The Birth of Daphne Astrid
by Mona Harris
My son Gabriel was your typical hospital birth. I went into labor at 39 weeks and was so excited to meet my new baby! I rushed off to the hospital anxious and excited. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor, given pitocin, and suffered horribly. I thought I had prepared myself for a natural birth. My son was whisked away as soon as he was born with pneumonia and tacardia. Both of these were most likely caused by the interventions I was given to “help” me. He spent his first weeks in the NICU. It was very hard on us as a family. We missed out on crucial bonding. I pumped milk for him that was given to him via a feeding tube in the nose. It was not until after my son was born that I began to question and research. I thought I was prepared. I had no idea.
I was thrilled to get pregnant again when my menses finally returned after my son’s second birthday. We conceived on the very first month after its return. I knew for certain I did not want a repeat of my first birth experience. I set out to find a midwife. I did not think that I wanted a home birth. I hated the house where we lived, so much negative energy. I didn’t think I could ever feel comfortable enough at home for birth. My husband told me he felt traumatized after the birth of our son. He was very fearful. We finally agreed on a free standing birth center birth. I interviewed a few midwives and finally found the one. She was beautiful and strong and we just seemed to click. I looked forward to every appointment, just to be near her and talk to her. She was also pregnant, due about 2 months before me.
On June 6th, my midwife gave birth to a son. He was born with Down’s syndrome and a serious heart defect. My midwife needed to devote her time to her new son and was not going to be able to be there at my birth. I was sad about this at first, but mainly I felt guilty for being so disappointed. I felt such a strong connection with her and really had looked forward to sharing my experience with her.
As the weeks went on and I met the back up midwives, I felt even more depressed about it. I couldn’t imagine forming a relationship with these women in the short period of time that I had left. I started to feel angry and cried often. I talked to friends about the situation.
Maybe 3 weeks before my due date, I decided that I wanted to try to have my baby alone. I really didn’t think through the logistics of this, but I couldn’t shake those thoughts from my head. I read a lot of birth stories of women who delivered unassisted and really thought that I could do it too, but I was still very fearful.
I finally met the third back up midwife and really liked her. I felt like if I were not able to do it alone, I wouldn’t mind having her with me. But I still felt that I would do it myself. We talked a lot in those last weeks about what I envisioned. I told her that I wanted to catch the baby myself; I wanted to leave baby with cord intact until after the placenta delivered, and other things like that. She was fine with all of it. During my pregnancy, I had trained as both a childbirth educator and a doula, so I felt that I had the knowledge necessary to do it alone. Little did I know that I had that knowledge all along!
On Thursday July 24th, I began having contractions. I was very happy to finally be in labor because I was over my due date and feared that my midwives would no longer be able to care for me. I had gone my entire pregnancy with them and dreaded the thought of an OB and a hospital birth. The law here says that at 42 weeks, you must transfer to the care of an OB. My contractions were about 15-20 minutes apart all day. Later that night, they stopped. The next day I had them again, this time 5 minutes apart all day long. Later that night, they stopped. On the 26th, I furious that I was still pregnant! How could I be having all these contractions but nothing was coming of it? I spent the day out and tried to keep my mind occupied. I bought some blue and black cohosh and took that a few times that day. By Monday, I was feeling desperate, how could I possibly go on like that!? This sort of slow labor was such a surprise since I had been augmented with my son.
I tried so hard to keep busy. I spent Monday packing orders for my business, cleaning the house; I made a trip to Whole Foods and got a make over from a lady representing Burt’s Bees. I bought a lipstick. I went to see the midwife and asked her to check to see if I was dilating. I had tried to check myself, but couldn’t get my arms low enough to find my cervix. She checked and I was 5cms. She said she thought it would be soon, within 3 or 4 days. I was very happy to hear that the contractions had helped after all. This was the first time I had been examined in my pregnancy. I had declined all other tests and procedures.
After the appointment, I went to the post office and mailed all my packages. The women working in the post office teased me that I was never going to have that baby! They teased me every week. I had Gabriel in my arms and they told me how strong I seemed to still be out and doing things and hanging on to my big boy like that.
Gabriel and I arrived home around 5 pm. Gab had fallen asleep in the car seat. I carried him inside and laid him on the bed. I sat down at the computer and started to work for a while. Later, at 7 pm, Gab woke up screaming and sobbing. I went to him and tried to calm him down. He was inconsolable. I asked him if he wanted to nurse and to my surprise, he said yes! He had not nursed in about 2 months. He was a little hesitant at first; I thought he had forgotten how to nurse. But after a minute or 2 he was nursing away and finally calm. Within 5 minutes of him nursing, my contractions became much much stronger and came every 2 minutes. They were strong, but not painful. He nursed for 30 minutes and by the time I got up my contractions were 1 minute apart and very strong.
I emailed a few friends to tell them that I thought it was time. I really didn’t know what to do. I was handling the contractions well, but they were becoming harder and harder. Time seemed to fly by and it’s really a blur to me now. I’m not sure what I was doing during this time, I know I was walking a lot, it seemed like running, from one end of the house to the other. I was trying to take care of Gabriel as best I could. I was starting to get a little panicky. I decided at some point, maybe around 8:15 to take a bath, I thought it would ease the contractions. I filled the tub and took off my clothes. I got in and Gabriel wanted to jump in too. So I took his clothes off him as well. He hopped in. I was only in the tub for 2-3 contractions when I felt my water break. I got right out and went for the telephone. I called the midwife (Carina) to let her know that I was in active labor and that my water had broken. She said she would meet me at the birth center.
Next I called my husband. He still did not even know I was in labor. I told him he needed to come right home. We hung up. About 15 minutes later the contractions were strong enough to make me drop to the floor each time I had one. I tried to get dressed, but couldn’t seem to manage. I found an old nursing night gown in the closet and put it on. Gabriel was still undressed. I tried to get him dressed too, but that was too much to do. I found a diaper for him and brought it to the living room. I called my husband back to see where he was. He told me he was at 107th street, about 30 blocks south of here. We stayed on the phone with each other. I’m not sure how much longer it took him to get here. But it was 9:30 when he came in.
I was leaning over the couch and he came up and tried to help me to my feet. I told him to just take care of Gabriel, that I was fine. He started to get Gabriel dressed. At this point he still thought we were about to leave to go to the birth center. He got Gab’s diaper on and asked what else he should put on him. I told him it didn’t matter cause the baby was coming, NOW. He said no, we could make it to the birth center. I told him to trust me, it was time.
I had moved over to the kitchen table when the most incredible urge to bear down hit me. Up to this point I had resisted each time I had felt it. But now, I dropped down onto all fours and let my baby’s head start to come out. I reached down and felt her head as it was coming out. It felt very soft, like a furry raisin. I told Harold that she was coming and to call the midwife back and tell her it was too late, we would not be coming to the birth center. He called her up and stayed on the phone with her. Another contraction came and her head fully emerged. I reached down and felt her again, this time to see if the cord was around her neck. It was not. Then I felt her little face and ears and head, it was the most surreal moment of my life! Everything changed in that moment. I stopped feeling panic and pain, now I felt outside myself, like I was watching this happen to someone else.
The midwife told Harold to check for the cord. I told him I already had. He took the pillows from the couch and put them around me. I started to wonder how on earth I was going to get the rest of her out of me! I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do next. I had to really think about it. It seemed like her head had been out forever! I thought that she couldn’t possibly stay like that much longer. I felt a little wave of panic, maybe her shoulders were stuck! But then I remembered that I had to push her out.
I bore down and nothing happened. Oh no! Then I realized that I needed to have a contraction to push her out. So I waited. It felt like 5 or 10 minutes, though it was probably more like 1 minute. Finally the contraction came and as it did, I dropped down into a sort of squat. I told Harold to come see his baby, he came over and we put our hands around her as she slipped out. He put her on my chest and covered us in a towel. I held her tight to me. After a few minutes I held her up to see if she was a girl or boy. She had been purple and covered in vernix when she was born, but after just a second or so she was bright pink and the vernix was rubbing into our skin. She had a full head of long jet-black hair and looked just like her papa!
After about 30 minutes, the midwives arrived. I was thrilled and surprised to see Devorah! She was my original midwife. Apparently Carina had called her and told her that I was in labor and asked her if she wanted to come. She left the hospital where she had been with her baby. I was so happy she was there; it really made everything feel right. She told me she was jealous, that I had just had the birth experience that she had always wanted.
They helped me up from the floor and took me to the bed. Daphne’s cord was still attached and I still had not delivered the placenta. I lay down on the bed with her and nursed her. After about 10 more minutes, the placenta was out. What a relief! I started to bleed pretty heavy after it came out, so Devorah massaged my abdomen to try to get my uterus to contract. I lost a lot of blood and felt very light headed. They kept giving me Recharge to drink. They did Daphne’s newborn exam, she weighed 7lbs 10oz, was 21.5 inches long. She got 10′s on her apgars, but only because I told them she was pink right away. Finally, I got dressed and we dressed Daphne. The midwives stayed with me for about 2 hours and then left. We just talked and laughed and they took care of me. It was really nice. I got to do the part I wanted to do, birth my baby alone.
I spent the next few hours just staring at my beautiful baby girl. Harold and Gabriel stayed out of the room; I wanted to be alone with her. She was so perfect and gorgeous! I couldn’t get over how much she looked like my husband, that same nose, lips, eyes, hair, everything! I was so hungry; I realized I had not eaten all day. I got up and had a bowl of granola with soymilk. I felt much better afterwards. After a while we fell asleep. She nursed so well right from the start and my milk came in almost right away. I had not actually PLANNED an unassisted home birth, not exactly ;o)
My husband tells people that she was born at home by accident, I’ll let him go on thinking that! There is really not much I would change about the experience. I think I would have preferred had Gabriel not been here with me, I think alone would have been much nicer. I think next time, I will have my husband take him away so I can labor totally solo. We’ll see!