As a doula who’s helped women have a homebirth, thank you for sharing your own homebirth story with us.
When did you have a homebirth?
I have three children. My first homebirth was in 2009 and my second in 2012. My first child was a hospital birth in 2004.
What made you decide to have a homebirth?
Well my husband was born at home and from the very beginning of our first pregnancy he felt strongly that women should be having babies with midwives and that going to the hospital was for sick people, not for a woman having a healthy pregnancy.
Since my dad was a doctor and I was fine with hospitals, and it was our first baby, I decided to go to the hospital but agreed to use a midwife.
While I was pregnant with my first baby, my sister-in-law had her second homebirth and she was very influential in showing me what a homebirth looked like and how it works.
In addition, two of my friends had a homebirth with Lauren, my midwife, during that time as well, so I had a group of people around me who were doing this.
At my first birth my son had some distress after he was born, having swallowed meconium .
He had to be resuscitated and ended up in the NICU for almost a week and it was a whole big drama, so that when I was pregnant again this would impact my decision in a big way.
When I discussed what happened at my first birth with the people who were in the delivery room, which was Lauren and my sister-in-law who had acted as my doula, I was hearing from them that it may not have gone that way had the delivery been at home. It’s possible that had my baby not been so vigorously resuscitated, he may not have had the pneumothorax and ended up in the NICU.
So during my second pregnancy I decided to go ahead and have a home birth.
I loved it.
After my first traumatic birth we worked really hard on our birth team. I was able to get a NICU nurse to attend the birth and my sister-in-law and her best friend who’s a doula, had both become doulas by that point so they were both going to come and be supportive. In addition, my Mom wanted to be there and my 11 year old niece was interested so she came.
I had been going to see Suzy Schulman who’s a chiropractor for years, so I asked her if she would come adjust me while I was in labor, and she said “Sure where are you having the baby?” And I said: “At home”, and she said “You’re having the baby at home? Can I come?” and I said: “Yeah :)”
There was also an infant- one of the doulas brought their baby with, and my husband was there of course.
I woke up at 3 am with my water breaking so I called Lauren to let her know.
By 6am my 2 doulas, my Mom, and my niece were all there.
By 7:30am Suzy came with bagels.
We sent my son off on the school bus.
Did he know what was going on?
He knew. We actually have a picture of me on all fours with him riding on my back to relieve the pressure.
How old was he?
He was 4 ½ almost 5 at that point.
It took a while to really get into labor. Suzy adjusted me a couple of times. My husband spent most of the day figuring out how to fill the tub. Eventually Lauren came and Nina, the NICU nurse. I was like: “Oh good everyone’s here let’s have the baby.”
Lauren was like: “Let me just check you. Ok. Well, you’re stretchy to 3.”
So with my first I had been 1cm when I got in the car to go to the hospital and I transitioned in the car on the 40 minute ride to the hospital and I was 9cm when I got there, so I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t further along.
So I said to Lauren: “Now what?”
And she was like: “What do you mean now what?
I said: “What’s the next thing?”
And she said: “We wait. Do you want to try the tub?”
I was afraid of the tub so instead I took a shower and there were some more contractions and I got adjusted, and then the contractions picked up and there were 2 or 3 people, probably Lauren and my sister-in-law and her bestfriend who’s a doula, were like: “Really, why don’t you try the tub? It’s really nice.”
So when I finally got into the tub it was a little bit my worst nightmare with all of these people seeing my bare bottom as I climbed in and out and as I lay there.
The doula did a really nice job of counter pressure while I lay in the tub which was so nice.
Then I got over-heated and started hyperventilating, which happens to me in the tub while in labor.
At that point Lauren went to check me and I was 3-4cm and she explained to me that it might be uncomfortable but she could keep her hands inside and stretch the cervix through the contraction, and thereby manually dilate me. I was totally for that.
She offered that through an empathic place of “I know you want to be done and through this and I’m not saying that nature has to take its course, so if you want me to hold my hand in and push it along then I can do that for you.
I said: “Yes.”
We did this over the course of the next half hour to get me to fully dilated.
A lot of it is a blur except for the fact that there was a whole team of people around me.
I was on the bed. My sister-in-law was by my face coaching me and my husband was also by my face on the other side holding my hand.
The chiropractor Suzy was rubbing lotion onto my back. My mother was standing there with a lotion bottle refilling Suzy as needed.
I’m not sure what the other people were doing while Lauren had her hand inside me.
When I was ready to push I was very careful not to be flat on my back and to always make sure I was on my side a little bit not to have head against tailbone direct contact because that was so terrible after my first.
I happen to love pushing. The whole time when I’m in labor I just want to push the baby out already.
So my baby girl came out and she was immediately latched onto my breast and nursing. We latched her on really quickly because I had a real problem nursing with my first so everyone was really committed to making that happen.
When she was getting cleaned up and having her newborn exam my Mom came with me while I took a shower.
My husband buried the placenta in the back yard with bean plants that had arrived that day with my in-laws from the farm. We planted scarlet runner beans.
By the time my son came home from school that day we were pretty much snuggled up in bed and he came and hung out and met his new sister.
Tell me your third child’s story.
My third child’s story was like this.
Lauren instructed me when I was in my ninth month: “When the contractions are lasting one minute and are coming 5 minutes apart I want you to call me.”
The day before he was born that night I called her and said: “They’re lasting a minute and they’re 5 minutes apart but I don’t think this is really it.”
She said: “I don’t care I need to come.”
So she came and Leah her backup midwife came and my sister-in-law and her best friend who’s a doula came.
By the time everyone got there I was pretty much not doing anything. But we were in our spelt bagel phase so Lauren made spelt bagels at about 4 in the morning.
So we had that.
Then she asked: “Are you coming to work today?”
I said “No. I don’t think so. I’m in labor today and grumpy that I’m not more in labor.”
Nothing was doing the whole day.
Around dinner time I went to Leah’s house to get checked and I was still 1cm.
I remember eating dinner with her and talking and getting more serious contractions. Then I was pacing her house pretty hard core for the 35 seconds that they lasted. They weren’t so close together- they were about 10 minutes apart.
When I came home my kids had been put to bed and then my contractions started picking up.
At one point I was like: “Oh, I think this is actually it.”
At this time Lauren had a patient in the hospital who had ruptured membranes and in case she had to leave she brought in Billy, RN and doula, Chiropractor Suzy, Mom, my niece, my sister-in-law and her best friend who’s a doula, Leah the midwife and her daughter Ilana because we had been doula training together.
Two of Lauren’s daughters Yael and Nechama came as well, as I had been working in their house for the past couple of years and I was a part of the family.
My good friend Devorah who had always wanted to experience a birth was there at my house having put my kids to bed for me, so she was there as well.
So there were 11 of us along with my husband. My Dad was downstairs. My kids were in the next room sleeping.
I spent some time in the tub and the chiropractor did great counterpressure. I felt 0 pain during those contractions.
When I started hyperventilating I got out and I remember walking with my big belly from the tub to my bed with everyone standing and watching and I was like: “We should sing kumbaya.”
Then I reached a point where I was like: “OK Let’s do the stretching thing.”
Lauren said: “The baby’s not in the best position,” and Billy suggested doing a Trochanter Roll, which is a prop under the hip in a certain place which is super uncomfortable and uncomfortable for the baby as well. It caused him to flip to the right side.
Once that happened Lauren sent everyone out of the room so I wouldn’t be distracted and I could focus and be at peace and my husband and I could have some time.
I was not letting her take her hands away. I was afraid if Lauren would remove her hands I would lose the progress so I was pretty intent on that. I’m pretty goal oriented like that.
My baby was born at 1:31am.
I remember that once he was born, Lauren told me after it was a lot like her daughter having a baby as I had been at her working at her house for 2 years, and it was a special thing for us.
Lauren left sooner that she would have as she had a patient in the hospital.
Everyone left by 3:30 and we snuggled and lounged enjoying our new baby.
At 5:30 my mother-in-law called to find out what was happening so we spent some time sharing our happy news.
By the time we finished that phone call we woke up the kids “Hey come meet your new brother.”
Cool thing about a homebirth is we conceived our baby in this room, we had our baby in this room, and his name came to us in this same room.
What did you find most challenging about having a homebirth?
Well at least with our third one baby because I was in labor over the night: Are we going to be quiet enough? Are we going to disturb the kids?
I think that was a little bit of a concern. But even with that, with 9-10 women in the room someone would have dealt with it, it would have been fine.
It was also a challenge with our second baby when we were making our decision to have a homebirth we had the concern of:
What are people going to say and is it really safe?
But by this time my sister-in law had already done it and had taken the heat from the family.
What do you wish people would know about a homebirth? What would you tell someone who’s thinking about having a homebirth?
To people who would say: “Aren’t you worried about the baby not breathing or what if Mom’s bleeding doesn’t stop?”
I answer them: “The midwives are trained and know how to handle these situations. They come with oxygen. They come with pitocin. They know what to do. They know infant CPR. They will massage a bleeding uterus for as long as it takes til they get to the hospital and they are able to take their hands off.”
If you consider that at the same level as the doctors and nurses in the hospital knowing what to do you have all the benefit of being in your home in your own space without exposing yourself and your baby to the foreign germs. And without all the interruptions that happen in the hospital.
Homebirth is a really good, safe choice.
A lot of people talk about their emergency c-section.
It is actually rare for a true emergency c-section.
What usually happens is the doctor will see the way labor is progressing and can see this is going down a road that if it were to continue we would want to not have a bad outcome so we’re going to step in now and do a c-section to prevent that.
So there’s time. They prep the OR. They give you IV fluids. Give you papers to sign.
Keeping that in mind, homebirth midwives are listening to the baby and checking vitals and doing all the things they need to do to so it is not like:
“We need to go to the hospital right this second because the baby’s in distress.”
They’ll say: “Oh we’re noticing the baby’s having some heart decelerations. Your color doesn’t look great. We’re going to the hospital now before anything becomes an emergency crisis.”
So a hospital transfer is always possible at a homebirth and it does happen.
You can always go to a hospital if you need to.
It’s good to plan which hospital you would transfer to if needed while you’re still pregnant.
It’s even better if you have a midwife who has privileges there and you’re not just coming in through the emergency room.
Really in 95% situations midwives know what to do and are prepared for it.