If you aren't into babies or birth stories no hard feelings for you skipping this blog post. But when I was pregnant I devoured birth stories with all kinds of ferocity so I wanted to give back with my story in hopes that it sheds some light on home births and maybe even inspires someone to think more about their own options for their pregnancy and delivery. xo, B
All my life I have been a person who took longer than everyone else to be affected by things. Big things. When tragedies or huge life events happen I'm rarely affected right away. I don't usually cry right away. (And because of this trait, I generally look like a coldhearted robot when bad things happen. I promise, I'll be sad later.) For some reason, it takes me days and sometimes weeks to process it all before it will hit me. Then randomly weeks later, I'll start crying or something and confuse everyone around me.
I shouldn't have expected having a baby to be any different but for some reason I did. I guess it's because you hear so many stories about women who have this life changing, all encompassing moment the instant their babies are born. You watch movies where women are screaming in delivery, yelling profanity at their spouses, and then are instantly cooing over this new little creature who they are instantly in love with and who can do no wrong. It's like what Disney did to the idea of romance. These stories have done that to birth. You expect that it has to go this one exact way to be perfect. And then it doesn't.
I shouldn't have been surprised at all that it took me three weeks. I'm always late anyway. ;)
To read the whole birth story, click through.
From the beginning of my pregnancy, since the midwives told me that our due date was February 1st, but to expect it to be later than that (as this was my first time), I knew they were wrong. I didn't want to say it out loud for fear of everyone thinking I was wishfully thinking but I knew it would happen earlier in January. I didn't know when, exactly, but I knew this would be a January baby.
When you decide to have a home birth with midwives overseeing your care in the state of Florida, you are informed that you must make it to 37 weeks to be able to bring that dream into reality. If you go into labor before then, you have to go to a hospital. Something about lungs being underdeveloped and such. Our midwives scheduled our home visit (a quick tour of our house to make sure we didn't have a secret meth lab, or sex dungeon, or serious case of animal hoarding) for the first day of my 37th week.
On Monday, January 9th, our midwife walked out of our front door into the night and as the door began to close I said, "So everything's good? We can do it at home now?" "Yup. From now on you're good to go." she replied and walked to her car to go home to a night of blissful slumber. At least I'm sure that's what she thought.
We were on the sofa. Him on the left side, me with my head in the nook where the two pieces connect dozing off between evening hours of mindless TV watching as we tried to entertain ourselves and I tried to do anything to distract myself from my constantly aching body. Everything hurt, all the time. I was tired of being pregnant. Done.
I rolled over and felt something like I had peed in my pants a bit. Since this baby had been riding super low on my bladder for the last few weeks, this was not something that surprised me. In fact, a few weeks before, I was cooking in the kitchen and Nate asked what was wrong. I told him, "I thought maybe my water broke, but then I realized that I just peed a little." He thought it was the funniest thing I've ever said. We both laughed for a while over that one. You get really real with your husband when you're in your 3rd trimester.
A few minutes later I rolled from one side to the other and felt it again. After an inconclusive visit to the loo I started pacing the living room. Strange cramping in my lower back was making me uncomfortable, making me catch my breath a bit. Nate asked what was wrong. I told him I thought I might be having contractions.
We called our midwife who told us it was probably nothing, get some rest, if things get stronger try to time them and call back when contractions get to be 1 minute long, 5 minutes apart, for 1 hour. But that she thought I'd be fine and to just go to bed.
I remember getting into the shower, feeling really strong cramping in my lower back that began to wrap around my pelvis and into my lower stomach muscles. Like a creeping ghost wrapping it's arms around my hips and squeezing till I cringed. Nate rubbing my back helped a bit and we made that our routine in the shower till the water ran cold.
I started pacing our guest room, unable to sit or lay on the bed without sending shooting pain down through my hips. Contractions 1 minute long, 4-5 minutes apart had been happening since we started timing them. (Usually it takes hours and hours to get to this point.) Nate called the midwives back, and called my mom. Everyone would be here in about an hour and a half. Walking slow paces back and forth, unable to talk or do anything but breath in counts of 4, I spent the next hour in the guest room freaking Nate out, listening to my breath and Louis CK streaming on the laptop.
Before everyone got there I hit a wall. I was scared and it hurt and I hadn't practiced any of my hypnobirthing assignments with Nate. This was pretty intense after just a few hours, how was I going to make it for another 15 or 20? What if labor lasted that long? I couldn't do it. I told Nate that I wanted to go to the hospital. He told me to wait till the midwives arrived and decide then.
When our team arrived I was standing in the living room with my arms pressed up against the wall cradling my forehead. I couldn't sit or lay so I was forced to find standing positions that didn't completely suck and leaning on the wall was as good as it was going to get. The midwives told me I had to lay down so they could check me. It was like torture to try. Finally the agreed to check me in a sort of hybrid standing/bending position. 7 centimeters. Holy shit!
Hearing that I was so far along already helped me to focus. But by then my contractions were on top of each other. No breaks in between. And back labor. Have mercy labor gods! If I could have gone through labor without the pain in my back I think I could have done it for days. But my contractions would start in my back and flow around to my front never releasing from my back. Nate and my mom took turns pushing on my back. No amount of pressure was enough. I thought that they were barely pushing on me but looking back on photos I can see that they were standing with their full body weights leaning on my back.
I tried laboring on my knees draped over the cushions of the sofa and that worked for a little while. Then I'm not sure why but I moved to our bedroom. All this time Nate was busy helping the midwives, getting things ready, and trying not to completely lose his shit, I'm sure. I would hear his voice as he moved closer to me, feel him when he took turns pushing on my back, and then I'd be lost in my head again. I don't remember seeing much of anything, I think I must have had my eyes closed for hours. Breathing through each contraction as it came in a wave. Deep and furious breaths, controlled and strong as I exhaled. In my mind my voice shouting at myself to keep breathing, to stay on top of it, my deepest fear being losing control and letting the pain take over. I wouldn't allow myself to be a victim in this experience, I would stay on top of each contraction. It was the most intense work I've ever done in my life, both mentally and physically.
Of course this all caused me to be very much inside myself. I wished I was able to talk more with Nate, to let him hold my hand and play me music and talk with me. But I just couldn't do it. My focus was narrowed and it was requiring every bit of me and more. I asked how much longer. No one would give me a straight answer. "You'll know when you're ready to push. You tell us."
I hated that answer! How would I know? I hadn't done this before. I'm not a seasoned baby-having verteran here people! I crawled onto our bed and made a tower of pillows to lean against and over. On my knees I felt a strange pulsing in the core of my body. Like the feeling when you're going to throw up. Then it went away. Memories of what happened next start to come in flashes instead of a steady stream, like a drunken night that you can only remember snapshots of in your brain. (Nate and I call those nights "browning out" like blacking out but you remember bits of things.)
The only way to describe how my contractions changed as I went through transition is to tell you that it feels like a dry heave (like when you're super drunk and you've already thrown up everything you can but your body hasn't realized it yet) but instead of everything pulsing up, it pulses down. It's involuntary. It shakes you from somewhere so deep you didn't realize muscles connected there.
The midwives cheered, "It's time Becka! The baby's moving down. Don't fight it." I remember getting on my knees on the floor and then Nate was there. (My legs were so tired at this point I knew I didn't want to be standing any more.) And this I remember vividly, he was completely there, sitting on our exercise ball in front of me and I wrapped my arms around his torso and he wrapped his arms around me. I grabbed the fabric of his shirt and smelled him in deep. When contractions came I squeezed him, all the tension I could muster forced out of my stomach and up into my arms. Trying to keep yourself from tensing up is the hardest part. Normally when you're in pain your reaction is to recoil, to pull back, to ball up and curl up and wimpier and squeeze yourself against it. But in labor you can't do that. You've got to open up to it, to let it wash over you in waves, and you've got to breathe deep and big breaths over it. So I squeezed my arms as hard as I could to keep from squeezing anything else.
I felt Cadence move down. I felt my body stretch. "I can feel him" I said. The midwives cheered me on. This part was so surreal. It was nothing like you see in the movies. There was no screaming. There was no crowd of people yelling, "PUSH!" There was no screaming profanities at my husband blaming him for what was happening.There was just really intense breathing (and sometimes really deep, involuntary groans) and my husband's arms around me. I told Nate that I was scared. Scared of what it would feel like. Scared of the pain. Scared of him getting stuck. Scared of our life changing forever.
I thought I had been on the ground for hours but my mom later told me it was only about 15 minutes. When you're in that stage of labor your contractions are much more intense but you get a bigger break between them. You can breathe and you feel yourself relax. You can talk again. It's actually better, even though it's much more intense.
I did not push Cadence out, my body did. After 7 hours of labor his body came out of me without me actually having to push. No one screamed "PUSH!" (No one even said it, in fact. There was no need.) There was no red faced squeezing on my part. Our bodies are built for this and when we allow nature to be in control instead of confusing it with medicine, our bodies are free to do their thing. And guess what? They rock at it. My body did all the pushing on it's own via super human muscle contractions. The midwives put him into our arms and I remember looking up at Nate and seeing his amazing face. Someone took a photo of that exact moment and it is one of my most treasured photographs.
Everything felt surreal, and achy. I thought I'd feel waves of relief but everything still hurt. It continued to hurt for almost two hours until I finished delivering the placenta (I'm told that is a ridiculously long amount of time to wait for that to happen, I think I was a heartbeat away from having to go to the hospital, but my midwives had faith in my body and thankfully let me have some extra time. Also, you're welcome for only saying "placenta" once in this whole story.) After that, I finally felt the relief and those sweet sweet natural high hormones you always hear about. I had been up all night and I felt like I could go run a marathon.
Of course the next day I felt like I had been hit by a car. ;)
It's been three weeks (as of Tuesday) and I'm just now starting to feel better. Physically I've felt okay since about the second week. But those crazy waves of baby love are finally just now starting to hit me. Of course, I'm still completely sleep deprived (so much so that I WEPT for 10 full minutes when I spilled my soda last night, not joking people) and have all kinds of ups and downs all day. They tell me the hormones get better by 6 weeks. Here's hoping!
I've been asked by every women who has asked me about his birth, "Do you regret your choice to do it naturally at home?" My answer is a resounding "absolutely not". It was such a crazy different experience from what you are taught your whole life via movies and TV. It was faster, less scary, less stressful, quieter, more peaceful, and much less crazy. I know a lot of women are terrified of the idea so let me tell you the truth... it's not as bad as you think. It is not as bad, but it is more intense. If that makes any sense.
Another popular question I've gotten is if we will have more children. Nate's and my plan has always been to only have 1 biological child anyway so I don't feel a lot of pressure to think about doing it all again. If we have a second child, we're planning on bringing them into our family via the miracle of adoption. But, right now we can't even think about having a second child. We're still completely overwhelmed by this first one! ;)
One last thing... I want to say that no matter which way you decide to have your baby, you are amazing. My having a natural home birth doesn't make me a better mom or a better woman or anything. It just makes me have a different story to tell. I do believe 100% that there are fantastic advantages to this method and I'd be happy to discuss them with you in private if you are interested. I also believe that birth is a natural and positive process that is not an emergency (until it becomes one) and as such doesn't require medical intervention until that point. I also want to make it clear that I don't think hospital births are bad in any way or a cop out. In fact, sometimes they are 100% necessary and life saving! You do what you gotta do mamas!
If you're interested in learning more about home birth's in a very non-pushy way, hop on Netflix and watch "The Business of Being Born". It's an amazing documentary that really opened my and Nate's eyes to the whole system of hospitals today and the options that women have as far as their labor and birth experience are concerned. It's not a pushy documentary and it's not too graphic so you can watch it by yourself or with your man and you won't feel uncomfortable. :)