Here's a draft of our birth story that should probably be edited by Tim for timing details and reality checks. It's long, but I wanted to have it detailed so I would always remember. It is really graphic and detailed - so if you don't want to know - don't read :)
Turner Wertz Jenkins was born at home at 10:30am on June 25th, 2010. At my 38 week appointment, we learned I was 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced and I had my membranes stripped (they separate the lining of your amniotic sac from your cervix to get hormones flowing that could start labor if you body is ready). Though I knew that this meant nothing as to when I would go into labor, I hoped it meant it would be earlier than my due date.
I was miserably swollen, sick, and exhausted. After days and days of what I thought was false labor and tons of walking the city daily for hours, I woke up Wednesday, June 22nd (39 weeks, 2 days), with a feeling of an uncontrollable gushing. My water had broken. Any story I had heard about water breaking included people going directly into serious labor. I immediately threw up my breakfast and had a minor contraction – I assumed this was it. Tim called the midwife and started cleaning the house. I put on the crockpot to have a meal ready for when the baby was born.
Our midwives suggested going for a walk to get things moving. This was my ongoing list of what we did:
water broke at 8:15
started puking up my whole breakfast
a little bigger at safeway
came home and rested
tim got house together
heading out to a walk
drove to boudin and got lunch
went to the library
went to the deyoung
went to the japanese tea garden
walked in the botanical garden
contractions got intense and 4 minutes apart but stopped when we got home. *Little did I know that “intense” contractions are not painful contractions and these were still just practice ones – we were no where near the real deal yet.
We got home after hours of walking and everything stopped. I was bummed. We spoke with our midwife and she suggested resting b/c we would probably have an intense night. Unfortunately, I slept until 8am and woke up feeling fine. 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep did not seem to indicate a fast labor starting. Our midwife came by at around 11 and suggested some natural induction methods. Hospitals usually give you 24 hours after your water breaks to naturally go into labor before they induce you. Our midwives give us 72 hours but do a lot of precautions to ensure there is no infection (which is the danger of going too long with your water broken).
After checking out the baby’s vitals and seeing that he was fine, she took mine. When she took my blood pressure the first time it was really high. After asking what our backup hospital was, Tim and I got scared. High blood pressure is a very dangerous thing in pregnancy, and if I showed too many signs of pre-eclampsia, we would have to go to Kaiser for an induction. We had planned a homebirth to avoid induction at Kaiser. She had me lay down, and walked me through a relaxation meditation. My blood pressure dropped a ton and we were still good to go on the homebirth.
We had my mom go pick up some black cohosh tincture and cottonroot (as driving to the Mission District where the herb store is - would stress me out and now I was under strict orders to stay calm and mellow) and I took bits of that over the course of three hours. Felt nothing but a bit of a stomach ache.
Then we went for a long walk in the botanical gardens and had some sushi with TONS of wasabi. The spicyness didn’t do anything, but the nice meal at our favorite sushi place was relaxing and fun.
When we got home Tim set up the breast pump and I had to do nipple stimulation. Pumping is not fun or easy and I was supposed to do 20 minutes of pumping and 20 minutes of rest for 3 hours, but had to give up at 15 each time because it was SO uncomfortable.
I was still having fairly regular Braxton hicks contractions, but nothing painful.
We went to bed again disheartened and praying that he would come with our last trick so we didn’t have to give birth in a hospital.
I woke up at 3:30 (Tim was already in the kitchen having a snack and surfing the internet) and made a smoothy full of 4 oz of castor oil. Our midwives said Castor Oil was their “big guns” , it made for a messy nasty labor, but worked in 56% of cases. I drank the first half of the smoothy and made oatmeal cookies, we waited 30 minutes per their instructions, and I drank the other half. At 4:30 I had my first major contraction which included running to the bathroom to vomit up most of the smoothie.
We were told that once you took the Castor Oil it would take about 3 hours for the major diarrhea to start and another 3 for contractions to start. This was about 30 minutes in and we were having contractions. Our midwives DID say that all of the induction methods we were trying (tinctures, walking, spicy foods, and nipple stimulation) would work together and have a build up and cumulative effect, but after a whole night’s sleep with no contractions, I was sure it was the castor oil.
Immediately (4:30am) they were intense and painful. We started timing them and they were more than a minute long and about 3-4 minutes apart (we were instructed to call our midwives when they were a minute long, 4 minutes apart for an hour). After 30 minutes of this we called our midwives and they sent over Kara, their apprentice and an amazing doula. When she arrived, I was feeling fine between contractions and could chat and make jokes, but during, I would make figure eights in the living room and dining room and eventually end up at a 90 degree angle over the buffet looking out into the Safeway parking lot. I started making “ooooohhhh” noises during the hard parts which really helped.
Tim reminded me after that at this point, I said to him, “this is different, this is the most pain I’ve ever been in” (little did I know).
I think we were both really happy at this point despite the pain, because we were both terrified of losing our dream of a homebirth. We would have done what we needed to for our baby and our health, but had invested so much in doing it at home that this amount of pain was welcomed.
Shortly after Kara arrived (about 5:30am), my contractions got more intense and I couldn’t walk through them, but had the need to get close to the floor so got on all fours in the hallway between the living room, foyer, and dining room. I would rock my hips back and forth and “ooooh” through the contractions. They got more and more intense and I would have to take trips to the bathroom (the castor oil had started working). Contracting on the toilet wasn’t good, so I had Tim and Kara bring me pillows so I could be in the bathroom and labor in the hallway during contractions. I had a bit of blood at this point, which Kara assured me was a great sign. When I look back at the contraction timer my contractions were about three minutes long at this point (which is very long).
At one point I got on the toilet and just didn’t want to get off. I loved being isolated from everyone and if I leaned back to the perfect angle and rubbed the tops of my thighs rhythmically and made loud low humming noises, it decreased the pain significantly. I would say that these contractions (I’m told after the fact that I was in the bathroom for over an hour) were the worst of the worst. Tim also tells me that I was chanting/singing “ooooooooooooooopen”.
I told Kara that I felt like the baby was coming – I didn’t know why, but it felt like it. I had had a bit more blood at that point as well. She made me go into the bedroom to do a cervical check. (this was around 7 or 8 am). I knew my cervix wasn’t dilated far enough b/c she didn’t tell me what the progress was, but I knew he was coming soon, so I ran back to the bathroom for more alone time.
She tried to convince me to get into the birthtub. On my way from the bathroom to the birth tub I had the worst contraction I remember, dropped to my knees and screamed. I didn’t have my good space around me (bathroom, foyer) and it was horrible. I felt out of control at that point, but knew that contraction would be over soon and I could get in the tub.
When I got in the tub it was magical. The weightlessness felt great and the warmth felt really great on my tense muscles. I think I said something along the lines of “this is amazing” and started floating around, but then another contraction came along. (Tim tells me at this point that she was trying to slow down the labor because my contractions were coming one on top of the other). Usually they don’t let you in the tub until you are at around 7 centimeters, and I found out after that I was only at a 5.
One of my great fears was having diarrhea in the tub, so I made sure to go and labor on the toilet in between contractions to clean myself out. I heard Ami, our midwife come in and open the door to the bathroom, I had just had a big bloody show and she said that it was good. Edited to add: At one point (transition) I was on the toilet having diarreah and throwing up all at the same time. I started trying to get it into the trashcan, but eventually just gave up. When that contraction was over, I got back into the tub (modesty went right out the window at this point – I was walking around the house naked) and had a couple of horrible contractions. They were long, and on top of each other. I was biting the side of the birth tub to get through them, on all fours and rocking my hips. I told them I needed them to talk me through them and when they were using calming voices, I remember yelling that they needed to be louder and stronger. Someone tried to give me a washcloth to bite, but I hated it and went right back to biting the side of the birth tub.
At this point, I felt him really down low. I told them I wanted to push (this was about an hour after I was checked and was only 5 cm dilated). Ami looked concerned and told me I had to get out of the tub to get checked before I could push (if I had any cervix left, it would make it really tough and slow things down even more).
I don’t quite remember things clearly after this point, but I struggled to get out of the tub and laid down on my bed. She checked me and I had a contraction as she was inside me. Apparently I screamed, “I hate you, get out of me, I hate you, Stop” and physically moved away. I jumped back in the tub. My need to push got even greater at that point.
I vaguely remember someone calling the other midwife and telling her to hurry. In an hour I had advanced from 5cm to 9 cm and at 10cm I could start pushing. At this point, I got an amazing heaven sent break. I was able for about 5-10 minutes to rest. No contractions. I floated in the water and laid my head on the side of the tub and almost fell asleep. I remembered from our research that this break is to give you energy for pushing so I took advantage of it and rested.
I had one more contraction and halfway through started grunting and telling Ami I HAD to push. I couldn’t help it. She made me stop by making breathy “puh puh” sounds through the contractions – it worked for the last half, but at the peak, I had to push a little. My body would just automatically start grounding itself and I would groan and grunt and push with no control.
I sort of remember Ami telling Kara to call Nancy and see how long till she got there and Kara telling her she would be about 15 minutes. They then started preparing for me to have the baby without the second midwife – they were discussing roles. I asked them for each contraction to remind me what to do. I couldn’t remember the noise to make. The desire to push was so welcomed.
Finally, Nancy arrived, I think Kara checked me from behind and I finally go the okay to push. At this point I was on my knees with my arms over the side of the tub. When a contraction would come I would push with everything I had. My first push I started pushing with my abs and stomach muscles, but remembered from our research that I needed to push like I was having a bowel movement, so I did. It felt like I was moving a bowling ball through my body, but I could tell it wasn’t going the wrong way. I started pushing on my hands and knees, and then the midwives had me get on my back. I gripped the back walls of the tub with my hands, and floated my body along the tub, my legs positioned on the walls in front to get a good “grip”.
The most satisfaction I had throughout the entire process was pushing. I knew the end was near, it felt great, and I was finally in control of the process. There were a couple times that I could feel (and see!) his head come a little out and slip back in – I told the midwives and they said it was good and important because it stretched out my perineum. I told myself I would let it happen three more times then I was going to get him to stay out! I did it too.
My fourth push his head was halfway out (or it felt like that) and I yelled, “he’s stuck.” I knew it wasn’t true, but I couldn’t think of the words to ask how I could get past that place. I had reached what they call the “ring of fire” and it was true to it’s name. His head was stretching me to the furthest place it would have to go and I could feel it.
They assured me he wasn’t stuck, and I screamed “Ring of F*ing Fire”, and backed up in the tub like I was afraid of what was happening. After reviewing the birth video, I had a horrified and scared look on my face. Nancy, our midwife, yelled at me “don’t run from it, go INTO it.” And I did. With a blood curdling scream, I popped the rest of his head out. I thought this would be satisfying, but then a horrible feeling of his body being inside me and his head out made me scream even more intensely (I was told after the fact, that his body was rotating inside of me and that was why it felt so strange and scary). Without waiting for another contraction, I pushed the rest of him out. Immediate relief.
Once he was out, they put him on my chest and he started to mew a little. He was a little purple, but started pinking up really quickly. His dad was behind me and said, “hey boy” to which turner opened his eyes and lifted his head to see where that familiar voice was coming from.
The best part of the whole experience was shortly after the baby being checked out, me being sewn up (tearing was SO not as bad as I thought it would be – not something to be afraid of at ALL – 2nd degree tear with a couple stiches), and a quick shower, Tim, Turner and I got into our bed and slept as a family. No one came to check our vitals every 30 minutes, there were no beeping machines, we got to eat our own food and snuggle in our own sheets. Homebirth is amazing.
I’m told I was a really independent laborer. I spent most of the time isolated in the bathroom with the door closed. Poor Tim was primarily an onlooker and didn’t get to do any of the techniques we learned in our birth class because talking and touching all felt very wrong to me the whole time.