Editor’s Note: At TodaysMama, we believe that every mother has the right to choose her birth experiences and that every experience is different. One experience we’d like to forego is the tradition of only sharing birthing horror stories...because, really, how is that helpful? We’ll continue to share stories of homebirth, hospital birth and the occasional I-meant-to-have-a-hospital-birth-but-I had-my-baby-at-home-but-it-worked-out story.
-Erin Oltmanns, Managing Editor
From Marlise Smurthwaite...
At 5:36 in the morning on July 1, 2008, in my own bedroom, my first-born child came into the world. A healthy nine pound boy, with an amazing head full of blonde hair! It had been a long night. Active labor began the day before at 4:30 in the afternoon. And I remember as we neared the end, during the pushing stage, I looked out the window and saw the sky starting to lighten, as the sun came up. I thought, “WOW! It’s morning…I’ve been at this all night!” And even though I was exhausted, and the experience and labor pains were so much more intense than I could have ever imagined, the first thing I said to my newborn son was, “You were so worth it—all of it!”
Homebirth was something I hoped and planned for years before I was having my own children. My sisters and a sister in law had done homebirth, and I actually had the privilege of being at three of those births. And after having those experiences, I knew that I wanted to have homebirths as well. Years later, I was excited to discover that my future husband was born at home, in the 1970’s!! So I had his support.
With my first pregnancy, we had just moved to a new state and my sister in law referred us to the midwife she had used. I had talked to many midwives on the phone, and felt good about this one. She was thorough and wanting to help us feel good and prepared for everything ahead. Appointments usually lasted about an hour, answering any kind of questions I had, and discussing my well-being and that of my baby. My husband and I attended the birth classes she offered, along with four other couples, where we learned a lot and were also encouraged to share our thoughts, insights, etc. I felt well prepared and ready for our birth experience.
The experience was more intense than I had imagined or expected. But it was incredible. There were some “obstacles” that came up, but they were handled with skill and reassurance from my midwife and her assistants. I also had my husband and my parents there, who all offered support and encouragement, in allowing me to move around and try various positions, to labor. One obstacle came when I had been laboring for hours and we all thought I would be ready to push. The midwife checked me and I was only dilated to two centimeters! I couldn’t believe it! I had a moment of great discouragement, wondering if I could keep going and have the kind of natural childbirth I had planned and hoped for. But the help and faith of my support team made such a difference! I changed my mindset. Discouragement wasn’t going to help me. So I decided that I would just take each contraction, one at a time, and work through it. And I could do that. My husband whispered to me that he knew I could do it, and he referred to an experience I had running a marathon on an injured knee, and I felt capable. After that, my dilation quickly progressed from two to six centimeters, and then again from six to ten.
We encountered another challenge when after several hours of hard labor, the baby’s head hadn’t descended down to the cervix. So I had to stand up to use gravity. When the baby’s head did start to descend, the forehead was coming out first. The midwife quickly suggested that I get on my hands and knees, with my chest to the ground, and sway my hips during a contraction, which helped the baby revert back up the birth canal. Then as I got to my feet the baby descended again, this time in the right position with the crown of the head coming first.
I felt fortunate that the knowledge and experience of my midwife made it so that these obstacles didn’t result in a need for less desirable interventions.
To our surprise, just fourteen months after the birth of our son, we had another baby—a girl, born September 12, 2009. At almost 38 weeks, we discovered that the baby was in a breech position. Our midwife was very sensitive and helpful, offering various ideas to help the baby turn on her own. She also encouraged me to come to a point where I could be at peace with whatever the outcome was. If I didn’t get to have a homebirth, as I wanted, the important thing would be that the baby was healthy. My husband and I appreciated the positive thinking she had as well as helping us prepare for any outcome.
At 39 weeks, the baby turned, on her own. We were able to have a homebirth. Though it was once again very intense, I was grateful to be in the comfort of my own home, with my husband and parents with me. The midwife came, our baby girl arrived, and I got to sit in my own bed, holding our new baby. And our 14 month old son and our two older children (from my husband’s first marriage) got to come home, and meet their new sister.
Both times, our midwife thanked us for the experience—that she got to be a part of it. We enjoyed sharing thoughts and feelings about each birth experience and the process we had come through together. Our midwife is more than a practitioner; she has become a caring and supportive friend.
I have enjoyed my two homebirths and consider them to be some of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and happy experiences in my life. If we are blessed to have more, I hope to be able to have similar experiences.