This is the story of Rohan's birth. It's long, so get comfy and grab a cup of coffee before you settle in to read. I've included some pictures too. I will say, they aren't perfect and beautiful, but this is what natural birth looks like, mascara smudges and all.
I am going to attempt to write this birth story and include all the relevant details. It was so amazing, overpowering, shocking...just so much MORE than I expected.
Sunday evening we went to my in-laws' house for dinner to celebrate my brother in law's birthday. I noticed some cramping throughout dinner, but intentionally ignored it since I didn't want to get my hopes up. I'd been having cramps here and there for a week or so. They would come in the evenings after Luca was in bed, but if I tried to time them or concentrate on them (or heaven forbid get excited about them!) they would disappear. So I had decided that until something really noticeable was happening, I would carry on as though they weren't there. I didn't even mention them to my husband, mainly because I was worried he would tell his whole family - - - my husband not being much of a secret-keeper - - - and I didn't want everyone excited in case they fizzled as usual.
After dinner with the in laws, we met my family for dinner to celebrate my mom's birthday. Cramping continued, and I noticed my appetite was almost non-existent. I started to time it when we got home about 9, but by 10:30 it was fading, so I went to bed.
Monday morning (3 days past my EDD) I woke up and decided I was not in the mood to work at home as I usually do on Mondays, so I emailed my boss and told her I planned to take the day off. I called my Midwife Sue at 9 and said "Nothing is happening.", so she suggested we make an appointment for Tuesday at noon, and I agreed. About 10, I talked to my mom, who said she'd come over so we could go shopping and to lunch. I didn't tell her this, but by the time she got over at about 10:45, I was having some cramping like early labor. While shopping, they started to get stronger and spread into my back. I found myself rocking my hips side to side while holding onto the cart and walking. At one point, I tried to sit down to look at a pattern book at the fabric store, and couldn't bear sitting still.
We went to lunch at Chick Fil A after shopping, and at this point sitting to eat was starting to get really uncomfortable. I hardly ate anything, since my appetite was still pretty non-existent. We got home about 12:30. Our friend Natalie and her baby girl Elle came over for a bit. We sat on the floor playing with Elle, and I started to notice that I was REALLY uncomfortable sitting on the floor. I was having to shift positions and move my hips a lot, but I didn't really want to let on to Natalie that I was so uncomfortable so I tried to play it cool while she was there. She left at 1:30, and my mom took Luca up for her nap.
I decided to get on my knees and lean my chest over my yoga ball while my mom was upstairs, to see if the back pain would ease. I was rocking my pelvis back and forward and having to concentrate through the contractions. I also started to time my pains (which I was just now starting to accept WERE contractions and were not going away) on contractionmaster.com. To my GREAT surprise, they were about 3-3.5 minutes apart, but only lasting about 25-45 seconds, and still manageable enough I could talk through them.
After 15 minutes, I decided I should call my MW. I left her a voice mail to the effect of, "Just FYI, contrax are 3-4 minutes apart but manageable. No rush, but if you can stop by later please do."
At 1:50, I called Darrick's work. He had just gone in to teach the last class of the day, so I told the front office I was in labor, but no rush for him to come home, as I was sure we had HOURS still (my labor with Luca was 27 hours!). He has wrestling club after school on Mondays, and I wanted him to come home after class instead of going to that. Thank goodness he got the message at 2:30 and came straight home...
My MW called back from her tax man's office in the West Valley (40 or so minutes away), and I kept trying to reassure her that I was sure I'd be in labor forever and there was no rush to come over. She said to me, "Katie, this is your second baby and your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart. I don't want to miss your birth." She asked if it was ok for her to send her former apprentice, Alison, who's now licensed, to check me so she could tell Sue how progressed I was. I said of course, and she said Alison would call me. When Alison did call, I realized I was having trouble concentrating and couldn't manage to give her directions, so I passed the phone to my mom and went upstairs to go to the bathroom.
At some point, Darrick got home and came upstairs and into the bathroom (I think this was shortly before 3) and asked me how sure I was this was 'IT'. I remember looking at my face in the mirror, and it was white, and telling him, "Please go set up the pool." His eyes got HUGE and he asked if I was ok. I remember telling him that I was starting to get scared by the intensity and speed of things, and was kind of worried with how fast it seemed to be going. He looked me in the eyes and said, "Sue will make it. And if she doesn't, we can do this. All we need is each other." It was in that moment that I relaxed a little. I felt safe, like together we could do anything.
In the time it took me to get downstairs I had 3 contractions. I told Darrick he needed to call Sue back and tell her to head over because I was worried she wouldn't make it in time otherwise.
I laid on the couch on my side, and between contractions I heard my MW's current apprentice, Selena, talking to me, though I don't know when she got there. I was coping with the contractions by shaking my foot vigorously and counting to 10 as I breathed in and out, but their intensity was really shocking me. It seemed like they were one on top of the other, and I still was in denial it was getting so intense so quickly. Alison showed up at 3:15 (I know the time only because she told me later) and asked to check me between contractions. Every time she would get ready to check, I'd have a contraction...that's how close they were together.
A funny aside here: my mom had been hanging out with me until Darrick got home, and had run out to Home Depot for something before Alison showed up. Alison asked Darrick if we had olive oil to use (instead of KY like OBs use) to check my progress. He heard only 'oil', so he came out of the kitchen with the BIGGEST bottle of vegetable oil you could imagine. Between contractions I noticed it and cracked up, telling him she wanted to check my cervix, not stir-fry my placenta.
So Alison checks me and says I'm 5cm and 'paper thin'. She suggests I get upright so baby's head will put pressure on my cervix. Right after she checked me, I thought I felt some fluid leaking, so I told her I thought my water broke, and she confirmed it had. Apparently just her quick check of the cervix was all my body needed to fly into overdrive. I asked if I could get into the pool and she said of course, so in I went. Right away, I had 2 or 3 strong contractions. I'm not sure how she knew, but Alison told Darrick that he needed to help me get my swimsuit bottoms off (yes, while in labor I'd gone upstairs and changed into a bikini with a shirt on top) between my contractions in case I needed to push. I fought them a bit over removing the bottoms because I was starting to freak a little about how fast it was going. With their help I got them off and sunk into the pool. I remember wishing the water was deeper, because during a contraction my back and belly couldn't all be submerged at the same time. But the water felt so nice and welcoming.
At some point during this, my mom returned and I told Darrick to have her get Luca and get out ASAP. I was vocalizing through my contractions at this point and didn't want to scare Luca (who was napping still). My mom ran up to get her, but every time she tried to come down the stairs, I would yell, "NO! Not yet!" because another contraction was coming. She finally escaped between contractions, and not a moment too soon, because I started telling Alison and Selena I thought I was going to push. It really was involuntary...the urge was so strong I could not stop myself. At this point I was on my knees, leaning my upper body onto Darrick's arms and the side of the pool.
They gave me the ok to push, and I was thinking, "No way. There is NO WAY I am ready to push yet! It han't been long enough!". But with the next contraction, I couldn't stop my body from bearing down, so I let it happen on its own. "I'm pushing!! Oh! I'm pushing!" I cried out. I'm not sure if I was proud or shocked or a little of both, but I think I really needed to verbalize what I was doing so someone could assure me it was the right thing. I was still in denial that it was time to push already. They cheered me on and said, "Great! Keep going as long as you feel the urge!"
Somewhere in here, Sue arrived. I heard her and Alison talking, but I was in my zone. It's true what you hear about labor-land. I knew things were happening outside my birth pool, but I couldn't be bothered with focusing on what those things were. They let me just push during contractions for awhile. I was kind of scared of the pain because everyone told me pushing is a relief and not painful, but that was not true for me...while I couldn't feel the contractions anymore, I could feel the baby moving down and it was surprisingly intense. But they were talking to me, telling me I could do it and that my baby was almost here. That, and Darrick telling me over and over how well I was doing and how proud he was got me through and kept me going. He would hold a cool cloth to my forehead and neck while I was pushing, then give me sips of Gatorade or water between contractions.
Throughout the time in the pool, the Midwives were periodically checking my pulse and listening for baby. I was fine as was baby, but they were having trouble hearing baby's heartbeat because it was behind my pubic bone. To be on the safe side, they put a tube with oxygen in front of me during pushing, which was when I realized my MW's other apprentice, Greeta, was also there, as she was holding the tube.
Between contractions, I was laughing and apologizing for making so much noise (really I was just grunting and ocassionally throwing in a profanity or a chant to myself like, "Open for baby, open for baby." or "Come out baby. We're ready. Come out." or "I can I can I can I can I am.") and they were laughing about that. They promised I wasn't even CLOSE to yelling and they had heard WAY louder births. I remember being surprised at how present and clear I felt in the space between contractions. In contrast as soon as I felt the beginnings of the next contraction sneaking up on me ,or, sometimes, barreling over me, I would retreat into my self, focusing only on Darrick's hand holding mine and the feel of the side of the birth pool on my cheek.
After about 30 minutes of pushing, I could feel baby really low. They told me I could feel the head when I pushed, so I reached and felt it and started to cry. Right after that, they suggested I flip over to sitting so I'd have more control and could open my hips more. Because of the pressure, I was fighting opening my legs wide enough, and I needed to be on my butt to do so. They helped me over, and with the next few contractions I pushed from there. I put my hand down and could feel the head, but I kept my eyes closed the whole time.
Usually when you push, baby moves down, and when you stop they go back up a bit. I could feel the movement down and then up through most of the pushing phase, but at this point I would push and could feel that baby was just sitting there in the same spot. Sue suggested I might have better luck out of the water on the birth stool, and I said I didn't want to get out. Mostly, I couldn't imagine hauling myself out of the pool in the midst of all this. I heard her send one of the apprentices out to get the birth stool, and that was all I needed to hear. I had spent months imagining my baby being born into water, and I was determined to make it happen.
I pushed with all my might through the next contraction, and could feel him crowning. It did burn, but only for a second. I thought I felt his head come out, so I was asking, "Is baby out? Is that my baby?" and they said, "No, but you're right there. Keep going!" I couldn't understand why I thought I felt baby come out and they were saying no, but I pushed through the next contraction and felt his head, then his body slide out. That felt like a HUGE relief. Turns out, what I felt earlier that I thought was his head coming out was Sue pulling his right hand up and over his head. He was coming out with his hand by his face, which meant his head was torqued to the side. The odd angle of his head and the hand by the face (nuchal hand) explained why he was just sitting there and not moving while pushing. They told me later that if his hand hadn't been there, he would have been out before Sue had even gotten to my house. He also had his cord very loosely around his neck one time, but as is the case with most nuchal cords, it was never a dangerous situation.
Rohan Morrison Kahle was born at 4:25 p.m.
The amazing Sue continues to support me, even after Rohan is born.
As soon as he was out, I reached down for him and they handed him to me to put him on my chest, and I started to laugh and cry. I kept thanking everyone and saying, "I can't believe we did this!". They corrected me and reminded me *I* did it, which of course made me cry some more. Darrick got the camera and took some pictures (the plan to photograph and video it all went by the wayside when it went so fast), and I just held him for a few minutes. Finally, Darrick lifted baby's leg and we both said, "BOY!".
They cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, and I ended up delivering the placenta in the pool and getting out right after. I got onto the couch and they covered me with blankets because I was shaking (post-birth hormones). By this point I was already feeling fine and not in pain at all. I was laughing about the vegetable oil and talking to everyone as though it were a normal day and I hadn't just given birth in a plastic pool in my living room on a Monday afternoon.
My MW and her apprentices hung out until about 6. In that time, I breastfed Rohan, we went upstairs and they did a newborn check on him, and they checked me for tears. Because of his size, the hand by the face, and the speed of my labor, we expected I may need stitches. My tear ended up being minor enough we opted not to stitch it at all. And I'll tell you....I am having NO pain at all, despite a big baby and a hand by the face. I really think being able to feel what was happening made for a better delivery and recovery. And to answer the question everyone seems to want to know the answer to...NO...I did NOT have to use the skimmer!
Weighing my beautiful son.
This was a novel, but I want to remember all the details before they get lost on me. This story is just the facts and details I know I'll want written for posterity. What I'm not sure it captures fully is the intense joy and surrender I felt giving birth to my first son at home, surrounded only by people I asked to attend and supported fully. Throughout my pregnancy, I grew to know and love my birth team, and they were supportive of every decision my family made and provided us a safe space in which we were able to create the birth we desired. It was an amazing experience. There was not a single moment in the whole pregnancy, labor, and birth when I was worried about my safety or Rohan's, and I never even thought about drugs while at home. I felt very safe and very comfortable, and though it was fast and for sure it was painful, it was amazing and I felt SO strong and so loved and supported.
I know homebirth isn't for a lot of people, but it was so amazing, and I'm glad I trusted my body and my baby and my husband and I got to have this beautiful experience.