The Untold Blessings of Birthing during Covid-19 (the Birth Story of Sundance Jack)
I now have a near five-month-old, who was born at home during this Covid-19 pandemic. It was a beautiful home birth, despite the stress of the few weeks preceding the birth, as my unofficial doula, my midwife, and I were all tested for Covid-19 in my 37th week of pregnancy (you can read more in a previous post). Thankfully, I was negative, as was my midwife. My unofficial doula Allie, however, was positive. I was hoping and praying for her to receive a negative test and/or be cleared by the CDC before my baby came.
I've had a doula-esque friend at each of my other births, and I felt they were invaluable...duh. So when Allie needed two weeks to be quarantined, I started praying fervently that she'd still be able to attend the birth. My husband Zach has always been great...but he too loves/needs the support of a doula at our births!
The day that Allie was cleared to re-enter society, I started labor. My midwife said, "Your body was just waiting for Allie to be able to come!" Which was true. I think my body and mind finally relaxed, knowing that Allie would be able to attend the birth. I started labor that night, April 29, four days before my due date. It was around 9pm. I texted both Allie and my midwife an hour later when the contractions proved themselves to be regular.
I fell asleep an hour or so later, excited and nervous but also hoping to get a little sleep. I was awakened by stronger contractions around 1:30am. I thought they were pretty intense, so I woke Zach up a little while later and called my midwife. She checked my cervix, and I was only dilated at 2cm, but I felt they were pretty intense, so she stayed for an hour to monitor me and check my progress. She ended up going home and suggested rest for all parties. The rest of the night I would get awakened by contractions but fall asleep before the next one came...this happened all night!
I woke up (that is to say, I got out of bed) around 8am, to find Zach feeding my older two. We had a hearty breakfast-waffles!-and then got our kids ready to go to Allie's mom's house (who at that time had around 10 kids at her house: thank you Jodi!!).
Allie came over at 9am, and we went outside with the birthing ball. It was such a beautiful day, with only the slightest breeze, so I wanted to labor in the fresh air (insert subtle plug for home birth here!). Amber came over at 10:30am to check vitals and baby's heart tones. We all stayed outside, where Allie began to massage my lower back during the contractions, which got more and more intense. I started swaying and moving on the ball, which felt nice.
When it started raining, we went inside, and Zach filled up the birthing pool. As soon as it was ready, I got in the pool. I was definitely in active labor and was getting excited, but I was so tired! Allie kept showing me pictures of Zoe and Sheridan playing with Jodi's and Allie's kids. The doula in me kept thinking: "These pictures are giving me rushes of oxytocin! They are helping progress labor!" Zach was in and out of the basement, where the birthing pool was, fetching snacks and water, doing pull ups, updating family, giving me kisses and words of encouragement. He was so thankful for Allie to be able to be at my side the entire time, so that when he was needed, he was emotionally ready to really help me.
The contractions were getting way more intense and lasting longer than a minute. I remember starting to get really direct with Allie, saying, "Nope, don't do that...Rub my back...Not like that!" which of course she didn't mind. I got out of the tub to pee around 1pm, and Amber checked my cervix again. I was dilated at a 7 with a slight cervical lip. I was discouraged, but Amber suggested elevating my one leg to alleviate the lip. So I hoisted my leg up on the bed for a few contractions until that became too uncomfortable.
Around this time, Zach was asking about the birth tub pump (he wanted to pump some water out so he could fill it higher with hotter water). After the third question, I finally snapped, "I don't know - read the directions!" Allie, too, asked me a few questions about the birthing stool (where I was to deliver the placenta), and I again couldn't really answer her kindly. We realized later that I was in transition!
I got back in the tub, and I was hot! I ordered the fan to be turned on, and I pulled my hair out of my face. That first contraction back in the tub, I felt a pop between my legs, and I yelled, "My water just broke!" I felt my body heave, and I groaned. My midwife and her assistant came in and made sure everything was ready. I was on my knees at the time and made it through a few more contractions where my body was starting to push, but I didn't feel ready. I then reached down and felt the baby's head right near my vaginal opening, so I knew it was close! I had discussed trying to catch the baby if I was in position, so I moved onto the little seat in the pool, so I had one leg out and one bent in front of me. Zach moved to where he was right next to my face. My midwife gave me the mirror, and I saw the baby's hair! I looked at Zach and told him, "I'm just so tired." He told me: "You're doing great. You're almost there. I love you." He kissed me, giving me much-needed courage.
That next contraction, I decided I was going to push along with my body. I pushed one huge push, and baby's head was out! My midwife told me to give one more push, and when I did, he came out. I reached down to help pick him up with my midwife, and we put him on my chest. Right before he landed on my chest, Allie cried, "It's a boy!" Zach and I could not believe it! I was so convinced that it was a girl, but we were both elated. "Sundance Jack," Zach announced. Immediately, he looked around at this new world, eyes huge and eager. He was adorable right out of the gate, not like newborn cute, but actually cute cute.
I held him while I got out of the tub to birth the placenta. That was the worst part of the birth - birthing the placenta. I had to get on the birthing stool, and Zach was supporting me behind, but I was still insanely uncomfortable. Once the placenta came out, I was finally able to go to the bed. Sundance did the breast crawl! I really wanted to see my baby do it, and I knew that if I gave him enough time, he would. And sure enough, he crawled up my stomach and bobbled his little head around until he found the sweet nipple.
Looking back on his birth now, I see so many blessings of birthing him during this pandemic. Obviously, there were many reasons to worry and fear (and I certainly had my fair share of that), but this time has also given us many joys.
For one, the air of social distancing gave us plenty of space to bond with our little Sundance Jack. The sweet friends who brought us meals and gifts were sensitive in not asking to hold him and in keeping the visit short (not that I didn't want them to stay, but I didn't really want them to stay, if you know what I mean). It also gave me an excuse to go nowhere for several weeks without shame, which should still be a thing, by the way. But Covid gave us that sweet relief to stay home and exercise freedom from pressure to "get back out there" immediately.
Also, because of things shutting down so closely to the birth of my little man, I felt much more rested physically (and emotionally) when it came time to have my baby. Many of my obligations I had, though I loved them, were time-consuming and energy-depleting. That time gave our family more time to be together, especially since my husband worked from home through it all.
Shortly before Sundance entered the world, my brother asked me, "What has Covid taken from you, and what has it given you?" I loved that question and continue to think upon it. I hope to pose that question to you as well. And my most emphatic answer is that Covid has given me more rest, more dependence on Jesus, and more delight in the newest member of our family.