The truth is, giving birth was far more demanding than I could have ever imagined, but It wasn’t impossible nor traumatic. It was the most beautiful and empowering challenge I’ve ever faced. It tested my willingness to surrender. To hand over my expectations, control, and fears to the One who created this whole miraculous birthing process.
So here’s our home-birth story.
On Wednesday, June 2nd (baby’s original due date), I woke up to a warm puddle in the sheets. As my husband laid fast asleep next to me, I sang the first words that came to mind, “We are having a baby soooon!” He woke up in more of a panic than in song. Yet, the day carried on with no additional cues of the baby’s arrival.
Thursday then rolled around, and the midwife recommended I take castor oil since I reported that my “water broke” to her the previous day. And lemme tell you, castor oil did me DIRTY. It was probably my least favorite part of the whole birthing process. I will never agree to take that stuff again. My midwife later came over and performed a swab to confirm that it was my water that broke. It turned out it was likely just a water leakage and not my water bag. Soon after, I started noticing some bright pink blood (all normal, all good-it’s known as the “bloody show”). But still no arrival of the baby that day.
Friday morning arose, and I started to have some cramping around 1 am. Excitedly I got my timer app out and was thrilled every time a new cramp knocked on my abdomen. I tried not to be “that girl” who called the midwife upon the first contraction, so I waited until 6 am to text her and report that I had contractions every 4 minutes lasting 50 seconds long.
In the afternoon, my hubby drove us to the beach to go on a walk, which was incredibly meditative. I tried to store the imagery of the waves in my mind for when I needed to pull from it later on. We didn’t make it all that far in our walk as I had to lean on him whenever a strong wave (aka contraction) would hit. I remember wishing I could have the baby right there in nature if only that were acceptable.
My midwife then met us at home, and she checked my dilation. I was at 5-6. She noted how “low” the baby’s head was, which sounded encouraging to me. She then invited the doula over to Labor-Sit. A few hours went by, and I called out to the doula with some desperation in my voice, asking, “When is the midwife returning?” she replied calmly, “she will be here very soon.” The way she said it made me think she’s said this phrase many times before. When the midwife returned, I heard the doula comment in her soft voice, “I think she’s in transition.” There was something about those five words that did something to me emotionally.
I walked into the bathroom, looked into the mirror, and saw myself transitioning into motherhood. My eyes swelled up, and I started gasping for air, looking for space to breathe, for solace, for my own mother before I become a mother. I was looking to retreat instead of progress. I gave myself a stern motherly look in the mirror and inwardly coached my heart. “Natalie, you are the mother in this situation. You need to be a mother to yourself right now and to this baby inside of you. Are you ready for that?” I couldn’t answer the question. I could only weep at the overwhelming uncertainty of my ability to become a mother to this child. I then walked into the living room and cried some more. I didn’t have it in me to profess to everyone that it was the emotional pain laboring my heart and mind, not the physical.
I’ve had these contractions my whole life, but I’ve managed to push them away. Although, this time, the contractions were demanding to be recognized, felt, and conquered before I could move forward with birthing my own precious child. I then jumped in the birth tub, and I labored them out. Essentially “transition” didn’t push me over the edge into delivery, but it did give me some deliverance over my past. It was, indeed, a spiritual encounter. One that only God and I can fully comprehend.
Around 2:30 am everyone could see that I needed some rest, and they, too, needed their rest. So, we all laid down. My midwife was in the guest room, the doula in the master bedroom, and Kalisa and me in the living room. I laid next to my husband and cuddled him between contractions. I then got up and went into the master bedroom where the doula was, and I worked through some more contractions with her. I took little cat-naps between the waves. She massaged my back and gave me counter pressure during the intense moments. She checked the baby’s heart rate every hour and would reassure me every time by saying, “Happy baby!”
Saturday Morning arrived, and I was so happy to see another midwife join us. She was competent, caring, and very experienced in delivering babies. She birthed three of her children at home. She checked me and said my water bag was still intact, and a bit of a cervix lip remained. She asked my permission to move the cervix lip out of the way during my next contraction, and I agreed. She then encouraged me to stay on my left side for a few contractions to get it entirely out of the way.
Later we talked again, and we made a plan for me to go on a walk around the block to encourage my water to break. If it didn’t budge, I would allow the midwife to break it manually. So Kalisa and I went on a very short walk around the block, and again, I needed to stop every couple of steps to work through the waves. We hugged through each one. These contractions were far more intense than any of the previous ones. When we arrived back home, the midwife broke my water. She was very gentle and intently listened when I asked her to slow down. To my surprise, it didn’t hurt at all. Then she told me she wanted me upright for 15 minutes and to do some more walking around the house. Labor really swung into full gear after my water broke. I paced the house with my eyes nearly closed and made some instinctual odd mammal-like sounds that were out of my control. I completed a few labor lunges on the stairs outside, and then I made it known I was getting back in the warm tub. I had no idea if 5 mins had passed or 15, but I knew the baby was giving me some pressure, and I needed that warm tub to ease it. I asked My husband to join me in the water. I began pushing when the contractions were at their peak. I then felt the need to use the restroom, so I hopped out and sat on the toilet to realize it was the baby that actually wanted to come out. The urge to push then became inevitable. It was no longer a choice or deliberate effort, it was happening to me, and I just had to ride the waves. It was then that I truly understood what people meant when they said your body would tell you when it’s time to push. Kalisa joined me in the bathroom, and he playfully asked, do you still want seven kids? I didn’t have the words to answer, but I knew he was trying to keep things light. I shook my head no and put out my index finger indicating “one and done,” we both chuckled a bit.
The midwife asked me if I wanted to deliver the baby in the bathroom or go back to the tub. It was thoughtful of her to ask, but I knew my body would not make it to the living room without the baby coming out. She then called the troops to gather in our tiny bathroom. I pushed for what felt like 5 minutes on the toilet, and then I thought to myself, I don’t want this baby to fall into the toilet. I recalled what the birth stories frequently said: hands and knees is a great position to push from. I got on my hands and knees, with two ladies in front of me, while the primary midwife and my husband were behind me, ready to catch the baby. The midwife guided me to slow down my breathing as the baby’s head was emerging. I listened and slowed it waaaay down, knowing my goal was not to tear. I took a few slow breaths and allowed my body to push gently, and suddenly the baby’s head was out. Then the rest of the baby’s body came out with ease and delight and no pain. I could hear the baby’s cry right away, and my heart felt such a relief to hear that little scream of life, knowing our baby wouldn’t need any help getting started on breathing.
We somehow stumbled our way to the bedroom, where they placed the baby on my chest with towels and blankets covering us both. After the controlled chaos settled down, I asked, “Is it a girl or a boy?” They called Kalisa over and said, “Why don’t you check.” Everyone’s eyes brightened as they looked, and he said, “It’s a girl!” Kalisa repeated in his higher registered African voice, “A GURL!!!” He kissed my forehead and repeated, “We have a girl!” Warm tears streamed down my cheeks as I held our little baby girl. A few moments went by, and I turned to my husband with a smile and told him I would do it all over again, and I still want seven children (joking). It felt like all was right in my world. We named her Naomi Jane Kalisa. She’s a 4th generation Jane (my grandmother, aunt, myself, and now, Naomi all share the heritage of being a Jane). She weighed 7 pounds and 11 ounces at birth and was born on Saturday, June 5th at 3:29 pm. The labor in total was 34.5 hours long, and gratefully there were no stitches.