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Better together: The birth of Koen James Water Birth

Better together: The birth of Koen James

"I was filled with mixed emotions as I attempted to close my eyes. Although this was my second birth, it was very much my first."

Those who attended the birth of my first born would tell you it was unforgettable in the worst of ways. Two years ago, I was riding passenger on the way to the hospital to be induced. My husband and I discussed during our drive how delighted we were for our lives to change to a family of three to avoid the anxiety we felt. After a short ride, we arrived to small talk and routine work: readying IV’s, retrieving a catheter, sterilizing the area, the whole nine. Luckily, I was contracting on my own, so the use of Pitocin was unnecessary, and they went directly to breaking my water. Before leaving the room, my doctor quickly questioned me about the need of an epidural. Although my pain was fear driven, I was young and naive—I insisted.

Seconds after receiving the epidural, I was reaping its effects. I became so nauseated I couldn’t bare to speak. I was begging for relief as they injected a dose of phenergan into my IV. Little did anyone know, I was severely allergic to the medicine. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t talk. I began to black out. I woke up for a split second patting my chest in hopes to convey something was wrong. My nurse was frustrated and unaware of the situation. She got 2 inches from my face and yelled, “USE YOUR WORDS,” repeatedly. All I could do was grab her arm with a frail grip before passing out again. My condition was worsening when I awoke for a second time. I remember looking up to my husband holding my hand and telling me it would be okay as he began to tear. Everyone was being rushed out of the room as a team of doctors scrambled through the door. I didn’t know it but my heart rate was dropping.

Awake for a third and final time, it was over, but now, it was time to push. I was exhausted and still confused. I thought the oxygen they had me on was their attempt to put me to sleep. In between surges, with what little energy I had left, I was fighting to remove the mask. Two hours of nodding in and out, I remember asking if it was almost over. Anything that could have gone wrong did. I was ready to be holding our baby boy. A tiny 6 pounds and 12 ounces, he was finally here. Relieved we were both okay, I still look back and break a little inside knowing I am unable to recall the birth of my first child.

Once we became pregnant for the second time, we knew, wherever we delivered, we would not opt for any interventions. It wasn’t until the third trimester that we started weighing out our options of where we would welcome our newest addition. I knew I didn’t want to be in the same environment I was with my first, scarred from the experience we lived previously. It wasn’t until then that we discussed a home birth. No pokes and pricks, being in the comfort of home, not having to find a sitter for our son, it appeared to be a dream. This is what I wanted.

It was a day after my due date when my water broke as I was laying our son down for a nap. I immediately alerted my midwife, Rebekah, who was attending the birth of another mother. I then called out to my husband and informed him we would have a baby soon. We went about the rest of our day normally, trying to do the odds and ends in order to prep our house for birth. I continuously encouraged my husband to get as much rest as possible before going to bed myself.

I was filled with mixed emotions as I attempted to close my eyes. Although this was my second birth, it was very much my first. I didn’t know what to expect, as I had no previous experience other than reading what I could online. I woke up early Sunday morning with consistent contractions. I began timing them before I carefully crept out of bed, trying not disrupt our son, to go wake my husband on the couch. I could tell he had gotten little to no sleep. As I started to explain I needed his help timing my contractions, he told me he didn’t go to bed until 5 that morning … it was 3 a.m. Nodding in and out, we averaged my contractions 2 minutes apart while lasting 35 seconds.

Keeping my midwife updated, she decided it was time to head my way. She arrived just as the sun was making an appearance through the trees. She brought along some back up, Paige, a student midwife, as the rest of her team was still with the other laboring mother before me. As we got aquatinted, my contractions stayed 2 minutes apart while lengthing in time. I was checked at 5 centimeters when Rebekah asked if I felt comfortable with her leaving to attend her previous engagement. I gave her the thumbs up as I tried to get comfortable for the labor ahead.

I was stretched across the couch when Paige encouraged me to get into a more baby friendly position to help descend him further into the birth canal. I put a pillow under each knee and squatted down while leaning over the seat cushions. I could feel my contractions intensifying as I was overcome by intolerable back pain. My husband would try massage me while Paige squeezed my hips, but it was doing more harm than good. I couldn’t be touched. All I wanted to do was lay down.

I crawled back up on the couch surrounding myself with pillows in every direction to give my body some ease. With each wave, I would reach out to my husband and pull on his shirt until it passed. I had been laboring in the living room for a short couple of hours, since my midwives arrived, when I decided I wanted to try a new method of comfort and relax in a hot bath. Before stepping into the water, Paige checked me in between 6 and 7 centimeters. She called Rebekah to inform her of my progression. Minutes away from reaching her destination, Rebekah asked if she needed to turn around. Since my dilation appeared slow, she continued on her drive.

My son was still asleep in the room next to me when I got into the bath. I immediately turned on the cold water. I was refreshed with the cooling sensation through the marathon my body was running. At this time, my contractions were now a minute or more long. The pain I felt in my back had me paralyzed. I could do nothing but scream. I managed to wake our son from the howls I released through each surge. As much as I wanted him there, I knew I couldn’t comfort him like he wanted me to, so we quickly called for reinforcements. My husband attended to his side while Paige poured water over my 40-week belly and reminded me that I could do this. I wasn’t in the tub for 10 minutes when I told her I needed to push. No one was expecting me to progress the way I had. She asked me slightly confused, “You need to push or feel like you want to push?” I shouted, “HE’S HERE.”

Before getting up to notify Rebekah, she wanted me to promise I wouldn’t push. I knew it was no promise I could keep. Our son’s ride arrived relieving my husband back to his former duty of being by my side. I had one more contraction in the tub when I demanded we make a run for it. I was caught in the hallway by another surge before reaching the couch. Rebekah was too far away. She would never make it back in time. It was just the three of us. With Rebekah absent, my husband and Paige rushed to get everything ready for the arrival of our newest baby boy.

I was already pushing as I watched them grab the rest of the necessities. I beared down against Paige, who was positioned at my feet. Through all the pain I had felt that morning, I was at such peace while pushing. With two more thrusts, he was here. I lifted him up to my chest and rubbed my fingers across his face. He had the most perfectly round head and that beautiful burgundy after birth color. My husband cut the cord while I took everything in that I had missed the first time. I finally got the birth I had been longing for. I thanked my body for overcoming my mind and showing me what I was truly capable of.

I questioned myself on if I should write my story when I was reminded—I gave birth at home, after a traumatizing first experience, without any interventions, and that itself is a success. I could and I did, and this time, I remembered.

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!