Several doctors had told us that we wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally. After over 2 years of trying to conceive, Rich and I decided to seek the help of a fertility specialist and move forward with treatment. Days before I was scheduled to start treatment, we were shocked and ecstatic to discover that I was pregnant. I should have known then that this baby would be full of surprises.
I originally picked my OB-GYN because she knew her fertility stuff but I soon came to realize that every time I mentioned my plan for a natural childbirth, she wasn’t very supportive. She discouraged me from hiring a doula because “they get in the way.” She belonged to a practice consisting of 10 other doctors and it would be the luck of the draw who would deliver my baby. When I expressed my concerns, she told me that she liked to induce when she was on call. I knew she wasn’t the right doctor for me – if induction was necessary it would be around my baby’s schedule, not hers.
Born simply, born safely, born at home shirt from Earth Bound Baby
In the back of my mind was always the possibility of a home birth. One of my friends had a home birth and the way she spoke about her birth was different from anything I had ever heard before. It wasn’t a painful or traumatic memory, it was something to be cherished and remembered. From the moment we started trying to conceive, Rich and I talked about a home birth and I started my research. I quickly learned that a low-risk woman can have a safe (if not safer) birth at home.
We still toured several different hospitals to fully evaluate our options. I was appalled to discover that the hospitals in my area have a higher cesarean section rate than the already high national average. During one of the tours, the nurse assumingly stated to the group that once we received our epidural we would be hooked up to monitors and in the bed until delivery. I raised my hand and asked, “What if I don’t want an epidural?” The nurse and entire hospital tour group looked at me like I had 2 heads at the mention of doing this delivery thing sans epidural. The nurse quickly dismissed my question and said that 90% of patients at that hospital received an epidural and I would at the very least be given pitocin and wouldn’t be able to walk around. My hopes for a natural childbirth quickly vanished the more time I stood in that hospital.
Soon after that tour, Rich and I started interviewing home birth midwives – I had prepared an extensive list of questions. From the very first meeting we immediately just clicked with Mary and Nedra. I had confidence in their training and experience that they would be able to handle an emergency situation. I learned that their cesarean section rate is around 2% and their episiotomy rate is almost non-existent. They explained to us that they take their time during the delivery and make sure that the body stretches with the use of olive oil/warm towels so nothing rips or tears. One of the main reasons why we picked them is for their extremely conservative philosophy, meaning that they very cautiously screen their patients to determine if you are a good candidate for a home birth and constantly monitor and assess for emergencies. They have attended over 1,000 births together and Mary has attended over 2,000 births. I was also able to speak to a few of their past clients, who had nothing but great things to say about this midwife team and beautiful home birth stories of their own.
Rich was immediately sold on the prospect of a home birth after meeting with Mary and Nedra. I on the other hand was hesitant about how other people would react to it. Home birth definitely isn’t the norm in the United States (although very common in other countries) and I didn’t want to have to explain myself. I’ve heard so many times, “Good thing so and so was at the hospital when (fill in the blank) happened because otherwise her baby would have died”. I don’t think that people realize that midwives are trained professionals, equipped to handle emergency situations. Many of those emergencies are usually avoided in the first place due to the low use of unnecessary interventions with midwives. I wanted a natural childbirth. I wanted to experience the birth. I wanted to have as much control over my labor as possible. I wanted my privacy to be respected. I wanted to be able to trust my care providers. I wanted my body to be able to do what it was made for. I didn’t want unnecessary medical interventions. We were having a home birth.
As soon as we made the decision for a home birth, I threw myself into preparation for it. I think planning a home birth made me much more aware of how I cared for my body. I was cautious about what I ate, despite my pregnancy cravings. I worked out on a daily basis. I never felt healthier in my life. Rich and I also signed up for a 12 week Bradley Method class and I read everything I could get my hands on regarding natural childbirth. Ironically, I finished Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth as I was in labor. We were as ready as possible.
On the night of July 9, 2010 (1 day shy of 36 weeks) I woke up to what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions. They were irregular but uncomfortable enough that I ended up on the sofa at 3am watching television, something that I regularly did thanks to pregnancy insomnia. By the morning, my “Braxton Hicks” still hadn’t subsided but they were still irregular so I called Nedra. She suggested that I take a bath and a Tylenol PM and to check back in with her. The bath only made the contractions stronger but they still weren’t very consistent – they ranged from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. I spent most of the day in bed fighting against my contractions, definitely not how I envisioned my labor. I was sure that this was just false labor. Nedra said that she would stop by and check me so we waited. A few minutes after I hung up the phone with her I lost my mucous plug and the contractions became timeable (4 minutes apart) for the first time. This baby was coming, ready or not.
Nedra arrived at around 4pm and we were shocked that I was already 7cm dilated. I didn’t want this baby to come so early. He still needed to bake a few more weeks. I cried. I wanted my baby to be healthy. Nedra informed us of the possibility of a hospital transport after delivery (to monitor our pre-term baby) but reassured us that we were safe delivering at home or we wouldn’t still be there. Time is blurry here. I was mentally not ready for this. I was fighting my body. I couldn’t let go.
Rich was busy blowing up the pool that I expected to labor in. We probably should have tested out our pump beforehand because it ended up taking him over an hour to blow up and fill with water. Any sane person would have probably given up but he was determined to get that thing blown up because he knew how much I wanted a water birth. He was dripping in sweat when he proudly announced that it was ready to go. I never even got in. I was perfectly content laboring by myself on my hands and knees with my cup of ice chips. Rich asked if I was doing the pelvic rocks that we learned in the Bradley class and I looked up at him in between waves of pain and curtly said, “Bradley doesn’t know what he’s talking about”. That produced a few chuckles. Nedra asked if I wanted music and I shook my head no – I wanted quiet. I wanted my labor to stop.
When Mary arrived I was already at 9cm and almost ready to push. I moved to the toilet and labored there with Rich. I wanted privacy. I wanted calm. I wasn’t ready for this. The midwives were busy preparing and setting up their equipment. They monitored my baby’s heart rate regularly. I asked for his heart rate to be monitored a few more times.
An hour or two or maybe not even that long later, I was at 10cm and ready to push. Those contractions felt never-ending and left me without rest. My water was still intact and the midwives asked if I wanted them to break it but I wanted it to naturally break on its own. I attempted pushing a bit on the toilet but was really only semi-pushing. I didn’t want it to break, I wasn’t ready. I semi-pushed a bit more with the midwives’ assistance and Nedra asked me if there was something holding me back. I told her that I just wanted my baby to be healthy. I didn’t know why he was coming at 36 weeks. I hoped it wasn’t something that I did or didn’t do. She gave me the reassurance I needed. I was mentally ready to do this. We were going to have a baby.
I told myself that I could do this. That this birth was just as it was suppose to be. That my baby would be healthy. Pushing didn’t feel natural to me like I expected it to. The midwives had to teach me how to do it. Once I got the hang of pushing, my water broke all over Nedra – just as one of my cats jumped on the bed! I don’t remember laughing out loud but I was laughing in my head and it was just the right dose of humor I needed to keep going. Once my water broke, the pain became intense. I needed to push. Now.
Being my type A self, I took control (or at least I thought I was in control – the midwives and this baby were very much in control) over my labor. With every contraction I barked out, “Ok people, get ready. A contraction is coming. Pick up my legs.” Rich got in bed with me and held my left leg while Mary held my right leg. I pushed through the pain. Nedra helped stretch me. In between contractions, Rich fanned me and kept me hydrated with Gatorade (I will never drink orange Gatorade again). Pushing was much more painful than I anticipated. I needed the pain to stop. Nedra told me to reach down and feel my baby. I could feel his full head of hair. I wanted to meet my baby. Rich told me to visualize him coming out and I did. I surrendered myself to the pain and worked with it.
Logan dove into the world at 7:48pm – one of his tiny arms came out along with his head. His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and the midwives swiftly and safely untangled it. I was in complete awe of this little person who immediately let out the tiniest most powerful little cry. It was the most beautiful sound. Rich cried. Logan was placed on my chest and stared back at me as we waited for the cord to stop pulsating before Rich cut it. He was perfect. That moment was perfect. With my next contraction I delivered the placenta and the midwives checked out Logan. He weighed 6lbs 8oz, 18 ½ inches long. He was as healthy as can be for a pre-term baby and a hospital transfer was not necessary.
I felt euphoric. My birth went just as it was meant to go. I want to safely file away these memories somewhere in my mind. I don’t want to forget a thing.