I love Abby’s story, which shows how important it is to have a supportive birth team for home birth and really any kind of birth-whether at home or elsewhere. Her husband, doulas, and midwives all worked together cohesively to allow her to have the beautiful birth she desired. Enjoy!
Having a Supportive Birth Team- Abby’s Story
Saturday, February 20th, was a busy but happy day for our family. I got to do grocery shopping by myself and stock up on birth snacks and Gatorade. My aunt and uncle brought us a filling lunch, and we had a great time catching up with them and walking around the property with them (our landlords have lots of animals and fun trails). To top the day’s activities off, we went to the first meeting of our families’ fellowship group at church. It was so much fun to hang out with other Christian couples that evening. We got home Saturday night and put the kids to bed. I asked Elwood to tidy various things up in our room, and I threw a load of laundry in the wash and assembled our church outfits for the morning. We thought about watching Agent Carter, but I decided to try to get some sleep instead.
Even though Sunday was my due date (and even though our last baby had come on his due date), I had no expectation of going into labor that night. My Braxton Hicks had been super irregular. I had not noticed any brown or pink-streaked mucus. And I knew my baby was on the smaller side and might need a little longer to cook. But, sometime after 1 a.m. I noticed I was having contractions. Once I woke up a little, I thought they might stop if I went to the bathroom and lay down on my other side (I had been on my left side, and changing sides had worked in the past). I got back in bed, and things didn’t change, so I started timing contractions and listening to the Christian Hypnobirthing app (the Scriptures in there were particularly encouraging, and I loved the affirmations and breathing coaching too).
I started timing contractions around 1:30, and around 1:50 I told Elwood I was thinking of calling Carrie, our midwife. He wasn’t quite awake at the time, but it registered that I’d been timing for only 20 minutes. So far, contractions were consistently every 2.5 minutes apart and lasting almost a minute. Elwood suggested I time for 10 more minutes. I agreed. Elwood went to the bathroom, and I realized my Sweetie (who’s usually right) was wrong this time. I called Carrie and described the results of my timing. She said I should try the Miles Circuit to see if that would change the intensity (I was still talking through contractions).
After calling Carrie, I called our doula, Lydia. She had known this would be a fast labor, and I knew she’d want to know that I was thinking it was go time even with the limited data I had. She was probably almost out the door by the time we hung up. That woman is speedy! Toward the end of the conversation, I said, “Oh, boy,” as a contraction started. And right as I hung up, my water broke! That was at 2:00 a.m. So, I called Carrie back. I told her my water had broken and that Elwood said it was clear. Carrie calmly said, “Well, it seems like this is a great day to meet your baby, Abby.” I responded, “Sounds good.” And she said we’d talk soon. Then I called Shannon, our sibling doula, and asked her to come in case the older kids woke up. I told her Carrie and Lydia were on their way. I had such a great supportive birth team!
During all this, Elwood had quickly gotten dressed and begun inflating the birth pool. I kept the Christian Hypnobirthing app playing. And I quickly decided my comfort spot was in an open space by Freya’s dresser in our room. And my comfy position was on my knees with my arms and chest draped over my birth ball (this was my position when our oldest was born, and it’s just my default, I think). Elwood had a few questions for me, but he pretty much figured out the pool and the other supplies by himself. And then Lydia arrived. How she managed to get there that quickly, I am not sure, but already God was answering my prayer that my helpers would come before the baby did. She started helping me by rubbing my back and helping Elwood with setup so he could be with me. Then Shannon arrived, and I relaxed a little bit more. I knew my doulas knew their roles but were flexible and ready to roll with anything this birth had in store for us. Soon after Shannon arrived, I told Elwood I didn’t want him to leave me anymore. Shannon became a professional water boiler, and Lydia dexterously alternated between doing set-up and offering comfort measures.
I remember I needed to keep my eyes closed for much of this time so I could focus. During a few contractions, I was standing and hugging Elwood. Laying my face on his chest and savoring the color of his bright blue shirt helped. And then I’d have to close my eyes again and go back to moaning. Things moved very quickly, but it didn’t feel fast.
It was so nice though, we didn’t have to worry about driving anywhere this time. The older kids were asleep, and I knew Shannon would take care of them if they did wake up. Elwood wasn’t leaving my side. He held one hand. Lydia rubbed my back. They moaned with me and reminded me to stay low in tone. Shannon became our communications person. Carrie hadn’t heard from me, so I was glad someone was in touch with her and Paislie. At one point, I said, “We’re going to push this baby out.” And I think that made everyone a little apprehensive. I felt fine. Elwood and these two wonderful doulas had seen birth enough to help, but I would rather have had a member of our Midwifery team present.
And then Paislie materialized in the room. That was even more relieving. She positioned herself behind me (I was still draped over the ball) and took a quick look at my bottom with her flashlight. She said I was making progress. (We all knew this, but I appreciated her saying it.) And after that, I got louder and a little panicky-sounding and Elwood and Lydia had to remind me to take deep breaths and keep low tones. Shannon, by this point, had filled the tub with perfectly heated water. It turned out to be just a nice part of the birth environment. I think I needed to stay near my helpers, and the pool seemed so big and isolating.I was dripping sweat, so Lydia and Elwood began mopping my forehead. And as Lydia rubbed my back, I distinctly felt baby’s head descend further into my pelvis. Wow! That was reassuring! I knew what my baby was doing.
At 3:16, according to Lydia, I gave a little grunt push. I was still getting panicky during contractions, and I told Paislie I needed to hear her. Everyone started telling me I was in charge, and that really helped. It makes such a difference to have a supportive birth team to remind you and be there with encouragement especially at the end of birth! Paislie laid a gentle hand on me, and that helped too. I latched on to the idea that I was in charge. I could feel baby’s head coming, but there was no ring of fire as there had been with my three other births. In hindsight, I do wonder if this had something to do with my feeling of control that I had being in my own space for this birth. I started saying, “Come on, baby.” Her head came at about 3:33, and the rest of her was born within that minute.
Lydia took some amazing videos as she was being born! Freya’s lower half was covered with meconium, but I didn’t notice. I had my baby. The hard work of labor was over. Carrie walked in right after Freya was born and started checking on both of us. She noted that the cord had stopped pulsating, and she and Paislie made way for Elwood to cut the cord. We then tried a few position changes to try to get the placenta delivered. I asked Elwood to take his shirt off so he could do skin-to-skin with Freya. Carrie helped me toward the bed, but I didn’t think was going to be a great position for the placenta to be birthed. So she helped me to the potty, and I was finally able to push it out. It took about 35 minutes for the placenta to come.
After the birth of the placenta, Carrie helped me back to bed, and Elwood said Freya had started to suck her hands. I put her to my right breast, and she immediately started sucking. Carrie and Paislie did some charting in the living room, and then I handed Freya to them to be weighed and to get her Vitamin K. She was 6 lb 5 oz and 19 inches long! My feeling that she was going to be on the small end was right. She was a perfect little peanut!
So, yeah, we had a two-hour home birth! It was a really good experience. I am really thankful for three peaceful birth center births before Freya was born. I’m thankful she came on her due date. Life circumstances would have been a lot harder if she had come at a different time. I am so thankful for my hubby being and doing exactly what I needed him to be and do during my labor. Our supportive birth team freed him up to be by my side for the whole time. My doulas arrived right when I needed them to, and our Midwife’s assistant and Midwife stepped in exactly when we needed them.
So far, postpartum has been pretty good. I didn’t tear at all. The hard part has been the postpartum contractions that often feel exactly like birth contractions. Now, on day 3, they finally feel a little more manageable. My milk came in Tuesday morning, and Freya is continually filling her diaper. One of the biggest bits of help has been setting super low expectations for this first week and having my husband home (I think he’s a better cook than I am anyway) for this week and three more weeks (yes, I am spoiled). Another relieving aspect is that Freya’s older siblings love her so much. They are always checking on her and asking if they can hold her. .
Having a home birth wasn’t a decision we took lightly, and we don’t think it’s something everyone else needs to do. It’s about being where you feel safe and comfortable, and of course, having a supportive birth team! Thanks for taking the time to read this!