I’ve gotten so many questions about what it was like to have a home birth. Even though birth is a really intimate experience, I think it’s important to share our stories. Sharing a birth story broadens our community, creates empowerment around birth and connects readers to the experience of birth and motherhood. There is no right way to give birth and I’m not sharing this story to convince anyone to have a home birth. This was the right decision for our family for this pregnancy, but it may not be for everyone and that’s ok. Birth is birth no matter how you do it. Anyway…here it is…forgive the typos, I’m just a little sleep deprived.
At 39 weeks and 3 days my water broke at about 9pm while I was doing some stretches. I’d been having some low back pain for a few minutes and thought cat/cow and child’s pose would feel good. As a sat back into child’s pose, I started leaking- it was not a big gush like they have in movies. My midwife (Amy) wasn’t convinced it was amniotic fluid when I called her. She had me test the pH with urine dip strips and it wasn’t as obviously alkaline as she would have expected. I however, was convinced. This may sound weird but I have a crazy strong sense of smell and to me it smelled just like when my water had broken with Lincoln (my first son). Not a strong or bad smell, just different. Also, this back pain that initiated the stretching was not something I had experienced in pregnancy- it was dull, achey and crampy all at once and left me feeling nauseated and shaky. Just to be on the safe side I asked my mom and midwife to come over. For those of you who don’t know, my mom is an acupuncturist and we were planning on doing some needling during labor if needed. Not knowing what exactly was in store for the night, Seth went to bed. We figured someone should be well rested in the house. By the time Amy got here I had experienced a couple of mild contractions. From 10-11 pm contractions were 10 minutes apart and totally tolerable. Amy decided to nap in the family room where it was dark and wait to see what happened.
At about 11 pm, Lincoln woke up asking for me. I went to his room to snuggle for a bit and he was convinced he needed to wake up and get the mail with me. I had 3 contractions while I was in his room in a 20 minute period. I knew this was going to be my last time snuggling with him as an only child and was definitely starting to feel emotional. From 11-12 contractions we 6-8 minutes apart and still not too bad. I had to stop to breathed during them but I could chat in between them and move around easily.
At midnight, Lincoln woke up again. (Usually this kid sleeps straight through the night, no problem, but he had sensed something was up before I even went into labor– when I had put him to bed earlier that evening he kept saying – “After I go to sleep Nana’s gonna come over and make me tea!” My mom never comes over at night so I think he already knew…?) Anyway, he came out to the living room and hopped up with my mom on the couch. He was in such a cute, smiley mood. We heard coyotes howling outside and he desperately wanted to go outside to see them and the moon. A little while later my mom tried to get Lincoln back to bed. I could hear him in his room singing at the top of his lungs “…all the live long daaaay.” I started laughing and got a huge gush of amniotic fluid- now it was pretty obvious that my water had broken. Amy woke up to check my vitals and listen to the baby’s heart beat. The baby was moving A LOT and his heart rate was perfect so we weren’t worried about him being stressed. I still hadn’t been checked for cervical dilation yet, wanted to hold off on that as long as possible. By this time I’d been having what felt like a low grade constant contraction for over an hour with strong contractions every 7-10 min.
At 1 am it became clear that Lincoln was not going back to sleep. I told him “the baby is going to be here in a few hours,” and he said “aaawwwwwe, how cute!” He’s been obsessed with this baby since the day we told him and has always asked a lot of questions about when and how the baby was coming out, so I shouldn’t be surprised that he wanted to be a pat of the action. We had read him a children’s book about home birth and he had said many times he wanted to see baby Wyatt come out. He even asked about the placenta.
At 1:15am things picked up really quickly. Contractions were coming at every 3-5 minutes and instead of just breathing during, I had to start making some noise. I had always hoped labor would be a quieter experience but turns out you just don’t have much control over what noises come out of your body during labor. Seth woke up around this time and Amy had her assistant/midwife apprentice come over as well.
At around 2:30, Amy decided she wanted to check dilation. Holy F*%k that hurt! I was at 5cm. I had stopped timing contractions at this point bc they were so strong. This is where things get a little blurry and I lost all sense of time. I definitely puked my guts out during one particularly intense contraction, I think soon after my cervix was checked.
During this time I had to go to the bathroom a lot- the contractions were cleaning everything out! I was also getting really irritable- couldn’t stand Seth telling me to breathe, was moaning/screaming during contractions.
Lincoln was such a champ, checking on me frequently and saying how cute the baby was going to be. He wasn’t too freaked out by the crazy noises. He would cover his ears or momentarily hide in his cardboard box fort, but otherwise very present throughout the process.
Everything was kind of a blur from then on. I know I felt like giving up, and was so miserable at the thought that I couldn’t give up bc this baby had to get out somehow. I really didn’t want to be feeling any of what I was feeling and I missed the epidural that I had with Lincoln. Was laboring on my hands and knees, but my hips were constantly moving back and forth, and I feel like I did something weird with my hands but can’t remember. Earlier on I was squeezing a fine tooth comb in my hand which helped. Biting the edge of a pillow during contractions also helped. At some points it helped to have someone squeeze my feet as hard as humanly possibly, and towards the end and while pushing it helped to have Seth do counter pressure against my sacrum.
At some point I felt like I had to go to the bathroom again but contractions were so strong and so close together I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the bathroom. Seth just about carried me there. By the time I sat down on the toilet I had such a strong contraction and the tone of my moaning had changed. Somewhere in the depths of my mind I knew that this was a good sign, that things were getting close. A midwife and ND who I’d trained with in med school had always said you can tell when moaning turns into a grunt that a woman is almost ready to push. (Thank you Farra Swan!) While on the toilet I could feel the pressure of the baby’s head. To get through the contraction I was pressing against the wall in front of me so hard with both arms almost doing push ups. Counting the push ups helped and I wished I’d remembered to do more counting during contractions. I may have also given myself a little pep talk like “you can do this Katie, you were made to do this!” It was clear it was now or never to get to the birth tub if we were going to have a water birth. Seth supported me to get to the tub and the water felt so good! Don’t get me wrong I was still in so much pain that I was dropping “F bombs” left and right and thinking “why the hell does anyone do this to themselves?” But still, the hot water was better than anything I’d felt in the last hour.
As soon as I got in the water I got on my knees and hugged the front of the birth tub. This tub was ugly and industrial but it was perfect because it had these notches that my feet could push against. With my first contraction in the water we could feel the head already. Seth was able to lean into the tup and continue the counter pressure on my sacrum. The pain was so unbelievable- I’m not sure if I sounded like a lion roaring or a cow dying but I know I was yelling loud enough to have a sore throat the next day. I pushed with the contractions, and within 3 contractions Wyatt was out. I had been pushing on my knees while hugging the front of the tub so I had to sit back quickly and scoop Wyatt up and out of the water. He was crying right away and was nice and pink. Born at 3:46 am, 7 lb 4 oz and 20 inches long. Based on the pictures we have from the time I got into the tub until Wyatt was born, we estimate I pushed about 8 minutes. Labor was just under 7 hours start to finish. Amy never did check my dilation again. I just knew when it was time and listened to my body.
I went into this labor and birth with no expectations of how it would go. I knew Wyatt would get out somehow and my greatest hope was that we would both be safe and healthy. I hoped we’d be able to stay at home but I didn’t have an agenda. Honestly, I didn’t think about labor or birth much at all going into this one. I wasn’t scared and I didn’t try to control it. Later on, Seth said that he felt like I was one of those animals that just goes off into the woods to do my thing. Having had an epidural with Lincoln I never had to experience the pain of pushing so that was a very real and intense experience. If you’d asked me days later if I’d do it again it would’ve been a HARD PASS, but now that I’m a month out I would say “sure”, since clearly I’ve already forgotten the intensity of the pain. I’m so glad I was able to have a birth without pitocin or an epidural this time. My 25 hr labor with Lincoln involved both and I had a lot of bleeding and much more difficult recovery.
The best part of this home birth experience was Lincoln being there and being in my own space with the people I’ve chosen. A few years ago I never would have thought I’d want my 3 year old at my birth, but this kid is really something special. He has great energy, is fearless and provided great support and comic relief. Watching him meet his brand new baby brother for the first time in this way was priceless. I’m also so impressed that he was awake from 11pm to 10am the next morning with zero meltdowns! Future OBGYN or midwife maybe?
If you’ve gotten this far, thank you so much for reading 🙂 If you have any questions about home birth, I’m an open book!
Dr. Katie Rose