My Birth Story Part II: Big Guy’s Home Birth

 

Birth Pool

Today Big Guy turns 1 year old. I’m sobbing inside. To make matters worse, I will now tell you about his beautiful birth story. Side Note: If you are interested in my journey to choosing a home birth, you can read all about it by clicking here.

Short Version:

My birth story all started on July 22, 2013 around 11pm and ended on July 25, 2013 at 6:28am.

Long Version:

To start, I practiced the Hypnobabies (HB) home study program in lieu of traditional birth classes, which had me refer to words and phrases such as labor as my “birthing time” (BT), contraction as “pressure wave” (PW), pain as “discomfort”, transition as “transformation”, and due date as “guess date” to help relieve any negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions that often accompany the birthing process. I truly believe Hypnobabies helped me have a peaceful and pain-free birthing experience!

I felt my first pressure wave on Sunday, July 22, 2013 around 11pm as soon as I laid down to sleep. They felt similar to my worst menstrual cramps when lying down, so I sat upright in a rocking chair in Big Guy’s room instead. They were pretty regular, lasting about one minute and around 4 minutes apart until about 3-4am before they started slowing down. I started listening to the “Easy First Stage” HB track to help me fall asleep, which I did, while waking at least 1-2 times an hour with intense PW’s. At around 5:15am I decided to try to sleep sitting upright on the couch which made the PW’s much more manageable and I eventually awoke for the day at 7:15am when my husband woke up. I was so glad I didn’t wake him during the night, as he had no idea I was up all night!

PW’s started again around ever 15 minutes but were very manageable. I called my midwife then who advised I try to just rest, take a walk if I’m feeling antsy, but don’t exert too much energy by trying to make them stronger. She said something along the lines of, “It sounds like you are one of those women who are affected by melatonin levels, so your contractions are stronger at night, and slow down during the day. Maybe we’ll have a baby in the next day or two though!” The thought that it could take another day was exhausting. Little did I know it would take much, much longer than that! I listened to my “Birthing Affirmations” track while making granola and doing some payroll work at home. PW’s continued all day every 10-15 minutes, but slightly more intense than the night before. I had my husband set up the birthing pool before left for work that day just in case things sped up while he was gone. Later on I listened to the “Easy Childbirth” track to help me relax and nap a little, and then listened to soothing music. I remember my husband texting me that he heard Duchess Kate was apparently in labor at that moment too. It was also a full moon so I had high hopes!

Monday night I was up all night again “sleeping” upright on the couch when PW’s slowed down again by Tuesday morning. My husband decided to stay home from work hoping we would have the baby soon. PW’s were the same as the day before so we took a walk hoping something would happen and just to get out of the house but nothing changed. I had very little appetite during this time also. The rest of the afternoon we watched movies while I breathed through PW’s. A thunderstorm rolled through later on taking our power with it. I texted my midwife about it and she replied, “This may be true Amish style!” My husband drove down the road to find the electric guy and asked him to fix our power first since I was in labor. The guy agreed and the electric came back on around 9:30pm just as we were about to go to bed and had lit candles. That evening, PW’s got much more intense and more like 3-5 minutes apart, but still completely manageable while listening to HB tracks. At around 1:30am we called my midwife and she advised we call again if I felt I needed her. I think we called her around 3am and she came over to check on me, but around 5-6am PW’s started slowing down again, despite my husband covering our windows with black sheets!

Birth Pool with Dog

At that point my midwife received a call from another client who was bleeding so she asked if I felt comfortable with her leaving to check on the client. I figured she might as well since things were slowing down for me. She said she’d send over her assistant in an hour or two if she wasn’t able to get back right away. Her assistant did show up later that morning while my PW’s finally picked up again around 10am Wednesday. I listened to my HB while changing positions and my husband began re-filling the birthing pool. It didn’t seem to be filling up, and then I heard my husband leave the garage in our four wheeler, so I knew something was up. The assistant told me he was checking on the well, but everything was fine and not to worry, that I was doing great. Eventually he was able to re-fill the pool. He told me our well ran dry so he had to go to the creek for some water and literally poured it down the well! We have a UV filtration system, so it was clean enough. Then he called and ordered water to be delivered so we wouldn’t need to worry about it again for the next couple of days at least. At some point that afternoon my midwife returned, and I thought I overheard her telling her assistant that her client ended up being in labor and delivered her baby already! I made myself ignore it and pretend I didn’t hear correctly so I wouldn’t get discouraged. In the end, I heard right. I was wearing my bathing suit top while in the pool, but eventually it was really bothering me during PW’s so I took it off. I definitely didn’t plan to be naked for my birth, but alas, I was and didn’t give a shit at the time.

Birthing Time

I labored between the pool and toilet all evening until about 1:30am when my midwife asked if she could check my dilation and the baby’s positioning since it was taking so long. Up until this point, I had not had one exam through my entire pregnancy. I agreed, but she knew already that I didn’t want to know how dilated I was because earlier I had told her, “I’m scared you’ll tell me I’m only at a 5, and I’ll just get discouraged!” She told me that 5 wasn’t bad, but in my head it was. I took my headphones off while she checked me and she said, “Well, you’re not a 5!” I told myself that she meant I was at 7cm dilation. Still not great in my head since it had been so long already, but still manageable. She then advised me to remain out of the pool for a little and try new positions to help the baby descend. I was willing to do anything at this point since I was so exhausted and it had been so long. From this point on my PW’s got much stronger, partially due to the positions I was doing, I stopped listening to my HB tracks, and I being too tired to focus easily.

At one point, I asked the assistant if she knew how much longer it would take, as if she was God or something. Obviously she didn’t know, but she told me to let out a good cry if that’s what I needed and it felt good. So next PW, I bawled my eyes out, but I definitely think that release of tension helped move things along! It was more than likely me going through transformation. Shortly thereafter, I decided to go to the bathroom again and while sitting on the toilet and holding on to my husband, I had a very intense PW. The assistant said if it felt more intense, that was a good thing and to try going through some more PW’s sitting on the toilet. I think I had about 4 more PW’s when I told her I felt a lot of pressure to push and she said to do so if it felt right. I then responded by telling her I was scared to get hemorrhoids from doing so! Then all of a sudden, my water finally broke. It was like an explosion over the toilet and my husband gasped and jumped thinking the baby came out! I immediately told the assistant I did not want to have the baby over the toilet, rather in the pool so her and my husband helped me waddle back to the pool.

My husband said I pushed for about 1.5 hours. I put on the “pushing track” but eventually it was just repeating what we all knew so my midwife advised to shut it off. At first I tried simply breathing through pushing PW’s as I always envisioned, but they were so overwhelming as if I didn’t know what to do with them! That’s when my midwife woke up from napping on the couch (it had been a long few days for her too), and she advised I center my pushing toward my pelvic area, and moan through them if it helped. It did seem to make a big difference! I remembered her telling me once that most women make this broken-up, stuttering, groan, and I let that very sound happen which also seemed to help. I started by floating on my back in the pool, but eventually switched to a squat position leaning over the pool side while holding my husbands arms. Once the baby finally started to crown, I turned my back toward my husband while he held me under my arms and I squatted and felt I could better relax the bottom half of my body. I remember have all sorts of random thoughts during the pushing phase. I remembered a friend telling me she thought the baby was going to kill her when coming out and I didn’t feel it was that bad at all. It was super intense, but nothing I couldn’t live through. The quote, “I am woman, hear me roar.” seemed to stream through my mind a lot. Then when I finally felt “the ring of fire” as the baby’s head began to emerge, I told myself it wasn’t that bad, not to focus on it, and send my “natural anesthesia” to the area. The assistant urged me to feel the baby’s head, but for some reason, I absolutely did not want to.

After that I didn’t feel anything, and all of a sudden I pushed the whole head and body out all at once which I think surprised all of us! The assistant announced, “There’s your baby, grab your baby!” and I remember thinking, “Oh yea, there is a baby!” I had been so focused for so long on the actual birthing process and was so exhausted, I had forgotten the beautiful gift I would receive in the end! I held him for a few minutes while trying to wrap my head around what just happened and catch my breath before I asked to check for the sex of the baby. I told my husband I wanted him to check, and then we all saw that it was a baby boy! My husband began to cry which was so endearing. I myself couldn’t believe it, since my entire pregnancy we both had thought it was a girl, until the last week I all of a sudden changed my mind and thought we were having a boy.

Just Gave Birth

Big Guy was finally born on his actual “guess date” of July 25, 2013 at 6:28am weighing  6 pounds, 9 ounces, and 19 3/4″ long. A tiny guy who made up for it in one week by gaining almost an entire pound! I ended up being too exhausted and weak to push the placenta out in my current position while holding the baby, so the midwives ha dme hand him off to my husband to hold so I could get in a squat position. I felt very lightheaded and they told me not to take such deep breaths anymore since I was no longer breathing for two beings. I squatted and then the placenta easily came out with a little pushing, but it didn’t hurt at all. The assistant helped me out of the pool and into bed to relax, while she checked the baby out and my midwife cleaned up the pool area. At some point the assitant helped me into the shower to clean up which felt awesome, but strange at the same time.

Just Gave Birth

Once the midwives left, we laid in our bed together snuggling our sleeping baby boy. He hadn’t yet nursed, rather slept. Once my mom got out of her hot yoga class, she heard the news and immediately came over to meet her newest grandson. I think I was still topless and wearing a Depends diaper without a care in the world. She vaccuumed for us since it had been a long few days, while we all napped for about 4 straight hours. I think after we woke up is when Big Guy nursed for the first time, and it was such a strange feeling for me! It was incredible to watch his natural rooting ability though. Then our parents all came over that evening to visit with him while I relaxed in bed. I was still pretty shaky and weak after running the longest marathon ever: 79 hours total. The next day my midwife came back over to check up on us and I told her, “I’ll get my 4 hour birth next time!” She laughed and was glad to hear I wasn’t too traumatized by the long and hard labor to not want to do it again.

Placenta

If one day I am ever blessed to do it all again, I would probably change a few things, but who really knows when you’re “in the moment”? I think I will plan my birthing outfit a little better. Maybe a wireless bra top and sarong. I can hardly show any photos because I was completely nude in all of them! Speaking of photos, I will make sure we get a full family photo where you can see the baby’s face after I have cleaned up and am clothed, and one of just me and baby. I do not have either of those with Big Guy unfortunately. My mind was obviously elsewhere and no one else thought to take one! I will definitely do Hypnobabies again, and try to listen to it the entire time to help me better through transformation. I will plan to do more laboring on land while changing positions frequently before getting into the pool. I think I may have been too relaxed for the early stages. But maybe not!

Newborn Photo

One of my most distinct memories is hearing the birds singing as dawn approached and my baby finally came Earth-side. To this day, it is a such a beautiful memory and I am so grateful to have been able to experience such a peaceful birth!

My Birth Story Part I: My Journey to Home Birth

Month by Month Pregnancy Photo

Well, here we are, one year from the week I gave birth to my first child. This past year has been so surreal, I honestly can’t wrap my head around it. The fact that I now officially have a one-year-old blows my mind. This year went so incredible fast, I completely understand why some people choose to have several children! They are only so small and sweet for just a short time. Heck, just the newborn phase goes way too fast! When Big Guy was just a newborn someone asked my chiropractor (who has 5 children) what baby stage was his favorite, and he pointed at my baby and said something along the lines of “I’m a sucker for newborn snuggles.” And it is so true. As much as I tried, I didn’t fully understand nor appreciate how precious those first few months were until they were gone forever. Now, I officially am the mother of a toddler and it’s frightening!

So much thought, prayer, research, anticipation, and consideration went into the process of getting and being pregnant, and then preparing for the birth. Growing up, the idea of natural birth scared the shit out of me. I was that person who heard all the horror stories, and believed birth was the most painful thing that could happen to you aside from getting tortured. I also have a fear of needles, especially large ones that go straight into your back, as well as pretty much anything doctor and hospital related. Since I can remember I have always wanted to adopt, so growing up I told myself that if I could not get pregnant, than I would be fine with adoption instead. I got married and while my husband fully supported the idea of adoption, he most definitely made sure I was on board with trying to have our own biological children first. That meant I would need to figure out this whole scary birth thing. I was scared of pain, I was scared of doctors and hospitals, and I was scared of needles. A simple internet search told me there were no birth centers, so that left me with only one option in the area we were hoping to raise a family in: home birth. At the time, I didn’t know a single person who had experienced one so I had a lot of research ahead of me!

So for a couple years while still living in NYC I read tons of positive birth stories, followed natural birth and parenting groups on Facebook, watched home births on YouTube, and discovered Hypnobabies. Four and a half years after being married, we moved back to Pennsylvania. Within that first year back, I finally felt physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to get pregnant. For six months leading up to Big Guy’s conception, my husband and I even made and drank a green smoothie everyday to help detox our bodies, along with eating a mostly organic diet, and I had also read it may help deter morning sickness which I was also very scared of! I also learned a new friend of mine had home-birthed her two children, and the most recent one was with the same midwife I had found online years prior. It was such a relief to finally know someone who had gone through the experience I was hoping to have. After three very long months of trying, we finally got pregnant in November of 2012. Around the same time, that same girlfriend told me she was 3 months pregnant and using the same midwife as before! I immediately called that midwife to make sure she was available, and thankfully she was. We ended up waiting 8 weeks to tell a single soul other than our priest and midwife. I was in a private and protective state then, and honestly, kind of liked having such a big exciting secret all to ourselves for so long! If we’re ever blessed with another pregnancy, I plan to tell close friends and family much sooner. If anything bad would happen, I would definitely want their support and prayers. Plus, I often hear those who miscarry feel so alone and there is no reason for that when it happens to so many families! It is far too common not to be talked about more often and openly.

Anyways, I loved being pregnant and I didn’t have morning sickness as long as I ate pretty much every hour. I still eat just as ravenously now that I’m breast feeding as I did while pregnant! The only real pains I remember having were sciatica pain the last month, and these awful, awful shooting pains starting in my pelvic area going down my legs that would occur late at night when I laid in bed the last few days before birth. I believe Big Guy was trying to get into position but he just so happened to be pushing on very, very sensitive nerves! I do recall crying to my husband that if I couldn’t handle this, how was I supposed to handle the actual birth? Spoiler alert: I handled it. I had some other typical, expected pregnancy symptoms but they really didn’t compare when I remembered I was literally carrying creation inside of me.

The only person who knew our estimated due date (EDD) of July 25th was our midwife. We told everyone else “early August”. We did so for two reasons: 1) If I was “late”, I would be more mentally prepared as I myself believed my birthing time was “early August” and 2) I wouldn’t have everyone and their mother pestering me on my EDD or later, and worse, pressuring me to do something about it as if it was not normal to go past an EDD. Medical intervention is an amazing thing for medical emergencies, but shouldn’t be so loosely thrown around and abused in what is the most normal, natural human experience: reproduction.

Meeting monthly with our midwife, whether in our home, hers, or her office, was what I believe every pregnant woman deserves. We met for at least an hour each time, talked a lot, and listened to the baby’s heartbeat. There were no scary stories. No pressure. No exams. No judgement. If I didn’t feel comfortable with something she brought up, then we didn’t do it. It was my choice. Now, I honestly miss my midwife. So much so, that I stopped procrastinating and called her to set up an appointment to have a pap smear done <gasp> since it has been a couple years. This isn’t uncommon either. Many women in the home birth world admit they miss their midwife, and are sad to not know when they will ever see her again, especially if they don’t plan on having more children or she is retiring or moving away. To build such a close and respectful relationship with the person who will share in the most intimate experience of your life should not be uncommon!

I will share the actual nitty, gritty details of Big Guy’s birth story in my next post. Just know that discovering the beauty of home birth and getting to experience it is something I will forever be grateful for. Whether you decide to birth in a hospital, birthing center, or at home, birth does not need to be scary, dangerous, or painful. It can be safe, beautiful, memorable, and even pleasurable! Stay tuned for the Big Day…