July 22, 2008 — Kender Allyn Hunt
Kender was a surprise baby. Not like a birth control failure surprise, more like a “we got lazy with the birth control” surprise…but unplanned, nevertheless. That’s how he got his name. Kender love to play tricks on people, and we like to say he tricked us into letting him in! His middle name comes from my mother’s ancestors, the Allyn family, who actually came from the Vermontville area, just up the road from where we were in Michigan.
I stuck with the same group of midwives that I used with Jarod. At my first appointment, I found out that they do homebirths occasionally, and that they would be willing to do so for me. I was absolutely elated to finally get the opportunity (again!) for a homebirth. I had the same Symphysis Pubis Disfunction as last time, lots of pain. Now that we had a hot-tub, I spent more and more time in it as my due date approached, trying to relieve my aching joints.
I went into prodromal/early labor about a week before my due date, which was July 14. I was having very irregular contractions. Whenever I was up and about, doing my usual chores, they would become worse, bringing tears to my eyes and making me stop in my tracks. When I rested, they went away. About every other night, they would wake me up in the middle of the night and continue for several hours, making me exhausted from intermittent lack of sleep. This went on for two weeks.
The day Kender was born, I had another midwife appointment at the birth center. I asked for a cervical exam, something I rarely do, just to check…and of course, “nothing was happening”. We ended up stuck at the birth center for over an hour while my mom took the kids out for breakfast, and I spent it on a birth ball in one of the birth rooms, just trying to forget that I existed. On the way home, I had several contractions in the car, and they were worse than usual (up until that day, I had still been able to drive myself). I got home and went straight into the hot tub…and ended up staying there most of the day. I’d float for an hour or so, then get out and sit on the birth ball for a while. I tried to take a nap in the early afternoon, but the contractions would wake me up every time, hard enough for me to vocalize through. Still, they were relatively far apart and irregular, ranging from 6 to 15 minutes apart. Because of this, I was still convinced that, although things seemed worse than they had been, I still wasn’t in “active” labor yet.
Brian and my mother both had taken the day off, and were asking me all day long if they could call the midwives. I finally consented around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, still convinced it would be a waste of time. Right about then, a thunderstorm moved into the area, and I had to get out of the hot tub. The skirt I had been wearing suddenly became unbearable, too much pressure on my tummy. Modesty just gets thrown out the window in labor, though. I ended up in just a shirt and panties, leaning against the open doorframe to the side porch, listening to music and watching the thunder and rain. The midwives showed up while this was going on, and made themselves at home, taking a quick listen to Kender and getting out their knitting and books. Once the storm passed, I got back in the hot tub. I stayed there the rest of the time, coming out about once an hour to use the bathroom and once to eat dinner. I had my books, but didn’t feel like reading much. Contractions were still very, very irregular and far apart.
Around 8:30 or so, I realized that my body seemed to be trying to push a little. Right up until this very moment, I still had not believed I would be having a baby today. I investigated this feeling and went with it, and suddenly felt much better during contractions. I checked myself after the first good push, and I felt a squishy sac instead of a hard head. My water had not broken yet, but he was coming down anyway. I commented to the midwife that he might be lucky and be born in the caul, and she suddenly hopped up from her bench and started scrambling with the other midwife to get their birth kit set up. (Poor things, I didn’t give them much warning!) I started pushing in earnest.
For the first couple of pushes, I was feeling this horrible, sharp pain, which felt like it was somewhere between my right hip and the front of my pelvis. This concerned me a little, but for the next couple of pushes I got into this very odd position, with one leg up on a seat in the tub and the other leg stretched out to the side and behind me. After that, no more pain there. My water broke with the next push in an explosive gush that would have created a huge mess if I hadn’t been the tub. I asked Brian to get behind me so I could lean back on him a little bit, feeling like I needed that position next. He got in, but didn’t understand what I wanted and was trying to play catch instead. I was not very verbal while pushing, so it took me a bit to get my wishes across to him! I didn’t really lean against him so much as just feel him behind me, and it was a very comforting presence.
At some point in all of this, I had a sudden thought. I was in a hot tub with a constant circulator and ozonator. The heat was being maintained at 98 degrees, but the ozonator meant there were bubbles in the water coming out. I remember reading about how babies born in the water are safe because they don’t get the breathing reflex until they feel air on their faces. I thought, oh no, what if those bubbles could trigger the reflex? And they were pointed right at me! So I hollered for somebody to turn the tub off, without saying why, and somebody went over and threw the breaker switch.
After about 30 minutes or so of active pushing, Kender crowned, and then his head was born. Unlike with Jarod, where my hands were busy holding me up, the bouyancy of the hot tub gave me more freedom of movement, and I was able to reach down and feel Kender’s head coming out, and feel his face and his ears after his head was out. Once his head was out and he was rotating for the final bit, he started wiggling. I could actually feel him kicking and wriggling inside my vagina, pushing to get the rest of the way out! I had to push really, really hard to get his shoulders out, but once they emerged, the rest was easy and out he came.
The midwives had been ignoring me up to this point, just watching from the side of the tub and taking pictures. Once I lifted Kender out of the water, one of them came over and quickly assessed him in my arms. He was a little too limp and blue for her, although no different really than Jarod at first, and she encouraged me to rub his feet and wiggle him a bit until he took a nice deep breath and started to pink up. They put a hat on him and wrapped a blanket around him, which I still think was a bit silly since he was submerged in the water, but whatever. They turned the hot tub back on so we could have some light, snapping pictures the whole time, and we hung out for a bit. About five minutes after Kender was born, the kids got back from going out to dinner with my brother. They missed the birth, but got there right afterward.
I always hate the third stage. I hate the contractions leading up to the placental birth, I hate pushing out the placenta…the whole thing is just pointless extra pain and effort. Ugh. But it happens. We got the placenta into a bowl, and Tamara led the other kids in cutting the cord. I got out of the tub pretty quickly after that, before I did too much bleeding into it. They set me up on my reclining chair on the couch, with lots of chux pads and blankets and towels. Kender started nursing right away. What a champ, he was my best nurser! One of the midwives got out my last bottle of dandelion wine, and we all shared a glass. Finally they took him for weighing and measuring. I thought I would fall off my chair when I heard the results: 10 lbs 8 oz, with a 15.25″ head!!! He was even bigger than Liam, my failed HBAC baby that got stuck! Amazing!
Up for my first trip to the bathroom, and by the time I got back to the living room they had pulled out the sofabed and made it up for me. Got myself checked out, and no tears, not even a skid mark! The midwives packed up pretty quickly after that, and right before they left, one came over and whispered in my ear, “Fucking awesome!” She later told me that even she considered my birth to be unassisted. All they did was watch.
Everybody was gone, and birth was over. Really? That fast? Weird, strange, bizarre. No coming home, no trip in the car while I’m still woozy, no hospital food. Just roll over and cuddle the baby and fall asleep, and wake up at home. Wow. How cool is that?