Renee's Birth Story
by Anne Hurlbut
Renee’s first birth was a natural birth in the hospital, but when pregnant for a second time at the “high-risk” age of 45, she read an article in Mothering magazine that skewed the belief system of doubt surrounding homebirth, and after considerable research and discussion with her husband, doctors, and midwives, Renee and Todd found midwives who had done thousands of homebirths. Additionally, they were fortunate enough to be under the care of a doctor who was a strong believer in midwifery. As Renee’s pregnancy got closer to the end it was clear that there were no apparent problems with her health or the health of the baby, and so they prepared for a natural birth, at home, in the tub, with their son Shay (4) and their midwives by their sides.
Renee is ten days post-date and has been having contractions off and on, waiting, never quite certain about when labor will truly begin. She has been trying natural labor induction methods for a week, and the midwives have even done some cervical massage, but still nothing.
Early in the afternoon, Renee’s midwives apply gelsinium to her cervix.
“If it is going to work,” they tell her, “then it will begin doing its job in a few hours,” and they are off to the clinic to see other women.
As her labor begins one hour later, at around 2:00pm, Renee listens to the rainbow relaxation music that she has used in her hypnobirthing preparation. Her breathing is silent, deep, meditative. She knows that things are moving pretty fast, and so she makes a call to the midwives.
Have Todd fill up the tub, they say after speaking with her, knowing that if she can speak then she is not in the thick of labor, and call back in fifteen to thirty minutes if things are still going at this pace. At the foot of their bed in the master bedroom is where the tub rests, waiting.
As Renee’s labor progresses, and the deep, silent breathing that has filled her house for the past half-hour or so shifts to moaning and groaning. Sure enough, the contractions strengthen rapidly, intensifying just as the hose connector to the tub breaks. Not only is Todd running around after four-year-old Shay, but as he does so he is trying to figure out how he is going to get enough water into the tub with a broken hose. Renee labors on her own while Todd buzzes around the house, handling three to four tasks at a time, as though he is on a treadmill and cannot reach his destination.
Handling everything with beauty and strength, Renee now sits on a birthing ball as strong labor moves through her and she moves with it. Determined to not have the midwives arrive until she is incapable of speaking, Renee gets into the birthing pool, which is only about one quarter full, thinking, good lord, I can’t do this, I can’t do this, and I’m only forty-five minutes into labor! Sitting in the small pool, filled about as high as one would fill a baby’s bath, Renee is by herself but for the company inside of her belly of soon-to-arrive Bella. Little does she know that for her, forty-five minutes into labor, which means there are miles to go for most women, means almost there for her.
Todd now arrives at the tub to check on Renee before he goes to finish just a few more things, and there are tears in his eyes as he says, You can do it, you’re doing great.
Before he can run off to get everything just so before the birth, Renee’s cry of Todd!!! Come here, I need you!, when she has been quiet all this time, is serves as his cue that he does not have much more time for organization, his cue that his second child is preparing to enter the world.
During these two hours, Renee essentially labors on her own, solitary even with all of the movement in the house. As things begin to peak in these final moments, she recalls the Waterbirth International video that she and her son Shay have watched together at least fifty times in preparation for this birth. In one segment of the video, a woman tells her story of going from one to ten centimeters in an hour, and in a beautiful Spanish accent says of how she coped with the intensity, I surrender to the pain, I let it go.
And so Renee surrenders, Renee lets go, the moaning and groaning continuing, intensifying, growing louder now, life’s crescendo, as she nears delivery.
When she tells Todd that she thinks the baby’s head is in the birth canal, he replies, “maybe it is!” as he scuttles onward to check something else off of his long list, to make sure that everything is just so for the birth. But the birth is happening now. Soon after, though Renee was unaware of their arrival at the house, Melissa and Chris, the midwives, appear in front of her. Melissa drops her bag on the floor with a thud, which is followed by the words, you’ve been working hard, you’re ready to push. It was as though Melissa had appeared out of nowhere.
I am, Renee responds with a combination of exclamation points and question marks in her voice, good!
The water is cold and needs to be warmed, and almost as quickly as Melissa, the midwife, molds her glove to her hand, she proclaims, You are fully dilated, Renee, you can push now.
With these words the room grows calm, settled. It is so unlike Renee’s first birth in the hospital, with all of the nurses rushing around, a clamor of indistinguishable voices screaming push! Instead, the call to push is gentle, understood.
Big brother Shay hops in and out of the tub a few times, testing the waters in more ways than one, and it is clear that he is bothered by some of the noises emerging from his mother.
Shay, one of the midwives says as she notices his discomfort, You know when you are trying to lift something very, very heavy and you go, uuuurrrggghhhh? That is the noise that your mother is making.
Before long, Shay is leaning over Renee’s thigh and watching as this baby girl, until now only a mound that has made his mother’s tummy large like a basketball, officially becomes his very own sister.
With her daughter’s head halfway out, Renee smiles a smile that stretches beyond the confines of her face, beyond the borders of her being, and she holds onto this wild grin, the feeling of it, vowing never to let it go. One of the midwives takes a picture a moment later of this same smile, waning now, but only Renee owns the snapshot of the happiness she feels as she pushes her own daughter into this world, fully present and as natural as can be.
Age at Time of Birth: 46
Location of Birth: Salt Lake City, UT
Type of Birth: Natural Water Birth at Home With Midwives
Brief Bio of This Powerful Birthing Woman:
Renee spent 18 years of her life in Arlington, MA., where most of her friends and family still reside. Today, Renee lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her Husband, Todd, her son, Shay (4) and her daughter, Bella, (2 months). Home now with her children, Renee holds degrees in chemistry and computer science and is also a licensed massage therapist.