The Precipitous Home Birth of Adam Kolbe
It was a hot and beautiful summer evening one year ago that our Adam Kolbe exploded into the world. I'm sharing the last of my birth stories today!
I approached full term and we stayed close to home with the exception of daily Mass. By the grace of God I had taken the six older boys every weekday morning to Mass the whole year and throughout the pregnancy. When Masses reopened after the Covid shutdowns, I felt incredibly convicted that there was no more important place to be with my family every day. It was such a comfort and no doubt it was one of the reasons I experienced the graces I did during pregnancy. I know the Eucharist was sustaining me and keeping me going, sometimes slogging through, each day. My husband and I started our tradition of praying the Consecration to Jesus through Mary preparation on behalf of this baby. We have consecrated each baby to her using the 33 day preparation and ending on the Marian feast day closest to the due time or baptism. We planned it to end on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. Our second oldest son joined us through the whole thing as we had asked him to be the baby’s Godfather.
My official 40 week mark was August 20, though whenever asked I would only divulge that I was due at the end of the summer. It was somewhat helpful in not getting impatient towards the end but the closer I got the more I grew attached to the idea of baby being born the 14, 15, or 16. The 14th is the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, one of our possible patrons for a boy baby. The 15th is the great Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, my very favorite feast day of the year celebrating the glorification and redemption of her body (and eventually all of ours with her). The 16th is our wedding anniversary and certainly would have been a beautiful way to celebrate!
The 14th came with zero signs of labor. I woke up on Sunday the 15th just as pregnant and got ready for Mass at which we were also planning to complete our Consecration. Before Mass began, we did. Kneeling at the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa in our beautiful Polish parish, we consecrated our little one to Mary and also prayed that he or she would be born that day.
We came home to have a laid back day. It was hot and beautifully sunny. I had a prenatal massage scheduled at noon, experiencing that glory for the first time this pregnancy. Our health share plan was willing to cover them so I opted for that instead of chiropractic adjustments this time around. I had finally found someone who I was comfortable with and who even came to our house for visits! I had 3 wonderful appointments in my bedroom in the past weeks listening to worship music as she worked. I told her this visit to feel free to use any acupressure she knew to possibly encourage baby out. She did do some intense work on some pressure points during the massage, during which I nearly fell asleep on the table. I wish I had had access to massage during my other pregnancies! It was such a gift. After she left, I ate and then went to visit the kids and my husband who were outside in the pool. I didn’t feel up for getting in and went back inside. I prepared things for dinner and during that time noticed that I was having some very light contractions. As soon as I noticed them, they were about 3-4 minutes apart but so very light and easy, similar to Braxton-Hicks type of practice labor to which I was no stranger. Except they kept coming. They were so gentle, not at all painful but noticeable. My husband got the rest of dinner ready and I came down to eat with everyone around 4:15. I had begun timing these little sensations and during dinner they got to 2-3 minutes apart. I was joking and smiling and talking through them with the boys and feeling relatively good so it didn’t feel like anything truly “real”. Maybe very early labor but not worth stopping everything for and definitely not time to call anyone. I wasn’t very hungry since I had eaten a sandwich not long before so I ended up not really eating dinner. I went upstairs to be alone and to see if that would change anything that was happening and at least make sure I had all my supplies in order if it was. I had asked a former client and friend who had also had some doula training and whose husband is a photographer if she would be up for photographing the birth. I hadn’t had any success finding someone available who fit our budget and my desire to just pay someone to take photos, leaving me the unedited images. I'm so glad Anna was up for it! During this time knowing that she had to figure out childcare, I shot her a quick text that I was feeling things but not sure and I would keep her updated. It didn’t at all feel worth interrupting my midwife yet. And even if I had, I would’ve probably said the same…I’m sort of feeling things but unsure and I’ll keep you updated. Right after that text things slowed way down. I was having one here or there but they were now 6-10 minutes apart and still what felt like Braxton Hicks. No pain or even real discomfort and far enough apart to be pretty ignorable. I was glad I hadn't called anyone to come but I was also kind of frustrated wanting it to have been real. Looking back I wish I had felt confident that it really was early labor and enjoyed it more! It was exactly the gentle labor for which I had prayed but I was blind to it! At the time, the unknowing was just kind of annoying. At about 5:15 p.m. or so, the family all came up to our bedroom where I was hanging out and we prayed a Rosary together. It was really beautiful despite my intermittent pacing, sitting on the ball, and leaning on the bed as we prayed but I was doing that during most family Rosaries while pregnant anyway to stay comfortable. The boys were used to it! During the Rosary I only had a handful of light sensations that weren’t very convincing at all. I was beginning to resign myself to it not being real. At around 6 my husband went to put the little two to bed (yes, that early…they needed it!) and I turned my birth playlist on for some encouragement and worship. He then sent the oldest four to watch a movie because I had mentioned having some time alone together. At about 6:15 we laid down together with the intention of being intimate. I figured it could either get things moving or if not, it would still be a gift to enjoy some time together. Very soon after lying down, I had two light contractions and before anything further could happen things took a huge shift. I jumped up off the bed from the intensity of a big surge and immediately had zero desire for anything further on the intimacy front! That must have been around 6:30. I waited and another very strong wave soon came. THIS was labor I was familiar with and now it was clear. I told him to fill the tub because I knew I would need some of that relief from the water very soon. I didn't want a water birth this time but in the moment I just wanted to be in the water. While he was doing that I called my midwife’s line and left a message at 6:45. She called back at 6:48 and already I was entering the zone and not at all wanting to talk so he spoke with her and told her it was time. She said she’d pack her things and be on her way estimating about 30-40 minutes. It was then that another wave came that brought me to my knees at the foot of the bed. I wanted to get in the water right then. My husband had just started recording in the bedroom but then followed me to the bathroom carrying the tripod with him. I’m so thankful I had everything ready for a few weeks and had prepped him that videoing this birth was really important to me. It also gave me an exact timeline of the rest of the birth and that was very helpful looking back! At 6:54 I got into the tub while he let Anna know to head over. The relief from the water was palpable but still the intensity of the contractions was already nearing the overwhelming point. It was as though I went from “is that a real surge?” to transition in a matter of moments and it was incredibly disorienting.
We had the music playing and I was praying in the water, not in the peaceful way I had hoped but pleading and somewhat overwhelmed. A few minutes after being in the water I tried to check myself. I only felt some of the amniotic sac pushing through what certainly seemed to be only a 2-3 cm cervix, no head. That got in my own head a bit because the sensations I was feeling were not at all consistent with that. It made me second guess whether this was real and doubt myself. I wish I could have surrendered to what was happening and trusted my intuition a bit more in those moments.
The next surges were mind blowing. I felt so much of it in my hips. My husband got in the water and applied hip pressure that took a small tip of the edge off but wow, were they intense. I reached that point where everything in me wanted to say I can’t do this but when I opened my mouth, with all my willpower I voiced the words, “I can do this.” I had about three of those and then I felt the pop of my water breaking at 7:11. During all this time I was on my knees in the water, rising enough to rock back and forth during surges and then sink back down. Immediately in the next surge I felt the uncontrollable bearing down. I wanted so much for it to slow down but I couldn’t control it. I had really hoped for a slower and gentler pushing stage but this was more akin to a cannon ball shooting through me. I said “I can’t stop” as his head moved down and began to crown all in one surge. During that I let out one huge roar, the loudest I had been through the entire labor. I felt the familiar burning stretch and reached down to cup the tiny little top of a head in my hand. (For months after I was brought right back to that moment when I held his head in my hand.) A few seconds later, his head was completely out. I comically just said “head!” A pause of a few more seconds and the rest of his body slid into the water, official time 7:14. Time seemed to stand still for just a few moments. It was stunningly beautiful and a memory I will treasure forever. I reached down to catch my baby on my own, a desire of mine for this birth. I slowly pulled him out of the water, unwrapped the cord that was draped around his neck and pulled him up to me as I turned to sit in the tub. He was quiet but his tone was great. I rubbed his back a bit. Without thinking I used my mouth to suck anything out of his that might be in the way. Looking back at the video, it wasn’t necessary but it was just what I felt I should do in the moment. He let out a small cry and we had those beautiful moments as I caught my own breath, cried, laughed, and thanked God for this precious baby. I marveled at all his vernix, more than any of our previous babies! I remember saying “Oh my baby!” and “thank you, Jesus!” and laughably, “I’m so glad that was real!” I then checked and discovered we had another beautiful son!
From getting into the water to baby being born was exactly 20 minutes, only 30 minutes after I had called the midwife. If my check was accurate, I went from that 2-3 cm to holding baby in about 15 minutes. No wonder it was so so intense. A few minutes later I felt like I should call Maura to let her know. I didn’t really need to do that either since she was on her way and I knew we were both fine. Maybe it was the doula in me that felt like it was what I was supposed to do! She was about eight minutes away. At about 7:23 my husband called the boys down from their movie and woke the two little ones from sleep to let them know. They came into the bathroom to see me holding their new little brother in the tub.
Maura and Anna both arrived at about the same time. Right around then, he latched on to nurse with almost no help from me. I had been holding him on my chest and barely moved him into position and he was on before I even tried. I had had thoughts of attempting the breast crawl if I hadn’t been in the water but in the water it isn’t really as feasible with needing to keep the baby up and out of the water, at least with how I was sitting. After getting her things settled, Maura and Brian helped me out of the tub. I felt ready to birth the placenta so I did just that in a standing position next to the tub into the bowl we had ready. Maura asked if I minded any traction which I didn’t and that helped it come right out. I then made the traditional awkward and comical hobbling postpartum walk to the bed to rest - midwife holding the chux pad underneath me, baby in my arms, and husband connected to us with the placenta bowl.