Birth Stories

The Homebirth of Seraph

January 4, 2011

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We are mamas and birth workers who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are kind, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit. With 12 children and 20 years of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.


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After 39 weeks of hugeness, how do you get labor to get a move on?

Evening primrose oil, baby dancing with the SweetMan, and… Panda Express. A LOT of it. 😉

We opt for Chinese Food on Saturday evening. Take out. We want to watch another episode of LOST (we don’t have cable, so we were catching up with DVDs. We had to watch them all before returning them to Blockbuster…). So I tell Ryan as he gets out of the car to pick up the food to ask the authentic Chinese man if there is any reliable Chinese cure to pregnancy. The man has no suggestions, so we order our usual.

At around 11:30 pm on the evening of Saturday, May 23rd (exactly one week before my due date), in the midst of the second episode of the night, I ask Ryan to hit pause so that I can use the restroom. It’s a not-so-extraordinary trip, mind you. However, almost immediately after doing my…well, you know…I begin to have some painful cramping. It feels like the run-of-the-mill menstrual cramps. They subside after just a few moments.

30 minutes later, this same scenario repeats. The cramps return once again, and again, subside.

That’s when I notice dampness…down there. Had my water broken? I wasn’t sure. It wasn’t like in the movies where the lady runs up to her husband exclaiming, “We have to hurry! My water just broke.” There was no huge gush of strange liquid. Just dampness.

Very quickly the cramps begin to return in regular intervals, first 12 minutes apart, and I begin to suspect I true labor. Moments later, I’m sure. It’s here. I’m about to meet this baby boy I’ve been carrying for 9 months.

So what do you do? Well, the most obvious answer is that you start nagging your husband to go install the car seat, as you’ve been instructing him to do for the past two weeks. Now would be a good time to get that done, don’t ‘cha think? So here we are, 1:30 in the morning, Ryan is reading the manual to and installing the car seat base.

Meanwhile, I’m on my phone, Facebooking. “Jennifer is definitely in labor.”

Hey, it’s the thing to do when you’re in labor, right?

In keeping with Murphy’s Law, the doula I had hired, Teri, was in Wilmington, NC for a romantic get-a-way with her husband. So at 1:30 in the morning I call her…just to let her know…

Thank goodness the backup doula, Tequita, hadn’t decided to go off on a vacation that weekend as well! After calling her, she arrives in a mere 45 minutes, rosy despite the early hour, and with pillow in tow. She is planning for a sleepover! Most first time mothers labor for well over 10 hours…

So Ryan begins timing my contractions, which are about 10 minutes apart. For about 30 minutes every time I have a contraction, I walk up the hallway and back to the bedroom. Thank goodness for long halls. Tequita is resting on the guest bed. I am being quiet as not to disturb her! (How gracious of a lady in labor!) However, her peaceful rest doesn’t last long. After 30 minutes or so, when my vocalizations are more intense, she comes to offer support. At some point, I request something to drink. There’s some tasty grapefruit juice in the fridge that sounds nice. Tequita warns against it…but I insist. Little did I know…listen to the lady with experience.

At around 3:30am I begin to experience pretty intense contractions that aren’t following a discernable pattern. They’re not ebbing and flowing as normal contractions should. Instead, the pain is constant, with rare breaks in-between that are only a few seconds long. Tequita suggests that I go ahead and call Amy, the midwife. However, Amy had told me to wait until my contractions were five minutes apart for an hour before calling her, especially if it was during the night. So I am hesitant to wake her up, especially since this pattern of contractions could very well continue for several more hours…or days, even.

But just a contraction or two more and Tequita is mentioning again that I should call Amy. By the way I’m having to work through the contractions, she thinks that I appear to be further along in my labor than would usually be expected. I cave…the pain is so intense that I no longer care how far apart my contractions are or who I’ll be waking up when I call…I need a midwife…10 minutes ago!

So we call Amy…who, just so happens to be at another birth!

“Great. Now I have to do this without a midwife! Why did I have to wait so late to call?”

She explains that she will send a backup midwife and try to make it herself before Seraph makes his appearance. She suggests that I get into the tub, as the warm water will have a calming effect that will allow me to be able to track my contractions better.

“I don’t want to get in the water.” The thought of a water birth had always appealed to me. However, now I can’t abandon my ritual of walking the hall whenever I have a contraction. I just know that when I get in that water and can no longer walk through my contractions, panic will ensue.

They force me in anyway.

And things calm down…for about 30 minutes. Then the double-…triple-…quadruple-peaking contractions begin again. It is getting pretty intense.

I am so focused on getting through each contraction that the rest of the events are a blur, and I remember them in an order that I’m not sure is so accurate. Time is flying by so quickly. At some point during my time in the tub, I look up and wonder to myself, “Who is shining that light in the window? It must be someone’s headlights.” Then I realize it’s the morning sun…

Minutes…or seconds later, Teri, the original doula, is kneeling beside the tub! “What? You’re supposed to be in Wilmington!” She drove all the way from the coast to be with me during my labor. What a dear lady!

Then somewhere in there, I’m guessing near 6am, Joy, the backup midwife, is bending over with the doppler to monitor the baby’s heart rate.


It’s not that I don’t want to hear Seraph’s heart beating, it’s just that the sound is too distracting, causing me not to be able to focus on getting through the contractions. I can’t do both at one time! My contractions are not normal contractions. They are not following a predictable pattern and my stomach is not getting hard. The pain is always very, very low. (The entire time I was in labor my uterus never hardened once.) Joy checks to see how far dilated I am, and without letting me know, steps out of the room. Shafted! I’m left to wonder and have decided that I’m only half a centimeter dilated due to these nonproductive contractions when Tequita gives me a thumbs-up from just outside the bathroom door. Whew! It must be good, then.

Turns out I am 9 centimeters. Hallelujah!

“GET ME A TUMS! THEY’RE IN THE PRIUS!!! MORE THAN ONE!” Dagblasted grapefruit juice…

Teri is sitting at the side of the tub, tapping her hand on the side, counting through the contractions with me. Vocalizing with me. Giving me something to concentrate on.

Amy. There she is, kneeling at the foot of the tub, stretching a latex glove over each hand. She was so warm and inviting. She made it! What a precious site to find between your legs…help…rescue! (I found out later that she had left the other lady, who had been in labor since the previous Friday…48 hours and counting. Poor, poor lady. Amy left after Seraph was born and returned to that lady, who delivered later that afternoon.)

Meanwhile, I’m feeling like I need to push…I remember Joy telling me to let her know when I began to feel pressure. When I mention it, however, she simply nods, smiles and says, “That’s good.”

Ok. It’s not an overwhelming desire yet. I guess I have to wait

After a contraction or two with this pressure intensifying, I decide to say something. Amy and Joy are busy whispering away, trying not to disturb my concentration when I interrupt: “Please let me push this baby out!!” Amy looks down at me with a huge smile, “Well, by all means. If you need to push, push!”

Well why didn’t you say so? All this while I have been waiting for someone to give me permission to push. I didn’t know all I had to do was…push. (Mental note for the next go ’round).

And boy, what a relief pushing is. It’s almost as if the pain instantly vanishes and I am in control of the situation again. Give me pushing to a contraction any day.

I push for about 20 minutes, until Amy suggests that I try pushing in a position leaning over the edge of the tub, and use Ryan as support. Misunderstanding, I turn on my hands and knees and stick my fanny in the air, completely mooning Amy and the whole bunch. Goodbye any ounce of modesty…Farewell!

That lasts for less than 30 seconds before I am back to my semi-sitting position. I just can’t re-learn how to push in a new position! I am used to the other way…it’s what works. Tequita breaks out the dog pull toy to give me resistance while pushing. It becomes my goal to pull her in the water with me. (I never did, but I sure hope I gave her a fight!)

Someone requests a mirror so that we will be able to see the baby’s head when it crowns.

“No! I DON’T WANT A MIRROR. NO MIRROR!!” Again, I can’t bear the distraction of seeing my baby’s head. It will slow down the process.

They bring a mirror anyway…Ryan wants to watch. I ignore it. Thank goodness it’s at an angle where I can’t see anything anyway.

“Hey Amy. I just need to know…we’re gonna have a baby today, right? Not tomorrow…not Tuesday. Today. Please tell me…”

With a chuckle she says, “Honey, your body is finished doing all the work it needs to do. We will have a baby in whatever time it takes you to push him out. We can have a baby in 3 hours or,” she shrugs, “10 minutes if you want.”

Seraph is born 10 minutes later. Sunday, May 24th at 7:32am. Happy Birthday, baby boy! I can’t reach down to grab him fast enough. How funny…Amy barely did anything…I even caught the baby!

8 hours of labor, including 45 minutes of pushing. His head had not been straight in the birth canal. Amy was impressed that I managed to push him out in such a short time, considering. She said that most moms, especially first time moms, push for 3 hours or so, on average, when the head is crooked in the birth canal. Ryan watched the whole thing and physically supported me while I pushed. A tremendous help. Love you SweetMan.

Perfect baby boy. He barely cried when he came out. No suctioning needed, just laying with mom. He stayed with me, on my chest for a good 30 minutes before Ryan cut the cord. So warm. So beautiful.

He was weighed with a fish scale…6lb, 9oz. Such a small baby for all that weight I gained! 19 inches. 9/10 then 10/10 Apgar scores. Beautiful color. No Flaws. A head FULL of dark hair and a dimple in his chin like dad, just like I had prayed for.

Tequita fed me mushy cereal while Amy completed the inspections on Seraph and took care of stitches and such. Good cereal!

We laid together on our bed, attempted to breastfeed, and rested. Then we called everyone and told them to come on over…”No, not to the hospital. To our house….to see this precious baby boy!”

Editor Note: Read more from this author at

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  1. C_h_hertlein1986 says:

    This made me laugh and cry. I hope my homebirth come out as beautifully as yours did.

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We are mamas and midwives who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are radical, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit to help move us all towards a new more beautiful world. With 12 children and over two decades of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.

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