Audrey Xiaoyue's Birth Story By Andrea Print
Birth Stories - Homebirth Birth Stories
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 10:44
Even before I was pregnant, I knew I did not want a traditional hospital birth. I did not always feel this way; I grew up never knowing that there were women who had there babies at home with a midwife, and I always assumed I'd have my babies in a hospital, like my mom, and my grandma. It all started with a project for a graduate class. Our group decided to do a web page on pregnancy, with links to helpful websites. One site we included was for a birth plan, and I remember thinking, this is a neat idea, but why would people worry about some of this stuff? Who cares if I can walk around during labor? Won't I be in a lot of pain? And do I really have a choice if I get an episiotomy or not? Doesn't everyone get them? So I got curious.

A few months later, in April of 1999, my husband Leo and I decided to start trying to get pregnant. As I always do when I'm really interested in something, I obsessed about it and got all the information I could, not only about trying to conceive, but also on pregnancy and childbirth. I worked in a public library at the time, and stumbled on Barbara Harper's book and video, Gentle Childbirth, which focused a great deal on waterbirth. I wondered if I might find a hospital around my area that would do a waterbirth. A birth story on this very site described a woman's ordeal after a C-section she didn't want, even after trying to have a natural childbirth in a hospital, due to too many unnecessary interventions, and I realized that even if a hospital seemed to promise a chance at natural childbirth, it might not happen. I decided then and there that I was going to pursue a home waterbirth with a midwife, if I could possibly find a midwife. I talked with Leo, who is Chinese, and was relieved when he said he had no problem with my plans. He was born at home himself, so it was not a frightening idea to him!

I had no idea how to find a midwife, though I heard another woman in my church had given birth to her son at home, and I asked about her midwife, but later found out she was not practicing anymore. I also contacted an acquaintance who lived an hour away whom I knew had had a homebirth, and asked where she'd found her midwife. The acquaintance highly recommended hers, but was out of state when I e-mailed her, so could not provide me with the telephone number. I kept researching everything, and did web searches, trying to see if I could find a midwife in my area. Finally, I actually stumbled on the website of the midwife I'd been trying to find, and was able to e-mail her! I still was not pregnant yet, but was glad I at least knew where to turn.

I finally got pregnant in October of 1999, 6 months after we started trying. I e-mailed Jennifer, the midwife, once more, and asked to set up a consultation. After Leo and I met with her once, we knew we felt comfortable with her and her apprentice, Christina. I had a fairly uneventful, normal pregnancy, and was given routine prenatal care by Jennifer and Christina, getting only the really necessary tests: at every visit, they checked my urine, blood pressure, and the baby's position and heartbeat. Every visit could last up to an hour, and if they did not have an appointment after me, they would sit and answer any questions I had as long as I needed to. We only disagreed slightly on my due date; I knew when I had conceived based on when I ovulated because I was charting my temperature, but she was counting from my last cycle. She did agree, however, that if I went over, she would take my late ovulation into consideration.

When I was about 37 or 38 weeks pregnant (depending on whether I went by my midwife's estimated due date or mine), I started having crampy contractions. At my next prenatal, Jennifer gave me my first internal exam of the pregnancy, and determined that I had already begun dilating and effacing; I was dilated to 2 cm., and 80 percent effaced. I was excited, but we both agreed that I could easily go for several more weeks that way. This was my first baby, so we had no idea how slowly or quickly the labor process would go for me.

I soon started getting frustrated; maybe I should not have let her tell me how far along I was dilated! I had quit my job a month before, and though so far I had managed to stay relatively busy with housework at home (nesting, don't you know!), I was quickly becoming bored. My mom was now staying with us until the baby would arrive, but we both were starting to go a little bit crazy! At my 40- or 41-week exam, I agreed to let Jennifer strip my membranes. She had attempted to the week before, but I'd had her stop before she could get in far enough because of the pain. Later I realized I had not used any of my pain management techniques, and this would be a good chance to practice them! So at this exam, I allowed her to get all the way in, and I breathed my way through the discomfort. And it really did not seem bad at all. She also agreed to allow me to take some castor oil the following morning, July 7, 2000.

The next morning, I realized I had lost my mucus plug! I had thought I'd lost it the week BEFORE, as my first trip to the bathroom had resulted in a little slime with a tinge of blood on my toilet paper. But this was definitely the real thing, as there was a lot more of what I'd seen the week before, and a lot more blood. I waited until my mom was awake to take the castor oil, as I didn't want to be feeling sick (or having my water break!) by myself. At this point I was a week and a day past Jennifer's EDD, and a day past my own. Up until then, I had been fairly positively against any method of induction of labor, preferring to let things go naturally. But, as I mentioned, I was starting to become frustrated, not to mention increasingly uncomfortable. I also felt, perhaps just trying to justify my actions, that from what I had read, these two methods of induction were fairly natural, and also that if I were not ready, they would not work anyway. Some might argue that if I were not ready, I did not need to use these methods, and if I were ready, I also would not need them! In retrospect, I feel a bit bad that I did not have the discipline to stick to my original plan, but all in all, I still have no regrets.

Anyway, the castor oil! I was trying to figure out a way to get it down without gagging. I had bought two 4-oz bottles, hoping that one would do the trick. Jennifer had said I would need to drink 3-4 oz for it to be effective, so I braced myself. Some people on an e-mail list I belonged to suggested mixing it with root beer or orange juice, but I decided to simply numb my mouth with ice, hoping to deaden my taste buds, and then follow each swig with a potato chip. Eating salty food to wash down the bad taste of medicine was a trick I had taught myself a long time ago, anyway. I hoped the ice cubes would work even better. I managed to get down about � of the bottle, so I did get 3 oz. I probably could have gotten the entire bottle down, but when I poured what turned out to be my final mouthful into my mouth, I put too much in, and had to hold some of it in my mouth as I swallowed. I nearly gagged, nearly threw up EVERYTHING, so I ended up spitting out the rest of the mouthful, afraid I would destroy an entire hour's work, and would not be able to take any more.

I sat back to wait for the castor oil to take effect�and waited� and waited�Finally, around noon, I had a fairly normal BM, and wondered if that was the best I was going to get! Not to worry�before long, I was making regular trips to the bathroom as my body cleaned itself out.

Jennifer had warned that both the membrane-stripping and the castor oil could take up to three days to work, so I tried not to get my hopes up too high. Around 2:30 (I think) I started having some minor contractions, which I began to time. The contractions were not regular, but did continue for another couple of hours.

Around 4:00 I thought I felt a slight trickle of fluid, and I wondered if my water had broken. I went to the bathroom to check, but decided it was more of my mucus plug coming out. At 4:15�my water broke! So maybe the trickle had been for real! There was no "pop" as I had been expecting, just a sudden gush of fluid. Luckily, I was sitting in a chair that I had lined with a garbage bag and a bathroom towel, just in anticipation of such a thing. I called out to my mom that I thought my water had broken. She came in, and I tried to think what I should do first. I decided to first page Jennifer. Then I called Leo at work. He was not at his desk, so I left a message on his voice mail telling him to call me as soon as he got the message, and then to come home immediately! Then I hung up and waited for Jennifer to call back.

When she did, she was excited that things were progressing. She asked how my contractions were, and I told her they still were not very regular (this would be very important later!). She said to keep timing them, and also time how long they lasted, and to call her back in about an hour. At that point, they were about 4-6 minutes apart, and about a minute long.

Leo called back, all excited too, and said he was on his way home. I decided I would also call my sister at work, as she was planning to be at the birth as well. She was not there, so I left her a message, and also at her house. At some point, not long after, she called back, asking jokingly if I wanted to go for a walk. I replied I didn't think so, as I would be dripping all over the place. What I did not realize is she had not checked her messages yet, and did not realize I was in labor! When I said I would drip, she thought I meant I would be sweating! Then I said, "They're starting to get a little closer together, though." And suddenly she realized what I meant! She said she would grab a quick bite to eat, and then would be there as soon as possible.

Not long after this, my dad called. He was just calling to see how Mom and I were, and to tell us he had just put together a bag "just in case", so he was surprised to realize that my water had broken! He also said he would be there as soon as he could, and started out on the 2-hour drive from home.

I had one other person left who needed to know, a college buddy I had invited to come help and watch the birth with us. I thought I would wait a bit to call her, as I did not know how long this would go on, and I did not want to feel like everyone was watching me. But Anne called too, meaning that except for Leo and my midwife, I did not have to call anyone to tell them to come�each one of them called on their own. I told her to wait for a bit, and I would let her know when to come, as I did not know how much longer we might have to wait.

When I called Jennifer back, my contractions still were not too regular, but seemed to be getting a bit more intense. She suggested I first do some exercises to make sure the baby was turned around the right way (we suspected it might be posterior), and then to get some rest and nap if I could, and to let her know when anything changed. I went straight to my bedroom, did about 5 minutes of exercise, and then went to bed. The contractions were definitely getting stronger now, and though they were still bearable, I could not really sleep, but I did manage to rest a bit between them. Then, suddenly, I started to feel nauseated. I knew I was going to throw up. This worried me a bit, as I knew some women throw up when they reach transition, but it seemed much too soon for me to be in transition. As I walked quickly to the bathroom, I realized my sister had arrived. I whispered a quick "Hi" before shutting myself in the bathroom and puking my guts up! While I was in the bathroom, Leo came home, so when I came out I told everyone I had been sick. "We know!" they all said! I guess I was a little louder than I had thought!

I decided I should let Jennifer know, because this was definitely a change. I called and told her I had thrown up, but my contractions were still not really regular. We agreed that my nausea could have been a residual effect of the castor oil, as I had been burping it up all afternoon; and maybe my system knew something else was going on, and decided everything else should go UP instead of down. So she said to just hang in there, as it would probably still be quite a while. We agreed, also, that I should try to keep things as normal as possible, so that I didn't get "stage fright" which could slow down my labor. My friend Anne called again, but as she was scheduled to work that night, I told her not to worry, and I would definitely call her as soon as she needed to come.

I went back to the bedroom, and Leo came with me to time the contractions for me. I knew at this point I was definitely not going to be able to nap, but did not feel like timing them myself anymore. I just lay on the bed and tried to relax. Suddenly, I felt nauseated again, and told Leo to bring our "puke bucket" right away. He got it to me in time, and I knelt over it, heaving the chicken dumpling soup I had eaten a little earlier. Leo knew I was OK, though, when I looked at him and said only half seriously, "YOU did this to me!" We had joked all through the pregnancy that I would get mad at him in labor, so I felt I should humor him a little bit.

A while later, my dad arrived. He came in the bedroom, and was a bit teary-eyed, which is not like him. He was a little embarrassed, but I let him know it was OK! It really touched me that he was getting emotional over this.

My contractions still were not really regular at all, but the contractions started to really, really hurt and were hard to deal with. I had been trying to breathe through them, and use some visualization techniques, but they just weren't working anymore. The pain was so intense, I just could not relax�I was literally writhing in pain, and my moans occasionally sounded like screams! I finally told Leo to call Jennifer for me and tell her I really needed her, even if it was early, because the contractions were so hard. I could not even call her myself, it was so hard to talk, so I hoped she would realize how tough things were getting! I could not even get in the water until we were certain I was 5 cm dilated, which we wouldn't know until someone got there to check me.

Jennifer decided to send Christina ahead to help me through the contractions, which was fine. Christina was young, younger than me, and had never had children of her own yet, but I really liked her and was comfortable with her. Before Christina even got there, I suddenly realized I was getting the urge to push. It was actually more than just an urge�my body was trying to push without my even consciously trying to help. I held back as best as I could, because I did NOT want to have this baby without either Christina or Jennifer present! I didn't tell anyone else, because I knew it would only make them worry. I was a little worried myself, because I still was not sure I could be that far along, and I had heard of other women who had the urge to push too early. I couldn't remember exactly the outcome, but I knew it was not a good thing, and wondered if I would bruise my cervix if it was not totally dilated.

Christina and Anne must have arrived about the same time; I think Anne arrived first, but decided to wait until Christina came to go in the bedroom, so there weren't so many people coming and going. I heard Christina come in, and she rubbed my back and comforted me a little bit before I asked her to check my progress. Later Jennifer told me she had been hesitant to check me, because since my water had already broken, the more internal exams I got, the more likely the chance of introducing an infection. She decided to call Jennifer first to confer a bit, and that's when I rolled over to say hi to Anne, who I had only vaguely realized was in the room before then. I also realized one of the pillows I was propping my top leg on was now extremely bloody! It was a fairly new pillow, too, and did not even have a pillowcase on it�oh well, c'est la vie!

Christina came back in and agreed to check my cervix. She felt around a little bit, and finally said that I WAS further along than we had thought�she told me I was 7 cm. In reality, I was more like 9 � cm, but she was not entirely sure, especially since my contractions STILL were not regular, but she could not feel my cervix at all. She called Jennifer one more time to tell her I was almost complete, and to get here as fast as she could, since she had nearly an hour's drive to get here!

When she came back in the bedroom, I asked if I could get in the pool now, which Leo had already begun filling with warm water from a bucket. She said I could, and after waiting for one more contraction, Leo helped me off the bed and over to the pool. At that point, I was just wearing a nightgown, but I remembered that I had bought a sports bra to wear in the pool for modesty. I was not exactly modest as I changed out of the gown and into the bra, but by then, I really did not care! It was hard to climb into the pool�I think as I was climbing in, another contraction started, so I had one foot in and one foot out, and Leo had to hold me up while I waited for it to pass! Finally, I sunk into the warm water�relief! Almost instantly, I could feel my body relax. Leo continued to fill the pool with more water. As another contraction came, I realized the warm water was not exactly making the pain less, but it was helping me relax more, both during and between the contractions. So in a way, I guess relaxing DID help lessen the pain.

Christina told me I could push if I needed to now, which I happily did! Sometime before Christina arrived, a little before I started feel the urge to push, my high-pitched moans and wails became lower groans, almost like an animal; I remembered reading that this kind of vocalization is much more effective at pushing the baby out. Maybe that's partly why I started feeling like pushing so soon! At any rate, I continued with this sound when I pushed. Christina continued to come in and out, pausing to sit with me occasionally, but also needing to set up her equipment. At one point, when she was just outside the bedroom, I suddenly felt a burning sensation, something like the "ring of fire" you always hear about. I yelled "Christina! It burns!" and she rushed back in. She reassured me my perineum was only stretching, which caused the burning sensation. It would still be a little bit before the baby was born.

Before long, I could tell the pushing was making progress. At one point, Christina encouraged me to reach down and touch my baby's head. It was so soft! I mean, it felt like there was no skull; Jennifer later explained to me it was because all of the skin on a baby's head gets pushed up. I asked if the baby had hair, and was told it certainly did! My mom was surprised, because I had been a very bald baby. We didn't know if Leo had been a bald baby or not; whatever, this baby was going to start life with hair!

My pushing continued. At one point, someone asked if I wanted to look in the hand mirror I'd bought for the occasion. I was so intent on concentrating that I did not even want to think about making a decision of any sort, so I simply said no; I wish they hadn't asked, and just put it where I could have seen when I was able to open my eyes! At least my sister was filming it, so I would be able to watch it all later.

Finally, Christina said she thought the head would be born on the next contraction; she was right! At 10:53, I pushed as hard as I could, and there was a head! Within the same minute, on the same contraction, I pushed out the shoulders and body. I gasped with relief as Christina lifted the baby into my arms. Leo, who had been watching by Christina, rushed around to my side to cuddle the baby with me. In the video, you can hear my mom and sister crying, but at the time, I was only aware of a tiny face with blinky eyes looking up at me. I kept saying, "look at its eyes!" The baby started to look a little gray, so Christina rubbed its back to make it cry. Until then, it hadn't cried at all! It's color improved quickly.

At this point, we still did not know if it was a boy or a girl. Jennifer and Christina's policy was "it's your present, you get to open it!" So we would get to find out for ourselves, which I thought was pretty neat. But I was exhausted, and not ready to look yet. For most of the pregnancy, I had been hoping for a girl, but the heart rates we'd been hearing toward the end sounded like they were in the boy range. I had finally come to expect a boy, and to be satisfied with either. Still, part of me hoped for a girl, and I wanted to catch my breath before I found out which I had.

We were still in the tub, and covered with towels. Finally, I said, "I'm ready to look now!" The towels were lifted, and I shifted the baby to see. Leo and I shouted at the same moment "It's a girl!"

Jennifer arrived ten to fifteen minutes late, but I was too happy to care. She did get there in time to help me out of the tub, however. I handed the baby to Leo after he cut the cord, and stood up. All of a sudden, I couldn't stop shaking. I was FREEZING! They helped me over to our bed, handed the baby back to me, then covered me with every dry towel and blanket available. Oops, now that I was starting to get comfy, Jennifer wanted me to push out the placenta. I couldn't believe how hard that was. I mean, it wasn't as painful as pushing out a baby, wasn't painful at all, in fact. But there seemed so much less to push against. It was like trying to have a BM when there's nothing there! Finally, the placenta came out, intact. Later, Christina showed us all the placenta and explained all the parts to us.

When it came time for the weighing and measuring, Christina tried to judge how much our little girl weighed. "Seven eleven?" she guessed, holding her in the sling scale. Nope�my little 5'2" body pushed out an 8 pound, 4 ounce baby! I was amazed, and proud. I realized I never at any time felt like I was going to "split in two", like some women say they felt. Christina and Jennifer complimented me on my pelvis. "You have a PELVIS!" they laughed. I echoed, "I have a pelvis�I am woman, hear me roar!" Jennifer came back with, "Gives a whole new meaning to the word 'roar', doesn't it!" We all laughed, remembering my "roars" as I was pushing.

The baby was 21 inches long, prompting my dad to suggest she would be a basketball player!

I was debating names for my baby. I love Irish names, and had been leaning towards the name Aisling. But it is hard to pronounce (ASHleen) and spell, and since my husband is Chinese, with not a well-known family name like Chang or Chen, I worried she'd have enough trouble with her last name! I finally decided on another name I'd considered even before I was pregnant, Audrey. Her middle name is Chinese, Xiaoyue, which is pronounced show (rhymes with wow) YOU-EH. It means "treasure of the dawn", which I really liked, because before I was married and legally changed my middle name to my maiden name, my middle name had been Dawn. I had always liked my middle name, and sometimes wish I had just let myself have two middle names when I changed it! But this was a nice way to pass it on. Leo's parents picked out Audrey's middle name.

The one thing about my labor that will always stand out is how quickly it went, and how strange it was that my contractions never got regular, not even when I was pushing. I am now certain that when I threw up, I was indeed in transition, and I'm sure next time, Jennifer will come to stay with me much sooner!

As I write this, Audrey is a healthy, happy 9-� week old baby! You can read my journal about our journey towards having this baby at this site.