The most amazing day of my life was September 27, 2017. This was the morning my third son was born at home, with the help of my husband, and our midwives Deb and Erin. The birthdays of my older children were also special, but not like this. Their birth stories are clouded by the fear, trauma, and violence we experienced by our hospital births.
It all started with a lack of patience on my part and a little bit of Pitocin when Josephine was 10 days late. Before I knew it, the alarms were going off because her heart rate was erratic, on came the bright lights, in came a bunch of people and a vacuum. She was pulled out fast, injured her head and neck, and I suffered a 4th-degree tear. Because I did not have an epidural, I was forced to be removed from my baby for two hours to get operated on.
When I was pregnant with Cameron, my second baby, I was determined (again) to have a lovely natural birth. I chose a midwife group at a local hospital thinking Iwould be supported and cared for. After a few visits with them, I was encouraged to set up a meeting with the supervising OB because they were concerned about a reoccurrence of the tearing. I obliged, unfortunately, and left the meeting unsure of myself and my husband was terrified of a repeat birth experience.
There was the talk of c-section, but I wanted nothing to do with it. At 39 weeks, they requested an ultrasound to see how big the baby was getting. Although the baby looked good,they said my placenta looked abnormal which resulted in another ultrasound. As a result, they convinced me the baby was in the 99thpercentile, over 9 pounds already, and I should schedule a c-section immediately to avoid a tear or cause harm to the baby. Now the anxiety and fear set in.
At this point I had no support left, my family and care providers abandoned any idea that a natural birth was possible and portrayed to me the risks outweighed the rewards. Reluctantly, after the tears dried, I called to schedule the major surgery. Even after the IV fluids plumped Cameron up, he was born at 8 pounds 2 ounces. Yes, well shy of the scary 9-10 pounds they instilled in my support team and me. In all likelihood, he was probably only in the seven-pound range without those extra fluids. So much for accuracy of the ultrasound.
The surgery was horrific, and I was petrified. The room was cold, bright, and I was strapped down to the table. This must be how they film those scary alien movies where they abduct and operate on humans. Although no pain, I could feel my body rocking back and forth, as the doctors’ hands forcefully ripped the baby from my abdomen. This was not birth!
I still feel guilt and outrage at my decision to do that to my baby, unnecessarily; they didn’t even give me a chance to try. Before I even became pregnant again, after educating myself and replaying over and over how and why things went wrong, I realized there was nothing wrong with me or my babies. There were no reasons for these “complications and risks.” I swore I would have a natural birth with the next baby.
We met with (let’s just call him Dr. W) and Deb Studey at a birth center to see what they thought about the possibility of having the baby in an out-of-hospital birth center. They both said the same thing, “it’s entirely possible,” but they had never experienced a case like mine, a 4th degree tear followed by a c-section. Historically, it’s usually one or the other.
Originally, we decided to birth in the hospital with the presence of Deb, as our midwife, to assist in the birth. But it just didn’t feel right to me, so at around 20 weeks I told my husband I wanted to have the baby at home. In my heart, I could feel that is where I was supposed to be. I was unsure of what his reaction would be but was pleasantly surprised when he supported my decision with the confidence that I could do this. He told me that he saw how he didn’t support me in the last birth because he was afraid of what happened with Josephine, but that the c-section wasn’t any better. I was elated!
All that was left was to tell Dr. W and Deb. They both thought it was a great idea. Dr. W reinforced that I was fit and healthy with a strong baby, and Deb reinforced my confidence in my body. As a result, Deb became my primary caregiver, and Dr. W was the backup. The plan was to see Dr. W a few times the rest of the pregnancy “just in case.” The dual visits between Deb and Dr. W continued throughout the pregnancy.
All signs pointed to an early birth, but wouldn’t you know it, the baby was late. However, this time I was prepared and patient. After stopping work at 40 weeks, I relaxed, got the house ready, but kept thinking to myself that this might be crazy. Nobody knew we were having a home birth because my mom considered me high risk, and my dad was already nervous about the baby coming. I knew they would freak out, so we kept it a secret, which was not easy. My husband reassured and supported me that we are sticking to the home-birth plan.
For a few days I had labored on and off, but on Tuesday the 26th things became a little more intense, so the kids went over to my mom’s for a sleepover just in case things progressed. After waking up from a nap, I noticed my contractions had disappeared again and thought nothing of it. A short time later, I got up from the couch and saw I had either peed my pants, or my water broke. Deb was convinced my water broke, but still no contractions. So I started to clean up around the house while my husband tried to nap.
Then the contractions started to progress quickly. After I woke my husband up, I hung out very relaxed, ate, and watched the new Beauty and The Beast on Netflix. Deb and Erin arrived around 10:00 pm, at which I was already 7 cm! I was shocked because I was having very little pain and felt pretty good! The plan was to utilize the birth tub for laboring but not delivery. So, I got in the birth tub for about 40 minutes, which was a beautiful, and very entertaining time, to relax until it was time to move to the bedroom for delivery. Being at home and relaxed made the contractions easy to get through.
The midwives and my husband were drinking coffee, and we sat around chatting in between contractions. When I started to feel like pushing, I got out of the tub, and we all headed into the bedroom because we had a plan! To prevent tearing Deb had walked us through the delivery and how we were going to control the birth using certain positions, stretches, etc. many times before the baby came, so I felt very prepared.
I let my body take over and dulled my brain. What had felt like pain in the hospital, was a feeling of power that I welcomed with each contraction. I had been pushing for almost two hours in multiple positions on the bed, but I could feel it wasn’t right, and the fear began to creep in that I could not get the baby out. I felt an innate urge to squat. Deb and Erin were hesitant because this could cause the baby to come out too fast and they would have a harder time controlling the situation. But they listened to me, and we all got on the floor, my husband holding me up for support.
With Deb helping with stretches, oil, and compresses, Erin listening to baby’s heart, and me controlling my pushing, things moved along relatively smoothly. Ten minutes later, me wrapped in my husband’sarms, my perfect 22 inch, 8 pounds 12-ounce baby boy was in my arms – I did it!
It was the most beautiful moment of my life. This little space in time changed everything for me, the way I see myself, my family, and my husband. We did this miraculous thing together, I have never been more proud of us as a couple, and I will always remember the look on his face when he told me “you did it!” and kissed my head.
The rest was just as lovely; we got to lay together, all three of us, loving each other while Deb and Erin fed me and cleaned up. I don’t think I had ever felt so good, so right with the world. Even though this memory is an incredibly happy one for me, it will always bring about bittersweet thoughts that I could have had this moment two more times with my other children.
I hope my story will empower more women to follow their hearts and birth the way they choose. For me, I was safer at home, with lamplight and the smell of coffee, then I ever was in the hospital with all the technology and medicine there is to offer. Thank you, Deb, and Erin for making my dream come true, and my husband for loving and trusting me, I could never love you more.