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It was autumn, my favorite season of the year. The evening before, my husband and I had taken our two children to a pumpkin patch. Evelyn (2) surprised us with her courage in riding a horse with her daddy. Benjamin (4) drove play trucks through sandboxes filled with corn kernels. We took a family photo in the corn maze as the sun set behind us, me with my big tummy and a child on either side. It was a perfect slice of autumn deliciousness.
The next day, we traveled to a funeral just over an hour from our home. Though the day was bittersweet as I grieved with family over the earthly loss of my great-uncle, I was relaxed and content. I enjoyed talking with family members I had not seen in a long time and appreciated the afternoon of sitting and being filled with conversation. Ben and Evie played in the church basement, entertaining themselves and sneaking cookies when no one was watching.
On our drive home, I relaxed in the passenger’s seat and admired the beauty of the harvest happening on either side of the rural highway. The sky glowed sunflower yellow and orange as the sun began to approach the hillsides. It was then that I noticed my abdomen tightening rhythmically, in a gentle and noticeable way. It was 5 pm.
I did not want to think that I was in labor. By my calculations, I was 38 weeks 1 day. I had a full week of class to instruct through the university and then final grading to accomplish. The house was a mess and I had not done the laundry in nearly a week. I had not felt a “nesting” instinct that would give energy to accomplish a list of tasks. In short, I was not ready for this baby to be born.
When we arrived at our home, Matt and I moved into our plan of action. I started a load of laundry and prepared supper. He began to pick up the typical clutter of toys, books, and random little shoes in preparation for vacuuming. When we had eaten, I moved to my downstairs office and began working on the grading that needed to be accomplished that weekend. I only paused to switch a load of laundry in between machines. Matt washed up the dishes and got the kids ready for bed.
I came up to kiss the children goodnight and to read a bedtime story to Ben. While reading out loud, I had to take breaks to breathe deeply between the growing contractions. I told my little boy, “Tonight Mama is going to work very hard. When you wake up in the morning, your new baby will be here!” He kissed my cheek and asked if Daddy could finish the story since I was taking so many breaks.
Once again, I sat at my computer, acutely aware that I was uncomfortable. My mind, however, was occupied with the work of my grading, so the discomfort moved to the edge of my awareness. I opened a web browser and used a program to time contractions in between grading. They came every 3 minutes, strong, and lasting about 30 seconds in length. It was 10 pm.
I called my mom and asked if she thought I was in labor. You know, “Is this the real thing? Or is this practice labor (Braxton Hicks)?” She suggested that I text our midwife to let her know what was happening. I quickly received a reply from the midwife: She was 12 hours away at a family reunion in another state. “I thought you were only at 38 weeks!” she texted. The midwife gave me the number of her colleague and told me to give her a message.
I laughed with Matt. Not home?! Our midwife Belinda had told us that her colleague Pam was marvelous, just as good as herself. Still, I had not met Pam, and I wondered if I would like her and feel comfortable around her. I waited another half an hour before texting Pam, inwardly hoping that my labor would slow or stop. I was counting on Belinda assisting my birth.
Pam asked me to lie down and relax to see if labor would stop. So at 11:30 pm, I cuddled up on the couch in our basement, lying on my left side, and watched Netflix with Matt. Two shows of Fixer Upper, and still my contractions came on – consistently, forcefully, frequently – but never longer than 45 seconds.
Around 12:30 am I typed a message back to Pam. She asked me to alert her when my contractions were at least a minute in length and she would prepare to come to our home an hour and a half away from her place. Matt turned on another show on Netflix. At this point, I could not concentrate on the program. Instead, I was using my hypnobirthing techniques to relax, close my eyes, and breathe deeply through contractions.
I didn’t make it to the end of that TV program. I had to crawl off the couch and felt comfortable on my hands and knees, leaning over the couch. After several contractions that required my utmost ability to relax and breathe though, I asked Matt to rapidly fill the birthing pool and to text Pam that I was certainly in active, hard labor, regardless of how long the contractions were lasting. I called my Mom for some comfort. “Mom, I’m hot, cold, and I’m shaking. I feel sick to my stomach. Please pray for us!” Though I didn’t say the word, I knew what it meant – I was nearing transition.
Matt placed a heating pad on my lower back and ran to fill the pool in the serene bedroom we had prepared a month in advance for this special day. I was concentrating, in that other world of labor, barely aware of what was going on around me. By the time the pool was completely filled, I was about to panic. I was really, really working to stay calm and relaxed. “Limp and loose for labor, limp and loose for labor,” I repeated to myself mentally as I visualized numbers counting down a contraction. I said out loud, “It’s okay. Don’t worry. You’re doing it.” That helped me get back to my ability to cope.
Matt helped me into the pool. Instant relief. I was bolstered and renewed by the hot water and I realized that I could do it, and would do it. Nonetheless, the contractions were strong and forceful. The midwives were still at least 45 minutes away. At that point, I placed my hands on my hips to apply pressure and I discernably felt the baby move down. I vaguely wondered what station the baby was in after that big movement. Then I wondered if I could wait until the midwives arrived to have the baby. I felt intense lower back pain, even in the water.
I leaned over the side of the pool and Matt grabbed my hands. Together we counted up and down, as visualizing and hearing the numbers helped me endure the intensity of the contractions. And then, I felt as if I needed to push. It wasn’t a real, rational thought; rather, I just knew. Out of sheer instinct, I pushed down. My water broke and I was incredulous. Was I really doing this on my own? I could know when and how to push without guidance? The recognition was empowering.
Matt texted the midwife. Pam and her nurse were thirty minutes away. I thought I could wait to push. I would try and wait. But after several more contractions, I felt the baby’s head in the vaginal canal. Still in the pool, I leaned on my left side and pushed, all thoughts completely gone. The baby’s head was about to come out. I grunted and tried to push slowly and carefully, and then the baby’s head emerged – but only partly. Matt had moved to the other side and was softly encouraging me, “Push, Heather, push! Push! Give it all you got!” I pushed mightily, groaning deeply and loudly. At last, the entire baby’s head was out. Matt reminded me to keep pushing. After one more deep push, the baby was born.
Matt reached out and caught the baby and immediately placed it on my chest. At that moment, he received a text message that Pam and her nurse Kari had arrived. It was 3:30 am. After hearing the baby’s loud, strong cries, he went to open the door to let the women in – with the news that the baby had just arrived!
Pam and Kari rushed down to the basement bedroom where baby and I were cuddling in the pool. Kari quickly covered us with a towel to keep us warm and placed a hat on the baby’s head. They asked how we were doing. I was joyful beyond comprehension, so happy to have the little baby in my arms. Matt peeked at the baby and announced that we had a baby boy. A boy! We laughed together, the great anticipation of learning the baby’s gender complete.
When the cord stopped pulsating, Matt cut it, and Pam helped me deliver the placenta. The women helped me out of the birthing pool and into bed and placed the baby boy in my arms. I held baby close and brought him to the breast, ready to share the liquid gold. After giving Matt, baby, and I significant time to bond, the midwives examined me; no tears, and my uterus was doing its job contracting as it should. They weighed and measured the baby – 8 pounds, 4 ounces. Our biggest newborn yet!
As the women completed paperwork, they asked, “What is baby’s name?” We did not have a boy’s name picked out. Matt thought for several minutes and asked, “What about Noah Emmanuel?” Perfect.
Even though the baby decided to arrive before the house was clean, meals were stocked away in the freezer, and my class was finished, the birth was simply perfect. I felt safe, calm, and loved in the comfort and peace of my own home. I learned that my body was truly designed to give birth without interruption or intervention, since everything – from first mild contraction to the birth itself – happened with only my husband by my side. We are grateful to have been able to welcome our little baby into the world in such a gentle and intimate way. We would certainly do it again.
Noah Emmanuel Siebert, born at home on October 11, 2015, 3:30 am.