I want to preface my home birth experience by letting you know that my intent in sharing my experience is so that others can know that IT CAN be done, with a positive outcome for mom and baby, despite the pain of it. That being said, I don’t believe in sugar coating anything, and although there are people with quick and calm home births, that isn’t the experience for everyone. I definitely felt calmer than I did at the hospital and remembering why I chose a home birth is why I chose to birth at home a second time (if you haven’t read my first home birth experience, you can read it here: http://herbivorehomemaker.com/my-all-natural-home-water-birth-experience/). My experience is definitely not representative of home births as a whole, so please keep that in mind as you read my story.
December 2nd. That was the date I had in my head since being around 3 or 4 months pregnant with my baby girl. My fourth child. The official due date we were assigned by the OBGYN was November 30th, but my other three children had all been late. Why not her too? My first two were each exactly a week late while my third born was 2 days late. Maybe this fourth baby would be like my third born and only be 2 days late too. I was hopeful. Around the 31 week mark of the pregnancy I began to think she would not be late, but rather early, as I dealt with preterm labor. Shortly after hitting the 37 week mark, I got extremely sick and remained quite ill for 2 weeks, even losing my voice for most of the duration. During this time, the preterm labor stopped. My midwife said this can happen when you get really sick. How glorious. The only good thing that came of the sickness. When my due date came and went, the date of December 2nd came back to mind. If nothing else, I was going to try to get things going on December 2nd.
December 2nd was a Sunday so my hubby was home and off work. My hubby dealt with the kids in the morning so I could sleep in for a bit, which I happily took advantage of for I assumed it would be my last chance. After waking, eating, and morning tasks, we all set off around noon for a brisk walk, in the hope that it would get labor going for me. I was having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions during the mile and a half walk but I was still able to breathe and walk through them, so nothing to get excited about unfortunately. These contractions continued until around 2 or 3 pm but then fizzled out for the most part. Although disappointed, I decided to celebrate the reprieve by taking a nap (because pregnancy makes you exhausted ALL THE TIME) and then made dinner. During dinner, I started having contractions again, but I was still able to work through them and there was no real pattern to them. Little did I know my body was gearing up for the real thing. No more practice contractions. It was time (insert victory cheer)!!!
PART 1~ Early labor: “I can breathe through this and I can do this on my own.”
By 7:20 pm the contractions were getting stronger and had fallen into a pattern. They were 15 minutes apart. The pain was bad enough for me to get on my hands and knees (as this was the most comfortable position), breathing through them with much focus. Although the contractions were far apart, each one was lasting several minutes, sometimes up to 5 minutes. Early labor had officially begun.
Around 9 pm I threw up. Since 7 pm I had felt very nauseous, so this wasn’t too much of a surprise. My body likes to respond to any kind of epicness with vomiting, unfortunately. I’m like that puppy that pees when it gets excited, except I barf instead. After this the contractions started coming 10 minutes apart, with a 30 minute break between 9:30 and 10 pm. From 10 pm until around 3 am the contractions were coming 10 to 15 minutes apart, lasting several minutes each time. I did manage to doze off a bit between contractions during the 12 to 3 am time slot. From 3 to 5 am the contractions were less than 10 minutes apart and the intensity was picking up. I grew excited that maybe I would be having my baby girl by noon. I could no longer sleep, despite being incredibly tired. Although the contractions WERE growing more intense, it wasn’t to the point where I was crying, so I knew I was probably only 3 to 4 cm dilated. I didn’t call my midwife yet. I also let my hubby sleep, because I’m an awesome wife. Actually, it was for more selfish reasons because he gets grumpy with a lack of sleep and I wanted to save his help and strength for when I was at the breaking point of labor and wanting to scream out in misery.
Around 5 am things started to slow down. The contractions lasted about 1 ½ to 2 minutes, but slowly got further apart. Contractions started at the following times (for anyone keeping score): 4:57 am, 5:05 am, 5:14 am, 5:25 am, 5:39 am, 5:54 am, 6:07 am, 6:18 am, 6:34 am, and 6:55 am. Basically they were varying anywhere from 7 minutes apart all the way to 21 minutes apart. From 7 to 8 am I only had 3 contractions. To say I was discouraged was an understatement. Had I been up all night for nothing? What was going on with my body? I FINALLY called my midwife around 7:30 am. She agreed that early labor had started. I was actually scheduled to see her that day for a prenatal check up, but since I was having contractions, she said she would come to me instead of me having to drive to her office. That was very much appreciated since I was in a lot of pain and very drained. After calling her, contractions started to pick up again. It was like my body decided to not make me a liar about labor starting. I had 5 contractions from 8 to 9 am and 6 contractions between 9 to 10 am. Sadly, the excitement didn’t last. It was as if I was a car running out of gasoline. My body didn’t want to keep going. From 10 am to 12 pm I only had 5 contractions! Only 5 in two hours versus 5 to 6 in an hour! My midwife arrived around 12:20/12:30 pm. Before she came I had 3 contractions, so things were starting to pick up again. It was like the never ending saga of wondering whether labor was going to pick up or stall again. I felt like my body was playing games with me. “Hey we’re in labor! Oh, nevermind we’re tired and taking a break. Oh, labor time again!” Make up your mind body!!!
I expressed to my midwife my frustration and desperation in wanting things to progress to active labor. Since I was already 3 days overdue (I was a ticking time bomb with a broken timer so I was doomed to never explode, or so I felt) she agreed to take some more drastic measures to help me progress. First, she checked to see how dilated I was. I was only 3 ½ cm. All of those contractions and only 3 ½ cm. I felt like crying. She massaged my cervix to help things along. It was an uncomfortable experience to say the least, but I told her I was willing to try anything so I can’t complain too much. After this, she had me take some herbal concoctions to jumpstart things. I was instructed to take more every hour for four hours (I didn’t end up needing to though). She left around 1 pm, and told me to call her once things picked up. Spoiler alert: THINGS PICKED UP!!!
PART 2~ Active labor: “I can’t do this! I NEED HELP OR DRUGS OR SOMETHING!!!”
Shortly after she left, I began to have hope that I wouldn’t be pregnant forever because THINGS WERE REVVING UP FAST!!! The massaging of the cervix and herbal remedies were working! I guess my body wasn’t as stubborn as I thought it was. It remembered what to do! I could feel my body transitioning to active labor (AKA the pain was getting to the point of me crying in misery from the pain). The contractions came 3 to 5 minutes apart, with some lasting so long there was less than a minute between the contractions. I managed to eat some lunch between contractions because that’s how I roll (kind of literally at that point with how big and round my middle was). Walking stomachs gotta eat! By 2 pm, the water works began AKA I was crying and needing support. No more “I can handle this on my own” business. I told my husband to call his mom to get the kids. Things were about to get real! By 2:30 pm I called my mom and the midwife. At this point I was bawling. Some might have even said a bit hysterical. Labor isn’t called labor for nothing. IT HURTS!!! The contractions were getting closer and closer together to the point that there was no downtime between the tidal waves of contractions. I felt like I was an amateur surfer trying to ride 20 foot waves. Each contraction I felt like I was hardly kept from drowning and going under. I tried to focus on breathing, but once you get to active labor it’s hard. You just want it to be over. This is the point at which drugs sound wonderful and I begin to wonder to myself why I ever thought au naturale labor was the way to go. Just knock me out until it’s time to push the baby out!!! If only it were that simple. My husband was finally able to join me in our bedroom (where I was writhing in pain on our bed) around 3 pm, after his mom left with our three kids. My mom arrived shortly thereafter. The midwife believed the baby’s head wasn’t quite in the right position (her head appeared to be asynclitic), which could be why my labor had slowed before, so she told me do the side lying release (linked here for those interested: https://spinningbabies.com/learn-more/techniques/the-fantastic-four/sidelying-release/). I needed my husband’s help for this, so once the kids were gone we did this. By 4 pm (or maybe a bit sooner) the midwife arrived, with her assistant coming shortly thereafter. At this point I was a hot mess (literally, I don’t even know if I still had my pants on!). Contractions were right on top of each other. When she checked me I was 6 cm. I was grateful but had hoped it would be more. From 4 pm on the pain was unbearable. There was so much pressure down there that I remember holding my crotch because it felt like the baby was going to explode out of me. My crotch literally hurt so bad and somehow holding it helped a little. I didn’t remember labor ever being this intense. In my head I cursed the effectiveness of the herbal concoctions. I cursed myself for not having a higher pain tolerance…AND I cursed myself for ending up pregnant again. Even though I had never had an epidural, the thought of one suddenly seemed very glorious. I questioned why I ever wanted to do a home birth again. Apparently I was masochist. I remember biting a pillow near me at one point to distract from the pain. Oddly, it was very satisfying to bite the soft and fluffy pillow with all my might. I wonder what the midwife and her assistant thought of that, but we all cope with pain in our own ways and in the moment I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. Labor does that to you. I had the midwife check to see how dilated I was several times after the 4 pm check. Things continued to progress. How much and at what time? I don’t remember. I was too busy biting a pillow. I did have people rubbing my head and shoulders and limbs as that helped a little to distract from the pain (for some reason it didn’t feel good to have my back rubbed during contractions). A heat pack on my lower back and pelvis region helped a little with the back pain. Alas, that was all there was in the way of pain relief. Let’s just say I’m amazed the pillow survived to tell the tale. Shortly before 6 pm, I had the midwife check me. I was 9 cm and FINALLY had bloody show. With my other three kids, once I TRANSITIONED to active labor I had bloody show but I had lost part of my mucus plug a couple weeks prior, which hadn’t happened with my other three kids so apparently my body wanted to mix things up for this fourth baby. Gotta keep things fresh, ya know? My mom, my hubby, and the midwife’s assistant began to fill the birthing tub with water. Pushing time would be soon! I was so excited and relieved! The end was insight. I was also nervous. The last kid I had pushed out was nearly 10 lbs and his head was 14 ½ inches in circumference (which is large for a newborn). It took a lot of effort to get him out, so I wasn’t looking forward to a repeat of that. What if this fourth kid was bigger? I began to silently pray, “Please God, help this one be easier to push out. I’m so tired! Please God, have mercy!” A couple more contractions passed, with the pain being so intense I couldn’t help but scream out in pain. I also began to feel the urge to push. I had the midwife check me again. She was surprised that I was 10 cm! Hooray!!! The feelings of being excited, relieved, and nervous all at the same time grew stronger. She instructed me to go to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet as instructed, and began to feel the urge to push again. It was strong, and I couldn’t help but push along. My water broke while on the toilet! After that, I went to the birthing tub. There was a couple inches of water in it, but I figured pushing would probably take awhile, so I plopped my ‘I feel like a beached whale’ self down anyways. I leaned over on the side of the tub that was right by my bed, so that I could use my bed for support. My knees were sitting in the tub, with my butt pushed out. It’s what felt comfortable for me, as weird as it sounds. When another contraction came and peaked I pushed with all my might. On the second or third push, my baby’s head was crowned, and STAYED crowned. I was shocked. With all my other kids, they would crown, and then go back in. My midwife said that happened because everything was stretching out down there to accommodate them, that’s why it took them awhile to stay crowned. But this baby WAS staying crowned right away. I couldn’t believe it! Were my desperate prayers answered? Even though I was exhausted and didn’t feel like I had much energy left to push, I got a little rush thinking that this might all be over soon. At the next contraction, I gave it my all. One strong push and her head was out! One more push after that and her shoulders and the rest of her came out. I was so relieved I felt like crying happy tears! I always thought the birth stories of “a few pushes to get them out” sounded too good to be true, but here I was, with my own “a few pushes” story. I was so grateful after the most intense active labor I had experienced that the pushing apart was relatively easy. By relatively easy, I don’t mean it was easy. I mean it was easy in comparison to my other three. Pushing a person out is never truly easy. The tub was still only a few inches full, so it wasn’t a water birth, since the only thing submerged was my knees and feet but I didn’t care. IT WAS OVER! Now I could hold my baby girl. It turns out she was nearly a full inch smaller in head circumference. I truly think that made a huge difference, although I do believe in the power of prayer and know that helped as well. She was also 12 ounces lighter than my third born, so I’m sure that made it easier too.
I’m not going to lie, after I pushed my baby girl out and had her in my arms, as happy as I was and as cute as babies are, I couldn’t help but think to myself “I’m never doing that again!” Of course, I thought that after my third and here I was with a fourth child. Amazingly, I hardly tore at all and didn’t need any stitches down there. I was beyond grateful. It was sore enough down there without having to have stitches too. Even though the pain was intense, I SURVIVED! I truly believe it is all about mindset. I’m not some incredibly tough person as you can probably tell by reading this (although I am stubborn). For me, the benefits of having a home birth outweigh those of a hospital birth (see my other home birth post for more info, linked at the end of this post). I chose a home birth not because I love pain, but because I feel like how they make you labor and deliver at the hospital is so unnatural (for example, they made me push while laying on my back at the hospital, which is the most ineffective pushing position but common practice in the hospital). They do so many unnecessary interventions (Pitocin, episiotomy, etc). Personally, the hospital is a very stressful and anxiety inducing place for me with all the unfamiliar faces, bulky equipment, bright lights, and so on. It’s so wonderful to be able to lay down in my own bed after having my baby, and just relax and not be poked and prodded. I can eat and drink whatever I want and co-sleep with my baby too if that’s my choice! Plus, I can’t adequately express to you how empowering it is to birth a baby naturally and at home. It has taught me that with determination and refusing to give up I CAN do it (with positive support of course). This was my second home birth, and despite my doubts in the midst of labor, if I ever ended up pregnant again I would definitely choose a home birth again. Oh, and for any wondering, 9 lb 2 oz was this new baby’s birth weight. A healthy baby as a vegan mom, despite the doubts of some (I became a vegan about 3 months before this baby was conceived).
If you are wondering about my first home birth and WHY I chose a home birth in the first place read my post on it: http://herbivorehomemaker.com/my-all-natural-home-water-birth-experience/
Any questions I didn’t answer? Have you had a home birth before or do you want to have a home birth? Let me know in the comments below.