Homebirth after 4 hospital births

Thoughts on Leo's birth | 7/27/13

Labor. It is always intense, it always stretches and pushes you beyond your strength and your grace. It doesn't matter how many times you have done it, it is challenging every single time!

Having this baby at home came as a natural "next" for us. When it comes to labor and birth, we feel as though we have done it all. We had already had four very successful experiences. Our first two were with a wonderful doctor. Although the process of labor for Elena was confusing and our night shift nurse wasn't of any assistance, the experience with the doctor was great. By the time Adriana came along, he even showed up shortly after we arrived at the hospital since he was aware of the difficult time we had had the previous time with the nurse. When we were expecting Benny, my wonderful doctor closed his practice and forced us to find someone else half way through the pregnancy. The next two births were attended by midwives, still in the hospital.

We were so disappointed to lose our doctor, but when the time for labor came, we were delighted to find that our midwife would actually be there the whole entire time! Our doctor was very supportive, but he was the only one in his practice so he couldn't really just drop everything and show up the minute I arrived in the hospital (although he did the second time around since Adriana was conveniently born around 7 p.m. on a Saturday). Having the midwife there the whole time was a very different experience, and we thoroughly appreciated her interacting with the nurses for us. The downside was that there were four midwives in the office, and you never knew who would be on call.

A home birth had been something that I would really have liked to look into but we were just not ready yet... we lived too far from the nearest hospital and there were no midwives that "covered" our area and that settled it for us. Once we came here, though, not only was there a midwife in our area BUT we knew people whose deliveries she had attended. Later on, I had the opportunity to BE at a home birth she attended and definitely felt like this was something we could at least explore. Exploration led to prayer and we both decided this was the way we wanted to go.

We have not regretted it at all. We have been extremely thankful for every moment of the process, but I'll share a few of the highlights:

*Throughout the pregnancy I really appreciated that every single phone call and communication was directly with my attendant. Regina (our midwife) doesn't have a nurse who "filters" through the calls before you talk to her, nor is there anyone else on call, ever. You are paying her and she takes every single phone call, message, question and visit. I can't begin to tell you what a pleasant experience that was! Especially after having been with 4 different people with whom we had to have every single conversation about our decisions pretty much in every appointment.

*Prenatal checkups (and everything else, for that matter) with Regina are always relaxed and as long as you need them to be. If they take up 2 hours of your day, you can be assured that you won't be spending any time in a waiting room, and you won't be streamlined through a series of rooms, every single minute of those two hours will be spent with your practitioner. No rush.

*Not every single issue that I found with the pregnancy was resolved with an over-the-counter medication or a prescription. We discussed vitamin supplements, appropriate diet, and even habits. Never had a practitioner of mine taken the time to read through the ingredients of my prenatal vitamins to make sure I was getting exactly what I needed. During this pregnancy, my midwife had me up my Vitamin B intake for a while, then we shifted to increasing my calcium intake for a while as well.

*My "options" when it came to testing and just general practice "policies" were next to none. When the State didn't require x, y, or z, it was this particular office's policy and I couldn't get around it. Most of the time they were presented as: "This is not required by the state, but we really ask our mothers to take/do it since..." and basically I would find that my opinion, although "heard" really didn't count. This time, we were very thoroughly informed of the pros and cons of every single test, and procedure. We really did have a choice! It definitely pushes you to be more thorough in your research because you will be fully responsible for anything you do or don't do.

*When it came to the "starts and stops" of labor, you would think I'd be used to them since my body seems to like to labor in installments. With Elena, our wonderful doctor stripped my membranes at my comment on how contractions would stop after so long. He didn't ask me, he just told me he would and being my first, I thought he was really helping (and didn't know I could have said "no"). By Benny I began to politely "decline" internal exams and a few other things, but it always rub the hospital staff the wrong way when they say: "we're going to check you to see how far along you are" and you immediately say: "no, thank you". In this case, the only suggestions came when things were truly necessary.

*Because my body was calling the shots and being allowed to progress at its own pace, the process felt eternal! Looking back I realize that when the hardest of labor hit, this really was a short labor. I had been able to sleep and rest because my body allowed it and when we decided to begin working through the contractions, it came hard and efficient. I was just not used to the lack of intervention. My water was broken with Adriana and Benny after the "we're only waiting for your water to break" comment. Say that to a laboring woman in transition who hasn't done her research and who would say no? There is nothing wrong with it, it's the only thing standing between you and that bundle of joy! When Giselle's labor began feeling like I wasn't "on top" of contractions any more and I was getting exhausted, the natural thing for me to do was say "break my water... let's get this over with". This time, no one ever said anything remotely close to that. And when the time came when I would have asked for my water to be broken, we actually thought that it had already broken spontaneously anyway. My water broke closer to the baby's crowning this time. It felt longer, or rather the other births felt shorter because I was offered a way out when I felt like I had reached the end of my rope. This time I was pushed beyond that perceived limit, only to find out that I actually had it in me to go further AND it wasn't all that terribly longer (in hindsight! I have to admit I wasn't as embracing of all this during the process!)

*Pushing the head out I thought was supposed to be this mad dash of getting it all the way out in one push! I really appreciate now (I didn't then... haha!) that I wasn't required to push beyond what my body was doing. I took so many breaks in between pushes that I felt like an absolute wimp! The thing is, this was the first time that I only pushed for as long as my body wanted. I pushed only during contractions. And when that little head began crowning, I was actually encouraged to do "little pushes" so as to let the baby's head stretch me gently. That also allowed me to touch my baby before he was fully out of my body.

*I have said this before, but I can't say it enough: Every single person in my room was there because they wanted to be. No one had a shift to finish. Everyone knew me and my family. There were no strangers there. Everyone loved me and my family! The cheering and celebration when Leo cried on that 26th second of being out of my body?! Priceless!

*Because I was the only patient that my midwife had, she was in no hurry to finish off. She had all the time that I needed for my body to do things on its own. The placenta came out when it was ready, no rush, no pressure, no pitocin shot. Now, I wasn't only allowed to nurse Leo right away but encouraged to do so, and he latched on so well that my contractions kept coming naturally, detaching the placenta and clamping my uterus up efficiently. And for the first time I didn't need any pain medication for the after pains. They kept coming, just like any other time for the next couple days, but they were tolerable. I had asked before if the pitocin shot had anything to do with the severity of the after pains, and was repeatedly told that it didn't. In fact I was told that after every baby the after pains would be harder... however, for the first time I had no pitocin shot AND didn't need pain medication. Maybe it's all in my brain, but even if it were, I'll take it if being home heightened my threshold of pain!

*It is also the first time that I don't have anyone telling me how to handle my baby! No one came in to ask me to save the baby's diapers so they can make sure that I am feeding him enough... "because if the baby doesn't put out enough wet diapers, we need to give him formula". No one came in to tell me that my baby needed to be wearing clothes or put to sleep in the bassinet, or when was I planning on bathing this baby?! I liked not having to give account to anyone. Now, Regina did make sure the baby's systems were all operative, but there were no scare threats about "taking over" my baby's care if I didn't seem to be doing a good enough job.

*The food in my pantry beats hospital food ANY. DAY!

*Because I was home all along, my children could come in and out of the room to "visit" whenever they felt like it. On the days following the birth, throughout the day I would have each one of the four older children on the bed with me for as long as they needed me. Some came in to talk. Some came in to sit by me while they played on the iPad. Gelly came in specifically to sit on my lap so she could "hold me" the way the belly hadn't allowed her to do it just a couple days earlier. I found that coming home from the hospital always made me feel as though I needed to make up for the time I had been away from my older children. I MISSED THEM! The last thing I wanted was to go upstairs to my bedroom and be away from them! Not this time! I loved that my children could come in and out as they pleased and I didn't have to miss them.

I completely understand and respect that a home birth is not for everyone. I am not against hospital births, I have had four. But definitely having a home birth was the right choice for us this time, and we are so very thankful for the opportunity!

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