Before I dive into our birth story, let me rewind a bit and explain why we chose to have an unmedicated home birth with Daniella.__________________________________
When I was preparing to have Aaron (Aaron's birth story), I was planning to have an unmedicated birth. But I didn’t have the right support system and had no preparation. So I did everything wrong… I was hyper anxious, due date obsessed, wearing out my body walking miles and climbing stairs, and I really didn’t understand how birth works. I remember feeling pressured to do certain interventions and feeling like I couldn’t trust myself or my body—a professional was in charge of my birth. As a result, we went through the chain of interventions and I felt so out of it for the first hours of my son’s life. I’m grateful that Aaron is here and I appreciate the team of people involved, but I knew I wanted something different this time around. I wanted Daniella’s and my birth story to be one of strength.
We considered different options including hiring a doula for the hospital or a birth center. The clincher, for Brandon especially, was watching the documentary The Business of Being Born. We chose to interview two midwifery groups in the area and to call a local birth center. When we met with Renee and Fawn from Sacramento Valley Midwifery Care, we loved their confidence and the way they talked about birth. My expressed desire to have my birth be something I DID as opposed to happening to me was met with a resounding YES! So we jumped in with both feet.
To prepare for birth, I had plenty of appointment time to learn about the physiological process of birth and discuss all my questions and concerns. During labor, if there was any indication that something wasn’t progressing well, there was a plan in place for a non-emergency transport to the hospital. Midwives come with every tool that will be needed for labor, delivery, newborn care, and mommy care except pharmaceutical interventions. If there was any negative indication, they would make the recommendation to move to the hospital. I felt completely safe, if not safer, delivering at home based on my intuition and statistics*.
Well, hopefully I’ve answered some of the questions our family and friends might have had when they found out we were doing this “crazy” thing called home birth and I can dive into our story!
I had been having some light contractions every night for two weeks and had a false alarm on Saturday, Sept. 12th (my due date). When the midwives came to check on me, I was only dilated 1 cm. They told me the baby was posterior and tension in my back would restrict labor so Brandon and I were advised to do massage and counter pressure to relieve tension and help baby move into a better position. I could tell labor was coming soon. Sunday night contractions began and stayed consistent through the night. The big difference was that I was having some bloody show. Over the next day (Monday), they grew closer together.
Monday around 5pm, I started texting Brandon, my mom, and the midwives. The contractions were getting stronger and needed more focus. Brandon returned home at 5:30pm and my parents picked up Aaron at 8pm. Brandon continued prepping birth supplies as I told the midwives to come. When the midwives, Fawn and Jamie, arrived they got to work prepping all the supplies while I labored in our bedroom with all the lights off.
They checked Daniella’s and my vitals and told us to change laboring positions every 20 minutes. I was still fairly talkative, so around 10pm, the midwives began recommending positions to make contractions stronger. Brandon and I took a walk up and down the block. I began having contractions that were so powerful I tuned everything out, it was just me, the sensation of baby getting pushed down, and my breathing.
The pressure in my back felt awful so I had someone press against my lower back through each contraction. Moving through contractions and changing positions helped me handle the intensity. Around 2am the midwives told Brandon to rest and wanted to check my progress. I was hesitant to find out where I was because it felt like I should be close to transition, close to complete and didn’t want the news of being less far along. When I heard 4 cm and that she was still posterior and would need more powerful contractions to rotate into the correct position, I felt so discouraged! (If I was in the hospital, Pitocin and epidural would probably have been discussed at that point)
I knew I had to make the most out of each contraction to expedite labor! My midwives knew it too so they started turning up the intensity. Fawn gave me a homeopathic tablet to help the baby rotate. After some intense laboring on the bed, they suggested getting in the shower. The labor pressure was so strong! As I got in the shower, Jamie sprayed a terrible mint spray in the air. When I asked her what it was she said it was an aromatherapy that would make the contractions stronger… it worked right away! Thank goodness for a powerful shower and long-lasting hot water tank!
At this point, I lost any concern over modesty and I was committed to doing whatever I needed to do in order to get baby out before I wore out! Jamie told me to breathe through each contraction from my head down through my toes. The coaching helped me visualize what I needed to do. Moving my hips and making moaning noises seemed to help me cope with the intense pressure. It also woke Brandon up from his short rest. ;)
I got out of the shower and felt so much pressure in my lower back. I told the midwives that I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom to relieve some of the pressure, but I was afraid that if I tried going it would bring on really powerful contractions. They offered me an enema (again, I was going to do whatever necessary to get through labor) and I decided to go for it. Unfortunately, I had to stay still through three powerful contractions with it in… Then, they went to the other room to give me privacy. As I went to the bathroom, I started to feel a huge contraction coming on. I pushed through it because it felt natural to do. All of a sudden, the pressure built and built and gush went my bag of waters then I felt the most intense burning pain. I started yelling, “Help! Help! Help!” The midwives and Brandon rushed in from the living room to check on me. They told me to stand up and Jamie looked and said, “And there’s the head!”
Fawn and Jamie locked eyes with me and directed me to blow. I couldn’t believe it! I was so relieved and listening intently as I blew out puffs of air while I stood, bracing myself against the wall. Then it was time to push. Brandon watched and encouraged me, telling me with his voice full of emotion how beautiful our daughter was! Daniella was born with her hand resting on her head and in less than 2 minutes! She arrived at 4:29am, surprising us all when her arrival seemed so far away only a few hours earlier!!
She came so fast that I felt almost in shock but also overwhelmed with joy and relief! I had done it! I loved that she went from the catch in the hands of my midwife immediately into my arms. I admired her beautiful head of hair and cradled her sweet little body. They asked me if I felt like I could walk to the bed. I got up and walked with the cord still intact into our bedroom—only after a completely unmedicated birth would I have been able to do that! I laid down cuddling my baby in my own bed with my husband sitting next to me. Every procedure was done with such care and attention, even down to noticing the beauty of the perfect telephone cord-like spiral umbilical cord. Daniella received all the blood from her cord and spent the first hour of her life being held by her parents instead of being washed, scrubbed, and poked.
My mom and sister arrived about 45 minutes after she was born. After plenty of time to bond, a very content baby was measured and weighed. She was 20 inches long and 8 lbs. 13 oz. I loved the quiet relaxed nature of recovering in my own bed and being able to be in charge of my labor, delivery, and the care my baby received. The house felt dark and cozy in the early morning hours. My mom brought me a hot breakfast she cooked in our kitchen while I watched Brandon hold and bond with our sweet daughter.
It was an incredible experience! I would definitely do it again this way and recommend it to any pregnant mama who is low-risk. If you are considering a home birth, the two most important things to be successful are an involved birth partner and a supportive, knowledgeable birth team. Brandon was incredible with helping me prepare, coaching and supporting me during labor, and his care afterward. I am so thankful for the midwives and student midwives at Sacramento Valley Midwifery Care. I felt so safe and at ease, the biggest fear I had during labor was fear of going to the hospital if things didn’t progress well**. I feel proud that I did it!
I should also add that the recovery has been much better than my previous experience in the hospital. I’m thankful for the support of my midwives during pregnancy, labor and birth, and post-partum. When I was having some trouble with nursing, they came over to offer assistance. At every step, they did everything they could to help make me successful.
*While over 99% of births in the U.S. take place in hospitals with some of the best technology in the world, according to the WHO, the maternal mortality rate is 28 out of 100,000 births—ranking the U.S. 55th in the world, even worse than Chile, Ukraine, Iran, Russia, Thailand, and others.
**According to a 2014 of midwife attended homebirths in the U.S. in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, the cesarean rate for midwife led homebirths is 5.2% in comparison to 31% for the national average in the U.S. The study reports better outcomes for babies as well, 97% of babies were carried to full-term and weighed an average of eight pounds, 98% were being breast fed at the 6 week visit, and only 1% of babies were transferred to the hospital after birth.