This is just a warning: this post is going to be longish. It includes my motivation for home births as well as my first home birth story. I intend to either make another post about my second home birth, or add it to this later!
About a year after I knew motherhood was to become a primary calling in my life, I started researching home birth. It was a part of a broader research about "clean green living" as I called it at the time. ( I made a folder and everything for this! It was my totally self motivated nerdy- ness at its finest.) It was a plan that involved simplicity and cleaning up my health little by little. I wanted to go green. To be kinder to my body and the earth. Release my inner tree hugger and respect the life I've been given and the beauty of God's design. I felt called to do this for many reasons but the more I learned the more I believed it was God's call. I'm definitely still working on this, and find that it's a day by day little by little thing that involves a lot of ups and downs false starts and changes..
But I digress
Back to birth. I read everything I could get my hands on about birth because I wanted to prepare myself for the first step of motherhood and because I'm a nerd that loves to read and learn. I realized that home birth was not nearly as "risky" and "dangerous" as is commonly believed. In fact, I read some interesting research that indicated the opposite might be true -better outcomes for low risk mamas and babies. (I'm not going to get technical here, but if you're interested in the topic, here's a great website on Birth and the evidence and a specific page about home birth and this!)
With all the reading I'd been doing I knew that I wanted to have as natural of a birth as possible. I worried that this would be challenging because of all the misinformation out there, and that finding a midwife in my state might be complicated. I worried some about what family might say. So, I started dropping comments about wanting to have home births one day. I shared that I wanted to trust God's plan and it really seemed that home birth would be a part of this for me. I pointed them to all the research I was reading and answered their questions. In the end, I had a lot of support, and yes, some serious judgment. Then, about a week before our wedding my husband was talking to one of his groomsmen, and the subject of having children came up and that turned to home birth (at this point my husband was on board with the idea, though still nervous about it all). When my husband told his friend about our concern with finding a good midwife, his friend said "you know that's what my mom does, right?"
That's when I knew for certain that homebirth was going to be a part of God's plan for us. You see, this mom was a long time family friend of my husbands and a woman I had met before through church. It seemed to line up perfectly. About 2 months into our marriage we got a positive pregnancy test( or 2 or 3..). Excitedly we contacted our family friend and at our first appointment (where we asked a million questions and the usual tests and exams were carried out ) she closed our session in prayer. I was sold. This is how I knew I wanted to spend the pregnancy. Being cared for well by someone with 25 years of experience, and prayed for ? Having a midwife that is so deeply connected to her faith- with a great relationship with Jesus? Yes please!
Fast forward to June 2018..
Around 2am on Friday June 1st I woke with gas and period like cramps - and an all familiar need to pee. I went and returned to bed but the cramping feeling kept coming and going every 10 minutes or so. It was interrupting my sleep, uncomfortable but not really painful, so I just brushed it off "might be Braxton hicks." Or just gas. Around 4:30 or 5 I got up to pee again and when I got up from the toilet I noticed a small bit of blood. I decided to text my midwife at this point just to let her know and calm my worries. After about an hour of simular feelings, I realized the original text had not sent. We resent the text, and continued with our normal morning routine. The contractions weren't painful and there was no more bleeding or any other symptoms, so Mike went to work and I began a day of babysitting the little girl I was caring for at the time. Around the time of her arrival (8:30) contractions tapered off a bit. I called our midwife and we concluded that these were probably pre-labor signs - my due date wasn't until June 12th and this was my first - and labor could still be days or weeks away. We ended the call with her telling me to let her know of any changes.
A few hours later the contractions started again. But they were still weak and not lasting very long. I ate lunch and took a nap with the little lady, as usual, and stuck to our normal routine. Although, at this point I began to wonder if maybe this really was labor, I also didn't want to focus on it too much per the advice of our birth instructor from the birth class we took (Bradley Method.. highly recommend!).
When the little lady was being picked up, around 4 pm, I had a slightly more intense contraction, but was able to carry on a conversation with her father without letting on. I decided, after she left, to put the index cards with labor support, scripture and birth affirmations on them all around the house, "just in case."
I went outside and walked to check the mail and started making chicken noodle soup for dinner. The contractions were a bit stronger at this point, but I was still debating with myself on whether or not I was really in labor. My husband called to tell me he was headed home a little earlier than usual. We ate dinner when he got home, and then I had him time some contractions. The contractions started lasting 45 seconds and required a bit more focus from me.
Okay, so maybe this is it, I thought. And then I suddenly remembered that we had a bunch of junk and recycling in the basement and garage that I had been sorting for a few weeks and it needed to go ASAP since there was a city wide junk clean up (ie free dumpster use). So, I went up and down the stairs several times to point out what needed to go and had Mike load up our bigger vehicle at the time (my suv) that also happened to be without air conditioning.. At first I had planned to ride along and help unload, but as I was climbing into the very hot car I had a contraction that said "unh-uh, you do not want to have contractions in here. Nope. Definitely not. A roadside car birth is not in the plans mama!" So, I stayed home.
While Mike was dropping off the junk, I made granola and texted our midwife again. Contractions were becoming more intense and lasting a little longer, but not necessarily getting closer together. Mike got home and I took a shower- standing and sitting under the hot water for a while through some serious contractions.
We got a call from our midwife around this time it was 7 or 8pm, and while on the phone I had a contraction and had to stop talking. She told us to time contractions for the next hour or so and keep a record and call back. We did and they were lasting 60-70 seconds, but spacing was random with some 13-15 minutes apart and others 5 minutes apart. When we talked again she told us to do it again for another hour- we did and had similar results. At this point it was about 10 pm and she suggested we try to get some rest, but laying down only intensified the contractions and I was super uncomfortable.
It had started to storm outside, and I was feeling all kinds of uncertainty, so our midwife offered to come check me. I could not decide. "Do I make her come out in this weather" "what if I'm not really far along? That'll be unbearable and a wasted trip" and on and on.. So my husband(who was probably recognizing signs of my labor entering transition even though I wasn't) promptly said yes please come check!
When she arrived she checked me and said she felt my son's head. I was fully dialeted. I was shocked! No way! I seriously couldn't believe I was that far along. Most of labor so far had been simple and only in the last few hours had I really felt much pain.
Needless to say, it took a while for my head to catch up with my body. Once it did, I wanted the birth pool set up. I enjoyed the warmth and relief from the water. I chose to sit reclined against the wall of the tub and while it was a nice relief for a while, I started getting tired and we made very little progress here. Not to mention the water had started to cool and I was no longer enjoying anything.
I decided I needed to go to the bathroom and after peeing my midwife suggested I sit backwards and lay my head on a pillow on the back of the toilet. I liked the idea - but after a few contractions I had the irrational fear that I would accidently push my baby out in the toilet. At this point it was about. 2 am and my husband was sitting on the edge of the tub directly behind me ( about a foot or so from the toilet ..) And in a bossy, "I'm about to push a baby out, so you better listen" sort of way, I told him I needed to sit on his lap.
So.. I sat on his lap on the very narrow edge of our tub, my midwife sat across from me on the toilet and with each contraction I leaned forward and grabbed on to her for support, in a squat-like position. This seemed to go on forever with me pushing and my midwife reminding me to push "down and out," since I kept tensing my shoulders and fighting against the contractions instead of working with them.
It was in this very exhausting, tight, and precariously balanced position that at 5 am on June 2nd my beautiful 8lb 2oz son was born.
Through out the entire labor and birth, Jesus was the name on my lips. When pushing felt unbearable, when the contraction seemed like more than I could take, when I was afraid, I cried Jesus and managed to keep going.
Through it all, my midwife was praying both aloud and quietly and I found great comfort and courage in this. At one point Mike even played the guitar and sang "sky spills over," a favorite of ours at the time.
Birthing my son at home with the wonderful support of my dedicated husband, midwife, and the Holy Spirit was an absolute blessing. It was an amazing experience that I have a hard time adequetly expressing. Without a doubt it was also among the hardest and challenging things I have ever done; but also just about the most rewarding thing we had ever done.
And it still is. Being mommy and daddy is hard work! It's a beautiful blessing- a profound gift we have received- as well as a great challenge on this journey to saint hood.