Sorry this has taken so long to get posted. It seemed that whenever I had both hands free for typing, it was much more urgent to do laundry, wash dishes or something along those lines. As always with a birth story, be warned! This is a birth story and may contain details you don't really want to read about. For those who are interested in real birth stories, enjoy!
My decision to birth at home actually began during my pregnancy with Gunnar. If you have read my other birth stories you know that I wanted epidurals with my first two children, but was unable to have them. This ended up being a blessing in disguise because it lead me to believe in natural childbirth. With my third child I knew I would not be requesting any type of pain relief, so I did lots of research on natural childbirth and I read tons of birth stories. It was from these stories that I became exposed to home birth. At first I thought it was crazy, but the more I read, the more I seemed to identify with the birth experiences of those mothers. I also watched tons of calm births to prepare myself for labor, and many of those videos were of home births. By the time I was eight months pregnant with Gunnar, I realized that I wanted a home birth, but felt it was too late in the pregnancy to change my game plan.
I went on to have a relatively good hospital birth. What sealed the deal was my friend Katie gave birth at home just a few days after I had Gunnar. Seeing the pictures of her home birth made me feel brave enough to pursue a home birth for my next pregnancy. Since I didn't get pregnant again for another year and a half, I had plenty of time to discuss things with Nate and he soon was a supporter of home birth. His philosophy is "you do the work of labor, so you decide how you want things done."
Fast forward to last fall. I waited until the end of my first trimester to start looking for a midwife. After some research and talking with my friend, Katie, I decided to go with her midwife, Stacia. I went to my regular OB around 14 weeks pregnant because I knew I could only have a home birth if everything was normal with the pregnancy. At about 24 weeks, my doctor told me my ultrasound showed I had placenta previa. With my placenta blocking the opening of the cervix, I would possibly have to have a C-section if it didn't move out of the way by the end of the pregnancy. This was a little unnerving, and I tried not to worry about the outcome of the situation. I continued to see both my midwife and doctor for the next few months. Finally an ultrasound at 32 weeks showed the placenta had moved completely out of the way. The home birth was a go and I quit seeing my OB. I didn't want to order any of my home birth supplies until I knew I could have one, so for the next few weeks I got my supplies ordered and tried to have everything ready at home.
At 37 weeks I started having some false labor. This didn't surprise me because I had false labor for 8 long weeks with Gunnar. Through the last 3 weeks of the pregnancy I had about 5 episodes of false labor. One night, at 6 days before I really went into labor, the false labor was so intense that Nate and I set up the birth pool and laid out all the supplies and towels. At about 1 am the contractions stopped. I was so frustrated. I thought for sure it was the real thing. Nate was sweet enough to put all the stuff away before I woke up the next morning so I wouldn't have to look at it! We decided to keep the pool up, though, since I was getting close to my due date.
On my due date, we headed to church. It is so funny to see people's reactions when they ask when you are due and you tell them "today!" After church we headed out to Nate's grandma's to visit for a bit. While at her house I noticed I was having some contractions and they were lasting longer than usually. But they were about 20 minutes apart, so I didn't pay much attention. My parents asked to come out that evening for dinner. We headed home to meet them. I told Nate about my contractions, but I told him not to get his hopes up. Throughout dinner I noticed the contractions were still lasting longer and they were getting more frequent. By 7 pm they were about 7 minutes apart. I called Stacia and she said that Nate should fill the pool and asked me to call her if they got any closer together.
I went and sat on the couch to talk with my dad. As soon as I sat down and put my feet up, the contractions almost seemed to go away. After about 20 minutes I had a contraction and they continued, but were 12 to 17 minutes apart. Here I started to get a little worried. I had Nate filling up the pool, but I was starting to wonder if it was false labor again. I decided to get up and do stuff around the house to see if I could get the contractions closer together. Nate, my mom and I straightened up the house, ran the vacuum, wiped down the bathrooms and set out the birth supplies. All that work got the contractions back to 7 to 9 minutes apart. I was feeling tired, so I headed upstairs to lay down for a bit. When I laid down, the contractions went back to being 15 to 20 minutes apart. I felt very tired, so I laid there even though I knew I needed to be up on my feet to get them closer together again. After a while I headed downstairs and shared the bad news with Nate and my mom. I was sure this was false labor.
My mom and Nate weren't convinced. Nate and I decided to head to Mejier. We needed a few groceries anyway, and that way we could walk a few extra laps to see if it helped things along. At the store, out of good faith I decided to purchase newborn diapers and nursing tea. I showed Nate and told him I was buying those things having faith I was really in labor. While we were shopping I went quite a while with no contractions. By the end of our third lap I had a few good contractions. At the checkout I had a real good one. I think that one helped me believe this wasn't false labor.
We headed home around 10 pm. We finished up a few things around the house. At 11 pm I used the bathroom and noticed I had lost my plug. I called Stacia and she said that she would head on over. Stacia and her assistant midwife, Susan got to the house around midnight. The pool was ready and I got in. I had purchased a tank-style dress to wear in the pool to make sure everything was modest since my children and father would be present at this birth. The water felt very good, but I noticed that once in the pool, my contractions spaced far apart again. To help pass the time I asked Nate to put in a movie. All the movies were in our bedroom where my father was sleeping, so I had my pick of the two movies we had downstairs: Amazing Grace or Bourne Identity. I went with Bourne Identity. I really like that movie, plus I knew Amazing Grace would make me cry. Stacia and Susan settled in on the pull-out couch, my mom in the rocking chair and Nate headed to the living room to get some sleep. Nate's sister, Sarah, showed up right around that time.
I spent the next two hours, mostly in the pool, except for a 20 minute period where I got out to use the bathroom and noticed that my contractions got much closer together when I was back on my feet, so I stayed out a bit to help labor along. A little after 3, Stacia could tell I was getting frustrated. My contractions were getting more uncomfortable, but they were all over the place. Sometimes I would have a few contractions right in a row and sometimes they were 15 minutes apart. She offered to check me to see how far I was dilated. I declined, telling her I would just be frustrated if I wasn't very dilated. She suggested I get out of the pool, get back into my pj's and have Sarah massage my back for a bit. Nate's sister is a massage therapist and had offered her help during my labor. I did what Stacia suggested and Sarah massaged my back and hit certain pressure points while I sat on the birthing ball. Sarah also brought along some of her spa music. That was very helpful to have that soothing music in the background.
After what seemed about an hour of massage, my contractions were coming every 4 to 5 minutes and lasted about a minute or longer, so Stacia said it was fine to get back into the pool. Getting back in the pool felt awesome, but once again my contractions spaced out. At this point I didn't care. I felt so tired I welcomed the long breaks in between. At about 4:30 am I asked for Nate to be woken up because I wanted him in the room. Even though the contractions were irradic, they were intense, so I figured it wouldn't be long. Shortly after that I asked him to help my parents get the kids awake, as I felt birth could be soon.
My mom said she couldn't wake Layla up at first and then she finally said "the baby is coming" and Layla jumped out of bed and ran downstairs and was right by the pool's side. Julius was a bit grumpy waking up and had to hang out in the living room for a few minutes before he was ready to come into the back room. Gunnar was content to just be held and watch from a distance. Layla and Julius gave me kisses when they saw me and Layla sat right by me and stroked my hair.
According to my midwife's notes, I told her I was ready to push at 5:01 am. Stacia had just dosed off before I told her this. She and Susan jumped right up and put on their gloves. She asked me to not push yet at the next contraction because she wanted to hear the baby's heart rate one more time before I began pushing. So I did my best to breath through the next contraction. She said the heart rate was great and I could push. Then I didn't have another contraction for several minutes and I actually fell asleep. I woke up to the next contraction and began to push. Throughout this whole labor, all my contractions had been very manageable and I had calmly been able to relax and cope with the pain. But this last contraction made me a bit nervous, mostly because I was not sure I could stay quiet through it. My children were present and I didn't want to scare them by making some awful sound.
I decided that even if I made some noise, I had to push this baby out, so I went for it. Fortunately I was able to do so with just some minor groaning. I pushed her head out and told everyone " the head's out" and then pushed out the rest of her body before the midwife could even check for the baby. As the baby floated to the surface, Stacia asked if I wanted to grab my baby and I told her I did.
Contessa Noelle was born at 5:07 am. It was so wonderful to scoop my own baby up and bring her to my chest. She was so beautiful and she started wailing instantly. I noticed she had long fingers and toes and that her little fingernails were like talons, they were so long! It was awesome to see the stunned looks on all the kids faces. Even though we prepared them ahead of time, they were amazed that a baby came out of me.
After a few minutes I felt ready to birth the placenta. Stacia asked Nate if he wanted to cut the cord. He declined, saying he's done it before. Hearing this, Layla piped up that she wanted to do it. So with Nate and Susan's help, Layla cut Contessa's cord. I had always pictured that I would get out of the pool to birth the placenta, but I felt very tired and decided to stay in the pool. As soon as it was out, Stacia removed it from the pool to examine it. Contessa was wrapped in a towel and handed off to Nate. Stacia and Susan helped me out of the pool and helped dry me off and get me into a fresh nightgown. I then headed to the pull-out couch to be examined. The exam showed no tears and minimal blood loss. Layla sat next to me and held my hand through the exam. At one point she kissed my forehead and told me I was doing such a good job and she was proud of me! That girl is such a sweetie!
Contessa was brought to me so I could nurse her. She was a natural from the start. Stacia and Susan emptied the pool, threw in a load of towels and packed up their things. Before she left, Stacia then gave me a few doses of cottonwood bark oil extract. It helps the uterus contract strongly and reduces your chance of hemorrhage. Boy, were those after birth pains intense! I think many of my after birth pains during those first 24 hours were worse than the majority of my labor pains. But after the first day, they died off to a minimal discomfort.
It was wonderful to have my children there to witness the birth of their newest sibling. I believe they felt very included by being part of such a special event. Plus, with past births, my children could only visit the hospital for short periods of time and they were always anxious the entire time Nate and I stayed at the hospital. This time they didn't have to be separated from their parents for 3 days. It was so wonderful to go into labor at home and be able to move about and do what I wanted to do and needed to do for my labor. Not being hooked up to monitors or an IV was fabulous! It's so wonderful to hold your new baby and not have a sore IV port sticking out of your arm or hand. One of the best feelings to is to crawl into your own bed with your new baby and husband and sleep like no other. Sure, I had to wake up a few times to feed Contessa and change her diaper, but the sleep is so good compared to the hospital setting. No nightly vital checks that always seem to occur in between feedings. Just cozy sleep in your own bed.
And some of the best parts of home birth occur before and after the birth. For the last 5 weeks of my pregnancy, my midwife came to my home for my weekly appointments. It was wonderful not to drag my big ol' pregnant belly out in all kinds of weather for those weekly visits. All of my appointments with Stacia were usually around an hour. You never get that kind of time, care and attention from an OB. And since I have had the baby, I have had three follow up appointments to check on Contessa and I at my house and I will still receive two more visits from her over the next few weeks. I have to say the appointments at home have been one of the biggest blessings.
So that is my home birth story. While I appreciate the special hospital births I have enjoyed, I know I will always treasure the comfort and experience of my first home birth.