Lessons from a home birth turned hospital birth

Guest post by Nina McDermott
Soudeh under Serum

Well, the best way I can sum up the labor/birth was, in a word, WAR. It was the most intense experience of my life. And I don’t say that like, “oh, it was this wonderful, intense experience.” It really was hell.

The labor lasted for 72 hours. I started early Monday morning at 1:30 am. Labor progressed gradually that day and I kept hydrated but didn’t have much of an appetite. By evening I was contracted to about 5 or 6 cm and fully effaced but the baby was still high and my water bag was intact which gave him a lot of space to move around in. His constant changing position made it too risky to break my water. At this point I was vomiting a lot and was totally drained. The midwife put me on an IV and gave me a narcotic to make me sleep.

I slept until 5 am and when I woke up the labor started to pick up pace again but the baby was still high and when she checked me his heart rate dropped which caused an alarm. She gave me something to slow the contractions down and put me on oxygen.

By the afternoon the other midwife arrived to take over and also to asses the situation. She gave us some time alone which was a real blessing. I had a few bites to eat, although I wasn’t hungry and didn’t really fuel up. When she checked me the next time my water broke. We thought that things would likely pick up as I was almost fully dilated.

As things progressed we did a few things to intensify the contractions and soon I was in advanced labor. It was now Tuesday evening. I was exhausted and in so much pain but I worked hard to push him out. I pushed for 4 hours in every position possible both in and out of the water. I was a mess. There was some progress but I was barely hanging on and because of our efforts to intensify the contractions I wasn’t getting any break. The pain was unbearable.

The day before I couldn’t imagine the birth. I didn’t really think much of it at the time. Even during the pushing phase I couldn’t visualize seeing him coming out of me. After the birth I told this to the midwife who said that she had tried to visualize the birth also and had the same experience. I guess we had the intuition but didn’t realize it.

At this point I said I needed to go to the hospital. I just knew it wasn’t happening and I could feel myself slipping into panic. The trip to the hospital was just unbelievable, the contractions were so strong and I was in so much pain and fear. When we got there they gave me an epidural. The baby was now under stress and his heart rate dropped a few times. Everyone agreed that it was time for a c-section.

I was so judgmental of [hospital] birthing beforehand, so sure that my way was better, and although I tried not to judge other peoples choices … I knew I did.

By this point I was so relieved for that kind of assistance. They took me in and delivered the baby at 4:38 am. I have never in my life been so grateful and appreciative of hospitals and doctors and western medicine. My experience at the hospital was so overwhelmingly wonderful it just changed me. I was so judgmental of that whole way of birthing beforehand, so sure that my way was better, and although I tried not to judge other peoples choices … I knew I did. But my experience has taught me about my thinking and I can honestly say that I’m far less judgmental because of it. Not just about birth, but about everything. My heart just feels more open and free.

I knew labor would be transformative and powerful. I thought that I’d come out of it with an “I can do anything” feeling but what I actually got was an understanding that I CAN’T do everything and sometimes help is a wonderful gift. I guess we just get what we need from these life changing experiences.

Now I have this amazing child and everything since the birth has been almost frighteningly easy. We wake up once in the night to feed so I’ve been getting tons of sleep, he’s nursing like a champ, loves his independence and is generally really happy. I am relaxed and have given up control about lots of things that normally I would have over-thought. I’ve also come to really accept the things I do want control over and feel very at peace about them. Motherhood feels so right to me and I’m just loving my new purpose.

Comments on Lessons from a home birth turned hospital birth

  1. Thank you for sharing your story, I love hearing people taking such important lessons from a challenging experience like that. It is very humbling to realize that sometimes we do need help and can’t do things all on our own. It’s a beautiful thing to realize that and accept help gracefully and with gratitude.
    It sounds like your birth was still such an empowering experience… Rather than feeling that you can do anything, it sounds like you feel that together, we can do anything and that brought a tear to my eye!

  2. i love your birth story! congratulations on having a healthy baby! i have a had a c section twice, a natural birth once, and a medicated birth once! i have learned that in the end all that matters is that you have a healthy baby and no matter how you give birth, you still gave birth…

  3. congratulations on having a healthy baby! i have had a two c-sections, one natural birth, and one medicated. in the end i learned that all that matters is having a healthy baby and no matter how you give birth… you still give birth…

  4. I, too, had an unplanned C-section and I was so impressed with the abilities of the nurses and doctors who were there to help me. I’ve never had surgery before, but they were pros and I was sure I was in good hands. Thank goodness for modern healthcare!

  5. Thanks for sharing your story! I felt a lot of the same things with the birth of my son. I had a c-section after only 36hrs of labor – I can’t even imagine doubling that to 72! Together with my hubby, doula and midwife, we did every we could to get my little guy out. I felt a lot of sadness that I didn’t have a natural, blissful birth experience that I had hoped for. I also still feel a sense of loss that I didn’t push him out sometimes. But more often, I’m just thankful for modern medicine. I hate to think of what would have happened to us before. . . My recovery was not too bad and the end result (healthy baby, healthy mama) is the important part!

  6. “Most incredible experience we will ever have as women”? This seems a bit heavy-handed – perhaps dismissive – towards women who, for whatever reason, won’t ever give birth. I think it’s possible to celebrate the birthing process without implying that women who don’t go through that process are missing out on a central facet of being a woman.

  7. I like the part of your story about the shared non “visualization” of the birth. When we toured the hospital, I walked into the labor and delivery room and the only visualization I had was every birth scene in all the movies where the woman is screaming, sweating, grunting and yelling at her husband. Not a pretty mental picture I created for myself.

    I’m so glad that you were able to accept and see the bigger picture of giving birth to a healthy baby – no matter how he came out. Although I would love to have a vaginal delivery, I try to keep reminding myself of the end goal – a happy and healthy mommy and baby and that it doesn’t matter how she gets here…but it’s definitely hard to give up that vision of what you would ideally want.

    • Laura,

      I’ve learned that, being human, it is impossible to let go of hope and expectations. I believe the best anyone can hope for is to try and experience all challenges with an open heart! Good luck with your birth!


  8. I had to eat a lot of crow about c-sections and natural birth after I had mine. Your comment about judgement sums it up well. But healthy babies really ARE the point, right?

  9. Congrats on your brand new baby! I confess that before I gave birth I looked at it like a huge trial, and thought that the whole natural birth thing was… cute but outdated?

    After an really easy, routine birth, I realized just how much my body can do, and now have immense respect for the women who go it natural — I can’t wait to give it a shot! It’s great to hear stories that end in the hospital without ending in trauma. <3

  10. Thank you for your story. While I’m not pregnant and not planning to be for a while yet, I’ve always been drawn to the idea of having a homebirth. I was born by emergency c-section however and my mother’s story of my birth has left me rather frightened of the prospect of realizing things weren’t going well and not being near the help I needed.

    Stories like yours help give me confidence to choose a home birth knowing that someday, when the time comes, my instincts as well as the instincts and skills of my midwife will let me know if a trip to the hospital is necessary.

  11. Another unplanned c-section mama, here. Thanks so much for sharing. I related so well to so much of your story, and I’m so happy you seem so at peace with what you went through. I’m getting there. 🙂 Congratulations, and enjoy every moment with your precious baby.

    • Being loving towards yourself and your experience is the best way to heal but if you struggle with what happened then I’m sure there is still something you will take from it. I have no doubt you were strong and amazing and did everything you could to bring your baby through that one step in it’s long life.

  12. Your story is quite similar to mine. I labored at home for 3 days and when the baby’s heart rate dropped during pushing we knew that it was time for the hospital. The c-section was worse than the entire labor, but he had a true knot in his cord so it was much safer for him to come out through the window.
    I also couldn’t visualize birthing him, no matter how hard I tried. Looking back I thought “maybe my body knew it wasn’t going to happen.” Reading your story makes me think that there might be some truth to it.
    While I was pregnant,I took a hospital tour out of curiousity and I was brutal with my judgement: it smells, they put babies in plastic bins, the nurses don’t seem to care. I learned my lesson – it’s not home birth VS. hospital; home birth is an option, hospital is an option. The most important choice is choosing to educate yourself about birth. All of the preparation and research that I did in anticipation of my home birth helped me be an informed hospital patient.

  13. Thanks for sharing! I know that if I don’t watch myself I can get judgmental about issues that I’ve researched a lot, like natural birth. It’s stories like these that slap me back down to earth, and, I think, ultimately prepare me to accept all the things that might possibly happen in my labors. So…thanks for the reminder that sometimes birth isn’t “intense but empowering” and that sometimes we really do need the advanced help that western medicine can offer.

  14. oh mama,
    thank you so much for this. I also thought I was going to have a natural childbirth and I didn’t. I read so many stories like this that end up with the mama having a natural birth, despite all odds and they all make me feel like crap. Thank you so much for sharing this. You are a brave, brave warrior and are even braver for sharing your story.

    • Thank you, mama! I mostly wanted to express that it really was hell.. no candy coating this crazy experience! But I love how sometimes the hardest things in life bring about the most beautiful changes…

  15. Congrats mama!
    I too attempted a home birth but this was to be an HBAC as my first son was born via C-section. At about 20 weeks, I woke up terrified and wanted things to be different this time around. I was determined to not go to the hospital, but after 4 days of labor and 2 hours of pushing, I wound up back in the hosi. The car ride was similar to yours. I actually hallucinated twice. Once there, I welcomed the epidural as I was in need of some major rest. After a few hours, we needed to augment with Pit even though I was 9 cm. It took several hours, but then I finally felt my son move down and with the help of my husband and doula, I accomplished my VBAC!!! Not as I had planned but still a success. Plans change…minds change. We have to go with the ebb and flow. Cheers mamas!

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