A hoagie and a homebirth
With a force only the heavens could heave into me, she moved like thunder rolling through my bones.
Our moments as one were numbered. Today was your day.
My sweet Violet.
Its January 4th, and the midwives are coming to see me.
38 weeks pregnant, baby #7.
Im so glad we made it this far.
Two back to back miscarriages killed me, and I feel like I fought everday to keep and grow you until I could bring you here.
A complex mix of emotions swirled through me, today -
and every.single.moment of this bumpier than usual pregnancy.
But the midwives get me.
They both go above and beyond for me - to ensure my safety, my peace of mind, and to give me the best care.
Before you call a cervix for what it is
The plan was to check my cervix. Ive been checking myself, but it's hard to gauge when you've only felt one cervix (your own).
The midwife asks me how dilated I think I might be -
"Probably like 3cm?"
I mean I thought I had a pretty good idea, but feeling is way different than learning from a book, or the internet.
I am a self studying, direct entry student of midwifery - I think I retain information efficiently and effectively.. but you definitely needs hands on practice, before you call a cervix for what it is.
I was feeling a little silly for guessing, a little unsure of myself like most starry-eyed aspiring midwives do, when they are 'tested' among the big league sage women of birth.
She wasn't testing me of course, she was supporting my choice to do self exams.
When she said "..almost 7" I could just laugh.
Hanging out at 7
I wasn't totally shocked I was almost 7 cm.
7th baby, and I did almost the same thing last time. But not quite to 7.
Trying to hide my excitement at the possibility of a short labor, I grinned and giggled at my midwife
"jeeze I was way off."
We began discussing the options at this point. I was very ready to meet my baby. My team lived an hour away, and I was just hanging out at 7. I could drop a baby in a moments notice.
Not that this is a bad thing. Accidental unassisted births are just births most of the time.
& I love when a woman chooses an unassisted birth for herself.
But being a grand-multipara, having so many babies- I know to my core I am not an ideal candidate for an unassisted birth. Accidental or intentional.
The risks are much higher after so many babies, and I didn't want to end up trying to catch my own baby & manage a hemorrhage. I couldn't possibly.
My midwives arriving on time was imperative.
I considered a stimulant, like herbs or castor oil, to get labor started.
But I was already so dilated.
The contractions from stimulants suck, and I didn't need to get through most of the dilating process at this point.
My water was bulging in a nice tight little bubble the last time I felt it, I think breaking my water would be a good choice.
My hormones would kick in right away, and I would probably labor fast at that point.
I've only had my water break spontaneously once before labor, out of all 6 previous births.
The rest of the babies either had their water broken,
or it broke at the very end while pushing.
The midwives left to keep another appointment, planning to return in a bit to get things started.
Today is the day
I like the control of that choice.
I decided today was the day.
I felt an instant weight lifted.
Not because I was fearing the possibility of a bad outcome, or an accidental unassisted birth,
but because I made the informed choice, that this is the day I was going to meet my baby.
I know some people might cringe reading this, but every pregnancy is so different.
I am a doula, an aspiring home birth midwife, and intervention isn't exactly something the natural birth community applauds.
It's not something I intended through most of my pregnancy.
But I found us here,
& I had my reasons, just like the women I support.
I was teetering on being "risked out"- when a midwife decides you are safer delivered with an OB in a hospital setting.
My blood pressure & urine were good at this point,
this was not always the case
(I made 3 trips to the ER & Labor&Delivery in my third trimester)
I felt safest, ending my pregnancy here at 38 weeks.
I sent the text to my hubby, my parents, and a couple select friends.
"Today's the day."
I could feel the weight of those word in my finger as I swiped at my phone screen.
Today I will meet the tiny person we created, I already love her so deeply. I grew and nurtured her inside my belly for what felt like an eternity - yet now feels like it ended too soon.
The sweet human I knew so intimately, and held and rocked and touched everyday.
I held my belly, and let the feelings wash over me - brief but heavy with despair for the coming transition, for leaving the pregnancy and the security of carrying my baby, and I snapped a few photos for the sake of the moment.
We were ready.
AROM in my bedroom
The midwives returned later in the afternoon.
It was time to do the deed.
AROM (artificial rupture of membranes) in my bedroom.
The apprentice went first.
She is one of my closest friends, and finishing her apprenticeship.
I wanted her to have a go at my bag of waters.
Only true friends can say that to each other..
"Go ahead, have a go at my bag of waters buddy"
She tried. Wasn't happening.
Midwife tried. Wasn't happening.
That baby was double, triple bagged
To ease the tension I'm sure only I was feeling - I cracked jokes, and waited.
The midwife finally got it with a forceful push and pull, and a massive hot GUSH followed.
I remember commenting on her bravery for standing in front of me in her nice sweater.
This is it. No turning back.
The midwives leave to eat, and I waited for the big kids & my hubby to come home.
The hoagie that carried me through
My parents ordered the kids pizza, and a hoagie for me, which arrived about an hour and a half after breaking my water, coinciding perfectly with the start of real contractions.
I was communicating with the midwives, and they returned about an hour or so after they left, as my contractions were starting to feel hot, deep, and painful.
I was standing in my living room, eating this amazing labor hoagie.
I don't know who made it, but they must've felt what was coming, and poured good intention into this hoagie. Leaning hard over the furniture when the contractions would come, I would steal bites and crack jokes in between, while my kids ate at the table.
I decided before it got any worse- I would haul ass up to the shower, hopefully before the next contraction.
"Bring my hoagie"
That hoagie was something else.
Enough to muster up the order to bring it wherever labor would take us.
I took off my dress & monster pads, soaked with fluid- and climbed into the tub.
Leaning over the edge of the tub on my hands & knees, my hubby positioned the shower head on my lower back, moving it into the right spot.
This was HEAVEN.
I knew I never wanted a birth tub. Too much hassle for me. And I love scalding hot water.
But the shower felt AMAZING.
I wish I had done this every other time.
"Can you get my hoagie?"
The midwives laugh from the bedroom.
He hands me the pink plastic plate, with the half eaten hoagie- with this mustard that must've been made of crack.
I really cant get enough of this hoagie.
I'm on my knees in the tub, the top half of me hanging out over the edge, and the hoagie becomes one with my labor.
I need this hoagie.
I'm quick to bite chew and swallow before my next contractions rolls in, and I hand him the plate.
I can easily get through these contractions like this.. I'm deep in my zone during the waves, and I come out on top & feeling good.
Not too much noise, just some deep grunty moans & then enough time to eat more hoagie, giggle with my hubby, and be ready for the next wave.
This is way different from last time.
"Do you WANT to have your baby in the tub?"
I know the midwife is being serious, but I kinda just laugh and say something silly like
"Nah, Im not that close yet."
This exchange happened several times.
Now if I were WORKING at this birth, those sounds coming from the bathroom would signal the imminent birth of a baby.
Everybody who knows birth, knows what those sounds mean.
Denial felt so good from the shower.
Labor was fine right here in my space.
I feel how low and deep the baby is, and I reach down to see if shes low enough to feel.
She is not, and I'm totally ok with that. Which is odd.
Im actually loving this labor so far.
It's only been couple hours, and I know I'm super dilated, & this water feels so good.
& In the moments when my husband would step out of the bathroom,
I would hold my belly and whisper to my baby
"I'm ready to meet you. I love you sweet baby. I'm here."
At some point the midwife entered the bathroom.
"Are you ready to come out and have a baby?"
I told her no.
"I cant be that close. I feel good. Look at me Im happy!"
(Big shit eating grin. Still eating my hoagie.)
I really wasn't ready to face the reality of contractions once I moved from this place.
And I really hoped the baby would just slide out if I did nothing... But I didn't tell anyone that.
The three of them (the midwives and my beloved) convinced me to stand and leave the tub.
In a towel & a starry bikini top, I begrudgingly climbed out of the tub, between contractions, and ended up in the bedroom, standing and leaning over my bed.
I'm so sure they made me get out of the tub.
The experience of time sort of melted away at this point.
I was between my bedroom, and the bathroom, standing at the end of the bed, or sitting on the toilet.
The actual amount of time from here to babe in arms was very short.
Possibly only half an hour.
Most of it I remember as moments without any order or place in the timeline
I remember not wanting to leave the toilet. Sitting there felt so much better than standing.
Standing released the force, deeper and harder than I was willing to accept.
As I sat there hot & spacey, leaning as far back against the toilet & wall as I could, I would leave my self for a few moments while the storm in my belly was calm.
As the contraction would start to rumble and pull, I would sit up& reach out for his hands,
and he followed my lead, offering the strength of his arms & all his focus.
I would pull with all my might, but press my heels into the floor to keep myself sitting.
Any kind of counter-force was a relief against the charlie horse climbing through my body, creating a mass of tight swirling energy at my center.
I would blow out hard - like candles - and breathe in deep, over and over until I crossed the plateau & came down- the contraction loosening it's vise on my belly.
That unwinding & climb down felt so good.
At some point, someone mentions having the baby on the toilet
Into the bedroom.
Noting the hoagie on the table in the hall,
I was so relieved he didn't throw it out.
At this point I remember much less
My kids were being so good, hanging out in their bedrooms. Only knocking every so often to see if mom was ok.
I needed to be hunched over a stack of pillows one minute, and the next I was laying on the floor on my back (probably after a trip to the bathroom and back)
I remember feeling like baby was really low in my bottom. I wasn't trying to push - I really didn't want to.
I felt the contractions much worse, obviously - but they weren't destroying me.
PUSHING will destroy me. I absolutely did not want to push.
In past labors, It was suggested or told, that it was time to push. Pushing was so painful, and this baby- I wanted to come on its own- for my own sake.
Here is where I think I really start to loose it.
I start to feel her at the lowest point, I could feel her hard bony head and shoulders and bottom rolling through me.
She was so close to crowning- I started to push a little- crying "no no no I dont want to.."
and she kept going.
My body forced her lower and lower, and I pushed along with it.
There was so much energy exploding from my body, my legs pushed as hard as they could against my bed, my arms and hands pulling on my husband's -
I couldn't hold back, and screamed as she started crowning.
I pushed with all my might and intention and love,
(BECAUSE IT WAS EXCRUCIATING AND I NEEDED IT TO BE OVER)
there was a smooth pop, (her head was out)
and a deeper harder pop & gush (her body was out)
my baby is here
"OH MY GOD IT HURTS SO BAD"
She was here.
My husband didn't catch this time, instead he took pictures and tried to wake me up to the reality of our baby.
"honey look your baby!"
I was in so much pain, clutching my crotch as if it was torn to shreds (it was not)
I remember asking what it was (I knew the whole time it was a girl)
and when he said "its a girl" I tried to focus
I was not yet completely coherent - but I knew she was just as shaken from this journey as I was
"oh my sweet girl, hello baby!"
I kissed her head and tried to maintain some composure as the midwives delivered my placenta and checked for tears - the feeling of complete destruction in my lady parts would stick with me for a few hours.
I knew my kids could hear the screaming, then a crying baby, and I remember feeling really awful that they weren't meeting their new sister fast enough. They were probably worried.
I asked someone to please let the kids in, and as soon as I could get covered up a little, we let them in to quietly meet her.
Our family became 9, and Ruby Joy became a big sister.
After finally showering, climbing into bed, and embracing my new little human, I finished my hoagie.
It was the perfect end, to a perfect day.
And here we are today, the 4th trimester coming to a close.
My sweet flower is laughing & cooing, finding her hair and her feet, and cluster nursing like a boss.
Our family is so perfect, and so complete.
It flew by & we cant wait to see what the future brings.
Thanks for reading!
~one very happy mom of 7!
*Violet Jane Iovine*
Named after my mother, and for her love of violets.