Rowan Alexander Bishop, our second child, is now sleeping peacefully in the bed where I gave birth to him. He is eighteen weeks old and growing very quickly. Every day that passes I am filled with joy but also a little bit of sadness at how swiftly time goes by. It is funny, though, how those last few weeks of pregnancy seem to drag on and on. I had wanted to deliver my first at home but was not confident enough in my decision to go against the grain. The idea of childbirth terrified me, you see, and I was sure I would die in the process. “Better to be in the hospital when tragedy strikes,” I thought. As it turned out, things went very well with my first pregnancy. There were no problems and the course went smoothly all the way into my labor, one week after the due date. I was not happy to be in the hospital, however, and I resented that many of my requests, such as “please, do not give my baby a bottle, I’d like to breastfeed”, were not honored. When we finally checked out the fourth day I was bitter and swearing to never have another child.
The ill feelings wore off, though, and as my baby turned in to a rowdy, athletically built five year old the baby fever took hold. My husband and I were finally college graduates and decided we were ready to add a new member to the family. In no time at all we were again “with child” and ecstatic. A few days later I experienced some bleeding and, after calling my doctor’s office and talking with a nurse after being on hold forever, the terror struck and I feared I would not even make it to die during childbirth. I was sure my time had come. Of course, this was just the hypochondriac in me panicking. A sonogram showed that things were okay but I hated this ever present feeling that because I was pregnant I needed to “be careful” and that at any minute something could go horribly wrong. I began to recall a few articles I had read about homebirths and visited with the only two people I know who birthed their babies at home. The majority of information I received was very positive and decided I would research area midwives just for kicks.
When I first visited with Toni I was still considering a hospital birth and thought maybe I could mix the two worlds. If I had someone to support and defend my decisions for me, such as “I prefer natural childbirth, no thanks on the epidural,” then perhaps the hospital would not be all that bad. But after meeting with Toni I realized that a homebirth was truly an option and it was the setting I preferred. I was scared of giving birth at home, but I was also scared of giving birth in the hospital, particularly based on many aspects of my first experience. So, my husband, Manitou, met with Toni and agreed to support my new decision, though he was very nervous about this new and unknown territory of homebirth.
Once I switched to Toni from my doctor I began to feel more at ease about the entire process. We alternated between visiting the office in Bryan and her home in Brenham and I appreciated the comfortable atmosphere Toni provided. We rarely had to wait to begin the appointment. Toni always greeted us smiling and refreshed even if she’d been up all night attending a birth. In addition to Toni we met with Nanci Stanley both at the appointments and at Childbirth Education classes. We both felt very good about our plans for a homebirth and began to enjoy the progress of our growing baby.
One particular concern for us was the timing of the birth, since Manitou worked off shore. He was away for weeks at a time and as we approached the due date, which Toni explained to me was nothing more than mere estimation, we were unsure if he should go to work or stay home and wait. Manitou stayed, my due date came went and a week later he was due back at work. Toni had mentioned naturally inducing labor with a parsley tea and castor oil and on Sunday afternoon, exactly a week after my due date and the day after Toni’s daughter got married, I began drinking the tea and fervently praying that I would immediately go into labor. Of course, nothing happened the second I put my tea cup down, but later that evening after my son, Finnegan, was asleep and Manitou had left to pick up some dinner, my water began to break…or, trickle. I called Toni, who was getting ready for bed, and she told me to monitor everything and keep her posted but that it could be morning before anything real happened. I went for a walk around 10 p.m. and while walking mild contractions began. I laughingly called my sister to tell her that I was finally in labor. While doing laundry after my walk I began to gush and now knew that this was going to be the real thing.
An hour later it was not quite as funny. Finnegan woke up and I went to lie in bed with him and the contractions began to pick up. I made a run to Sonic to pick up two large cups of ice and as the boy unlocked the door of the drive through and charmingly replied that though it was after hours I was a preferred customer I wondered if he realized that I was in labor. Around midnight I decided that it was time to call. Toni had probably just been asleep for an hour or so but happily said she was on her way and Nanci would be as well. I began to rouse Manitou, who is a very deep sleeper, and handed him an energy drink so he could give me his all when I needed him most.
When Nanci and Toni arrived we were sitting on the living room floor breathing through a contraction. They took my vitals and then went upstairs to prepare my bed where we planned to have the birth. Nanci heated up a miracle pad of sorts, filled with herbs, in the microwave and my husband held it on my back while we breathed. Things were intensifying but I was in the most comfortable of environments and could concentrate on breathing. Sometime around 2:30 a.m. Manitou called my mom and dad who were driving in for the birth from Austin. I decided to go upstairs and rock in the chair for a bit. Manitou came up a bit later, read some Edgar Allan Poe out loud and helped me breath. I recollected my first birth and how I cried and felt panicky and could not control my breathing, and finally accepted the many offers for an epidural. I began to feel very grateful for all the practice both in class and at home and for how much more prepared and aware I was this time around.
Things began to speed up and slow down all at once. Nanci and Toni came upstairs. Nanci and Manitou took turns helping me to breath and I was amazed at how calm I felt with so much encouragement. My very nervous mom arrived, came upstairs and held my hand. Each time my vitals were taken I refrained from asking if I was in transition. I had never felt so much pain and began to wonder if I could keep going and I was frightened that I might still have a long way to go. I felt I could only focus on each moment and could not think about the bigger picture. I had spent the majority of the time on the birthing stool but I decided to try to stand and lean my arms against the wall. I actually began to feel my son move through the birthing canal and though I was in a great deal of pain I was so happy to be aware of what my body was doing. I felt that I would, in fact, make it through alive as I looked out the window to see the sun rising.
The progress began to slow and Toni was picking up a decelerated heartbeat so she instructed me to change position and try lying down. Somehow my husband got me on the bed and I attempted to lie down but could not believe how much more everything hurt. With assistance from everyone I was then lifted up so that the birthing stool could be placed underneath me while I was on the bed. At this point I was not breathing productively so I was given the oxygen mask and told to focus. Manitou looked kind of scared and I began to think about the baby, who was crowning at this point, and my focus was immediate. I thought of the birth with each breath and was then told to feel my baby’s head. I could not believe that I would get to hold him soon.
Finnegan woke up and came in the room, then fled and shouted from the hallway that he was concerned. He decided to go downstairs and hang out with my dad once he was told that things we alright. Though I was bleeding quite a bit and at this point yelling we had been preparing him for awhile, watching videos and reading books Toni and Nanci had lent us and he seemed to take it all in stride. Shortly after his exit I finally gave the push that brought our next son into my arms and to my breast.
Finn came back up and my little family sat huddled on our bed with our newest member, Rowan. About twenty minutes later I pushed out the placenta and there was no need for the shot of Pitocin. Nanci showed Finn the placenta and explained to him that this was where his brother had been growing and I was impressed with his interest and maturity. I am happy my older son was able to be such a part of the birth of my younger.
Manitou then took Finn to school while I was examined, Rowan was gently examined under my watchful eye and my tear was stitched. Five years before I had torn where I had been cut delivering Finn and the spot simply could not stretch without re-tearing. I showered and went to the bathroom, ate a big meal and then snuggled up with my new baby and slept for the remainder of the day.
I am afraid this has been a rather longwinded account, I just have so much to say about the matter and it has been enjoyable for me to recollect. Should we find ourselves pregnant again I am sure homebirth will be our choice. Our Rowan is so content and has spent very little time crying or fussing and I’d like to attribute some of that good nature to a gentle birth with no intervention. I am grateful for all that Nanci and Toni taught me along the way and will never forget their support and encouragement.