Lindsay’s Homebirth

[This birth story has been edited from the full, original version which is published here]

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I knew that I wanted to use a midwife for the extra care they provide and their support of natural choices, so at the beginning of my pregnancy, we started going to a local Midwifery group who delivers in the hospital.  They do water births, which was a huge selling point for me.  That was  MUST.  Delivering in a hospital with them was our plan.  I loved the idea of birth centers, but felt that with our first, we’d feel best in a hospital.

I also knew (and have for years) that I wanted to take a Hypnobabies Birthing Class.  I know the name sounds a bit different, but this was one of the best decisions I made.  We learned TONS about birth, interventions, breast feeding, the list goes on and on.  This experience left me feeling as prepared as possible for our birth.

But this class also showed me something else.  The more I learned about birth, the more I didn’t want a hospital birth unless I absolutely had to have one.  I think hospitals and doctors are amazing and save lives.  But, I wanted as few interventions as possible.  I wanted the peaceful, joyful, and comfortable birth that Hypnobabies prepares you for.

I’m not saying that is impossible in a hospital environment, but I think it’s harder, especially for me.  Knowing my people pleasing, emotional nature, I really wanted a different experience where my choices didn’t have to be fought for, but where they were completely supported.  I learned that our midwife group was opening a birthing center across from the hospital and I got my heart set on that.   I could have the experience that I wanted, but be right by the hospital in case of complication.  It seemed perfect.

Well, in early November, I was told at one of my appointments that the birthing center was delayed and wouldn’t be open by my due date.

To say I was thrown was an understatement.  After all of the time we spent praying and considering a birth center delivery, I couldn’t imagine switching the plan back to a hospital birth.  I’m not sure if I’ve said this, but I don’t handle change well.

I know a decent amount of people who’ve delivered at home, but to be honest, before taking my birth class, the idea felt way too scary for me.

But as I began letting go of the birth center birth, a home birth was all I could think about.  When I first told Chris that I was interested in this, he just stared at me blankly.  He is our protector and I knew that complications and emergencies were running through his mind.

We found the most amazing midwife who we completely trusted and clicked with.  We hired our Hypnobabies instructor as our doula, which gave us so much comfort.  We already loved and trusted her, so it made so much sense to have her as a part of this day.

Our birth team was assembled and we felt ready and totally at peace.

So many people have told me that natural birth is mental and I would totally agree.  I spent months training for this day like a marathon.  I listened to my Hypnobabies scripts every day. I did the exercises I’d been taught.  I visualized the birth I wanted.

Rosie’s Birthday

When the actual day arrived, I did not see it coming.  I’d convinced myself that Rosie would be late, as most first babies are.  I think that was a form of self-preservation on my part to not be too expectant and end up anxious and disappointed.  Plus, I’d had little to no symptoms.  I hadn’t had any pressure waves (Hypnobabies for contractions) or felt any different.  In fact the day before, I’d had this insane burst of energy and painted a bunch of abstract paintings for the house.

abstract painting copy

{glimpse from Instagram}

I later remembered learning in class that a lot of women have this strange nesting urge and end up doing intense cleaning or unusual things right before giving birth.  I now realize this sudden desire to fill our home with abstract art was just that.

On that Monday morning (January 26th), I got up to go to the bathroom around 4am.  I’d been getting up about four times a night towards the end of pregnancy.

As soon as I laid back down after going to the bathroom, I felt a gush.  I froze and knew what that had to be.  I went back to the bathroom and it took me about ten minutes to fully accept that my water had broken.

I decided I would wait to tell Chris at 5am so he could get more sleep.  That didn’t really work out.  I went back into the bedroom (not quietly at all – I was anxious and needed support I think) and he came to and sleepily asked if I was okay.  I blurted out, “My water broke.”

We contacted our midwife and doula around 5am.  They all told me to get some rest because I was sure to need it.  I was crampy, but no real pressure waves had started.  Rosie’s arrival could still be a ways off.

I had decided the day before that I did want some pictures of my belly, which I hadn’t before.  We weren’t sure how much time we had, so we took them at 5am with complete darkness outside! I’m so happy to have them now, though.

I had a really hard time sleeping, but I put on some Hypnobabies scripts and was in and out for a little bit.  I got up several hours later and even the crampiness seemed to be gone.  I ate a good breakfast, put on a sweet movie, and even did some work for most of the morning.  I knew I’d be taking time off and wanted to tie up some loose ends.

Around noon, our midwife came to check in.  The baby’s heartbeat was good, but still no progress.  We knew at this point that we were racing against the clock.  I knew that with my water broken, I was more prone to infection and if nothing started, that could mean going to the hospital for induction, which I really wanted to avoid unless absolutely necessary (if the baby were in distress).  We prayed and got friends and family to pray that things would start on their own.

Chris spent the day doing what he does best.  He cleaned and got things ready.  He was so sweet and kept asking what I needed, but it comforts him to keep busy.  We laid out her first outfit and prepared however we could.

Around 3pm that afternoon, I still wasn’t feeling anything hardly.  I had had a few light pressure waves, but I knew they were nothing from what I’d heard.  We decided to take a walk around our neighborhood.  We walked to this sweet little park just a few streets up and I noticed a swing set.  I remembered reading somewhere to swing if you were trying to start your birthing time.  I got on and swang for maybe ten minutes very lightly.  Within two minutes of getting off, I had a very strong pressure wave.  It was nothing like I would have later, but it was strong enough that I immediately knew we needed to head back to the house.

We got back, updated our midwife and doula that things might be starting, and I laid down and turned on the Hypnobabies scripts.  If things were beginning, I wanted to be relaxed, focused, and ready to go.

During the one hour script, I had six fairly strong pressure waves.

After this, things escalated very quickly.  I finished the script at 5:30 and by 6:30, they were two to three minutes apart.  I kept listening to scripts and trying to get myself focused, but I was really struggling relaxing through them.  They were coming so quickly and each one felt five times stronger and longer than the last.

One thing that kept throwing me while trying to relax as I’d practiced was that the waves felt differently than I’d been taught (and different than the practice waves I’d had the last few weeks).  Instead of coming on lightly, getting stronger, peaking in the middle, and then fading, they started out at the peak.  I would feel nothing and then all of a sudden, the strongest point of the wave would start, hang on for a while and slowly fade.  This kept startling me out of my focus because I didn’t have that initial build to prepare.

Plus, each wave made me incredibly light-headed, which was hard to relax through.

By 6:30, Chris had asked me if he could tell our birth team to come a lot.  I kept saying no.  It’s up to us when they arrive and I knew that their arrival (just like going to a hospital) would cause a spark of adrenaline and an expectation in me for things to progress, which can really slow everything down.  Plus, I was in major denial at how fast things were moving.  Pressure waves had started at 4:30pm and now two hours later, they were two minutes apart.  This in no way fit what I’d learned or been expecting about a first birth, so I thought we must be wrong somehow.

Finally, around 6:30, Chris said he was calling them, end of story.  He said he was not going to risk delivering this baby alone.  Looking back, I feel so bad for him!  He was trying to hard to be strong for me, but he could see by timing things were progressing quickly and he was there alone.

By the time they got there, the waves were almost constant with no break in between and I was having major cold chills and shakes.  I knew in the back of my mind this was a sign of transformation (which would mean I was near the end), but I did not let myself believe that.  Hypnobabies births are statistically shorter, but there was no way I was already there in just a few short hours.

After they arrived, they both spent a little bit of time watching me.  I remember trying to read their expressions to see what they thought.  At this point, I was very frustrated.  I had prepared so hard for this birth and I felt like I wasn’t handling it as well as I’d planned.  Granted, I had never given birth, but I felt like I wasn’t doing Hypnobabies “right” and was struggling too much, too early with a long way still to go.  I realize looking back that my Hypnobabies preparation helped me a ton, though it did look differently than I thought it would.

Not long after they arrived, my birth team came into our bedroom where I was laying and asked if the midwife could check me.  With my water broken, we wanted to minimize the amount of checks to help prevent infection.

I hesitated.  Not because of the infection concern at this point, but because I was really scared to know the answer.  So far, it had been harder than I expected (to be so early on) and again, I was frustrated with myself.  If I heard I was 2cm dilated, I think I would’ve had a break down.

I did agree, though, and she checked.  She quickly said, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”

In my head I was screaming, “I cannot handle bad news!”

Before I could answer, she said, “You’re 9 cm dilated.  But the bad news is you won’t make it to the tub.  The baby’s head is very close and there isn’t time.”

Initially, that 9 cm gave me a major boost!  The hardest part of the last few hours had been the unknown.  If I was nearing the end, then I could do this!  But if this was the beginning and I had twenty more hours, I wasn’t going to make it.  I could feel it progressing and getting so much harder every second.  I couldn’t imagine that could continue at the same rate for much longer.  I felt affirmed to know that it was so challenging because it was moving super fast.

But, my excitement quickly faded.  I had planned to have a water birth for three years.  I burst into tears and told them how much that scared me.  There are so many reasons I wanted a water birth, but the main reason is I convinced myself that was the only way I wouldn’t tear (I’m sorry to be so blunt, but there’s no other way to put that).  Water birth majorly reduces that risk.

They quickly said they’d try to get it filled up and hot quickly and maybe we would make it.

I stayed in the back of the house with Chris, alternating between the bathroom and the bed.  He was so amazing.  Throughout the entire process, he would grab my hand as soon as he saw one coming, lean down so his cheek was touching mine, and talk to me the entire time.  He told me how strong I was, how proud he was of me, how close we were to meeting Rosie.

Our midwife and doula took turns watching and supporting me and trying to get the tub filled up.  Our old hot water heater was not responding to this quick time frame very well.  They had pots of water boiling on the stove to try to top it off and make it hot enough, but it just wasn’t working.

I kept asking if the tub was going to be an option, but at some point, I stopped.  I guess I resolved it wasn’t happening and my body was really telling me to push, so I was a bit distracted.

In class, we had learned about Mother Directed pushing, which I am a big proponent of.  The basic idea is that our bodies were created to do this and your body will tell you when, how much, and how to push.  I believe this, but was a bit skeptical before going through it.  It is 100% true.  My body really took over and knew what to do, though my mind didn’t feel like I did.

I started what I thought was pushing around 8:30 or so.  I quickly realized that it wasn’t.  The pressure waves were so unbelievably strong and I was struggling.  All of a sudden, I was terrified to push her out.  I don’t know why it came on suddenly.  This surprisingly wasn’t a fear that I had throughout any of my preparations, but it hit me hard and quickly, maybe because of the water birth change.

After awhile, my doula suggested a way for me to breathe while pushing and that was all it took.  I began breathing like she said and I could feel my body pushing so differently.  I pushed for what felt like forever and it really seemed I was making no progress.  At this point, I was on all-fours on our bed with a large stack of pillows under my chest so I didn’t have to support myself.  I had learned this was a great position to give birth in, but it’s one I said I’d never use.  I don’t know why, but it just felt too strange to me.  But in that moment, it was the only thing that felt right and I didn’t really care about my previous reservations.  When you’re in the middle of that, you want to get the job done and what might’ve mattered to you before won’t right then.

After what I think was an hour or so, I wanted to move positions and my birth team thought that would be a good idea.  I went to sit on the toilet, which I know seems weird, but they said that a sitting position could be good to help bring her down and it was the closest seat.  After pushing through just a few pressure waves there, I wanted to go back to the bed to my previous position.

My midwife immediately told me how wonderful that move was.  We had made major progress!  I remembered then hearing that changing positions can be exactly what your body needs to work the baby down.

When I started pushing back on the bed, I could feel a major shift.  I knew it was her head trying to come out and the stretching sensation was too much for me.  It scared me to death and I just knew I was going to tear really badly based on how it felt.  For a few pressure waves, I really shyed away from it and as soon as I would feel it, I would stop pushing.  Then, I had this moment of clarity where I realized that I wanted her safely out and for this to be over and pushing through that was my only option.

I began to push through it, which is my most vivid memory of the whole process.  My midwife would tell me when to stop and when to push harder trying to keep me intact.

For what I think was about thirty minutes (I had a clock I could see, but was obviously distracted), I pushed and with every push could feel that crowning sensation, but she just wasn’t coming out.

They kept encouraging me that first time babies just take awhile and I was doing everything right.

But finally, at 10:36, I gave one final big push.  I felt that sensation and mustered everything in me to push through it.  It was time for this to be over and time to meet her.  I felt her head come out.  Within seconds, her whole body was out and she was being handed to me.

Labor itself was very different than I thought it would be.  During it, I would’ve said that it was way harder than I had anticipated.  But the minute it was over, it didn’t seem as bad.  Still the most difficult thing I’d ever done, but doable.

I think the hardest part was the fear and the unknown.  I had no clue how long certain parts would last.  Pushing lasted for an hour and a half, which they later told me was because she had her hand up by her head.  She was much harder to push out that way!  But due to my delivery position, the slow pushing, my months of preparation and exercises, I didn’t tear at all.  That is amazing with her little hand up by her head and I am so grateful.

The moment that she was handed to me and I saw her, I burst into sobs.  I think some of it was relief that it was over and the rest was just the surreal moment.  I knew right then that would be one of the most memorable and defining moments of my life and I started at her, trying to take it all in.

Looking back on the entire experience, I realize that God showed up in huge ways.  For the entire pregnancy, Chris and I would pray together for the delivery and Rosie.  Chris always prayed for a fast delivery.  I was always scared to pray that because I knew that didn’t happen a lot.  From the first consistent pressure waves to her being in my arms was just six hours!  I am so grateful that it was so short, granted that’s why it felt so much harder than I expected.  Things progressed way quicker than normal.

And as much as I wanted to deliver in the tub, God also had his hand on that.  I have a major history of passing out.  I was so light-headed after she was born that there is no way I would’ve even made it out of the tub, much less back through the house and to the bed.  Where I delivered, I just had to lay down.  Three hours after she was born, I passed out coming back from the bathroom and only had to walk ten feet.

I realize looking back that every part of my birth (other than delivering at home) went insanely different than I had pictured.  But it was better.  As hard as it was, I would do it the exact same way all over again.  I would not change a thing.

Rosie came out bright-eyed, healthy, and ready to eat.  We got to have the peaceful home birth we’d planned.  And I was left with the most amazing feeling.  Not really a sense of pride, but a confidence that I didn’t have before.  Since then, when we’ve had a really hard night with her or I can’t get her to calm down, I think back to the vivid memories I have of bringing her into the world and I am immediately filled with peace.  I found a bravery and a strength inside myself that day that I didn’t know I had.  I believed before giving birth that all women are strong and were created to do this, but I experienced that first-hand and it was such a beautiful thing.

All in all, I am amazed at the miracle of birth and think it is something to majorly be celebrated!  Regardless of how little ones are brought into the world or what choices women make about their birth, I am convinced that it is the most spiritual experience we’ll ever have.

I put together a little video/slideshow for us to have to remember this journey and I wanted to share it with all of you!  Our sweet doula took some amazing pictures of the birth and I am so happy to have them.  You’ll notice the moment we see her it’s pretty dark.  We had all of the lights off in the bedroom, which doesn’t make for great photos, but was exactly what I wanted at the time.  Regardless, I will treasure these forever because they fully capture that moment for me.

The song playing is “You’re Beautiful” by Phil Wickham.

This is my absolute favorite song and when I first heard it years ago, I pictured having my first child with this song playing.  I realize that’s a really strange thing to think, but it sparked something inside me.  It was playing a good bit throughout labor and when Rosie was born, so it seems only fitting to be the little soundtrack to these memories.