Randalin, from Harvesting Kale, has become one of my most favorite blogging mamas and friends. She’s an incredible writer, which is hard not to notice in her writing of Kale’s birth. Randalin is mama to baby Kale, such a sweet boy with great hair and a beautiful smile! This home birth story is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read and Randalin’s account of it is incredibly encouraging and moving. Click HERE to see more incredible photos from this birth.
On Thursday May 6th, three days before my due date, I woke up after dreaming all night about having contractions. I went to the bathroom and noticed a bit of blood – my first sign that labour might be starting soon! I continued to feel crampy all day, but was hesitant to get too excited knowing that labour could still be many days away. Kris was working out of town, but was expected to be home that evening and so I kept him updated but tried to play it cool. I just didn’t want us to get too excited! I went ahead and had lunch with a co-worker and spent the afternoon sipping tea and catching up with my neighbour.
At around 5pm I went to the bathroom and saw what I thought was part of my mucus plug. Luckily Kris was already on his way home. I know that losing your mucus plug doesn’t necessarily mean labour is going to begin soon, but along with the cramps, I started to really believe that the baby could be on its way.
Once Kris got home we picked up a bottle of wine and went out for dinner where I ordered the spiciest item on the menu. We left the restaurant around 9pm and this is when I noticed that my cramps were getting more regular and a bit more intense. I continued to play it down and tell Kris that it was just cramps, but then he pointed out they were coming every 10 minutes. I think he realized I was in early labour before I accepted it myself!
When we got home we started to get things ready for our home birth “just in case.” We set up the spare room with all the supplies – plastic sheeting on the bed, old sheets, and plenty of towels. We then put in some laundry and did a quick clean of the house. We had our wine and I took a gravol, but sleep still wasn’t possible. By this time I knew that my cramps were really contractions, since they were coming every ten minutes and with increasing intensity. Every time I had a contraction I would have to get up to pee. I didn’t think it was possible to pee every 10 minutes, but that’s exactly what happened all night long.
On Friday May 7th we got up around 7am. I hadn’t slept for more than 10 minutes at a time and as a result of my getting up so often, Kris didn’t get much sleep either. Around 10am I went to the bathroom and there was a gush of bright red blood. I called our midwife, Leslie, to let her know and she decided to come and check in on me. She got there about an hour later and after a quick check, told me that I was 2-3 cm and very soft and she expected that we would have a baby that day! Even though I knew it was labour, I was still a little shocked to hear that it would be so soon!
Leslie gave me a shot of gravol to help me get some sleep since I was exhausted from the night before and knew I had a lot of hard work ahead of me. Once Leslie left we called our Doula, Monique, to let her know and then I tried to lie down and get some rest. Kris went out and got a few last minute things and I curled up in bed and listened to some music. I didn’t manage to get any sleep, but was able to rest. Kris came home with the McDonalds I was craving, but I couldn’t get much down. The combination of contractions and excitement made for a very queasy tummy.
At 2pm we started to fill the birth pool up since my contractions were getting more intense. We weren’t sure how long it would take to fill the pool so even though I wasn’t ready to get in, we wanted to have it filled just in case. We called Monique and asked her to come over at that point. While we were waiting, we heard the cat rustling around with the plastic tarp that was covering the filled pool, followed by a splash and then a wet cat running by! It was good to have a laugh!
When Monique got there I got into the pool for a little bit and immediately felt better. Our hot water tank is not the best, so the water wasn’t as warm as I’d like, but the buoyancy was a great help. I was feeling my contractions a lot in my back, hips and thighs and the water really helped to ease that. Monique suggested that I get out of the pool since it was still early in my labour and the water was slowing down my contractions. Kris was also able to sneak a nap in at this time while Monique and I took a slow walk around the block in the pouring rain. I felt bad dragging Monique out in the bad weather, but I need to walk. When we got back I sat on the birthing ball in the living room while listening to some music and eating a sandwich. My contractions were erratic at this point. They would be 4-5 min. apart for awhile, and then they would be 10 min. We were timing the contractions with the aid of a stop watch on the computer and every time one started I would yell for someone to click on the start button. At this point walking around helped the most, even though we have a small house and there isn’t much room to walk!
By 5pm I was back in the pool with regular contractions. I was on all fours in the pool with my arms and head resting on the edge. Kris sat on a chair beside the pool and every time I had a contraction I would grab his hands, look into his eyes and moan. He was an unbelievable support and so much stronger than either of us expected! Monique reminded me to keep hydrated and gave us a few suggestions for trying different positions. I felt so relaxed and in control at this point that when Monique asked us if we wanted to call the midwives I told her no. My contractions were 4-5 min. apart and gaining in intensity so Monique convinced us to give Leslie a call (later Monique admitted that she was getting worried that we were waiting too long to call the midwives and thought we might just have the baby ourselves!).
Leslie arrived and then a short while later, Marissa, a new student with the midwife clinic. It was my first time meeting her – naked in the pool and moaning with every contraction. Leslie and Marissa set up their equipment in the spare bedroom and Monique and Kris continued to help me through the contractions. I have to say it again – Kris was amazing. When our eyes locked during a contraction I seriously felt like it was just him and I in the room and I had this overwhelming sense of connection with him that I’d never felt before.
Leslie checked me around 7pm and I was 7-8 cm! She called the back up midwife, Gabrielle, and I knew this meant that the hardest part was about to come. Gabrielle came around 8pm and by this time my contractions were coming very quickly and were very intense. I was so exhausted!! Meanwhile, an incredible thunder and lightning storm raged outside and I remember worrying about what would happen if the power went out.
The atmosphere was so relaxed. The lights were down low, the midwives were sitting on the floor leaned up against the wall, Monique was snapping some pictures and Kris helped me work through the contractions. Despite everyone’s relaxed attitude, I was getting louder and louder with every contraction and withering in pain in the pool. Despite the intensity of the contractions I still felt as though the pain was manageable and I was managing to rest between contractions, refocus and let go of the pain before the next one started.
Shortly after Gabrielle arrived, it was time for me to start pushing. Unlike everything I read I didn’t get the urge to push. Before the labour I had told our midwives that I wanted to push when I felt like pushing but at the moment I was so thankful for their coaching because I don’t know if I ever would have pushed!
I tried a few different positions, but found that sitting on the birthing stool in the pool was the easiest way for me to bear down and push. With every contraction the midwives asked me to give three good pushes – pushing for as long and as hard as possible. After a while I felt as though I couldn’t push anymore. I was so tired and every muscle in my body felt depleted. Up to this point, the pain has been manageable, but the pushing stage was another story. I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep my noises low and open and they started to turn into screams of despair and pleas for the midwives to do something – anything! – to get the baby out. Unfortunately there was nothing they could do – it was all up to me.
Kris originally sat outside the pool directly in front of me, but as my pain intensified I saw his eyes fill with tears and I knew that watching me in that amount of pain was shaking his strength. He decided to move behind me where he could hold me and I could lean into him with every push.
After an hour and a half of pushing, Leslie had me reach down and feel the top of the baby’s head. I think at this point I screamed, “I don’t want to feel him, I just want him out!!” Despite the fact that he was so close, I felt like it was going to be impossible to get him to come the rest of the way. While Kris tried to hold me from behind, Gabrielle had my left leg and Marissa and Monique had my right leg. Leslie thought she was going to have to hop in the pool because I was floating way from her as I begged them all to let me go! I was starting to panic and Gabrielle sensed it because she grabbed me by the chin and forced me to look directly at her and told me that I had to focus and listen to Leslie. It was exactly what I needed.
After a few more pushes, I felt an overwhelming pressure and then a giant sense of relief as his head came out. Looking down into the water, I could make out his head and had to stop pushing while the midwives moved the cord and seconds later, he slipped right out and was on my chest. It was an unbelievable moment of love, combined with sheer exhaustion and elation that it was over.
That moment was the most awesome moment of my entire life.
We were so incredibly lucky to be able to have that moment together as a family. Kale let out a couple quick cries, but nestled quickly against my chest. Kris had his arms around us and I felt as though no one else in the world existed besides us three. It was so incredibly powerful.
I had to get out of the tub pretty quickly since the water temperature had dropped and they wanted to get us both warmed up. Kris held on to Kale while I made my way over to the bed to deliver the placenta.
In the next couple of hours, Kale and I were both checked out, I delivered the placenta and received a few stitches. The whole time Kale was getting checked over right beside me and as soon as they were finished, he was in my arms. I took a quick shower, ate some peanut butter and toast, called my mom and the midwives helped me get started with breastfeeding. Meanwhile, Kris and Monique emptied the birth pool, set up our bed and did the laundry. By 12:30pm, only three hours after Kale was born, the midwives and doula had tucked Kris, Kale and I into bed together with some last minute instructions and then we were alone.
I cannot convey how incredibly grateful I am that we had such an amazing birth experience. I am so moved to tell this story a thousand times because it has become such a defining moment in my life. I’ve had some pretty great things happen to me in my 30 years. But a natural home waterbirth? Nothing tops that.