Thursday, December 10, I was three days past my due date. Ordinarily this wouldn't have been a big deal, but I went into premature labor at 35 weeks with cervical changes and strong, consistent contractions. The contractions were daily and consistent, and we had started questioning the possibility of my due date being off a month. By now it felt like I had been in labor for five weeks. Since my first was born on her due date and my second had been five days early, I just assumed I would go into labor early again.
My Mom, who lives about an hour away, had come to visit on Sunday, December 6 and decided to stay saying that "surely" it would be any day now, and she planned on being present for the birth and to help with the other kids and the meals, etc. Monday came (my due date), then Tuesday, then Wednesday and nothing. She started making plans to go home Thursday evening and come back when the baby got here. Wednesday evening, we talked about how she had taken castor oil the day I was born, and she suggested I try it.
On Thursday morning, I went to the Midwife Archives and re-read the section on castor oil. At 11:50 a.m., I made a chocolate milkshake in the blender, drank 1/2 of it, poured a little back in the blender, mixed it with 2 tablespoons of Castor oil and guzzled it. Then I sat down and drank the rest of the "unoiled" milkshake. Ten minutes later I was in the bathroom. The effects of the castor oil continued for the next two hours.
At 2:00 I took a warm shower and as I got dressed, the contractions started. Mom and I watched Perry Mason and I timed the semi-hard contractions throughout the show. They were coming at four minutes apart and were lasting about 65 seconds. Suddenly, the contractions were harder, and I could really feel the cervix pulling. I started timing again and they were now two minutes apart. I called Michael at work and told him to get ready to come if I called again. He suggested I call Judy, our midwife, and give her some warning.
I called at 4:00 and she was just finishing dinner. She was heading down this way anyway and said she had a few stops to make and she would stop by and check me. I was still talking through contractions and coping pretty well.
By 4:30, they were getting harder and I could no longer talk through them. I was pacing in between and I would contract for 1 minute, have a 1 minute break and start contracting again. I called Michael back and managed to say "you'd better come home now." He arrived at 4:50 and found me squatting beside the bed moaning.
He paged Judy and left a message saying "if you aren't on your way you'd better get started." She called back and said she was about 15 minutes away. He said, "it sounds serious, you'd better hurry."
When she arrived, I was on my hands and knees leaning on pillows on the bed, moaning. She and her daughter started unloading the car. She checked me, and Matthew was still posterior. My cervix was also posterior, but as the next contraction started, it stretched to about 7 cm. I couldn't believe I made so much noise. I moaned almost constantly and must have annoyed everyone else, but I just did what came naturally. Since I was at home, in my own environment, I didn't feel restrained.
Judy suggested I stay in the forward leaning position and Matthew might turn anterior. (Both of the other children had been born in the posterior position, but in both cases I was flat on my back with my feet in stirrups, so gravity could not assist in turning them before birth.) She thought Matthew was trying to decide which way to come through. Sure enough, with the next contraction, his head turned completely around. By now the contractions were back to back and I had an incredible feeling of pressure. Judy said I had a large water bulge and with two more contractions the gush came. The water was clear. Matthew's heartbeat stayed steady and the pain grew worse.
I continued to moan, relieved that the pressure from the water was gone, but still feeling like "something" was in the way of my pushing. Judy said I still had an anterior lip and asked how soon I wanted to have this baby. She said the lip could move in a couple of contractions or she could try to stretch it out of the way. I moaned "AS SOON AS POSSIBLE." There was extreme pain as she moved the lip, but soon she announced that a head was in sight. Michael called for Tori to come upstairs and she and my mom came just in time. Mikey stayed downstairs with Judy's daughter.
I suddenly understood the term "primal urge" and the sound that came forth was like one possessed. It went from a grunt to a growl and I felt like my body took over and my brain had nothing to do with what was happening. Michael and Judy were telling me to slow down and my mind really tried, but my body didn't want to. I felt the "ring of fire," aptly named, and thought the end was near (mine, not the labor's). My body pushed for all it was worth and I heard Tori at the foot of the bed yelling, "I see his head! Hi Matthew!" At that point, I knew that his head was out, but because of my position, I couldn't see what was going on. I learned later that the cord was loosely around his neck once and Judy took her finger and looped it over his head and everything was fine. Judy told me I'd have to push harder. For some reason his shoulders didn't want to come through. They weren't stuck but just not coming out. I was pushing as hard as I could, but felt like I was pushing up against a wall. Judy worked and wiggled him for what seemed like an eternity. In a final rush, he was out. It turns out his chest was 14 1/2 inches which was a 1/2 inch bigger than his head, thus causing the delay. It was 7:20 p.m, a little under three hours since the active labor contractions started at 4:30.
I was still on my hands and knees and Judy told me to turn over. She handed my baby to me and Michael and I welcomed him into the world. After about three minutes, Matthew was crying lustily and pinking up. Then he started flailing his arms and legs. I put him to the breast immediately and he took a few minutes to latch on. He's been attached ever since, though :)
After 20 minutes, Michael clamped the cord, and he and Tori cut it. I delivered the placenta five minutes later and it was intact and healthy.
We decided to take time to get measurements, etc. so the phone calls could be made. He was 8 lbs. 12 oz. and measured 20.5". We then got him cleaned up and dressed. We handed Matthew to my Mom to hold until I got cleaned up. Michael helped me to the bathroom (although I felt pretty strong and wasn't shaking) and into the shower. Judy cleaned up the mess in the bedroom and removed the soiled sheets and pillow cases, etc. and prepared the bed. I went back to the bed and Judy checked for tearing, etc. I had only a small labial skin split which we quickly decided would go unstitched.
We all settled into bed about midnight, but Michael and I talked for a long time, too excited to sleep as Matthew lay sleeping peacefully between us. When he started squirming and sucking his fist, I moved to the rocking chair to nurse him.
The afterpains started soon after Matthew latched on the first time and were extremely painful (comparable to labor). Michael heated my rice/lavender bag which I laid on my belly as I nursed, and it felt really good.
We thank God for our new blessing. It's so good to hold him in my arms and look into his alert little eyes and realize that we were one just days ago. Our first homebirth has been one of the greatest experiences of our lives!