Monday, January 24, 2011

The Smiler's Birth Story (A Pure, Unassisted Birth)

Warning:  This is "graphic", contains information you may not have known about me and may not wish to know about me that I feel no responsibility to explain and is rather lengthy.  Read at your discretion and stop if you're not enjoying it.

April 18, 2010 was the last night we slept in our familiar old trailer. I was heavily pregnant so, though I've always felt a little nostalgic and sad when moving, it was magnified by third trimester hormonal emotions. It was hard to say good-bye to the old gal who'd afforded us shelter those past three and a half years. As we'd been trying to sell for a while, we accepted an offer with a fast possession date and had to move sooner than we'd expected (but later than we'd wanted to - we couldn't pass up the opportunity, though). My estimated due date was May 30 and I was adamant I wanted to be moved in to a new home and settled as soon as possible before the baby came which didn't give us much time. We called my husband's aunt and uncle, who are realtors, and started the search immediately. In the meanwhile we were to stay with my parents. I had a big argument with my mother, though, and at the last minute we decided it would be better to stay with my in-laws who live in Beausejour, about 45 minutes outside the city.

We were fortunate enough to find a house fairly quickly and the older couple who lived there obliged us with a quick possession date of May 5 which was a Wednesday. We planned to get in there on the week nights and do a little fixing up and cleaning and then move our stuff (which was in a storage trailer) in on the weekend. I was to finish out that week at work and begin my maternity leave the next week so I could start unpacking slowly and get ready for the baby. People often joked about the baby coming early and we kept saying as long as he waited until after we moved we'd be fine.

On Tuesday night, the 4th of May, we laid down on our mattress on the basement floor of my in-laws' house at about 10:00pm, snuggled a while, watched a little TV, kissed and went to sleep. I woke up at around 12:00am feeling kind of "funny". I thought I would go have a pee and as I got up I felt a little gush of fluid. In denial, I figured it was maybe a large amount of discharge or some mucous plug or, well, pretty much anything except my water breaking because I just couldn't even process that possibility. I went to the washroom and only a little bit more clear fluid leaked out so, after fending off a panic attack and thinking about it a while I decided maybe there was a small hole in the amniotic sac and hoped it would heal itself (as I'd read could happen) since I wasn't having any rushes. I went back to bed but a few minutes after laying down I started to feel fluid leaking out again. As I sat up more flowed out and I had to run to the washroom, hands bunching my nightgown between my legs, trying to avoid getting the carpet wet on the way. I sat on the toilet and as soon as I did I felt my baby's head settle downward more and the fluid stopped leaking. I could feel the volume of my belly was a little less, though - things weren't as taught as they'd been moments before. I was starting to feel panicky again... This wasn't the plan, this wasn't how things were supposed to go. I was supposed to give birth at home with my husband at my side, in my little pool (in three weeks or more) just the way I'd fantasized about it all those months. It seemed there was no way that was going to happen now. I lamented at the thought while still trying to come up with a way to have this baby on our terms (i.e. not going to the hospital). While planning how things would happen with the move we had briefly talked about going to a hotel or something if we absolutely had to but never gotten further than that because we thought baby would come at term or late, if anything (as this was my first pregnancy I assumed I'd make it to at least 40 weeks, especially as my mother and grandmother had long pregnancies, too). Yet here I sat, on the toilet in my in-laws' basement, water broken, scared, frustrated and sad, wondering if I had it in me to give birth in a hotel room or a hospital or my in-laws' basement, for that matter... What would we say about where we were going if we went to a hotel? They were sure to be suspicious. If we said we were going to the hospital my mother in law was sure to get impatient quickly and want to head over there, too and then she'd find we weren't there. We could go to the new house but there was nothing there and his parents were supposed to go there to paint a room for us (as a housewarming gift) in the morning - how could we get rid of them? I didn't know the answer to these or any of the other questions swirling around my mind as a light rush rolled over me. I stood up and looked up at the ceiling, closed my eyes and tearfully said, "Please, whoever or whatever you are out there, Master of the Universe, Jesus, Alla, Buddha, Mother Nature, Pure Energy and Life Force: please, if there's any way to stop this right now, please do it. I. need. more. time." Then I took a deep breath, changed, put a hand towel in my undies and went to lay down again.

Through the night I had light rushes here and there but they weren't coming at regular intervals and my water seemed to have stopped leaking so abundantly. I tried not to think anything at all - good or bad - just in case I should curse the whole thing somehow. In the morning, my husband's alarm went off at 5:00am as usual and he rolled over sleepily to look at me like he always does. It's funny how certain things stick out in your memory; I remember so vividly reaching out to caress his cheek and saying, "I think we might be having a baby today, Daddy." He was so surprised. Then I explained what had been happening, trying not to worry him as much as I was worried (I was a little concerned about the PROM). I tried to make light of the whole thing but asked him to stay home from work and he obliged. We just laid in bed for the better part of the early morning, snuggling, me trying to ignore the gentle rushes and the occasional little trickle of fluid I had started to feel again. His parents (who do the papers in their town) came home from their deliveries and hollered down wondering why we were still home. We told them I'd had some rushes that morning but that they'd subsided now and we were still not going to work and planned to take it easy. They got ready to go to our new house and do the painting they were gifting us and we decided we'd go, too, to try and get some cleaning done. I called my husband aside and asked him if we could get what little we had available over to the house that day so we could stay there for night. I had an inkling this baby wasn't going to oblige my request very long and, frankly, I hoped it would come soon as I knew the membranes were ruptured and didn't want to have to change our birth plans because labour didn't start soon enough if my water was going to keep leaking. My husband was somewhat reluctant to stay at the new house before the rest of our things could be brought on the weekend but I convinced him, pointing out that he now had the day off anyway so he might as well be transporting mattresses and toiletries while he had the time.

When we got to the new house I did a bit of tinkering about here and there between even more washroom trips than usual as I was trying to drink more water than I'd ever drunk before to keep hydrated and help my baby replenish the amniotic fluid. I eventually decided I should go lay down a while as I'd been feeling very light trickles of fluid here and there and was tired. I figured I was in for some hard work soon enough so I'd better get some rest while I could. Thankfully, the previous owners were downsizing and had left us a sofa in the basement which I had a nice nap on. I woke up a couple of hours later feeling better and went to hang out with my husband and his parents who eventually headed back home. My rushes had stopped and I hadn't felt any fluid leak for quite a while so I dared to think for a split second that maybe the sac had healed and I would get my wish of more time.

We went to bed that night around 10:00pm, exhausted, on our mattress on the floor in our new bedroom and I felt glad to be in our own home, even if we had nothing in it. I fell into a nice, deep sleep very quickly. At around 2:30am I woke up to some light rushes and decided to have a bath to see if they'd do something (pick up or let off). I laid on my side in the tub, feeling the water gently wash against my belly, in a sort of half-asleep daze and that's when I felt I could "let go". I told the universe and my baby that I was ready if they were and tried to relinquish control (those who know me well will know what a challenge that was). I started to do my ‘sleep breathing’ and progressive relaxation techniques from our Hypnobirthing classes and was really enjoying being so deeply relaxed. It was quite a while before I realized the rushes were coming on a lot stronger although they were still coming at completely irregular intervals (they never did even out to regular times). I also got out of the tub to use the toilet a few times during this period of time which broke my concentration and relaxation, though not completely, only slightly.

At about 4:00am I was starting to wish I had my birth tub and could be completely immersed in the water but I had to force myself to let go of that thought as it did me no good at that point. The rushes were wrapping around my belly and were easier to keep on top of when my belly was in the water (this was quite apparent to me because I would lay on my side and the rush would be significantly stronger on the side out of the water than the side in the water). I decided, instead, that maybe a shower would feel better. I imagined what it would feel like to have the water running down my back and that seemed like a good alternative to complete immersion so I woke my husband and asked him to put up the shower curtain for me (thank goodness we'd at least thought to buy that thinking we'd both want showers - too bad we were both really tired and went to bed dirty, anyway). The rushes were stronger now that I was out of my relaxed mode and standing up so I hoped he'd hurry. While he was at it I headed to the kitchen to get a bottle of water which I promptly chugged the better part of and refilled. I felt tired and momentarily forgot my plan to shower so I tried to lay down in bed for a while. It seemed much harder to stay on top of the rushes there, though. That made me frustrated because I felt lazy and weak and wanted to lay down but just didn't feel good in that position. I told myself it would do no good to get exasperated at that point and remembered Stephen Gaskin's description of birth: "great, pure effort" so I took a few deep breaths, dusted myself off, figured this still wasn't the HARDEST I'd ever worked and decided to have a pee and then go try the shower. I got hit with a rush on the toilet which certainly felt different - not worse per se but I didn't prefer the change in sensation and decided I wouldn't be doing any more like that if I could help it (unfortunately, I felt like peeing several more times through the process, didn't actually pee most of those times and had hard rushes every time I was on the toilet - that's probably where most of my dilating happened). I got up and another one came on right away so I leaned over the counter, put my head down and started to sway my hips in big, fluid motions which felt a lot better. Here was the trick, it seemed! My husband started rubbing my lower back - side to side, please, NOT up and down - which also gave me much relief so I started to feel like I was coping well again.

After a while (and a few more pee attempts) I got in the shower and every time a rush would hit me I'd turn to face the shower head, lean forward with my hands against the wall (sort of like the position a cop would put you in to pat you down), let the water pour over my back and my husband would reach in and rub my back - side to side, please, NOT up and down. Marvellous! That is, until the hot water started to run out... I had enough wits about me to hit the drain stopper as the water started to cool a bit so at least I'd have some warm water in the tub to lay in while I waited for the tank to fill again. I tried not to cry as I closed the tap and told myself I could do it if I stayed calm.

The words to a song called 'Fate Stepped In' (by Devildriver) ran through my mind then,

"We're all laid low by the hand so get your head up,
get your head up outta' the sand,
get your head up.
The lion will eat the heart,
serpent coils from the start.
What did you hope to achieve?
Fate stepped in to lend a hand again."

This is a metal song with a hard working, drudgy kind of sound to it (which I think was no coincidence) and I realised I WAS trying to stick my head in the sand and that would do me no good. I was struck by the thought that everything has its nature (like the lion and the serpent, so labour does too) and I couldn't change the nature of anything, regardless of how compelled I was to have control. What DID I hope to achieve????? A baby, of course, and this was how I'd do it. I decided fate would step in to help me when I needed it and steeled myself against another rush.  (I assume Devildriver had completely different ideas in mind and no intention of providing labour support when they wrote that song - I wonder what they'd think of my interpretations.)

I laid in the little bit of warm water I had in the bottom of the tub but it was affording little relief as it quickly cooled and laying down didn't feel good anymore, either, even on my side. I got out and started leaning against the counter again which helped. Suddenly, my husband headed toward the bedroom and said he was going to get ready for work. I nearly had a conniption but managed to remain calm as I asked him what he thought he was doing. He pointed out that the rushes were coming at completely sporadic intervals and this must just be prelabour. By this point, time had already gone out the window and I had no idea how far apart the rushes were or whether or not they were coming regularly so, although it hadn't been a conscious thought, I guess I'd assumed I was in labour. This comment really broke my rhythm and confidence. Was this labour? Was this prelabour? Was I really that much of a suck? Because this was feeling like pretty hard work and was getting really uncomfortable (and I'm a migraine sufferer so I pride myself on my pain tolerance). As I went through this mental argument (unbeknownst to him, ignoring what he was saying and not responding to him) he started to get a little frustrated with me and reminded me that the more time he took off now, the less time he could take off with the baby (he's a carpenter and works for a general contracting company so it's hard to get time off during the spring).

I thought about it hard and almost let him go but I just felt like he shouldn't so, after another hard rush, I finally looked him in the eye and said, "You can go if you want to but I just really, really, REALLY feel like I need you to stay with me. I don't know if this is the real thing or not, I know you say they're not regular intervals but I sure don't FEEL like this is just prelabour. I'm uncomfortable and frightened. PLEASE stay with me." He was confused (and probably felt a little put out, in hindsight) but agreed not to go so I took what I could get and lumbered through another two hard rushes, one on top of the other, wondering if this really WAS just prelabour and, if so, how I'd EVER do the real thing.

Prelabour or not, the rushes were starting to get even harder to handle, now. They required all my attention and I was starting to moan almost inaudibly during some of them. "...Keep your head up." ran through my mind over and over again. During the next rushes I thought about different times in my life that I'd exerted effort and figured I'd probably still worked harder than this before (or told myself I had, at any rate).

The rushes started to get harder again and I felt like I was pushing a heavy load up a hill that kept getting steeper. They were still coming at random intervals, too (although shorter intervals, now) so I really didn't know what to think but I dared to guess at that point that there was no turning back. I started to feel like the side to side rubbing of my back just wasn't cutting it anymore and wondered what else I could do for comfort. I was feeling the contractions start between the middle of my back and my pelvic bones and then they'd wrap around to the front of my lower belly like long pulling fingers or a clamp and now I was feeling some pelvic discomfort in between rushes, too (in hindsight I was getting closer to transition than I thought I was at that point).

By then I'd been on my knees in the tub for quite a while and they were starting to hurt a lot because our tub has a diamond-grid pattern formed into the bottom of it.  The discomfort was distracting me from focusing on the labour but I didn't think I'd be comfortable anywhere else so I decided my knees would just have to take one for the team. I suddenly remembered reading somewhere that pressure on the upper part of the hip bones would open the lower part of the hip bones so I got out and asked my husband to squeeze my hips during a rush. Eureka! Now we were back in business (and I must say, I thank my wonderful husband from the bottom of my heart for all the effort he expended squeezing my hips - harder! no, harder! harder still! harder, please, harder!).

After several rushes with my husband squeezing my hips so hard his arms were shaking (thank goodness he's a working man with strong arms because I think anyone else would've given up after one or two of those) each rush seemed to run into the next and I became overwhelmed with self doubt. I was back in the tub again, feeling restless and a little wild, now. Like a dog spinning around to make a place or a child who has been made to sit still too long. I looked at my husband and, with the single gasp of breath I could muster before the next rush hit me I uttered the infamous words, "I don't think I can dooooooo thiiiiiiiisssss... Unnnggghhh... Another one's comiiiiiiiing..." *breath* *pant* "I CAN'T doooooo thiiiiiis!" as I doubled over against the tub surround to work through another one. Without skipping a beat he leaned toward me, looked at me and confidently said, "YES, you CAN. I KNOW you can. You're doing it now. You're doing great." We did that back and forth four or five times in the next fifteen or twenty minutes (my husband's time estimate - I was clueless - it could've been hours or seconds to me).

All of a sudden, a rush started and it felt different. I reared up (a distinct image of a horse rearing up and whinnying loudly in a winter scene in my mind), arched my back (standing on my knees) and realized I was pushing as I held my breath for a few seconds and grunted involuntarily. I pulled up straight, still on my knees and reached my arms high against the wall and felt my body push with all its might (now I understood what everyone meant - it truly isn't a choice, it's your body. Anyone who asks a woman not to push is crazy and a torturer, plain and simple). I tried to remember to use my J-breath from Hypnobirthing but it was WAY too hard to just "gently nudge" my baby down with small breathes (Sorry, Mickey, I tried). My body was PUSHING and there were no two ways about it.

What an amazing sensation to feel my baby’s head start moving into my vagina! I absolutely marvelled at that feeling - it didn’t hurt at all and was the most unique feeling of fullness - I could literally feel the oxytocin receptors working their magic and the hormones coursing through my blood increased. I pushed like that for a while, leaning against the side of the tub for one, then the back of the tub for the next, then the front (where my husband would shield me from whacking myself against the tap - how considerate of him). Now I was really like the dog spinning to make a place... During one slightly longer break between rushes I looked down and saw some small bits of poop floating in the water and a huge wave of embarrassment overtook me. I think I even started crying a bit because I wanted to drain the water to get rid of them so my husband wasn't seeing them but I didn't want to lose that little bit of water I had because I knew the tank wasn't full again so I was torn. I looked down and back up at him and whimpered sorry a few times and he just laughed at me for being so ridiculous, giving me a kiss and saying he didn't care at all.

A few more rushes and I decided I wanted to stand up before the next one hit. I stood and wanted to grab hold of the shower rod for support but it was too high (and would never have supported my weight). My husband didn't need to be asked and he stood up right away and let me hang off him for a bunch of rushes (and I was putting every single one of the pounds I don't care to admit I weighed - more than he weighs - on him, too). He was a champ and I pushed with all my might as I let go of my body weight and trusted him to hold me. Those were some of my most productive pushes, too because I felt comforted nestling my face into his neck and shoulder and was able to focus so much energy on the pushing when I didn't have to worry about holding myself up. I would push for about five or six seconds and it would feel AWESOME and SO SATISFYING when I got the pressure right. I'd take a breath and that split second was no fun. It hurt not to push continuously; I commend any woman who has resisted pushing even once, let alone for several contractions. I remembered an older friend of our family once told me when she had her first child the nurse tied her legs together and held her down for an hour waiting for the doctor and I sent my heart out to her and her suffering on the next rush. After a while I started to feel bad for my husband (who probably would've held me up until he passed out from exertion) so I got back on my knees and leaned forward again and did some more pushing like that.

During the time I was pushing I didn’t really say anything except to whisper, “Water.” after each rush. My husband would hold up a bottle with a bendy straw in it and I would drink, drink, drink. Then it was almost as if I was sleeping until the next rush hit and I would push again. When I was pregnant, I would read lists of things one needed for an unassisted childbirth and, inevitably, every single one had bendy straws on it. Now I know why; you hold the cup or bottle in your hand, look at it and literally CANNOT bring it to your mouth. The brain just can’t make the connection. Thank goodness I had the sense to trust it must be a necessity if that many women had it on their list and had kept a package in the first aid kit we had for just this type of totally unforeseen situation.

Soon I was tired of feeling the hard tub under my knees again so I breathlessly told my husband that after the next rush I wanted to try to get to the bedroom where I could be on the soft mattress. I waited for the next rush to subside enough that I felt like I could get up and then I ran to the bedroom. I pushed there for a while on all fours, leaned against a stack of about six pillows.  All of a sudden I thought maybe I'd be able to feel my baby at this point (!!!!) so I gingerly reached up to see and there he was, all wrinkly and SO, SO soft. In between rushes I'd reach down and feel where my baby was and that helped me stay focused. I started to feel him coming out during pushes and wanted to push harder and harder but I tried to control myself because I didn't want to tear. After a while I was getting so tired of holding myself up I thought about laying down but the mere thought of it hurt. I finally tipped over on my side and my husband started holding up my leg for me. It was nice to rest a little that way but it wasn't as comfortable as being on all fours. He reminded me to breath a few times which broke my concentration and irritated me but was probably a good thing, anyway.

Beforehand when we'd talk about the birth he was somewhat iffy about watching the baby come out (this is our first child, too, remember) but when he was helping hold my leg up he looked and was excitedly enthralled after that. He'd tell me he could see our baby's head and encourage me with every rush. “I can see our baby, Momma! I can see our baby coming!!” I could hear the smile on his face. I was still feeling my baby come down every chance I got and was trying to massage my skin to stretch, too. I had to hold back a little at one point because I could feel too much stretching toward the front and all I could think of was that I DID NOT want to tear upwards/forward. I actually started gently putting just a little, little bit of pressure on his tiny head to direct him downward as I massaged the skin upward a bit and I felt him wriggle a little and oblige me. No more burning upward! I think he might have had his chin away from his chest a little until I gave him the gentle direction.

Finally, I got back up on all fours and decided to give it my all. I was ready for this baby to come and I felt like I could stretch for him pretty well now, too. Four or five rushes later I felt a really strong compulsion to get him out NOW and our little man popped out all at once.  I heard my husband say, "Oh, his cord - it's around his neck." a little nervously. I said, "Unwrap it and turn his head lower than his body." I felt very composed and calm and it came out sounding quite matter-of-fact. After a pause I added, "Rub his back, too." After another second I heard a beautiful squeak and then one big, hearty holler which was comforted immediately when my husband pulled him close to his body. He said, "I want you to see your baby, Momma." (the sweetest words a mother could hear) and I reached through my legs to grab him while I started to turn so I could sit.

Here was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen and it felt SOOOO amazingly RIGHT to hold him against my flesh. His warm little body touching mine was a piece of the divine!  Though he had cried out once already, I couldn't hear him drawing breath and his chest didn't appear to be rising so I talked to him and rubbed his back vigorously.  I could see his cord (which had been pulled quite tight around his neck) was still pulsing a bit and knew he was still getting oxygen from me.  I felt compelled to suction him a little so I put my mouth over his nose and mouth and gave him a gentle suck, then talked to him more and I saw him take a big breath.

We had literally nothing to put him in so Daddy sacrificed a t-shirt to cover him with while he lay on my chest (my favourite shirt of Daddy's that he rarely wore because he thought it was too tight but I thought it was sexy). I sat down and leaned back and just A-D-O-R-E-D my son. My husband sat down with us and, as we fell in love with him, I fell in love with his father all over again, too.

It was approximately 11:25am when he was born so about 9 hours of total labour, though my water was broken for 26+ hours before “regular” rushes started (as regular as you can call them when they never come at regular intervals, that is).

I can't say I feel very “changed” after the experience the way many women who have an unassisted childbirth say they do. I feel like the same me I was, just a me who has now also done something millions of women did in order for me to exist and almost no women ever do now - birth with my instincts, completely uninfluenced and unhindered - as it was meant to be. Maybe it's because I didn't have a previous traumatic birth I was needing to heal from or prove myself after... Still, I LOVE that we had an unassisted homebirth and I LOVE that we did it with only us there. I was worried at times through the pregnancy that my husband wasn't taking as much interest as he should or that he wouldn't be able to support me the way I'd need him to when the time came but he was there for me in a big way - in just the way I needed him to be - and showed me a side of him I didn't know was there. He was the perfect birth support; quiet, present, available, accommodating and encouraging.

BLISS. I am looking into his father’s eyes in this photo. Notice how the tag on the shirt says “SMALL” =)

I've dated quite a few people over the years and almost all of them have been Virgos - my husband, too. I don't generally put a lot of stock in the Zodiac but I do think celestial happenings influence us somewhat (eg: moon-related cycles). I'm a Sagittarius through and through (really - you want to know all about me, just read about Sagittarius) but I never saw much Virgo in my husband and having been with so many, I can attest it is a strong sign and I have seen the traits in all those men I was with. I remember once reading, though, that to a Virgo, love is devotion. In that sense, my man is a Virgo to. a. tee. I never knew before this experience how devoted he is to me and this has shown me that (which I think I needed in order to heal some hurts from our past). It has drawn us SO much closer together. My husband says he's so happy we did it this way, too, in spite of the reservations he had throughout our journey to this point. I can see that he's proud of us and our son for what we did together and he says he'd do it again in a heartbeat. I would too.

If anyone is interested in speaking to me personally about our journey to unassisted birth, please don't hesitate to contact me.


  1. Hey Amy! I am working my way through your lovely long birth story, and will definitely comment properly once I've read it all.
    I'm just popping by to let you know that I am giving you the Stylish Blogger Award! No obligation to do anything with it, but hopefully I'll send a few new readers your way. :)

  2. I would love-Love-LOVE to discus your unassisted birth. I can't seem to find your email address though, can you shoot me an email?
    My name is Sarah.

    1. Sarah, I am so sorry, I never got a notification about this comment. You can email me at any time you like.

  3. OMG AMY! I would love to talk to you more about this. We are trying to conceive and i really want a home birth! How in the word did you prepare for this? HOw did you know you were ok and prepared to do this alone??? I am reading Sacred Birth, Gentle Birthing Gentle Mothering and Calm Birth and seeing Sherry Rothwell but still not sure i will feel confident enough to do it with no assistance. Thank you for sharing such an amazing experience, i cried a lot reading parts of this...sooo amazing!

    1. Sarah, please feel free to contact me privately by email any time you like. I would be glad to discuss this with you further. My email address is


Keep it clean, guys.