Sep 23, 2018
On the evening of Tuesday, September 11, 2018, my daughter Hannah was born in an inflatable water tub in our bedroom, under the supervision of two certified nurse midwives and one midwife assistant. Wendy did a fully natural childbirth over the course of about 48 hours, the last three hours of which were spent in the tub pushing.
Wendy wanted to go with midwives because she liked their philosophy of "helping a birth happen" instead of "getting a baby out of you" which many doctors and hospitals seem to practice. She wanted to avoid a C-section and an epidural if at all possible. The idea of having the birth at home just sort of made sense (as long as there were no medical issues) instead of having the baby at a hospital and then waiting around for a few days before we could go home.
Sometime on Sunday afternoon, Wendy started making a face and saying, "I think something's happening." As instructed, she called the midwives who told her to take a Benadryl, have a glass of wine, take a bath, and get some sleep. The idea was to chill out, relax, and get some rest before the real action started. She followed the directions but didn't get much sleep, and later came downstairs during the Sunday night Bears-Packers game and said her contractions had officially started (this sort of ruined an otherwise amazing Aaron Rodgers come-from-behind win, but oh well).
After a somewhat fitful night of sleep, we both got up Monday morning and sat around while the contractions continued to become more regular. I kept time on my phone, and rhythmically tapped Wendy when a contraction came. She read that tapping can distract you enough to more easily get through pain and discomfort, and it worked great.
Once the contractions reached a certain rhythm, we called the midwives and they showed up at our house for some initial exams. Their first cervical exam on Monday evening accidentally broke Wendy's water, which happens sometimes but isn't exactly ideal because it sort of starts a 24-hour clock where if the baby isn't born in that time, we'd have to go to the hospital and get the process really rolling. The midwives suggested taking castor oil to try to speed up the contractions, but after one dose, then two doses, we were still mostly in the same spot. The midwives gave Wendy some slightly stronger sleep medication (Promethazine) because they wanted her to conserve her energy and rest. This didn't quite work because the contractions kept waking her up.
Side note: One of the midwives was about to do a cervical exam, and she said sort of deadpan, "I'm a lefty, but I do my cervical exams right-handed because I used to play trumpet." I thought this was hilarious.
Tuesday morning, the midwives showed up for good (they kept coming and going because they didn't feel like Wendy was in a phase that needed constant supervision) and we all mostly waited around while Wendy continued her contractions. She found that walking around made things feel better, so we walked around the house, up and down the driveway, and down our street. It must've looked weird for the neighbors to see Wendy and me strolling slowly down the street, with her occasionally putting her hands on my shoulders and hunching over to deal with a contraction. Nobody mentioned it.
The midwives had a magic touch where they placed a hand on Wendy's lower back during a contraction and it made the pain go away. Wendy said later that the pain on the second day wasn't as bad as the first day, which the midwives said was likely due to her hormones kicking in.
By mid-afternoon, I was instructed to assemble the inflatable tub and start filling it with hot water. Wendy's labor was progressing, and the midwives were doing periodic checks on blood pressure and fetal heart rate to ensure everything was good. For one of Wendy's contractions, I put my hand on the magic spot on her back, and she kind of yelled to not push there because it felt like I was pushing the baby out. This was the cue to enter the tub and start the show.
The water allowed Wendy to float a little, as well as try out a few different positions (laying down, squatting, hunched over the edge) to see what felt best. When she started pushing, the midwives really took control and told her what to do and when to do it. As someone said at some point, "You've never used the muscles that push a baby out, but when the time comes you'll figure it out."
The pushing went on for a few hours, with constant monitoring of the fetal heart rate. And then it happened. The baby came out essentially all at once with one big push. It was a bit chaotic. The midwives put the baby on Wendy's chest and let her gradually figure out how to use her lungs. After the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, I did the honors of cutting it, which weirdly prompted Hannah's first cry, almost like she could feel that I was taking something away from her. They wrapped her up in a towel and handed her to me while Wendy finished up in the tub. Our bed became a makeshift operating table as the midwives hooked Wendy up to an IV (just a precaution because it was a long labor) and gave her a few stitches.
After some cleanup and whatnot, it was time to drain the tub. The midwives removed the various gunk associated with childbirth, and so the tub was full of just water and some blood. They suggested instead of dumping it down the drain and filling the septic tank, we could just drain it into a garden or some other place outside. This was news to me, but that's what we ended up doing. We ran a hose out our second-story window and into some decorative red rocks.
The midwives stuck around for a few hours while we figured out how to breastfeed, change a diaper, and put clothes on a newborn (surprisingly difficult). After that they left, and we slowly and quietly rested and recovered in the comfort of our own home. #lifestyle