”Our Journey To Homebirth”

”Our Journey To Homebirth”

Our journey to homebirth started when our first daughter, Taylor, was born. We had planned on delivering her at a hospital-affiliated, freestanding birth center with a certified nurse-midwife (CNM). During my third trimester I developed preeclampsia, necessitating a hospital birth. I was very disappointed, knowing that the birth was going to be much different than originally planned. However, I still anticipated that I would be able to have as natural a birth as possible, just in a different setting. Even though I had no pain medication, the birth was far from what I would consider “natural.” I was not allowed to wear my own gown or to drink any fluids-two things that would have helped me feel some control over my birth experience. 

I was also given a routine IV, continuous external and internal fetal monitoring, bed confinement and episiotomy. I left the hospital knowing that this was not the way birth was meant to be.The experience made me even more determined to seek out the kind of birth experience I wanted the next time around. As soon as we discovered I was pregnant again, we started to search for a caregiver. I wanted someone who believed in a woman’s ability to birth and who would support me in my choices. I attended BirthNetwork, a natural birth advocacy group, and spoke to doulas and childbirth educators. Over and over, the names of two midwives were recommended to me. Both were homebirth midwives-something I wasn’t sure bout at the time. We decided to set up a consultation with both of them anyway. In the meantime, I focused on taking good care of myself, following the Brewer’s diet and increasing my protein intake to 90 grams a day, exercising, resting and visualizing a healthy pregnancy and birth. 

Our consultation with Charlotte, the midwife we chose, was wonderful. She spent a lot of time answering all our questions. She made us feel at ease as we talked, joked and shared stories. We left more than an hour later with a smile on our face. I felt as if I had been talking to a friend instead of interviewing a health care provider. My husband, Mike, and I spent a lot of time over the next couple of weeks researching homebirth. I read many books and spent countless hours on the Internet. We made a list of the pros and cons of delivering at home and delivering in the hospital again. The homebirth pros far outweighed the hospital delivery pros. Finally, we decided that homebirth was the right choice for us. 

We started prenatal care with Charlotte and looked forward to our visits. Mike and Taylor, who was two-and-a-half-years-old, were always welcome. Charlotte and her apprentice, Amanda, spent about an hour at each visit with us. I was encouraged to take responsibility for my health and pregnancy. I checked my own urine and weight. I was counseled on nutrition. We were given a massive amount of information so that we could make informed decisions. I was given support, encouragement and even some hugs, and felt wonderful. I was really enjoying this pregnancy and the closeness I felt with our growing little one. I spent many evenings soaking in the tub, listening to relaxation tapes and talking to our baby. Along the road, we hit some bumps with possible pre-term labor and borderline high blood pressure, but things worked out.

bren1Toward the end of my pregnancy, my blood pressure continued to increase despite some herbs and bed rest, and we decided the baby really needed to be born at almost 39 weeks gestation. At this point, I was 5 cm, 100 percent effaced and 0 station, so I knew my body was ready. Despite this, the natural induction techniques, such as intimate time with my husband, use of a breast pump and herbs, did not work, and I resorted to castor oil on the advice of my midwife. It was not really what I wanted to do, but at that point I was running out of options. I took two ounces mixed in a smoothie made of milk, a frozen banana and some peanut butter. To my surprise, it didn’t taste bad at all! Because my first birth was so rapid (one-and-a-half hours), and Charlotte and Amanda lived 40 minutes away, they decided to come to our house around 9 p.m. (I took the first dose at 7:30 p.m.) They figured the castor oil should be working by the time they arrived. Charlotte called shortly before 9 p.m., and there had been no results, so she advised me to take another two ounces. They arrived soon after and we watched TV, read magazines and talked. Well, you know the saying, “A watched pot never boils”? That was me! We sat and sat, and at midnight, still nothing. We were all a little surprised. By 12:30 a.m., we finally decided to try to get some rest.

Charlotte and Amanda decided they would sleep on the couch for a while, and if nothing happened by 2 a.m., they would head home.Mike and I had just gone to bed, when my stomach started making horrendous noises and I got up to goto the bathroom. After another round of this, the abdominal cramps started. These quickly led to contractions and by 1 a.m., I knew I was in labor. These contractions felt different from some of the Braxton Hicks I had been having. They started way down low and gave me a tightening, pulling feeling. I could not lie in bed, so I got up and walked around our room, stopping to lean over the dresser during contractions.

Mike started timing them and they were three minutes apart, lasting roughly one minute. I continued walking, leaning over and swaying every time a contraction hit. I tried to put my arms around Mike and hold on to him, but during the contractions I didn’t want to be touched-just the opposite of what I thought would happen. At this point, I was having trouble talking through the pain and woke my midwife up. The contractions were getting closer and closer and there didn’t seem to be a break between them. The tightening and squeezing sensation was so intense that relief was all I could think about. I wanted to get in the portable birth tub we had set up in the nursery, but was a little afraid because I had only been in labor for about 40 minutes.

I thought I might still be in early labor. However, I was at the point where I was really having difficulty visualizing and staying on top of the contractions. I had Charlotte check me. “Please tell me I’ve made some progress!” I begged. “You’re 8 cm with a bulging bag,” she said. Earlier, we had called the photographer who was going to take birth pictures, so Mike called her again to tell her to step on the gas.

I practically make a dive for the tub, eagerly anticipating some sweet relief. I have heard that laboring in water is also termed a “midwives’ epidural.” I got in, but didn’t notice any relief. I leaned back and tried to relax, and as I did I heard and felt a “pop.” “Oh, something’s happening,” I said. With Charlotte, Amanda and Mike in the room, I reached into the water to see if I could feel the baby. I brought my hand up and it was covered with a warm, translucent, slippery fluid I never knew what amniotic fluid felt like before that moment. The contractions suddenly intensified even more, and I started wondering if I could do this.

I heard myself moaning through the contractions, and then the dry heaves started. Fortunately, they only lasted through several contractions. In the tub, I could easily switch positions but found myself most comfortable in the squatting position, resting my arms and head on the front of the tub. Mike had been hesitant about getting in the tub with me before labor started, but I felt I really needed him there, so he got in. I did not want him to touch me, but just be there by my side. I knew he was in the water behind me, giving me emotional support, and that’s what I needed. I was quietly moaning almost continuously. I thought to myself, “we’re not having any more kids after this.” Then I looked at Mike and told him, “I’m sorry, but you can’t sleep in our bedroom anymore. You’ll have to find somewhere else to sleep.”

I found myself asking, “Is this almost over? How much longer? Why isn’t someone helping bren3me?” I don’t know if anyone answered because I was so focused inward. It was almost like I was all by myself, yet I knew others were in the room with me. Once in a while I could hear Mike or Charlotte talk, but I could not comprehend a word they were saying. By 2 a.m., I could feel the baby moving down. I felt lots of stretching and pressure, along with pain in my back and hips. I automatically started grunting. Charlotte said, “Tell me what’s going on. Are you pushing?” “I don’t know,” I said “I’m not trying to, but I can’t help it.” Charlotte asked if I wanted her to check me and I said that I did. I tried to lean back against Mike. She put her hand in the water, but I had to get back in the squatting position, otherwise it was just too painful. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I just can’t lean back.” “That’s OK,” she said. “I don’t need my hands in there anyway. The baby will come when it’s ready. Just do whatever feels best for you. Your body is telling you what to do. Reach inside and feel your baby.” I could feel the baby move down every inch of the way. I automatically put my fingers inside to feel the baby’s head and to remind myself that I was making progress. What an amazing feeling! I continued to grunt and Charlotte suggested that I try not to let the air come out as quickly and that I try to hold it for a few seconds. I tried this off-and-on, but found it to be more comfortable to exhale as I was pushing. Again, Charlotte said, “Do whatever feels comfortable to you.” This really gave me the confidence that my body knew what it was doing and to continue following my instincts. For the most part, Charlotte sat in the rocking chair, watching me labor and letting me do my own thing. 

Once in a while, she offered suggestions or asked what I was feeling. There was no “turn this way,” no poking or prodding and thankfully, no counting while I was pushing. After pushing for about 20 minutes, I could feel the head getting closer, although not quite crowning. My mind and body were consumed by the effort of moving our baby down. I could feel myself pulling and stretching as his head paved the way. Automatically, I kept my hands on my perineum for support. For the first time, I told Mike he could touch me, and he got a look of utter awe on his face as he felt our baby’s head moving down. Mike looked up and noticed our video camera had run out of tape, so I told him to put in a new one. He hopped out of the tub and I felt this uncontrollable urge to push, along with a lot of burning around my perineum. Charlotte said, “Tell me what’s going on, Christa.” “The baby’s coming,” I said. I gave another push, felt a pop, and said, “Oh, the head’s out.” I had never seen Mike move so fast. He dropped the camcorder and took a flying leap for the tub. It’s a wonder he didn’t slip and fall! I would have been laughing if I hadn’t been so focused on giving birth. Charlotte asked me to check and see if the cord was around the baby’s neck. I couldn’t really tell, so I leaned back against Mike’s chest so Charlotte could see. “Don’t push anymore. There’s a hand, and it’s waving at me!” she said. The baby’s hand was up by his eye, and as Charlotte reached to try to rotate his arm around, he grasped her finger. “Reach down and catch your baby,” she said. 

I reached down, put my hands under his arms, and felt him slide the rest of the way out as his body emerged from my body at 2:23 a.m. What an awesome feeling! His arms moved like he was swimming for the top. I pulled him to my chest, his eyes wide open, where he took his first breath. I held him tight.“It’s OK, Mama’s here,” I said as I stroked his head. Mike and I stared in amazement at what we had created. It was a few minutes before I checked and said, “It’s a boy!” Mike said, “Well, hello Brenden.” The water in the tub was still clear, with just a tiny bit of blood, much less then I had thought. The cord was still pulsating, so we remained in the tub and spent some precious time with our son until it stopped. Mike cut and clamped the cord, I delivered the placenta at 3 a.m. and we got out of the tub.

bren4Black and white photographs taken by Lesley Duke-Mason.Our birth photographer arrived and started taking pictures. Brenden wasn’t interested in nursing, so Charlotte quickly stitched me up where I had torn I continued bleeding a little more than they liked, so Amanda and Charlotte gave me the herb Shepherd’s purse to help control the bleeding. Taylor awoke about 4:00 a.m. and we had some pictures taken and watched Charlotte and Amanda do the newborn exam on our bed. Brenden weighed 7 pounds, 10 ounces and was 21 inches long. His head ircumference was 13 3/4 and abdomen was 13 1/2 inches around. Apgars were 8 and 10. They got us settled into bed and left around 6:30 a.m. as our ew family snuggled together for the first time. 

This birth experience has proven to me what birth is meant to be: natural, instinctual, powerful, filled with emotion and surrounded by family and caregivers who have complete trust in a woman’s ability to birth her own child. It is by far the hardest work I have ever done, but this homebirth is also the most rewarding, empowering experience I can imagine!

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