I’ve been mulling over this post for the past 6.5 days, because when I tell you what happened, I’m sure you’ll have a million questions. I would if I were on the listening end of this story. So I’m going to do my best to be thorough. And then you’ll probably still have questions- so ask away.
The Cliff Notes version of the story (because it’s a big, long story, albeit very entertaining!): Eloise was born at home, in the bathroom. And no. This was not on purpose.
There wasn’t a whole lot this pregnancy that has gone according to plan… getting breast cancer and having a mastectomy wasn’t really part of the plan. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this baby wasn’t interested in following my birth plan for a peaceful, natural water birth in a birthing center. When people heard that I was planning a natural birth, the most common questions I got was “Did you do all natural with your other two?” And “Why would you do that?”. No, my first two were very traditional hospital births with epidurals. I joked that “Third babies just kind of fall out on their own, right? So why not?” Only it turns out I wasn’t really joking- she did just kind of fall out on her own. I wouldn’t have had time for an epidural even if I wanted one.
You all know that I am a miserable pregnant person. I had been doing ALL.THE.THINGS to naturally induce labor. If something has ever been associated with going into labor, I was doing it. Red raspberry leaf tea. Dates. Pineapple. Eggplant Parmesan. Spicy foods. Evening primrose oil. Clary Sage. Accupressure massage. Accupunture. Sex. Bouncing on an exercise ball. Curb walking. Standing in the light of a full moon and rubbing my belly clockwise (no, seriously, I did this). Bumpy car rides. Breast pumping. All the things, except castor oil.
So, on October 11th, the day before my due date, I decided to give the castor oil a try. I was DONE. I had become so uncomfortable that I was in tears throughout most nights. I wasn’t sleeping, at all. I was completely irrational and angry and a general hot mess. I spent a lot of time googling how to use castor oil with the fewest unpleasant side effects (diarrhea and vomiting). A lot of recipes call for drinking 2 oz of castor oil at a time. This will cause terrible stomach upset, but also hopefully start contractions. I wanted the contractions, but not so much the tummy troubles, so I settled on mixing smaller doses and doing a few of them instead of doing it all at once. I did my first dose around 12:45 pm and my second about an hour later.
Around 2:30, I started having some Braxton Hicks contractions. I went to the bathroom once, but it was very normal and not at all what I had expected if the castor oil was working. Around 3:30, I told Michael he might want to head home just in case something was actually happening. My friend, Melissa, came over to keep me company and helped me time some contractions. Around 4:15, Michael had made it home, and we all went on a walk around the block. I continued to have Braxton Hicks contractions every 3-5 minutes. As you may have guessed, these were actually real labor contractions, but I wasn’t convinced because they weren’t that strong and I was a little bit in denial.
My mom came over after work and had dinner with us. I ate 2 pieces of pizza and a salad around 6:30, but I still didn’t really feel like things were picking up at all as the contractions were still pretty mild and still around 3-5 minutes apart. After dinner I took a shower. Still no changes. So I decided to pump a little bit (VERY BAD CALL ON MY PART- I do not recommend this if you are actively in labor). Breast pumping can pick up a stalled labor, but if you are actually in labor (as I was, and just didn’t realize it), it makes your contractions really strong. I pumped for about 2-3 minutes, started having a strong contraction and so I stopped. I went into the bedroom to lie down with the kids and snuggle up to watch a movie and get some rest. My mom ran home to feed her dog and was coming right back.
Around 7:15 or so, the intensity of the contractions had escalated significantly, but they were only lasting about 35-45 seconds. In my labor class, they had told us to head in to the birth center at 6-1-1: contractions 6 minutes a part, lasting for about 1 minute each, for about an hour. At this point, my contractions were coming about 2-3 minutes apart and they were really intense, but they were still short, so I decided to continue laboring at home (also a bad idea- just go in if this is happening to you). I took a shower and went to lie back down, but lying in bed was pretty unbearable through the contractions. Plus, I was moaning/vocalizing through the contractions and my kids were annoyed that I was disrupting their movie. So, I got in the tub to see if I could relax enough to hit the one minute length mark. My mom got back to my house at this point. Michael was helping me time the contractions and based on looking at my contraction pattern over the past 30 minutes, at one point says to me, “Brace yourself, you have another contraction coming” and I snapped back at him “That’s not how this works! I’ll let you know when I have another…… oh here it is <moaning and rocking>”. I had been texting with my doula this whole time updating her on what was going on and discussing when it might be time to go.
Michael decides that the contractions are getting intense enough and close enough together that we need to head in to the birth center, even though they’re still not lasting for more than a minute. I briefly argue that they’re not lasting long enough and we still have time, but I let him call them to chat with the midwife. We plan to meet the midwife at the birth center in 20 minutes. I feel like I need to poop before we leave, so I get out of the tub. My mom says something about how I shouldn’t poop, because I guess she knows what’s coming. But… when you gotta go, you gotta go. And I had done castor oil earlier that day, still without GI distress. I just thought it was my time for the side effects. So I went to the bathroom (again, normal and not what I would have expected from the castor oil). At this point, I had some bloody show and texted my doula that it was go-time and got up to go get dressed so we could head out the door.
But… when I stood up, I started to have another contraction. This one was different as I couldn’t stop myself from baring down and I realized I was experiencing a fetal ejection response- my body was pushing the baby out without my consent. I yelled something about the baby coming right now. My mom yelled back “Don’t push” and I yelled “I’m not! But the baby is coming.”
Michael yells at my mom to call my doula. My mom is freaking out at this point and can’t figure out how to work an iPhone- I guess maybe she was a little stressed… Can’t imagine why. The baby’s head pops out at some point while my mom is on the phone with Joy (the doula), or maybe right before. Michael is holding her head and I yelled at him to stop whatever it was he was doing so that my body could just do what it needed to do. Knox walked around the corner and saw the baby’s head hanging out. His face showed a combination of fear and disgust and he yelled out a bit and ran back to my room to keep watching his movie. I yell after him something about everything being ok and I’m ok and safe and the baby’s on her way, but he’s gone.
The baby’s body comes out on the next contraction, and my water gushes out at the same time as her body. (The fact that it didn’t break before hand was another contributing factor to me being in denial that this was really happening.) Michael hands me the baby. I yell out that IT’S A GIRL! Michael yells out to call 911, which my mom does after she hangs up with Joy and the dispatcher stays on the phone with us until the paramedics arrive- about 5 minutes later. Joy rushes in before the paramedics do and helps spread out towels and helps me off the toilet and on to the floor so that the baby and I can be checked out. It was mass hysteria with a million people trying to crowd in to my tiny bathroom. The paramedics verify that our vitals are good and ask if we want to ride in the ambulance to the hospital. Since we are all healthy and doing well, I just wanted to rinse off and have a minute with the baby and to have everyone leave the baby and I alone for a minute, so we declined the ride to the hospital.
Someone (Michael or Joy) called the birth center to let them know that the baby was delivered at home. Unfortunately, since we were now classified as a home birth, we were no longer eligible to go to the birth center for postpartum care and we were directed to the hospital. After I rinsed off in the shower and had a chance to nurse the baby for a few minutes, we chose to head to St. Thomas instead of Vanderbilt since I had been followed by Maternal and Fetal Medicine at St. Thomas throughout my pregnancy. The thought was at least someone at the hospital would be familiar with me and all the medical stuff I have going on. Michael drove the baby and I to St. Thomas where we stayed until the next night for “monitoring”.
Like… who does that!? Who accidentally has a baby at home? In hindsight, there were lots of cues that I should have gone in to the birth center before I did, but I just really thought I had more time. From the time my contractions got intense to the time the baby was born was about 1-1.5 hours total, so it was just really really fast. I did not expect things to progress that quickly, by any means! I’m glad they did- I’m not sure how I would have handled a labor that was hours and hours long at that intensity, BUT I would definitely not recommend giving birth at home if that’s not your plan to begin with (if it is- power to you and I’m sure you will actually be prepared, unlike me!). We are so thankful that it was a textbook delivery without complications and that the baby and I are safe and healthy. Even if things did not go according to plan.