The short, non-graphic version of this story is that I labored for about five hours, and delivered our baby girl in our home (yes, on purpose). She was 9 pounds exactly, 21 inches long, and we named her Lydia Sage. Yes we had the name picked out; I suggested it and Josh was immediately on board but it took me a while to come around and be 100% set on it.
However, I love birth stories! And I’m so thankful for mine. So if you are interested in the planning, the nitty-gritty, and the hiccup as our baby girl emerged into the world, buckle up and keep reading! And thanks for being here!
Thursday – August 5th
We went to a nearby park for some (very last-minute!) maternity pictures! We also had our last appointment with the midwife before birth, and the birth pool was dropped off.
With her estimated due date getting close, and me feeling very huge and uncomfortable, we decided to try anything we could to start labor. It was successful, because I had several contractions that evening and throughout the night!
Friday – August 6th
Unfortunately, when I woke up the next morning, signs of labor had stopped. I was disappointed, but we decided to try again. Sure enough, more contractions. But only a few – even less than the previous night.
Saturday – August 7th
I was more than disappointed the next morning. I broke down crying because by this point I had experienced SEVERAL signs of early labor, twice I had gotten excited about labor starting, and all of this seemed like it had amounted to nothing. I texted my midwife listing all the things my body was doing and looking for encouragement. She assured me that everything was positive, my body was working perfectly, and that these practice runs were in fact doing something!
Joshua came up with a plan to distract me from the imminent birth of our child, knowing that if I sat around I would drive myself crazy. We drove to Fort Howard to walk and have a picnic, stopping at Royal Farms on the way to pick up hoagies and chips. We had a wonderful time! One of my favorite moments was after we finished lunch and sat on a bench overlooking the water, talking about life and sharing some (final) thoughts on our upcoming parenthood. We had a relaxing evening, knowing our life could change any moment but enjoying our last few days with just the two of us.
Sunday – August 8th
Church picnic day! In the weeks leading up to this specific event, we kept saying, “We might not be there!” since the estimated due date was in just two days. But with no more contractions during the previous day or night, we decided we were probably safe. And if not, if I did go into labor at the picnic surrounded by our church folk, it would make quite a story!
Everyone was shocked to see me there – volunteering during both services and then walking around in the heat at the picnic. “You’re still here!” they all said. I did a ton of walking – partially because I was trying to get things moving but also because sitting was actually more uncomfortable due to how low Baby was.
I remember thinking on the way home, sitting uncomfortably in the car sweaty and huge, “I really do not want to go in to work tomorrow.”
Luckily (ironically?) contractions woke me up around 11:30 pm that night. But they weren’t like the contractions on Thursday and Friday night. These took my breath away and no position change seemed to help. When they started pretty intensely right away and I couldn’t sleep through them, I grabbed my blanket and pillow and tried to get comfortable on the couch downstairs. I didn’t want to wake up Josh if I was going to be moving around, especially since I assumed I’d be in labor for the next 12-24 hours. He needed his rest.
Monday – August 9th
I put in earbuds and listened to my Christian Hypnobirth app, trying desperately to relax and lean into the waves of contractions. But they were crazy intense. I fought to control my breathing and started to cry. I wasn’t getting the breaks in between each one like I expected. They were coming fast and hard.
I labored on my own for almost two hours. At that point, I was like “This is it.” I texted my friend who has had 3 natural births, “These feel more intense and I am not handling it well. I can’t stop shaking.” She told me later – confirming what I realized when the labor was over – that it sounded like I had already hit transition. I was already in active labor, which was why I wasn’t getting real breaks between contractions. Of course I didn’t realize that at the time, so I just thought, There is no way I am going to be able to labor like this for another twenty-some hours. I can’t do this.
I somehow made it up the stairs to our bedroom and shook Joshua awake. I apologized between shaky breaths and told him, “I think it’s happening now. We need to call Dianne.” During my nine-minute phone call with Dianne, I had several contractions and couldn’t really talk through them. She was very calming and assured me all of this was normal. She also recommended I get in our bathtub to try to relax and get some relief, and said she could send her assistant over to check on me if I wanted. All of us were assuming I would still be in labor for quite a bit more time.
The warm water helped a little, but I also remember the contractions getting super intense, at least when I was on my back in the tub. I flipped over on all fours (which is the position I really stayed in the rest of the labor) and that’s when I started feeling push-y. At 2:15 I asked Joshua to call Dianne back to send her assistant Kristyn over. This was also when I started being really vocal. Every time I felt a contraction start, I would push hard and low with my voice. Those low “wooooooo” noises really helped me open up. The other thing that helped tremendously was my precious husband pressing on my sacrum while I was on all fours. Bless him.
Josh encouraged me to get out of the tub and head all the way downstairs since Kristyn was on her way, and all our birthing supplies were down there. I do remember thinking at this point that I had wanted to do a little bit of makeup while I was in the first stage of labor, but that was most certainly not happening now. With much difficulty and Josh’s help, I got out of the tub, dried off a bit, and went down two flights of stairs to the birth space. I immediately went to the bed we had set up and got on all fours – and felt the need to push. The contractions had moved from my abdomen to lower in my pelvis.
Although things were obviously still very intense, I sort of found a rhythm for a while. We played soothing music through the bluetooth speaker near my head, and had the string lights plugged in and the overhead lights low. When I felt another contraction coming, I signaled Josh who would put pressure on my sacrum, and then made low guttural noises while trying to take slow deep breaths. I cannot tell you how much those two things helped! My sweet husband was also really wonderful the entire time reminding me of truth and encouraging me. Kristyn and Dianne both said later that he was the best birth coach!
By the time Kristyn arrived, Joshua could already see the head. She started setting up the birth pool (again, still thinking we had plenty of time) and I was so ready to labor in the water. At some point before the pool was ready, Kristyn called Dianne and said, “Things are progressing a little faster than we thought. I can see the head – you may want to start heading this way.”
Finally the pool was inflated and full of water, and I was begging to get in. We kept Dianne on speaker as she drove over and we got ready to do this. My water broke when I got up off the bed and stepped into the tub. And as soon as I was in the water, facing out and leaning against the side of the pool, out came our baby’s head! There was instant relief, but the contractions that I expected would come and push baby out the rest of the way significantly slowed down. I don’t even remember feeling any more at that point. The slight hiccup was a few different minor issues at once: baby had a nuchal hand, baby wasn’t budging, and I was struggling to push. The relief of the tub was wonderful, as I sat there deeply inhaling while Josh rubbed my shoulders, but labor wasn’t over yet.
Eventually too much time had passed without our baby and me making progress, even with Kristyn gently helping, and Dianne said from the phone, “Ok we need to get Bethany out of the pool so we can deliver this baby.” This is Josh’s favorite part of the story because apparently I hopped right up and leapt out of the pool back onto the bed – while my baby’s head was out. It was one of the strangest but coolest feelings!
Even though things were a little tense at this point, I wasn’t afraid. All I could think was, Our baby is coming. This is really happening. I’m ready. I trusted God, my body, and my midwife’s assistant to safely deliver this baby.
I was once again on all fours on the bed, pushing while Kristyn gave a gentle tug. Suddenly, at 4:35 am, our fresh little (9-pound!) daughter was earthside! It was an incredible moment I will never forget. Kristyn immediately handed her to me and I brought her to my chest. I was so overwhelmed! All I could say was, “My baby! Oh, my baby girl,” while my husband hugged us both.
Seven minutes after our baby was born, my midwife arrived! Her assistant did absolutely wonderful and I’ve thanked her many times since for staying perfectly calm and collected the entire time.
We cut the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing, and I got back into the pool to deliver the placenta. I was able to breastfeed and continue having skin-to-skin contact to encourage the placenta delivery.
I did have a small second-degree tear but Dianne was able to stitch that up right there. She and Kristyn also cleaned up our entire birth space – draining and deflating the tub, removing the dirty sheets, and bleaching the floor where bodily fluids had been.
There were several things I thought I would do but didn’t – whether because it wasn’t comfortable for my body in the moment, or just because I was in active labor nearly the whole time. Someone told me to not make a birth plan because it wouldn’t happen anyway. But even though things did not happen the way I had planned, a lot of it did! And even more than things going according to my way, having some kind of plan and expectations in place helped me have peace of mind going into labor.
I’ll be honest: since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But simultaneously, childbirth was my greatest fear. I had always heard how painful and awful it is, usually followed up with “But it’s worth it!” I guess that last bit is helpful. But what was more helpful was preparing my mind and body for labor: listening to positive birth stories, re-framing how I thought about birth, moving every day, seeing a chiropractor, and so on.
Homebirth is not for everyone. I recognize that. But I do think more people could do it than do! It was an exhilarating experience. I loved that I was able to have autonomy, and avoid so many interventions and interruptions that happen during a typical hospital birth. Homebirth was the best choice for us, and I am forever grateful that we were able to welcome our daughter into the world this way.