Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Homebirth Story

Baby Anneliese, 12 hours old.
On Monday, December 26, Mike and I welcomed our third child and first daughter, Anneliese, into the world, born at home in the comfort of my very own bathtub, with a professional, experienced midwife, who has been delivering babies since before I was born.

I remember after my first birth, my mother, who was with me, commented that I seemed "made for giving birth", because she was so impressed with how I handled labor completely naturally. My first birth was a pretty decent experience, I musthadmit, even if it was very long and didn't go 100% smoothly, so I was somewhat letdown when my second birth experience wasn't nearly as beautiful, uplifting, or self affirming as my first, and I'm still bothered by my birthing experience the second time around. I never took or even considered using an epidural for either birth, but towards the end of my second birth, I really understood why someone would find an epidural necessary, because I was having such a hard time managing... (I may end up writing my birth stories of my first two kids in short in a future post, but no promises.)

It was after my second birth that I decided that my next birth would be different, and would be at home, and I started saving up money each month, even before our little Anneliese was a thought in our mind, because I knew that it was the fact that I gave birth in the hospital that made my birth so difficult, and I wanted to make sure that no matter what the state of our finances would be in the future, we'd have money put away to make a homebirth a reality.

And so, this was my goal in my homebirth this time. To have an altogether different experience. To be able to take the good from my previous birth experiences (no drugs, no cuts, healthy mom and babe) and leave all the negatives behind, and instead, have a completely positive and uplifting birth experience.


Things I wanted different this time-
I wanted to be able to go without a heparin lock, something impossible in our local hospitals.
I wanted to know before I went into labor which midwife I would be using, and not just be surprised and leave it up to chance and just use whichever midwife was on shift, as is the case in our local hospitals. (You can take doctors privately in hospitals, not midwives.)
I wanted to be able to move around freely and do what I needed to do to feel comfortable and speed up labor, to follow my own body's cues... and not need to be strapped to the monitor for hours at a time because "that was hospital policy".
I wanted to be able to be surrounded by people that made me feel good about myself, that had my best interest in mind, that were encouraging of me to do things as my body and nature intended it, and not just because that was "hospital policy".
I wanted to relax as much as possible during labor, and reduce or completely eliminate stress, as stress considerably slows down labor and makes it harder to manage. I didn't want any confrontations during labor, only pleasant experiences.
I wanted to have a fun birth, to make it a memory that I'd look back on and smile at, because it was an enjoyable experience filled with people I love and care about, and people who love and care about me.
I also really wanted my labor to be shorter than my other 17 and 18 hour intense labors... but I'd come to terms with the fact that I may just be destined for longer labors, that that just was how my body worked, and as long as all the other things worked out properly, I'd be ok with yet another long labor, because at least I'd be able to labor how I wanted and in the way I wanted, and not needing to fight people to do what I needed to do.


I realized that I had 3 choices. I could go to the hospital and fight to get what I wanted, or at least most of it, which would make me more stressed out (what I did my first labor)... or I could go along with whatever the hospital wanted me to do, which would eliminate the stress but would likely make labor more painful (what I did my second labor)... or I could choose to give birth outside of the hospital, so I didn't have to choose between having the type of birth I wanted and being non stressed and non confrontational during labor. Which is what I decided to do.

This birth started off very differently from my last 2 births, so I had hopes that maybe it would be different in all the ways I wanted it to be, but was scared that it would end up being different in a bad way, that I'd end up having interventions and complications.

This past Sunday, my family had a large get together. All my relatives in the area went to my sister's house for a holiday meal, to spend time together, building positive family memories. I had a nice time, and on the drive back, my mom asked me when I thought I'd have the baby, and if I was getting antsy.
"Well, Mom," I said, "I'm not due until January 1st, and I went overdue both times beforehand... I'm not expecting to give birth until at least a few days past my due date, but at the same time, I'm prepared to give birth before that."

Well, it seems my words might have had some measure of prophecy to them... because a few hours later, at 12:30 am that night, I was sitting on my bed, and my waters broke.
I wasn't sure at first what happened, because my waters NEVER spontaneously ruptured beforehand. During both my labors, my midwives broke my waters at 10 centimeters and 9.5 centimeters, and within 10 minutes of that, my babies were out. I was happy my waters broke, because I had actually spoken with my midwife about her rupturing my membranes when I was at 5 or 6 centimeters dilated, to hopefully speed up my labor, because I thought that perhaps the reason my labors were so long was because my babies were floating in water and never putting direct pressure on the cervix until the very end...
The way things happened, there would be no interventions necessary, but I still would get to test my theory that broken waters earlier in labor would make my labor shorter. My midwife said that the broken waters themselves wouldn't necessarily do the trick, but it might be a placebo effect of sorts, that by my being convinced that my labor would be shorter, my labor would be shorter, even if the actual waters breaking wouldn't make a difference, because the mind plays a big part in progression of labor.

I was completely taken by surprise when my waters broke. I started shaking, teeth chattering, shivering. Not sure if it was hormones or excitement or nervousness, but I wasn't able to stop myself from shaking for at least 20 minutes. I'm guessing it was the shock and being taken by surprise, but still don't know for certain.
I called my midwife, who told me to go to sleep and try to get a full night's sleep, and that we'd see in the morning if anything would be happening.
I slept from 1 am until 6:30 am, when I just was too antsy to sleep anymore.

No contractions.
I spoke to the midwife who said that she'd come at 9 pm that night to get things started if things hadn't by then.

I decided to take advantage of the fact that I was having some advanced warning about labor starting, and do what I needed to do to prepare for birth. I whipped up a batch of laborade to stop myself from dehydrating (I was losing a lot of liquid because of my leaking amniotic fluid, making dehydration more likely), and walked to the local grocery store to buy disposable tablecloths with which to cover my bed, should I decide to give birth on my bed. On the way to and from the grocery store, so many people asked me when I was due, how I was feeling, etc... and I answered "Oh, not for another week", smiling inside knowing that I'd most likely be giving birth before I was actually due.

Still, no contractions.

I put up a batch of gizzard veggie soup in the crock pot, so that if I did go into labor, I'd have something nourishing and filling ready to eat.

Next thing on my to do list- write an article for my magazine column that I needed to have submitted by Thursday, just in case I actually went into labor and wouldn't be stuck with a deadline only a few days or hours after giving birth. I had been meaning to do this a few weeks in advance, but kept on procrastinating; this gave me the impetus to finally do it. I had been telling myself that I wouldn't give birth until I was emotionally and mentally ready to give birth, and that included doing my necessary preps, like writing this article; I hoped that by writing my article, I'd be able to fully relax and labor would start.

Still, no contractions.

I was starting to get a little antsy. I wasn't sure if I was feeling so much fetal movement, was worried that everything wasn't ok with the baby... I was worried that I'd develop a fever or some infection because of the ruptured amniotic sac and needing to get induced and losing out on the possibility of a homebirth and an intervention free birth.
I called up my mom and asked her if she'd be able to take the kids to sleep over at her house, because my waters broke and either things would start on their own or the midwife would get things started, and I wanted to not need to worry about my kids being around and stressing me out if I was in labor. She said she'd come by to get them around 6:30 pm.

I decided to take a nap, and rest up with the intent that if I did go into labor, I'd start labor very well rested, so I wouldn't be wiped out towards the end of my labor like happened during Ike's birth, where I contemplated an epidural just so I'd be able to sleep as I was so fatigued...

I lay down to try to sleep, and fortunately started feeling plenty of fetal movement. At least that worry was gone... But I was so antsy... my mind wouldn't shut down. My eyes were closed for nearly two hours, but I'm honestly not sure if I even fell asleep or if my mind was racing the whole time. I may possibly have felt one contraction then, but I could have been imagining it.

At 5 pm, I asked my next door neighbor and close friend, B, if she wanted to take a walk with me up and down the mountains in our area. I had walked up and down those same mountains a few hours before my labor started with both my previous births, so knew there was a good chance it would work for me. She was happy to do so, so my husband took the kids out for a walk of their own, and I went with my friend on an intense walk. We walked up a really steep mountain, and when I was walking up, I felt the baby drop lower and felt pressure on my pubic bones, and one contraction.
We walked some more, and then I felt like my waters broke a second time, and then labor really started! I was getting contractions consistently every 10 minutes or so. It was around 6 pm or so. At that point, my mom called me to tell me she was on her way to get the kids, and wanted to know if I'd had any contractions yet.  Knowing that my mother was nervous about me homebirthing, I lied to her and told her that I didn't think anything was happening yet.
After that, I called the midwife to let her know what was going on, that labor had started, and that she wouldn't be coming to start things, but for labor itself. I told her that there was no need to rush; she could take her time. She said she'd arrive in 2 hours or more (she was coming by bus), but if things picked up, let her know so she could hop into a taxi instead.
When I got home at 6:45, my kids thankfully had already gone to my mom's. At this point, I was having strange contractions. I'd have one or two mild ones, and then an intense one. Mike and I ate supper, with me popping up during intense contractions to dance around and do some belly dancing type moves, because it was too uncomfortable to sit through contractions.

When I was in labor with Ike, before I was admitted to the hospital (I was far enough along for them to admit me, I just didn't want the hospital clock to start ticking yet), I was dancing around the mall attached to the hospital... which was just the slightest bit awkward- I'm sure people were looking at me funny- but it made the contractions so much more bearable. Because of how well it worked last time, I said I wanted to make a party this time around, to have a bunch of friends get together and belly dance my way through labor. I had told some good friends about my plans and they were excited to do such a thing.

I called up my good friend, G, and asked her what her plans were for that evening, and she said she was probably going to go to the community ladies' holiday party- a belly dancing and zumba dance party! I was so psyched and thought the timing was terrific- that's what I'd intended to do during labor, and it just so happened that I was in labor during the communal belly dancing/zumba party! I told G that I'd love to go there with her, and it would be funny if I'd go and no one would realize that I was in labor. She said another heavily pregnant friend, Z, (same due date as me) was at her house, and she wasn't 100% sure she was going to go to the Zumba/belly dancing, but to come over anyhow, and then maybe we'd go together.

I took my TENS machine (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation machine), attached the electrodes to my back, and headed with my husband to my friend's house by foot. As we walked, I was having a decent amount of contractions, but they were pretty manageable, especially because I'd turn on the TENS unit during contractions, which would make me feel a strong buzz during contractions but little to no pain.

At G's house, I ate some soup, chilled out for a bit with G and pregnant Z, while my husband was talking with G's husband. During contractions, my friends and I would some dancing together. It felt nice at first, but then it stopped feeling so good to shake my hips during contractions- it felt like it was accomplishing a lot, really lowering the baby, but it was a little too intense of a feeling, so I just started doing squats instead during contractions.
I realized "sadly" that I wouldn't be able to go to the belly dancing/zumba party- contractions were a bit too intense for me to feel comfortable doing that. I called up my midwife to see where she was, because I realized that I wanted her to be there soon-ish, and she fortunately was only 20 minutes away, so instead of going to the belly dancing/zumba party, when Z went home, Mike, G, and I walked together to my house, stopping every so often for me to deal with my contractions by squatting.

Not long after we arrived home, the midwife showed up. She checked me with a fetoscope, saw the baby's heart rate was perfect during contractions, then checked to ensure that the baby was still head down, and said that not only was the baby low, but she was insanely low, almost too low to feel her head. Because my midwife feels they're unnecessary, and especially because my waters had broken, I had no internal exam, but my midwife could tell anyhow that my labor was very well established.

Her guesstimate, based on the length of my last labors, was that this labor would be 10 hours, so we still had a ways to go. Because walking worked so well beforehand, I told my husband to try to sleep a bit, while the midwife, G, and I would go for walk. The plan was to go to the post office (usually a 10 minute walk or less) and then walk G home (less than 5 minutes from there).
As we'd walk, I felt contractions pretty often. They weren't exactly so comfortable at this point. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most painful I could imagine, these contractions felt like a 4 or a 5 when I'd use the TENS unit, and a 6 or 7 for those contractions that I'd forget to turn on the TENS...
I couldn't really walk through contractions anymore; I was needing to concentrate too much on them. Because of that, the walk was taking quite a while. I'd lean on G during contractions, and shake my hips or squat, and breathe deeply, picturing the oxygen coming into my body and then leaving it. Like that, I could handle the contractions, but what I couldn't handle was the frequency.
They were coming quite often, with my barely getting a break between them. In my first two labors, I was having contractions 2 minutes apart for over 10 hours, and I didn't know how I'd handle such frequent contractions for so long... Each time I'd feel a contraction coming, I'd say "Oh no.... not again!!" but then be able to handle the contraction. I was not looking forward to another 8 hours of that... I wasn't wiped out because of my good night's sleep and my nap, but was dreading the thought of such a long labor ahead of me.
I asked my midwife if she thought I was far along; I didn't want to get my hopes up too much, thinking I was really far along, and then be crushed to find out that I was only 3 or 4 centimeters, so I asked her what she thought. She said that the frequency of the contractions was good, but they didn't look so strong, because I was handling them quite nicely. Then again, she didn't have experience with people using a TENS machine beforehand, and she didn't know what my pain tolerance level was, so she couldn't know for sure, but it wasn't important exactly how far along I was, I should just take one contraction at a time. So I did. I told her that during Lee's birth, the midwife had to tell me to get off the phone with my sister in law when I was 9.5 centimeters dilated, so I thought I had a high pain tolerance for labor, but wasn't sure how far along I was...

By this point, we got to G's house. It was approximately 10, 10:30 at night. Before turning in for the night, G look at me and tells me "You're going to have this baby by midnight, Penny." I rolled my eyes at her and said "I'm NOT getting my hopes up. My labors are long and slow; there's no way in Hell that I'll be giving birth within that short length of time. My hope is at least by 6 am to give birth."
She answers, "Just you wait and see. I bet you'll be having this baby before midnight. If you do, send me a message to let me know."
I thought she was out of her mind...

On the walk back, I told my midwife that I wanted to get home as soon as possible. I wanted the shower. I wanted to see how the water would make my contractions feel. Because I didn't have the patience for contractions anymore, and thought that showering might help me relax and get some more patience for the long night ahead of me.
Only, I wasn't able to go home so quickly. The intensity and frequency of the contractions were picking up some more, and there was no way I could walk during contractions. My midwife offered that I lean on her during contractions, but she's a tiny mouse of a lady and I'm really, really tall, so it wasn't comfortable for me to lean on her. Instead, I became a true tree-hugger. Whenever I'd feel a contraction coming, I'd go to the nearest tree, wrap my arms around it, do some little hip rotating, and take long, slow, deep breaths with my eyes closed, sometimes just imaging what the oxygen was doing, sometimes just emptying my mind, and sometimes picturing a flower unfurling. Sometimes, instead, I'd make low moaning and/or sighing noises, but while both breathing and moaning worked... they sounded too much like bedroom noises, and I felt uncomfortable making such noises in public, even if no one but the midwife was around. As soon as a contraction would end, I'd try to walk as fast as possible, to try to get closer to my home, because I knew as soon as another contraction would hit, I'd have to stop yet again.
When there were no trees nearby, I'd grab a metal lightpole, wrap my arms around it, bury my face into the cold, frosty metal, and do the same as I'd do on the tree. I'd pretty much end up stopping every 2 light poles, my contractions were coming that frequently.
Eventually, I saw my house! Yay! Made it!!! Only... I felt a contraction coming on, and I did not want to be shaking my hips and "tree hugging" right there, because my across the street neighbors, a very posh, prim, and proper older couple, were coming out of their house along with 7 or 8 family members, and I was too embarrassed to deal with a contraction in front of them... so I just kept my eye on the door of my house, and walked straight there, through the mud, during a contraction, just so I wouldn't be embarrassing myself and causing an awkward situation...

I raced into the house, tried to get into the shower as fast as possible, but I couldn't reach my shoes, was too hard to bend and get them off myself- I needed my midwife to do that! Awkward! I then ripped off my clothes, headed into the shower, and put the stopper into the bathtub, so that the shower water would fill up the bath simultaneously.
The shower was a blessed relief. With the hottest water I could handle streaming onto my belly during the thick of a contraction, I barely felt the contraction. I mean, I knew it was happening, but had no need whatsoever for deep breathing like I did when I was out of the shower. Eventually the bathtub filled up, so I lay down in the tub and held the shower head in my hand and aimed it at my belly. This felt even better, because now I had hot water both on my back and on my front simultaneously, double relief!

Then, just as I feared would happen, the hot water ran out. And the bath water was turning cold. (I had told my husband that we should put on a hot water urn, but he thought it was silly, that there was no way the hot water would run out... Guess who was right?)
I asked my midwife to wake up my husband and ask him to boil kettles full of water to pour into the bathtub to heat the water. As soon as one kettle was boiled, he'd boil another for me, so I had a steady addition of hot water to keep the tub from cooling too much. Instead of the shower head streaming onto me, I took a small pitcher, dipped it into the tub, and poured the water over me on a regular basis. Like this, the contractions were just as easy to handle as they were with the shower head streaming onto me.

And then the phone rang. I told the midwife to get it. It was my mom. Oh great. Now she'd know I was in labor, because otherwise why wouldn't I be answering the phone? Why would the midwife be there? I was totally calm and chilled and collected the whole time; I wasn't freaking out like you'd expect if I were in transition... but I was feeling slightly pushy. Not like I needed to, but definitely felt some pressure.
As soon as my midwife got off the phone with mom, I asked her to check my dilation.
She said "I really don't think it's a good idea. You might not be as far along as you want, and it might make your labor harder to manage if you haven't progressed as much as you would have liked."
"Please!" I insisted. "I just need to know if I'm at least somewhat close or if I have a long way to go still, so at least I can be prepared for what is ahead of me."
"Okay..." she said reluctantly. "If you insist. But I'm just warning you, if I see you're less than 5 centimeters, I'm going to make you get out of the tub..."
"I'm more than 5 centimeters! I have to be!" (Right? Right I was more than 5 centimeters? Please let me be more than 5 centimeters dilated!!! I prayed silently.)
As she gloved up, as I lay back for her to check me, I was willing myself to open up. Open! Open wide! Let me be at least 7 or 8, or even bigger!

The midwife finished her exam and smiled. "You're a 9 or a 10. Maybe 9.5. If you want to and feel like you can, you can push now. It might open you up more quickly and make labor faster." It was 11:17 pm.

Do you know what a relief that was? That I got so dilated so quickly? But I wasn't sure. Should I push? Was it a good idea? I'd heard that pushing on a cervix that isn't all the way open can make the cervix swell a lot and cause problems for labor and possibly stop the baby from descending. After a few minutes discussion, I decided with the midwife's backing, to try pushing gently for a bit, to see if it made a difference, or if it would cause swelling, and if it felt good.
I didn't feel an overwhelming urge to push, just a "I could push if I wanted to", so I just started gently pushing (lying on my back), while still pouring hot water on my belly during pushes. After a few minutes of that, I asked the midwife to check if it was doing anything, or causing problems. She said "You just barely started! Babies descend only a millimeter at a time. Try some more before I check anything."
Tentatively, I tried pushing some more. And then I felt something happening. I felt my insides stretching out, and knew the baby was descending, and the midwife confirmed that she was able to see the head, and let me feel the baby (still inside, but low down enough that I could easily feel with my fingers). It was so awesome to know I was that close! A little more pushing and I felt the baby's head, and then the pain of crowning, but not nearly as intense as in my previous labors, because of the water.
10:29, the baby's head was out. The midwife cleaned out the mouth, wiped off the face, and one more push and the baby was out, born into the water of my bathtub.

The midwife placed my new daughter on my belly. She was so clean compared to my previous kids. Being born into the water does that to you. 10/10 apgar!

After the cord stopped pulsing, I cut the cord, handed the baby off to my husband, and pushed out the placenta. Honestly, pushing out the placenta was nearly as hard as pushing out the baby, possibly even harder because I had no energy left to do so, now that the baby was out, but the midwife urged me to do it as fast as possible, because the placenta should come out within 5 minutes of birth to lessen the likelihood of postpartum hemmorage. Great. Scaring me into pushing that out! 7 minutes after the baby was born, the placenta was out, and my labor was entirely finished.

I cleaned up, and headed into the warmth of my very own bed, where I've pretty much remained since, as I'm trying to take it as easy as possible because of the chiding of my midwife- she knows I tend to push myself!

The midwife weighed the baby- 7 lbs, 3 ounces. She helped me start nursing the baby, stayed awake with me approximately 2 hours after the birth (to make sure that I wouldn't start hemorrhaging), and then we all went to sleep.
Baby Anneliese today, 2.5 days old.

We named the baby, and while her real name will remain a secret, it reminds me of the name Anneliese, so that will be her pseudonym on the blog. (All the names on this blog are pseudonyms.)



So, in short, how was my birth? What did I think of a homebirth?
Well, it was so awesome!
Very empowering. Very affirming. Dare I say... much easier than my other two births?
I love that I was able to follow my own body's cues and do what I needed to handle the contractions instead of being restricted to following hospital rules. I loved that I wasn't strapped to the monitor and bed and instead was able to walk around and dance and shower, which helped my labor progress.
I loved that the people with me in labor, Mike, B, G, Z, and the midwife were all people that believed in me and my ability to birth naturally, as my body was created to, and were supportive of my decision to homebirth. I loved that I didn't need to fight hospital staff to do what I wanted to do during labor and/or compromise on what I needed to avoid the stress of a fight during labor.
I loved that I spent a large part of my labor socializing with my friends, even through the contractions. I loved dancing with them. I loved having a "women's party". I loved making each other laugh. I loved that I had a fun labor, as I had wanted to!
Fun labors are much better than stress filled labors, no doubt about that! In fact, being able to do what I needed to do during labor, following my body's cues, and having fun- I bet that's what made my labor, on a scale of 1-10 only reach a 7 in terms of pain, and a very manageable 7 at that, instead of 10's like in my previous labors!
I loved that I only had one internal exam the whole entire labor!
I loved that I was able to start pushing at 9 centimeters instead of waiting for 10 centimeters to push like I would have had to do in the hospital. (The midwife told me afterward that I really was only 9 when I started pushing, but my cervix was soft and stretchy, which is why she told me I could push. I wasn't 9.5 or 10, that's for certain.)
I loved that my labor was so much shorter, and I am sure that the fact that I had such a good support system and was able to do what I needed to do, to trust my body, etc... made my labor only approximately 6.5 hours long instead of my previous 18 and 19 hour labors... So much easier to handle! So much less exhausting!!!
Funnily enough, my friend G wasn't off her rocker when she said I'd give birth before midnight! I did, with a whole half hour to spare! When I called my mother at 11:45 at night to tell her the news, she was so excited, but was absolutely shocked that my labor was that short. (She was with me during Lee's and Ike's birth, so was expecting another long labor.)

No doubt about it, this was my best birth, by faaaaaaaaaar! Everything I'd hoped for, and more! My husband saw such a difference as well! He was supportive of my desire to homebirth, this time around, even if he didn't think it was necessary, but after seeing how this birth was so different from my others, he's a convert and thinks all my future births should be at home!
Yes, I think homebirth was absolutely worth it! Even though it did cost us a decent amount of money. (I plan on writing in a future post on homebirth vis a vis frugality.)

We're adjusting to life with three kids... sort of. The kids came by the morning after Anneleise was born. They were really excited by their new little sister, as they were by their baby dolls they received at the same time. That night they again slept at my mom's house, and then yesterday they spent the day at a neighbor. Last night was the first night we all slept in the house together, and today, unfortunately, my husband was absolutely needed at work, so I spent a few hours alone with all 3 kids and it went pretty well...

Anyhow, I hope you found my birth story as empowering as I did. Homebirthing my daughter was certainly the experience of a lifetime!

Linking up to Homestead Barn Hop, Monday Mania, Fat TuesdaySimple Lives ThursdayFresh Bites Friday,  Freaky Friday

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