This is part two of the birth story, go here to read part 1, A home birth story: The deed
Everyone including my midwives thought I was going to give birth a week or two before my due date. I’d hear the words “you’re ready, any day now” and try not to get my hopes up. Little did I realize, not only would I not be giving birth early, I would go nearly two weeks past my due date. In that month prior to Coltrane’s birth I learned two things: due dates don’t mean shit and that patience really is a virtue. It’s funny how two weeks in a normal scenario feels so short, yet two weeks in a birthing one feels like an eternity. I remember at one of my final home visits before the birth, Taylor said this “Ashley, you want this baby to bake as long as he needs. The longer he’s in there, the cuter and better nurser he will be when he’s born.” For some reason that was all it took for me to relax. I have no idea why.
It was a Monday morning, 10 days past my due date and I was scheduled for an ultrasound to check the amount of amniotic fluid remaining. The ultrasound went great, everything was fine, until the radiologist came in. I’m not sure what his deal was, but I’m pretty sure he had a beef with midwifery, home births and the overall notion that the baby would come when he’s ready. After a very stressful and upsetting conversation where he made it very apparent he did not support us waiting any longer to have this baby because “he was too big for me to have”, “my placenta was aging” and “I looked swollen”. To top it off, the radiology assistant had incorrectly taken my blood pressure and this resulted in an onslaught of additional remarks about my “high” blood pressure. All of which were off base and though I knew this, to an overdue pregnant lady this was enough to send me off into a spiral the entire drive home. Until this point I had felt a steadfast peace and trust in what was going on and knew ultimately that God was in control. I called Taylor as soon as we got out of the appointment and she assured me the baby wasn’t “too big” and that an aging placenta was normal at the end of a pregnancy. She ended the conversation with “It’s time Ash. Let’s meet this baby today. I’ll see you at your house.” I didn’t understand what that meant. What tricks did she have up her sleeve?
We had arrived home and my sweet sweet husband was doing everything he could to make me feel assured and excited about what was about to happen. Less then 5 min before Taylor walked through the door, my water broke. Talk about timing. I remember feeling so assured when that happened. Like it was a small reminder again of God’s ultimate control.
For months I had been actively visualizing my birth. Meditating and preparing my mind for what was to come. Low light, candles, meditation music, wonderful food, tea, and love. Lots and lots of love. It might sound strange but I was so fixated on this. I wanted the atmosphere to feel cozy, welcome and serene. And it did.
Taylor set me up in bed and took my vitals. Everything was normal as I suspected. She took some blood and did a rushed lab to ensure everything else was normal. Everything was. This is when I learned one of her “tricks” to get things going. She had me take a series of homeopathics over the course of the next couple hours. When Michelle arrived she set me up with all the acupuncture points that stimulate labor. One of the coolest things ever. I was laying on my bed, in my cozy home, getting acupuncture and was going to meet my baby.
Each person had their duties and my mom’s primary job was to create a spread worthy of a celebration. What better celebration is there then that of her first grandchild and the transformation of her daughter becoming a mother. She made all my favorite foods. Fresh spring rolls, mashed potatoes, vegetable trays and lots of soup. This is one of the best things about a home birth. You can eat whenever and whatever you want. You’re doing the biggest workout of your life, you need nourishment! The night was full of memorable moments, but one that stands out is all of us surrounded around the table in our kitchen snacking, I was sitting on the birthing ball with moxibustion points on my toes and we were all smiling and laughing…through the contractions. Shortly after, Taylor let me in on another one of her tricks, the lemon verbena smoothie. A crazy concoction that I was told would really get the contractions going, and boy did it ever. Within 30min of drinking the smoothie I was in the thick of intense labor.
This is when things began to get a little blurry for me. I vividly remember moments during the next 12+ hours, while others are left to the memories of those there. The night went on for a very long time. At some point Christine arrived to birth assist, Taylor’s midwifery partner and one of the loveliest and softest hearts I’ve met. Taylor had me doing every single birth position possible, from marching around raising my knees high into the air to sitting backwards on the toilet and resting my head on the tank. This went on for hours and hours. David was with me the entire night, marching around with me, holding me, whispering encouraging words into my ear, “ash, you get to meet our baby soon”. Our first (fur) baby, Copper never left my side as well. He’d lay in the bathroom when I was in the bathroom. He’d sit next to the birthing tub when I was in it. He’d follow me when we walked from room to room trying different positions. We called him my doggy doula. There was a moment of great relief when I heard “You can get in the tub now”. It was one of the most amazing feelings in the world. To be in so much pain and then have some relief. I said out loud “Wow, everyone should do this. Wait, everyone should have a birthing tub, not a baby. Not everyone should have a baby.”
After a short time in the tub Taylor was concerned I wasn’t making enough progress so she had me in and out of the tub all night, not letting me get too relaxed and keeping things moving. Somewhere in the middle of the night it was time to push. So I pushed. For over 6 hours. With each contraction in the tub, my mom sat behind me, holding me so tight, telling me how proud she was of me while David and Michelle held my hands and pulled, giving me stability through the pressure and immense pain. Several times I thought to myself, “Every woman that has ever had a baby naturally goes through this amount of pain?! Why the hell are people still having babies?!” What I didn’t know at the time was that Coltrane was posterior or a “stargazer” which meant he was facing forward instead of backwards, a very difficult position to give birth vaginally and one that causes extremely long back labor. The pain was surreal, an out of body experience. With every contraction I would find some hidden strength and push with everything I had. Each listen to his heart beat was a reassuring wave of encouragement. I was still actively making progress with each contraction, despite how long it was taking. I somehow continued to have stamina. When Taylor realized he was in the posterior position, she consulted with David and they opted not to tell me because they knew that I could do it as long as I continued to make progress and it was what I would have wanted in the end. They were so right.
Around 9am Taylor had us move to our bedroom. I labored in various positions for nearly an hour. At one point I was squatting between David’s knees and during a contraction a large amount of blood began to come out. Something was very wrong. I had no idea about the blood, but I saw a look on everyone’s face and then I heard Coltrane’s heart beat slow down significantly. One of the most frightening sounds in the world. This caused me to snap to immediately. A fight or flight moment. A rush of adrenaline came out of nowhere. All of the sudden Taylor looked me straight in the eye and with a voice so firm yet so layered in love she grabbed my hands and said, “Ashley, you need to stand up and have this baby RIGHT NOW.” All I could think to myself was “You can’t lose him now! You can’t lose David’s baby. You can’t lose his baby!” So I stood up and without the help of a contraction I pushed with every fiber of my being. He came out in less than a minute. I looked down on the floor where Taylor was checking him for a brief second before putting him on my chest. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was seeing my son. I couldn’t stop crying. Partially out of pure fear and relief, and partially out of pure unequivocal joy. Through my sobbing I could hear myself say over and over and over, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you”. This was our moment. Through all the odds, we got to this point. My little stargazer. Christ was no more real to me then in this moment.
My original hope was to hold him for the first hour, skin to skin. This time of bonding and imprinting was very, very important to me. I was only able to hold him for about 15min though because they were still working to figure out where the blood had been coming from and had to give me a couple shots of pitocin to aid the placenta delivery and prevent any hemorrhaging. The placenta finally delivered and that is when we learned where the blood had come from. A normal umbilical cord has 2 arteries and 1 vessel, coiled together. My placenta had 1 artery and 1 vessel coiled and the other artery split off and attached separately. The cord had been wrapped around his neck when he was born (not unusual and generally easy to slip back over a head) which created extra strain on that single artery, and it detached from the placenta in those last few moments of labor, causing blood to release. A very unusual set of circumstances. Over the remainder of the hour, Michelle hand fed me while Taylor sutured, and Christine cleaned me. I was an emotional wreck of hormones over that next hour (well month to be honest). My mom and Michelle held my hand and comforted me as I cried when Taylor sutured. I cried more about what had all just happened then I did about the pain, but the pain of the suturing brought those surge of feelings to the surface. It was the strangest mix of emotions. To feel the happiest, most scared and most tired you’ve ever felt in your whole life, all at one time.
David spent that first hour, skin to skin with our most precious little being. What a special and once in a lifetime moment for them. I was witnessing my best friends transformation from a man to a father. What an incredible thing to watch. With some food in my stomach and that hour of rest without contractions, I had enough strength to feed my baby for the first time. Taylor was right, he was already a pro.
The remainder of that first day as a family is burned in my brain. We worked beautifully together to bring a new soul into this world. I knew this child would have a profound impact on our lives, but what I didn’t expect was the profound impact his birth would have on mine. A lot happened that morning that we didn’t expect, but I found a hidden strength that has no limits and love that takes over. I learned about power and fear and joy and gratitude.
Coltrane, someday I’ll share with you this story of your birth and how at home and surrounded by those we love most, we worked together to make today happen.