Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

L's birth story - the homebirth that made me a doula

L called me at 4pm to tell me that her water had broken 15 minutes earlier. I had been anticipating attending my first birth for certification and was surprised at how calm I felt when she called. She told me she wasn't having any contractions yet, but her first two labours happened really quickly - so I decided to leave my house fairly soon. I made a fast stop at the gas station to pick up some crackers and water and then made my way towards L's house.

I arrived shortly after 6pm and was greeted by L and her husband. She introduced me to her sister-in-law, who would also be witnessing the birth (and who was 32 weeks pregnant herself!) L still wasn't having contractions and was actually in the middle of making dinner. She had told me many times that she felt as if she'd give birth at night and the sun was still up in the air. We also joked that hopefully the baby was going to let her eat dinner first. I asked her if she wanted to take a walk to get things moving, but she was concerned about leaking amniotic fluid. I then suggested she sit down and save her strength, but she said she felt like moving. She seemed very restless.

L (on the right) with her sister-in-law

As we all sat down to eat, L's contractions began to start coming more regularly. Her sister-in-law began to time them, and they were about every 10 minutes apart. L was still able to talk through them, but she said their intensity was increasing. We all went upstairs at that point to ready L's bedroom for the birth. We laid down shower curtains over her bed and we put plastic sheets down on the floor. I helped put some extra air in her birth pool and L changed into more comfortable attire. She was still joking around, saying she put on a skirt for “easy access!”
Around 8.30pm, L's contractions were about 5 minutes apart. When she sat on the toilet, she said she felt a lot of pressure but seemed anxious about how quickly things were picking up. I suggested she sit on the birth ball, but she said she didn't want things to move too fast. She was holding back because her husband was still putting their daughters to bed and the midwives weren't there yet. I asked her if she wanted to go on her hands and knees because her midwife had suggested it to turn a posterior baby, but she didn't stay in the position too long. She said her body was telling her to walk, so that is what she did. Around 9pm, her husband came into the room and L called the midwives who were a block away. She asked me how dilated I thought she'd be, and I guessed 5cm and that labour would move very quickly once her midwives were here.

One of the midwives checks the baby's heart rate

The midwives arrived very shortly after that and set up all of their things. L was still smiling and laughing and able to ease through her contractions. She was doing wonderfully and I mentioned many times how she was a "pro." When the midwives checked her, she was at 5cm. I was right! After some paperwork, the midwives went downstairs and L's labour picked up. She had to stop moving during her contractions and would embrace her husband in the slow dancing position. During this time, she said she felt like she had to eat and asked for some of the peanut butter cookies I had brought. I also recommended some fluids.
She drank some Gatorade, but she wasn't too interested in eating. She went to use the bathroom again and labour really seemed to intensify after she returned. She was moaning quietly and really focusing on her husband during her rushes. I admit, I felt a little bit like a bother at first. I was concerned about annoying her. I remember asking her questions, but she just wanted to walk and be with her husband. It seemed like such an intimate experience, so I sat on the bed and remained as a bystander. I didn't want to interrupt the connection she was sharing with her husband and I figured I'd know when she really needed me to be by her side as well. During this time, the pool was filled up per L's request. The midwife came up to check her again and said she was still 5cm but a little more effaced. I asked her if she felt discouraged because she had said, "I'm still 5cm?" She said not really, which I thought was great. She was keeping a positive attitude. The midwives didn't want L in the pool just yet but suggested she lay on her left side for a few contractions. She got in bed with her husband in front of her and I came up behind her to apply counter-pressure to her back. I've never had a work-out quite like it! I thought I was pushing so hard I'd hurt her, but after one of the contractions she said it felt good - but asked me not to ease up any. I mentioned how I had amniotic fluid all over my legs and L seemed apologetic. I told her I brought a change of clothes and the last thing she needed to worry about was me! L was still in a pretty good mood, relaxing in between rushes. Her moaning was getting progressively louder though and after about 3 contractions, the midwives' assistant came up and said L could get in the pool. She wanted to use the restroom first and her husband went with her. I could hear her moaning and groaning and I had a feeling things were going to change very quickly. L removed most of her clothing and soon got in the tub. I took off my socks and rolled up my pants and L's husband asked if I was going to get in the pool. I shrugged and said, "You never know." I figured I might as well and be prepared. I didn't need it though. L did fabulous. She was in a zone and wasn't really able to answer any questions, so I did my best to just try and guess what she needed. She was sitting on her legs in the pool, leaning forward to face her husband. I tried to pour water over her back in-between contractions and I applied counter-pressure to her lower back during rushes. Her pain was more immense now, so I knew she wouldn't be able to tell me if what I was doing was helpful or not. In early labour, she seemed to appreciate the pressure on her lower back, so I decided to stick with that. I remember looking up a few times to see her husband (who was directly in front of me, across the pool) and we'd smile at each other. Though we didn't speak, I know we were both basking in how amazing L was doing. The midwives came in a few times and I had to adjust my position to let them monitor the baby's heart tone. I was appreciative how non-invasive they were. I knew to respect their presence, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much they respected mine! L was extremely focused on her labour now and not able to speak very much. She made a lot of moans and groans. I had been really good at taking pictures up to that point, but I knew I couldn't leave her. I asked her sister-in-law if she wouldn't mind snapping a few, and she said sure. L's sister-in-law was a wonderful help. The midwives soon came to check L again, and asked her to go onto her back. L didn't seem thrilled with this, but she moved. The midwives said she was 8cm. I tried to get L to sip some Gatorade, but she still wasn't too interested in drinking. The midwives tried to move L back into the position she was in before, but she was in the middle of a contraction and resisted being moved. I went to the other side of the birth pool so I could be at L's side. I went to apply pressure at her hip, and I was surprised when she grabbed my hand. I tried my best to put some force against her side with one hand while holding her hand with my other. I was surprised at how easily I could tell she was in transition. She was quivering and trembling and made a few moans that sounded like cries. I mouthed to one of the midwives, "Transition?" and she nodded. I tried to rub L's hand to relax it because I knew her contractions would feel (slightly) better if she were completely relaxed. I remembering make "shhhh" noises. Not to shush her, but I caught myself trying to mimic ocean waves. I turned to a few people to mention how great she was doing.


The midwives had asked L earlier if she was more concerned about her perineum being intact or giving birth in the water. Since she had two previous tears and the baby's heart rate was dropping, the midwives (hearing her noises) told her she needed to get into the bed. I thought L was going to sprint from the pool! After her contraction was over, she jumped out of the water and a few of us tried to dry her off with towels as she ripped off her top and went to lay down on the bed (later she told us she just didn't want to have another contraction before she got to her bed). Her husband was on her left side and no one was on her right. During her entire labour, L was doing so great I caught myself wondering what my place was. I can't describe my feelings exactly, but I knew I had to be next to her. I went and sat at her other side and was surprised to see how intensely she focused on me. I used one hand to brush her hair back and L gripped my other arm. I didn't realize it until I got home later, but I had scratch marks! I didn't (and still don't) mind, though.
The midwives were concerned about the baby and their assistant handed me an oxygen tube and told me to cup it over L's nose. She did not like this, but I did my best to make her comfortable while still following the midwives' instructions. L was extremely instinctual at this time and I was surprised when the midwife proclaimed loudly, "I need you to pay attention to me now!" They were trying their best to keep her perineum intact while delivering the baby quickly. The midwife told L to push, and she said, "I am pushing!" They then suggested that she grunt a little bit. L screamed as the baby crowned, but after the head was out - everything was pretty quiet. The midwives moved the cord out from under the baby's neck and I remember telling L that he was almost here. That her baby had a full head of hair! I told her, "You did it!" I'm not sure if she heard me or not, but I told her how amazing she was. Then, with about 2 more big pushes, her son was placed on her stomach.

Baby is here!
I actually moved out of the way fairly quickly after that to allow the midwives more space to check out mom and baby. I also wanted to let her and her husband enjoy their son as much as possible. I heard L ask, "Is he okay? Is he okay?" He wasn't crying yet and I am sure the urgency of her delivery made her a little concerned. Her midwife assured her the baby was fine, and then he let out a nice big cry. The happiness in the room was palpable and I noted "What a perfect song to be born to," as I heard the stereo. It was the song, "Calling All Angels."

L and her husband were so engrosssed in their son, it was amazing to watch. The midwives joked at what a long cord the baby had and how, "he was probably jump-roping in there!" I gathered my camera back from L's sister-in-law (who was such a great help!) and snapped a few shots. The baby looked great and nursed soon after that. L had breastfed 2 babies before him, so I tried to stay out of the way. I asked her if she needed any help, but she said she was fine. The baby latched soon after that. After mom and baby were acquainted, the midwife took the little guy and weighed and measured him. I helped clean up during this time and the other midwife asked me if I had any questions. They were so nice to me. She filled out my doula form and gave me top marks!

Hanging with his mama while she pushes out her placenta

Being measured

Look at all that hair!
I hung around for a little while after that, gathering things and taking a few more photos. After L and her husband seemed a little more settled, I decided to leave. Her sister-in-law was still there and so were the midwives. I felt she was in great hands. I told her I was going and told her to call me if she needed anything. I remember her telling me, "Thank you for the counter-pressure!" which made me smile in a silly way. I told her, once again, that she did fabulous and I got my things packed up. As I was going out the door, I heard the midwives say, "Where did she go? Oh! There she is!" They gave me their card and told me to call so they could match me up with clients of theirs.

All the birth support. The two midwives on the left, L's husband, and then me on
the right (I'm the one with the doula shirt, duh! - actually, when L's 3-year-old
daughter greeted me, she said, "Your mommy's doula!")

As I walked back to my car, I couldn't believe how proud I felt. Not of myself, but of L. She really did act like a pro. They say that women who watch another woman birth will often produce similar love hormones as the labouring mother. I felt elated. I can't even begin to express my gratitude towards L. I feel so honoured that she allowed me to take part in her birth.

Baby T
April 1st, 2009
7lbs 8oz

You can read L's version of her birth story HERE

and she made a slideshow of the photos I gave her HERE