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The BIRTH Project Network Meet-up: Home Births

On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, The BIRTH Project Network held its first-ever online meet-up. This inaugural meet-up covered the topic of home births, and featured an experienced home-birth midwife as the subject matter expert.

Click here to learn how you can participate in upcoming meet-ups.

The conversation covered the home-birth process from pregnancy, to labor and delivery, and through the postpartum period. You can watch and listen to the whole conversation above, or see time stamps for highlights listed below.

Learn About the Subject Matter Expert

Kelly Olmstead, LM, CPM, is an Iowa native who has been in Santa Cruz, California, for 17 years. A mother of three, she has been active in the Santa Cruz birth community since shortly after the home birth of her third child, Henry, in 2002.

Her particular passion is ensuring that women understand they have options in birth—and the benefits and risks of various choices—so they can make the best choice for themselves and their babies.

After four years of midwifery school and apprenticeship, Kelly was licensed by the Medical Board of California in March 2010. By the close of 2017, she had attended more than 450 births. She’s also served on the board of directors for Birth Network of Santa Cruz County for several years.

Additionally, Kelly is the co-founder of a midwifery advocacy group called Birth Santa Cruz. Check out BirthSantaCruz.com on Facebook—it’s a great way to stay up to date about what’s going on with birth locally and nationally.

More recently, she joined forces with two other amazing midwives to create Pacific Community Midwives. They each have independent practices but collaborate and back one another up.

From 2011-2014, Kelly was Regional Co-Rep for the California Association of Midwives (CAM). She remains active on projects with their sister organization, the California Association of Licensed Midwives (CALM), including keeping midwives updated on continuing-education opportunities, meeting with state legislators on midwifery issues, and creating welcome packets for newly licensed midwives in the state.

Highlights and Time Stamps

19:07- Kelly discusses an effective written home-birth birth plan.

13:00- Amara shares her takeaways after experiencing a home birth turned hospital transfer.

24:00- Katy shares her home-birth takeaways.

28:15- Kelly suggests what to look for when trying to find the right midwife for you.

29:20- Katy shares the story of when she got in a car wreck at 8 months pregnant.

31:45- Katy shares her biggest insight after working with a midwife and experiencing a home birth.

34:00- Participant question about not wanting any ultrasounds, but suspecting she’s carrying twins.

38:00- Participant question about a safe distance from home to hospital when planning a home birth.

41:50- Participant question about responding to family who are hesitant about home births.

47:15- Kelly discusses the hospital vs. home-birth experience.

49:08- Kelly addresses how she remains confident as a midwife.

51:00- Kelly discusses how she handled an emergency with a patient who had Hellp syndrome

54:20- Participant question about assuring women that their births will work out the way they want them to.

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Barrett Amelia Walker

After the birth of my son in December of 2014, I told Alex, my husband, that I didn’t want to talk about having another baby for about three (3) years. Low and behold, 3 years and 2 months later, on Feb. 7, 2018, I sat on the grass in my front yard, enjoying the sunshine and my pre-delivery maternity leave. I’d had contractions throughout the previous night, strong enough to wonder whether it was the real deal but also infrequent enough to dissuade me from that notion. That morning I’d spotted a little, but contractions were only every 45 minutes or so, so I continued relaxing, eating, practicing hypnobirthing meditations, and took a seat on my front lawn in a tank top and sweats to enjoy the sun and warm, crisp February air.

While sitting on the lawn (OK, it’s improperly installed turf, but I love it), I felt a contraction coming on. I started to maneuver my top-heavy, bulbous self onto my hands and knees to achieve a more comfortable position. While in the process of this hoist, I heard a pop and then felt liquid … all over my lap. Because the wetness was body temperature, it took a second for me to register what this sensation meant—that my water had broken, a lot of it, all over me and my turf. In addition to the excitement I felt in that moment to experience such an integral part of birth (which I did not get during the birth of my son), I laughed at my good luck to have been wearing black pants (no stains) and sitting on my lawn (no clean-up) at that time. It was 1 p.m., it was on.

I started making phone calls from my puddle. First, I called Alex who shortly thereafter began to make his way home to La Selva Beach from Davenport where he works. Then I called my doula, Stephanie, who happened to be nearby and would come check on me. Then I called my midwife, Kelly, who was also nearby and would come over to do a vitals check on me and the baby.

After these phone calls, I went inside to change my clothes and to make sure that what had poured out of me was indeed my waters and not blood or something alarming (it wasn’t). At this point, I got excited and settled deeper into our decision to do a home birth and was ready to practice the hypnobirthing teachings I’d imbibed and marinated in over the past few weeks.

After about 15 minutes, Kelly and Stephanie arrived. At the time, my contractions were about 10-15 minutes apart but mild enough that I could talk during them (although I probably sounded like I was being crushed). My vitals were great. Baby was great. We all talked excitedly about various pregnancy related goos and fluids before Alex arrived. After staying about 45 minutes, Stephanie and Kelly left, leaving me and Alex at our home with the instructions of “try to take a walk,” “eat some food,” “go to bed as soon as possible and try to get some rest,” “it’s possible that you won’t go into active labor for 24-48 hours.” Just before Kelly and Stephanie left around 3 p.m., I had another solid contraction. Forty-five minutes later, Alex called them and told them to come back (during rush hour I might add)—my contractions were much closer together and were getting quite intense. Things were progressing quickly.

In the short time between Kelly and Stephanie’s departure and Alex’s follow-up phone call, Alex had a ton of work to do. Embarking on the journey of a home birth is preceded by enormous preparation. The weeks and weeks of preparation aside, Alex was immediately tasked with unpacking and organizing various kits and packs for the birth itself, and most importantly, trying to get me to eat. I recall very clearly sitting on our kitchen couch, breathing and visualizing “opening” as my hypnobirthing lessons had taught me to, while Alex tried to make me a smoothie that I could drink between contractions. A smoothie is not normally complicated or time consuming to make—but when you have to drop what you’re doing every 45 seconds to run to your wife and apply pressure to her hips (assuming the contraction subsided at all since the last), it takes a long time. The final product did turn out delicious.

Stephanie arrived back at my house shortly before 5 p.m. At that point, I had moved into my cave-like bedroom and was on my hands, knees and chest, laboring on my bed. As I would learn later, Alex had been in communication with Kelly who told him to fill the enormous inflatable birth tub in our bedroom, although based on information provided to her, we probably wouldn’t need it by the time it was filled.

My best friend, Becca, had made me a thoughtful labor package of candles, essential oil sprays and Himalayan salt lamps, and I remember the evening, starting around that time, being lit with the calming orange glow of those lamps. It still relaxes me to think about it.

Alex and Katy

Around 5 p.m. Kelly arrived. She advised me that I needed to switch positions to keep things moving, so she told me to sit on the toilet and labor there for a while. Let me say that up until this point in our 10-year relationship, Alex and I were the type of couple that kept our bathroom experiences VERY private from the other—we gave each other a lot of space and privacy in that regard. I’d always dubbed it, “Keeping the mystery alive.” That notion and era was shattered around 5 p.m. on Feb. 7. Alex held me, lovingly and without judgement or disgust as I labored through frequent and excruciating contractions, nearly naked on the toilet. The mystery died that day. RIP.

At 5:15 p.m., my midwife’s assistant, Flaura, arrived. Flaura was our doula for the birth of our son a little over 3 years earlier. If there was any panic or uncertainty in my mind about this birth or birthing at home, it fell away when Flaura arrived. My trust in her and her comforting and knowledgeable spirit put me at ease. That being said, I was still on the toilet, which I didn’t much enjoy because it made the contractions extraordinarily painful.

Around 6:10 I was back on my bed and lying on my side. To my shock and absolute glee, my midwife said my dilation was nearly complete at that point, with only a cervical lip (9+ cm), only about 5 hours after my water broke. I was so proud of myself in that moment for helping my body prepare and allow itself to dilate so quickly, especially given that labor with my son lasted nearly 38 hours and I didn’t fully dilate until about hour 37.

Kelly told me to give a couple of good pushes while lying on my side to see if she could hold the lip back while I pushed baby past it, so I could move on. It was time to push! I couldn’t believe it! Already?!? Game ON!

Now I consider myself a pretty strong woman, physically at least. I’d CrossFitted throughout my pregnancy and was bolstered by this fact, confident that I could labor and deliver efficiently, and that it wouldn’t be any more difficult than doing some of the CrossFit workouts I’d done recently with a watermelon on my frontside. However, when I attempted to push at that time (around 6:30 p.m.), I felt like I had no power, like I was pushing down on the gas pedal but a line had been cut somewhere in the engine that was draining my acceleration. Kelly told me to stop pushing, not only because it wasn’t doing anything, but because the cervical lip wasn’t moving.

A cervical lip, as I learned, is basically the equivalent of having a fat lip, but on your cervix. It can swell and possibly tear if you push or deliver while the lip is present. We would have to wait a little while and let the lip subside.

Then I started to feel “pushy.” Great timing.

In my opinion, what is commonly referred to as the “urge to push” is a bullshit misnomer. The “urge” I felt was similar to the “urge” you feel to throw up when you’re dry-heaving. Your body is in control when it’s “pushy:” It’s contracting, spasming, it’s straight up pushing. It is literally a force of nature, and it’s the boss. That being the case, I was confused and a little exasperated to learn that I needed to breathe through the “urge” so that my body wouldn’t push on its own. I needed to utterly relax my body—the involuntary spasm pushes were making my cervix swell, and I couldn’t deliver baby girl until the swelling subsided. It was 7 p.m.

To achieve this kind of muscle relaxation, I needed to blow raspberries with my mouth whenever a contraction came, the idea being that I would focus the tension on my lips so that my uterine muscles wouldn’t engage. At that point we also decided to try all the relaxation tools that we had available. First, I got in the shower with a large yoga ball. I leaned over the ball and let the water run down my back. This helped with the pain of the contractions quite a bit, and by blowing through the contractions I was able to avoid some of the pushing spasms that my body was trying hard to complete. I remember being in such a daze while I was in the shower. It was dark outside, and the bathroom was magically lit with candles and salt lamps. It was like a cave, a sanctuary. I think I drifted in and out when the contractions ebbed, coming to from time to time when I needed to bypass my body’s vice-like pushing, endure a contraction, or when someone put a washcloth under my knees or put a straw to my mouth so I could drink cold water.

I got out of the shower at about 8:35 and moved to the bed. Kelly checked me, and my cervix was still swollen, lip still present. Keep in mind that since about 6 p.m. I had been nearly fully dilated, and had now spent a few hours in an extended period of transition. {Midwife’s note: This is one of the most challenging situations in an otherwise normal labor: not pushing when your body so desperately wants to. But the risk of tearing the cervix in a situation like this could become an emergency situation or cause permanent damage. In this instance, the baby’s head was facing Katy’s hip, and position changes to help baby rotate weren’t working, so we needed the “tincture of time.”} When lying on the bed on my side, contractions would last anywhere from 1 minute, to 20 minutes, ebbing and flowing but not subsiding entirely. Being on the bed in any position was so painful and uncomfortable. I remember during those 5+ minute contractions just screaming, growing louder and softer with the rhythm of the pain—kind of like an ambulance siren. I asked for help. I asked nicely. “Please, please somebody help me.” I realized later that we should have let more of our neighbors know that we would be doing a home birth—I’m surprised no one called the police on account of my anguished cries. Despite the crying and the yelling, I was truly working my ass off to relax through the contractions, blow raspberries through the pushing, to be mindful, to feel Alex’s hands in mine, to feel his support, to know that I was safe, I was OK.

Eventually around 10:15 p.m., after trying a few more positions on the bed  I moved to the gigantic neon green birth tub that fit neatly between our bed and the closet doors. Being in the birth tub, submerged to my collar in warm water, reduced the pain about 75 percent. The pushing still continued, but it became more of a practice in relaxing through the pushes rather than surviving the painful contractions. Kelly told me that birth tubs are often referred to colloquially as “the midwife’s epidural.” I couldn’t agree more. While in the tub, sitting on my knees and resting my arms and face on the side of the tub, I dozed in between contractions/pushes. Once another one began, I would work through it, supported by Alex or Stephanie, either of which would give me sips of water or spoonfuls of yogurt with honey at the end of each contraction. I was well taken care of. I actually fell in love with Stephanie at one point when we had a particularly intense moment of eye contact after a contraction and she read my mind and responded with, “Yeah, this really fucking sucks.” She and Alex let me squeeze their hands during each contraction—there were bruises.

About an hour after getting in the birth tub my mouth was starting to swell from the hours of raspberry blowing. Kelly instructed me to get out so she could check me again, although getting out was less romantic and beautiful than me simply climbing, glistening, out of tub and onto the bed, and more like a crane hoisting a wrecked car out of a lake. Once out of the tub it was discovered that my cervical lip was still present, but the swelling was way down and the lip was soft rather than rigid and impassable. Kelly told me to give a few good pushes during contractions while she held the lip out of the way. Again, lying on my side on the bed left me feeling like I had no power to push, no intensity. Moreover, Kelly was trying to hold the small lip out of the way during these pushes, which somehow peaked the pain I was feeling into an unmanageable crescendo. So I got back into the birth tub with the hopes of reducing the lip even further, blowing through contractions.

At about 11:30 p.m., 10 hours after my water broke and five hours after reaching nearly full dilation, I got out of the birth tub and moved to the bed once again for pushing. It was clear at this point that the lip was gone, my cervix was not swollen (although my mouth was), I was well hydrated, fueled by honey and yogurt, and ready to move to the next phase. I was physically exhausted after the hours of trying to trick my body out of its natural inclination to push. I would learn later that Kelly was only going to wait another 20 minutes or so before transferring me to the hospital, concerned that my anterior lip would be too much of an issue, or that my cervix would be damaged or seriously torn during birth. However, despite my physical exhaustion, I was ready and looking forward to pushing. Probably because of my years of CrossFit, especially during my pregnancy, I knew how to lean into the difficult task ahead, go to the “pain cave,” and appreciate that what I needed to do would end relatively soon. Again I tried pushing in various positions on the bed, but did not feel like I was capable of engaging the different parts of my body I needed to accomplish the task.

Alex, Katy, and Barrett

At that point someone suggested I switch to the birth stool, which is basically a wooden toilet on short legs that opens in the front (basically a horseshoe) so the midwife can really get in there. After moving what can only be described as a medical tarp to the foot of my bed, I got on the stool and was given instructions. It was midnight. I was on the stool and began to feel my power click on. I felt muscles engage, I felt adrenaline and excitement, I felt Alex’s hand in mine, his supportive body behind me and various voices coaching and encouraging me. I felt the contractions and felt finally free to utilize my body’s natural pushing mechanisms, I engaged with my body’s natural pushes and added my own reserves of strength to them. At 12:30 a.m. I felt a very distinct, sharp pain. I remember saying, “Wow, that really hurts!” and Kelly replying, “Well yeah, that’s why it’s called the ring of fire. She’s crowning.” A minute later Barrett was out and was immediately lifted up, plopped on my chest and started nursing, cord dangling between my legs. The three of us, Alex, Barrett and I, held each other then for a few minutes. Alex and I looking down upon her. Barrett looking back up at us, content and calm. I felt then that our family was complete and wished our son could have been part of that moment with us.

Shortly thereafter, after some quick preparation/protection of the bed, Alex lifted me up by curling his arms under my armpits while I was still holding on to Barrett, still attached to her by our cord and by cosmic mother/child connection, and pulled us back onto the bed. What happened thereafter was a bit of haze of emotion and activity, but I know I felt no pain. Stephanie asked me if I wanted anything to eat, and I replied quickly and surely, “Pizza!” which she promptly grabbed out of the freezer, cooked in the toaster oven and brought to me (which to me seemed like only seconds).

At a little past 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2018, I held my daughter in my arms, her gooey body pressed against me. After the birth of both of my kids, my immediate feeling was never what most moms describe as overwhelming love. That feeling, or at least my ability to recognize that feeling, didn’t happen for a few days. In the moments after her birth, I felt protective, connected to her, inseparable from her as if she were still living inside me, just simply transitioned to the outside where I could touch her face, her feet, her large baby belly. I smiled at Alex, so grateful for his support, energy and unwavering love, so grateful for his multitudinous contributions to this moment, for being my partner in everything. As Kelly, Flaura, Stephanie and Alex continued their various post-delivery jobs, I sat there naked with my daughter, eating pizza in my bed, relieved, relaxed, happy, complete.

Written by Katy Walker

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Connor Patrick Tagge

For most of my pregnancy with my first child, I was planning a natural hospital birth with midwives present. At about 24 weeks, when I was supposed to take the gestational diabetes test, I started to have second thoughts. I had done a lot of research and took all my at-home blood sugar monitor numbers to my midwife (all of which were totally normal), and just because I refused the test, they marked me as having a high-risk pregnancy and tried to guilt me into taking the test anyway. I didn’t feel respected or supported, and I didn’t want to have to feel that during my birth, or have to advocate for myself that strongly. When my husband and I met my home-birth midwife, Sarah, the first time, it just felt right. She had the right mix of an evidence-based scientific approach, and an ease about her that made me feel comfortable. We talked through all the scenarios that might cause me to have to go to the hospital, and what it would likely look like if I did.

I called into work on a Monday morning, two days before my due date, and said I wanted to take a half sick day from home. I wrapped some things up, and started to get some light contractions by lunch time. I tried to take it easy during the day, but it was in the middle of a weird late-September heat wave in Chicago with record high temperatures and I hadn’t slept in four nights. After I went to bed, I was getting contractions about every eight minutes. I knew I should try to sleep, but I was on my phone tracking contractions, and jumping up when I had them, and leaning against the wall because I had a sharp feeling in my tail bone. I was up every eight minutes all night, while my husband remained asleep next to me. I woke him up at about 4:30 a.m. as I was about at the point in which I needed labor support to get into different positions. We waited until about 6 a.m. to call my doula and my midwife, when my contractions were about five minutes apart. Then we went downstairs, and I threw up.

My doula arrived first, and was helping me manage the pain by making noise through the contractions. We had shopped the night before for labor food, and she was making me eat anything that sounded appetizing, which I think was just a smoothie and coconut water. When Sarah arrived, she talked to me and did an exam. I found out that I was only at 3 centimeters dilated. This was devastating, and I was exhausted. She told me to stop making noise and that I needed to rest. She gave me the option of either having a glass of wine or taking a Benadryl. I chose wine, and she said to drink it and get in the bath. She was doing this to slow down the labor so I could get some rest. She also told everyone to go home so that I wouldn’t feel pressured in any way. I had the wine and the bath, and pretty quickly the contractions went down to every eight-10 minutes and were less intense. I laid down in a dark room, on my side, with about three pillows under my top leg because I was still getting that sharp tail-bone pain. Shockingly, the next eight hours seemed to go by pretty quickly, just trying to rest and taking it one contraction at a time.

By 4 p.m., my mom and my mother-in-law were there, and it was time to call the doula and midwife again. Contractions were back to five minutes apart, and felt much more consistent. My doula, who arrived first, was really focused on making me drink coconut water with every contraction, I think I went through about 8 liters that day, and she helped me to breathe more deeply.

Baby Connor

I was trying to bargain with her. This was really hard, and I said I think I could do it if it would be over in the next few hours. She replied, “You are doing it,” and assured me that the baby would come before the end of the day. Sarah was back, and this time I was at seven or eight centimeters dilated. I had some leaking fluid, but the midwife tested it and couldn’t tell if my water had broken yet or not. I was still resting on my side during contractions, but she wanted to play with different positions to intensify the labor. I had to be ready to work now, resting was over.

I turned to the other side, and she had me put the other leg up and push against her during a contraction. She asked how it felt, and I said much worse, to which she replied, “Let’s do that for the next three contractions.” Then she suggested I get in my bath. I was worried that it would slow down the labor again, but she said that at this point, there was no going backward. It was really intense in the bath tub, and she was making me lean over the edge so that I was above my baby during contractions, and then lay down to rest in between them. Everyone was really cheering me on. At one point my sister came in and heard a contraction and started saying, “Aww, poor thing,” and I said I didn’t want that kind of energy. It needed to stay positive.

I got out and I asked to be checked again. I was almost there, 10 centimeters with a little flap still in the way. She said to wait to push until it felt like I couldn’t not push, like my body was just bearing down. I pretty much did feel like that. We tried a few different positions for pushing, but what felt the most comfortable was sitting down on the toilet with my legs on the squatty potty. I had visions of squatting my baby out, but not exactly like this.

My master bathroom is large and from the 70s, and all the walls are mirrors. We had a soft red light in there, and I had nine people in there. I was pushing, and I could feel the head moving down. Pushing on the toilet, I felt like I could be done in a couple more contractions. Sarah asked me to move to my bed to push for a bit. I laid down on my back and pushed, but I didn’t feel nearly as much movement from the baby as when I was on the toilet. I felt like I was wasting my time there. The assistants were bringing in hot towels and putting them on my perineum (which now I am so thankful for because I didn’t tear at all).

Soon we got to move back to the toilet, and everyone was gathered around. Then my water broke, and splashed into the toilet. It startled me and actually splashed a few people. And within a few more pushes, my baby’s head was out. Sarah gently held his head in me while I got off the toilet and got on all fours on my bathroom floor. I actually asked if I could have a few minutes before I could push the rest of the baby out. I looked at Sarah and she was kind of laughing and saying “no.” Oh, just a few more pushes, but I was exhausted. He came out with his hands up by his neck, and he was handed to me and I leaned back to hold him. I walked to my bed with the cord still attached, and tried to latch him. He was very alert and he started to breastfeed.

Just after Connor was born

While breastfeeding was supposed to help bring on the contractions for the placenta, that didn’t really happen. I just said that I didn’t feel anything. I got a shot of pitocin about 20 minutes after Connor was born to help stimulate the placenta. Still nothing. I got another shot about 40 minutes later. Still nothing. I wanted it to be over, I just wanted to be with my baby.

Everyone was cleaning up around me and eventually they weighed and measured the baby. Sarah got everyone out of the room and had my husband hold the baby next to me so I could focus. I wanted to talk about what had just happened and how amazing my baby was. I never really felt contractions for the placenta, but at one point, over 90 minutes after the birth, I said I felt some pressure and they had me push. The placenta came out, thank goodness, because apparently I was really close to having to go to the hospital for that after my natural home birth.

I had a lot of support at home. My mom stayed over for a couple nights to help out, and both my doula and midwife came back over for the next few days to check on things. I felt really supported, and it was a great way to welcome my baby to the world.

Written by Michelle Tagge

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Henry Young

On July 26, 2014, I woke up at about 6:30 a.m. with menstrual-type cramping. I had been having this for a few days and just laying down with a heating pad usually sent it away. I got up and took a nice long, hot shower hoping to send these cramps away as well. I shaved my legs for the last leisurely time. Of course, I denied this being the “real thing.”

I tend to be a hypochondriac, so for fear of overreacting to things, I tend to under-react. Corey and I went to breakfast. I insisted on driving despite Corey’s objections. I denied I was in labor even after driving there and making Corey park the car, because I couldn’t parallel park through contractions.

After breakfast was the farmer’s market, Vitamin Shoppe and Costco. My contractions were about 7 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. I chalked it up to being too active. I checked in with my midwife, Carol, told her not to cancel her plans just yet, and set home to park myself on the couch with a heating pad.

Corey was supposed to record vocals for a band at noon, and I wouldn’t let him cancel it until about 11:15. I was still convinced that if I could only relax enough, they would go away. They had slowed to about every 15 minutes for about 30 seconds after all!

I started a bath, used the toilet and noticed I had lost a bit of my mucous plug (still in denial). While I was in the bathtub reporting the mucous plug to my midwife, I felt the sudden urge to pee, or rather, that I WAS peeing. I hopped onto the toilet and still wasn’t certain but thought that might have been my water breaking. What came out was yellowish and cloudy, not what my urine usually looks like but not what I was expecting amniotic fluid to look like either. I was ready to admit I was in early labor! I have like 24 hours ahead of me, right?

I called Carol again and she suggested she come by to take a look at me. I agreed, but first we have another errand to run! Corey and I had been planning on baking a birthday cake and I didn’t want to even buy the ingredients ahead of time, because I figured I had a long labor ahead and wanted ways to make time pass quickly.

We took a leisurely trip to Nob Hill, complete with contractions in the ice-cream aisle. Yes, we got concerned looks and comments. Corey assured them that, yes, I was in labor, but I’d suck him back up until we got home. We made one more stop on the way home to borrow a rebozo from my birth boot-camp instructor before returning home to find a Comcast truck in front of our house. I completely forgot about our 2 p.m. appointment! Business was conducted quickly and the worker left. I was prepared to watch my Breaking Bad marathon while I labored for the next 22 hours!

Corey and I started to make Henry’s birthday cake together. I don’t think I lasted longer than pulling out the pans. I instructed Corey to keep at it while I labored in the shower for a bit. I put Jim Gaffigan on Spotify and got in the shower. Corey kept coming in and checking on me. He asked me if he should set up the pool and, of course, I said not yet but I saw him roll it past the doorway anyhow. I asked him to call his mom and let her know this was happening.

My mother-in-law, Kathy, arrived and I remember her observing from the bathroom doorway. I was butt naked—I didn’t care. We knew what we were in for. Carol arrived, watched me for a little bit and informed me that we were having a baby! Yay! Carol said she would call my other midwife, Jacqueline. I kept looking at Kathy and saying, “SHE did it. She did it with Pitocin. I can do it.” Corey later told me I was in transition at this point. He overheard Carol relaying to Jacqueline that I was grunting during my contractions.

I could hear Corey baking and filling up the pool in the kitchen. I heard something about a connection giving him a hard time. Later, I found out that instead of hooking up to the kitchen sink and pumping warm water into the pool, he had to fill it with the garden hose and boil pots of water to pour in to warm it up. Baking, boiling and pool filling—so far labor seemed more labor intensive for him than for me! By now it was around 5 p.m., and Corey let me know the pool was ready when I was, so of course I got right out of the shower and into the pool. Jacqueline had arrived by then.

The water. Felt. Amazing. I spent a long time there. Sometime around now, Henry’s birthday cake came out of the oven and was set aside to cool. I made Corey sit on a chair right in front of me. I would go in and out of consciousness. I woke up and asked if I time traveled. I was aware that there were no less than eight eyes on me, but no one was in my face. It was very quiet, I could hear whispering.

Then came the pushing. It wasn’t an “urge”; it was happening. My body was doing it. It had a mind of its own. I hung onto Corey’s leg for dear life. I threw up. I had Corey drape the rebozo over his shoulders and stand up so I could pull down on it. I think somewhere about now I asked how dilated I was. I kept asking, as if laughter wasn’t a clear enough response. Finally, Carol (or someone) told me my cervix was long gone. Wow, that was quick! More pushing.

Carol checked Henry’s heart rate several times in between pushes. She gently recommended I get out of the pool and walk around. Nope, I’m in my happy spot. “OK, but maybe now you might want to walk around?” No way, Jose. “OK, but don’t you have to use the toilet by now?” Someone promised me I could go back into the tub afterward. Trickster. I realized by how they wouldn’t let “getting out of the pool” drop it was probably in mine and Henry’s best interest to listen to them. I found out later that Henry’s heart rate had slowed a little, that the pool had slowed my labor and they were hoping some movement would get it going again.

I reluctantly waddled over to the toilet, my entourage helping me on my way. I labored on the toilet for a bit. I remember at one point wanting, TRYING, to throw everything off of the pony wall next to it. Someone explained to me that I needed to get Henry out, I needed to push with the contractions in an effort to tear my perineum because he had been in the birth canal for a while. If I couldn’t tear, I could receive an episiotomy.

Carol said she could see his head and suggested I feel for myself, as it would give me a better idea as to my progress. I asked if he had hair several times. I was assured that he did and encouraged to feel for myself. I stood up and reached down. I felt … not what it usually feels like down there. I couldn’t tell where I ended and Henry began so, frustrated, I gave up on that venture.

Just after Henry was born

I moved to the birthing stool in front of the toilet. I pushed. Corey wanted me to wait a moment for him to adjust the rebozo during a contraction, my response was to pull harder as if I was trying to break his neck. I pushed as hard as I could. Carol massaged and tried to get my perineum to give up my baby. The words “perineum of steel” were used at one point. I called it, I couldn’t keep pushing like this, I asked for an episiotomy.

Jacqueline explained to me that it wouldn’t hurt, it would just feel like relief. She was right. I realize having written this far that this is the first real mention of pain in this story. The thing is, I don’t recall it being painful. Sure there was pressure. Sure it was uncomfortable, but nothing like the insurmountable pain like they show in the movies. I leaned back on Corey for support as Carol (I think) performed the episiotomy. I didn’t feel a thing. The next contraction, I had an urge to stand up. With Corey’s hands under my armpits, I reached out for more support. I grabbed onto the pony wall with my right hand and reached up for the towel bar with my left hand. In one fell swoop both my baby and my towel bar were liberated from their restraints. My head was spinning. Carol placed something warm, wet and squirmy on my chest, it went “waah” once. I gathered my wits enough to wish Henry a very happy birthday. It was 7:58 p.m.

Henry was squinting, alert, holding his head up. I offered him my breast to nurse from and he took to it immediately. Carol asked me to cough. I half-heartedly obliged and my placenta was liberated as well. We brought our family bubble to the bed for some much deserved bonding.

Henry was beautiful. Corey and I both just stared at him as he nursed and slept. Corey continued the skin-to-skin snuggles as Carol repaired my episiotomy. Henry proceeded to christen Corey “Daddy” with meconium. Eventually, Daddy left to clean both of them up, himself and Kathy putting Henry’s first cloth diaper on as I tried to describe how to do it from across the house. We discovered our cat helped himself to a layer of Henry’s birthday cake. We measured Henry—he was 6 lb., 2 oz, 19 in. long, and 100 percent adorable. I think we’ll keep him.

Written by Lindsey Young

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Miles Christopher Shelley

I did it! I gave birth to my son Miles Christopher Shelley at my midwife’s home, no drugs, all natural, on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, at 1:37 p.m.—one day before my birthday! He weighed 7 lb., 7 oz.

Lea and Miles

My birth experience was not anything like I was expecting. I had contractions on and off for two days prior, and the morning of the birth, I woke up at 6 a.m. and timed each one. They were lasting a full minute and were 3-4 minutes apart. We got on the road as we had a half-hour drive to the midwife’s home. By the time we got there, around 8 a.m., I was dilated to 4 cm.

I had planned to move around while I was laboring, practice my breathing and birth affirmations, but everything hurt and I couldn’t focus on all of the things I thought I had prepared myself for. Time escaped me. I have no idea when I got into the birth tub to push but the warm water felt so good. I started pushing and felt like I was making no progress. I eventually became too warm and worn out in the tub, and I had to get out.

After pushing in the water for almost two hours, I was near exhaustion. The baby was stuck in the birth canal and I just couldn’t push him out. I was trying with all of my might. Everyone started getting very serious, saying I had to get this baby out. They were checking his heart rate between every contraction.

I was so tired and so scared, and felt I couldn’t push anymore. My midwife was about to do an episiotomy and told me to try to push one final time. I had one leg on a chair, one on the floor and my arms around my partner’s neck.

Miles Christopher Shelley

Finally, by the grace of God, that last push brought my baby into the world. It was such an amazing and indescribable experience. I felt so relieved that it was over and that my son came out healthy and beautiful. I was overjoyed to hold him in my arms at last.

I had torn and needed stitches. The few days following were hard—learning to breastfeed, how to be a mom, and having a tiny life depend on you 24/7, all while trying to recover from such an experience. It is all so worth it, though.

Midwife and Baby Miles

I’m so glad I didn’t labor in a hospital setting, and was able to have the experience the way I did. My precious boy is worth every ounce of pain I felt, every sleepless night I’ve had, and every frustration I’ve encountered since. I’m thankful for all the things I’ve read and learned, the inspiration I’ve found, and the support from other moms in the world. You are amazing. And you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. Believe in yourself, your body and your baby.

Written by Lea Aldridge

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Wren Heinold Arndorfer

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.

Meridith and Wren

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.

Mom, Dad and Wren

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