Editor’s note: This is part eight in an ongoing series of birth stories submitted by readers and fellow bloggers, featuring a wide range of women and their birth experiences. Today’s midwife-assisted, home water birth story is extra special to me, because this is Samantha and Riley’s story. You may know them better as our resident diaper testers here at This West Coast Mommy! If you would like to share your own birth story, please visit this post to learn how. ~Olivia
David and I discovered we were pregnant with our second baby, Riley, the week before Mother’s Day 2015. I guess it was planned…if by “planned” you mean a hypothetical conversation sparked by the slightest twinge of baby fever. And don’t forget the bottle of wine. That may have had a little something to do with it as well.
And voila, I was now destined to have two under two.
All kidding aside, though, I love being a mom, and it’s honestly the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life.
When we got our first positive pregnancy test with Brooks back in 2013, I was overwhelmed by fear of the unknown. This time was different. There was still some anxiety for what I was about to face, but I knew from experience that the love awaiting me on the other side would be worth every moment.
Although my first birth was ultimately a success, Brooks got stuck coming down through my pelvis. He was born with a bulge on the side of his poor little head from being pushed up against my bones at an awkward angle. Things went quickly for a first time birth—7 hours total—but I wasn’t sure I was ready to relive that mind-shattering agony again.
For this pregnancy, I was incredibly grateful to have my same midwife, Ann, who guided me through that first rocky experience with so much wisdom. With her help, I was able to spend a good portion of my prenatal appointments processing my fears about the possibility of another difficult labor.
I woke up to my first contraction at 11:00 PM after only an hour of sleep. Because my labor with Brooks had gone fairly quickly, we knew not to delay. After only 20 minutes of timing them, the contractions were about one minute long and two minutes apart. Riley was definitely on her way.
When Ann arrived, she let me know right away that she had another mom in labor at the same time, which is very rare but does happen on occasion. She said that the other mom was also expecting her second baby, but her first was born after a very long labor, so she decided to come to our house first and offer to send her backup midwife, Lisa, to check on the other couple. They declined and decided to wait for Ann.
I can understand their apprehension about having another midwife attend their birth, but I wish they had known Lisa personally. They may have felt completely differently. She happened to be the student midwife present at Brooks’ birth, and we adore her!
So Ann and her assistant began to get a few things set up, and she checked my dilation. I was at a 5, and Ann’s practice doesn’t consider labor “active” until 6 cm. I walked my stairs and hallways for an hour when the other mom called. She felt very anxious and asked for Ann to come check on her. After taking another look at my progress—still 5 cm—Ann discussed the possibility of leaving for a bit to see the other mom and give her some reassurance. We agreed.
She and her assistant were gone for about an hour, and during that time my contractions slowed to a crawl. I suddenly felt exhausted. I swear I could have fallen asleep standing up.
When Ann returned, she informed us that the other mom was at 3 cm, and she very likely had another long labor ahead of her. They again declined to have Lisa come in her stead and decided to try and get some rest.
I let her know how fatigued I felt and suggested that perhaps my labor would also be a long one. I felt my body needed more sleep before all the work that lay ahead. Ann said it would be fine for me to lay down for a bit if I really needed to, but years of wisdom led her to check my progress first before sending me to bed.
I was fully expecting to be at 5 or 6 cm.
Ann said I was between 8 and 9 and that it’s common for women to feel really sleepy right before labor gets serious. It was time to fill the birthing pool!
As soon as I got in the warm water, I began to panic as reality set in. My contractions had been totally manageable up until this point, but that didn’t fool me. I knew what was coming, and I wasn’t sure if my mind could handle that much pain again without cracking. We discussed breaking my water, and, when I confessed just how scared I was, Ann reassured me with words—and with some mysterious pills she called “courage homeopathics.”
After my water was broken, I got into a comfortable kneeling position and went into a place of serious concentration. The contractions immediately became more intense, and I did my best to breathe deeply and focus intently on how the pain migrated lower and lower as Riley was coming down through my body.
It worked. I was totally in the zone, and when Ann got the call that the other mom was on the bathroom floor writhing and feeling an urge to push, it seemed like some kind of out-of-body experience. I remember feeling vaguely guilty that Ann was there with me while the other couple was forced to call the paramedics for over-the-phone help delivering their baby. I could see that she was doing her best to take calm, decisive action in the midst of that crazy situation and also be present with us as we got ready to welcome our baby.
Within minutes Ann had both her assistant and backup midwife hurrying to get to the other family, and just before I felt the strong urge to push, myself, she received news that mom and baby were safe and healthy!
Now it was just the three of us, and Riley was about to make her grand entrance. I could feel my pelvic bones being pried apart, and just as the pain became so intense I began to lose my focus…and my grip on sanity…Ann explained that the pressure was the head being born and that she was almost here.
I found renewed strength and concentration, and with the next few contractions she was out, and the pain was gone!
We welcomed Riley into the world at 4:11 AM on January 11th, her estimated due date. After a half hour of snuggling her in the warm water, Ann made up our bed and tucked us in with a warm blanket. We enjoyed lots of skin-to-skin time as Riley nursed for the first time and Ann gave me one tiny stitch.
Aside from the crazy, unplanned, unassisted home birth happening at the same time, this was the most beautiful birth experience I could have imagined.
As for that other family, Ann says they’re doing great, but she may have to pay for their therapy bills.
Samantha Levang is a contributor at This West Coast Mommy, specializing in cloth diaper and baby item reviews. She lives in Washington state with her husband, toddler son, Brooks, and new baby girl, Riley. Between diaper changes and loads of laundry, she enjoys landscape photography and the never-ending process of home decorating.