Birth Story - Sean Heath (A Women Only Birth)
It was the early morning of July 26th. Brian was due home from a 7 month deployment the following afternoon at 4pm. I’d been talking to the baby for weeks, asking him to stay put until Brian made it home. I was now 5 days overdue and amazed I had made it so far and was now so close to Brian being able to be here for the birth. Originally he was scheduled home the beginning of July, but they got extended 3 weeks which coincided directly with my due date. I’d stressed over what to do when we got the news of the extension… whether to have my family come out, or hire a doula, etc. I ended up deciding I was stressing about it too much. I didn’t want one more person in the room in case Brian did make it home, and I just kept going forward with the thinking that he would. We had been planning a home birth since the very beginning, partially because I didn’t want to go to our local hospital and partially to ease my stress over what would happen if Brian didn’t make it home. I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about getting Mer anywhere or drive myself to the hospital. And with as fast as my labor with Meredith went I knew this time could be faster, leaving me less time to get somewhere to give birth. One of my leading thoughts when we found out our timing would be pushing it was that I wasn’t all that sad Brian would miss the birth itself, but since it would be such a different experience having a home birth, and I was sad he might miss that experience. In my last few weeks of pregnancy I started stressing about having a support person again and got a referral from a friend for a doula, Monessa. She not only had a deployed spouse rate which was very affordable, but she agreed to be flexible with me… letting me hire her if Brian didn’t make it home and agreeing not to charge me for anything if he did make it in time.
The house, decorated for Brian's homecoming & with the cars of my entourage outside.
So it was the early morning of July 26th… I was in bed unable to sleep, feeling like a 5 year old on Christmas Eve. I was so excited homecoming was the following afternoon and anxious about the last few hours between then and now. I knew there was still plenty of time for a baby to be born, even though we were SO close to Brian making it back. I was laying in bed reading “Pushed” when at 1:15am I felt a pop. I’d heard women describe this feeling and I immediately had two thoughts, “you’ve gotta be kidding me” was one, and the other was “please let me be one of those women whose water breaks and doesn’t start laboring right away.” I didn’t get an immediate gush of fluid, so I wasn’t totally sure that’s what the pop was. About 15 minutes later I got a small gush and when I went to the bathroom what came out was definitely not pee. It was cloudy and specked with mucus. I knew for sure then that my water had broken. I called Brian who was in Fallon, NV for the night and told him. His response was “oh no” since we both knew how close we’d gotten to having him here. I still hadn’t started contracting so was holding onto the sliver of hope that it would be a long labor (who ever hopes for that?? Haha). I broke down crying on the phone, so frustrated that we were just hours away from being together again. He was so great, reminding me that it was going to be fantastic, we were going to have a baby and that I would do a great job. After hanging up with him I got the bed stripped and ready, and made sure all my supplies were in order. Almost exactly an hour later I got my first contraction, around 2:15am. The whole time I was thinking that it was the middle of the night and I really didn’t want to disturb anyone so I waited to call anyone for a while (even though my midwife, Cynthia, would laugh at me later saying she’s pretty sure my water breaking was one of the things she’d told me warranted a phone call). My contractions started with regularity, and were immediately 1 minute long, 5 minutes apart. So textbook, where my contractions with Meredith were definitely not (I found out later they were typical for a posterior baby). I tracked my contractions for about 45 minutes before I decided to call Cynthia. At 3am I called her and told her what was going on. She said to track them a little longer and give her a call back either when they got more intense or when I wanted her here. I waited a little longer. The contractions were still fairly light and I wasn’t sweating through them yet so I decided to wait to call Monessa (doula) and Nikki (who was on “Meredith Duty”). Around 4:30 the contractions picked up a little bit and that’s when I decided to call both Monessa and Nikki. After I called them I came downstairs to unlock the doors and put a lunch together for Meredith since I wasn’t sure if she’d go to preschool that day or not. Being upright made the contractions a little worse and closer together and stopped me in my tracks several times. Got back upstairs and Monessa showed up a few minutes later. She started rubbing my back which felt really good and relaxing. I said I wasn’t sure if I should call Cynthia yet since my contractions were still bearable, but I also knew she was at least a 30 minute drive away. Monessa suggested I wait for a few more contractions before deciding for sure, so I waited. Maybe 20-30 minutes later they started picking up and I was feeling like I was sweating through them. This was the point with Meredith that we’d decided to go to the hospital, so I was thinking I was probably hitting around 3-4cm dilated. I decided to call Cynthia. This must have been around 5:30. We decided to change my position, and I sat on the ball at the end of the bed, leaning on the bed. This definitely picked the contractions up, and after a little while of this Monessa suggested the tub, which I’d just been thinking about. She ran the bath for me and I got in. It felt so good and relaxing. Cynthia showed up just a few minutes later and got set up while I relaxed in the tub. I spent probably an hour in the tub, during which time my contractions picked up from being able to breathe through to having to moan through. I asked Monessa to ask Nikki to call Kat, my photographer. I felt like things were progressing now and I wanted to be sure she was there. Thankfully she lives just down the street from me, so made it over very quickly. This was around 6:30 I think, and again I just kept thinking I didn’t want to disturb anyone too early. She made it over just before I got out of the tub.
Laboring in the tub
Around 7 I got out of the tub and onto the bed. I was laying on my side and the contractions were getting intense. I started feeling a little pushy and was having a hard time staying relaxed through my contractions. Cynthia checked me at 7:15 when I mentioned needing to push and told me I was only 5cm. This was SO discouraging considering the intensity of the contractions I was feeling. I kept hoping it meant that I was just progressing very quickly and not that I had hours of this type of contractions ahead of me. I was feeling a LOT of back pressure at this point too and was asking Monessa to apply counter pressure on my lower back. During one of my next contractions Cynthia checked me again and I was at 7cm. She said not to try to push, but if my body was pushing along with the contractions to keep doing what I was doing since it was obviously working, and quickly. Every time I’d feel pushy, amniotic fluid would come out and I remember Cynthia telling me that was a good sign that I was dilating and the fluid was able to get through. She asked if I wanted to change position, and so they got me up on my hands and knees. This picked the intensity up even more. They kept having to shove more pillows and stools under my arms to make sure my position wasn’t fighting gravity. I started feeling very out of control. I got whole body shakes and was screaming and crying through my contractions. With Meredith’s birth I never did anything other than very loud moaning, so this was a very different experience for me. No one ever told me when I made it to 10cm and could start pushing, it just started happening. I kept thinking that someone should call Brian but couldn’t articulate it.
And then he called.
I was between contractions and Monessa put the phone to my ear. He asked how I was doing and I responded “I’m okay” and I remember hearing everyone laugh in the background. Monessa continued to hold the phone so that Brian could “be there”. He says he had no idea what was going on and then all of a sudden there was the baby’s cry. I was feeling that really low pressure of pushing but was much more aware of the feeling of needing to poop than I ever was with Meredith. I think that inhibited my pushing a little bit, especially with my butt up in the air! I got the “ring of fire” feeling, which I also never had with Meredith and started feeling like I really might not be able to push him out. Screaming through it all did help focus my energy and I felt his head come out. With Meredith delivering her body afterward was easy, but that wasn’t so this time either. Another contraction and another BIG painful push and he was out. I felt an overwhelming wave of relief that he was out and it was done. At 8:03am he was born, only 45 minutes after I was told I was only 5cm dilated. It was a very quick and very intense labor.
Meeting Sean for the first time. Cynthia is holding the phone up for Brian to hear.
Brian was still on the phone and the baby cried. It felt like ages until they got me flipped over onto my back and put the baby on my chest, but I’m sure it was only a few moments. I asked for my glasses and they fogged up immediately. They got me on my back and put him up to me and I got to see my son for the first time. My first thought was how he didn’t have nearly as much hair as I’d expected him to have. Based on how much heartburn I had through my pregnancy I was sure he would come out hairier than Meredith was, but he had just a little hair on his head. He was also very fair and I noticed a little later his eyes were light and looked like they may be blue. I talked to Brian for a bit and Monessa snapped a few quick pictures on her cell phone to send to him. The timing of his phone call couldn’t have been better. He had to go get his jet ready to fly home that afternoon. I delivered the placenta and after the cord had stopped pulsing I cut the cord myself. Cynthia showed me the placenta and noted that there were several white calcification spots, showing it was aging.
First snuggles with my boy.
Post birth bliss!
They got me propped up in bed and once things were cleaned up Nikki brought Meredith up to meet her new baby brother. I had tried to prepare her for the noises I might make and what the birth would be like in case she wanted to be in the room when he was born. I’m glad she didn’t want to be though, with how intense it was. She got to meet him almost right away and hung out in bed with us as we nursed for the first time. She got a special present from baby brother which she got to open (it was a “Jessie” doll from Toy Story which she’d been wanting). We hung out in bed for a little bit, then they took him and got him weighed (he had already pooped on me, so I really think his actual birth weight was closer to 10lb). Cynthia handed him to Nikki to hold and I laughed at the “deer in the headlights” look she got on her face! I took a quick shower and Cynthia got me stitched up. I had a small tear, about the same as I had with Meredith.
Meredith meeting baby brother for the first time.
Nursing Sean for the first time.
Jessie doll from baby brother.
I joked that now I had a few hours to rest before homecoming, and Cynthia very firmly told me I was forbidden and I think told Kat to make sure I didn’t go! After a while we sat on the bed while Cynthia checked Sean out, making sure all his joints were go
od and everything was healthy. Meredith sat up with us and Cynthia explained to her everything she was doing. It was all so relaxed and calm. They got wrapped up and I got a photo of everyone in bed with me before they left.
Nikki and Meredith admiring our new addition.
My amazing team! L to R: Monessa my doula, Me, Sean, Cynthia my midwife,
Patricia her assistant & Meredith
I mentioned to both Monessa and Cynthia later that as much as it wasn’t the timing I’d hoped for (not having Brian there) it was such a different and amazing experience having a baby in only the company of women. It reminded me of the book “The Red Tent” about biblical era birthing when women would retreat to a tent together and help their sisters and friends birth their babies. As much as I wanted Brian there I feel the timing couldn’t have been better. I had an amazing birth experience surrounded by amazing women, and Brian came home that afternoon to meet his just hours old son.
Our family, together again!
I, of course, dismissed Cynthia’s forbidding me and went to homecoming anyway. I almost didn’t go. I was in baby bliss land and was happy to let Krista take Meredith and for us to have our homecoming when Brian made it back to the house. But we were able to get a pass to get the car out to the flight line so I wouldn’t have to walk far, and I really wanted to see Meredith’s reunion with Brian. The news wanted to interview us, but I didn’t want Cynthia to see the story and get mad that I’d gone to homecoming against her express instructions! I waddled myself out to the flight line and welcomed my husband home with his brand new baby. He said he couldn’t believe I went, but I kept saying I was going to get my homecoming, and I got my homecoming!!
Brian meeting his son for the first time, just 8 hours old!