My husband and I started trying to conceive the month we got married - July 2005... and in that process, I obsessed a bit - a birth junkie was born. Not long after, I "discovered" the concept of home birth, and consequently, water birth, and decided that I wanted both. I get pretty bad back pain during my period, so I knew that back labour would probably be something that I would have to contend with, and I knew that water helped immensely with back labour. (Little did I know how well!!) My first two labours/births were neither at home, nor was water really involved. Those two stories are for another time, because they are both interesting in their own rights. So, when I finally got my home water birth, it was over FIVE YEARS that it had been in my heart and something that I was passionate about. Now, because I AM so passionate about this, and because it WAS such an amazing experience... this story is long, but I hope you'll find it worth the read.
IMMEDIATELY after finding out that I was pregnant with my 3rd child, I went about finding out if there was a midwife in town... which, to my dismay, there was not. In Australia, where I'd given birth to my first two boys, we lived in Melbourne, and had access to many midwives, and an entirely different system with how pregnancy and birth are "dealt with." Here in semi-rural BC, in a country where midwifery isn't as prolific as it should be, the midwifery shortage is much more apparent to me than it was in Urban Victoria, Australia.
To paint a picture, home birth IS covered by Medicare (again, here in BC), with a certified midwife... but if you don't have a midwife, then your only option for a home birth is UC (Unassisted Childbirth), which has a very broad meaning. Some take it that there is NO ONE but mama present... but that is rare. Most understand that unassisted generally means MEDICALLY unassisted - meaning that there is no medical professional present at the birth. At first, I was extremely adverse to the thought, and when I emailed two friends about my situation, both suggested UC. Initially that came as a surprise to me (since one has been a midwife for over 20 years, and the other is an aspiring midwife), but after some thought, I realised that they both knew that having already done this twice, I'd be fine... I just needed to figure that out myself.
I came into contact with 2 possibilities that would make a UC not necessary, but for whatever reason, NEITHER of those options panned out... and I took those as signs that THIS was what I was supposed to do: an unassisted home birth. I was confident that things would go as our bodies were designed to make them go, and that my husband and the 3 friends who I'd asked to help out would be more than enough support to get things done. I'm a Christ-follower, and very very confident in the knowledge that my body was created to birth babies, as women have been doing for EONS... and that faith kept me strong in the face of adversity (and believe me, it was THERE). I finally came to the realisation that because I'd done this twice before, I'm practically old hat at this, pffft!
Because of the adversity that was there, hubby and I had some serious discussions about the "what ifs." Todd was confident in my knowledge, my own confidence and faith in my body and this process, but his biggest issue lay in the fact that IF things got hairy, he wasn't confident that he could get my knowledge out of my head, if, say, I was in transition, not able to focus, etc. He feared being the one responsible when it could possibly be my life and the life of our baby on the line. AND, because he knew how bad I wanted this home water birth, he feared that my view would be clouded, and I'd be too stubborn to go to the hospital if something DID go awry. So, we made a decision to be UNDECIDED - no definite, in-stone plan, but two strong options: hospital or home.... and we were prepared for both. I printed out a birth plan to take to the hospital with us, along with a packing list of things to put in the bag. We had our Aquaborn birth pool, and had purchased a home birth kit. We were set either way. And I promised Todd that if, at any point, he felt uncomfortable with the direction things were going, I would agree to go to the hospital. And obviously, if at any point I felt we needed to go, we'd go. Barring that, I'd labour at home as long as possible, to spend as much time as possible in the pool, because we knew our hospital wouldn't allow us to bring it in. This decision to be undecided gave us both peace (surprisingly!), and our journey to that decision made our relationship that much stronger.
|Belly henna - done by Jesse (my photographer during the birth - she's an awesome multi-purpose gal!)|
There are 2 large flowers (for me and Todd), and 3 little ones (for my 2 big boys and the little one in the womb).
Well, to say that I was nervous is an understatement. I felt SO many emotions, including frustration with myself, that I was allowing a dr to tell me something that I knew as false and not accurate (in MY situation). After all this, I knew his concern stemmed from the fact that Riley wasn't engaged, but I ALSO knew that NEITHER of my two older boys fully engaged until labour either - that is the way that MY body works.
Now, I have to interject here to say that I am NOT anti-medicine. I firmly believe, and KNOW, that the medical profession has saved many lives, and that c-sections are a necessity. HOWEVER, I ALSO firmly believe that c-sections are a way to avoid liability and ensure that the medical profession has their collective ASS covered, and far far more c-sections happen every year than what are MEDICALLY NECESSARY. I also know, based on MY OWN EXPERIENCE, that a "cascade of interventions" is NOT made up, or a fairy story - it is a REAL PHENOMENON that I have had the misfortune to experience. I also know that for a low-risk mama, home birth is by far the best option for mama AND babe, and the entire family unit. Pregnancy, labour and birth are not collectively a disease or syndrome that need to be treated. They are collectively a biological, a physiological process that our bodies were designed to do... and the more we mess with it, the more messed up it becomes. Getting back to the basics is the key to empowering future generations of mothers.
So, back to my story. Wednesday, the 10th of November was the day that I last saw the Dr, and he was confident that he'd be seeing me on Monday, the 15th. Friday the 12th, I woke up at 4am to my youngest son (oops, now my middle son!) crying because he'd had a bad dream. I went to him and comforted him, and then tried to get back to sleep. It took awhile, because my contractions (which felt like strong Braxton Hicks, nothing to get excited about) kind of kept me awake. At 5.10ish, I woke up to a strong (real!) contraction, and after 2 of those, I started timing them at 5.26am. They were still fairly distant (about 10 min or so), but enough for me to continue timing until 7ish.
I had gotten out of bed around 6.30am - I wasn't sure if I was in for a long labour or a short one, as I'd had one of each (49 hours and 4 hours), and I didn't want to keep hubby awake in case it was a long one. I told him I was going downstairs, and that I'd holler if I needed him. My boys got up to find mummy already awake (a RARITY!), and as a treat, they got to watch some Treehouse (preschool channel - another rarity, the tv is usually never on in the mornings!)... so they knew SOMETHING was up. At this point, the contractions were strong, but not quite strong enough to cause pain, I just had to focus to get through each one.
I called my labour team around 7am - my girlfriends Carol, Jesse and Val - and told them not to rush, just have a shower, have breakie, and come over when they were done. No rush, I was just plodding along. (Jesse was my photographer, and Carol and Val would be there to help Todd with me, and with my two older boys, Xavier and Shannon.) Jesse arrived around 7.30am, Val around 8.30am, and because Carol was at work, I told her that I'd call her when things kicked into gear. At this stage, we started filling the Aquaborn pool, and realised that our hot water tank wasn't big enough to fill the pool... we ended up heating up pots of water on the stove to heat it up! :)
|Boiling water to heat up the pool.|
|I hate pruney feet and hands! ;)|
|Me and my ducky thermometre.|
|Cushy walls of my Aquaborn pool were GREAT to rest on!|
|Shannon having a fun time in the pool with Mummy, during a contraction.|
|Ducky just chillin' with me. ;)|
|My little thumb o_O ... don't worry, I didn't bite too hard.|
|Pushing out Riley's head - Todd was putting pressure on my perineum with a washcloth.|
|Riley's head coming out - still in his bag of water.|
|Xavier and Shannon looking on while Riley was being born.|
|Todd and I taking our first good look at Riley Morgan, our 3rd son.|
After Riley was born, Todd called the hospital to find out when we should come in. (I wanted to be checked for any tears, and really wanted to know how heavy Riley was.) We were told to, instead of driving the 5 blocks to the hospital, call the paramedics for transport (ONLY) to the maternity ward. They told us it'd be easier for us. Whatever. The medics came in, took over, and to make THAT long story short, they wouldn't let me eat or drink the second they walked in the door (not even water), they put a 16 gauge IV in me (I still, almost 3 weeks later, have the mark), wouldn't let me get dressed, or even let Todd grab me clothes (I went to the hospital in nothing but my wet sports bra and a blanket)... AND, wait for it... they made me stop breastfeeding Riley so they could MOVE me from my air mattress on the floor to the transport chair WITH my placenta HALF-DELIVERED. (Yes, I'll be writing a letter of complaint about THAT one.) The mat nurse was confused as to why I had an IV, why they tried their damndest to move me before delivering the placenta, and why they wouldn't allow me to eat or drink. (I birthed Riley's placenta on my OWN, much to the paramedics' chagrin, at exactly half an hour after Riley was born - WELL within protocol.) But, that was the only negative part of this story, and although it needs to be told, I'd rather continue on, and finish this novella.
We were only at the hospital for 4 hours. I got checked and fed, Riley got checked and fed (boobies!), and we were discharged by 7pm. The mat nurse, Tegwen, and her intern, as well as the nursery RN were just AWESOME. I had only two tiny 1st degree tears, so no stitches, and although there was a piece of the placenta torn (probably due to being made to MOVE with it half hanging out of me!), it was complete. Riley had a smidge of meconium in his hair (probably passed while he was on his way out), but then, my other two had it as well, so I wasn't concerned. Riley was 4.912kg (10lb 13oz) and 56cm long (22"), with a head circumference of 37cm. My labour was just under 9 hours long, with only half an hour of HARD labour, and then just over 20 minutes of pushing.
|Riley having a feed at the hospital after being checked out.|
|Riley Morgan (1 month, 1 week old)|