I knew that home birth was right for me ever since I did my Montessori Children’s House training, learned about Dr. Frederick Leboyer, and read “Birth Without Violence” (click the link to download the free pdf). In the course we discussed the importance of a natural and intervention-free birth, and I knew that in the current obstetrical climate of unnecessary interventions and C-sections my best chance at going natural would be to stay away from hospitals. I got pregnant for the first time at 35 years of age, and knew that if I went with a traditional OB I might be put in the high-risk category simply for being an “elderly primigravida” (what a pathetic and inaccurate term). Then I would be guaranteed a slew of ultrasounds, interventions, and scare tactics that I didn’t need.
I enjoyed a fabulous pregnancy, with perfect blood sugar and blood pressure (thanks to healthy lifestyle choices), and no complaints other than constant peeing. We chose to birth at home and hired an amazing midwife who had caught over 1,200 babies. She and her assistant supported our decision to avoid ultrasounds and doppler, and empowered us to have an intervention-free pregnancy. I used the techniques on Spinning Babiesto ensure Optimal Fetal Positioning, and baby got and stayed head-down from around 5 months of gestation!
On January 18, I was 6 days “overdue” (nothing to stress out about in my book, since Mother Nature has her own plans, but I sure was uncomfortable). Every day since my due date, my mom, an acupuncturist, would stimulate points that encouraged labor, but nothing seemed to be working. I would get a few gentle contractions but they would soon fizzle out.
I tried everything except cod liver oil to get labor going. My belly was HUGE, I had gained 60 lbs., my knees, hips, and back were killing me, and I was just done with being pregnant. I seriously had to pee every 10 minutes (do you KNOW what hell that is???), and to make matters worse, several times a day the baby’s head would land on a nerve and I would get shooting pains down one leg. I was pretty miserable.
My first labor pains started on the night of the 18th, after I almost choked on an orange. I started coughing and when I caught my breath, I felt a true contraction. They continued over dinner and throughout the night. I was able to sleep through some of them and breathe through the ones that woke me up, so I didn’t bother timing them or calling my midwife.
The next morning they were still there, 5 minutes apart. My mom and I went for a walk at noon and although I could still talk through the contractions, they were definitely picking up strength and were very regular. After our walk, I texted the midwife and then I started nesting hard-core, preparing the birthing room and making the bed. While doing this, I got one very strong contraction that took my breath away. From then on they started coming at 2-minute intervals, and I couldn’t talk through them anymore. I really felt the need to stay active, and I kept thinking how at the hospital they would’ve strapped me down to a bed by that point!
My midwife called and asked if I wanted her to come over. Since it was my first labor and I had no idea what to expect, I told her I would be more comfortable having her around. (I had taken natural birthing classes and read a million birthing stories and books, but when it’s the real thing you have no clue how far along you are, or how much or how little it’s supposed to hurt!).
When my midwife arrived an hour later (this was probably around 4pm), I asked her to check me (one of only two times I was checked during the entire labor). She told me I was at 4 cm and pointed out that the previous night’s contractions were probably effacing. She sent me to take a nap, but I could only try to relax through the contractions – there was no way I could sleep!! She told me not to moan through them yet because I would exert too much energy (great suggestion, by the way!). She recommended I make soft “ahhhh” noises (like you would do after a refreshing drink of water), which I did for the remainder of the labor until I hit transition.
When I got up some time later (I had lost track of time by then but it was dark so I figure it was around 7pm), she asked me if I wanted her to stay or if she should go for a while and come back later (I think she wanted to check how far along I was, but didn’t want to ask flat out, and I appreciate her approach.) I asked her to check me… I was at 7+ cm!! She made sure I had eaten and suggested I take a walk with my husband, whom I hadn’t seen the entire day (he came back from work while I was in bed, and they thought I was sleeping so he didn’t want to disturb me).
As soon as we started our walk to the park (which is only two blocks from our house), contractions started coming strong and fast, about every minute or so and lasting longer and longer. My husband gave me the most helpful suggestion of the entire labor: “They are just sensations, don’t put an emotion on them”. That became my mantra: “It’s just a sensation, it’s just a sensation”. I had to hold on to him every time a contraction hit – I barely had time to say: “Another one” and hold on for dear life, swaying my hips from side to side… But eventually we made it to the park and back.
I remember feeling pretty miserable in the park; it was very overwhelming to give up complete control of my body every couple of minutes!! I was also very gassy at that point and I since I was trying to relax my birth canal, I couldn’t very well squeeze my bottom to hold in the gas!! Let me tell you something, I am not a sexy birther!! It was the least enjoyable part of my labor…
When we made it home, I felt a little feverish. My midwife suggested I take a shower, and told my mom that the hot water would send me into transition (she didn’t tell me this, though!). She knew her stuff, because as soon as I came out of the shower the contractions began coming one after another and were SUPER long. I lost all control and just lay in bed on my side, moaning through them and rubbing my hands on the bed sheet (for some reason this helped). I found that if I could get my moan to vibrate at the same frequency as the contraction, it became a lot more manageable (I don’t know if that makes any sense, but it was SO instinctual to moan that way!).
At one point, I started shaking uncontrollably and ripped off my shirt, getting totally naked in front of my mom, husband, and both midwives (I barely noticed that the second midwife had arrived at this point, and they were quietly laying out their equipment near the bed).
Suddenly, around 9pm, the contractions stopped for a few minutes (thank you God!!) and I lay in bed catching my breath. Then my body was raised up by a different type of contraction, as if someone had pumped me full of adrenaline and picked me up by the shoulders, and I had to get on my knees and start grunting. The midwives watched me without saying a word. After a couple of these grunty contractions, I asked if I could start pushing and got the green light (by the way, I LOVED how my midwives guided me but never told me what to do, they just allowed me to follow my body).
I can’t say pushing felt good, but I couldn’t NOT push. I wasn’t making much progress, and it was hurting a lot, so my midwife checked me and moved the lip of my cervix out of the way. This hurt like the dickens, but then I felt instantly better. At this point I knew I had to get totally vertical so I hopped on the birthing stool the midwives had set out, and began pushing with all my heart and soul with each contraction.
I had a hard time grounding myself emotionally at this point; I was exhausted and kept yelling alternately, “Make it stop!!!” and “Get it out of me!!!”. I find it funny now, because neither one of my requests could be granted!! I looked at my midwives between contractions and told then, “I’m having a hard time staying grounded.” My midwife looked straight at me and said: “You are going to get your baby out”, and that’s the moment I realized it was just me and my baby. My mom says that I smiled, raised my head proudly, and started talking with my baby, telling him we were doing this together.
I pushed for almost three hours (which, looking back, feels like only about 30 minutes). My legs got numb on the birthing stool so I tried switching to a kneeling position leaning on the ball but I couldn’t get comfortable. I went back to the stool.
During one particularly hard push, I felt my water break. My brain turned off at that point – I wasn’t thinking that I was birthing a baby; I just knew I had to push and so I rode the waves of each contraction. A few pushes later, my son’s head started crowning and I felt the infamous ring of fire (hello, fire indeed!!!). I screamed in pain!!
My midwife asked if I wanted to touch the baby’s head but it took all the focus I had to keep pushing, so I shook my head no. (Later my midwife told me that a lot of women react the same way. I seriously wasn’t connecting what I was doing to the human being that was emerging from me; there was no goal, there was only the moment.)
Then I heard: “The head is out, now the nose, and the chin!” Then they started yelling at me to breathe, BREATHE!!!, so I stopped and panted while the baby rotated his shoulders out. With the next heave, I lifted my head, gave a mighty roar, and felt my baby slip out of me.
I sat on the stool with my eyes closed, and time stood still. At that moment, I died and was reborn a mother…
Then I heard my midwife say: “Hold you baby!!”
I opened my eyes in time to see and hear a huge bright-pink baby screaming his guts out. I held him under his arms and pulled him up towards me. The cord was very short so I barely got him onto my pubic bone. I held him there, rubbed his body, and talked to him while he continued to cry, and we discovered he was a boy!!! It was 12:07am on January 20; I had been in serious, active labor for 12 hours, had pushed for almost 3 hours, and gave birth to a beautiful 10 lb., 21.5 inch baby boy at home.
His cord was incredibly short (even the midwives were surprised, and they’ve seen it all!). It was stretched taut so the midwife told me we had to cut it so I could hold him. My husband cut the cord and I was able to bring my little boy towards me.
A few minutes later, I sat up to deliver the placenta and out wooshed a ton of blood!!! I was hemorrhaging because my uterus wasn’t contracting. I put my baby to my breast and he began to nurse like a champ, but my uterus didn’t respond. The midwives sprang into action and injected me with Pitocin, gave me Cytotec, and one more drug whose name I can’t remember, as well as several herbal remedies, acupuncture, and a chunk of raw placenta to eat (yum…not!), but the bleeding continued.
My midwife massaged my uterus non-stop and they worked on me for a long time. I kept praying that the bleeding would stop. I wasn’t in pain and my vitals were perfect (bp 120/80 the whole time!!), but I could see that everyone around me was scared.
My midwives told me they would do everything possible to keep me from going to the hospital. They worked tirelessly, with the intensity and skill of two highly trained medical professionals. They kept checking my vitals every 15 minutes, and I was doing amazingly well despite the bleeding. I was riding a wave of oxytocin and felt no fear. While they worked on me, my husband put our son to his chest and sang to him softly.
After a couple of hours, their entire supply of gauze and a whole roll of paper towels, the bleeding finally stopped, just as they were getting ready to make the decision to transfer me to the hospital. Then they were able to stitch up a jagged tear and do the newborn exam.
They asked me to sit up to pee (you have to be able to pee before they can leave), but when I tried to get up my blood pressure dropped and I almost fainted. I had to have a catheter to drain my bladder, and the first whole day after the birth I had to pee into a pot while sitting on the birthing stool that I had birthed on, because I was too weak to make it to the bathroom. Let’s just say this took my marriage to a whole new level of intimacy!
My midwives left around 7am, after working through the night without a break (you can see my midwive’s watch says 5:00am in the picture where she’s measuring our son). I was blown away by their dedication, professionalism, and unwavering trust in the female body. They came to check on me a day later and four days later, and gave me great nursing advice.
I was anemic and confined to quarters for 30 days. This suited me just fine, since it gave me time to bond with my baby without the pressure of incorporating myself back into the real world. With some natural treatments and a healthy diet, the anemia was gone within 4 months.
Having our baby at home was the most beautiful gift I have ever received. I know I made the best decision for my son, my husband and myself.