Jack has now been in this world for 18 months and I would like to go back to the day he entered this world and document his birth story. It is a bit lengthy as it was hard to cut out any detail. I wanted to document the entire story, unrated and not softening anything. I just want to give all of you expecting moms a head’s up. My experience was not a walk in the park. I definitely made some mistakes along the way and hope to learn from them next time. However I do not regret for a second my choice for a home birth and I would recommend it to any healthy woman out there. It was the 2nd weekend in February 2008. My dad, who is a salesman for Riddell, was staying at our home because he had a conference in Columbus that weekend. He spent the night Thursday, Feb. 7th. We joked that we might have to kick him out if I went into labor! We had planned a home birth with the midwives, Greg and I present. We wanted it to be personal without spectators, including family. I was now a week past my “due date” and very impatient. I was walking the mall daily and adding cayenne pepper to every meal for the past 3 weeks, hoping the old wives’ tale of spicy food would trigger labor. I don’t think it worked. However, on Thursday evening, when my dad arrived, I started to notice what felt like Braxton Hicks contractions again…a rhythmic wave of tightening around my belly, not painful or uncomfortable. Occasionally I checked my watch. They came and went very irregularly. I figured after a few hours they would stop again like every other false alarm of Braxton Hicks I’d experienced. I watched some TV with Greg and my dad then we headed to bed. Throughout the night I woke up multiple times and the contractions continued, not showing any signs of regularity or rising intensity. I thought this might be different. No other Braxton Hicks lasted this long but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I think I did tell Greg at one point that this could be early labor – but then again, I often told him that, just to turn around a few hours later and say “just kidding”. I woke at 7am and went to the bathroom and noticed a small amount of blood. I was secretly excited, hopeful, and nervous, but didn’t want to get my hopes up quite yet. I said bye to my dad as he left for his conference, not mentioning the likely pending labor. I didn’t want to distract him from his conference if it was going to be a false alarm. I went back upstairs and told Greg. Fortunately he had that Friday off work. He was very excited. We waited another hour or two and when the contractions still hadn’t let up, we called Abby, one of our midwives. She said it sounded like it was the real deal. She said to note if the contractions became more consistent and stronger and to give her an update by 11am. She also called our other midwife, Kelley, and our apprentice midwife, Jill, to give them the heads up. Abby said we should rest up and go about our morning without getting too excited or spending too much energy. Well, we couldn’t help but be a little excited and nervous too. Now recognizing I was in labor and that we hadn’t taken 9 month pregnancy photos yet, which was something I really wanted to do, I grabbed the camera and Greg took some shots. We took some in our bedroom by the window and in the baby room. I made Greg pose for a few, which was a bit comical, but he did it. We took some together using the timer on our camera. You can see in the photos when I’m having a contraction because my belly sticks out like a bicep on steroids. Contractions still were not painful, they were just there. Greg and I then watched some TV and relaxed on the couch. I called Abby back at 11am and told her the timing of the contractions, still not very consistent, and not really increasing in strength, but not letting up either. Abby suggested we go for a walk and continue monitoring everything. She instructed us to call when it began to feel uncomfortable and when I felt like just lying down or if my water broke. We then called some of our family including my dad. He later told me that he told all the High School coaches he met that day, including the guest speaker, Jim Tressel, that he was going to be a first time grandpa! Dad never holds back! So far labor was a piece of cake. I could feel the tightening in my belly but it wasn’t painful. We decided to take Abby up on the suggestion of going for a walk. Being that it was February, we drove to Meijer and walked a few laps around the store. I could feel the contractions strengthening a bit so we headed home to relax and get lunch/dinner. It was around 3pm but we were hungry. We had purchased several “labor” snacks such as grapes, other fruits, nuts, veggies, vitamin water, and, of course, ice chips. But we didn’t have any meals ready so decided to have a celebratory “last supper” we settled on California Pizza Kitchen take out. This is where some of my bad choices began that evening. I don’t know what I was thinking when I chose pizza while in labor. My favorite veggie pizza from CPK just sounded so good at the time and Greg will never turn down pizza. As Greg came back with our meal my contractions were strengthening further and finally becoming more consistent but still 4-5 minutes apart. After finishing the pizza around 4pm, I called Abby again because I was becoming uncomfortable, although not painful. The cats were still out and about. Maddie could definitely tell something was up. She was lying on the couch behind me and followed me around if I got up. I had been drinking a little water but not as much as I should. I figured I could drink more as I needed it, as labor progressed. Abby arrived around 5pm. She asked several questions then checked me and the baby. She said I was about 4-5 centimeters. I thought, well that’s good; I guess something is working, but I still have a ways to go. Abby called Kelley and Jill and they were now on their way over. The discomfort was persisting so I decided to try out the birthing tub we rented. Greg filled it up and when it was warm enough for the baby I stepped in. I loved the tub! It was so relaxing and the discomfort definitely decreased with the warm water around my belly. I thought all women should have access to a warm birthing tub for their labor. We also played some card games while waiting through the labor. After a bit, the intensity was increasing further so cards were done and I was just trying to relax. Greg suggested popping in the movie he picked out. While making preparations for labor, Greg suggested buying a funny movie for during labor. He said a funny movie always makes him feel better. I wasn’t crazy about the idea but decided to go along with it. So we popped in Greg’s movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. A little into the movie I asked to turn it off and put in relaxing music and so I could focus on relaxation and some of the techniques we learned in our hypno birthing classes. As the evening progressed I was beginning to feel some pain, but it was tolerable and the tub helped tremendously. I also began to feel a little nauseous so I did not drink much water or eat the snacks we prepared. I did have a few ice chips. It was now 10 pm. Up until this point labor was a cinch, the relaxation techniques worked, the soft music was calming and the tub was wonderful. However I would say 10pm was definitely the turning point. Funny that later my dad told me he drove by our place around 10pm after his conference to make sure he didn’t see an ambulance! I think that was a little overkill but I was his little girl. For me, things began to go downhill at this time and I primarily blame dehydration. Pain levels were increasing; I thought I must be at 10cm by now! At this point even the warm tub did not relieve my discomfort. I continued to reject water and was becoming dehydrated. I spent some time out of the tub which felt better for a little while but nothing was comfortable anymore. I was ready for labor to be over and my baby to arrive. I told the midwives I didn’t feel well and wanted to start pushing. Earlier in the afternoon, Abby said I would know when I felt the urge to push and at this moment I think I decided this must be it because I was uncomfortable and wanted it to all be over so I convinced myself this was “the urge to push”. Abby checked me and said I was nearly 10 cm but not quite. I got back in and out of the tub for the next hour. At that point I asked again to push. The midwives said ok and I had a go at it. It felt like nothing was happening. I was exerting so much effort, I gave it everything I had and was disappointed. I think I expected I’d push a few times and the baby would slip out and that would be it. My mom said all three of her labors were short, pushing fast and it was all a pleasant experience. She also had a natural birth with no medications. I guess I did not inherit the smooth labor. It was definitely painful at this point and the dehydration was clouding my mind. I continued pushing and pushing and after sometime we all decided I needed the help of gravity. The tub was not making things more comfortable anymore so I decided to try pushing out of the water with the help of gravity. I had always imagined having my baby birthed in the comfort of the warm bath but at this point I just wanted the baby out. I tried on the bed and on the birthing stool. Throughout this time I was checked regularly and it was decided that the baby was stuck, behind my pelvic bones. I also continued to turn down water. I was beginning to think there would never be an end to my pushing…it was all in vain. An hour had gone by, then 2. I thought it would be nice to have our baby on a nice even numbered day. February 8 sounded good and the sooner the better, but midnight quickly passed and then 1am. I continued pushing, spending all of my energy and feeling like no progress was being made. Eventually Abby, Kelley, and Jill noted that the baby was moving through the birth canal and was no longer stuck. I thought for sure now the baby would ease out in another push or two…not the case. After pushing for over 2 hours, which I was told was long but not unusual for a first timer, I thought this baby would never come. I seriously, truly, believed my baby would be stuck in me forever, never coming out. Dehydration was definitely affecting my mind. Greg was starting to freak out. I kept asking him to help me, help this baby get out. He hadn’t seen me in this state before, feeling completely helpless. Throughout this process Abby, Kelley, and Jill continued to encourage me and were supportive. I asked to go to the hospital, I asked for drugs, I asked to have this baby cut out of me, I didn’t care what happened at this point, I wanted it all to be over. Greg felt really helpless and scared because of the way I was acting. I was pretty serious at one point about quitting and going to the hospital. However in reality I DID care and Greg, Abby, Kelley, and Jill all knew this and encouraged me that I was progressing and it wouldn’t be too much longer. I did think it out and couldn’t imagine at that point how I could possibly get myself into a car and to a hospital…that seemed utterly impossible. Abby also said there was nothing the hospital would give me at that point, given how far as I was (although I didn’t believe I was that close to the end) and I truly did not want that, I wanted no regrets. In reality, the baby and I were healthy, outside of my dehydration. Jill then received a phone call that another of her clients was into labor and she was the doula for that mom-to-be so she had to leave. She didn’t want to go with me so close to the end but she had to. I still had Abby and Kelley there. One of them suggested Greg find a mirror so I could see the baby’s head and they guided my hand to feel the head. For a second I thought maybe I was progressing but then I went back to my dehydrated misconception state of mind and thought, no, this baby is in me permanently! I pushed and pushed and my eyes didn’t see the head coming any closer, even though it was. In that last hour I definitely realized what the urge to push meant! I couldn’t even control it; my body was pushing without me even thinking. As the head was coming closer Kelley monitored the baby’s heart rate every minute. Before that it was every 15 minutes. Kelley said it was time, I needed to step it up further and get the baby out. The head was deep in the birth canal for too long and it needed to be out. I thought “are you crazy? I have stepped it up the entire 2 hour and 30 min. of pushing, how can I give any more!” I continued to push with all my might, still thinking this baby will seriously never show its face and then, all the sudden someone said the head is out. I thought, “ya right! You’re lying to me. This baby is not ever coming!”. I looked down and saw the head but still, I was sure they were lying, I was just imagining the head. It wasn’t real. Then a second later I felt the whole body flop out and I could not believe it. It was a miracle! I seriously thought I would never meet this baby. It was an ENORMOUS sigh of relief. They handed me the baby with Greg by my side and we just relished the moment. I was beyond exhausted, mentally and physically, and in disbelief that it was all over. Kelley asked if it was a boy or girl? We didn’t pay attention at first but then noticed we had a baby boy! Baby Jack Joseph Prenger. He wasn’t crying when he was born so Kelley was tapping on his feet trying to get him to make a sound (he was obviously breathing fine) and he then let out a cry. His skin was slightly purple when he first arrived but quickly pinked up. Kelley said the cord had been wrapped around Jack’s neck twice, but loosely. Kelley was the one to help catch Jack along with Abby as he was born. We planned for Greg to catch but he was unable to do so because I was leaning against him as he held me up during the delivery. Then Abby said I needed to push again to get the placenta out. I thought, “This is ridiculous! You can’t seriously ask me to do this again.” But she was serious and businesslike so I listened, and luckily one easy push and the placenta was out. Abby and Kelley checked Jack and I to make sure everyone was healthy then they gave our new family some quiet bonding time. Greg and I relaxed on the couch with our new baby…just cuddling him and watching him. We also decided we’d never have kids again after that ordeal. (Obviously, I was still severely dehydrated and our minds were clouded by our intense labor.) I let Jack explore if he was hungry but he didn’t see interested in latching on quite yet. Abby said not to worry, that he will. After about 45 min. they came back to check on us and helped me to the shower. My body was shaking, but Abby said that was normal after birth and the afterbirth contractions helped control the blood loss. It was a little difficult walking up the stairs to the shower but I can’t tell you how good it felt to take a shower in our own home. It felt so surreal that it was all over and the shower felt amazing. The midwives cleaned up the birthing area while I showered. After showering I joined Jack and Greg in our bed. Kelley weighed and measured Jack and did a few additional checks on him. He was 9 lb 8 oz and 21.5 inches. I couldn’t believe the weight. I was only 6 lb 1oz so I was sure I’d have a small or even average baby. I thought no wonder it was a challenge! Jack then, relaxed and comforted, latched on easily for a recovery meal. Abby and Kelley then left and our new family had a much needed and deserved sleep.
Afterthoughts Now, 18 months later, reflecting back on the birth, I realize several things I would do differently. The biggest is to stay hydrated, and especially load up on water the second I realize I’m in labor and throughout early labor and as much as possible during labor even if I feel nauseous. I would also try more ice chips. I think the dehydration definitely clouded my thinking and fatigued my muscles, putting me at a disadvantage. Next time I would choose a lighter, healthier, and milder pre-labor meal. I would utilize our birthing relaxation techniques much more. I felt like we hardly used the tools we had and I would take that part more seriously. Next time I will have known the feeling of “the urge to push”. I feel like I may have tried to push too soon, before my body was ready and therefore tired myself out. I might not watch a movie or play cards but just rest quietly. Abby also suggested I walk around more in earlier labor to let gravity help bring the baby down. Things I would do the same: I will definitely use CHOICE midwives again! I loved my experience with them and thought they were great and fit our philosophy and comfort and desires perfectly. I would definitely do a home birth and utilize the birthing tub as much as possible. I loved that I didn’t have to get in a car and drive to a bright, unfamiliar, noisy hospital with people telling me what to do. I loved that I could shower in my shower and sleep in my bed. I would again choose a small crowd of Greg, the midwives and maybe Jack…not sure on that one yet. We will have more children in the future, despite our initial feelings after the labor, but not any time soon. I hope you enjoyed my story…real, bare bones, and not sugar coated. And I hope I didn’t scare anyone. I loved my homebirth experience, despite the challenges I faced.