Esther’s birth story really begins with the birth of Finn, her big brother. Finn was born in a hospital and caught by a doctor. I wouldn’t call his birth traumatic, but there were enough annoying things about the care that I knew I didn’t want to have our next baby in a hospital. It was a long labor that felt even longer because we spent all of early labor at the hospital, which meant a lot of pressure from the nurses that things needed to speed up. This time I really wanted to avoid that pressure. I also wanted to avoid two and a half hours of pushing on my back with a nurse yelling in my ear, resulting in a third degree tear. And I wanted breastfeeding to get off to a better start. The first few weeks with Finn were very stressful and full of anxiety because he didn’t gain weight, and we didn’t have the support we needed. So even though Finn’s birth was amazing in many ways (I actually managed to have a natural birth at a hospital with a 30 something percent c-section rate and 90 something percent epidural rate, even though I was a first time mom without a doula. At the time I didn’t realize what the odds of that were…) there were many things I wanted to be different this time.
Now fast forward two and a half years and a pregnancy with home birth midwives. I started having a few contractions and a tiny bit of bloody show on the day before my due date. It was exciting to get a few signs that something might be starting, but I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I was absolutely certain that the contractions would stop when I went to bed, and sure enough they did. The following day I didn’t really have any contractions at all and when they started up again in the early evening I was pretty sure they would go away again like they had the night before. I was kind of in the mode of “ok, something is starting, maybe we’ll have this baby some time this week…” What’s funny is that I stayed in that state-of-mind, thinking I was in very early labor, up until an hour before Ester was born.
So I went to bed expecting the contractions to go away, but this time they didn’t. I slept for a little bit, but pretty soon I had to get out of bed for each contraction, and soon I had to lean against the wall. I wanted to try to sleep in between, so I kept bouncing in and out of bed. I decided to take a shower, hoping it would maybe slow the contractions down so I could sleep some more. That didn’t work. The contractions kept getting stronger and at 5 am I decided to wake up Geoff. I had reached the point where I didn’t want to do it on my own anymore. We timed the contractions for a while. They went pretty quickly from 6 to 5 to under 4 minutes apart, lasting about a minute. Geoff asked me if I wanted something to eat or drink, but I was feeling nauseous and didn’t want anything. The only thing I wanted to do was lean against the wall. At 6 am I decided to call Emme to let her know what was going on. But I wasn’t sure if I needed her to come over yet (remember, in my mind I still thought the baby would take a few more days…) so she suggested that I’d call her back in half an hour. Twenty minutes later I was unable to even make a phone call, but was able to utter, “call Emme now!” After that everything was just a whirlwind. Geoff tried to get the liner on the tub, which turned out to be more difficult than expected. And at 6:30 Finn woke up, so Geoff was simultaneously feeding Finn breakfast and trying to get the tub ready. All I could do was lean over a chair and make very loud, deep sounds. At Finn’s birth I had been pretty quiet during the whole thing, so the sounds were kind of surprising. But they felt absolutely necessary this time.
Both Emme and Clare arrived around 6:50. It was getting pretty clear that the tub wouldn’t be filled in time so Clare started setting up the futon. The plan had been to have the futon set up next to the tub as a place to rest after the birth, but we hadn’t had time to get that done. At 7 my water broke. The fluid was clear and the baby’s heart rate sounded good. I felt the baby move down and announced that this baby is coming now. I ended up on hands and knees on the floor, with Clare and Emme behind me. Now all of a sudden I felt really scared of the pain for the first time, but as soon as I said that out loud it felt better. Somewhere here our friend Noah came to look after Finn. I didn’t notice him coming but at some point during the pushing phase I asked if Noah was here, and he was. It was a big relief to know that Finn was being taken care of. As far as “pushing”, I didn’t really have to do any pushing at all. It was as if the baby was just moving down and out on her own, with an incredible force. And that force was kind of scary. Emme told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head, which was amazing. After the head was out things calmed down and all of a sudden I was waiting for the next contraction. Earlier it had felt like one enormous contraction, and now nothing was going on for about 40 seconds. Well, that next contraction did come. Out came the baby and Clare caught her. It was 7:16 in the morning of October 2nd. She was incredibly beautiful, and it was amazing to sit there on the floor and hold her in my arms. I was probably a little bit shocked since it had happened so fast. It felt like I didn’t know what just hit me. But at the same time I was very happy, and felt safe and protected in the care of my midwives and in my own home.
The placenta came out 30 minutes later, with very little bleeding. My big fear during the last part of this pregnancy had been post-partum hemorrhage, so it was a great relief that the bleeding was normal. Right after the placenta was out, our doula Holly came (who hadn’t had a chance to get here earlier since we had called her so late!) and jumped right in and provided great support during the immediate post-partum time. Finn and Noah who had been playing downstairs came up to meet our new baby. It was just such a relaxed morning and so nice to sit there in my own house surrounded by all these wonderful people that I know well. Especially after that whirlwind of a birth I really appreciated the calm. No packing up and moving to the post-partum room in the hospital, just the peace and quiet of an oatmeal breakfast among friends. With two kids!
Esther Viola, 7 lbs 15 oz, born October 2nd 2009 on our living room floor, assisted by our excellent Trillium midwives Clare Welter and Emme Corbeil.