Home Birth: A Look Back

birth cover

Recently I posted on my personal Facebook page about an AP article reporting the sad state of US birth statistics (in infant mortality, the United States ranks 40 among developed countries). I commented, rather offhandedly, that you may as well stay home with rates like those! This offhanded comment led to a spirited discussion on whether or not you need to be crazy to have a home birth.

Believe it or not, I have a little experience in the area.
My little one is 18 months today.
She was born upstairs. In a blow up pool.
In my living room.

 After much thought, I have decided to post Abigail’s birth story here today. It’s amazing to me that just a short eighteen months ago, almost to the hour, my little one was born. She was born under the watchful eye of my amazing midwife, Rebecca. She was born quickly, while my body did exactly what it was born knowing how to do. Most importantly, she was born safely, under ideal circumstances for a home birth. She was born with medical care present, as well as emergency equipment. She was born after being tested for all the possible concerns that may arise during a home birth. She was born alert and awake, without either of us being under the influence of medications. She was born as I moved and responded to my body, rather than being immobilized in bed, pushing and straining to force my child out in a way nature never intended her to come. She was born, and I was forever changed.

disclaimer: while I welcome your educated opinions, I do not welcome spiteful, hateful, or ignorant commentary that is simply meant to flame me. Those comments will not be posted.

I was ten days past my due date when I woke up with mild contractions at 7:30 a.m. I had experienced mild contractions off and on in the past month but a blessing Gary had given me the night before made me think that labor was probably starting. I debated the need to go to my midwife appointment at ten that morning, and ultimately I decided I should, just in case things didn’t progress anywhere.

I got Nicole ready to go to the office of Rebecca, my midwife. Contractions were still fairly mild, but only three to five minutes apart. That seemed much too close together to be true labor.

When I got to Rebecca’s, I told her about my contractions. She said that they did seem awfully close together, and asked if I still wanted the membranes stripped. If I was in true labor, then I didn’t, but I was worried that this wasn’t labor and I would kick myself later for not having them stripped. I decided to have her strip them.

Since I was so far past my “due” date, I had to do another non-stress test. I needed to lie on the couch, drink juice, while strapped to monitors to make sure the baby was still thriving. While on the monitors I told her when I had a contraction. She said they were about three minutes apart, but barely a “blip” on the monitor. I left the office feeling pretty disappointed and called Gary to let him know Rebecca sure didn’t act like I was in labor.

I was really tired and still having these light contractions. One of the big miracles of the day was that Nicole was also really tired so I gave her a snack and put her down for a nap. At 11:30 I tried laying down but it only took a few contractions for me to realize there was no way I was getting any sleep. Contractions quickly took off from there, and by noon I called Gary to tell him I needed him to come home. Considering only an hour ago I had called and said I didn’t think I was in labor, his reaction was less than enthusiastic. He kept asking me if I was sure I was in labor, and I responded that I had no idea, but it hurt and I needed him.

I got in the shower to help ease the pain. After my shower I laid down on my bed, trying to relax. At 12:45 I felt a distinct pop and as I sat up wondering what on earth that was, I felt a gush of fluid. Immediately I called Rebecca to report my water had broken and to find out what to do next.

Rebecca asked me what color the fluid was and I checked the towel I was sitting on. “Yellow… Did I just pee myself?”

Rebecca responded that if it was brown or green then it was probably meconium in the water, but since it was yellow, it’s possible I had peed myself. Even as we were talking I could still feel liquid coming out. She said that if it was my water breaking that contractions would pick up soon and asked me to call her in fifteen minutes.

I went to the bathroom and while I was on the toilet had two contractions. The second one I had made me jump up with the pain. I put a pad on and started pacing in the living room, waiting for Gary. I knew then I was in labor.

He got home at 1:00 and immediately started setting things up. My mom called and I didn’t answer since I was having a contraction. Gary called her back and told her to start coming down. I didn’t say it at the time but I was thinking he told her to come way too early! My sister Lisa, our photographer, came shortly after—I wasn’t even expecting her, as I hadn’t talked to her at all. It was a good thing she was there. My contractions were every two minutes apart which meant Gary would help me through a contraction then run to keep setting up the pool until I started moaning again. Lisa helped Gary with setting up the pool.

One of the few things that helped the pain was squatting with Gary’s help. When a contraction would start, he’d brace himself and squat down, and I would perch on his knee. At one point he moved to a sitting position and I snapped at him; any sitting at all was excruciating. Eventually though, the only thing that helped was Gary squeezing my hips together. Apparently this helps open the pelvis but all I cared about was that it was some form of relief. Days later, Gary’s arms and legs were still sore!

Rebecca arrived at about 2:00. She checked the baby’s heart rate and a moment later, I threw up. She had me try to go to the bathroom and then I was allowed to get into the tub.

Getting into the warm water felt wonderful. I asked Gary to get in with me so he could continue applying pressure on my hips. I draped my arms over the tub and continued with my loud moaning. Around 2:30 I asked Lisa to call Jeanine to pick Nicole up. Nicole was still sleeping (seriously, this was a miracle, considering how late it was and how much noise I was making) and I didn’t want to call Jeanine after Nicole was awake. Nicole was carried out of the house, still asleep, and having no clue what her mom was going through! I’m so glad it worked out this way. At some point my mom, who was still driving from Logan, called, and asked if she could be put on speakerphone. I said okay, as long as she didn’t say anything and just listened.

The contractions were getting more and more intense. Rebecca alternated between putting a cool cloth on my neck and fanning me with the cloth. Soon she warned me that there would be pressure that would stay even between the contractions. The pressure gradually built and I started to panic a little. It felt less like “a giant bowel movement,” as I had read about in all the books, and more like a bowling ball attempting to escape. Even though I knew I wouldn’t, I was honestly afraid of breaking. Rebecca told me when I started to feel burning to start blowing so I wouldn’t push the baby out too fast. I leaned back into Gary’s arms once, which I really liked because it was the only time I was able to have eye contact with him. Throughout labor he kept telling me what a good job I was doing. It was so nice to hear his reassurances.

I wish I could say I was super collected about it all, but I definitely screamed a few times. Rebecca kept reminding me to make low tones. Growling seemed to help the most. Soon I felt the burning she had warned me about, and blowing helped. The contractions spaced themselves out a bit and I was able to relax a little more, though I was still completely freaked out over the intensity of the pressure. I announced that this was a bad idea!

About 2:45, I could reach down and feel my baby’s head. Minutes later, my mom walked in and immediately got in front of me. Rebecca and Gary told me the baby was out to her eyes. Rebecca asked me to kneel up more but apparently I went to far up because Rebecca told me I needed to stand. I knew that anytime the baby’s skin is exposed to air it can stimulate breathing and therefore, the baby must be born out of water. Otherwise the baby can potentially start breathing under water. If I hadn’t known this, standing up probably would have been an impossible task. But because I knew the risks to my baby, all those momma-bear instincts kicked and with my mom’s help, I was quickly standing. The baby then came out to her chin and the relief I felt was incredible.

Most babies turn at this point to maneuver their shoulders out easily. I guess my baby didn’t get the memo because, I later learned, she chose not to turn. All I felt was Rebecca’s hands doing something and more pressure than I had yet felt. I yelled, “What are you doing?” Gary later told me she was helping pull the baby out. I never felt any “urge to push,” my body simply what it needed too to birth my daughter. This was the only time I had to actually push and I think I gave a grand total of two pushes.

Moments later, the baby came out into Rebecca’s arms and Rebecca passed her through my legs to me. That was the first and only moment I doubted my choice of a home birth—she handed me a limp, purple baby. I asked Rebecca if she was okay, and Rebecca said she was fine. She wanted to suction her nose and mouth and then we’d start stimulating her. Seconds later, our baby was pink, healthy, and screaming. Gary helped me sit down in the water and he held me as I held out little girl (I checked to make sure she was a she).

I was completely exhausted but so glad we had our baby, safe and sound. I think I was also in a little shock that not only had labor started, but it was over! Nicole had barely even left the house, and my mom had only just arrived. After three hours of active labor and minutes of the pushing stage, P. Abigail was born at home weighing 8 lbs. 13 oz. and was 19.5 inches long.

We waited until the cord stopped pulsing, and Rebecca clamped it so Gary could cut it. I was then free to move to the couch. Delivering the placenta was a little scary, as the pressure reminded me of the pressure that was so intense just minutes before, but it came out nice and easy.

I spent the next hour or two nursing the baby, showering, drinking Jamba Juice, and getting instructions on how to care for myself and Abigail in the coming days. A few guests came over, but by that evening, I was snug in my own bed with my husband and my new little baby. I loved that Nicole had already met her new little sister and was able to sleep in her own bed with virtually no disruption to her routine. Had I birthed in a hospital, Nicole wouldn’t have been allowed to see me and I wouldn’t have seen her for minimally two days.

Even though it was frightening, I didn’t really have time to wish for an epidural. I’m so grateful that I now know the capabilities of my own body. I don’t think I’m a hero, or a superwoman, or even a martyr. I chose what I believe was best for me and my baby, and I honestly believe that any woman could do what I did. I was asked moments after the birth, and three days later, if I would do a home birth again. The first time I said, “I think so,” and the second time, I was able to answer, “absolutely.”

If the slideshow above doesn’t load, please click refresh. I’m not sure if I’m doing this correctly. :)

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4 Responses to Home Birth: A Look Back

  1. Amy says:

    I love hearing the birth stories. I had an epidural with my first, and it was a horrible recovery. The second came too fast and I could not have an epidural. I was begging, pleading…but it was too late. However, the recovery was WAYYY easier. Amazing, huh? Thanks for sharing your story.

    • I love birth stories too! This actually sounds a lot like my sister in law’s story–first one epi, slow recovery, second one came too fast, quick recovery. Amazing what our bodies are capable of when we let them try. FYI, my first was in hospital, with an epi. I hated the whole experience: immobilized, no privacy, I tore (I believe due to the pushing, my 2nd was a whole pound bigger and no tears), etc. The epi even fell OUT half way through labor!! What’s the point, hmm?? The hospital experience was probably the biggest contributor in my looking into a home birth.

  2. Andrea Rea says:

    Thanks for sharing your birthing experience. My first four children were born in Australia in a hospital, by a midwife, naturally. My first experience having a baby in US at a hospital with a midwife was so scary! They wanted me hooked up to monitors, laying down. What? I wasn’t sick, why did i need to lay down with monitors? In Australia they had me walking until time to deliver and then was encouraged to work with gravity, now against it. I have had two home births since then and cannot express the incredible differences to the US hospital experience. It is so peaceful and natural to be home! I love having my other children being able to hold and love on the new baby after it is born. It is such a beautiful experience. The recovery is amazing. We have started school the day after my home births. Not the normal routine but kids sit on my bed with their books. Mostly because they have to be close to the new baby because they are so in love with him. My first home birth was 10.2 lbs and 23 in. long. My others have been 10.10 an 10.8 and 24 inches long, all delivered naturally. It is not the size of the baby, it is the ability to work with the body and focus on the birthing process. Our bodies are so amazing! Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you for sharing! I think having a hospital like yours in Australia would have been amazing, and probably even my first birth choice. But as you’ve since learned, there are so little choices in birth in America. So I took the “ohmygoshyou’redoingwhat?!” looks, and the sharing of not at all accurate statistics from others with stride, and did it my way. And now I KNOW what I can do. I even had a dream recently where I was birthing at a hospital (who knows why??) and I was putting the nurses and doctors in their place. They were welcome to stand by and watch, but this was MY birth, I wasn’t about to give it up!!

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