Our Second Born: Elliot's Homebirth Story

Our Second Born: Elliot’s Homebirth Story

Elliot Edward Maaser

Born: 12-28-10

Time: 11:06 p.m.

Measurements: 8lbs 13oz, 21 inches long, 14.5cm head circumference

Leading up to the Birth

It’s hard to say when labor began since I’d been feeling contractions for the two months leading up to the birth. At 34 weeks, I even got worried that I would go into premature labor…little did I know how far from that I was! I did a lot of walking at work which stimulated barrages of Braxton Hicks contractions (about 8-12 per hour) on a regular basis. Once that started happening, I really tried to take it easy and stay off my feet and that helped to settle things down a bit.  I told everyone at work that I might need to go on bed rest (per the midwife’s instructions) so that I wouldn’t have a premature labor.

Everyone was so understanding and just couldn’t believe how hard I worked all through the pregnancy. Although we did joke a lot about how many times I thought I would be going into labor “any day”. I got REALLY tired of hearing the phrases, “You’re still here?” or “I thought for sure you were going to have that baby last night!” I thought for sure we were going into labor on Thanksgiving. We were in the middle of dinner at our friend Nadine’s house when my contractions started becoming more intense and I could feel them regularly. It was also a new moon that night…my labors seem to be quite affected by those. I also thought I was going into labor Dec. 5th, the next new moon. So many false alarms! I didn’t know what to believe at that point.

So on Dec. 15th, three days before my winter break started, I stopped working at the recommendation of DeAna, our midwife. She didn’t want me going into a long hard labor after working all day. (After 36 hours with Ruby’s birth, I was preparing for a long and hard labor.) Scott also stopped working, and we began a blissful second honeymoon together. We saw our due date, December 18th, come and go. Because we were worried about a premature labor, we had been ready months ago, but every day seemed to bring “one more thing” that just HAD to get done before the birth. One of the first things we did is move our bedroom upstairs with the help of our friends Mark and Jessica.

Ruby was just starting to sleep through the night and we didn’t want to wake her up with the new baby. We kept making casseroles, chilis, and other dinners so that we would have a good amount of food at hand. We enjoyed spending a remarkable time together as a family as we waited for the arrival of our New Magoo. Every morning we would cuddle in bed, read Ruby stories, and feed her a greek yogurt. Mmmmmm…. Then we would find some sort of task to accomplish like doing the laundry or scrubbing the bathtub. The rest of the day was spent going to the park on these beautiful 50-60 degree sunny days, walking at the mall, going to the library, and basically spending hours and hours playing with Ruby. We found ourselves feeling thoroughly rested and blissfully happy.

Scott and Ruby at the Park

Scott and Ruby at the Park

Ruby and I at the Park

Ruby and I at the Park

At Nancy and Bill's with Brian and Derek

At Nancy and Bill’s with Brian and Derek

Me at the Tennis Courts

Me at the Tennis Courts

But there was just ONE teeny tiny thing weighing on my mind….WHEN AM I GOING TO HAVE THIS BABY?!?!?!?!  The pregnancy had been wonderful and fairly easy, but as I watched myself go one day overdue, then two, three, four…up to nine days overdue, it just became too much to bear. I was having trouble sleeping, my back was hurting, and I was just getting sick and tired of being pregnant.

I was also really anxious about the labor. The baby had been presenting itself in a posterior position (which makes for a really long and painful back labor…often times the baby will get stuck and a c-section will be needed) and we tried countless times to get it to rotate only to have it move back again. Also, I remembered what it felt like with Ruby and I just didn’t know if I would have the strength to go through that much pain again…and for so long. (Prelabor with Ruby lasted about 27 hours. Active labor, transition, and delivery were about another 9 hours.) I just wanted to get things going and be done with it so that I could stop worrying.

Me Feeling a Little Sad

Me Feeling a Little Sad

Then one night I got really nauseous and sick. I ended up throwing up in a bucket near the bed. The baby moved like CRAZY that night and it felt like it moved back into a posterior position. I also felt so much movement that I became certain it was twins. The next day after comparing pictures of my belly from this pregnancy to Ruby’s pregnancy, I started to think more and more that I was having twins. I chatted with my mom and she shared with me her premonitions when she thought she was having twins but the midwives just couldn’t detect that second heartbeat until 9 days before they were born!

Scott and I went to bed that night nervous and frustrated. All that day we had tried EVERYTHING to get labor going (sex, foot massage, breast pump, walking, and the belly lotion) but to no avail. So we felt frustrated that maybe we were getting things started and then nervous that we may have been off on our due date and were in fact expecting twins who were just barely 37 weeks along (if our due date was off).

Pre-Labor

The next morning, which was Tuesday, December 28th, I called DeAna and shared with her my fears about having twins. I really wanted to get an ultrasound, but she said that if it WAS twins, we would have to do a hospital birth…some kind of Colorado law or something. We were scheduled to have a prenatal appointment the next day, but she said she would come over that day to do the appointment and give me some things to stimulate labor.

She also said that the excessive movement I felt could be due to the baby’s posterior position. She asked if we had been doing hands and knees and Rabozo to turn the baby. I felt like screaming, “NO!” but I calmly explained that we had not and would try before she came over. For days I had been crawling around on all fours which was both degrading and uncomfortable. I would also lay on my ball, do yoga positions, Scott would use the Rabozo, and I would gently massage my belly trying to coax the baby to turn like a sleeping kitten. Every time, we would work so hard to get the baby to turn a little bit, and then it seemed to turn right back the other way! So I was just really really really frustrated with the task of rotating the baby and even more frustrated by the thought of a painful posterior back labor.

So anyways, both DeAna and her assistant Whitney came over around 11:00 a.m. DeAna explained where she was feeling the baby’s shoulder and bottom and where the pockets of amniotic fluid were. She predicted a larger baby…about 9 lbs, but said that she was certain that there was only one baby in there. She also listened to the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler for the first time. We could really hear one really strong heartbeat on my left side (so the baby WAS NOT posterior…for now) and no other heartbeats.

I shared my frustrations about being ten days overdue and how I was crying, getting emotional, and just having a really hard time. I had been checking myself to see if I was dilating any more. I was having so many painful contractions that I thought at some point the baby might just fall out!  At this point I was about 80-90% effaced and about 2 cm dilated. I had tried several times to stretch my cervix out and to strip my own membranes, but it was really hard to reach that far up and back! I had a good amount of bloody show and had been losing my mucus plug over the last few days. So there was progress at least!

DeAna recommended that we try the castor oil. I was really hesitant to go that route, but she said that if the baby was ready for labor, this could be just the nudge we needed to get things going. She told us mix 2 oz. of each of the following: castor oil, vodka, and orange juice. She also gave us the herb blue cohosh to take every hour, some belly lotion with herbs to use every half hour, and recommended more sex, massages, and walking. Whitney also gave me this amazing pep talk that made me feel empowered and like, “I can do this!” Sometimes moms just need a little cheerleading!

So after they left, we walked to Whole Foods to get the ingredients for the castor oil cocktail. I was feeling contractions that day, but no more so than I had over the last few days…weeks…months. (Over the last few days, they were starting to get more painful, but mainly just annoying.) After we put Ruby down for a nap, we each drank a cocktail (mine was the only one with castor oil). Then Scott tried setting up Mario Kart online so we could play with his parents while I hung out on the ball and tried to encourage the baby to turn.

Our friends Mark and Melissa came over with their one month old Olivia at about 4:00. (They had really hoped to be pregnant when we were pregnant with Ruby, and they were overjoyed when they finally became pregnant this time around.) We had fun seeing them and tried to get Ruby to interact with Olivia, but she was being pretty whiny and needy and didn’t want much to do with her at all. They left at about 5:30. I was a little frustrated because I had hoped to go for a walk to encourage the baby to come out, but it was getting too dark. Turns out I didn’t really need the walk…

Labor Begins

When I share my five hour labor story, I say that it begins at 6:00 p.m., but things were so mild then that I have a hard time even saying that this was the beginning! It was VERY clear, however, that this was the beginning of the castor oil effects! I started to have a few cleansing trips to the bathroom that were followed by some pretty nice contractions (or cramps as I was referring to them then). Then the trips to the bathroom started to come more and more often and were getting rather annoying…and my butt was getting rather sore (or like it was going to turn inside out as I referred to it then). Meanwhile, Scott and I were playing with Ruby while she built lego towers, stacked her cups, and pulled all the books off the bookshelves. Then around 7:00 p.m., I got the urge to “set the stage”. I felt like things were really starting to happen and I wanted to be ready.

I started to arrange things just so and tidy up a bit while Scott played with Ruby. She was getting more and more whiny and after she started crying one time I just kind of snapped and yelled at Scott to get her out of there. I felt so bad abandoning my sweet little baby girl (who at 15 months, suddenly didn’t seem like a baby anymore), but I just felt this snarling protective mother instinct pour through me and I knew that I had to focus all of my attention on what was happening to me, my body, and this new baby. Her and Scott watched a “Your Baby Can Read” video and she said every single word on the video. She was also very calm and obedient for the rest of the night, as if she sensed the impending seriousness of what was going on. Meanwhile, I finished up a few dishes, put some toys away, lit some candles, and started to play my Enya, Siger Ros, and Imogean Heap labor mix.

By 8:00 p.m. Ruby was ready for bed. We snuggled up in her room, gave her a bottle, and read her a stack of books. Every time I would have a contraction, I would just slip onto the floor and soundlessly rock on my hands and knees. They were getting more intense, but I could still read the words to the story along with Scott. After Ruby went to sleep, I called DeAna to tell her that things were starting! She said that if it really was labor that nothing could stop it, but that the contractions could just be from the castor oil and if so then things might just slow down once the effects wore off. She told me not to get discouraged if that if things were stalled out by 9:00 p.m., I should take a bath, try to relax, and possibly get some sleep.

So Scott and I played a game of Monolopy together on the Wii. He started to time my contractions, but stopped after awhile since they weren’t really forming a pattern and were only lasting about 30-45 seconds; also the time in between them was anywhere from one minute to five. Every time a contraction would come, it was intense enough for me to have to stop playing and rock on the exercise ball while moaning, but I still wouldn’t really call them painful. It was the worst game of Monopoly I ever played! Scott and the computer players kept offering me deals, and I just couldn’t concentrate enough to think them through, so I just accepted them! (We moved from Colorado to Michigan when Elliot was 6 months old and were living with my parents for several months when we finally unpacked our Wii and found our unfinished game. Scott finally got the glory of winning!)

At about 9:00 p.m., we paused the game and I went to take a bath while Scott played some DragonBall Z on the Wii. Our bathtub was my favorite thing about our little condo. It was a HUGE oval with tile all around to put candles on and little steps leading up to it. It totally accommodated my huge pregnant body and it felt REALLY good to relax in during labor! My music was playing in the background, and I was engulfed in the soft flames of candlelight. I kind of had a panic moment thinking, “I’m just not ready for this train ride yet”. I started to convince myself that the contractions I felt were really just from the castor oil and that we would go to bed soon and possibly have the baby in the next few days. I was FINE with that and started to feel pretty silly for trying to rush things along with the castor oil rather than let them take their own course. When a contraction came, I rolled over onto my hands and knees and kind of floated there in a frog like position. I stopped moaning during contractions and just really let myself enter a deep state of relaxation. Contractions REALLY slowed down and I was only feeling them about every 10-20 minutes. When they did come, they had about a 10-15 second peak of pain, but it was very mild.

At about 10:00 p.m., Scott came in to check on me. I told him I was feeling very relaxed and that we should probably just go to bed. I also shared with him, however, that I checked myself and I could very easily feel the head in the bag of waters and that I was about 5-6 cm dilated. Even with that information, I was STILL convinced that we would not be having a baby that night! Things had stopped and started so many times that I just couldn’t accept that things were really happening! Scott kept encouraging me to call DeAna, but I didn’t think there was any rush.

I got out of the bath, put on my nighty, and then I was all of a sudden gripped by a really powerful contraction that brought me down to the floor on my hands and knees. Scott started to apply pressure to my back and it felt really good! Seconds later he put my phone in my hand and said, “Call DeAna now!” So I called her and told her that things had really slowed down in the bath but that I was about 5-6 cm dilated and had experienced one painful contraction after the bath. I explained that we were probably going to go to bed. She said that she would come over and even just sleep on the couch if nothing happened. Then I got another contraction while we were talking and started moaning really loudly; it was quite intense! DeAna’s voice changed and she was like, “I’m coming over right now, that sounded pretty intense!” She also said to have Scott call her immediately if things started to progress rapidly.

The contractions started to come about every two minutes and lasted about 45 seconds to a minute each. With each contraction I would get low on my hands and knees and rock back and forth. Scott applied REALLY strong pressure to my back and I would tell him, “higher, lower, both hands, squeeze!” until he got it just right. And when he did, oh boy, the pain just melted away! The peak of each contraction was only about 15 seconds and was very manageable. After each contraction, I would get a very definitive break where I felt no pain.

During this time, I was tidying up the area in front of the fireplace. I made sure the nice white silky that my mom had just made for Ruby was laid out smoothly underneath me. (A white silky for a birth! Crazy, I know, but I wanted to feel its softness beneath me.) Then I organized my tower of pillows that I was leaning against so that I could look at the roaring fire in the fireplace. I also made sure our coffee table was free of clutter and that the water bottles were organized just so. When I wasn’t having a contraction, Scott would race upstairs to make the bed with plastic sheets. He would quickly rush downstairs when he heard another contraction starting.

Dealing with Contractions

Dealing with Contractions

DeAna arrived at about 10:40 p.m. and started getting things set up. She tried to listen to the baby’s heart beat right away, but I was just getting another contraction. She was like, “Oh boy! That was intense!” She tried to apply pressure to my back as I rocked back and forth on my hands and knees, but it was too weak and I demanded right away that Scott put his hands on me again! Ahhhhh! Instant relief! DeAna stared to call for the supplies that she needed and Scott brought them over. “No! Not those towels Scott!” I pleaded. “I have the blue ones neatly stacked on top of the washer…get those!” DeAna stared to put some chux pads underneath me as I continued to rock back and forth.

She tried to listen to the baby’s heart again, but the next contraction brought forth an animalistic growl and DeAna asked if I was feeling a little pushy. “Yes! I am!” I said in both shock and amazement. “There’s NO WAY I should be feeling pushy now,” I thought to myself. I guess there was still a part of my brain that thought we wouldn’t be having this baby tonight. The next few contractions were bringing more and more of that pushing sensation and it felt SO GOOD to know that I was getting through transition sooooooo quickly. (Transition only lasted 20 minutes!) “I’ll be meeting my baby soon!” I thought. “No way, no way, no way!” Then I felt as though some other force was taking over my body and I became completely overwhelmed with the urge to push.

The Birth

I was still rocking back and forth on my hands and knees, and I didn’t even notice that DeAna had slipped my underwear off. She shined a flashlight on my bottom and her and Scott could see the head (which was still in the bag of waters) starting to crown. I didn’t force the push; it just sort of came out of me naturally. My first instinct was to push as hard as I could, just to get that baby out. But I remembered from Ruby’s birth that I needed to breathe the baby out as slowly as possible so I could avoid all of that awful tearing that was so painful to recover from. It felt unbelievable to have this giant watermelon of a baby just hanging out inside the cavity of my body! With each contraction, I could feel the baby coming down a little further.

Scott told DeAna months prior that he was interested in catching the baby, but when she asked him, “You want to catch the baby, right?” Scott had forgotten about this and got really excited. I felt myself stretching beyond what was humanly possible, and the words “ring of fire” certainly rang true. DeAna told Scott the head was about to come out, and to position his hands in a way to cradle it as it emerged.

I was still positioned on my hands and knees, and with one good push, the head popped out! My waters finally broke and Scott thought that I had peed on him! It didn’t even phase him a bit. Our little baby emerged with a face that was stone cold serious, looking straight up (eyes closed). At that point, in between contractions,  I grabbed our little flip camera and held it over my back in the hopes of capturing the birth on video. Scott and DeAna were both in shock that I just did this right in the middle of pushing and DeAna snatched the camera from me and set it up on the TV stand – this gave us a wonderful video capturing everything from that point on until about 10 minutes after birth.

I waited until the next contraction, which felt like eternity, especially with that head hanging out of me, for my next opportunity to push again. When the next contraction came, I actually did push with all my might to get the rest of that baby out. Scott and DeAna could really see it coming and said “Come on! Just one more good push!” – and sure enough! After that last great push, out popped the rest of him into Scott’s waiting hands.

DeAna told me to turn over and she brought our sweet baby to my chest. Scott pulled down the straps on my shirt so I could start breastfeeding him, and we were in complete shock and amazement that it was over already, and we were holding our little baby in our arms. We didn’t even think to check his gender right away! Words cannot express the feelings of joy that we had as we kissed each other and bonded as a new extension of our family entered the world. One of my first words after the birth  was “That was sooo easy!!” because really, it was. I had been a little afraid that after this birth I wouldn’t want to have any more children, but Scott and I looked at each other and agreed we would love to have more kids.

We just agreed to wait a little longer next time, and avoid the castor oil. I had an immediate desire to wake up Ruby so she could share in this joy as well, but decided against it as the reality of that set in… We couldn’t believe she had stayed asleep the entire time! I felt another contractions rise, and then plop! There was the placenta. So then, the three of us cuddled in front of the fireplace and we finally thought to look to see if it was a boy or a girl! “It’s a boy!” I squealed, and we laughed and cried and kissed just as when we he was first born. We couldn’t belive we waited so long to check. Scott and DeAna adjusted the pillows so I could sit up, and 30 minutes after he was born he got a great latch on my breast and began his first feed.

DeAna Feeding Me Yogurt After Birth

DeAna Feeding Me Yogurt After Birth

Nursing Elliot

Nursing Elliot

Nursing in Front of the Fire

Nursing in Front of the Fire

Scott and I With Elliot

Scott and I With Elliot

At this point, the midwife’s assistant arrived. She was so sad that she had missed the birth, but DeAna got her right to work getting an herbal sitz bath ready to go. She and DeAna checked me out to make sure I had no tearing, or skid marks like I did with Ruby. I did a little kegel and the muscles felt great.  They did say there was one little tear, and if we wanted, DeAna could have put some super glue on there. It didn’t really hurt so I just opted to wait and see. Scott caught a quick glance while they were poking around and noticed that I looked nothing like I did when Ruby was born. He said I looked pretty much normal down there!

While we all had a chance to catch our breath, we decided to watch the birth video since we were all just sitting around in front of the TV. It was incredible, and we were so happy all over again. After a while, Scott took Elliot and I got into the bath. I was afraid of it burning or stinging like it did when I bathed after Ruby – but I felt nothing but comfort. As I was comfortably soaking, Scott took off his shirt and had some incredible skin to skin time with our little boy.

Then after I was settled in the tub for a while, he brought Elliot in to join me, with the placenta floating nearby in a metal bowl. Elliot was scared at first, but then I fed him and he fell asleep with me holding him there in the tub. Meanwhile, we could hear the midwives scurrying around cleaning up, making some eggs and cheese, and doing some laundry. Scott sat tubside and we just had so much fun talking about everything that happened. We talked about playing monopoly, having a boy, the quickness of labor, how amazed we were that Ruby was still asleep, etc. They eventually came in and helped me out of the tub while Scott brought Elliot upstairs to the bed room. They helped me dry off and get a pad, and then they helped me get upstairs.

Weighing Elliot

Weighing Elliot

Elliot's Newborn Screening

Elliot’s Newborn Screening

This is where they did their newborn check of him and I cut the cord while Scott held him. We ate our eggs and cheese and they went over a few postpartum care directions, which we promptly forgot in all the excitement and exhaustion. DeAna said she would call the next day at 11 to see how we were doing. Then she would stop by for the 2-day old visit (and a one week, 2 week, and 6 week visit as well). Then they tucked me into bed and Scott helped them bring down all their stuff to their car.

At this point, it was 2 a.m. and we thought we would be too excited to fall asleep. But as soon as we got snuggled in, we conked out until 3:30 a.m. when we heard Ruby through the baby monitor. Scott went down and gave her a bottle and changed her, and she went right back to sleep until 8 a.m. Elliot woke up at 5 a.m., I fed him, and off we all went again until Ruby woke up and we started our first day together. Scott snuggled her right in between us and she did not know quite what to think of her little brother, so she just gave him a sideways glance and snuggled in a little closer, and ate her yogurt while watching Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers. We were careful not to give Elliot too much direct attention while Ruby was around. We wanted her to discover him on her own (which she slowly did over the weeks to come).

It felt so crazy to have gone through such an amazing experience and to then just settle into normal life, WITH ANOTHER HUMAN IN OUR FAMILY! And a little boy too! We were so happy and felt so complete. Scott had the next two weeks off, and we enjoyed a blissful family moon. I got lots of bedrest, and Scott took care of all of us. It was perfect.

Ruby Loves Her Little Brother

Ruby Loves Her Little Brother

(Ruby decided to add her impression of the night: “xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxszszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzxcfvfADVCZ”)

Elliot Edward Maaser

Elliot Edward Maaser