Home Water Birth: The Power of Patience
Name: Kiersten Markham from www.kierstenmarkham.com
Baby’s Name: Brixton Markham
Birthday: December 28, 2015
Gestation: 41+6 weeks
Time of Birth: 10:00 am
Location of Birth: At home in San Diego, CA
It was a warm, sunny, San Diego morning just after Christmas and I was bummed to wake up from a sleep filled night. I thought for sure I would have been woken up by waves of contractions that would bring my baby out into my arms.
I supported numerous families as a birth and postpartum doula for 4 years prior to becoming pregnant with my son. I felt for the mamas at the end of pregnancy, but experiencing the last few weeks of pregnancy first hand was a whole new level of understanding. I loved being pregnant and having a belly, I just so badly wanted to see my baby’s face. Those last few days were a rollercoaster of emotions.
That sunny Sunday morning I decided to do all I could do to invite my son out, but that I would ultimately surrender to what he wanted and needed. I scheduled allllll the appointments for Monday. More acupuncture, Chiropractor, Spinning Babies and even an appointment with an OB (in California you can have a homebirth in between 37-42 weeks). My intuition was telling me it was time to have my midwives come for a visit to go over options that day.
Gerri Ryan and Sarah Burns showed up that evening and drew a warm bath. I agreed to a cervical check just before getting in the bath and Gerri felt a little bit of scar tissue on my cervix that she was able to rub out (cervical scar tissue can inhibit dilation). I hopped in the bath and Sarah did acupressure points on my cervix for 30 min. They made me a little castor oil concoction with apricot juice, almond butter, and lemon verbena essential oil and tucked me in for the night.
At 9pm I woke up feeling like I had to poop. I cursed that castor oil concoction for 2 hours. I was on the toilet, in bed, on the toilet, in bed. Finally around 11:30pm I realized that this wasn’t just a bad stomach. There was a rhythm to the stomach cramps. When I got too uncomfortable to sleep I moved to the shower. It was amazing and with every surge I swayed and squatted, feeling my son moving lower and melting my cervix away. It was incredible to feel my body working together with him.
A short while later I threw up. I yelled to my husband to call the midwives and our doula and to get everything ready. I remained in the shower and could see him scurrying around the room looking for things. “Where’s the safety pins?” “In the bassinet.” “Where’s the sheets?” “In the bassinet?” “Where’s the bassinet!?” “Right behind you!”
My midwives and doula arrived around 3am and stayed near as my husband squatted with me through each contraction. I moved to the birth tub and sank into the warm water. I was getting sleepy and dozed in between contractions. The morning light was cracking through the blinds when the midwives asked what I thought about a vaginal check. I agreed to be checked, but I didn’t want to know my dilation (I later found out I was 5 cm). They left the room for a brief moment and came back to say they thought it best I take some herbs and get into bed to sleep. Being a doula I knew what this meant… I had said similar things before to moms. In my head it meant I wasn’t as far along as I thought and they wanted me to conserve my energy for the day ahead. I turned over onto all fours and silently told myself, “You can get out of the tub, but you are NOT going to bed. It’s time to meet your son.”
I labored around the room for a couple hours until the contractions began to change and came on stronger. I started to grunt with each one. On my way back to the birth tub I felt a strong urge to poop so we stopped in the hall bathroom. My midwife, Sarah, put her hands on my forehead and held my head. It was so comforting and gave me a deep breath of calm before things really picked up.
Of course, I didn’t have to poop, it was just another sign that my baby was low and coming closer. I slowly climbed back into the tub and my body completely took over. It was such a surreal 45 minutes. I felt so inside and outside of my body at the same time. I could feel every little thing, but it was as if I was floating, looking down on the scene.
Pushing stage was intense. With my midwives encouragement, my doula holding the space, and my husband holding me I felt so supported. My midwives guided me through giving myself counter pressure where I felt like I needed it. I somehow was able to slow my breathing down and allowed him to come out slowly so that I didn’t tear. I caught Brixton in my hands and with the help of my midwife I brought him to my chest. His wrinkled little face was the sweetest I’d ever seen. As he cried it was as if he was telling me just how intense the whole experience really was.
After we were tended to and ate a warm meal we snuggled up in bed. My husband and Brixton slept soundly, but I was too excited to sleep. I just stared at him, in awe that he was finally earthside.
The biggest thing that Brixton’s birth taught me was the power of my mind. Brixton was my partner in labor and it could only happen when we were both fully ready. At the end of pregnancy I needed to still my mind and follow my body. It took a lot to quiet my mind and not to get wrapped up in my guess date and what I wanted.
In labor, I needed the opposite. I needed my mind to focus on the goal of meeting my baby and to get my body to follow. When the midwives told me it was time for sleep I was determined to have my son. It took a total of 3 hours from the time I was 5 cm to the time he was born.