Valentina’s Home Birth Story
Disclaimer: This is the story of my daughter’s home birth, one year ago today. Currently only 1% of US babies are born at home, but there is a notable upswing in this direction. This is as back-to-basics as it gets, my friends. We have gained such a respectable understanding for the birth process in our (now) three home births and truly appreciate the way normal birth progresses when it is undisturbed and allowed to unfold in it’s own time. There may be a point or two throughout the story that raises your eyebrows. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I woke up on the morning of Sunday April 6th feeling some very wimpy contractions. I wouldn’t even call them contractions, really. More like barely noticeable dull twinges. I knew two things. My contractions may have been due to all of the preparation Frank & I had been doing the day before, moving things around, straightening and organizing but one thing was for sure. I don’t ever have preterm labor, or spotting, or false labor. When my body decides to do something, it’s full force the first time, so I was sure this was the real thing. I was 38 weeks pregnant – and I had the green light.
I walked over to where Frank was sleeping. He looked up at me. I smiled him a big “good morning”, and told him today was THE day. “The day for what?” he asked. “Uh, THE day” I repeated. “OH!” Suddenly he was paying attention, and demanded to know what was going on, and if I was in labor. I told him that surprisingly, not much was going on yet. I had lost some mucous plug and had a weak contraction here & there. And yes, I already called the midwife! Trouble was, she was not answering either her home or cell phone, which was slightly alarming.
(For those of you unaware, our previous midwife missed our last daughter’s birth. So did my husband. *my fault* I had a completely unsuspected 2.5 hour labor, so I gave birth to Francesca in my spacious shower, with two amazing doulas and my almost three year old son, who was of enormous support. He was well prepared!)
I was hoping Rebecca was at church and I was hoping Mennonite church services only last one hour. Our midwife, Rebecca, is Mennonite and brings a most calm & experienced presence when she walks through the door. It was an easy decision to place our third pregnancy & birth in her care. Rebecca’s fee includes our complete prenatal care through the pregnancy as well as the birth and 6 weeks of postpartum care for myself and the baby.
I then proceeded to alert the rest of my team about my impending birth. A phone list had been prepared along with a small shrine of trinkets and candles, well wishes and prayers set up on my bathroom counter top from my blessing way ceremony, only weeks before. The birth team included:
Holly: Bradley Method teacher, retired RN and mother of 4 (2 born at home)
Sam: International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, 17 year La Leche League leader, LPN and also mother of 4 (3 of which were HBAC’s – home births after cesarean).
Shayla: One of my best friends! (videographer for the day and pharmacist in real life, should the need arise for a dose of Sarcasma, our drug of choice)
My crew: Frank (babymaker and in charge of filling the labor pool and keeping the birth team happy) Christian (big brother and in charge of announcing the sex of the baby upon arrival – age 5.5) and Francesca (big sister-to-be – age 2.5).
Lisa (and 17 month old Truman): Kindly offering her mad photography skills so as to best capture the days events, with Truman, the little nursling in tow.
Do I have some cool friends, or what? I tell the birth team via phone to stay on stand-by. I’m not ready for anyone to come over at this point. Nothing worth mentioning is happening yet. Frank takes the kids out to eat, while I sit and email, vacuum, breathe in the day and relax. Still nothing. I finally get in touch with Rebecca, who insists on heading out to my house pronto, because of my speedy track record in labor (she lives 1.5 hours away).
After a while, the family returns and my birth team starts arriving. I’m feeling the slightest bit of performance anxiety at this point, as I make a mental note that two of my attendees have children to get home to bed that night, so this simply cannot take all day. I decide to take matters into my own hands and wonder which natural induction technique I can utilize at this very moment. Nipple stimulation? Perhaps. Sex? Completely inappropriate with so many bystanders. Blue Cohosh? Shoot – fresh out! I decide on the aforementioned nipple stim technique, that proves to be WAY more effective than Pitocin itself (not that I’d know – but 50 minutes from this point, the baby was OUT!).
I ask my recently weaned daughter if she’d like to nurse. She delights at the thought and takes me up on the offer. She seems so long in my lap, legs hanging over the rocker, and I nurse her to sleep, as Shayla works on the labor inducing reflex points on my ankles, down in the man cave (Frank’s designated hang out). While nursing Francesca, I have three WICKED contractions.
Woah! I wabble back upstairs after I hand her off to Frank and my instinct tells me to head to the toilet. More mucous plug, like the egg whites from 4 eggs on the toilet paper, tainted with blood. “Good stuff” says Holly in a reassuring tone. “That is a sign that your cervix is thinning”, she says. After a couple more Earth shaking contractions, I walk intently to the birth pool that Frank has been filling, bucket by bucket. It’s HOT, too hot for a baby to be born into, so Rebecca instructs him to go get some cold water now. Frank obediently dumps several cold buckets into the pool. As the cold water grazes my thigh on the way in, I’m completely sure Frank has no idea how uncomfortable that just felt, but I decide to let it go, since he’s been working his buns off for me.
Contractions seem to be spaced far apart and I rest my forehead on the side of the kiddie swimming pool, as Sam places cold wash cloths on my neck and forehead. Doulas are God’s gift to women, by the way. Husbands, no matter how wonderful, will never ever understand what a woman goes through as she gives birth. THIS is where a doula comes in. A doula is a birth professional, hired by the pregnant couple to carry out the intended birth plans, whatever they may be. Doulas rock, and have this innate gift to say the right things at the right times (emotional support) or to apply counter pressure on your hips or sacrum when you need it (non-medical physical support). Every woman deserves a doula and mine have been enormous blessings.
A few more contractions later, and I’m feeling the urge to push. I bare down, and Sam whispers a gentle reminder not to push too hard. We want to avoid any tearing, but the urge is too much and I bare down some more. I hear the shutter from Lisa’s camera snapping away. I hear some whispers from the birth team and I hear my daughter offering little Truman a toy. Everyone is quiet and so am I. I wait. The sun is pouring in the room. Another mean contraction and a mass of quick confusion, which I figured out later was Rebecca struggling over the edge of the tub to get a good reach on me and the baby’s head. The baby’s head was emerging but she was still too far away. I was on my hands & knees at this point. I hear Rebecca say “Get her out!”. Since we did not know the sex of the baby, I knew she meant ME, so I stood up, gave one more push and delivered our baby into Rebecca’s loving hands.
Rebecca turned the slimy new baby toward Christian, who announced “It’s a girl”, as if he already knew and my new baby was passed through my legs, as I sat back down in the water and held her for the first time. She let out a few cries to let us know she was okay, and I just sat and stared at her face. She was a good size, alert, with a full head of dark hair, and before I knew it, Rebecca stood over me to place a newborn hat on her head. Our new baby never left my arms.
At this point, the baby nursed for the first time and I remember being impressed at how quickly and efficiently she latched on. After a short while my doulas encouraged me to deliver her placenta. When the placenta had been delivered, and after her cord stopped pulsating, Christian cut her cord. We all gathered around the birth tub to talk for a while and observe baby ‘no name’. We chatted about what to name her and how the doulas almost missed the birth this time. Everything had fallen into place just perfectly. I passed the baby off at some point, and got out of the tub (now looking like Merlot) to take a shower.
Afterward, we spent some time getting to know our baby, as Rebecca completed her thorough newborn check and Shayla journaled the days events. We took some more pictures and slowly, the members of our birth team headed home one by one. We were left that night, as a family of five, with a new baby girl to raise and love.
Valentina - 38 weeks gestation
20 3/4 inches