Monday July 25th 1:30pm: I was cutting up some chicken to make my friend Steph’s famous chicken enchiladas for dinner that night. When I stood up to put the chicken on the stove, I immediately felt a gush of liquids leave my body. At first, I thought I might have peed my pants, but then after going upstairs to change, I noticed that it didn’t have any smell & it was completely clear, which is what amniotic fluid is like.
I first called John to let him know that I thought my water broke & then I called our midwife LeAnn to let her know. She asked me a few questions & then told me to call her back around 3:30 to let her know if more liquid leaked out or if anything changed. I called John back & by that time, he had researched all kinds of websites for me to look at to see if it really was amniotic fluid. I laid down for a bit to rest & then I drove to John’s work to pick him up & called LeAnn as well. She said that she wanted to see me in her office as soon as we could get there, to test if it was amniotic fluid, so we left right away. We got to Winona around 4:30 & had a short chat with LeAnn & then did two different tests, which both confirmed that it was in fact amniotic fluid. My water had broken! We didn’t know any kind of timeline as to when things would start happening, but at that point, I hadn’t had any contractions & was still feeling like my usual self. LeAnn suggested we take the night easy, eat dinner, do our normal routine & try to get lots of rest.
We made a quick stop at the store to pick up some more food (thankfully, I had gone on a massive Woodman’s run earlier in the day, but I still wanted to get a lot of fresh fruit) & then we stopped at a friend’s house to borrow a pump drain for the tub. We were both pretty calm, but excited… we still figured we had tons of time!
We got home around 7:00 & while John went to have a meeting (he was planning who would be taking over his duties at church for a few weeks), I puttered around the house, getting dinner ready & doing some preparations for a birth that week(we seriously thought it would be a couple of days). John came home around 8:30 & we took a short walk to our library to get some movies since we figured we’d need some entertainment that week. Then I helped him drain the birthing tub (we did a test run the night before just to see how long it would take to fill) & finish putting up the fabric on the basement ceiling (I wanted to spruce it up a bit). I think we crawled into bed around 10 or 11. At that time, I had some light cramping, sort of similar to the beginning of my period, but it wasn’t all that painful or consistent, so I didn’t think much of it.
By midnight, I had to get out of bed because I was so uncomfortable. I was still leaking fluid, so I just thought it would make sense to sit on the toilet for awhile. And that’s when my contractions really started! I brought my phone in with me so I could chart the contractions—how long they were & how far apart. I was shocked to see that, for over an hour (from 12-1am) I consistently had contractions that lasted 20-40 seconds every 2-4 minutes. I remembered LeAnn saying to call her when they got to be 5 minutes apart… & they were already 2-4 minutes apart!
At 1:00, I beckoned John into the bathroom & asked him to help me, & then at 1:02am I called LeAnn to share with her the news & we chatted for awhile. She told me to keep doing what I was doing & keep in touch if anything changed. John thought that it would be a good idea to go downstairs at this point & I was hesitant to move, but agreed with him. I had never felt anything so intense in my entire life! John had some friends of ours come & get Hartley at this time, too.
At 2:28am I called LeAnn again to see what should happen next, since I had started throwing up & was having more intense contractions. I could barely talk through contractions & at this point they were 1 ½ minutes long every 2 minutes… sometimes with no breaks! I was already feeling exhausted & weak, but John kept pushing the fluids & that seemed to help give me a bit of energy. We had previously told our parents that we would call or text them with updates once “things started happening” but we didn’t even have time (plus, I wouldn’t let John out of my site… I was squeezing his hands off the entire time!)
LeAnn & her assistant, Julie showed up at about 3:30 & they started setting up shop. I could kind of see what they were doing, but I was so in my own little world that I just felt like I had to entirely focus on getting through each contraction, otherwise I wouldn’t make it! Julie was especially helpful in keeping me calm & regulating my breathing. At that point, I was panting a lot & she taught me to breath deep & low & relax my jaw. I was making all kinds of low moany sounds that definitely helped me feel more relaxed. It was amazing to me to see the difference in how my body relaxed if I moaned & breathed deeply opposed to screaming…still I was squeezing on to whoever was near me—I really needed that to make it through the wave of intensity.
It was around 4:30 when LeAnn suggested that I get up & move (I had been sitting on the toilet in the basement). I was very hesitant, but I listened, moving over to this supportive beam in our basement (OK, it’s a pole). I remember saying something like, “I never thought I’d be here, this intimate, with this pole in the basement.” I was surprised that I had any sass left for such a comment! I stood there for a few contractions & then LeAnn said that she wanted to check to see how dilated my cervix was. I hobbled over to the bed & she checked me at 4:45. I was so worried that it was going to be at like a 2 or something, so I just kept praying & hoping I would be farther along than that. I remember LeAnn saying, “hey John, do you want to come here?” & then she informed us that I was fully dilated to 10 centimeters already! What the heck, we were having this baby today!!!!
At this point, John & the birth team were still working furiously to get the water in the tub up to 95 degrees. It was taking a bit longer than we thought & I was starting to get bummed that I might not be able to birth in the tub… but really at that point, I just wanted to meet this baby, so if that meant I had to run across the world, then I would have done it.
But by 6:20, the tub water was warm enough for me to climb in. Immediately, I felt a lot of the tension in my body melt away. It was incredible being in the water & although I would never say it took away the pain, it definitely eased my tension. I either clung on to the side handles like no body’s business (thank God for those!) or I gripped the hands of John or LeAnn. At this point, things were very painful & I remember doubting if I could push this baby out.
I started to have some fear that labor was going to take a very long time once I started pushing & I was very disappointed that it seemed like every time I ended a contraction, I wasn’t making any progress, but the birth team was very encouraging, saying that I was actually progressing very well. This was probably the worst/hardest part for me… I was so sick of having such strong contractions (even though it had only been a handful of hours) & I felt weak & tired. All I wanted to do was snuggle my little baby.
I had so much encouragement from the birth team & John… there’s NO WAY I could have done it without them! At some point, John started really praying hard for me (he had been praying the whole time, but something changed when I told him that I had fear & thought I couldn’t do it). He started really praying for me through every contraction & it helped soo much. At this point LeAnn got in my face more & told me I could do it—that my body was designed to do it & that I was going to meet my little baby soon. They both remained so calm the entire time, which also helped me stay as calm as I could, although at one point, I do admit to biting John on the knuckle… sorry honey!
I could start the feel the baby come down & it was such a crazy feeling… to feel the baby come down as I pushed with each contraction. Once the birth team could see her head (first glimpse was at 7:21), things especially got challenging for me. Either Julie or Noel suggested that I feel her head & it was so crazy to feel a little baby head coming out of me, but it encouraged me that it was soon to be over! At this point, I feel like I just had to make a decision that, yes, I was going to have this baby, & right now dang it! I think a couple of times before a contraction came on, I said, “OK it’s time!” I was convinced that I would just have to push one more time… & then the head would kind of go back inside of me & it got me down a bit… until LeAnn explained that I wanted this to happen (otherwise it would be too intense too quickly). My bottom needed more time to stretch out. John kept praying, the team kept encouraging me, & I kept moaning, screaming, biting, & squeezing. There were a few more contractions & intense pushes… I actually sort of enjoyed the pushing phase, at the end of each contraction—it was the most powerful feeling I’ve ever felt—I’ve never experienced such strength & intensity in my life. All throughout labor, the baby still continued to kick me, which I also thought was pretty crazy—the baby was ready to get out, too!
A few more pushes later, I got up the gusto to push the entire head out—at first I thought her whole body was out, but then the contraction stopped. The team all squealed at the dark black hair (yes, a hairy baby!) Then the baby started turning, which was really, really uncomfortably, but with the next contraction, I was able to fully push the baby out. It was 7:56am.
I immediately went down into the water & scooped up our precious little babe. I was so overwhelmed & excited & relieved! I put the baby close to my body & the birth team threw a towel over us so the baby wouldn’t get cold. At that point, I still had to deliver the placenta, but LeAnn wanted me to get out of the tub for that, so they helped me hobble out of the tub with the baby still attached (they wanted to cord to stop pulsing before it was cut). The cord was so short that it made for an adventurous 10-foot walk over to the bed, but we got there. I lay down with John at my side while I pushed the placenta out with my next contraction or two. All of a sudden it dawned on us that we hadn’t checked to see if the baby was a boy or a girl! So we checked & were delighted to find out that she was in fact a girl! We had beat the odds of having a boy in our nearly all- male family (on both sides).
Ruby was lying on my chest & I felt the greatest high I haveever felt… I can’t believe I did it! I can’t believe we have a daughter! I can’t believe she was inside me minutes ago! It was incredible.
LeAnn informed me that I did have a bit of minor tearing & was bleeding a bit, but I wasn’t really concerned about any of that. She suggested that I go to the bathroom before she started stitching me up, so John cut the cord & I got up to go to the bathroom. The plan was to stitch me upstairs in our bedroom, since that was where we planned to “camp out” for the week after the birth. As I started walking, I immediately felt very dizzy & light-headed, so when I got to the toilet, they put me on oxygen & immediately started pushing fluids through me. I felt hot & dizzy & super tired. All of a sudden, I wanted sleep more than anything else! LeAnn told me to keep my eyes open & drink whatever they gave me. Then Noel suggested that I eat something & they got a fan to blow right on me. They also took my blood pressure & it was like 70 over 40. Pretty low.
I wasn’t worried at all—heck I was in my own little world, but I could see that John had a very concerned look on his face as he snuggled our daughter. After a bit, I could see LeAnn explaining some things to him & then he looked better. I didn’t realize until much later how out of it I was & how concerned he was. It was pretty much John’s only fear with a homebirth—that I would bleed a lot or need to go to the hospital after the baby was born & Satan was totally playing with his mind at this point, putting doubt & fear into him.
After a bit, I came to. They had me sit in the bathroom for a long time, & eventually I was able to come back over to the bed to get stitched up. John placed Ruby on my chest & he went upstairs to take a shower & pray. The stitching-process was sucky… no fun… but the fact that I had a gorgeous little girl that in fact was my DAUGHTER on my chest made it all worth it!
For the next handful of hours, John & I laid on the bed with Ruby & spent time getting to know her—ogling over her dark jet black hair, rosy pink skin & brassy cries. What a beauty! The birth team gave us some time alone & made themselves busy with cleaning up the place, enjoying some food, & eventually checking Ruby over. They weighed her & gave her a little physical to make sure everything was where it should be & that she had all her toes, etc. Turns out she’s a pretty exceptional human being—8 pounds 9 ounces & 21 ½ inches long.
I am completely overwhelmed by the experience of giving birth at home & we would do it again without a doubt. The things I loved the most were the comforts of being home (not having to go in a car during labor was marvelous & so was not having to pack any bags), all of the options for positions during labor (being able to be on the toilet or walk around or lay down or be in the tub, etc.), the lack of intervention because I was “low risk” (my body knew how to birth her, I just had to trust that), & the overall support, love, & respect of the birth team.
Those women were so incredibly helpful, encouraging & empowering. And then there’s my husband… not once did he look doubtful, nervous, or unsure of me (during labor… afterwards, he was a little concerned, but I was pretty out of it, so I didn’t notice much!) John was there to pray & help me through every contraction, get me more juice, get squeezed, & just generally support me. And now, even as I am recovering physically, he is such a champ—going overboard to sacrifice for me & take care of our daughter & me. I’ve never seen so much love & care… what a man!
As of today, she’s already a week old… she’s already changed quite a bit—she is becoming more acclimated to being outside of me & doesn’t jolt as much when she hears a loud sound. Her cord stump fell off yesterday, & she’s totally got the hang of feeding (at first she was so tentative & gentle & now she’s like a baby barracuda!) I can’t believe I have a healthy baby girl… I can’t believe we get to be parents… thank you so much for all your prayers & encouragement—please keep it coming & we’ll keep updating you on the life of sweet little Ruby!
Special love & thanks to LeAnn van den Bosch, our midwife, for taking care of us & ensuring that the birth of our babe was everything we wanted it to be. We love you!!