“Women, don’t ever apologize for your behavior or choices during birth. When you OWN your experience and take pride in your journey, you help other women do the same thing. No matter how you did it, you just brought a human being into the world! The world should be kneeling at your feet.” ~ Lauralyn Curtis
My baby girl has finally arrived! After 41 weeks and 3 days, she decided she was ready to join our family. Leading up to the big day, I was struggling with some fears and a great deal of resistance about my choice to deliver my baby at home (even though this was going to be my third attempt and second home birth). Resistance was being met by the hospital where I was receiving tandem care and even my pediatrician’s office decided they had the right to call me out of the blue to weigh in on my choice to birth at home. (Note: we now have a new, more open-minded pediatrician) Of my three children, this was by far my most challenging birth. Despite the challenge, I do not regret my choice to deliver at home. How a woman chooses to bring her child into the world is a very personal choice. I believe that everyone has their own level of comfort (and safety depending on the level of risk in the pregnancy) and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Everyone has to do what feels right for them. And though I had some fears, deep in my heart I knew that home was the right place for me.
This recount of my home birth will likely be way more play by play than some will care to read, but I wanted to write it for two reasons. First for my own memory’s sake, but also I wanted to give those unfamiliar with what a home birth really looks like a glimpse into that experience. With a qualified, experienced midwife, it is not the hippie dippie, patchouli incense burning way of bringing a baby into the world like some may think. One of the main objections people have when I talk about having home births is, “What if something goes wrong?” There is a very long list of things that can go wrong in a birth. And guess what, there were some things that went “wrong” in this birth, but again, with a qualified midwife, she will know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. She would never put me or my baby at risk and is experienced enough to know, well in advance, when things need medical attention.
My home birth midwife is without a doubt the reason I have now had two successful home births. After coining the term VBAC and having attended over 2,000 home births in her career, she is simply the best of the best. She is incredibly passionate about her work. Without her guidance and support throughout my pregnancy and labor, I am not sure I would have successfully overcome my fears and been able to face the challenges that came with bringing my babies into the world.
Towards the end of this pregnancy I was struggling with staying happy. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I was beyond done. And when my due date passed me by with no baby in my arms, I slowly started to lose my cool. Finally, eight days later my body began to prepare for birth. Early labor started on Sunday night with very mild, manageable contractions ranging from 15-30 minutes apart. Some were strong enough to wake me up, but I would easily drift back to sleep when they were done. Monday morning came and I had a small break from the contractions through breakfast but by mid-morning, they were back and consistently coming every 10-15 minutes. With my first birth, I also had a prolonged early labor and I found myself confused and frustrated. No one had ever told me that early labor could go on like that. This time around, I felt more confident in the process and I knew that this was the “easy” part of labor and I climbed in bed to just relax, save my energy, and enjoy some Netflix binge watching. Soon my body was going to need a lot of strength and so I barely left the bed through this part of early labor.
By late afternoon, contractions were increasing in intensity and had moved from a state of casual breathing to really focusing to manage the pain. Yet, timing wise I was all over the place with some coming as quickly as 5 or 6 minutes and then dropping back to 10-15 minutes. I was in touch with my midwife throughout the day but reassured her that despite the intensity of the contractions, I knew I wasn’t quite ready for her to come over. Active labor was close, but not quite there yet. It was that evening when she told me that she was on her way to another woman’s birth and I started to panic. We did have another midwife lined up to step into her place if something like this happened and even though I knew the backup midwife well, (she had also attended my second birth and was a wonderful support) I really, REALLY wanted my midwife to be at my birth. She was my rock and I couldn’t imagine doing it without her.
Based on my experience with my last two labors, being in hot water was a sure way to slow things down. After receiving the news that another woman was going to be delivering with my midwife before me, I immediately filled up the bathtub to encourage the contractions to slow down and enjoy the benefits of this aquadural. Fortunately, she called me back about four hours later to let me know that the other mama’s baby had been born and she was ready for me whenever I needed her.
Contractions continued to become more intense but would not stay consistent in timing. I was working hard to remember and tap into the self-hypnosis and positive affirmations that I had practiced the last few months of my pregnancy. With each contraction, I would begin to chant in my head “Let go. Be open. You can do this.” In these early stages of labor, it was a very helpful tool. But honestly, when things got real, I could not even imagine having the sound mind to talk myself down like that. I know some women have successfully held onto that self-hypnotic state all the way to pushing, but I found it to be impossible. Fortunately once I reached that point, my midwife and her team were there to guide me through it.
By 2am Monday night contractions were hovering around 5-8 minutes apart and their intensity had reached a point that I really wanted my midwife’s support. After I called her, she assembled her team which included a second midwife and her two student midwives. They all arrived like a force and quickly went to work setting up the environment for a birth. After attending thousands of births, my midwife has the whole procedure down to a fine art. Every little thing is thought of and there is a tool or resource for anything that may come up. It is quite impressive!
While things were being set up by her students, my midwife was right by my side holding my hand, rubbing my back or feet, and constantly reminding me that I was a strong woman fully capable of birthing this baby. Several hours later, it was clear that the contractions were strong enough that she wanted to check to see how far along I had come. Everyone felt, based on the strength of the contractions, that I must be ready to push soon. But despite their strength, we were all surprised to find out around 6am Tuesday morning I was only 3cm dilated. They were shocked and I was completely deflated. I was sure the end was near, but I actually had a long way to go.
For the next five hours I worked my way through contractions and attempted to drift to sleep for the few minutes in between (at this point, I had not slept since Sunday night). Part of the intensity of this labor was that my Baby Girl was in the posterior position, meaning her back was lined up with my back. Back labor is a bitch, people. As if contractions aren’t forceful enough, adding the sharp back pain is enough to send you over the edge. With each wave, I would awake with a quick breath and reach out my hand. Immediately, I would be drowning in love and support from the entire birthing team. Someone would hold my hand and start telling me all the encouraging words I needed to hear while someone else put pressure on my lower back and yet another person would rub my feet and legs and everyone would hold me up until it passed. I would do my best to breathe it away and someone would remind me that was one less contraction I would have to go through. I mentioned how the self-hypnosis and positive affirmations was an obtainable and useful tool in early labor, but at this point, the pain was so overwhelming I couldn’t even begin to think straight. Even though hearing words like, “You are strong. Your body is made to do this.” as I went through the contraction was helpful, I think what I was really benefiting from was just the simple distraction of someone speaking to me. Just the sound of their voice was something to hold onto instead of holding onto the pain.
By 11am, my midwife determined I was about 7 cm. Transition. Next to pushing, the absolute hardest part of giving birth. For some, thankfully, this phase of labor is quick. Oh but you see, my body loves to take its sweet, sweet time. I was in this phase of labor for three long hours. There were many times I wanted to throw in the towel and head into the hospital for an epidural relief but the truth was at that point, I had likely gone too far for drugs. I had an immense feeling of being done and was having a hard time coping with the pain. I was simply coming apart at the seams and my midwife suggested I try to take a break in the tub. At this point, the contractions were coming too fast and furious for the hot water to slow them down, but the pain relief I had in the water was enough to help me get my bearings. Everyone said a wave of calm came over me after being in the tub. It gave me just enough break from the pain to gather myself and carry on.
My midwife checked my dilation around 2pm and reported I had finally reached 10cm. But at 10cm my water had still not broken and my midwife and I decided we had given it ample time for it to break naturally and it was time to help it along. So 10cm dilated, water broken….I thought to myself, This is it. The end is finally near.
I suppose “near” can be relative when one has already gone through 30+ hours of labor. In my mind I was hoping for 20-30 minutes more, perhaps? Instead, my labor’s version of the end being near was closer to 2 hours. I finished off this marathon labor by spending two hours pushing out this Baby Girl. I discovered in the end, there was a reason for this drawn out, prolonged labor. My midwives had realized the reason earlier in the day, but chosen not to tell me because it would have upset me and they felt I was not in danger. My baby’s umbilical cord was too short and thus preventing her from moving down the birth canal in a timely manner. Pushing went on as long as it did because the cord needed time to stretch.
But finally, nearing 4pm I could tell that I was about to cross the finish line. With my husband straddled behind me holding me tight as I pushed, she finally crowned! I pushed her head out but the drama wasn’t quite done yet. Because her shoulders are wide, she was struggling to turn and complete the process of emerging. My midwives told me I was going to have to move to my hands and knees. That’s right, my baby’s head was already out and I was paralyzed in pain but somehow found the herculean strength to pick up my body and move to my hands and knees so that my midwife could assist the baby out. She described it as “corkscrewing” her out, shifting her shoulders back and forth so that she could fit.
After all the hard work and pain of labor, those seconds after she came out were the sweetest release you can imagine. It was a euphoric feeling that lasted about 30 seconds. As I was frozen there on my hands and knees facing the opposite direction of everyone in the room, I kept saying over and over, “Is she okay? Is she okay?”. When I didn’t hear a response, I tried to turn myself around. It felt like swimming through molasses as I slowly moved my body. The first sight I had of my daughter she was lying on my bed, with a slight shade of grayish blue to her skin. My midwife’s mouth covered her nose and mouth as she gave her the kiss of life (mouth to mouth resuscitation). Though my baby needed oxygen, I was the one that couldn’t breathe. My heart beating wildly and time stood still. Even though the moment felt like an eternity, the reality was less than a minute. She just needed a bit of a jumpstart on her breathing. In the moments that followed she was developing a more pinkish color to her skin and was happily in my arms.
Weighing in at 8 pounds, 8 ounces and 20.5 inches long, this Baby Girl has already stolen our hearts. I know for certain that was my last pregnancy, my last labor, and my last home birth. Baby Girl took it out with a bang. After a labor and delivery like that, she did a stellar job at solidifying her spot as the baby of the family. But our family feels complete and perfect and I wouldn’t want it any other way.