Living in Wesley, Iowa, which is a rural area where everyone does everything the same (or at least that’s how it seems) already had me feeling upset. It felt like I was answering question after question about planning a home birth.
What happens if something goes wrong? Is it safe?
Everyone had concerns, and I did not feel like I had support from anyone other than my great birth team.
My guess date, Oct. 2, 2017, came and went, and I was feeling anxious. At 41 weeks, I was tired of people constantly voicing their input, and I started to doubt the birth process and the decision I had made to have a home birth. What if I ended up being induced at a hospital? In my mind, that would have ruined everything.
I was desperate to get labor going. It was 13 days after my guess date. I tried everything—I ate a lot of pineapple, which is said to help start labor, went on a long walk with my husband, and finally, tried nipple stimulation (which I had learned about in the childbirth class I took). During the nipple stimulation, I started having contractions!
My husband and I took our dog for a walk, and I was timing the contractions: every 10 minutes. As the evening progressed, the contractions grew stronger and closer together. What hurt even more than the contractions was the burning in my thighs. It was so uncomfortable to sit, so I paced around the house most of the night. I was certain I would be in labor for at least 24 hours, and I didn’t want my doula or midwives to show up too soon—especially since they lived three hours away—so I avoided calling right away.
We were planning on using a blow-up birthing tub I had purchased. I kept asking my husband to fill it with water, but we didn’t want to do it too soon and have the water get cold, so I took a bath in our bathtub. My doula showed up at about 6 a.m. the next morning. She had me go up and down the stairs and helped me focus through contractions. She must have called the midwives to come. At that time, I wanted to be alone in the bathroom. I remember using the toilet and seeing blood and freaking out, but my doula assured me that it was normal. Soon after that, my mucus plug came out.
I took another bath, and my husband started filling the birth tub (at the time, we couldn’t know that I wouldn’t end up using it). I felt the urge and started pushing in our bathtub. My bag of waters hadn’t broken and they were emerging from me, so I looked with a mirror (I found that really neat). The doula then called my midwife’s apprentice to tell her we could see the head. She and her friend (also a midwife) were about 15 minutes away. They got here and, shortly after, my daughter’s head emerged.
I was in the side-lying position, but her head was smaller than her chest, so her head was out for four minutes before the apprentice called to her friend to come help. They positioned me on all fours and the rest of her body emerged. The time was 9:25 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2017.
I stood up, looked down and remember thinking it looked like a murder scene. I was not prepared to see that much blood. We went into our bedroom. I sat on a birthing stool to deliver the placenta. I got into bed with my husband, just admiring our perfect child. He chose her name: Wren.
My midwife arrived late, but I wasn’t upset since I had so much help. They wanted me to pee and thought it would be easiest for me to pee in a warm bath, which sounded nice, as I had blood all over my legs. They were helping me to the bathroom when I got weak in the knees and started to stumble. They had my lie down in the hallway with my legs elevated for what felt like an eternity.
I had been vomiting the entire time I was in labor, so they thought that might be why I got light headed. Eventually, my vitals were good, and I got up and went back to the bed. They were going to make me try to urinate in the bed on absorbent pads, but I couldn’t bare myself to do that. I couldn’t stand the thought of using a catheter either, so they let me get out of bed and try to pee in a pot on the floor, which worked. I was not prepared for the burning that came along with urinating. I had two small tears on the sides, which I suppose is why it burned so bad.
We then cut the umbilical cord, weighed Wren, took measurements, did ink footprints, and filled out some paperwork. The birthing team prepared breakfast for my husband and I, started laundry, and quietly left. I laid in bed skin to skin with Wren, breastfeeding her, cuddling her, loving her.
I consider my birth experience to have been near perfect. I was in labor for 16 1/2 hours, which did not seem like a long time at all. I didn’t expect the postpartum recovery to be as painful as it was. I think a lot of times, that sort of thing gets left out of conversations because the emphasis is mostly on baby.I had very strong postpartum contractions and it was very painful to sit up and get out of bed. Thankfully, my husband was able to take four days off work and did a great job caring for me and Wren. I am very thankful Wren is healthy and that I have such a caring husband.
Written by Meridith Arndorfer