My Birth Story – Having an 11.5lb Baby Naturally at Home

I really dislike hospitals.  I dislike the smell, the environment, the commotion — not much about a visit to the hospital puts me at ease.  I wanted to have both my first two babies at home, but Maryland’s ban on home births made sure it was near-impossible to find an available midwife in the DC area.   My first hospital birth was OK, though the second one was highly unpleasant, compounded by the fact that #2 was planned to be born at home but couldn’t be.   

So, I was left with a sense of unfinished business which blessedly was to be wrapped up completely with my third. This is my whole story of having a third baby at nearly 40 years old.

The Home Births that Weren’t

Both my first and second children were born in a hospital, though I absolutely didn’t intend it to be that way.   With my first, we had just completed a move from LA to the Washington DC area.  As I’ve always had a general dislike of going to the hospital, I really wanted to have my baby at home.  However, the art of midwifery is virtually non-existent in the DC area, and up until May of 2015, having a baby at home was actually illegal in the State of Maryland.  The one midwifery / birth center that was open at the time in Virginia had a waiting list a mile long when we moved to the area, so we ended up having to have our first baby in a hospital.

With our second baby, we were ahead of the game enough to score a early place on the BirthCare midwifery’s waiting list, and ended up with outstanding prenatal care from their staff midwives throughout my second pregnancy, which we gushed about here.    My husband and I put together a detailed birth plan, and got our house stocked and ready for everything we’d need for a successful home birth.

However, that birth did not – unfortunately – go according to plan.   You can read the full blow-by-blow of our second birth here, but basically after going into labor, the baby’s heart rate skyrocketed to around 240 bpm and hung there.  We ended up having to transfer to a hospital and ended up with an extremely stressful birth experience, multiple nurses suggesting emergency cesareans, and the birth plan flying completely out the window.   Luckily, our (non-hospital) doctor ended up arriving, who saw that I was ready to just have the baby, and she broke my water which had the effect of instantly sending the heart rate back to 140bpm (totally in range).  I delivered my 9lb 14oz boy just minutes later, and all was well with the world.

Both of my kids have been healthy, active and perfect – but I was left with the sense of unfinished business. I was left with the feeling that I set out to do something that never got done.

Our Third Pregnancy

I found out I was pregnant with our third child shortly after our cross-country move to Oregon.   Now, in stark contrast to the scene in the DC Metro area, Portland is positively brimming with birthing centers and thriving midwiferies.   As opposed to trying to elbow my way onto a waiting list like it was in Virginia, I ended up interviewing nearly a score of various midwives, all of whom assumed that I’d be shopping around to find one that fit.  It was surreal, but understandable given the fact that Oregon has more out-of-hospital births than any other state except Alaska and Montana.

So, after a number of interviews, I settled on Adele, who was positively wonderful every step of the way.

My third pregnancy was pretty much entirely different from the first two.   Whilst I never got morning sickness on the first two, this last one I was nauseated throughout much of my first trimester.   But – aside from that bit of discomfort, the first two trimesters were nothing to write home about.   The biggest difference is that I got big, early.   There was never much doubt that this was going to be a big baby.

My daughter attending one of my pregnancy checkups

Being my third, my husband and I were already pretty well grooved-in on things to do to make a pregnancy successful.   Once again, I think my guiding mantra was, “with enough naps, anything is possible.”   That and foot rubs.

The only thing really out of the ordinary happened at around 37 weeks.   We had decided, just because we usually did, to get an ultrasound, just as a final check to make sure everything was all right.   Our theory was that stress is unhealthy – especially in a pregnant mom – and getting an ultrasound to show you visually that everything is a-OK can go a long way to quelling all your random fears.  However, what we found out on getting the ultrasound was that the baby was turned around, and in a frank breech position.  Now – the baby being breech certainly doesn’t preclude being able to have the baby born at home, but it could complicate things.

39 weeks pregnant with my third

However, luckily for me, basically all of the stars were in alignment for the doctors to be able to perform a procedure on me called an External Version, which is a fancy way to say that the doctor is going to literally grab onto the baby from outside your belly, and attempt to WWE-style wrestle the baby back into proper position.   And, while incredibly uncomfortable, this procedure (luckily) worked, and the baby was locked into a head-down position from then on.

The Birth

My first baby was born 11 days late, and my second was born anywhere from 14 to 28 days late, depending on whose due-date you trust.   So, though I hoped it wouldn’t drag out, I really had no expectations that this pregnancy would go anything but long.

However, only around 5 days after my due date, I decided to take the kids out for a walk with my mom down at the Saturday Farmer’s Market while my husband tried to get a little extra work done. After about 10 minutes into my walk, I started getting contractions. And when they started, they were happening fast. Timed them on my handy-dandy Android app and they were regularly spaced, only TWO minutes apart pretty much immediately and there wasn’t much doubt that it was showtime. I texted my husband and told him to start filling up the birthing tub, and texted my midwife who was immediately on her way over along with her assistants.

The Difference of Laboring at Home

Now this is where my story becomes wildly different than my first two births.  With a hospital birth, you don’t go to the hospital until your contractions are sufficiently close together – else they won’t admit you.    Usually you go once you have had regular contractions that are at least 1 minute long, at least every 5 minute, for at least an hour.  But having my baby at home, once we established that I was factually in labor, we didn’t really care about timing contractions.   All my midwife really cared about was getting me as comfortable as possible, and letting my body do what it was meant to do.

In labor in the water tub we had set up in our bedroom

Now this is where my story becomes wildly different than my first two births.  With a hospital birth, you don’t go to the hospital until your contractions are sufficiently close together – else they won’t admit you.    Usually you go once you have had regular contractions that are at least 1 minute long, at least every 5 minute, for at least an hour.  But having my baby at home, once we established that I was factually in labor, we didn’t really care about timing contractions.   All my midwife really cared about was getting me as comfortable as possible, and letting my body do what it was meant to do.

So, between my own bed, my shower, and the tub, I had the perfect spot to be able to go about the business of active labor.   I cannot express to you how much more at ease I was being able to do this at home.  Compared to the aggravation on my first-born of being forced to pace around in front of the nurse’s desk at the hospital whilst having mind-bending back labor while they deliberated whether or not I was actually ready to be admitted to the hospital, or the loud and insensitive nurses on my 2nd-born deliberating whether or not to give me a c-section regardless of whether I needed it, being at home was luxurious.

Now, I read & watched PLENTY of accounts of home births before having mine, and a number of them talked about how “painless” and “comfortable” it all was. Frankly I don’t know how anyone could say that pushing out something as large as babies could ever be “comfortable”. It HURT. But, that being said, this was far and away the most “comfortable” of my labors. The birthing tub was an absolute revelation, and allowed for a number of rather relaxing positions while I was laboring.

And speaking of being in a relaxing position, my midwife and her assistants mostly just left me alone.  My husband, used to the constant probing and monitoring that goes on in the hospital, asked if they were meant to check me for station, dilation, etc.   Their response was basically “If she wants, we can check her.  Otherwise – her body knows what it’s doing, and she’s in good shape.”    If I were high-risk, I’d appreciate the medical attention, but being low-risk, I was extremely grateful that they just let me alone to labor in peace.

The Baby

And then, without all too much drama, it was finally really showtime.   After coming home from the Farmer’s Market at around 11am, my baby was born at 4:20pm.    It was hard, and it was definitely not silent.   All throughout the labor my midwives had been respectful of my desire to have as little talking as possible, sticking to essential communication only, and that in hushed voices.   But when it came to getting that baby out, I sort of let it all out. 

11 lbs 8 ounces was the birth weight, and she was perfectly pudgy and rather tall at 22.5″.

Now, our other two kids had wildly different reactions to their sister’s arrival.  Both had been with me on most of my checkups, as well as for my sonograms, so both were equally “prepared”.    As I was laying there after the baby was born, looking like an utter battleground, my 5-year-old daughter came in, and was intensely interested at everything that had happened.  She wanted to be the one to cut the umbilical cord (which we allowed her to do), and after the placenta came out, she was side-by-side with the midwife, asking to help inspect it.

My 4-year-old son, on the other hand, came in – eyes wide – as I lay there having just given birth, and said, “Mom….is….is that…blood?” I told him it was, and – still with the same frozen, shocked expression – backed out of the room and ran for the play room to work on his train set or something with less carnage. So…that was a bit much for him. But he warmed up once everybody was all cleaned up.

Conclusion

Seeing as this was the sort of birth that we wanted for our first two, this whole experience really brought closure to the birth plans that didn’t go according to plan.   We’ve got a sort of sense of completeness now, augmented by the fact that our new baby is just the most smiley and communicative baby we’ve had.  And if you’ve seen any of our first two, that’s saying something.

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