Enjoy reading as Lillian recounts the birth of her first baby boy! Her feelings and heightened senses during labor describe the beauty of natural birth at home so well. We are excited to share all three of Lillian’s home birth stories in this three part series.
The Birth of Simon Pierce
By Lillian Keil
This is the way I remember it.
I was looking down at those double lines on the pregnancy test, trying to wrap my brain around the whole thing… and then suddenly I was 41 weeks pregnant: waddling up and down the street at one in the morning, grasping my neighbor’s rock wall to keep the contractions from bowling me over completely, thinking “What the heck, I’m going to have a baby.”
I had been in labor for about 12 hours already, ever since I finished the last bite of my croque forestierre at my favorite French bakery in Olympia and felt the first of those tiny recurring backaches. Like most overdue women, I was prone to superstition and harbored an irrational fear that mentioning these contractions might slow or stop labor, so I suffered through them quietly while we did some shopping at Goodwill and picked up a Redbox movie. My midwife called to let me know that she had scheduled me for an ultrasound in two days. I told her that the appointment wouldn’t be necessary because I’d already been having these itty bitty backaches. She said, “I will be optimistic with you, but I won’t cancel the ultrasound appointment.” I was disappointed.
The backaches got stronger and more regular during dinner. I was convinced that it was really labor, so I tried to sleep a little but was way too excited – hence the 1am walk around the block. I didn’t make it very far as the the pain was worsening rapidly. When I got back to the house, Becca came upstairs and I talked with her in between contractions, tip toeing around the kitchen in a futile attempt to distract myself. I started timing contractions at 330am, and over the next hour and half they were about five minutes apart. By that point my mom had come downstairs to get in on the action, and she suggested that we call the midwife. I told everyone to calm down and for gosh sakes let’s not wake her up before 5am, but Jason was freaking out and called her at 455am.
The midwife said I sounded too calm to be very far along, and asked if I felt ready to have midwives at my house yet. I said I didn’t know, and she decided to come over to check on me and head home if she wasn’t needed yet. When she got there, I consented to being checked vaginally and I was already 6cm dilated! I recall a bit of cheering and assertions that it wouldn’t be long now. This was about 6am.
And then I labored. And labored. And labored.
I remember that it hurt, but I can’t remember the pain. I remember that Jason rubbed my back so hard and for so long I had bruises that lasted a week. I remember that getting in the birth tub tub felt like a big warm hug. I remember resting my head in my mom’s hands, realizing that I was drooling on her arm. I remember being so hot and then so cold, my sister feeding me cherry tomatoes, and everyone telling me how great I was doing. Between contractions I was basically passed out, though the people who were there tell me I had periods of lucidity where I would say things like “Wow, this really hurts.” I remember thinking there was no point trying to further articulate the pain, because no words would ever be adequate.
Sometime in the afternoon I was checked again and only 8cm dilated this time. I asked the midwife what was taking so long. She said that my head was ready to push but my body wasn’t, and that we just had to wait for my body to catch up with my brain. She broke my waters artificially, and I remember the wet warmth and her obvious relief that it was clear and free of meconium.
More labor. I started screaming and shouting and there was talk about letting the upstairs neighbors know what was going on. I remember thinking I would never do this again. I was in and out of the tub, the shower, the toilet, on the edge of the couch.
I never felt the urge to push, but I remember my body involuntarily bearing down and a scary low growl coming out of my own mouth, and how terrifying it was to lose control like that. I got in the tub and started trying to push, but all I was doing was clenching my muscles. The midwife said, “Push down” and I could feel him moving when I did. I reached down and touched his slimy head and it was covered in hair.
After some time we decided to move to the bedroom. I was so tired I could barely walk. Jason had to hold my legs while I laid on our bed. I remember the midwife saying, “One more push and you’re going to have this baby” and it was true. I had thought at some point I would want everyone to leave, but to my surprise I didn’t care, and my mom, sister, and Becca were all there with their cameras when his head came out and then the rest of him. Everyone was saying how beautiful he was, but I couldn’t see him because I was holding him belly to belly, feeling nothing but relief that the long labor was finally over. It was 6pm, 30 hours after my first contraction.
I saw his face for the first time and all I could think was how big his mouth was, and how he pounced like a cat toward my breast. He opened his eyes and looked right at me. Oh my heart!
I was freezing cold and shaking like a leaf, literally convulsing, and the midwife was worried about all the blood I was losing. Then baby was gone and so was everyone else and it was just me and the midwife, and the electric blanket they’d brought for the baby went on me instead while she stitched me up. I was offered some ibuprofen and took six of them. I felt as high as a kite, so satisfied and proud of what I had done.
I don’t know where Simon was while the midwife helped me pee and shower or when my sister returned with a pizza from Papa Murphy’s. In fact I don’t remember seeing him again until his crying woke me up that night. I remember laughing because he had soiled his diaper and I didn’t know how to change it, waking Jason up and both of us standing over him feeling all confused and happy.
Our newborn is growing rapidly, but the confused and happy feeling remains. I cannot wait to watch him grow.