I knew when I was pregnant last winter that I wanted to do a home birth with a midwife. The idea sounded appealing to me for many reasons. First of all, I was already familiar with midwife care because both the girls were delivered by midwives in the hospital in very natural births. All pre-natal care was at a clinic (Salem and Corvallis) and was identical to what I would have received if I had an OB instead. Midwives are typically more conservative and natural about their approach to birth. "A woman's body is made to do this" is a prominent way of thinking and as you know, I tend toward the "granola", or more natural way of thinking. Another reason was because a home birth is much cheaper and we changed insurance companies at the wrong time and the birth would not be covered, hospital or not.
I was really pumped up about having a home birth and started my research. "The Business of Being Born" is a very good, newer documentary on home births that is beneficial to watch for those who think the idea is beyond crazy. It shows many home births and educates the audience about the training a midwife receives and precautions that are in place during home deliveries. I had my mom watch it after she showed hesitation about my plans. She and my sister both had c-section births for their children because of complications. My plan for a home birth opened up a lot of unknowns and freaked my mom out! Watching the movie really helped alleviate her fears. My husband and his side of the family on the other hand, were quite supportive. My mother-in-law had midwives for her 4th and 5th babies and planned home births, the second ending at the hospital when the baby showed signs to distress. Both were positive experiences though and there was no hesitation from my more "granola" in-laws.
Most people I told about the home birth were negative about it. "Are you crazy? There are hospitals for that sort of thing," was a common reaction. I planned on talking openly about it also on the blog. If you are wondering why this is the first you've hear about it, well, I didn't want to hear the concerned (although uneducated) questions for 9 months, so I stopped telling people. I continued on with finding a midwife, confident in my decision. One midwife who was highly recommended by a friend was no longer working, but she referred me to a woman in Corvallis. And I also I interviewed 2 others from friends' personal references. I did a lot of online research and for the most part, woman are completely positive about their home birth experiences -- passionate about it, really. If you are interested, try googling it and get lost in the beautiful birth stories on blogs and midwive's websites.
These are some questions I had for the midwives I interviewed:
- What is your training?
- How many births have you done?
- What indications during a home birth would make you recommend going to the hospital?
- What does a normal home birth look like?
- What about the mess? (this was my husband's #1 biggest concern)
I ended up going with a woman in Corvallis, Lisa Lehrer. I liked her because of her straight-forward personality, her experience (attended over 800 births), the tiny cottage next to her home where she received clients, and the very child friendly environment for my children. I saw her for pre-natal care starting at about 9 weeks. The best part was that I didn't have to see 8-10 different midwives and dr.s on staff to "get to know them" because Lisa is the only midwife at the office and works with just one assistant. I didn't have to worry about parking ever and there were no germy waiting rooms to sit in month after month for my appoitments. I was really happy with the prenatal care.
All the normal tests were offered to me, but not required. I appreciated how Lisa explained everything to me, gave her honest opinions and left the decision entirely up to me. The only test I elected to do was an ultrasound. Everything else that could have been concerning was covered in my previous pre-natal tests. At my first appointment Lisa covered nutrition. It was a common topic during our visits and she was the first to recommend cutting sugars completely out of my diet. After 18 months of sickness through Emma's and Mandy's pregnancies, I was so thankful for her nutritional advice. I also bumped up my protein intake to 75 grams a day. I spent the entire pregnancy sickness free (praise the Lord!), besides the times I tried to test the theory and indulged in sugars or skipped the protein snacks.
As my due date came closer, I ordered a home birth kit from an online resource for $45. It included all those goodies you see at a birth like gloves, those big absorbent pads that go on the bed, gauze, cord clamp, and even the prized mesh underwear! I also had a home visit from my midwife and her assistant. They told me a bit more what to expect at a birth and when to call them to come. I was never nervous about being at home to give birth. I was very confident in the midwive's experience and judgement and also in my body to give birth without complications.
As you all know, I had to go passed my due date by 8 days. It was really frustrating, not to mention uncomfortable. I could tell my body was getting closer to the birth, but it took its own sweet time. I had weeks of very painful contractions that would usually start in late afternoon when I was at my tiredest and then end sometime in the night. None of the try-this-inducing-activities suggested by other women worked for me and I trudged on. My parents came for visits before, on and after my due date, always expecting "something" would happen. If I had a $1 for every time I heard, "So, no baby yet?" from well meaning family and friends, I would be a rich woman.
At the end, the contractions started late in the day like all the other times. Combined with the pelvic pain that had been building to a nearly intolerable level and being 8 days passed by due date, I was pretty sure I would have a baby soon. The strong contractions continued through the night and I told Jeff in the morning that I was pretty sure this was it. Laying in bed, my water broke, without the impressive show that others have reported. There was no gushing, just a "pop." I called Lisa and she said to call her back after I had eaten breakfast and had a chance to walk around awhile. I called her back when the contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart and quite intense. She was there by 9am and set up the bedroom. She brought along oxygen and resuscitation equipment (just like at the hospital) and a birthing stool. She had a lot of stuff with her and I am not sure what all it was, but she was prepared for anything.
By 11am I was ready to push! I was ready to write a book on how easy and fantastic home birthing is. After a few minutes of pushing though, Lisa checked me and my cervix wasn't thinned out enough and the baby was not descending. To keep the baby from going into distress because he couldn't come out at that point, she had me "relax" on the bed. Relaxing through heavy labor was agonizing. Amazingly, the contractions became father apart and I was able to sleep a little, but the pain was no less fierce as it came on like a nightmarish tidal wave. The midwives were massaging my feet and legs as they were cramping up and Jeff put pressure on my back because the labor felt like my spine was going through a meat grinder.
By about 2pm I had had about all I could take and my cervix was still not thinned out enough and the baby had not descended. I took a hot shower, still feeling that uncontrollable urge to push. The midwives checked the baby's heartbeat about every 1-2 minutes and he was happily pumping along except for one time when I ignored the "don't push" instructions and his heart rate dropped dramatically. Another half hour or so of relaxing and then everything happened quickly. I spent the rest of the time pushing and pushing some more. When he finally popped out at 3:06pm, it became apparent why we had such a hard time with delivery. He was wrapped up in the cord, twice around his neck and once under his arms, and was face up (not designed to come out that way). Lisa said, "Wow, that is something," as she quickly handed me a crying baby boy. She told us later that she had only seen one other birth (out of over 800 delivered) this way. It gave me some validation that it was really a hard delivery and that I am not just a wuss.
I am very thankful for how Lisa handled the birth and I was never anxious or worried about my baby. I wonder if I had pushed through all those contractions like I wanted to if we would have had a different outcome; like going to the hospital when the baby showed signs of distress or even a C-section. She wisely let me/made me rest, not knowing entirely why the baby wasn't descending. When people ask, "How was the birth?" my mind immediately goes to those hours of resting through heavy back labor. And it is what makes me say, "It was the hardest one by far."
So after a long pregnancy, being over-due, and having a long and horrible labor, I was sure glad to see our baby boy. He was white and slimy, had 3 cones on top of his head, and his nose was completely smooshed to the side, but he was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. He cried for a long time, but we were both going through a lot of pain even when the birth was over. It is not easy work for mom or baby!
Our only issues so far have been with nursing. He is a lazy nurser and I let him pick up some bad habits in those first few days. You can fix bad habits in newborns pretty easily (especially when you have a fantastic lactation consultant), but the consequences are rather painful for awhile. This is a family show, so I won't go into details. We are on the road to recovery and our boy is happy and healthy. Amazingly, he had gained back to his birth weight by day 3 and is now 8 ounces over his birth weight at 9 days old. Which reminds me, I need to get out the camera again and take some pictures. He is changing daily.
I hope this lengthy post pacifies all who wanted to hear about my home birth decision and gory delivery story. I am very glad I did a home birth, but very glad it is over too!