This is the story of my homebirth – a 78 hour labor.
Monday morning we had our Bradley class review. When we left, I told Joey that I felt better and much more confident about the baby coming. That night, I went to bed and spent most of the night dreaming I was in labor. When I woke up during the night, I noticed I was cramping quite a bit. Tuesday morning was my prenatal appointment. I told Lia (our midwife) about everything and asked her to check me to see if things were actually getting started. Whatta you know, I was at 2 centimeters. She agreed this was probably prelabor and thought the baby would likely come in the next week or so. We chatted about the fact that I was installing an icemaker and had been struggling with finding a last part. She joked that once I finished I would probably go into labor. Well lo and behold we went to Ace Hardware that afternoon and got the right part installed. By 6:00 p.m. I was having minute long contractions every 5 minutes. I called Lia and gave her a heads up. She suggested we try to rest as much as possible that night and she would check-in in the morning. I was able to sleep in between contractions for about 6 hours. I got up a little after 5 and took Fender on a nice morning walk. The contractions had slowed but started to pick back up throughout the day. Joey and I tried to go to the pool, but it was too busy. We made a last minute grocery run and he went to a physical therapy appointment, set up the birth pool and other supplies, then Lia came over late that afternoon. She checked me and I was at 4 centimeters. She asked if I would like to try and rest one more night or keep going. I was a little disappointed that the birth wasn’t as imminent as I thought, but thankful for a chance to get some more rest. So we agreed that we would go to bed and call her when we needed her. I sent Joey out for a bottle of wine to help me get some rest and managed to eek out a few more hours of sleep that night. The next morning I woke up with pretty steady contractions and called Lia. She came over and explained that another one of their patients was starting labor. My baby was coming a little early and the other woman’s was running late, so we kind of met in the middle apparently. Sharon, our other attending midwife, would be with the other woman and Lia would stay with us which meant she would have to call another person to assist whom we had never met. I wasn’t too worried about it though. All of the birth attendants I had met in the area were spectacular. She sent us off to get a smoothie and walk some stairs on the University Campus. While we were out, we also made a stop at the chiropractor to make sure everything was in place and good to go. Lia mentioned that I seemed to labor best on my own in our bedroom, so she offered to go over to a friend’s house nearby and let us do our thing. We labored like that for a while, then decided to go walk the aisles at Home Depot to see if we could get things moving. The contractions were still coming pretty steadily, so we grabbed some fries from In-N-Out and headed back to the house to meet back up with Lia. She gave me some herbs for energy and to help labor out and I got in the birth pool for a bit and tried some different positions. Being on my knees leaning over the side of the tub seemed to work really well. Joey got in with me for a while and helped me squat and try some other things. Soon my feet were pretty pruny and I needed a break from the water, so we started going through all of our labor positions we had learned in our Bradley classes. Lia got word that the other woman had her baby, so Sharon and her assistant would be joining us again shortly. Unfortunately by the time they got there, things had slowed back down.
Lia checked me around 11pm and I was at 9 cm. Generally this is transition for most people, but I was still having to be very deliberate about bringing on the contractions. It looked like we were going to close out another day sans baby. The good thing was that I was getting one more chance for rest. We agreed to take this opportunity. The team offered to sleep over in case we needed them, but I seemed to do best with some privacy so they just went home and let us be. Once they left I started crying. I felt bad that this was dragging on for everyone and that I must be doing something wrong. Lia had assured me that everything was fine and my body was just giving me a slow, compassionate labor but I still felt bad that my labor wasn’t going like everyone else’s usually did. My vitals and my baby’s had been doing great the entire time though, and I knew there was nothing to do but keep going. I took a shower and lay down. We were only able to make it until about 4 a.m. before sleep was no longer an option. The whole team reassembled once more. Joey and I took Fender on a walk around the neighborhood and I started laboring in the pool. My contractions were more steady now and my surroundings didn’t seem to matter as much. The team went to grab breakfast for everyone. By 8 a.m., at 9 cm dilated, I was laboring in my birth pool eating a giant breakfast burrito. By noon, it was clear we still had a little while. I opted for an industrial strength enema in case some bowel blockage was slowing things up, but it didn’t seem to help much. We went back to campus for more stairs while the birth team went home to rest. Lia met us back at the house when we were finished, but the assistant had to leave for good for a pre-planned trip and our other midwife was still resting at her son’s house nearby, since this was her second delivery in two days. I was still stuck at 9 cm. We tried everything. All the positions we knew. We hung a rope out on our porch I hung onto it, I tried side lying, I got in the pool, the shower, you name it. More herbs and teas and me trying to force down some food to keep my energy up. The other midwife joined back up with us, and that’s when Lia got serious. She said we needed to get serious about getting this baby out. I didn’t understand at the time; I still felt fine and the baby and I were doing great, but I was more exhausted than I realized. Lia was worried I wouldn’t have the strength left to get the baby out. Contractions were too close together for anymore rest. I had to have this baby with whatever stores I had left.
Lia checked me again (she said she has never done so many checks in a labor before). I was complete except for a cervical lip. She suggested moving to the bed and I could try to push the baby past it while she held it back. While she was working with the lip, my water broke. Perfect, crystal clear water! Baby was still doing just fine. We thought maybe things would pick up now. The contractions were still coming, but the lip was still in the way and baby wasn’t moving down. Lia suggested we try the McRobert’s maneuver. We put a cutting board under my low back and tail bone on the bed to give me something to push against and I laid back in a reclining squat position with my knees as far out to the sides as I could get them. Lia used her hands to hold back the lip while I pushed. This is where things start to get fuzzy. I was so tired I was falling asleep between pushes. I kept hearing people saying things like “you are so close! You are so close!” but there I was still pushing away. Joey put Fender (our Great Dane) up at some point (Lia said he was the best dog she has ever had at a labor, by the way) and I started getting loud. It wasn’t particularly painful to push…it was just so much work. Finally we were past the lip, but then baby was stuck under the pubic bone. Pushing pushing pushing. (Interesting side note here- While I was pushing, Lia discovered I still had part of my hymen! She told me she might have to snip it when the baby came past so that it wouldn’t tear into the surrounding tissue, but when the time came and she grabbed the scissors I asked her not to. There wasn’t any protest. She put the scissors down and instead massaged the area and it broke away on its own.) I was so tired, but what was there to do except get the baby out? Joey was behind me helping to support my legs. A contraction would start, I would tell Lia, she would help make space for the baby’s head under my pubic bone, and I would push until I was sure my eyeballs were going to explode. Joey said my whole body would turn bright red with every push. Finally he was under the bone! Lia warned me that after a few more pushes, I would need to slow down so my perineum would have time to stretch. I’m so glad she told me ahead of time, because the sensation of that head stretching my body was like nothing in this world. Ring of fire indeed! My instinct was to push as hard as I could and make that sensation end, but Lia reminded me to breathe. The whole time she had been applying warm compresses and olive oil. She told me to reach down and feel the head. I didn’t think I could let go of my legs, but Lia said I needed to help apply pressure to prevent tearing. I reached down and felt a squishy head covered in hair! After a few moments she told me I could start making tiny pushes to crown the baby. This was harder than I thought. I pushed and pushed, and little by the little the head made its way out. I didn’t experience the immediate relief I had heard others describe. Lia told me to reach down and pull my baby up to me with my next push…so I reached down and pushed and pulled and…nothing happened. I told her I couldn’t do it. Lia said, “of course you can! It’s your baby!” But I tried to explain, no, I really couldn’t! I was trying. Turns out his shoulders were stuck. Instead of coming out one shoulder at a time and rotating, the baby was trying to just come out all at once. Sharon came over and they managed to get the shoulders out…so I reached down, grabbed hold of my baby and…still nothing. It took all three of us pulling on him just to get his body out! I had always heard that once the head is born the rest of the baby usually just falls out! Ha, not this kid. Turns out his chest was only ½ and inch smaller around than his head. But baby was out and Lia helped me get him up on my chest. Sharon put a blanket over him and rubbed his back while I talked to him and within a few seconds he let out squeak then started crying. Apparently Lia had announced the sex when she helped hand him up to me, but I didn’t hear her. I looked under the blanket and it was a boy! I told Joey and started getting Perrin up between my breasts so that he could breast crawl when he was ready.
This is where things got mildly interesting. Suddenly, Lia was examining the cord (and milking it as much as possible) saying that he had gotten most of the blood and we need to cut it. Now this seemed odd since the midwives and Joey and I are big on delayed clamping. She asked Joey to cut it, but when I looked up at him, he was all glassy eyed staring between my legs and mumbling something about how he couldn’t right now.…I was still pretty out of it, so I didn’t think anything about it when Lia handed me the scissors to cut it. Then things started happening really fast. Sharon jumped over me onto the bed and started pressing on my stomach. Lia told me to push the placenta out. I pushed and pushed but nothing happened. She kept telling me to “push!” and I was trying and didn’t understand why she seemed upset. Turns out I was hemorrhaging. The placenta not only detached early before my uterus started contracting but hadn’t detached completely. Lia apologized as she injected a shot of Pitocin in my thigh and told me to start gulping down my postpartum tea. I was trying to get the baby to latch, but he wasn’t interested, so Sharon told Joey to start sucking on my nipple to try and stimulate my uterus. Suddenly the baby was being taken off of my chest and handed to Joey and they were pulling me up onto the birth stool. Lia kept asking me to push and finally had to reach up inside me and help the placenta detach. Once it was out the bleeding slowed up considerably and they laid me back down on the bed. I remember telling them how I felt fine and wasn’t dizzy or lightheaded at all. They started checking me over for tears and to make sure the bleeding wasn’t picking back up. No tears, just two small abrasions on my labia but nothing that required stitches. Joey and the baby came back over to me while the midwives cleaned up what looked like a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They brought me some cheese and crackers to eat and soon told me it was time to try and pee. I couldn’t manage it on the toilet so I asked if I could try in the shower. Lia helped me stand and wash off the blood and I managed to pee enough to ward off a catheter. We got back to bed and Lia brought me eggs and toast while I snuggled with Perrin. He latched on for a few minutes while everyone finished cleaning up. Finally Perrin, Joey and I all snuggled down in bed. Perrin latched on again and nursed for about half an hour until we all fell asleep.
Perrin Allen Buckman was born at 11:42 p.m., Friday June 14th in his own home in his parent’s bed. He weighed 9 lbs. 14 oz. and was 21.5 inches long with a 14.5 inch head! Even after 78 hours of labor, his APGAR scores were 9/10! I was 39 weeks.
I had mentally prepared myself for a 24 hour labor as a worst case scenario, assuming I’d be closer to the average of 12-15 hours. I had also predicted that afternoon that he would weigh 7lbs. 3 oz! If someone had told me I would have a 78 hour labor with a 10 pound kid, I would have laughed in their face (I’m 5’6’’ and 119 lbs when not pregnant and I only gained 31 pounds during pregnancy). It wasn’t the peaceful water birth I had envisioned, but it was perfect. Lia had to be much more hands on than either of us would have preferred, but that’s what it take to get a 10 pound baby out of me I guess! People have asked if I would change anything if I could do it again or if I wished I had been in a hospital or transferred. Big. Fat. No. Nothing was wrong with me or my baby, but if we had been in a hospital they would have cut me open by Wednesday morning. Big baby, small pelvis, failure to progress…you name it. They would have broken my water putting me on a stricter time table, or given me pitocin making my contractions much more painful. Instead, I was allowed to take all the time my body needed. I wasn’t in any kind of excruciating pain. The contractions were uncomfortable, but they didn’t last that long and there were breaks in between. Pushing was hard, but it didn’t hurt. Honestly, crowning was the only truly painful part of the whole experience. The rest of it wasn’t enjoyable, but I could deal. I’m so glad we made the choices that we did and were surrounded by people who trusted my body and my baby to do what they needed to do. I wouldn’t change a thing!
~ Roxanne Buckman