Well, the baby bump is now just a baby, and what’s left of my bump is quickly fading into a beautiful memory of my son’s first home. As I’m writing this, he is sleeping peacefully across my lap, filling up not only my lap, but my heart. I don’t think Omar and I have ever felt our family so complete and satisfied.
Our birth story was not quite what I imagined, yet I didn’t really have an idea what to expect anyway, so there is no disappointment! Before I can share anything about the actual day of birth though, I must back-track to 36 weeks pregnant, which is where I found out my sweet little boy was breeched. It was a very overwhelming moment when I realized that could easily cross out a homebirth, and lead directly to a planned C-Section. The emotions I felt during those few days were overwhelming and stressful. I had worked for nine months preparing for a homebirth, and now it could all be thrown away. I immediately went to a chiropractor, started some crazy stretching exercises, and using essential oils. Thankfully, those things, accompanied with a tremendous amount of prayer, flipped the baby within the week! So that put us back on track for giving birth at home, and I started getting excited because I was finally full term! At 38 weeks and 5 days I began to have mild contractions and that was the beginning of “the Tease.”
I knew I was full term, but my little baby didn’t. I would have one or two good contractions a day and then NOTHING. He just kept taking his time and all I was doing was waiting and waiting and trying to do everything I could, within reason, to induce labor from home. And nothing was working.
I started out mildly, with just more walking and exertion. And then I started homeopathic‘s, and then herbs, and by this time we had hit 40 weeks and still nothing seemed to be doing it. By 41 weeks my hormones were surging, I was angry every single time someone would ask me what was new in regards to the baby. I wanted to ask everyone to be quiet and just wait. I couldn’t tell them any more than I knew myself and I didn’t know anything! I didn’t know why the baby wasn’t coming, I didn’t know how I could almost be 4cm dilated and still nothing seemed to push labor forward. I didn’t know how I could try so many things to bring my baby into the world and absolutely nothing worked.
When I did hit 41 weeks, my heart was heavily discouraged. Not because my baby was late because babies come when they want. But because I was a hormonal pregnant woman with a bulging belly and sore (though not swollen) anklesn, I was living in someone else’s house (we’d come down from living in Amador County for Omar’s work, to Antioch since it was an hour and a half closer to where I was planning to give birth. And we were living with our friends temporarily) and I just couldn’t understand why was having to wait so long to meet someone that I wanted so desperately.
So by this point, I am done being pregnant. I feel like I’m crying myself to sleep practically every night, have I mentioned that my hormones are raging? My attitude is hardly ideal, and I feel like such a failure, and have I mentioned the hormones yet? I did not expect to be pregnant at 41 weeks, especially with my second child and I felt like my body was not even able to do what it was supposed to do, like bring forth a baby! By Sunday morning I’m trying to have a decent attitude but it wasn’t going well. I didn’t even want to go to church, simply because I was going to have to face the, “You’re still pregnant?” comments... and I was NOT feeling that.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only thing I wasn’t feeling. I was having the hardest time getting little man to do anything, even something as simple as a jostle. So, instead of going to church, we headed to the hospital to get him monitored.
Up to this point my biggest concern was meconium (that black newborn poop) aspiration due to his advanced age and fully developed bowels. But once I was hooked up to the monitors at the hospital for a non-stress test, I realized that due to my baby’s gestational age his placenta was also beginning to get old, meaning the possibility of it running well for much longer were looking a bit slim. It’s a good thing I hadn’t been thinking about that too, or else I really would have been nervous and upset about the 41 week mark.
After being hooked up to monitors for a while and laying on my side, I was given the all clear for myself and the baby. Everything looked great and he was moving again! Yay! I even had three mild contractions while being monitored. But I had been having those kind of contractions for weeks, so whatever. We went home and I was determined to do something. While at the hospital I had been told induction was a possibility due to my late pregnancy and the placenta situation, so I was determined, something needed to give. Out came the breastpump to attempt to bring on some more contractions. (If you didn’t know, nipple stimulation can bring on contractions. TMI, I know.)
The afternoon was spent acting like a human cow, with just enough contractions to warrant me asking Omar to stay home from work that evening, but I still wasn’t sure. So, as a condition of Omar staying home I had to attempt a mild dose of castor oil. Ewww. Castor oil is known to stimulate your bowls, which in turn stimulates your uterus into contracting and bringing on labor.
I took the castor oil at 10pm and had a few quick trips to the bathroom, but nothing as horrible as I’d heard it could be. And by about 11:15 the contractions were beginning. I went and took a shower to make sure when I relaxed the contractions wouldn’t slow down. I got into the shower as my contractions were about three to four minutes apart lasting 30 seconds, and then by the time I got out contractions were only 1 to 2 minutes apart becoming much more intense.
Yay! This was FINALLY the real deal! So I called my midwife, but she brought be back to reality. My contractions, although close together, were not long enough. Nevertheless, I made the decision to head to our friend Sophia’s home where we were planning to have the delivery. By the time we hit the road my contractions were 45 seconds to a minute long and still only a minute or two apart. So I called my midwife again and she was on her way.
I had had only been at Sophia’s for about 30 minutes when the contractions were no longer comfortable to talk through. And the desire to push became stronger and stronger, but I still wasn’t sure how dilated I was or what was truly going on. In the 30 minutes following that, my wonderful midwife arrived and began to set up. Little did she know how desperate I was to be checked, but I was trying to hold it together.
Once all was ready, she asked if I wanted to have a vaginal exam, and I practically jumped at the chance to find out what was going on inside. The look on her face as she checked me and found out I was much further along than she anticipated, was almost comical. In that short span of time I was 10 cm dilated and fully effaced. Yeah, I was ready to go. But the desire to push wasn’t overwhelming yet, so I jumped in the shower to relax while we waited for the assistant midwife to arrive. While in the shower I began to deny myself the chance to push, but the urges were growing stronger and stronger with every contraction. Up to this point, I never understood what moms were talking about when they talked about having the powerful, almost irresistible urge to push. Remember, I had an epidural first time around... so every sensation was totally new and genuinely foreign to me.
Well, after what seemed like a long time the assistant midwife arrived, and it was go-time! I flipped on my hands and knees and commenced pushing! And pushing... and pushing.... After only a few pushes my water broke like a giant water balloon. The noise was shocking, and it practically scared the mess out of Omar. My first thought was to check with the midwives to see if my bag of waters was clear, simply because my 41 weeker had fully mature bowels. And the answer was like heaven on earth, it was clear and good to go! So now I wasn’t afraid or preoccupied with the possibilities of meconium complications while giving birth and after. But soon, the relief of clear waters was replaced by a bigger fear. The baby was struggling to progress through the birth canal and his heart rate was dropping occasionally. It wasn’t too concerning since it would go back up after resting. But it was concerning enough that I couldn’t stay in the same position for more than a few pushes. Changing positions helped keep the baby comfortable.
The midwives knew something was off, yet no one was really sure what was going on immediately. I knew something was off, just due to lack of progression, but it took a while before we realized that this baby’s face, his lips in fact, were coming out first. Not the top of his head, like in a normal birth. Turns out this is a pretty unusual birth position, about 1 in every 800 births, so yay for originality, Buddy! Not only that by his face was facing up towards my belly, instead of down towards my back, as in most deliveries. They call those sunny side up babies. Yeah, he wanted to be complicated. Yet. at the time, the heart rate was still acceptable and safe for baby, and I still had the energy to continue. I don’t know how though, honestly.
I continued to push for what seemed like an eternity, but soon it was becoming more regular for his heart rate would drop when I started pushing. Not that the drops stayed, in fact after we would rest it would go right back up and be perfectly normal. That prompted my midwives to have me switch positions often, which usually triggered another contraction, even if I had just finished one. And my midwife also had me push every other contraction, versus pushing every time I had the urge. It gave me and baby time to rest and prepare for the next push, along with helping baby’s heart rate stay up. My body did enough pushing on its own even so. Having to breathe through the contraction without actively participating in it was literally harder than any sort of labor pains.
At this point I’ve got to give a shout out to Omar for being an amazing assistant to me. He was quiet and attentive and got whatever was necessary. He prayed for me, whispered words of encouragement, and did everything from rubbing my leg to holding it while I pushed. He is truly my knight in shinning armor, he looked out only for my needs and gave of himself so fully. At one point the midwives needed to have a strategizing session and the fear in Omar’s heart became very real to him because he thought something was happening that was worse than they were letting on. Thankfully, everything was alright just complicated, and he didn’t say a word to me about his concern. But just knowing after the fact that he was concerned for us blessed my heart. This whole experience was just as real to him as it was to me.
For over two hours I pushed over and over, hardly opening my eyes and never knowing where I got the strength to push from one moment to the next. But it is here I must testify to the goodness of God and the supernatural strength of the Holy Spirit to keep me encouraged enough to push harder and longer, and stronger than I ever thought possible. Omar and Sophia prayed silently for me, I begged God for help, and many of our friends and family were praying too. The Lord even woke up my Grandma in the middle of the night, in Colorado, and prompted her to pray for us, even though she had no idea what was going on. She didn’t even know I was in labor. Wow. Talk about a God thing!
There were so many moments of discouragement, and frustration. I had waited so long, progressed so fast, and then once again, I felt so stuck. The thought of his heart rate dropping and calling an ambulance was too much for me to consider, even just the discomfort that would occur to move me there. And I wanted a home birth so badly! I wanted to do this, I wanted to watch my body do what it was created to do! But when I felt like I couldn’t go on, or I’d hear that slow heart beat, it was hard to keep positive and emotionally okay. But eventually, after what felt like forever, we were actually getting close!
By about 5:40, little did I know we were in the final stretches of this stage of labor. After a few good pushes we had a head! The relief was incredible! A big, swollen, bruised head, but a head nonetheless! His heart was stable and the feeling of immense relief was unlike anything I’ve ever felt! It took four good contractions to get his large head out, but it happened. I thought the rest of his body just slithered out behind his head, but little did I know this poor fellow was all twisty in the birth canal and it took some more work and a few more good pushes to complete the delivery. Then he was here! Crying, pooping, black and blue, and bringing such joy to Omar and myself! He was here! Almost 42 long weeks, and every second of waiting was worth it!
I had been using oxygen up to this point, more as something to hold onto, not out of total necessity, but the second I pushed him completely out the rush of hormones and energy was like a tidal wave! I threw off the oxygen, and started talking and looking around. The pain was nonexistent and seeing my babe’s dark locks brought such joy to my heart. They checked his heartbeat once more, gave him a few seconds of oxygen and brought him up to me! Oh the fullness of joy in my heart when I held him the first time was incredible. I hadn’t experienced that euphoric, love-at-first-sight sensation with Sami, (although of course I loved him!) so to feel this was out of this world.
When I went to Sophia’s home to give birth I didn’t know what to expect. I knew my body could do it, but I never dreamed the process would be so complicated. The assistant midwife told me that if I would have had a normal birth, with the baby in proper position, it probably wouldn’t have taken longer than 10 minutes to push him out. But God had something else in mind. Maybe that’s why my little boy needed that extra week and a half in the womb to be prepared for the traumatic birth he would have to go through. Maybe the deep desire and long wait were exactly what I needed to keep motivating me when I didn’t think I had the power to keep going. I don’t know, but God does. And I am just so happy he is here.
Hirving (the Hispanic equivalent of Irving) Lucas Avila, born June 18th, at 5:47 am, weighing in at 8lbs 10oz, 20” long. He is an easy baby, nurses without a problem, has a very laid back personality, a full head of hair, and our family has never felt more complete.
If you live in the Bay Area and are looking to do a homebirth yourself, be sure to check out Evaly Long (my midwife) here. She is absolutely fantastic both in skill and personality. I felt so cared for and encouraged. She kept my moral up during the hardest parts of pregnancy and delivery. I could text or call her any time I had a question, needed reassurance, or just a person to vent to. She is a wonderful midwife and you won’t be disappointed.
I can’t finish this post without thanking our friend Sophia as well, who gave up her home and space to provide a birthing room of sorts to me. It was such a selfless act and such a comfortable place to give birth. Sophia, if you read this, know how much I love and appreciate you!
Thank you for reading our story! Your love and support has been amazing through my entire pregnancy and now into Hirving’s life. Our whole family feels abundantly blessed. Have a wonderful week, y’all.
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