The Story of My Second Birth
When I went for my 6 week post-partum check-up after the birth of my son, I learned that my midwife had been fired by the doctor that she worked for because of “business reasons.” This is code for she was taking too many of his patients and he was having to pay her too much money (per her contract, she got a bonus for each delivery she did.)
About 15 months later, when I found out that I was pregnant again, I knew that I wanted to have a home birth. While my hospital birth experience wasn't bad (I actually enjoyed the actual experience, aside from a few incidences with Nurse Crusty, who the next morning was very kind and patient with us), I didn't want to have my next baby in the hospital. After all, I wasn't sick. I had began to view birth as a natural process, not a medical one.
We had the support from the ones that mattered most, our families. We had found a wonderful, caring midwife. She had worked in L&D for many years, before becoming a home birth midwife, so I was confident in her ability. I knew that if there was any indication that there may be a problem, we would be off to the hospital. After all, that's why they are there, right?
We did not have the support of all of our friends, though. One couple, in particular (she is a L&D nurse in a local hospital known for its interventions and high C-section rates) was out-outspokenly opposed to our decision. She would often tell me stories of how many babies they saved that day from certain death. I would ask how many of those babies were in distress because of their own medical interventions and “messing” with the natural process of labor. I never received a reply to that. They even told us that they would send us on a vacation to Hawaii if we would agree to have our baby at a hospital.
One Wednesday morning in late June, I woke up feeling different. I couldn't tell you what was different exactly, but I felt like the baby had moved, not dropped, just moved, and I just felt different.
Later in the evening, I took our son for a walk in the stroller. I felt like I could walk forever. I was restless, but so was the weather. Thunderstorms had already rolled through and more rain was on the way. He and I walked around the little block and continued to just walk up and down the driveway and then played on the front porch.
That night, when I nursed my son as he fell asleep, I could tell that the contractions that I had during nursing felt different than the ones that I had been having during nursing, but they didn't feel like labor contractions. I hurried up the nursing session and spent some time in front of the TV with my husband. (Yes, I nursed all through my pregnancy and went on to tandem nurse my baby and my toddler for about nine months. Pretty radical for a mom who was only planning on nursing her first babe for six months... But that's another story.)
At 11:00 PM, I was having a lot of pressure way down low and it was very uncomfortable to sit. Being on my knees and leaning on the couch felt really comfortable. I told my husband that I was pretty sure he wouldn't be going to work on Thursday. I didn't feel like I was in labor, but I felt different. I told him that I was going to bed because I was sure that it would be a long night.
Since about the middle of my pregnancy, my Braxton-Hicks contractions would be triggered when my bladder was full. I spent from about 11:15 until 11:45 PM on the toilet. I was more comfortable there and could empty my bladder easily. What I thought was Braxton-Hicks contractions was actually my true labor. By 11:45 PM, I couldn't tell the difference between one contraction and another. I wasn't sure if they were coming right after another or if they were double-peaking. My midwives had told me that I could probably expect a couple nights of labor starting and then stalling a few hours later. I was expecting this to happen. I decided to lay down in bed. It was storming outside and I heard the tornado sirens go off. I woke up my husband and he checked the radar on TV and the worst of the storms seemed to be to the east of us, near where my midwife lived.
My contractions, and the storm, continued through the early hours of the morning. I finally agreed to let my husband call my midwife and my parents around 1:30 AM. He wanted to call sooner, but I wanted to wait to make sure this was the real thing. My husband was trained and knew the emotional and physical sign posts of labor. He should have just ignored me and called!
Shortly after my husband called my midwife, I was back in the bathroom. I felt my stomach gurgle and thought “I am hungry!” I know that hunger is an early labor sign. I felt so discouraged because my labor was so intense. I felt like that if this is just the beginning, how am I going to make it through the “hard part?” About 2 seconds later, I yelled to my husband, “I'm going to throw up! I'm going to throw up!” I remember that one of the nurses at our son's birth called this the “seven centimeter pukes.” I was relieved to think that maybe I was actually seven centimeters.
The apprentice midwife that was training with my midwife arrived around 2:30 AM. It is normally a 20 minute drive, but with the weather it took her about 45 minutes. She asked how I was doing and I told her that I had already puked. She checked me and found that I was already about nine and a half centimeters and had a bulgy bag of waters. She called the head midwife right away.
I was having horrible back labor that wouldn't go away. All I had learned said that back labor moves down your back as the baby moves lower in your pelvis. My back labor never moved; it stayed high in the middle of my back. It would fade a little as the contraction changed and the tightness would increase across my abdomen. I labored the whole time that I was in bed on my right side. I tried to move to my hands and knees, but couldn't force myself to move. The contractions were so intense that I had a hard time relaxing through them. I had my husband talk me through them several times and also guide my breathing to slow it down. He and the apprentice midwife took turns guiding my relaxation and putting counter pressure on my back. They told me that they could feel the baby move through my back as they applied the counter pressure. I could feel the baby move in my uterus and could feel its feet pushing back against the contractions. It was marvelous! This baby was working so hard to be born! The apprentice midwife would check the baby periodically with the Doppler and every time the heartbeat was strong and reassuring. Later in my labor it was noticeably slower; she told me that the heartbeat slows normally as the baby moves lower in the birth canal and all sounded great. It was nice to be informed about the progress of my labor and to know the natural processes that occur. The storm outside was powerful and seemed to echo the power of my contractions. The lights flickered several times and I know at some point my husband went to get the Coleman lantern and an extra flashlight in case the power went out.
My head midwife arrived just before 3:30 AM. The storm was still raging outside and my contractions weren't letting up, either. She later said that it was the worst drive she had ever had to any birth. After she checked me, my midwife kept telling me to listen to my body, so I knew that I was complete and could push whenever I felt the urge. Finally, I had what seemed like a one or two second break between contractions (the first complete break that I had) and I knew that my pushing contractions were beginning. Like my first birth, I didn't get the overwhelming urge to push, but I knew that my body was telling me it was time. It was a relief to push and be an active participant in my labor, rather than to strive to remain relaxed. My husband didn't know that I was pushing; he was still trying to coach me through contractions when he told me not to hold my breath. My midwife told him that I was pushing. I started pushing at 3:55 AM. At 4:03 AM, my water broke. It was strange sensation; a relief in a way. As I was pushing the baby out, my contraction stopped as it was half-way out. It was almost confusing having the baby's body half in and half out. I know I said “Get it out!!” The baby was born at 4:05 AM. As the baby was being born into this world, I heard my midwife say, “Hi, Baby! Jesus loves you.” What glorious first words for my child to hear! My husband saw part of the cord and her genitals were swollen from the hormones and cried out “It's a boy!” The midwives had to look again because they were sure that they had seen girl parts. She is indeed a girl! All of our “girl feelings” were correct.
My daughter was quiet and calm after birth. And, as soon as she was born, the thunderstorms stopped. It was as if God had provided the storms as a cover noise for my son to sleep through my labor. Her APGAR scores were 9 and 10. I was amazed at how great I felt as soon as she was born. The contractions were over and I felt normal.
My baby weighed eight pounds and eight ounces and was 20.5 inches long. I had no tears.
I called my mom after my daughter was born; my parents were still making the long drive to our house. My mom could tell that all was quiet and that I was calm and relaxed. She said “You aren't in labor any more, are you?” I am pretty sure she thought my labor had stalled out. I told her that if she
hurried (they were actually only about two minutes from our house) that she could still cut the cord.
It took a while for the placenta to detach and be born. My baby's cord was short and I wasn't able to nurse her until after it was cut. (I am not sure why I didn't let them cut the cord. I know nursing her would have helped me deliver the placenta. I am not sure where my mind was when I kept insisting to wait until I delivered the placenta to cut the cord.)
After delivering the placenta, and the cutting of the cord, my daughter and I got into a warm bath filled with soothing herbs. It was a wonderful time to bond and gaze into each other's eyes and get to know each other. It was amazing birthing her at home. It seemed so natural.
My labor was just over four and a half hours. It was so different than my eighteen and half hour labor with my son. My second labor started right away in active labor, where as my first labor started slowly and gently. I told my husband several times during my second pregnancy that I thought I was going to have a very different labor. I think God was preparing me for it.
After our herb bath, and baby getting measured and weighed, my husband took our new baby girl, all swaddled in a blanket, into our son's room later that morning when he woke up. Our son saw the baby in his daddy's arms, pointed, and said, “What's that? A sister?” God must have been preparing him, too, because we did not know the gender of our baby until she was born, and our son didn't even know I had been in labor.
For me, having a home birth was a beautiful, peaceful experience. It seemed natural and comfortable. It was so nice to cuddle in my own bed with my new baby and then later as a whole family. I hardly have words to describe it. But, as much as I loved having my baby at home, home birth is not for everyone. You have to be willing to accept full responsibility for your birth experience.
Many people wonder about newborn and post-partum care when you have a home birth. The midwives stay for several hours after your birth to check your bleeding, the monitor the baby and to make sure that nursing gets off to a good start. They also do a 24 hour check, as well as coming back three days and two weeks after your birth to check you and baby.
And, as much as I endorse natural, medicine-free, intervention-free births, I know that the ONLY thing that is important is having a healthy baby and a healthy mom. To me, this also includes the mother's mental health... her being an active participant in her labor and delivery and her and her husband being allowed to make the choices necessary. The medical field serves a very important role in the birth of our children; they DO save countless lives every day.
When I have another baby, will I have it a home? Absolutely. If something indicated that I should have a hospital birth, would I hesitate to go? Absolutely not.