Monday, January 4, 2010

Rhett's Birth Story

I am posting this in celebration of my son's 5th birthday. It amazes me to see what a catalyst of change his birth was, much more so than my other 2 were. He showed me that I need to birth on my own, without input from experts. He showed me how babies are active participants in their own births when not interfered with. His unplanned freebirth led me to planned unassisted pregnancy & freebirth.

This is as written & originally published 5 years ago.

Spring 2004
My husband Jesse and I celebrated our son Luke’s 2nd Birthday on March 31 and I felt relieved. I thought that I could get pregnant at any point now & my children would be spaced as I’d planned. The moment I had that thought, it seems, I became pregnant!
We had just moved onto our small farm and had enormous amounts of work to do. I was exhausted during my first trimester; the move, the work at our new house and a busy toddler who was still nursing frequently all intensified my need for rest. I had little time to think about the fact I was pregnant or to make plans for our new baby. It took me several weeks to assimilate the changes in my life.
Once I had been able to process the changes, I contacted our new midwife, Barb Scriver. Luke had been born at home so we were of course planning another homebirth for this baby. Luke’s midwife had moved shortly before we had, so we made the difficult decision to avoid a 3 hour round trip for clinic visits by choosing a different midwife. I had met Barb several times before & felt sure that she was the perfect fit for our family.

Summer 2004
I was overjoyed to learn that my friend Nancy, who had a son the same age as mine, was also pregnant and due within weeks of me! We initially became friends because we had so many things in common and I was so happy to know that the trend would be continuing. She was also planning a homebirth with Barb. This really set a positive tone for my entire pregnancy. Having Nancy to share changes and compare notes with allowed me to stop now and then to focus on my new baby. I would have found it difficult to take that time without the external reminders she provided me.
My visits with Barb are happy occasions- we decide on a “due date” of January 2 and make jokes about having a New Year’s baby. Jesse and I felt blessed to be in the familiar care of a midwife again- so few health care providers hug their clients! Barb and I mostly discuss how the changes are affecting Luke and my concerns surrounding him. Despite my plan to continue nursing Luke throughout pregnancy and to tandem nurse after the birth, he was rapidly losing interest. He was helped along by the lower milk supply and discomfort my pregnancy hormones were contributing to our breastfeeding experiences. He nursed for the last time at the beginning of August, when I was 4 months pregnant. Luke seemed ready to move on but I mourned the loss of our cherished breastfeeding relationship.

Fall 2004
I am once again grateful to have an energetic pregnancy! Once the first few tired weeks were over, I was able to complete many of the projects begun in the spring. As summer ends I am spending more & more time thinking about my upcoming birth. I read every natural birth story I can get my hands on and decide to act on a thought that I keep having: find a doula. My labour with Luke seemed long and intense and I needed a lot of physical support which was difficult for Jesse and our midwives to continuously provide. In retrospect, I know that my fear of pain slowed that labour down. I desperately want to avoid a repeat and am convinced that a doula could be there just for me, freeing Jesse to care for Luke and himself as needed.
I mentioned all this over the phone to Annemarie van Oploo. When I got to the part about wanting to look for a doula she said “Pick me!”- so we did! Annemarie and I arranged a meeting at our house to talk about the birth. After meeting her, Jesse agreed that it was a great idea to have Annemarie at our birth. At the end of the visit, Annemarie commented that her partner, Claudia Villeneuve, had never been to a homebirth. I knew Claudia from clinics at our previous midwife’s office and so I suggested to that she should be there as well. Barb had worked with our doulas before and knew them both well- we were all so happy to have such a great birth team in place! I couldn’t wait for our new baby to be born surrounded by such a joyful and supportive group of women.
With all our plans in place I began to prepare myself for the birth. I read birth stories, attended Pam England’s presentation and went to a homebirth refresher class at Barb’s office. I had wonderful conversations with Barb during my prenatal visits. She reassured me that this labour would be shorter and that my first successful homebirth had not been a fluke. We discussed my concern that my water would break long before any contractions began, as it had with Luke. I started taking vitamin C every day with hopes it would strengthen the membranes.

I have been struggling to prepare my very non-verbal yet highly visual Luke for what he might see at the birth- the traditional methods of talking and reading books are of no interest to him. At Barb’s prenatal class, she put on a video that showed the homebirth of one of her clients. Luke plunked himself in front of the TV and watched the birth with great interest. Nancy, knowing the problems I was having, laughed and pointed out that Luke obviously needed to watch births to prepare! She lent me a video of unassisted births to watch with Luke which proved to be very helpful!
We had our last meeting with Annemarie and Claudia just before Christmas. We finalised plans by candlelight- our county was in the middle of an all-day power outage caused by a wind storm. Comments were once again made about having a New Year’s baby. Jesse joked about wanting the baby born in 2005 so s/he would qualify for the provincial government’s centennial RESP grants!
We enjoyed our last Christmas as a family of 3 by sticking close to home- Jesse didn’t want to take any chances. Nancy and another friend, Chandra, had been planning a mother’s blessing for me the week after Christmas and also teased me about going into labour early and not being able to make my own party. I was sure the baby would be born the week after it’s due date and that I’d be able to attend all of our functions as planned- of course I was right!
My mother’s blessing was great- unorthodox and exactly my style. We had friends and their husbands out to Nancy’s husband’s rugby club. It was a great chance for me to relax and hang out with my friends. They all wrote inspirational messages in a ribbon-bound book for me, a gift that I will always treasure.

Tuesday January 4

I wake up from a late afternoon nap to discover that my water seems to have broken! With no contractions in sight, I phone Barb around 4:00 to let her know what’s happening. Her response- “I guess this is how you go into labour!” I am reassured by this and decide to go about my day while I wait for contractions to start. Jesse finished his work and came home as fast as he could. We spent the evening relaxing at home. I was famished and ate several snacks, each time worrying that if I ate too much I might throw up when contractions finally started. At 8:00pm, I felt the first twinge of a contraction- very light and painless. Another one occurred a while later. After that I felt a light twinge every 20 minutes or so. We decided that we should go to bed so at 10:00pm, Jesse, Luke & I all fell asleep together.
Just after midnight, the first uncomfortable contraction I felt woke me up. I breathed through several before getting out of bed and going downstairs. I settled in the bathroom with a bottle of water and the birth ball Annemarie had left. It was very helpful for working through each contraction. I was getting a nice break in between them, so I laboured by myself like this for a while. I remember talking to the baby, telling him I’d see him soon and that we were going to be working together to get him out. This is my favorite memory of Rhett’s birth, just the 2 of us awake in the warm house with winter and coyotes howling outside.
My contractions were starting to intensify so at 12:45am I called Annemarie, thinking that I would probably need her by the time she made the drive out. We chatted for a couple of minutes and she told me she would leave right away. After a few more contractions, I decided to call Barb as well. I thought I was probably phoning her a bit too soon, but she had the hose and connectors we needed to fill the pool. I figured that I would probably need her and the pool by the time she drove out too!
Shortly after that, with contractions still intensifying, I didn’t want to be alone anymore. I tried to go upstairs to wake Jesse, only making it halfway. I yelled to wake him up and he came down right away, leaving Luke upstairs sleeping. We worked together for a while with the ever-increasing contractions. We heard Annemarie arriving at 1:45, and Jesse went outside to help her bring her things in. While they were outside, I felt what I could have sworn was some involuntary pushing. I brushed it off, thinking it was obviously way too soon for anything like pushing to be happening!
Annemarie called to me from the door, saying that it sounded like I was doing great and that she had just seen a shooting star. A couple of minutes later she brought some lavender massage lotion and vibrating massage tools into the bathroom. The lavender and massage tools on my back got me through several contractions that would have otherwise been very hard to stay on top of. I began feeling restless and stood up- I really wanted to be in the pool. I don’t remember this, but Annemarie told me then that I was “getting a little transition-y”.
I do remember Annemarie telling me that the baby was coming quickly and that Barb probably wouldn’t have time to fill the pool when she got here. After settling on my knees leaning over the bathtub, I began feeling involuntary pushing with each contraction. I wouldn’t let myself believe that I was actually having a fast labour, thinking that I would be frustrated when things slowed down and it took several more hours for the baby to arrive.
The baby began moving down- I could actually feel him doing this, a sensation I hadn’t experienced at Luke’s birth. I pushed along with my body until he quickly began to crown. Jesse and Annemarie tell me he emerged very slowly, an eyebrow, then an eye and on until his entire head was out. He cleared his own mucus from his lungs and nose- they managed to get amazing pictures of this! I could feel the baby moving around, rotating his shoulders so his body could be born. Annemarie later wrote (to the baby): “It was amazing to see how much you were helping yourself to be born! Most people think that babies are passive participants in birth, but watching you would have proved them all wrong!”
He slipped out and Annemarie caught him. I asked Jesse what we had and he told me it was another boy! With help, I sat down on the floor and held our new baby. He even latched on and nursed for a minute. Rhett Nathaniel had been born at 2:41am on Wednesday January 5th, less than 2 1/2 hours after I had come downstairs. We waited for the placenta, which arrived about 20 minutes after Rhett. Barb arrived just after that, surprised and disappointed to have missed the birth! We wrapped the placenta up and moved to a chair in the living room, where Barb helped me to cut the cord and where Rhett nursed again.
Rhett and I then had a lavender bath together, during which time Luke woke up and came downstairs to see what was happening. He sat with his dad and met his new baby brother. The four of us had a wonderful chance to get to know each other during that quiet time. Barb and Annemarie did the necessary paperwork and made placenta prints for us. Claudia arrived after we got out of the bath. Rhett spent some time nursing and I got tea and a massage from Claudia. We weighed and measured Rhett, he was 8lbs12oz and 20 3/4” long.
Once we were all cleaned and fed, Barb, Annemarie and Claudia each headed home. Jesse, Luke and I went to bed for the second time that night, so blessed to have our new baby Rhett joining us!

Spring 2005

When I began to write this birth story, I was surprised by how difficult it was for me to stick to the topic. Luke’s birth story was a simple telling of facts- how we had chosen a midwife assisted birth, how the pregnancy went and what took place during labour and birth. Rhett’s story, on the other hand, demanded the inclusion of more: how the pregnancy was affecting his brother, how his dad and I took time to enjoy waiting for him and to plan his arrival and life with us. How the many wonderful friendships built through the shared experience of parenthood allowed us to appreciate a new baby all the more.
Luke was the catalyst that started the life Jesse and I enjoy now. A busy career, numerous volunteer commitments, countless playdates and time spent with family and friends are how our days are spent now. This contrasts sharply with our pre-Luke days- we can’t, in fact, remember what we did with all that time!
While Luke’s birth inspired our new life, Rhett’s had no choice but to blend into it. This is where, I believe, one of the many benefits of homebirth is seen. By normalizing birth, our midwife, doulas and friends facilitated the uncomplicated addition of this tiny boy into our family. We can’t thank them enough for their trust in birth, their encouragement and their support.
We are eternally grateful that Rhett has decided to join us. We love you, Rhett Nathaniel, we are so happy you are here!

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