Ashley's birth

For Matt and Ashley's first and second babies, I had the privilege of coaching them through the wild ride of labor here in Northern Illinois. After baby #2, they relocated to a super remote village in Northern Canada, which is where they found out they were pregnant with #3! I was so excited for them, yet also sad for the distance that would keep us from working together again! Hoping that Ashley would be able to have another smooth birth experience, I emailed Matt some documents with info for helping him to be the sole support person for Ashley this time.

A couple of weeks after I sent those documents, on February 9th, I received wildly frantic and excited texts and Facebook messages from each of them describing how their third daughter had come into the world!  

Here is Ashley's story:

Living in the remote North of Ontario we flew to be near the hospital and were staying in our friend’s home as our third daughters due date approached. The early morning of February 9th around 2 AM mild contractions kept disrupting my sleep and I realized I could be in early labor. I woke Matt and told him, “I think we might meet our baby today” Contractions were not happening regularly so, thinking we had a full day ahead of us, we went back to bed to get whatever rest we could before things picked up. 

Around 5:00 AM I was awoken by a strong contraction. Upon hearing my grumbling, Matt came to be at my side and when the next contraction hit I told him I felt nauseous. After the contraction subsided I walked to the bathroom. Another contraction hit and I doubled over onto all fours and called to Matt, “Something changed, we need to go to the hospital NOW!!”. “Now?” He questioned. From his vantage point I had just been sleeping, how could I possibly be ready to go to the hospital. But, no, this was different. Something changed. “Start the car!” And so he went upstairs to get the car ready. As I heard him walk outside my water EXPLODED all over the bathroom floor! An intense urge to push followed along with an involuntary deep moan. 

When Matt came downstairs I frantically told him, “My water broke, the baby is coming NOW.” He said “We have to get upstairs, you NEED to get in the car!” I told him I couldn’t as another contraction washed over me, he pleaded with me to not push. As soon as the contraction was over he said, “Now is your chance, you need to get up those stairs!” In my head I thought, my husband has no clue what is actually happening. “Okay”, I said and I crawled my body toward the stairs. Another contraction came and Matt said, “Shh! You are going to wake the kids.” (Birth coach level expert.) So I kept as quiet as I could (whilst a child attempted to exit my body). As soon as it was over he encouraged me to go upstairs, “Now! Go Go Go!” and I climbed the stairs steadily on hands and knees. Not a move I would recommend to any woman in pushing stage - and certainly was not in my birth plan. When we reached the top of the stairs I immediately had another contraction. Matt was absolutely begging me not to push. My poor sweet husband had no category for what was happening. I screamed, “Call the paramedics!” 

Our hosts, Frank, who was just about to head to work before his living room turned into a birthing center, and Cheryl called the paramedics. Matt still adamant about driving me to the hospital coached me to the front door. After another contraction, however, Matt realized the baby really was coming which meant he was now Dr. Matt. As soon as the next urge to push came Ava Faith was born into his arms. Relief was mixed with panic as we saw our perfect baby girl for the first time. She was motionless and not yet breathing. Drawing from his medical knowledge which apparently was gleaned while watching 101 Dalmatians, Matt patted and rubbed her back with a towel. We could feel her quick little pulse. Within thirty seconds she made her first respiratory noise, another 30 seconds later she took a full breath and her skin quickly became pink, those were the longest 60 seconds of our lives. 

Meanwhile, the emergency operator instructed to tie off the cord with a string and Cheryl quickly came back with green yarn and tied the umbilical cord. Ava arrived in the entryway, I will never be able to look at a welcome sign the same way again. 

Smiles of relief for a healthy baby and for an incredibly faithful God.

Smiles of relief for a healthy baby and for an incredibly faithful God.

With our hosts, Frank and Cheryl in the entryway after we arrived back from hospital. 

With our hosts, Frank and Cheryl in the entryway after we arrived back from hospital. 

I absolutely love this wild story and am so thankful for their happy ending! I love Ashley's sense of humor (she is actually quite the jokester even while in labor!). I love this sweet family and am so happy to have been included in their journey.

Let's change the way we talk about this.

I often hear people ask a woman, “Who delivered your baby?” to which the woman replies with the name of whatever doctor was present at her birth.  This is a typical conversation among childbearing women, one at which no one bats an eye. 

But I would argue that this language is not the best choice of wording when we talking about how we give birth.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a pregnant woman who said of her first birth, “Dr. So-and-So delivered me.”

Delivered me.

I know she didn’t mean it like this, but it sounded as if she was in a situation from which she needed to be delivered.  This language infers that the woman is the passive party in the scenario, a helpless one at that, who needs a stronger, more capable person to free her from the burden of pregnancy and labor.

On the other hand, I love how midwives talk about the act of a woman giving birth into the hands of a competent provider. 

They say “catch.” 

“I caught the baby.”

I LOVE THIS. 

It puts the emphasis right where it belongs.  The mother as the active, strong, capable person delivering her baby into the hands of a gentle, caring midwife. The mother is the one who does the delivering here.

This wording implies humility and honor on the part of the provider.  It gives praise and acknowledgement to the one who did all the work and deserves all the credit – Mom.

So next time you cross paths with a freshly postpartum mother, ask her how her birth went, and ask her, “Who caught your baby?”

(photo by Kim. See more of Jenn's birth here)

Finnian's Birth: A Photo Essay

In 2015, I was invited to attend 14 births, all of which were filled with beautiful and awe-inspiring moments.  For most births, I am asked to capture some of those beautiful, intimate moments with my camera.  I love photographing births in any setting, but home births are especially fun for me.  The natural setting and lighting provides the perfect backdrop for capturing such a sweet, special day for the family, and little nuances and things a couple have done to make their house a home make the photographs even more special.

I was able to serve Jenn and Stephen at the birth of their first son, Seeley, back in 2013, and loved capturing the moments that made up her beautiful labor.  A couple of years later, I was asked again to help with the birth of their second son, Finnian.

Jenn is a labor goddess.  She is relaxed, calm, and in control.  It's amazing to watch.

Thanks, Jenn and Stephen, for inviting me into your space to help you bring Finnian in to the world.  It was a joy and a blessing to be there with you!

Auggie's Birth

Celebrating Auggie's birthday today, I cannot believe he's three!!  I have spent the last many months working on a drawing of a photograph captured by my doula the moment he was born, and reminiscing on his birth.  My memories of the whole experience are so vivid to me.  Here's a glimpse into what my 2-hour labor home birth felt like:

6pm - Watching Cars and eating English muffin pizza’s with Lucy (my oldest, who was almost 4 at the time) and Greg.  Having really strong Braxton Hicks and not wanting Lucy to crawl on/cuddle me during the movie.

8:30pm - Getting a killer massage from Greg after he put Lucy to bed.

9:30pm - Having a super weird sensation in my abdomen and heading up to bed. 

10pm - Lying down, contractions getting stronger.  Realizing this is it.

Calling Greg on my cell phone (he was downstairs playing poker on the internet) telling him he needs to call the midwife.  Greg comes up, asks me if I’m sure it’s labor, and I agree to wait for a few more contractions to confirm it’s the real deal.  Contraction hits.  “CALL STEPH” (our midwife).

Flurry of Greg getting the pool ready downstairs, coming up to check on me, and making calls, while I labor on the toilet and then on the glider in the nursery.  Oh my glory, these contractions are stronger than any contraction I ever had with Lucy.  Doula arrives; I am so grateful for her presence.  Water breaks while on the glider.  Time to head downstairs.

Practically running down the stairs to try to make it to the couch before another contraction hits, and barely making it.  It is so dark and peaceful.  The birth team quietly arriving, and I need to hold hands.  Holding Karen’s hand.  Then my mom’s.  I remember a contraction that I could barely stay on top of, it almost swept me away, and afterwards my mom commenting that she didn’t even realize I was having a one.  My doula sitting on the couch-turned-bed (futon) with me, and the gentleness of her knee touching my thigh literally making my contraction less painful.

Starting to feel lots of pressure.  Birth team suggests I head to the pool but I don’t want to move. Asking if it will hurt less in the pool, Karen laughs and mentions something about an “aqua-dural.”  Sitting up and have to hold my tush off the bed with my arms during a contraction because I am practically sitting on this boy’s head.  Steph is here, her presence unannounced. I say “hi” on my way to the pool.

Stepping into the pool, instant relief.  Greg getting in behind me.  Trying not to push because I hate the sensation of baby moving down.  My body does it anyway, and slightly panicked, I announce, “I’m pushing!” to which my midwife calmly answers, “okay, great!”  My sister arrives and I barely register she’s here because I am in such a zone. 

Feeling the burning ring of fire and realizing he’s almost out, and thinking “how could this be happening already!”  Greg reaching down, instructed by the midwife, and guides his head out as I feel a tremendous release.  Baby’s head is out.  Midwife tells me I need to push him all the way out.  More pushing and instinctively saying, “Where’s my Auggie? Where’s my Auggie?” as I reach down to pull his tiny, slippery little body up out of the water.

12:03am - Taking a moment to hold my baby close as I catch my breath after that whirlwind of a labor.  Then holding him out so I can get a look of his face, and thinking that he looks familiar.  Like I already know him.

Seeley's Birth ~ A Photo Essay

I got a call from Stephen at 5am on February 12th, saying that today was the day!  Jenn's contractions were definitely the real deal.  Thankful for an (almost) full-night's sleep, I got up and got ready to go.  I arrived at their house at 6:30, and Jenn was doing so well, chatting and watching Ice Age 3.  As soon as a contraction hit, though, I could tell this was active labor.  She leaned up against a wall, relaxed, and moaned through it.  It was dark and candles were lit; the perfect environment for labor.

Karen got there shortly after I did, and got her computer and paperwork all set up on the kitchen table.

Don't you think she looks like an angel?

Well, she is. A birth angel. ;)

Jenn had group prenatal meetings/childbirth education with her midwives and a group of women due around the same time she was.  They all wore these bracelets to remind eachother of their bond through each of their births.

So peaceful.  Resting between contractions.  All that relaxation practice was paying off.

Muffins Jenn had prepared in advance for the birth team.  Labor was in full swing at 9:05am.

Swaying with Stephen ~ he was her rock.

Doula at work!  Thanks, Karen, for this shot! 

As labor progressed, Jenn moved to the tub to help her relax more fully.

Jenn's mom arrived toward the end of her labor.  Her presence and hand-holding was such a comfort to Jenn.

Midwife Christina, checking baby's heart tones.

The final push...

Seeley Michael Carter was born at 2:01pm on February 12.  6 lbs 11 oz. 19 inches.

Jenn's labor was about 12 hours long, with only 30 minutes of pushing.

I am continually amazed at the intensity and amazing challenge of labor and birth.  During Jenn's most difficult contractions, Karen would pray, "Thank you, Jesus, for these powerful contractions.  Thank you that her body is doing what you made it to do.  Thank you!"  It was with much gratitude and leaning on God that Jenn birthed her baby into the world.  What a holy and joyful experience!

A Holy Privilege: Giving Thanks for Birth

It's 9 in the morning, the day before Thanksgiving, and both of my kids are sleeping. (Auggie is down for his nap, and Lucy is sleeping in).  With these few rare moments of peace, and preparing for Thanksgiving, I'm finding myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the two births that I've been given. 

Though Lucy was born in a hospital in the standard semi-reclined-holding-my-legs-back position, I would still say it was the most amazing experience of my life.  I had a drug-free, 10-hour long birth with her, staying at home for seven hours and arriving at the hospital at 7cm dilated.  The ways I pushed my body (or my body pushed me), were unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and unlike anything I could have imagined.  I conquered that birth, despite the distractions of being in a hospital and being cared for by less-than-sensitive people.  The sense of empowerment I felt after birthing her was incredible!  I felt so strong, like I could move mountains if I wanted to. 

Auggie's birth was also unreal.  I could not have asked for a better birth team or a more peaceful environment... although maybe I would have asked for a longer labor??  :)  Seriously, though, with Lucy's labor I enjoyed the challenge of staying in a rhythm with my contractions.  Aug's hit me so hard and fast I remember hardly being able to catch my breath!  It was awesome, though.  The experience of being weightless in a pool in my living room, in the midst of the crazy pressure I felt with those last contractions, was amazing.  I will never forget the moment I reached down and felt his tiny body, lifting him up out of the water to meet him for the very first time.

I have been blessed.  And my births have shaped me in ways I never thought possible.  And so I find myself giving thanks to my Creator for His wonderful design for birth, and how I have been able to experience Him more through these two babies being born through me.  What a holy privilege it is, whether in the hospital or at home, all-natural or medicated or c-section, to partake in Creation through childbirth.

Felicity's Birth

About nine months ago, I got an unexpected call from one of my best friends, Tara, telling me she was pregnant!! Tara and her husband live in Canada, so it's not super easy keeping in touch, but through email and phone conversations here and there, we were able to discuss her pregnancy and what she wanted for her birth. It was such a joy to be able to share my birth story with her, encouraging her to be confident in her Creator and in her body, and not to be fearful! It was also a huge blessing to get to spend some time with her when they came home to visit over the summer. Tara chose to go with a group of midwives (who happen to be abundant up in Canada!), and to deliver in a hospital. She also hired a wonderful doula :)

Here's her story...

"Tuesday, September 27th Clinton and I woke up to a beautiful sunny day at around 7 a.m. I had gotten up around 4:30 in the morning, felt a bit of discomfort in my tummy, but was able to go back to sleep for a bit. Clinton got ready for work and I told him that I would give him a call if things felt different or more intense. So he left and I jumped in the bathtub. I called my good friend Kimo, who is a doula in Illinois, and asked her if what I was feeling might be signs of early labor. She thought that they were and I before I hung up the phone I told her that if I didn’t call her at 1:00 for our scheduled chat she would know why! :o) I then called my doula, Vivian, who we hired in Calgary. She agreed that I was showing signs of early labor and told me to call her whenever I was ready to meet her at the hospital. I called up Clinton and asked him if he would come home, he had only been at school for a half hour. He got home around 9:00 and by this time I was feeling the waves of contractions. Before he got home I had also called my mom and my sister-in-law, Michelle, to tell them that I was in labor and to be praying!

I tried to keep myself busy, cutting my nails and shaving my legs, but as we started timing my contractions we found them to be coming almost every three minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds. Clinton paged our midwife team and Nadine told him that those were pretty close together, and she wanted them to last about a minute to know that active labor was in effect. She was making a house call but would be coming over right after. She showed up somewhere around 11:30 and checked me out only to find that I was already 8 cm dilated. :o) So… a decision had to be made whether we were going to go to the hospital or stay home. Nadine told me that everything was going fine, she had listened to the baby’s heartbeat and said we could stay at home if I wished or go to the hospital, whichever I preferred, it was my choice. I had my hospital bag packed (3 weeks earlier) and had written in my birth plan that that was where I would deliver. I started getting dressed and Clinton told Vivian (doula) to head to the hospital to meet us there. There were no rooms at the Foothills hospital (only 10 minutes away) so we would be going to Rocky View (about a 40 minute drive). I sat at the top of the stairs having another strong contraction and I thought- I don’t know if I can do this in the car. Thinking that I was already 8 cm, who knows how long the rest of my labor would be and why would I want to spend an uncomfortable 40 minutes in the car going through active labor. So I decided to stay home. I had an emergency stash of supplies- garbage bags, old towels, wash cloths- ready to go just in case. I was also comfortable about the idea of a homebirth, not worried about complications because I knew the midwives were skilled enough to let me know if there was any reason for concern and we would need to go to the hospital. The only thing that worried me was the potential mess, which didn’t really happen due to my prepared supplies and all of the things the midwives carry in their car in the event that we do a home birth.

Clinton helped me work through some more intense contractions and also put a focal point in front of me on the bathroom sink; it was the Willow statue I gave him when I told him I was pregnant (a dad holding a little baby and the mom kneeling beside them). As I sat on the toilet (my birthing stool) :o) I kept my gaze on the little baby, that looked like a little peanut, and inside kept telling myself that each contraction was getting me closer to meeting my little one! Vivian arrived around 12:30 and joined right in. She massaged my neck and her and Clinton took turns refilling my water and putting cool cloths on my neck and forehead. Her gentle nature was soothing and her encouraging words continued to help me relax and focus on my goal. After a while I moved to the bathtub…not to have a water birth, just to ease some of the pain. :o) Clinton became my birth stool and sat in his bathing suit on the edge of the bathtub while I propped myself up on his legs and went through a few more heavier contractions. Nadine stayed out of the way, getting things set up for the delivery and continuously checking the baby’s heart rate to make sure things were good. But she also gave me encouraging words through my contractions, telling me I was doing a good job and telling Peanut to come out soon because mommy wants to meet you! The only times Clinton left my side was to go to the bathroom and grab a small snack. While he was eating a fruit bar and the wrapper was crinkling I asked him, in my most polite “contraction” voice…do you think you could eat that later. Ha ha… the funny thing is that when Vivian was going through the snacks I packed I asked her if she could pass me the Swedish berries, which she eagerly handed over! In between contractions I was munching on Swedish berries, my favorite candy- BIG SURPRISE, eh? :o) While in the tub, the other midwife, Claire, arrived and the first thing she said to me was “you’re going to have your baby in the sunshine!” as the light was coming in through the bathroom window. It really was a gorgeous day!

[So peaceful, just before pushing]

Nadine asked me if I wanted to move to the bed and since I’ve never pushed before she would coach me through that. Claire came in as a support and gave me position advice and also made me laugh when the Doppler gel splashed in her eye. She also warmed up some wash clothes with lavendar and put them on my feet…the aromatherapy was refreshing and calming! In the background the IPOD was playing Celtic Women which was soothing Irish music that Claire said was a nice way to welcome my baby. As I laid in bed, Clinton and Vivian held my hands and pushed on a pressure point on my shoulders in between my pushing to speed up contractions. Nadine guided me on how and when to push and breath. Everyone had such encouraging comments... Clinton- "I love you, I'm proud of you" and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” – he repeated that to me in English and in Spanish several times throughout the whole labor. Vivian – “you’re doing great, nice rhythm in your breathing!” Nadine – “good job, love!" Claire – “that’s good, take your rest, keep breathing.” I kept thinking to myself, this is painful, but I am handling it. It is not at all what I thought it would feel like, it’s not THAT bad! Crazy, I know…but God truly was giving me the strength and the peace to just allow my body to do what He created it to do. After a little while of pushing Nadine had me reach down and feel the head….so amazing!!! At this point I knew I was going to meet my baby very, very soon! Vivian took a video of Clinton and me saying one last thing before we were going to meet baby Peanut. Then after another good push the head was out…you could see the full head of dark hair and in my next push the rest was out. I pushed for a total of 40 minutes, some in the bathtub and the rest in bed. They placed the baby right on my chest face down and Clinton and I rejoiced in the new arrival of our child! Clinton said “I’d like to call you by name but I don’t know what you are.” So I lifted Peanut up to inspect and said “It’s a girl, her name’s Felicity!” Then just to make sure I asked “It’s a girl, right?” and Nadine and Clinton moved the umbilical cord out of the way and confirmed it… ha ha! :o)

The next few moments were the most special in the world! Clinton was crying, I was too overjoyed to cry (I didn’t cry at all during my labor)! We listened to the new screams of Felicity Catherine and we laughed together at the sight of our beautiful baby girl! She wasn’t all cleaned up yet, but she was so perfect and warm as she laid on my chest and in not too much time was already looking to nurse. :o) Claire helped me out with the football hold and some breastfeeding tips.

I asked Nadine if there was any tearing and she said that looking carefully at things, she would feel more comfortable if we went to the hospital for suturing there. To keep this part short, I had a third degree tear. There’s no specific reason that can determine why I tore the way I did. The doctor that did my stiches said it happens to 1 in 1000. She was the best OB at that hospital, according to Nadine, and she did things quickly and very well. I was happy that Nadine was honest and wise enough to tell me that we needed to go and get things done at the hospital since it was such a rare and bad tear. It was definitely not expected to do things so backwards- have a home birth, then have to go to the hospital, but it actually made me feel SO grateful for the fact that I had Felicity at home. I was so relaxed and that’s why everything went so quickly. I was comfortable in my bathroom, my bathtub, my bed. I had a great team supporting me. The sunshine, music, focal point, and snacks were all helpful tools to aid in a relaxing and rewarding delivery! The trip to the hospital was the worst part of the day, but the fact that the three of us got to sleep in our bed (a birthing bed :o) our first night as a family was so awesome. I'm still amazed at how great Felicity’s birth was! Praise God!!!"

[Tara and her birth team (minus Clinton): her doula, two midwives, and of course baby Felicity]

What a story!!

As I heard bits and pieces of the story from them, I was so suprised and amazed at how her birth unfolded! For instance, how FAST it all happened!! I swear I couldn't even tell she was in labor (by her voice) when she called me at 9 in the morning, and she was 8CM by 11:30? WHAT!!? I had talked to her during the weeks leading up to her birth, and she was just so at peace about her impending labor. Totally calm and confident, with not a trace of fear or worry in her. And I'm sure that her heart's demeanor contributed to her speedy labor.

She e-mailed me later in the morning letting me know that her midwife was on her way over "just to check on me." What a dream! Your midwife coming to your house just to see how you're doing? So cool.

And obviously, the biggest shocker of all, that she made the decision, while she was in labor, to have this baby at home!! What an absolute privilege to have that kind of flexibility with her midwives. She actually called me about a week before her due date asking me what I thought about homebirth, saying that she and Clinton were considering it, but would probably stick with the hospital. The fact that she had the ability to make that kind of a decision so close to the end of her pregnancy (let alone in the middle of labor!) astounded me.

Just hearing about how encouraging everyone was to her, how each member of her birth team had just the right words at just the right time, was so incredible. I truly believe that everything that was orchestrated together for her birth contributed to her smooth, fast, labor, and her ability to cope with it so well. I could not be more happy for Tara and the beautiful, peaceful birth she was blessed with.

And as for our next birth, someone box me up and ship me to Canada ;)

Extremely Normal.

(names changed for the protection and privacy of the family and midwife)

Sometimes I wonder what runs through most people's minds when they hear of couples who choose homebirth.
Hippies.
Unsafe.
Reckless.
Selfish.
Extreme.

Those are certainly the kinds of thoughts I had long before my childbearing days. And my hunch is that the average person is quite similar. But while I was participating in my first homebirth this past weekend, I was struck by how normal it all seemed.

I was the first one to arrive at Mark and Karen's house at 12am Sunday morning. A post-it on the door read "come on in," and Mark came downstairs to greet me. It was dark, quiet, and peaceful. Karen was upstairs in their bedroom in early active labor (she had been contracting since 5am). She looked really good in-between contractions, and asked if she could get me anything (the true spirit of a mother!). I noticed her tensing up and straining her face during contractions, and my doula instincts kicked in as I encouraged relaxation, promising that it really would hurt less if she relaxed!

Thier midwife, Julie, arrived at around 12:30 with a calm and confident presence, and it was amazing how she blended seemlessly into this couple's labor. She got her things arranged on a chair in the bedroom, and showed me what each thing was in case she needed me to hand something to her (pitocin in case of hemmorage, suction tube for baby, oxygen tank, etc.). And then we waited. There was no unnecessary checking of the cervix, no hussle and bustle, no beeping machines.

Her mom and her sister arrived for help and support, and we filled the birth tub with warm water. Everyone was focused on helping Karen, and creating a comfortable and safe environment for her birth. Several hours later contractions started getting noticeably more difficult. At first, Karen would cope by stating simply "relax, relax"--almost as a reminder to herself. As it got more difficult to her, she would simply say "pain," or "hurt" as each contraction began, and then "relax." Since labor was obviously progressing, Julie decided to check her, and found that she was 7 centimeters! By this time the tub was full and warm, so Karen labored there for a long while. "It kills," "It's killing me," her chants shifted as she was deep into the hardest part of her labor. But it wasn't a cry of hopelessness or suffering. She remained present and in-the-moment, and was simply being raw and honest about the pain she was experiencing. We all empathized with her, and gently reminded her that it wasn't killing her, but bringing life. Her sister prayed for strength and comfort, and Karen called out to God as well.

Julie and I decided to leave the room and let Mark and Karen have some time to themselves before the birth of their baby. Thirty minutes later Julie decided to check her again, and found that she was completely dilated! Pushing was unusually long and difficult for a second-time mom, and after a while Julie wanted her to walk up and down the stairs a few times to encourage the baby's descent through her pelvis. She pushed in a variety of positions--lying on her side, squatting, and leaning on the bed. Finally the baby was close to being born, and Karen was lying on her side in her bed. During a particularly strong push, her water broke! Several contractions later, she pushed her baby down, and the head emerged! It was an exciting moment, but after a few more strong pushes the rest of the baby's body did not come. "Hands and knees, hands and knees," Julie commanded, collected but urgently. Karen turned over as quickly as possible, and Julie used her hands to help rotate the baby's shoulders, and hooked her finger under the armpit to help bring the baby out.

Audra Joy was born safely at home at 5:30 am. She was placed under her mother, who was still on hands and knees, and immediately latched on to nurse! We cleaned up all around them as they got situated in the bed. There was no rush to clamp the cord, and Julie made sure it had finished pulsing before she did so. The placenta took a while to detach, but it finally did and came out intact (and I got to hold it!!)

Today Julie wrote in an e-mail to me, "You saw a shoulder dystocia handled just fine at home. Baby and mom just fine. It is always such a big hassle in the hosp because most times mom has an epidural that inhibits her from moving onto hand and knees if needed. These situations can be hairy but resolved safely without being rough with the baby." People assume that hospital birth is a much safer option, but I observed the opposite. If this mom was in the hospital and had an epidural, the outcome could have been dire.

Mark and Karen were anything but reckless, or selfish, or extreme people; they were a kind, loving, and educated couple. They worked beautifully together to bring life into the world in the comfort and safety of their home, with the help of their family and midwife. Driving home I realized that though viewed as a radical choice, homebirth truly is extraordinarily normal event.

My Dilemma

My daughter turned two just before Christmas, and I can just feel it. Everyone is waiting for another big announcement.

It's true that my husband and I are starting to think about number two. But ideally, before I get pregnant again, I'd like to know where and with whom I plan to give birth.

With my first pregnancy, it was a given. We chose OB's for our prenatal care and gave birth in a hospital--any other type of birth was just not on the radar. I used the nine months of my pregnancy to get informed about birth, and decided I wanted a natural birth for a slew of reasons... but I really didn't know a lot! I had no idea that the c-section rate for our country (and my chosen hospital) was over 30%. I didn't know what pitocin was. And I thought doulas were for women who weren't confident in their husbands ability to support them in labor.

Against all odds, I was blessed with an amazing birth experience in the hospital, in spite of its routine procedures and distractions. My labor started spontaneously at 38 weeks on the nose, and I was able to stay at home until I was 7cm dilated, enabling me to have a truly intervention-free birth!

Since becomming a doula, though, I have realized many sad realities of the way birth is treated in our country--both through reading books and from firsthand experience as a doula. So despite my great experience in the hospital the first time around, I am plagued with the knowledge of what could happen should things not go as smoothly for me as they did the first time.

I've thought and thought about my options (and regretted the lack thereof), and I just cannot decide. Some days (usually after attending a hospital birth) I think, "No way. I am not doing that again." Other days, I feel like homebirth is just not worth the hassle.

So I thought it'd be helpful to write out a list of pros and cons. Here they are:

Hospital Birth.

Pros:

  • I've done it once and had a great experience. I could probably do it again.
  • I really do like my OB's, in spite of the way they sometimes practice.
  • The hospital is equipped with a level 2 nursery should my baby need immediate medical attention.
  • Both my doctor's office and the hospital are a mere 3-minute drive from my front door.
  • Insurance would undoubtedly cover our expenses.
  • Maid service.
  • Room service.

Cons:

  • One in three pregnant women who walks into our hospital walks out with a scar on her stomach. C-sections have many risks, the greatest of which is maternal death (which is why our nation's maternal mortality rate is shockingly high).
  • Pitocin (which is not even approved by the FDA for non-medical induction NOR have any studies been published on its long-term affects on mom or baby) is given without a second thought to a large majority of laboring women.
  • Because I will probably be diagnosed with gestational diabetes again, the doctors will threaten induction at 38 or 39 weeks. Now I know that I can refuse to be induced, (and I believe that in most cases induction is more risky than waiting for labor to begin on its own). But I've seen how much stress is caused by women butting heads with their doctors at the end of pregnancy. It can be so so stressful and terribly unhealthy.
  • If my water breaks before labor begins, I will be on the clock. (They say a woman has 24 hours to deliver after her water has broken because of "risk of infection.") What she usually doesn't know is that if she is at home, and there are no doctors sticking their fingers up her vagina, the risk of infection is next to nothing. AND labor almost always starts up naturally within 48 hours.
  • I will be cared for under the medical model of care as opposed to the midwifery model of care.

Homebirth.

Pros:

  • My primary caregiver will be a midwife. This in itself is a very enticing factor.
  • I will be cared for under the midwifery model of care as opposed to the medical model of care
  • Statistically, planned homebirths are just as safe for babies, and are actually safer for moms.
  • Countries where homebirth is normal and common have WAY better outcomes than we do in the United States.
  • I will be able to spend my entire labor in the comfort of my home.
  • Family members (my mom & my sister) will be able to be a huge support and help to me during my labor.
  • I could labor and/or give birth in a tub.
  • I will be in my own clothes.
  • I will be able to eat and drink freely.
  • My daughter could be involved with the birth, depending on the time of day.

Cons:

  • Having to deal with the hassle of well-meaning albeit ill-informed friends and family members.
  • If my baby needs intense and immediate medical care, I won't be at a hospital. (Although midwives are equipped to deal with most medical emergencies and our hospital is a mere three minutes away).
  • The closest legal midwife is about an hour away. That means driving an hour for each prenatal visit, and risking that she may not make it in time if I have a quick labor (which I likely will).
  • The closest "underground" midwife (that I know of) is about 30 minutes away. If I choose her, our chances of insurance covering the birth are slim to none. Plus my husband is uneasy about hiring an underground midwife (despite the fact that these midwives are legal in over half of the 50 states).

So there you have it. Honestly, I'm not 100% comfortable with either option, and ideally would choose a birth center for our next birth if it were an option. (The closest one is in Oak Park--an hour away, depending on traffic). There, I would be cared for by midwives in a home-like setting, in a facility that would be able to handle any unforseen medical emergencies. Another option would be seeing an OB in Sandwich (30 minutes away) who is not quite as intervention-happy as the OB's here in DeKalb, and would truly support me in my desires for a natural birth. (The C-section rate at his hospital is 24%). I could also see midwives who practice at a hospital in Aurora.

Aargh. I hate having to make this decision. I guess I'll do a little more reading and interview a few more midwives and that OB from Sandwich, and trust that my path will be made clear. There's really no rush to make a decision... at least not for now :)