Monday, December 3, 2012

Our Unassisted Homebirth Story

The following is my birth story. My husband and I decided to have our first child at home, unassisted by doctors or a midwife. I’ve kept the narrative pretty straightforward, but have included all relevant details pertaining to a drug-free vaginal birth and delivery. If discussions of this nature make you feel uncomfortable, feel free to skip this particular post.

My unassisted home birth was planned. My husband, Neal, and I decided that birthing our son at home, by ourselves, was the only way to ensure that we had the private, intimate experience we wished for while welcoming our baby into the world.  It’s unusual for me to have no grist for the worry mill whatsoever when it comes to big life changes and transitions, but as we planned and researched, I had greater and greater peace about the prospect of birthing at home, without drugs, without any medical personnel—naturally, intuitively. I credit my husband for keeping me calm and optimistic about this choice. Childbirth always sounds so traumatizing when women talk about it. And even more so when the medical community talks about it. I think this is because medicine is “big business” and women who are made to feel afraid spend more money. That’s a cynical take, but I think true for the most part.

At 39 weeks, I was ready, ready, ready for the little guy to come! I had told myself I wouldn’t be that woman, but there I was, googling natural ways to induce labor. My due date fell on the 11th of October, and my husband had arranged five days off of work starting that day. All the more pressure to go into labor! I wanted him to be around when labor started; I didn’t want to have to call him at work. I also wanted him to be able to stay around for awhile after baby was born and not have to go back to work right away. My due date came and went. The hubs and I were in full labor-inducing mode; we were walking a mile each day, going for very bumpy, off-road rides in the pickup, and rehearsing our labor plan. We had the pool inflated and the obstetric kit I had bought months earlier at the ready.

On the 12th, I suggested to Neal that he do a cervical check. We’d been doing these  once a week since around 37 weeks. For two weeks I’d been fully effaced, but barely one centimeter dilated, which was discouraging. When he checked this time, he said I had definitely opened up some more, but it was still nothing to get excited about—maybe 2 centimeters. We realized later that while doing the check, Neal had unintentionally done a little bit of a “stretch and sweep” or what some call a stripping of the membranes and that it was this that probably got things going.

Half an hour after the check/stripping, I started having mild contractions. This was about 10:30 pm. At that point I still didn’t think anything was happening. We had just crawled into bed and were settling in when my water broke. All of the sudden. In a big gush! It was a strange feeling. I exclaimed to Neal and rushed to the bathroom to clean up. I remember feeling very shaky when I returned. I told Neal that the fluid was stained with meconium—a slight cause for concern, because some believe that to be a sign that the baby is in distress. Other sources we’d read, however, said meconium staining simply happens when the baby’s bowels are mature.  My contractions were getting just a little bit more intense by this point, so we decided not to worry too much about the meconium. Things were progressing. I could hardly believe it--this was, indeed, real labor!

Silas and I, a few hours after his birth.
The rest of the night is sort of a blur.  I remember that a few hours into it,  I was actively trying to bring on contractions, by walking and moving around the house.  I didn’t do that for long, though; the contractions got more painful and pretty soon I just wanted to endure them. I was in and out of our pool throughout the night. I couldn’t seem to decide what was most comfortable. I was also monitoring my contractions for about half the night. I had downloaded an app on my phone to keep track of how long and far apart the contractions were; although they began to hurt more, they stayed at 3-5 minutes apart and never got closer together, which was a little discouraging. I had a couple of panicked moments when the contractions were the most painful and I realized I still wasn’t close to pushing the baby out. I knew pretty quickly that if I was going to get through this, I couldn’t focus on all the work I had left to do; I had to focus on labor one contraction at a time, or I would lose hope. It was about 4 or 5 am when Neal did another quick check and determined that I was dilated to 4 centimeters. Only 4! I resigned myself to a long labor.

But contractions only continued for another couple hours before I started feeling “pushy.” At that point, I didn’t quite trust the feeling. I was concerned about tearing and I knew that if I wasn’t dilated fully, pushing would be futile and I would most likely tear.  It was at this point that things started feeling different. Those last couple of hours must have dilated me the rest of the way, because I felt a different sort of pressure and I intuitively knew that that the baby had entered the birth canal.  This was encouraging. I had long since stopped tracking the contractions.  I remember thinking it’s true what I’d heard one woman say about labor and contractions—the pattern isn’t the same for all women. There isn’t a single formula for the way women birth their babies. Every single birth is unique. My contractions never got closer than 3-4 minutes apart. That was what worked for my body and for my baby.  It was maybe 11am or noon when I reached in and felt the baby’s head. He was still pretty far up, but it was definitely his head. I began to push in earnest.

In hindsight, I can’t decide which was the hardest part of labor, the hours and hours of intense contractions or the two and a half hours of pushing. Pushing hurt just as much as the contractions, but in a different way. I felt my skin burning and stretching as the baby’s head descended more and more. Neal coached me through this part. He was incredibly strong and patient, even though he was a bit freaked out. This was all new for him, just as it was for me! The baby started crowning, but it was super difficult to keep him crowning. At one point I started crying, because after a long hard push, I would stop for breath and the baby’s head would start moving back up again. It felt like I would never succeed at pushing him out, that it was all I could do to get him down to a certain point and all that hard work was erased when he moved up again. I had been standing and squatting through the pushes until now, and decided that I needed to get in the water. Once I was in the pool, on hands and knees, my baby’s head crowned enough that I felt a tiny ear on one side when I reached down to touch. A minute later, his head was out entirely. I took a break and waited for the next contraction. My little baby boy was fully born with a couple more pushes.  This was at 1:40 in the afternoon, on October 13th. My labor had lasted about 15 hours.

Seeing my son, Silas, for the first time is honestly the most vivid part of my memory of my birthing experience. He seemed big when I first pulled him up out of the water. Really, he was only 7 lbs 9 oz. He was a little blue, also. I put him to my breast immediately. He started crying lustily soon after, and we moved out of the pool. I kept him on my breast and he was feeding within ten minutes.

I had done it! We had done it! A home birth, completely unassisted, just Neal, myself, and our Silas. It was the most empowering feeling in the world!

It was just the three of us for the rest of the day and night. The next day brought in-laws and my own mother, but those hours just after Silas was born were precious! It was such a special, necessary time, reveling in the newness of being parents to this brand new little human. 


  1. Congratulations on a job well done, you two. Make that three! ;) It was fascinating reading your birth story, and makes me wish all the more that I had insisted on the birth I wanted for my family. Definitely next time!

  2. Wow! You are AMAZING my Lady! People hardly write about this kind of thing so I was enchanted by every word! So proud of you both, what good parents you shall be! This is a timeless magical story <3



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