Before I ever became pregnant, I knew I wanted to have a drug-free birth. It sounded crazy to many people and I was frequently looked at like I had ten heads when I told people that I was giving birth at home, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Women have been giving birth for thousands of years. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? Our bodies are made to do this. I figured that yes, it would be difficult, but it was one day of my life and for me, it was worth it. There are a number of side effects from using an epidural or induction drugs, such as Pitocin. I’ll save my rant on these for another time, but these drugs can interfere with the birth process and the natural cascade of hormones that are released every step of the way, from the first contraction to breastfeeding after the baby is born. Using these drugs can also lead to a higher chance of Cesarean section, which I wanted to avoid. I didn't even want pressure from medical professionals in the hospital to take any of these drugs, so I chose to have a home birth. I have only wonderful feelings about my natural birth experience. I feel so lucky to have the resources I came across during pregnancy. My midwives and doula were beyond amazing and I would recommend them to anyone in a heartbeat. They, along with my husband and mom, made up the perfect support system and I am so grateful for every one of them. I am so happy to share my birth experience. It was a long, exhausting, mind-blowing 29 hours, so keep in mind that this is my birth as I remember it. Some minor details may be off. I did not think it would be this long so if you make it through the whole thing, thanks for hanging in there!
My contractions started at 2am on July 10. Right away they were anywhere from about 8 to 30 minutes apart and not very intense. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much following this but I did sleep a little. For that entire day not much changed. Pat and I just hung out for most of the day. Our big outing was a trip to Costco. It was funny because I felt like I was somewhat able to manipulate contractions, yet in the end, things progressed as nature intended. I went for three walks throughout the day. During these walks, contractions became much more frequent and were about 4 minutes apart. However, once I got home and sat on the couch, they would be up to 12 minutes again. I was so frustrated at how long it was taking, and did not like seeing things slow down, so I hardly sat down all day! In addition to walks, I was also sitting on the birth ball and doing squats and lunges. We pick up our CSA vegetables on Tuesdays, so I was actually trying to prep and cook vegetables since I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it in the upcoming week. Looking back, I probably should have taken advantage of this slow time and just taken a nap!
During the evening, contractions started to get a little more intense and were around 5 minutes apart. At around 10:30 pm my water broke (or so I thought, but more on that later). This happened minutes after speaking to my doula and telling her that I was still ok and that I would check back in with her in an hour. At this point, things started to escalate quickly and contractions became about every 3 minutes. My mom was already on her way to my house, and I called my doula, Jenn, and midwife to let them know it was time to come over. I am so thankful that I had Jenn come when she did because things started to feel more intense at this point and this is around when my back labor started. We took the Bradley class with her, where we learned a lot of pain management techniques, but it was so helpful having her there to guide us in person. She was able to tell Pat what to do to support me and then also give him breaks and help me herself. From around midnight through delivering, someone (usually Pat - he was a rockstar during this) was applying counter pressure on my lower back during almost every single contraction. I labored in my bedroom for a few hours, frequently changing positions. I was resting on my side and would get on my hands and knees if I felt a contraction coming, or I was sitting on the birth ball and would lean on the bed. For about an hour of this time, everyone left Pat and I alone in our room which was nice. I was already exhausted at this point and was falling asleep for a few minutes between each contraction. Periodically, the midwife would check my heart rate and the baby’s heart rate with the doppler. I thought it was so cool to see how the baby was getting lower because she would find his heart rate lower and lower on my belly every time.
After a few hours of this, they suggested that I get in the shower to help with the pain. This felt really great. An older woman lived in our house before we did, so we have a metal bar in our shower to hang on to. I always made fun of it but it was so useful! I would either bend over and hang on it or squat and use it to help me keep my balance. Pat, who was standing outside the shower, was giving me sips of coconut water between contractions. I still tear up when I think about how awesome and supportive he was during all of this.
At this point, my contractions were still all over the place. They would be as close as three minutes, but still sometimes as far as 10 minutes apart. They were intense, but I was still talking to everyone between contractions. Once I was out of the shower, someone suggested that we go downstairs for a change of scenery. I was into it, but now looking back, I don’t remember actually walking down and back up the stairs! While we were downstairs, I had the birth ball on top of a big chair and would lean on that during contractions. I’m not sure when I started doing this, it could’ve been before we were downstairs, but they recommended that I moan very low during contractions. It was easier said than done, because my natural inclination would be to yell or make a sound at a higher pitch, but it really helped me get through. At one point, I accidentally looked at the clock at saw it was 4:30am. Up until this point, I had no idea what time it was. I’m not sure if the time had gone by fast or slow, but for some reason I was surprised by the time.
While we were downstairs, probably around 5 am, I started to tell everyone that I felt like I had to poop. I didn’t know this at the time, but this is apparently a sign that I would be ready to push soon. Shortly after, I felt like I was no longer able to sit down because of the pressure I felt near my butt. My midwife asked if I wanted her to do an internal exam to see how many centimeters dilated I was, but I declined. I was scared that I wouldn’t be very close to 10 cm and I didn’t want to feel discouraged. Based on how I was acting during and between contractions, I didn’t think that I was very far along. I was handling them ok and I was still able to talk to everyone. I had done my homework and learned about the stages of labor and I thought I couldn’t possibly be in transition (the stage just before pushing, when women typically feel as though they “can’t do this anymore”). We went back upstairs to my bedroom at around 5:30 and at this point my contractions became even more intense and were about 3 minutes apart. I changed my mind and had the midwife check me. I was 9 centimeters! I honestly couldn’t believe it. I had actually laughed during the transition phase!
At this point it was time to get in the pool. At first I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. The water was hot (it has to be around body temperature or a little higher for the baby) but my upper body (when it was out of the water) was cold. However, looking back, I can't imagine having done this not in the pool! I was still incapable of sitting or laying down because of the pressure I felt near my bottom. The only way I felt comfortable was facing the side of the pool and leaning on it. I’m not sure when exactly I started pushing. I did spontaneous pushing, which means that I only pushed when I felt like I had to. No one was telling me when or how hard to push. My body just decided when it was time and I listened. I started pushing when it actually felt better to push than to not push. While I was very calm during the first stage, it was during this stage that I started to panic. I found the pushing stage to be far more difficult than laboring. It felt like I was taking the biggest, lumpy poop of my life. Sounds started coming out of my mouth that I had never heard before. I started crying, yelling “I can’t do this”, and definitely dropped a few F bombs. I honestly felt like he would never come out.
I have no clue when his head vs the rest of his body actually came out. But at one point, my midwife told me that he was still in the amniotic sac. I was a little confused because I thought my water had broken the night before. I had felt like I was leaking liquid for most of the night. However, the sac actually has two layers, and only the outer layer had broken. I consider this divine intervention because I had tested positive for Group B Strep and chose not to take antibiotics. I was not worried that my baby would contract GBS because the risk of infection is so low combined with the fact that I did a number of things to even further decrease the risk. I will share more in another post about how I treated Group B Strep naturally.
At another point, I heard the midwife say that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. I share this because this is one scenario that people were concerned about when I shared that I was having a home birth. She was able to simply put her hand between the cord and the baby’s neck and unwrap it. It was so uneventful and there was no fear at all. It happened, it was handled and we just moved on.
Prior to giving birth, I had prepared many birth affirmation flags to hang up in my room. The idea was that I could look at them and use them as a coping mechanism when I felt like I wanted to give up. I never got to actually hanging up these flags. They remained in a box in my bedroom. However, just making them made a difference! When I was I was in the pool, and maybe even a little before that, I found myself repeating to myself, “Open” and “Breathe Baby Down”, among some other affirmations. These were things that I had written on my flags. I found it to be very calming, helpful and even productive.
I felt like my time spent pushing in the pool would never end. I remember thinking to myself, “Am I going to have PTSD from this?!” Eventually, after about an hour and a half, my midwife told me that the next push could potentially be the last one. I couldn’t believe it. When the contraction came, the baby was definitely coming out, but I started freaking out as well. I felt, and started screaming, that he was stuck and he couldn’t get out. I was encouraged to keep going, and I did, and Rory Matthew Magee was born at 7:41am on July 11.
Once he was out, I think I went into shock. I was shaking and could not stop crying. I felt paralyzed and couldn’t even turn around. The midwife said that if I turned around and sat down, I could hold him. I sobbed, “But I don’t even know how to hold an infant!” Luckily, being able to hold an infant comes very easily when he’s yours! Looking back now, it all seems like a blur. Delayed cord clamping was important to us, so after about 10-15 minutes, Pat cut the cord and then he took over skin to skin duties so that I could get out of the pool and onto my bed to deliver the placenta. Rory was placed back on my chest and shortly after, he latched on and started nursing.
The time after the birth was amazing because we were already at home! All of the clean up was taken care of and our job was to just love on Rory and rest for the remainder of the day. As far as recovery goes, I bounced back incredibly fast. I was obviously sore, but other than that, I felt really great. I am so happy that Rory is finally here. The past few weeks have been unreal. As expected, it has been a challenge, but at the same time so amazing and full of love. As for the birth itself, even though at the time I questioned my sanity, I am now obsessed with birthing naturally at home and will absolutely do it again.
As I said, I loved my midwives and doula. I highly recommend them. Here are links to their information if you are interested:
Gaia Midwives - Amanda and Ashley were present for my labor and birth, respectively.
Jenn Barry was my doula. You can find her at The Village Sprout.