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Baby Mai - a Denver Home Birth

I found out that I was pregnant in August of 2000.  I had previously decided that I did not want a hospital birth, and I thought that I would opt for a birthing center, because I knew that I wanted a midwife.  However, when I found out that I was actually pregnant, I no longer liked the idea of a birthing center either.  I asked a friend of mine who was already pregnant if she knew the names of any midwives who did homebirths.  I was very interested on this as an option for me.  I spoke to two midwives and thought that I had decided on one who was in Boulder.  She was one that I thought that I could get along with well, but the  drawback was that she was so far away, as well as a new and relatively inexperienced midwife.  Then I got the name of another midwife who was much closer, located on the west side of town, and was much more experienced.  Her name was Sena Johnson.  I met her, and I decided that she would be the right midwife for me.  I liked her even better than the midwife I met in Boulder.


It was Wednesday, May 8th 2001 at about 12:45 am.  Abdalla and I were praying ishaa prayer rather late.  I was 39 weeks pregnant, and for the past several days I had been having problems with bladder control whenever I coughed  (I was just getting over a cold) due to the pressure of the baby on my bladder.  Abdalla had gone into ruku (the bowing during the prayer) and I followed him, and I felt a little wetness on my inner thigh.  I wasn’t entirely sure if I broken wudu (ritual ablutions required before formal acts of worship) or not, because I wasn’t sure if it was wetness I was feeling or my imagination.  Abdalla stood up from ruku and I followed him.  By then I was sure that I had broken my wudu.  I said my salaams and ripped off my prayer garment, very annoyed that I would have to say my prayer all over again.  It wasn’t the first time that it had happened, and as the baby grew bigger inside of me as my due date approached (which was May 10th), I knew it wouldn’t be the last.  So I went into the bathroom to make wudu once more. 


In the bathroom, however, I noticed that the entire back of my white nightgown was wet.  I pulled it up and smelled it, just to make sure that it wasn’t pee.  It definitely wasn’t.  It just smelled like water.  I knew that my water had broken.  I left the bathroom, and although Abdalla was still in prayer, I said, “My water just broke.”  I immediately called Sena.  She had said at my last appointment that if my water should happen to break she wanted me to call her because the baby had not yet dropped.  I knew that she was thinking of the possibility of a prolapsed cord (which was one of the fears that I mentioned on my first prenatal visit).  While I was standing at the phone I could feel the water flowing warmly down my legs.  Abdalla had finished his prayer and handed me a towel, which I rammed between my legs to catch the water.  Sena was asking me how I was feeling and if I was having any contractions.  I was feeling fine and I wasn’t feeling any contractions at that time.  She told me to try to sleep for the rest of the night and then to call her in the morning (we agreed on 10 am since I am a late sleeper), unless things changed during the course of the night.  She asked me if I had my antibiotics that I need to take for my heart murmur.  I said I did, and she said I needed to begin taking them.  After hanging up the phone I took my medicine and made up a batch of raspberry leaf tea.  I also took a look at the towel between my legs.  It was wet and there were white chunks on it that made me think that it was vernix (but I wasn‘t sure because I forgot to ask Sena)--definitely not anything from my bladder.


The entire week I had been having restless nights and having difficulties with falling asleep.  I hoped, as I crawled into bed, that the contractions would start up and that my labor would progress rapidly as my friend Maria’s had done.  As I lay down I knew that sleep would be very difficult.  I only dozed, but did not sleep heavily.  My contractions did start during this time, but I could doze through them since they weren’t painful, only slightly uncomfortable.


I called Sena around 10 am after waking up.  By then my contractions were about ten minutes apart.  I had two contractions while on the phone with Sena, but I was able to talk through them.   Sena told me that she and Kim (the apprentice midwife) would be over later that afternoon.  Maria called a few minutes after I got off the phone with Sena.  She said that she was having some “feelings” and wanted to see how I was doing.  I told her that my water had broke and that I would probably have a baby by the end of the day.


My mom had come over by that time, although I don’t remember what time she had come over.  She helped me time some contractions for awhile.  Then I asked if we could go across the street to the fabric store to buy some foam rubber for a mattress for the cradle.  After buying the foam Mom and I walked over to Barnes and Noble.  Mom thought it would be good to have something to distract me from my early labor and keep me occupied.  I thought that it was a good idea.  However, once we got there I really didn’t feel like browsing for anything (although I normally love to hang around in a bookstore).  I picked up a copy of “Mothering “ magazine, since a sister who used to live here in Colorado had written an article in it.  I told Mom that I didn’t feel like looking around, so we bought our stuff and then walked back to the car and drove home.  Later that afternoon we walked around the apartment complex.  I had to stop a few times until the contractions passed, but they weren’t as bad as just hanging around the house and doing nothing.   We saw Mom’s boss-Laura- as we were walking.  She seemed very happy and excited for me.  By the time we had finished a lap around the apartments my contractions had gotten a little stronger (although not longer) and I wanted to go upstairs.


Once back upstairs, I tried reading the article in my magazine, but couldn’t concentrate on it, and I wasn’t really interested in reading either.  Every time a contraction would come I would get onto my hands and knees and bury my face into the pillows and blankets that were piled on the mattress (we have a twin-size mattress in the living room).  There was a point where I began crying because of how painful they were (especially for a woman who never even had menstrual cramps).  Mom would time some of the contractions for me.  Eventually we gave up timing them.  It seemed pointless, and didn’t help me at all.  I look in my What to Expect When You’re Expecting Pregnancy Organizer and I wonder why they wasted so much space (six pages!) of contraction records.


Sena and Kim arrived later; I don’t remember what time it was.  Kim checked my blood pressure.  It was higher than I had ever been.  Sena said that it probably was the combination of pain and tension that was causing it, and didn’t seem at all concerned, so I didn’t bother to worry about it either.  Kim rubbed my lower back for me, which felt absolutely wonderful.  Sena and I discussed the progress that I was making.  She talked with me about having a vaginal exam to see how much I had dilated and whether or not I should think about buying some castor oil later in the evening if I wasn’t progressing.  I was worried about having a vaginal exam and the possibility of introducing a passage for infection.  She asked if I was still leaking fluid, and I told her that I had leaked very little since the previous night.  She said that she thought that my waters had probably broken high up.  I asked if she thought that my being on antibiotics might help reduce the chance of infection if she did a vaginal exam, and she thought that it was possible.  I agreed to it. 


We went into the bedroom to do the vaginal exam.  She said that I was about 80-90% effaced and dilated one centimeter.  I was disappointed to hear the last part.  My cervix was also still high.  She attempted to help pull it forward, but it caused so much pain that I told her to stop.  She also checked to see if I was still leaking fluid using pH paper, and it appeared that I wasn’t.  Kim checked my blood pressure again, and it was back to what was normal for me.  Since I wasn’t in active labor they decided to leave, with instructions to call should anything change.  Sena told me that I should do something to distract myself.  I talked about seeing the movie “Blow,” but after they left I decided that my contractions were too painful and that I would rather be home than anything else--including out walking.


Mom left about an hour or so after my midwife left.  I climbed into bed because I knew that I was going to need the rest.  Alhamdulillah I did some heavy dozing, but towards the end of my nap it was extremely difficult to sleep through the contractions anymore.  Around sunset (about 8 pm) I quit trying to sleep because they were much more painful and closer together (although I can’t say how close, because I didn’t want to time them anymore).  I decided to take a shower then because Sena said that I needed to relax my belly during the contractions, which would help my labor progress.  I would have taken a bath, but I didn’t want to risk an infection if I could help it, although my mom had scrubbed out the bathtub for me.  I was able to relax to some extent underneath the hot water.  I would turn back and forth so that I could have the water pound on my lower abdomen and my lower back.  I found it easiest to relax my belly and ride out the contractions by leaning forward with my knees bent and my hands on my knees.  After getting out of the shower I put on a pink nightgown that was a little on the ragged side, something that I wouldn’t mind getting messed up.  I laid down on the end of the bed, leaning forward against the pillows and blankets I piled up, like I had done in the living room.  Abdalla, having been a good student at the childbirth classes we took together, told me that I should eat.  So I asked if he would make me a bagel with cream cheese and get me something to drink.  I only ate about two or three bites before telling him to wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator.  While he prayed Maghrib I walked around the bedroom, thinking that it would hasten my labor.  After fifteen minutes or so I crawled back on the bed.  Abdalla was in the kitchen cooking something (I was only vaguely aware of it), but he would come in every time I had a contraction and apply pressure to my back, which helped relieve the pain.  Then he would go back into the kitchen.  At one point I had him get my book of dua’s and help me say the dua for pain- authu billahi wa qudratihi min sharri ma ‘ajad wa ‘ahaathir.  He said it in Arabic and I repeated it after him.  I labored in the bedroom for several hours.  It is all a blur now.  Abdalla kept himself occupied somehow, and he would come in every time I started making my labor music. 


At about 1 am I decided that I needed some help with my labor.  I was afraid that I wasn’t making much progress, and I had visions of myself still in hard labor at noon the next day.  I told Abdalla that I wanted him to go and buy me some castor oil.  He asked me if I really needed it, and I begged im to please just go to King Soopers or somewhere and buy it for me.  He asked me how to spell it, and I found the piece of paper with ”castor oil” written on it a day or so later.  When he got home (I don’t know how long he was gone) I called Sena and asked her how I should take the castor oil.  I only wanted to know how much of the castor oil I should take so I didn’t pay much attention about how to make the smoothie.  I do remember her saying that I was doing a good job-- it means something to me now, although I didn’t pay much attention to her at the time.


After I got off the phone I told Abdalla to make up one of his milkshakes.  He made it with milk, mangoes, and bananas.  I told him that I would need to take the entire bottle of the castor oil.  He let me know when it was ready.  I told him to take what he wanted out of it, and then to add the castor oil.  He said that he had already added it.  The blender was full of the castor oil concoction.  I wondered how I was going to be able to drink all of it.  He poured me a tall glass full of the milk shake and I leaned over the kitchen sink and began to drink it down.  It didn’t taste all the bad as I had expected, nor did it taste oily.  After I finished it I waited out another contraction, still over the sink.  Then I threw up the entire glass of milk shake that I had just downed.  Abdalla turned on the water and flushed it down the sink.  I began crying then, and another contraction started.  I said to Abdalla that I never wanted anymore kids after this one, and he told me to shut up.  I began crying harder because I thought that I had made him mad at me, and I thought that he didn’t care how much pain I was in, so I started saying that I wanted my mommy.  I didn’t call her then, however.  I somehow sensed that although she would sympathize with me, she wouldn‘t be able to help me.  Her sympathy wouldn’t be of any help to me at that time.  In retrospect, it might be the same reason why I didn’t call Sena to come over at that time either.  Abdalla seemed to know that as well, because there was a point that night where I did ask him to call Sena and tell her to come over, but he said that he didn’t think that I needed her yet, and I didn’t demand that he call her when he said that.  I just put her out of my mind for the time being, believing him that I really truly didn’t need her there (which I didn‘t). 


Sometime after throwing up I made my way back into the bathroom where I spent the next several hours.  I took another shower, although it didn’t bring as much relief as the first shower did.  I also spent some time just sitting on the toilet, because I knew that it might help me dilate even further, and it was also a comfortable position for a short while.  I remember that whenever a contraction would come while I was sitting on the toilet I would stretch out my body and lean my head back against the wall, and then sit normally after the contraction had passed.  I don’t know how much time passed before I took the next shower.  I do know that I didn’t bother to put my nightgown back on after that point.  When I got out I spread some towels out on the floor and sat there.  Whenever a contraction came I would crawl onto my hands and knees.  I also did a lot of moaning, too.  I didn’t care how loud I was, because even if I had tried to keep quiet I wouldn’t have been able to.  Somewhere in the back of mind I wondered when the neighbors would call the cops because I had procrastinated about telling them I was planning on having my baby at home-- and it never got done.  But I think that if I had not made any noise at all and instead remained silent it would not have helped me in my labor.  I didn’t feel at all self-conscience about it.  It felt good and brought some measure of relief to be able to be so uninhibited.  I wonder if I would have been able to that in a hospital setting--or even in a birthing center?  I really don’t think so.


In between each of my contractions I would sit back down and lean against the cabinets and doze.  I didn’t think about the next contraction or how many I had yet to go.  I even got some sleep, however interrupted it might have been.  Abdalla had gone to sleep by that time.  During each contraction I felt so jealous that he was able to sleep and was not in any sort of pain.  I wanted so much to be able to have a decent night’s sleep. 


Sometime around sunrise I made my way out of the bathroom and back into the bedroom although I don’t remember doing it.  I stayed on the floor on Abdalla’s side of the bed.  I had a blue pad underneath me, but I don’t recall if I put it there myself or if I asked Abdalla to get it for me.  I sat upright in between contractions, and during a few of them I would stretch my legs straight out while still sitting upright.  There were times that I had to pee or had to have a bowel movement, but I didn’t want to get up and go to the bathroom, so I went right on the blue pad.  There was some blood on the pad, too, so I am guessing that my hemorrhoids were beginning to bleed from all the pressure.  Abdalla cleaned me up with rags, and I remember thinking that he obviously knew nothing about women’s hygiene because he would wipe from back to front.  I had some hazy thoughts that it wouldn’t help reduce my risk of infection with him cleaning me up like that, but I wasn‘t really concerned so I didn‘t say anything. 


I remember that during this time Abdalla told me that I shouldn’t think about the next contraction, but that I should just relax between them.  I know that I wasn’t really thinking about anything during my little breaks.  I would just sit with my eyes closed and doze.


Around this time I asked Abdalla if he would call Sena and ask her to come over.  I was beginning to get tired.  Abdalla said that he still didn’t think that I needed her there, but I told him that I wanted her there, and would he please call her.  So he called her.  I told him to just tell her to come, but he insisted that I talk to her, which upset me.  I told her that I wanted her to come and that I needed to know where I was in this labor.  I also asked her if I could fill the pool and get into it.  I asked because I wasn’t sure of it would be okay with my water broken for over twenty-four hours.  I had another contraction and I dropped the phone.  I didn’t pick it up again, but Abdalla did, and I guess that she told him that they would be on their way.  I don’t remember what she had said to me when I was on the phone.


A few minutes after he hung up the phone I asked if he would call my mom as well and have her come over.  This time he didn’t give the phone to me.  It didn’t seem like that much time had passed before my mom arrived.  She came in to check on me and I was on the floor.  My legs were shaking as I sat there.  Mom said something about me probably being in transition.  My legs had been shaking since I had been in the bathroom, but I didn't say anything about it.   I asked her if she would fill the pool for me, and she promptly did that.  Abdalla helped her with it.  I do remember having a contraction at one point, and my mom was going to put some pressure on my lower back, but it wasn’t what I needed, so I pushed her away.  I feel bad about it now, looking back.


It was around this time that I felt the first urge to push.  I was up on my knees and I grabbed the lower part of my stomach to stop myself from pushing.  Subhanallah (Glory be to Allah), the amazing thing is that my uterus was pushing on its own, whether I wanted to help it along or not.  For some reason I was sure that I wasn’t fully dilated yet (and wouldn‘t be for several more hours), and I didn’t want to injure my cervix by pushing when it wasn’t ready.  This urge to push felt like I needed to have a bowel movement and the need to push felt very right.


As soon as the tub was filled Abdalla and Mom came into the room to get me.  Abdalla picked up my pink nightgown (which I don’t remember bringing into the bedroom with me--the last place I had it on was in the bathroom) and asked me if I wanted to put it on.  I told him that I didn’t, and he didn’t insist.  Then he and Mom, one on each side, helped me stand up and walk into the living room where the tub was.  Getting into the water felt absolutely wonderful.  I sank into the water and turned over on to my right side, which was the most comfortable position for me.  When the hot water had run out, Abdalla and Mom began boiling water on the stove to dump into the pool.  I asked Mom to turn on the heat (although it didn‘t come out that way but I can‘t remember how I phrased it), remembering that Sena had told me at my home visit that I would need to have the heat on.  Mom turned on the light and I asked her to turn it off, which she did after turning on the furnace.  I then felt another urge to push.  I yelled (but maybe it really wasn’t as loud as I think it was) “I need to poop!”  Mom said something along the lines of, “No honey, I think that’s the baby coming.”  Sena and Kim arrived at this time, and Sena asked Mom how long I had been pushing, and Mom said that I had just started to push.


It felt wonderful to be able to push.  Somehow the idea of not being ready drifted from my mind and I just went with the flow of my body.  I even allowed myself to groan while pushing.  I also remember the feeling of Abdalla pouring the hot water into the pool and it swirling around my belly.  I lay beneath the water, with my face half in and half out of the water.  At one point I got water in my ear (I guess I needed to be able to hear--just in case--but for what I don’t know).  Kim was on my side of the pool, and Sena was at the end of the pool.  Mom moved down there with her, but I don’t recall when.  Sena was at the side of pool sometime because she had checked the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler twice.  The sound of the heartbeat was reassuring, although I wasn’t in the least concerned with the baby’s well-being, I just knew that she was all right because I was all right.  Mom had to have been on that side, too, sometime, because she said, “I’m so proud if you.”  I didn’t respond, but it was nice to hear.


There came a point during my pushing when I began to feel the baby.  I would push and I could feel her head begin to bulge out.  It would stay that way for a short time while I was bearing down and then I would feel her head “disappear” as the pushing urge passed.   This happened twice that I remember, and I asked where the baby had gone after feeling her head go back up inside of me.  As the baby began to crown, Sena asked me if I wanted her to support my perineum, and I said okay.  However, once she touched me I said, “Don’t touch me!”  Kim sat beside me and would tell me to blow out as the baby’s head began to emerge.  I watched her and would blow out instead of push like I’m sure I would have done if I didn’t have her to remind me.  She reminded me of what I had read about crowning, and how the woman should pant and not push to avoid tearing.  Kim must have moved down by the end of the pool because Sena had her lift my left leg high into the air as the baby began to come out.  I also heard Sena telling whoever was holding the flashlight not to shine the light in the baby’s eyes.  I began to feel a burning sensation where my baby’s head began to emerge.  Sena told me that I could feel my baby if I wanted to.  I reached my hand down between legs and placed my hand on her head.  I can’t really describe what it felt like, other than her head felt soft yet hard.  I don’t know how long I left my hand there--for several minutes at least.   It seems like many minutes passed while she was half in and half out of me and before I had another urge to push.  When I felt that urge once again I took my hand off and grabbed on to the edge of the pool.  I felt like someone was touching me again, and I once more demanded that no one touch me.  Sena later said that no one was touching me, but that it was the baby rotating in my pelvis (they didn’t see her head rotating as she was crowning, and Sena said she was thinking of shoulder dystocia, but when I told them not to touch me and no one was touching me, she knew the baby was rotating, just not where they could see it).  I guess it was with the next contraction that Mai’s head came out, followed by the rest of her body.  I turned back over from my side onto my back, and Abdalla lifted our baby up to me.  She immediately began crying loudly.  I don’t know what my first words were, but my Mom said that I said “I love you” of which I have no doubt.  I do remember saying “As-salaam alaikum,” and saying to Abdalla when he moved up to be nearer to me and the baby, “We’ve got a baby.”  It was several minutes after she was born before I checked to see whether she was a boy or a girl--and we had a girl.  Abdalla later told me that as he was lifting her up to me he looked at her face and said he knew that she was a girl because her face was so beautiful.


I stayed in the pool for a few minutes after she was born.  She lay on my chest and licked at my nipple, but did not nurse at that time.  I wrapped her in a towel to keep her warm.  I had Abdalla get a date from the kitchen.  I chewed it a little to soften it and then rubbed the date on the roof of her mouth.  After getting out of the pool I laid on the mattress that is in our living room, and that is where I delivered the placenta.  Abdalla got to cut her cord.  I then went into the bathroom to take an herb bath.  Abdalla brought Mai into the bathroom and handed her to me once I got into the tub.  I held her in the water for a little while, but then I put her to my breast, where she had her first feeding.  In the bedroom Sena gave Mai her newborn physical exam and weighed her with the whole family in attendance.


This was how our daughter was brought into the world.  Looking back, I am very satisfied with how the labor and birth went, and I know that I made the right choice to bring our daughter into the world in her own home and not in a strange, foreign place.  The only thing that I would change would be my thoughts while I was in hard labor--thoughts of the hospital and drugs.  Alhamdulillah, they didn’t last long and I knew and know full well that had I been in a hospital--or even a birthing center--my birth would not have been everything that I wanted to be.  Experiencing the labor and the birth has given me confidence in myself and in the body that Allah has given me.  And I am very grateful for that.

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