My Story: The Home Waterbirth of Ava Skye
By Kiki Zeldes —
by an anonymous 29-year-old woman
I was exactly 38 weeks pregnant when I lost my mucus plug. It had been a healthy pregnancy, but I’d been plagued by numerous discomforts (edema, severe carpal tunnel syndrome, heartburn, painful abdominal muscle stretching), so I was happy for it to be coming to an early end. This was my first baby so I was very excited to be meet her, yet the physical feat of birth still lay ahead of me and I was nervous.
My husband and I anxiously talked about the upcoming arrival of our daughter. We were so excited it took us a while to get to bed that night. I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for four months, but once my mucus plug came out, the sensations changed. It felt like I was about to get my period, but there were no identifiable waves and nothing was intense. I briefly worried about all the work I had not finished at school (I’m a graduate student) so I looked at my belly and asked my daughter to give me one more day.
The next day, I had uncomfortable cramps all day, but nothing you could set your watch to. I did finish all my school work and went home to rest. My mucus plug continued to come out, but no sign of any blood yet. That evening, we had dinner with another couple who were also expecting and due just 2.5 weeks after us. Apparently, as we left dinner, the husband turned to his wife and said that the thought I was have the baby that night. He was almost right.
3:30 am – That uncomfortable menstrual cramp feeling got too intense for me to sleep through, so I hopped up and surfed the internet for a while. By 4 am, I realized there were definite peaks to the cramps. By 5 am, they were 5 minutes apart. At 5:45, I woke up my husband and told him we were having a baby today. He practically leapt out of bed with a grin on his face. 🙂
6:00 am – We called our midwife to let her know what was happening. The waves (I practiced hypnobirthing, so I use the term waves instead of contractions) were intense enough that I needed to hold on to a table or chair when they hit, and they were 5-6 minutes apart. Our midwife Lisa lives just 6 blocks away so she decided to come over shortly and check on how things were going. She was hesitant to think I was already in active labor after just 2.5 hours, but anything is possible.
7 am – The midwife came over (we were planning a homebirth, so the midwife always came to us) and listened to the baby. Everything seemed fine, and she believed it was early labor despite the 5 minute waves. We chose not to get any exams to check my dilation because I was GBS positive, so it seemed smart to keep the birth canal as clean as possible. During my entire pregnancy and birth, I never once received an exam. Anyway, the midwife recommended I rest and try to eat since it could be a long day ahead. We decided at that point I would rest with my husband and she would return to her office for a day full of prenatal appointments, one of which was supposed to be ours. The plan was to check-in by lunch.
I spent the morning resting and trying to eat, but I vomited everything I managed to choke down. I alternated between the couch and the toilet. My bowels seemed to be on a slow dump. Waves stayed about 5 minutes apart the whole time. By noon, the midwife checked in by phone and then came over at 1 pm to check on me and the baby. It was a miserable 100 degree outside, so we were camped inside for the entire day.
Everything was fine and waves were STILL 5 minutes apart. I was getting kinda tired and anxious. I’d been in labor for 9.5 hours already and my waves seemed to be stalled. I was expecting a quicker labor – my mother had 2 short labors (9 hrs, 2 hrs) with my brother and I, so I thought mine would be short too. The midwife went back to her office again and we just hung out. I started to get more active again in an attempt to get the waves moving along.
By 2:30, I started really wanting to get in the birth tub and relax. The midwife still had to set it up, so we gave her a call and asked about it. She came over by 3:30 and worked with my husband to set it up. I was getting tired and it was getting obvious. I was less talkative in between the waves and seemed to kinda zone out. Physically, I didn’t feel like much had changed … still 5 minutes apart, still totally manageable painwise. I had a friend come over and keep me company. She read birth stories to me from Ina May Gaskin’s “Spiritual Midwifery.” It was wonderful to hear about the lovely homebirths while I was in the middle of my own.
By 5 pm, I was still waiting for the water in the tub to reach the right temperature so I was pacing and hanging on to people during waves. I started to feel some pressure on my tailbone. I never had back labor, but after feeling this I made sure to stay in positions that would encourage the baby to stay occiput. A second friend came over as well and I again tried to eat something, but again vomited everything up. I was really getting tired and time was wearing on.
By 7 pm, I was fed up with waiting for the tub so I just decided I was getting in. It felt nice to be in the water, but I soon noticed it was too chilly so we went about adding some warm water. I was in a sitting position in the tub, so the waves felt different, but they were no more intense or close together. I was STILL 5 minutes apart.
At 7:30 pm, I got out to use the bathroom. While sitting on the toilet, I was overcome by the shakes. They were so powerful, my husband couldn’t hold me still and I felt like I might fall off the toilet. When I looked at my toilet paper, it was covered in clotty blood. Something was happening! We called out to the midwife and told her what we saw, and she got excited and let us know that things were moving forward. And with the next contraction, everything changed.
Suddenly I was in full-blown transition. The waves took over and used every cell in my body. I was moaning and could only focus on breathing when the hit. And they hit fast! The waves were now 2-3 minutes apart and about 90 seconds long. It had changed so fast! In between two of the waves, I raced back into the birth tub but got caught mid-motion and it was just so intense! My water still hadn’t broken at this point. The midwife called her assistant and told her to come on over – transition was starting so we hoped to see a baby in the next several hours. Little did we know…
Fifteen minutes later, I could feel my body pushing. With that first push, I could also feel my skin starting to burn. All I could mutter was “Push” and “Burn.” The midwife, who was rushing to set up her equipment, asked me what I could feel. I couldn’t tell – everything just felt so swollen down below. With each wave, my body continued to push and with each push, the baby was getting lower and lower. The midwife reached down (I was in an all-fours position in the tub) and announced she could feel the baby’s head! My god, this was intense! And it was going so fast! My husband was always right there with me telling me what a wonderful job I was doing. I wasn’t really doing anything – my body did all the pushing. I was just trying to remember to breath. A couple more pushes and I was fully crowning. One more push and the head was out. Another push and most of the baby’s body was out. The wave ended though, so the midwife instructed me to give one more push to get the baby out. I gave the first voluntary push of my birth, and with that, the baby was born. It was 8:03 pm. I was in labor for 16.5 hours. My water never broke at all. My transition was 15 minutes, and I pushed for 15 minutes. And my beautiful baby girl was here!
She was beautiful. She quietly looked around and took her first peaceful breath. We spent some time hanging out with her while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. It was a very short cord, so we had to be careful to keep the baby’s head above the surface of the water. My husband cut the cord after about 15-20 minutes. I spent the next hour trying to deliver the placenta while I lost a fair amount of blood. It took A LOT of pushing, a couple of herbs, and a breastfeeding baby, but after one hour it finally came out and the bleeding slowed. Much longer and I would have needed a trip to the hospital.
Finally the birth was over. I had a small labial tear, which was easy to stitch up and healed quickly. The midwife and my friends cleaned up while my husband and I talked with our new daughter. The midwife’s assistant never made it – the birth happened too quickly. After a newborn exam and a my first meal of the day, we were finally left alone in our own bed with our new family. Ava Skye was here.