First of all, if you feel mislead because we did not share our homebirth plan with you, I’m sorry. Many times I was asked what hospital I was going to, what the plan was, etc, and yes, I intentionally curbed the question. Not because I don’t love you, don’t trust you and or didn’t want to tell you…believe me, I wanted to tell you. It’s all I wanted to talk about. But because of how everything was working out with our midwife, we knew going into it that had I gone into labor anytime other than I did, it would have been a hospital birth and then I would have had even more explaining to do. And have you ever tried to explain homebirth to people? It’s exhausting. Surely you can’t blame me for keeping a close circle on this one. Thanks :)
And we’ll go ahead and break up this post with photos :)
(the day before labor began)
So what started all of this? Simple: Bethany and Bergen. My friend and my sis-in-law. Bethany is my natural birth hero and Bergen is a Certified Nurse Midwife who has practiced in many settings, but most recently she was with a homebirth practice in Colorado. Natural birth has always been on my heart, but after miscarrying and trying to conceive baby #2, I was exhausted with emotions and could not focus on anything other than keeping Sam inside of me with a heartbeat. Enter: my doctor. I love her. The Lord used her in mighty ways while miscarrying our first baby and especially during the first trimester with Samuel. So before we go any further:
1. I love doctors 2. hospitals are necessary 3. Inductions/epidurals work out for lots of women and babies 4. CSections happen, and that’s okay 5. The Lord has the time and place for the birth of your child. It comes in many different forms for many different people. I just believe that it’s important to prayerfully walk through your choices and not just follow the herd. Doctors are great, but it’s not the doctor’s baby. It’s your baby. You are responsible for all decisions concerning your child. Be prayerfully prepared. Question what you need to question. It’s okay to push back, respectfully of course. Pregnancy is not a disease, it’s a miracle. It’s natural and good. In non high risk pregnancies, women don’t need to be treated as if this is a life or death medical event. We just need you to be prepared in case it turns into one. And 6. Have I mentioned how much I love doctors and hospitals? K, good ;)
So, let’s go over timeline:
Nov 16th: positive preg test, begin prenatal care with our doctor for baby #2
April: Bethany finds a homebirth practicing midwife whom she falls in love with. She leaves the same practice I was going to and prepares for a homebirth with her little boy. I’m super jealous but not emotionally prepared at all for that path. After all, I’m still crazy scared I’m going to lose Samuel at any moment. Homebirth was all I needed to push me over the edge. She asks me to photograph the birth, I say yes :)
June 6: Bethany gives birth. I’m there. At her house, with her family. It was the most amazing/difficult thing I have ever seen. But the beauty was overwhelming. I hope for every child to come into the world this way, with this peace, love and warmth. I’m amazed at the strength of my friend and just completely blessed by the whole experience. The midwife and I start talking that night, I’m 33 weeks pregnant. She said to pray, talk to Johnny, and call her later in the week if we want.
June 7: I wake John Paul up at 3am when I get home and I’m on a birth high. He immediately attached to my enthusiasm as we had just watched the documentary The Business of Being Born two days prior and have become pretty well informed on lots of different hospital/homebirth and OBGYN/Midwife scenarios.
A few days later: I call our midwife, we say we’re ready to move forward with an initial appointment to discuss all of our (and our families) immediate concerns and questions.
At 34 weeks we have our first prenatal appointment with our midwife. We fall in love. We decide to move forward knowing that we would also need to continue to see our doctor should I go into labor while she’s out of town.
July 9-14 (birth could either be at home or hospital, I was full term)
July 15-27 (hospital birth, midwife out of town, I was 38-39 weeks pregnant and showing lots of labor signs)
July 28-Aug 8 (homebirth before induction would be necessary per my doctor)
Small window, eh? Well little Sam made it :)
(during first week…sleeping with daddy)
(week old that day)
So what’s the difference between a doctor and a midwife? There’s lots, but let’s just chat about the prenatal appointment. At the doctor you pee in a cup, get your blood pressure taken, you’re asked a series of the same questions, doctor checks heartbeat, dr asks if you have any questions, you leave–probably an 11 minute process. At our midwife’s home, we do the same routine, only there’s lots more emotional and spiritual questions. Lots of talking about us, our marriage, our strengths, our weaknesses, our families, and our baby. Johnny’s favorite part of every appointment was when the midwife would, as he put it, ‘handle Sam’. She vigorously rubs all over my tummy and proceeds to show me where all his little body parts are and what position he’s in. She shows John Paul and lets him feel around too. Johnny now knows where his boy is and what he’s doing, and Johnny loved that! Then we listen to his heartbeat with a fetalscope (that’s what it’s called, right?), not a doppler. It’s weird, but fun. Then she loads us up on reading information, let’s us chat a little more about our initial thoughts on a birth plan and we’re sent on our way–about 45 minutes to an hour and a half later. Ahhhh. I remember just thinking over and over again–so that’s what prenatal care should feel like. Like someone’s in it with you and for you. Like someone wants to help usher you and your husband from pregnancy to parenthood. And someone is reminding you that this is your baby and your responsibility. That part was a little heavy for us first timers, but it was a good perspective that we needed. We couldn’t depend on anyone but us and the Lord. And He had us.
And now that you know the back story, I guess we can get to his birth? I was showing labor signs for two weeks before I actually went into labor. Like, signs that when I would google them, it would say something like expect baby in the next 24-48 hours. So we were fully mentally preparing for a hospital birth. But something about the weekend of the 28th always stuck out to us. My doctor was leaving to go to the olympics the morning of the 27th, and my midwife was coming back into town that night. And what do you know? I woke up at 12am with contractions. They were 4-5 min apart, but they weren’t that bad, so I tried to sleep through them…
(first day out of the house! no ‘going home’ pic for this family–sad–this is the best we could do…off to the pediatrician on his 8th day of life for a little snip-snip!)
2:30am–couldn’t sleep through them anymore. Throw up session #1 (when I say session, I mean session). Called midwife. Showered. Midwife said to keep laying down in bed, try to get as much rest as possible. I sent John Paul to the couch so he could sleep a bit longer.
4:30am–Texted midwife. Said they were getting stronger. Asked John Paul to wake up and stay with me to begin coaching me through labor.
6am–the shakes started. Contractions stronger. Midwife called, said she would be over at 9. We text our photographer friend and Bethany, we call our families. Mom’s start making their way down to Gulfport. Throw up session #2.
9am–Bethany and Midwife arrive. They encourage me to get out of bed and start doing (or pretending to do) what we normally do when it’s 9am. I try to eat eggs and drink gatorade, enter throw up session #3. Ugh.
9-12pm–John Paul is constantly with me, rubbing my back through every single contraction. My mother in law arrives and immediately starts praying. Bethany takes over the encourager role and reminds me at every rough point that yes, this is good pain and yes, I can do this and yes, Sam is coming. We walk, we sit, we lay down. We try to eat and drink. Contractions continue to be 3-4 minutes apart. They get stronger and stronger and just when I think I can’t handle another one, the Lord’s grace gives me an easy one to catch my breath. Our midwife sits in the background documenting our progress through the sounds I’m making with each contraction. I think surely we’re close…surely we have gotten somewhere between the throwing up, the endless contractions and the 12 hours of labor.
Nope. we’re at 5 1/2 cm. Poo.
This is where labor got hard. I mean, I knew it what going to be painful. I was ready for pain. I was not ready for the length of pain. I was not ready for deviation from the plan. I was not ready for Samuel not to cooperate perfectly. I was not ready for the throwing up. And really, I can’t imagine anyone ever being ready for labor, no matter how they choose to do it. But we march on and John Paul was my strength and the Lord was so faithful. I thought we were going to have candles and worship music playing at this birth, turns out, it’s more like a battlefield. A quiet, intense, heavy, battlefield. There is no talking minus praying and scripture reading. There are no sounds minus the deep low ‘Uhhhhhhhhhh’ you have to make during contractions to keep your muscles loose and the random, pitiful yelps you would hear from me say ‘help?’ “push” or ‘can!’ (can was our word for I’m about to throw up, give me something to throw up in, push was the word I used when John Paul needed to literally stick his fist in my back as hard as he could and ‘help’ covered everything else) I didn’t say any other words. Not ever. Not a one.
Now the timeline gets fuzzy for me. All I know is we’re trying everything to get through the contractions. All types of places and positions. And it would work, and we would get in a groove, and I would think that now this is something I can handle. And then I’d be told we had to move on and try something else. I hated trying something else. Around late afternoon I believe (after throw up session #4), I was checked again. 6 1/2 cm. Poo. But that wasn’t the bad part.
(hello fisher price rock n play sleeper, we like you)
Mr. Samuel was not cooperating with labor. Babies are supposed to tuck their chins as they head down (called a duck and dive). Sam’s head was straight–he was trying to come down in what they call a military position. This does not work. This is where my labor and the birth of my child would have severely run a different course should we have been in the hospital. Instead, we did lots of painful things that took lots of time, energy and faith. First, our midwife pushed his head back up to see how he responded. He responded well, meaning he shook and moved. If he hadn’t have done that, it would not have been a good, workable sign. But this, this was a workable situation. She then would have me go through contractions while she was feeling my cervix and his position. This. Is. Painful. Yuck. Then she did awesome midwifery things like try to spin the baby over to my other side to release whatever was keeping his head in the military position. She did what she could with her hands and the rest was up to me and Sam.
That meant: lots of different movements, positions and lots more hours added onto labor. Enter throw up session #5. Enter despair and hopelessness. There was a point when John Paul and I were alone when I just looked at him and said I couldn’t do this anymore. He encouraged me then, but later confessed that he felt the same way at that point. He got Bethany and she got tough with me. She meant business. And she reminded me that the Lord was faithful. That Sam was good. That this pain would pass and I would hold my baby. And that I could do it. And the three of us sat there, in my bathroom, and breathed and “Uhhhhhhhhh’ed” through the next what felt like an hour of contractions before we moved on again.
I believe our midwife checked me again at this point and could tell that I hadn’t progressed much and Sam still hadn’t turned over to my left side and ducked his head to engage my cervix. She had us continue to contract while she felt all around up in me–again: pain. Then she had me get up and do light side to side lunges. Excuse me, what? I’ve thrown up five times, I’m in my 18th hour of labor and you would like me to, a’hem, lunge? I can’t even walk.
Again, the Lord was faithful. He kept Sam’s heartbeat strong the entire time and He somehow allowed me to lunge. And actually, John Paul not only rubbed my back through every single contraction, but he also held me up while a walked, stood or lunged. He was amazing. Just simply amazing. There is no way I could have done it without him. Absolutely no way.
I guess this is where I will end for now, the last four hours of labor were the most eventful afterall and I’ve already written too much. To sum up, this was the right way for us to go through labor and the right way for our son to be born. The Lord gave us the desire of our hearts and He was faithful to see us through. Do I fondly and gleefully look back upon the pain? Nope. But I do fondly look back on the way my husband held me up, the way our precious friend poured her faith into our family, the moments I opened my eyes and watched my mom-in-law praying with such quiet strength throughout the day, the look of confidence our midwife constantly gave me, the moment my mom walked in the door and continuously reminded me how strong she knew I was, feeling every movement and position of my baby boy, being able to stay in the comfort and warmth of my own home, and all the little moments in between when I realized how the Lord was stretching me beyond what I thought was possible. The most incredible day will never be taken away by the most incredible pain.
(Sam had his Mimi and his daddy, he was a happy little guy)
By the way, just as no one can really ever fully explain what labor is like, I guess no one can really ever explain what caring for a newborn is like either. Geesh, this stuff is hard. But wouldn’t you know that the Lord’s been good and faithful through this phase too? Just when I seem to hit despair, my joy is renewed. Hope and Joy–they come lots. I mean, Sam is all I have wanted for so, so long. I have poured my soul into his. Why does his cry, his nursing habits, his sleeplessness, his weight, and (our favorite, not) his gas have the right to take that away? They don’t. And like I said, Sam is joy. It’s just his momma that needs some work ;)
(sweet baby after a bath and a nicely brushed combover look…pay no attention to his paci that’s all pushed up in his nose, he was breathing, I swear)
Birth story part deaux coming up next. The part where Sam starts to cooperate in hour 18 and we begin to hit the almighty transition phase. And then, we push! Pushing is by far the best part of labor…anyone who tells you any different is crazy. After 21 and 1/2 hours, pushing is your best friend. Like bff for life. And Paigey-love is giving me all the birth photos this week too, yikes. Why am I so nervous to relive it?
Anywho, the Lord? He’s good. And Sam? He was more than worth it. And this momma is getting the hang of things.