This series is going to be a little out-of-the-ordinary and more personal than most of my posts. I didn't think I would post a birth story, but our experience was somewhat unusual and I thought it would be encouraging/interesting for some of you. If birth stories aren't your thing, feel free to NOT read this post! However, if you've given birth or plan on giving birth at some point, it might be something you'd enjoy.
Prenatal Care: Working with an OB/GYN
At the beginning of my pregnancy, we had two appointments with a regular OB/GYN. This wasn't a horrible experience, but I'd always wanted a homebirth and there were a few things about the hospital atmosphere that didn't fit well with my/our lifestyle. I like to be more of a participant when it comes to health care instead of just taking orders, plus I thought that having a midwife would be more personal than having an entire staff of doctors and nurses. I tend to be more "crunchy" than many hospital patients and I knew that there would be less arguing about certain subjects if I stayed away from the hospital. Billing was another hassle. We use a cost sharing program instead of insurance. The secretary at this particular office didn't understand this concept and kept telling us to get insurance because it's free (it's definitely not free for us) and everyone deserves good health care. Several of my bills had my maiden name on them and one even got sent to my parents' address.
I knew that there was always a chance of ending up with a hospital birth if we used a midwife, but we would never get a chance at having a homebirth if we chose to do prenatal care with the hospital. For this reason, we switched to a midwife after a couple months. It was probably meant to be, because a month of so after we switched my OB closed her practice.
Prenatal Care: Working with a Midwife
I loved doing prenatal care with our midwife. Our visits were done in a small, home-like office at a "family center". I felt like our midwife had more respect for me as an individual than the nurses and hospital staff. Rather than caring for me as a "patient", she gave me the knowledge and tools to take care of myself. Her emphasis was more on nutrition, exercise and other preventative measures rather than lots of testing and procedures.
For those of you who don't know, most midwives will only take on low-risk, normal pregnancies. Ours had a whole list of complications that would warrant hospital care. Thankfully my pregnancy went very smooth with just a few common complaints like heartburn or nosebleeds. We chose not to find out the gender or get an ultrasound done. Some other perks were learning about natural remedies and using a glucometer to measure blood sugar instead of having to drink the (reportedly nasty) glucola.
One of the best things about working with a midwife was her patience in explaining things to us and giving us options instead of just telling us what to do. Several weeks before the birth, she went over standard newborn procedures and let us chose which ones we would or would not have done. We were able to make better decisions after we'd been educated on the risks and benefits of each procedure.
Nesting & Early Labor
Our baby's due date was originally September 30th. All through September I had been checking things off my "before baby" list. On Saturday the 9th, I had a baby shower and spent the weekend putting things away and organizing. On Monday I posted my last pre-baby frugal accomplishments and half-joked about "nesting". On Tuesday I lost some of my mucus plug and frantically contacted the midwife. She said it would take a few days to finish falling out. So I had at least a few days, but sensed that the end was near even though my due date was over two weeks away.
Tuesday night I had a list ready for Hubs. Instead of going to our church small group meeting, he stayed home and helped me with baby preparations. I know it probably seemed irrational to him, but he was nice and obliged my requests. I felt a lot better after some of those things were done.
On Wednesday I started feeling some mild contractions. Wednesday is usually our date night, but I wasn't sure there would be a date night, so I requested a date morning. Again, Hubs dropped what he was doing and obliged my request. I had a list of things to buy at Walmart, and after that we went to Big Boy for breakfast. I had a stack of blueberry French toast with sausage patties, bacon and eggs. It was really good.
When we got home, I continued arranging and preparing baby stuff. I started converting a Walmart bra into a nursing bra, put together our new baby swing and harvested some peppers from the garden. Later that night my contractions were still mild, so we decided to go on another date. (I love my husband!) This time we went to Joann Fabrics to pick up some clips for my nursing bra project. Despite the contractions, I was still "with it" enough to print our a "60% off all notions" coupon and got two packages of clips for $5.00. Then we went to Bob Evans for dinner. When we got home, I finished stitching up the nursing bra.
On Thursday, contractions started to get stronger. I got up several times between 1:00 and 4:00 am. At 4:30 I gave up trying to sleep and headed into the kitchen to chop up my garden peppers for the freezer. Later that morning I did go back to sleep, but it was hard to do between contractions, which weren't terrible but definitely were distracting. All day Thursday I alternated between trying to sleep, chopping peppers and timing contractions. I also got outside to do animal chores, and attempted some work in the garden. Hubs went on with his work, albeit distracted. At 3:00 pm I called my husband because contractions were close enough together to be called "active labor". We decided to call the midwife at that time, and she was out within an hour.
Active Labor at Home
A little while later our entire birth team had arrived. The midwife came, along with her assistant and our doula. I continued laboring in the bedroom while Hubs set up the birth pool and the midwife took my vitals and monitored baby's heartbeat.
Labor continued. At 8:00 pm, the midwife checked me at 3-4 cm. dilated. The birth team left to get some Taco Bell for dinner. Hubs and I stayed home and he made me a smoothie. I hadn't eaten or drank much all day, and still didn't feel like pigging out. Contractions felt like they were getting stronger and it was hard for me to choke down some of the smoothie and a bit of water. When the midwife got back, she gave me a massage (she's trained in that as well). The massage was wonderful. It made the contractions almost melt away.
An hour or so later, I decided to get into the birth pool. By this time it was probably 11:00 pm. Like the massage, it was wonderful. By this point the contractions were still painful, but the water helped take the edge off of the pain. A little after 1:00 am, the midwife checked me again. The look on her face told me something wasn't right. "Well," she said slowly, "you're still only at 3 or 4 centimeters." What? After almost 10 hours of active labor I'd made almost no progress. "There are a couple of things we could do," she said. "We have some homeopathic remedies we can try, or we can continue on as we have been. My concern is that you'll become too exhausted going on like this. The other option is to transfer to the hospital. An epidural might relax you enough to get things going again."
Hospital. My heart sank at the word. So much for my beautiful water birth at home. I fought back tears while suffering through the next contraction. While the midwife and her assistant were in the other room talking about what to do, I felt a popping sensation and a gush of water. "Something just happened!" I yelled into the other room. I knew that my water had broke, but I was exhausted and all that came out was "something". Something was better than nothing, which was apparently what had happened over the last nine hours.
The midwives resumed discussion on what to do. They gave me the option of doing some homeopathic remedies and trying for another hour or two, or still transferring to the hospital. Since my waters had broken, things might speed up. I decided to give it a go and reassess the situation later.
After that, the contractions got a lot stronger. They were so strong that I had a hard time "blowing through" them or making the low moaning sounds that the midwife suggested. I was discouraged about making no progress, which made the pain even worse. After an hour and a half, the midwife checked me again. "The good news is that the cervix has softened a bit. The bad news is that you're still about three centimeters dilated."
That was the end of my beautiful homebirth dream.
Stay tuned! I'll be posting Part 2 later this week.