Contrary to what modern medicine tells you, babies do not “have” to be born in hospitals if the mother and baby are low-risk. My first two children were born in free-standing birth centers with midwives. My son was born in 2007 at the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, NC. In 2010, my daughter was born at the Carolina Community Maternity Center in Fort Mill, SC. When I found out I was pregnant this time, we decided on a home birth. Initially, the decision was made because it was much cheaper than going to the birth center, but as time went on, I loved the thought of everything having a home birth meant.
Here is Darian’s birth story! (It is long…just warning you!)
During my pregnancy with Darian, I imagined how the delivery would go. I practiced relaxation exercises and envisioned my perfect birth experience. I prayed and asked God for specific things and planned on a perfect homebirth experience. I fought fear and anxiety during the pregnancy and decided within myself that I wouldn’t accept a difficult birth experience like I had with my daughter in 2010. As someone told me at the beginning of my pregnancy, no two pregnancies are the same…no two births are the same. Each pregnancy and birth is specific to the baby and he is writing his own story so sit back and let him. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Darian wrote his own story!
My third baby was a surprise in every way, from his conception to his birth. Nothing about the journey with Darian resembled my pregnancy experiences with Evan or Lindy. The surprise factor was present from the moment the pregnancy test turned positive, to the moment that his head emerged from my body, before the midwife walked in the door! It was a fantastic adventure and it is such a blessing to hold him in my arms!
According to my last menstrual period, my due date was calculated to be January 15, 2013. However, early in my first trimester, a doctor changed my due date based on the findings of an early first trimester ultrasound. He moved my due date up to January 9, 2013. We decided to go by the date of January 9 because Evan and Lindy were born at 39 weeks, so we thought that would be more accurate. As it turns out, that only set us up for disappointment because as January 9 came and went, it only made me increasingly anxious, frustrated and at times, downright angry.
Let me go back for a moment…during my pregnancy with Darian, I worked hard to overcome the anxiety I’d dealt with while pregnant with Lindy. I spent more time praying, meditating on God’s word and reading Christian books that reinforced a positive perspective on pregnancy. It helped a lot! At some point during the pregnancy, I visualized the perfect birth, right down to the day of the week I wanted for Darian to be born and the temperature at which I wanted it to be outside so that my kids could play outdoors while I labored inside. I specifically asked God that I would sleep well on a Friday night and wake up on Saturday morning in labor. I also asked that it would be a warm day, preferably in the 70’s. Considering that Darian was due in January, that temperature request was a bit over the top.
On New Year’s Eve, I woke up around 3am with contractions every 10 minutes. I was nauseous and felt just like I did the night I went into labor with Evan. I wanted Darian to wait until 2013 to come so we could pay the midwife with our 2013 flexible spending account, so I asked God that labor would stop and I could wait until 2013 to have him. God answered that prayer, though I kind of expected to go into labor the next night, but it turns out God gave me another 12 days!
Almost every night for the next 12 days, I had contractions from 3am to 7am, approximately 10 minutes apart. Sometimes I would wake up feeling pressure on my cervix and a scratchy sensation in that area, making me wonder each day if I would end up calling my husband back home from work. On Friday, January 4, 2013, I went to bed hoping that since it was Friday night, that God would answer my prayer and send labor the next morning. I should have known it wasn’t going to happen the next day because I didn’t sleep well at all!
Fast forward one more week and I woke up on Friday morning, January 11, feeling very crampy. Contractions started about every 15 to 20 minutes apart and I wondered for a short period of time whether or not I would have to call Mike home from work. Since he only works a half day on Fridays, I figured he had time to get home even if something did start. The contractions fizzled out again though, and I decided to go have a prenatal massage to help me relax and hopefully get things set up for labor the next day. The massage was wonderful! The therapist worked on some pressure points and was sure to work out all the tension I was holding in my back, hips and shoulders. After the massage, I did some shopping at Kohl’s, where the contractions returned. Then I went to Earth Fare to buy my “Birth-Day Cake” that has become a ritual in our household. Following every childbirth, I seem to “require” an intensely chocolate cake. I have my sister Ellen to thank for this. She bought the first two. I decided to make it easy on everyone and buy my own this time. I guess I was determined that the next day would be it!
As sure as I had prayed, the next morning I woke up at 4am with contractions and nausea that so often accompanies labor. Mike made me a peanut butter and honey sandwich (also a labor ritual) which eased the nausea quite a bit. Contractions came every 12 to 15 minutes apart and were manageable, but they made me wonder if they too would fizzle out once the sun came up like every other morning so far. This day was different though, they kept on coming. We got up and Mike made breakfast while I made three loaves of pumpkin bread to keep my mind occupied. We ate, cleaned up and started setting up the house for a birth that we hoped would happen later that day. I called my youngest sister, Hannah, to come and watch the kiddos so we wouldn’t have them to worry about.
Speaking of watching the kids…guess what the high was that day? Low 70’s! They were able to play outside with Aunt Hannah the entire day! They only came in when it finally got dark, which was also around the time that Darian made his entrance.
After breakfast, I spent the next few hours alternating between resting in bed and doing hip circles on a birth ball, trying to make sure the baby was in the best position possible. We continued timing the contractions, finding them to be anywhere from 12-22 minutes apart. There was no consistency to the contraction pattern, though they did seem moderately strong when they came. I called the midwife at 10am to let her know what was going on and was told to give her a call back if I felt that anything was progressing.
Around 2:30pm, I decided to catch a nap. While in bed, I had four contractions that seemed much stronger than the others, and they came much closer together. After those four contractions, I got up and asked Mike if the birth pool was full enough to get in yet. I told him the contractions were closer and stronger and once I was in the pool, I had him call the midwife back and give her the update. She asked if I thought she should head our way, but at that point I didn’t know. My contractions had been so sporadic all day; I didn’t want them to sit around waiting on me for hours. She told Mike to give me 30 minutes in the pool and then call her back. After they hung up, I had a contraction and started to cry. The tears came more from fear of what was ahead than from pain, and this was a huge clue to me that my labor was moving faster than I thought it was, despite the odd contraction pattern. I told my husband to call the midwife back and tell her to come on. She had an hour and a half drive after all. Hindsight being 20/20, we should have asked her to leave earlier.
Since we were laboring in our living room, we didn’t have access to a clock, so I have no idea what time things actually happened, or how long different stages of labor actually lasted. The only things I have to go by are the times phone calls were made. The midwife was called and told to come at 4:50pm.
After that phone call, things got intense, fast. I tried checking dilation, but couldn’t tell how many centimeters dilated I was, I could only tell that the baby had moved down a lot over the previous hour. We were almost to “0” station. I got out of the pool frequently to pee, since contractions seemed to hurt so much worse with anything in my bladder. Since our bathroom is on the opposite side of the house from our bedroom and living room, we borrowed a portable potty chair from my grandmother. Yes, it looked odd to have such a contraption in our living room, but it was convenient and that is all I cared about.
As the contractions came and went, I realized that my labor had progressed quickly and the pain was over taking my body. We played music I had selected on Mike’s iPod and we both prayed that things would go naturally and normally and that the pain would go. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that moment was probably the beginning of transition. I found a lot of comfort in the fact that I knew I wasn’t alone in my labor. Even though our midwife team hadn’t arrived, my husband was there and we both had faith in God to get us through the job at hand. This was a completely different experience than my labor with my daughter, where we were at a birth center with a terrific midwife, but I felt so alone though the whole thing because I had neglected to invite God to be at the birth.
As the daylight faded outside, my cervix completely opened and my body began to prepare to birth my baby boy into my arms. Our midwife still wasn’t there, and I began to get scared because my body started to feel like it wanted to push. Although I’d had two natural childbirths, I’d never been allowed to labor completely on my own. I never had to trust that my body knew what to do. This time, I had no choice. The contractions had changed, what was once manageable became so intense that I began to vocalize. With my first two births, I feel like I did a lot of screaming. I had read in one of Ina May Gaskin’s books that high pitched noises are counterproductive (I don’t remember if they cause tension or prevent the cervix from opening or what). Low pitched noises are recommended, so I began to make low groaning, moaning and probably sometimes growling noises. Those noises helped me to direct my attention to something other than the pain and it seemed to help move things along as well. I can only imagine what I sounded like though to my dad, step-mother and brother-in-law who were outside on my front porch praying for me. They probably started praying a lot harder at that point!
Through the last few contractions, I sat in the pool with Mike leaning over the side, holding me up underneath my arms. At one point, I stretched my legs out and pushed as my body told me to, but it didn’t feel quite right. I told Mike that I needed my sister Sarah in the room. There were several reasons I wanted her there. The first, she’d had a natural childbirth about eight months earlier. She knew how I was feeling and that it wasn’t pleasant, so having someone who understood my pain was comforting. The second reason I needed her there was to call the midwife. Mike couldn’t leave me, I couldn’t get through the contractions without his constant love and support, so someone else had to come in and call. Sarah came in the house, probably very surprised to find me ready to start pushing, but with no midwife there. I had no idea how far along I was because I couldn’t reach around my belly well enough to check my cervix. I could feel that he had descended further into the birth canal, but I couldn’t discern whether or not I was completely dilated. The fact that the midwife wasn’t there, I didn’t know my dilation and I was unsure of whether or not transition had come or not made me very anxious and fearful. The last few minutes were the only time of the whole experience that I lost myself. I had leaned on God throughout the whole pregnancy and the majority of the birth. Not having the support of my midwife team scared me though. I trusted my body, but a big part of my “vision” for the birth revolved around my midwife and her apprentices being there, surrounding me, supporting me and praying for me but they weren’t there! We waited too long to call!
Sarah got the midwife on the phone and she was driving as fast as she could, but it wasn’t fast enough to suit me. Whether or not I wanted to, my body was telling me to push. The midwife told Sarah to have me blow through the contractions, to try not to push. She had me blow out through my mouth and (for lack of a better word) buzz my lips together. I did this for as long as I could, but eventually my body completely took over and it didn’t matter how much I tried not to push, my body was ready to birth my baby. It didn’t matter if I was ready, or if the midwife was there, or anything else…the baby was coming! Finally my midwife told her she was pulling in and for me to go ahead and birth my baby since my body was working so hard to do that anyway. It was time for me to let things happen.
I could already feel my son’s head descending through my pelvis. An internal examination minutes before revealed a bulging amniotic sac (my water hadn’t broken yet!). I thought it was because of my intact water that the pressure was so incredible. I thought that if the water would break, it would be more comfortable. Eventually my water did break, with an intense pop! It was so powerful that my first thought was that a bone had broken (think my tailbone or something in my pelvis!). Then I remembered hearing people describe their water breaking as a “pop” so I stopped worrying about that. Once the water broke, Darian descended through my pelvis immediately. That sensation was quite uncomfortable and alarming at the same time. I could feel my pelvis spread apart and I had never felt it that intensely with my previous two children. I felt his head fit between the iliac spines on both sides. It was only a few seconds before his head was crowning. I stopped actively pushing and let my body do the work for me. I wanted to allow the tissues to stretch to prevent tearing. I reached down and felt my baby’s head emerge from my body.
A few seconds later, my midwife came running in the door. I was focusing on what was happening so I didn’t see her until after everything was finished. Keep in mind; I was in the birth pool, on my hands and knees. I heard her ask Mike and Sarah how long it had been since Darian’s head came out. Sarah told her it had just happened and my midwife had her start counting to 30. She was giving me 30 seconds to birth the rest of his body. She had Mike or someone else (I wasn’t looking) lay a plastic sheet on the floor in case I had to get out to change positions to birth the body. All I could think was, “How in the heck am I going to get out of this pool with the baby’s head already out of my body?” I also knew that I needed to push the rest of my baby out to prevent any complications from arising. I tried to push, but didn’t have any contractions to help me. Once my midwife told me to give it all I had, I pushed as if my life depended on it, because I knew my baby’s did! I pushed and he came out! My midwife caught him behind me and pulled him out of the water. I turned around, lifting one leg to untangle myself from the umbilical cord, and took my baby boy into my arms. He was perfect in every way!
Darian was covered from head to toe in a thick layer of vernix and he was big! He started to pink up right away and while he didn’t have that big loud first cry that you often hear, he did cry and his color improved by the second. He was breathing, he was pink and best of all, labor was over and my baby was in my arms. I kissed his little forehead and just stared at him, amazed that it was over and even more amazed that it happened so quickly! It definitely didn’t go the way I had envisioned it, but it was amazing nonetheless!
Within minutes of the birth, the midwife’s apprentices arrived, surprised to have missed the birth entirely. An initial newborn assessment was done while I was still in the pool. They told me I could stay in the pool as long as I wanted since there was no evidence of a hemorrhage or problem with the baby. Before I knew it, the placenta was delivered. Darian’s umbilical cord was long and interestingly, there was a true knot in the cord. The knot was not tight, but it was definitely a knot. Another example of God looking after my little boy to keep him safe. Thank God for answered prayers!
I’m not exactly sure how much time went by (at least five minutes but maybe longer) before the umbilical cord was cut. Big brother Evan had the honor of cutting the cord. He was so cute, he was afraid of hurting Darian and it took a few minutes to convince him that cutting the cord wouldn’t hurt me or Darian at all. Once the cord was cut, he didn’t like the fact that a few drops of blood dripped out. He seemed pretty proud though, to have such an important job!
After cutting the cord, I handed Darian to his daddy and asked for help getting out of the pool. As much as I enjoyed bonding with my baby, I was tired of being in the water and wanted more than anything else to dry off and snuggle up in my bed. Stepping out of the pool was incredibly uncomfortable after birthing such a big baby. My pelvis hurt quite a bit, but I made it out and the apprentices helped dry me off. They prepared my bed with waterproof pads and I made it the few steps from my living room to my bedroom with the assistance of those wonderful ladies.
While I was getting out of the pool, they weighed Darian. To everyone’s surprise, he weighed in at 10 pounds 14 ounces! No one could believe it, except me! I knew he was going to be almost 11 pounds.
Darian was a good breast feeder from the start. He was sucking on his hands and rooting around within minutes of his birth. Once we got settled into my bed, he latched on immediately with no problems whatsoever. That was a relief!
After nursing for a little while, the midwife and her apprentices did the newborn assessment. Darian ended up with apgar scores of 9 and 10, he measured 23 inches long with a 15 inch head and a chest circumference of 15.75 inches! No wonder I had a hard time pushing his body out! It was bigger around than his head!
About three hours after Darian’s birth, the midwife and her team were finished and postpartum instructions were given. They cleaned up a bit and hugged me, congratulating me and wishing me well. Follow up appointments were made and my sister left to go pick up supper for us. The best part of the whole thing was that I was not rushed; I didn’t have to pack up and go home like I did when we birthed Evan and Lindy at the birth centers. I was already home, snuggled up in my own bed!
Darian’s birth might have been a whirlwind and it definitely went faster than anyone thought it would. At the end of the day though, it was a fantastic experience! I wasn’t sure how a homebirth would go in this house because we rent it, it is small, and not my favorite place. The bathroom is impractical and carpeted, the bedroom is tiny and the whole thing is outdated. But you know what, when the time came that labor started, none of that mattered. When all was said and done, this was MY space and I was comfortable here. Not having to pack anything up while I was in labor was so nice. The ability for my kids to play at their own home was awesome. Laboring at home, knowing I didn’t have to get in the car and drive anywhere allowed me to remain relaxed and my body was able to progress at its own pace. I believe this is one reason why things went as fast as they did because I was comfortable and I didn’t have anything to worry about at all! Afterward, my body recovered so quickly because I didn’t have the aggravation of a car ride when all I really wanted to do was crawl in the bed and rest. My milk came in a full day faster than it did with either of my other two children as well. I fully believe that all of this happened because my baby was born in the comfort and privacy of my own home!
Although active labor was quite intense, if God blesses us with another baby, I will definitely choose homebirth again! Some people have commented on how strong I am, or how brave I am to have a homebirth. I don’t believe it had anything to do with strength or bravery. I chose a homebirth because I know my body is built to birth babies and I believe in myself and do not have a fear of childbirth. More importantly, the credit of our successful homebirth can only be credited to God. He blessed us with a baby, gave me a healthy pregnancy, kept us both healthy throughout the duration of my pregnancy and I knew that He wouldn’t abandon me at the end. He finished the work that He started and saw to it that my body would function as He designed it to birth my baby without complications.