It’s a familiar scene…standing in the bathroom looking down at the counter where a plastic stick is sitting with two pink lines. We’re pregnant! Excitement and nervousness are only two of the many emotions we felt that day, after finding out we were expecting our third child. Immediately I turned to my husband and said, “I’ll betcha any money that this one is another boy!” “You never know…” he said smiling. “But it does seem like all we can produce is boys!” We have two happy, healthy boys and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world! Brothers and best “frenemies” that, at the time, were 17 months and 4 years old. We always knew we wanted at least 3 kids, but somehow it didn’t seem real that in less than 9 months we’d be a family of 5.
I turned back to my husband, Phil and said, “well I’d better call the midwife!” I had told him a while back that I wanted to do a home birth with a midwife this time around, and since I had just happened to be good friends with a woman that works with a midwife as one of her assistants, I had decided that Mary Anne would be a perfect match! “Are you really going to do this without a doctor?” Phil said pretty unsure. “Yes!” I exclaimed, and added, “this time it’s going to be different, I’m not going near a hospital unless it’s absolutely necessary!” My first two births were very “stereotypical hospital births” where you get put through the gamut of things they do as routine in the hospital and you really don’t have many choices, you get treated as a “patient,” not as a “person,” and I hated that…not the experiences I wanted at all. It’s a good thing that my husband is pretty agreeable with things like this, “as long as your happy and well taken care of,” he said with a smile. Ten minutes later I was on the phone with Mary Anne and had made a consultation time for the next day.
This third pregnancy was a whirlwind, but in so many ways it felt like I had been pregnant for about 2 years! Mary Anne, her team and my friends Daphne and Heather were wonderful throughout the whole thing, I really felt like I was being taken care of instead of just feeling like a number at an OB practice. This was by far the healthiest of all my pregnancies and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that Mary Anne and her team really talked to me about everything involving my health and this pregnancy, they really cared, which was a lot different this time around (and something I had to get used to.) I loved that all the appointments took place either in our home or Mary Anne’s (except for the ultrasounds where she went with us.) It was so personal and intimate, I never once was treated like I was “sick,” pregnancy is not an illness, it’s a natural part of a woman’s life. My two little boys were also a very big part of this pregnancy and this way, they were much more involved.
During our 20 week ultrasound we had found out that we were not having another boy, this one was in fact, a girl! I remember Mary Anne looking up at the screen and saying, “oh yea, that’s a girl, no doubt about it!” I turned to Phil and said, “wow! Look you did it, you can make girls!” On my way home from the ultrasound I pulled into Target to buy the first of many little girl outfits! It felt good to buy pink!
Thing were going awesome with the pregnancy, I wasn’t gaining any weight, (which for me was a good thing since I still had about 30 lbs of excess weight left over from my first two babies,) eating very healthy and getting plenty of exercise. We had just found out that the offer we had put in on a house had been excepted and we had set a moving date (yea, I know…moving at 7 months pregnant was probably not the smartest idea, but for us it was the best thing ever! Seriously, you should have seen the house we were living in before we moved.) Then Mary Anne called to let me know that I had failed my glucose test. Now, to most pregnant women this wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but I freaked out and completely lost it, and I’ll be the first to admit that. Mary Anne was very supportive, although I’m pretty sure she was laughing inside at me because I was freaking out so much about it. I just had to focus on the fact that yes, “this too, shall pass…”
After we had moved into our new house my “nesting” went into high gear, getting everything ready and putting everything in it’s “place.” A month and a half later my Mom came into town from WI and we began the official “birth watch” at the 37 week mark. My first two babies came early, so I figured this time would be the same, a 36, 37, or 38 week birth. Mary Anne told me though, “the healthier the pregnancy, the longer they tend to go,” and man she was right. We were on pins and needles waiting for this baby girl! Easter came and and still no baby! We were getting worried that my Mom would have to go home before baby girl was born. So we walked, and I bounced on my exercise ball, walked and bounced and walked some more! I had a lot of energy this time around, since I had been active the entire pregnancy (even riding my horse until about 7 ½ months.)
April 9th, a Monday, felt different for some reason, like I “knew” subconsciously that my body was moving into the next “phase.” We dropped my oldest son off at preschool that morning and headed for the park where we walked about 2 miles. I was 39 weeks. The day moved on, I bounced and walked, tried to stay active. I remember doing laundry and thinking, “I really need to get this done today.” Contractions started about 3:00 in the afternoon, but were very manageable, mild and were only about 20-30 mins apart. I sing for the Nashville Symphony and that night there was a rehearsal, and I decided that I would go, but that my Mom would come with me in case we needed to leave in a hurry. When we got to my rehearsal about 6:45 contractions were still very mild and still only about 30 mins apart. I remember needing to move during rehearsal and it was strange at how most of the women around me were “in-tuned” to what was going on, very excited and telling me to “go home!” But I knew that I had time and being at rehearsal was just what I needed, taking my mind off of early labor while keeping me calm and relaxed. Rehearsal ended and strangely so did the contractions…for a while anyways. I was annoyed that my contractions had stopped or become so mild that I really wasn’t feeling them. I thought maybe this wasn’t going to happen tonight and that all I had been feeling was just “false labor.”
We arrived home around 10:00 and I decided that I was going to watch a movie and bounce on the ball and do some squats, trying to get things moving again. I was tired from practice and driving and I should have just gone to sleep but I wanted to at least try to get things going again. So my wonderful Mother stayed up with me and kept me company in my attempts. After the movie was over we went to sleep, and I was a little bummed because at this point, other than a few “crampy” contractions I hadn’t been feeling much. It was 12:30 AM.
Unlike most nights, I actually fell asleep right away and stayed asleep…that is until a big contraction woke me up with a jolt. I put my hand on my big belly and noted that I had to focus and breath through it. This was about 2:00 AM. After it was over I fell back asleep for about 5 mins before another big contraction woke me up and again, I had to breath through it. This went on for probably about 45 mins (I wasn’t looking at a clock) before I had to get up and walk around. I headed for the bathroom first and then to the living room where I turned on our gas fire place and walked around in the dim, comforting light. At 3:00 AM my Mom, who was upstairs sleeping, heard me in the living room and walked down catching me mid-contraction. She immediately got excited and asked me if I wanted her to get my iphone (that had a contraction timing “app” on.) I said sure and she walked around with me for 25 mins timing contractions, helping me breath and relax. We determined that they were coming about 4-6 mins apart, and then my Mom said, “this is probably it, lets take showers and get ready then we’ll call Mary Anne and everyone else.” I agreed and waddled to the bedroom to wake up my husband to tell him what was going on then to the shower. He decided to go back to sleep until I really needed him, (he doesn’t do well on little sleep, he is also not much of a morning person,) and he wanted to be fresh for the birth. I caught a glimpse of the clock before turning on the shower and it was now 3:44 AM.
After the shower I toweled off, put on my comfy robe and waddled back out to the kitchen, it was 4:05 AM. I walked into the living room and sat down on my exercise ball (which had miraculously transformed into a “birthing ball”) next to the fire and just fell into labor, which was now coming on pretty strong. It was amazing to just labor in my home, where I felt most comfortable not having to think or worry about the question “when should we go to the hospital?” At about 4:30 my Mom came down and we made the decision to call Mary Anne and the crew because it was my third baby and now that I had been laboring for a little while with the contractions being as close together and as strong as they were that things were probably going to be happening pretty quickly. I paged Mary Anne and she called back within 4 minutes. While I was on the phone with her explaining how things were going I had a contraction and had to stop talking. Mary Anne then knew that she should come without even having to ask me because I was no longer able to talk through the contractions. “I’m on my way” she said “see you in about 30 mins!” I hung up the phone and called my friend Lindsey Carr-Ruck (who just happens to be one of Mary Anne’s assistants) and I also called friends Daphne (a midwife and who was trained by Mary Anne) and Tresia, it was go time and everyone was on their way!
5:30 AM Mary Anne walked through the door, and I remember feeling relieved! She walked in and came straight to me, hugged me and helped me through a contraction saying “honey you need to relax, your shoulders are up by your ears.” Just seeing her face and feeling her touch made me relax. We had formed such a bond in the months that she was caring for me, something that, for me, was just so helpful and comforting because I am the type of person who needs to feel a “nurturing presence” when I am vulnerable or in pain. She stayed with me and listened to the baby until Lindsey (who was acting as my doula) got there and took over for her while she and Kelly (one her awesome assistants and now a good friend of mine) brought things in and set up. Our babysitter and family friend Samantha came over to take our two little boys Malachi and Judah over to her house, where they were going to stay while I was giving birth. During this time Daphne also arrived and started helping Mary Anne. By this time it was about 6:30 AM and I was still laboring on the ball while they listened to the baby and getting IV antibiotics because I was group B strep positive. At one point sitting on the ball I got nauseas and threw up, this was a sign that Mary Anne took note of quietly.
My Mom and friend Tresia were helping out with making sure everyone had what they needed. Tresia was documenting and taking pictures while my Mom helped with everything from talking me through contractions to making food and drinks available to the other women. Yes, I did have a lot of people at the birth and it was great for me, since I am such a “social person” and having a lot of supportive friends there was very comforting to me.
Now, I should mention that I am I vet tech and have attended many animal births. Animals do not normally receive any sort of “interventions” while giving birth, it’s so natural, as it should be. This time around, my “birth plan” was only this: to let my body do what it does naturally. To, in essence, labor as an “animal” would, to let myself go back to the very primal nature of giving birth. I didn’t take any classes to “learn” how to labor, or labor more effectively and in my heart I knew that I didn’t need to, my body already knew what it was doing. I read some books and articles, but mostly I just wanted to see how my body would react if I just let go. I am not saying that taking birthing classes is unnecessary, but for me personally, I know that no matter what classes I take, it just doesn’t help when I am in the heat of labor. In fact for me, all it did was make me think too much about things and worry that I wasn’t “doing it right.” Classes didn’t help the first two times and this time I wanted it to be different, I wanted to feel everything. I wanted to be in the pain and just let my body take over and birth this baby the way I knew it was meant to. I didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do, didn’t want anyone to “check” me or tell me when to push. My body would know when it was supposed to do everything and that I didn’t need to be “coached.” Wanting only to be supported, comforted and surrounded by friends and family.
Someone went to wake Phil up around 7:15 AM. He came down and was greeted by a very “chipper” Mary Anne who explain how things were going. Phil loved being able to sleep and get some rest before things really started, and felt that he was better able to support me this way. After I was done getting the IV antibiotics Mary Anne recommended that I eat a little something and start drinking some of the sports drink that we had. My Mom fed me a part of a banana and I started taking small sips of the drink. I then got off the ball and went to the bathroom. I looked at the toilet paper after I was done and told Lindsey what I saw. The paper was red streaked and we knew that I was dilating, no one had to “check” my cervix to tell me I was. I started getting agitated and walked for a little while around the living room and into the kitchen. They had started filling up the birthing pool at this point because I had requested it. While I labored I loved be surrounded by all these loving, supportive women. Having my Mom and friends there was wonderful. Everyone just let me be, but were there with a hand to hold or someone to rub my back, supporting me during every contraction silently and somehow they just knew when to be there with physical support when I needed it.
It was now around 7:45 and the pool was ready. I was starting to “moan” through contractions and this was a good sign. Things were moving forward! As soon as I stepped into the pool I became a different person. It felt awesome, and instantly took the edge off the contractions. Lindsey monitored the baby while I labored in the pool and baby girl sounded great. I labored in the pool for about an hour before getting very “vocal.” And by “vocal” I mean that I was starting to scream through the contractions. My husband rubbed my neck and Lindsey, Kelly, Daphne and my Mom took turns holding my hand and every so often someone would put a straw in my month for me to take a drink. Mary Anne and Daphne wanted me to get out and go to the bathroom again because I had been drinking a lot and they wanted me to try emptying my bladder before things got to the “pushing point.” I remember not wanting to get up and move around because things were getting intense. Begrudgingly I got up at their prodding and looked at the clock while Daphne wrapped a towel around me and Mary Anne held me up while we walked the 10 feet to the toilet. It was 8:46 AM. While in the bathroom I had a huge contraction, braced myself on Daphne, looked up at her and yelled, “Daphne I can’t do this anymore, I feel like I have to poop!” Hearing this, Mary Anne exclaimed, “did you hear that everyone, she can’t do this anymore and feels like she has to poop!” In the other room I could hear Lindsey and Kelly cheer!
We made our way back into the pool and by that time I was really in the heat of things, and by the way I was acting everyone knew that I was moving into “transition.” It was now about 9:00 AM. I noticed that everyone was preparing when our German Shepherd “Faye,” who up until this point had been at my side was whisked out of the room, fans were turned off, lights were lowered, the heating pad was turned on and put on the bed along with towels. Birthing supplies were being pulled out and people starting whispering, generally just being quiet and the whole “vibe” was different. Lindsey and Mary Anne who had put on their “miner’s lights,”were now down by the pool monitoring the baby and had put a hand held mirror at the bottom of the pool so they could see what was happening. No one checked me, no one told me how I should position myself, they all just let my body tell me what to do. I was in the zone, moaning and screaming with each contraction, which, by now were coming pretty much constantly, I didn’t feel like I had a break in between them anymore and the pressure was getting extreme. I just let my body labor and do its thing and everything that I did, or that came out of my mouth was completely instinctual. It was like an out of body experience when I surrendered and just let my primal nature take over.
Lindsey, who was going to catch the baby’s head before Phil delivered her the rest of the way, was now kneeling down by me, still monitoring the baby while Mary Anne and the rest of the women looked on. Phil was also down by Lindsey, Daphne and my Mom were holding my hands and my friend Tresia was taking photos and video. Waves of pain washed over me and all of a sudden I felt a “pop” as my water broke and immediately after that an enormous contraction came, I screamed so loud that I scared myself, and I yelled out, “I can’t do this anymore, I can’t do this anymore!” To which everyone in the room responded “YES you can, you are doing it right now!” It was somewhere around 9:15 AM and my labor was coming to a head, I let out a loud “grunt” and I heard Mary Anne ask, “did you get that,” as Kelly responded, “sure did!” As she documented my very first push. The urge to push this baby out was so strong, I just went into it without anyone telling me to. They just knew by the way I acted and what noises came out of me that I was already pushing, my body knew exactly what to do. They looked down and saw her head emerging and Lindsey put her hand down to make sure I wasn’t pushing her out too fast. I heard Daphne say, “here she comes, look at her little head!” I gave one large push and her head was out, I took a quick breath, pushed again and all of a sudden I looked up and Phil had one foot in the pool with me as he handed me our daughter! Meara Mae Dier was born at 9:18 AM on April 10th, 2012.
I took a hold of her and brought her to my chest as Mary Anne started flicking her foot and hands came from everywhere rubbing her little body. Through my elation that she was out I looked at her and said, “thanks for comin’ outta me!” Everyone chuckled. Then things got a little bit scary. Meara Mae started getting very blue and stopped crying. At that point everyone started working quickly around me, like a well oiled machine. Mary Anne got out the oxygen, suction and a board to prop her on out of the pool with some towels on it, they lifted her off me and I remember feeling the umbilical cord go taunt and moving my body with her towards Mary Anne as she and her team worked on getting my baby girl to breath again. It felt like an eternity but after what I believe was only 10-15 seconds I heard Meara Mae take a big deep breath and start crying loudly. Everyone let out of big sigh of relief as she was handed back to me in the water. She was given a hat and someone put a towel over her. We were allowed to bond in the water, while Mary Anne, Lindsey, Daphne and Kelly kept close watch on her vitals. It was marvelous getting to bond with her right after birth like that and not being rushed or having her taken away from me to a cold, bright hospital nursery. Meara Mae was always in my sight and she was always being held and loved on. She looked up at me while we were still in the pool and it was the best feeling in the world, I had done it! I let my body take over and birth this baby naturally, without interventions. This is what birth is supposed to be like!
After a little while bonding in the water and after the cord stopped pulsing and delivering blood to my little girl, the cord was cut and she was handed off to her Daddy. Mary Anne asked me where I wanted to deliver the placenta and I responded “in my bed” because the water in the pool was getting cold. I was helped out of the pool, dried off, Meara Mae was handed back to me and started nursing right away as Mary Anne delivered the placenta. After she was done nursing and we were allowed to bond with our new family member. After a little while everyone came back in the room and the newborn exam was done. They all guessed what Meara Mae weighed, and my Mom ended up being the closest. Her guess was 8 ½ lbs and she weighted 8lbs 4oz and 21 and ½ inches long! My biggest (and longest) baby! Mary Anne then asked me if I wanted to take a shower, and of course I did, so she helped me to the shower to wash off. The room was then cleaned up, Mary Anne gave my husband and Mom the postpartum instructions and after about an hour and a half everyone was gone and we were left to marvel over our new daughter. My friend Tresia brought us breakfast and coffee and stuck around for a while to help and let everyone get a little rest.
I can’t begin to describe how amazing this experience was for me and my family. It was just what I wanted pregnancy and birth to be like. Mary Anne, her team and my friends were incredible and I now have this experience to carry with me for the rest of my life. I wish more women knew what natural birth could be like, if only they trusted their bodies and had care givers that trusted it as well.