*Warning--it's long! But hey, I'm reliving the birth of my first child, what did you expect, the Cliff Note version?!
Gunnar's Birth Story: A Planned Home Birth with Hospital Transport
My due date, and my baby's birth date.
The OB gave me an estimated guess of the due date being some time between April 23-April 28. We went with April 23. He was born at 12:06 pm on April 25.
My baby's weight and length
7 pounds, 3 oz and 19 1/4 inches long
A synopsis of my birth
When I was around 16 weeks pregnant my husband and I started thinking about the kind of birth experience we wanted to have. We both started researching epidurals, c-section rates, and other medical interventions, and came to the conclusion that we wanted to have a natural child birth, believing that it is safest for both mother and baby. We were also both upset at the fact that there is a slim chance my OB would even be the one to deliver the baby. I could not understand why you would go through the process of finding the "right" dr, only to end up having a stranger deliver your baby. Add to these feelings the thoughts we both had about hospital interventions (although I do believe they are good at times!) and we soon found ourselves thinking of having a home birth!
A former colleague of mine had given birth at home, twice, so I contacted her for more information about her own experiences, and the name of her midwife. She told me how much she loved both of her births, how empowering it had been, and how easy recovery was. She also recommended her midwife to me, and when I was 20 weeks pregnant we had our first visit with her. My husband and I both clicked with Pam the first time we met her. She was open, friendly, and willing to sit with us for almost 3 hours to answer all of our home birthing questions. When we left her home office I told my husband that I wanted to give birth at home. He agreed 100%. We decided to continue seeing our OB, as well as having prenatal visits with the midwife, so that if we decided to change our minds and have a hospital birth the files would be up to date for the nurses and doctors there.
On April 24, I was discouraged that I had not yet started labor, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to meet my little boy! So, that morning I went over to my best friend's house and we went to the mall and walked around all morning talking, shopping, and eating. We thought all the walking would be a good way to induce labor naturally, but it ended up taking my mind off of it, and it was just a fun morning/afternoon with no worries :) But, it worked, because that evening around 8 pm I went in to labor!
I had my first "this is it" contraction around 8:00, and I told my husband I thought I was in labor and suggested we go get some sleep now, in case we were awake all night contracting. He went right to sleep, but of course I could not! I was too excited! I started timing every single contraction, and started practicing the breathing techniques from my Bradley method book, even though I really did not need to at that point. Then, around 11:30, I woke up my husband and told him that I was needing his help. The back pain I was experienceing was getting worse, and the contractions were getting closer together. We laid on the couch and watched episodes of Man vs. Wild while he rubbed my back and brought me food and drinks and tried to make me as comfortable as possible. After that, labor really started to progress, with the back pain being the worst. I didn't know what position to get in to to make it feel better, so I just continued my breathing exercises and tried to remember it would all be worth it :)
A little after 3:30 a.m. my husband left to go to a 24 hour convenience store to buy a heating pad, in hopes that it would help alleviate the back pain. At 4:00 a.m. I called my midwife and told her I had been in labor for 8 hours and was ready for her to come. She told me she would pack up her birth kit and be on her way. She lived 45 minutes from my house, so I knew there would be a wait. Pam arrived at 5:30, and I immediately asked her to check how far along I was. I was so relieved when she told me I was close to 6 centimeters! She also checked the heart beat and the position of the baby, and told me that he was posterior (face up), and that it explained why I was having the awful back pain. She gave me exercises to do to turn the baby, but at that point I was so tired, that I just could not do them. I remember thinking I didn't care if I had a posterior baby, I was not going to do the exercises!
After leaving me to labor in peace, she came back around 7:00 and asked to check the heart beat again. When she did, she told us that it sounded as if his heart rate was irregular. We listened to it on the doppler, and it would seem to speed up about every third beat. Pam told us that in all her years of home birthing she had never experienced it where a baby's heart beat had been perfect through the prenatal care, and then started beating irregularly during active labor. She left my husband and I alone to pray, and talk about what we wanted to do while she called her midwife associates to see if any of them had any similar stories. At 8:00 she came back to check the heart beat one more time. It was still beating in the same erratic pattern. She told us that she thought we should think about transporting to the hospital, but that ultimately it was our call. We decided to go.
To be honest, I was nervous about going to the hospital, but I knew that in our case a non-emergency transport was the best option for us. We packed a bag, and left for the hospital at 8:30. We arrived there a little after 9:00 a.m. on April 25. When I got there they checked me and found that I was 7 centimeters. Pam stayed with us the entire time, and advocated for me as my doula. I was asked several times if I wanted an epidural, and each time told them no. It was wonderful having Pam there, because she was able to really step in so that they would stop asking me if I wanted certain interventions.
A little after 11:30, I told the nurses "I have to push!" They were NOT happy about that, because the dr. wasn't there! The head nurse told me that no, I did not have to push because I wasn't fully dilated. I remember trying not to push, but at the same time I knew I had to. They got a dr. in there within minutes, and sure enough I was fully dilated and ready to push! It was wonderful having that experience of knowing exactly what my body was doing, and not having to rely on a machine or other people to tell me when to start pushing. I pushed for about 20 minutes, and at 12:06 pm Gunnar Joel was born! They immediately placed him on my chest for skin-to-skin contact, and I couldn't believe how perfect he looked! I let the nurses check him over almost right away, because we were concerned something was wrong with his heart. They said that everything was great, and he received a score of 9/10 on the apgar scale. The Dr (who supported my desire to birth naturally), said that she believes he probably did not like the contractions when I went in to active labor. We thanked God that nothing had been seriously wrong!
How I prepared for labor and birth
I read a lot of birth stories about home births and natural births through both books and articles online. My husband and I both read the Bradley Method books we bought, and, even though almost everyone said I was crazy for attempting a natural birth (most people did not know about the home birth), I really wanted to prove them wrong, and that initiated a drive in me to have an unmedicated birth.
What I liked about my birth experience
I LOVED laboring at home! I was free to do whatever I wanted. I could eat, sleep, drink, walk around, watch tv, take showers/baths...whatever I thought would help at the moment. It was so wonderful having just my husband there to take care of me.
What I did not like about my birth experience
The car ride! By that time I was close to 7 centimeters and had already been in labor for 12 hours. That was hands- down the WORST part of the entire labor :)
What surprised me about contractions/labor
Because he was posterior, I was surprised that I really did not have any of the stomach cramping. I had some, but it was so mild in regards to the back labor. I was also surprised (and grateful!) that my labor did not stop or stall once we reached the hospital. I was afraid that it would, due to all the emotions I was feeling about having to transport.
What I would have done differently
I am definitely going to plan a home birth with my next child. And, looking back, there are a few things I would have done differently. I really believe that if I would have done them, we would have had the home birth we'd been praying for.
First, I would have hired a doula to come along side and offer education and support (both physically and emotionally) while I was in labor. My husband did a wonderful job for those 9 hours we were laboring alone, but there were times when I was scared, or had questions that he couldn't answer.
Secondly, I had in my mind that I did not want to be rude and call my midwife while she was sleeping...ridiculous! Looking back, I wish I would have called her sooner, just to have the assurance that she was there if I had any questions or concerns or needed any advice or encouragement. Next time, I will not try and wait until morning to call, but instead will call as soon as I think I need her.
Thirdly, I would have a birthing tub set up. I didn't do a lot of research on water births prior to that (talking about home birth seemed weird enough!) but after the birth I started doing research on it, and found that most women say it helped alleviate their contractions-especially those with posterior babies. I think a birthing tub would have helped me relax, and will definitely have one next time!
How it was different from what I imagined it would be
I think it's amazing how different both types of settings are. I really got to experience both a home birth and a hospital birth, and I have to say that I prefer the home birth! Pam was so gentle and talked in a calm, reassuring voice, while the nurses at the hospital tended to yell, or try to tell me what I could and could not do. I believe that they were just trying to help, but it was annoying at the same time. However, I was thankful for the dr on call (not my OB) who also advocated for me to have a natural birth. We really saw God's hand right there.
The recovery was good, over all. I had second degree tearing that needed stitched up, but other than that I felt great. We were discharged the following morning, and on a scale of 1 to 10 I was at an 8. I only took pain medication twice while at the hospital, and did not take it once I got home. It was wonderful being so in tune with what was going on, and not feeling sleepy or drugged or out of it after the birth. Family, friends, and even the hospital staff couldn't believe how little the pain was.
I am also grateful that my first birth was posterior, because it showed me that if I can have a natural birth in one of the most difficult ways, then I can definitely do it with an anterior positioned baby! Unless a c-section is in order to save my life or the baby's, I will not be having an epidural.
I would recommend a natural birth to any one considering one. I love the fact that I trusted my body-and my God-to do exactly what God had created my body to do. I know it is not for everyone, and I respect that completely, but for me it was one of the best decisions I could have made. Yes, it hurt, but it was so worth it in the end and looking back, I love that I experienced birth the way God designed it!