I wanted a natural childbirth at home because for me, it was the right thing to do. I was truly frightened of the interventions that are commonly administered in hospitals and the complications that frequently arise because of them. I knew that my labor and birth would be more comfortable at home. Although I was prepared to transfer if it the situation became urgent, I didn't want to disturb a natural and otherwise healthy process with hormones, painkillers, or unnecessary surgery.
At about 3:00 am on August 2nd, I got out of bed to make one of many trips to the bathroom and noticed a small amount of clear liquid running down my leg. It was such a small amount of liquid I decided to try and ignore it for a while. I didn't want to get too excited over nothing and I didn't think I should wake Noah up yet. I kept it to myself. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes back in bed I felt more of the warm liquid leaking out. That's when I knew, this is it. It's beginning.
I turned on our bedside light and told Noah I thought my water had broken. Then I called our midwife Nancy, who instructed me to get some rest and call her first thing in the morning, or when I started having contractions. Noah and I tried to go back to sleep but neither of us were able to relax. "You awake?" I said. "Yeah," he replied. He read and I knitted in bed until early morning. During the night, I took our dog Lucy outside to pee and right when I felt the fresh air I had such a sense of anticipation. It was silent and foggy except for the low drone of the foghorns and still quite dark outside, and it was misting all around me. I felt excitement building inside me, as I realized the time had come to labor and have my baby. I was so happy. The moment I'd been waiting for had finally arrived. I picked a flower and brought it upstairs to our bedroom to remind me of how good I felt.
When I phoned Nancy in the morning, she said she would come by around 11:00 am to check me and that I should go for a walk to stimulate labor contractions. Noah and I decided to take Lucy for a long walk around the Presidio golf course around 9:30 am. It was a slow walk, because of the increased pressure of the baby against my cervix. The walk got my blood flowing. It was peaceful and beautiful out. The cypress trees looked mysterious and delicate in the mist. Even though the weather was foggy, I felt a new clarity, like a veil had been lifted and I was seeing everything with new eyes. My pregnancy was coming to an end and our new life was beginning. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I would get to meet my baby soon.
Shortly after we arrived back at the house Nancy came over to check me. The baby's heartbeat was good and so was everything else. My contractions were still mild and irregular. Noah took the day off work, and my dad came over around 12:30. We all went out to lunch at a coffee shop about a block away from our house. I was really hungry and ate a big turkey sandwich. I felt a pretty strong contraction in the middle of my meal, and I had to pause and let it pass. After lunch, my dad wished us luck and left us at about 1:30.
Back home, Noah began preparing a curry dinner during my early labor. I timed my contractions at about 13 minutes apart, then 10, then 7, and by the time Nancy and Chanti, her trainee, returned they were strong and about 3 to 5 minutes apart. I was still able to breathe through them, and to talk and relax in between them. I felt like I had some control, and in between them I actually felt kind of high and euphoric, like I was floating. Each time one began, I tried to welcome it, allow it to pass over me and feel my cervix opening.
It was late afternoon, and Nancy said we could take another short walk, which sounded strange to me. I couldn't imagine going out, but Noah and I and Lucy somehow made it over to the dog park about 2 blocks from our house. I had to walk very slowly and carefully and to stop every 20 feet or so to lean on Noah during the contractions, to keep from falling down. It was by far the slowest walk we've ever been on. Lucy was very cooperative, walking at a snail's pace as opposed to her usual trot. When we returned, Nancy informed us that I was (only) just beginning active labor, and that she was leaving and coming back later. She said the contractions would still continue to get stronger and closer together. At this news, I became terrified. I had thought that I was almost there! After she left, I cried and told Noah I didn't think I could handle it. I got a little hysterical because I couldn't imagine things becoming more intense than they already were. It was all happening so fast and I wanted it to stop.
From that point, I labored in our room on my knees, pacing around the house, and on the toilet. I wanted to sit down and rest more than anything, but I couldn't relax - it was too intense, I had to keep moving. Noah was by my side the entire time, breathing deeply with me through the contractions, keeping me from panicking. His breath helped guide me gently through each surge. After a while the contractions became so strong I began moaning loudly with each exhale, which helped a little.
The contractions eventually joined together, so that it was hard to distinguish a clear beginning or end. It was like a series of waves, big, then smaller, then huge, over and over. By this time, I was in a completely different state of mind - focused only on the contractions - everything else was hazy and blurred. I tried hard to relax my shoulders but couldn't. I also kept thinking, I'm never doing this again! This is crazy! Then Chanti told me it would be OK to get in the warm tub which I did and immediately felt some relief. The water took the extra pressure off, and although it was still very intense, I was able to relax a bit and also not worry about finding a comfortable position to labor in. My body had freedom of movement and was supported so I no longer had to figure out how to support myself with my legs.
Pretty soon I felt the overwhelming urge to push at the end of a contraction. Chanti promptly called Nancy and informed her of my progress, and within a few minutes she and Leah (the assisting midwife) showed up and began supporting me and guiding me. Nancy checked me and I was almost fully dilated. Pushing was good because I was able to rest for a minute in between the contractions but it was difficult because the pushing itself took a lot of energy. It was such a strange sensation. My body took over completely and each push felt like it took every cell, every ounce of strength I had. I made loud grunting noises and screams, which I couldn't control. Yelling felt good. Nancy and the others were incredible. They kept telling me I was doing it, and that everything was fine, and that I could push my baby out. This stage seemed to last the longest, perhaps because I was so ready to be finished.
Eventually I got out of the tub and moved to the toilet, where my body could relax more. With the added pressure, the baby crowned. Noah looked pretty stunned at that point. Nancy told me that she didn't want me to give birth on the toilet, so somehow I made it into our bedroom. Everyone said, go ahead, you can lie down on your bed now, Sophia, and I said, "No way I'm getting on the bed!" I had to be upright, so I just stood by the bed, my body tense. I could feel the baby coming down, and with a few more pushes I felt the burning sensation called "ring of fire." That's when I knew I could do it. A couple more pushes and he was out! Nancy passed him through my legs up onto the bed in front of Noah and me. He came out pink and squirming and crying eyes open and fully alert. No delay in breathing. We took him in our arms and started laughing. We stared at the baby, and then at each other. Who was this baby? Oh my god, here he is!! It was hysterical! The reality of seeing and hearing the baby after my pregnancy and labor was funny. I cut the cord, we cuddled him, and he nursed a little. Helen and Amy came in and enthusiastically took pictures and video. This little baby was so sweet and cute!
After the midwives sewed me up and gave us instructions for care, and checked the baby (a perfect 10 --- rare in a hospital birth), we went to bed, happy, teary, exhausted, and still in shock. I was very proud of myself for getting through it. Noah was probably more emotionally drained than I was.
Looking back now, 8 days later, I am so proud, so glad, so grateful to have shared such an amazing experience with such wonderful people, and most of all, to have had my baby at home, where he was able to enter into a warm environment surrounded by love and affection, and where he was able to be born in good health with the reassuring care and medical expertise of the midwives, yet with an emergency room close by.
I have gained so much confidence in myself and in my body through this experience. I have learned to follow my instincts and to trust myself about what I feel is right. All the discomfort of pregnancy and labor is well worth it the second the baby is born! He is the reason for it all, and seeing his face and hearing his cries makes me so proud. I really couldn't have asked for anything more.