I enjoyed a basically normal pregnancy with some spotting in the early weeks and the complaints that go along with growing a human being inside oneself. Then at week 33 I felt a gush of blood and my midwife, Nancy, sent me to the hospital. I had an ultrasound after which I was given the frightening diagnosis of placenta previa and told that when the bleeding began again I was to get myself back to the hospital. I was told to forget the home birth I had planned on, hope for a normal hospital birth, but prepare for a C-section. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. I spent the next four days researching C-sections and creating a birth plan. The following week I went back to the hospital for another ultrasound, this time with a technician, who told me there was no previa at all; the placenta was not even low lying and posed no concern. I went home overjoyed, wondering about miracles, and planning again my perfect home birth.
I began bleeding again at 36 weeks. It wasn’t enough blood to scare anyone other than us so we stayed at home and took life easy. A few days later at just barely 37 weeks the bleeding began again and Nancy sent me to the hospital for monitoring. An ultrasound showed that the placenta was indeed low lying and could pose a problem during or after birth if I began hemorrhaging. We decided that the safest situation would be to birth this baby at the hospital and it was recommended that I stay right where I was as contractions were picking up. Shortly after we were settled Nancy was called to another birth and Ben and I were left alone to labor. Which I did until the early morning when everything stopped and I was sent home. The next four days were difficult and discouraging as I continued to have intermediate contractions but nothing else. I spent a lot of time just sitting and listening, begging for something to happen.
Then on a sunny Saturday afternoon I began to time contractions although they felt just like the contractions I had been having for days. We called Nancy and decided we would go to the hospital. At the last moment Ben decided we needed all the coffee gear and it took him a while to get everything together. I’m not sure if it was frustration or if the contractions really did pick up but I knew it was time to get going. The car ride to the hospital was just what I always thought a car ride while laboring would be: terrible. I began yelling at the stoplight and my mom texted the family that this was definitely labor!
We were set up in a room and the nurses asked their questions, hooked me up to monitors, and put a line in my wrist in case I began to bleed and would need immediate support. Our midwife did not have privledges at the hospital but she has worked with a doctor for 40 years and he was wonderful. He told us I was at 7 centimeters and the nurses flew into a frenzy of labor prep. I sat crosslegged in the bed and waded through the contractions as the activity increased around me. From the end of the bed Nancy was watching me. She asked if I needed to make a space, a nest, and I said yes. She dimmed the lights and the nurses removed the monitors and moved to the corner before quietly leaving us alone. Then Nancy left and I began to pace around the room with me mom and Ben close at hand. Next thing I know Nancy is back with her arms full of pillows and blankets. We set up a spot on the floor between the bed and the wall and I moved right into laboring there. When caught by a nurse with all the bedding Nancy had told her I might like to labor on the floor at which the nurse gasped and groaned, “Oh, Nancy, you’re killing me.” But she did not interfere.
I labored on my knees leaning across the bed with Ben on the other side holding my hands. My mom and Nancy rubbed my back, encouraged me, and kept the red raspberry leaf tea coming. I felt so close to God and to Ben as I sang along to the worship music we had playing on Ben’s phone. Ben and I kissed a lot and I felt that I was drawing strength from him. As I listened and sang the words of the songs I felt God’s presence strengthening me and confirming His faithfulness to us over the previous years. Through the many trials and seasons we had walked through I could see how God had held me secure. I later wrote in my journal: “Labor was two hours of worship, singing, praying and listening, healing. I felt God’s arms that have held me from afar through the hurricane of the last couple years. Not alone but wonderfully held. Strong, quiet, unwavering. Steady heart. His arms holding things in place.” I cried and just let the tears flow as I sang and worked through the rushes. After a time the music became too much and we turned it off. I began feeling pushy and the Dr came in to see how I was progressing. He is a large man, tall and broad, but he squashed his frame down into a crosslegged position on the floor as part of the birth circle. When he checked me he saw a lip of cervix that was in the way and asked if I wanted him to move it, that labor would progress much faster if he did. So I climbed up on the bed and on the next contraction he moved the lip back and my waters broke and, boy, he was not kidding about speeding up labor! The contractions were intense and painful, I felt out of control and stuck. I began to scream, I had lost my focus completely. Nancy kept saying, “Open your eyes, get back in control.” But I couldn’t. When I finally did open my eyes I looked down through my open legs and saw the Dr and two nurses, the lights were up and I hated it. I said, “I can’t do it this way!”
Nancy and Ben helped me turn over so I was on my knees facing the back of the bed which they moved up. I gripped the head of the bed and squatted just in time to push through the contraction. On the next one I reached my hand down to hold myself through it – I wanted to be the first to touch the head. Then I felt the fire start to burn and I knew the baby was coming. I felt the pain but I felt joy and excitement and relief equally. I think I even smiled. I pushed again. I looked down and saw his head emerge through my fingers and just beside them the Dr’s fingers. When the Dr saw the head emerge he moved away and said, “Pick up your baby.” I pushed again then pulled my baby’s little white body, covered in vernix, close to me. I kept the baby face down and low in front of me, rubbing his back. He had good color and he gave a small, squeak as greeting but just lay peacefully in my arms as I cried and kissed this new life. It was quiet in the room and he was so peaceful. I rubbed the head with my cheek and just knelt in the love surrounding that moment. I wanted it to last as long as possible. Some one asked what the baby’s sex was but I didn’t look, I just held him close and savored the moments. Finally, I looked and announced: He’s a boy! Ben helped me turn over to sit and we kissed as I pulled my baby boy onto my chest. He immediately picked up his head and turned his face toward me then lay his head gently down again. He was a strong baby from the first. I wrote in my journal afterwards: “It was as if he had always been here – earthside – like he was not shocked by his entrance but wise to it. Knowing that it was just right to slide out of my body and rest on my chest and nurse and look around him.” Welcome baby Liam Clark.
Liam Clark Boyt was born May 21, 2016
6 lb 4 oz, 19 inches
The placenta delivered easily and there was no scary bleeding. It was dead along the edges and on one side like partial placental abruption. Nancy could see that part of it had been dead for some time and assumed this is what caused the bleeding early on. I did not tear and had very little pain or bleeding after the birth (although the afterpains during nursing days later were worse than with my other two babies).