There are two types of people that have homebirths: people who plan it and people who don’t. For my second birth, I fell into that second category. I should start by saying that when I told Julie I was pregnant, she suggested a homebirth. I considered it, but ultimately, I’d had such a positive experience with my first birth that I really just wanted to replicate it as much as possible. That is laughable to me now, because my second birth ended up being completely different than my first in almost every way.
This time around, I had multiple false labor episodes leading up to the actual birth. This was extremely confusing and frustrating for me because I thought I knew what to expect since I had given birth before. I texted Julie about having contractions on three different days leading up to the birth. Every time, I thought that it was the real thing, and every time, I ended up being disappointed when they ultimately fizzled out after a couple of hours.
On Friday, October 9 (the day before my due date), I had contractions for a couple of hours in the early morning, right after midnight, but they stopped and I went back to sleep. I had my 39 week appointment with the midwives that morning. I told Miranda how confused and frustrated I was by all of the false labor. She asked if I wanted a cervical check. She said that it was up to me, and initially I thought that I would decline, but curiosity got the best of me. She said that I was 4 cm dilated. This was encouraging to me and made me feel like some progress had been made in all of the times that week that I had thought I was in labor. She told me that when I was actually in labor, it would likely go quickly. My first labor was 16 hours, so I thought that maybe “quickly” meant 8 hours? Half of the time sounded doable, and I was optimistic. On the way home from my appointment, I had contractions, but didn’t really think anything of it and just assumed that it was because I’d had a cervical check.
Throughout the rest of the day, I had contractions randomly, but not with any sort of predictable regularity. This was not that different than any other day leading up to this point, so I did not think too much of it.
One of my biggest concerns this time around was leaving my toddler at home while I went to the hospital to have the baby. I had gotten into the habit of restocking everything that he would need every few days because I didn’t know when I was going to leave, and I didn’t want to leave a grandparent unprepared. So that afternoon, I ordered groceries and washed and put away all of his clothes- for the third time that week- just in case.
Around 7:00, as our toddler was getting ready for bed, I started having contractions again. I wasn’t sure if it was the real thing or not, but I texted Julie again just in case. She texted back and said that she was at another birth, but that she had a backup on standby. I wasn’t sure that I was even actually in labor, so I decided to get in the bath because I figured that if it was false labor, the bath would stop the contractions.
[Doula Note: This was the first time I’d had two clients who needed me at the same time. I actually sat in the parking lot of Patewood Hospital on the phone with my back-up debating which client to go to. I wanted to send the back-up to my Patewood induction so I could go to Anna because I felt she would go quickly, but I was afraid, with COVID, that Patewood wouldn’t allow me to switch places with my back-up. Ultimately, I sent Jen Conway to Anna. I’m so thankful for this amazing colleague who dropped everything to rush to my client. Ok, back to the story…]
Not only did the contractions not stop in the bath, but they seemed to intensify. I started to think that this might actually be it, so around 8:30, I told Jonathan to call his mom to come over to our house to stay with our son. I said that even if we didn’t end up going to the hospital, she could at least spend the night and I would feel better knowing that someone was there in case we needed to leave.
The contractions seemed to really be picking up in intensity really quickly- much quicker than I remembered from my first birth. At this point, I started to get stressed because I assumed that I was going to have at least 6-8 more hours of labor with contractions that would continue to escalate from here.
I realized at this point that I hadn’t really timed my contractions. I had been counting in my head while they were happening to try to get a sense of how long they were, and I’d been counting to 30, so I assumed that they were about 30 seconds long. I decided to use my phone timer to time one just to see, and it was a minute and 17 seconds. At this point, I realized that things were probably further along than maybe I’d thought. I texted Julie about the contraction length and she said that she was sending her backup, Jen Conway, over- and she also added that if I felt like I needed to go to the hospital, Jen could meet us there.
I stayed in the bath, but I figured we would be leaving for the hospital soon, so I kept calling Jonathan in and asking him to do a few things around the house- move the car seat, load and start the dishwasher, etc. I heard his mom come in around 9:20. I figured that Jen would get there soon and we would go to the hospital, so I got out of the tub.
As soon as I got out of the tub, I started getting really stressed about the drive to the hospital. I was worried about doing transition in the car- which happened in my first birth- and I was also worried that it would go quicker and I would end up having a car birth. It is funny to me now that I was worrying about/ anticipating transition in the car, when in hindsight, I had definitely already gone through transition when I was in the tub. I remember thinking in the tub, “This is ridiculous! Why do people do this multiple times?!”
Jen got to our house around 9:30. At this point, I had been having contractions for about 2.5 hours and had been certain that I was, in fact, in labor for about an hour or so. Jen came in my room, and I sat on my bed and told her that I was stressed about the drive to the hospital. I said that I was worried that I wouldn’t make it and that I would have the baby in the car. She started to try to convince me that we needed to just go to the hospital when I started feeling the urge to push. I told her that I was pushing, and at first I think that she didn’t really think that I was, but then she looked down and told Jonathan to grab some towels and her gloves. Then, it became evident that I was going to have the baby right there on my bed.
It all happened really fast, and I honestly didn’t have any time to think about what was happening. Even though I’d just met Jen a few minutes prior, I categorized her in my head as “a birth person” and figured that she’d know what to do. At the time, I didn’t even know she was a midwife apprentice, but I trusted her to deliver the baby, and I was just really glad that she was there. Jonathan was throwing towels to Jen, and she asked him to grab his phone so that he could get the birth time.
He said, “It’s 9:40,” and she said, “No, I need you to tell me the time when the baby is born!”
I pushed a few times, and then she was here. Jen asked Jonathan what time it was and he said, “9:41.” Based on what I remember of that conversation, I assume that I pushed for ~a minute.
At this point, I was really just in shock over what had just transpired. I went from not being sure that I was in labor to holding my baby- in my bedroom- in less than 3 hours. Jen handed Grace to me. She said that she needed to call her preceptor, but I didn’t process that at the time. So she called Carrie from Hatched, and Carrie got to our house really quickly- quickly enough to deliver the placenta. Carrie and Jen checked me and determined that I didn’t need stitches (hooray!) and examined Grace and helped me start breastfeeding. Jonathan left the room to get blankets, and he ran into his mom in the hallway. He told her that I’d had the baby, and she thought he was kidding. She didn’t realize that he was serious until she heard Grace cry a few minutes later. It was really special that she got to be there and see Grace right after she was born.
Carrie and Jen left the room, and Jonathan and I got to spend some time with Grace. We named her Grace Elizabeth. Elizabeth was my grandmother’s name, and she passed away this summer. Her birthday was also October 9th, and she had told me before she passed away that my baby would be born on her birthday. She was right!
Carrie and Jen came back and weighed and measured Grace (9 lb, 10 oz and 21 inches) and gave us the paperwork for her birth certificate and Social Security card. I had always wondered about all of this, and suddenly all of my questions about home birth were being answered as I was experiencing them. They got me up to shower, stripped my bed and washed all of my bedding, and cleaned up everything. They left a little before midnight. It was kind of crazy but really nice to be at my house and in my own bed!
As I have shared our birth story with people, everyone usually comments that the whole experience sounds scary. I can honestly say that it wasn’t. I think a more accurate description of the actual birth part would be surprising and intense, but it really did not feel scary at all. Throughout the birth and really the rest of the night/ weekend, my primary reaction was just surprise.
I think that there are a lot of ways to look at the whole situation, but what I’ve ultimately landed on is this: I am so thankful that we had a quick, uncomplicated, accidental homebirth. I don’t think that I will ever get over the fact that 10 minutes before I was unknowingly about to give birth at my house, a woman who I had never met (who has midwife training) showed up at my house in just enough time to deliver the baby (even though that’s not why she originally came). I just feel like the whole experience shows God’s grace and kindness to us.
Jonathan and I will always be super thankful for our surprise, last minute homebirth team. Carrie and Jen made the whole thing feel normal, even though they’d never met us. I am so grateful to them for coming out on a Friday night to take care of us. If I were to have another birth, I would definitely plan a homebirth from the start. I am officially a fan now. Even though this birth was absolutely nothing like I’d planned, I honestly wouldn’t change anything about it.