Here is how I psyched myself up for a homebirth: “Well, I got to 7 centimeters with my first child and the epidural wore off for the climactic ending with my second, so it’s like I’ve experienced the beginning and the end, just not together. I can do this.”
Not to mention all of the benefits: Free to move around during the contractions and not being constantly monitored or strapped to the bed. Able to drink and eat (encouraged even) during labor. No IV or pressure/temptation of the epidural which would then lead to the use of pitocin. And the big one- the confidence in yourself as a woman doing what God made you to do without the use of modern medical interventions.
Here’s my story:
My baby was breech for an extended period, taking her sweet time to turn, that should have been my first clue. She was also posterior for much of the pregnancy. Because this was my third baby I expected to do what I’ve always done, which is have contractions that lead to labor. With Noah those contractions were mild and lasted for days, but once in labor it only lasted 12 hours. Pretty much the same with Nora minus the days of contractions. With this child I had a false labor, contractions that could have turned into labor, but didn’t. Very sad to hear that there has been no dilation after hours of anticipatory contractions… That was a week early I think, and I didn’t have contractions like those again until a week late. My first child was 4 days early, my second on time and this one a week late, again, should have paid attention to that, but hindsight is 20/20 right?
My In-Laws had come down for the birth around my due date the 23rd and thankfully stuck around until I started having contractions on the 27th. We had some clues that labor would start soon and after a trip with my MIL to Target they began with earnest. It was around 2pm on a Sunday. They were unpleasant. I had thought that I would want my MIL in the room with me to help during labor if only for Jason’s relief, but once the contractions started, I only wanted to be alone and with Jason. A surprise to me.
Jason and I were on the ball. He had drinks ready for me, the birth kit out, the mattress prepared with Dexter like plastic sheeting and was very supportive as the contractions grew stronger, but after 5-6 hours we were getting curious as to how far along labor was. I had debated about whether or not to be checked. I knew that if the number wasn’t what I expected or hoped, then I would be discouraged, but by then we had more company and we needed the information. My midwife checked me and there was NO DILATION. All of my fabulous contractions were thinning out the cervix while my baby stayed posterior. Until she turned and put pressure on the cervix correctly, we wouldn’t progress. To say I was discouraged was an understatement. I don’t proclaim to be tough and at that point I broke down. I was tired, in a lot of pain and scared. I would have to endure the contractions (most likely all night long) knowing that I had not started dilating and those first few centimeters take the longest. I talked with my midwife, wailed about how unfair it felt and went to bed embarrassed that once again we weren’t progressing and I could not produce this baby for our family. (I know all of this sounds absurd in the light of day, but it’s labor, emotions are high).
Jason stoic in his support said, “Babe we are in this together” and promptly fell asleep. I was left to my own misery. I was able to sleep a little between contractions, which stretched from 2-3 min to prob 10 min apart, but about 2am I could no longer endure them. Crying, I woke up Jason. “I can’t do this”, “It hurts so much” “I’m so tired”. I was reduced to the women with bad hair in the 90’s videos about child birth we had watched previous to our own experience. He told me yes, I could, and was right there (awake) with me through each contraction. He held me, talked to me, and helped me turn over every so often to get the baby in the correct position. By 7am, I was really done. We had talked about the line in the sand. If this labor was going to be a ridiculous 30 hour labor then I had no problem going to the hospital and getting an epidural. Luckily my midwife was onboard with that, no shame in getting pain relief. We didn’t actually think it would come to that though. At this point it was Monday morning. The kids needed to get ready, be fed breakfast. Noah needed walking down to the bus stop and Nora needed to be driven to school. Thankfully his parents were there to help out because I’m not sure what I would have done had Jason left me for any period of time. While he was talking to his parents, I was packing to go to the hospital. I told him when he returned that I was done, 18 hours was enough for me. I no longer cared about anything other than relief and I had this fear that the midwife would come and check me and I would only be at 2 centimeters! After his mom came in and talked to me I figured that it would still be best to have the midwife come check, either way.
We called and she came quickly. It is a good thing that Jason had torn apart the carseat and Charley had taken the Jeep to take Nora to school or I would have insisted we leave immediately. As it was I had to either wait for Charley to return or wait for the Midwife (or both). Each would take an hour. When she got there she checked me and low and behold I was at 6 centimeters. This is as far as I have gotten naturally, so it is no wonder I was scared (and in pain). How much worse was it going to get? I knew, as irrational as I felt, that I didn’t really WANT to go to the hospital and that even if I went, by the time I did get pain relief I would be pushing her out and then I’d be stuck at the hospital. So we stayed home.
I drank fruit juice and water, made sure I was peeing once an hour. Food was out of the question at this point. I rocked on the Yoga Ball and found different positions for the next few hours that would bring relief until it didn’t matter what position I was in it was nothing but pain and pressure. I had asked the midwife about the contractions way earlier. Information is control, you know… She told me that the intensity would stay the same, but they would be longer and stronger until they would bowl over each other in preparation for pushing. Well, I was there. I think (now that I can) that I was scared (as always actually) of pushing. The baby doesn’t fit through that hole, she is forced through that hole and it ain’t pleasant.
With my first two children and their accompanied epidurals, I pushed for 30 min at the most. I knew exactly what I was doing even though I couldn’t feel a thing with Noah and not everything with Nora. With this child I now totally understand what it means to push through contractions. I felt the pressure to push, but I resisted and breathed through the contractions for a while (this is all in hindsight). I knew this was as intense as it would get and let me tell you, sharp back pain, not going away, rolling over me again and again. I was very vocal throughout this process, but at 10 centimeters dilated I was crying out. The midwife suggested low almost growling vocals. I remember seeing this on the videos. I was high-pitched almost sobbing with the pain. I was checked to make sure we were at 10 centimeters (I think because I was wavering, otherwise I would have been given the freedom to say it was time) and started to push. When the contraction would start I would panic a little and push a little. Most of the contraction was wasted on this half commitment. Now my midwife is a beautiful Zen woman who has always been gentle and suggestive, allowing me to navigate the pregnancy and labor, but after almost two hours of pushing, she had to get firm. She told me I could have had the baby out 30 minutes ago! It was up to me to decide to commit to pushing the pain to the side (sidenote: I thought that “bearing down” and pushing would feel good, but IT DID NOT!) and pushing the baby out. I could feel everything. Let me say that again…I could feel EVERYTHING! I felt her ease through the birth canal and widen my vagina and ease out with the ring of fire. TMI, but I wanted to paint a clear picture. Once her head was out the midwife slowed me down and I was refusing! Thankfully, She got me to listen and finally the baby was out with only a superficial tear or two (surprisingly because this turned out to be my biggest baby). All throughout this inner struggle, Jason was there encouraging me, holding me, my total constant. When the baby was finally coming out he was so excited. I felt like I was pushing out a present for him!
I wish I could say my first thoughts were, “oh my baby”, but really it was like, “oh thank God it’s over”. lol That was the first few seconds, THEN I could focus on the baby who was purple and really clean and still attached for probably ten minutes to the cord and to me. That was a new experience! Once the cord stopped pulsing and the placenta was out Jason did cut the cord. I don’t think he enjoyed it, but it was done right in front of us on my belly next to the baby, so I got to watch that part. I thought it was equally interesting as well as gross. The midwife took the placenta into the shower (walk-in) to examine it, to make sure it was complete and intact. She said it was heart shaped and I so wanted a picture, but Jason refused and it isn’t like I could have gotten up to get it myself! Then Jason was holding the baby and I got to see the love of my life hold our baby girl for the first time.
We went through breastfeeding a bit and getting cleaned up and all of the medical make-sure-I’m-not-gonna-die stuff and I was given food and a quick rinse in the shower. I felt like I had run a marathon, but instead of 26 miles it was 25 hours of labor. I was exhausted. Lorelei was born on 2/28/11 weighing 8 lbs 3 oz. Now that is has been a few days I can reflect on the experience and notice a few good things.
I got to be with Lorelei from the time she was born and for the next few days. No one bothered us or took her away for tests. I think there is a bond there now that I haven’t felt with my other two. I got to know her and was given the time to adjust to this radical transition in life. I know more about me. Since self-knowledge is important to me and to the decisions I make that effect me and my family, this is really valuable. My courage was validated. After “trying” to go natural twice before I finally did it, no matter how I got there. Instead of feeling brave or boastful, I feel humbled for having gone through this experience. My weakness throughout the process only strengthened my and my husband’s relationship. I didn’t have to seem strong for him which ironically gave me strength to continue. I’m very glad I stayed home. Will I do it again? Probably. Time will have passed and I will once again psyche myself up. All truly benefited from the decision to birth at home, at least in my situation. What’s a day of labor, right? :o)