We live in a 100 year old condo building in Chicago and once we told some neighbors we decided on a homebirth my husband started mentioning how this would be the first time in a long time a baby was born in this building. He was assuming that back in the day babies were born at their home on the regular. And it is very likely that was the case.
I decided to have a birth at home because I knew too many colleagues that had hospital births that ended in cesarian section or other interventions that made their experience not so great. The statistics for home birth, especially with the midwives I used were so much better. I wanted sometimes more intimate and calm. I personally don’t like hospitals if they are not necessary and in most cases they are not necessary for birth. But I realize it is not for everyone, I’ve also heard stories of home births going bad. I think each situation is unique.
I worked with a group of midwives that only do homebirth and I decided to have a pool as well. In general the care they provided was standard in some ways and in some ways more layed back. I did my first ultrasound around 20 weeks and met with the OBGYN they work with, in case of transfer, who also did an ultrasound. Each appointment they would measure my belly, weigh me, listen to the babies heart rate, take my blood pressure and ask questions or answer questions. I never felt pressured to do a test I didn’t want to do. They just gave me information and made sure I consented. They also took my insurance which should help keep the total cost lower than a hospital.
For the actual birth they asked that I have a doula. I was able to also ask her questions and I think it helped my husband knowing that she was there to help. He was very hesitant about the home birth at first. They came to my home and made sure I had everything I needed and gave me a pool and instructions to me and my husband.
I was expecting to go past my due date as that is most common for first time moms. I continued working up to the week of my due date which I planned to take off. The first Monday I took off I scheduled a massage/cranial sacral therapy session. It felt so good! I think it relaxed me so much that the next day I stood up from laying down to answer the phone and I felt liquid leaking down my leg. It was my water slowly leaking. It wasn’t a huge gush like in the movies for me. But I figured out it was my water because it kept going after that and I had a test they left me to see if it is amniotic fluid and it was! I let my midwives know, they have an on call number that rotates who answers. I also let me my doula know, but because my contractions hadn’t started there wasn’t much to do yet. The midwives didn’t want me to go too long with my water broken in case of infection so they said if in the morning my contractions hadn’t started yet they might have me drink castor oil in some form. I read more about that and it kind of freaked me out because it can make things more intense and also really get your bowels moving.
So to help my body progress I did something called the miles circuit and did some pumping. Nothing was happening so I continued on with the day, I did some laundry and took a walk (also part of the miles circuit), in was actually freezing out, a few of the coldest days in the winter. My husband was working late outside of the city and I was getting anxious by evening so I watched a whole series on Netflix about realtors in Paris, just to take my mind off of what could or could not be. (Europe has more a chill vibe so it helped me!). My husband picked up some food on the way home to have in the house for the next day in case the midwives and me needed food. And he started to set up the big pool, inflating it half way.
We went to bed, he decided to sleep on the couch I don’t remember why. He was also exhausted so maybe he just fell asleep there an accident. But at around 11pm I get my first intense wave. He was asleep and I was almost asleep. It was more than just a period cramp. And they kept happening so I knew this was it. Through my process of preparing for birth I also did a course called Hypnobabies. I had to listen to tracks for about 10 weeks everyday as a way to prep my subconscious mind to not fear. So once I knew this was my time I started the hypnosis tracks, and I listened to them almost the whole time, except for the pool and intense part, which I wish I would have kept listening to them. After a while I also started timing the ‘pressure waves’ as they are called in Hypnobabies, I downloaded a quick app. I started to get tired and they got more intense. I got some pretzels and water and snacked. I messaged my doula that it was getting more intense and we decided a shower would feel good! And it did. At some point I also had a big bowel movement which I was happy about because some women have one while pushing, which who knows I might have a little, but since I was in water I don’t know. One thing I started doing was holding combs in my hands and with each wave I would press the spike part into my hands, it was an acupressure technique that helps draw the sensation away from the wave.
I also woke up my husband at some point, maybe 2-3am because I was in it for a couple hours and needed some support, I was afraid I’d start to go crazy. He helped keep me warm since like I said it was freezing and our radiators are not on at night. My doula came around 5am I think? She watched me and said I was doing good. Then I moved into living room mostly sitting on a ball or standing. I tried laying on my side but that felt worse. I tried to eat some more food and drank lots of water. Once the pressure waves got to about 4 minutes apart lasting a minute I called the midwives and they just made sure it was the right time. A lot of first time moms have really long labors so they didn’t want to show up too fast.
The midwives arrived while I was trying to pee, I couldn’t sit on the toilet, it felt too intense, so I stood in the shower. I remember everything feeling really intense then and I so wanted to get into the pool. First they wanted to check how dilated I was, and I was 7cm, which was good for that stage. That part was not fun, so glad I only had to do it twice. They started filling up the pool.
When I finally got in it did feel so good. But it lasted a short while and my pressure waves were intense again. I was leaning forward over the tub a lot. I didn’t have my tracks then because they were on my iPod and I didn’t want it too fall into the water. I started squeezing my husbands hands. This is where I started to feel I couldn’t do it. I felt a urge to poop and it made me nervous. There was so much pressure and I didn’t know what you do with it. Apparently your suppose to relax with it. They checked me again and I was good to go! They said I could start to push with each wave. This is where I feel like I am not sure I was doing the right thing. They said I pushed for an hour. I’m a movement teacher so I took third guidance and made it my own, I really used the power of my breath. Apparently I did good. At some point you could feel the head and that is when I was really like what, how am I going to do this. I made a lot more sounds that I didn’t think I would make. My body naturally wanted to be in a lunge positions with one leg forward and I pushed again and it was very painful and I pushed agains through that and the baby came out! There was blood because I tore. And there was my little guy, like I always knew him crying and looking around.
Everyone said he was so alert. And he was loud! We did skin to skin right away and waited for my placenta. I didn’t remember that so we’ll but I think I felt a wave and they kind of helped it out with me.
Eventually we moved to the bed, we wrapped up the little guy and they checked me for tearing. I had to get some stitches, that part was sucky but also mostly because I had to keep my legs closed for like two weeks so moving around was awkward. We tried to latch him and that was also hard. That took a while to get good at. We all ate some food and the midwives and my husband cleaned up. One of them came the next day and the next week to check in. She was so helpful!
The first night was so hard, we were exhausted and little guy was loud. But looking back I think I would do that sort differently too. Just keep him close. I don’t know it is a blur too.
I think the next time I would learn to oust better, I’d still do Hypnobabies and actually use it to push. I would have a lot of food ready and I would stay in bed for a long time and let baby stay close to me skin to skin. That was hard again because it was so cold. But I hope the next time would be better. We live and learn.