The Birth I Dreamed of: A Homebirth Story
I never imagined I would feel so deeply and passionately about pregnancy and birth. To be honest, I hadn’t given it too much thought throughout life and just figured it… you know… just happens. Get pregnant. You are pregnant. Go into labor. Go to the hospital. You have a baby and then you just know how to take care of the said baby. To some extent, I suppose this is mildly accurate, but I’m extremely thankful for all I’ve learned along the way about options, priorities, and how to make the experience personal and a part of our life story to be deeply considered and meaningful to us.
A Birth Plan
We had a homebirth planned from around 2 or 3 months in. Around the same time, we decided I would deliver in the water if at all possible to enjoy the benefits of aiding in laboring pain and alleviating pressure. Our set up was ready a couple of weeks ahead of time:
On Saturday, August 6th, I woke up to a little bit of a “bloody show” and figured that meant we had a day or two before meeting our little guy. I went on a walk with my mother in the morning. We took our familiar route and made it up the hill that had become more and more difficult for me over the last couple of weeks. I felt good, but I was also starting to feel contraction pains. My mom quickly downloaded a contraction timing app and we timed them for the rest of the walk. They were about 30 seconds long and 3-5 mins apart at the time. These started around 9am.
We kept timing these contractions for a couple of hours and they were consistent, but still pretty weak and short. I just knew, though, that this was the time. It’s crazy how people say you “just know” and I wasn’t sure that I would… but deep in my soul I was positive that my body was about to do the miraculous work. We called the midwives around 12noon and let them know we would keep them posted on things.
Since we knew the time was coming, Mike and I took a nap and went out to lunch.
The contractions continued but hadn’t increased in intensity yet so we decided to go out on the boat with my parents. We went out around 4 and as we were coming back around 7, I felt a shift. The contractions took a different turn and got stronger- to the point where I had to pause and couldn’t continue my conversation through them. Mike and I walked back home from the boat dock and I had to pause each time a contraction hit. The time was coming!
As Day Turned to Night: Preparing for the Birth
We again checked in with the midwives and while they thought we still had some time, being a first-time mom they came out to support the journey and arrived at our house around 10 pm. My mother ran to the grocery store to stock us up on snacks for the night and I quickly retreated to the bedroom where I stayed for hours. During that time, I was so so thankful for the Bradley Method practice Mike and I had committed to. For months, we had practiced breathing through contractions, communicating during that time and using different positions and techniques for pain management. (Plus we had practiced massages, which came in handy for sure!)
I tried to labor in the bed so that I could sleep between contractions (since it was night time and I knew there was a lot of work ahead) but it was difficult- I felt the pain was a bit more intense for me in the laying position and the couple minutes of sleep were quickly interrupted by the next contraction. I opted for spending a large chunk of my time on my knees on the floor and my head resting on the bed- it seemed to be a better position for contraction pain and ease of breathing and it allowed Michael to take a supportive role behind me with rubbing my shoulders and back.
At some points, it seemed the time was going by so slowly, but before I knew it, it was 2 in the morning and I needed to leave the bedroom for a change of scenery.
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We ventured out to the living room where the midwives and my mother were on the couch. It was a night for them of in and out sleep and late night conversations while monitoring me (in a very non-invasive way, thank goodness) and preparing the space for the birthing to take place. I found relief sitting on the stairs through contractions and leaning forward against Michael. He was continually supportive in helping me to breathe deeply and remain calm.
By around 4:30am I knew I was ready to get into the pool. The pool had already been partially filled, so the team worked to fill it up the rest of the way and create a good temperature for me to be in. My body was craving the relief of the warm water and a change up. I could tell at this point that each surge was getting us closer to holding our baby.
Getting into the Birthing Pool During a Homebirth
Shortly after getting into the pool, Hannah, one of our midwives, checked my dilation and I had gone from 5 to 7. She said it was shortly after getting into the pool that I started the transition period. THIS WAS BRUTAL. Up to this point, I felt like I had handled my contractions pretty well and had been able to breathe through them and use visualization. I was tired, but not yet overwhelmed. As the surges got stronger, though, there was definitely a time when my will power felt like it was diminishing.
It was during these strong and frequent contractions that I considered asking to be taken to the hospital for drugs or a C-Section to get rid of the pain, but I never verbalized it and things continued to progress in a way that I didn’t have much time or mental space to think about anything but getting through each contraction. One by one. My support team was amazing at helping me to concentrate on where we were in each moment- not getting ahead of myself and not getting overwhelmed.
Getting Through an Unmedicated Homebirth
It didn’t take long for any thoughts of leaving home to go away and be replaced by the excitement (though still drenched in pain) of how close we were. There were three things that continued running through my mind during these transition contractions.:
1. Shaun T’s quote from Insanity Max: 30 (the fitness program I was doing when I found out I was pregnant and that pushed me mentally more than anything I’d ever accomplished up to that point.)
2. The theme from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt “Females are strong as hell”
3. The signs that I had hanging on the wall right in front of me when I was in the pool
Transition and Pushing Stages of Homebirth
These transition contractions lasted until 6:30 am when I started to feel the urge to push and the midwives agreed that it was time to move into the pushing stage. While I had used a couple different positions in the pool for laboring in contractions, when it came to pushing, I found one position that worked for me and refused to move from that position.
The pushing stage was unlike anything I could ever have anticipated. I knew it would be painful. I knew it would be a challenge, but the feeling went beyond my imagination. It wasn’t just the pain, but the complete shock of something so different from anything I had ever felt. This is when my peaceful deep breaths were no longer the norm and I couldn’t help but to let out long loud grunts through each push. To be honest, I felt animalistic but in retrospect, that makes total sense to me.
MY BODY IS POWERFUL. MY BODY CAN BIRTH THIS BABY
I just kept pushing through each urge and was amazed at how clearly my body indicated to me when it was time to push and when it was time to relax. It’s as if the body knows exactly what it’s doing and was made just for this. There were a few times when my midwives had to direct me to breathe it out and not push, and I’m glad they did that to save me from tearing. During some of these surges, I found myself doubting whether I could do it. Wishing I could just hit a “pause” button and come back to it when I felt stronger.
Feeling Desperate Before Delivering the Baby
I asked the birth team if they really thought this was going to work or if they had been tricking me into something. I felt desperate. It was about that time when the midwives announced that he was crowning and they thought that he would be in my arms in 15-20 minutes. At that point I knew I had done this for hours and hours and 15-20 more minutes was completely feasible. I felt like I had regained strength.
Within the next couple of pushes, his head was partially out and I had to hold it without pushing for a few breaths… that was probably the most uncomfortable point of all. The midwives asked if I wanted to reach back and feel his head and as much as I was filled with anticipation, I could not fathom the idea of moving and so I just stayed put, focused on holding, breathing, and pushing. Within the next two pushes, our little miracle had slid out into the water.
The First Cry After the Homebirth
As soon as the midwives held him up, he let out a giant cry and informed the world of his presence. e stayed in the pool for awhile, bonding and letting him do the breast crawl and get his first latch as we began our relationship of breastfeeding. It was as if he knew exactly where to go and what to do. Simply amazing. During that time, I delivered the placenta and we eventually made our way out of the pool and into the bedroom.
Being in our own home was such a gift. We moved into our bedroom and continued feeding, had a check-up on mommy, and had Emerson’s first check-up.
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He weighed in at 8lb 10 oz, 21.5 inches. He displayed great reflexes and didn’t take long to have his first poo.
Care After the Homebirth
As we lay there in our bed, the three of us, my family and the midwives were kindly cleaning up the house, preparing an herb bath for me, doing laundry, and making sure we had what we would need for our first hours and days of bonding. For months, Michael and I had discussed name possibilities. We actually had it narrowed down to 4 options which we both felt pretty good about. Once we saw him, though, none of those names seemed to fit just right. I was thankful we had left this one open and we lay there gazing at our baby boy and “trying on” different names until Emerson Wesley came up and we both agreed that was our son.