Friday, December 16, 2011

Unassisted Birth Story: Evelyne Francis

Nov 1, 8AM My husband and I woke up and started making breakfast, Layla still sound asleep in bed.
I was feeling some light contractions about 3 minutes apart but it took me about 30 minutes to realize what was happening and to tell Rob that I *might* be in labor.
We decided that if I *was* really in labor, I'd better get my rest while I could so I went back to sleep in between contractions.

When Layla woke up, Rob fed her breakfast and played with her while I was in and out of sleep.
I got up around 11am and finally decided I was REALLY in labor. Contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart at that point.
I got in the bath and rested between contractions. It's amazing how the body goes into a kind of self preservation sleep-mode between contractions (or at least that's what I experienced with both of my labors).
Layla got in the bath with me and we played boats and she washed my hair and talked to baby... "Come out baby! Come out now!"...

After our bath, I put on a nice cozy outfit and Layla insisted on wearing her Ladybug costume. I nursed her for her nap in her bug costume and we giggled and sang songs in sign language together... "A is for Apples" and "5 little monkeys". I realized that it was Layla's last day as an only child.

Layla fell asleep around 1pm and Rob and I spent time talking about happy things, our future, our babies... Rob decided it was a good time to re-read the "birth guide" that I had typed up for him and my mom.
I relaxed around the house through contractions and did some last minute cleaning and preparing.
I got out my birth supply box.

Around 3pm, Layla woke up from her nap.
I decided that I wanted a "final meal" before baby came so we all got in the car and drove to my favorite restaurant for my favorite meal- A hot chicken, rice and bean burrito with a big bottle of peach kefir shared with Layla. It was the perfect thing to hit the spot!
On the way to the restaurant, I was excited and nervous. I reflected on my labor with Layla. I thought about what a huge difference it was.. At this point during my labor with Layla I was flat on my back on a hospital cot hooked up to beeping machines, tense and terrified with tons of strangers checking all kinds of things every few minutes.
Now here I was in the same hour of labor with my second child, headed out to a restaurant for lunch with my husband and my baby!
I wondered if I was crazy and smiled to myself.
It was such a beautiful day with such beautiful weather...a nice breeze and warm sun...

We headed home after lunch and Rob took Layla outside so I could lay down and try to rest a little more between contractions. My bed was so soft and cozy...the warm sun was pouring in the window and I didn't hear any beeping monitors.
Instead, I heard my baby running and laughing and joyously playing with her daddy outside. She came to the window a few times on her father's shoulders to say "Hi mama! I'm playing outside!!"
I was so happy and at peace in those moments.

Eight hours into labor at that point, my contractions were easy and steady. I stayed in bed for a long time. I was so comfortable (between contractions) that I didn't want to move.
When Rob and Layla came back in, Layla happily cuddled up to me in bed and told me all about what she did outside. She told me that she saw some birds and chipmunks. Rob told her that her baby sister or brother was coming soon.
Layla smiled and patted my belly. She gave me a kiss and ran off to play.

I started feeling like I wanted my mom with me although my contractions had not changed much. Still pretty easy and steady.
When my mom arrived, I was 12 hours into labor and contractions became much more intense and closer together.
I decided to take another hot bath and started feeling needy and asked Rob to come sit with me and hold my hand. He ended up getting into the tub behind me to rub my back, let me lean against him as he put counter pressure on my neck and shoulders during contractions which felt amazing.
Layla wandered into the bathroom to see where I was and thought it was pretty funny seeing mama and dada in the tub together! It was a good comic relief from the intensity of the contractions.

Soon after, I wanted to get out walk around. I alternated between walking around, leaning on the table, swaying my hips, laying down. Contractions were much easier while laying down but I felt like those contractions weren't as effective as the contractions I had while standing and walking around so I walked around for a while, leaning and swaying my hips during contractions.
Rob got the computer out for my mom to re-read my birth guide.

After a while, I needed a break from the strong contractions and decided to lay down. I tried to relax and focused on my normal breathing.
I watched my belly rise and fall with each breath, I watched and savored each little kick and movement knowing that it would be the last time seeing my baby kicking around in there, depending on me for everything… and soon he or she would be two years old, extremely independent and needing mama less and less every day!
Those thoughts brought me patience during a time that I just wanted to get labor over with. My mom put on a Strawberry Shortcake movie to watch with Layla and Rob came into the bedroom to lay down with me and walk with me through contractions.

Very suddenly, contractions became very strong and with them came a huge flood of emotion. I hugged my husband through contractions, swayed with him in the dark, he rubbed my back and ran his fingers through my hair and I LOVED him so intensely at that moment with every ounce of my being. I held him tightly and couldn't stop crying intense tears of happiness, pain, joy, fear, and LOVE.
I quickly started in with the transition phases "I can't do this.", "I'm going to die.", etc. I started doubting myself and feeling vulnerable and scared. I had prepared my husband and my mom for that moment.
I had written a lot about what transition would look and sound like in my birth guide so they were prepared and had their "yes you CAN" and "you are doing great" counter-phrases ready. My mom came in with a "transition bucket" at just the right moment. I didn't realize that I was in transition until the moment I started vomiting.
At that moment, 14 hours into labor, the realization hit me like a ton of bricks.
"Oh my god! I'm in transition! Oh my god! I'm about to have a baby!". I almost laughed out loud.

I was receiving a lot of encouraging facebook messages, so much overwhelming support, prayers, well wishes and "YES you CAN"'s. That was so beautiful and gave me so much strength just when I needed it most.
Suddenly, I started feeling a lot of pressure and had a strong urge to get into the bath again.
Layla had fallen asleep by then but the movie was still playing and I found myself singing to Strawberry Shortcake songs to get through my contractions instead of the "relaxation" tapes I had picked out.
I sat in the tub and read messages from my friends and laughed at some comment about my vagina opening like a flower or something; my mom took a picture of me at that moment, looking so goofy!

Rob came in to hold my hand and I realized that I had started pushing before I recognized the feeling. I had written in my birth guide for my mom and Rob to encourage me to relax and "breathe baby out" as I had decided from my research was the best and safest way to give birth but at that moment when it was time for ME to push, I regretted including that.
My body was bearing down and PUSHING with each contraction. Hearing "breathe" and "relax" was NOT what I needed at that point and I was getting really irritated with my poor mom for suggesting different positions (which I had also included in my birth guide) and telling me "breathe. breathe..".
I started feeling some back labor and panicked a little bit, remembering my horrible hours of back labor with Layla.
I was vocalizing at that point; not screaming or yelling but loud enough to wake Layla sleeping on the sofa. She came in and asked me if I was okay. I was moving my hips trying to relieve some of the pain in my back. I told her that I was okay and that the baby was coming out now.
I had prepared her for what would happen by watching and talking her through lots of birth videos for my entire pregnancy. She didn't ask me any more questions, she just started rubbing my arm and back, running her fingers through my hair, telling me "its-hokay mama".

Just then, I felt baby shift and all the pain in my back went away. What a relief!! I was leaning on the side of the tub on my knees just barely sitting in the water and giving birth to my second child with all of the most important people in my life sitting around me, holding my hands. I reached down in the water to feel my progress and felt something smooth and hard. "BABY'S COMING!!".
Next, I felt the surprisingly thick bag of water protruding...then, an EAR! Another ear! "COME ON BABY!!".
Instantly, I felt a huge gush under the water and baby's head and entire body flew out in one push and I brought my chubby purple baby up to feel air for the first time at 12:27am on November 2, 2011.
Layla's jaw dropped. "BABY!!". She wanted to hold the baby immediately.
It had happened so fast, it took a few seconds to register what had just happened. The first thing I said... a very cheesy, "I DID IT!!! I did it!!".
After I had peeled the bag of water off and we had all said our first hello's to our newest little family member, I opened her crossed legs and..."IT'S A GIRL!!".
After 20 minutes of pushing, Evelyne Francis was born calm and quiet. I think it also took her a minute to realize what had happened. She was breathing but not crying. I massaged her little feet and rubbed her back. Layla kissed Evelyne's waxy forehead and said hello to her new sister.
I was filled with such emotion and gratitude for that moment and this experience.
After a few minutes, she started to cry and clear her lungs. I held her on my chest, allowing her the opportunity to crawl to my breast.
She had a little bit of trouble the first time and didn't seem very hungry for her first feed. I wasn't worried, assuming her tummy was probably full of amniotic fluid.
Layla was SO excited to see the baby and hug and kiss her but she was NOT very happy that the baby was drinking "her milks".
I took some Sabina tablets to help detach the placenta and waited. and waited. and waited... The placenta came out in a couple of pushes...mostly.
Some of it was stuck to the uterine wall and wouldn't detach but the rest of it had come out. I waited and waited some more.
I tried feeling around to figure out why it was only half out and it was attached by some thick membranes. It had been over an hour after half of the placenta had delivered and I was making no progress so I gave it some gentle tension while pushing until I finally got it detached.
I immediately took Shepherd's purse tincture and monitored my bleeding for complications due to retained placenta.

Once my placenta finally delivered, the umbilical cord was white and had stopped pulsing so I asked for the cord ties and scissors that my mom had sterilized according to my birth guide at some point during my labor.
I had planned to tie square knots but had forgotten if it was left-over-right or right-over-left so we had to boot up the computer and search through my birth guides about how to tie a square knot.
We all fumbled around for a while trying to figure it out...what a sight we were!
Finally I decided to just forget it and do my best interpretation of a square knot.
Rob cut the cord between the ties just like he had in the hospital after Layla's birth. The same action but so different at the same time.
Layla's cord had been full of blood, it was cut immediately, before my placenta had delivered and I was flat on my back unable to see or participate in anything. I had never even seen my placenta with Layla so I was excited to see what it would look like after Evelyne was born.
I had been watching carefully for a couple of hours and was not bleeding excessively so I decided to get out of the tub and get ready for bed.

Rob, my husband, the guy who is so freaked out by blood that he can't even get blood drawn, reached into the birth water and scooped the placenta into the bowl I had prepared without even flinching! I rinsed the placenta, removed the bag of water, and put it in a tupperware to prepare for placenta encapsulation for the next day. It was pretty cool looking! The true tree of life!
Now it was around 4am and after weighing and measuring Evelyne (10 lbs, 21 1/2 inches) both babies were HUNGRY so it was time for my first time tandem nursing. It took a great deal of fumbling but we got it eventually. Layla, nursing away with wandering hands found her sisters head and started rubbing her hair.
She looked down at Evelyne and I literally saw in Layla's eyes all of her jealousy melting away as she realized that there was enough of mama for everyone!
My mom tucked us all in, kissed me on the forehead and went home and we had our first night as a family of four! We all slept really well and Evelyne slept through the night.
The next day I was still having contraction-like cramps and eventually passed the remaining chunk of placenta that day with no complications. Evelyne's cord fell out 3 days after birth and the cord ties that I made of braided thread became special mommy and daddy bracelets.
I am so intensely grateful for my dear friends and family, for the wealth of information available to my generation, and for the patience and strength I have found within myself and my children.


  1. Beautiful. I got teary eyed.

  2. What a beautiful birth story!! And the family bonding after the birth is so so sweet.

  3. SUCH a beautiful birth story. This was posted on facebook from Emma Kwasnica and I read it and it had me in tears from joy for you! I can't wait until I can have my homebirth. :)

  4. thank you for taking the time to write this out and share it with the world; i had 6 similar experiences and i am done making babies in my body now but your story and the healing is really beautiful and makes me feel proud of all of us; mamas who endure de-humanized birth practices and bond with our babies anyhow and mamas and families who dare to take birth into their own sphere and feel and hold every step of it. XO

  5. Awesome!!! I love the pictures of your babies together! :)

  6. Wow, that's truly a wonderful birth story. I love that you were able to trust your body, and trust yourself and your family, and have the birth experience you deserved so very much. And it's wonderful to know that Evelyn is going to have this story as the one she can carry with her throughout her life. A gift from the moment she was conceived, delivered the way nature intended. You're amazing, and I'm so very happy for you that you have had an opportunity to see the other side; a better and brighter side, of labor and delivery. Congratulations again. xoxo

  7. This was so lovely to read. The part about how sweet Layla was to you in labor and how well informed she was on the event speaks volumes about what wonderful parents you clearly are. Congratulations on such a beautiful family!