The Birth of Fiery
by Poppy Street-Heywood
45 weeks and 4 days. That’s how long Fiery took to enter the crazy world outside my body.
On March 16th, I started having contractions at about 7 AM. My mom picked me up around 9 AM for a big day of IKEA shopping that I had been promising myself for months. I was having contractions every few minutes the whole day. My mom said around 2 o’clock that they seemed about 5 minutes apart. I was unimpressed, as they had been the same way all day and the day before, only going away at night. Two days before that, same thing. And even a few weeks before that. So, I was fully prepared for them to go away again any time.
When I got home at about 6 PM, I was still having them and decided to time a few. They were 3 minutes or so apart. I never timed again after that. Around 10 PM, I was puking my guts out and had lots of bloody show, so I figured this was probably the real thing at last. I called my friend Molly and told her it was probably going to be that night. I asked her to inform the internet for me, then went back in the bathroom to labor.
I labored alone in the bathroom because it was nice and dark and private. My contractions were heavy and strong. My uterus is made of steel, piss, and vinegar. I didn’t really try to do anything to make them more bearable, I just went with them. Around midnight, my uterus started pushing. I was making loud, low noises the whole time, though my husband now says it wasn’t really that loud. At 12:30 I poked my head out and asked my husband what time it was. He told me and I said, “Okay. I can do this until 6 AM,” not that I had a plan for what would happen at 6 AM!
My uterus continued pushing for a long time. With each contraction, I would have 3 long, hard pushes with nary a pause between them. At one point I felt inside my vagina (up until this point I didn’t go inside myself at all) and I could feel her head way up there. I opened the door and told Steve (my husband) that the baby was coming and to come in the bathroom with me. For most of my pushing up to that point, I had been either squatting, kneeling, or on my hands and knees.
I decided to go with hands and knees for delivery just to avoid any chance of stuck shoulders. This meant my husband would do the baby catching, and I wouldn’t be having the solo birth I had planned. I really didn’t care at the time, and in retrospect I’m glad he was able to participate in such a cool event. Anyway…
Steve came in and sat behind me. I felt inside myself a few more times to feel the baby descending, and made him feel, too. He said he was scared to put his fingers in me, and I told him, “Do it!” I felt that it would prepare him for her birth; to feel her coming. About 15 minutes after I called him in the bathroom, she began to crown. I could hear her sputter as she opened her mouth a bit and wiggled around.
I asked Steve if she had any hair. He said, “Yes, lots of it.” I didn’t like not being able to see, but I trusted him. I asked if there was cord around her neck, and reminded him not to feel for it if he couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see cord until her shoulders were coming out, and he said it was loose and he unwound it. Then he caught her!
I sat back and picked her up. She started crying pretty quickly and continued crying for an hour. She came out in a flood of muddy meconium. I made my husband get the towel full of meconium out of the garbage the next day so I could see it. Since it was dark in the bathroom during the birth, I missed it at the time. She had poop in her hair, ears, all in her toes, and was beautiful, looking just as I pictured her.
Probably about 10 minutes after she was born, her placenta came out whole and with no significant signs of aging. It seemed a little small, compared to other placentas I’ve seen. Steve picked it up and put it in the big bowl I had handy, and it waited in the freezer for a spring burial.
She didn’t nurse for over an hour; she was screaming so much, poor baby. I think she was half asleep when she was born, and I woke her up rubbing her and moving her around to make sure she was okay. That part was unexpected, but it’s all good. She hasn’t cried at all since she was 3 days old, so I’m not complaining! I’m in love with this baby I waited so long for. I have no regrets about doing my own prenatal care, not inducing myself in any way, or about my labor and unassisted birth. Everything was perfect, and I’d never do it any other way!
My other 2 births were medically unnecessary c-sections before labor, resulting in 5-pound and 6-pound babies. I have no doubt that those pregnancies would have been long, resulting in bigger, healthier babies had they been left to complete. I never had any fear about having a natural birth after 2 c-sections. I hope that this birth will encourage other mothers to have a vaginal birth after a c-section without intervention and without fear.
I feel that having an unassisted birth was the best and safest way for me to birth for many reasons, and I’ll never do it any other way. It was a great experience, one that doesn’t leave me with memories of pain, anxiety, or being managed/told what my body’s performance level was. Most importantly, it created a trusting bond between my baby and me that I will nurture for the rest of her life.
I am a midwife, and I feel that my unassisted birth experience is a testament to my faith in the birth process, as well as in woman’s strength and role in the birth process. The pregnant woman and her baby know best what they need to have a great birth experience, and to presume otherwise would be an unforgivable flaw in practice.
My husband, the comedian, has this to add to my story:
Everything I knew about having a baby had to do with a hospital. When our last daughter, Echo, was born in the hospital, I didn’t think anything of it. But Poppy was voicing many of the problems she had with the way things were handled. When Poppy first told me she wanted to have a home birth with the next child, I paid little attention to her mad ramblings. Then I got her pregnant and I realized she was only going to get crazier over the next couple months. This meant I didn’t have much time to figure out what was going on and talk some sense into her.
Poppy has always been very good at persuading me to do things I don’t want to do (insert joke here), but I didn’t want to follow along blindly when it came to something as important as our baby. I wanted to know about all the things that could go wrong. I, of course, had the most questions right at the beginning. Some are very predictable like what to do if the cord is around the neck, if the baby doesn’t start to breathe on its own, or how to handle unexpected mutant powers (hope hope).
I had more and more questions over the next couple of months, many of which came from other people whom I had spoken to about having a homebirth. Poppy answered all of my questions and we looked up many different topics and sources on the internet until I was satisfied with the answers and felt okay.
Fast forward a couple months. I am feeling much better about this whole thing. I really see how a simple thing like having a baby in our society has gotten out of hand. The questions people were asking me and the worst case scenarios they were presenting seemed ridiculous. Yet some of these questions were the same ones I had asked months earlier. Now, at this point, if I was reading this, I would think “This guy is brainwashed.”
All I can say about that is: now that I’ve watched the whole process, it all makes sense. My wife was very conscious about what was going on with the baby and all of her prenatal care so it’s not like you just go from pregnant to baby without knowing how things are developing.
Fast forward another couple of months. Poppy is over one month overdue and retaining water like a sponge. Even though this was getting pretty rough for Poppy, the concern was only for her comfort and not her safety. Everything was fine, everything was checking out. As I stated earlier, Poppy has talked me into a lot of things that I have been uneasy about the whole time. Like that hitchhiker we killed. But this was different. I wasn’t worried at all. I was anxious to see the baby and wondering what it would be like to see all of it happen for the first time, but that was it.
The previous c-sections didn’t matter to me either. At this point I was confident that everything was going to turn out fine. Then the payoff. Poppy calls me in the bathroom where she had been pushing for I think about an hour and a half. I’m only in there 20 minutes when I can already see the baby’s head coming out. Little closed eyes, then nose and mouth. Poppy asked me to check for the cord being too tight around the neck. I looked at it, no problems. Then, POP, here comes the baby all splashy and splashy and I caught her. That’s right, first try.
Now my wife can never call me useless again. There is nothing like this experience. It made me feel proud of my wife, proud of myself, proud of the baby and proud of my other two kids who were asleep during the whole thing. I didn’t really feel proud of the dog though, she didn’t do anything. I feel very grateful to my wife, Poppy, for making this whole thing possible.