My First Home Birth, the Whole Story
Thanks to my education and deep trust in my body’s ability to birth a baby, I don't remember being nervous for labor. I knew Hollywood's portrayal of birth with a woman's legs shackled to stirrups in a room full of frantic people yelling was nothing like what it would look like for me. I knew it would be uncomfortable, but I also knew it was temporary and it was pain with a purpose, that my body would work with intensity to deliver Xander to me. To be relived of any anxiety regarding labor was truly a grace from God.
After losing Grammy and spending a weekend getting interrigated about my induction and the safety of my baby, I decided it was time to make it happen. I had no emotional capacity for grieving and decided instead to harness my energy to will my baby into the world.
Earlier in my pregnancy my midwife had given me a handout outlining natural induction methods in order from least invasive to most. After reviewing the list and consulting with my midwife, I decided I would first attempt natural induction using the homeopathic remedies Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) and Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides). There was a cycle of taking one after the other that I had to follow for three hours. I completed the cycle and waited as nothing seemed to change throughout the day. Rob was back to work and my mom spent the day arranging the funeral, which entailed more than I could possibly imagine. Rob returned from work in the evening, and we proceeded with our normal dinner and bedtime routine.
I started to feel regular contractions around the time we were going to bed. I began nipple stimulation to get them more intense and closer together. It was an effective strategy as the contractions were close and intense enough that I couldn’t sleep. Around 3 am I woke Rob up and asked him to call-in to work. We went to our basement and played video games as a distraction from labor. I always instruct my clients, especially first-time moms, to sleep, eat and drink as much as possible in early labor. This allows them to keep their energy and fuel their bodies, so they are strong when labor gets most intense. Around 6 a.m. I noticed contractions seemed to be slowing down. Despite the routine advice I give clients, I was hell-bent on continuing to labor and so was Rob. We started walking around the block to encourage labor to continue. Walking worked and as labor got more intense, we went back home to reside in our bedroom. Sometime around 7 I called my mom to come over and called Rebecca, my midwife, to ask if I could fill the birth pool. She wisely recommended I attempt pain relief in the shower. This seemed to slow labor down quite a bit which was disappointing but I am glad we didn’t go through the labor intensive job of getting the birth pool inflated and filled with water only for my labor to dissipate.
We spent the day going for walks, sharing meals, and wondering when the baby would decide to come. My dad had to run into town to go to the grocery store, which is only minutes from my house, so we had him bring us lunch and I am so thankful he got to come spend time at the house while I was in labor as well. With the lack of progress throughout the day my determination to be in labor didn't falter. I consulted with Rebecca and made the decision to consume castor oil for induction. I prepared by eating well and drinking plenty of water. The first attempt taking the oil resulted in vomiting immediately. For the following attempts, I combined the oil with a spoonful of ice cream, and this way, I was able to get it down.
Contractions got intense once again. We called Rebecca and the birth team assembled, including her second midwife Sandra and my close friend Alexis. When Rebecca arrived, she performed a vaginal exam and assessed my cervix to be measuring 3 cm dilated. Contractions were intense and close still so the birth pool was set up and filled. Rebecca monitored the baby's heart rate and my vitals, and my room was full of my team providing verbal affirmations and support with their presence. I labored in the water for a while, sometimes falling asleep between contractions and making frequent trips to the bathroom as castor oil worked its way through my digestive system. My midwife performed a vaginal exam again a few hours later to discover that despite difficult labor for two nights, my cervix had only progressed to 4 cm. I was disappointed but not defeated. After a long night of laboring for me and little to no sleep for everyone, labor slowed down as morning came.
As labor slowed my birth team left one at a time throughout the morning and afternoon, Sandra first, Alexis second, and Rebecca last. In the evening Rebecca and I spoke on the phone. I told her that after two days of trying to force labor, I needed to trust that my body would do what it was made to when the time was right. She encouraged me, telling me she was confident in exactly that and we would continue to monitor the baby and myself and proceed without further intervention.
After my conversation with Rebecca, Rob came to me and said that after two nights of labor, this was enough. He said he was not comfortable staying home with no end plan and that if the baby didn't come that night, he thought we should go to the hospital. I wasn't feeling encouraged by this but I understood and respected where he was coming from. Neither of us had any healthy sleep in days, he had been watching me in pain. It was a lot.
Shortly after my conversation with Rob, my mom came to talk to me. She said that though she had said she would stay as long as it took, she couldn't miss her own mother's funeral and would have to leave by 6:30 a.m. whether the baby was here or not. I never would have asked her to stay and miss the funeral, though at this point I felt like I was given a double ultimatum. If there was no baby by 6:30 in the morning, I was going to have to go to the hospital, and my mom would be leaving.
At this point, I still was set on trusting my body and continuing without intervention. I'm pretty sure I told them both to leave me alone and I went upstairs by myself. Mom was working in my office, and Rob was resting in the basement. Contractions were frequent and intense coming about every 5-7 minutes. I was lying in bed between contractions trying to rest but I couldn't remain in bed through them. I was getting up with each contraction to walk down the hallway as that seemed to feel best. As each contraction came, it felt like I had to pee which is another reason I was getting up to walk. I would walk to the bathroom and sit on the toilet to finish the contraction. After doing this for a while, my water broke during a contraction, while I was sitting on the toilet around 3 a.m. I immediately used my doppler to listen to Xander's heart. I contacted my midwife with the update. Xander tolerated the change in environment with ruptured waters well. At this point the plan was to continue on and check in with Rebecca after an hour's time. It was only 30 minutes later when I rallied the team back up. After my water broke it was a whole new world. The intensity was ramped up even more. Without the cushion of the amniotic fluid, I could feel the bones of Xander's head against my pelvis; it was time to have a baby.
I had Rob and my mom empty the old water from the birth pool with buckets, a task I had performed at many births as a student. They refilled it with fresh hot water. Rebecca and Sandra came, and my mom had to make the call to Alexis as I was no longer able to focus on anything but labor.
My birth team gathered around me in my bedroom as they arrived. I remember knowing that they were there, and feeling supported and safe, but thankful that no one was trying to touch me. I was so disinterested in being touched that I asked Rebecca to allow me to use the doppler to listen to Xander's heart rate on my own rather than let someone else try. The only touch that I welcomed was me grasping Rob's arm as he leaned over the birth pool. Without touch the birth team relied on words of affirmation to provide support during the most intense moments of labor, reminding me to breath and telling me that I am strong. As the time was getting closer for me to start pushing, I felt an overwhelming weight of fear. I was so tired; I was so over being in pain. I heard myself say "I can't do this." My birth team responded with a chorus of "You are doing this" and "You're doing so great" all the things I know to say as a midwife. None of it felt entirely convincing or encouraging as these are the responses that I am conditioned to use myself when a woman reaches this point in labor. Out of the corner of my room I hear Rebecca tell me she thinks I am in transition, the emotional and physical peak of labor. THAT is what I was waiting to hear. Progress, real progress, and with that last bit of encouragement I knew that if it was really transition, then I could do this. I was so close.
I was actively pushing with each contraction, though I don't think I could've stopped myself from doing so even if I wanted to. The feeling was natural and so intense. Rob stepped to the other side of the pool as Xander began to crown and reached down to catch him. He received Xander and was the first person to hold our son, gently lifting him out of the water and holding him for me to see him for the very first time at 6:50 a.m on Saturday April 10th. Seeing Xander, after everything I had been through over the past week, I was filled with emotions. I was proud to have made it to this point. I was filled with a sense of relief that after everything Xander had been through, experiencing labor from the inside, I never once heard his heart tones waver. He was so strong. I delivered the placenta in the pool and climbed into bed shortly after. Rebecca and Sandra did the newborn exam at the foot of my bed, but I slept through it entirely.
Xander was born at 6:50 a.m, my mom had stayed of course and was getting ready in the bathroom while my dad and brother drove to my house to pick her up for Grammy’s funeral. They came upstairs to briefly meet Xander before they left. I was so thankful that Xander was finally here, yet so devastated that they would be going to say their final farewell without me. I so badly wanted to sit in a church full of people that loved her. I wanted that time to say goodbye to her for myself. Tears flowed from my eyes as they walked out of my room that morning.
Once they left, I had to get up to go to the bathroom to pee before Rebecca checked for any tears. I sat there for a short time before Rob watched as the blood drained from my face. I felt it happening as Rebecca told me to get on my hands and knees on the floor. After a few moments they repositioned me to lie on my back with my feet elevated. I had to take pharmaceutical medication to stop my bleeding. I asked Rebecca to check for tears while we were there rather than getting into bed and doing it there. After looking and consulting with Sandra they agreed that I had torn bad enough that stitches would be required from an obstetrician. As they gave me that information I was hit with a wave of emotions like a truck. I was beyond disappointed to leave my house for the hospital after successfully getting through my entire labor at home. I was overwhelmed with the emotion of grieving the loss of Grammy and even though I had to leave my house immediately after a beautiful home birth, it wasn't going to be to attend her funeral. Rebecca and Sandra supported me well through all of that as I laid on my bathroom floor.
Although disappointing, the doctor at Genesys was beyond respectful and did everything he could to get me in and out as quickly as possible, knowing home is where I wanted to be. We returned home around the same time my family was returning from the funeral. They came over to my house to tell me about the funeral, see Xander, and tuck us into bed for some well-earned rest.
I started writing the story of my first pregnancy and birth almost a year ago when Xander turned one. Putting it down on "paper" as I typed was difficult at times but more than anything I realized just how much support I had and how many people showered me with love during this season. I found and hired the best midwife to walk beside me and guide me through my pregnancy and labor, Rebecca Burckett is truly the best of the best. I have known for my entire life how blessed I am to have parents like mine and during my pregnancy and labor they exceeded all expectations I could have had. They encouraged me and helped me in ways I didn't knew I needed and will always be thankful for. Rob is the best man I have ever met. He matches me as a partner in ways I didn't even know to look for. I will be eternally grateful for my support system.