Birth Story: Jess

Jess and Baby Otis

Jess and Baby Otis

Jess is a childcare provider in Madison, and her husband, Nick, is a dentist. Their son, Otis, is almost 4, and, at the time of the interview, Jen was expecting their second son, Ivan, any day! Here she shares her home birth story and her goal for how long her next labor will last…

Did you have experience with birth before you had your children?

A little bit because in my early 20’s I spent 5 years nannying for a family and the mom was a midwife. She wasn’t working as a midwife at the time because she had little kids, but she was tapped into that circle. And when she had her second I was the person to be there for their 3 year-old. She planned a home birth and ended up transferring, so I wasn’t there for the actual birth, but I was there for the labor. I feel really grateful for that experience because, without that, there’s not way I would have, by the time I had Otis, really understood that home birth was a thing and an option.  

What were you most nervous about? Were your fears unfounded?

I was nervous about having to transfer. Because I’d seen that. That was pretty much it. I really felt like my body was ready for this and was going to do it for the most part. And I wasn’t too afraid of the pain just because you can’t really imagine what it’s going to be like.

Yeah, everything went great. I didn’t transfer! I just really got a combination of luck and body just doing its thing and great care. When you’re in it, you’re just in it. Nothing you can do. Can’t escape!

Going into Ivan’s birth what are you most nervous about?

I’m nervous about complications after birth. I’m really not worried about the birth so much. I’m worried about him. I have some anxiety about him having health issues or troubles nursing or a tie (tongue tie). No, for the birth itself I am hoping it is shorter because it was a good 16 hours including 4 of pushing with Otis. That was a lot. And that’s kind of what I had anticipated for hours-wise between 12 and 18 or so. But the pushing was really hard. It was brutal. It had been a rough ride for him! He was blue and swollen and not crying. I would just love for Ivan’s to be a little let traumatic for him! He was bruised for days. So 4 hours of labor, 30 minutes of pushing. That’s what I’m going for!  

How did your labor start?

My water broke. I was watching Call the Midwife! I sent Nick to bed. He had been dozing on a recliner in the living room. We were living with Nick’s dad but he was gone, he was traveling. And I had set up an office in the house as my birthing suite kind of. It had a bathroom attached to it, so I filled up the giant tub and put on my Nora Jone’s! Contraction timer app was all set. We called Ingrid (midwife) and my mom because she was in Appleton so she would have to drive down 2 hours. But I wasn’t ready for Ingrid to come over yet. I just got in the tub and contractions did start pretty quickly. The contractions just weren’t regular right away, but I felt lucky that they started as quickly as they did.

Describe your labor:

It was normal. It progressed pretty textbook! I think the first time she checked me I was at 5 or so already, so I felt good about that. I just did a lot of laboring on the birth ball, I remember, just hunched over. Then we got the tub filled up which was great, although there was a big snafu with the adapter fitting. It was Nick’s only job! You can see that I haven’t 100% gotten over this. The water filling up the tub was leaking, so by the time it got to the tub, there wasn’t enough hot water left. So we were old school, boiling water buckets of water and it all worked out fine. And then when I felt like it was time to push, I ended up getting out of the tub because my body just wasn’t getting enough traction, I think.

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Was the labor what you expected?

I think so, yeah. Like I said, I had read so many stories and I sort of was familiar with the process. Even though you can’t know what it feels like, you can sort of get an idea of how it’s going to go mental state-wise. I definitely got into some trippy spaces, you know, where I was just kind of on my own planet and not really able to communicate or follow along with anything that was going on in the outside world. I would say it was about what I expected.  

How did your support team help you during labor?

In so many ways. Ingrid’s presence alone and just her energy definitely. Smooth and calm and with a lot of authority and wisdom but also not heavy-handed in any way. Britt (other midwife) was super hands-on with back rubs. I’m a touch person so that was huge. Now Nick, I didn’t really expect that much about him. He was actually better than I expected! I wasn’t sure how he was going to go. Mostly he just steps back when there are other people and he doesn’t have a specific job. And he did that for the most part which was great. That’s sort of part of our dynamic. But then at the end he was definitely saying all the right things and encouraging me and stuff so that was great! My mom, I liked having her there for the most part. There were a couple of moments looking back that I could see that her anxiety was kind shifting how things were feeling in the room, particularly when I was pushing and then having to do the horse lips. I think that was just really intense for her and not what she had envisioned. Obviously she had no idea what this is going to look like.

What are you planning on doing differently for Ivan’s birth?

I’m not planning anything differently! We’ve got the adapter for the tub all situated. I guess I have a little bit of a fantasy about him being born in the water. Who knows why? But also I have pretty realistic expectations that if that’s not how I felt good pushing last time there’s a decent chance that’s not how it’s going to work this time either. So we’re going to have a mattress on the floor just like we did with Otis.

I’m hoping Nick takes more time off afterwards. Otis was born Thursday afternoon, so Nick was off on Thursday and Friday, and then I think he was back to work on Tuesday. Basically just a long weekend, so my mom was here for another couple of days. I had help for that first week but it would have been nice if it had been him the whole time. It just sort of depends on what day of the week Ivan comes.

Will you be listening to Nora Jones?

Good question! I have not put together any birth music yet. I probably should.

What words of wisdom do you have for expectant parents?

It’s so hard because it is such an individual experience and process! I would say, for mamas, just trust your body. It’s so hard to stay out of that heady, anxiety-filled space, but I just remember thinking that women have been doing this forever. We would not be here if women could not do this very well. And I just felt like why should I assume that I’m somebody who doesn’t know how to do this?!

Maggie Mehr