all the pee came out. It was amazing. I had never seen or heard of that before and I think I was acting a little silly, thanking Darynee and telling her how amazed I was and how awesome she was. But really, a ninja!
7. I stood up to go back to the bedroom, Darynee on one side and Alicia on the other side supporting me, and felt like I was going to pass out again – I think I remember saying, “let’s just go, let’s get to the bed” and then I woke up again on the floor of the bedroom with people around me again! We got me into the bed and I literally didn’t leave the bed for the next two days (see: chux pads, extremely helpful husband and mom who helped me “go to the bathroom” for two days).
8. Darynee checked me out and I had a perineal tear as well as a few other smaller tears . She stitched me up (I remember telling her I thought it was ironic that you go through a med-free labor then get some lidocaine to get stitched up. She assured me it was normal) with Jhoanna looking on and learning. During this time, Darynee let me know that I had had a small hemorrhage, and that I was going to need to really stay in bed and be really careful for the next few days.
9. Somewhere in there we tried to breastfeed Eleanor. I probably could have tried harder, but I think I gave up because I was so tired I literally couldn’t keep my arms up to hold her. She ended up nursing after we had all had a little nap.
10. Also somewhere in there Jenna Demarest our Bradley instructor came to pick up my placenta. Yes, we did the placenta encapsulation thing. It’s kind of weird, kind of awesome, and done all over the world evidently. After telling you that I had very little baby blues and no postpartum depression, quick healing and pretty good energy while taking the capsules, I’ll just leave you with this: meat burps.
I want to say the birth team left around 10 am. My parents were there and they held Eleanor for a few hours while Tim and I got some sleep. When we woke up, Brooks had somehow gotten from the hotel to our apartment (still not sure about how that happened). We spent the rest of that day recovering and just hanging out with our new little family member!
Julia’s mom holding Eleanor
Julia’s dad holding Eleanor
Brooks holding Eleanor
Tim’s mom hanging out with Eleanor
Tim’s dad challenging Tim in cribbage… not baby related but it happened.
Over the next few days, we had two in-home follow up visits from the birth team (one at 2 days, one at 1 week) to check Eleanor’s weight gain, my healing, how we’re doing with breastfeeding, and just how we’re doing generally. I was so thankful for these follow-up visits – I could sit in my bed at home with our baby and ask the questions we had while the team took both of our blood pressures and temperatures, answered our questions, and encouraged us. I can’t rave enough about this model of care – we were able to meet with the same team for the whole pregnancy, had the same team encourage us with nutrition and physical fitness, had the same team come to our home to help deliver Eleanor, and then have the same team help us through baby blues, figuring out breastfeeding, and making sure Eleanor was doing great for the first six weeks.
So, forgive some of the grosser details. I tell them to try and give a realistic picture both of birth generally, and of natural birth, and of home birth. It’s kind of crazy, but it’s not that scary, and I think a lot more people COULD do it than do. We absolutely don’t look down on our friends who choose a hospital birth (and most of them have!) and we would absolutely have transferred to the hospital if it had become necessary. At the same time, I’m pretty convinced that if we had started out at the hospital, I would have ended up with a C-section just because hospitals have so many legal obligations that they just can’t let you labor as long as I did, even if they might want to let you keep going. And the thing is, I didn’t need a C-section, I just needed time. Eleanor was what you might call “stuck”; her head did not descend through my pelvic bone particularly quickly, so you might say that my pelvis was “too small” for her head, and that was true until the crazy doula moves that opened it up. And that was only after many hours of patience and hard work and encouragement from people who knew what they were doing and kept reminding me that even though the labor was slow at points, that I was continuing to progress, and that Eleanor’s heart rate was fine, and that I could do it.
Birth is super crazy, but it doesn’t have to be super scary. Our labor was longer than we expected, but it wasn’t BAD, mostly. It just took a while for our sweet girl to come out safely. We had an amazing team from Birth Roots, amazing training from Jenna, I had an amazing, dedicated husband in Tim, and most of all we have an amazing God, “who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth [brings out, delivers] the wind from his storehouses” (Psalm 135:7 – see above: hurricane power moving through me). I’m so glad we have this amazing home birth story to tell, and I hope our story can help other families approach birth with understanding and without fear!
Questions/comments are welcome in the comments! I know some of these topics are sensitive so please keep it respectful of the wide variety of birth choices different people make!