September 20, 2007
Briar Hill Midwives

Sylvie was due to be born September 7th. When this date came and went I wasn’t too surprised, given that my mom carried both her pregnancies two weeks past her due dates. To encourage labour I went for long walks every day, I received acupuncture treatments, I took Evening Primrose Oil, I smooched Steve, I spoke to Sylvie all the time. A week past our due date our midwives suggested I take Blue and Black Cohosh to stimulate uterine contractions (they said this would only work if the baby was ready to come.) I took the Cohosh and Steve and I went for a beautiful hike in the foothills. I felt some cramping but no labour. Arden, my good friend and naturopath, persisted with the acupuncture, and even taped radish seeds to uterine acupressure points in my ear. Our midwife Mary tried to stretch my cervix. More days past. Ten days after our due date we went for an ultrasound to make sure everything looked good in my womb. We received an 8 out of 8 on the biophysical profile. We were told the amniotic fluid levels were great, the placenta and umbilical cord were functioning well, and the baby’s movements and practice breathing were great. We were also told that she was likely a small baby (they guessed her at 3kg), and this concerned the doctor consulting with us. I asked her if the baby was likely small because I am small, and she said, yes this is possible, but recommended induction just in case the baby wasn’t getting everything she needed (despite the good ultrasound results). When we spoke with our midwives after they said they weren’t concerned about her size at all given all the baby we could feel from the outside, and given my small body. But they did want to see me go into labour.

Wednesday of that week we saw our midwife Carol, and she checked me and found my cervix had softened and thinned significantly from the week before. She was able to sweep my membranes, and she said she felt really hopeful that this would bring on labour. If we didn’t go into labour by Friday, two weeks after our due date, we’d need to go to the hospital for a non-stress test and begin discussing various induction methods, and we were hoping not to get to this point. We’d planned for a home birth, and hoped we could still do this since everything indicated Sylvie and I were very healthy.

At 2:00 am on Thursday, September 20th I woke up to pee and found I was having mild contractions every ten or fifteen minutes. I went back to bed to rest and soon after Steve woke up and I told him I was having contractions but didn’t know if it was actual labour or not. We stayed in bed resting and talking and observing the contractions. By 6:00 am they were regular enough I figured it was probably labour, but it was still early. I called mom before she left for work, and cautiously told her I thought labour was beginning and that I’d keep her posted. Steve got up and made ricotta pancakes. By the time we finished breakfast the contractions were spacing out and decreasing in intensity. I felt like things were slowing down instead of picking up. We called Mary and she said she’d come by to check me. She came around 10:30 am and by then the contractions had really petered out. She swept my membranes again to encourage labour and suggested we go for a long walk. So Steve and I walked to the river and then to the steep stairs on Scotsman’s hill, which we climbed three times to help move the baby down. The contractions had picked up again, and I started to pass very small gushes of warm fluid with each one. We headed home and I thought it was still worthwhile to try to get to my 2:30 pm acupuncture appointment with Arden, if only to prevent labour from petering out again. On the drive over the contractions got closer together. By the time we made it to Arden’s treatment room they were coming every three or four minutes and were so strong I needed to drop to the ground to bear them. There was clearly no point in doing acupuncture, so we left to go home. I called mom and asked her to head over, and when we got home the contractions got stronger and I threw up. Steve and I decided it was time to call Mary. Mom and Mary arrived around 4:00 pm and I was in the bathroom with Steve. Soon after they came he set up the blow-up pool in the living room. I asked Mary if she wanted to check me and she said, “What are you going to do with that information?” I told her I hoped I was getting close and she told me to relax, that we still had a ways to go. She said the small gushes of fluid probably meant I had a hind water leak. Mary, Steve and mom alternated between preparing things in the other room and being with me. Mary encouraged me to sink into the contractions instead of resist them. She suggested Steve and I go for a walk, but I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the house. I threw up again and my waters broke. Mary gave me a homeopathic remedy to stop the nausea. She said if I wasn’t up for a walk then why don’t I do stairs, so Steve and I walked up and down the stairs to the basement. Arianne, the midwife’s apprentice, arrived and provided back-up for Mary. Over the next couple of hours I stayed in the bathroom, on the toilet or the floor, and experienced the intense contractions. Sometimes I could focus on relaxing my whole body while they came, and the others didn’t know I was having a contraction until they spoke to me and I didn’t respond. Sometimes I got scared and would try to push away from the contraction. It helped me to remember that my body wasn’t going to dish out more than I could take, and it helped me to think of the importance of letting my uterus do its thing by relaxing the rest of my body.

Around 8:00 pm we went to the bedroom where Mary checked me and found I was 5cm dilated. She said I had a puffy lip of cervix and that the baby still needed to turn. The baby was facing my hip instead of my back. So mom ran me a warm bath and I climbed in and lay on my left side. Mary said the warm water would relax me and the hydrostatic pressure would help the baby to turn. In the bath the contractions got significantly more intense, and I found it almost impossible to relax into them. Mary monitored the baby’s heart rate with the doptone and encouraged me to breathe through the contractions. Sometimes I could do this and sometimes I tried to run away from the pain. I didn’t think I could handle the intensity of these contractions much longer, so I asked Mary what my options were for pain relief. She said we could go to the hospital if I wanted, and that an epidural may help me to relax and the baby to turn. After this she checked the baby’s heart rate and heard it drop. She said, “we’re going to the hospital.” I didn’t know how I would ever get there and she said don’t worry about that, we’ll make it happen. As she was packing up her equipment I had the urge to push. I started to yell and tried to resist pushing but couldn’t. When Mary heard me she came to check me and the baby again. The baby’s heart rate had returned to normal and I was fully dilated. Mary said, “Jill, you’re there, you’re at 10cm and the baby has turned. We’re not going anywhere. You’re ready to push this baby out.” In about half an hour’s time I went from 5cm to 10cm and my baby had turned herself around. My desire for an epidural had been a sign of transition, and the drop in the baby’s heart rate had been a sign of her tucking her chin in to turn. I was utterly relieved. I looked beside me at Steve and he looked stunned.

With each urge to push I found myself yelling and Mary said “Jill, you’re putting a lot of energy into yelling. See if you can capture that energy and send it to your uterus instead.” This really helped. With Steve and Mary’s help I managed to dash from the bathtub to the pool in the living room, and Steve and I climbed in. I assumed a squatting position. Steve squatted in front of me and I gripped his arms for support, and squeezed them with each contraction. Now I could push! And I did. I pushed with all my might. Mary had called Carol to come, but things were happening so quickly she worried Carol would miss it. When the head appeared Mary told me my baby had dark hair, and told me to put my hand down to feel the baby’s head. I felt her head between my legs and was amazed that she was so close. Mary said, “If Steve is going to catch this baby you’re going to have to let go of his arms now.” I really wanted him to catch the baby, and just then Carol arrived. She came and slid her arms under my arms so I could grip them instead of Steve’s. Mary and Carol coached me to let up on the pushing and ease the head out slowly. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t have to try so hard anymore. I gave a few more pushes and the baby’s head emerged. With the next contraction I pushed again and felt her body slip out and felt the umbilical cord follow. Steve caught her and slid her into my arms. After 27 minutes of pushing, Sylvie was born at 10:02 pm. I held her against my chest in the warm water, stunned, and she cried, and Steve cried, and we kissed, and I held my girl with utter wonderment.

Steve and Sylvie and I stayed in the warm pool while the umbilical cord continued to pulse. After about 15 minutes the cord stopped pulsing and Steve cut it. Carol took Sylvie and handed her to mom while I prepared to deliver the placenta. After two more strong contractions the placenta came out and Mary held it up and showed it to Steve and I. We got out of the pool and I got into a warm bath. Carol brought Sylvie into the tub and we bathed together. Afterward I went to the bedroom still experiencing some cramping, and Mary and Carol massaged my uterus. I experienced two more strong contractions and delivered a large blood clot. Now (at last!) the pain was over. Mary measured Sylvie at 20 ½ inches long and weighed her at 7 lbs 5 oz—bigger than everyone guessed. She was truly perfect: rosey, soft and utterly contented.

Jill & Stephen

Welcome Sylvie – Home Water Birth
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