My pregnancy was pretty typical for me, but as I approached my July 4th due date, I felt like my fourth-time-around belly would quite literally burst. The only relief I could find was the near-zero-gravity from our new home’s backyard pool, where I would loll around lazily in unselfconscious bikini’d bliss. As it turned out, my growing fetus took advantage of that extra buoyancy and turned herself right around into a breech position at over 8 months along! I panicked slightly, but Janet knew just what to do. She arranged for delivery of the most absurd apparatus known to humanity, one in which an enormously-pregnant woman is expected to harness herself into it and literally flip upside-down into a vertical position — which is exactly as impossible as it sounds. There were many tears and a whole lot of cursing, but with my husband’s support, that damn thing worked just like she said it would. The baby had turned, confirmed by an ultrasound in her office — and I heeded her advice to stop floating around in the deep end!
For the location of my actual birth I chose a spare bedroom in our walkout basement, which had a connected bath. I knew that I wanted to try a water birth, and though I researched the many fancy birthing tubs on the market, Janet suggested that the best option would actually be a cheap inflatable kids’ swimming pool. We thought it was funny at first, but she was right — it was comfortably deep and cheap enough to justify one-time use. We set it up in our birthing room, which also had a single bed ready for me to use afterward. We had all of the supplies that she requested, ready for the big moment. It was a very cozy space, and we felt quite prepared thanks to Janet’s direction.
In my previous births, I never really noticed my water break because it happened during the pushing phase; this time, however, my water broke as this cinematic first event of labor, just like in the movies. It was late afternoon when I felt that gush, but my contractions did not really begin until about midnight. Janet had correctly predicted that my body would wait until my older children were sound asleep, which is exactly what happened. Janet arrived at around midnight, casually and calmly preparing herself for the real work to begin later as I dozed with my husband.
I had never been the kind of woman who wants a lot of hand-holding and back-rubbing during labor and birth — I’m more like the mama cat who goes under the stairs in the dark and hisses if anyone comes too close! Janet knew that, respected it, and did not take it personally — but what makes her so perfectly wonderful is that if I would have needed her to hold my hand and rub my back, she would have known that just as intuitively and kindly obliged.
What I did not expect during that labor was how excruciatingly painful it would be — and I have a very high tolerance for pain. Contractions were torturous in a way I had never experienced because I had no amniotic fluid to cushion this big baby, and there were so many times I said I wanted to just go to the hospital — which is probably the most absurd thing a laboring woman could say after going to all the trouble and expense of pursuing a homebirth! It’s a true testament to Janet’s expertise that she persists in those moments when the actual mother doesn’t believe her own ability to do the thing that she was built to do. She patiently helped me into the shower over and over, she made me keep standing up to let gravity help the contractions do their work even though it was torture, she made me do all the things I stubbornly did not want to do because she knew the way, and she was my guide. She made me believe that I could do it when every molecule of my body wanted to give up. I trusted her completely and let her lead the way.
One crucial suggestion she made was to hang on my husband, to have him prop me up under the arms so that I could just go limp with each contraction. Now, the magnitude of this suggestion cannot be overstated: I am utterly convinced that his biochemical essence made the contractions less painful, like his scent actually altered my perception of the pain and diminished its intensity. He literally saved me in that moment — he was vital to the birth of our baby in a way that he never had been before, and I really needed him. Janet knew this magic, this special secret for which there is no clinical study to prove its effectiveness. I know that it was the key to my progress through transition. It was a level of participation for my husband that I never knew was possible, necessary, or important — and it was because of Janet that we experienced that gift of deep connection. It really deepened my love for him and my respect for his involvement in the feminine process of childbirth.
Janet made me wait to get into the birthing pool until I was nearly ready to push. When I finally got in, I was on all fours as I pushed, and I remember actually feeling the baby’s progress through my body. The water formed this miraculous protective force around me, an insulating distraction, changing every sensation and centering my focus on this internal movement. It’s as if the water allowed my mind to occupy a very primal space of consciousness with no sense of external disruption, like I was existing in a realm of my own in which I had complete oneness with my body. It is very difficult to verbalize that feeling, I realize now, and the experience was nothing short of transformative. With what seemed like hardly any effort and just a few pushes, my black-haired third daughter, Ruby, left one watery world for another and nestled herself on my chest with Janet’s help at a little after 4AM. What was so interesting to me in that moment was how calm and aware this brand new person was, looking around and quickly nursing. It was like she knew just what to do. There were no loud voices or bright lights, no urgency, just hushed warmth and a pervading serenity. We stayed like that for some time, and it was utter bliss.
After awhile, Janet weighed Ruby and shocked us all with the announcement that she was over 10 pounds and nearly 24 inches long! Even though I always have big healthy babies, I was a little surprised by her overall size — but I was absolutely shocked at how good I felt. The water birth had allowed for her gentle exit from my body, despite her size, and I had no tearing whatsoever. It was nothing short of incredible, especially contrasted with the horrible hematoma I had endured during my last hospital birth.
These women tended to me like mothers, drying me and cleaning me and dressing me gently. It felt like a private ceremony, all the more special for me because of the marked absence of my own long-deceased mother. They tucked me into bed with my new pink baby where we nursed happily while the birthing team cleaned up and did some laundry. They refrigerated my placenta for me to do with as I pleased (I later prepared and encapsulated it myself). Finally they helped me into our adjacent family room where I rested in a comfortable chair with the baby. That is where I was when they departed our home until my next day’s checkup. That is where I was when, at about 6AM, my older children crept downstairs and discovered a new baby sister waiting. It was all so wonderfully private, so intimate, so special. The energy of that tremendous event is still preserved within the comfort of our own home. To this day, that little room holds deep meaning for us. This is truly Ruby’s home.
What I loved most about my homebirth was that it was attended by no strangers, no beeping machines, no electrodes, no urgency, no impersonal irritations, no expectations, no forced complicity. It was everything I had ever wanted, everything I had ever thought a birth should be. Janet Schwab made that possible, and to her I am forever grateful. With her as your guide, I trust that your experience will be as profoundly satisfying as mine was.” – Toni Boschee, Littleton, CO