CALL THE MIDWIFE: HOME BIRTH EXPERIENCES
Below is a guest post by the lovely Kama which appeared also on her website
Having your own baby. What a life changing experience. What a transformation!
I'd like to share some positive examples of the beauty of natural child birth & the benefits of a home birth. Because I am proud to be a mother and know learning about positive birth experiences is so important. It gives us confidence and we may even look forward to the act of giving birth!
I don`t know about you, but when we were little, my sister and I have already been visualizing, play pretending.. holding a baby doll in our arms. To love it dearly and admire it’s beauty, it’s innocence, it`s joyful eyes, the tiny hands..
# The inspiration for planning a home birth
A blink of an eye later, by the end of my 20’s, i got pregnant with our first baby. What an ocean of thoughts ran through my head! What a circus of hormones and sensations happening in my body. A colleague of mine once told me, back then when he and his wife were expecting their first child, that actually, they are going to opt for a home birth. I still remember, how impressed I was at that time about their courageous, yes even fearless decision. He was talking about a really great midwife, who would be supporting them. He sounded totally assured and confident about the idea. Truly an inspiration for me, living in an era of proper hospitals and medical care, where I thought home births are merely occurring due to surprise or in better words, by accident. But by choice? I didn’t know anyone before, who did such a thing. Too scary, too risky, too messy, and what about pain relief options? However, he gave me the name of the midwife, just in case and because I was curious.
# Making contact with the midwife
In the hospital then, I asked for that midwife and a home birth option. Soon, I got in touch with a very professional, knowledgeable and warm hearted woman, named Elke. Herself a mother of 3 children. I felt a connection straight away, a comfortable feeling and had a discussion about the birthing options. She was open minded, supportive, gave me a clear idea of what to expect. She implied, that safety is her number one duty and concern, if we were to work together. The importance to have a low risk pregnancy and good overall health, preparation and back up support in order to follow through with a birth plan outside the hospital. Finally, even if we were to change our mind, wanting specific medical methods of pain relief or simply not feeling confident any more at the time when things would get real, she would still be there for us in the hospital.
# Considering pro´s and con´s of birthing options
During my pregnancy, I had a lot of time to think, discuss, read and reconsider if a home birth would really be for me. First, I thought, I’d be better of in my home country Germany, or here in Ireland, have my mom come over to hold my hand and sane me through the birth with her love and support. But then, I feared I would give away a part of my confidence, or let’s say rely too much on someone else to give me strength. I intuitively knew, that I could do it, that I wanted to do it and go as naturally as possible. The fact that I wouldn’t be in a strange, sterile, white hospital room, with a bunch of unknown people watching and handling me and my baby, was quite appealing. Also the possibility of having a water birth in a birthing pool in our own home was a major advantage (In most if not all hospitals in Ireland, there is no water birth option). I heard from a mother of 7(!) kids, that giving birth in warm water was the best pain relief of all for her. The majority of friends and family reacted quite frightened, almost shocked about the homebirth idea and advised against the, to their point, risky endeavor. Only some friends and my husband believed, it could indeed be beneficial and supported my plans. By the time, I felt so cozy at home and the comfort of being in my own space gave me a lot peace and confidence. Our midwife Elke came by to perform most of the pregnancy check ups and a birth preparation course, conveniently in own our place. What a great service! That way, I didn’t t have to wait hours in the busy maternity hospital each time for another 10 minute consultation.
I did a bit of pregnancy yoga in a studio and learned some helpful breathing techniques. We were practicing to feel and communicate with our babies, which was a really sweet exercise. Getting into the move and groove of the mind-body connection. Experiencing pregnancy as a sensation rather than a medical issue. I felt really relaxed, proud and well able to do what so many women had done without clinical interventions, even without hospitals and doctors over centuries and life times before. Grandgrand mothers and other strong female goddesses became idols. I called for my inner hero. And I had my partner with me every step of the way, who believes, that I can do just whatever I let grow in my mind, and nobody could stop me. But he also knew, it meant that we were to do this together. What a man. I also read the book “Bountiful, beautiful, blissful”, that our teachers recommended when I did my yoga training. It was such a gift to read it. A really useful and inspirational guide about conscious pregnancy and birth, by Gurmuk- An enlightened woman, who teaches her wisdom all over the world, and who has taught so many expecting mothers before, even Cindy Crawford! So I did some meditating, which helped me to relax and clear my head, and simply reading the book gave me a feeling of being understood. It also outlines the benefits and risks of different birthing methods, which gave me extra assurance. I learned a lot by researching about the stages in pregnancy and birth, tracking my pregnancy milestones in apps. Also reading about and watching other mothers giving birth in tv documentaries/ series. All spiced up with an endorphine-infused positivity, we made the final decision to go ahead with the home birth.
We lived within a five mile radius to the hospital and an ambulance was organized to pick me up incase of complications. We got the birthing pool from our midwife and everything we needed to set it up in our apartment. I packed a bag in case I would have to be transferred to the hospital and bought all the things listed on our midwife’s preparation guide. We had towels, a shower curtain to cover the floor, some lavender water spray, an airbed to rest on after the waterbirth, a TENS machine and a music playlist with some relaxing tunes.
# Labour and birth
Towards the end of being 38 weeks pregnant, I started to have some occasional cramps, much like period pain. It was 10 in the evening when I noticed that the cramping occurred every 20 Minutes or so. I called Elke and she said “Hang in there, observe it, try to get some rest. Call again if anything changes or you’re having more painful, more frequent contractions. This could well be the start of it!” So, I could have had the real thing going already! My gosh, I thought, while I binge watched a tv series and my fiancé was out having a birthday drink with a friend. Then between 4, 5 the following morning, I woke up with the advertised, more frequently occurring contractions, like every 10, 5 minutes. We waited till 7 am to call Elke again with the news. She arrived and gently examined me and my baby and mentioned that my cervix was only 2 cm dilated. “Your baby wont come in the next few hours.”, she said. So I was told to get more rest and call her again once the pain would get stronger. I remember, I couldn’t eat anything. Sitting on the sofa with my playlist on. The TENS machine distract- massaging my lower back, strapped on with bits of duck tape, as I was moving so much :D. I breathed and rocked my body through the pain periods, fully concentrated and tried to sleep during the 3-5 minutes of relaxation between the contractions. My now husband sat next to me quietly, making sure I got everything I needed, eventually filled up the pool in the kitchen, but I was pretty much zoned out. I felt a sense of empowerment and control over the process by focussing to my breathing and the rhythm of my body. At 7 pm, our midwife came back, worried, because we did not call her again. Well, I expected that giving birth to the first baby can take up to 3 days…I wouldn’t have known what it’s like and did not realize that meanwhile the contractions got stronger. Completely in the zone, almost like in a trance. Only to be interrupted by the constant need to run to the bathroom between contractions then in the evening. So when Elke examined me again, my cervix was almost entirely open.
“Quickly into the pool!” she said, “Get ready, keep your breathing techniques going.” The pool was bigger than I thought. Just perfect. Once I was in there, I felt so cozy and warm. Funny to say, I thought “That’s what it must have been like, when I was in my mothers womb.” Total bliss and gratitude. I eased into the next contractions, when I finally felt my water breaking. All along with the loving guidance and empathy of my midwife and the supporting second midwife, who arrived by then. During the last phase of baby’s head crowning and pushing, Elke started to breathe with me. I felt so encouraged, safe and confident. Completely letting go and letting my body do the work, while I knew every contraction brought me closer to holding my baby in my arms. Elke checked baby’s heartrate every so often, even while I was in the pool, to make sure all was good. She told me, that my baby would be almost there. It was like she was pushing and feeling it with me! Such a transformational moment. Being in the warm water for about an hour or so, I started to squat in the pool, holding my man’s hands very tightly. It was the most painful part, it felt like a burning sensation that was nearly unbearable. My adrenaline levels must have been on max to help my body through this pain. Of course it hurt and I thought I would be shattering into pieces for a few minutes. But I didn’t. I knew, our bodies are naturally able to do it and go beyond. Only a few more pushes and breaths, but my god, so intense… And then our baby boy was out and there he was!! Stunning, beautiful, perfect little creature. Breathing, crying.. healthy and alive! We have never been happier or more exhausted! I stepped out of the pool, back onto the dry shores of our living room. Got wrapped into warm towels, laid on the airbed and my boy found his way to drink his first milk. There was so much love and delight. The placenta was delivered safely about 20 minutes later. I got checked again, no stitches needed, all good apart from some little tearing scratches.
# After care
We rested, talked, had some dinner together and laughed about everything in total happiness and relief it was over! Elke educated me how to use the bathroom after the birth, tugged me into bed with two more paracetamol to help ease the afterpains. Helped to dress our baby and got him into bed next to us. She stayed over and slept in our guest room for our support during the night. We were all incredibly taken care of, safe and sound and so ready for sleep. Although I couldn’t stop listening to my baby’s breathing in awe all night long ❤ It was pure joy.
Elke came over regularly once a week during the first 6 weeks after the birth, checked in with me and baby, providing support with breastfeeding and advice continuously.
Almost three years later, about 10 weeks ago from now, the same midwife helped us again giving birth to our beautiful baby girl. This time the whole birth took only 4 hours. I barely made it into the pool! All while our little son slept cozily in his room, to wake up the next morning and greet his baby sister.
This time our midwife also offered placenta encapsulation, a baby massage course and even some cranio-sacral therapy.
# Is a home birth for you?
To some, it must sound like I would be glorifying home births, but it´s certainly not the best for everyone nor the only way to get a baby out. Every birth is unique and giving life the biggest wonder. Thinking of the majority of people, being able to have a baby is a, if not the most beautiful event(s) in their life. No matter the way, interventions or challenges. Being able to help a human being to make it into the world as safely and healthy as possible, is a divine task and a sacrifice of our own. There are a lot of things to consider. First of all, it is an individual choice. Get your doctors opinions & advise. Your own wellbeing and that of your baby/ babies during pregnancy as well as at birth. Your life`s circumstances, the health & safety regulations and support in your country, preparation, family and friends support network. To gain education about what to expect and get familiar with the options. What´s on your mind, which methods of pain relief you prefer and if you would be feeling confident to give birth outside of a hospital at all. And incredibly important: Find a midwife, you can trust. Speaking for myself, I feel totally grateful about my choice and appreciate the journey, the growth and all the support I had. Looking back, I don`t believe I would have had that much of a sense of empowerment and inner peace in a hospital, where the pace and room for an undisturbed, most personal and individual birth experience is just a bit different. All of the benefits I had, gave me so much security and kept my nerves in check, so that I could actually go without any intervention and consciously experience the beauty of natural childbirth. To me, it was a really important part in my life from which I learned a lot.