This birth was different than my first son’s natural hospital birth. I barely made it into the tub before my little one was born. My midwife wasn’t in town when I went into labor. She wasn’t even in the country when I went into labor! This was my first home birth, and to be honest, it was more than a little stressful.
On one hand birth stories have become so common lately, that I hesitate to add another to their ranks. However, after continuing to see
- the high infant mortality rate
- unfortunate disrespect for many women during birth
- the dismal state of birth (still) in our country
I feel like there’s still a lot of progress to be made.
Birth Horror Stories
I remember when my first son was born hearing the birth horror stories from everyone around me. My mom told me that she was given Pitocin and the pain was so bad she’d wanted to kill herself. My grandma recounted being wrestled down by a nurse and given ether, so that she wouldn’t get in the doctor’s way as he delivered the baby.
Even my mentor told me that I should just get an epidural.
My natural birth story feels like just another drop in the bucket. However, women are demanding better births in recent years and I’d like to offer a little more encouragement that yes, it is possible!
I’m not a Better Person
Having a natural birth to me isn’t about some sort of heroism. That I did it better because I didn’t cave in and have pain meds. For me it’s about embracing the natural rhythm of the birth process that my body was designed to do on its own. It’s about making the best choice for my emotional and physical well- being, as well as my baby’s.
That being said, I wasn’t able to do everything 100% natural. It’s never my first choice, however sometimes modern medicine is needed.
The Home Birth That Almost Wasn’t
I almost didn’t have a water birth (again) this time around. My first son was born in the hospital with an amazing midwife at my side. I had planned to deliver in the jacuzzi tub there, however it wasn’t designed for 6’1 tall people and I felt cramped and uncomfortable. My husband ended up in the tub facing me while I leaned over the side and delivered in a hands and knees position.
This time I was determined to have my water birth! But let me back up a little bit, because we hadn’t originally planned a home birth.
Finding a Good Healthcare Provider
The closest hospital that had midwives and allowed a natural birth was an hour away. I had a great birth there with my first son. This time, I was 7 months pregnant when we moved to a different town. I didn’t plan on switching health care providers, but I realized that as I had become more “crunchy,” the hospital midwives had become more mainstream.
I wasn’t comfortable when I realized I knew more about evidence based birth practices than some of the midwives. And when birth came, I didn’t get to choose who delivered the baby. Even though it wasn’t perfect, I still thought it was the best option I had. Until I accidentally walked into a birth center.
An Accidental Discovery
Beginning at the 4 month mark I had a lot of pelvic pain. Our regular chiropractor wasn’t cutting it. After nearly 3 months of excruciating pain, I decided to find a Webster certified chiropractor. We located the new chiropractor’s office and I walked into the main entry.
I promptly realized that I’d made a mistake, because this definitely wasn’t a chiropractor. I had accidentally walked into a birth center, but the staff kindly redirected us. After my adjustment though, we asked for a tour of the birth center.
By this point I was already 32 weeks pregnant (or so we thought). One of the midwives agreed to take my case, and we prepared for a home birth. Those last few weeks of pregnancy flew by as we scrambled to get everything ready! I had a long list of contributor articles I needed to finish for work, freezer meals to cook, baby supplies to purchased, and now the home birth supplies.
The Case of the Mistaken Due Date
In addition to freelance writing and working as an herbalist, I also work part time as a caregiver for elderly hospice patients. My last day at work with my client was December 16th, and my due date was supposed to be December 22nd. I figured I still had plenty of time to finish that massive to do list.
I wrapped things up with my client, finished up the last batch of contributor articles, then headed home for the night. I got home at around midnight and headed to bed at 1 am. I was having some uncomfortable Braxton Hicks contractions, but I just assumed they’d go away once I fell asleep.
Definitely not Braxton Hicks
The contractions didn’t go away. I woke up at 3 am with more intense pain and decided to start timing the contractions. I used this free app for my android phone to keep track of the contractions, and it was a major help. I “knew” it was too early for labor, so I kept thinking the labor pains would fizzle out and I could go back to bed.
My contractions were already 3-4 minutes apart. I crawled from the bathroom back into the bedroom and woke my husband up. I was crying and stressed because things were happening so fast, but he helped calm me down.
I waited an hour to see how things progressed, but my body was consistent and the contractions were getting stronger. At 4 am I called the midwife’s assistant to let her know what was going on so the birth team could make their way over soon.
A Rush to Prepare
My midwife was in Canada for her family’s Christmas, and the assistant midwife and backup midwife were at another birth and wouldn’t be able to come for several hours yet. The last time I gave birth I passed out from blood loss and needed an emergency shot of Pitocin. I panicked a little thinking that I was going to deliver without medical help.
We had planned on batch cooking several weeks worth of freezer meals for my maternity leave. The groceries for our project were still all over the kitchen counter. The dishes weren’t done, and the house was a mess. While I was breathing through contractions, my husband frantically cleaned the entire house top to bottom and set up the birth area.
The Missing Birth Team
My mother in law is a nurse practitioner and she had agreed to be at the birth. However, she was still on vacation in Arizona when I went into labor. Our six year old son does not handle blood well, so the plan was for my mom to pick him up once labor started. I must have called my parent’s phones 15 times, but no one was answering.
Labor was progressing fast, and no one on my birth team was there! And my husband was hurriedly getting the house ready instead of assisting me while I labored like we’d planned.
Help Finally Arrives
I was already 7 cm dilated by the time the midwife got there at 7:30 am.
At 9 am I finally got a hold of my brother and he got my parents out of bed. I later found out that my mom wasn’t answering her phone because she had it in another room out of ear shot while she slept. I’d told her the week before that the EMF waves from it were probably contributing to her heart problems, so she took my advice and kept it at a distance.
Our six year old woke up and wandered into the living room where I was making very loud moaning noises. He sleepily asked “What are you doing?” My dad made a beeline for our house and picked our son up while I was in the painful (and loud) throes of transition.
A Leaky Birth Pool
The midwife finished arranging her supplies and had brought the birth tub with her. We had rented an extra large birthing pool so that I would feel comfortable this time around. Unfortunately the top rung had a hole in it and the tub was leaking air. I hung out on the birthing ball as the contractions intensified and my husband tried to find the hole.
15 minutes later he still hadn’t found the hole, so we just decided to start filling the tub and keep the air pump on. I didn’t say anything to anyone, but I had already passed transition. My body was actively pushing and I knew baby would be here very soon. The assistant midwife arrived just as the tub was filled.
I didn’t have the clothes on that I’d planned to wear in the tub, but baby was coming and there wasn’t time to change. I got in the tub and let my body do it’s work. With my first son once I began to push I had absolute peace and zero pain. I only made labor noises a few times during transition, but otherwise I was completely silent.
This time was different.
I was stressed, in a lot of pain, and very vocal through the entire labor. My husband was sitting in a chair in front of me so that I could use his forearms for support. The leaky birth pool wasn’t able to support my weight, and the midwife couldn’t fill it all the way. They kept pushing my hips back under the water since it wasn’t high enough, so I wasn’t in a position that felt entirely right.
In my mind I was thinking “ I paid for this pool and dang it, I’m going to use it, leaky or not!”
Baby is on His Way
At one point I quickly stood up out of the water in an effort to distance myself from the pain. I was only in the tub for maybe 15 minutes before it was all over. I announced that the baby was coming, and just a few minutes later he was crowning.
A few more pushes and he was out. Even though the pain was much more intense this time, I handled the time after birth much better. I didn’t pass out like last time and I didn’t need an emergency intervention. I took a few breaths of relief, then calmly climbed out of the tub and into bed while holding our son.
The After Birth Process
I held him with the cord still attached while I delivered the placenta. Eventually the cord was cut and the midwife pressed on my uterus to make sure everything was expelled. After several rounds of uterus pushing I was still passing large clots, so I agreed to a shot of Pitocin to stop the bleeding.
The midwives helped me clean up and tidied up from the birth before I settled into bed with the baby for cuddles and nursing. I felt good about my hospital birth, but the environment of the home birth was so much better. We didn’t have hospital staff constantly waking us to check vitals, and the entire recovery process was so much more relaxed.
A Not So Little Guy
The stress didn’t help matters, but I think the reason this birth hurt was because our little one wasn’t quite so little. Our son measured 21.25 inches long and weighed a whopping 10 pounds! He’s full of dimples and wrinkles and cute chubbiness.
Even though there was pain, I still don’t regret choosing a natural home water birth. I had a healthy, happy baby and a much better recovery time.
The birth felt rushed because everything happened so fast and I didn’t feel entirely prepared. My midwives and husband were amazingly supportive though. And my house was never cleaner.