Our second son, Maddox, was born on February 11th. I’m a little bit behind on writing and posting this, but I promised there would be a blog post about his (CIRCLE ONE: exciting/scary/unpredictable/ridiculous/epic) birth story in which he was delivered unassisted (and unpredictably) at home.
First, before we go any further, let me say a few things to anyone reading this: This is a very personal post. I’m not one to bring my personal life to the blog much writing wise, so forgive me for the interruption in the usual blog. This is frankly the best outlet I could think of in which to share the story!
And secondly: I’m going to write this without being too overly graphic with the details. However, there is going to be some writing about (guess what?) BIRTH related things (gasp!) that might make some, specifically those who are not familiar with the process, a little squeamish.
So, let’s get going, shall we? For those of you who want just some straight up answers, here are the common questions I’ve gotten from the beginning:
WHAT?! You had him at home?!
Yep! He was born in Marshall’s (my oldest son’s) bedroom.
Did you plan a home birth?
No, we were planning on birthing our child at Inanna Birth Center in Denton, TX.
Did you not know you were in labor?! How did this happen?!
Yes, I knew I was in labor, but with most births, the laboring process can take 12-36 hours including early labor. With our first son, I was in labor for a total of 20-21 hours. This time? THREE AND A HALF HOURS. We weren’t expecting a baby for at least another 8-12 hours.
Why did you not go to the hospital?!? (during labor or after the baby was born)
I hate this question, honestly, as it’s sometimes unknowingly loaded with the insinuation that we made unsafe choices. It’s hard to explain to those who are unfamiliar with the process of stages of labor and natural childbirth and birth centers. So there are two parts to this answer: First, we never planned to go to a hospital. We were going to deliver at a birth center naturally and safely while overlooked by a midwife. And second, after the birth, we opted out of the hospital. Why? The paramedics who arrived determined the baby was healthy, I was healthy, everyone was in pristine condition. Why would I go to a hospital if the baby or I weren’t ill? If we had given birth at the birth center, the midwife would go through all the usual checks to ensure we were both doing well and eventually send us home. So, after getting the clean bill of health from the paramedics, we decided to just continue with our birth center plans from there.
Okay, so on with the story!
On the 11th, I woke up as I usually did around 1:30am or so. I had a lot of problems with some insomnia and discomfort later on in my third trimester, so it wasn’t unusual for me. I couldn’t fall back to sleep, so I simply did what I normally do: I played stupid apps on my phone. COMPLETELY defeating the purpose of trying to fall back asleep. And I’m talking stupid stuff too, like zombie infecting games and Candy Crush and browsing Reddit.
Around 2:30am I decided that I needed to give it up and actually try to fall asleep. I put my phone away, cuddled up with Marshall (who still sleeps in our bed), and tried willing myself back to sleep with closed eyes. A little before 3:00am, I was juuuuust starting to drift into what COULD have been sleep when I had what I thought MIGHT be a contraction. No big deal, I thought. Just annoying, really. I’d been having tons of Braxton Hicks over the last week or more, so I found it more just an inconvenience that I was FINALLY falling asleep and now THIS was starting.
Another one came, and then my adrenaline hit when the third came, almost perfectly spaced from the first two. “Oh shit,” I thought, “PLEASE don’t be in labor… I didn’t get enough sleep for this!” I closed my eyes, pretending to distance myself from anything that could be perceived as labor, all the while trying to make silent deals with my baby-to-be. Asking him to just hold off another day so I can actually sleep, and promising, PROMISING that I won’t spend precious sleeping hours playing stupid games on my phone.
Then the fourth contraction came, and I simultaneously decided to start timing them and to get into the bath to see if these were the real deal or if they were simply the Braxton Hicks I was used to.
Around 3:30am, I was in the tub in early labor, browsing Facebook and wishing someone was online to chat with. No dice, so I sent my first texts out: One to my mother and one to my sister, telling them that I was 95% sure that I was starting labor. Just to give them a heads up. My mother, the nightowl/light sleeper that she is, responded immediately asking what I needed from her. “Nothing”, I texted, “I just wanted to tell someone. We’ll probably be heading to the birth center around 7am. Get some sleep because I can’t!”
That was my whole thing: I didn’t want to wake anyone up at 3 or 4am when they could be sleeping. After all, I was just in early labor! No need to make everyone ELSE tired along with me. I told myself that I would wait until 6am to contact all the people I needed to contact: my midwife, my doula, my birth photographer/videographer, and my family. I hadn’t even woken my husband, Zach, until I decided to get out of the tub around 4:00am.
Zach asked the same thing my mother did, “What can I do?” And my answer was the same: Get some sleep. Seriously, this was my main concern. I didn’t want to bother everyone when at that moment, I really was fine. I decided to get into the shower and wash my hair and shave my legs. No, really. Those were my priorities at the moment.
While I was in the shower, I got too anxious and decided to text my doula, Veronica. For those of you unfamiliar with what a doula is, just think about it as a birth assistant in a way. For me, it was really an emotional and psychological support system to help me through another natural labor. Veronica was super helpful and urged me to go try to lay down and rest, not walk around, go and eat and drink while I was able. We both were prepared for a possible “fast” labor (and by that, we thought 8 hours would be ridiculously fast), so she asked if I had lost my mucous plug or had a bloody show yet (both signs of a progressing labor prior to water breaking). I hadn’t really thought of it, but no, neither of those yet.
Around 4:45am I decided to take Veronica’s advice and lay down. Contractions were now a little more noticeable, and I was using them to practice my breathing techniques for when the hard stuff comes. Then a couple of more intense contractions hit and caught me off guard a little. I started to write Veronica a text message saying so, but didn’t send it as I thought I was obviously being overdramatic. I decided to lay down in Marshall’s bed (he was asleep in our bed, after all), and another pretty painful contraction hit. “What the CRAP,” I thought. “I forgot how painful labor is! I’m not taking this very well for being so early!!” I must have made some noises, as Zach was up and checking on me in an instant.
This was about the time that things REALLY started getting painful. I asked Zach to lay behind me and hold me. The moment he put his arms around me, I started crying. Mostly because I was scared because of how much it was hurting already, and I had such a long way to go still. The pain was really getting serious, and I was so very confused on WHY. I chalked it up to me just forgetting how painful it was the first time, and really tried to buckle down on my pain coping techniques. I texted Veronica again (screenshot on the side) and she decided to start getting ready to head our way. At this point, it was around 5:30am.
Zach was walking me through my breathing, we were listening to my guided meditation/birth tracks. And a note for other moms: Birth hypnosis/meditation music tracks will really help. Funny note: at one point, the playlist started playing Zach’s songs and began an O.A.R. album. “What the hell is this?” I asked him, and he laughed and said, “AN AWESOME BAND.” and started singing along. At the time? Not so amused. Looking back? Of course it’s hilarious.
My recollection of things starts getting a little blurry at this point. In hindsight, it’s because I was in active labor. I was focusing so much on the contractions, but really? There weren’t many left. At this point, still no mucous plug, no bloody show, no water broken. In my mind, we’re maaaaaaybe probably just now transitioning out of early labor, so we asked my mom to come over to the house. We wanted her to watch Marshall while we started getting things ready to head to the birth center.
In retrospect, this is the time we should have called the midwife to let her know we were on our way. We live 40 minutes from the birth center, and the midwives all have mentioned a few times that they prefer not if we give them a call while in early labor. They’d rather us wait until things are getting a little serious and then call. This is because early labor can last hours and hours before contractions start getting serious, and even after that it can take hours and hours. It’s best to labor in your own home where you can be comfortable and rest easier. (Seriously, though, ladies: Even though this story might scare you into thinking otherwise, spend your early labor hours at home! Rest! Eat! Drink! It will be a long day, no need to rush off to the birth center or hospital!)
We didn’t call the midwife, though. In both my and my husband’s mind, we were just starting a very long day. The doula was on her way and so was my mother, both would be arriving soon enough. Honestly, it was a very, very good thing that we didn’t call the midwife or have the doula or my mother come earlier. Let’s say we had everyone come 30 minutes earlier than we did, around 5:30-5:45. It would have taken us 5-10 minutes to load up in the car if we were lucky. The drive, as I mentioned above, is about 40 minutes, 30 minutes if you are speeding. So, by that math, and the timing as you will see in the rest of this story, we would have had the baby on the side of the I35. I don’t know about you, but an unassisted birth in a bed at home sounds a lot more appealing than one in the car on the side of a highway!
5:45am-ish, I decided to get back in the tub to try and calm down the contractions. They were getting more intense now, but I was able to talk after they were over. Zach held my hand through each contraction, letting me squeeze the dog crap out of him while he coached me to “breeeeeeeeathe, Miranda, you have to breeeeathe… there you go…” all while telling me how awesome I was doing and trying to keep me calm. I was starting to get a little amped up because, frankly, I was scared of how low my pain threshold was. Looking back now, considering I was probably dilated to a 8 or 9 at that point (if not a 10), I was a freaking CHAMPION. But I digress? Haha…
All of the sudden while in the tub, I had two INTENSE contractions. Zach’s tone was getting more stern now, telling me to breathe, stop holding my breath, calm down, it’s okay, etc. etc. I imagine from his point of view, it seemed like I was being a bit dramatic. I had been in labor for less than three hours… If I had seen a girl in hour three of labor acting like I was? I would have probably told her to calm down and realize that it’s not that big of a deal just yet. It was at this point that I noticed I was doing some of the same things I had done while in labor with Marshall, our first son. It’s hard to explain, but in the last hour of labor with our first, I did this head bobbing/side-to-side motion over and over again like a crazy person. It’s all I could do to try and cope with the pain of the contractions. And there, in the tub, I realized all of the sudden that I was doing those same movements without realizing it. It was in that moment there that I actually thought, “Holy shit… I think I’m in the transitional stage of labor…”
I tried to push it out of my mind and lay back in the tub, telling myself to KEEP IT TOGETHER and TAKE CONTROL of what was happening. I was giving myself a bit of tough love, and even said outloud to Zach, “I can’t do this! It’s too much, I can’t! I can’t!” and Zach, still being such my husband, jokingly said, “Well, you’re going to have to! It’s happening either way!”
The doula called around this time to check in (she was a 30 minute drive away), and at that point, I had the most intense, crazy, insane contraction yet. As Zach described it, I “bowed up” out of the tub, my whole body coming up out of the water. And then I had it: the urge to push. And I was scared. I was really scared because I knew that feeling, and I know there’s no stopping it. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of a natural childbirth (or medicated, I’m not sure), when it’s time to have the baby, your body takes over and starts forcing you to push. You can’t stop it, you can’t delay it. In a scientific sense, it really amazes me how much your body takes over during labor to do the right thing. You are just along for the ride.
Zach watched on in horror and started yelling, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? ARE YOU PUSHING?? STOP PUSHING!! STOP PUSHING!!” Immediately, I stood up out of the tub. “I have to get out of the tub, it’s making everything so much worse!!” In my mind, I thought that the tub was making me feel as if I were in the late stages of labor. About an hour prior, I was getting out of the shower and deciding to lay down to rest. I was playing on my phone to pass the time between very mild contractions. Now, I was trying to logically deduce WHAT was going on, so the only thing I could think of was the tub was causing the intense contractions (go figure).
I told Zach to help me into the other room before I had another contraction. I had yelled and cried out during my last contraction, and we were in the master bathroom with Marshall in our bed just feet away. I was so worried about waking him up! I wanted to get out of the room and away from him before I had another contraction, did something loud, and woke him up. So I marched to Marshall’s room and fell onto the bed, trying to relax and tell myself everything was going to stop now that I was out of the tub and now laying down.
At this point, my mother had arrived and Zach had left me in the room to let her in. When she came into Marshall’s room, I was mid-contraction, yelling, writhing on the bed, still wet from the bath. Imagine her thoughts as she walked in, seeing me still in “early labor”, expecting to see me sitting on the couch and watching TV, maybe swaying a little with each contraction. “Miranda, you need to calm down.” She was using her stern mommy voice. “Sweetheart, BREATHE. It’s OKAY. Calm down.” Again, knowing now what we know (that I was about 7-10 minutes from giving birth), it seems a little harsh. But with the knowledge that we had then, it was fitting.
I reached down at this point as I had tried to keep in an urge to push with that last contraction, and I felt my baby’s head crowning. I literally. felt. his. head. At this point, I had already accepted that I was probably going to give birth at home. It was somewhere after that first urge to push and that last contraction, I just KNEW that it was happening. I wasn’t really scared. I was panicked? But I had already given birth naturally before and had an uncomplicated pregnancy, I had no particular reason to NOT trust my body at this point. I knew that it was going to be okay. I knew that, even if I was at home alone by myself, my body would do it all exactly as it should.
Luckily, though, I wasn’t alone. And luckily, my mother was there. Zach was rushing around, gathering things up (and just overall panicking as reaction to the amount of pain I was in), and it was just me and my mother in the room. As I had touched the baby’s head (seriously, guys, imagine being at home with no midwife or medical supervision and feeling the actual head of your baby crowning… the adrenaline!!), I yelled to my mother, “THE BABY IS COMING!!” to which she responded again in her calm, stern voice, “Miranda. You need to calm down and take a deep breath. You need to relax.” To which I responded, “I CAN FEEL THE BABY!! I CAN FEEL THE BABY!!”
Again, my mom, being the cool, calm, and collected person she is (and also it being 6am and probably not wanting to put up with this overdramatic crap right now), seemed to interpret my being able to “feel the baby” as possibly just a sensation from contractions. She again urged me to collect myself. This is when I screamed (probably angrily), “I CAN FEEL THE BABY WITH MY HANDS. HE’S RIGHT THERE. I CAN FEEL HIS HEAD!!” Then, I think, this is the only moment when my mother actually had a moment of freaking out. She turned on the lights and saw that, indeed, the baby was coming. I feel like Zach had known already, honestly, and when he saw everything with the lights on, he went into full-blown ZACH mode, which is so hard to describe to anyone who doesn’t know Zach. He was on the phone calling 911, looking outside for Veronica to usher her in, pacing around the house frantically gathering towels, all while checking in on Marshall to ensure he was still asleep.
I felt the next contraction, looked around and realized that I was alone while Zach and Mom were trying to gather towels (and gather THEMSELVES). I felt that extreme need to push and started SCREAMING, “HELP!! HELP!! HELP!! HELP ME!! HELP!!” over and over and over again. I worried so much all of the sudden about waking up Marshall, but knew that Zach could handle him waking up if needed. My mother came running in, drying her hands from washing, her sleeves rolled up. I think I started yelling something over and over and over again, like “I’m having the baby! I’m having the baby!” all while Zach is pacing at the door like a 1950’s husband saying “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD.”
My mom? She said in a cool, calm voice, “Okay Sweetie, we’re going to have this baby.”
Y’all. My mom is a rock star. If any of you told me you’d have kept your cool like she did, and not be running around screaming, I will call you a liar. When we hear stories and watch movies, we always say, “Psssh… I wouldn’t do that. I totally would have (INSERT HEROIC ACTION HERE).” But let’s be real: We’re human. We react like humans. We freak out and we panic and we cry and we pee our pants from fear. Okay, maybe not that last part so much, but if it were me on my mother’s or Zach’s end? I would be sitting there yelling, “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD WHAT DO I DO OH MY GOD!!” The entire time, she talked to me in a calm, steady voice, letting me know everything that was happening along the way.
I would tell her, “I feel another one coming on!” and, as I was pushing, would scream and scream and scream. A lot of women who naturally birth can do so with what I feel like are minimal sounds. I have learned, through my first natural birth and this one: I cannot. I scream. And when I say scream, I mean I make literal screams that I cannot recreate in any other situation, aside from possibly being murdered. Speaking of this, while Zach was pacing between our bedroom to check on Marshall, Marshall’s room to check on us, and the front yard to hurry the doula in and wave down the coming ambulance, our next door neighbor came jogging to our house. He told Zach that he had heard the screams and wanted to know what was going on, that everything was okay.
I’m pretty sure my neighbor thought I was either being murdered or having the baby. It probably doesn’t help that I had screamed, “HELP!! HELP ME!!” at some point. It’s awesome that our neighbor is so concerned! He even helped wave down the ambulance when it came. But back to the story…
Zach told me later that he was almost hyperventilating while on the phone with 911, and the woman on the other end said, “Sir, you need to calm down and take a breath.” to which he responded, “I’M TAKING LOTS OF BREATHS!!” My poor husband. He admitted to me afterward that, while checking outside to wave down the ambulance and/or doula, he actually puked in our front yard. He’s like the cartoon version of a husband who’s wife was in labor, haha!
My mother was on the phone with 911 as well, and was explaining everything as it happened in such a calm manner that it sounded as if she were describing different paint color choices. She would let me know, “Okay, one more Sweetie, and his head will be out. One more…” She really kept me sane through the process. I was panicked, but I was able to gather myself to focus on pushing and getting through it.
Another funny note: During birth, when the baby’s head is coming out, usually it’s a “two steps forward, one step back” type of ordeal. After I had pushed through a contraction, I felt the his head recede a little, and I yelled angrily at my mother, “WHY ARE YOU PUSHING HIM BACK IN?! STOP PUSHING HIM BACK IN!!” Which, yes, as I said it I realized how much of a freaking idiotic thought it is to have. But cut me some slack, I was giving birth, haha.
Once the head was fully delivered, there was a huge gush of water. Later that morning, the midwife explained that my water had probably broken while he was crowning, and then actually rushed out after his head was out of the way. (TMI? Oh well, you ARE reading a blog about birth after all…) After that, I knew it was all easy from there. The shoulders are hard, but after everything else, it’s not AS hard. Mom was telling me everything: Cord was free from the neck, fluid was clear looking, his mouth was clear. And then it was one last push and he was out.
She didn’t hesitate to hand him to me, and I started asking over and over, “Is he okay? Is he okay? Is he okay?” And then before he even reached my hands, I heard him making noises. Once I heard him, I knew everything was going to be all right. I kept asking my mother, “Does he look okay? Is he okay?” and at this point I realized that she was on the phone with 911, double checking all of the signs they asked her.
It was amazing. It was really, really amazing. I was holding my baby against me. My red and purple splotchy baby, covered in a light film of vernix, his umbilical cord still attached. Still part of me. He was healthy and breathing. Zach was there, asking if he was okay, if I was okay, if everything was okay. Still pacing, still on the phone, still panicked, still totally and utterly my husband, the extreme worrier, and I love him for it.
I looked at our new son, and I said, “Man. You are a fat baby!!” Haha! Considering that Marshall was six and a half pounds, this almost NINE POUND baby seemed like a 3 month old to me! At that time, I don’t know really what was happening, as I was just looking in awe of Maddox, unbelieving. Not believing that I just birthed this beautiful, perfect little baby. Not believing that all of that just happened.
Within a couple minutes, Veronica arrived with a smile on her face. “You couldn’t wait, could you?” and we both had a laugh. She went through herself to check everything with the baby and also myself, and within probably five minutes the paramedics had arrived. They confirmed everything was great, stuck around until the placenta was delivered (which took about 45 minutes as my body stopped contracting and kind of “shut down” due to the situation with the paramedics). After much debate between them, me, and Veronica over trying to get me into an ambulance and also the hospital, they finally agreed that, no, there actually wasn’t a reason to go to the hospital over our birth center. The baby was healthy, looking great, I was healthy and had nothing that needed attention, so we decided to pack up and head to the birth center to have the midwife and birth assistant there go through all of the usual after-birth processes.
So that’s it. That’s Maddox’s birth story. It was so unreal at the time, and Zach and I kept saying over and over and over again that day, “I can’t believe this happened…” It still seems like maybe I dreamed the entire thing up as the story is so dramatic compared to a normal birth. Sometimes, though, I hold Maddox’s head to my cheek, and I can still feel his newness right after birth. His sticky vernix, his little cries. I lay in the flannel sheets of my son’s bed and can still feel the sense accomplishment of having birthed a baby unassisted on that full size bed. I feel love for my husband for the sheer amount of panic and worry that he went through, not knowing if everyone was going to be okay. I feel a very big sense of pride from my mother delivering her own grandchild, and doing it in a way as if it’s just another Wednesday morning for her.
I didn’t get the birth I had spent months (and even months before pregnancy) planning. Sometimes, this makes me a little sad. I didn’t have the beautiful water birth I had planned. There were no candles lit, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate some of the gifts given to me from my blessingway. My sister wasn’t there, as she and I had so, so, SO hoped to be. And, there are no photos. No video. We grabbed my camera after the paramedics had come, but nothing before or during.
I had wanted so very much to have a beautiful, sentimental video from the birth, so incredibly much. It was a huge priority for me, so I’ve had some sadness over missing out on that. However, if someone asked me if I wanted to trade the option for photos and videos for this amazing life experience and sense of pride for this birth story? I would do it.
I would totally, totally do it again.
There aren’t many photos from directly after the birth, but at least we were lucky enough to get some!
We are so lucky to have such great friends (who are also photographers), the Mikells. Chris, one part of the dynamic duo, met us at the birth center and captured some of the first moments of Maddox’s life, and I’m so eternally grateful. So here’s a crap ton of pictures to go along with the massive amount of text you just read through.
Jeez. I love this man so damn much… How lucky am I!
Thank you all for all of your kind words and compliments. A lot of people have said so, so many awesome things and I really appreciate it. I can’t tell you how much it means to me when someone calls me a “superwoman” or say I’m their “hero”. It feels weird, because it was really my body that did everything, and my mom who delivered the baby. All I did was try to manage my own pain and listen to my body when it was trying to tell me it was time to have this baby.
I’m extremely proud of our little family and am so grateful for all of you who have taken time to compliment me for this crazy birth. It feels so odd as afterward, it felt just like it was a normal experience to have.
If anyone has any questions or is curious about anything else with my story, or even curious about natural birth/using a midwife/doulas/etc., please, please do not hesitate to ask. I’m an open book and overly willing to share!
Thanks for reading!