The desire to have a home birth was originally kindled in highschool, when I took a brief one day course on the basics of midwifery. I had already been curious about home births, as I grew up homeschooled in a homeschooling community where quite a few friend’s mom’s had home births with a midwife. They had gotten to be there when their mom gave birth and told me about it. I found it quite intriguing. I loved the thought of an all natural birth in the comfort of your own home along with the benefits that go along with that. Fast forward to when I got pregnant with my first. I was only 19, and although I desired to have a home birth with a midwife, my insurance wouldn’t cover it. I also felt pressured by quite a few people to have the baby at the hospital. “What if something goes wrong?” they would say. “It’s your first, so you don’t know how it will go!” I foolishly let the fears of others take hold in me and caved to having my first child at the hospital. I wish I hadn’t.
I labored the first 28 hours at home with my first born (I DID NOT want to go to the hospital). The last 12 hours I spent at the hospital (yes, I was in labor for 40 hours). I got Staydol at the hospital (an IV narcotic to take the edge off of the contractions) to help with the pain, but that was it. Of course, they kept pushing me to have an epidural, even though I told them firmly I didn’t want one. What a respectful environment, huh? I was forced to stay in my bed and was only allowed to have ice chips (no food or water). I only had two female nurses as I recall. So at least there wasn’t a bunch of random people seeing me quite exposed and vulnerable. When my pushing contractions initially started the nurse wouldn’t let me push until the OBGYN got there (even though I was fully dilated at 10 cm). She had me lay on my side, and told me to “try not to push.” When you have pushing contractions and you haven’t had an epidural, someone telling you not to push is shear insanity. You can’t help but push some. Your whole body wants to push. As my mom has said, it’s like if someone offered you a million dollars not to push YOU WOULD STILL PUSH. For 30 excruciating minutes, I tried not to push. I was unsuccessful, of course, and finally an OBGYN came in and said to get on my back and push. I ended up pushing on my back (because that’s how they make you do it at the hospitals in my area) for nearly 2 hours. This was very frustrating for me because it’s the most ineffective way to push a baby out (1). In addition, no perineum support was provided to help prevent tearing (2). Instead, I ended up with an episiotomy, another thing I had hoped to avoid (3). My daughter WAS a big baby, weighing in at 8 pounds and 15 ounces. Her head circumference was in the 75 percentile for girls, at 14 ¼ inches (4). I know that was partly why I ended up with an episiotomy. I’m 5’4 and have a smaller than average frame, especially when it comes to my hips. I think this factored into making it hard to push her out. She was also born posterior, which further puts excess pressure on one’s down there bits (5). That being said, a different pushing position, getting my daughter turned into anterior position, and perineum support most likely would have prevented the need for an episiotomy. Too late now though.
My first born was born around 1:45 am, and like most newborns, slept a lot that first night. Of course, I didn’t sleep much that first night because OH MY GOSH I JUST HAD A BABY! It was my first so I got a burst of energy from the excitement of it all (I should have tried to sleep though). The next night was awful. First off, there was no room in my room for my husband to stay the night with me and help. I was on my own. My daughter was wanting to nurse constantly (aka no sleep for me), and whenever she would fall asleep and I would carefully place her back in her bassinet because that’s what I was told to do, some nurse would have to check her vitals and would wake her. I wanted to scream! Of course, the baby of the lady who I was sharing the room with never woke up. I began to wonder if I was doing something wrong. At one point, I asked the nurse if she could hold her for a little bit so I could rest or if she could take her to the nursery or something! She just told me I needed to nurse her again. I asked several times more at other points in the night, but that was all she told me to do. I did as I was told, wanting to cry because I was so exhausted and my daughter wouldn’t sleep. Nevermind that I hadn’t slept much in the last 72 hours and that I was there by myself. Nevermind that my nipples were already raw and starting to crack and bleed even though she had been latching on correctly most of the time. I just needed to nurse her more. Yes, that should solve everything Miss Nurse Lady!!! I can’t tell you how relieved I was when my husband returned to the hospital that morning. I had never been so happy to see him!
For my 2nd born, my husband and I opted for the hospital again because it was what the insurance would cover and we reasoned that it hadn’t been THAT BAD when I had my daughter there (I don’t know what we were thinking). Thankfully, my 2nd born was born within 10 hours. Pushing only lasted 10 minutes with him. I labored at home the first 5 hours, and the remaining 5 hours were at the hospital. I did have Newbane the last 5 hours of labor with him (an IV drug to take the edge off the contractions) but it didn’t really help. Of course, they offered an epidural many times, despite me firmly saying “No!” each time. Once again (as with my first), no food or water was allowed and I had to stay in bed once I was at the hospital. Random men and women were checking on me and my lady bits. I had pneumonia when I birthed him, so there was all kinds of people coming in, seeing me in all my trying-to-give-birth glory. Such a grand time. Once again, I had to push while laying on my back and no perineum support was provided. I tore really bad, all over in my down there region. It took the doctor like 10 to 15 minutes to stitch me up down there. Then, when he was doing it and it was really paining me, he complained that I should have gotten an epidural so I wouldn’t feel him doing it. So friendly. My 2nd born was another big baby. He was 9 lb. 6 oz. at birth with a head circumference of 14 ⅓ inches which is 65-70% for newborn boys (4). Another big baby!
Overall and perhaps compared to most people, I suppose I had ‘fine’ hospital experiences. I hated them though, BOTH TIMES (so dramatic, I know, but it’s true!). Other factors that caused the hospital births to be negative experiences for me: they cut the cord right away even though I asked them not to because there are benefits to delayed cord cutting (6), they pulled the placenta out of me with a yank of the cord and while pushing on my uterus instead of letting me push it out (it legitimately hurt when they did that), there was no privacy (nurses or doctors would roughly stick their hand up my vagina a couple a times an hour to see how dilated I was), when I screamed while pushing (because it was crazy pain I was experiencing) I was scolded, my youngest brother wasn’t allowed to visit either of my babies in the hospital because he was “too young,” and they kept pushing me to get an epidural even though I told them I didn’t want one. Honestly, I could make a longer list (like the nurses constantly roughly smashing and squishing my uterus region to make sure it was shrinking after having the baby, which hurt really bad to have them do btw!), but those are the things that angered me the most. After we had our 2nd child, I told my husband that for the third child I was NOT having the baby at the hospital. I wanted a home birth! The final icing on the cake was about 6 months before I ended up pregnant with my 3rd child, the professor for my nutrition class shared about her recent home birth experience. She told me what midwife she used and I saved the information. Ironically, I didn’t end up going with the midwife she suggested, but that’s a story for another time.
My Home Birth experience: June 2016
The day had finally arrived. It was the actual due date of my third child. Unfortunately, besides frequent Braxton Hicks and feeling like a beached whale, nothing much was going on. That week, when I had been checked at my weekly prenatal appointment, I was only 1-2 centimeters dilated. There weren’t any other signs that labor would be happening soon. It was honestly very discouraging because I was SO DONE BEING PREGNANT! That Saturday evening that all changed.
Saturday, 7pm: My Braxton Hicks began to increase in intensity and duration. They started to become more regular. At points they were 10 minutes apart and required me to breathe through them. I SHOULD have laid down and rested while I could. I didn’t though. I had just graduated from college the week before and was extremely behind on everything. I hadn’t even finished washing and putting away the baby clothes. The bassinet hadn’t been set up. The house was a disaster. I hadn’t even cleaned the bathrooms since the midwife had done the home visit, which was like a month ago. UGH! There was so much to do. I thought I would have more time, since my other two kids were each a week late. How could this one be on time? Good grief, so unexpected. I mean, I was done being pregnant, but I thought I would have more time to get ready. I began frantically folding and putting away laundry once my older 2 kids were in bed. I also got caught up on the mounds of dishes in the kitchen. I didn’t tell my husband anything because I didn’t want to give a false alarm. But, I was fairly certain this was the real deal. My husband went to bed at a decent time that night. I continued to work, telling him I would be in bed soon, which was a lie.
Sunday, 1:30am: I passed the mucus plug (aka ‘bloody show’), in all its glory and entirety. This caused me to feel quite excited because I knew things REALLY were under way. And yes, I REALLY DID stay up that late (crazy, I know). Even though this was my third, I STILL had to confirm this on Google. After much reading, and after the clock had passed the 2am mark, I convinced myself that yes, I was in labor, and yes, I would let my midwife and my mom and my husband’s mom know in the morning. I finally went to bed with the realization that this might be the last night of rest I would get in a long time. Although I continued to have contractions, I did fall asleep. I think I wore myself out with all my nesting.
Sunday morning: After waking up, I told my husband what happened. He kept asking when we would be letting people know. I said I wanted to wait a little longer. We had things to do. But, my body had other plans. The contractions continued to grow in intensity.
Sunday, noon: I finally let my midwife know what was happening. She agreed that labor had started for me and said she would be by to check on me in the afternoon unless I needed her there sooner. Since I was still breathing through the contractions and since they weren’t yet 5 minutes apart, I said that was fine. The contractions were continuing to intensify though (surprise, surprise). Before, I could still move around through them while focusing on breathing. Now I had to stop and be still while I focused on breathing through them. Shortly after contacting the midwife, my parent’s and my husband’s parents were alerted to what was going on.
Sunday, 3pm: The contractions started to get REALLY intense. Like, I wanted to cry intense. I got in the shower and turned up the heat and filled the bathtub, hoping that would help with the contractions. It helped some, but around 4pm I was starting to cry from the pain. I had TJ call his parents to come pick up the older 2 kids. Shortly after the kids were picked up, the midwife and my mom came. I asked her to check to see how dilated I was, since she doesn’t do it automatically. She only does it if you ask her since she believes strongly in respecting her clients wishes and privacy. As she checked me, I hardly noticed as she was very quick and gentle. What a difference from the hospital! While she checked me, I hoped that I was at least 6 cm dilated. Surely I was 6 cm by now! Unfortunately, I was only 4 cm. I felt so discouraged and weak. She was very encouraging though, and rubbed some essential oils on my back after asking if she could. I don’t remember what she used, but it felt good while she was rubbing it on. I was having gnarly back labor, so I was having TJ and my mom rub my back as well. She stuck around for a bit (until about 5:30pm), monitoring my vitals and the baby’s with her stethoscope. She also took my blood pressure. I feel like she did other things too? I just don’t remember. I was moaning and groaning and feeling miserable. Although I was happy to labor at home and have a home birth, there were definitely moments where I just wanted to be hooked up to drugs and put out of my misery for a bit. Anyways, she left, and said she would be back in an hour or two (unless we needed her there sooner), because the contractions were irregular, varying between 5-10 minutes apart. Although I would have really long contractions. Sometimes they would last 5 minutes or longer (true story). It was really annoying and downright sucked. My body did that with my other 2 kids too. So, I laid in bed, having contractions, while my husband or my mom rubbed my back.
Sunday, 7pm: When the midwife came back I had her check me again and I was STILL only 4 cm (yes, only 4 cm still!!!). To be completely real, I’m pretty sure I cussed after she checked me. I was like really? All this pain and suffering and STILL only 4 cm? She had my husband get the birthing tub set up and said that perhaps I should try to act like I wasn’t in labor because maybe I was focusing on it too much and getting anxious. I WAS feeling anxious because IT HAD ALREADY BEEN 24 hours!!! Now granted, it hadn’t been super intense those whole 24 hours BUT STILL. I was feeling frustrated and discouraged. This was my third baby. Weren’t things supposed to move along a bit quicker? Didn’t my body remember what it needed to do? So, I got up and tried to clean and dry dishes between contractions. My mom told me I shouldn’t and that she could, but I wanted to. I was trying to obey the midwife (although she hadn’t told me to do that). My poor pregnant and in labor self wasn’t exactly thinking clearly. I should have been binge watching some show on Netflix while stuffing my face. Wasn’t that part of the whole beauty of laboring at home? Around this time, my mom made me a quesadilla with low-fat mozzarella cheese and corn tortillas (I wouldn’t have gotten to eat at the hospital!). I remember how good that tasted. I don’t remember what else I ate or drank that day, but I do remember that. It was the last thing I ate before the baby was finally born (I know, so dramatic).
Sunday, 11pm: The contractions were becoming unbearably intense. They were still ranging 5 to 10 minutes apart, but I had my mom call the midwife anyways. She suggested doing the Miles circuit, because she believed the baby was in the posterior position (based on earlier belly mapping she did), versus the preferred anterior position. Having a baby in the posterior position can cause labor to be longer and can also cause intense back labor (which I was having). Plus, it makes the baby harder to push out later on. The midwife said usually the process of labor would help the baby get into the right position, ESPECIALLY since this was my third (my body is broken in that department apparently). Since that hadn’t happened, I did the Miles Circuit (7). It basically consisted of me being in weird positions for extended periods of time, hoping and praying the baby would get in the position he needed to be in.
Monday, 12am: I remember being in one of the Mile’s circuit positions on the bed, realizing it was past midnight now. It was now Monday morning. I started to feel more stressed (because OH MY GOSH WHY HADN’T THE BABY COME YET!!!), but I focused on my breathing and had my husband turn on Enya on my phone. She has such a calming voice and all her music is very peaceful so it helped me relax. Well, I mean, relax as much as you can in a time like that. It WAS some of the worst pain of my life. After I finished the Miles Circuit, I definitely noticed a shift in the intensity of my labor. The contractions FINALLY got 5 minutes apart or less. I began crying again. It hurt SO bad. How was it I didn’t quite remember how HORRIBLY BAD IT HURT?? I kept telling myself I could do it, although I really didn’t believe it. Regardless, I continued to brainwash myself with positive affirmations. I even asked my husband to tell me I could do it. Looking back, it sounds funny, but in the moment it was a very serious question. Could I do it? Was I a fool in thinking I could birth at home? Was the comfort of home and the benefits of an all natural birth REALLY worth it? Spoiler alert: it was!
Monday, 2am: Glorious occasion, THE MIDWIFE CAME BACK! She checked my cervix. I was 6 cm dilated! Hooray, I was FINALLY making progress. She started filling the birthing tub with warm water. I found myself sitting on an exercise ball through contractions. It seemed to help. I would bounce on it some and lean on my bed while sitting on it. I had her check my cervix about every hour. Every hour, another cm dilated. Throughout this time, until pushing contractions started, she would massage my back, offer encouragements, or step back if I seemed like I wanted my husband or mom to help instead. She just seemed to know what to do, almost like a 6th sense in how to make a laboring woman happy. She remained calm and soothing this whole time. It really helped calm me and ease my anxiety.
Monday, 6am: I felt the urge to push! I got so excited. The end was in sight! I asked the midwife to check me. I was fully dilated at 10 cm. I got into the birthing tub, and waited for the peak of my contractions (aka when it hurt the most and was most intense), and then would push, while initially screaming my head off because IT WAS THE WORST PAIN EVER! I was honestly surprised the midwife didn’t tell me to stop screaming. She said nothing though, which made me feel like she trusted me to do what I needed to do to get through pushing the baby out. Anyways, when I was pregnant, I had a feeling this baby was bigger than my other two. I could FEEL the largeness of the baby while I pushed. Hence the screaming. I wasn’t trying to scream, it was actually rather involuntary, despite my best efforts to remain calm, cool, and collected. In the back of my head, I hoped that the neighbors didn’t hear and call the police. At the same time, I didn’t really care. I just wanted the baby out! To top it off, you know the ring of fire some mom’s talk about (8)? Yep, that happened to me, THE WHOLE TIME I WAS PUSHING (even when the baby wasn’t crowning). Basically, you feel like you are on fire. So, I’m pushing while my whole down there region feels like it’s on fire. WORST FEELING EVER. The ring of fire hadn’t happened with my other two, so it was a new sensation I hadn’t expected. What fun my body was surprising me with! While I was pushing, I started freaking out many times because I would feel the baby’s head get close to crowning, and then go back up. “I have to push harder!” I thought to myself. As if I wasn’t pushing hard already. I was crouched in the tub in a squatting position, which is supposed to be good because then you have gravity to help you get the baby out of you. There was a handle on the bathtub and I had a death grip on it with my right hand, while my left hand was on the bottom of the tub for support. Weird position, I know, but it was what felt right at the time. I wish I hadn’t death gripped the handle though. My right arm and shoulder were sore for weeks afterwards. Anyways, the midwife reassured me that this was normal for the baby to start to crown and then go back. “It helps stretch your skin out so you don’t tear,” she said. “Oh!” I thought to myself. “I wish someone had told me that before. That makes sense!” It had happened with the other two, and all the nurses and doctor had said was to push harder. I calmed down, and began focusing more on pushing. I wanted to scream due to the intense pain, but I wanted the baby out and knew screaming my head off while I pushed wasn’t all that productive. With this new resolve, I would push for a count of 10 while moaning or grunting instead of screaming. Sometimes I stuck my face under the water to force myself not to scream. It helped (don’t try it though folks!) although I think it freaked my mom and husband out. While pushing, the midwife had my mom give me water to drink between contractions. The whole time I was pushing, the midwife provided perineum support with her hand, which I didn’t really notice, because, you know, I was kind of busy. I was very grateful she did because it really helped prevent any tearing down there. Oh yeah, sometime during the pushing stage, my waters broke. I don’t really know when because I was already in the water. In case anyone was wondering when that happened, well, now you know! The same thing happened with my other 2 kids too. My waters didn’t break until I started pushing.
Monday, 6:20 am: The baby came out! The baby was born! My husband was able to catch the baby in the water as he came out, with the help of the midwife. Once he came out of the water and was in my arms, he screamed like crazy. I just sat there, holding him on my chest, weeping as I was so relieved he was finally out. I don’t know how long I sat there in the water with him. I think it was like 30 minutes, although it didn’t seem that long. It had been nearly 4 years since my 2nd child had been born, and I had forgotten how amazing a person is when they are first born. I held his wet, squirmy, and screaming self as close to me as I could. The screaming didn’t bother me. I was just so happy he was out and in my arms. “We did it Tigger, we did it!” I whispered to him (Tigger was his nickname in my womb).
Monday, 6:50am: The midwife said it was time to push the placenta out. Oh yeah, in all the excitement I had forgotten I still had work to do. Bonus points to the midwife for not roughly yanking it out of me like they did at the hospital right after I pushed the baby out. I got out of the birthing tub, with my baby still in my arms, and crouched over a tucks pad. I think I gave two pushes and it was out. She wrapped the placenta in the tucks pad, and left the baby attached to it since it was still pulsating so that he could get the remaining blood and oxygen from it (6). They never did that in the hospital, so that was really neat. She had me lie down with the baby lying down next to me IN MY BED. I was happy to oblige as it felt very natural but I was also shocked. They would NEVER let you do this at the hospital I birthed my first 2 kids at. You always had to be sitting up and hold them in your arms if they were with you in the hospital bed. At this point, my husband took a few photos of me and the baby, since we hadn’t taken any yet. Then, while the baby laid next to me I nursed him. I closed my eyes, and rested while I nursed him. I was so tired. After he finished nursing, the midwife said it was time to cut the cord. My husband didn’t want to as he is a bit squeamish, so my mom cut the cord. Afterwards, the midwife and my mom examined the placenta. I later found out it was a healthy one (whatever that means). So that was good. I guess I took enough vitamins and ate enough fruits and vegetables while I was pregnant. The midwife then stuck it in our freezer.
The intent is to bury it in our yard for fertilizer for our fruit trees, but that still hasn’t happened (just keeping it real!). Edit: FINALLY buried it on November 27, 2017 between two of our fruit trees (so 2 days after I posted this). The midwife felt my uterine area to ensure that my uterus was going down, but there was no intense smashing and squishing of it like they did at the hospital multiple times. Thank goodness! I really appreciated her gentle and respectful touch. After that, she weighed the baby and checked me to see if I had torn. Amazingly, despite the baby having a head circumference of 14 ½ inches which is 75 percentile for newborn boys (4) and being 9 pounds and 14 ounces, I had barely torn at all. I didn’t need stitches! I was very excited for that. I think the midwife providing perineum support while I pushed really made a difference. Plus, the midwife said being in the water to birth him also helped soften things up down there so that there was less chance of tearing (9). Finally getting him into the anterior position was another factor that helped reduce tearing. After doing the newborn check of the baby and determining that the baby was very healthy indeed, the midwife cleaned up the birthing tub and got some laundry started. After all this, I realized I was hungry, so I had some low-fat tapioca pudding that we had bought for the occasion to celebrate. Then, I cuddled with my baby in bed, as we both fell asleep.
I can honestly say my home birth experience versus my hospital birth experiences were like night and day. At the hospital, I felt like I was at the mercy of the whims of the doctors and nurses (like when they would check my cervix a bunch even though I asked them not to or when they kept waking my first born to check her vitals or when I wasn’t allowed to push when I was ready to). At home, I was in charge. I could labor how I wanted and do what I wanted. I wasn’t stuck in bed. There wasn’t a bunch of random people seeing me half naked and examining me. I could eat when I wanted (yes, this was a big deal for me!) and walk around. I didn’t need stitches down there which was a miracle, especially since my third born was my biggest baby ever! I didn’t get my placenta harshly yanked out of me. The cord wasn’t cut right away. If I ever have another baby (and I would like to have one or two more someday) I DEFINITELY am having a home birth again with the midwife I had (10). She was amazing and had such a calming presence. She made me feel respected and competent. She didn’t question whether I could do it, like they did at the hospital when they pushed me to get an epidural multiple times. She believed in me and helped me have my child at home. I couldn’t be more thankful for the experience of a home birth. Yes, it hurt, and it was some of the worst pain I had felt. But, I made it through, despite not having that high of pain tolerance. It was worth it! Having a home birth was truly what I thought it would be. It was so comforting to be able to birth at home and have it be an all natural experience. My only regret is not having a home birth for my oldest 2 children.
- Effective birthing positions: http://www.givingbirthnaturally.com/birth-positions.html2.
- Perineum support while birthing: https://thejoyofthis.com/2013/03/15/birth-sensations-and-protecting-the-perineum-through-it-all/
- Risks of Episiotomy’s and reason’s to avoid them: http://www.givingbirthnaturally.com/benefits-and-risks-of-episiotomy.html
- Growth charts for head circumferences in newborns for the United States: https://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/html_charts/hcageinf.htm
- Anterior versus posterior baby: https://spinningbabies.com/learn-more/baby-positions/posterior/
- Benefits of delayed cord cutting: https://www.bellybelly.com.au/birth/reasons-not-to-cut-your-babys-umbilical-cord/
- Miles Circuit: http://www.milescircuit.com/the-circuit.html
- Ring of fire in labor and delivery: https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/intrapartum-care-vaginal-delivery
- Benefits of water birth: https://www.dear-midwife.com/water-birth
- Midwife I had: http://www.myearthbirth.com/
I know this post was SUPER LONG but I wanted to include as many details as I remembered. Have you ever had a home birth or been there to see a home birth? What was your experience? What did you think of my experience? Any questions about my home birth experience that I didn’t answer for you? Please let me know in the comments section below.
UPDATE: I had another home birth in December 2018. Read the post for that home birth experience by clicking the link below: http://herbivorehomemaker.com/home-birth-my-experience-with-my-4th-child/