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When I told people that I was planning to have a home birth, I got a lot of bewildered and shocked reactions. "What?! For your first child? No Drugs?!" followed by a very sarcastic sounding "Gooooood luck. You are BRAVE!" I wrote a lot about peoples reactions in my journal, but chose not to share it here because I hadn't given birth yet, and didn't want to jinx anything. Besides, for all I knew, all of my criticizers were right and I would demand drugs and be rushed to a hospital to give birth like the vast majority do.
I started exploring giving birth naturally after my midwife recommended a book written by Ina May called Guide to Childbirth. it brought so much encouragement and insight that I had never thought of. The book consisted of a series of positive birth stories from real women, which are rare to come by these days! If you base what you know about childbirth and labour from television, where people are paid a lot of money to entertain us, then you have it all wrong. Think about how boring a show would be if there were no issues during the birth scene, or if the woman didn't scream, "You did this to me!" to her poor husband who is going to faint in 5-4-3....If you base everything you know about childbirth on someone else's opinions and feelings about it, then that's just ridiculous. I mean you wouldn't let another persons opinion dictate your entire life would you? I know I wouldn't. There's always going to be someone that's "been there, done that and bought the t-shirt." Life isn't about living through other peoples experiences, it's about creating your own. So as a naturally rebellious girl, I decided to ignore the nay-sayers, and go with my gut on this one. If birth was impossible to accomplish then the world wouldn't be overpopulated with human beings at this moment. If birth was impossible to accomplish without drugs, then explain why many developed countries with the option to use drugs during birth simply refuse them. I also read a great book called Childbirth Without Fear, that exposed the culture of fear around childbirth, when it started and why. No spoilers, but please, read it before making up your mind about the "scariness" of birth, have you been brainwashed to believe that?
Being at home allowed me to have my own music, scents, and change positions and scenery dozens of times. I labored in the garden out back, on the sofa, in the basement on the a ball, in the pool...sounds like a Dr. Seuss book. The best part about midwives was the constant coaching and positive reassurance that I received. They also gave my husband, Dylan, very important roles, so he felt productive and involved as an official back masseuse during contractions. He was also in charge of keeping me hydrated, changing the frozen towel on my forehead and of course my personal cheerleader.
Natural birth isn't about some kind of feminism-macho nonsense, nor is it about judging women that went in a different direction. Please do not feel personally attacked as these are just my thoughts, opinions and experiences being expressed here. To me, Natural birth is just that, natural, there was a time before all of the drugs and painkillers and women still gave birth somehow. You are stronger than you think, despite what you're told. It does take strength, but not the kind that you would think, it takes a lot of mental strength because you will have to continuously justify your decision to everyone around you that thinks you're crazy for making it.
That being said, despite all odds, doubts, and fears others had for me, here is my home birth story:
Contractions began at 4:30 AM, but at the time, I told myself that I ate something funky and my stomach was upset. This is my first baby, so every sensation was a brand new one for me. I opted for a natural home birth, for personal reasons including simply proving to myself that I could do anything that I put my mind to. The Midwives at Renaissance Midwifery give you two things to check off before giving them a call. First thing is the Gravol/Tylenol test. Apparently I'm not the only one that confuses early labour contractions with indigestion. This test requires you to take one of each and waiting an hour to see if the discomfort goes away. The second thing on the list before calling them, is the 4-1-1 motto. Monitor your contractions and contact them when they're approximately four minutes apart, last one minute long for at least one hour. I failed the Gravol test and within the hour, my contractions met the 4-1-1 requirements. I proudly pat myself on the back for the 4 hour day nap that I Indulged myself in the day before before. It was show time. So I called my midwives. Somehow I was able to sleep between contractions in the beginning, However their increased intensity made it virtually impossible to get some shuteye. So naturally, like any sleep deprived nervous wreck, I started pacing which made the contractions more manageable. The midwives were here within 30 minutes time. After checking both me and baby's vitals, she told Me that I was a whooping five cm dilated. Thank goodness! I thought, I'm already Halfway there! But sleeping through most of the first half doesn't really count as work does it? Within the next few hours I was focusing on conquering the contractions by focusing on deep inhales followed by slow loud OM sounds. When I remembered to keep my face, shoulders and hands relaxed I barely felt the contractions. But it's a hard thing to remember when you're In pain; you naturally want to make faces and hold your breath, but every time I did that, I could barely handle the contraction! Time seemed to freeze and zoom by at the same time, it was very quiet, other than encouraging whispers from the midwives and my amazing husband (he took this like a champ! I imagine it must have been quite the experience for him as well!).
At 10 cm dilated my water still wasn't broken! They were impressed by the thickness of the skin of the placenta and be fact that the baby began descending with it remaining intact. They even had me feel it, felt like a balloon was being blown in there! Naturally, they broke it after walking and squatting had failed, and then things progressed much more quickly and intensely. I had three to four contractions that I felt I could barely handle despite my tricks, they had become nearly unbearable and I was frankly sick of them at this point. When I vocalized this, midwives decided it was time to go in the nice hot birthing tub (going in the tub too early would have slowed down my labour progression, it's not recommended before 7-10cm dilation).
Wow, what a difference! The contractions went from feeling sharp to almost unnoticeable. The water was an incredibly effective pain reliever. I had to hold my stomach to know that I was contracting, and know when to push otherwise I'd miss them completely. I tried two different positions one on my bum pulling my legs towards me as I pushed. The second one really sped things up though. A deep Yogi squat, while I supported myself with the help of aerial yoga straps dangling above the tub. Nobody warned me about the yoyo effect of first babies. Two steps forward, one step back. It was the strangest feeling ever, and I thought he was coming out of my bum! It took me 5 pushes to get the head out and the rest of his body slid out in a slippery corkscrew and left me breathless, overwhelmingly happy with tears of joy streaming down my face at his loud little voice. I remember saying something, and him stop crying, look up at me and start sucking his fist making a surprisingly loud Smack! Smack! Smack! sound... It was love at first sight.
I'm thankful for my husband andbBirthing partner, who was with me every step of the way. Your kisses, words of encouragement and massages kept me going. I'm thankful for the midwives and the great work they do; and their effortless acceptance of my unorthodox birthing plan that everyone else thought I was crazy for doing. I'm thankful for the inspiration I got from an excellent book I read called Birth Without Fear; teaching me about my own strength and the neurological effects of the negative societal influences That often make a woman feel weak and unable to labour naturally. And finally, I'm thankful for those prenatal yoga classes with the amazing Angela, doula, and instructor at Yoga By Sarah. Not only did she teach us excellent strategies for the pushing, but practicing those yogi squats came in handy! Using gravity was an excellent way to move things along, and my legs would not have been strong enough without all that practice!
Pound baby, that was 54cm long. I did it, I had the birth of my dreams, eight hours from start to finish, with just over 30 minutes of pushing, which was in my opinion the best part of the entire labour.
Today he is four weeks old and a unicorn baby! Sleeps through the night, hardly cries and is already showing me his big beautiful smile on a regular basis, holding his head up and cooing! They say when birth is intervention free it is less traumatic for the child who in turn has a calmer temperament...who knows if that's true or not, I just know I have a little angel for a son and couldn't be more thankful.
I'm keeping his face off public social media for as long as I can for personal reasons. I may or may not decide to share on a future post. Either way, stay tuned. Cheers!