I’ve been excited to share this. I’ve taken quite a while to get around to it here because it is really important to me that I have the time to sit down and really tell it the way it was. Until recently I haven’t had much time to transport myself back there, but now that the babe is napping proper-like, I can do this story justice.
Obviously there will be more words than pictures in this story. I’m not exactly down to have my lady parts splayed across the inter-web like some gals out there. More power to them, and honestly, while I was pregnant it was very helpful to watch the whole gory spectacle many times in order to prepare myself.
First, I had my baby at home. We chose to do this for several reasons, but mostly because I didn’t trust the hospital to not screw with my desire to have my child naturally (as in, without drugs). It’s not that they would have intervened just to spite me, it’s that a hospital is a massive entity that works in a certain way and if you aren’t in their specific time machine they might just force you in.
I was nervous to have my baby at home. I worried about what would happen if something went wrong, and I was scared it was gonna hurt. Well, of course it would hurt right? I don’t know, I had been watching a lot of hypno-birthing stuff and they claim that if we stop thinking about labor as PAIN then the feelings or “pressure waves” wouldn’t translate as pain to the brain. Either way, we decided home birth was for us and we found an incredible nurse-midwife (I needed her to also be armed with the knowledge of western medicine in order to be comfortable having a baby outside of the hospital).
(I am not anti-western medicine. I believe it has its place and am incredibly grateful it exists. I trust doctors and believe many of them have our best interests at heart. I question everything though, and I don’t just blindly trust doctors without doing my research.)
Regarding my fear, I also believe in The Lord and trusted that He would protect us. Faith is incredibly comforting, whatever faith you subscribe to. We were blessed to have a midwife that shares our faith so prayer was not lacking on the day of delivery.
A few days away from my due date I was having some minor contractions and I went to see M. (my midwife) to get checked, something she had not done once during my pregnancy which I appreciated. She said that I was dilated to 3 but very tight, almost like she felt scar tissue down there. Don’t know what that was about. I had previously had an IUD so maybe that was it, but either way we decided to help me along a little and she stripped my membranes. That wasn’t exactly comfortable, but hey, I knew what was coming so it was all relative.
I immediately went to the pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescriptions she had for me in case of hemorrhaging and while I waited for them to be filled I walked in circles around Walgreens. My dad happened to call from a satellite phone somewhere in Africa so we talked and it kept me distracted. I saw M. at 10am and at noon, scripts in hand, I turned onto my street and BAM I had a real contraction. Boy are they different from Braxton-Hicks and even different from my earlier contractions. I stopped the car in the middle of the road and sat there until it ended.
When I pulled into the driveway another one came and I stopped halfway in. My mom happened to be over and she was in the yard. She saw what was happening and rushed to my aid. We looked at each other excitedly and began planning. She would go take care of her dogs to make sure they were good for the day/night, go to the store, etc. She left and I decided to call Mr. H. at work just to let him know that this might be it. I told him not to come now because I wasn’t positive, but that I would let him know if it got more serious. Fortunately I had a contraction while he was on the phone and he said “Hell no I’m not waiting!” He must have gotten home in half of his normal time.
I have no idea what I did until he got home, but it probably involved a yoga mat and cat-like stretches. Once Mr. H. arrived we went for a nice walk. Well, we only went around the block and it took a long time because I kept having to stop to hang on him and breathe through contractions. The neighbors were watching and wondering why on God’s earth we weren’t headed to the hospital. When we got home the husband wanted to call M. but I insisted I wasn’t in real labor. I did that a lot until everyone arrived and assured me I was in actual labor. I think my resistance had to do with not wanting to inconvenience people with a false alarm. M. confirmed that she would head over shortly.
My birth team included the husband, my mom, my doula, our midwife and her assistant, and later, my mother in law who is a nurse. Everyone was bustling about while I tried to relax and get comfortable. Little did I know that getting comfortable would become my goal in life for the next 7 hours. This was about 3pm.
Modern labor involves a lot of iphone usage. Keeping track of contractions was what we did in the initial hours.
See how I’m talking in this picture? I knew from all of my reading that if I was able to talk in between contractions that we were in early labor. At the time, the contractions did feel intense, but looking back now I am very clear that this was nothing. I don’t mean to say that actual labor was bad, it was just way different than chatty Kathy up there with no worries and a stupid amount of social energy.
Things got more intense and I kept needing to empty my bladder to make room for the baby to come down so at one point I remember sitting on the toilet and P. and A. (M’s assistant and our doula) were doing the knee press on me (to take pressure from my pelvis) and I was staring out the window praying silently to God to please stop the pain. I told him if he would just stop these stupid contractions I would be very grateful. I heard them say to each other “she’s in labor-land” and I thought to myself “I most certainly am not in labor land, I am ALL too present right now!”
After one bladder emptying session we noticed a little too much blood and became concerned. After that I was back in the bedroom on my side trying to deal with contractions that were painful in a strange way. They weren’t moving, they were staying in one spot and very burny feeling. This concerned M. and she came to talk to me. She sent everyone out of the room and told me she was worried about a few things. One: the bleeding; there was simply too much blood. Two: the fact that my contractions were not changing and that they were so intense in one spot. Three: my contractions had gone from on top of each other (transition) to 7 or more minutes apart. She said she thought we should transfer to the hospital. I HATED this, but of course said yes. I also made sure to ask if I could have pain meds the moment I got there. She said yes. (I found out later that I was too far along to get meds but she knows when to lie. Good woman.)
(Another reason I wanted to be out of a hospital setting during the birth was that I know, as everyone does, that having a baby hurts. I knew that if I had the chance I would say “gimme the drugs!” and I didn’t want that option. I absolutely do not pass judgement on women who get the drugs BELIEVE me.)
She came into the room with her phone and called the hospital where she knew the doc on call. Turns out he wasn’t on call and she spoke with a doctor she didn’t know well. This is what he said: “Well, if you bring her in, we have to take her, don’t we?” Um…oh crap. I know how hospital peeps view home birth peeps, but seriously? Is this guy going to cut me open just to punish me for my wicked hippie ways? I didn’t have to say anything, M. understood. She had my mother-in-law (who is a nurse and had just arrived from her shift at the hospital) get an IV going in case we needed to do a transfer. M. decided to check me one more time. She said I was finally complete and that I could stay home and push or I could go to the hospital.
Let me tell you something. The thought of having one of those contractions in a moving vehicle made me want to die right then and there and I said absolutely, lets stay and push this baby out.
At that point I was lying on my side and my doula had one of my legs up in the air to help me deal. I asked if I could change positions and push while on my knees and everyone excitedly encouraged me to do so. From then on it was serious. Exciting and serious. I was on the edge of my bed on my hands and knees. Mr. H. was up near my head encouraging me (and avoiding the other end at all costs). I was way too into what I was doing to notice where everyone else was.
Something really interesting happened when I shifted upright. I FELT THE BABY MOVE DOWN. Like a lot. He descended so rapidly into the birth canal that I was taken out of labor for a second to appreciate how cool it was. Only for a second though. M. said I was pushing very well. The thing is, I was only half-pushing. I could have pushed a lot harder but I pushed and pulled in at the same time because it felt like I was going to rip in half. It’s funny to think about it now because that is what pushing a baby out feels like, but at the time I thought something just wasn’t right. I never found the energy to say that, in fact, I kept it a secret that I was not pushing fully because I needed people off my back about it. At the time I just wanted to glide through and never have to feel what it actually felt like.
I knew from my reading that when the baby crowns it feels like a ring of fire around your entire vagina. That’s true. A ring of fire around your vagina. Intense to say the least. I also knew that it was during this time that most women are told to push and they end up tearing. Tearing makes healing necessary, which makes caring for a newborn difficult, and so I wanted to avoid it if at all possible. I had told my doula that when the baby started crowing I needed her to remind me to stop pushing and to hold warm compresses down there, which she did. She and M. had warm oil compresses to lessen the chance of tearing and to apply counter-pressure. When the ring of fire happened both my doula and midwife told me to stop pushing. I remember saying something like,
“You told us to tell you to stop pushing when the baby started crowning because you didn’t want to tear. STOP pushing.”
Or something to that effect. It was the absolute most unnatural feeling in the world to not push at that moment, but because I stopped I got to feel that magical feeling they tell you about. The one where your body “bears down” all on its own without you doing anything, and pushes the baby out. It’s trippy beyond belief.
And just like that I had a baby.
He was the tiniest little human I’d ever seen and I immediately loved him more than words. His lovely little head is what had blocked the bleeding during that final phase so Mr. H. took him and held him while M. tended to my bloody problem. She gave me a shot, the girls cleaned me up, and I got back into my own bed to enjoy my new family.
Holding my baby in my arms felt like nothing short of a miracle. God is so amazing.
It turned out part of the placenta had detached itself from my uterus and the pain I was feeling was the blood acting as an irritant, slowing and maybe even stopping my labor. It was touch and go there for a minute and we are blessed that all went so well. I will forever be grateful to M. for knowing her stuff and knowing what she was seeing, and being willing to transfer to the hospital when it was necessary. I’m so grateful that didn’t have to happen.
Weston was born perfectly healthy at 7lbs 9oz at 10:07pm on September 4, 2012.
He latched on within the first 20 minutes and has been a champion nurser ever since. I had mastitis a couple of times in the beginning which is no picnic. Being a first time mom is intense.
Home birth isn’t for everyone certainly, but for us it was just incredible. While I was pregnant I was pretty up on my high horse about a lot of things regarding pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. I had opinions about everything. There really is nothing like becoming a parent to teach you that you know nothing at all.
Nothing except love.