I have two friends who had homebirths last summer. One had an unassisted water birth, and the other had a midwife-assisted homebirth. When my husband Carlos and I got pregnant last fall, I knew that I wanted a homebirth. I had birthed four babies previously, all with OB/GYNs in a hospital (with induction and pain relief), and I wasn’t happy with those experiences. I spoke with Carlos and he said that he would support me having our baby at home. I called Jen & Jill, the midwives that had attended my friend’s homebirth, and we began my prenatal care.
For the first time in five pregnancies, I didn’t have an ultrasound done. I also didn’t have many of the tests done that were offered. I wasn’t weighed. I wasn’t rushed through appointments. I sat on a couch and talked with my midwives for two to three hours at our visits, while my boys played nearby. Jen & Jill encouraged the boys to ask questions and be involved. Our midwives supported us using HypnoBirthing and having a water birth.
I spent months listening to the HypnoBirthing affirmations and the relaxation CDs. I read the HypnoBirthing book and all of the natural birth stories that I could get my hands on - almost obsessively. I finally started to believe that childbirth is a natural thing that my body is designed to do - not something to be feared. I knew that my baby would be the perfect size for my body, and that my body and baby would work together to birth. I also knew that labor and birth didn’t need to be painful.
I had dreams for most of the pregnancy about the upcoming labor and delivery—ones where I didn’t know that I was in labor, or the baby was born really fast, or the baby was born while I was sleeping and I woke to a newborn, or I would catch the baby myself. Just in case my body and/or baby were trying to send me a message, I learned about emergency and unassisted childbirth, so that we would be somewhat prepared if our midwives couldn’t get there in time.
When we were about 33 weeks pregnant, Carlos got offered a job in Phoenix. We accepted the offer, and got ready to move. At 36 weeks along, we moved from Western New York to Arizona, sadly leaving Jen & Jill behind. It took us about a week to drive out. I met with a pair of midwives in Phoenix a few days after we got here, and I left that meeting feeling uncomfortable. I talked with Carlos and let him know that I didn’t think that those were the women to attend our birth. With young children at home, Carlos just starting a new job, and only one vehicle; we didn’t have much time to shop for a new midwife.
At 38 weeks pregnant, Carlos and I decided when we did go into labor; we would stay at home for as long as we felt comfortable. If that meant for the whole birth, then great - if it meant until we decided to call for help or go to the hospital, then so be it. The hospital was 4 miles from our home, and the fire department could get here in one minute. I wasn’t worried at all…I was strangely calm. I just KNEW that it would all turn out well.
I set up a pool in our bathroom, and had the hose hooked up to the shower. I had everything ready to go…we were just waiting on baby to be ready. I continued to listen to the affirmations and relaxation CDs many times each day, and tried to be patient waiting for my baby to choose his or her birthday.
On our estimated due date, I woke up to pee AGAIN. When I got back to the bed, I felt a familiar tightening in my abdomen. It lasted for about a minute, and I looked at the time - it was 3:15am. I snuggled in and tried to go back to sleep. Before I fell asleep, I felt more tightening. I looked at the time again - it had been about 5 minutes. I continued to relax, looking at the time when I felt the tightening…3 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 minutes, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 6 minutes…and the sensation would vary in how long it would last. I wasn’t in any pain or discomfort, so I figured it was not labor.
At 4am, I was still experiencing irregular tightening. I was bored with too much energy to sleep. On occasion, some of the tightening was slightly uncomfortable. I woke up Carlos. I told him that I was having a lot of “contractions”, and we chatted about life. I was standing, and began to rock my hips during some of the tightening…it was still irregular, and I wasn’t in any pain or real discomfort.
At about 4:45am, I started to fill up the pool because I felt like being in water. I lit some soy candles and got into the pool to relax. At around 5am, I asked Carlos to call my friend, Angie, and tell her that I was in the pool and that I *might* be in labor. He called and then played on his iPhone while I closed my eyes and relaxed.
After about 15 minutes, Carlos came in to hand me a drink and I asked him for a cold washcloth. I wanted a cool cloth for my forehead and the back of my neck. I had been sitting like I was in a recliner, resting the back of my head on the edge of the pool. Suddenly, I felt the need to get up on my hands and knees, and I put the cold washcloth on the edge of the pool. I felt hotter when the tightening happened, so I’d lean forward to cool my forehead on the washcloth while I rocked my hips side to side.
As I thought to myself that it was time for the HypnoBirthing CD to be put in the player, Carlos said that he would be right back. He had to go downstairs to get some cold water from the refrigerator for my washcloths, since (living in the desert and all) only warm water was coming from the faucets. It was about 5:30 am.
Within seconds of Carlos heading out of the room, my back arched like a cat, my pelvis tilted in, and my body began to bear down all on its own. I was making noises that were a cross between a lion roaring and an orgasm, which I had no control over. I had a quick break in the rush, and then another one washed over me. I felt a pop inside of me which I knew must have been my waters releasing. I finally admitted to myself that I was in labor, and that I was having this baby today.
My body continued to have these huge surges of energy, bearing down on its own, causing me to make loud primal noises. Thoughts flashed into my head… “I can’t keep doing this…it’s too much…that kinda feels good…I can’t stop…this is too intense…I still have hours ahead of me…labor just started…holy shit…is my body pushing?...where the hell is Carlos?...why can’t he hear me?...it’s too early to say that I can’t do this, that’s what women say when they are in transition, and I’m just starting…” I checked the birth canal to see if I could feel baby’s head coming down, but felt nothing. I looked to my left and there was our four year old, Spencer, staring at me with his mouth hanging open. He said, “Mom, are you having the baby?” I said, “Yes, did I wake you up?” He said, “Yes, but that’s okay, you have to make a lot of noise to get a baby out sometimes…it was in our book.” (We’d been reading a book about homebirth at bedtime for months). He asked me if I was okay, and I said yes. I asked him to go find Daddy, and he left the room. Thinking back now, I honestly don’t know how I had a conversation with Spencer at the time.
I continued to surge and roar. I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up, so I grabbed the diaper pail that we had nearby and held onto it. I didn’t vomit, but I hugged the bucket and kind of leaned on it - biting the edge at times. Our two year old, Gavin, showed up at some point, but I don’t recall when. Carlos finally came into the room and asked me what he should do. I breathlessly said something about taking care of the boys. He went into the bedroom and told them that Mama was having the baby and asked them to sit quietly on the bed.
At this point, I had somehow pulled myself up from my knees into a squatting position. By the time Carlos was back in the bathroom holding my hand, the baby’s head was out a few inches and had stopped. I wasn’t in pain during any of this; the only way to describe it is “intense”. Both my body and baby were working hard to birth, and I was along for the ride - I wasn’t consciously pushing or holding back. I told Carlos that my water broke and that I was in labor and that the baby was coming out. He said, “Yeah.” It almost felt like the baby was going back in, I rubbed the fuzzy head and said something like, “no baby, don’t go back in.” I then felt the baby kicking inside of me, and felt the baby turn. In one more surge and a huge roar, the baby was out and I scooped up the tiny body that was floating in the water near me. I vaguely recall Carlos saying something like, “There you are, baby.”
I sat back and brought the baby up to my chest. I placed receiving blankets and towels on top of Baby and over my shoulders. I kept Baby’s body in the warm water. Baby’s head was purple, it wasn’t breathing yet. I could feel a little heart beating away, but no breath. I rubbed the baby and sucked out the nose and mouth with my mouth, and calmly said, “Come on, baby…breathe.” Finally, baby started to breathe, looked at me, quietly said “Wah,” and went to sleep.
Carlos looked at the clock and said, “5:36.” Spencer and Gavin came in to meet the baby while Carlos went to wake our six year old, Nathan, who had somehow managed to sleep through the commotion. After a few minutes, one of the boys asked if it was a boy or girl. I realized I hadn’t looked yet! We peeled back the covers to see...Baby was a girl. Nathan said, “I KNEW it was a girl,” and then complained that he had been woken up.
Carlos brought the boys downstairs to get their breakfast, while I sat in the water admiring our girl and offering her my breast. She wasn’t interested in leche at that moment, she just wanted to snuggle and sleep. Carlos then came back upstairs and asked what was next. I handed him the baby and I attempted to stand. Her cord wasn’t very long, and it was difficult to figure out how to stand and climb out of the pool. The placenta was born while I was working on standing up, and we put it into a bowl. I got out of the pool and dried myself off while Daddy dried off Baby Girl. I put on some clothes and Daddy took pictures of the baby.
I cut her cord, we got her dressed, and we took more pictures. We made a few phone calls, and took more pictures. Baby and I got ready to nap and she latched onto my breast for the first time. After we woke about an hour later, I brought her to the living room and the boys took turns holding her. A few hours later, we had decided on a name, took her measurements, made some more phone calls, snuggled, and took even more pictures. Shortly after that, I made lunch and started some laundry.
Lorelai Hailey was born June 30, 2008 at 5:36am. She weighed 9 pounds, was just over 20 inches long, and her head was 14 inches around. Her big brothers couldn’t be more proud (Spencer wants to be a midwife!).
My post-partum recovery has gone really well. I didn’t tear, I have bled less than with the other births, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight within a month, I have had less mood swings, and we adapted quickly into a breastfeeding partnership. I encapsulated the placenta myself in the days after Lorelai was born. I took those pills for about a month (the remaining pills are in the freezer for future use).
Lorelai and I went to a naturopathic doctor when she was nine days old to get checked out, and that was the first time that anyone other than her brothers or parents held or even touched her. The whole family has adjusted well to the new baby. We plan on having more children…and birthing them at home. Lorelai weighs 10 pounds at one month old and is doing very well - she’s happy, alert, and she loves the water.
-Tracey L. Catanach