My first natural birth was with my daughter in a hospital, and I was 37 weeks and 2 days along when she was born. This time around, pregnant with my son, I was planning my first home-birth. I had been having contractions on and off (5-10/day) for at least a month, which I had none of with my daughter (who was 2 yrs 7mo at his birth) – which goes to show just how very different these two labors would end up being. April 1st started off with my daughter coming with me to a chiropractor appointment where the chiropractor did some ‘uterine ligament relaxing’, which was worth the pain if it helped move me into labor! Next was a bible study during which I only had a few tiny contractions. Then I had a massage from 2:30-3:30pm where I asked him to hit all the acupressure points that are supposed to stimulate labor. Literally, as I stood up from that massage, I immediately started feeling some medium pressure massages. I decided to go to an outdoor shopping mall and walk around to keep the contractions going since my daughter was napping and eating dinner at Oma & Opa’s house and my husband was still at work – some shopping/retail therapy for Mama! I did have to pause a few times while shopping because the contractions were starting to hurt quite a bit. But then when I got into the car at 5pm to come home the contractions nearly slowed to a stop going from 1 every 3-5 minutes to 1 every 15-20 minutes, therefore it created a lot of doubt in me as to if I was actually even in labor.
I had significant back/sciatic pain with this 2nd pregnancy for the entire second half, therefore when my back was finally feeling well enough for a walk, after not being able to for months, I convinced my husband to come along to help along any contractions that were there – and it worked! They started right back up during our walk causing me to at least slow down and breathe through each one that came along, still about 3-7 minutes apart (my contractions were super irregular like that with my daughter too). We stopped at Smashburger and I got a delicious black bean burger and split some sweet potato fries with the hubby (trying to eat something good and protein rich for labor!). But yet again, the contractions slowed during our break. We called our midwife, Jessica Nipp, on the way home around 7pm to give her the update. She said, “Well, it looks like things very well may be progressing into labor, or they may indeed fizzle back out to nothing. Just keep me posted with how you’re feeling”. My husband's parents picked us up on their way to our house, bringing my daughter back home, and sure enough, my contractions slowed down as soon as we got into the car.
The night continued with noticeable (but sometimes not even painful) contractions every 15-20 minutes until we got into bed, watched a Parenthood episode, and turned the lights off at 11:30pm. By midnight, my husband was asleep but I had to get up because the contractions all of a sudden hurt so bad laying down that I couldn’t take it anymore. I bent over the couch for the next few, trying to get comfortable rest between contractions as I could, which was basically impossible. Around 12:50 am I decided it was time to wake the snoring, snoozing husband and asked him to fill the birthing tub with hot water. We called my mom and I got into the shower at 1:15am. After the shower I called Jessica again. She later said that because of the way I was describing the contractions and pain she wasn’t even sure I was in active labor (probably due to how far apart/irregular the contractions were), but she decided to come on over.
The tub took forever to fill with hot water since I had just showered, using some of the precious commodity we had stored up. My amazing husband had four different pots running on the stove to help the temperature along. My mom had gotten there and started taking some pictures, texting siblings, and helping with the water. By the time Jessica checked to see how far dilated I was (2:15/2:30am?) I was 10cm totally dilated! (When I showed up at the hospital with my daughter I was 10cm as well.) I’m 2 for 2! So Jessica was quite surprised and we hurried up to get the tub ready so I could finally get in.
I was shivering constantly for the time of pushing because the tub water was warm, but just not warm enough. The shivering actually took a lot of energy out of me and left me feeling quite weak. For whatever reason, the shivering combined with the way I was kneeling over in the tub made my groin on both sides very achy and uncomfortable. Yet any other position I tried to get into was very uncomfortable for all of my other muscles and body parts. A little lame, but I just had to deal with it.
Pushing was even more weird feeling and painful than I remember – bummer! I had my husband holding my hands/arms/head as I leaned over the edge of the pool and my mom was serving in every other way - photographer, water runner, and snack grabber (I only wanted my salted, mixed nuts). I never turned into a screamer, but I definitely wasn't quiet either. Thankfully, we were in the basement - so I'm sure none of the neighbors could hear me even if they had been awake!
When he finally started to crown – I felt it. To say the least. I thought I was getting at least half of his head out every time I tried to push through that pain, but Jessica only confirmed “slight crowning” before he retreated back inside of me between pushes. It was very discouraging considering how much pain “slight crowning” caused. But Jessica assured me that it was actually really good for my body to do it that way because it helps stretch tissues out in order to prevent ripping later (which I’m all for). Three or four strong contractions into crowning, a few episodes of hyperventilation, and a lot of pain later, Jessica said the three sweet words that every natural-birthing mother (well, every birthing mother really) - “The head’s out!!!” I nearly cried with happiness since those words were paired with that enormous release of pressure. Only one more small push and my beautiful baby boy was born at 3:33am on April 2 - the exact date we wanted because it was my grandmother's 90th birthday! Being born into a pool of water I immediately sat back, took hold of his body, and lifted him onto my tummy. He cried little cries. They were a little gurgly, but beautiful. There was no cone shape to his head. He was perfect. Jessica wiped his mouth free of bubbles, listened to his heart, and took his temperature all while he snuggled on me, wrapped in a towel, and half still in the water. He fell asleep on top of me within a few minutes.
We sat there in the pool and waited for physiologic closure of the umbilical cord (when the placenta stops pulsating, separates, and comes out), which took about 10-15 minutes. Jessica clamped the cord and my husband cut it. Because the water was still only lukewarm, I wasn’t exactly comfortable. Jessica and my husband helped me get out of the tub, cleaned up and over to our couch. I was shivering so much, from both hormones and being chilled – it was exhausting.
My dad and sister were the first to arrive, then the in-laws. It was so peaceful and comfortable. The only thing I missed from the hospital were the side rails on the bed that helped me move – good thing I have a muscle man for a husband who served as my lift. We enjoyed lots of hugs, snuggles, and kisses while Jessica was working to empty the labor pool and clean everything up. She also got set-up for her newborn assessment. He got his Vitamin K shot and eye ointment, he was 7 lbs12 oz, 21” long and had a 14” head circumference. A stud from the get-go!
We had a short time of prayer before the in-laws had to leave for work – it was so wonderful to usher our little man into the world not only in our own peaceful home, but with prayers thanking God for the wonderful blessing that he is to our family. Pretty special. My daughter woke up at 6:30am and we got their first meeting on video – it was so precious! As she came down the stairs I said, “Hi Sweetie – come here, I have someone I want you to meet.” She came straight over to me sitting on the couch and knew exactly who he was. I said, “Do you know who this is?” And she promptly responded with his exact name. "Me hold him? Me kiss him?” she asked. Because she had practiced quite a few times with her brand new cousin, she knew to pull a pillow up to her left arm so his head could rest there. So she held him. So sweetly too. (Now, weeks later, she always says things like “I see your tiny eyes. I see your tiny nose. I see your tiny ears. I see your tiny hands. I see your tiny cheeks. I see your tiny mouth…” and so on as she holds him.)
The morning was a bit of a blur since my husband and I were both so tired. But everyone headed home and we just chilled in the basement for a few hours. The lights were low, my husband and I were dozing, we kept food available for the well-slept two-year-old, and she was satisfied just watching Veggietales. It was wonderful. Aunts, uncles, and a cousin came over for lunch. More family came that evening as well as the next day. It was wonderful. Completely exhausting. And wonderful.
How did the difficulty level meet your expectations?
Having had a natural labor previously, the labor difficulty was the same. I knew I could deal with each contraction as it came. Get through that one. Just that one. Don't think about the next contraction until this one is conquered. And I did it. However, the pushing pain was worse than I remember. I'm sure I just blocked that part from my memory or something.
What was the best thing you did to prepare?
I got my birthing space ready. Jessica said I was very well organized and had pretty much everything right there by the pool. I needed that organization to be calm and ready. Also, I made sure the people closest to us (family and close friends) knew what I wanted/needed during birth. Meaning, we'll call you when we're ready for you to come. I plainly stated who I wanted at the birth and stuck to it.
What was your most effective form of pain control?
Finding the right position. And the tub. Mine was a little cooler than I would have wanted however, the temperature felt perfect during the intense moments. It was just a little cooler than I would have wanted during the restful times and after birth.
Would you do anything differently?
Yes! I would have filled the tub sooner. Being my second birth, I should have known better - things typically happen quicker!
Do you have any advice for pregnant moms?
Believe in your body! And know that the pain can be very intense during a certain time of labor (some moms say that transitional labor is worse than pushing, not so for me) - but its typically a good kind of pain. A productive, helpful pain that is bringing a baby into the world. Don't be afraid of it. Embrace it. In every moment. Mental preparation of what you're going to do to conquer each painful moment is most of the battle. Stay hydrated and don't hyperventilate. Just. Don't. Do. It. And finally, if anything comes up that requires some medical intervention that is more than your home birth practitioner feels comfortable handling or more than you would like to handle at home - don't be afraid of the hospital. The hospital should not be a place we fear, but a place we rely on when things can't be handled at home. They save lives and while there are plenty of stories of home-birthing families being looked down on in some areas of our nation, I would say from experience (as an RN who has worked in the hospital) that the vast majority of the hospital staff just wants to see you and your babies safe even if they have a different view of the way that "should" happen. And that's everyone's goal in the end, right?
I hope and pray that any woman who wants to have a natural birth, either at home or at a hospital, can be inspired by our story. I wouldn't want my births any other way. Thank you God for natural endorphins! Happy birthing!