Born February 7, 2016
After a traumatizing birth experience with our first son in Japan, we knew we wanted a birth experience that allowed us to be treated gently and with respect. We were unsure about having a homebirth because of my age and weight, but we thought it was worth investigating along with a hospital midwife experience. After looking into both options, I immediately felt more comfortable with a homebirth. John was still unsure until he met Cheryl. From the moment he sat down in her clinic, I could tell he was comfortable. Then he made some joke about hippies and patchouli, and Cheryl immediately responded with “says the guy with the man bun.” From that moment we looked forward to our appointments with Cheryl and Shoaf (her assistant), our lively conversations, and our frank questions with just-as-frank responses. We always felt loved, cared for, and safe, and my husband felt very involved as part of the birth team. When I experienced issues with low progesterone, Cheryl was quick to investigate and get me on supplements since that is what I felt I needed to do.
On February 6, we attended our nephew’s birthday party. I was relieved that our baby wasn’t born on his birthday and that we’d finished our last commitment. Although my due date wasn’t until February 17, we all knew and felt the baby would come early. I had mild contractions that night and just felt the need to clean and organize. I was so torn between getting the rest I knew I’d need and getting our house prepared to be a peaceful birthing space. The contractions continued throughout the night, and I started having cramping followed by the frequent bathroom trips that often precede a birth. My husband and child slept peacefully, and I watched them in the moonlight. I knew this would be the last night we’d be a family of three. I knew our house was filled with love. I knew we needed to be a family of four, but I mourned and cried for hours that night. As many moms feel but rarely talk about, I was feeling the intense guilt and fear of bringing my second child into the world. How could I ever love this baby as much as my first? How could my first ever feel loved again with the competition? How in the world, when I was so tired and so often unsure from being a mom to one kid, was I going to be a mom good enough to parent two kids the way I wanted? I cried and cried that night, staring out at the moon peeking though the window.
As the sunrise often does, it cleared my thoughts and renewed my energy as it rose in the sky. It was going to be a beautiful day filled with sunshine and the birth of my second child. I got that last jolt of adrenaline-filled energy and started barking orders for our last organizational cleaning spree and baby preparations. Around 9:00 a.m. on February 7, I told my husband that he needed to take our son Neil and the last donations before we got the birth stuff ready. The contractions were getting stronger, and I really, really needed to be alone. He said, “Sure, I will do that after I finish my coffee.” I was in the middle of a contraction, so I spat out hastily, “Now. You need to do it now. There’s no time for coffee.” In typical John fashion, he was completely unphased by my mood, and he said, “There’s always time for coffee.” Although unphased, he’s also smart, so he quickly gathered the things and left. I told him not to hurry, and he looked at me disturbed. “Please don’t have the baby without me. I’d be pissed. I’m serious, Meagan. It might be what you really want, to do your primal thing here in the kitchen under the skylight or whatever, but you need to call me if it gets goin’ real good.” I rolled my eyes and waddled to the sofa. I was SO HAPPY to have them gone. Peace at last. With that peace, though, came rolling contractions that took my breath away. I’d had a baby before, so I know what to expect, but I again started questioning whether I could do it again. I texted my dad around 10:00 a.m. to let him know that he should come get Neil after church. He said that would be around 1:00 p.m. and asked if he should come earlier. I said no, but he texted back a bit later and told me he was on his way. He’d decided to take off after Sunday School and head to Kansas City. As soon as I knew he was on his way, the contractions increased in intensity and frequency. John and Neil arrived home soon after and Neil started “massaging” my back and brushing my hair. I.could.not.wait.for.him.to.be.gone. Some people can nurse during pregnancy, but I am not one of those people. Some people can birth with their children there, but I am DEFINTELY not one of those people. My dad arrived around 11:30 a.m. and looked surprised that I was in labor and asked what was wrong. I found this hysterical, and I laughed and laughed after he left. I don’t think he could handle seeing me have contractions, so he left with Neil after a few contractions. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, and I told John I was going to take a bath and then try to rest in bed for a bit. In the bath, the contractions started becoming more frequent, and I could see bits of blood in the water. I still thought I’d have hours before the birth, though, because my first labor was 26 hours long. I got out of the water and only got a few steps down the hallway before I had to stop for a contraction. I told John that it might be time to call Cheryl and let her know I’d be having a baby today and to fill the tub. I saw the same look on his face as I’d seen on my dad’s earlier that day. It’s like everyone was surprised I was actually having a baby. I made it to our bedroom and laid down on my side. As I was walking down the hall, John said “Like we talked about, I’m going to make myself scarce so I don’t annoy you, and you let me know if you need something. That’s still the plan, right?” After maybe two minutes I yelled for John to call Cheryl and tell her to come immediately. He said he had JUST talked to her and she said to check back after an hour or two. I said, “I CHANGED MY MIND. SHE NEEDS TO COME NOW.” That was probably around 1:00 p.m. I did not want to waste her time, but I also didn’t want John delivering my baby. I got the feeling that the baby would be born by that night at the very latest, and I wanted her to be there. A moment later I heard him saying, “No. Just rub some patchouli on it.” When he hung up, I asked what that was about and he said she’d asked if she had time to shower because she’d been doing some intense cleaning and that he’d told her to rub some patchouli on it. (That right there might be THE perfect example of why she was the right fit for our family. Cheryl “got” John and wasn’t bothered by his unique sense of humor, and he felt equally comfortable with her.) John laid down beside me after and started rubbing my body with peppermint oil. Why peppermint oil? No idea. (John’s edit: Your [profanity] birth book and essential oils booklet that you made me read said peppermint oil was good for birth pains and aches, Meagan.) I guess he thought it smelled good or something. All I could mutter was “Too much. That smell is too much.” I was having intense contractions and trying to control my breathing and moaning. We did this for a while. Maybe 30 minutes or so?
Shoaf arrived first and was wearing white pants. Nice ones too. All I could think when I looked up was “Dude. Risky. You are going to have blood all over those nice white pants.” She was calm, quiet, and so exactly the person I needed at that moment. She set John straight about something, readjusted my body a bit, took away the dang peppermint oil (thanks!), and started taking my vitals. She didn’t even have time to get my blood pressure in between contractions, and she said something like “Oh. OH. Yeah. This baby is well on its way. These contractions are close.” She checked the baby, said some more soothing sounding stuff that I don’t remember (all I can remember was the calm and comfort I felt upon her arrival), and went to call Cheryl. She came back in and sat with us a bit in silence as I breathed through the contractions with my eyes closed and John applied counter pressure. I didn’t hear Cheryl come in, but I smelled her. Patchouli. I laughed in my head if not outwardly. She checked on me, got that same “look” that others had earlier in the day, and said she was going to get stuff ready.
I told John I needed to go to the bathroom and waddled/crawled to the bathroom. Like many women in labor, I loved sitting on the toilet. Like many men who are waiting with women in labor, my husband was terrified that I was going to have “his” baby on the toilet. He kept going to tell on me just as he had with my first birth. He returned and said, “Cheryl thinks you should walk the stairs.” I snapped, “No. I definitely won’t be doing that.” I got up and was genuinely concerned about whether or not I could even make it back to our bedroom. I sat back down. I asked if the birth pool was ready. John said it was only partially full. He asked me to get up and walk with him a bit and I screamed, “I CAN’T!” That must be some kind of trigger/alarm word for midwives because Shoaf and Cheryl both came running. I was standing in the bathroom with stringy, bloody goo coming out of me, and my husband was following me trying to wipe it up. I may or may not have hit him and told him to leave me alone. He said he was just trying to help me clean up so that I didn’t make our house look like Slimer had been there. I’m not sure what I did or said but Cheryl said, “Okay. You’re going to have this baby. Where do you want to do it?” It was like we hadn’t planned a water birth because the thought of water didn’t cross my mind again. I caught a glimpse of the yoga ball in the bedroom and was like “Uh…in there. That looks good.” She said something like “Good choice,” Shoaf and Cheryl did some kind of magic and suddenly had the bedroom covered in plastic looking like a birthing room, and I landed on the yoga ball leaning on the bed. It felt so good. So right. John had been somewhat stunned and was just standing there, and I yelled at him to come apply counter pressure on my back. I leaned over the ball, and my water suddenly broke all over my husband’s legs and feet. Then he said something for which he will never be forgiven: “I see that we are forgoing the serene water birth experience for something more akin to the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.” We did the contraction-counter pressure dance for a few minutes. It’s all kind of a blur. I then started pushing. I think Cheryl said something like “Are you pushing?” I said yes. She then said that was typically something that I might mention to her. Whoops. It felt good. I like the pushing part of labor. It’s painful and intense and productive. After I’d pushed a few times, Cheryl said she wanted to check me. She looked a bit worried. I was totally fine until I saw her face, and I said, “Please be very blunt. What’s wrong?” She said that I was standing and pushing hard, so she was a little surprised that the baby hadn’t come out yet. She asked me to squat as low and wide as I could. I remember asking “Where will you be? How?” She said to leave the logistics up to her and to concentrate my full energy on squatting and pushing. I then heard her say, “You okay, dude? Maybe you should sit a minute.” TO MY HUSBAND. I squatted, pushed, heard her say, “OOOOOH. That’s why it was taking so long,” and felt the baby slide all the way out. I was worried by then and demanded, “What? What’s wrong?” and she said “Nothing. He came out with his arms first. He was probably a little stuck.” I heard my husband mutter, “Like Superman. Cool.” Since we’d waited to find out the sex, all I could say was “HE? What do you mean HE?” Cheryl laughed and then quickly apologized and said, “Sorry. I like to let the parents look. But it just came out because I have my hand on balls.” We all laughed, I collapsed backwards onto John, and we all four sat on the most uncomfortable part of our floor in a little tiny space covered in who knows what. I felt a bit lightheaded but serene, and I was just chattering away. “A son. We have another son. We had a baby in our bedroom. The BEDROOM. Ah! The Water! (Cue Shoaf running to the kitchen to turn off the water to catch it before it overflowed.) We have a son. A FAT SON. He’s huge. And white. Really white.” The baby had a short umbilical cord, so we had to decided between delayed cord clamping and immediate nursing. We decided that nursing could wait, and Cheryl held the baby on my lower belly while my husband got towels. The rest is a bit of a blur, but the room was clean, the placenta was delivered, and I was bleeding a bit.
Cheryl got serious and told me to get in bed and cover up. She told John to take off his shirt and do skin to skin with the baby to warm him up. Cheryl came back with a HUGE plate of food and kept forcing me to eat and drink with a worried look on her face while monitoring my vitals carefully. After about thirty minutes, she said I looked better and the baby was warmer. She checked and weighed the baby, told me he had a pretty serious tongue tie, and checked me. She said I looked pretty darn good for having an almost ten pound baby, and then John and I sat and cuddled while I nursed our newest son. We gave birth to a new baby boy at 3:00 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, February 7, 2016 in our home, just as we’d hoped we’d be able to do. It was bright, sunny, and beautiful.
Our birth wasn’t medically perfect. I later learned a week later that I had retained placenta, the baby had to have two tongue and lip tie revisions over the next month, and I continue to have a few issues with prolapse. I also continue to struggle with postpartum depression management. Our birth sure felt perfect though. That’s the thing about homebirth. When you’re writing and remembering your birth story, you’re not all caught up in medical details and numbers. There are fewer interventions. You get to remember how you felt on that day and remember the raw emotion that is truly important to new parents. Even if the details are fuzzy and you don’t remember exactly what happened, you can close your eyes and feel those sensory details that made up your day. My BIRTH day was filled with loving, calm, peaceful energy, and it was very peaceful. My husband made enough “jokes” to make it memorable, Cheryl and Shoaf let us be us while providing us with two medically competent individuals, and we got to go to bed that night in a place that was warm, comfortable, and filled with the recent memories of our son being born in that very bedroom. Homebirth isn’t for everyone, but it worked for us. I will forever be filled with gratitude that I got to experience birth in this way and heal my heart and soul from my previous birth trauma.