Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Home Sweet Home

So having a home birth is infinitely nicer than having an average, uncomplicated hospital birth. Or at least it was in my experience.

Buster (not his real name for those of you who are new to this rodeo) was born around 6:30 in the morning on Tuesday the 31st! He was a whopping 10 pounds, 6 ounces and 22 inches long. 

The birth story:

At the beginning of the weekend, my sister, K, called to say that she thought she could come out for a week starting on Monday. C and I were super excited at the prospect that we would have family out for the birth; I think knowing she was coming relaxed me in a way that really got the labor-ball rolling. At the risk of TMI, I lost my mucus plug later that night and then felt crampy for the rest of the weekend. On Sunday afternoon I started to get contractions, but they stopped coming towards evening. On Monday, I still felt crampy and was having irregular contractions throughout the day. On Monday afternoon, we went to the airport to pick up Kath, and then I went to class where I timed my contractions, but they still weren't at all regular. Things started to pick up around 11 that evening, and by 2:00 am there was no denying that Buster was on his way. We called the midwife because my contractions were consistently four minutes apart and getting longer, stronger, and closer together. Unfortunately, our midwife was just finishing up at another birth, so it would be a little while before she would get to us. Luckily, the nurse who assists her lived closer to us and could get there sooner, although it turns out she had also just been at a birth.
I got into the pool around 3:00 right around when the nurse showed up. When she saw me go through a couple of contractions, she got on the phone and told the midwife that indeed there would be no time for rest and she had better get to our house soon. In the pool, the water felt wonderful, but the contractions were now longer, stronger, and closer together, and my legs kept cramping from being bent in the pool. My wonderful sister worked on getting some killer biceps by continually pouring water during my contractions onto the magic spot on a woman's back that helps with labor pains. The birth assistant arrived a little later and we lit candles and turned the lights down in the room with the pool, which helped me focus and breathe through the contractions. My midwife arrived around 4:30 (I think; I wasn't really watching a clock at this point), and while I kept on doing my thing in the pool, she and the birth assistant tried to catch a little shut-eye so they would be ready to spring into action, if needed, for the birth itself. 
Around 5:00, a bright and cheery Wiggle woke up and came in to see what all the commotion was about. He rubbed my shoulder and tried to comfort me through contractions. The birth pool had a floating thermometer which he used to take the temperature of my various body parts - "Mommy? Is your elbow fine? Is your cheek fine?" Finally, the urge to push kicked in, and so I did. At this point I became more vocal and more irritable, so my sister took Wiggle into the other room to play. I stayed in the pool and just followed my instincts about when to rest and when to push.
Everything was so hands-off; no ever checked my progress, no one told me when to push, the only "interference" was reminding me to breathe and to try to relax my shoulders and legs so that pushing would be easier for me. At some point, the nurse tried to check the fetal heart rate, which required me to sit up out of the water. I found being upright extremely uncomfortable, but she kept not being able to find Buster's heartbeat. I had to restrain myself from shouting "You'll have a much easier time checking it if you just wait a minute!" I got back to business and my water broke and then two or three contractions later, Buster's head and then shoulder emerged. It turns out they couldn't get the heart rate because I was further along then they had thought and he was already in the birth canal!
The midwife's assistant caught the baby and lifted him out of the water and then handed him to me. Wiggle came in and met his baby brother and was all smiles. We sat in the tub and relaxed and snuggled for a bit. C cut Buster's cord which was a little bit of a conversation piece because it was extra thick and had a true knot in it. A short while later, I shakily got out of the tub and then got into my own bed and snuggled and nursed my new baby in my own room. It was wonderful. A few hours later, I had our usual breakfast at the table with my family - back to normal(ish) by breakfast.
I really cannot describe how wonderful and relaxing it was to be in my own house. And while I don't generally go in for this type of stuff, the birth itself was quite empowering. I felt in control, in-tune with my body, and very connected to the birth. Although Wiggle's birth was not at all traumatic and he was beautiful and healthy when born, the process felt confrontational, and I felt a little powerless. The hospital and doctors made me feel like something was happening to me and that while the end result is wonderful, the process is less than wonderful, but at home, it felt like I was making something happen and that the whole tiring, painful, messy thing is part of the wonderful. 
In all fairness, some of the difference could be that my first labor was twice as long and pitocin-driven, so I was much more drained and worn out by the end than I was this time. Also, I knew what to expect, even when the minor idiosyncrasies of my birth pattern happened - I mysteriously almost passed out after both births - this time though C wasn't as worried as the first time because it had happened before. But even if some of the awesomeness could be attributed to things that would have been the case even if we were in a hospital, having Wiggle here, laboring the way I wanted and at my own pace, and going to sleep in my own bed were all awesome things that could only really happen at home, and I wouldn't choose to have it any other way.