Let me start by saying, a midwife (or at least this midwife) is the worst patient...
May 9th... I woke up to my alarm and was having some "different" sort of pains. I couldn't call them contractions even though they seemed to be coming and going as contractions do. It was a sharp vaginal pain, nothing I had experienced with any of my other five births. So, I texted my midwives, Amanda and Jamie, like I do every morning. We have a group text and usually check in with each other in the morning to see who has been to a birth and what each other's day looks like. They're good friends and sister midwives and the texts are always funny and supportive and this time....me confused on what was happening within my uterus, lol. After saying I was going to call our nurse midwife friend because I was convinced something was wrong (this will be the theme all morning), Jamie said she'd hop in the shower and head over to see what was going on. About that time, Amanda chimed in and said she was discharging at the homebirth she was at and would also head over.
I called Chris to come home from work. With his job there's no telling how long it will take for someone to relieve him so he can get home. I knew I needed him here. Not only to help with the tub and around the house, but if this was labor, I needed to have him with me. I definitely have a fair amount of fear from birth "trauma" and Chris makes me feel safe. After him not making it to my last birth that ended in an emergency transport, next to my midwives, I needed my husband. So, I decided to let him know before I actually knew if anything was really happening. Just in case. Then I called my mom to take the littles to school so that I could be home when Amanda arrived.
Amanda got to my house around 8am and Jamie arrived shortly after. Amanda did a vaginal exam and I was 3cm. They decided I was in fact having contractions and it was just early labor stuff. I still was not convinced what I was experiencing were contractions. They were so weird, as I explained every single time I had one. Probably with more description than they ever needed to know. I changed out of my cute "labor pants" into some yoga pants and thought they should go home. They had both attended births in the wee hours and hadn't had any sleep. And since I wasn't actually laboring, there was no reason to be here. However, I'm happy they insisted on staying. I needed the emotional support. We decided to go get breakfast since it was early and the "contractions" were sporadic and short with no real pattern. The morning was spent hanging out and laughing. We talked about recent births and our kids and just told funny stories. I snuggled my basset puppy, Owen, a lot for comfort.
Finally around 11:40am I asked for another vaginal exam as it seemed nothing was really progressing. Contractions were still short and sporadic and I was still describing them as something other than a contraction. (Still not convinced this was even early labor) I was now 4cm. One cm progression in nearly 4 hours. At that point I laid in bed and thought, "told you. I'm not in labor." By now Chris was home and napping upstairs after connecting the hose to the bathroom sink and taking care of a couple chores. My mom also came over after getting the kids to school, going to the gym, and making brownies for everyone. After laying down for about 20 minutes with no contractions, J and A suggested a walk to see if that would get contractions coming again and make some changes. I begrudgingly got up and agreed.
At that point I let the dads, my doula, and the photogs know that we were in what appeared to be early labor with not much going on, but were heading out for a walk and would let them know when we got back if anything had changed. As a licensed midwife I know what having too many people at your birth early can do for progression. "A watched pot doesn't boil". I've seen births take a turn for the worse when too many people are in a woman's birth space too soon. Especially considering I was so in my own head and knew I was going into this birth with fear. What I needed were the two women who were there who knew my deepest fears and could calm me with a few simple words and a loving touch. Women who trusted the process and could remind me why I trust it too. Why I choose homebirth and why everything was going exactly how it needed to. Not long after I gave them all the update, our photogs decided they'd start heading this way in case things progressed quickly. The dads told me later that they all too got ready and decided to head to Fort Worth so they'd be close by when things picked up.
The walk was relaxing. There was a cool breeze. We strolled more than walked and laughed more than strolled. We looked at all the different houses and pointed out stuff we liked about each one. I love how different each house is in my neighborhood! Jamie talked about how much they love their neighborhood and also the updates they needed to do on their house. We talked about changing our kids schools when you move and how hard it is to not become settled in an area once you have school aged children. Mixed in were some contractions, but mostly the walk was relaxing and enjoyable. As we walked up my walkway I had my first "good" contraction. I still described it as a sharp pain that came very quickly, intensified, and then slowly went away. It wasn't wave like, like I was used to. No slow build up to a peak and then blowing back out. It was sudden and sharp and I was convinced something was wrong. I came up with every scenario my midwife brain could think of and thankfully I have amazing midwives who understood I needed to be heard and then needed real explanations of why it couldn't be what I was creating. I needed constant reminders that I was safe.
Something I've realized as being a midwife...my own births aren't as peaceful as they once were. I now have tons of knowledge of all the possibilities of what could go wrong and no matter how small of a percentage those things happen, no matter how much trust I have in the process, no matter how none of that fear gets carried with me to other births, no matter how many times I comfort a mom knowing everything is perfect during her birth, I cannot shake the "what ifs" at my own births. And they're always crazy complications. Nothing small.... the biggest, craziest things that could happen, that happen less than 1% of the time. I think this combined with having had a transport that lead to a cesarean, which makes me a VBAC forever, add to the fear. The scar on my uterus is never far from my mind. And then an emergency transport at my last birth.. It's safe to say, I'm constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I tried to calm my mind as best as I could and not let the fear creep in. But, those "contractions" were ridiculous. It literally became my sole focus to describe each one, every single time.
Once back at the house Chris was napping upstairs and my mom was laying on the couch reading a book. We went in my room where Owen was still asleep on my bed. We joked that if I birthed basset hounds I'd never stop having babies, lol. (I'm obsessed with my bassets) I had another good contraction while holding on to Owen and that's when Jamie decided I needed to tell everyone it was time. From there things went very fast. I texted everyone something along the lines of "come now" and I'm pretty sure most responded, "will we make it?". I thought for sure they would. I figured we finally hit active labor and it would still be some time until we met a baby. I did find out later that Natasha and Jamie, the photogs, were already heading our way and so were the dads and their parents.
I went to go to the bathroom and as soon as I sat down, I stood right back up. That was not happening, way too much pressure. It was then I began to panic and started filling my own bathtub as Amanda was trying to get the birth pool set up. I knew I needed in the water somewhere, somehow. It suddenly went from nothing to everything. I started sweating and was lightheaded and asked Jamie to get Chris, but to also stay with me in my bathroom. I got down on hands and knees and knew no one would make it. I ended up laying on my side in an attempt to not push and tried desperately to breathe through contractions. I asked Jamie to have my mom video the birth if no one made it and she reassured me they would make it. (Knowing full well they wouldn't...but what a sweet thing to say to calm my mind) Chris came in and Owen and Talulah, my other basset, were in and out of the bathroom. Talulah eventually stayed with me and I held on to her as I tried breathing, moaning, "horse lips", anything to not push. I later found out Jamie had let everyone know they'd miss the birth, but things were going well.
My body started baring down and there wasn't much I could do to control the urge to push anymore. I heard Jamie get heart tones and they were not good. I couldn't quite make out how low they dipped, but I knew he needed to be born. It was then that I pushed. Amanda was scrambling to set up for the birth on my bathroom floor. Jamie quickly took my pants off just in time for a second push. I believe it was after the second push that they told me if I could get up and get to the tub in my bedroom that there was just enough water to birth him in. (Maybe a foot or two of water?) I said, "I can't move" and then rolled over, pushed myself up, made it to the tub, and in the tub as fast as I could go. I squatted down into the warm water and instantly felt relief.
I reached down to see where baby was and felt his head crown beneath my hand. With the next contraction I felt my membranes rupture and his head birth into my hand. "Head's out", I called. I then took some deep breaths while cradling his head and waited for shoulders. Suddenly I felt his one shoulder slip out and then the other shoulder and I reached down and pulled him out of the water.
I pulled him to my chest and then noticed he had a double nuchal cord (cord around his neck twice). I tried to reduce it, but was too discombobulated and asked J and A for help. It was tight and he needed someone to untangle it. They both reached in and got him situated. He still needed some help, as he was pale with poor muscle tone. He appeared to be so tiny to this 8.8-10lb birthing mom and I asked if he was okay. He could have been 5lbs for all I knew, he felt so tiny in my arms. I'm pretty sure this is when I started giving orders, my poor midwives... lol. We were all working on Joel as the pool was full of blood. I immediately thought I had hemorrhaged. I started asking for pitocin and they wanted me out of the tub. I didn't want to get out and asked them why. They explained they needed to assess where the blood was coming from and I immediately started worrying again. It's not me? It's him? What's wrong? What are y'all thinking? Is he okay? Finally I got out of the tub and it still wasn't evident where the bleeding was coming from, but while his tone improved, he was still quite pale. Thankfully he sounded great and was crying the whole time.
Within a few minutes of being in the bed the placenta birthed, which seemed quite quick. It was then that they discovered Joel had a velamentous cord insertion. (Google here). He also had a two vessel cord. We're guessing when my membranes broke, it ruptured along one of the vessels in the sac and that caused the bleeding and some of the issues with Joel at birth. Looking at the placenta was both fascinating and terrifying. We all were so thankful that Joel arrived so safely.
Shortly after I was situated in bed with Joel our doula arrived and then our videographer. Not long after our photographer, the dads, and the grandparents walked in. Thankfully Natasha and Jamie were able to capture the moment they met their baby. There were tears, there was excitement, mostly there was a lot of happiness and love.
Emilio cut the cord and then Joel was his own little person and free to be loved on by his family. He's the first grandbaby for Emilio's parents and they have waited a long time for him. Love; something Baby Joel will never, ever have a shortage of. He got plenty of snuggles and love from everyone. Eventually he was hungry and I nursed him. About that time my mom had picked my three youngest up from school and they were so excited to meet Joel. Finn was mostly excited to see me and be sure his role as the one and only baby in my life was secure. He climbed in bed with me and gave me the sweetest cuddles.
I decided to do an herbal bath in my tub for healing and relaxation and J and A set up an herbal bath for Emilio and Joel. Finn watched as they took their bath and told me he remembered the one we took together after he was born. 😍
The rest of the afternoon was spent with our families hanging out between the living room and my bedroom. The kids got to hold Joel and I nursed him again. My littles climbed in bed with me and my hubby went between making sure I was okay and getting pictures and video of what was going on in the living room so I didn't miss out on anything. Paul told me how much he loved the homebirth, how nice it was to be here and not in a hospital. And Emilio's dad also told my mom how great it was being at the house. I'm so thankful they trusted me and our team to have a safe and healthy homebirth and that they loved it for all the reasons I wanted to have it. Safe, loving, calm, peaceful, warm, comfortable.
Some photos I took...
I knew he was a thumb sucker because I always felt his hands by his face ❤️
Milk drunk ❤️
Sleeping through discharge instructions ❤️
We eventually did a champagne toast to Joel and two families coming together to love this perfect little human. Natasha and Jamie got final pictures and the cleanup process began. I sat in the livingroom and held Joel while he slept and Jamie went over discharge instructions with everyone. It was fun hearing their questions and the answers and watching them all fall into their new roles as dads and grandparents, so seamlessly. My doula, Samantha, made sure the car seat was properly installed in their car. And then everyone hugged and kissed and the new family headed "home" (where they're staying until they can go back to Spain).
Most of my birth team left one after the other and my mother-in-law came to pick up my littles. (She takes them on Tuesday nights) Finally it was just me and Chris and our sweet bassets. He picked us up dinner and we relaxed in bed eating. It was a whirlwind of a day, but if you looked around our room....it was if nothing had happened. A typical Tuesday. Except this Tuesday was anything but typical. It was extraordinary. It was perfect.
Journey #2, complete. ❤️
Baby Joel's stats:
Born: May 9, 12:51pm
7 pounds, 4 ounces
His birth stats:
4cm to birth in just over an hour.
Active labor to baby in less than 25 minutes.
Crown to baby 1 minute.
Delivered and Caught by his most grateful surrogate.
My birth stats:
5th planned out of hospital birth
3rd out of hospital birth
5th completely natural vaginal birth
5th baby boy
Transferred on August 18, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois
Grown and loved under his American surrogate's heart for 265 days in Fort Worth, Texas
Loved by many in many different countries ❤️