Home birth wasn’t my original plan. But I’m glad I did it.
When I found out I was pregnant in November 2019, I planned to do a hospital birth in July 2020. Then in March 2020, the world changed with COVID-19. Things were up in the air about whether their support people would be allowed, doulas would be allowed, and if newborns should be separated at birth if the birthing person tested positive for covid-19 (spoiler: it’s not a good idea in most cases).
All the uncertainty was too much for me. I also knew I wanted my doula (also the birth photographer) and my sister at the birth, and I understood all the covid-19 precautions that hospitals were taking. I wanted to have both strong COVID-19 precautions and all my support people. For me, that meant a home birth. I switched to a homebirth practice the month before the baby was due. We were able to advocate and have my health insurance cover it after they denied it the first time.
Give birth where you feel safest. If you feel safe at home or birth center and your medical conditions allows for it… sweet. If you feel safest at a hospital, go for it! If you wish you could do a home birth but can’t because of health or financial issues, we can do things to make the hospital space feel safe for you.
Back to the birth…
For several months, I’ve been having Braxton Hicks contractions. For the two weeks before the baby was born, I had on-and-off pre-labor contractions in the evenings for several hours. I trusted in my body and knew that it was practicing. My baby would let me know when it was time for their entrance into the world.
My firstborn was born at 39 weeks and 5 days. This kid was still in at 40 weeks. I thought… this is new. I have never been pregnant this long. I knew half of the babies are born after their estimated due date so it’s still all in the range of normal. Most babies are born between 37 and 42 weeks.
The day before the birth day (July 18), I lost my mucus plug and thought. “Hmm that’s interesting, labor is going to happen soon.” I went about my day. My husband, Dave, and I decided to take our 2.5 year old, Ryan, to the beach to play in the water and at the playground. Then we got ice cream and went home. We put the kid down for bed. I cleaned the house (nesting apparently) and went to bed.
My water broke.
At 40 weeks and 6 days at 1:15 AM, I woke up to the feeling of warm water gushing out. I woke up my husband “my water broke.” I walked like a penguin to the bathroom with the water still leaking out. I was so surprised because I didn’t feel any contractions. Only 15% of people had their water break spontaneously before labor started (Source).
I decided to shower to see if anything interesting would happen. 15 minutes later, contractions started and were 5 minutes apart. I got out of the shower and got dressed.
I went on the birth ball, moved around, had my arms around Dave sometimes. The contractions were getting stronger. I breathed through them. Inhale peace. Exhale tension. I played a meditation track that I’ve been listening to for over 12 weeks to practice Hypnobirthing.
An hour later, my contractions were 3 minutes apart and intense. My husband, Dave, called the homebirth midwife Jennifer Holshoe of West Michigan Midwifery. He told her what happened so far, and she said it was a good time to call in the birth team (midwife Teresa Cramer and Student Midwife Ashley Jungjohan). Then Dave contacted our Doula/Birth Photographer, Annica Quakenbush of Sprout and Blossom and my sister, Carrie.
Dave worked on inflating the birth pool and filling it up with water in between contractions. (Pro tip: set it up sooner if you can lol).
The birth team and labor support partners all arrived a little over an hour later (they all live about that far) between 3:30 and 4:15am.
I worked through each contraction. I was on the ball, leaning on Carrie or Dave, on all fours, and whatever I could to get through each contraction/surge.
Then Annica asked if I wanted to go into the birth pool. I was hoping for a water birth but was open to the possibility that it might not happen. I figured that if anything, the water therapy would be helpful for the contractions. So I got into the birth pool around 4:30 am. It felt wonderful.
Dave and others worked to keep a constant flow of water boiling so that they can pour it into the birth pool to keep it warm and comfortable. I eventually told them to stop when it was warm enough.
I had my eyes closed for most contractions. I remember counting through them to breathe in and out. I did a visualization of floating on Lake Michigan and “riding” with the waves/surges. I remember the scene from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt when she said you can get through anything if you just take it ten seconds at a time.
I remember opening my eyes to look at my birth affirmations on the walls. To remind myself and encourage myself.
Eventually, I felt the urge to push and started doing it when I felt it. This was about 6:30 am or so (according to midwife notes).
I tried pushing in different positions in the birth pool:, hands and knees, sqatting, frog pose. I got out to try toilet laboring, then back to the pool.
In between the contractions, I would get super sleepy or fall asleep. This gave my body a chance to relax and recharge before the next contraction.
I remember feeling the doubts creeping up in the back of my mind. “Can you do this? This seems like it’s taking a long time. You probably need to go to the hospital like last time.” I kept saying to myself “STOP. You CAN DO this. Trust in your body.” I opened my eyes to look at the birth affirmations at the wall again and see Dave, Carrie, and Annica either encouraging me with words or looks.
I remember saying out loud “I can do this, right?” Dave laughed and said “YES, you can!” I asked the question again. Carrie said “Yes, you can.” One of the midwives said “You can do it. You ARE doing it.”
Eventually, Jenn the midwife said that we can try pushing in bed. That maybe pushing my legs back would help with the pushing. So we moved to the bed. I pushed and pushed. I wasn’t sure if progress was happening. Jenn assured me that it was. It was all good work. We tried pushing in squat mode on the birth stool for a little bit then back to the bed.
My 2.5 year old kiddo, Ryan woke up. Dave got him and was holding him.
Eventually, someone brought me outa mirror so I could see part of Sparky’s head when I was pushing. It gave me a visual progress report. It gave me the strength I needed to keep going.
Then we were able to see part of the head even when I wasn’t pushing. Then I pushed with everything I had, then POP! The head was crowning. The baby is going to be here!
At this point, I believe the oxytocin kicked in and gave me natural pain relief. From this point on, I felt no pain. I could feel the baby, but it didn’t hurt. The head was born. Then Jenn told me I needed to go on my hands and knees to birth the rest of the body.
I said “Okay. I’ll try.” I flipped over with some help. I felt some wiggling, the midwife was doing something. Later, I found out that Sparky had their body kind of twisted with one shoulder back and the other forward, with their hands up by their face. (Shoulder dystocia is what it’s called). The midwife handled it like a professional. Then she told me to push the next time I felt the urge. I did. The baby was born at 9:43 am.
Happy Birth Day
The midwife caught and passed the baby in between my legs. I lifted the baby onto my chest. A wave of relief came over me. I cried big tears of joy and made loud sobbing noises. I normally don’t do that! I was in disbelief, relieved, and happy. “I did it! I did it!” All the worries, I’ve had the entire pregnancy – the baby is finally earthside! The baby is okay! I gave birth!
Then I flipped over to be back on my back. I held the baby on my chest. I got uninterrupted skin-to-skin time. I looked at the baby and saw that they had brown hair, blue eyes, and a cone head (from their head molding to fit through the birth canal). Oh, and we found out the sex of the baby. That was a surprise (we didn’t check the ultrasound). The baby is a boy and was nameless for 8 hours while we tried to narrow down the list of names we liked lol. We finally decided on Micah. 🙂
Micah was able to nurse within the first 20 minutes.
The placenta took its sweet time coming out, so the midwife had me squat on a birthing stool and then with a push I was able to birth the placenta. The placenta was birthed 40 minutes after Micah. Honestly, it felt good to birth the placenta, it was like a heating pad haha.
Then my husband worked on making me my “victory meal.” I requested an omelet with hashbrowns, veggies and cheese with toast. He made everyone else pancakes for breakfast.
After the cord was cut, my husband was able to hold Micah for the first time.
Ryan was curious and wanted a closer book. And yes, that’s Micah trying to nurse. Babies don’t discriminate nipples.
Now the fun part.
Then it was time to weigh, measure, and do the newborn screening. Nearly everyone guessed that Micah was 8 or 9 pounds. I really had no idea because his birth was easier than his brother, who was 7 pounds.
Micah was 10 pounds and 5 ounces and 20 inches long. Everyone was surprised. I was too! My body was able to do that!
I had a first-degree vaginal tear (looked like the same spot as the first kid). The midwife gave me a numbing shot and then stitched me up.
We introduced Ryan to Micah again. Ryan looked at him and smiled. We asked if he wanted to give the baby a kiss. He gave Micah a kiss and then he got down and play with his toys.
I went to the bathroom. Then went back to bed. I worked on snuggling and nursing Micah. Carrie and Annica took turns feeding me the omelet and juice.
I felt my uterus starting to cramp so I asked what I could do about that. Jenn said that I could take a dose of After-Ease supplement every 20 minutes (or was it 15?). She said to drink it with juice to cover up the flavor. I can see why. It smelled like some kind of liquid that you would put in a gas-powered car, and it tasted just as bad. Yuck. But it did help.
I ate my omelet while snuggling with Micah on my chest. Eventually, Annica had to go. I thanked her for coming to the birth. She told me that I did a great job and that I’m a badass warrior She left.
The midwives and assistant cleaned up the blood, washed blood off of things, started the washer with dirty linens, towels, washcloths. They also drained and put away the birth pool. Then they congratulated me again. They said that they would visit me the next day and on Thursday. Then left.
Carrie hung out for a little longer and then she had to go. Hugs and goodbye!
Suddenly, we were a family of four. It was nice to have some time to ourselves that week as we adjusted to life with Micah. In some ways, the fourth trimester is a new experience for us too. We didn’t have to spend any of it in the NICU.
I found that it’s much easier to recover at home. I gave birth in bed. I stayed in bed or on the couch and only got up to go to the bathroom in my super sexy postpartum diaper/pad for the first couple of weeks. My husband made sure that my water bottle was filled, made me meals, changed Micah’s diapers, went grocery shopping, got me pain meds and an ice pack, and took care of Ryan.
We had family and friends drop off food. which I’m so grateful for.
I took care of myself and Micah. We figured out nursing together. I enjoyed all the baby snuggles because I know all too well how much time flies. It seems like only yesterday that my first kid was just a newborn.
Are you interested in having a birth doula & photographer at your birth?
To celebrate Micha’s birth, I’m giving a limited time special to three birthing persons in Southwest Michigan. Click below for more details.