Philomena Bernadette’s Birth Story

23 June 2012, 41 week baby belly, at Como Zoo

Once upon a time… a little baby was “over due.”  With a guess date of June 7, and this being our second baby, we were very surprised to have had to wait so long for her to arrive!

My family arrived June 1 from North Dakota to wait for baby’s arrival.  We all took turns guessing baby’s arrival date, gender, weight, length, and time of day for baby to be born, and were surprised when baby didn’t conform to any day on the list.  (I myself had even thought she would come in late May.)  Jesse and I seemed to try everything to coax her out – fresh pineapple, spicy food, long walks, laughter therapy (courtesy of Jozef’s “Bunnies Stories” book and Jesse’s movie announcer voices – and creative liberties!), homeopathic remedies, chocolate cake from Cafe Latte, chiropractic care, prayer, and more.  Every night I went to bed, thinking, “Tonight could be the night!” for labor to begin.  And every morning I’d wake up more discouraged.  We were planning a home birth with the fabulous team from Twin Cities Midwifery, and I was afraid that my dream of a lovely home birth would no longer be a possibility if something had to happen at the hospital to get this baby out.   We kept a close watch on her, with increased midwife visits after 41 weeks and two biophysical profiles (at 41+7 weeks and 42+1 weeks); mama and baby looked great, and that really eased any fears we had.  We knew we were in great hands.

On Friday, 22 June 2012, my mom and sister drove back to ND for a wedding.  I began having contractions at 7:30 a.m., but they were nothing too significant and stopped around noon and didn’t really return.  My dad was still in town for a school counselor’s conference at the Convention Center downtown, and we met up with him for dinner at Pizza Luce for spicy wings and pizza.  I had a few contractions at dinner, but they weren’t regular and not too strong.  We went home for some dessert (we brought home two fabulous chocolate covered rice krispy bars from the restaurant) and to get some rest.

I woke up at 2:10 a.m. with contractions – yay!!  They were harder than before, and I timed them at 10 minutes apart, lasting a minute.  I had to vocalize a bit through them, and willed them to be stronger.  I didn’t want them to go away!  I was able to fall back asleep in between, and woke up in time to start the Contraction Master on the computer.  Around 4 a.m. I got up to get a snack and something to drink, and sent a Facebook message to my friend, Lauren, giving her an update.  After a little Facebook-ing and birth ball bouncing, I went back to bed to rest a bit more.  I continued to will the contractions to keep coming and get stronger, really trying to relax my belly and bottom into the bed.  I visualized the pain as the water falling down from a waterfall onto my face – strong but refreshing.

We got up early to take my dad downtown to his conference.  We were running a bit late, and I had grabbed a chux pad (leftover from Jozef’s labor!) to put on the seat, as we were driving my sister’s car.  I didn’t want to have to explain a giant amniotic fluid mark if my water were to break!  We had wanted to wait until baby arrived to let people know that anything was happening (labor or otherwise), especially if labor were to stop, but we had to explain our lateness and the chux pad to Dad.  He was very relaxed about it, which I really appreciated.  (Except for when he made a joke about the spicy wings from the night before working to bring on labor, while I was having a contraction!  It’s not easy to laugh and be relaxed through a rush at the same time!)  We dropped him off downtown with a promise to pick him up at 4:15 p.m.

We were a little early for our chiropractic/acupuncture appointment at 9:30 a.m. with Dr. Jamie Titus at Emanata Chiropractic, so we stopped at Sovereign Grounds coffee shop for a morning glory muffin and iced coffee.  Contractions were still 10 minutes apart and lasting a minute (unless I was sitting; then they were about 8 minutes apart but not as strong).  I took a contraction outside the door of the coffee shop, we hurried in to order, and took another contraction in the same spot after.  We got in the car to enjoy our treats and headed to our appointment.  In the car we were listening to Classical MPR and they were playing some of my favorite pieces, including Brahms’s double concerto (although I like the recording I have with the CSO better!).

We had a great appointment with Dr. Titus.  She even helped me through my contractions with a hip squeeze; it was fabulous!  Jozef was getting curious (but still being a very good little boy) and kept Jesse on his toes.  After our appointment, we headed over to Kate’s to check on baby.  Everything looked great, and Kate seemed optimistic about active labor starting soon.  She said we could blow up the birth pool.  I couldn’t really believe that it was time for that already; I was scared the contractions would stop.  (We had discussed our plan of action, and if things weren’t started by Saturday – this day – then I would try castor oil.  I was not excited about that option, but was willing to try it if necessary.  I didn’t want the contractions to stop and then have to take the castor oil.)

After our appointment with Kate, we picked up a delicious lunch from French Meadow to enjoy at home – a breakfast burrito and two breakfast quesadillas.  We had talked about going to the park, too, but it was getting close to Jozef’s nap time so we decided to head home and eat instead.

When we got home and settled into our lunch, we discussed whether to blow up the birth pool before or after Jozef’s nap.  We had decided to wait until after, but then changed our minds, thinking that if we needed to do it sooner, the pump might be loud and wake him up.  (It was a good thing we did it first!)

At around 1:45 p.m., we finished lunch and I headed to the bathroom, where my labor just took off.  Up until then, I had still been having contractions ten minutes apart, lasting a minute.  But in the bathroom, they picked up to two minutes apart, and hard.  After only ten minutes of this, Jesse asked me if we should call Kate. I was completely expecting her to say that we’re doing fine and to call to update her if anything changes, but much to my surprise, she said she was on her way!  That was such a relief.  Jesse also called Kara Jo, our doula, and she said she would come, too.  Jesse was still getting the birth tub blown up and wrangling Jozef, so I called my friend Betty (who was coming to take photos).  I was standing in the doorway, and I barely got out that I wanted her to come before another contraction hit so I hung up and dropped the phone to the floor.

I was using low vocalizations to help myself relax, which slightly scared Jozef.  Jesse did a great job of telling him that I was just working hard, and that he should rub my back when I make the noise.  Jozef calmed right down and rubbed my back.

Labor had come on fast and intensely, and I kept telling Jesse that I was scared.  He was so calming and I knew he would be right there with me through it all.

About half an hour after we called her, Kate arrived and started setting up some things.  I worked through contractions in the kitchen while Jesse finished preparing the birth tub.  Kate said I could get in the tub, so I did.  It was great!  The water was so relaxing.  Jeanne, another midwife, Melanie, Kate’s assistant, and Emily, TCM summer intern, arrived.  Kara Jo got there around 3:00 p.m.  Jesse put on my favorite symphony (on vinyl), Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5.  Betty arrived about 15 minutes later, but I didn’t even notice as I was so deep into labor.

I was having a lot of back labor, even though baby was in a great position to be born.  I had to force myself to relax (if that makes sense), really zeroing in on opening my bottom.  I imagined my cervix opening and baby moving down; as I did this, I imagined that it all looked dark – from baby’s view, before she could see light.  I was still vocalizing a lot.  As intense and uncomfortable as the contractions were, I willed them to come closer and stronger.  I didn’t want labor to stop!

I remember Kara Jo leaning in and reminding me, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I nodded.  Her presence was incredibly reassuring.

I remember having a few thoughts in the birth tub.  Looking at the floor of the tub, I thought to myself, “Well, this is better than morning sickness!”  and “We should just go to the hospital now and get a c-section and get this over with; but then I’d have to have an epidural, and I really don’t want that, so I guess I have to do this.”  Apparently, I told Jesse that we were never doing this again. 🙂 I do remember saying things like, “I don’t want to do this anymore.  I don’t want to do this again!  I don’t want to go through transition!”

I was honestly thinking that I would be in labor like this until the next day – contractions 2 minutes apart and lasting more than a minute.  (This is how my labor was with Jozef, over 2 days of close, hard contractions.)  I didn’t want our birth team to be sitting around, waiting for me to get to second stage, for hours and hours.  My water hadn’t broken yet and I hadn’t seen any bloody show, so I was thinking that I wasn’t progressing (even though I know that it’s totally normal not to see those signs until late active labor – and my water never broke when Jozef was born; he was born in the caul).

Our birth team reassured me that things were just fine.  Kara Jo provided an amazing hip squeeze, and Jesse was right by my side.  Before I had been mostly in my hands and knees, but Kate suggested I try a reclining position.  I didn’t like this as much, but could tell it was helping me move along.  Jesse went into the other room to get Jozef down for a nap (it was amazing that he actually fell asleep, since I was being so loud with my vocalizations).

Sometime during labor, Betty went to go pick up my dad (a job we were supposed to do, but obviously couldn’t because of labor!).  I guess she said that when they got back to our house, she sent Dad on his way back to their condo; baby wasn’t born yet, and she could tell because she could hear me from outside the house!  Luckily she got back in time to snap some photos of the actual birth.

At around 4:20 p.m., Kate suggested that I try to pee.  I just couldn’t do it in the pool, so I had to get out to go to the bathroom.  I was not crazy about this idea since I knew my contractions would be much more intense on the toilet.  As I got out of the tub, Jeanne said that she saw some show.  “Thank you, Jesus!” is what I thought and probably said.  I hobbled to the bathroom, and tried not to sit fully on the toilet since I knew what it would do to my contractions – more intensity, more pain.  Jesse sat on the tub in front of me and talked me through the contraction I had.  I did NOT want to be there anymore so we moved from the bathroom back to the birth tub in the living room, which isn’t very far, but my contractions were close together so it took us awhile.  Outside of the birth tub, they suggested I do a slow dance position with Jesse.  I did and totally relaxed, almost all the way to the floor.  The sensations were changing, and I felt like my body was pushing and said so.  It was a totally different feeling from when I felt like pushing in Jozef’s labor, so I wasn’t sure if it was real or not.  I looked down and saw more bloody show.  Then at 4:38 p.m., in the middle of a contraction where I was again slow dancing with Jesse, my water broke!  Kate told me, or I might not have realized it.  I remember someone saying that I should get in the tub now if I wanted to give birth there.

Jozef woke up from his nap, crying loudly.  Jesse had been giving me perineal support, but Jozef wanted only him for comfort.  I said, “Jozef, I love you!” trying to comfort him.  I was in a more reclined position, with Kate giving me support on top and bottom.  I definitely felt the “ring of fire” (also something different from Jozef’s labor – I never felt that).  I was so afraid that I would tear upward, and yelled, “It hurts on toooooooop!”  (Poor Kate, whose ear was right near my yell!)  Somehow I knew that there was a slight break in between contractions, but there was so much pressure that I felt as if my body was constantly pushing baby out.  Jeanne told me to put my energy down in my bottom instead of yelling it out through my mouth; good advice!

Baby’s head gently emerges, and my contraction wanes as her head and left arm are out.  She was looking around and up at everyone, waving!  I couldn’t see her over my enormous belly, which was really disappointing.  (I was still in a semi-reclining position in the tub.)  Jozef stopped crying when he saw her and said, “Baby!”

At 4:53 p.m., just 3 hours after active labor started, our baby was born!  Kate helped bring her up to my chest.  I looked down and said, “Jesse, it’s a girl!”  At 4:55 p.m., I said, “Jozef, you have a baby sister!”  He leaned over the birth tub to get a peek at her.  A minute later, I announced her name: Philomena Bernadette (but we call her “Poppy”).  Philomena means “powerful love,” and Bernadette means “brave, strong bear” (all very fitting for her!).

At 5:06 p.m. Poppy and I got out of the water and I sat on the birth stool to deliver the placenta.  Poppy was exploring breastfeeding.  At 5:10 p.m., the placenta was delivered; what a relief!  I didn’t realize how heavy it felt to have it inside my body until it came out.  Around 5:15 p.m., Jesse cut the cord.  We all were talking about the three hour labor, and Jesse said he knew that things were serious when I got the “squinty face” while sitting on the toilet; that’s how he knew I was getting close to giving birth.  Kate said that Philomena had APGARs of 8 and 9; she only took off a bit for color, which is normal for water babies.

At 6:15 Melanie examined our placenta.  I was feeling very tired and faint, and tried to eat some sunbutter toast.  After making sure everything looked good with our placenta, our birth team mixed up a placenta smoothie.  (A great idea from our placenta encapsulation specialist, Rochelle Matos, for before the pills are ready.  I felt amazing, and couldn’t even tell what was in it.  We are definitely doing this again!)  I immediately felt more energy, as well as an affect on my postpartum bleeding.

At 6:25 p.m. Philomena let out her first little cry.  What a sweet sound!  I had a craving for some orange juice (a Bradley standard!), and so did Jozef.  It tasted amazing.  More sunbutter toast was on its way, too, which was very nice.  Jesse was enjoying some skin-to-skin time with our little lady, and Betty took Jozef to a nearby park for a break.

At 6:40 p.m., Kate did an exam, and discovered that I had no tearing – not even a skid mark.  What a relief, everything was completely intact!  At 6:55 p.m., she got her first cloth diaper and swaddle.

At 7:25 p.m., we got to check out our baby girl.  She measured in at 9 lbs. 3 oz., 22 inches long, and a 14 inch head.  I couldn’t believe it!  She didn’t look like a newborn.  She was born at just the perfect timing, even though the calendar said she was 16 days “overdue.”

Ten minutes later, we called the grandparents to share the news.  We got tucked into bed to relax, and our birth team had to run off to another birth.  My dad brought chicken noodle soup from Kramarczuk’s (fantastic!) and met Philomena.  Jesse’s mom also stopped by briefly.  It was so wonderful to be in my own, comfortable bed, in my own clothes, to have Jozef around, and eat delicious comfort food.

We had a fantastic first three days as a new family, and I know that resting for an extended period of time (one solid week in bed, with another near the bed) has made all the difference in the world for recovery and successful breastfeeding.  I struggled so much with nursing Jozef (plugged ducts, mastitis, etc.) and have had no issues with Philomena.  What a blessing!

Our home birth was so wonderful, it’s difficult to find words to describe it.  It was even better than I had imagined.  I felt relaxed, comfortable, respected, and encouraged.  I felt so empowered – my body and baby were trusted to do what needed to be done.  I always felt safe and well cared for, and it truly was a peaceful, beautiful way for Philomena to come earth side.  I loved knowing that our birth team would come when we needed them, and stay by our sides throughout the process (something we didn’t have with Jozef’s birth).  Unless there is a medically necessary reason to be in a hospital, we are always going to have our future babies at home!  We loved working with Kate and Twin Cities Midwifery.  Honestly, I cannot wait to give birth again!

(You can see some sweet newborn photos of Philomena and her family on this previous post!)

2 thoughts on “Philomena Bernadette’s Birth Story

  1. What a beautiful story and how fitting to post this memorable event
    on this precious feast of Thanksgiving. We are so very blessed and grateful that God has given us such an incredible gift. We love you and are so proud of all of you. God bless you always. Mom and Dad

  2. More birth stories like this should make it into the main stream. What a blessed birth story and so happy all went well for you Kate! You are one amazing and inspiring mama! Your story makes me excited to give birth again and to make TC Midwifery a part of my next birth! Jennie E

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