Harper Rose Allen was born on Saturday November 30th, 2013 at home in the water.
My pregnancy with Harper was textbook and relatively easy. Hannah is an energetic three year old and keeping up with her could be tiring, but over all I felt well, and was healthy. Early in this pregnancy we decided that we wanted to pursue a home birth and we were excited to find an amazing midwife to support us. Robin was able to come to our house for many of my prenatal appointments and it was wonderful to be able to include Hannah and Patrick in that part of the pregnancy. We spent some time preparing Hannah to meet her sister and were excited to have her present for the birth if she wanted to be. we had fun doing practice breaths together, and she got pretty good at her swaying and moaning!
My due date of Nov 24th came and went, and so did my hoped for delivery date of Nov 28th (Thanksgiving!) On the 29th we went to run some errands and I began feeling very uncomfortable in the car, with a good strong contraction when we pulled into the driveway. I had a few contractions here and there through the evening, but nothing that I could track. For the first time I went to bed feeling like the baby was coming soon – I’d been beginning to feel like she would never be born, and all the cleaning I’d done in my nesting frenzy was starting to need touching up, and we'd eaten all the food I had prepped for the midwives - but there was also just a feeling of peace and I was able to soak up the last moments of our family of three.
Around 3am on the 30th the contractions began. I had a tracking app on my phone, but I found I preferred to check the time and do the math. They were every 7-10 minutes and I was able to rest and drift off to sleep in between them. By 5 am they were 5-7 minutes apart and I was getting uncomfortable laying in bed. I woke up Patrick and got in the shower. He called Robin and Emily (to stay with Hannah) and I sat down in the shower and let the water run over my belly. So warm and relaxing! Emily arrived and snuggled in with Hannah, who was still sleeping, and Robin got there shortly after, along with Jackie, her assistant (thanks to Jackie for the photos!). Patrick jumped in the shower with me at one point, and he finished getting the bedroom ready and the pool inflated.
At 6:45 Robin suggested that I get out of the shower if I wanted to get the pool filled in time for the baby to be born, so I moved to the yoga ball at the foot of the bed. Hannah woke up a bit after 7 and came in to the room with Emily for a little bit – she rubbed my back during a contraction or two – and then they headed downstairs for breakfast.
At some point I had asked for a banana to eat and was holding it in my hand for a while and focused on not squishing it during the contractions – surprisingly effective labor aide! After I put down the banana I would turn my hands up and open my palms during each contraction – focusing on relaxing and opening and breathing. Robin was amazing during all of this – she would take fetal heart tone readings every half hour and spend some time doing gentle massage and breathing with me during contractions, otherwise she left us alone so that it was just Patrick and I. Patrick was steadfast – by my side the whole time.
The pool took f o r e v e r to fill up. At one point I got up and lay down on the bed and contractions eased quite a bit. I almost fell asleep. By 9 am the pool was finally filled, and as soon as I hit the water everything was different. I had a hard time finding a position that was comfortable – I was imagining floating in the water and relaxing, but my body just wanted to be upright, and to work! I sat back in the water between contractions and was able to get very relaxed, but needed to be up on my knees for every surge, and I needed to focus everything inward. I could feel Harper moving down, and at 9:12am Robin recorded that I could feel her head with my fingers. (She never did any internal exams, just trusted me and my body to do it’s thing). Soon after that my water broke. I remember saying “water” because it was all I could croak out – and someone held up my water bottle, misunderstanding me. “No, water broke!”
I was working hard at this point, and vocalizing during the peaks of my contractions as I bore down. I guess Hannah could hear me downstairs and told Emily, “Oh that’s just my mom having a baby.” No big deal. Haha!
Robin and Patrick were on the edge of the pool, hanging back and watching me, ready with water or a cool washcloth, but I don't think either of them realized just how close to being born Harper was! I was checking regularly and knew Harper was close to crowning so I said something about not wanting to tear. Robin was so calm and just reminded me to relax and open – not realizing that Harper’s head was actually being born! I delivered her head myself and Robin jumped up to help check for a cord and to help deliver her shoulders. One more surge and at 9:40am she was out and up on my chest with a good cry. (So different from the prolonged, coached pushing with Hannah!) It was amazing to be able to deliver her myself, without counting or monitors or even another set of hands on my body!
She was so sweet, with long fingers and squished ears and a good coating of vernix.
Hannah and Emily came in to see the new little one for a minute, and then we got out of the pool and on to the bed to deliver the placenta. Harper nursed right away and opened her eyes to look at me the first time right after her latch. The placenta was born and the cord was cut shortly after. Patrick got some skin time with Harper while I got cleaned up and then we all snuggled back in bed.
Harper’s birth was a blessing. It was a warm, wonderful, empowering experience and I am so grateful that I was supported and encouraged to believe in my strength and in the everyday miracle that is a baby and mother working together for birth.