In the early morning hours on Friday, December 5, our beautiful baby girl was born. Each of my children’s births have been special, but this one was unique in that it was our first home birth. It’s funny how something can be so different from all other experiences, and yet still the same. That is how I feel about giving birth at home. It was the same as at a hospital, in that there is still that excitement of something big happening, and of course baby still comes out the same way, but different in the whole atmosphere and comfort of being in your home and feeling like you are in charge, instead of the head nurse or doctor on call.
So here is my baby girl’s birth story.
I had been having contractions for the past week or so, many of which would wake me up at night, then taper off as soon as I would get up to call my midwife. So when I went in for my 40-week appointment and discovered that I was already dilated to about 4 cm, my midwife stripped my membranes and did a couple pressure points on my cervix. When I left, I was feeling a little crampy, but since my other children were with my mother-in-law, I decided to go out to eat and then go over to a home school store I had been meaning to go to, so I could order some curriculum for next semester.
The store ended up being farther than I expected, about an hour drive. I texted my husband, a little worried that I wouldn’t make it home because I had been having contractions the whole drive over. Still, since they were about 9 minutes apart I decided I would go in and shop since I was there anyway and I didn’t want to have made the drive for nothing. The contractions continued the whole time I was there, and I guess I must have been touching my head a lot because right before I left I went into the bathroom and my hair was sticking up like a mad woman’s. Which wouldn’t have been that bad except I was talking to the cashier for a good 10 minutes and she remarked on how confident I was. Yeah, confident enough to go out in public with that hair, I’m sure.
On the drive home I called my husband and told him I was pretty sure I was in labor and he should go home and set up the birth tub. I also called my midwife to let her know. Both of them were pretty skeptical, since I had thought I had been in labor a couple times that week already, but this time my contractions were about 6 minutes apart and I just knew that I’d be meeting my baby girl soon. So on the way home I picked up my oldest daughter and we started getting the house ready.
After the tub was set up, the contractions started going away again. Instead of every 6 minutes, they were more like every 11 minutes. All I was thinking was “Not Again!”–I was determined to have this baby! We decided to go walk around Target for a while. Since we were there, I made a baby registry just for the fun of it (and to get the 10% off coupons!) I don’t really remember what was so funny, but my husband, my daughter, and I could not stop laughing and joking around the whole time we were shopping. We were having a blast but must have been making a scene because we kept getting weird looks from the other shoppers. Maybe it’s because I had to stop every few minutes while I was having a contraction, and then that would start us all laughing again. We went to eat at In and Out Burger on the way home, and I guess we were still being silly- my daughter spit soda out of her nose because she was laughing so much! I’m glad we got to make those memories together, I know we will all enjoy thinking back on this time.
When we got home, my midwife still wasn’t convinced I was in labor, probably because I was in such a good mood. She wanted me to elevate one leg on a stool during contractions, and that made me feel like a pirate, so that didn’t help us to stop laughing either. Somehow I convinced her to come, that I was indeed in labor. My daughter called her friend to pick her up for the night since the midwife was on the way. My midwife got to our house and discovered I was dilated to 6 centimeters. All that laughing must have paid off! But the baby was still high, and the contractions started to fizzle out again.
I was obviously in labor, but it kept trying to stop, instead of getting stronger. This is where I am so glad I was at home and not a hospital, because I avoided any talk of pitocin or c-section or “failure to progress.” My midwife had a couple tricks up her sleeve to get labor going more strongly, though. At almost 10 pm, I drank a smoothie with castor oil. I had originally been very against castor oil, but my midwife said it would definitely bring the baby down into the birth canal and get labor going strong, so I agreed. (I just have to say I would not have taken or recommend it to induce a labor that hadn’t even started yet, but I was already more than half-way dilated and definitely in labor. Plus I had two midwives there monitoring me and baby.)
After drinking the smoothie, I went to lie down in the dark on my bed for a little while. It was so relaxing, just being able to rest in my own bed and breathe through contractions without bright hospital lights and monitors and nurses poking around. I spent much of that time thinking back to when my other children were born and how small and sweet they were. I also spent a good part of the next couple hours laboring in the bathroom, thanks to the castor oil. But it wasn’t as bad as I had expected and definitely worked to get my labor kicked into high gear.
Since I had two of my children already with no pain medication, I thought I knew what to expect. With both of those births, I remember being in lots of pain and wanting to give up during the transition period (when your body is dilating from 7-10 centimeters), so my plan was to get into the tub when the pain was getting unbearable. Even though I had taken childbirth classes in the past, I don’t think they did a good job of equipping me to handle the contractions, and that is why I was in so much pain. This time, I didn’t take any classes but I did A LOT of reading, including “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” and “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” (<–links are at the end of post, in case you’d like to get a copy of either book for yourself or a pregnant momma.) I know that these books prepared me so much and gave me a wide range of tools to use in my labor-I would highly recommend them to any one who is pregnant or hopes to become pregnant. I only wish I had read them years ago!
Another thing I did was look up many birth quotes and Bible verses. I asked God for His strength to get me through the hardest parts, and one quote that I kept repeating to myself was:
”…pain is only pain; unless we resist it, then it becomes torment.” ~ the I Ching
I don’t know what or who the I Ching is, but when I felt like a contraction was getting too painful, I reminded myself of this quote and not to resist the pain but to go with it. That, along with making deep, low sounds instead of high-pitched ones made all the difference.
When the contractions started coming one after the other, I decided that it was time to get into the tub. I was fully prepared to labor for another hour or even more, because up until now I had been able to manage the pain well, and from my previous births I thought I was just heading into transition. In reality, I was just about done with transition, and was probably already dilated to 9 or 10, which makes sense looking back on how the contractions were on top of each other. After I stepped into the tub, I had one more contraction and then a nice rest of probably over a minute…at least that’s how long it felt to me. I thought my body was gearing up for transition, when in reality it was gearing up to push this baby out. With the next contraction my water broke, and the one after that I pushed my baby out. I was holding my sweet girl in my arms less than 5 minutes after getting in the tub! Definitely the most painful part of the whole labor was feeling her come down and out of the birth canal, but there was no “ring of fire” like I remember from my other non-water births. I just couldn’t believe how fast it was and that it was over. She was born just before 1 am, only a few hours after taking the castor oil! I don’t think my husband could believe it either-he was so amazed and said I was like superwoman! Neither one of us were prepared for how awesome this would be.
My husband didn’t cut the cord until it completely stopped pulsing, which was about 20 minutes after she was born. That is another difference between a home birth and a hospital birth. I have always wanted them to wait to cut the cord in the hospital, but I still think the most they ever waited was 5 minutes. That is 15 minutes of precious cord blood my other babies missed out on! And there was nobody rushing around, whisking my baby off to get washed and poked and manhandled.
One of the best parts was getting to lay in my own comfy bed with my baby right away instead of the narrow, hard hospital bed. My midwives examined her right there in front of me after we had all calmed down from the birth, and later my husband and I gave our baby girl her first sponge bath. I had never given one of my babies their first bath before-a nurse always did.
I almost can’t believe it still. This was such an amazing experience that I know my husband and I will cherish for the rest of our lives. It is really cool being able to point out the exact spot our baby was born, and knowing that her first breath was taken in our home, surrounded by love and calm.
Here are some FREE PRINTABLES that I made up for our birth, feel free to print them out and use them with yours as well, either hospital or home.
I’d love to have you as an email subscriber. I only send one newsletter a week, so it won’t clog up your inbox!
linked up at the Modest Mom Blog, Good Morning Mondays, Home Matters link-upand My Freshly Brewed Life