Hazel is our third child and very likely (according to our plan, anyway) our last. We’d decided long before her conception that we were going to plan a home birth if we were ever blessed with another child. We didn’t have absolutely horrible hospital birth experiences, to be clear — but there was a lot to process, especially on my end, after the births of our sons.
Our oldest child Elliott was born four-and-a-half years ago (seriously?!?). I’d never met anyone, to my knowledge, who’d birthed at home (or without drugs or medical intervention at all, honestly), and our insurance covered a delivery at our hospital… so to the hospital we went. I was seen by a practice of Certified Nurse Midwives during my pregnancy, and I loved the attention to detail that I felt under their care. My appointments were typical and routine, but I never felt that my questions or concerns weren’t important.
Our second son Myles was born two years later and, while we’d toyed with the idea of birthing him at home, we again found ourselves at the same hospital. This time we hired a doula and worked hard to prepare ourselves ahead of time for an unmedicated birth. The plan was to labor at home for as long as we could so that we could avoid continuous fetal monitoring and an unencouraging atmosphere at the hospital.
Myles threw me for a loop when he decided to surpass his estimated due date, which proved to be more difficult for me than I’d have predicted. Elliott had been born on his EDD, so I’d prepared myself mentally for a baby who’d arrive before his. Aside from that small issue, my pregnancy had been perfect. I again had been seeing the CNMs and was happy with our care there until I approached forty-one weeks, when the pressure to schedule an induction began. Knowing that the odds of delivering Myles naturally were gone if I accepted a scheduled induction, I was stressed beyond belief.
At forty-one weeks and six days, my six-hour labor with Myles finally began. Our plan to have our doula meet us at home to labor changed to a more frantic plan to have her meet us at the hospital when we realized that labor was progressing more quickly than we’d planned for. When we arrived, we were blessed with a nurse who loved working with unmedicated childbirth and who welcomed our doula and worked with our efforts. It was, for us, a best case scenario.
And so, with baby number three arriving, we found ourselves seriously exploring the idea of home birth. At eight weeks into our pregnancy, we interviewed a midwife who I already knew pretty well. By the next week I was scheduling my first prenatal appointment with her. Our pregnancy, again, was flawless and we had no health concerns at all approaching our daughter’s birth (if we had, we’d have delivered at the hospital). I was mentally and emotionally prepared to go well beyond my estimated due date this time around, which made a very big difference in the way that I handled my pregnancy.
At forty-one weeks and one day, I woke at 5am with contractions that were spaced at about ten minutes apart. They lasted for the majority of the morning, and then faded out. I assumed prodromal labor, as I was expecting to be pregnant for about another week. I had my husband Jeremy work from home that day, though, as I didn’t feel like I was in much shape to handle the boys on my own.
At about 1pm I laid down for a nap while the kids were napping, and woke to one very long and very strong contraction and suddenly had the urgent “This is it” feeling that had accompanied the beginning of my other labors. I filled Jeremy in, and then called our midwife to let her know. She headed towards our home, and a friend who was planning to watch our boys while I was in labor came over, as well.
Contractions continued at five-minute intervals the entire afternoon and I was able to manage them well. Jeremy stayed with me and helped me work through them, and everyone else stayed back. A couple of hours into this, I was suddenly starving — so I went to the kitchen to grab something to eat. While I was eating, I heard Myles and Elliott playing — Myles fell and started to cry, and Jeremy worked to console him. I immediately slipped into “Mom Mode” and got him an ice pack for the bruise that he’d managed to get on his ear, and then noticed that my contractions were spacing out.
Frustrated, I headed back to our room where I told Jeremy that I was afraid that I was having a repeat of what had happened with Myles — hours of false labor that ended suddenly, and that I felt foolish for calling everyone here. Our midwife came in and expressed to me that she didn’t feel like my labor was false, but that it wasn’t yet active and that I was probably feeling too watched. She said that if I got some rest and our house hold returned to its normal schedule, then my labor would likely pick back up when the boys were asleep and everything was quiet.
So we reluctantly sent everyone home and I laid down while Jeremy put the boys to bed. Two hours later, I woke up to the definite knowing that real labor had begun, and I tried to quell it with a shower while Jeremy called our midwife back. She arrived in under an hour, and I had no doubt that Hazel’s birth was imminent. Labor progressed quickly and intensely — much more so than my previous births — and I was so glad to be in a place where we didn’t have to evaluate when we should leave for the hospital.
I was able to work through my labor with my husband’s support, our midwife standing quietly by and observing my work, only occasionally stepping in to check on our baby’s heart rate. I never had to stop laboring so that we could “check my progress” — it was obvious that I was progressing, but I never knew at any point in labor how dilated I was. It didn’t matter. No one checked me and then told me that I could start to push.
When it was time for Hazel to be born, I knew it and I birthed her. I didn’t have to lay down on a hospital bed first and wait for lights and mirrors to be adjusted so that everyone else could have a better view — I was able to listen to my body and to adopt a position that my body told me was best for her to be born. And eight minutes later, she was born. Just like that.
On the review of our birth that our midwife had later prepared for us, she described it as a “beautiful, self-led birth” — and it was. I’m still amazed at how little I had to think about any of it — at how it just happened, and happened perfectly. Little Hazel, who Jeremy handed to me moments after he’d caught her, turned to me and initiated breastfeeding on her own within minutes of her birth. It was really, truly, one of the most amazing moments of my entire life.
I can’t even begin to describe how complete and perfect it was, the lack of interruption. It was the exact moment that had gone missing from our hospital births, packaged more perfectly than I could have imagined. All of the pain and the intensity (and wow — was there quite a bit of each) from the labor washed away completely, and my husband, daughter, and I were able to spend our first moments together in our bed, quietly and peacefully meeting each other. Perfectly.