by Catherine, USA
My first pregnancy was difficult. Chris and I knew nothing about proper nutrition for pregnancy, and although I was physically fit and not overweight when I became pregnant, by the time I was full-term, I was out of shape, overweight (had gained 85 pounds), and was induced for pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure condition was so extreme that I was sedated and I woke up to find that my daughter was born and I had missed the entire thing.
This experience left me feeling lost, like a failure. I was too drugged to bond with my baby girl. She never breastfed well. I struggled with post-partum depression for a year and a half, and I decided going through another pregnancy and birth experience was just too painful.
However, right before our daughter’s second birthday, we found out we were pregnant again. Part of me was excited, but part of me was panicking. I knew I needed to take action to prevent a repeat of my first birth experience. I didn’t know what I needed to do, but I knew what I had done the first time had not worked, so I decided to start by doing pretty much the opposite of everything I had done in my first pregnancy.
At 10 weeks, I ran a half-marathon in Atlanta. As I entered my second trimester, I cut back on my miles, but kept running 2-5 miles daily.
Chris and I heard about Bradley Husband Coached Natural Childbirth while watching a tv show one night. I immediately Googled it, found an instructor in our town, and called her.
The next day Chris and I were in Nancy’s house with a bag full of books to read, the Brewer pregnancy diet information in hand, and signed up for classes later that summer.
Some of Nancy’s books included birth stories, and I was immediately drawn to the homebirth stories. But homebirth scared me a little. What if something happened? Was it safe? I decided that I wanted a natural birth in a hospital.
As my pregnancy progressed, I continued to run every day. I was very strict with the Brewer Diet. I felt wonderful physically, and everywhere I went I was told that I was just glowing, even from strangers. I felt strong and beautiful.
The Bradley classes taught Chris to support me during pregnancy and labor. As a couple we began to feel more and more empowered and confident.
However, while my confidence in giving birth naturally was increasing, my anxiety about giving birth in the hospital was also becoming an issue. Two months before my due-date, I visited a close friend in the hospital who had just given birth. She was excited to be there and the mood in the room was positive, but when I left the hospital, I sat in my car and just cried. I realized that my first birth experience had really traumatized me. I knew I needed to start seriously considering a home birth.
Chris and I contacted our Bradley instructor. She had a midwife friend and gave us her phone number. Chris and I called Brenda and setup an appointment with her.
Brenda came to our house for an interview and prenatal appointment. The whole time I was so worried she would deny me for some reason or another. After the interview and examination, though, she said I qualified for a home birth and she would be happy to be my midwife.
I continued to see my OBGYN for the remainder of my pregnancy, and never mentioned my plan for the home birth to him. I had heard of other women who had told their OB about the homebirth plan with a negative reaction from the doctor. I wanted to maintain a good relationship with him just in case something happened and I needed to go to the hospital.
On October 29, 2007 I went out for a run. I ran two miles, came home, got dressed and took my 2 year old to a pumpkin patch because we did not have any pumpkins ready for Halloween.
We came home and carved the pumpkins. Chris came home from work, and we got ready for my OB appointment.
At my appointment, my doctor mentioned that I was only 3 days from my due-date and if I wanted to have the baby that day, I could go to the hospital right after the appointment and he would induce me. I told him “no thanks”, that I felt great still, and mentioned that I had even run 2 miles that morning. He looked at Chris, shrugged, and that was the end of that! I told Chris on the way home that so many women are so uncomfortable at this point that they are begging to be induced. But I had only gained 18 pounds. I was in shape and had no swelling. The Brewer Diet had left me feeling energetic and beautiful. I didn’t want to NOT be pregnant anymore!
The night I stayed up late. I had a sense that something was going to happen. Chris went to bed with our daughter because I was keeping him awake. I was trying to sleep, but felt very restless. I finally drifted off around 2am, but every 10 minutes I would wake up to hard Braxton Hicks contractions. I had been having the BH contractions for a couple of weeks, but these were becoming regular. My baby was also getting wild in my belly. She was twisting and turning, and kicking me almost violently. Something was definitely going on in there!
At 3am I realized this was IT. My contractions were every 10 minutes and lasting about 30 seconds. I walked around the house for a while, but was lonely, so I woke Chris up.
He asked me what I needed him to do. I told him I needed him to clean the kitchen while I cleaned the bedroom. He knew from the Bradley classes not to argue with me, to just do what I asked.
Chris made me some breakfast and kept reminding me to drink water while I vacuumed the bedroom and livingroom between contractions.
During contractions, I found that sitting on the birthing ball was just wonderful. I tried the toilet for one contraction but hated it. I tried the bed during another. I hated that, too. So the birthing ball was where I wanted to be!
At 5am I called my mom. My contractions were now every 5 minutes, but still only lasting for 30 seconds. My mom asked if I had called the midwife and doula. I said no, that I wasn’t really in any discomfort yet, so I thought it would be hours from now. But something told my mom no, that I needed the midwife now. She told me this. I decided to just call the midwife and doula to appease my mom…and I have never been so glad I listened to my mom!
Heidi, the doula, arrived first, at about 5:30. I told her I wasn’t really in any pain but my mom had insisted that I call her. She said that was fine, and we just hung out and chatted for about an hour.
Brenda, the midwife arrived around 6:30. I still was not really in pain and was still only having contractions at 5 minutes for 30 seconds. She checked my cervix and I was only at 2cm.
I was so embarrassed. I wanted to tell everyone to go home, that my mom had made me call them way too early. But Brenda set about setting everything up and said she would check me in an hour and then take a nap until things started to really move.
By 7am, my contractions had started getting longer. They were now over a minute and about 3 minutes apart. I was moaning through them. I would sit on the birthing ball, leaning against the bed, and Chris and Heidi would rub my back and shoulders. Brenda would remind me to breathe deeply. Then the contraction would end, I would stand up, walk around for a couple of minutes, feel another one coming on, and run for the ball! Brenda joked that I reminded her of Tigger. We talked and joked between contractions. Things were really relaxed and I was so happy to be at home.
At 7:30, Brenda said she wanted to check the baby’s heartbeat and then she would take a nap. I lifted my gown up for her to listen, and suddenly started shaking. I told Brenda to get away, that I needed to push.
She got me on the bed and checked my cervix. I was 8cm dilated, fully effaced, and she could feel the baby’s head moving down.
Chris had filled the tub an hour or so earlier, and I ran to the tub, stripped my gown off and got in. The water made me feel so much better. This was transition and it was hard.
I started pushing and it felt so wonderful. I felt like a wild animal. I moaned and yelled. Chris held my head in his hand. Heidi rubbed my back. I was on all fours in the tub with Brenda behind me. She had a waterproof flashlight so she could see the baby.
I pushed for 12 minutes and out came Sophianna. 6 pounds, 3 ounces. She was born at 7:52am on October 30, 2007.
I had no tearing. I felt empowered. I felt healed from the trauma of my first birth. And I felt so thankful that my mom had insisted that I call everyone in so early! Who would have known it was going to be so easy and fast??
We didn’t cut the cord until it stopped pulsing, and Sophianna and I stayed in the tub for about an hour. Our older daughter, Felicity, saw the whole thing and was really excited to meet her big sister. We had worried she would be scared by it all, but everything had been so peaceful and relaxed that she had just watched quietly.
The placenta came out quickly. I took an herbal bath. When I stood up to get out of the tub, I braced myself for the weak legs and dizziness I had experienced with my first birth. I was shocked to stand up and feel totally normal. I easily stepped out of the tub, took a shower, and put my robe on.
Sophianna took to the breast immediately after birth and continues to breastfeed around the clock (at the time of this writing she is 4 months old).
Everyone stayed at our house until about 11am. I took a nap with Sophianna and Chris called the OB’s office to make the “confession”.
The OB wanted me to come in so he could check me out. At 2pm we went in to see him. He wasn’t mad, but he and his staff were all just shocked as I walked in, baby on the boob, all smiles and energy. They all commented that they had never seen anything like it.
After leaving the OB office, we stopped at our church because we saw some cars in the parking lot. Sophianna’s future godparents happened to be there, along with our priest and 2 other friends. We stayed and chatted for about an hour.
We then went to a nursery and picked out a tree. We took it home and Chris planted it in the backyard on top of the placenta. It’s Sophianna’s special tree.
My home water birth was so wonderful. I want to have another baby just to have another experience like it! It was empowering and healing. I would never have it any other way.
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