“So was it a hard labor or an easy labor?”

Two people asked me this question within hours of my giving birth.

Um….. well it certainly wasn’t easy!!??

I know what they were asking – Did it go well or were there complications? Was it long or short?

This birth (my third) went extremely well, and it wasn’t too long. But it certainly wasn’t easy. I would call it super intense.

But it was also incredibly intuitive – more so than any of my others. I felt very in-tune with what my body needed to do to move things along & help the baby descend. And that led to a pretty incredible experience.

Before I get too far into the details I should probably back up just a bit and tell you that this was our third home birth.

When I tell people about my homebirths the response I normally get is that I’m so brave.

But I don’t see it that way at all. I absolutely LOVE giving birth in the comfort of our own home with midwives we know and trust. It is the most wonderful thing to be able to labor without unnecessary interruptions & interventions but yet with all the support & care that you need.

I could go on & on about why I choose to have home births but that’s not the point of this story so if you’re curious you can read Why I Chose to Have a Homebirth here. You can also check out my two previous birth stories for more background:

Both births happened at home and were incredible experiences, so when we became pregnant again, we knew that, Lord willing, we would love to have this baby at home, too.

Third pregnancies are so different than firsts. We were so busy with life, kids, vacation, my sister-in-law’s wedding, and remodeling our living room, that we found ourselves two weeks out from the due date and still not quite ready to have a baby.

My husband was trying to finish up a few things at work, and I had an event planned for the Thursday before my due date, so we were thinking/hoping that baby would wait to arrive until after then.

But in the weeks leading up to my due date I’d been having a whole lot of early labor signs – increased Braxton Hicks as well as some cramps in my back, which I normally get in early labor. So I was starting to think that this baby might be coming sooner than later.

On Tuesday (about 4-6 days before my due date, depending on which due date I was counting by), I had more intense contractions than normal and found myself lying down throughout the day so they’d pass. That evening, they seemed to be a bit more regular – about 10-15 minutes apart, but I figured they’d probably just go away during the night.

Instead, they continued throughout the night, waking me up about every 10-15 minutes. My husband had been having a bit of a stomach bug & that worried me a bit (would he be able to support me during labor!?) So the first half of the night I was still in denial – I’m sure they’ll go away. And as the night wore on, I started to realize that this was probably happening and made peace with it. If this is the time, then so be it. It’ll be fine 🙂

[Note: I actually highly recommend planning events around your due date. Not anything that can’t be postponed or cancelled, obviously. But having things to look forward to really helps keep you from going crazy just waiting to have the baby…. But I digress…..]

At some point I wasn’t very comfortable in bed and got up to sit in the chair. That lasted for a bit but around 4:00 they suddenly go more intense & I needed to get up & walk through them. They seemed to suddenly be coming more quickly, too, so I timed some and realized they were coming about 2-3 minutes apart!

Okay, this is definitely it.

Now comes the questions of how long to wait before setting things up & calling the midwife. It’s essentially the same question as “when do we go to the hospital?” and I always second-guess these decisions, not really sure how far along I am. If I’m blessed to give birth again, I think I need to trust my intuition… because I did pretty much know what to do.

Anyhow, even though these were so close together I didn’t have any sense that birth was imminent or anything – they were less than a minute long and not all that intense yet. So I just walked around and labored for a bit until my husband woke up around 4:30 and asked what was going on.

“I’m pretty sure the baby’s coming,” I said.

We waited a little longer and then I asked if he could start setting up the birth pool. It takes about 30 minutes to set up an another 45 minutes or so to fill, so I figured we should probably start the process.

I also texted the midwife (R) but didn’t want to wake her up yet. But by around 5:30 they were getting more intense and still quite close together so I began to wonder if I should. We decided to try to wait until 6:00 - but then I had a contraction that left me with a huge urge to throw up. And while I didn’t actually vomit, I knew that for me that’s a sign that things are progressing. Tim called R & she said she’d be right over.

I kept walking around through the contractions, but they were definitely picking up in intensity and soon I wanted to get in the pool to take the edge off. We waited for it to fill up…

I was just about to get in the pool when our midwife arrived. Normally both our midwives would be there but the one was out of town, so it was just her – and she started getting everything set up.

We talked for a few minutes & I got in the pool – it felt great and definitely took the edge off. With Calaiya the water had slowed things down, so I wondered if that would happen again – and it did. The contractions were coming farther apart, but at that point it felt good to get a bit of a break. We decided I’d stay in the pool for about 20-30 minutes to rest and then get out and get back to work.

While I was in the pool I was thinking about how much I wasn’t looking forward to the intense pain I knew was coming. I wasn’t even sure why I was thinking this – I’d had such positive labor & birth experiences with my first two children and always viewed labor as an incredible experience. Difficult, yes. Painful, yes. But amazing (kind of like how I imagine it would be to run a marathon.) But I was a little nervous – and maybe more aware of exactly what I was about to go through. So when Tim came up to be with me, I told him that – that I was nervous and wasn’t looking forward to the pain. I think I threw him for a bit of a loop since I’m normally so positive and relaxed about all this – and he wasn’t quite sure what to say. But honestly it just helped to say it out loud. Once I’d said my fear out loud, I was able to release it. Yes, this would be hard, but I knew I would be fine. I could do this.

With that out of the way, I was able to relax a bit and concentrate more on the labor itself. I focused on my body opening during contractions & preparing for the baby. Around this time I also started vocalizing a bit. I know my midwife could tell about where I was in labor by my vocalizing. They started as low groans and got way more intense as labor progressed.

Time passed and I knew I needed to get out of the pool and get serious about allowing things to progress. I was also getting quite hot as the room had heated 80-something degrees and a gazillion percent humidity from filling up the birth pool. Sometime around here my mother-in-law arrived so she’d be here to watch the kids when they got up. I remember asking if she could cut up a cantaloupe so I could have some.

Over the next hour or so I labored intensely. And it was intense. But it was also amazingly intuitive. In my past labors my focus was on managing the pain – on finding comfortable positions and keeping my focus, on getting through each contraction and staying calm. But this was different. This time I seemed to know what I needed to do to work with my body to get the baby in the right position and get everything open & ready.

I took so many different positions than I normally do. I spent time leaning over the bed. I held on to the bed post and did squats during contractions (certainly never planned that!) At one point I knew I needed to go into the bathroom & labor a bit on the toilet. For those of you who’ve done this, you know it's super uncomfortable – but also often quite effective in opening things up.

I labored for awhile there – and could certainly feel things moving. To this point though, my water hadn’t broken & I hadn’t even had any bloody show or lost my mucus plug or anything. But no one was concerned – for me, none of these things typically happen until the end anyhow.

With Calaiya, once my water broke my body started pushing all on its own & she was born quickly after that. I somehow knew it would be the same this time, too. I didn’t know when it would break though – and was starting to be more than ready for it to finally happen.

As the contractions got more & more intense I remember asking my midwife if she had a sense how far along I was. (She normally doesn’t check unless there’s a reason to or if we request it.) She said it was a little hard to tell because I’m always fairly calm in labor but that she didn’t think it would be too much longer. I was glad to hear that & was just hoping she was right. (Spoiler: she was.)

Things kept getting progressively more intense, but somehow I continued to just follow my body’s lead and somehow intuitively knew what to do. I was vocalizing more and more – although I was able to keep them low tones instead of high – and I started blowing raspberries through contractions somewhere in here too.

This was definitely transition. The most obvious sign? My answers when my midwife asked how I was doing were “crappy” and “I don’t know if I can do this much longer – but that means we’re close, right!?” 🙂

I felt more aware of what was happening this time around. I don't think I ever made it to “labor land’ where everything is fuzzy and you're kinda’ out of it. I remember feeling really aware of everything that was happening – including the intensity of the contractions.

At some point in here I got really tired and decided to lie down for a few minutes. For some reason I didn’t lie down on our bed though – I lied down in the middle of the floor on some tarps. I don’t remember why I chose the tarps over the bed. Lol. But I knew I needed a bit of a breather before the end. I remember laboring through a few intense contractions on the floor – our midwife was listening to the baby through one of them so I tried not to move and it was even more intense – but lying down for a few minutes between contractions was just what I needed. I soon got back up and decided it was time to get back in the pool.

I had been starting to feel “a little pushy” during some contractions for a bit now. I mentioned this to R & I thought she'd say “okay I’ll check you.” But she never did. That’s because there was no reason to check… I just needed to follow my body’s lead. And by her not checking, that’s just what I did.

(For some reason I had it in my mind that she needed to check me and say “you’re complete. Time to push!” I don’t know why I was thinking this. I guess that had ended up happening with both of my other labors – but now I realize it’s certainly not a necessary part of the process.)

Because I never got an official “start pushing” notification, I just let my body do what it was doing. Once I was in the pool I felt my body pushing just a little during the contractions – then pushing a little more. It wasn’t the all-out “this baby is coming down" pushing but just little pushes, often at the end of the contraction. I let my body do whatever it was doing and tried to work with it. Soon I noticed some mucus plug and bloody show. Things were happening!

Throughout all of this Tim and R were there in quiet support. In previous labors I needed a lot of help from them, but this time I strangely didn’t need as much physical comfort. I was kind of just doing my thing – and it was comforting to know they were there. Tim would come hold my hand sometimes during contractions & that was exactly what I needed.

We were also still waiting for my sister-in-law Toni to arrive to video the birth….More on that in a minute.

Anyhow, I was continuing to work through contractions & let my body push as it wanted to when I felt that glorious pop. “I think my water just broke” I said. Thank goodness!

From here, things happened fast. I don’t know how many contractions it was but certainly not more than 10 – probably more like 5-8 before she was born.

My body started bearing down intensely like I knew it would. The baby was coming. This was it.

Everything was so intense at this point. I remember Tim saying “You’re doing great. You’re not even going to remember this pain here in a few minutes.” And I remember thinking “Oh, I think I’ll remember it.” Lol.

Toni still hadn’t gotten there either so Tim was trying to support me with one hand and hold the camera in the other. I was hoping Toni would get there soon so he could just be in the moment. I kept asking about her & Tim kept saying “It’ll be fine. Just focus on the baby.”

It was fine. It was just funny how it happened. My husband describes it this way: Things were super quiet & peaceful up in our room as I labored when he suddenly heard a “clip clip clip” of feet running around outside. Followed by a string of events: Fervent pounding on the door. “The door’s locked. Why isn’t anyone opening the door!?” Me & Tim wondering why his mom isn’t opening the door. His mom not hearing the knocking because she has the TV on for my kids to drown out my groaning. Me telling Tim to text Toni the door code. Them telling me to focus on the baby. Toni running to the other door to try that one. His mom finally hearing her & opening the door. Her running upstairs and grabbing the camera just in time. Okay, stress done. Back to calm….

Meanwhile, my body was pushing out the baby as I knelt on hands and knees in the water. I felt intense pressure and crowning. The ring of fire wasn’t clear like I remember from my past births. It was like the ring of fire came & decided to hang out for awhile. My midwives massaging & supporting me during the crowning & delivery feels horrible – but is so worth it to not tear. I knew s/he would be here soon.

Suddenly I heard Toni say “the head is out!” I could hardly believe it. We were almost done. With the next contraction the baby was born (my midwife told me later she had to pull her out as her chest was a little bigger than her head.)

R said she was passing the baby under my legs for me to pick up. I grabbed the baby and leaned back with joy and relief. The baby was here. We did it! 🙂

To this point, we hadn’t found out the gender. And I wanted to know what it was. I took a quick peak, but the umbilical cord threw me off. “I think it’s a girl” I said. But I was holding her close and hadn’t gotten a good enough look to be dogmatic. A minute later I held her out and looked again. Definitely a girl. I would’ve been happy either way but I was kinda’ pulling for a girl so I was excited 🙂

Selah Joy, welcome to the world.

Can I just say resting & recovering in your own bed in your own house is amazing!? We got out of the pool & went through all that’s necessary in the afterbirth process, all while I held Selah on my chest and just enjoyed her.

When things settled down, Clayton & Calaiya came up to see their new sister briefly. They were super cute & excited to be big brother & sister.

Soon Tim’s mom took the kids to her house. R worked super hard cleaning everything up by herself (she normally has the 2nd midwife to help). And soon we were left together in a gloriously quiet house to rest and recover.

I am beyond grateful to the Lord for allowing me such a peaceful birth with no complications. Having had friends go through very difficult circumstances with their baby recently, I certainly didn’t take it for granted – and am so thankful for the blessing.

I’m also thankful for the wonderful support & help I received from everyone – Tim, R, C, my mother-in-law, Toni – and everyone who brought us meals & helped out in so many ways.

And I’m thankful for midwives who believe in & trust the birth process. In past labors I’d needed her guidance and direction but this time turns out I mainly just needed her to give me the faith to trust the process. And that’s just what she did. I have such confidence in my midwives who know how to intervene when necessary but also when to sit back and watch in quiet support.