Sara’s story is an amazing example of a family home birth, where all the siblings were involved and present. As a student midwife herself, birth is another part of life for Sara’s children, so having them involved flowed very naturally in the birth of their baby boy Shepherd.
My whole pregnancy, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that my baby would be born on New Year’s Eve. I’m not sure if I was feeling intuitive or just fantasizing, but in my mind, he would be born at the stroke of midnight and be welcomed by fireworks.
Thursday morning, I woke up late and slowly started getting out of bed. I had actually slept well the night before, which was a blessing. I had deep cleaned all of the floors in my house, which was a chore that had been hanging over my head, and when that was done I had the thought “Okay, he can be born now. I feel better.” After waddling to the bathroom and relieving my bladder, I stood up and my water broke in several huge gushes all over the bathroom floor. My spontaneous home labors have never started with my water breaking- I’ve had one babe en caul and another whose water broke while crowning, so I was thrown off guard. I folded up a prefold diaper and stuffed it in my underwear and walked around with nervous energy for the rest of the morning. Because we wanted to involve everyone and we had planned a family homebirth, I told my big kids my water broke, and they joined in on the buzz of energy with their excitement.
I walked around the house, unsure of what to do with myself. I texted, then called, my midwives, to let them know. Knowing I have a history of precipitous labors, she said “I’ll throw on some scrubs and be right there!”. Only, I hadn’t had any contractions yet so I told her to hunker for a bit and stand by. My photographer lives an hour and a half away and my favorite birth assistant is two hours away, so they made their way to my side of town to hover nearby until go time.
I spent the next few hours deep cleaning the guest bath because there’s no way I was letting company in there in its current state. My water continued to gush steadily throughout the day, making me wonder if I had gallons of fluid on board because man it was excessive. At 3:00 I texted my birth team to let them know I had had 3 contractions 5-6 minutes apart, and that I was going to continue timing, finally eat something (I tried some “real food” and it wasn’t happening so I settled on a PB&J instead), and take a shower. They were already on their way to hang out nearby, and by 4:00 they started steadily trickling in. At that point, the contractions were consistently 2-4 minutes apart and growing in intensity.
The Beauty of a Family Home Birth
The birth team started setting up around me as I walked around and chatted with everyone, pausing to breathe through the surges. I had a nice long playlist put together, but instead, my daughter put on the Trolls soundtrack, then Frozen II, and then the original Frozen, so that ended up being my birthing soundtrack. Lol! I went from walking around to sitting on the couch, to hands and knees on the floor leaning over the birth ball as my midwife rubbed my back and did counter pressure on my sacrum and hips.
Around 6:00, things turned a corner and got serious and intense. My big kids were in and out, playing calmly around me and giving hugs and kisses. My 5-year-old was pretending the space created under me and the birth ball was her cave and my toddlers were booping me on the nose with a lightsaber. We got lots of great shots of my 2-year-old twins interacting with me between and during surges. Yup, this is what a family homebirth looks like. At 6:15-6:20, everyone started setting up my space around me in the living room for the birth, and I got up to go pee because I felt birth was imminent. (Small side note: I’m a student midwife and my midwives are my “teachers”, so it was hard to not be in midwife mode, asking about vitals and making myself empty my bladder and drink water at regular intervals ) On my way to back from the bathroom, I paused to stare at my bed, thinking about how comfortable it looked. I thought I would pause and curl up at the foot of the bed for a moment, but I ended up staying there and not returning to the living room.
At this point, I started feeling super cold and shivery and asked for my wool socks to be put on as I curled up under my blanket, shivering intensely. I labored on my side on the bed for a while, while my two biggest kids came in and took turns snuggling with me. The birth team brought all of the equipment and chux back into the bedroom and re-set it all up around me. At one point I asked what time it was. My midwife, knowing my feeling that he would be born at midnight, hesitantly told me it was 6:30-something, to which I replied “FORGET MIDNIGHT!”. (Actually, I didn’t say “forget” I said something else that starts with an F, but we need to keep this post G rated .)
I started feeling pushy a few minutes after 7, but I couldn’t feel the baby descending like I normally can. It felt “slow” (for me), and I started thinking that maybe something was holding him up. I moved intuitively, first sitting up on the side of the bed for a while, then ended up on the floor beside the bed on hands and knees, leaning onto my pillow. I was working so hard that I was pouring sweat, and was no longer cold but burning up.
I kept saying that I was feeling a lot of pain above my pubic bone. When I put my hand there I could feel a bony part sticking out- a shoulder maybe? My midwife told me he was “right there”, and I said, “No he’s not! What’s taking so long?!”. She encouraged me to reach in and feel how far in he was. He was about two knuckles in but I could feel an anterior cervical lip in the way. My midwife told me to try and hold it out of the way, so I did, and immediately I could feel his head coming under my pubic bone.
A few minutes later, he was born into his daddy’s hands with a huge splash of fluid soaking my socks. I was kneeling on one knee beside my bed with my bottom (thankfully!) close to the floor, and baby was so slippery that he (gently) hit the floor. So of course I’ve given my hubby a fair bit of grief for dropping the baby. (all in good fun)
When my 5-year-old tells the story of his birth, she always says that her favorite part was that his head looked like a “ball of jello” when it came out. Ha! My 5 kids were there for the whole thing and closed in around me to see and touch and welcome their new baby brother. Having a family home birth is something that seemed very natural for us and I wouldn’t change a thing!
Someone peeled my wet socks off of me and helped me into the bed to deliver the placenta. We ate and snuggled and nursed, and enjoyed a lovely herbal bath together. Shepherd is baby #6 and my third boy, so we now have 3 boys and 3 girls and our family is complete!
Have any of you had your children participate in your births? It’s not for everyone but for Sara and her husband, having a family home birth was the perfect choice for them!
ALL PHOTOS ARE FROM NURTURING IMAGE PHOTOGRAPHY
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