After the unmedicated but high-intervention birth and postpartum hospital experience I'd had with my first child, Grace's, birth, I decided to try for an out-of hospital birth with my second pregnancy. We checked out the local birth center, but realized that it would be so much easier and nicer just to stay home. The insurance was the same for either, so we decided on a planned home birth, attended by a CNM.
After a healthy and normal pregnancy, my mom arrived at week 39. She had missed my daughter's birth by 2 days, so she really wanted to try and make it to this one. So of course, a week went by with nothing but a few sporadic and weak contractions. The morning of my due date, as my husband Jim was getting ready for work, I felt a few contractions from 15-30 minutes apart. I didn't mention it to him though, and he left for work. As soon as I got out of bed at 7:30, I had a contraction every 10 minutes like clockwork for 1 1/2 hours. Since they hadn't stopped, I told my mom and called Jim, the midwife, and the birth assistant.
Jim got home around 10, Heidi the birth assistant (required by my midwife) came around 11, and Susan the midwife made it shortly before noon. It was great having only the people I had chosen to be present at my birth. My contractions were 8 minutes apart, so we were sent on a family walk. I had a few contractions on the walk that I had to stop for. When we returned home, Susan performed an internal exam and found I was 4 cm dilated. So this was going to be it! Contractions still weren't very intense, so we just hung out for a while. We all had lunch, made up the bed, and did some other last-minute preparations. I had tested positive for Group B Strep, so the midwife installed my hep lock and ran a dose of antibiotics. Having the needle in my hand the whole time was probably the worst part of my labor, but a necessary evil, and much better than being confined to bed and a regular IV the entire time. A friend came over with her son to watch my daughter at about 4:30. We think Grace (who was 2) assumed I was gone because she never asked for me.
I got into the tub and soaked for an hour or two. Contractions were about 4 minutes apart. They took all my attention but I could still talk and open my eyes in-between. My mom poured water on my belly during the contractions, it was very soothing. I later learned that the midwife and birth assistant were sort of tapping their toes during this period, because they thought if I got out of the tub I would progress faster, but they never said a word, bless them! I was afraid of what the contractions would be like once I left the water, but at some point my instincts told me to get out. I got to the toilet and moved my bowels, and then sure enough, the contractions became stronger and closer together. I LOVE that no one told me what to do; my body just led the way.
I had a contraction on the way to the bed (painful! I can't labor upright) and grabbed onto Jim making him drop the timer. Then Heidi gently suggested that he didn't need to use it anymore! I got into bed and lay on my side like I'd learned two years earlier in my Bradley class with my first pregnancy. I had my music, my soft lighting, my scented candlesï¿½ it was just perfect. Heidi commented that she wished she could take slides to show her Bradley classes because I was doing so well. That was encouraging, because contractions were coming so hard and fast that I had to close my eyes and concentrate the whole time. My wet hair was bothering me, but there was nothing anyone could do about it anyway. I knew I was in transition because I didn't think I could do it anymore. I said, "I want to go home," which I thought was pretty good comedy for a woman in active labor. I said I wanted to sleep, and Heidi told me to sleep between contractions. I did doze off a little, and it occurred to me that it had been a while since the last contraction.
I felt like I should try to push, and Susan told me to go ahead if it felt OK. Jim got behind me on the bed so I was in a semi-reclined squat position. Susan asked if she should run the second dose of antibiotics at that point, and I said sure, so I haven't had this stupid thing in my hand all this time for nothing! So we got the second dose in, and the hep lock could be removed. My mom held warm compresses on my perineum to help prevent tearing, which felt so wonderful I would hire someone just for that job if I had to.
No one told me when or how long to push. I just did when I felt like it. I had a cervical lip for a little while, and then Jake came right on down. I pushed for a total of thirty minutes. I screamed some when he crowned, and when his head came out I was shocked at how big he was. Susan had wanted me to turn on my side so his face wouldn't get smashed into the bed, but I didn't have time. My water broke as I was pushing, splattering everyone and everything (including the doptone monitor) in front of me with light meconium.
As Jake's head was being born, I tried to lift up my pelvis so his face won't get pushed into the bed. He turned soon enough, and after another push his body came out and I helped pull him to my chest. He just cried and cried and Jim did, too. We peeked under the blanket to make sure he was a boy, and I counted his fingers and toes (something I didn't do with my daughter, as she was taken across the room and returned to me 20 minutes later swaddled in a blanket). It was 7:30pm. He was bloody and slimy and just wailing. The sensation of the cord against my skin was weird. We let it stop pulsating and then Jim cut it. Jake didn't nurse at first; it took him a long time to stop crying.
I had a few "rug burns," but no tear to repair. I needed pitocin and fundal massage to stop the bleeding after the placenta was delivered, just like with Grace. Jake cried all through his newborn exam, we waited a long time for him to stop but Susan thought maybe something was wrong. But he checked out fine, and weighed 9 pounds, 11 ounces! No wonder I screamed when he crowned! He finally did quiet down, and everyone left the room to have dinner while Jim and I videotaped the baby and our toast with juice in our wedding toasting glasses. Grace was brought in to see him (by then it was past her bedtime) and thought he was no big deal. It was wonderful having her with us instead of needing someone to take care of her while we were at the hospital. My mom got her ready for bed and the best was when the midwife tucked us in for the night, all four of us (me, Jim, Grace, and Jake) in bed together with Jake sleeping on my chest. He woke up every 1 1/2 hours to nurse, and my mom came in periodically to check on us and his vitals because of the GBS.
I can't say enough about giving birth at home. As long as I can help it, I would never do it any other way. Baby #3 is due soon, and with my "dream team" reassembled, I hope her birth is as wonderful as the last.