Our son Taro was born at home at 4:31am on the 8th of January, 2007. We chose the name Taro months before he arrived. It’s a Japanese name that means “first born son” which we found quite appropriate given that he was conceived in Japan and is our first baby.
As soon as we found out I was pregnant, we took a break from our travels in Asia and came to visit my parents, here in Bryan. A friend of my mom’s recommended Toni and we went to visit her the same day. Although she had been up until 5am with a birth, she was bright and cheerful when we arrived at her immaculate and organized home full of well-behaved children of all ages. After seeing her house and family and talking to her, I felt extremely confidant in her abilities to handle any situation and my husband and I dubbed her “Super Woman”.
Toni agreed to work with me from a distance while I continued to travel with my husband until my 7th month of pregnancy. I kept her updated by e-mail and saw her whenever I was in town.
Throughout my whole pregnancy I was impressed with Toni’s calm, accepting and helpful attitude. Of course there were times that I was worried about my baby for one reason or another and Toni always responded in a caring and rational way. I was grateful that she was never pushy, authoritative or judgemental of my slightly alternative choices during pregnancy.
I loved being pregnant, especially the later weeks when my bump was big and everyone would look at me in the way that only pregnant women get looked at. But by the time the 40th week came, I was ready for my baby to be out of my tummy and in my arms. The last week of pregnancy was the hardest, just wondering all the time, when will he come? Will he be too late to be born at home?
On the Friday of my 41st week I began to have contractions. I woke up at 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep. Eventually I woke up my husband, Christian, and he read to me from the Bradley book (not for the first time) about all the different ways labor could start. We started timing the contractions; they were 30 to 50 seconds long and about 8 minutes apart. We couldn’t go back to sleep so we got out of bed and waited for it to get light. As soon as it did, we bundled up and went outside for a walk. I’ll never forget the excitement of that crisp winter morning, watching the sun come up and thinking that today would be the day that our baby was born.
Hours later nothing had changed. I called Tony and she said it was probably false labor. I couldn’t help but be disappointed, and the contractions started to bother me more. As long as I had thought I was in labor I was pleased to have them, imagining that with each one I was getting closer and closer to pushing out my son. But when I realized that my uterus was just practicing, they began to become tiring and I wished they would stop. But they just kept coming, not too strong and not too close together, but steadily for all of the next day. By Saturday night I was really tired of them, and getting emotionally exhausted from constantly being ready to go into labour. I told myself just to forget about it, to try and live a normal life. So we went to see a movie.
The next morning was the same, but finally around 3:00 that afternoon the contractions started getting closer together. I tried not to let myself get excited again, but when we started timing the contractions we found they were longer and closer together and my husband finally convinced me to let myself believe that I was in labor. I wasn’t excited like I had been two mornings before. By now I was just ready to get it over with. I held a hot water bottle to my abdomen and read a book, stopping every six minutes or so to breathe through a contraction. They got more and more uncomfortable, and around 8:00pm I decided to take a bath. I spent two hours in the tub and they were by far the best hours of my labor. In the warm water the contractions didn’t hurt much at all. We even thought that we wouldn’t need to call Toni until the next morning. But when I finally got out of the water they were much more painful and intense and we called Toni and asked her to come right away.
For much of the night I laboured on the toilet. The baby was pushing on my bladder and I had to pee after every contraction. We had the lights off and candles lit. Christian was with me, rubbing my back and handing me water to drink every few minutes. My dad was right outside the bathroom window digging a hole for a little Live Oak sapling we had bought to plant with Taro’s placenta. It was kind of surreal sitting on the toilet, labouring away, listening to the sound of my dad’s shovel in the garden.
Toni and Nanci arrived around 11pm, set up and then, for the most part, sat in the living room and let me get on with it in the bathroom. They came in every fifteen minutes or so to listen to the baby’s heart rate. I was so uncomfortable by this point that even that minor interference bothered me and I was grateful not to be in a hospital where I would have been interfered with even more.
At 1am I had to move to the bed so that Toni could measure my cervix. It was at 9cm. I felt encouraged that I had come so far. This won’t be so bad, I thought. Only one more centimeter to go! Well, getting that little piece of cervix over the baby’s head was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It felt like it took a lifetime, endless minutes of squeezing; each contraction stronger and more painful than the next. I gave up all pretence of relaxing and staying calm. I felt like a wild animal, flailing around in a desperate attempt to find a comfortable position, grunting, groaning and crying out when I couldn’t stand it. Christian did his best to calm me down and thanks to him I remembered to breathe through the contractions. But every time Toni felt inside me it was the same; “still just a little lip of cervix” that refused to budge. I told myself with absolute certainty that if I made it through this alive I would never, ever do it again. In retrospect, the worst part was not the pain; that would have been manageable if only I could have been sure that there would be an end in the very near future. Because I was physically and emotionally exhausted from the days of false labor, by the 12th hour of my real labor I felt sure I would not have the energy to go on for much longer. Fortunately I didn’t have to. At 3:01 by Toni’s notes (I had no concept of time) the “cervical lip was clear”. I was free to push. I had been hoping through the whole of the transition phase that the pushing phase would be completely different, that it wouldn’t hurt. It did feel better to push, but it was still painful. At one point I made the mistake of asking Toni how long the pushing phase would last. “Anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours.”
I started out pushing on the birthing stool with Christian behind me for physical and moral support. But the position I was in was constricting the baby and his heart rate started to decelerate. I saw Toni and Nanci look at each other and Toni told me that if it didn’t go up we’d have to go to the hospital. They gave me oxygen and I changed position until we found one that allowed his heart rate to go back up: nothing but absolutely perpendicular would do. I was so relieved because I could not have imagined going anywhere with a baby squeezing out of my birth canal.
To maintain a perpendicular position involved upright squatting with Christian holding me from behind, his arms looped under my shoulders. Each time I contracted I would groan and let out a yell and he would join in shouting “C’mon Kellie”! I felt like I was training for the army. At one point Toni told me to reach in and feel my baby’s head. It was right there, only an inch or so inside. I teared up a little, touching my boy for the first time, but I was too uncomfortable to get too emotional, and another contraction came, taking my focus away. The louder I yelled, the easier it was, and in between I just tried to catch my breath. Finally, at 4:30 am, the final push came. I could feel his head and shoulders stretching my skin and I cried out “what’s happening?!?” even though I knew the answer. “You’re birthing your baby” Toni said, and seconds later he slipped out. I felt so relieved, and so tired, I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep, but Toni handed me my little son and I told myself, “hold him to your breast and look him in the eye”. He latched on right away and started sucking. I just looked down at him, so grateful to be holding him, and he looked up at me with his dark eyes lined with red stork bites. He had a little cone head, just like I did when I was born.
Now, 11 weeks later all of this seems like a dream and it’s hard to believe that such a drama played out in the same room we sleep in so peacefully every night. Little Taro is a great nurser, which I attribute to the fact that he was able to nurse seconds after being born and barely left my arms for the whole of that day. I feel so fortunate that we decided to have him in the comfort of our home and that we were put in touch with Toni and her excellent assistant Nanci. I am so grateful to both of them for pursuing the field of midwifery and for helping us to bring or son into the world.