The Fast & Furious Home Birth of Eleanor Evelyn Wingler

I suppose every good birth story begins with this line: “A few days before I gave birth . . .”.

So, a few days before I gave birth to Nellie, I was feeling somewhat discouraged and incredibly ready to get this show on the road, so to speak.  Our birthing tub was set up in the living room, our basket of supplies was ready and waiting, her clothes were all washed and awaiting their chance to be worn.  I was ready to have an itty bitty squish in my arms again.  With Jake, I went into labor in the middle of the night on a Sunday.  I was 39 weeks 1 day pregnant.  Well, that marker came and went in this, my second pregnancy.  Wade, my husband, and I were definitely convinced that I was going to go earlier than my due date of November 8th.  On Halloween I went for my prenatal appointment with my midwife, Penny Lane.  I had been having some minor “birthing waves” (contractions in Hypnobabies talk), was starting to lose some mucus, and without going into too much more detail we had other reasons to believe that I was making some progress.  When Penny was feeling around for baby, she thought that she felt her head near my ribs again, which would have been pretty bad news for me and my planned home birth at that point.  A few weeks earlier, Nellie had been breech, but after frequenting my awesome chiropractor she finally flipped.  I was distraught thinking that Nellie could be breech again so close to my due date, and Penny was explaining what my options would be if she would not turn head down before labor.  As she continued to feel my abdomen and pelvis, she thought that maybe she could be head down after all but asked if she could do a vaginal exam to be sure.  I agreed and was actually kind of excited to see what kind of cervical change, if any, was happening.  Upon examination, she confirmed that Nellie was indeed head down, and I just had a deep pelvis which made her head a little more difficult to feel.  She also shared that I was about 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced!  WAHOOO!!!!  Wade and I vowed to take some serious walks and partake in as much intimate time as possible in order to move this process along!!  Fast forward to the weekend . . .

Saturday, November 3rd, was a pretty uneventful day.  In fact, I don’t even remember what I did.  But BOY OH BOY, Sunday (November 4th) was a different story.  I was sooo darn sick to my stomach on Sunday that I could hardly function.  I was queasy, had indigestion, and just felt awful overall.  I felt so full of baby that I could have just exploded.  I was not in a good mood at all, and I should have realized that this was a sign that labor was getting close.  Thinking about Wade having to go into work the next day while leaving me home alone with Jake and a baby who could come at any moment sent me into panic mode!  Inside I was thinking that there was NO WAY I could take care of Jake while feeling this way.  Was I ever relieved when, on Monday morning, Wade came into our bedroom not to get ready to go to work, but to tell me that he was going to stay home and help me with Jake.  He’s such an awesome husband!!!

When I went downstairs to eat breakfast, I was feeling better and made a vow to myself that I would not overeat because I didn’t want to feel like I had felt the day before.  This particular morning was a very chilly morning in Indiana, but despite the temps we had already set our minds to taking several long walks around our neighborhood to see if we could get our little girl heading in the right direction – OUT!  I distinctly remember not even being able to zip my coat up because my belly was so large.  After two loops around the ‘hood, I felt a little crampy and definitely had to use the restroom, but overall I felt awesome!  That afternoon, Jake and I played, took a nap, ate lunch, and then around 2:30 p.m. we all decided that another walk would be a great afternoon activity.  Who knew that this loop would be the one that would pretty much trigger my labor process! About halfway around our mile long walk, I started feeling extra crampy, and it was slowing me down some.  I’m sure if any of our neighbors were looking out their windows at that time they may have been tempted to either come out and help or to call an ambulance.  There I was, hugely pregnant, rocking back and forth, and bent over with my hands on my hips.  By the time we got home I had an awful stitch in my side – you know, the feeling that you get when you’ve run too far too fast – and when Wade asked me to go another time around, I said “maybe in a bit.”  I went inside to use the restroom and noticed that I had some blood.  Ohhhhh baby, this was the beginning!!

Some moms I’ve talked to, especially second time moms, say that they kind of neglect the fact that they are in labor.  They sort of go about their business thinking that the things they are feeling surely cannot be actual labor.  I was the same way.  When Wade was saying “let’s call the midwife”, I was saying “uh, I don’t know if this is it yet. I don’t want to call too soon.”  It’s a good thing that my husband has sharp instincts, because it DEFINITELY was time to call our midwife.  It was also time to start packing Jake’s things so that he and Katie could go stay with Aunt Mandy.  This was the part that stressed me out the most.  I’m an overpacker.  I wanted to be absolutely certain that my little buddy had ALL of the conveniences of home while he was with Aunt Mandy.   Also, his routines are important to me (maybe not as important to him as I think they are but…), so I needed to be sure that he had his lotions, certain blankets, plenty of binkies, clothes, snacks, etc.  As I was busy trying to gather everything my little boy needed, I began having contractions that made me stop and totally focus on getting through what my body was doing.  It was nearing 4:00 p.m. at this point.  Aunt Mandy had been called, Penny had been called, and Jake’s things were almost packed.  I told Wade that I wanted to go listen to some of my Hypnobabies tracks while I took a shower to try and relax.  I was having some POWERFUL contractions at this point, and in all honesty, I was thinking to myself that having a natural child birth was just crazy.  What in the heck was I even thinking???  I had had plans to blow dry my hair and to AT LEAST apply some mascara (vain, I know, but I wanted my post-birth pictures to look pretty), but those plans went right out the window by the time I got out of the shower.  I said a hurried goodbye to Katie, Jake, and Aunty Mandy in our bedroom before I was able to finally climb into bed and listen to my tracks.  I remember thinking that I just needed to ride these contractions like waves.  Don’t try to swim through them, just ride the wave.  It was serious business time.  I remember feeling incredibly flushed and hot after I got out of the shower, so I turned our bedroom ceiling fan on high and laid down on our bed with the Hypnobabies tracks playing in headphones.  I’ll be honest, I thought that I was going to do better at relaxing and focusing than I did, but I just could not seem to ignore the intensity of the pressure that I was feeling.  Wade was right behind me rubbing my back, softly stroking my skin, applying a cold washcloth to my neck, but despite these comfort measures I could not help but just simply get through from one to the next.  I’ve never felt my body do such mighty work before.  At one point, I felt like I was just going to throw up.  I should have realized that I was already in transition, but again, I was kind of in denial that this was happening, as I was totally convinced that I was going to have a really long labor.

Around 4:45 p.m. I asked Wade if he could help me get downstairs so that we would be closer to the birthing tub.  I tried to make it down the stairs without having a contraction, but that just didn’t happen.  After one contraction halfway down the stairs we finally got me settled on the couch.  I was on all fours with my head and forearms hanging over the arm of the couch.  We weren’t timing my contractions, but they felt like they were coming one on top of the other.  Penny had not yet arrived, and I was starting to get a little worried that Nellie may arrive before her.  I remember the contraction that really scared me – I felt like I was either going to have a bowel movement or that I needed to push.  Right about now Wade encouraged me to get into the birthing tub.  He first helped me get into the tub, and he got in with me.  When the next contraction happened and I started screaming like he’s never heard before, he got out of the tub in a hurry to get the sheet that we were given titled “What to do if baby comes before the midwife”.  He was prepared to bring Nellie into this world solo if necessary.  At this point, I was frantic.  The contractions were so strong that I felt like my body was controlling me, and not me controlling my body: I was on auto-pilot.  I was simply surviving.  Wade was knelt down in front of the tub, and I was hanging on to him for dear life when I began to have another contraction.  I was literally screaming in this strange animalistic way that I also could not control.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been more relieved to see someone as I was when our door opened and Penny walked in.  I will never forget her first words as she was walking in the door: “How long has she been pushing?”

Throughout this experience, as I’ve said before, I could not really believe that I was actually experiencing the stage I was in at the moment, probably because I had not experienced a natural birth before!  Penny asked Wade if there was a head yet, and he said he did not know.  So, like any excellent home birth husband, he reached down to check whether or not Nellie’s head had emerged.  Since it had not, Penny ran out to her car to get a few more bags.  When she came back in I was having another contraction, and I remember her telling me that I had nothing to fear and that what I was feeling was incredibly normal.  For some reason, hearing her say those words really calmed me down (at least as much as I could calm down as my baby’s head was coming out of my body).  God love Wade, he was so supportive throughout the entire process, and he was saying some of the most beautiful things to me.  But, I felt like I couldn’t calm down until Penny, another woman, mother, and my midwife, said to trust my body.  BRILLIANT!  On the next contraction (OHHOLYMOTHEROFGODGETTHISKIDOUT kind of contraction), Nellie’s head emerged.  It was seriously the strangest and most interesting sensation to feel her little body moving down and out of my own body.  Things are pretty blurry for me from here, but I remember feeling a pop next and hearing Penny say that my bag of water had broken.  Then, with another push, Nellie was born!!!!  The relief was immediate and so welcomed.  She was down in the water between my legs, and as Penny was lifting her up she realized that her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck twice.  She calmly and swiftly unwrapped the cord and brought Nellie up to me so that I could hold my sweet girl. However, Nellie wasn’t breathing.  I was instructed to keep her down in the water while patting her back and keeping her close to me so that she’d stay warm.   Later, Penny would say that because she was born so quickly her little system was shocked and probably didn’t even realize that she was born yet.  Neither Wade or I know how long she actually was not breathing, but as we were patting her on the back and talking to her trying to get her to “wake up”, Penny was reaching for the ambu-bag to give her some assistance.  She clamped her cord, and Wade cut it.  Penny gave her a few puffs from the bag, and before we knew it Nellie was breathing on her own and turning the most beautiful shade of pink that we’ve ever seen!!  I DID IT!  WE DID IT!!  I actually gave birth, without medications, in the water, at home!!  WHEW!!!

While I was still in the tub, the other birth assistant, Jess, arrived.   She helped me transfer to the couch for the third stage of labor, which is delivering the placenta.  During this time another assistant, Sarah, and our birth photographer, Joelle, arrived.  It was funny to hear Wade say to our birth photographer, “Come on in and meet our daughter!”  I had NO IDEA that delivering the placenta would require me to have more painful contractions!  Don’t you mamas wish that that darn thing would just fall out?  So, with Nellie on my chest, I had several contractions and finally birthed the placenta.  What a RELIEF it was to know that that part of the process had come to an end.  At some point during this process, Nellie was able to latch on for the first time, too!  She nursed on and off for around two hours.  Those first few hours after giving birth went by so quickly, too, and are also somewhat fuzzy.  I know that I passed out twice when getting up to go to the bathroom.  Luckily, my birth team was AMAZING, and they caught me every time.  There is nothing like being able to tell anyone who visits that I was catheterized and given fluids via IV while laying pretty much naked on my kitchen floor!  Okay, okay, I don’t really tell visitors that part.  Now, the only thing that stood between me and rest was getting upstairs to bed; however, I couldn’t walk unassisted.  Instead of being helped up the stairs on my own two feet, the team put a blanket underneath me and 4 people drug me up the stairs while I was lying on the blanket – what a memory!  I was laughing so hard, sure that these women couldn’t drag my groggy butt up our stairs, but they certainly did!  See, this would never happen in a hospital!! <wink>

The rest is history.  While Penny and the girls worked to clean up the downstairs (laundry, dishes, disassembling the tub, etc.) Nellie and I were snuggling peacefully in bed.  I remember being absolutely exhausted but not able to sleep because I just couldn’t take my eyes off of her, my sweet daughter.  I couldn’t believe that she and I had just accomplished something that I had dreamed of for years – a home birth.  She is an amazing little baby. Period.

Now that I’ve had some time to think about Nellie’s birth, I am SO THANKFUL that I was able to birth at home with such an amazing team.  I have zero regrets and would do it again in a heartbeat.  I read a post on a Facebook birth support group a few days ago from a sweet momma who had gotten so close to a natural birth with her first child but gave in to the pressures of getting an epidural when the pain got really intense, and she was experiencing terrible epidural remorse because she had so wanted a natural birth.  My heart went out to her because I felt the same way with Jake’s birth.  It’s an indescribable feeling to have a vision of the type of birth you want and then not have it happen the way you had hoped.  I remember thinking only days after Jake was born that I wanted a “do over” and given another chance I was sure I could do it!  No one really understood how I felt and hearing the words “well, at least you have a healthy baby” weren’t comforting to me.  Certainly I was so happy to have had a healthy baby, but it wasn’t the only thing that mattered to me.  The only thing that has healed those wounds was actually doing it again the way I wanted.  I’m so overwhelmingly blessed to have had the education, care, and support of Believe Midwifery Services – Penny Lane & the team and of my husband!

WELCOME TO THE WORLD, SWEET NELLIE!!

Jen and Nellie

Nellie nursing shortly after birth

Picture on phone

Wade’s photo of Nellie’s arrival

***Please note that I am telling my story because it is so joyous and wonderful to me!  I am in no way discounting or disrespecting other women and their births.   I completely respect the fact that women have to make informed and educated decisions about the type of birth experience they desire, including whether or not they have a natural or medicated birth at home or in the hospital.  I want everyone who reads this post to realize that natural child birth was a completely personal choice for me, and I don’t think my experience was “better” or “superior” to any other mother’s story.***