Ten years ago, I worked at a Health Food Store in Chicago, where the owner Dawn was planning for her second homebirth. I was curious about what inspired her to make that choice. Dawn recommended reading Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, in addition to other books. Interested in a holistic approach to health, I read the book and thought someday, I might also have a homebirth.
In '97, I became pregnant in San Francisco. My sister-in-law, Mary, had two homebirths and through her midwives in Santa Cruz I was referred to Jeri Zukoski in Berkley. My husband, Bart and I had one meeting with Jeri and knew that we wanted her to be part of the birth of our child and looked no further. With Jeri as a Midwife, we also had Mary Rossi, as Assistant Midwife, Adel as Doula and my sister-in-law, Mary attending the birth.
Aside from a huge weight gain I had a fairly easy pregnancy. Four days past my dues date, I went to see Jeri for my weekly check up. She expressed concerns that I was getting really big and my cervix had not effaced at all. She did not want me to get much past my due date because she was afraid I might have a difficult time if the baby got much bigger (I had gined 70 pounds). So the next day, I went to see an acupuncturist and started taking homeopathic remedies to help ripen my cervix. That night, around 1:30 am, I woke up with what felt like period cramps. I went to the bathroom and noticed that I had lost my mucus plug. I was so excited I could not go back to sleep! The next morning, I called Jeri to tell her what happened and she asked whether I had been able to sleep. I said no and she told me to go soak in the tub and try to nap. That evening, the contractions still had not started and I began to feel disappointment.
The following night, 2 am, I felt little cramps. Around 6 am, the cramps were coming regularly, I got up and began to time my contractions. When they were about 1 minute long and 2-4 minutes apart I called Jeri again. She said this sounded like the real deal and she would send Mary Rossi over in a few hours to check on my progress.
I never really had any anxiety about the actual birth. I felt like it would be kind of like running a marathon - the pain would be more like pushing through an athletic event than the pain of an injury. I figured that even if it got really bad I could deal with it because at the end of the days it would be over and I would have a baby to hold in my arms. As the contractions became more intense I just tried to roll with the punches and let them wash over me. When they were over and I had a little break, I would remind myself of the coming reward.
Mary Rossi showed up around noon and said "Sara, don't be discouraged but you are only 50% effaced and haven't dilated yet". This after two days!
Bart and his sister Mary hung out with me and made sure I stayed hydrated. We had set up the birthing tub in the dining room. I would stay in the labor tub for 30 minutes, then get out and walk around a while. It was amazing. The moment my body hit the warm water, I felt immediate relief and I would let my body roll in the water like a whale. We listened to the sountrack from Superfly and James Brown's Greatest Hits. About 4 am I began serious back labor. Adel massaged my back and helped guide Bart in pushing on some pressure points to help my back labor.
Around dinner time, I started to get really tired. I had just had enough! At 10 pm, my water broke and the baby must have done a little flip because I no longer had back labor and the contractions didn't hurt. Mary and Adel helped me into the birthing tub to wait for Jeri. For the first time I began to feel nervous. I really felt like pushing but didn't want to do anything until Jeri got there. Before I knew it, Jeri was there. She examined me and exclaimed "Sara, your baby has a lot of black hair!". Mary and Jeri massaged my perineum with olive oil and applied warm compresses.
Jeri had me lay on my side with Bart holding my leg and told me it was OK to push. As I pushed, I opened my mouth wider and wider and it felt as if my jaw was going to come unhinged. I heard Jeri tell everyone to look at my mouth and at my crotch and notice how they were opening up together. While I was pushing I was very aware of what was happening. After the head was birthed, Jeri told me it would take just one more push. I pushed as hard as I could, and I was able to feel the little body slide out of me. It was the most amazing feeling! All of sudden, there was this little being laying on my chest. My daughter was born at 12:52 am on Friday, April 17th. Emme Anne had arrived at last!