I slept in the recliner that night. Sean fluffed it up with just about every spare pillow and blanket in the house, and by the time he was done with it, I needed help getting out to go to the bathroom every half hour. The contractions became more intense, and I was drifting off for about four minutes in between them. Going to the bathroom helped the intensity of the contractions, and the toilet seat felt strangely comfortable.
I was just drifting off after another bout of strong contractions, when a heard a sound like a water balloon popping. I gasped and attempted to leap up as my lower half was doused in water. “Sean!! Sean!!” I yelled, startling him out of the restless sleep that I had forced upon him, “My water broke!!”
“What?” He groggily lifted his head, “Are you sure?” I looked at him like he was ridiculous, and muttered some sarcastic remark about me really pouring water on myself as I stumbled out of the chair. He was not amused, but threw himself out of bed to help me to the bathroom, and to survey the damage. Luckily the blankets had caught most of it. I had heard that warm baths felt awesome during labor, so I started filling the bathtub, eager to get the show on the road while Sean called Lisa.
As I moaned on all fours in the bathtub, I begin to question how any woman could stay in that infernal hard pit and give birth to a child. It was SO not helping me, which made me worry about my decision to have a water birth. Sean helped me out of the tub and into the nightgown that I had planned to give birth in. I tried multiple laboring positions, but found the best one to be leaning forward on the toilet. Sean sat next to me on the edge of the tub, looking worried, telling me to breathe, and wishing he could take the pain. When Sean wasn’t around, I forgot how to breathe. Literally. It was like my body couldn’t push out a baby and inhale at the same time.
Lisa arrived excitedly and went to work checking me. She said I was making great progress, and in just a bit they would start setting up the tub. Time was nonexistent to me on that toilet. I would have a contraction and time would stop, accenting each clench of my abdomen, and then speed up again once the clenching stopped. All the relaxation techniques and methods that I had practiced fled my mind. Lisa and Sean tried to rub my back, hold my hand, or offer me a pillow on my porcelain throne, and it was all I could do to keep from growling at them. “Please don’t touch me,” I managed out politely as another contraction gripped my body. So they just watched me, Sean’s face racked with pain and worry, and Lisa cheering me on. Secretly, I was planning my escape to an epidural. I imagined the cushy beds, warm towels, and no pain. Except I knew in the recesses of my consciousness that this is exactly why I chose a home birth, so I couldn’t get an epidural. In the end, it was the thought of riding in a car and filling out paperwork while having contractions that kept me on my toilet.
I don’t know how long I sat there. I couldn’t talk except in short gasps, and all I could say is “it hurts!!” and “I’m sorry!” as my husband’s eyes poured tears of pain for me. Finally, Lisa came and checked me. “Oooo! We are almost ready to push!! The pool is ready.” Nowhere have I heard a more beautiful set of words. Sean guided me to a steaming pool of heaven. The pool had soft bubble cushions on the bottom and the water was so warm I was sure it had been boiling seconds before. And man did it feel good! I basked in its comfort until the next contraction. Eventually, the contractions changed. I felt the change, but didn’t feel the urge to push as many women said I would. “I think I need to push,” I gasped.
“Ok!” Lisa said, offering me homeopathy to help me keep going. She had been giving it to me periodically to speed things up. Sean kept giving me yummy warm green jello.
As I pushed, a voice in my head said it wasn’t going to work. I screamed. I panicked and couldn’t breathe. Lisa, Ann (the other midwife), and the birthing assistant all assured me they I was doing great. Sean was giving me a lesson in breathing while I clung to his collar for dear life. I held on to his shirt the whole hour and a half that I pushed. Once he went to the bathroom and Lisa, noticing my distress, moved closer and told me that he would be right back.
My pushing didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. My body was so exhausted that my contractions were getting farther apart with shorter pushing time. My shrieking had turned into a productive alien sound, and I was so ready to be done. The midwives gave me oxygen, and checked my blood pressure more frequently, urging me that everything was all right. The birthing assistant was my biggest cheerleader as the other midwives went to work on me, telling me how good I was doing, and reassuring me that I wasn’t a wimp.
“I see his head, Leisl!!” Sean exclaimed rushing back and forth between looking at the head and being pinned down, he has tons of hair!!!”
“Do you want to see?” Ann asked, holding up a mirror.
I looked away. “No!” I exclaimed partially because I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t have contacts in to see, and partially because I couldn’t understand how he wasn’t out yet. “Pull him out if you see him!” I yelled as another pushing contraction came. I was ready to give up. Sean couldn’t find my birthing playlist on my phone, so he put on the next best thing: The Les Miserables soundtrack. To the sounds of “Look Down,” I continued my struggle until I was sure I couldn’t any longer. I moaned, and tried to sleep between contractions, dozing a couple of times before pushing for 30 seconds. My body had nearly had enough. Sean asked me if I could do one more push for the baby. That gave me the courage I needed. We took it one push at a time, pushing hard enough to pop out every hemorrhoid I owned until Lisa said “One big push!!” She reached in and helped our dark haired boy into the world. As she set him on my chest, his cord still pumping, I looked up at Sean and said, “I can’t see his face, what do you think we should name him?” His eyes pooling with tears, he said “Killian Jack for sure. Leisl, we have a baby boy!!!!”
The pain stopped. Time seemed to flow forward again, as I realized what that meant. The tiny being that I had kept safe inside me for so long was now in my arms. He didn’t cry for a bit, just looked around. I asked why he wasn’t crying like in the movies, and Ann said, “Cause no one has hurt him yet!”
He started crying a few moments later, and I started singing the first song that I could think of, one that my Grandma would rock me to sleep to when I was little, “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here…” I sang in a hoarse voice as I rocked back and forth in the water. Another voice joined me. It was the birthing assistant. At first, it shocked me, but then it comforted me to know that she wanted to sing that sweet message to my baby with me. “Has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear…” we continued, together, sharing the spirit of the moment and holding on to it.
I held him as Sean clamped and cut the cord, and then I birthed the placenta (which was shaped like a heart). I can’t remember there being much blood, although Sean said that there was a fair amount, and my midwife gave me a pitocin shot to help me from hemorrhaging.
Sean took Killian while the midwives took my blood pressure and helped me out of my gown. They led me down the hall where the bed was made up with puppy pads and soft sheets. I nursed my beautiful baby boy while the midwives filled out the remaining paperwork. Then I watched from my bed as they weighed him, measured him, and counted his fingers and toes. Sean was able to dress him for the first time, and I was encouraged to eat. The birthing assistant cleaned up the pool and towels, leaving nothing behind to indicate the occasion that had happened minutes before.
Eventually, the midwives left, leaving me with instructions to eat and sleep. Sean and I cuddled up to our newborn, the silence of our home was strange, yet comforting. I wasn’t prepared for the new burst of love that I had for Sean. I had expected it for the baby, but going through that raw experience with my husband helped me to see him in a whole new light. We had done it, together. I was convinced in that moment that I could do anything, so long as he was there. That’s what birth does to you. It makes you believe in miracles and love in a way that you can’t imagine. It truly is miraculous.