I had said to Petr for weeks that I felt the baby was going to come early (our due/guess date was March 14th). I could feel that she had dropped and there was a lot of pressure low in my pelvis and back. She was noticeably more active and I was having the worst heartburn of my whole pregnancy. We were nearing the weekend, and Petr had made plans to go snowboarding with a friend that Saturday. Something told me he should stay close to home, which I mentioned to Petr, so he decided not to go.
It was Friday March 01st. I had been out buying groceries for the weekend, and snacks for our birthing team (the last item on my list of things to do). I had been feeling really energetic all week and was able to get a lot done (cleaning, cooking meals to freeze, and baking for the team) in preparation for the birth. It was my second week on maternity leave–I was ready. I was in the grocery store when I started to feel lightheaded, and like I needed to sit down. I called Petr, who was on his way home from work, and asked him to meet me at the grocery store, to help carry the groceries and drive home. He met me at the store and as we were on our way to the car I had my first contraction/pressure wave. I wasn’t entirely shocked–but still pleasantly surprised–it was just after 6pm.
On our way home we were talking to Petr’s mom on speakerphone in the car when I had my second pressure wave–about 20 minutes after the first. I had said that I thought this was it, but for some reason (and we laugh at this now) Petr wasn’t convinced yet that we might be having the baby. We decided to prepare when we got home “just in case”. We rearranged the living room, pulled out the birthing pool, set up the Go Pro, got our birthing supplies together and tidied up.
Soon after we were all set up my water broke in the living room. I’ll never forget how it felt; a warm gush that soaked my pants and the floor. Petr went to get some clean towels while I undressed and tried to stop Emmy (our dog) from licking up my water. I got cleaned up, changed and started to make dinner; chicken caesar salad and garlic toast (which I remember apologizing for later). I sent Petr back to the grocery store to pick up fresh fruit and nuts while I finished making dinner. My pressure waves started to get stronger as we ate. I ended up not being able to eat much and went upstairs to have a warm bath. I shaved and spent some time pampering myself. I got into some comfy clothes and asked Petr to let our doula know that my water had broke.
Our doula asked us to begin to time my pressure waves, if we weren’t already. They were getting closer together and lasting longer. We went to bed, knowing that we should probably get some rest. It was around 11pm. We watched a downloaded episode of King of Nerds in bed. I couldn’t concentrate on the show, and after a short while I couldn’t lay down either as the pressure waves had started to get really strong. It was at that point went in to the bathroom to be by myself. I sat on the toilet and began to work through the pressure waves, one by one, using the tools I had learned in our Hypnobabies prenatal class. Petr called our doula who made her way over just after 12am. Petr had come to the bathroom door to see if he could do anything for me, but knew instinctively, and respected my need, to be alone (as did our doula).
Petr together with our doula filled up the birthing tub in preparation. I sat on the toilet for over an hour–my sit bones hurt so bad. That wasn’t all that hurt, my pressure waves had gotten incredibly intense. Nothing could have prepared me for the pain, but I worked my way through each wave until I started feeling uncontrollably pushy. I called out to Petr asking if the pool was ready (it was), and if our midwife was on her way.
Our midwife hadn’t arrived yet (she had just finished attending another birth). I got in to the pool and began pushing, eyes closed tight, wave after wave. They were coming fast and furious and I could feel the baby’s head with my fingers. All I could think was that our midwife wasn’t going to make it–the three of us were going to have to birth this baby! Then all of a sudden my intense urge to push just stopped.
Our midwife had arrived and confirmed that I was 9cm dilated. I was able to rest for a bit before I began to feel the urge to push again. I had been in the pool for a while, and the baby hadn’t progressed. Our midwife had me get out of the pool and try pushing in a variety of positions in different areas of the house. I pushed on the couch and on the stairs. I hung off a doorframe and even hung off of Petr at one point. After hours of pushing without making any progress we decided that I try laying down in the kitchen on the floor (on a yoga mat and towels), with Petr at my head and our doula by my side. It would be there that I would give birth to our little girl, but not for another couple hours of intense directed, or, “purple pushing”.
I could feel the baby’s head come out with each push, but then slowly go back in again when I stopped to rest. I began to doubt my ability to birth my baby on my own. I could hear our doula telling me that I was doing a great job and that I was so close. I was so thankful to have her there. I kept saying to myself that I was going to have this baby, at home, naturally, and that I could do it, that I would do it.
Our midwife had said that she was going to give us 45 minutes, and that we would need to transfer to the hospital by ambulance if the baby wasn’t born. It was then that I said to myself, “Okay, Danielle, this is it–you are going to have this baby!” I pushed with everything I had left in me. I could feel Petr pushing with me, and drew even more strength from him. I could feel the baby’s head making its way out, further than before. I felt a burning sensation down below, and intense cramping in my stomach. It was at that point that our doula asked me if I wanted to catch the baby (something I had really wanted to do), but out of pure exhaustion and fear that the baby would slide back in again if I changed my focus I shook my head no (I couldn’t speak), and after another couple quick breaths and one final push, out she came… not only backwards (occiput posterior), but forehead first!
The first thing I remember hearing was our midwife saying, “Oh, well that makes a lot of sense!” (apparently she had only seen a vaginal birth with brow presentation once before), then time stood still.
Clarke Frances Benda, 6 lbs 12 oz, born at home, naturally at 6:41am on March 02nd, was in my arms. She let out a little cry and stretched out her limbs and toes. I kissed her and said hello, and then held her close. A few moments later our midwife said that it was time to birth my placenta. I didn’t know if I had any pushing left in me, but thankfully it didn’t take much. Petr hadn’t left my side for a second, and was still at my head, with tears in his eyes.
Petr had said that he wasn’t comfortable with cutting the umbilical cord when we planned our birth, so I had intended to do it myself. I felt the warm, thick, tough, pulsating umbilical cord with my hand–it was incredible. After several minutes (we delayed clamping), to my amazement, Petr said that he wanted to cut the cord, and he did!
The hours following the birth are a bit blurry. I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, bloodshot eyes, popped veins in my face. I looked pale and tired. I didn’t even recognize myself. Everything was so bright and felt new. I spent the next two hours on our bed being stitched up by our midwife. Someone (I can’t remember who) passed me the baby. I kissed her on the lips for the first time and laid her down on my chest. I also wanted Petr to have early skin-to-skin contact with the baby, so I asked him to hold her while our midwife finished up. Once she had finished I had a long, hot shower. It was then realized I could see my toes, and that my baby belly was gone. I was alone in the shower for the first time in 38 weeks! I remember feeling sad, but only for a minute. This was the happiest day of my life.
Photos taken by: Chloe of Urban Doula
A note from our doula:
You were an amazing goddess warrior in your birth and I am so honoured to have been witness to it! Your ability to be calm, confident and inwardly focused were commendable- you reminded me of a cat birthing privately in a closet when you holed yourself up in the bathroom. I remember enjoying tea and conversation with Petr downstairs as you just let your animal self take over while you were alone in the dark. You are courageous, strong, powerful and yielding. I love the fact that Clarke was born on the kitchen floor.