Naomi’s birth story actually starts months before her birth. When we announced her due date – April 28 – we realized that the weekend before she was due (April 23 and 24), I had a bat mitzvah student who would become bat mitzvah that weekend. This girl  (M) and I had gotten close during her studies, and she informed me (in a way that only a 13 year old could) that if I didn’t make her bat mitzvah, she would kill me and steal my baby.

I assured her that Toby was late and I wouldn’t be having a baby until May. She told me that she didn’t mind if I went into labor at her Saturday night party, but I had to make it to her service Friday night, the Torah reading Saturday morning, and at least make it to dance with her once at her party Saturday night. I promised her I would.

Fast forward to the weekend of M’s bat mitzvah. I made it to Friday night services, where her mother expressed disbelief that I was “still here” and we ended the night with nary a contraction. M reminded me that I wasn’t allowed to go into labor until the next night (because I still had her morning service and the party!), and I assured her I would be there.

Her morning service went beautifully, and at lunch, M and her mother expressed that they were so happy I “made it” to the service. Now I could relax, enjoy her evening party, and then GO HAVE A BABY ALREADY. I laughed, assured them that I hadn’t felt a single contraction (and barely any Braxton-Hicks), and once again told them that I would be having this baby in May.

That afternoon, before the party, I put Toby to sleep in his big boy bed, and Keith and I went to cut his hair in the bathroom. After about a half hour, I briefly peeked in on Toby and he was sleeping peacefully, buried in covers. I finished cutting Keith’s hair and came in the bedroom to change for the party. Got changed, and went to wake up Toby, where I noticed that it wasn’t Toby under the covers – it was the dog.

I called for Toby – no answer. I went downstairs and called for him – no answer. Went into the other part of the house – no answer. By now I’m starting to panic. Checked the back door, and it was unlocked. I started moving in hyperspeed, running around the property, calling Toby’s name. I ran across the street (both of them), terrified that he’d been hit by a car or picked up by someone random (we live across from a gas station).

Nothing.

I ran back upstairs, too panicked to cry. Our roommate, Joyce, came out of her room and asked what was going on. Toby wasn’t in her room, and I ran into the bathroom to tell Keith he was missing. Joyce ran outside to look for him, I ran downstairs, and I see Joyce carrying him out of the shed. He was sitting on the tractor, pretending to drive it.

I lost it. Totally lost it, crying. It honestly took 10 years off my life.

Once I calmed down, I realized how sore I was. I was 9mo pregnant, running at full tilt for about 15 minutes, and I was HURTING. We all got dressed, and I resolved to take it easy at the party that night.

The party was lovely, and we had lots of fun socializing for cocktail hour. We go in to dinner, and my butt hits the chair to eat and I have a MASSIVE contraction – painful, full-belly, OMG-I’m-in-labor, I-remember-how-this-feels-and-I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this contraction. I had a bunch during dinner, where I’m getting pretty uncomfortable, and after dinner we went into the other room for dancing.

I did havdalah with the Hebrew school kids, and realized that during a less than 10 minute service, I had 4 contractions. Do the math. So I go to Keith, have him give me his phone, and start timing them. 3 minutes apart, at least 60 seconds in duration. We look at each other and start to laugh. My students kept coming up to us, trying to get me to dance with them (I did do the electric slide while in labor!), but I declined. They took this as an invite to dress me up in a tiara and boa.

By the time we were able to sneak out of the party at 10:30pm, I was having a hard time moving and talking through them. Still a steady 3 minutes apart. On the way home, we call Karen (my midwife) and tell her I’m in labor for real because she has to rustle up the team and drive an hour. Karen tells me to go home, drink a glass of wine, take a shower, and then sleep. I’m to call her when I can’t sleep any more. We also called my doula, Heidi, to warn her I might be having a baby in a few hours.

So I did what Karen said, and by about 1:00am (now Sunday morning) it becomes obvious that I can’t rest any more. I called Karen and Heidi again, and everyone (Karen and Laura – my midwives, Katie – the student midwife, and Heidi – my doula) ends up at the house around 2:30ish. Keith was filling the pool and I was getting ready to get in.

About this time, things get fuzzy. I remember doing a rotation of pool, bed, bathroom, birthing stool. Did it a few times, and Karen checked me right before dawn. She didn’t tell me my dilation, but expressed surprise at how quickly my contractions were coming but how slowly I was dilating. She told me I had a ways to go, but gave me lots of tools to get there. Sidelying seemed to be the best way to get me dilating, so I did a lot of that.

Through this whole time, everyone alternated shifts of pushing on my back during every contraction, one pushing while the others slept. In fact, everyone did this rotational sleeping thing that was brilliant – one would be with Toby, one with me, and two sleeping. I needed that constant counter pressure to relieve the back pain (I think it’s something that’s going to happen with all my labors, because it was right at the spot where my spondilo is, and I remember having it with Toby as well). I’m sure they were all sore by lunchtime, but they kept pushing every 3 minutes for what seemed like forever, and it was the only thing that relieved that pain.

I got discouraged about midday, and my wonderful cheerleaders kept me going, despite my wails of  “I can’t do this…” and “I should have scheduled a repeat c-section!” and (Heidi’s personal favorite) “Why did I think this was a good idea??” I had expected a baby by lunchtime, and it wasn’t happening. Mentally, things were not going well. I had to keep repeating “the only way out is through” over and over to keep my mind from going elsewhere.

Sometime in here, my water broke in the pool – how convenient!

Late afternoon/early evening comes around and it’s obvious that something has stalled, because we’re working at over 20 hours of labor. Karen says I only have a lip of cervix left that wasn’t cooperating, and starts massaging it to get it out of the way. She must have been doing that for an hour, and I think we were both getting frustrated, when I shifted a bit, felt the strangest POP in my pelvis, and all of a sudden, I REALLY needed to push.

I pushed EVERYWHERE. Sidelying, on the birth stool, in the shower – I have never made so much noise in my life. I was really surprised at how low I had to go to really effectively push. I really needed to be upright while pushing – standing or squatting with help was the best. Through the whole labor, I never wanted to be on all fours, which was funny – I’d assumed I would spend most of my labor that way.

We ended up in the bathroom, with Keith holding me up under my arms while I bore down as hard as I could and made weird mooing noises. Three hours of pushing later, Karen starts telling me to put my hand down and feel baby. I refused for the next ten minutes because I was convinced that I wouldn’t feel baby’s head or that I would be disappointed at how far along I was. I was beaten at this point, convinced I would never have my baby vaginally (even though I was pushing).

As she started crowning while I was on the birthing stool (to give Keith’s arms a rest), I started feeling a horrible burning right near my clitoris. I started to panic, and yelled things like “OMG, my clitoris! It’s ripping me apart!” and started thinking horrific things about tearing up instead of down. Everywhere else felt like it was stretching fine, but for some reason my clitoris was BURNING. I was in agony.

A couple pushes later, baby came out and we realized why – she had had her left arm up near her face, and her left hand on her right cheek the whole way through the birth canal, so I actually birthed her head AND her arm, adding quite a bit to the crowning circumference. Perhaps that weird POP that I had felt right before pushing was her arm coming down just enough to fully dilate me, and perhaps that was why the labor took so long.

When she came out, there was a HUGE flood of water that soaked poor Karen (and I think Laura, too). We were all surprised at how much water had stayed behind Naomi – it totally ruined the two books I’d been using to prop myself up on the birthing stool. I remember laughing and laughing. I think all of us were.

Karen caught her, wrapped her up quickly, and gave her to me. I was in disbelief. I think I said “OMG, I just pushed out a baby! I just had a baby in my bathroom!” a million times. Eventually, someone asked if it was a girl or a boy, and we all had a laugh because I was just so amazed that she was HERE!

So baby girl Naomi Noa Eiser was born at home into the hands of a wonderful CPM, at 9:34pm, after 26.5 hours of labor, 3.5 of them pushing. I had told Karen that I wanted a labor that was half the length of my son’s labor (53 hours) and I got it – just by the skin of my teeth!

Keith cut the cord after the placenta was out (which I barely noticed), and I walked (ON MY OWN TWO FEET!) back to my very own bed with my beautiful little girl. Toby woke up just in time to see us come in and hung out, getting to know his new sister. He’d been wandering in and out through the birth, and had fallen asleep while I was pushing.

I had no tears, only a couple of skid marks (Karen said I was Superwoman!), and I was able to get Naomi right to the breast and nursing. Keith made ravioli for Kate and I, and we all basked in that after-birth glow as Karen, Katie, and Laura did the newborn exam and cleaned up.

I am still amazed that I was blessed to have Nomi at home. When I held her in my hands, I realized that through my pregnancy, I had visualized my HBAC becoming a transfer to the hospital. I had never truly believed that I would be able to have her at home successfully, but I’d been given everything I’d wished for and more. Her birth was so healing to me – I’m still in awe over my body’s ability to initiate labor and finish it, all on its own, with help from amazing women who trusted me to be strong the whole time. I’m amazed that Naomi and I worked together the whole time, and I feel such close bond with her. We are truly a wonderful team, from day one.

I am humbled by and thankful for my birthing team – Karen, Laura, Katie, Heidi, Keith, and even Joyce and Toby. Each of them contributed to our success in their own way, and though they’ll all deny it, I couldn’t have done it without them.

And you know what – despite my statements to the contrary during labor – I’d do it again. In an instant. It was so.totally.worth it.

Sara