Friday, February 10, 2012

Asher's Birth Story Part 1: Homebirth

In telling Asher's birth story I felt compelled to start with why we chose a homebirth because that has been, by far, the most commonly asked question.

There seems to be several preconceived notions that pop up when people hear that you have had or are planning a homebirth: you are uninformed or naive; you are anti-modern medicine, anti-establishment, anti-doctors; you are crunchy; you are more concerned with your birth wishes than you are about your baby's health; you're weird.

I can only answer that, while we may be a little out of the mainstream and some may tag us as strange, we do not fit the description above. In fact, without exception, the people we have met who have chosen homebirth are the most well educated parents we have spoken to on all things related to childbirth and chose the homebirth route because they are convinced it was the safest place for their baby to be born.

When we decided on a homebirth we were hoping to have our child in a peaceful environment, surrounded by people who were positive, patient and believed that a woman's body was designed to do this amazing, miraculous thing: give birth. That the act of giving birth, in most situations, is not a medical emergency that needs to be attended by a trained surgeon but is a beautiful and natural part of being a woman. We also fully believed (and still believe) that our child would be in a safer place being born at home.

We researched and interviewed several providers before selecting the one that fit our needs. This was a much more thoughtful process than my previous pregnancies, where I just blindly took the doctor in the closest practice. I had a page of questions to ask, checking to make sure the midwife would be on the same page as my family.

In the end, we went with a traditional midwife. She was a midwife through experience and apprenticeship rather than formal education and certification. She had attended more than 1500 births in over 20 years of experience. She had an air of quiet confidence and calm about her. I loved her right away.

In our state a homebirth is always attended by two midwives. I felt very well cared for and confident that if anything went wrong we would have good decision makers to get us to the right place. We also hired a doula, a birth assistant, who would be with me while I labored in the quite likely event that Adam would be busy with our other two boys. She turned out to be invaluable.

On Sunday morning at 4, I woke up to some pain in my stomach. I thought Asher must have turned a funny way or be stretching out and poking into me wrong. I turned in my bed and felt the unmistakable gush of fluids. Here we go! I shook my husband awake and told him to call the midwife. Mine was out of town until that afternoon, as luck would have it, so he called her apprentice who then contacted the on-call midwife. She asked how my contractions were and told me to get some more sleep if I could and call if things got more intense.

I laid back down while Adam flew around the house trying to fill up the birth tub, cover windows, and generally prepare before the boys woke up. I didn't actually sleep. I think I knew this would go quickly.

By 6, the boys were up and my contractions were coming harder and faster. My midwife called to check on me and I told her I was going to ask my doula to come but the contractions were irregular enough that I didn't think the midwives needed to come yet. My doula headed over.

It seemed to take her forever to get there, though I'm sure it was less than 30 minutes. By the time she walked in the door I was laboring hard, the contractions were coming right on top of each other and the only way the pain was tolerable was if I was on my hands and knees. I felt like I was already in transition but that couldn't be right, I'd only been in labor for 3 hours! The doula took one look at me and called the midwives to tell them to hurry up and get here. I told her I felt like I needed to push, she stayed on the phone with the midwife.

At some point I heard the doula tell the midwife to please hurry. I felt Adam's hand in mine shortly after. He told me later the doula had come to get him and told him the baby would be here soon. I was so grateful to have him there and the relief I felt at being able to grab his hand must be similar to what a drowning person feels when someone firmly grasps their hand and pulls them out of the water.

Still no midwife. I heard my doula tell me to quit pushing and breathe like I was blowing out candles. That was the single. hardest. thing. I have ever had to do in my entire life. I don't know how long I did that, it seemed like an eternity but was probably more like a few minutes. I heard the doula say in a relieved voice that the midwife was here and I could push again.

I remember finding the perfect 'zone'. That when I pushed from that place there would be good progress and the midwife would sound really excited. I felt like I was in a good groove and the baby would be out in just a moment. Then the midwife told me I had to lift one of my legs so that I was in a position much like the often criticized Tim Tebow. It was so hard to find that zone again. The dola was saying, 'Just one more push and he'll be out!' but I couldn't find the place to make that one more push. Onbeknownst to me, Asher had a barrel chest and the midwife was needing to shimmy him out a little at a time. I finally found one last drop of energy and with a primal scream I felt Asher slip all the way out.

It had taken five contractions and was only 8:11 am but it felt like much more.

Little did I know that would be the easy part of my day.


  1. Congratulations!!!!!! Absolutely Awesome and Lovely!!!

    And, you are so absolutely right. Here I begin my rant and rave. Or, ode to natural childbirth. So, be fore warned and stop reading now. :)

    Home birth is as safe as any medical setting for healthy pregnancies. Safer in most situations because of the thought, planning and personal commitment of the woman and the father--but the research tempers it to 'safely' saying 'as safe'.

    Current science-based information provides overwhelming evidence of the benefits to moms, babies and families from labors in which women respond to their bodies' cues and are allowed to work freely with their labor. Science-based information also conclusively shows that the common routine medical interventions (used on the majority of women that enter most hospitals and many birth centers) is actually harmful to women and babies by increasing the risk of complications and injuries. The trained surgeon then is needed to 'save' the woman and baby with even more invasive and risky interventions.

    My biggest concern, however, is how our current medical model is depriving women from even hearing about the incredible, life-enhancing, empowering experience of giving birth that is designed to create a woman who is overwhelmed with an incomparable joy, an unshakeable confidence in her own capability to mother this new child and a birth memory that will go with her through the rest of her life!

    Fathers and families also lose out. In a naturally unfolding labor the father, and often siblings and extended family become intimately part of the process and the birth experience becomes theirs as well. Which means that the family is even more intimately attached physically and emotionally to the new mom and baby through the shared process. Which naturally creates a supportive and caring environment for and between the new parents and baby.

    Just the apologetic explanation that comes out of nearly every woman's mouth who was mislead into giving her labor and birth over to the medical approach, "I HAD to have an epidural," is enough evidence of how inadequate, incompetent, indecisive, ineffectual, inept, inferior, etc., a woman is made to feel about her body, her ability to cope with labor and, whether we admit it or not, her adequacy and capability as a person and a parent. PLUS so many women sit silently when birth stories are being told by others because they do not have one--a birth story, they did not experience giving birth, they have vague hazy memories of their children being born. In fact, because the production of endorphins and hormones intended to assist a woman in coping with and recovering from labor has been cancelled by pain suppressing medication and surgery, many women are in more discomfort and pain after delivery than before or during. My first realization years ago of how profound this result is was when a group of students nurses described the new moms they observed as crabby. Crabby instead of reveling in the wonderful physical relief from labor and pregnancy and riding on the crest of the most amazing emotional euphoria in human experience!

    The greatest act and experience of being a woman is lost! No wonder so many women are compelled to discount, disapprove and deny the credibility of the woman who dares to assert herself, challenge the status quo and trust her body, herself and the miraculous process of labor and birth and audaciously choose her own way to work through her labor. Then, have the nerve to be animated and thrilled by the resulting awe, wonder, joy and power of her achievement. This is an experience that lasts forever in cyrstal clear memory.

    1. Totally agree! In fact, I think you wrote it better than I did! :-)

  2. You go girl:) My midwife (I had her for both my kids and now we are dear friends) is a real pro home birth lady! She always calls me to tell me another success. Blessings

  3. oh friend...this is so moving. sending so much love to you!

  4. LOVE IT!!! :)
    im totally for homebirth. :) im an hour from a hospital now though, so in this house, im not sure i would go for that... i mean, i WANT to. but.