The Birth of Esme:
by Callie Foulk

A beautiful unassisted home birth of a 10+ lb. baby girl

Personal Story by Callie Foulk

On Thursday morning, December 13th, I had an apointment in Ventura with Dawn, one of my midwives. I was 38 1/2 weeks but measuring 46 weeks. I was so uncomfortable with my enormous belly and eager to have a baby in my arms and my body back to myself. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked Dawn to do a cervical check, something I had never allowed before, to see if I was dilated at all. I was 2 cm. Hooray!

I expressed some worries I was feeling about the baby being too big and Dawn reassured me that my body would not grow a baby too large to deliver. We had already ruled out any pathologies of pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, and everything indicated I was carrying a healthy baby. Her gentle reassurance was very instrumental in clearing my mind of fear. I left the appointment feeling confident and ready to give birth any time my baby decided she was ready to be born.

Later that night, my husband, Thomas, came home from work and we had a spicy meal and then bundled up our 3 year old daughter, Kira, and went on a long walk around the neighborhood to look at all the Christmas lights. I had some nice, strong conractions while walking, but they stopped when we got home, much to my disappointment. After putting Kira to bed, Thomas and I had a little romance.

Just as I was getting ready to go to sleep, I felt a trickle of amniotic fluid and realized my water had broken slightly. It was about 1 am on Friday at that point. I decided to try to get some sleep but about 20 minutes later, I started having mild contractions. I debated waking Thomas but decided to wait and see if the contractions were the "real" kind or the warm up kind I'd been having for several days. I stayed in bed and breathed through the contractions and stayed relaxed and loose.

The contractions didn't seem regular, but I thought that they might be the working kind, so I woke up Thomas and told him to call the midwives and tell them what was going on. They live an hour away so they needed plenty of warning. I really thought that if this was in fact labor, then I had hours to go. After Thomas called the midwives, I asked him to inflate the kiddie pool that I was planning to give birth in. It took him several minutes to do that and then he returned and asked if he should start filling it with water. I said no, it was too early, the water would get cold before it was time to get in.

The contractions were coming frequently and seemed to be intensifying, but I just stayed loose, allowing myself to melt into them, and visualizing my cervix opening. Thomas sat beside me and rubbed my back and timed the contractions and we found that they were exactly 2 minutes apart, just like my other labor. With Kira I had a 5 1/2 hour labor with very intense contractions that were 2 minutes apart from beginning to end, so the fact that these contractions were close didn't tell me much about how much time I had to go.

Between contractions I shut my eyes and told myself positive affirmations such as "I am strong", "my body knows how to give birth", "I am not fighting this in any way". During contractions I did deep belly breathing and I imagined myself floating on big waves. I kept my bottom loose and the tension out of my mouth and the contractions continued to be really manageable.

After a few minutes of timing the contractions, I had three right on top of each other with no rest in between and then I had about a 5 minute break. I thought "that's strange. A rest period sometimes means transition is around the corner."

I got up to use the restroom and while sitting there, I realized I was shaking uncontrollably and I felt like I was going to vomit. I thought, "hmmm. That's really odd. Shaking and nausea are usually a sign of transition. But I'm not anywhere near transition. I've only been doing this for a few minutes and the contractions aren't even that intense yet."

In the near darkness, I found my way back to bed and got into a hands and knees position on the bed, propped up on pillows so that Thomas could do some counterpressure on my lower back. It was really starting to ache. I asked him to get a bowl from the kitchen, just in case I did throw up. I had not made any noise, other than deep breathing, up until this point.

I had 2 really strong contractions that were difficult to stay on top of and required a lot of concentration. I found myself moaning to handle all the energy in my body. I had a fleeting feeling of panic and an "uh oh, I can't do this" thought and then it really hit me: I AM IN TRANSITION. A rest period, shaking, nausea, and now the "I can't do this anymore" thought. That ads up to only one thing.

Sure enough, on the next contraction I had the urge to bear down. As soon as the contraction ended, I told Thomas to call Dawn and tell her I was having the urge to bear down. He got her on the cell phone and reported what I said and she said she was still about 30 miles away.

At that point, I knew the midwives were not going to make it in time and I felt completely at peace about it. I was having a baby with or without them. I had looked at their presence merely as a safety net, and had planned to have a completely hands off birth anyway. I didn't really want them to "do" anything and had told them so. They had been very supportive and encouraging of my desire to give birth my own way.

I had another contraction and really roared through it, opening my mouth as wide as I could (an open mouth means an open cervix) and letting the sound pour out of me, releasing tons of energy. The noise woke Kira and she sat up beside me in bed and watched me quietly. The contraction ended and I turned to her and explained cheerfully that the baby was coming and mommy was working very hard but everything was okay. I asked if she'd like to go lie down with Sarah (my 24 year old niece who had been living with us.) Thomas took Kira to Sarah's room and woke Sarah up to take care of Kira. It was such a relief to me to have Sarah there to care for Kira so that I could focus on what I needed to do and not be self-conscious about the noises I needed to make.

While Thomas was down the hall getting Kira situated, I had the second pushing contraction and I knew the baby was coming. In one fluid motion I grabbed the bowl, ripped off my panties, dropped to the floor on my hands and knees beside the bed and stuck the bowl between my legs. My water broke with a huge gush just as I got the bowl in place to catch the fluid and I felt the baby's head crowning.

Thomas came back into the room and picked up the phone to talk to Dawn, who was waiting on the line. He got down on the floor behind me to see what was going on and he reported to her that the baby's head was out as far as the eyebrows. He ran to get a plastic tarp and came back and somehow managed to get it under me.

I was resting and staying relaxed and quiet between contractions. I was in a totally primal place, where time doesn't exist. I felt calm and ancient. In that altered state I was powerful and complete than I've ever felt. This integration of mind, soul and body only occurs when I am bringing a new life into the world. The raw power and beauty of it is difficult to describe.

Another contraction brought her out as far as her nose. Thomas was whispering encouragement to me. He's always been good under pressure. He acted as though having a baby on the bedroom floor is something we do everyday. His quiet assurance kept me in the right place mentally. As always, he was my rock.

Another contraction brought the rest of her head all the way out. I reached down and touched her wet, sticky head. Thomas calmly asked the midwife if it was okay that the baby's face was dark purple and her eyes were closed. I heard an undercurrent of tension in these words and wished I could say something to reassure him, but I was too far inside myself to reach out to him. I had lost the ability to speak. But I could feel my baby's feet kicking inside me and working together with me. I knew she was fine. My connection to her was strong and I felt no worries about her.

Thomas reached in with a finger to feel for the cord around the baby's neck and said there wasn't one. He had learned during our first daughter's home birth how to unwrap the umbilical cord from the neck but it wasn't necassary this time. Another contraction and I roared and pushed with all I had and felt nothing happen. It was as though I was pushing against a brick wall. Shoulders stuck! The guiding voice inside me told me this baby would not be born if I continued to kneel on the floor.

In mid contraction I rocked up onto my feet, out of the kneeling position and into a squat. I felt instinctively that that was the only way I was going to open wide enough to get her massive shoulders out. I used my elbows to crank my knees apart and leaned forward, supporting myself with my hands. As soon as I got into a squat the pushing felt effectual again. Her shoulders eased out and then whoosh! The rest of her burst out, riding another huge wave of fluid. She had barely touched the floor when I scooped her up and brought her to my chest and cuddled her. A beautiful baby girl!

She let out a couple of lusty cries and then settled down and just made little cooing noises, talking to me, telling me all about her adventure. As soon as she was out, the pain stopped and I went from roaring like a grizzly bear to laughing and saying "oh, my baby, you're here!" I felt elated. It was 3:05 on Friday morning. The labor had lasted about 90 minutes and transition had lasted only 8 minutes. I had pushed a total of 4 times. So like my first birth but yet so different because this time I was in control.

Thomas got the anti-bleed tincture (shepard's purse and yarrow), which I had purchased in the event that the midwives didn't make it to the birth. I hemorrhaged with my first birth, requiring a blood transfusion, and I wanted to pre-empt too much blood loss this time even though I was certain I had done everything necassary to prevent a repeat of that complication.

The midwives, Dawn and Sue, arrived 15 or 20 minutes after the baby was born. I had the baby wrapped in a towel and she was still attached to me by the cord. She was covered with vernix and so cute. I was just sitting on the floor enjoying her and feeling completely amazed that she was finally here. We were waiting for the placenta to come before I got cleaned up and crawled into bed with the baby.

I delivered the placenta about 10 or 15 minutes after the midwives arrived. Then Thomas brought Kira into the room to meet the baby. She was so excited and happy to finally meet her baby sister. Kira got to cut the cord, so thick it took 3 cuts with the scissors to sever it, and set her baby sister free.

I had torn along the scar line from Kira's birth, so one midwife gave me a few stitches while the other did the newborn exam. We were all stunned by the measurements: 10 pounds, 3 ounces, and 22 inches long with a 14.75 inch head and 15 inch chest. A big, healthy baby! We named her Esme, which means beloved.

This birth was my version of "perfect." Every mother has hopes for what her birth experience will be like and those visions are unique to each woman. When I was pregnant I meditated and visualized the birth I wanted because I believe that our bodies are responsive to our thoughts. Esme's birth was almost exactly as I imagined it. There's nothing about it I would have changed. It felt so right for Thomas and I to bring our child into the world together, without anyone else present, and then it felt wonderful to have the support and care of good midwives afterward. I don't think I could have planned it as well, if I'd tried. Sometimes fate is kinder than planning. I feel so honored to have delivered my daughter this way and the memory of Esme's intimate, peaceful birth is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.