Disclaimer: this post is going to be extremely long! So grab a cup of coffee and let your boss know you’re going to be late for work 😉 I’m sharing all about our decision to have a home birth, and telling the whole birth story for our newest baby, Jojo.
Joe and I didn’t decide to have a home birth until well into this pregnancy. We were planning on a birth center birth, just like Naomi’s. Subconsciously, I think I wanted to recreate Naomi’s birth. It was beautiful; we had the most wonderful and supportive birth team (and I wanted to somehow transport back to Virginia both our student midwife and our nurse from Naomi’s birth, too, since they had since both moved away), it was a successful vbac, there were no complications, no hospital transfer, and recovery was relatively “easy.” I wanted to somehow try to guarantee all of that for our little boy’s birth. We were working with our friend and midwife Kelly Jenkins of Blue Ridge Birth, and were planning on just delivering the baby at the same birth center as Naomi.
All of my prenatal appointments were at home; I only had to leave the house for my two ultrasounds. I cannot explain how right it felt to be home for these visits. We’d sit at my kitchen table or front porch or on the couch in the living room. We’d talk about life and baby and pregnancy and, really, all the things. We’d drink tea or ice water. The girls were always right there (for better or for worse) and they helped with measuring my belly, listening to the heartbeat, taking my blood pressure. Naomi asked almost every day if Kelly and Anne (our apprenticing midwife) were coming over. Each appointment lasted at least an hour. Kelly and her team were so invested in our lives and in our family.
Over the course of my pregnancy, home began to feel like the place to birth. At the same time, each time I visited the birth center for my ultrasounds, it didn’t feel as cozy and intimate and safe as it had for Naomi’s birth. I didn’t know the staff and there was a growing disconnect. The deciding factor was whether or not our home could withstand the weight of the birthing tub; a water birth (or at least laboring in the tub) was a must-have for me. Once Joe was satisfied that we could set up a birth tub AND fill it with water, we decided we were going for a home birth. This was about 6 weeks before my due date. So we started to collect our supplies and make plans and determine what sort of atmosphere we wanted at home! I decided I wanted the girls to witness (if they wanted to) their little brother’s birth, if I delivered during the day. Along with Joe and the girls, I wanted my mom and sister(s) [whichever wanted] to be there, and our birth team, which would be Kelly, Anne (apprenticing midwife), and Hillary (birth assistant and certified nurse midwife).
So, home birth it was, and I’m so, so grateful that we made this decision! Having now experienced 1) a hospital birth (which ended with a c-section) and a subsequent 1-week stay in hospital, 2) a natural vbac at a birth center, and 3) a second natural vbac at home, I can honestly say that our home birth was by far the most wonderful. Each resulted in a healthy baby, and for that I am so incredibly thankful. But the home birth was so natural, pure, and intimate.
Now, time to share the actual birth story!
For my previous two children, I delivered 12 and 7 days late. I was fully expecting to deliver late with our little boy. I figured it was just something that my body does. At the same time, I was hoping I’d go early; the last few weeks were brutal…I had gained over 40 lbs, my belly was huge, my mobility was severely limited, I woke up with new aches and pains every day, and I was just ready to have that baby.
I started seeing a chiropractor around 36 weeks, just after deciding to have a home birth, which was incredible. She helped a lot with my aching, and helping to prepare my body and pelvis for labor and delivery. I started doing pelvic rocks/going on my hands and knees as frequently as I remembered throughout my days. I had a prenatal massage at 37 weeks, and a modified induction massage at 38.5 weeks. At 37 weeks I amped up my raspberry leaf tea drinking, began inserting (yuck) and ingesting evening primrose oil capsules, and started with Dr. Christopher’s birth prep. The days were slow and there were no signs of labor. I expected to deliver at least 1 week late.
At 39.3 weeks, on a Tuesday, I had a chiropractor appointment, during which she showed Joe some induction points he could massage on my ankles, legs, and hands. He worked on those points later that afternoon (among other things, haha, which, if your body is ready, can help get labor going). Later that evening, my sister in law brought dinner and we all watched a movie. During the movie, contractions started, but I wasn’t quite sure they were real contractions. I hopped on the birth ball for the rest of the movie and didn’t tell Joe or Abigail what was going on…I didn’t want it to be a false alarm.
When we went to bed on Tuesday, I was still having contractions and they were closer together. I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to download a contraction app and keep track of them. I ended up staying up ALL night tracking my contractions, which were 5-10 minutes apart and lasting around 1 minute. I was convinced I was in labor, since this was exactly how labor started with Zoe and Naomi. I texted Kelly and my mom to give them a heads up. However, around 5 am, I fell asleep. When I woke up about 1 hour later, I was severely disappointed. My contractions had apparently stopped and I was able to sleep. I was thankful for the sleep but bummed labor had seemingly stopped.
All day Wednesday I had contractions off and on, anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes apart. My weekly prenatal appointment fell on that Wednesday. I had one or two contractions while Kelly and Anne were here. We decided against checking for dilation; I wanted to be blissfully ignorant rather than upset if I weren’t dilated at all. My mom had her bags packed and was waiting for me to give her the word to drive down from New Jersey. Despite it seeming like maybe this was just prodromal labor, my mom decided to drive down Wednesday evening. I was able to sleep Wednesday evening, but woke up about every 45 mins for a contraction.
On Thursday morning Kelly texted to see how my night had been. Since I had been experiencing contractions for over 24 hours, we decided then that Kelly would stop by around 10 am to check for dilation and possibly sweep my membranes. My contractions were still spaced about 30 mins apart, and I had to “breath through” them (in retrospect, they were oh-so-mild compared to what was to come…).
When she arrived and checked me, we were surprised and delighted to find that I was 5 cm dilated and my cervix was so soft she could easily stretch me to 7 cm! BUT the baby’s head was not yet engaged, which is probably why I wasn’t yet in active labor. I had a chiropractor appointment previously scheduled for 11:30 am, and we decided I’d go to that appointment, in hopes the visit would help my pelvis to open and baby to engage. My mom and I drove the 20 mins for the appointment, after which we decided to get smoothies at a local coffee shop. By the time we were at the coffee shop, my contractions had picked up with such intensity and frequency (about 5 minutes apart, lasting over 1 minute), and I had to pause while walking from and to the car.
We arrived home around 12:45 pm, and I was texting with Kelly. I had a particularly intense contraction around 1 pm and she decided it was time for her to come back to my house. The birth team was assembled by about 1:30, and I was officially in active labor. Contractions were about every 3 minutes and lasted over 1 minute long (and some were back-to-back). I labored in my room for the first 2-3 hours, mostly standing and leaning over my dresser with Kelly/Anne/Hillary close by, ready to apply pressure to my lower back. Despite baby NOT being posterior, I still had pretty intense back labor. Around 3 pm I started to need Joe’s coaching and strength as the contractions began to get more intense.
At about 2:45 pm, we decided I’d get checked again. I was 9 cm and completely effaced. At 3 pm Kelly broke my water. After laboring a bit more in my room, I decided to get into the birth tub around 3:40. The contractions and pressure had gotten so intense, I didn’t think I could keep going on. Stepping into the tub provided instant, wonderful relief. It’s amazing how the body relaxes when in water; I was able to endure the increasingly painful contractions so much better with the comfort of the water. The girls were in our living room with us while I was in the birth tub. Zoe’s tender touch and Naomi’s sweet giggling were much needed relief between contractions. I’m so happy they were able to experience the birth alongside me.
Around 4, I tried pushing for about 10 minutes, but it was hurting really, really bad. Kelly determined there was a cervical rim around the baby’s head, and had me to stop pushing for a bit to give my body a rest. I rested between contractions without pushing for about 15 minutes, but then suddenly began to experience something I hadn’t experienced with Naomi: the intense urge to push that I could not resist. It was as if a tractor trailer was plummeting through my body with no brakes. I couldn’t NOT push. It was hell. I wanted to resist, I thought about calling an ambulance, I wanted to scream obscenities (#butkids), I wanted it to be over.
Something clicked inside of me: the faster and more effective my pushing, the faster it’d be over. So at 4:26 I started pushing. I tried to concentrate really hard on “bearing down”, giving three effective pushes per contraction, and not pushing out my mouth. I pushed like this for about 8 minutes, and finally little Joseph was born! I started pushing while on my back, and when his head finally came out, his body didn’t seem to want to come. After investigating, Kelly realized his arm was up by his face. They quickly flipped me over to my hands and knees, and Kelly had to do a little bit of wiggling to baby, but she was able to move his arm out of the way and his body quickly came out.
I cannot put to words the relief I felt 1) after his head was out and 2) when he was in my arms. Oh my goodness, what a sweet moment in time, holding my baby with my husband and two daughters, and a team of people I trust with my life, right by my side. It really was magical.
And that’s it, little Joseph’s (Jojo, Joey) birth story! If you’ve made it this far, congratulations (and thank you for reading)! I’d LOVE to hear your birth story or answer any questions you might have about our home birth! Please ask away! Our little boy is now 4 weeks old, and I’m so grateful to everyone who helped bring our little boy into the world! We had such a wonderful experience with Kelly and her team! And how precious are these photos, taken by my wonderful sister in law, Abigail?
What I loved most about our home birth…
1) The relaxing environment…we were at home, in our own space, with our children and people we knew and trusted surrounding us.
2) The active support of our midwife and her team. They were so incredibly alert and attentive to my needs. They watched me the entire time they were at my house, ready to spot anything abnormal. I felt so incredibly comfortable and safe knowing they were there with everything they needed.
3) The absence of feeling like I was on the clock. My hospital birth was quite different.
4) I was able to sip my labor aid and munch on protein bars throughout labor, which kept me hydrated and gave me much needed energy!
5) The ability to have my mom, my sister, my other sisters via FaceTime, the birth team, my husband, and my daughters all present and with me the whole time. It was such a sacred, intimate experience.
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