reflections on having a home birth

Below is a collection of thoughts I've had about Sunday's birth while either preparing for it, experiencing it, or processing it. I understand my thoughts may bother some people, open a debate, or otherwise simply annoy others. Please know it is never my intention to offend anyone and my hope is that perhaps someone, even if it is just one person, will be inspired by my rambling to further research and educate themselves on their own childbirth options. It is important for you to know that I am not an expert nor do I consider myself an expert in this field at all. These are simply my thoughts and experiences from my pregnancy and labor with Sunday. Being my first go-round, I learned and processed a lot. Below is my little collection.

  • People are quick to assume that having a baby at home is equal to having a baby alone in your bathroom with no medical professional around. Not always true (and not true for me).
  • I lost count how many times people said to me "If I had had my baby at home, I would have died." First, please don't ever insinuate to a pregnant woman that she could possibly die during labor. We all know it is possible. You saying that is not going to make her to change her mind. Second, as soon as those words were shared I knew immediately that the person saying them was unaware of the midwifery model of care. While it couldn't be more opposite from a doctor's model of care, just because it is different doesn't mean either model is wrong.
  • The midwifery model of care is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes, using intuition, observation, and very minimal intrusion. I spent 9 months of pregnancy (trying my best) eating healthy, exercising, accepting the educated advice and guidance from my experienced midwife, having my urine tested at every appointment, and accepting less-risky alternatives to GBS, Strep-B and blood testing. My midwife observed me throughout the nine months, we had an open relationship about how I felt physically and mentally, and together we trusted my body and both of our intuitions to communicate to us if there should be anything to be concerned about.
  • I feel extremely blessed and thankful to God for a healthy, normal pregnancy and a complication-free delivery. While I tried my  best to do all that I could do (eating well, taking vitamin and mineral supplements, staying active, and choosing a less-intrusive model of care), I know that there are so many things I have no control over and I cannot express how grateful I am that everything went as smoothly as it did. I credit only God for that.
  • I cannot imagine making the transition from hospital (read: 24/7 assistance and company) to home so soon after delivering a baby. I know I was emotionally all over the place those first few days after having Sunday and it was an adjustment enough for me to be awake and stuck to a baby every 2 hours on the hour. Moving myself and baby from a hospital environment to a quiet, empty home environment would be a whole other situation to process. I am grateful I did not have to do that.
  • I am not sure that I could have avoided the temptation of an epidural had I labored in a hospital.
  • I did not deliver Sunday naturally because I wanted to have a natural birth. I had a natural birth for two reasons: 1. I wanted to deliver at home and it was my only option, and 2. I wanted the least intrusive birth experience possible. But it wasn't about "the experience" of doing it naturally... if that makes sense.
  • I was inspired to research home birth options after I photographed a home birth in 2009. It was the most calm, intimate, and enjoyable birth I had witnessed (I had witnessed a handful by that time) and I left that birth positive that I would also attempt to have a home birth.
  • When I got pregnant, Tommy asked if he could name the baby "Jubal Bedford." Jokingly, I said "Sure, if I can have a home birth." He immediately responded with "I think you should totally have a home birth, that would be awesome." And I was suddenly freaked out. And definitely not okay with the name Jubal Bedford.
  • It took some time for me to feel comfortable having my pre-natal appointments in a living room (midwife) vs. the comfort of a doctors office. I grew up going to the doctor, so in my mind, the Dr's office had all the answers and security. It wasn't until I was about 5 months pregnant that I truly felt comfortable and confident in our decision to have a home birth. Had I not come to that place of confidence, I would have transferred my care and delivered in a hospital.
  • I recognize now how important it is for a woman to deliver her baby where she feels the safest and most secure. For more on this, check out Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. That book was, hands down, the most influential for me during my pregnancy. I began to really trust my body and my intuition after reading it and I now recommend it to all of my pregnant friends. (Here is a great, unbiased review of the book from a father-to-be.)
  • I was not once checked for dilation before or during labor. While it can be exciting to know "how far dilated" you may be, I found that it was neither helpful nor hurtful to know or not know. However, being checked does have health risks and the more often you are checked, the higher the risks. I was encouraged by my amazing doula to avoid being checked and I can say I do not regret my decision to stick with that plan.
  • It's kind of fun to tell people you're doing so many things "out of the norm." Home birth, no scheduled induction, no dilation checks, no sugary drink for the diabetes test, etc. That was a little too enjoyable for me.
  • I found myself surprised by how many women are pregnant and completely in denial about birth. "Don't talk to me about labor, it freaks me out." Unfortunately, I have taken that same mindset with other aspects of my life and wish, in retrospect, that I had been educated about options ahead of time. I didn't want to have that same regret about birth.
  • I am so grateful I hired a doula and do not plan to ever deliver another baby without a doula by my side. Laurie ran the show, comforted me, coached me through a birth that could have lasted hours longer had I been stuck in one position, encouraged me, encouraged Tommy, and nurtured us.
  • I am also grateful that I hired a doula who was also a certified lactation consultant. I had complete confidence in my ability to breastfeed as long as Laurie would be there to coach me and make sure I was doing it right.
  • I cannot believe how badly breastfeeding hurt at first.
  • In fact, motherhood itself is the most physically painful thing I have ever experienced. From the discomfort of pregnancy, to labor, delivery, the pain of getting started with breastfeeding, to the soreness in my body from losing core strength during pregnancy... I didn't realize how much of a BABY I was. And how low my pain tolerance is as well. Good to know now. :)
  • Slowly, but surely, motherhood gets better daily.
  • I have no regrets about having a homebirth. I am so glad we did it and by the grace of God, we'll do it again.
  • If I could change anything about my pregnancy and labor experience I would: eat better & exercise throughout the pregnancy as well as take a hypnobirthing class. I could use a bit more relaxation next time around. :)

Sunday Quinn's Birth Story, pt. 2

Note: I am assuming that any of you who are voluntarily reading my birth story are aware that there may be some graphic descriptions and a few things may be TMI for some of you. Please consider this your warning. :) If you haven't already, read Part 1 here.

Reading the words I wrote 5 weeks ago in part 1 of Sunday's birth story, I am flooded with memories of the whole experience. Even though I mentioned time moved quickly once I was in the tub, I recognize now that was in the tub for about three hours… putting me in there for the most intense 1/3 of my entire labor experience. So, let me back up and dissect it a little more.

Before I got in the birthing tub, one of the last things I did was attempt to use the bathroom. (I honestly cannot remember if I did this before or after all that time on the couch.) Laurie was coaching me this whole time, making sure I was switching positions regularly, getting enough fluids, eating, and emptying my bladder. So, there I was, in the bathroom, having a contraction, and I asked "Am I in transition?" However, Laurie did not answer me so my immediate response to her silence was "Pfft. I guess that's a no." But in my head I was thinking "I am in transition and I KNOW IT." However, when I asked, Laurie apparently turned to Tommy and my sister (both in the hall) and nodded profusely, sharing with them that, yes, I was indeed in transition. But she didn't want me to know it.

Sidenote: Some people don't know that transition is the time right before delivery, when you are dilating from 8cm to 10cm. It is the most intense time of labor, usually moving the fastest and considered the most painful. Often times one knows when they are in transition because they start to believe they really can't go on much longer. (Along with a number of other symptoms such as nausea, shaking, etc.)

Sometime after the trip to the bathroom, I was helped into the birthing tub. It was lovely. As I mentioned, I was on my own for a while in the tub… but it was okay. I was handling each contraction and the water, in some magical way, lifted some of the intensity I was experiencing. I looked up shortly after getting in the water and my sister quietly said to me "You are getting so close." Oh those lovely words.

Now… let it be known she was about 3 hours premature with that statement. But it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.

During the transition into the tub (read: in the tub, trying to figure out which position was best) my water conveniently broke in the water. Then I settled in and activity started really picking up around the house. It was past 6:30am, the sun was up, and there was work to be done.

When I was planning what I wanted for my birth experience, I struggled greatly with whom to invite. When you plan a home birth, there is no hospital guideline to use as an excuse to not invite people. During my research about labor and childbirth, I learned that it is possible to stall labor if a mother is emotionally uncomfortable… such as being in the presence of something or someone uncomfortable. (Example: tenant asleep in basement while I am trying to silence myself during labor. Bad combination.) With that in mind, I really had no idea if I should shoot for a goal of very little people, or just invite whomever I wanted to be there. It was a shot in the dark as I had never experienced childbirth before. During the last week or so before Sunday was due, Tommy and I decided on the following people: Tommy, Laurie (doula), my sister (to photograph), our midwife Leslie and her assistant, and our mothers. I am so glad all of those people were there. Because they all ended up having a role to play in helping get the baby out. :)

Like I said, activity started picking up. The amazing thing is that Laurie directed the entire production silently. I had no idea she was telling people to get pots of water boiling on the stove (to keep the tub water warm - we ran out of hot water in the house), to get ice cold wash cloths and lay them on my face/neck/head, to make me food, to put food in my mouth, etc., all while continuing to put pressure on my lower back as the contractions grew even more intense in the tub. I really thought she was just there, by my side, supporting me… and that was it.

Click below to continue reading and to see photos. (TMI warning)

After about an hour in the tub, I heard news that my midwife was on her way. Woohoo! Like I mentioned in part one, once Leslie got there, I was ready (mentally) to push. But my body wasn't there yet.

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During this time, Tommy got comfortable on the floor in front of me and he began encouraging me. He started putting cold wash cloths (that literally could not be cold enough - even though they were soaking in water with ice in it) on my face, neck, and head. He was telling me how great I was doing, all while trying to put food in my mouth. At one point he asked me if I would like a grape. I said "No." He said "Will you eat a grape?" I said "No." Then Laurie chimed in and said "Tommy, it's 'here's a grape.'" I honestly do not remember if I ate that grape or not.

After a little while my body really began to push. Wow. It was intense. During the first few pushes I remember thinking "whomever said this was the best part LIED." I was still feeling the pain of contractions and now the intensity of pushing on top of them. But after a few big pushes, my body really got crazy into it and it was all I could do to BREATH through the contractions. It was pretty incredible. No longer feeling the sharp pain of the contractions in my back, I was just letting my body roll with the pushes. My body was just doing it on its own. So surreal.

Sometime during the pushing, Tommy told me to "open" and put a spoonful of honey in my mouth. At this point I knew that I was getting close to delivery and I was wondering why everyone was so concerned about me having more energy. I said "Is something wrong? Why do I have to keep eating?" Laurie quickly answered "No, no. Nothing is wrong. We just want you to have energy!" Ooookay. I would still like to hear the reasoning behind that one. :)

I want to note a couple of conversations and things that went on while I was in transition and pushing, but I am really foggy about the timeline. So I'm just going to wing it.

At one point, Tommy was putting cold wash cloths on my face and he said to me "Liz, do you know what today is?" Oh, did I know the day? Seriously? It was the 20th… my sister's birthday. Also her daughter, Shelby's, birthday. It was the one day I did not want to deliver the baby. I responded quite grumpily "The 20th." He responded, "what else?" I answered with a question, "The birth day?" Question games are no fun when you are in labor. He finally said, "It's Sunday." Oooh. He was referencing a conversation we had earlier that week. We briefly discussed naming the baby Sunday if it was a girl and born on Sunday. I didn't seriously consider the idea because I was hoping the baby would NOT be born on Sunday. But, here we were, and here was Tommy trying to have a name conversation between my contractions. I sort of shrugged and responded "oh yeah." But in my head I thought "I am NOT naming my child Sunday." Too funny. :)

Soon after Leslie arrived she came to me and explained that she was unable to get a hold of her assistant. She asked me if I would rather have Laurie act as an assistant to her (taking her away from the doula duties) or have her invite someone I had not met. Tommy answered for me and said "Laurie can do it." I quickly chimed in and said "No. I need Laurie to NOT leave me. Call someone else." I giggle a little about that… I was VERY SURE I did not want Laurie to leave my side! :)

I also had a conversation with myself, silently, in the middle of pushing. I was trying to decide if it I would do this again… and I thought "nope." Then I thought "but it means no more kids, ever." And I decided "That's okay. Never, ever again." Having had that conversation and remembering how SURE I was of my decision scares me a little now… since I have already decided I will happily do it all over again. Oh the healing power of time. :)

Pushing lasted a while… about an hour at least. I knew with every push we were getting closer to the end. I could feel the baby moving down and out and that was incredibly encouraging. With every push I had at least one pair of hands on my lower back, if not two or three. Everyone worked together to help provide me with the most comfort. I had an amazing team and I was so grateful to have everyone there. Even my sister put the camera down for a little bit to give Laurie a break from leaning over the side of the tub to comfort me. My mom was in charge of the boiling pots of water and pouring them into the tub, Tommy was using cold compresses on my upper body, and his mom was bringing him the bowl of ice water to soak the washcloths in. Leslie was observing my behavior, checking my heart rate, and keeping an eye on the baby. It was truly a team effort. (Yes, I'm needy. I'm okay with that.)

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Sometime close to the end, Laurie asked me to stand up for one contraction. I told her "nope." She really start laying the pressure on thick, though, and even got Tommy in on the encouraging. She knew if I could stand up, gravity would be on my side and the baby would move down faster, even if it were for just one contraction. I delayed the standing as long as I could and finally Tommy helped pick me up out of the water and I endured one contraction. As soon as it ended, I put myself right back down in the water. I am pretty sure I cried during that experience. Actually, I know I did because the proof is in the photos. :)

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Something that surprised me about delivery is that the "ring of fire" came early and stayed a while. For some reason, I always thought it would be this one millisecond of horrid pain as the baby was delivered, but no. Throughout the entire pushing process it pretty much burned. However, that was still was not nearly as painful as the previous contractions had been. At one point Leslie told me that they could see the baby's head and I could reach down and touch it if I wanted. I didn't. Not right away. I waited a few contractions and after a while I reached down to see how much further I'd have to go. And let me tell you, THAT was discouraging. Let me just say I still had quite a ways to go. Booo.

However, while that moment was discouraging, it also really encouraged me to get going with the pushing. Not that I could really push any more intensely - since my body was just doing that on its own - but I wasn't afraid of the pain anymore. I just sort of decided to let go and get the baby out. I breathed through the pushes and prayed for relief soon. Tommy kissed me and continued to encourage me.

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Before I knew it I heard "the head is out!" I honestly had the thought "Did I hear her correctly?" Luckily, Leslie repeated herself. "Okay, Liz, the head is out now." I had a minute or so between the contractions that separated the delivery of the head and the delivery of the body. I remember taking my time, relaxing, and enjoying the break between the two contractions. Then the final contraction came, my body pushed, and out came Sunday!!

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As soon as the baby was in my arms I started to cry. And honestly, I was crying out of relief. It was over. Thank God. All done.

Oh! And here's a BABY!

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(this is my "Is it really over?!" face :)) (I've never seen Tommy's mom look happier)

After a few seconds everyone was asking what the sex was. We kind of forgot to look! :) I lifted the baby's leg for Tommy to look and he said "I can't tell!" I knew immediately that meant girl. :) I think it was Leslie that announced "It's a girl!" (I could be wrong, though, things are a little foggy here.) We sat for a little while, pouring water over the baby to keep her warm and enjoying the moment. After a while Tommy cut the umbilical cord and I passed the baby to him. He wrapped her in a towel and had some one-on-one time with her. In the meantime, I was helped out of the tub and into the shower. Once I was fresh and clean, I crawled into my own bed with my baby and my husband. And it was blissful.

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(If you look carefully, Tommy is on Facebook on his phone and telling me "Liz, you need to post it on Facebook." Welcome to the world of technology, Sunday!)

After everything settled down and we were resting in the bed, my sister came to my side and let me know she was going to head home. I said "Wait! She hasn't weighed her or measured her or anything yet!" I love that about working with midwives. We had two solid hours of bonding time with Sunday before she was taken for any poking or prodding. At that time Leslie took Sunday and weighed her, looked her over, measured her and did her little prints for our records… and then people started leaving one by one. After a while, it was just me, Tommy, and Sunday. And we fell blissfully asleep.

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We didn't name her until the next day, but that's another story. :)

40+ weeks

My due date has come and gone and I'm still cradling this little baby in my womb. I've gone back and forth between feeling like I am losing my mind waiting and having complete peace about it. I have been trying to have control (my nature)... dates are floating in my mind. Nov 20th... both my sister's birthday and her middle girl, Shelby's birthday. Nov 22nd... my mom's birthday. Dec 10th... a wedding to shoot (AND my dad's birthday). All days I would like to be holding the baby in my arms instead of in my womb. :)

Every day that passes I have to continuously talk myself out of caring about WHEN he or she comes. It really is a struggle.

Recently a friend of mine went one and a half weeks past her due date. Which, you know, is tough enough... but this was her second child and her first came at 38 weeks. So in her mind she was almost a month past her expected delivery time. But her baby girl came at the perfect time. She came at about 42 weeks, small, still covered in vernix (a sign of early delivery). Her mama said "She just needed to cook a little longer." So sweet, so true.

Babies know when the time is right. (Side note: Did you know it's actually the baby that tells labor to start?)

So... precious babe still in my womb... I am leaving it up to you. I know, I don't have a choice... but I am truly trusting you and letting you guide this with peace in my heart. I know we are both in God's hands and everything will work out just fine, even if I keep worrying about silly dates.

Snowfall knocking on my door early in the morning