Eleanor Holly Swanger was born at home on June 27, 2002 a little after 1 pm. The original due date was July 5, 2002. I had originally planned on working through June and starting my maternity leave July 1st. By the beginning of June though, I revised my plans and decided to take off the last week in June so that I could rest and finish getting things ready for the baby.
I woke up around 5:30 am on June 27th because my back and left hip hurt and I could not get comfortable. After soaking in the bathtub for a bit, I got to thinking about the birthing tub that had been delivered the day before. Since the birthing tub was much deeper than our bathtub, I concluded that it would feel much better to soak in it than the bathtub, and I made Jherek get up to fill the birthing tub. I briefly thought about filling the tub myself and letting Jherek sleep, but quickly decided that if I was going to be awake and miserable, I wasn't going to be that way alone.
Jherek had been planning on going to work that day. I thought about asking him to go to work and be home by 2 pm. Good thing I decided to be selfish and ask him to not go in to work at all. With a 45-60 minute drive, and as fast as everything went, he would have missed the birth of his daughter if he'd gone to work that day.
I was having cramping on and off throughout the early morning, but since they never felt worse than the menstrual cramps I get every month (I'll note that I get *really* bad cramps), I didn't think much of it. I was mainly feeling miserable because the pain in my lower back and hip would not go away. I kept trying to lie down in bed, but any time I tried to lie down, my back and hip just hurt worse. Some time around 8 or 9 am, I was hit by a fairly intense cramp and threw up afterwards. At that point I decided it was time to call my doula (labor assistant) and my friend, Michelle, who had agreed to attend the birth. At some point after that my waters broke and I asked Jherek to page our midwife. She said that I was in active labor and to call her back when the contractions were 2 minutes apart. She also suggested going out and renting some videos. I remember thinking, "She's got to be joking! I couldn't pay attention to a movie right now."
I'd been told by the woman who rented the birthing tub to me that using it before I was 4 cm dilated could slow down labor. Having no idea how dilated I was, I was thinking I should stay out of the tub until my midwife showed up. The back pain soon got annoying enough though, that I decided, "Screw this. My back will feel better in the tub." and I climbed in. I wasn't concerned about back labor, since the baby had been turned the right way at all the midwife appointments, including the appointment 2 days before labor started.
My friend, Michelle, showed up and she and Jherek settled down to logging my contractions. Not to long after she arrived, the contractions ratcheted up from every 15 minutes to every 2-3 minutes, all in the space of a few minutes. Jherek paged the midwife again and they agreed that she needed to head on over. Some time around 10:30-11:00 the doula showed up and she barely had time to get settled before I started pushing. Not that I knew that's what was going on. To me it felt like I was having a bowel movement, and I remember commenting to Jherek how much easier this labor thing would be once my intestine was cleared out. I was also doing a lot of very low grunting and growling at this point. My voice was hoarse for about 2 days afterwards. By this time I was also holding Jherek's hand through every contraction. We were both surprised that I hardly squeezed his hands at all. (We'd been warned by friends that he should avoid giving me more than 2 fingers to squeeze, otherwise he'd run the risk of having his fingers broken.) I did gnaw on the padded edge of the birthing tub though.
Our midwife arrived about half an hour after the doula, who updated her on how I was doing and told her that the sounds I was making were "pushing" sounds, not "contraction" sounds. The midwife did a quick check and told me that the baby's head was only about 1/3 of a finger-length from the entrance of the birth canal. I suddenly realized that this wasn't a bowel movement, this was a baby.
For the next hour, I pushed when I felt the urge to push. I didn't have anyone telling me when to push or how to push, or having me push to the count of 10. The only time my midwife asked me to do something I didn't particularly want to, was when she asked me to stand up in the birthing tub so that she could check the baby's heartbeat. She only did it twice, and apparently both times I gave her a "you have got to be kidding" look before I stood up. As the baby's head started to crown, I could feel the skin stretching, but never got the ring-of-fire sensation I was expecting. I put this down mainly to the fact that I was in a pool of warm water, which not only helped me to relax, it also softened up the tissues. On top of that, I was squatting in the birthing tub, so I was working with gravity, instead of against it. After the head came out, I could feel all the weird bumps of her shoulders and legs, which is when I started yelling "Ow!Ow!Ow!" She was all the way out in no time though, and the midwife guided her up to the top of the tub where Jherek caught her. She and I stayed in the tub and after a few minutes, she opened her eyes and stared at me with a bewildered expression.
It took about an hour after that before the placenta was delivered and then the midwife and doula helped me out of the tub. The midwife called the birthing tub rental place and within an hour, the tub was emptied, cleaned out, and hauled away without my having to lift a finger. I thanked the birthing tub woman profusely and she told me that after having a water birth with her 4th child, she'd decided to go into the business of renting birthing tubs so that every woman who wanted one could have one. I feel towards her the way some women feel towards the anesthesiologist who gave them their epidural. I can't imagine having to go through labor without the tub.
The homebirth went even better than I had imagined it could. I was in an environment where I felt safe and in control; no one tried to make me do anything I didn't want to, or prevented me from doing something I did want to do; and the pain was never unmanageable and was over quickly. The latter was nothing more than good genes (my mother had very short labors) and sheer luck. The only real downside was having to do the laundry when it was all over (which Jherek did, in between bringing me food and water and generally helping me whenever I needed to be mobile).
Breaking out in hives 12 hours later and then trying to get breastfeeding underway while developing mastitis wasn't fun, but the labor was so easy, I guess I had to pay for it somehow.