We’re celebrating all kinds of births this week, so we’ve dubbed it BIRTH WEEK. Today we’ll be focusing on the power of home births.
I was always intrigued by the idea of home birth, but I always thought it was for people who were spiritual or connected to the universe — or something that just wasn’t me. I’m agnostic, sarcastic, and my husband and I laugh at super inappropriate things. My fear of hospitals was a big push into me doing the research and realized it really was the most logical course for us. It really ended up being the best choice I ever could have made.
I woke up at 1:30 in the morning with contractions. Timing them, they were three to four minutes apart — I thought we were timing them wrong. There was no way I could be this far along without any prior symptoms. I called my midwife, and she was skeptical as well, though I did have to stop talking mid-sentence to breathe through a contraction. She said she thought I was pretty early, but she would come down anyway to check. I then called my mother who was a good two hours away so that she could start making it down, and my doula. I almost felt bad rallying the troops, as I was sure it was going to be a long ways off. There was no way I could be lucky enough to be this far along, right?
Wrong. When the midwife showed up to check me I was already four cm. dilated. Bryan and I exchanged an “Oh, shit” look and he got busy with setting up the pool. Still, I wasn’t in any unbearable pain yet. My mom and our doula showed up while I was still in pretty high spirits. Still, it wasn’t a walk in the park, so as soon as it was ready I got in the pool.
Once I was in, they had to force me out to go to the bathroom and check my dilation. Seriously, I can’t imagine going through that without the pool; those few minutes here and there being out of it were awful. I was progressing pretty quickly, and the contractions really weren’t too terrible. I wasn’t screaming or in agony or anything; I knew when they were coming, and when they were going to end. I always had someone’s hand to hang on to, and I’m sure I broke a few fingers. I didn’t even swear as much as I thought I would, having the mouth of a sailor and all. In fact, I was in the pool watching “The Birdcage” in between contractions. Nathan Lane in drag turned out to be just as good as medication for me.
And then transition hit.
I didn’t scream or cry, but it sucked. A lot. For me, it started out like a normal contraction, and then when it would normally dissipate, instead it gave an extra kick. When these set in, I had to completely focus on holding it together. I completely lost track of time, which is probably a good thing because they told me I was pushing a lot longer than I remember. I do remember that the last few contractions were the only time I had thoughts to the tune of “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think I can make it through one more contraction like that.”
I remember that he was crowning for a while. I could feel his head come out a bit, and then recede when the contraction was over. There were several times I heard “Oh, with this contraction his head will stay out!” only for the little bugger to go back in. Finally after a few of these I muttered through clenched teeth “Can’t you just pull his fucking head out?” He finally got his head out, and after that all I can really remember is a rush for relief that I imagine was his shoulders being pushed out.
Then, there he was. I’m pretty sure my first thought was that he was larger than I imagined. Then I felt my dog’s head on my shoulder; he was totally thrown by what I was holding.
I didn’t get to hang on him for too long, as they could tell by the pool that I was bleeding and wanted to get me up. I stood up, birthed the placenta, and I was still bleeding quite a bit. Even though it was serious, I never once felt worried; my midwife and her assistant handled it so well. They moved me to the couch, and she stitched up my several tears right there after the bleeding had stopped. There was talk of possibly having to go the hospital for stitches if the tears were bad enough, but thankfully it never came to that.
I have to make a side note here: the thing that I was most afraid of through my whole pregnancy was tearing. I was sure it was going to be the most painful thing I had ever experienced. And I didn’t even notice it happen. There are a lot of painful things about birth (99% of them come after the fact) but that wasn’t one of them. I felt a little silly.
The coolest thing about all this was that while they were fixing me up, I got to watch while my mom and husband cleaned off and took care of the baby. I didn’t get to hold him too much that first hour or so, but watching them bond with him was one of the sweetest things I can remember.
The whole thing took eight hours from start to finish. I can’t even tell you how lucky I feel that it went so easily. It wasn’t completely complication free, but my midwife and her assistant were so absolutely amazing handling everything, I never once felt worried.
I understand home birth isn’t for everyone, and I try not to bring it up or sing its praises around random people, but if someone asks me about it I can’t stop gushing. I’m not a very emotional person, and I don’t really describe it as a “transcendent” experience or anything, but being able to stay in my own home was beyond comfortable. And the end result wasn’t too shabby, either.