Heather's First Homebirth
On March 18th Heather sent me an update text about her midwifery appointment:
“I just left my appointment. Sherri checked me and said I’m only 1cm and not ripe at all. She also questioned if I would interested in a membrane sweep. I told her since I wasn’t 40 weeks, I wanted to discuss it with you first.”
Heather and I have known each other for a couple of years. I was present for the birth of their previous son Westley. Our rapport and trust in each other is different than most. We have a history and I feel like a small part of their family. She kept me as part of her decision making team even while trying to conceive.
The very next morning, March 19th, at 5:32am my phone rings and it’s Heather. She tells me that her water has broken, but that there isn’t much going on and she’s going to try to rest. In our previous experience, Heather was also 1cm less than 12 hours prior to bringing her baby earth side. She went from having nothing happen to being in full blown active labor and pushing a baby out in less than 2 hours. I was ready for anything.
Just like the last time, her husband Brandon was as nervous as can be. He was in full support of Heather’s wants to have a home birth this time, but he feared that no one would make it in time and he’d be the “baby catcher”. He called me right after she did to make sure that Heather had told me what was going on. I verified that she did and he communicated that he was getting the other children ready to leave and head to their perspective care givers. I reminded him I was only 20 minutes away and would be there as soon as they needed me to.
At 6:30am I checked in and gave Heather a call. Heather said, “I’m totally fine. Nothing is happening. Brandon is nervous. You know how he is.”
I laid back down and closed my eyes. 30 minutes later a text from Heather reads, “Brandon wants you to come.” I wasn’t surprised by this at all and was happy to be by their side to help calm nerves, even if it just meant us chatting for a few hours.
I arrived around 8:30am and found Heather sitting on the couch perfectly comfortable. She was mostly upset about the consistent leaking water than anything else. I of course snapped a picture to capture the start of another journey together, which she was thrilled about.
We talked for hours including topics from how they met, about tactics to help having two small children at home, how weird the world look as all things COVID had just began. I caught them up on my personal life and then we discussed how hungry we were. Brandon jumped up and began to prep us a snack. Keeping them both chatting and busy was what I knew they needed even if nothing else was going on. Heather even decided to do some furniture repair before we had lunch.
Around 2pm Brandon wondered if we should call the midwives and have them come. It was hard to tell, because Heather was pretty stoic and didn’t have a whole lot going on. However, I did think it was a good idea to reach out and let them know that they may need to come soon. Upon calling, we discovered that their midwives were in the middle of a baby palooza and would come to check on things as soon as they could. Brandon again felt a bit nervous, but Heather giggled and said, “Melissa and I have this anyway.”
A little while later was the first time that I saw Heather have any discomfort at all and all that I saw was a little nose wrinkle. No noise, no stopping in conversation, but I knew we were turning a bit of a corner. Then she made her first audible noise. Brandon’s eyes widened and said, “Oh were are getting close!”. His nerves actually melted away. While I think most partners get nervous towards the end, Brandon just needed some signs that his baby was close and that Heather was doing well. That noise did just that.
Shortly after 4pm a midwifery student arrived. I could tell there were some questions regarding why she was there. As you can imagine, they don’t usually show up to a whole house full of people laughing, smiling, and snacking insisting a baby was imminent and if they do, they usually check in and leave.
However, I asked her to trust me and explained that Heather’s signs are trickier than others, but that I thought a baby was close. Heather agreed and made a comment that she didn’t think she would make it past 8pm. She was wonderfully agreeable and began to ask Heather some questions to get to know her better. Right before 5pm she asked to see the space and setup her birth things. Then the other midwife arrived.
Heather every 5 minutes or so would pause and take a deep breath during conversation and occasionally say, “I just had one.”, but beyond that things were quiet and peaceful. I suggested maybe we head upstarts where they had setup the birth tub. Heather really wanted a water birth the last time, but due to the speed of things didn’t make it. I wanted to make sure that this time around she had the birth that she had dreamt of having.
We made our way upstairs and Heather had a contraction where she bent over and I applied a bit of counter pressure to her back. She was still pretty quiet and both of the midwives continued to chat with Brandon while sitting on the floor next to the birth tub.
Heather walked into the bathroom to pee and I suggested she leave the door open. I watched her in the reflection grab her belly and take a deep breath. She sat on the toilet and at 6:01pm yelled, “Melissa!!!!”. I hopped up walked into the bathroom. The look of intensity on her face told the whole story. I walked toward her and spoke quietly.
Me: Let’s not have a baby on the toilet, let’s make it to the tub.
Heather: He’s right there.
Me: I’m sure he is. It will feel a bit less intense though if you get off of the toilet and into the tub.
Heather: Ok. Let’s do that.
At 6:04pm Heather got into the tub and said, “This feels so much better. I have a lot less pressure.”
I love this picture of her smiling in the tub more than any other birth photo I’ve ever taken. Heather is such a wonderful example of what it means to trust the process and your body. That birth doesn’t have to be scary or painful if you trust in it and yourself.
She had a contraction at 6:07pm that appeared to last for about 30 seconds and ended with a smile. At 6:09pm she looked at me, I was about 10ft away and she said, “Come here now.” With a smilier intensity to the way she had called my name from the bathroom. She put her head on her hands and I nodded at the midwives. The scooted closer to the tub, positioning themselves one on each side.
Heather held my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “Why did I want to do this again? I can’t do this.” I said, “It’s almost over. You are doing it. Just give a little push.” Heather replied, “Yeah I do have to push.”
I took this picture of Heather bearing down a bit for the first time at 6:14pm.
I took this next picture of baby Remington in her arms at 6:!5pm.
One of the midwives said, “Whoa! I did not expect that, even though you all did!”
Remington struggled a little bit to take his first breath. Anecdotally, babies who make their way through the brith canal quickly tend to take a bit more time to transition. It’s almost as if they are unaware they have been born.
Both midwives were rubbing Remington and Heather and I were talking to him. About 90 seconds in, one of the midwives, with the baby still in Heather arms, leaned in and gave him a few quick stimulation breaths. At 6:16pm Remington let out his big first beautiful cry. I looked over at Brandon and he took a deep breath. I walked over and rubbed his back, as tears flowed down his face.
Brandon then said, “He’s still really purple.” At that point we all pointed out that his body was really pink and that he was quite alert, but his quick decent through the pelvis looked like it had caused some bruising to his face. Again, a normal occurrence in these quick paced births.
As we waited for the placenta we also noticed a really cool feature of Remington’s umbilical cord. There was a true knot in the cord. I’m always so amazed at how perfect our bodies are made to still sustain life even in the oddest circumstances.
The midwives both commented on how nice it was to be a part of such a peaceful and wonderful birth. They had explained that some of the births they had experience over the weekend were pretty tough and that they felt lucky to end on such a positive note.
By 7:30pm, just a few hours after the midwives arrival, the house was clean and tidy and put back together. Heather, Brandon and Remington were tucked in their bed, having showered and eaten a meal.
I sat in bed with them for a bit and then Heather said, “I don’t think we will have baby number 4, for a couple of years, but I’m already excited for it!”
I was so happy for Heather. She finally had gotten the birth that she wanted. Beautiful and undisturbed, surrounding by the people she wanted to support her. I was so happy for Brandon as he also learned to trust the birth process this time around.
I was also so happy for Remington as he was born into a family packed full of so much love and puppies. Thank you Heather for giving me the honor of once again to witness such beauty and power of birth through you.
You can read Heather's first birth story here: