It was one week after my due date on August 27 and I felt like I’d been ready to pop for a month. It seemed like every day I’d find another “sign” that surely meant labor was right around the corner, but to no avail. That night as I went to bed I had an inkling that something might be different. I’d had “the feeling” other nights, but for some reason this night I didn’t even want to mention it for fear of jinxing something. This night just felt different.
At 4:00am I woke to go to the bathroom and had my bloody show. I think I almost passed out from excitement. I knew that blood didn’t necessarily mean labor was imminent, but I was pretty sure it would be in my case. I went back to the bedroom and woke my husband, Luke saying “I don’t think you will be going to work today”. Only moments after getting back in bed I felt contractions begin and knew my baby was on it’s way.
We tried going back to sleep because we knew there might be a long road ahead of us, and the contractions were not unbearable yet. I slept about 2 hours, in between contractions, before excitement and mild pain just wouldn’t let me sleep anymore. The contractions were still about 13-15 minutes apart at this point but sleeping through them with the adrenaline coursing through my system no longer seemed possible.
I called my midwife, Liz, around 6am or so to let her know what was going on. At this point the contractions were a bit closer together, somewhere between 9 and 11 minutes apart. She told me to keep her updated, try to rest, and call her back when they were about 5 minutes apart or less.
Luke and I kept track of contractions while he rapidly cleaned the house and finished the set up the birthing tub in the nursery, We settled in to watch a movie, fully expecting things to begin progressing… and… they didn’t. All day long we watched movies, went on short walks and timed contractions, but they did not get stronger or closer together.
We told some family members what was going on, but at this point we were figuring out that sadly baby might still be days away.
My brother surprised me by coming to the house and staying the night with my parents (we live in the upper apartment of the home my parents own), taking the day off work the next day in expectation of his nephew or niece’s arrival.
My midwife called me about 9pm to coach me through the next steps. She told me to consider drinking some wine or taking a Benadryl to try to sleep in preparation for what was to come. I didn’t think it would be possible to sleep through the contractions, but with a little wine and a lot of exhaustion I managed a few hours of restless sleep.
At 3:00am on the 29th I woke with much stronger contractions. “This is really it!” I said to myself. We began timing contractions again and sure enough they were slowly getting closer together and definitely stronger. They were steadily between 4 and 6 min apart when we called the midwife. The midwife and her assistant arrived sometime before 7am and checked my dilation. I was about 4cm dilated and officially in “active labor”.
The midwife and her assistant hung out with me for about an hour and then because my contractions were not speeding up, they decided to go get breakfast and give Luke and I some alone-time to labor, telling me to keep my phone near.
An hour or two passed as I walked a bit and tried to breathe through increasingly painful contractions. Luke and my mother began filling the birthing tub with warm water and I spent a little bit of time laboring in the water to the sound of peaceful worship music. My mother checked on me on and off and Luke and I enjoyed the intimate connection brought about by the sacred process.
Liz and Shanna (the assistant) returned and checked my progress. To my dismay I had only dilated another centimeter. They chose to go to an in-town at home appointment for another client because my progress was still slow. Luke and I spent some time cuddling and to add to my frustration my contractions began to slow. I felt like standing and walking would speed things up, but only ended up tiring myself out. I had thrown up, couldn’t keep food or water down and felt my body losing steam. I was frustrated and exhausted and after a phone discussion with my midwife she decided to run home to rest for the inevitable end-of-labor and counseled me to lay down and attempt to nap… or at least close my eyes.
I legitimately felt mad. I was so worried that if I laid down it would slow my labor, I would be too exhausted to continue and my homebirth hopes would be dashed. Perhaps if I knew how much the pain would increase I would have reveled in those last few moments of bearable pain.
Luke’s mother had just arrived to the home Luke and I lay down in the bed and he gently helped me to relax and surprisingly sleep for moments. Never before have I had the ability to fall asleep so quickly and soundly. It was almost as if my state of labor allowed my body to shut off and reserve energy. I would wake and brace myself through the pain of contractions, already increasing to a degree that I couldn’t have begun to fathom before labor, and then collapse back into a brief but deep sleep.
Approximately one and a half hours later I fully woke to an intense contraction lasting approximately twelve minutes, immediately followed by a shorter contraction with two peaks. I woke Luke and said, “you have to call Liz!” This time I couldn’t really talk and he rapidly explained what had happened. Liz and Shanna immediately got on the road to come check my progress.
When they arrived they checked my status and announced that I was fully dilated. They were as surprised as I was. I don’t think any of us expected the progress to speed up the way it did.
It was now early afternoon, about 2pm. They began setting up for labor quickly and told the other midwife to head over immediately. I got in the birthing tub, and Luke joined me. We fully expected baby to appear any minute.
Labor pains were significantly stronger now, and I began to enter into a new mental zone. The nurse midwife, Nannette, arrived and they checked the heartbeat every half hour or so to make sure everything was still going smoothly. Time passed and I could tell that the midwives were becoming concerned. I still had no urge to push though the contractions were obviously strong.
They reassessed me and decided that the baby was having trouble moving around the pubic bone to move into the birth canal. We tried a variety of different position all to no avail. I moved from the water, to the bed, to a birthstool and nothing seemed to be working. I was bearing down with every contraction in an effort to move the baby, but stubbornly nothing was budging. I had thrown up again and felt even more exhausted. My mother, my mother in law, and a friend were all in the room with me and even though I didn’t mind I began to wonder how they hadn’t died of boredom yet. It had been so long and so little had happened.
I again felt frustration creeping in and felt like I should give up. In the midst of one of the most painful contractions I remember exclaiming “I can’t do this!” and immediately was silenced by all three midwives and my husband with a loud “yes you can!”
At this point it was unclear whether my water had broken, though they knew it was at least leaking because the test strip tested positive for amniotic fluid. Hours had passed, and the sun was near setting. The midwives decided to check me one more time and surprisingly felt that I hadn’t completed effaced as they thought, but had the most minimal of thickness left to my cervix.
They told me to lay down again and stop bearing down, but to breathe through contractions. They left the room, turned off the light and Luke and I again lay down in our bed. This was one of the sweetest moments of the whole labor. I was in so much pain I could hardly speak but began thinking how wonderful it would be if we could pray right then. As though he could read my mind Luke began praying for me and immediately I was at peace.
For the next half hour or so, Luke guided me through breathing through contractions. I had never before felt such pain and his soft reassuring voice was the only thing helping me to keep my senses together.
Then, with no warning, I got a contraction that reduced me to screaming and was unable to breathe through. I pleaded with Luke saying, “I can’t breathe through them anymore!” My midwives immediately entered the room and said “It’s time!”.
I had another two contractions on the bed, both with an unstoppable urge to bear down. Nannette checked me again, announced that the cervix was totally effaced and the babies head was right there. Suddenly as I lay on my back the next contraction brought a gush of liquid as my water burst, and the urge to push became overwhelming.
I requested to hop back in the pool, which was the only place I could imagine having the baby at that moment. We waited out the next contraction then they rapidly helped me into the pool.
Things sped up very quickly!
I remember laughing inwardly… inwardly because there was definitely no ability to speak or laugh left… that there was no reason for doctors to tell women to “push!” like they did in the movies, because there was no stopping this urge.
I was on my knees leaning against the side of the tub allowing the warm water to enfold my tired body. I began a guttural scream with each push, and collapsed into a near sleep against the side of the tub in between every contraction. The atmosphere in the room was almost pulsing with intensity, though it was almost completely silent aside from my screams. I suppose I was not the only one feeling the intensity, as Shanna had to remind my friend to breathe.
Time seemed to last forever, though I was told after the fact that this portion of labor only lasted sixteen minutes. I felt my mom place the cool washcloth on my forehead between contractions, I was aware of my husbands hands on my hips, but primarily I could only feel the intensity and the increasingly overwhelming burning. I now understood the title given this feeling, “the ring of fire”.
At some point Luke told me he could feel the head, but I don’t think I even heard him. I recall Shanna telling me that the baby’s head was almost through, and I gathered up every ounce of strength I could muster and pushed as I hard as I possibly could.
At 10:57pm on August 29, I felt a release and heard the exclamations! It didn’t register that the baby was out until I heard and urgent voice saying, “Maggie. Take your baby”. Luke had caught the baby and was holding it out to me between my legs under the water. I grabbed the baby and with assistance pulled the limp, tiny form out of the water and onto my chest.
In just moments the midwives had the baby cleaned up and swaddled in the water on my chest, and I felt the reassuring movements and heard the first amazing cries erupt from the tiny form.
I didn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl, but I only knew that I had my baby… my amazing baby!
My mother was the one that thought to ask the gender, and we discovered I had given birth to a beautiful and incredible baby girl.
The moments that followed were sweet and blurry. Sharing the name we had chosen with the family “Micah Captola Dubois”, seeing my father and brother come into the room to see the baby, cutting the cord, a stitch, discovering Micah’s weight and length (7lbs, 8oz; 19.25inchs), forcing a snack and drink down, and ultimately drying off and crawling into a warm bed with my daughter and husband.
My homebirth was the most intense, passion-filled, exhausting and rewarding experience of my life. I wouldn’t trade a moment for anything! I am so thankful for my amazing midwives and assistant who made me feel peace in the midst of an entirely new and potentially frightening experience. I am thankful to my mother for being the best untrained doula I could hope for. I am thankful to my mother in law and friend for participating in the experience with me. I am thankful to the best husband I could ever ask for, who guided me through every step and embraced the opportunities for intimacy in a position which makes many men run in fear. And I am abundantly thankful to God for forming my daughter in my womb and blessing me with the gift of motherhood!