Monday, August 31, 2020

In Which I Don't Know How to Labor (a homebirth story)

 When I was just shy of 40 weeks pregnant, a relative was asking me if we had childcare arrangements for my kids during labor, and offering to drive in from another state to help out. I mentioned that we had several options in place, as several local friends had offered assistance. "Plus," I added, "my elderly neighbor is still doing her outdoor concert series in another neighbor's driveway, so if baby happens to come on a Tuesday evening, our neighbors could always collectively watch my kids at the concert." 

Little did I know how prophetic this half-joking comment would be. 


This is just how labor started with my other two kids! I thought to myself as I blearily glanced at the clock. It was around 3 a.m. on Tuesday, August 18, and I had been woken up by some sensations of cramping. For the next hour, I drifted in and out of sleep as a couple of mild contractions rolled through my body. Don't get too excited, I warned myself as I heaved my 40 weeks, 6 days pregnant body out of bed. After all, this might not be labor. Mechanically, I began moving down the "Is this labor?" checklist. Sleepily, I began doing an abbreviated Miles Circuit as my husband and I started timing contractions. They rushed in at 4-6 minutes apart, but they were very mild and only lasted about 30 to 60 seconds each. So, after about an hour, I showered, dressed, and ate a protein-loaded salad for breakfast. I noted that mild contractions were still coming, but had drifted to approximately 7 minutes apart. When I finished breakfast, I was suddenly hit with a powerful wave of exhaustion and a strong urge to dive back in bed. 

It was now about 6 a.m. and I rested in bed, bringing to mind themes from my previous labors: Focus on the journey. Breathe deeply. The mild contractions, which had begun my day in earnest, now stalled to over twenty minutes apart. Don't be discouraged, I told myself with the sinking realization that this probably was not "actually labor." After resting in bed for an hour and a half or so, I picked up my phone to call my midwife. Even though this was not looking like "actual labor," I thought it would be good to talk with her and give her the heads-up that something might happen eventually. She told me that what I was going through sounded like pre-labor contractions, and she encouraged me to rest as needed, go throughout my day as normal, and let her know if anything changed. 

Remembering my experiences with prodromal labor in the days leading up to my second child's birth, I determined to not let this uneventful morning wreck my mental state. My husband decided to take the day off of work, so I told him that I'd take the kids out to run errands while he caught a little sleep. A few mild contractions came sailing in sporadically as my kids and I grocery shopped, but nothing worth noting. Once we brought our groceries home, we grabbed the stroller and walked to our library. A couple dozen books were waiting for us at curbside pickup, and the kids got to pick our their Summer Reading Program prizes as we chatted with the librarians.  

Once we walked home, I realized that I was a little sore in my lower back and that I needed to rest. I plopped onto the living room rug, and barely moved for the rest of the afternoon. Mild contractions (lasting 30-60 seconds each) began rolling in regularly, but they came anywhere from 2 to 11 minutes apart. It was RIDICULOUS, and I wondered if my body could decide once and for all if it was in labor or not. This didn't seem like "real labor," but because I still had contractions rather regularly, I couldn't fall asleep. Alternating between propping myself on my hands and knees and sitting cross-legged on the floor, I spent a peaceful afternoon reading. I grew very thankful that my husband had taken the day off of work, because even though this wasn't "real labor," I was physically rather uncomfortable and it was so nice that someone else was completely taking care of the four-year-old and (almost) two-year-old, making meals, and doing housework while I relaxed on the rug. 

I sent a text off to my midwife, letting her know that it didn't look like anything was going to happen, at least for several hours. By this point, it was around 5 p.m., so I heaved myself off the rug and began moving around the house as my husband prepared dinner. The mild contractions were still infrequent, but I noticed that more of them seemed to be coming 2-4 minutes apart while a few still came 10 minutes apart. By 6 p.m., some of the contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and lasted 40 seconds to over a minute long. A couple seemed a little bit more powerful; however, most were fairly mild and I still had some contractions rolling in that were 6-7 minutes apart. It was thoroughly confusing. 

"Maybe I should call the midwife after dinner," I muttered as we ate our food around the table. "I don't know. Should I call the midwife? I'd hate to tell her to come down here if this isn't actually labor."

My husband, having patiently endured two childbirth experiences where I was in denial about being in labor, patiently told me to just CALL THE MIDWIFE. Shortly after he said this, a contraction swept in that was a bit more powerful. As my body stretched itself, I realized that I'm probably having the baby tonight. As this reality struck me, a happy tear rolled down my cheek. My four-year-old was concerned, and started asking me if I was all right. "I'm just really happy," I told him, the contraction continuing to gently pulse through my body. "I think your baby sister might come out tonight." Still concerned about my wellbeing, my firstborn leaped off of his chair. "I'm going to get you a toy!" he announced. His younger brother followed him, and soon a couple of toys appeared in front of me :) 

I called the midwife and explained my contraction conundrum. I think I'm going to have the baby tonight, I told her, but I'm just not sure how soon that will happen. My midwife said that she'd get her things together and "mosey on down." She also instructed me to walk outside after dinner, since "In the daytime we work, and at night we rest." 

I relayed my midwife's instructions to my husband, and we began putting away dishes and food as we discussed what to do with our children. We had several friends who offered to watch the boys, but since it was almost bedtime, I didn't feel inclined to send the kids off to someone else's house. It's almost 7, I noted. We could walk down the street, and if the one family who offered to watch the kids isn't home, then we could drop our kids at the outdoor concert and see if someone there could bring them back for bedtime.

As we prepared to leave the house, I powerful contraction swept through my body. My husband hugged me, my two-year-old stood next to me, and my four-year-old gently placed his arms around my legs, giving my belly a soft kiss. "Stay in there, baby," he whispered. This is how childbirth is meant to be, I thought. For this labor, for this baby, being surrounded with my husband and children, being supported by my neighborhood, is exactly what I needed. 

Leaving the house to walk the kids down to the outdoor concert!
We walked down the street and up our neighbor's driveway. Sit down, we have plenty of chairs! One of the elderly women called out. 

"Thanks, but we're not staying," I responded. "I'm in labor, and we were wondering, could the kids stay here for the concert?" 

Our neighbors eagerly agreed, laughing and smiling. One ran back to her house to grab a drum of small instruments for the kids to shake and jingle. With that, my husband and I slowly walked home. 

The house was still and peaceful as we scurried about, putting away the clean diaper laundry and picking up stray toys. Since contractions had picked up a bit, I decided that I would go lie in bed, but as soon as I settled my body down, I regretted it. Being on the bed was not comfortable. My husband helped me move to a sitting position as my midwife arrived, at a bout 7:35 p.m. Her assistant soon came too, and I chatted with them as they opened the birth kit and began preparing their supplies. 


"This is such a weird labor...I'm at a loss." I looked at my husband, bewildered, as I sat on the edge of the bed. In the birth of my second child, strong instincts and urges guided me. Now, however, I had no idea what I should do. My third child, and I don't know how to labor, I thought. 

My midwife, observing my confusion, walked over and reminded me that it would be good to empty my bladder. I was happy to comply; sitting on the bed was comfortable, but if she had another idea, I was all for it! 

"You know, a lot of women have their babies in the bathroom," my midwife noted as I walked through the doorway. 

Yeah, well, I don't think I'm that far along, I murmured to myself. 

I sat on the toilet, and realized how comfortable it was to rest there. I'll just sit here for a few moments, I thought. 

The excited voices of my young children filtered through the air as they scampered into the house. One of them mentioned that he was hungry, so I hollered out that he could ask someone to grab a banana for him. Within a few minutes, tummies satisfied with bananas, my kids appeared in the hallway. My husband stepped outside the bathroom to put on their nighttime diapers. The midwife was in another room, but the birth assistant stood in the bathroom with me.

All of a sudden, I felt a contraction begin. I waved the birth assistant over and flung my arms around her neck, closing my eyes and breathing deeply as I sat there. Almost immediately, I felt the baby descending. Oh! My eyes still closed, I heard my midwife rush into the bathroom. "You need to stand up," she said. 

"I can't," I muttered, completely comfortable where I was. 

"Oh yes, you can!" she said, as I felt myself being gently pulled up to a standing position. And then I started to sing. 

"OH! OH! YAY! OH!" My voice unexpectedly (I'm usually a fairly silent birther) sang as I felt a squirming child quickly slide out. Within a second or two, I heard the splash of water and felt it exploding on my legs. I opened my eyes to see my midwife lift a small baby girl up to my belly. My husband knelt next to me, holding our very tired and emotional two-year-old, and our four-year-old stood behind him, entranced. Little Maria Faustina was born en caul at 8:23 p.m. 


If you count all of the pre-labor awkwardness, this birth is my longest, at about 17 hours. However, when things started happening towards the end of dinner, they happened. Maria was born less than two hours after I called my midwife. Let's just say that I'm grateful I listened to my husband and called the midwife when I did ;) 

When I first became pregnant and initially interviewed this midwife, she talked with me about my hopes for this birth. I mentioned that during my second child's birth, there was a moment during the pushing phase when I had the spontaneous and distinct thought that Pushing really isn't fun. While we can't plan how labor will go, I told my midwife that I would like it if I didn't have those kinds of thoughts springing up during pushing. WELL, I'm not sure I can say that I did any kind of pushing during this birth, since the baby quickly slipped out, but whatever happened was fairly delightful. Yes, it's still uncomfortable to have a nearly seven pound baby exiting your body, but I can honestly say that active labor and pushing were really wonderful experiences. 

When Maria was one week old, we took her to Mass for the first time!

The post-birth process was a little more intense than I expected, since my placenta came off awkwardly and my midwife had to manually take out some clots and membranes, but I'm very grateful that I got to rest in my own bed as she cleaned me up. At about 1 a.m., my midwife left and I curled up cozily for a restful night of sleep. My husband and I had been up for nearly 24 hours, but at last, our work was done. We spent the first few days doing a lot of sleeping (my midwife, knowing how bad I am at postpartum rest, ordered me to do strict bedrest for the first day after the birth), and in the past couple weeks we've been enjoying lots of good food, rest, relaxation, and tons of baby snuggles. We are so grateful that God has blessed our family with this sweet baby girl :) 


  1. This is beautiful! I have never cried reading a birth story until now! I love how home births "normalize" birth. Your children's lives weren't disrupted and mommy didn't have to go away which to me always stresses me out. Jacob is a ROCKSTAR! And you are so strong! Thank you for sharing!!!

    1. You are so sweet :) I'm glad you enjoyed this! I agree, it's awesome how home births "normalize" birth. It's neat to see that, at least for Peter (the 4 year old), birth isn't some mysterious & foreign thing, but that it's natural and beautiful and awesome. And I agree, Jacob is a total rockstar! I don't think I'll ever forget the image of him kneeling on the floor when Maria came out, supporting and being with me while holding our crying two-year-old.

  2. Beautiful birth story! How quickly it happened and thank goodness for that! How amazing

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! It was a really wonderful experience. This active labor was my shortest yet, so if and when God sends us any more kids, I'm interested to see if it keeps going quickly towards the end or if my body decides to slow things down!

  3. Wow!! This is such a cool story! My labor went super fast this last time too, but nothing like this! And she was born en caul? That’s amazing. Congratulations again!

  4. Congratulations, AnneMarie! I'm so glad she is here and you are both doing well. It sounds like her birth was amazing! How awesome to have so much support around you.
    Keep resting when you can! (I know, easier said than done, but hopefully you can do it.)

    1. Thank you so much, Shannon! I am very grateful that this has been my most restful postpartum yet-my husband really saved up his personal days off so that he's at home twice as long as usual for the immediate postpartum. That, coupled with visits from friends and relatives, has been a game-changer!

  5. What an incredible entrance into the world! How funny about it being a Tuesday night, too. A very belated congratulations to your beautiful family!