Thanks to Megan for sharing the September 2013 home birth story of Leo. Leo was born in Radcliff, KY.
The birth of my first child took place on September 22, 2013 at 1:30 PM in the upstairs master bedroom of our townhouse in Radcliff, KY.
Before that day, I spent a couple decades (as long as I can remember) anticipating the time when I hoped to eventually become a mother. I spent years discussing future children with my husband, looking forward to parenthood. I spent months using the Hypnobabies childbirth hypnosis course to establish confidence and peace while I prepared for childbirth. Despite nausea and food aversions that seemed to last forever, I reveled in the miracle growing inside me. This is what I was made for, I knew on an instinctual level.
Pregnancy and childbirth require that we give up our illusion that we are in control. I was able to find peace with this idea while simultaneously doing my best to create the safest birth environment possible. For me, this meant a place I would be at ease and free to move, eat, and drink unrestricted; it meant a birth team who would interfere with the natural progression of birth only if truly necessary; and it meant professionals with the skills and experience to provide lifesaving medical intervention if needed. All of these elements can be part of planned homebirth. With my relentlessly optimistic husband beside me, I trusted my body and my baby. I also couldn’t believe my good fortune when I met a midwife who was not only able to provide prenatal care and attend my birth, but who has a deep respect for women and their unique needs during birth. The best way I can say it is that she made me feel safe.
I never really reached the “I can’t wait for this to be over,” phase of pregnancy. I was determined not to get impatient as we approached September 22nd, my “due date.”
As they had the past few nights, noticeable pressure waves began around 1 AM. I spent the early morning hours still dozing and listening to some relaxing music on my iPod. My husband had to be at work at 6:30 and got up around 5:00 to begin getting ready. I was awake enough around that time to notice that pressure waves were regular and timed three of them to be about eight minutes apart each. Right after I had timed these my husband came in to kiss me goodbye before he went into work. He reminded me that he would stay home if I wanted him to, but I assured him that going in was fine.
After he left I decided to go downstairs and get some water to drink. I took my iPod and my headphones with me to continue my relaxation routine. I paused in the living room to kneel and lean over the coffee table for a pressure wave and ended up staying there for several. I had no idea how close the birthing waves were at this point, but I thought there was a noticeable difference. I suddenly did not want to be alone and called my husband to ask him to come home. It was 6:43 AM—he had been at work for 13 minutes!
My husband arrived home within a few minutes of the phone call and he used his watch to time a few of the birthing waves. I was on my knees leaning over the birth ball by now—a position I ended up using for the next several hours. After he timed three waves, he informed me they were about three minutes apart. I didn’t really believe him, but I had no sense of time at this point. I was very concerned about not giving anyone a false alarm, but I eventually agreed to let him text our midwife. I was still very afraid that I was getting everyone excited over nothing, but my husband told me I needed to stop worrying. He said “You are not allowed to worry today.” What a wonderful partner for birth!
My mom arrived and began setting up the birth pool; I greeted her in between waves but otherwise barely noticed or acknowledged her presence. It quickly became essential to me for my husband to read me some of the “mini-scripts” from my Hypnobabies materials during birthing waves. These are short paragraphs that encouraged me to relax and recall all of the techniques I had been practicing for months. Cue words like “release,” “peace,” “anesthesia,” and “open” became as natural and necessary as air to me. In between waves I talked to my husband; we laughed and joked about our excitement to meet our baby and basked in a calm, happy aura.
When my midwife arrived I asked her to check my dilation. It was the first internal exam I had during the entire pregnancy. She announced that I was 5 centimeters dilated and told me, “Today is your baby’s birthday.” I remember how surprised I was to hear that comment—it seemed too good to be true and I said to my husband, “I hope so!”
The waves began to get more intense and I decided to try sitting up on the birth ball for a while. My midwife left to get her camera, saying she would be gone no more than an hour, and my mom began filling the birth pool. My husband held me to a promise to smile after each birthing wave. If I forgot to look up at him and smile after one he would say, “You owe me something!” He acted like he was born to be my birth partner and was entirely calm, excited, and focused every single minute.
When the birth pool was nearly full, I immediately climbed in. It felt WONDERFUL and I remember thinking I never wanted to give birth on dry land. I continued to drink sips of water. The waves were getting extremely intense; I had a hypnosis track playing out loud in the room but truthfully I hardly heard anything but my husband’s voice from that point on. He continued to talk me through each wave with my hypnosis cues and in between I smiled at him, drank water, held a cold washcloth on my forehead, and prepared for the next wave.
My midwife returned after just over an hour and wanted to check my dilation. Her checking me at that point was extremely uncomfortable. I was very anxious to get to the pushing stage at this point because the waves were SO intense. I felt my hips spreading and the baby’s head was pushing very hard on my cervix. I started to chant phrases like, “It’s just pressure. It’s just pressure,” to remind myself to stay calm and embrace the sensations. My midwife said that I was 8 centimeters dilated and that I was in the home stretch; she told me to remember this was the hardest part and I was almost finished. My husband was whispering in my ear telling me, “You’re rounding third base! See how close you are! In the home stretch!” but I wasn’t really as elated as everyone else with the progress. I said, “Yeah, then I have to push!”
Soon enough, my body started pushing with the waves. If someone had told me not to push I could not have obeyed them; it was the only way to deal with the type of pressure I was feeling at the time. I told my husband, “Pushing,” and my mom went downstairs to get my midwife. During pushing I started vocalizing even more. I had been chanting, “Peace. Peace. Peace. Peace,” during pressure waves for a little while at that point, but once I got into pushing I couldn’t really form words anymore and vocalized during each wave. The sounds were another thing that I couldn’t have stopped if I tried—it was entirely essential and almost involuntary.
At my midwife’s request, I turned around to a sitting type position, leaning back against the side of the tub with my husband behind me, so we could get a better reading on the baby’s heart rate. As the baby started to crown I was unnerved by the stretching sensation. My husband was behind me with his arms under my arms supporting me as he leaned over the side of the tub and I was tightly gripping my mom’s hand to ground me on the left and gripping a fold in the pool liner on the right (it was the most stable surface I could find). The pushing was so powerful I felt I needed external stability. I could sense the excitement of everyone around me as they all watched the baby’s head emerge a little and then recede. My favorite part about this phase was how excited my husband was—he whispered in my ear over and over how close I was and that he could see our baby’s head (he was watching in a mirror that my midwife put on the bottom of the pool). He was able to help me remember that we were about to meet our baby.
The pushing phase lasted a total of thirty minutes. During this time the RN my midwife works with and the backup midwife both arrived.
Finally the baby’s entire head emerged, followed immediately by the shoulders and body. As the body slid out my midwife told me to catch my baby and I did. NOTHING can compare to that feeling. Nothing in the world. Everyone was exclaiming and smiling, my husband was tearing up, and I was experiencing the greatest relief I’ve ever felt. It was all over!
When I scooped up the baby I cradled it in my arm with my hand under the bum and immediately felt a little scrotum so I told my husband, “It’s a boy,” and he answered me, “Our little Leo!” I was not prepared for the feeling of shock I felt as I cradled this squirming, pink, squishy little baby in my arms. I kept repeating, “He’s beautiful, he’s so beautiful!” and “It’s a baby!” I told everyone that I couldn’t believe there was actually a baby in there. Meanwhile, Leo squinted up at his parents and made little mewling sounds. I don’t think my husband or I had felt more love in our entire lives.
A few minutes after Leo was born the midwives asked me to push out the placenta. It was far easier than I expected—I felt no contractions but I pushed it out in one small push, as easy as blinking. Then our midwife clamped Leo’s cord and handed my husband the scissors to “set him free.” I held Leo while everyone else held onto me and helped me to our bed. Leo cried when we got out of the water—it was cold out in the air! This made me even more thankful for our beautiful water birth that made his transition more gentle.
Once in the bed, we dried off a bit, and my husband and I curled up to admire our son. We were left pretty much alone, and didn’t notice anyone around us anyway. I gave him access to my breast and we watched as he contentedly rooted around and lifted his head to figure out how to latch. We were patient and he latched and nursed within an hour of birth. It was a couple hours after birth that Leo was weighed and measured and his newborn exam was performed. I found out later that Leo’s Apgar score was 10. (I didn’t even ask until days later—it hadn’t occurred to me because I could see how healthy he was!)
Leo was never farther away from me than by my knees on the bed. I thanked God over and over again for our successful home birth, and I thanked our midwife as well.
We snuggled in bed the rest of the afternoon, interrupted only for trips to the bathroom. The midwives checked on Leo and me every hour, and slowly the room around us was cleaned up, the pool emptied, and everything began to look normal again.
About seven hours after the birth, the three of us were alone in our home, and we spent almost a week mostly in the cocoon of our master bedroom getting to know each other as a family. We were visited by our midwife to check on us, and by my mom and sister-in-law to bring us food and help with some housework. Leo spent nearly his whole first week snuggling on his parents’ chests, nursing as much as he wanted, and thriving on our love and attention.
I am so grateful for the entire experience: grateful to the midwives and nurse who made it possible, grateful to God for mine and Leo’s health, grateful to my husband for being the best partner imaginable.
I truly believe that the birth experience we were all able to enjoy has had a huge impact on Leo’s first days of life and on mine and my husband’s ability to adapt to our new role as parents. I know that each birth is different, but I genuinely wish that every one could be as filled with joy and peace as this one was. I am forever changed and humbled that I was able to experience it.