Our Third Born: Ophelia's Homebirth Story

Our Third Born: Ophelia’s Homebirth Story

 Ophelia Ella Maaser

Born: 5-21-2013

Time: 7:35 p.m.

Measurements: 7 lbs 8 oz , 20.5 inches, 13.5 cm head circumference

The Pregnancy

After having Elliot, my body felt pretty depleted, so when I found out I was pregnant for the third time, I met with a homeopathic doctor at Elder and Sage for some wonderful advice. She was able to guide me through a pretty serious case of candida and advised me to cut out sugar and carbs. I did this pretty religiously for six weeks, then half-heartedly for three months, and sort of okay for the rest of the pregnancy. I wish I had stuck with it a little better, as I battled a yeast infection towards the end and then thrush afterwards, but that ordeal is another story! Anyways, she also advised that I drink red raspberry leaf tea as much as three times a day. I did this pretty faithfully throughout the whole pregnancy and it was AMAZING! I was suffering from a practically prolapsed uterus after Elliot’s birth and I could feel my pelvic floor getting stronger and stronger with every cup throughout this pregnancy. During and after the birth, my uterus performed and recovered wonderfully!

At Ophelia's Prenatal Appointment

At Ophelia’s Prenatal Appointment

I also took cod liver oil, a prenatal vitamin, and trace minerals. In addition, I took calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D supplements to help with leg cramps towards the end of the pregnancy. With Ruby and Elliot, I enjoyed small cups of coffee here and there, but with this pregnancy, I cut it out completely. I can’t say that it helped anything per se, but I continued to cut it out after she was born and we never dealt withany witching hour like we did with Ruby or constant crying like we did with Elliot. I did start drinking coffee for about one week and during that time, Ophelia started to cry pretty inconsolably and pretty consistently 12 hours after my daily cup of coffee. When I cut it out, no more crying.

Anyways, our midwife, Sara Badger, was able to give us some wonderful advice during the pregnancy that helped me to enter labor in the best shape possible. She advised a deep tissue pregnancy massage with Lisa Gowins, and a meeting with a chiropractor that helped to melt away the sciatic nerve pain that was becoming quite unbearable. She also moved little Ophelia’s little hand away from her face days before labor, which helped me to avoid tearing like I did with Ruby. During the first three to four months of my pregnancy, I started getting into a pretty amazing kettlebell routine and then after that I stuck with some yoga videos. I tried to do at least ten minutes of yoga daily and that really helped me to stay flexible and in good shape. I’m glad I was able to spend so much time taking care of myself during the pregnancy. It really helped me during labor and recovery.

Leading Up To the Birth

Just like with Elliot, for weeks and weeks leading up to my due date, I thought for sure that I would go into labor early! When I was 37 weeks along and started feeling regular contractions, I realized that we were not at all ready! We didn’t even have any diapers! So that night, when the contractions slowed down and eventually stopped, we talked about things like how we would get through our bedtime routine and what other preparations needed to be met. We spent the next several weeks making and fulfilling one to do list after the other. As my due date drew closer, arrived, and passed, I kept thinking okay, now I’ve finally got everything done, but then the next day I would think of more things to get done! Moving to a new house six weeks before my due date certainly gave me PLENTY of nesting projects!

In my last month of pregnancy, things finally were getting uncomfortable (back aches in the night, leg cramps, the uncomfortableness of getting around, etc.), but I wasn’t anxious about going overdue. Not working for the first time really took a lot of pressure off. Plus, knowing that I wouldn’t have to go back to work when the baby was a few weeks or months old really took a lot of pressure off too. Thanks to being overdue, I was able to get my sister Lisa’s baby blanket made for her little boy due Oct. 31st, and everything ready for her baby shower, everything for the new baby from Amazon was shipped and assembled, diapers, baby clothes, blankets, and birth kit were all here and ready to go, and the massive amount of yard work was finished. (See ya ticks!) Plus, I was even able to clear out the garden boxes and plant my mother’s day flowers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and herb garden.

Pre-Labor

The days leading up to my labor, I knew that things were getting closer and closer. My Braxton hicks contractions were becoming more painful and I could feel myself effacing more and more every day (on top of being about 2 cm dilated for the past 3 weeks). On Tuesday, May 21st, I woke up at 5 a.m. to some contractions that felt different. Somehow I just knew that these were going to lead to the real thing. I was so excited! Scott and I made good use of our time together in the morning before he had to go to work by doing the one thing that both initiates conception and induces labor… I told him with certainty that the baby would be born that day or the next, but that we still had plenty of time, so he didn’t need to stay home from work or anything.

We enjoyed a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast before the kids woke up and then I enjoyed my second breakfast with the kids. I told them that the baby might come that day and we talked about how it was like mommy had to push out a really big poop and that I might moan and cry out but that I would be okay. I showed Ruby how she could press on my back and help me push the baby out.

We are usually pretty set in our routine of me doing something active with the kids in the morning—be it an outing, playing outside, doing homeschool, or doing some sort of project—but I still wasn’t done with my to do list, so they played quietly while I made a big pot of chicken and barley soup, a fresh batch of cookies, did the laundry, and tidied the house. I prepared the kids some lunch and they ate at the table while watching some LeapFrog videos. When Scott came home for lunch at 1:00 p.m., things weren’t serious, but when a contraction came, I would pause what I was doing and rock through it. For mental reasons, I just wanted him there with me. So we ate some soup together while watching the kids play in the sandbox, and then he called into work, set his out of office message, and then took the kids off my hands. Once I knew he had taken over, I could feel my entire mind and body melt with a feeling of tranquility. I felt more at ease knowing that I didn’t have to manage them anymore and was able to continue to putz around the house and get everything “just so”. That’s when contractions started to pick up a little more and I knew without a doubt that the birth would be happening within the next 24 hours.

So after we played outside, we all went down to the basement to watch Land Before Time and take a rest. My contractions were coming sporadically at about 10-20 minutes apart. I was about 4 cm dilated at this point, but not making any sort of rapid progress. I was keeping our midwife Sarah in the loop at this point. She wondered if we wanted her there at the birth or just after. We had originally talked about doing an unassisted birth, but we didn’t want to take any chances with complications so we said we definitely wanted her there at the birth, but we would let her know when things were getting closer. While we were watching the movie, I all of a sudden felt really tired, so in between contractions I would lay on the futon for about 10 minutes and close my eyes. Ruby was cuddled up with Scott on the little couch and Elliot kept covering me up with his silky. I would get on the ball to bounce through contractions and Scott would massage my back. The contractions were painful enough, but not so painful that I absolutely needed him at that point. He even snoozed for a little while with Ruby. I was feeling slightly frustrated at this point because I had expected things to move rapidly after Elliot’s birth and now things were seemingly moving so slow and I wasn’t making a lot of progress, but the rest time was really great and I felt rejuvenated as we began to migrate back upstairs.

At this point, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted my mom to be there or not. I knew that she would be a great help, and I really wanted her to meet our new addition, but I didn’t want to feel like a watched pot and I thought that it would be ideal to keep the people to a minimum as we bonded as a new family.  But I also wasn’t sure if Scott would be able to manage our 2 and 3 year old on his own AND be there to give me the support I needed. So I was keeping my mom in the loop via email and she was ready to leave work at a moment’s notice and be there in any way she could. (Of all days for her to not have a phone! The night before she had dropped it in the lake while her and my dad put their dock in. My dad was getting her her new phone at 3 p.m. that day.) I finally called her work number to tell her that things were progressing and that I would in fact like her to come out and give a hand with the kids. It kind of dawned on me that we would have to put Ruby and Elliot to bed at some point and that I would be entering active labor soon and I couldn’t believe I had even questioned her coming over in the first place So she said that she could be there about 6:00-6:30 p.m.

Active Labor

I had downloaded a contraction app and started timing my contractions when we were resting in the basement. Contractions went from being about twelve minutes apart when we were resting downstairs to about five minutes apart when I started walking around upstairs at about 5:00-5:30, and I definitely needed Scott to help me through each contraction. The kids were playing on their own so nicely as Scott, and I putzed around the house getting things ready in between contractions.

Ruby and Elliot Eating Snacks Outside

Ruby and Elliot Eating Snacks Outside

Scott remained within ear shot and was ready to run to my side whenever I called. At one point, we went and got the mail together and saw our neighbor Amy. I told her that contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart so we had just enough time to get the mail and get back in time for the next contraction. In between contractions, I was folding clothes, cleaning up the kitchen, getting snacks for the kids, and checking my phone. It really helped me to read about the different phases of labor and think about what my body was going through. I started getting really excited thinking about meeting the sweet little peanut in my belly soon! I had my Pandora mix playing Joshua Radin, Enya, Sigur Ros, Camera Obscura, and Melody Echo Chamber, and I felt so calm and at ease.

Ruby Pretending to Have a Contraction

Ruby Pretending to Have a Contraction

Elliot Pretending to Have a Contraction

Elliot Pretending to Have a Contraction

My parents arrived at about 6:00 p.m. and it was a relief right away to know that they would be able to take over with the kids. My mom took Ruby outside and they did some puzzles together. Elliot was playing the ipad and my dad gave him some attention and helped Scott finish cooking the hot dogs on the grill. It was so funny to me to be in the middle of this crazy life changing moment and to just see them milling about like they were just visiting on any other weekend.

I had a little “contraction zone” set up in the living room where I would bounce on the exercise ball with a chair in front of it. I would bounce on the ball while holding onto the back of the chair for support while Scott massaged and helped me rotate my hips. When my parents arrived, we moved our “contraction zone” into the dining room area. The contractions were starting to become more painful and I was writing and moaning with Scott supporting me, and it felt like it should just be an intimate moment with the two of us. It’s amazing to think about how much having a baby sounds like making a baby! No wonder my dad seemed a little uncomfortable and I sensed a bit relieved to have the excuse of leaving on his business trip up north soon after that!

At this time, I was dilated to about a 5-6cm. The midwife was going to be arriving at about 7 p.m. (I think I told her at about 4ish after doing the math in my head: the length of prelabor thus far, how fast my contractions were progressing, how dilated I was, etc. and predicted that I would give birth at about 7:00 p.m. How accurate!). When a contraction came I was very vocal with Scott about how to help me, “Higher, lower, squeeze, push!” We eventually settled on a move we called “The Washing Machine” where I would gyrate back and forth and around and around while he pushed and moved my hips with me. Each contraction was lasting about 45 seconds and had about a 15-20 second peak. They were coming about 3 minutes apart. The pain was very manageable and in between contractions the pain completely melted away. I watched my contraction timer to know how long I had to get back to my ball! I kept checking on the kids, taking pictures and videos, and tidying up the house. Scott had put the sheet on the bed and I set up the chux pads and everything else we needed in our room. At this time, my dad left and my mom took Ruby and Elliot to the park across the street.

Transition

Shortly after my mom left with the kids, I had a pretty intense contraction and Scott suggested we move into our bedroom. “Already???” I thought, but I followed him in there. He brought my ball and a chair for me to lean against. In between contractions I brushed my teeth and hair and when I checked myself to see how dilated I was I was shocked that I couldn’t feel any sides to see how far dilated I was. “Hmmmmm, I guess that means I’m at 10 cm!” I thought excitedly. Things still didn’t feel too crazy though, so I didn’t know what to expect at that point.

Birth

The midwives got a little lost and finally showed up at 7:15 p.m. Scott ran to the door to make sure they got in alright and as soon as they entered the room, I heard Sarah’s new little boy Thorbin cry just I was racked by a powerful contraction. I sat on the ball and Scott rushed to my side and did what he could to ease the pain but at this point things just felt crazy. I felt a little pop and warm fluid start to leak out. “My water broke!” I shouted. The contractions were coming quickly and the next one was really intense with a long peak and no break. “Make it stop!” I yelled. So Scott stopped rubbing my back and I said, “NO! Not you! The pain!”

Then I pushed the ball aside, dropped to my hands and knees, and couldn’t believe the words as they came out of my mouth, “I’m feeling pushy!” I shouted. I grabbed onto some blankets that were on the floor and tried to make a little tower to lean against. It had worked so well with Elliot and I was trying to recreate that moment. I remembered that I wanted to just breathe the baby out at this point and waited for the contractions and my body to lead me.

I felt a huge amount of pressure and the incredible urge to push, so I gave one giant push with all of my might. After that, I breathed deeply and felt a delicate hand applying oil to my perineum as I slowly pushed. I gave another slow and steady push as I felt the baby’s head crowning. Words of encouragement made me feel relaxed and took away any panic that was creeping up. “You’re doing great! I can see the head!” they encouraged. I could feel the excitement building as I knew I would be soon holding my sweet little angel. I pushed the head out and felt a huge wave of relief knowing that I was almost done. I waited until I felt the next contraction. Scott said he could see the head moving in and out with each breath. Then when the next contraction came they said, “Ok, give one big push!” So I did, and then I felt the rest of the body slip out. I turned over and couldn’t believe the little miracle that was placed upon my chest.

After the Birth

I wanted to get settled in and cozy with our little darling, so I left the midwives sitting there in complete shock as I picked her up from where I had given birth in front of our dresser about 15 feet from our bed and carried her there. They hurried over and put some chux pads underneath me as we waited for the placenta to come out. Scott and I were practically weeping with joy at our sweet little angel and didn’t even think about the gender until the midwife asked us if it was a boy or a girl. We promptly looked and both shouted,“It’s a girl!!!” Our midwife just had a baby and brought him along. Here’s our midwife and her assistant below.

Our Midwives

Our Midwives

“Tell my mom to come back from the park,” I said to Scott, thinking about how excited Ruby and Elliot would be to meet their new little sister. Soon Ruby and Elliot came into the room. Elliot was crying because he didn’t want to leave Grandma’s van and Ruby came bounding in with curiosity and wonder. I had delivered the placenta (which seemed to take forever to come out…about twenty minutes after the birth) and a very long umbilical cord. The cord had stopped pulsing, so Scott helped to clamp both ends and then he and Ruby cut the cord together. Ruby was simply mesmerized as she saw her new baby sister and proclaimed, “Finally I’m not alone anymore!”

I held Ophelia and just stared into her sweet little face and Scott and I marveled at the little human that had been nestled inside of me—her beautiful dark hair, her delicate and long fingers, and how absolutely perfect she was in every way. She had some vernix on her arms and back and I rubbed it in and she rooted and began to nurse. She latched on right away and we sat there in peace under the red glow of our bedside lamp.

Nursing Ophelia with Ruby and Elliot Nearby

Nursing Ophelia with Ruby and Elliot Nearby

Scott and I with Ophelia

Scott and I with Ophelia

Ruby Holding Ophelia

Ruby Holding Ophelia

At some point, my sister Andrea had arrived and her and my mom then proceeded to try to put the kids to bed, but they were kind of thrown off by the whole day of me laboring, meeting their sister, and then a different bedtime routine. So as soon as I was done breastfeeding, I handed Ophelia to my sister and went to rescue my poor little crying Elliot. I sat in the rocking chair in his room and cuddled him close while his body heaved with sobs. I told him stories about Captain Hook and the Crocodile and Pinnochio and Monstro the Great Whale until he finally stopped crying. Ruby had been pretty upset too, and Scott was calming her down when Elliot and I came into Ruby’s room for stories and milk and cookies. Both kids were so happy to have us both there reading stories and we made barely a little mention of the sweet baby who wasn’t in my belly anymore before tucking them in for the night. They both slept soundly for the rest of the night.

We went back into our room and my sister Andrea was expertly rocking our little girl while chatting with the midwife. We learned that we missed her first meconium poop that went all over Andrea and the towel. Oops! Probably should have put a diaper on her! I took a quick shower and then nursed my little angel and wrapped up her sleeping little body. Then Scott and I met my mom and sister in the kitchen and reflected on the amazing experience of the birth. We all talked with my dad on speaker phone while he was driving up to the U.P. It was such a magical moment to realize that our family was forever changed. We discussed our possible name choices of Veruca Ella or Ophelia Ella, but decided we would sleep on it and see which name suited her in the morning.

That night, Ophelia didn’t sleep much. She just wanted to look deeply into my eyes. And I was so thankful to have that peaceful time with her in the night. I could literally feel my heart expanding with my love for her and I marveled at what we had just went through together. My afterbirth pains were quite intense – way more so than with Ruby or Elliot – and I couldn’t have slept much anyways. When we woke up the next morning, we both knew that Ophelia was the perfect name for our little angel. Veruca was such cool and rocking name, but it belonged to Ruby first and seemed to fit her personality more. Just one day old (plus 9 months of getting to know her in the womb), and we could already tell so much about her personality. Her long languid movements in the womb, her deep soulful eyes looking intently at us right after birth, her contentment upon hearing the shrieks from Ruby and Elliot…yup, she was Ophelia.

That morning, Scott made us a delicious breakfast and at 9:00 a.m., we all ate at the table as our new “five family”. We talked with Ruby and Elliot about their new sister and then gave them their “after the baby is born” presents of play-dough, bubbles, and M&Ms. It was so nice to give them both a lot of attention right after Ophelia was born. As much as we wanted to give me some rest, we also knew that in these first few hours/days as a new family, we would have to be careful to set the right dynamics in place. We didn’t want Ruby and Elliot to feel like they were being put on the back burner by any means so we proceeded to make our first day together as normal as possible. That included a family trip to the farm in Marion 45 minutes away to get our raw milk, then a stop at McDonald’s to play at the indoor play place, followed by an entire afternoon and evening together as well.

Elliot and Ruby Open Their Gifts

Elliot and Ruby Open Their Gifts

We mistakenly gave Ophelia a pacifier that night and following that she did not want to nurse and was crying a lot. I pumped and gave her droppers full of breastmilk, but she didn’t sleep all night and after getting only 3 hours of sleep since giving birth, I felt like I might just have a nervous breakdown. Our midwife suggested a bath together and lots of skin to skin. At 10 a.m. the next morning, I finally got her to nurse again and we both finally got some much deserved sleep! Ophelia then proceeded to sleep for pretty much the next two days straight (and so did I) and we felt incredible after that! What an amazing journey, an amazing family, an amazing life.

Ruby Holding Ophelia

Ruby Holding Ophelia

Elliot Checking Out Ophelia

Elliot Checking Out Ophelia

Ophelia Ella Maaser

Ophelia Ella Maaser