My husband, Anthony, and I planned for a freebirth of our fourth baby in the last week of October 2021. After finishing dinner on Monday, 10/25, I told Anthony to call work in the morning and say he would be there. As soon as I finished saying that, I heard our toddler fall in the other room. I hurried to check on him, squatted down to hug him, and felt a pop. My water broke with absolutely no warning and poured onto the floor right at the bottom of the stairs at 5:57pm. My 5-year-old got me a towel to stand on and Anthony initiated an early bedtime for our three sons. The little ones walked through my amniotic fluid puddle to get up the stairs, and Anthony brought me my phone so I could stand there until I had stopped leaking. With my previous labors, my water broke in one big splat and that was it, so the continuous leaking was new for me.
I stood at the bottom of the stairs until I decided at 7:22pm that I’d rather be leaking in the shower. Every time I tried to leave the towel, I leaked more. I finally made it into the shower at 7:55 and had lost so much water, I was able to reach my legs to shave! I still hadn’t had a single contraction by this point and noticed I could feel more definition to the baby’s movement. I could feel the details of fingers and toes. I took my sweet time enjoying my shower and these last fetal movements before feeling my first contraction at 8:44pm, almost 3 hours after my water broke. I felt no pain and only felt the contraction in my uterus. The next contraction came 10 minutes later, accompanied by pink spotting.
At 9pm, I was still leaking water and now had a towel station to stand on in every room in the house. Contractions were mild and steadily increased in frequency from 10 minutes apart to about 3 minutes apart over the next hour and a half. During that time, I sat on my knees over some towels on our Nugget play couch in the playroom (my downstairs birth space) and called a friend to share that I was in labor and to chat for a bit. Finally, the leaking stopped enough for me to move around while wearing underwear with an overnight pad. I alternated bouncing on the birth ball and walking around the living room, enjoying a snack platter and watching The Voice with Anthony.
At 10:23pm, I felt the first intense contraction and retreated into the playroom which was softly lit and further away from the show because the bright light and voices were starting to bother me. Knowing labor could last all night, I rested on my side on our Nugget couch with a pillow between my legs. A contraction came that I really had to work through, so I called Anthony into the room to apply pressure to my sacrum. It did offer some relief, but after a second intense contraction in the same position that had me feeling stuck and punching the wall, I had to stand up and move around.
I stood next to Anthony, who was now staying quietly by my side, ready to support me through every contraction. With each contraction, Anthony would hold my hand and sway side to side with me, rubbing my lower back. I would rub my belly gently and talk to my baby. “Come on, Baby. Good job, Baby.” I worked through a few contractions that way, looking at Anthony after each one and telling him, “Oof, I don’t want to go through many more of those.”
I wanted to puke. I didn’t exactly feel nauseated, but with all the pressure and intensity concentrated to my cervix, I thought puking might offer some sort of relief as it does from the feeling of nausea. At that point, I felt both logically and intuitively that I needed to get into a position that would better allow my pelvis to open. We had three Nugget mats stacked against the wall and one on the floor in front of that, so I got on my knees with my elbows up on the stacked mats and my feet spread apart. I felt Anthony’s hands loosely around my ankles as he made sure my feet were spread apart as I had asked him to do in preparation for labor.
Contractions became really intense, and I didn’t know what to do to get relief. “Everything sucks,” I said between contractions that were now coming every 2-3 minutes, shuffling my hands underneath me and looking around as if looking for an escape. I felt like I was wimping out after such a short time in labor. I recognized these feelings as signs of transition but didn’t believe I could possibly be that close already. I was mentally preparing for several more hours of this intensity. I asked Anthony to get me some ice water with a straw and to turn on my birth playlist. He scrambled to meet all my requests between contractions.
Eventually, I crawled up onto the stacked mats on hands and knees but became tired from holding myself up. I had Anthony bring me the birth ball to lean on so I could relax my body and surrender to the contractions. I pep-talked my way through each one, saying to myself, “Come on, baby. Good job, baby. Breathe and surrender. Ok, you got this. The baby will come out. You don’t have to do anything. Let it happen.”
Until this point, I was pleasantly surprised by how much quieter I had been compared to my previous birth. I had been moaning through contractions, but it was nothing that would wake the children or alert the neighbors. Soon, the moans morphed into grunts. I was experiencing FER. After each grunt, I exclaimed, “The baby’s coming! The baby’s coming!” I could feel the baby coming down through the birth canal!
Finally, I felt the first ring of fire. With each ring of fire, I would regain control from the FER and tell myself, “Relax. Breathe. Stretch.” I did this four times until the head was born. At one point, Anthony got excited and told me out of habit, “Push, push, push, push!” I didn’t listen and reminded him between contractions, "Don't tell me to push!" I felt empowered to do so in the comfort of my own home with my own husband, unlike in the hospital setting in which my people-pleasing, peace-keeping nature overruled my birthing needs and didn't dare speak out against well-meaning strangers in what my vulnerable, laboring mind perceived to be positions of authority. “Oh, right,” he said apologetically. I also thought I felt him pulling on the baby and yelled at him not to pull, but he assured me he wasn’t touching us at all at that moment. (I'm told this is a common interaction among freebirthing couples.)
After the head was born, my contractions stopped. I wiggled my hips back and forth, allowing my body to stretch and thinking maybe the baby needed a tweak in position to encourage contractions to start again. Anthony said calmly and firmly from behind me, “I need you to push.” We had discussed not telling me when or how to push prior to the birth, but I trusted him. I practiced three gentle pushes to figure out what muscles to use, and the baby was born with a fourth intentional push. I felt the different widths of each section of the body as the baby passed through the birth canal and into Daddy’s hands.
Still facing the wall and unable to see Anthony or the baby behind me, I heard Anthony saying calmly, “Come on, Baby. Come on, Baby.” I peeked around the wall into the living room at the clock to notice the time. I did this to keep myself occupied so I didn’t distract Anthony, to know how long Anthony was doing whatever he was doing with the baby behind me, and, most simply, because I wanted to know what time my baby was born. As my tired labor brain tried to figure out the analog clock, I heard the baby making raspy attempts at taking a first breath, which was reassuring. I asked Anthony twice if he needed the bulb syringe, but he didn’t answer either time. After a few more moments of letting Anthony concentrate, I asked, “What color is he? ...She? What color is the baby?” I was again reassured when Anthony said, “He’s blue.” That’s the moment I found out we had a little boy!
"Blue's good," I encouraged him, knowing the baby was good as long as he wasn’t pale and was still getting oxygen through the umbilical cord and placenta, still attached to me. I remained calm and patient, growing tired of holding myself up after pushing the birth ball away during the pushing stage but wanting Anthony to focus on the baby. Minutes later, we heard a clear, loud cry! “I see 11:20,” Anthony said, which helped my labor brain determine that the baby had been born at 11:18pm.
Anthony held the baby close as he helped me lift my leg over the umbilical cord so I could meet our fourth son. I held him close to my chest and cried out, "My baby! Thank you, God!" I was thinking back to early pregnancy when I was sure I had lost him after 11 days of bleeding, and now he was here-- a fully-formed little human who was inside me moments earlier but was now crying and flailing in my hands. I was in utter disbelief.
I leaned against the wall and held him for a couple minutes before realizing I was pretty uncomfortable. I hoped the placenta would come quickly as usual so I could move around and get comfortable enough to nurse for the first time. I had Anthony get our large bowl and help me slide my butt off the edge of the mats, ready for the placenta. I lay there a few minutes, completely in awe of our baby, my husband, God’s goodness, and all we had just been through. Then, I cradled the baby in my right arm as I gently rubbed my belly with my left hand-- not a full fundal massage but hoping to encourage the placenta to come if it was ready. The placenta slid out with a couple FER contractions at 11:33-- 15 minutes after the baby was born. Anthony looked over the placenta for completeness then took the baby and laid him on the soft floor mat so he could clamp the cord now that it had turned white.
After he finished with the cord, he got me comfortable on the couch so he could get me some food. In between Anthony cleaning up, we ate, read the Bible, did skin-to-skin, encouraged the baby to latch, discussed middle names, and processed the birth. I asked Anthony why he told me to push at the end, and he said it was because after the baby's head was out, he saw the cord was wrapped around his neck (meaning it was potentially compressed between the neck and the birth canal) and that there was more amniotic fluid leaking out and into the baby's mouth and nose. After some thought and some reading and considering the baby needed help finding his first breath, I trust Anthony did the right thing and wouldn't change that part of my birth.
Anthony went upstairs to remove the sadly unused birth setup from our bed, and we finally got to bed around 4am. Over the next couple days, we weighed and measured the baby on our schedule and took our time deciding on the right middle name. It was so nice not feeling rushed or being on someone else’s schedule to do these things. Looking back, I don't even know at what point we would have left for the hospital if we hadn't planned a freebirth. My labor was 2.5 hours from the first contraction and skipped the "4-1-1" pattern altogether. (Anthony said he was keeping an eye on the clock toward the end and that none of my contractions lasted more than 45 seconds.) The nearest homebirth midwife 3.5 hours away certainly wouldn't have made it on time. With the time it would have taken to establish an active labor pattern and get my dad settled at my house to watch our other children overnight, I would have endured the worst stage of labor and given birth in the car trying to make the 1-hr drive to the hospital. Then the hospital would have been a whole 36-hour ordeal (or more) for something we squeezed in casually between dinner and bedtime. Instead of staying up late to binge on Ink Master and fold laundry, we had a baby. No big deal.
Adler Solomon King was born at home on 10/25/2021 to the song RATTLE! by Elevation Worship-- the same song to which we rang in the New Year almost 10 months earlier. He was my biggest baby by over a pound at 9lbs 4oz and 19.5 inches. First homebirth, first birth with no tearing, and by far the easiest recovery. All glory to God for his provision, creativity, and majesty.