I know everyone has been waiting to hear about our home birth story, and I’m so excited to finally share it with you. Bodhi (pronounced Bow-dee, and called Bo for short) is laying in front of me, sleeping soundly. Every time I look at him I get an overwhelming sense of lightness, like anything that’s been weighing me down absolutely does not matter. Nothing that scared me before he was born matters anymore.
My “due date” was November 29th. My midwife was set to arrive from Georgia November 19th. And we were all sure that I wouldn’t make it to my due date for so many reasons, 6th pregnancy, only being 8 months postpartum from Sky before I got pregnant with Bo, my newly diagnosed UC (which inhibits my body from getting enough nutrients), having gone through four rounds of IVF and some other minor health issues. I gained a total of 10lbs through my pregnancy and I was terrified that my baby wouldn’t be healthy.
My due date came, and my due date went, and though I know better than most that due dates mean nothing, I was anxious. My midwife (Jen) was staying with us, so far from her family. The longer I was pregnant, the longer I would be on maternity leave (and the longer I wouldn’t be able to bring money home). Every morning I woke up and was met with “you still haven’t had that baby?” “Just try XYZ!” and so many other things that Y’ALL HAVE TO STOP SAYING TO PREGNANT PEOPLE! Anyway, my anxiety was at an all time high, and I knew it was preventing me from going into labor. I tried everything I could think of; writing out my feelings, having a good cry, relaxing baths with fear release, meditation.
At 3am on December 3rd I woke up having to use the bathroom, and a little wet. I shrugged it off because I REALLY had to pee and I wasn’t having any contractions. Curtis shot up on bed and asked if I was okay, I told him to go back to bed. A couple hours later at 5am, the same thing happened, Curtis told me my water had to be broken, but when I sat on the toilet I didn’t continue to leak. I was convinced that the baby had moved into a bad position and was pushing on my bladder, but no way was my water broke. Around 10am, after breakfast and coffee my midwife and I went into the bedroom to do a test swab and see if my water was broken. I told her “it’s a 70/30 chance in my mind” but with a complete absence of contractions, I was sure it wasn’t. Low and behold, the swab was positive, my water was broken.
Throughout the day I did things to try to prepare for labor and to start contractions. Exercises with an emphasis on fetal positioning, cleaning my birth space, snuggling and napping with Curtis, candle lit bath, and lots of tea/whole foods. Finally at midnight, nothing had changed and I went to bed nervous and disappointed.
I slept on and off all night with no contractions. In the morning I sat down with my midwife and we made our plans. Tinctures and herbs were going to be taken to try to encourage contractions, pumping and more exercises. If nothing changed, we would talk castor oil at the 36 hour mark. We had been trying to avoid that as there is almost no research on how it effect those with UC.
Alas, at 3pm there were still no contractions. While walking and lunging the stairs I had a few of what I called “tightenings” but they didn’t hurt and I wouldn’t call them contractions based on my previous experiences. Through out all of this, we were doing regular check-ins. My temperature, baby’s heart rate, blood pressure, and everything remained fine and normal. My amniotic fluid was still leaking and clean, but we had no concerns about mine or baby’s health. I took two doses of castor oil, and started to talk about what a hospital transfer would look like. I was starting to feel devastated. How dare 2020 take every single thing from me, including this. I continued to experience what I called “tightenings” and ignored them. Around 7pm, Curtis, my midwife and I sat down to check on baby again. I told them about the tightenings and as I had one I pointed to my stomach. “Ummm Chelsea, that is not a Braxton hicks” Jen told me, “Can we time a couple of them?” *shrug* Sure, why not. After a few, she smiled at me “I’m glad they don’t hurt, but they’re exactly 4 minutes apart and lasting 60/90 seconds. You’re in labor.”
“Nope.” I completely blew her off because I couldn’t believe her, and a small part of my brain didn’t want to believe it. As much as I didn’t want to go to the hospital, and I was ready to not be pregnant anymore, I was more terrified to physically hold my baby. After such a hard pregnancy mentally, and my physical complications, I wasn’t confident that my baby would be healthy or that I would love him. My heart hurt thinking about the disassociation I had experienced. Sometime around here, I pulled my late grandmothers robe from the closet, I felt like I needed her love and her prayers close to me.
I started to concentrate on my contractions, breathing down and melting into them, but still refusing to call them anything but “tightenings”. I did a small candle lighting ceremony, with a candle I carved mine and Bodhis name into along with some protection rocks Brooke had bought me during my last labor to symbolize the older 5 babes. At 10pm I asked for a cervical check. 7cm, 90% effaced and baby was at -1 station. I could no longer deny I was in labor and that my baby would be here soon. I wasn’t struggling with the contractions, but the bowel movements (BM) from the castor oil were intense, and while sitting on the toilet, I felt like I was baring down. I texted my doula at 9:45pm and updated her but said I was fine and still didn’t need support. 10 minutes later Curtis texted her and asked her to come. He’s seen me have 5 babies and knew my body in the moment better than I did. She arrived at 10:30.
This is where things start to get a little foggy. I know we met Rachael in the living room and gave her updates. I know I labored for some time sitting backwards on the toilet while she squeezed my hips and rubbed my back. I know I got back up and labored in front of the mirror where I read the affirmations I had stuck there. And I know I spent some alone time in the bathroom, starting to feel pushy. I opened the bathroom door and told Curtis to fill the tub.
I got in and laid my head on the side, but I only remember having a couple of contractions here before it made me mad and I remember saying “I don’t like it”. I was so uncomfortable, and I was sure I was close to my cervical lip drama that I have had every delivery. I hopped out and went back to the bathroom. I think maybe I said something or Rachael could see I was scared of this so she suggested hands and knees on the bed. Hindsight, I was in transition. But like I said, exactly when things happened is blurry. I think I after a little bit of hands and knees on the bed I got up and walked around the bathroom again? But ended up back on the bed on hands and knees. I really felt pushy at this point. I remember Jen asking me if I could feel my baby’s head, I reached down and checked myself but only felt swelling and not a head so I said “I don’t know, I don’t think so.” Then my body told me to move and I felt like I was going to poop. With Rachael behind me pushing on my sacrum, I did not want that! So I turned from the middle of the bed, and went to go somewhere else.
With one leg on the ground and my knee still on the bed everyone asked “where do you want to have your baby?” I looked at the floor, and that’s as far as my brain got. “NOOOOOOO” was literally all I could say, and my body started pushing. We call this the Fetal Ejection Reflex (FER), not everyone experiences it, mostly because they’re interrupted. When left alone, birth happens in the most amazing ways.
I can only describe FER, like when you are sick and throwing up, the heaving and vomiting that you have no control over, your body is just doing what it needs to do. That’s FER. No control, just your body doing it’s thing.
When I yelled, Curtis got on the floor to try to hold my leg, and Jen said “oh, okay” and laid behind me so she had access to what she needed to. “Crowning at 1:15am. Curtis do you want to catch your baby?” “Nope, that is not my thing.” “Okay no problem.” Someone told me to breath, I yelled that I couldn’t breath or stop pushing.
I heard my baby cry. “Oop, let me move the cord.” He had a nucal hand (hand up by his face) with the cord wrapped twice, as Jen moved it Curtis said “Good boy”. Because he had already cried, I thought I was done, but he was only out to his hips and Jen told me to push one more time, this is the only push I controlled. “Time of birth 1:16am.” I literally only pushed for one minute.
I rolled over and my placenta released almost immediately which means there was a small gush of blood. Jen was looking for a chux pad to put under me so my mattress didn’t get ruined and so I didn’t put my foot in it. “I don’t give a fuck, give me my baby!” I was maybe a little anxious, and in those first moments without them on your chest, seconds feel like days.
I checked everything as fast as I could and when I was satisfied, I held him as tight as I could. I’m pretty sure all I could say was “holy fuck, that was wild.” I don’t remember what else I said. I nursed him right away, no problems with my placenta. For the very first time, after the placenta was already delivered, I cut the umbilical cord.
Everyone get everything cleaned up (the mattress wasn’t ruined thanks to my mattress protector), and we settled into bed with our baby. We did our newborn exam, slightly shocked at how little he was (only 7lbs 6oz compared to my other giant babies), and all was healthy and perfect.
Part of me wanted to wake up the house,
but a bigger part needed sleep,
the world could wait until morning.
Bodhi is a word that I learned while studying Buddhism. The Bodhi tree is where the first Buddha sat and found true enlightenment. Bodhi means awakening. When I thought of the name, it hit me fast and hard. I bawled. I needed an awakening. I needed some enlightenment. I needed to find meaning in a world that makes no sense.