If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’ve read part 1 in this series, and that you aren’t too freaked out to continue reading. Yay for you! Thanks for sticking with me. I love this story. Have I said that yet? I really do. When I was pregnant, I think I read a zillion birth stories, starting with watching A Baby Story before I had Celia, and ending with all the home birth stories on Pinterest. There is so much of this stuff out there, friends. If you or someone you know is expecting, I highly recommend you look for encouraging birth stories, both those that match what you’re looking for and those that don’t. It’s amazing how a mother’s (or father’s) insight can help shape what you want out of your birth.
**There are some intense pictures below. Be nice and not judgy- I’m pretty sure none of these are flattering. And there’s a pretty gross action-shot, so view at your own risk.**
Which leads me to part 2 of our story. In an ironic twist (sort of ironic, sort of not, when you consider how anti-norm we are), the hubs is actually the one who got me thinking about home birth. He watched The Business of Being Born before I did, and he educated himself on all the points to argue with me when I said things like, “of course infant mortality rates are higher in the US than anywhere else in the developed world- we’re delivering more babies that otherwise wouldn’t even survive to the third trimester,” and “of course there’s a lower cesarean rate for home births- you can’t do a cesarean at home.” Having said all that, as usual, my leaning on conventionally spoken points without my own diligent research didn’t hold water to his statistically-proven and scientifically accurate arguments. After educating myself, and basically losing my mind arguing with Dr. Jerkface, I decided home birth was the right thing for us to do.
So where did I start? I needed to find a midwife with only 4 weeks to go in my pregnancy. (Also ironic, because the whole “40 weeks” thing is also a guideline in the midwifery world, and not an exact science.) And like any good HR professional, I planned to interview until I found the right one. I compiled questions based on my own experience, and based on what I knew from my research. Here are a few of the questions I asked:
- How many babies do you deliver in a month? In a year? How many patients are you seeing right now?
- What do you consider high-risk?
- Have you ever lost a baby in delivery? Can you tell me the circumstances?
- What is your current transport rate? (This is the # of patients who wind up delivering in a hospital vs. at home)
- When do you decide to transport?
- What’s your experience with shoulder dystocia, breach delivery, and cord prolapse?
- Any behaviors you hate to see in your patients?
- Ideal delivery? Worst imaginable? What do those look like?
- Do you like me? Do I like you? (This was more in my head than in the actual conversation. But it counts as a really important one.)
I wound up finding the perfect midwife for me. She answered every one of those questions with unbelievable confidence, without making me feel like a jerk for asking them. And the big one- she preached about diet (so of course it was love at first talk). It always infuriated me that in my doctor’s office, women who were talking about gestational diabetes sat in the waiting room drinking giant frappuccinos and eating Doritos, and that our doctor wasn’t talking to them about diet and its effects on their babies. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for endangering your health, blood pressure, and unborn child as part of your human rights. I just think it’s an important aspect for a healthcare provider to include as part of educating his patients. Not to mention the effects obesity and diabetes have on my insurance premiums. But I digress.)
So I hired Talitha, who is a saint among women, and who helped open my eyes to so much more than health during pregnancy and postpartum. She had me keep a food journal and asked me to write my previous birth experiences in detail. Based on what I told her, she had me start on Floridex (a plant-based iron supplement to raise my hemoglobin levels) and liquid chlorophyll, which helps reduce postpartum hemorrhaging (which I struggled with after both girls). She did the same tests my doc did- took my blood pressure, tested my pee for protein and sugar, checked my hemoglobin regularly (since I was always a little anemic), and listened for baby’s heartbeat. In our visits, we chatted about my energy levels, my sleep quality, and my emotional well-being. She asked how I felt about the kids and my relationship with my husband in relation to the new baby. We talked about who would watch the girls during the birth (I thought they could stay with us. Wrong.). I left every visit feeling more prepared for what was coming.
And my due date came. And went. James was late. And I was seriously ticked off. I like order and predictability, and this kid was cramping my style. Not cool, James. Fortunately, I was able to work from home and manage some good baby prep in the downtime. The hubs took me for walks, and we went to a ton of my stores to get the remaining items on our registry, while seeing coworkers, which boosted my spirit. Then, after a long day of shopping, it happened. My water broke. I called Talitha, and the hubs went to get the girls from school. I put the soup I’d been planning for all of us in the crockpot, laid out snacks for the midwives, burned my yummy aromatherapy candles, and put on my John Mayer Pandora station. I double-checked all my supplies, which every midwife will tell you to order before week 38. I left room for Talitha’s supplies: oxygen tank and masks for baby and me, blood pressure cuff, doppler device, and suturing supplies. I had a bag packed and by the door in case we needed to transport. My bed was made with a plastic shower curtain under fitted sheets that I planned on throwing away, and my tub was prepped with tons of towels that didn’t really matter. There was literally nothing we hadn’t thought of. I. Was. Stoked. Seriously. This was the best thing ever! I went into labor by myself! No pitocin! I am a goddess. Look at what this body can do.
Except not. Because 5 hours later, I was still stuck at 4 centimeters dilated and leaking a river of amniotic fluid, feeling royally pissed off. I got in the tub to ease the pain of contractions, and they slowed down. The water felt great. For a minute. And then I was just mad that I wasn’t progressing. So out of the tub, to walk around the house with two of Talitha’s assistants, who encouraged me with sweet words, rubbed my back, and helped me squat to bring the baby down into position and encourage dilation. She urged me into yoga positions to help bring him down, and those helped. But dang. They hurt. I decided I hate yoga. I also decided that having the girls present for all this was the worst idea ever. So thankfully, my incredibly gracious friend Laura (who has two girls of her own), offered to keep the girls overnight for us. I have never been more grateful to take a friend up on an offer of kindness than I was that day. Holy smokes.
With the girls out of the house, I could do all the shouting I wanted. And that was a lot. Like, a whole lot. For the next two hours I basically screamed and yelled through the pain. Poor hubs. The only times I’ve ever been mean to him in the entirety of our marriage have been on the verge of delivering our sons. And I’m pretty sure my level of meanness in those moments makes up for my lack of meanness the entire rest of the time. I was hot, so I got naked (which is kind of standard for home birth, really). But that didn’t make it better. So they put ice packs on my back. Not ice packs really, just bags of frozen vegetables. Which are basically the same thing. I tried getting back in the water, and that didn’t help. In fact, it just made me crazier.
In addition to watching The Business of Being Born, I watched the follow-ups to it, which include 4 separate short documentaries, all amazing. One of those was a focus on celebrity birth stories. Gisele Bundchen does this “ride the waves of labor” thing, which I found to be totally unrealistic, but Cindy Crawford spoke through basically the exact same experience I had. The water birth thing looks amazing, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Personally, I needed gravity. I needed to let my boys find their way out without fighting them. So I got out of the water and onto the floor by my bed. It was hard. I was crying, screaming, begging to go to the hospital. I just didn’t believe I could do it. After all my research and all my logical reasoning, suddenly all the voices of those people who told me I couldn’t do it came into my head.
“If something happens to your baby, you’ll never forgive yourself.”
“Having a vaginal birth is no small task, even for a woman built bigger than you. It’s possible you’ll be too small to deliver a baby this size.”
“You’ll want the drugs. Hospitals allow you to have access to all the things you might need as soon as you need them, and you don’t want to have to drive in an emergency to get to them. What if you’re too late?”
“Why would you not want to take advantage of the wonders of modern medicine? You know women died in childbirth before all this, right?”
I was scared. I was scared for me, and I was scared for James. I thought I was going to die. I’m a tough cookie, but y’all, the pain was so freaking bad. Whenever I hear people talk about home birth in these sweet, dulcet tones, my first thought is, “I wish I was you, girlfriend. Because for me, it hurt like HELL.” Go figure, pushing 10% of your body weight out of your vagina is not exactly conducive to relaxation. In the midst of the absolute worst pain I’ve ever felt, and while I was yelling some pretty strong words at my husband (pretty sure I said “You! Stop talking! You are not helping!!! No more talking for you. Starting right now.”) I wanted to quit. I told Talitha I couldn’t do it. I was ready to give up and go to the hospital. I wanted the drugs, and the strongest ones they had. Her response, calmly and coolly, told me exactly what I needed to hear: “Lauren, I’ll take you to the hospital right now. It’s fine. You’re fine. The only thing you need to know is that you’ll deliver this baby in the car on the way there.”
That pretty much did it. As bad as all this crap hurt, I shore nuff did not want to birth a baby in the backseat of our Yukon. That was not on my agenda at all. I gathered my strength, prayed for a second, and remembered what my husband told me in the beginning of our dating days:
“I knew you had to be the mother of my children when I saw the kind of mother you were to yours.”
A good mother finishes the drill. Not to say that a good mother can’t give up and get the drugs, but in this instance, that’s what I told myself. A good mother, the one who impressed my husband, the one who always puts the kids first, the one who doesn’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks or says or does, doesn’t give up just because it feels crappy. Friends, I got out of my head, and pushed three times. Seriously. Three, great big pushes. And there he was. All 9 lbs. 2 oz. of him.
That was the best part. In birthing the girls, I had such severe reactions to the pain medication and anesthesia that I couldn’t hold them. After nine months of waiting, someone else held my baby before me. That was my one request for this birth- whatever it takes, I want to hold my baby first. And I got it. I have never felt better in my life. No one whisked him off to wipe him down or cut his cord or give him tests. They just let me hold him, and let him crawl up my belly to nurse, and left us undisturbed. It was so beautiful. That’s when I felt it- the feeling people tell you about but that you don’t believe until you do it yourself. I had this unbelievable high (really, it’s a surge of serotonin that comes from a natural delivery), and it literally made me forget all the pain of labor and birth.
There was some other stuff- I did lose a lot of blood, and Talitha gave me a shot of Pitocin to stop the bleeding. She and her team took care of all the after-delivery excitement (repairs, stitches- for which I did have local anesthesia, placental examination, etc), and they finally cut the cord and weighed my little man. They examined him, kept a close eye on me, helped me get a shower and made sure I ate, then cleaned up, started the laundry, and tucked me and the hubs into bed with the little dude. That was it. They left our house at 5:15 am, and we were happy and warm and healthy together. No interruptions, no crazy tests, nothing. And we stayed in our house for weeks without leaving to do anything. It was incredible.
I had tremendous help. My sweet friend Ashlee came by to help me with breastfeeding, and my dear friend Whitney, who gets our crazy eating habits, made us a butternut squash soup and salad. My friends Nicki, Chasity, Kimberly, and Dalise sent up some mad prayers to cover us with love and support. We have such amazing support. The hubs’ parents came and took the girls for a week so we could bond with James in peace. My parents came and helped with housework. And I relaxed while hubs took care of everything else. It was winter in Nashville, and we had the luxury of staying in our house and watching the snow fall, while bonding with the little dude in complete peace and solitude. I have no regrets. Not a single one. I finally had the birth experience I wanted- it wasn’t perfect. And I wasn’t the tough champion I thought I’d be. But I did it! My recovery was a breeze, so much better than either previous birth. I loved it so much that I did it again (with a much easier labor and delivery process, thanks to Hypnobirthing) 16 months later, in a different city, with a different midwife, and many of the same awesome feelings.
Here’s the thing friends- no one’s going to like all the decisions we make. But our bodies are our own. No one has jurisdiction over them but us. When we educate ourselves with the facts, surround ourselves with supportive, encouraging friends (even those who think what we’re doing is cray-cray), we have the power to overcome whatever authority someone else tries to exert over us, especially as it pertains to our health. Don’t let anyone bully you into doing something you don’t believe in. If you have questions, ask them. If someone dances around the answer, or if your gut tells you there’s more to the story- go find it. Find what you’re looking for. Dig deeper. Fight for you. Live without regrets. The only person who has to live your life is you, so love every minute of it.