Updated: Jan 26, 2019
We love a good story, we especially love birth stories, telling them and hearing them! We love YOUR story, but we know you want to hear our stories sometimes too.
One of the questions that I get asked in this work by my clients is inevitably, “did you have your babies at home?” This definitely originates from curiosity, but it also feels like a reflective moment for parents too. “Are we making the right decision here with our own birth and baby?” or “Can we trust that this lady knows what she is talking about?”
I used to answer this differently than I do now. I used to say, “no I learned the hard way where NOT to have a baby.” And part of this is definitely still true for me. I did what most women do and I had a hospital birth before I really understood my options. But over time I have gotten more comfortable with the fact that I never had a homebirth; I’ll never have a homebirth.
I have had some grace with myself when I think about the choices I made with the information I had at the time. When you look at it that way, I did a great job deciding how to have my baby. I learned that I didn’t want to have another hospital birth, but I didn’t learn that the “hard” way. I learned it in a pretty beautiful way if you think about how that event has swiftly changed the direction of my life.
My first baby was born in a hospital in 2010. My husband and I weren’t expecting to get pregnant but we were doing the kind of things that cause pregnancy. Or, just that one thing, haha. We were delighted after the shock wore off. We had been raising my hubby’s son together for 6 years already, so the idea of parenting was not unimaginable in the slightest.
After the initial morning sickness and knock-dead fatigue wore off, my pregnancy was lovely. I truly felt like I had taken all the classes and read all the books and prepared really expertly. I still maintain that I probably put in 2-3x more effort than the average first time mom, and I thought I was set.
I started contracting around 3 in the afternoon and I was so excited. I had time to go grocery shopping, eat a meal, take a shower and shave my bikini line. I also had time to run a marathon, watch every season of Friends and learn how to rebuild a transmission, but luckily I didn’t spend time doing any of those things. Instead, I concentrated on every single contraction and was acutely aware that they were awfully painful but not getting close enough together to warrant my 5-1-1 instructions to go to the hospital.
One of my favorite labor memories was walking the block by my house, having a contraction in front of the middle school where pre-teens were getting dropped off that morning, and leaning into my mom’s shoulder and moaning in front of all of them. If you’ve gotten to know me a little bit by now, this scene fits into my philosophy of sex-ed for young adults, leaving me unexpectedly satisfied almost 9 years later…
I finally got the nerve to suggest we should just go to the hospital and figure out what the heck was “wrong”. Labor was taking forever, my contractions wouldn’t get closer than 5 minutes apart and I was just stinking tired. We arrived and I was assessed at 4cm. What a disappointment. I remember thinking, “well there goes my plan to get the epidural after 6 cm. I’m getting that sucker right now.” And I did. I stumbled to the room I was assigned to, puked on the way, got poked a good 6 times by the new nurse trying to get my IV, and happily stayed still for my anesthesia. I decided I was due for a major nap, my husband went to hunt down a sandwich and my OB came in to tell me that she needed to start pitocin and break my water so my baby could come. Not wanting loads of interventions, I asked her if we could just do one thing at a time and she replied, “I could have sent you home with a sleeping pill, but you wanted to stay here and have a baby, right?”
I didn’t really have the wherewithal or the self-advocacy skills to argue with that- and for heaven’s sake, don’t send me back home!!! We agreed to all the things, we trucked right along, I slept for 30 minutes before I thought my epidural stopped working. It was just my baby’s giant head causing quite a bit of pressure that the epidural doesn’t block, and all I could think of was, “wait, I didn’t really get my nap!”.
I pushed for an hour, uncomplicated as ever. She was born and my husband and I both lost it to tears and kisses and cuddles. I went home to a monster of breastfeeding difficulties but we made it and I love being Roslyn Jo’s mommy.
Aubrey was my second pregnancy. We tried to get pregnant on purpose this time and the novelty of planning this was kinda thrilling. We conceived right away and I started talking my husband into having a homebirth. By now I was already a doula and had been to my first homebirth. I knew having this baby at home was the best way to have a more empowered experience but we were still figuring out how to make it work financially. I was seeing a great OB in the meantime, one that I had done lots of respectful doula births with already and I was feeling okay about it as a last resort. I was 10 minutes away from the hospital and I figured if I labor at home until the very end, I could show up just to have a baby and not get messed with.
At my 20 week anatomical ultrasound, it was found that my placenta was implanted right next to the edge my cervix. It’s called marginal placenta previa and usually presents with prenatal vaginal spotting, but I had none. 90% of these cases resolve on their own and I was assured when we checked it again in a couple months the placenta would have migrated up towards the top with the expanding growth of the uterus.
You can probably guess where this story is going. The placenta didn’t move. It was too close for a safe vaginal birth and I scheduled a planned cesarean at 37.5 weeks. This was devastating to say the least. I realize in hindsight I didn’t really process the whole thing at the time. I was simply set in survival mode, trying to make the best out of the situation. I speculate this suppression, or just lack of resources to process it well, caused me to grieve for years. I wish someone would have told me it was okay to hate that it happened. That it didn’t make me a pessimistic mom or a grumpy lady, or diminish my acceptance of a necessary and potentially life saving intervention. Birth can be good and awful sometimes. You can have both things in birth, in any setting.
The humbling in my heart that these births have done have pointed me to where my true hope and identity lie. We are not our births, even when they are great. We are fully loved and cherished by the Creator who makes all things new, and has a good plan and good gifts even when it’s not what we wanted for ourselves.
All lessons are hard. Mine wasn’t harder than the lessons someone has to learn by having a baby at home. We all have to go barreling through this transition and it’s not always pretty. So now I tell people, “I did not have my babies at home. I had one in a hospital before I understood what homebirth really was. I had my other baby in hospital because it was medically necessary, sometimes that happens. Home is where I would have a baby now and I am so glad it’s a real-life option for you.”