Monday, August 22, 2011

My Home Birth Story

In the last four years since we moved to Colorado I've made some amazing friends. I've become really close to four women in particular. All four have had babies at home. One friend has had two babies at home, and the other three friends have each had three babies at home. Getting to know them and their children has enriched our lives in so many ways. Hearing their homebirth stories has been so inspiring.

That's why when I told Andy I was officially pregnant (nine months ago), one of the first things he said (with a smile as wide as his face) was, "I'm so glad we don't have to have this baby in the hospital." I realized in that moment that we were on the same page. We didn't even need to discuss it. We were in perfect agreement. No fear. No hesitation.

My first trimester was exactly as it had been with my first two babies. Nauseous. I sipped Izze and ate crystalized ginger to keep it at bay. Fortunately, as it was before, the nauseousness ended almost exactly at the beginning of the fourth month. Phew.

In the second trimester I went through cravings. One month I craved red meat. I was eating burgers every other day. Couldn't get enough of them. And that's really weird for me. In my non-preggers life I eat red meat maybe a few times a year. That's it. But after about a month, the craving disappeared. I was relieved. I would gain more weight that month than any other month during my pregnancy.

I walked about two miles almost every day. In the not-so-hot months Zoe and Ashley came with me, but as I entered my third trimester it became too hot. So in June and July I walked before anyone else was awake. I didn't have to set my alarm clock, because in my last few months I had leg cramps that woke me up. I tried everything you can think of to get rid of them. Fish oil, calcium, magnesium, potassium, chiropractic, yoga, exercise. Nothing worked. So when the cramps wouldn't quit around 6 AM, I got up and walked. It was great to walk in the early morning. Quiet, cool, peaceful.

I began having contractions on a Monday evening. It was ten days before my due date, which seemed about right since my first two babies were two and three weeks early, and I was measuring almost 40 centimeters. The contractions lasted all night, but were mild. In the morning they stopped completely.

Tuesday (the next evening) the contractions began again, and they were stronger. I took Zoe and Ashley for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. We were all getting excited. Could this be the night? After the girls went to bed at 8:30 I realized it would be very hard for me to sleep, because the contractions were so strong. Andy didn't think it would be very long till the baby came anyway. He inflated the birthing tub in our living room, and was ready to fill it with a new hose and kitchen facet attachment. (I was thrilled that the inflatable tub matched the light green color I use in my living room. Haha!)

Andy and I spent the night in the open kitchen and living room. I had contractions every ten minutes. Andy rubbed my back for me during each contraction, which helped so much. The most comfortable position for me during contractions was kneeling on the floor with my head resting on the couch, sort of like being on all fours. Between contractions we talked and snacked on tea and ice cream (homemade dairy-free ice cream of course :-)

At 5 AM our midwife came and checked me. The contractions were strong and close together, but I was only 3 centimeters dilated. She suggested Andy and I try to sleep to save our energy. Sleep? What?! But we listened, and went upstairs to bed. I did sleep for about an hour, and Andy slept for a few hours. When my contractions got really intense at about 8 AM I came back downstairs.

At 8:30 Andy, Zoe and Ashley woke up and came down to the kitchen. My contractions were getting worse very quickly, and coming faster. We ate some food and called our midwife again. When she arrived I was pretty uncomfortable. She checked me and said I was nine centimeters. I bursted into tears of joy. It was time. I was so happy it was time.

Minutes later Amanda, one of my best friends, arrived. She is one of the women I told you about who has had babies at home. Amanda is a doula and in her second year of midwife school. She is going to be such an amazing midwife. I cried tears of joy again when I saw her pretty face.

"Do you want to try to fill the tub?" my midwife asked. Just like that we knew there might not be water in the tub in time for the baby to arrive. "I want to try to fill the tub please." I responded. So they attached the hose to the kitchen facet. Zoe and Ashley filled pots of warm water in the bathroom sink and poured them into the pool to help. In a word, Zoe and Ashley were excited. I've never seen them quite so lit up inside. Not like that.

Meanwhile, Amanda looked surprised that I was so close to giving birth, and yet I wasn't, as she put it, "hitting the ceiling." :-) Later she told me that I was "very zen." I think if I was very zen it was because I wasn't afraid. I wasn't afraid because of these women I know—the women who have each had two or three babies at home. I thought, if they can do it, then so can I. How bad can it be if they have one baby at home, and then they have another at home, and then another?

I was laying on the couch when I had a contraction that felt like the baby was about to come out. "The baby is ready to come out now!" I half shouted. "Okay." said my midwife, calmly. I took off my nightgown and got in the tub. Right away it felt good to be in the water. I was in the middle of my second contraction in the tub when my other midwife arrived. She got ready quickly, and was by my side with the others.

Zoe brought me drinking water in a glass with a straw. Andy rubbed my back. Amanda put a cool towel on my forehead. Everyone was helping. Giving. Loving.

During or just after my next contraction I asked, "Can I push now?" I knew the answer before one of my midwives could even answer. "Listen to your body. Do what it tells you to do." they said. Of course. How funny that I would think I needed to be told what to do. They weren't the ones in labor, I was.

They checked on the baby's heartbeat under the water, and then came another contraction. I closed my eyes and focused on what my body was doing. Like a wave that began near my chest, the contraction rolled down. I could feel the baby moving down with the wave, and I wanted to push, so I did. Although I don't remember it, Zoe said I screamed.

When I opened my eyes one of my midwives softly gave me advice. "I want you to relax." she said. "It's going to hurt either way, and if you relax (she gestured to my legs and pelvis as she said this) it will make it easier for the baby to come out." Relax and push? That was new for me. In the hospital where I had Zoe and Ashley everything was tense. I had been stiff as I pushed in the hospital, tightly clenching every muscle in my body, and pushing when I was told.

I trusted my midwife though, and I knew she was right. So during the next contraction I attempted to relax my body and push at the same time. It took all of my concentration—a challenge that I welcomed. Invited. Relished even.

"One more push and your baby's head will be out." said my other midwife. "Reach down and feel the baby's head." she told me. There it was. I could feel the top of baby's head, ready to emerge.

The next contraction came, but so did a leg cramp. "Ouch! My leg!" I screamed. One of them grabbed the leg and massaged the cramp. Again I focused on relaxing my body and pushing at the same time. I felt the wave moving the baby down. I felt the baby emerging from my body. "The baby's head is out." someone said. I pushed again. I felt the baby's body emerge completely. I shouted. I cried. I opened my eyes.

They lifted the baby onto my chest. I looked in amazement. "I did it!" I said, suddenly a little surprised at what I had done. I looked at my baby in awe. "Is it a boy or a girl?" I asked. But the baby was wrapped in a towel, half in the water with me, and the midwives were tending to his or her breathing. When they were happy with her breathing they looked and saw that it was a girl. "Another girl?!" I was amazed and immediately in love. Again. I looked at my family. They were all beaming, like they were full of light. I've never seen Zoe and Ashley look so happy. Ginger was here with us.

I pushed out the placenta. Then they wrapped Ginger and the placenta, and Andy held them as I got out of the tub. They gave me coconut water (which is full of electrolytes) right away and I laid down on some towels. I had a very minor tear, so they gave me a few stitches. Meanwhile, I began to have more leg cramps. The midwives rubbed my calves and dropped natural remedies under my tongue. Amanda sat by me and held my hand. I felt so taken care of and loved.

Soon the cramps stopped and my midwives helped me to bed, where I took Ginger and nursed for the first time. I was so happy to see her. When the umbilical cord stopped pulsing it was time to cut it. Zoe asked to cut the cord, and so she did. My midwives took the placenta so they could dehydrate it for me. Then they cleaned up downstairs and made us lunch.

After lunch they took Ginger's weight (almost 8 pounds), measurements, and more. They took their time and when they finally left the day was almost over. One of them returned the next morning to check on Ginger and I. She came again when Ginger was three days old, and again when she was seven days old. It was so nice not to leave the house.

During Ginger's second week however, she was crying a lot, and we suspected she was reacting to food in my diet (through my breast milk). So when Ginger was two weeks old, rather than have my midwife come to our house as planned, Ginger and I went to see her (only five minutes away). She muscle tested Ginger and found that she wasn't tolerating grains. Not just gluten, but gluten-free grains as well. She gave me probiotics and fennel drops for Ginger to take.

It's been almost a week now since I eliminated all grains from my diet, and Ginger is doing so much better. The past few days she's also been awake for longer periods and really looking around. Yesterday she was loving her bath. She was actually crying when I took her clothes off, and stopped crying when I held her in the water. Too cute. I can't wait to see if she loves the bath again next time, and how she continues to change.

I'm not going to kid you though—it's been a tough few weeks. Giving birth is easy, breastfeeding is hard. So much focus is put on labor, but if you ask me we should really be talking about breastfeeding instead. But did I read a book about breastfeeding when I was pregnant? No. I read a book about pregnancy and childbirth. I don't even know of a great breastfeeding book. Do you?

To get into a breastfeeding conversation would be a whole new post though. There is so much to say on the matter. But the good news is that with time breastfeeding becomes so easy. I remember how easy it became with Ashley.

Having Ginger at home was, as Zoe says, "awesome." —Ashley sitting down at the counter and snacking on her leftover breakfast while I was a few feet away, in the middle of a contraction—like it was no big deal. —Zoe calling my mom after Ginger was born and screaming, "The baby is out!" with such delight. —My midwives and friend taking care of me and supporting me. —Andy holding Ginger for the first time. —I already treasure these memories. I'm so grateful for the experience of having Ginger at home.

♥, Kelly