Our Daughter Is Born
The home birth story of Josie Ellen Kunisch
I was awoken at 5 am on the morning of Thursday, May 2nd 2019. It was a familiar and long awaitedcramping, that I knew was the start of our birth journey together. You see, our first was born just over 5 weeks early. And although he was a planned homebirth this had to quickly change as a preterm baby. But that’s another story. However, this made our window of anticipation for our new arrival even greater. With a due date of April 24th (same as our first), we were a week overdue. Having anappointment, the day before in which Kathi swept my membrane, we knew it would be soon (they do eventually come out, right?). My body was very responsive to this going from 1cm to 3cm by the end of the somewhat uncomfortable process. I knew the work ahead of us and it was early yet, so I went back to bed. As I tried to get some rest I was consistently being woken up and heading to the bathroom during each cramp. By the time 6:30am rolled around, my husband Charlie and I were both up trying to gauge what needed to be done to prepare the day we had been waiting for. Now Carl, our 2 year old, usually wakes up at the faint sound of someone else being awake, this morning of all mornings we were so grateful for him still being in bed. At 6:55am I started to time my contractions as best I could. I texted my mother in law Ellen (she was going to watch Carl) and sister in law Kim (part of our birth team) to let them know things were happening but felt no need in rushing over. The surges were still just my back and not a squeezing sensation throughout my stomach. The next wave came at 7:02am, 7:06, 7:10, 7:18, 7:23 and at 7:28. I decided to shower to try to relax and buy some time before I called Kathi. I didn’t want to call her too early but wanted to give her enough time to reschedule her day. During this point from 7:28am to 7:37am I had 3 strong contractions in the shower. I was trying to wait until 8am to call but things were not slowing down. I got out of the shower and as quietly and quickly as I could, found my comfortable “labor” clothes. By now Carl was awake. Charlie was getting his breakfast and bags ready to spend his day with Grandma and his cousins. My shower did anything but slow things down. I began to walk aimlessly around trying to find my phone. After calling Kathi, she decided she would start heading my way with how I was progressing. I continually paced trying to figure out my next move, persistently calling to Charlie for his assistance as I rode each wave. I vividly remember having an out of body experience as I watched my husband care for Carl, made our necessary phone calls, prepped the birth tub and get our birth supplies in order. Words cannot express my gratitude for not only his focus and presence with me at each contraction, but also his support in the background getting done what was needed and allowing me to focus on our birth. All I could find myself able to do was continue to walk around and call to him each time a wave began. I decided I would try to sit down in hopes to slow it down and enjoy a moment with my son. He brought a couple of books to our big blue chaise lounge chair, often called our hound dog, Ragnar’s chair. As I tried so hard to sit comfortably and focus on my son to enjoy one of our favorite activities together, contraction after contraction I could not get through reading even one page. I remember feeling so sad to not share in this moment with him, but I needed to maintain my focus. He was such a trooper and was being well cared for, so I shouldn’t worry. I couldn’t worry. From 7:45am to 9am, everything sped up so fast. Charlie called Ellen to be sure she was on her way, since a 15 minute drive felt like forever in that moment. Silly me said no rush and baby had other plans. But in no time at all, Carl was off for a day at Grandma’s excited to play with cousins. Shortly after Kathi arrived. Then Kim. Then Katie and Johanna. Our team was all here. Check. Now I awaited the birth tub to be ready in our room. For this is what I had imagined my home birth to be like, laboring peacefully in the comforts of my bedroom. Nonetheless for whatever reason, I navigated toward this big blue chair while I awaited the tub. I remember trying to not get my hopes up for the birth tub to fit in our room and to be ok with laboring in the openness of our living room. I was so excited when we found out it would fit. Now here we were, everything was coming together. Walking around it wasn’t long
before I found myself on my knees leaning over that blue chair again. This was my labor position. The tub wasn’t ready, but labor wasn’t slowing.
Kathi said it was time to remove my clothes and gently said, we’re having this baby here. It was here I started to work against myself. I had a couple of break downs. Even though I was so excited for this moment, so passionate about labor and so ready to meet our baby. I was scared labor was moving too fast and my body wouldn’t be ready. I was scared to physically labor a full term baby. And mentally I was waiting for that tub. I needed a moment. And at this moment I’ll never forget Kathi’s embrace. Her faith in me and reminding me to have faith in the process. My body is ready. But my mind was not. The contractions continued and we worked together as a team, but labor slowed down. We moved to my bed, setting up in a similar position as I was on the blue chair. Contractions came and went but nothing like earlier. Alas the tub was ready. Check mate. The soreness in my hips was very evident and I could not wait to soak in that tub. It was like I could feel the weight lift off of my hips instantaneously as I submerged. This was it. I’m ready. In my mind this is where I needed to be. As I mentally tried to be in labor, the tub was not the place my body needed. It was soothing and relaxing to regain my strength, but it only slowed me down. From here everything is a blur. Labor had really stalled. I recall trying to squat on a workout ball, birthing stool, walk, trying to eat or climb the stairs. Rushes came here and there but no consistency. We joked about Ragnar staring ever so patiently at us through the front window. Avoiding to see a clock, I continued to move around while my team waited patiently. Never once telling me what I should be doing, just going with the flow of where I felt I should be. I began to get frustrated. Everything was here and in place, yet labor seemed to have taken a break. As much as I wanted to appreciate the rest, I wanted to meet our baby. At some point, Kathi sensed my frustration and came to check in with me. We decided I would try to sit on the toilet and push when a rush came to try to really get our momentum back. I just remember at some point my mentality switched and I had no more room for fear. I knew I was holding myself back. And I needed to refocus myself. I went back in the tub to relieve some hip pressure and as I got out again, I had a strong rush. It was here my water broke. I was asked where I wanted to go and for some reason that dang blue chair was my place. So back we all headed. Everyone quietly and peacefully shifting our supplies. And here we were again. This time, I was all in. Exhausted and mentally trying to get through the pain of transition, I leaned on my husband while Kim kept laying cool wash cloths on me. I remember squeezing both their hands. Trying to keep my breathing controlled and low. I could feel baby coming and had a strong burning sensation with each push. Everyone was so encouraging despite my exhaustion and discomfort. We truly were a team. As my baby began to do the “dance of life”, Kathi reminded me to not get discouraged that they were stretching my body. Let it happen. Suddenly, there was a very unmistakable and strong burning following a long hard push. This was the one I’ll never forget because following Kathi finally exclaimed the head is out! Just one more push and your baby will be born! The excitement, relief, empowerment and love all wrapped into one moment. One moment that truly stops time as you feel your baby enter into this world. Overwhelming euphoria. Gently and smoothly I was repositioned, and my baby was passed to me between my legs (I labored on all fours). Alas our baby was in my arms. At 4:07pm on May 2nd, 2019 our new little addition was finally here. Time continued to stand still as we all lived in this moment together. It’s difficult to find the right words to describe this. I recall looking to see the gender and just so overwhelmed with emotion I couldn’t speak. Someone exclaimed, it’s a girl! She just snuggled up against me, trying to look around. Not making much of a sound. I remember asking if she was ok? She was so quiet, much different from our son. I was just expecting they all “come out crying”. But not our Josie. She was here and happy and just enjoying her moment with us. We were all enjoying her first moments with us. The peace in her eyes as she looked around. The love and gratitude in the atmosphere as my husband and I welcomed our new family member.
Now the placenta. I was able to have my son naturally, despite the hospitals wishes for me to be induced or possibly move towards a C-section. But when it came time to my placenta, I remember the doctor trying to tug on the cord to help “encourage” it to come out. I remember evening telling her she was hurting me, but she said that I could hemorrhage if it didn’t come out. Needless to say, I pushed it out fine after a brief moment relaxing. Fast forward to Josie’s placenta, I had some hesitation in passing it with this memory. But there was no rush and soon with a little push it came out very easily. Then off to bed we all went. Charlie, Josie and I all snuggled quietly in our bedroom, alone with an occasional check in. Such peace and thanks be to God! Kim was off making some of my favorites, pancakes and eggs. Kathi, Katie and Johanna quietly doing what was necessary with such respect and amity. After about an hour, Kathi quietly went through our 7 lb 2oz and 20 ½” long girl’s newborn exam on my bed. Including us as she completed her physical. Appreciating and enjoying all of our little one’s characteristics.
A woman never forgets the work and endurance needed for labor, but she also never forgets the ecstatic feelings of strength and empowerment. She never forgets how she was treated, cared for and every little detail of dedication by her birth team. So much pride and love for God’s greatest gift.