Monday, March 7, 2011

MaryElise's Birth Story - Born at home 7-22-2008

MaryElise Kathleen Noonan Born 7-22-08 into the arms of her Dada in her very own living room, under the watchful, peaceful presence of our midwife.

I had been in contact with Jen a few times in the weeks leading up to
MaryElise's birth because I was having contractions and thought they might be heading
somewhere...but they never did. I was a little bit nervous because my water had leaked with my first child and I walked around for a few days before I went to the hospital and found out that all that liquid was, in fact, amniotic fluid. I had kept looking for the mucous plug, which never materialized at Ian's birth.

So, on a Friday afternoon, almost two weeks after my "due date", Jen visited the
house and rubbed some Evening Primrose Oil on my cervix. I think she said I was a couple of centimeters at that time, but I knew from my first pregnancy that one can walk around for a LONG TIME at two centimeters! The next day, I lost my mucous plug. And the next. And the next. And the next. I had no idea what it would look like, so I thought well, maybe I missed it. This time, the Universe made sure I did not miss the mucous plug, as it made its way out over three days. (Who knew it was so big????) I tried very hard to not take this as anything of great importance, but I did see is as a positive reminder that things were eventually going to start happening.

On Monday afternoon, my copy of "The Wise Woman's Herbal for the Childbearing Year"
arrived in the mail. I had ordered it the week before because I am interested in
going to midwifery school and I had read all the books I had already from cover to cover.
I opened it to the pages that address inducing labor and decided to give one of the
remedies a try. After talking it over with my husband and agreeing that it was not going to do any harm to try the remedy, I drove to the store and purchased the following:

Orange Juice
Castor Oil

I remember walking out of the liquor store, first of all embarrassed for being
SO pregnant and buying a bottle of Absolut, and thinking "Okay, this is it. If you drink this, you are not going to be pregnant anymore." and taking just a minute to make sure I was ok with that. When I got home, I followed the instructions in the book and drank one glass of the concoction and took a hot shower. An hour later, I drank another and decided that I would not repeat the dose again after an hour because I was already feeling a little bit tipsy and I did not want to get full-out drunk while I was still pregnant.

Then we went to a neighbor's house and played a board game until about eleven.
When we got home, the castor oil took effect. My husband then did some nipple stimulation as we sat on the futon I had set up in the living room for the birth. I went to get up to take another shower and GUSH my water broke. I was so happy! My husband and I high fived one another and I called Jen. She said just call her back when things get going. We both thought it was a good idea for my husband to get some rest, but there was no way I was going to be able to sleep. I called my Mom at around midnight and then took a shower. Then, I ate some Ramen noodles. I was not hungry at all, but after having had my son in a hospital
where I wasn't allowed to eat, I was bound and determined to eat during this labor!

Then, I settled in on the birthing ball and starting timing my contractions.
Time started doing really weird stuff, like speeding up during the contractions. They were timing at a minute or so long each, but I was feeling like they were much much shorter. Things started to get so intense that I couldn’t move or talk through my contractions at around two a.m., so I called Jen and she said she was on her way.

I woke up my husband, who set about filling up the birthing pool, which was out on our deck. The night was unseasonably cool, though, so we didn’t end up using it much.
I guess we used it for about an hour, but like I said time was doing all sorts of funky things. The whole night seems like it went by in an hour as I remember it now and I felt that way, then, too.

Jen arrived at three o'clock and I was ready to go use the tub. We spent some time out there under a big big moon, but it was chilly outside and my contractions were coming on super super strong. I said to Jen "I guess I should tell you what I did." She just looked at me. I told her what I had drunk the night before. She said something about castor oil births sometimes being like Pitocin births (hard andfast) which this labor totally seemed to be...and when I complained she said "You didn't call me!" I guess she was right, but the “damage” was done now. I was on this ride for better or worse.

We moved inside because it was no longer comfortable for me to be out in the pool. I wasfrightened by how hard the contractions were coming. When I had my son, I was
in active labor with Pitocin for almost an entire day. I could not imagine being in labor this hard for that long again. I asked Jen to check me. She said she could tell
by the way I was looking and acting that I was around seven centimeters. I went to thebathroom and it took my forever to get back into the living room because the contractions were coming so so fast. By the time I got back in the room and on the ball for a fewminutes, I felt like I couldn’t take it any longer. I got on the futon and just rocked back and forth and chanted "Hail Mary, full of grace" between contractions. My Aunt had given me a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and it was situated next to the birthing bed. I put it there because we were to call our daughter Mary and it seemed fitting that Mary, who knew the pain of labor, would be present to witness my labor. I am not a practicing catholic, but I was ready to pray to anyone who would listen at that point. I literally screamed with every contraction because moaning was just not cutting it any more. Soon, Jen checked me and found that I was fully dilated. I was astounded. I thought I was going to labor like this for hours and hours. I couldnt believe it was time to push.

Now what?????
With my son, I had an epidural after over twelve hours on Rambo Pitocin so I had no idea what was going on "down there" when it was "time to push". The nurses and my doula all shouted at me when it was time to push and I could not feel anything at all. I had no idea if I was doing it right except for what I could tell from their feedback, and I couldn’t feel the difference between a good push and an ineffective one. So, this time I was freaking out a little bit inside about not knowing what to do and Jen and my husband just stayed calm and quiet. I was thinking "Why is nobody telling me what to do??????"

All of a sudden, I knew exactly when and how to push. A contraction would come, and at its peak I would jump on top of it like I was surfing on a wave. If I tried to push any time before the "right" time, I could tell it was not effective and a waste of my energy. I felt like I was working so hard but I knew I had to work even harder. When I hit the bottom with each contraction, I had to dig even deeper. It was the hardest thing I had ever done and I began to doubt that I could actually do it. All this hard work and still so much to do…yet, I thought to myself “I have no other option but to do it." There is no choice.

In that moment I realized that nobody was going to get this baby out for me, nobody was even able to help me get the baby out. I was either going to stay pregnant forever (which seemed like an actual possibility in the heat of the moment) or do the work, myself. I decided to get that baby born.

Jen suggested I move from all fours to squatting, and that helped the baby to
move down even further. At this point, Jen called out to my husband. I was facing away from her and I wondered, "Oh no, what could be so wrong that Jen needs to ask my husband foradvice?"
"Is something wrong????" I turned around to see my husband chasing a bat around
the room with a broom. "Everything's fine..." he said in his best
pretending-everything-is-totally-casual voice.
When I finally pushed MaryElise out, I just remember saying "It can't be real!
It can't be real!" It was just so amazing. I was squatting, my husband was behind me with the baby in his hands. He handed her to me from behind and I just could not believe I had just given birth to this baby. My husband said that when just her head was out, she was just hanging there looking serene like a little Buddhist monk. The sun was just rising and we heard the first birdsong of the day just before she came out. She was born at 5:45 am. She was calm and beautiful. I immediately felt so empowered and disbelieving at the same time. Did I just do that?

Nobody else told me the way. Nobody yelled "push push push!". My body knew
exactly how to give birth to MaryElise and I rose to the challenge. I have never been
more proud of anything in my life.

I thought I knew the limits of my strength and my power...and then I gave birth to my daughter. And I felt as high as a kite. "It's our baby!" After the birthing of the placenta, my husband went and got champagne and the birthday cake I had baked for MaryElise the day before I went into labor. We all had cake and champagne and I just rested while MaryElise nursed and slept and we just were so happy in that calm moment together. Everything felt really perfect, calm and natural. Im so so grateful we had her at home, that I found Jen and that my husband not only honored my wish to have our baby on my terms in our home, but embraced the experience with me.



  1. I love reading birth stories, especially of people I know. This one is absolutely great...made me all excited for October...thanks for the inspiration! :)

  2. Heather, this is the first time I've seen your blog and after reading about Mary elise's big girl bed (significant because Rocco just started sleeping in his and tomorrow is his third birthday) I decided to read your birth story. It is so beautiful, I am literally crying. I am now pregnant (11 weeks) and will be having an HBAC. after getting the little one to sleep and then helping Sam through some overwhelming homework I really needed this... Thanks... :)

  3. Ashley Im so happy to hear you are planning an HBAC. There is NOTHING that compares to having a birth attendant who has faith in your body and your ability to take responsibility for your own birth!
    Please keep me posted!