After having our first in a hospital setting, I just knew I didn't want that experience again. I had terrible post partum depression and I wanted to do everything possible to avoid that the second time around. So, I started looking into home birth and birthing centers. We had just moved to San Diego because my husband received orders to the drill field, so I had no idea what was available in the area. A simple google search brought up Best Start Birth Center and there is where our journey starts.
After finding out I was pregnant, we toured the birth center and immediately set up our first appointment. I was so ready to experience pregnancy and birth as a normal happening in life, and not as some illness. I had come to exactly the right place.
Fast foreword to two weeks before Tinsley arrived and I find myself anxiously waiting to see Michele, a midwife I'd yet to see. She walked in and I immediately connected with her. I remember talking to my husband as we were leaving the appointment and saying "that's who I want to deliver me, she's perfect". Michele's husband is also in the Marines and we not only connected with that, but I just felt this deep deep desire to have her at the birth. I was almost ready to beg her to come even if she wasn't on call. That next day was a Friday, and she was on call. I had felt waves of contractions all day and thought it might be time, and I was anxious, so I called. She told me to call back when they were closer and stronger, or if I had any other questions. They soon died down. That next Thursday I saw her again and, yet again, that Friday I had another round. I did come in to be checked at the birthing center and I had made progress (I was 4cm), but my contractions where dying down yet again. I wanted this baby to come, and I was so discouraged that I was getting to the cusp of early active labor, but it just wasn't happening. She took time out of her day the following day to give me a little pep talk and it helped me so much. 5 days later I start this, what I call "my false real labor" all over again. I didn't want to deliver yet, I wanted Michele, this had to wait until Friday. I kept talking to my baby, telling him to just hold on a little longer. He listened!
Friday rolled around and I'm awakened by contractions at 6:30 in the morning. I immediately think "here is that false real labor again". So I snuggled up to my two year old and just tried to rest, but they were increasingly uncomfortable. I took a bath, again with the two year old, and just tried to stay calm. I finally texted my husband and said I thought today was the day. By 9:30 I was fairly certain this was it, so I called Michele. She recognized my number and greeted me by name. I told her it was time, this was really it. She just laughed, not at me, but because I had somehow miraculously gone into labor at just the right time on just the right day! We planned to meet at the birthing center at 11 so she could evaluate me. We gathered our bags and headed that way. She checked me and I was at a 5-6, so she let me hang out and didn't admit me just yet, just in case things stopped...again. Oh boy, but they didn't.
Not long after getting there I climbed in the tub and things started happening. I just kept thinking "is this really it? This is really happening right now." My son was playing trains on the edge of the tub and it just felt like home. I was right where I needed to be, with my husband and my son to keep me company. I was able to breathe through the contractions and talk and interact with my husband and son in between. We shared ice chips and Gatorade. My son thought getting "purple drink" was so awesome and feeding mommy ice was fun.
I wasn't timing the contractions anymore, there was no reason, in my mind, and it just made it harder for me to focus if I did. I started to get increasingly uncomfortable. Breathing through the contractions wasn't working. I had sworn I wouldn't be a howler.....I was SO a howler. I just let it all go. With each contraction came this primal growl. My husband laughed and my son imitated, talk about comic relief. Michelle was giving us our space at this point. She had silently situated herself in the cigar room and was working on my chart. I looked at my husband and said "ugh I feel like I need to push or something". She said "I heard that, I'm coming". I didn't know if it was just a weird urge or if it was for real, so I had her check me. I didn't want to push and end up with a swollen cervix. I was ready to push, but she assured me I didn't have to if I didn't want to, just to listen to my body.
At this point my son was far past his nap time and was acting crazy. I could see the frustration in Matt's face and hear it in his tone. I said, in a very sweet voice, "honey, it's ooooook, he's going to be fine". Then I checked out, I was in my zone and I lost track of him and stopped worrying. I had lost all sense of time by then as well, I was along for the ride and my body was in charge. I just went with each contraction, wallering and wiggling around in the tub with each wave. My hips hurt, I needed some sort of relief, I needed to do some different positions. I squatted, got on my hands and knees, squished myself up sideways in the tub. Between contractions I just completely relaxed everything. I allowed my body to float in the water and I honestly had no thoughts, just complete relaxation. As I said before, I had no sense of time, so rest time and contraction time was not something I was worried about or aware of. I was completely at the mercy of my body, which is quite liberating. I wasn't worried about the pain either, it wasn't awful, it was a welcomed wave, a reminder that soon I would hold my baby.
I remember Michelle asking if I wanted some honey. My initial thought was hell no (I hate honey, god I hate it) but I said yes. I was shaky and hadn't noticed it. Then I thought TRANSITION! Yes! That's what this is! I couldn't talk, that was to much energy so I just silently rejoiced. At some point during on my flopping and half drowning myself (there was some sense of calm about having my ears in the water and listing to my deep growls/roars/howls but I went to far a few times) Michele's assistant, Sandi, had shown up with the honey. She kept quiet and I kept thinking "why is she here? She's just sitting there while Michele helps me through each one". Then she spoke and she had the most gentle and relaxing voice, now I knew why she was here. I knew that this was the perfect team, we were going to do this together.
I needed to squat, but I felt like I also needed support so they had two pillows on the side of the tub and I flopped over them while Michelle poured water down my back. I remember thinking how wonderful it felt to just hang there and feel semi weightless. I relaxed, I relaxed A LOT. Funny how that works, as soon as I relaxed it was like my body switched gears.
At some point I wasn't feeling the tub anymore. I had to get up, I needed to find relief of this hip pain durning contractions or I wasn't going to be able to focus properly. I'm not sure how I communicated to them that I needed out, but I did. They suggested that I try sitting on the toilet to support my legs, sounded awful to me, but I was willing to give it a shot. So I got out but some how ended up in the door jam to the cigar room on all fours. I remember hearing Michelle say get a pad for her knees, she wants to be right here (with a little laugh). I know, I thought, here is this big tub and I'm wallering around on the hard floor with my two year old running trains through my hair. It was what I needed though, I needed a change. I was pushing little bits here and there, but nothing significant, just enough to relieve some pain. Then it was game on, I couldn't do the hands and knees on the floor, my hips just HURT, so I stood up and whined to my husband. I sort of fell, hung, and threw myself into his arms and let out the most whiny "baby" i think I've ever said. Poor man, here he is wrangling our two year old and now his sopping wet laboring wife is hanging from his arms. His face was priceless. He was a trooper. I only made him do that through one contraction and then I had to find a place to squat. I had no concept of time and somehow Michele and Sandi had hung a sheet for me to use while I squatted.
Ok, this sounds like it may be promising. So I rushed into the bedroom where it was and immediately collapsed into it. Oh yes, this was what I needed! I used my arms and pulled up with all my might and let the rest of me hang. RELIEF! Oh sweet sweet relief, no hip pain! Now I realize it's because I was also pushing (silly me should have payed more attention!) I then felt like I had to push, I felt something (I thought maybe it was his head) I pushed with all I had and with a loud POP my water EXPLODED all over the floor. I collapsed because it felt SOOOOO good. Oh god it felt good. I think I smiled and giggled while I said "oh that felt so good" Michele stepped out, I think to get some things to clean up the water, and Sandi came in the room. Somehow I had managed to miss the "puppy pad" (as my husband kept calling them) and towel that was under me when the water exploded. Sandi kept her distance (I think this is probably 10 or 20 minutes after she got there, but don't take my word on that time thing) but gently talked me through the contractions. Her voice was just above a whisper, just loud enough for me to focus solely on it. I was pulling with all I had on the sheet and pushing. This felt good. No pain, just relief. Then I ripped the hook out of the door. Internally I was devastated. I was thinking what am I going to do without that? That was what I needed! Then another contraction came and I said "MY HIPS! OW!" And Sandy was right there doing a hip squeeze followed by a glorious massage. Oh man, then another contraction came and I whimpered "do the hip thing, do the hip thing" and she did. Bless her, all the while talking to me, sweetly guiding me through the wave.
Michele returned and suggested I get back in the tub and use the bar, reassuring me that I couldn't rip that out! I didn't really want to. I dilly dallied, and went through a few more contractions. I think they basically half carried me back to the tub and I was back in, surrounded by the warmth of the water. I felt different, I felt intense hip pain again. With a pissed off grunt I pushed and screamed. RELIEF! So you know, after doing about 10 of these pushes in and out of the tub, I'm finally back in the tub and a light goes off...pushing=relief...duh. It took me long enough :). I was so greatful that they hadn't said anything or pushed for me to push. They knew I was there, Michelle kept saying "feel your baby's head" I would and I didn't feel anything. I thought this woman is nuts. His head isn't moving (I would certainly feel it right?) WRONG! It was moving, that was the hip pain!!! He was RIGHT THERE! (I didn't know this though).
I needed to sit with one leg straight to the side and one bent half up on my knee during a few rests and one contraction. These contractions were intense, the hip pain was excruciating. I flopped and flipped howled and moaned and groaned. I briefly started to freak out and tense up, but was brought back by Michele and Sandi telling me to focus on my breathing and use my low tones to get through it. Hearing them tell me to take it one at a time and just let it go when it was over was one thing that kept me from losing it. I can't stress enough on how I had NO concept of time, so I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over, when in fact it was very close and I was getting SO close to meeting my baby, but I didn't know so I was doubting myself. I whined again saying "it HURTS UGH!" Michele was there through each second and just kept reassuring me by saying "that's your baby coming down, feel your baby come down" (I was half expecting somebody to say "no shit it hurts" hahaha). Sandi was also there "relax your mouth, relax your face, feel your baby move down" (I thought man she's nuts. What is relaxing my face and mouth going to do? But, like everything, I tried it! Wow, it helped me focus! She knows what she's talking about ;)) I don't know how long the contractions were lasting or how long I was able to rest between, but it felt like the same amount of time as it had the entire "active" time. Funny how that works. Then it was like one after the other, but I just felt this intense hip pain. I yelled "I feel like I've got to poop". Nobody got excited, no rushing around, just the same reassuring "feel your baby move down, that's just your baby moving down". Great, I think, just great, how much longer can he move down, didn't she just say he's right there? This is my complete ignorance and fear starting to take over. Then another contraction and my body just automatically goes to all fours and I let out this huge roar and my body is pushing on it's own. I feel this fullness and a tiny burn, I'm bracing for the "ring of fire" but nothing, just this feeling of fullness and it's not what I expected. It's not painful, it feel good to get him out of my hips! The contraction is over and he's hanging out (bulging out) and I'm starting to worry (for no reason). Sandy is softly saying "let your perineum stretch, you don't want it to happen to fast, just feel your baby's head" "Can I push without the contraction?" The response is "you do whatever you need to, listen to your body". My body was doing it's own thing and there was another huge push and his head was out. I am in shock, I had no clue we were that close, no idea at all. Holy crap my baby's head is out. I feel him rotate and then it's time to get the rest of him out. A little push gets his shoulder out and Michele says "reach down and pull your baby out, Hope". I was basically in disbelief. Wasn't this suppose to be horrible pain? There is no way that was the baby. But I look down and there he is half hanging out and I grab under his arms and push a tiny bit and guide him up and I flip over and put him on my chest. Then there is a huge rush of emotions. I'm on a complete endorphin high. I just say "oh baby he's here" and I sort of smile and sob. I'm overwhelmed with emotions and hormones. It's complete ecstasy. I am in awe of him, how perfect he is. I hear my son say "dats a baby" and my husband gives me kisses and has this huge smile on his face. We just welcomed our newest in the most natural and gentle way possible. We did everything WE wanted and this was perfect. I will cherish that moment forever. The moment I brought my baby in this world. I did it, nobody else took credit, nobody else delivered him, I did.
The placenta delivery is next. Michele asked if I felt like I needed to push my placenta out, and I sort of shrugged. This "felling the urge to push" thing wasn't what I thought. So I gave a tiny push and then my body took over (just as it had with pushing out the baby) and pushed out my placenta. I had no clue I needed to push (this still baffles me). Ahhhh I was done! I couldn't believe I just had my baby! They clamped his cord and then my husband cut it. Our sitter for Matthew showed up at this time, which was perfect, and they headed to get us all food.
I handed Tinsley to Matt and Michele and Sandi helped me get into the bed. Matt handed me Tinsley and he latched on for the first time, and then we all three snuggled up in the bed for a bit.
THIS moment was exactly what I wanted, what I had argued with people about for 10 months. No bright lights, nobody telling me what I should do, just support and reassurance that my body was made to do this. We spent 4 hours at the birthing center after he arrived. They didn't weigh him or measure him until after he'd been at the breast for about an hour and a half, and after I was finished eating. They gave us our space and privacy, which was wonderful. When they sent us on our way, Michele said how wonderful it was to watch me labor and be in my zone. This surprised me, because I really had no clue I had gone into a zone or had even done so well. I just knew I had done it, in my own way, and I was proud of that, but I feel extra proud because she said that. I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR (all of Hillcrest did, I'm sure).
I didn't have a doula, which would probably be a wise choice in the future. Michele and Sandi were exactly what I needed support wise. I'm not sure if they normally are that active in a labor and delivery, but they really were amazing and I wouldn't have had the same experience had it not been for them. I am so grateful that they were there and for all the love and support they showed me. I felt like I was surrounded with so much positive relaxing energy. As a team, they are wonderful. They both are very different, which makes them PERFECT together. I truly owe them so much for giving me the most beautiful experience. -Michele now works independently and can be found at www.lavendermoonmidwifery.com our birth pictures are the first on the page!-
The one thing that I want everybody to take with them from my story is that having a natural birth isn't awful, it's absolutely beautiful. It was not the most painful thing I've endured and I'd do it over and over again. I was cooking and doing my normal daily activities the next day. I didn't get post partum depression like I had with my first, and I am full of energy. The only part about my experience that I didn't like is that so many people did not support my decision to birth naturally in an out of hospital setting. I felt like I was constantly being attacked for choosing this path. I found reassurance in the midwives at Best Start, my husband, and statistics from studies of out of hospital births. I wouldn't change a thing about my experience, and I hope that I can inspire others to birth naturally without the fear of pain, without fear of others judgements, and to embrace all that makes you woman!