Or, an unplanned, unassisted home birth.
It’s a Saturday. I’m home with my three kids. I’m 39 weeks pregnant. I’m having on-and-off contractions, but just tightening, not painful ones. No big deal, just Braxton-Hicks, I say. They continue variably throughout the day but stop when I lay down to go to bed.
I wake up to use the bathroom like you do in the 3rd trimester. I have a contraction, but this time it’s more on the painful side. But there aren’t any more within 10 minutes, so I lay down to go to sleep again. This happens multiple times in the night. I give the baby some pep talks about how the grandparents are coming in 4 days and to stay inside just a bit longer. I don’t have any contractions lying down, just when I get up and move around. I tell myself I’ll wait until 5 am to tell my husband they’re getting painful. They’re still not falling in a pattern, and while they hurt, they’re nothing I have to vocalize through or really breathe that much through, either.
I’m laying down in bed again and I feel a pop. Oh no. My water has broken. I am both confused and suddenly in a hurry — in all my other labors my water has broken when I’m in transition. (But I can’t be in transition, that’s absurd.) Anyhow I wake up Brandon and we get dressed -it’s 3 am, Sunday, February 3rd. I’m putting last minute things in the Hospital bag and Brandon goes to wake up our neighbor to come stay with the children. She comes in, asks for a rosary, and we say a prayer. Brandon heads off to go get the car from the garage, about a 10 minute walk. The contractions are coming stronger now. I hang on to the kitchen table and breathe, then walk to the kitchen sink to fill up a water bottle to go in the bag. I am standing there when suddenly the contractions begin to come one right after another, on top of each other, one long contraction. “JesusMaryJoseph” I pray and clutch the kitchen counter. No,No, this can’t be happening…
Brandon arrives with the car and finds that I have ditched my skirt and am on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor, head downward. He urges me to get up and get in the car. I tell him I can’t, I’m having a contraction, that I am not going to make it. He tells me again to get up and I say that the baby’s head is right there. Our neighbor goes to get some towels. Brandon makes some frantic phone calls asking for guidance and I try not to push.
I am pushing anyway. The head is out, then the rest of the body in that satisfying slithery whoosh. “My baby-my precious baby!” Brandon has the baby in the towel, there is an umbilical cord all confused with everything, and Brandon is saying “It’s a- it’s a girl!” I manage to sit up, sort of on a towel, and Brandon passes me the baby, and she wants to nurse almost right away. I am so happy and relieved that it is all over, and that the baby is pinking up, and that I don’t have to have a nightmare ride to the hospital not pushing. Brandon is back on the phone with a nun who is a nurse, who says not to get in the car with the placenta still inside, and is trying to ring up the hospital where I was supposed to deliver. It is 4 am.
My four year old wakes up and comes into the kitchen. She doesn’t seem weirded out at all by the situation, unlike me. When she starts trying to help clean up we send her back to bed with strict instructions not to wake up the other children.
The baby is done nursing; I am trying to sit on a chair, but it is tricky with an umbilical cord in the way. Nursing has given me contractions so I stand up to try to push the placenta out. I squat and bear down and it comes out with a squishy thump on the floor, also much easier than my other births. Brandon puts it in a plastic bag to take to the hospital so they can check it’s all there. I contemplate the bizarre-ness of having one of your internal organs sitting on your lap in a bag. After consulting a birth book, Brandon ties a shoelace around the umbilical cord in two places, boils some water and pours it on the kitchen scissors, and cuts the umbilical cord. That done, the baby and I get dressed so we can go to the hospital.
I wolf down some dates, which are probably responsible for the whole situation (multiple studies confirm that eating 60 g of dates daily for the last month of pregnancy results in better birth outcomes and shorter labors) and we get in the car.
It is extremely strange to drive to the hospital with a newborn. The baby is weighed, measured, given a vitamin K shot – she is 3.2kg, 50 cm long. I am examined and I did not tear, glory to God. Brandon looks at a chart of blood-stain sizes and confirms that I didn’t lose copious amounts.
The nurses escort us to a room and we spend the next 11 hours dozing, nursing, debating name choices, eating egg sandwiches, drinking copious amounts of water so that I don’t have to get a rehydration IV, and debating name choices. The doctor and various nurses came in and listen to my tale in mixed astonishment and amusement.
We’re released from the hospital and we’re back at home introducing Perpetua Carolyn to her siblings by dinnertime.
Perpetua is the name of the patron saint of expectant mothers, who was a martyr, an African woman and one of the first female Christian authors.
Carolyn is my Grandmother’s name, a model of faith and good humor.
While it is only later that I reflect on all the things that could have gone wrong, I am filled with gratitude from the moment she’s born. Thank you, Jesus.