An unplanned, unassisted home birth

(Two hospital births, then an unplanned, unassisted home birth. She says they would love to have a planned, unassisted home birth next time.)

My name is April and I want to tell you how thrilled I am about the birth of my daughter, Katie. I started to write about it but kept thinking back to my other two births. I want to share Elizabeth and Dale and their births with you too. I am afraid it has turned into a long story.

Elizabeth was born in October of ’89. Jeff and I did not plan the pregnancy or her birth. After fourteen hours of painful labor (and many unheeded requests for drugs, C-section, death, anything to stop it all!)  I was told to start pushing. When the nurse wheeled me into the delivery room I noticed the mirror placed for mom’s to see the birth was shattered. (I am curious about how that happened.) I was helped onto a metal table and my legs were strapped into stirrups. A stranger entered and explained that my doctor had left town about twenty minutes before! His brother could attend me.

PUSH! 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. Breathe. You know the routine. When baby’s head crowned I was given an episiotomy (a large, nasty one I found out later). Elizabeth was born weighing seven pounds, eight ounces. When she was placed on my tummy, I fell in love right away. I have always been proud of Elizabeth. As she grew it never crossed my mind to have another child. How could we love anyone as much as her? These were my thoughts when I discovered I was pregnant in March of ’95. Elizabeth was five and a half years old.

My labor started when I was two days ‘overdue.’ None of the books I read prepared me for my unusual labor. For four nights I had painful contractions that stopped by morning. I was extremely tired and frustrated. At a doctor’s visit on the third day I was four and a half centimeters dilated. So all those contractions were doing some good!

September 12, (six days ‘overdue’) I started having regular contractions. By the time I got to the hospital and hooked up to all the machines they had disappeared. The doctor wanted to help labor along. After four sleepless nights I was not hard to convince. I felt pressured to go with the flow. I gave all the control to the hospital staff. Again. I was installed in one of the LDR rooms.

I met the anesthesiologist and was given an epidural. My doctor came in, started a pitocin drip and broke my baby’s membranes. Okay, I was in labor (of sorts). An hour later our son, Dale, was born weighing eight pounds, twelve ounces. I cannot forget how very blue he was. He needed help to breathe (I could write pages just about those few minutes of my life). On the other side of the room the nurses were massaging him and trying to give him oxygen. I could not see much of this but picked up on the panic in the nurse’s voice when she yelled out the door for Dr. Somebody-or-another to come and help. Dale did start to breathe (whether they helped or hindered I could not even guess). I was still worried though. He was not attentive and it was several hours before I was able to breastfeed him successfully.

I love my son; however, I have ambivalent feelings about the day he was born. It took longer to connect with Dale but it did come. He has changed the way I view myself as a mother. I feel much more capable now. I know there was always a place in my heart for him. He brings me great joy.

Dale was not yet a year old when we started wanting another baby. I did not expect to feel like that so soon. I knew I could not change the things I regret happening but I think that was my motive anyway. At first I started charting my cycles to avoid pregnancy. When we noticed we were having more intercourse on my fertile days than the whole rest of the month we knew our goals had changed. For the next seven months we tried to get pregnant. I read everything I could find about childbirth. I made the most complete birth plan imaginable. I wanted the perfect birth with no regrets.

Then our finances took a dive. That changed our minds about having a baby. Since we had not conceived before we did not think we needed to use contraception. LOL! Four months later I became pregnant.

Just like the first two this pregnancy took me completely by surprise. There were some differences though. I no longer believed the presence of a physician ensured a safe delivery. I chose a midwife. By the end of my pregnancy I had discarded my birth plan. Honestly it was only a safety net before. Every birth is different and I disliked the idea of having the ‘script’ I had written for myself. I felt secure that Chris, my midwife, would not interfere with nature unless necessary. She agreed to only do internal checks when requested. Both of her own children had been born at home. I had talked to Jeff about a home birth but we had opted for the birth center. We live on an island and felt it would take too long to get to a hospital if we needed one.

As my expected due date approached I felt prepared and confident. At an exam two days before my EDD I was dilated three and a half centimeters. That night I woke up with contractions five minutes apart. They came regular but never got strong enough to go to the birth center. (I wanted to wait until the last minute because I was reluctant to be apart from my kids.) It was a good thing we didn’t rush off because sometime during the early morning hours I fell asleep. When I woke the sun was up and the contractions were gone.

March 20, was life as usual. During the last week that means at least two warm baths a day! Just after 11:00 that night my water broke during a trip to the bathroom. I called the midwife to ask how often I should change the pad I was wearing. Chris told me to forget about the pad and get my butt to the birth center ASAP. I argued that I was not having contractions but would be in by 12:30 (still trying to avoid leaving the kids.) I thought I knew better. Haha! Immediately after hanging up I felt the first contraction. Aarg! We decided to head straight to the birth center. And then another contraction. And another. I stayed on the floor where I had dropped with the first pain. I told Jeff that I would not make it to the birth center. He did not welcome the idea and seemed determined to follow our plan.

After helping me onto our bed, he went to get the kids up. Elizabeth came and held my hand through the next contraction. Jeff still wanted me to get dressed and tried to put a pair of socks on me. (I remember looking at him and wondering if he was crazy. I was sweating!) He spent his time divided between trying to comfort me and trying to pack the car. When he came back in again I told him the baby was coming now. He wanted to see. Lying on my side, I tried to lift my leg and couldn’t. He lifted my leg but could see no signs of a baby. It was then that I noticed Dale was in the room watching us. He kept several feet away but stayed to see what would happen. Elizabeth decided to hang out in the doorway. With the next contraction the baby’s head was born. Jeff supported it and told Elizabeth to call 911. Even after the contraction ended I continued to push (more gently now). That was what I felt like doing. It was great! To not be distracted and to feel in control of my own body was awesome. One shoulder, another shoulder and then our baby was out. It was 11:36. It could not have been more than fifteen contractions. I spent the whole time on my side and birthed through my legs.

The baby was red and started breathing right away! It was a couple minutes before we remembered to check the sex. A girl. We named her Kathryn Rose. Sitting on the foot of my bed with Kathryn wrapped in my bath towel I began to nurse her. My body reacted immediately. Jeff held the baby while I squatted over the bowl he had brought me. There was a lot more blood than I had expected. I hadn’t seen any of this with my other babies. I felt very relieved after the placenta was expelled.

We continued nursing until the paramedics arrived around midnight. I think most of the emergency personnel on the island were in my living room. One of our sheriffs brought his son to see the new baby. Everyone was excited. A paramedic clamped the cord and Jeff cut it. Kathryn and I were wrapped in fresh blankets while her temperature and oxygen level was checked. There was nothing else to be done so they left us. Chris was on her way over. While we waited Jeff held Kathryn and I cleaned up the bedroom and took a shower. I was feeling so good and energetic that Jeff told me to slow down more than a few times. I settled on the couch with Kathryn. She nursed while I ate three turkey and tomato sandwiches and two 12-ounce glasses of orange juice!

At my prenatal checks I would always see Chris. At many visits I also met with Christine, a student midwife. After the birth they both came to our home. All the routine baby things were done. Kathryn weighed nine pounds, four ounces. She received antibiotic eye cream and a shot of vitamin K. We were both examined and checked out fine. Kathryn was a little chilled. We solved that by placing a wrapped hot water bottle at her back while we lay down to nurse. Soon enough we were all back in bed.

Before Chris left she prescribed ibuprofen for the after pains. It did not kill the pain as well as the codeine and vicodin I took after my other births. I did not miss the narcotic side affect though. I never felt too tired to care for Kathryn or my family. Kathryn was never doped or unresponsive. Overall it was a good decision. Using the heating pad and deep breathing helped me a lot.

Over the next few days we relived it all over and over. Elizabeth told us it was exciting but gross. Christine had shown her the placenta and explained how it worked. At school she told her third grade class and got a good response. She received homemade cards to welcome her new sister. Dale had a lot of interesting questions about where Katie had come from. There was none of the difficulty adjusting I was so scared of.

It has been seven weeks and I have had some down times. It helps when I tell myself that this is normal. I am still adjusting to this postpartum stuff. Jeff helps with the kids and what he can. Lizzy and Dale enjoy Katie even more now that she reacts when they play with her.

This birth has been an answer to prayer. I have now been given Love, Joy and Happiness. Elizabeth is eight and a half, Dale is two and a half and Katie is seven weeks old. (Even the blood came out of my bedspread on the first washing! Talk about perfect.)

A friend asked if I would choose the same midwife. I will recommend her for people who are looking for a birth attendant. I’ve read about how to have a safe do-it-yourself birth and can see no reason to have anybody but my family around me in the future. I appreciate Chris coming and felt reassured after her examination. I can see some good reasons for having a medical attendant. Still, I dream of having another baby with no intrusions. I really enjoyed the closeness shared by my family before anybody arrived.

After this experience I will always choose home birth. Jeff surprised me the other day when he suggested we birth by ourselves if God blesses us with more babies. I know it is a good decision because he would never take something like this lightly. He had not even been sure that the birth center was safe enough until he found out it was across the street from a hospital. I think that birth touches us all much deeper than we realize.

I have been doing some reading lately and have come to the conclusion that even those ‘routine’ baby things weren’t necessary. At the time I had questions but just didn’t know enough. It seems to me that we should be taught these things. I am teaching my children about how very capable their bodies are. I want them to know God and how wonderful his creations are.

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