Birth Story & Video- Birthing At Home
"It’s a guess date, not a due date".
I've repeated this saying for years as I've taught Childbirthing classes but ya know what? I found myself struggling to take my advice in the last weeks of my most recent pregnancy.
To give a little background, this was my fourth pregnancy. I already had 3 other kids at home who were 10, 8, and almost 6 ( I was "due" just days before his birthday).
All my pregnancies have been generally great. Low-risk. Healthy. Active. Low Intervention. All the things. Plus my labor time had gotten progressively shortened with every baby.
Well, this time around I was well, older. All my other kids had been conceived, grown, and delivered in my 20's. Now I was 33 which doesn't sound much older but man, I felt it.
Yes, my pregnancy was still overall low-risk, healthy and active. This time around I had decided to go to a midwife who practiced out-of-hospital births. This may come as a surprise because believe it or not, I worked as a Postpartum Registered Nurse in the hospital for years. As much as I had grown to love low-intervention deliveries over the years, I never dreamed of delivering outside of the hospital, let alone at my home.
Perhaps it was because of current Covid-19 hospital rules that pushed me to take a different route. When I envisioned my delivery I just didn't see tests and masks and limited support people in my birth plan.
As an IBCLC lactation consultant, I had gone to visit a few birth centers in my area and had grown familiar with what they had to offer. I started by visiting a birth center about 15 minutes from my home. When I walked in, I still had no plans of delivering at home but by the time I left that tour, something had changed. Yes, the birth center was beautiful, with its 3 different birthing rooms that were homey, clean, and spacious. I knew I could have an amazing birth experience there but the midwife suggested that giving birth at home was not only an option but the "Cadillac" of births, in her opinion. She said it was something to consider and didn't push me into a decision in any way but I knew when I left that giving birth at home was now at the top of my mind.
Why? Well, I had a few reasons.
Number One: I wanted my other kids to be at the birth. I was in a unique position where my other kids were older and at a point in their lives where they could not only be present at the birth of their sibling but be a part of it. This was something they would remember for the rest of their life. Yes, they wouldn't be restricted from visiting the birth center and yes, I would be home shortly after the birth for them to meet their new sibling anyway but I wanted them to have the opportunity to SEE the birth.
Number Two: I wanted to be able to stay in my comfy space. I was induced with my first two babies so when I went into labor at home with my third, I distinctly remember how uncomfortable it was to have to climb into the car and labor in an awkward position on the drive to the hospital. Yes, it was only about 15 minutes but in that time, my labor slowed. It took some time at the hospital to ramp things up again. This time, I loved the idea of being able to stay in my safe space. To end labor where I started.
Number Three: My insurance covered homebirths. Now, this might seem like a silly reason but money can be a factor in choosing where and how you birth. It turned out, in my specific situation, that my birth center was in-network BUT their facility was considered "out of network". That meant that about half of my delivery costs would be covered. Giving birth at home? Well, that (for me) was covered at 100%. We have been lucky enough to have Maternity covered 100% in the past so we felt really lucky that could still be the case with an out-of-hospital delivery.
In the end, I was confident I wanted to deliver with a group that has natural, unmedicated deliveries as their norm. With my first baby, I had used an epidural and overall had a positive experience but when I learned about unmedicated deliveries afterward, I knew it was something I wanted. My second and third were both hospital delivered, unmediated deliveries but something was missing. I wasn't getting the hands-on support I was thirsty for. I wasn't being allowed to eat while in labor. I felt confined to my room and often confined to my bed. I wanted a different experience this time and I felt confident that I was a good candidate too. A had a good track record at this point with three low-risk deliveries.
Luckily, I have a very supportive spouse who was all-in with whatever route I choose. I often got comments like "oh, your husband is okay with you delivering outside of the hospital?". Yes, he trusted my instincts completely. He understood that in the end this was largely my load to bear and he was there to help hold me up, no matter what.
So off we went.
Turns out this pregnancy ended up being my roughest. Overall, I was still very healthy and active. I went to the gym regularly my entire pregnancy. All I can say is that being 6 years older this time around left me more nauseous, tired, and achey. For some reason, my joints were extra loose this time around. It's like the relaxin was pumping extra strong. In my first trimester, I spent months where I couldn't lift my left elbow above my shoulder. It felt like my shoulder might pop right out of the socket if I did. It was because of that pain that I started seeing a chiropractor regularly. I was glad I did because soon after the shoulder pain was gone, I started with severe SPD pain in the second trimester. If you're not familiar with that, basically the left side of my lower pelvis was more forward than the right side. That slight imbalance was so painful but my chiropractor was able to do an adjustment low down on my pelvic bones that aligned everything up again.
Now I was good to go, right? Well, not entirely...
Let's fast forward to my 38-week chiropractor visit. I had visited my regular gym class where I was still of course modifying man of the moves but this time was different. I couldn't even hardly walk or move. Any movement I did in the class felt too painful like something wasn't right. My baby at this point was so low down in my pelvis. I thought there was no doubt that I would be going into labor at any time.
At my chiropractor, he did some adjustments and my pelvis felt better. He said that things were looking good and that there was a high chance of going into labor soon. I was taking it easy at this point because even just walking was getting hard to do. I scheduled a pedicure and made sure everything was ready to go for my home birth. All my supplies were set up and just waiting to be put to use but... nothing happened.
10/15/21 Later that week, on the first day of my kids' Fall Break, contractions started. I thought: "This is it!". It was hard to talk through contractions and they got as close as 3 minutes apart at one point. Much to my disappointment, things started to slow down a bit. We went to bed for the night thinking: "Oh, we'll for sure be woken up with contractions in the night". Much to our surprise, we woke up the next morning with nothing. No baby. No more contractions.
10/18/21 Monday morning. Discouragement set in.
10/20/21 I attended my midwives office and asked that they strip my membranes. That night was also a full moon. My baby was sitting so low. They said, "oh, we hope to get your call tonight. Any time now!". I even went straight to get acupuncture afterward and asked that she hit all the spots that induce labor.
That night I had lots of heartburn. Some contractions kept me up. Again I thought, here we go!
10/21/21 I was now 39.5 weeks pregnant and shocked I had made it this far. I delivered days before my "due date' with my third and now here I was. 3 days before my "due date" of October 24th. At this point, I had delivered my third but here I was and nothing. No signs of labor coming any time soon.
Around this same time, my right hip became so sore that I could hardly walk.
10/24/21 Still having loads of trouble walking at all. It was my "due date" and I was desperate. I had been trying all the things to go into labor naturally. All the "home remedies". Had "sexy time" with my husband and... Nothing.
10/25/21 My hip pain had gotten so bad, I knew I needed to go back to the chiropractor. After my adjustment, I felt a bit improved. Still not great but hey, I had a baby sitting so low, how could I be? The back of my baby's head was directly pushing on my right hip.
(Remember that we still don't know the gender of our baby at this point)
10/26/21 Now that I had been adjusted and was feeling a bit better, I thought a leisurely walk with my friend would be good. I knew I could use the fresh air, movement, and adult conversation to help my wavering mental health. Before we left, I warned her I wouldn't be walking very fast. We went for not even 30 minutes, very slowly, and by the time we got back, I couldn't walk. I spent the rest of the day crawling around my house, crying, with my huge pregnant belly. I felt wrecked not only mentally, but physically now too. I
I desperately called into my midwives office and they fit me in that afternoon. My husband had to come because I couldn't even walk unassisted. I was completely unable to bear any weight on my right leg.
Upon looking me over, they found I had a bulging bag. I asked to have my membranes stripped again. Again, it seemed that labor would be any time now but I had been hearing that for weeks and had done everything in my power to help get things started. I was even more dilated and the baby was in a good position. They confirmed that yes, she was so low which was probably the cause of my extreme hip pain. In desperation, I asked about breaking my bag of water even though my intent this whole time was to NOT do that. I wanted them to break naturally in labor. We decided no, not today. That night, at the suggestion of my midwives, I placed flannel soaked in castor oil and clary sage under my belly and on my back.
10/27/21 I completed the Miles Circuit which is holding different positions to help ensure your baby is in the best position possible and to start up contractions. I was having bloody discharge from having my membranes stripped. I even made myself a castor oil smoothie (2 tbsp was all the strength I could muster up) in a fruit smoothie at 2:30p.
Contractions started around 6:30p. Here we go! Things were feeling intense. Contractions were strong and slowly getting closer together but surprise, surprise... they stopped when midwives came. Since they had already traveled to my house, we proceeded to strip my membranes again, do loads of squats and walk the stairs until my hip hurt too bad to do more. (remember I still couldn't walk on my own at this point, or put any weight on my right leg).
I continued doing more squats. It seemed that my baby was so far forward with my huge belly that we tried to pull my belly up for contractions. It seemed to get things going again. I would lie in my recliner in the chair and "dump" my baby back to help get contractions restarted.
In that time I progressed from 4.5 cm to 7 cm with stretching. Also around that same time, my contractions stopped. Completely stopped. How could this be??
My midwife decided we needed some rest and tucked us into bed around 11p. We woke up with contractions at 1a. I ate some snacks and drank water. I couldn’t even talk through some contractions.
At 2:45a, we went back to bed. I woke up around 5a, unable to sleep, and unfortunately, it wasn't because of contractions. They had stopped again. I talked with my midwives, who had been spending the night at my house. They gave me black cohosh for a mental block. My midwife Miley also used clary sage to give me a foot massage.
It wasn't enough to get things going again. Around 6:30a my midwives left. So did my photographer. It was so disappointing to see all the supplies set up, even the tub we had started to fill, all be left behind in our bedroom.
10/28/21 The whole day was hard to manage, mentally. Would I ever go fully into labor? Why did things keep stopping? Why was this so different than my other labors? Did I need to have my bag of water broken? That's what was always done before to get my labor moving.
My midwives surely felt my deep disappointment even after leaving. Loretta, one of my midwives, called me right before dinnertime and explained that they had a couple of other homebirths coming up and would have to come back to get their supplies, just in case they needed them. I hated the thought of "moving backward" after how close I had gotten. She could tell I hated that idea and offered to come and break my water at 7:30p that night. I took it. We thought, oh perfect! We'll have a baby later tonight! (I was expecting about a 3-4 hour labor, just based on my track record).
My midwives came as planned and broke my water as I lay on my bed. A short time later, my sweet photography/videographer Danielle came again. She didn't live close and had already spent the entire night at my house, just the night before. Here she was again. Round 2.
I tried to walk to get things going but my hip started hurting again and I couldn't. My Midwife Miley massaged my hip to try and release the tense muscles.
No real contractions were happening.
Here's the funny thing about homebirths. In the past, with y hospital deliveries, IV Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) was given to me to start labor. With a homebirth that's not the go-to. Instead, my birth team left me and my husband for some "sexy time" to utilize some natural oxytocin.
It got things going but not enough. My midwives again tucked us into bed, which terrified me. I didn't want to wake in the morning again just to realize that nothing had happened. We slept for 2 hours until 1:30a.
Next on the agenda was a circuit for me to rotate through. I would use my breast pump for 15 min while bouncing on the birth ball, then I would squat for 15 minutes and then lay on my bed with a peanut ball between my legs.
At this point, my poor videographer had been sleeping in my basement and was considering going home. I asked her to come up because contractions were starting to get going on their own. I felt like this was it! Everyone stayed.
Next, I spent some time in the tub. It was lovely. Around this time, my other kids started to wake up and wander in. The warm water helped me to relax. It helped so much that contractions slowed a bit.
That was the last thing we wanted so I got out. This is when things got real. Contractions were so intense. Before I felt that I was able to breathe through every contraction and hadn't felt any real pain. That was no longer the case. As I squatted on the toilet, I had to dig deep through every contraction. My husband was right by my side to do hip squeezes which were my saving grace. It was the only thing that brought relief until I could collapse in his arms and relax until the next contraction came.
We did that for some time and then my midwife moved me over to sit in my recliner chair. I "dumped" my baby back into my pelvis and was there for a bit. Contractions were still so strong that we continued to change positions. Next, I lay on my bed, with the peanut ball between my legs (think knees together, heels apart). It helped. The baby moved down but I was still 9 cm and anterior lip. It wasn't time to push yet.
At this point, I was completely exhausted. I was in so much pain at this point. It was morning. It was taking so long, but why??? I felt like I couldn't make it through even one more contraction. I was screaming out with every single one. They were so strong but my baby wasn't coming.
Finally, I felt that familiar feeling. With natural deliveries, you don't choose when or where to push. Your body does it for you. I felt myself bearing down, ready to push.
I was so uncomfortable in bed but earlier we found the inflatable tub had a hole plus by this point the water was cooled off. I begged to get back in the water. My entire birth team rushed to get the water warm and refilled. In between contractions I somehow moved back in to push which helped a lot. I was getting time to rest in between these last steps. It wasn’t fast and furious like my others.
Pushing. Ouch. Fetal ejection kicked in. I was screaming. Felt like I couldn’t go on. Baby's head would come down and then go back up. It burned so bad. I thought baby just wasn’t fitting. We both felt stuck. I was exhausted. I kept pushing with all my might and yet it felt like I could only feel the tippy top of my baby's head.
I waited for another contraction and screamed my baby out. I kept pushing and pushing even though I felt like I wanted to die. It felt like I might rip in the front but I couldn’t wait anymore. Finally, we got the head but not yet the shoulders. I had to stand because it seemed the baby's face may have come out of the water. I don't know how I managed to stand, but somehow I did. It felt like too much to bear. How could I finish this?
Finally, the baby was out. What a complete relief. My husband caught the baby after the midwives helped it along. They announced the gender but I couldn't quite process it. They passed the baby through my legs and I grabbed her. Yes, her.
IT WAS A GIRL.
It was over. I couldn’t even move. I just held her in relief as I stood in the water. I held her with all my might and cried.
After a moment, I moved to the bed. I was so exhausted. So tired. So happy to have my baby girl. She was covered in thick vernix.
It turns out that my placenta wouldn’t come out. As I held my baby on my chest, I got a shot of Pitocin in my leg. Still wasn't coming out. After all that work my midwives help me into a squatting position in bed. I just wanted to lay. I never had trouble with the placenta before and hardly noticed it coming out. Not this time. It's like my body knew this was my last and wouldn't let it go. We continued with fundal massage as I pushed and would bear down over and over. An hour later, it still wasn’t out. I had to go squat on the toilet and push and push. It felt so cruel after all I had been through. I had to say: thank you placenta but it’s time to go.
It finally came clawing out and plopped into the bowl.
My 8 year old wanted to see the placenta. The midwife showed it all to her. My other two had no interest.
Baby breastfed, of course. I ate oatmeal and savored every single bite. It tasted like the more delicious meal I had ever had. I was so exhausted but relieved. I had labored from 7:30p to 11:30a. I couldn’t believe how long it had taken.
We were all shocked as we realized I had delivered on my sons 6th birthday. That meant my youngest two were now birthday twins. All my son had wanted for his birthday was to go to Boondocks (they got free arcade tokens and bowling if you went on your birthday). We all cooed over the baby, my midwives cleaned everything up. My entire family lay on my bed, surrounding this new baby that had joined our family. After about 2 hours, I was feeling good. My birth team left and I told my family to go ahead to Boondocks. I wanted my son to still have his special birthday and I just wanted to rest anyway. Off they went as I clutched my sweet new baby to my chest. The sweet baby girl that I had worked so very hard to get here.
It was the biggest relief to finally have her here. Baby Mila. Our little miracle.