I drove myself nutty in the last several weeks of my pregnancy with Caleb as I endured hours of consistent contractions that would seem to just randomly stop. I wondered how I would ever know when to call the midwife, I wondered if there was any way to know when to call to allow her the hour drive to arrive in time.
Saturday night, April 24, 2010, I began contracting and ignored them until I realized they were 3-5 minutes apart. I called Derin home from work, and about an hour later (two hours after I began timing the contractions), Derin called the midwife. Penny notified the birth team and everyone began arriving around 12:30 a.m. I was intensely focused on the contractions which were growing closer together and when I began shaking with the intensity, I decided to get in the spa tub we rented for the birth. The water helped tremendously with the pain, and I began growing convinced I was nearing transition (I found out later everyone else did too!). Unfortunately, after awhile I realized the contractions were growing further apart. Just before 3 a.m. I got out of the tub and realized they had stopped altogether. Discouraged and frustrated, I asked Penny what to do. She suggested I lay down and get some rest and the birth team would go downstairs for a couple hours to give my body some rest and see if they would begin again. Before doing so I asked her to check me and she said I was 4cm and mostly effaced. This was only slightly more progressed than a week earlier when she checked me in her office so after hours of intense contractions I was very discouraged. I laid down to sleep and the birth team went downstairs. Penny checked on me a couple hours later and the contractions were still non-existent so they all went home.
Several predicted I would deliver on or around Wednesday due to the full moon and after expecting Caleb’s arrival most of the month of April I was pretty skeptical and growing convinced he would never make his entrance.
The evening of Wednesday, April 28, I had some contractions that while 7-10 minutes apart were pretty intense. Too tired of occasions hoping the contractions would be “it” this time, I went to bed around 12:30 a.m. telling myself that if it was real I wouldn’t be able to sleep or they would wake me up. I was right.
I woke Thursday morning at 1:40 a.m. after a slightly more than an hour of sleep to an intense contraction with severe lower back pain and the urge to push. I tried to go potty to see if that would help and I quickly realized it would not. I woke up Derin. I told him, “I am having very intense contractions with back pain and I need to push.” He stayed so calm and called the midwife relaying the information. Penny later told us that a phone call saying, “My wife woke up 5 minutes ago with contractions and needs to push” is not common of course (meanwhile Derin’s calmness also made her curious) and so she asked to speak to me on the phone. I had a difficult time talking because the contractions were so intense and at this point I was bent over the birth ball trying to get the pressure off my back. I told her I had not felt contractions like this since Joanna was born and I needed to push. She asked me to put my finger inside and see if I could feel my baby. Imagine my surprise and fight to stay calm when I did with my finger only halfway in. Caleb was less than 2 inches from crowning. She told me she would not make it in time and she was going to call the birth team to get there as quickly as possible as well as EMS in case they didn‘t make it. She asked for Derin back and I got in the tub. The warm water helped tremendously with the pain as I focused on steady breathing and tried to relax my body through the contractions. Derin was so calm and reassuring through the whole thing.
On Penny’s end she stayed on the phone with Derin while she had her husband call the birth team and EMS, her 16 year old daughter and 10 year old son were also up helping get things ready to go, but as it turned out things moved so quickly on our end she did not end up leaving her house until after Caleb was born.
Meanwhile, I’m working through the contractions and Derin has Penny on speaker for both of us to hear. EMS arrived and came in and much to their surprise found me laboring in the water. Derin caught them up to speed on yes we were planning to deliver at home in the water and yes we would be staying after the baby came as well. They asked some questions to Penny via the speaker phone about the water birth and otherwise held back and waited. I was doing my best to not push until someone from the birth team got there. Paula, one of Penny’s primary assistants and a RN came as quickly as she could and I then began pushing in a squat with my hands on the outer edge of the tub so I could lean back a little. Through the last several minutes I had my hand down by the birth canal so I could help guide the baby out and really feel what was going on. My hand was there to feel the membranes rupture just before he crowned – what a cool feeling. I was too distracted to think to look, but Paula and Derin both said it was clear.
I also had my hand there when he crowned and then his head emerged. Penny had instructed us when that happened to push gently down on his head toward my back to help with the shoulder rotation as he was born so I did. Then with another push he rotated and his upper body was out, and one final push and out came the rest of him. Paula helped me bring him to the water’s surface watching the cord to be sure it was not being stretched. I couldn’t believe the ecstasy of birthing my baby as a participant and not as a patient. I “delivered” my baby in a way that had a whole new meaning.
With Caleb on my chest still in the water, Paula rubbed and stimulated him but he was a bit stunned to get more than a little cry out so thankfully the EMS oxygen came into play and he began crying after about 6 puffs of air. EMS left soon after that and Penny a few minutes later ended the speaker phone call to come down. (Penny carries oxygen for such a situation, which is one of the reasons she had EMS come since she would not be here).
My friend Wendy who is a RN and lives very close was planned to be at the birth as well, but unfortunately through a mix of communication (we thought she was called when she hadn’t been) she was not able to make the birth but came soon after he was born as well to help with the immediate post partum and to play house cleaning fairy.
Caleb was born at 2:18 a.m. just 38 minutes after I woke with that first intense contraction. His big brothers and big sister were all in the house and slept through the whole thing completely unaware of the EMS crew, birth team, and arrival of their little brother until the next morning. Our plan had been for them to be elsewhere during the birth and praise God they slept through so Derin could stay with me. He was so calm and steady through the process. We didn’t know if we were going to be delivering this baby completely by ourselves and he never wavered. We’re so thankful we planned to deliver at home because with only 38 minutes to delivery we wouldn’t have made it anywhere especially with the older kids to consider.
Caleb Simeon Stidd was 7 lbs 8 oz, and 21″ long. The birth team repeatedly commented in the following hours how they couldn’t believe how round his head was which is abnormal in a vaginal delivery, but they explained that since the delivery went so quickly he wasn’t in the birth canal long enough for it to shift around.
I have been asked if now that I delivered at home would I consider the hospital for the next one and I can very easily reply not a chance. As long as it is medically appropriate, I will always choose a home birth and at that, specifically a water birth. I would not consider a hospital birth an option again unless it was deemed medically necessary.
I’ll always remember feeling my baby’s head with my finger so close to crowning, feeling the bag pop with my hand, and what it was like to press down on his head to help him rotate. In fact every time I am holding him in my arms now and I place my hand on the round of his head I remember that feeling. I recall at one point during the brief labor that Penny was listening and encouraged me through the speaker phone by saying, “Katrina you’re doing great! This is beautiful!” You could hear the smile in her voice and it was such an encouragement.
There is certainly a time, place, and circumstance for a hospital delivery, interventions, and sure – even c-sections, but to intend for a natural delivery and not have risk factors that would demand a hospital birth, I have to say, there’s no place like home.