Rachel's Home Birth
I’ve just settled into a slightly uncomfortable chair at one of my favorite local coffee shops, but I don't even care. As I sit here editing this interview, I find myself feeling incredibly relieved. Even if it’s just for an hour, I get to escape and actually do something that I love to do outside my normal routine. It seems like the past nine weeks have either been consumed by sickness or the monotonous routine of motherhood. As Shiloh shows early signs of those unfortunate terrible two’s, I’m finding myself even more mentally drained at the end of each day.
Basically, I’m exhausted.
Because I’m exhausted, I’m feeling empty.
I’m feeling empty because I haven’t accomplished anything besides getting food on the table (and most of the time that means take out).
But right now, at this table, sipping my sweet iced chai and tapping these clean black keys, I’m happy. I’m finally contributing something to this world again. So with that… I give you my next interview. Rachel and her husband Jon welcomed their beautiful baby girl at home on October 18, 2016. We both finally found the time this week to sit down and share the sweet sweet details of her beautiful home birth. Enjoy.
Tell us your birth story…
First of all, she was 9 days late. I was starting to get a little stressed because of the 42 week home birth rule. I had already lost my mucus plug about three weeks before her due date, so I was just sure she was going to come the week before or right on time. But of course my midwife was like, “That doesn’t mean anything!” and she didn’t pay much attention to it. But everyone else I talked to would say, “Oh yeah, after you lose it, about 2 weeks!” So I had that fixed in my mind… this two week time bomb! It made it all so much more stressful.
So on Saturday the 17th, we were just hanging out watching football, but I had some bloody show that morning so I thought “Ok, it could be today.” We took a walk and then watched more football. Meanwhile, my mom had run into a friend of mine out on Abbott Kinney. After hearing about my stressful wait, my friend ended up texting me saying, “I know this is really hard, but I just want to encourage you. Also, my sister was a week late and used the breast pump for nipple stimulation and that actually helped kick her labor into gear.” That was the ONE thing that I hadn’t tried. I tried acupuncture, we tried sex, spicy foods....everything. So I tried it, and sure enough, almost immediately I started noticing my Braxton Hicks feeling more like real contractions.
We started timing the contractions and then set up the birth tub that night. The contractions started to get a little bit more regular, about 7ish minutes apart. But I went to bed early that night to try to rest. I woke up around 5:30 and my contractions were completely spread out again because I had been sleeping. So I tried the breast pump again, and sure enough, within minutes they were pretty regular. So for the next two hours the contractions were getting more and more consistent. I had been texting Amy, my midwife, the whole time, but Jon called her around 10:30am just to check in. She said she was already in the neighborhood, so she would stop by just to check in.
Amy got here around 11am and I was already 6 centimeters! She excitedly told me, “You’re in active labor!”
But it was really cool because it was so peaceful. I had made a playlist that played the whole time in my room. Jon would hang out with me and then when he needed a break, my mom would come in and rub my back. I was actually pretty chatty between contractions. I didn’t feel bothered by people being there. A lot of the things people told me might happen, like wanting it to be dark and all this other stuff, wasn’t the case for me. I actually really enjoyed the morning light. I just remember it being so incredibly peaceful.
My friend Melissa ended up bringing over lunch for everyone. She stayed to hang out and timed contractions for me. It was just really sweet and such a special time with all these people that I love. And nothing felt intolerable. I never felt stressed. And even the midwives would only come in occasionally to check the baby’s heartbeat. They really let us do our thing. The told me to call if I needed them, but they really just let us be together. I don’t know if I had really anticipated that being the case, but that was really awesome. That whole active labor seemed kind of relaxing almost.
As it started to intensify, I called Amy in. I remember her telling me, “You need to stand up and get off the ball.” Like a whimpering toddler, I was like “But I want to be here!” I tried the whole supported squat thing, but my legs were shaking like Jello. I could only get through a couple contractions like that, so Amy suggested I lie down to rest. But I had remembered even before my contractions were this intense, my contractions were more painful when I would lie down. The rest was nice in-between, but the actual contractions were just too rough.
The midwives wouldn’t let me get into the tub until I was 8 centimeters because they didn’t want it to slow me down. So Amy suggested the shower. I kept thinking about your story, “Those little knives stabbing you in the back,” but actually the shower for me was really good! I just leaned with my hands against the wall and Jon was right next to me.
Finally, I was dilated enough to get into the tub. From that point on, I feel like I didn’t open my eyes. There’s things I remember, but just because you're so internal…that's why its so cool to see the pictures now because it’s all a blur in my mind. I remember Jon being right in front of me. I don’t even think he got up to pee.
Side note: I get in the tub and as soon as I get in I was like, “I need to poop.” Amy chuckled “Okay, well that’s a good thing because that means the baby is descending. So you probably don’t really need to poop.” No one told me that’s what it feels like! I was so sure I had to go, so I tried to get them to let me sit on the toilet just to see if I really had to poop. But of course I didn’t need to poop, so I got back in the tub.
So that was basically me going through transition and it was really intense. I remember the first time I kind of lost my breath and my body started pushing. I don’t even know how to explain that. Your body just does it and it sounded like I was having an orgasm! Gasping, panting for breath. After the first time I was like, “What was that?!” I had assumed they would tell me something like, “Okay! Now it’s time to start pushing!” But no. Amy just said “Okay, if that’s what your body wants to do, then just go with it. That’s ok.”
Amy kept saying things like, “You can do this, because women for 100’s and 100’s of years and generations before you have all done this. You are doing such a good job.” She was just speaking words of encouragement and power. The whole experience was empowering for sure. Of course I knew that Jon would be encouraging and supportive, but its so different to hear it from another woman who has given birth.
At that point, the contractions were so intense while she was descending. I was having so much back pain, but Jon was so fixed in on me. He was breathing with me and really encouraging.
I know that close to the end, Jon was so locked in but my mom came over to us. She had been praying in the hallway through every contraction, but there was a moment she came over and just put her hand on Jon’s shoulder just to encourage him while he was encouraging me. She backed off shortly after because she didn’t want to invade our bubble too much, but he was like, “Come back!”
I just felt so supported and encouraged through the whole process. Which I expected to be, but it was just so surreal going through it. Clearly that was the most pain I’ve ever been in and the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I never once felt afraid or in agony or anything like that. It was just like, “This is really freaking hard! But it’s going to be over at some point, so I know I can do it.”
As she was crowning, they suggested I get on my feet and go into a full squat. And that actually really helped a lot. They stuck a hand held mirror under me, and her hair! Her hair was waving in the water like the Little Mermaid! She had so much hair! That was really cool to see. They did that obviously to encourage me and to show that she really was coming!
I think I pushed for an hour total. I had no concept of time, but I remember feeling this intense relief in-between pushing. I think that’s what made it doable. I would just lie there and Jon would talk to me while I relaxed.
Her head was born in the water. Then they had me stand up and put my foot on the side of the birth tub to push the rest of her out.
Zul, the midwife assistant, was actually the one that delivered her. She had been giving me really good perineal support when her head was coming out. But when her shoulders were coming out, they couldn't really support me as much because of the position I was in so I tore.
As she was born, Zul passed her directly to Jon because he had been standing right in front of me. My dad still talks about catching me when I was born. He’s a baseball fanatic so he has always told me, “You were my greatest catch!” So that was something he told Jon, and if he was up for it, it was something he will always treasure. So he basically caught her and then handed her to me.
They were going to walk me to the bed to deliver the placenta, but I don’t even think I took a step before I was like “No, its coming right now!” so basically my placenta fell out of me, within 5 minutes of her birth.
My best friend from high school, who has 4 boys had once told me, “It’s so amazing! You're going to go from a 10 on the pain scale to a 0 on the pain scale.” Once I made it to the bed, I remember thinking in this moment. “Lauren, You liar! This is not a 0!” But because I had a 2nd degree tear, my entire bottom half was burning. Even though I was completely enamored with this beautiful child laying on me, I couldn’t fully relax.
Amy stitched me up right in bed and that made a big difference. Afterwards I really could relax and be fully present. It was cool too because I had her for quite a while. She was probably on me for a good hour, and then Jon had some skin to skin time while I tried to go to the bathroom for the first time. That was a wonderful adventure since I almost passed out on the toilet. We tried again later, but I still couldn’t walk. So every time I had to pee, I would crawl to the bathroom.
The after symptoms were really hard because of the 2nd degree tear and the 10 stitches, but all in all it went so perfectly. We couldn’t have had a better experience. Especially with all the people involved. My sister who lived out of town actually got to be with me in the beginning of my labor. Her flight was at noon the day she was born, so she actually missed the birth, but was with me a whole week and a half before. She would take me on my walks and it was just really special to have her there.
How was Jon’s response to your decision of a home birth?
I think partially he gave in because he knew how much I wanted it. But I also think it was encouraging talking to other guys and their experiences. He felt very confident in Amy. Knowing that she was capable of making the right decision if it would have been necessary to transport. So there was no doubt in his mind or lack of confidence on his part by the time we had to decide on the home birth.
After going through it, he knew that it was right for us. He still thinks it isn’t right for everyone, and I feel the same way. I don’t think it’s right for everyone, but I know it was right for us and we would definitely do it again. So he was really pleased. I think both of our expectations were surpassed by an incredible job the midwives did. How professional it was, but also how nurturing and personal and intimate it was too. That was really special.
How would you describe your contractions?
Like the worst period cramps I’ve ever had. Like an aching in your whole pelvis and lower abdomen.
I had a couple contractions that were pretty intense, especially when I would lay down. They were so intense when I was laying down. I spent most of my labor on the ball, either leaning on it or sitting on it.
Did you have a Doula?
We had interviewed a doula, but decided with my mom here and the midwife, midwife assistant, my sister, and Jon, we thought another person might just be in the way. We just didn’t feel it was completely necessary. And it wasn’t.
Did you ever feel like you couldn’t do it?
No. I never felt like I couldn’t do it.
Why do you think?
I feel like I was really well prepared. This was something my mom told me. She thought a lot of the reason why it went well was because A. I had a great team and B. I was so prepared. We did the birthing class “Birthing From Within,” which was a little hippy-dippy for us, but it gave us a very realistic expectation.
Any last thoughts for the moms-to-be?
I never want to be pushy. Ever. But I like to tell moms that the best thing Jon and I did was to be really knowledgeable and do as much research as possible. I’m always happy to share resources or talk about our experience, especially if they are interested in home births. Especially for the dad’s, I think if they see the statistics, they can see that it actually is possible. Anyone who is interested in home births, I’m always like, “It’s the best!” But don’t take my word for it. Do your own research to see what’s best for you.
*Photos By Emily Blake Photography http://emilyblakephoto.com/