My Birth Story:
I had an awesome pregnancy with my 5th child (aside from the regular discomforts that come with pregnancy) – I was of course scared that history may repeat itself and that he may be born with a heart condition like his sister before him, but I had the medical testing I felt was needed to assure us that he was fine and I trusted that God wouldn’t give me more than I could handle.
We wanted a home birth and I was very proactive in that area. I procured a midwife (while also using an OBGYN just in case a condition presented itself that would facilitate the need for medical care and intervention). Since I was planning a home birth with a midwife, I viewed the OB visits as no more than a security measure and thought nothing more about it. I basked in our decision to have our baby at home, and more than that I was proud that I felt I could do this at home considering what a big chicken I am when it comes to pain. We researched statistics, birthing methods, positions, safety issues, supplies etc. We went to the childbirth class on home birth and further educated ourselves on the benefits of delayed cord clamping and the use of the placenta after the birth.
What we dreaded most was my husband’s upcoming deployment that would put him overseas for the last half of my second trimester until sometime after the baby’s birth. We have no family close by and I would basically be alone with my other 4 children while pregnant and during delivery. However I was undeterred – our parents on both sides would both try to make it for the birth, but if they were unable to make it during that time then that was something I had to be prepared to face.
After much research on the pain relief benefits of using water during the birth, I opted for a water birth. I purchased the birth pool, had all of the birth supplies and then some, on hand and was prepared way ahead of time for my baby to make his appearance. Having never experienced a completely natural childbirth, I didn’t know where I would be most comfortable during labor or where I would ultimately deliver. So I prepared for everything I could think of. I put fresh sheets on my bed and then covered them in plastic sheeting (the kind you buy at Walmart that is used for painting projects and such). I then put a second set of sheets over the plastic sheeting – that way if my water broke while I was in bed or I chose to labor in our bed, clean up would be a simple matter of removing the soiled sheets and plastic sheeting and wal-la! Clean sheets, no effort!
I also purchased a birth ball which ended up being more of a comfort to me during pregnancy rather than during labor – not to say it wouldn’t be a help to other women during labor but during my labor I was most comfortable standing or being in the birth pool.
I prepared other things ahead of time as well – I bought extra groceries well in advance, labeled and stored many items including non perishables and staples such as pastas, toilet paper, lunch meats, peanut butter, pull-ups etc. right down to powdered milk just in case we ran out of milk for our 3 year old during a time when I would be unable to go to the store. I cooked large quantities of food and stored it in our deep-freezer – it was labeled for “after the baby”. I also stored coffee, juice, snacks for the kids, bread etc. I had extras of everything. I kept a full tank of gas in my car just in case, and I had the older children prepared with phone numbers and back up plans should something unexpected happen.
My due date was September 23, 2010 and I didn’t expect to go into labor any earlier than maybe a week ahead of that (if my past labors were any indication). I had really wanted to have him on September 11th – though that is such a tragic date for so many, I felt that the birth of a child on such a sad day would give reason to rejoice – his life represented a new hope in the face of such unforgotten tragedy and sad memories. I felt it would be a beautiful day to bring a new life into the world – however I knew the chances of that were slim to none so I didn’t get my hopes up.
People always ask about the prenatal/postnatal care I received from my homebirth midwife and I take pride in telling them that my midwife was one of the most amazing women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She was attentive, kept appointments, listened to my fears, laughed with me, treated me with respect and was never dishonest with me, she became more than a midwife or a caregiver to me, she became my friend. My appointments were not rushed, and my care was top notch. She understood my overwhelming desire to have a memorable birth experience of my own making rather than something structured by hospital procedure and inflexible rules. She understood that I wanted to be free to move around rather than strapped to a bed, hindered by uncomfortable monitors and needles. She understood that I not only wanted, but needed to do this for myself and for my baby. She understood that I needed to feel like this was a natural event and not a medical issue. She understood that I wanted my other children to be a part of this experience and that I wanted to bond not only with my baby but to re-bond with my older children in a way that was denied me during every hospital birth I previously subjected myself to. On the day my son was born, I was reborn – I gave birth to not only a beautiful baby boy, but to a mother – the mother I had always longed to be but was never given the opportunity to be until I took control of my own labor and delivery and I made it mine rather than a number on some random insurance claim.
On September 7, 2010 I had a regular appointment at the OBGYN’s office – though instead of seeing my regular OB, I saw a newer OB there who tried to convince me to go in for an induction at 39 weeks – she was insistent to the point of threatening to put it in my record that I was going against doctor recommendations in regards to an induction. (Keep in mind – the OBGYN was unaware that I had planned a homebirth as that would have stirred up the proverbial hornet’s nest – not to say that a homebirth is illegal here, just not well accepted in the medical community). I explained to the OB my reasoning for not wanting an induction (though leaving out the part about a homebirth obviously) and my desire to just let nature take its course – she gave me her best fake smile and “helpful” demeanor and tried to explain why induction would be best – none of the things she brought up were medical necessities nor was I or my baby in any danger, hence an induction was a ridiculous suggestion. She then prepared to do an internal examination, which of course was normal at that stage in my pregnancy but I noticed during the exam that she did it not once but twice – the first time she informed me that I was 2 cm dilated, then immediately she preformed the same exam again and was uncommonly rough – going deeper and using much more force than I had known of any other doctor using in the past with any of my pregnancies. It was very uncomfortable, bordering on painful and left me feeling confused and somewhat violated. I left her office feeling crampy and uncomfortable. When I got home I called and informed my midwife of what happened and that I was now passing a bit of blood which was also uncommon in my other pregnancies – my midwife stated that she felt the OB had probably done a membrane sweep (which I had NOT requested nor was I informed of prior to) and that I shouldn’t worry too much about the blood as that was normal after something like that – as long as it was mild spotting and nothing more she felt everything would be fine but just to be sure she kept a constant check on me via phone and email – I didn’t want her to have to make the long trip to my house if there wasn’t a serious need – we decided that she would just come on September 10th for my scheduled appointment (in my home). I was fine with that though I remained crampy all that night and off and on throughout the next couple of days. As scheduled, on the 10th my midwife came to my house and checked me, very gently I might add, and said I was now 3-4 cm dilated and she could stretch me to a 5 (which was awesome news as that is the half way point for dilation). She said that she could sweep my membranes also if I wanted her to – if it was effective I should go into labor within 24 hours, if not then no harm no foul, the baby would come when he was ready – but from what she could tell through the exam, he was about as ready as he could get. So I told her to go ahead and do it, I figured the OB had done enough damage and by this time my mother had come to visit so the children and I were in good hands should labor begin. She swept my membranes (which was not painful at all – unlike when the OB did it – or tried it rather). She was very gentle and took her time, making sure I wasn’t experiencing any discomfort. She inserted quite a few Evening Primrose Oil capsules into my cervix, which would help to soften and dilate my cervix more. Afterwards, we talked for a bit and she told me to call her if I went into labor that night or if I needed anything at all – if not she would check on me the next day. My mother, the kids and I all went shopping that afternoon and I did a lot of walking around because I was still feeling really crampy – but the contraction-like cramps were irregular, coming at 7 minute, 10 minute and 2 minute intervals, so I didn’t get excited. We finished shopping and went out to eat and then came home and settled in. My friend came over for a visit, I put my 3 year old to bed, my 12 year old son went to bed shortly after and my 16 year old daughter was in her room playing on her computer. Me, my mother and my friend decided to go next door to get in some “front porch time” with my wonderful neighbor lady, who we usually visited with almost every night since her mother had recently passed away. We left my oldest daughter to hold down the fort and walked across the driveway to my neighbor’s. I was initially going to get a comfortable spot on her newly upholstered glider but joked that if my water were to break I would have to have the glider re-upholstered! We all got a laugh out of that. In the end I opted for the metal patio chair.
It was a beautiful night, nice, with a light warm breeze, not hot, not cool but just right. We were all having a grand old time laughing and joking about past relationships and life in general – at some point in all of our laughter I felt something like a small internal (familiar) “pop” and felt an even smaller “trickle”. Now any woman who has ever been pregnant knows good and well that one of the drawbacks, especially during latter pregnancy is urinary incontinence…you can sneeze and pee, cry and pee, cough and pee , laugh and pee, breathe and pee…so I was reluctant to announce that I may have possibly just wet my pants or my water might have broken, but I figured it would probably be better to inform everyone just in case the next possible gush (if it was in fact my water) didn’t scare them all into some form of heart failure. So I quietly stated that I thought my water MIGHT have broken but to give me a minute just to make sure (I was at the time, keeping the Poise pad company in business as I feel it is better to be safe than embarrassed in public thus I was not concerned about having to hose off my neighbor’s front porch should it in fact be my waters that broke). The first thing everyone does is focus their attention directly under the chair I was sitting in…which I found utterly hysterical. The time was 10:15pm. While giggling at how absurd that 3 sets of eyes focused on my crotch looked, I felt the undeniable 2nd gush and knew that labor had indeed begun. We called it a night and let my neighbor know we would keep her updated, then me, my mother and my friend trekked back across the driveway to my house, giggling like middle school girls at a dance. We came in the house, informed my 16 year old daughter of the pending birth and I settled in on my preferred spot on the couch, my friend got comfortable on the other end and took over the task of timing contractions (that had yet to start)as my mother started prepping the bedroom. I called my midwife and told her my water had in fact broken but to get some sleep that it looked like it would be a while. I found a Tyler Perry play on OnDemand and spent the next half an hour laughing like a hyena and waiting for the inevitable contractions to start. About 40-something minutes later I finally had a contraction, nothing strong, just enough to let me know it was a contraction – after that they came at sort of irregular intervals but building up strength. I would be laughing at a scene and then pause the movie for a contraction, get through the contraction and go back to laughing. About 2 hours into the contractions they started to get a hard edge to them and I would have to change positions to manage them – we weren’t really timing them by this point as I felt it would be better to focus on just being calm and relaxed rather than feel like I should be on a schedule, progressing more, or not enough – I didn’t want to get discouraged if things weren’t moving as fast as I would like them to. When they felt like they were coming closer together and getting stronger and harder to manage we started seriously timing them – when they reached 3 – 5 minutes apart, I called the midwife (who was about an hour away). She said she would be on her way in a matter of minutes – I told her to take her time as I was handling them very well. After that it became too uncomfortable to sit on the couch any longer so I tried the birth ball – that was an instant no go – I needed to stand, standing hurt less and made the pain easier to manage. I found a doorjamb to lean my face on and support myself on during contractions and was content to stay there. My mother started filling the birth pool and I was cracking jokes I had stolen from a Bill Cosby stand up routine. My daughter, bless her heart, was the only one who caught on to that, I think everyone else may have thought I had gone off the deep end. I on the other hand was thrilled that even through the hard contractions I was able to keep a sense of humor.
I made it back to the couch at some point and was leaning over on the couches fold out table and was starting to get somewhat concerned about my midwife – the contractions were now 2 minutes apart and having very strong peaks, sometimes even 2 peaks per contraction and she still hadn’t made it. As soon as the thought popped into my head to be worried about her, she walked through the front door – no knight in shining armor ever looked so good to anyone! I was instantly calmed by her presence and able to relax completely and just go with the contractions. Not once did she ask to “check me”, in fact she got her equipment ready, while my mom dealt with the birth pool and showed her where all the birth supplies were kept. Shortly after my midwife made it to my house, her assistant showed up (who I was familiar with and liked as well) – it was about then that things really picked up. I very much wanted to get in the pool so we all started to head towards the bedroom – however right about the time I was walking by the deep freezer ( mere 10 feet from my bedroom door) a big contraction hit and I had to stop and lean on the freezer until it passed. During this contraction, the most amazing thing happened – I felt the baby moving, he kicked a bit and squirmed and that was something I have never experienced with any of my other labors – in my other labors, had it not been for the incessant monitoring I wouldn’t have known anything about the condition of my baby as by this time in my labor I would have already been administered an epidural and been oblivious to anything my baby was doing. It was also at this point that my midwife checked the baby’s heartbeat (which was fine). She was so unobtrusive that I almost didn’t know she was there. I was not scared, I completely trusted my body to do what it was made to do and having felt my baby move I knew he was doing just fine which helped me not to be tense and to let the contractions do their job. It was also at this time that I was completely overcome with a wave of pure heat. I was suddenly miserably hot and I instinctively knew this to be the start of the transition phase (thank God I read and researched as much as I did – no matter how many times it seemed like I read and re-read birth stories and labor techniques and the process of labor, it paid off in the end as I was more aware of what was happening to my body and accepted it and worked with it rather than fear it and fight it) – I couldn’t believe I had made it so far so quick and with relative ease! However things were going to pick up even more quickly in the next few minutes. I stayed there by the freezer for a couple of contractions and then finally made my way to the bedroom where my birth pool was waiting, however, my midwife informed us that the water was too hot and until it was at an even 98 degrees I couldn’t get in (which was discouraging as I was getting really uncomfortable and had so looked forward to the soothing, warm water).
So while my mother, my daughter , and my friend carried out bucket brigade duties (taking buckets of hot water from the pool and dumping it out the back door and adding cold water and ice to more quickly drop the water’s temp), I decided to try another labor position to see if it would relieve some of my discomfort and possibly speed things up a bit – I tried bracing myself on my footboard and squatting….nope, my body immediately rejected that position in favor of standing up and leaning over the foot of the bed (which had been the same reaction I had to sitting on the toilet even though I had read this was a help to other women – I was now glad I hadn’t invested in a birthing stool – my body preferred an upright position – this showed me that there is no “right” position for labor, rather you should let your body decide what position is best for you and when, try them all until you find the one or ones that work best for you.
During my wait for my beloved birth pool, my midwife’s assistant tried a technique that I had, in four previous births, never had used on me and had never thought would be very effective anyway – she balled up her fist and pressed it into the small of my back – it brought INSTANT relief! I never knew such a simple (and uncomfortable looking) technique could be so effective. While I was breathing through these contractions I felt something change, again, something I had never felt before, I felt my lower body open up and the baby move into position – this was something I had NEVER experienced (as I said, by this time in my previous labors I would have been hooked up to an epidural and totally numb from the waist down), this feeling was strange yet amazing all at the same time – I felt, for lack of a better word, full – like the lower half of my body was filled and I could feel my baby moving through me in preparation to be born.
After what felt like forever (which was actually only about 8 to 10 minutes)the birth pool finally reached the required 98 degrees and I was allowed to get in. The second my feet touched the water, the relief was overwhelming – something else I hadn’t expected – having never used water as a form of pain relief in labor before, I was unprepared for just how effective it was and how natural it felt. I immediately assumed an upright, on my knees, position. I rested my head on the edge of the birth pool when I needed to and stayed on my knees with my legs tucked under me and never considered moving into another position – my body had chosen this position and for the first time ever, in any labor, I let my body be in complete control and didn’t fight anything – I was just along for the ride.
After a few minutes I felt really nauseous which I had expected at some point but it came and went and I had made sure to invest in a “barf bucket” for just such an occasion. I never did throw up by the way, but I was prepared just in case. By this time the contractions were one on top of another but thanks to the warm water and the counter pressure that my midwife and her assistant took turns administering they were bearable. I was feeling a lot of pressure and felt like my body was steadily expanding to facilitate my baby and as I said before I didn’t fight anything, even though it felt like I was giving birth to a cinder block, I just blew out during contractions and tried to rest in between. Soon the pressure became more intense and was now coupled with a bit of a burn (which was the part I had dreaded the most as I had felt the famous “ring of fire” once before when an epidural wore off a bit at the height of labor, but now there was no residual epidural, it was just me and God and water. My midwife said that the last bit of my cervix was melting away and that it wouldn’t be long now. As the pressure intensified so did the burning. My midwife told me to reach down and feel my baby, which for the first time ever during any of my labors, I did. His sweet little head was so soft and covered in hair – it was then I made the joke that if I could just get my fingers in his hair and get a good grip I could pull him out! I couldn’t believe I was at the pushing stage and cracking jokes, but that is just me and it has been said that laughter is the best medicine.
It was also about this time that the burning got worse and I felt like I very well might tear, so my mantra became “get him out, get him out, get him out” – now keep in mind, I knew no one could “get him out” and I honestly wouldn’t have wanted anyone to, but it made me feel better to say it. As his head started to crown, I felt my first wave of panic – it was far more intense than I had been prepared for and I never realized the human body could stretch so much! I had been told earlier that I could push if I felt the need, but I never did – not once – my body was literally doing all of the work for me and pushing on its own, which amazed me – I never knew that was even possible! So I let my body have the control since it seemed to have been doing a pretty good job of everything so far.
The burning had reached a fever pitch and I instinctively raised my body up on my knees and “pop!” his head was out! My midwife told me to take it slow now and blow out during contractions so the baby’s head would be allowed to turn on its own – something else I never seen or given much thought to, but to watch it on video afterwards was AMAZING! His little face was so serene! Well this turning phase didn’t last long and then the burning was back and even more intense than before – I knew that this was the part where I would deliver one shoulder, then the other, but that wasn’t the case here. The burning became almost unbearable and I was fighting the pain tooth and nail when I realized I was only adding to my pain by fighting it and that if I was going to tear then so be it, but this baby HAD to come out, so I completely surrendered myself to the pain and to the process and with something that sounded like a cross between a scream and a roar, I delivered both of his shoulders at the same time (hence the extreme burning)and the rest of his body immediately followed.
Since the top of one of his shoulders had come into contact with the air, my midwife scooped him out of the water to avoid him taking his first breath under the water. At first I was sort of disoriented as I couldn’t find him but was quickly relieved when he was placed in my arms as soon as I turned around. He felt like heaven, warm and soft and sweet. I sat down and reclined back on the side of the pool and held him close to my heart as he started to cry – I rubbed his back to make him cry more so he could get all the amniotic fluid out of his lungs, I kissed his vernix covered head and smelled his sweet skin, I was drunk on the intensity of the love I felt for him – he only cried for only a minute or so and then he was calm and very mellow. His color was beautiful and he was everything I could have ever hoped for, but I thought he seemed so tiny compared to his sister before him, when she was born (I was wrong, he wasn’t too much smaller than she was and had he gone to his due date he would have been a monster sized baby!).
After only a few blessed minutes to catch my breath, my midwife became concerned and wanted to get me into the bed, it seemed I was bleeding profusely – though all I felt was euphoria – I felt no panic, I felt no pain, I felt like I was on top of the world, floating on a cloud of oxytocin, just me and my perfect baby – however when I was finally in the bed and glanced over I could see the cause for the panic, the birth pool was black from all the blood and I was still bleeding.
I needed to deliver the placenta quickly in an effort to stop the bleeding. During this time I held his umbilical cord and felt the blood coursing through it with every pulse – he was still getting oxygen and nutrients from the placenta even while he was in my arms and I found that amazing – I was just in awe of everything about his birth and him. However I still needed to deliver the placenta so the bleeding would stop or slack off at the very least so I pushed and pushed and pushed – it took forever it seemed, but eventually I delivered it and after that and a few remedies from my midwife the bleeding subsided and I was fine. I hadn’t torn like I was sure I had and everything looked great. The baby was a beautiful pink color and very calm and happy. He nursed immediately and stayed on my chest during the placenta delivery, something a hospital would never have allowed.
Once the placenta was checked out and it was determined that everything was there, it was placed in a freezer bag and placed against the baby as a heat source – I was amazed at how much heat it held! About an hour after he was born, I cut the cord. I will say this, that is one tough, amazing thing! I had decided on delayed cord clamping months before and I am glad I did – it was a wonderful experience and a great choice – something else a hospital would have forbidden. (I also opted to have my placenta encapsulated after the birth – something I would recommend to all women – the benefits are too many to list).
Once the cord was cut and he was checked out, my oldest daughter got the honors and weighed him for the first time – 8lbs 14oz and 19 ¾ inches long and perfect in every way! It all lasted only a little over 4 hours – my shortest and easiest labor ever – the most intense part lasting only about 35 minutes.
The baby and I were cleaned up and dressed and we curled up and slept – it was the deepest most satisfying sleep I had ever experienced. I felt like I had just done the greatest thing ever and that there was nothing in the world that I couldn’t do after that. You will hear a lot of women say that they felt empowered after the birth of their baby, I felt empowered during the birth as well as after the birth. I was amazed at my body, my baby, and myself. That experience was the single most beautiful, perfect and life changing experience of my life and I doubt there will ever be anything on this earth that will ever match it and despite any doubts I may have had, my sweet angel was indeed born on September 11th.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have had all of my children at home – however I am glad I have experienced childbirth on both ends of the spectrum because it makes me appreciate the power and beauty of homebirth even more and I feel that in having both experiences, I can be a better advocate for homebirth. If my story can be an inspiration to other women to at the very least consider homebirth then I have accomplished even more.
I learned so much about God, my body, nature and women during this experience. I learned that women should be better informed and be better educated about their options during labor and delivery – I feel homebirth should be made more available to all women rather than being viewed as some back alley, illegal act. Childbirth is a NATURAL event, it is not some physical ailment that needs to be controlled and monitored every second. A woman should be free to try natural methods of pain relief rather than have an epidural before she makes it past the hospital elevators or to be offered a buffet of narcotics that will fog her memory of such a glorious event. Women should be free to labor and deliver in any position THEY feel is best rather than lying flat on her back because that is what is most convenient for the doctor. I could not have imagined lying on my back to deliver my baby! It never crossed my mind once to lie down, I think that may have been the most painful thing I could have done. Women have been birthing babies for thousands of years and only in the last 75 years have hospitals become the “expected” place for births. From personal experience I could never imagine delivering in a hospital again (should the need ever arise which I regretfully doubt as this baby was to be my last). As long as there are no complications a woman should be free to deliver wherever she likes and rather than being looked down on for her choices, she should be praised and supported because there is nothing more beautiful and amazing than the birth of a child and ultimately the birth of a mother. In my opinion it is the closet a woman can get to God while here on earth – it is a true miracle. I am so grateful to have been able to share this experience with my mother and my oldest daughter as well as my friend and my wonderful midwife and her assistant – they were a wealth of support whether they knew it or not – I hope I showed my oldest daughter through this experience that there is nothing she can’t do and that being a woman is a privilege and hope that in the future she embraces her own birth experience and her own inner strengths. My 12 year old son also proved to be an amazing part of this experience as well – he had slept through the birth but was quick to offer his help with the clean up, even going as far as helping to empty out the birth pool without complaining or “grossing out”. I was so proud of him – bless his heart, he had waited SO long for a baby brother and now he had one! My seven year old daughter thought it was cool that I had a baby at home and my 3 year old daughter thought I was awesome because I had given her a doll that was better than any she had in her toy box! My only regret was that my husband couldn’t be there to share the experience – he would have been awed by the beauty. Aside from that, there isn’t a single thing I would have changed…it was simply, perfect.