Before my husband and I conceived our baby girl, we had no idea our journey would lead us to a home birth. In fact, I had never really thought about the fact that once pregnant, I would have options in birth. I’m grateful every single day for the experiences I had once pregnant that led to our beautiful home birth. Here’s our story.
While celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary in July of 2008, my husband and I decided that we were ready to start our family.
It took 9 months of charting, acupuncture, and herbs for the day to finally come when I found out I was pregnant. In hindsight I realize that 9 months is really not that long of a time, but it felt like forever then. I had already fallen deeply in love with whatever soul would end up growing in my belly, and I could not wait. I had been seeing my regular OB and just assumed I would continue to see her now that we were pregnant. She sent me to the hospital that our family medical center is affiliated with for an ultra sound for dating. I didn’t know enough to turn it down at the time, and I’m actually really glad I ended up going there.
When we got to the hospital for what felt like a really exciting moment in our lives, I felt like we were treated as if we were inconveniencing everyone who worked there.
Nobody smiled. Nobody looked at us in the eyes or even said hello. We were sent to the wrong part of the hospital two times by two different staff members, only to be treated rudely both times we showed up at the wrong place. One woman actually rolled her eyes at us when my husband asked her to actually look at our appointment sheet before sending us to the wrong place again. I could not wait to get out of there. It seems a bit trivial now that I read back over those words, but at the time all I could think was, these are the people that are going to help me welcome my baby into the world? I don’t think so. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough (in tears by the end of course- gotta love pregnancy hormones), and I vowed I would never go back there. So we had to start from scratch.
When we got home, I started researching birth centers.
I was familiar with them and knew they existed, but was unsure if that was a good option for us. My research led me to only 2 options, both about an hour and a half from my house. I did virtual tours of both, read testimonials from families, etc etc, but when it came down to it, I thought it would be crazy to be in the car for that long a time while in labor. Why would I want to put myself through that? Not to mention that the women in my family have very fast labors. My mom and sister both had labors under 4 hours. I was afraid I would end up being one of those moms you read about in the papers who had a baby in the back seat of her car on the highway! So out went that option.
After that, I started looking into other area hospitals. I hadn’t heard great things about the one closest to my house so I was very hesitant. In the meantime, I had started reading books like “The Thinking Woman’s Guide To A Better Birth” by Henci Goer, and I knew I wanted a natural child birth. I was very worried about being able to have the type of birth I wanted in a hospital.
Out of the blue one day, my husband suggested we look into having the baby at home.
We looked up some midwives, interviewed them, and knew right away we would feel comfortable in their care. I was now 3 months pregnant and our decision had been made. We were hesitant to tell anyone about our decision for a very long time. Once we started opening up to people, because of course that’s the first thing people ask after “when are you due?”, we got the typical responses we’ve all heard.
“Wow, you guys are nuts!”
“No epidural?! You’re brave. I could never do that.”
“We’re going to work on trying to talk you out of this. I mean, don’t you want the option of an epidural to be there, just in case?”
I would just smile and nod, knowing there was no way anybody was changing my mind.
I dove into more books about home birth and water birth, and a coworker of mine suggested we enroll in the Bradley Method course for husband coached childbirth. That was a really important decision in the end. We learned so much, and I knew exactly what to expect my body to do, so I was not afraid of giving birth. I would sit for hours and watch videos of home births on YouTube. I watched Ricki Lake’s movie The Business of Being Born. I pretty much read and watched anything I could get my hands on. I became passionate, and I wanted to be fully informed and well versed in this so I could try to get everyone to realize that I was not in fact crazy to be doing this.
A week before my due date, the only person left to tell of my decision for a home birth was… my mom.
I was really afraid of what her reaction would be, and I really didn’t want to cause her any worry. But in the end, she actually told me that women gave birth at home forever before it was in the hospital, and that as long as my midwives were well trained, she was not going to worry. She was hoping I would let her witness the birth of the baby. Of her 8 grandchildren, she’s only witnessed one birth.
She flew in from Colorado on December 9th, and my estimated due date was the 16th. Well, the 16th came and went, and there was still no sign of the baby. My mom came with me to my last appointment on the 16th and met the midwives, and once we got home from that appointment, I had to call our back up hospital to schedule a non-stress test for 41 weeks since I’d be a week overdue.
Our midwives, Kristen, Jharna, and Chana Luba, had to adhere to some of the procedures used by the hospital that backs them up.
The hospital staffs midwives, so they are willing to take any transfers from home births. The midwives at the hospital were familiar with me (I went there for any blood tests that needed to be done), so in order to maintain a good relationship with the hospital, I would have to start going in for stress tests after 41 weeks. The hospital would allow me to continue waiting so long as the baby and I were doing fine. Luckily, it never came to that! Once I made the appointment at the hospital, I went back to my acupuncturist. She started doing some mild treatments for labor induction, just in case. I saw her three times before I went into labor.
On December 20th, Sunday night, the contractions began.
My husband and I had gone to bed around 10, and at 11:30, I woke up with a strange feeling. I had never felt anything like it, so I looked at the clock and started to count. 40 seconds. I closed my eyes again, and 10 minutes later, there it was again. 40 seconds. I decided to let my husband keep sleeping since I knew I would need him later if this was the real deal. I counted a few more and decided it was time to wake him up to call our midwives. He timed a couple more before we called Jharna, who was our main midwife.
I briefly spoke to Jharna telling her what we had timed. She suggested I get some rest and call her back when the contractions got a little closer together and more intense (to the point where I couldn’t talk through them). I told her I could talk through them now, but felt I would have a very difficult time trying to sleep through them and get rest.
I continued to just breathe and work through the contractions I was experiencing, and not an hour later, I was in the bathroom throwing up!
Sorry for the “too much information” – but I want to share the WHOLE story. The contractions were strong enough that I could not walk or talk through them, and it seemed labor was moving along pretty quickly. Matteo immediately got on the phone with Jharna, who started the phone chain of calling Kristen and Chana Luba. I decided to take a warm shower and try to relax so I could at least rest my body in between contractions. I stayed in the tub for about half an hour after the shower but found I couldn’t get comfortable with no place to rest my head.
It was time to get out and move to the birth room we had set up in one of our guest bedrooms. The birth tub was blown up and the bed was prepared for delivery. About the same time I was getting out of the tub, Chana Luba made her way upstairs. She brought a suitcase full of supplies and got right to work preparing all the instruments they would need to help guide our baby into the world.
As the contractions got more and more intense, I found myself trying very hard to find a comfortable way to be.
That was really difficult, but the side lying position really did help during first stage. I transitioned from first stage labor to second stage labor very quickly – in about 4 hours or so. By then, Jharna and Kristen had both arrived and were basically just in the background, letting me work through them in whatever manner I needed to.
I found that taking a deep breath and letting it out in a moan was the most helpful technique in getting my body to relax and give in to the pain; I was definitely not expecting that, but I let my body guide me into doing what felt most natural.
Once I transitioned into second stage labor, I had more of a break between the contractions and I was able to let my body rest a little longer. By this time I was already in the tub and Matteo was supporting me in whatever manner I needed. He was such a great coach. He gave me my space to do what I needed to do, he held me up when I needed it, he wiped my face with cold washcloths. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in this.
Pushing proved to be the hardest part of labor.
I knew from what I had read and from my class that usually transition is the hardest part, and it lasts the shortest amount of time. Then it can sometimes take as little as 20 minutes to push a baby out.
This was not the case for me for 2 reasons: 1) I never realized I had passed transition and actually had to ask the midwives. And 2) it did not take me only 20 minutes to push the baby out. I had very little awareness of time and space during this part of my labor, but in the end, I pushed for three and a half hours.
The baby was still in the bag of waters and I felt a lot of pressure every time I tried to push.
The only intervention that occurred during my labor was that I agreed to let Chana Luba break the bag of waters about 2 hours before she was born. During the 3 hrs or so that I was pushing, the baby was so close to crowning. I never actually felt the urge to push, which I think was part of the reason I was having such a hard time. I felt like I didn’t know what to do physically, and I was probably over thinking it anyway. About an hour before she was born, her heart rate started dropping, which was causing everyone (but me, because I was not paying attention to anyone in the room) some concern.
I tried everything in the tub – squatting, leaning back with Matteo supporting me, laying sideways, and leaning on the tub with my hands out.
Every position I assumed made the midwives a little bit worried about the baby’s heart rate. It was time to get out of the tub. At this point, I was getting very anxious and nervous and kept saying things like, “She needs to come out! I can’t do this anymore!” It was the hardest thing I have ever done!
I had to get out of the tub and try some positions on the bed.
I tried laying on my right side, but that didn’t work. Neither did laying on my left. The baby’s heart rate was still lower than the midwives wanted, and I was starting to get scared. I knew she was so close to being out, but I couldn’t seem to catch my breath long enough to hold it and really push, and I knew I needed to really reach down and find the strength to get her out. The midwives put an oxygen mask on me and prepared one for the baby because they thought she might need it. I needed it because I wasn’t pushing effectively, and they were getting worried. I kept taking shallow breaths like I was panting. I never felt the sense of urgency and worry from them; the midwives and my husband all did a good job of keeping the situation calm in order to let me concentrate.
They then started to discuss doing an episiotomy, and that scared me more, but it also gave me the determination I needed. Matteo asked them to let me push a couple more times to see if I could do it before they cut me, so I took a deep breath and just went for it. Three pushes later, my baby was out in the world! She started to cry before I had even pushed her whole body out, so she didn’t need any oxygen. She was nice and pink, her eyes were wide open, and she looked right into everyone’s eyes.
Whenever people ask me to share my birth story, I get so excited to talk about it.
I hope it inspires other moms not to fear birth, but to embrace it, pain and all. The truth of the matter is, feeling my daughter’s body exit mine and enter the world was the most amazing, surreal feeling I have ever felt. It’s almost indescribable. I would not be willing to give up that feeling in return for feeling no pain. That was the most amazing moment of my life, and I could not imagine having it any other way.
Since her birth, now almost seven months later, we have gotten so many comments from strangers about how observant and expressive she is.
She was always able to hold her head up since birth, and our nursing relationship is amazing. I attribute a lot of that to having a drug free birth. I am proud of myself for having the strength to do what I felt innately was natural and right, even if it’s not the norm, and I am so thankful that things went smoothly. Eloise Anne has changed our lives. And we can’t wait to be blessed with another baby born at home someday.
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