Before we had even talked about getting pregnant, I was drawn to the idea of a natural birth. I had listened to a few episodes of The Birth Hour and the stories of mothers laboring and delivering at home was what brought me the most comfort to the situation. I am a fairly easy going person and I was concerned that I would end up not having the birth that I desired if I went the hospital route. I was also worried that my husband would not be as involved if we didn't labor at home and I really wanted him to be included in the entire process, as it is the process of both of us becoming parents together.
My husband and I decided to take a big international trip and for that to be the beginning of us trying to have a baby. I thought that for sure this would take us at least a year to get pregnant. As we were driving home, I fell asleep at the wheel and we totaled our car on the interstate. (we shouldn't have been driving late at night after a full day of traveling, we just really couldn't wait any longer to see our pups again... lesson learned!) We were both perfectly fine, no injuries. I sat there on the side of the road and thought, "we should be dead, this is how people die all the time." And right then I felt my purpose change, and I knew we were going to be parents soon. We found out that we were pregnant at my next cycle.
I think I surprised Mitchell (my husband) when I told him that I was thinking about having a home birth. I was trying to not sound so sure of myself at the time because I really wanted this to be a decision that we made together. So we went and spoke with a midwife. Right when we got in the car after speaking with her, we were both so excited. She seemed perfect! She really reminded us of one of Mitchell's cousins, able to be light and friendly but then switch in a moments notice to handle a difficult situation. We took a few days to really make sure that this was the best decision for us and then went with it!
A typical prenatal appointment consisted of us starting out with tea with our midwife and her apprentice. We would sit in a living room like environment and we would just chat for 30 minutes or so. They would check in with how we were feeling and then ask questions regarding any symptoms, my diet, and daily exercise routine. They were really focused on making sure we were maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy. (For the first appointment I brought in a journal of everything I had eaten/drank for the past week and I remember I had cheese puffs on there and was SO EMBARRASSED!) They would also just check in with any fears or concerns that we had. It was always so comforting to have discussions with them if there was anything we were ever worried about. They would also recommend books to read to help encourage us to learn a lot about the process and all of our options. Mitchell and I joked that it was like our monthly therapy. From there we would go in to the back for a urine sample, to check my vitals & weight, measure my fundal height, and listen/feel the baby. I can't emphasize enough the time and consideration that we were given throughout this process.
Somewhere around week 25 or so, my fundal height grew much faster than normal. They recommended that we go in for an ultrasound to check things out. The ultrasound showed that I was retaining more fluids than normal. Our midwives and nurse practitioner thought it would be best at that time to start working with an OBGYN. We then had co-care with our midwives and doctor throughout the rest of the pregnancy. This just means that we had prenatal appointments with both. At week 36, I went in for another ultrasound and my fluid level was normal. Our doctor said he didn't see any reason why I would be more at risk to have a home birth and at that time we stopped our visits with him and just moved forward with our midwives. Other than this little risk that popped up, I had a great pregnancy. I was a little sick and tired in the beginning but after that phase, I felt great. I didn't have any swelling and had no trouble sleeping. I carried on with life as usual... I even continued going to power yoga classes right up until 38 weeks when the heartburn was a little too uncomfortable during a yoga class. We also took a lot of family walks with the dogs! I like to think that my good experience had to do with diet, exercise, and staying hydrated with lots of water and the lady in waiting tea.
Around the time of our due date, we started getting a little anxious. My husband and I weren't exactly sure what we should be doing. Mitchell had stopped going down to Hot Springs for work and we were both just hanging around the house waiting. At our next appointment, our midwife must have sensed this and she gave us some of the best advice. She said to get out and start making every day some sort of fun outing. She talked about the labyrinth and how as you are walking, you start feeling like you are really close to the center but then you make a turn and suddenly you are at the outside of the circle again. The next day we went out to Terra Studios and to our surprise, there was a labyrinth and we walked it for the first time, realizing exactly what she was talking about. I thought for sure that we were about to have our baby after that coincidence. We didn't.
Labor & Delivery
I went in to labor June 16th (5 days after my due date). I started waking up a little uncomfortable and falling back asleep around 3 am. This continued for a little while before I noticed the pattern. At that point I got out my contraction timing app on my phone and started observing. Sure enough, I was uncomfortable every 7 minutes! I think it was a combination of not wanting to lay on my back anymore, and being so excited, but I got right out of bed and snuck out into the living room to sit on the couch. One of our dogs heard me out in the living room and started barking so Mitchell ended up waking up abruptly and running out to find me. So much for letting him sleep in longer... He made me some tea and went back to bed for a short while before organizing the house in preparation. (getting the sheets ready, washing towels, getting hand towels in the crock pot, and getting the birth kit out)
I waited until 5am to text my midwife. I let her know that I was having contractions and they were about 4-5 minutes apart. She called immediately to get some more information. She told me to try getting on the ground and doing some cat/cows since I was really just feeling contractions in my back, but to keep her updated of course. I took her advice and did that for a while and then we had breakfast. After, we took the dogs out for a walk. While walking, my contractions shifted to only being 1.5 minutes apart but being very light and feeling much easier. Then when we would get home, they would resume to being closer to 4 or 5 minutes apart and a little stronger. I spent the rest of the morning walking through contractions and using my contraction timer as a fun distraction.
My first shift came around lunch time. I stopped walking through contractions and started leaning over the bed. I also started having Mitchell push on my back during every contraction. We started getting in a flow together. We called our midwife at this point, we were just so worried that we would wait too long to call her. So they came by and checked on us. I was only dilated to a 2 at that point. In the nicest way possible, she said I had a lot of work left to do. Great. So they left and they told us to call them the next time we felt a "shift". They also gave us a few examples of things to look for and to call them if they happen (like me throwing up for example).
We continued in our rhythm throughout the afternoon. I had a few moments of doubt or maybe just complete exhaustion and Mitchell was very helpful in reassuring me that I could do it. We kept at it all afternoon. Around 5 or so, things started feeling much more intense. I was making louder noises through each contraction and was feeling more lost in labor. I told Mitchell that I felt a "click" or a "shift" or something. He thought it was time to call Maria again, but I was worried that it was still too soon. Right after, Mitchell tried to get me to eat something since I hadn't eaten anything all afternoon and we had been hard at work. I ate a date/nut ball and then had a little smoothie to drink. I then proceeded to projectile vomit EVERYWHERE. It was lovely. Mitchell said it was now definitely time to call Maria, and I agreed.
We continued laboring until around 9:30pm or so (I'm guessing on these timelines - there is no sense of time during labor). I started sorta pushing through contractions and I was really worried that I was accidentally going to go to the bathroom during each contraction. I didn't think we could be too far along though because my water had not broken. Maria checked to see how dilated I was and to my surprise I was dilated to a 10!!! I said "I thought you were going to say 3!" I was BEYOND EXCITED. Maria said we could move into the tub and I was so excited about moving and being in a new phase of this journey.
The tub felt AWESOME. The second I sat in, the warmth was so comforting. My contractions took a short break and I think I got 10 minutes or so of just sitting there without one, exactly what I needed. I'm not sure how many pushing contractions I had, maybe 3 or 4 with longer pauses between each one. This phase felt very short to me. Our baby was born at 10:30pm en caul, which means my water never broke. He also came out with his little hand up by his eye. I think as just his head was out, I remember pausing and wondering what I was supposed to do - keep pushing or wait. I decided I was ready for him to be out and I gave one last push. They said to reach down, and I asked "for what"? They said "your baby!". I like to share this detail because that's just how out of it you are at this point... I reached down and up came my little Ari. He is absolutely perfect and he had little rolls already, I couldn't believe it! He was crying, coughing, and sneezing to get all of the fluids out all on his own. Mitchell had been helping deliver so he was behind me up until this point but right when they passed him through my legs so I could pull him up, Mitchell was right there with me. As I was holding him in the tub, Mitchell put out his finger and Ari grabbed it - I couldn't believe how perfect this moment was (and I'm so happy my sister documented it for us!).
We all three moved to our bed. Ari's cord was still attached to the placenta which I had not yet delivered. We just laid there in awe of our child until it was time to deliver the placenta. I gave one push and then had the relief that had been building that entire day. This felt amazing. Mitchell said it was the grossest part by far. :)
Mitchell cut the cord and we relaxed for a bit. I then passed Ari to Mitchell and I got up to try to use the restroom. This was a silly mistake. I had hardly eaten anything all day and had just lost a lot of blood. I made it to the toilet and then passed out. My midwife's apprentice and my sister were both right there with me so they just lowered me to the ground. It felt like I had been dreaming for a little while but apparently I was only out for two seconds or so. They had oxygen for me and they kept me on the ground monitoring my vitals for quite a while. They also brought in the placenta smoothie (which was delicious) and juice with chlorophyll to help get me back to feeling good. They did not want me to stand up again so when it was time to move back to the bed they put me on a blanket and scooted me next to the bed. From there, they gave me a few needed stitches and then did the newborn exam. Ari was right on my lap, in our bed, through the newborn exam. At this point we had done everything on the list to do but I still needed to go to the bathroom before we were all done. This ended up being the hardest part. The midwives left around 4:30am. We laid Ari down in his co-sleeper, and we slept for 3 hours (it's so hard to sleep when you are so excited and just want to be with your baby). Before we fell asleep I mentioned that I thought we should leave the light on so we could watch Ari because he had just been living in water, upside down his entire life so far and how crazy is it that he is breathing. But Mitchell reassured me that it is natural and that we also really needed some sleep.
That day was so hard. But it was so worth it. Afterwards, Mitchell and I both agreed that we would do it all exactly the same if given the choice. This entire experience has been so crazy in the most amazing way. Experiencing birth and what your body is capable of doing and healing from is incredible.
But if I were doing this again, I would have:
I had read the Ina Mays Guide to Breastfeeding and parts of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I will say that the books make it sound like the most natural, easy thing to start doing and that was not the case for me. Since he was born I had been trying to get him to latch and he just wasn't ever latching on. The first full night that we spent together is when it started setting in that he really wasn't eating anything. He was really fussy and I was worried. I was even putting my pinky finger in his mouth to soothe him back to sleep. It was difficult. I really really really wanted to breastfeed and this night was very discouraging. We called our midwives and they came back over that morning for an extra visit to help. They observed him trying to latch and then they recommended that I try pumping. I pumped some colostrum and we fed it to him with a little medicine dropper. His temperament instantly changed and he was so much more relaxed. My midwife also recommended that we order the latch assist and until that came in maybe we should try out the nipple shields - even though you really don't want to have to rely on those. When they left that afternoon, we felt so much better. Things weren't going great but we now had the tools we needed to feed our son. Mitchell ran by the store and grabbed the nipple shields and with those we were able to nurse right away. For the next week I would offer my nipple first, then use the shield, and then take if off and try to latch without it again. After about a week, it all clicked and we started latching without any assistance. Thank goodness because those nipple shields were so painful. My nipples cracked, bled, scabbed, and overall just felt terrible. The Nipple salve is an absolute must for this phase. I would say that things got a lot easier and less painful around week 3. From day 2 or so I had also been taking the Let there be milk tincture and the nursing nectar tea. I'm not sure if this helped drastically or not since I started right away, but I've had a great milk supply! I am writing this story in Ari's 13th week, and we are just breastfeeding away! I've even been able to make a couple of milk donations, which is incredible to be able to help out a family in that way!!! :)
The day after Ari was born, we had our first postpartum visit (really just hours after our midwives left since they didn't leave until 4 in the morning). At this appointment they checked Ari's vitals & mine, filled out the paperwork for Ari's birth certificate, took his footprints, assisted us with breastfeeding, and got Ari and I in the postpartum herb bath. This was my favorite postpartum thing. It was so relaxing and it felt great for my soreness. It's also healing for Ari's cord, and helps him absorb vitamin K along with many other great things. I purchased enough herb baths to have one every day for the first week, and I was so sad when I ran out. These were some of our best breastfeeding practice times as well. Being in the bath helped Ari stay awake and alert, while being very relaxed. He would also squirm around like a little fish and I thought it was so fun to watch.
I was also drinking placenta smoothies and taking the Nurtured Mother tincture for postpartum cramping and blues. FYI - The smoothies are delicious. My midwives blended pre-portioned bags of placenta and blueberries that were in the freezer so we just used these and mixed in other fruits and juice. My biggest postpartum challenge was figuring out the breastfeeding latch but aside from that I felt really good. I really have just absolutely enjoyed every bit of this newborn time.
We had a few more midwife postpartum visits at home and our final visit was at 6 weeks at our midwifes office. I loved having them there for any questions that we had through those first couple of weeks - and we definitely had a few questions. The last visit was very bittersweet. It was so sad to say goodbye to our frequent meetings. I also had a very hard time telling them thank you. It is impossible to find words for something so meaningful. Aside from them delivering our baby, the support that we received while becoming parents was incredible and we will be forever grateful.
(All photos, except this last selfie, are taken by my sister, Keely Victoria Photography - she not only documented the birth but helped in many other ways including a morning swaddling lesson. Thanks sis!)
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