When I first told people that I planned to have a home birth I think many of them thought I was crazy, or at the least their minds flooded with all the things that could possibly go wrong.
On February 27 at 5:20 a.m. I gave birth to my first child. Samuel Amos Brown…at home (well at my mother in law’s home) and all went well. No one died. The walls did not cave in. The earth did not stop turning. So…I thought I would briefly share my experience to dispel some of the fear around home birth and to maybe encourage someone on the fence about having a home birth.
Getting right to it…
I was in labor for 5 days. Yes. 5…days…
When I say that though, I don’t mean that I was experiencing intense contractions and pushing for 5 days, I just mean that the process of Sammy getting here took 5 days. It kind of went like this:
I went to the bathroom that morning and found blood (bloody show) in my underwear signifying that effacement (the thinning of my cervix) had begun. Excitement! I called my midwife and we kept in touch throughout the day.
As was already planned the day before, my husband and I spent some time at the library, got some groceries, and went home. The day just kinda passed by uneventfully aside from some extremely mild and sporadic contractions, and I didn’t even mention to Erick (my husband), or anyone, that I thought I might be in labor. I wanted to be sure before I alarmed people. That evening, we played Uno around the dining room table and later that night we visited friends. On the car ride over I finally told Erick I thought I might be in labor. We got to our friends’ house and watched “The Voice” and part of “Love and Hip Hop” and that was Day 1 of labor.
Coincidentally, we were scheduled for my 39 week appointment with our Midwife the next day anyway, so she came by around 11 to check my progress. I was 80% effaced and 2 centimeters dilated. Because it was still early, she left to attend to other clients.
To pass the time, to move things along, and to grab some last minute supplies for our home birth, my husband and I window-shopped around the mall and shopped around K-mart. I can’t exactly remember, but at some point in the day contractions picked up. They were still pretty mild and sporadic and I didn’t have to work through them.
We let everyone know labor had begun and instead of the frenzy I expected, the celebration began. My mother in law started cooking like it was Christmas and didn’t stop until the day after Sammy was born and I started nesting. The atmosphere was so warm and excitement was everywhere. Watching the news that night, there was talk of snow, but we were all skeptics. And that was Day 2.
Day 3 rolled around intensity and frequency of contractions built. I now had to pause slightly when one came on, but with some light breathing and some rotations on my exercise ball, they were easy to work through. Because of the weather predictions of snow, school was canceled. Since everyone in the house works for or attends a school, it indeed became a holiday. It did, indeed snow, so the midwife came early for fear of being unable to get to me later on.
We all ate dinner that night, and after Erick triggered some pressure points, contractions intensified. Now my exercise ball wasn’t so effective. Instead I had to make deep, low moaning sounds to open my core up and assist my body in assisting the contractions. While everyone else watched movies, Erick and I retired to bed to get the last bit of rest that we could. Sleep was a series of catnaps between contractions. Erick was there to help me through each one. He was my epidural. That night my water broke at 11:20 p.m. That was day 3.
By this point I was becoming disinterested in eating. I drank water and spinach and fruit smoothies, but for the most part food was the last thing on my mind. Contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart now and I needed Erick to hold my hand and remind me to breathe through them. I was starting to break down. Day 4 was the longest day ever.
By that night everyone was frustrated and losing hope. Talk of going to a hospital surfaced and I started to feel like a failure. A hospital birth was just not what I wanted and I was determined for this birth to go as I wanted because it was mine. Plus, I wanted to normalize home birth to those around me and I couldn’t do anything but increase fear if I’d attempted one and ended up at a hospital. Not a good look.
I found a new energy and tried to fight through my extreme fatigue to prove I really wanted to have my baby here at home. Under the midwife’s orders we walked to increase the contractions, which were just about unbearable at this point. They came with this intense feeling of pressure to my pelvic floor. I felt like a constipated person needing to have a long over due bowl movement. We were so tired though that Erick and I could hardly keep our eyes open. We were literally falling asleep as we tried to walk throughout the house. I guess at that point it occurred to the midwife that we should all maybe sleep.
At some point that night or morning (it was all running together at that point) I woke to a contraction that was taking control over my body. My body was pushing in what felt like turbo speed. I tried to alert Erick but he was out of it and I guess I was too because though I’m sure something happened between that and having the midwife standing over me telling me to push, I can’t recall any of it.
The next thing I recollect is the midwife standing over me saying “good job, Shayla. I can see your baby’s head”. While I was relieved and excited initially, the immediate next thought was “oh God…a baby has to come out of there…this is probably like a contraction times 10”. I wasn’t at all looking forward to that.
Poor Erick was so out of it I don’t even think he understood what was happening until the midwife told him to get behind me to support my back. At some point someone went and informed Erick’s mother that the baby was coming and she came in and supported me from behind as well. Thank God for everyone else in the room because I was so tired I really wasn’t up for pushing a baby out, but Erick, his mother, the midwife and her assistant cheered me on and encouraged me to push. I appreciated it because Lord…there is no book or YouTube video that can prepare you for that type of physical challenge. I thought that boy’s head was never going to get out and I just knew that I’d be completely ripped apart in the process. I had read that to prevent tearing I should just breath through the pushes and allow my body to move naturally. Please. My body was naturally on “go as fast and as hard as you possibly can” and there was nothing I could have done to take any semblance of control over that process. I just pushed and figured I’d be alright. If not alright I knew I wouldn’t die.
After a series of smaller pushes, I gave one huge push and the next thing I knew a whole body appeared. I literally felt nothing after his head passed. Then there he was, placed on my chest, looking at me. He whimpered a little, but he didn’t really cry. 5:20 is the time that “Granny Gran” noted as the time of his debut. After 5 days of labor, we were finally looking at the reason for it all: our Sammy, Nuke Nuke, Duecy, Fat Man, Boo Boo, and all the other names he’ll acquire from here on out.
That was my home birth experience. It was made particularly special by everyone in the Brown Household. As nervous as I’m sure Mr. James, my father in law, and Gabe, my brother in law were, they held it together. If anyone freaked out at any point, they didn’t show it. I appreciate that. Miss Regina, my mother in law cooked, kept calm, allowed us to do this in her house, and made sure I didn’t have to lift a finger to do anything as I recovered. Chelsea, my sister in law willingly assisted the midwife in whatever tasks she was given, provided comic relief and provided anything Erick and I asked of her as well. My labor team drove over an hour through the snow, slept on couches, labored with me for 2 days, delivered my baby, stitched me up, and ran me an herbal bath after.
Because of everyone else’s contribution, Erick was free to focus on supporting me and I was free to focus on laboring. It wasn’t perfectly aligned to my birth plan. It wasn’t as structured as the books made it out to be or as effortless as I had seen things going I my mind…it was better. It was painful. It was exhausting. It was mentally and physically taxing. It was long. It was hard. It was labor…and I did it. I didn’t die. The walls didn’t cave in. The earth didn’t stop spinning.
I have a new respect for mine and all women’s bodies and for women in general for going through it every day. There is a woman with her own birth story for every single person alive that we know. There are approximately 7 billion people on earth and each one of them came through the labor of some woman. That’s big…and at the same time, because it’s the natural order of things, it isn’t…which is how it seems most women approach it…because they keep doing it…7billion times apparently. That has a new depth to me now…all because, of those 7 billion, 1 came through me. 🙂 How cool is that?