A Home Birth Story: The Birth of Alaina Diana Remer

January 19, 2011
11:15 a.m.
7lbs, 8oz; 20 inches

By Molly Remer

©Portraits & Paws Photography

It was a full moon, and I spent a restless, up and down night, getting up at 3:00 a.m. and even checking in with the college class I teach online. My husband Mark got up with me and we talked and speculated. Waves were four minutes apart and then kind of dissipated unenthusiastically away. He went back to bed at 4:00 and I listened to Hypnobabies. At 6:00, I was feeling trapped lying down and got up. Mark got up then too and worked in the kitchen on the dishes and things like that, while I walked around and leaned on the half wall during contractions (it was the perfect height). Sitting down in a chair caused horribleness, leaning forward on the half wall was good. I called my mom and told her to be on standby and to notify my blessingway mamas and also called Summer (doula/friend) to be on alert. I was having back involvement with each wave. I felt like I would have a real contraction and then a closely following, but milder, back-only contraction (no tightness in uterus really during these, but definitely a wave-like progression and then ease of sensation).

I was very quiet during most waves until the end of labor. I think because I was using Hypnobabies and was concentrating on that. Then, I would talk and analyze and be very normal in between. This pattern seemed to lead to a decreased perception of seriousness from others of my need for attention—Mark washed dishes, went outside to take care of chickens, work on fire, feed cats and so forth. My two boys woke up at 7:00 a.m. and as soon as they came out and started talking to me, I knew they needed to go elsewhere. We called my mom at 7:30 and she came to get them. I did not want to feel watched or observed at all, so asked her to wait to come back.

I kept waiting for the “action” to increase and feeling distressed that it was taking such a “long” time. I suggested to the baby that she come out by 10:00. I continued to stand in the kitchen and lean on the half wall, sometimes the table or the bathroom counter. I was dismayed to see no blood or mucous, nothing indicating any “progress.” Significant feelings of pressure and pain in lower back continued and at the time felt normal to me, but looking back seems like an extra dose of back involvement. In another intensity-increasing experience, the baby moved during contractions for the entire labor until the contraction before I pushed her out. She moved, wiggled and pushed out with her bottom and body during each contraction, which really added a new layer of intensity that was difficult. I was, however, glad she was moving because then I knew she was okay, without doing any heart checks.

I went into the living room, very tired from bad sleep during the night. We set up the birth ball in the living room so I could sit on it and drape over pillows piled onto the couch. I spent a long time like this. Mark sat close and would lightly and perfectly stroke my back. Continued to use Hypnobabies—finger-drop, peace and release, with most waves.

Mark fixed me chlorophyll to drink and I threw it up immediately. Called Mom to come back at 9:00 or so, at which point I finally had a little bloody show. Kept up my ball by the couch routine and moved into humming with each wave. I also worked with some contractions on the floor leaning over the ball.

On the ball, I began to feel some rectal pressure with each wave. However, I felt like the waves were erratic still, with some very long and intense and then smaller ones. Hums began to become oooohs and aaaaahs and I began to feel like there was a bit of an umph at the end of the oooooh. Went back to the bathroom and there was quite a bit more bloody mucous and I started to fret about placental abruptions and so forth. Left the bathroom analyzing how much blood is too much blood and began to critique myself for being too “in my head” and analytical and not letting my “monkey do it.” Said I still didn’t feel like I was in “birth brain” and wondered if that meant I still had a long time to go. I started to feel concerned that I was still early on. This is a common feature of all of my births and is how the self-doubt signpost manifests for me. Rather than thinking I can’t do it, I start thinking I’m two centimeters dilated.

I almost immediately returned to the bathroom feeling like I needed to use the toilet. Serious contractions on toilet produced more pressure with associated umphs at the end. At some point in the bathroom, I said, “I think this is pushing.” I was feeling desperate for my water to break. It felt like it was in the way and holding things up. I reached my hand down and thought I felt squooshy sac-ish feeling, but Mom and Mark looked and could not see anything. And, it still didn’t break. Mom mentioned that I should probably go to my birth nest in order to avoid having the baby on the toilet. My birth nest was a futon stack near the bathroom door. I got down on hands and knees after feeling like I might not make it all the way to the futons. I felt like I wanted to kneel on hard floor before reaching the nest.

At this point, I suddenly became obsessed with checking her heartbeat. I knew you’re supposed to do so during pushing and I had stopped feeling her moving painfully with each contraction. I couldn’t find her heartbeat and started to feel a little panicky about that as well as really uncomfortable and then threw the Doppler to the side saying, “forget it!” because big pushing was coming. I was down on hands and knees and then moved partially up on one hand in order to put my other hand down to feel what was happening. Could feel squishiness and water finally broke (not much, just a small trickle before her head). I could feel her head with my fingers and began to feel familiar sensation of front-burning. I said, “stretchy, stretchy, stretchy, stretchy,” the phone rang, her head pushed and pushed itself down as I continued to support myself with my hand and I moved up onto my knees, with them spread apart so I was almost sitting on my heels and her whole body and a whole bunch of fluid bloodshed out into my hands. She was pink and warm and slippery and crying instantly—quite a lot of crying, actually. I said, “you’re alive, you’re alive! I did it! There’s nothing wrong with me!” and I kissed her and cried and laughed and was amazed. I felt an intense feeling of relief. Of survival. I didn’t realize until some moments later that both Mark and Mom missed the actual moment of her birth. Mark because he was coming around from behind me to the front of me when I moved up to kneeling. My mom because she went to stop the phone from ringing. I had felt like the pushing went on for a “long” time, but Mark said that from hands and knees to kneeling with baby in my hands was about 12 seconds. I don’t know. With birth, the inner experience is different than outer observation. What I do know is that the moment of catching my own daughter in my hands and bringing her warm, fresh body up into my arms was the most powerful and potent moment of my life.

©Sincerely Yours Photography

I feel the moment of her birth was an authentic “fetal ejection reflex” including the forward movement of my hips. The immediate postpartum went exactly as I had planned. Summer arrived approximately 20 minutes after Alaina was born. She brought me snacks, wiped blood off of me, and served me a tiny bit of placenta (which I swallowed with no problem!). My midwife arrived approximately 40 minutes post-birth and assessed blood loss and helped with placenta. She said I lost about 3 cups of blood, but I think all of the fluid that came out with the baby, plus the blood from the tears, may have bumped the estimate up too high. I did not feel weak or tired like I’d lost too much blood, I felt energetic and really good, actually. I didn’t get faint in the bathroom either and my color stayed good throughout that day and into the next days postpartum.

My post-birth feelings were different this time. I feel more baby-centered in my feelings about it rather than self-empowerment centered. I also feel more critical in my own self assessment this time—like I didn’t “perform” well or handle myself well. I hypothesize that this may be related to using a hypnosis for birth program, because I didn’t feel “calm and comfortable” on the inside. On the outside I think I looked it, but my internal experience involved more “should” than I like. The hypnosis philosophy wasn’t really a match with my own lived experience of birth. Birth isn’t calm, quiet, and comfortable and I don’t actually think it should be or that I want it to be. However, I was trying to make it so and thus not using some of my own internal resources. I felt more mind/body disconnect than I have before also, perhaps because I was trying to use a mind (“control”) based method on such an embodied process.

When she was three days old, I wrote this in my journal:
She is so wonderful and amazing and beautiful and perfect and I just want to etch these days into my mind forever and never forget a single, precious, beautiful, irreplaceable moment. I want to write everything down to try to preserve each second of these first few days with baby Alaina—my treasure, my BABY! The one I hoped for and feared for and worked SO HARD to bring to this world (in pregnancy more so than in birth).
What do I want to remember?

  • The scrunchy feel of a newborn’s body.
  • The little mewing squeaks and sighs
  • How she is comforted by my voice and turns to me with a smacky, nursie face…
  • The soft, soft skin
  • The soft, soft hair
  • The fuzzy ears and arms
  • The little legs that pull up into reflexive, fetal position.
  • The utter, utter, MARVEL that I grew her and that she’s here. That she came from me. That sense of magic and wonder and disbelief when I look over and see her lying next to me—how did YOU get here?!
  • The miraculous transition from belly to baby. From pregnant woman to motherbaby unit. How does it happen? It is indescribably awesome.
  • The sleeping profile
  • The scrunchy face
  • The “wheeling” half coordinated movements of arms and legs—sort of “swimming” in air.
  • The peace of snuggling her against my chest and neck.
  • The tiny, skinny feet.
  • Putting my hand on her back and feeling her breathe, just like in utero

I was still scared she was going to die until the moment I held her.
Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE is a certified birth educator, writer, and activist. She is a professor of human services, an LLL Leader, and editor of the Friends of Missouri Midwives newsletter. She has two living sons and an infant daughter and blogs about birth at http://talkbirth.wordpress.com