When I think back about my previous two births in hospitals, my greatest regret is that I was not allowed to hold my babies immediately after their births. The first time I saw each of them, and held them, they were wrapped up like burritos, with little hats covering their hair and eye ointment goobering out of their eyes. I didn’t get to see them at the moment of their births, when they first entered the world, nor did I get to hold them just as they were at that moment. I felt that had been an important experience that was stripped from me. I had to wait until at least four other people had cleaned, examined, observed, and prodded them before I was allowed to be with them.
After my first birth, I had no idea they’d whisk my son away so quickly without even giving me a quick look. It took hours before I felt I could unwrap my babies and really look at them. I always waited until the nurses left the room, so I could be alone with them—those were the only times I felt I could do what I wished without having to get permission from an outsider. I remember that it wasn’t until my husband had gone home to shower in the evening on the day of my son’s birth when I was alone with him for the first time since 8:34am when he entered the world that morning. I unwrapped him from his blanket, fearing a nurse might enter the room and catch me uncovering him. It was the first time I got to really see his little body and know what he looked and felt like. It was the first time I held him skin to skin. The whole time, though, I couldn’t relax—I kept thinking the hospital staff would intervene and tell me he had to be wrapped up. That strange feeling of not being the one with control, or even the one with a mere say, kept me from really bonding with him the entire three weeks we spent in the hospital. My memory of both the anxiety and preciousness of that first moment the two of us were alone together has never left my mind.
I had chosen a hospital midwife for my second birth, but noticed only small differences. When push came to shove, hospital protocol was hospital protocol. It was then obvious to me that a normal birth still did not allow me any privileges. I had no control, and was rarely consulted about procedures or choices during the birth. The hospital was in charge, and I was the patient. Period. Once my water broke, I went in to wait. I was transferred from hospital to hospital, triage room to birthing room, waiting, waiting, WAITING. I felt confined. I wanted to be at home, where I was comfortable and unrushed. I wanted the freedom to eat if I wanted to or move around when I needed to. Instead, I was strapped to the Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM). I was not allowed to step away from the EFM until I was about to enter transition. It felt like a second loss of the free spirited labor I was hoping for.
So, there is all the negative. I sometimes feel like I’m overflowing with negativity when I think of my previous births. No matter how hard I try, whenever I told someone about why I planned a homebirth for my third baby, I always began with the negative; the things that homebirth is *not*. Of course, it’s because of all those things that homebirth is not that make it what it is: a space where normal, natural birth can progress, unhindered by too many technological interventions and strangers, and a process by which a woman can cope and experience it in her own way. Homebirth is a gentle, quiet environment for a baby to enter into, where the umbilical cord won’t be clamped and cut immediately, where the baby won’t be rushed off to a warmer, away from its mother, where getting “clean” isn’t the first item on baby’s to-do list; where all the unnecessary things just aren’t done.
My third birth was beautiful. Contractions began slow and easy at 2:00 AM, and I simply snacked in my kitchen, folded laundry, set up some items around the birthing tub, and enjoyed the peace and quiet of my house. I wore my favorite comfy pajamas. I didn’t have to rush to pack a bag, get my kids to their grandparent’s house, or check in at a hospital. Labor progressed easy and on its own time. I enjoyed the familiarity of my own surroundings. When contractions got strong enough that I needed my husband’s support, I awoke him and he called our doula and Cosette. Our two children slept while we labored downstairs around the tub. I walked circles around the birthing tub, like a pacing mama lion. When a back contraction began, I’d stop and my husband would push on my back to relieve the pressure. Then I’d resume walking and he’d note the time of the contraction. At one point my parents came to pick up our older boys and take them out of the house. Soon after, I jumped in the tub because I felt a lot of pressure to push, and Cosette arrived.
Cosette began to lay out all her supplies. She was very calm and supportive presence. She told me that the pressure I was feeling was likely due to the water bag, still intact and pressing down on my cervix. Cosette sat next to the tub and tried to hear my baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler. It was challenging to do it in water, but she managed. I could feel myself begin to do small pushes during contractions shortly after getting into the birthing tub. I asked Cosette a couple times if she thought it would be okay to push, and her response was always simply, “You do what your body tells you to do.” I liked this response during labor because it helped me realize that by telling me to trust my body’s own instincts, I had more confidence in my birthing abilities than I did during my previous births in the hospitals. It was always at the point when the nurse or midwife checked my dilation in the hospital when they would say that I wasn’t fully dilated, or I wasn’t yet technically in transition, when I lost confidence and took medication for the pain. Had Cosette told me my dilation was not yet at a “10,” I know I would’ve been disappointed and it would’ve caused me to have to regroup and cope. Not knowing my dilation at any point during my baby’s labor was a tremendous benefit to me because it allowed me to follow my instinct and my body, rather than look to others’ authority for how and when to birth. I will be forever grateful to Cosette for her low-interventive approach that allowed me the space to trust myself and maintain my groove in labor.
Soon both my doula and Kari arrived, and took positions quietly around the tub. Kari aided Cosette and my doula aided me, offering me water to drink and a cold wash cloth for my forehead between contractions. It felt good being surrounded by women I trusted. Soon my pushing got stronger, and in a few big pushes, I birthed my beautiful baby boy’s body. Cosette helped bring him to the surface of the water, and she and my husband helped me to turn around (stepping over the umbilical cord!) so that I could hold him in the water.
It was those moments immediately after his birth that are by far the most treasured for me. I sat there in the warm water, with my husband in front of me, holding my newly birthed baby boy. Cosette, Kari, and my doula sat quietly around the tub and just let us BE. Nobody wanted to take him out of my arms. Nobody rushed to examine him, or me, or pull on the placenta, or shine lights down on us, or rush to clean him up and wrap him blankets… there was no hurrying, no change in pace, no rush to move onto the next item on the agenda. We all sat and smiled and laughed and admired him and enjoyed the peaceful moments of elation and relief that follow an uninhibited birth. I didn’t cry, as I thought I might, but I laughed. I was so, so happy with how perfect it had gone. I tear up now just thinking about it, but at the time, laughter was my only response. Those ten minutes were precious to me. At some point during that time, my husband cut the cord after it stopped pulsating. Soon after, he got out of the tub and Kari took my son so that Cosette could assist me in delivering the placenta (twelve minutes after the birth). After that, I got out of the tub and everyone helped me up the stairs to our bedroom, where we would nest for the whole next day.
Once settled in bed, Cosette examined me and decided that the very small surface tear I had would heal best on its own, without stitches. I breastfed Gavin while Cosette showed me the placenta and explained all the parts (which was so fascinating). While I showered and my doula stayed in the bathroom with me to make sure I was okay during the shower, Kari weighed and examined my son. Cosette, Kari, and my doula took notes for their records and chatted while sitting on our bed. It was such a warm, comfortable environment. I was in my own space with my own stuff. I had a big bed to snuggle in with my new baby, and no strangers popping in and out to take my temperature or blood pressure or steal my baby for random tests and injections. It was just normal. It felt, quite simply, right. My mother-in-law showed up a couple hours after his birth and joined the birth party. Cosette explained all her “duties” as our 24-hour support person (taking baby’s and my temperature every four hours, documenting feedings and diaper changes, keeping close watch on baby and I for any postpartum health concerns, etc.) Cosette, Kari, and my doula stayed for three hours after the birth, having cleaned everything up, brought us food, and made sure we had all we needed. Then they left us to rest in a peaceful, toddler-free house. Cosette came back the next morning to check on us, and my doula came back two days later. Kari came back for a 72-hr post-partum visit, and then their fabulous nurse, Jessica, came to do our one and two-week post-partum home visits. I felt so taken care of and supported. It was unlike my previous births under OB care. My newborn did not have to head to the pediatrician’s office because they were following his post-partum care, which saved me multiple trips to the ped’s office in the midst of cold and flu season. He didn’t even ride in his car seat for the first time until he turned two-weeks-old.
We welcomed our third baby into the world and our home simultaneously. My homebirth was a fantastic experience; one about which I would not change a thing. Given that in my last two births, I could find a list of things I wish I could’ve changed, my third son’s beautiful birth meant even more to me because I had wanted it so badly. He rarely cries or fusses, and is so laid back. Perhaps his peaceful nature is partly a result of his peaceful and gentle entry into the world! Home Birth allowed me the space to rely on my instincts in birthing and caring for my baby, unhindered by anyone’s rules, protocols, or timetable. Everything about my experience with Willowsong Midwifery prenatal care, my home and water birth, and the post-partum period was gentler, more peaceful, more supportive and individualized than during my previous pregnancies and births. I could not possibly be happier with my experience or with my baby’s entry into the world. They provided me with the tools I needed to have the birth experience I so desired. I feel nothing but joy when I think about my home birth. My choice of homebirth can be boiled down to three words: freedom, peace, and instinct.