Monday, March 9, 2009

remembering esme's homebirth

I love love love Esme's birth story. Since her birthday is upon us, I found myself flashing back to my last couple days of pregnancy, how exhilarating it felt to meet our new baby girl for the first time, in our living room. After she was born, I had a lovely book printed with the following story along with the beautiful photographs David's mother took of the event. I pulled the book out this evening to reread by myself, which always makes me tearful. We will enjoy it again, as a family, on Tuesday night, as part of our birthday celebration.

Enjoy our story and take pride in your own birth experiences. I would love to hear them, so please share them.

From the beginning of our pregnancy in June of 2006, we planned for a homebirth. We found a fabulous midwife, Debby, who would provide us with prenatal and postpartum care, as well as help us through labor and delivery in our home in Racine, WI. We met with her several times in the months and weeks leading up to Esme's birth. In the fall, we went to a dinner event sponsored by Dr. Renee Welhouse, David's mentor and former employer, in Madison, WI. Skilled in many of the naturopathic arts, Dr. Renee announced to us that we were having a girl. Soon after, we visited Dr. Bates, an obstetrician who supports homebirth, to confirm Dr. Renee's prediction with an ultrasound. He agreed. We were pregnant with a girl. After throwing a few names around, we decided to name our baby girl Esme Victoria.

The last few months of our pregnancy were spent in preparation. David began remodeling the upstairs bathroom in hopes of finishing it in time for the delivery. We wanted the opportunity to have a waterbirth in the claw-footed tub. Since we were not sure if the upstairs bathroom would be finished in time, and because it would be difficult for me to walk up and down the stairs to use the toilet during and after labor, we did not know if the baby was going to be born up- or downstairs.

As we got closer to our due-date, March 17, work became more and more exhausting for me because I spent most of my days on my feet. Though I still felt energized, by the end of the day, I was ready for a massage from David and a good night sleep. I planned on working until I had the baby, and work was what helped me keep active. On March 8, David received a phone call. Dr. Renee had died the day before in a car crash. David was devastated. When we found out the memorial service and funeral was to be held on Saturday, March 10, in Madison, we decided we would drive up for the morning if I was feeling well enough. On Friday, David took Evelyn to drop her off in Indiana for a weekend visit while I went to work.

I felt normal all day--good even--though a little tired. Around 6:00, I started getting cramps in my midsection. In the meantime, David was stuck in Chicago traffic on his way back from dropping Evelyn off. He was in the process of making arrangements for Dr. Renee's funeral the next day. About halfway through my dinner break, I went to the restroom to find bloody show in my underwear. David insisted I call Debby, though I was hesitant. I was not due for another week, still felt fine, and David was stuck in Chicago. I could not be in labor yet! But he convinced me--I called Debby, and she said the baby would make her appearance within the next 24 hours. She suggested that I go home from work and get some rest before active labor kicked in. I told Franz, the manager on duty, and then headed into the storm outside. One my way home, I began feeling contractions. Some were long, some short, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to thirty seconds. There was no pattern.

Since David was still battling traffic in Chicago, his parents met me at home around 7:30 to help prepare for the birth. Mom washed dishes while Papa timed my contractions--still no pattern--and I cleaned, changed the sheets on the guest room bed (the upstairs bathroom was not done yet, so we would be laboring downstairs), and gathered supplies. David was still in Chicago, canceling plans for attending Dr. Renee's funeral the next day. Finally arriving home at 9:30 pm, and he and Papa took Minnie and Sonny to Betty and Ray's house for a few days. Sonny ended up coming home because he and their new puppy did not get along. David's folks went home to get some rest while we finished some last minute preparations around the house. David set up a futon mat on the living room floor for comfortable laboring, and then we went to sleep at about 11:00 pm in the guest room bed. Around midnight, we woke up to strong, patterned contractions. After timing a few, we called Debby and our folks to let them know labor was picking up. I had a feeling the baby would be here within two or three hours. Debby arrived at 1:00 am, and Davids parents shortly thereafter.

Labor was progressing quickly. I spent some time on the futon in the living room. I found comfort in rocking back and forth on my hands and knees during contractions while moaning softly, and lying down between contractions to catch my breath.

As labor pains picked up even more, I had to use the toilet frequently. David helped me walk there and back again. With David holding me, we swayed back and forth, doing a type of slow dance to make it through the contractions.

My clothes began feeling uncomfortable and restricting and I shed them one item at a time. Soon I began feeling the need for a bowel movement, but had no luck in releasing. Christy said the pressure was from the baby's head moving lower. Debby checked my cervix at that point and found I was nine centimeters dilated. The baby was dropping rapidly. She gave me the thumbs up to begin pushing when I felt ready. I could not sit or stay still. I continued to rock in David's arms, chanting, "Baby, baby, baby," through contractions.

Esme's Arrival

I had to keep moving. I leaned into David and we slow danced through contractions until Debby suggested I turn around so she and her assistant, Christy, could monitor the baby with the fetal Doppler without disrupting me. They listened to the baby frequently between and during contractions.

Soon, as a reflex, I felt myself pushing. I leaned back into David while I squatted, still upright. He balanced me and held most of my weight while I squatted through contractions while pushing. I began to feel burning at my perineum as the baby's head crowned (burning is a sign of tearing). I tried to push a little at a time to ease the baby's head slowly down and give my perineum time to stretch and accommodate her head. Debby used a warm compress and massaged with olive oil to help my perineum stretch as the baby moved lower still.

After another slow and gentle round of pushing, and with a giant GUSH! my water broke. I immediately felt the baby's head as it crowned. In the blink of an eye, her head was out, the rotation, and Esme Victoria Renee was born at 2:43 am on Saturday, March 10, 2007.

Welcoming Esme

We planned for David to catch the baby as she was born, but she came so quickly that we could not rearrange ourselves in time. He was too busy holding me instead. After Esme was born, Debby and David eased me back onto the futon so I could lean against David. Debby set Esme on my stomach so our family could begin bonding. David and I held our new little bundle close in those precious moments after her birth, on the futon, in the living room of our home.

In the moments after Esme was born, so many thoughts swarmed through my mind. Esme was beautiful and soft, like butter or water, smooth and warm. Her fingers were long and slender and she had a head full of dark hair. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. I was overjoyed, relieved, in love. I felt thankful for the strength present in the room, the strength of my husband, myself, and our new little girl.

Esme was not interested in nursing right away. About twenty minutes after her birth, I worked with her to latch on, and when she finally did, she nursed well for about twenty minutes.

Our midwife, Debby, was amazing. I was relieved to have her as a part of our birth experience. She mostly allowed me labor how I needed to, and her expert guidance helped me to concentrate through pushes, communicate the burning sensations, and prevent my perineum from tearing. Debby helped to make our homebirth the meaningful experience that it was. Debby's assistant, Christy, was just as amazing. At Esme's birth, Christy did most of Esme's examination and filled out the paperwork. Because of our conflicting schedules, she could not make any of our prenatal appointments at Debby's house. I met her for the first time that stormy evening.

Christy examined Esme after she finished nursing while Debby checked me over for tears and skid marks (no tears, but a few skid marks). Esme looked good. She measured 21 inches long, had good coloring, and was relatively alert.

Debby cut the cord and Christy clamped it. Then, Christy gently loaded Esme into a cotton sling. She attached the sling to a fish scale to weigh the baby. Esme weighed in at 7 pounds 9 ounces. After the weight was recorded, Christy dressed Esme, then swaddled her snugly in a receiving blanket and handed her to a beaming grandmother.

We decided to give Esme a second middle name of Renee in honor of Dr. Renee Welhouse, who influenced David's life so significantly. In addition to David and myself, Daivd's parents, our midwife, Debby Studey, and her assistant, Christy shared our birth experience. While Minnie (our Blue-tick Coonhound) was hurried off to Betty and Ray's for the week, Sonny (our English Mastiff) remained upstairs during the labor, birth, and immediate postpartum (he kept sticking his nose in the sterile supplies). Sandy (our mellow Yellow Lab) was actually only about five feet away from us when Esme was born.

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