Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why and How I Chose a Home Birth

I initially looked into home birth because I just plain hated being in the hospital with my first baby. The hospital birth itself was not terrible, but the 2 days of recovery were miserable: constantly being disturbed to have my vitals taken, trying in vain to sleep in an uncomfortable bed, and having all sorts of people walk into my room at any given time [you think it's just going to be doctors and nurses, but there are the people who deliver your food, administrators having you sign forms for the birth certificate, volunteers offering to refill your water (which is nice, but please just let me sleep)]. I was extremely anxious those first couple of days (which I'm sure was partly due to hormones) but being in an uncomfortable environment certainly didn't help. I also knew that having a baby at home would guarantee I'd be successful at having a natural birth! I panicked near the end and got the epidural last time, but later wished I had held out because I ended up with a really painful tear that took 6 months to heal as well as back pain at the injection site for weeks.

Now that I've had a homebirth, there are so many reasons I could add for wanting to do it this way again. 

It was just unbelievably peaceful

I never got that shaky, anxious feeling I had so badly during and after Libby's birth. 

I didn't have to endure a car ride to the hospital (sitting is absolutely the most uncomfortable position for me during contractions).

I felt super comfortable with my midwife.

I loved that the baby was never taken out of my arms. 

I had total control over what procedures were done to the baby (I declined the goopy eye medicine and the Heb B vaccine since both are for STDs and aren't necessary for our situation; I got to nurse the baby while she got her vitamin K shot since nursing dulls pain; she didn't get a bath because that would make her cold and wash away the naturally moisturizing vernix that protects her skin).

I didn't have to worry about Jared leaving me at night to go home to Libby; it was wonderful to all be together as a family.
Choosing to have a baby at home was not an overnight decision. I did a LOT of reading and research about home birth, natural birth, and birth in general. I read the classic "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" by Ina May Gaskin, as well as her handbook for midwives, "Spiritual Midwifery" (which is really hippy and didn't offer much more than "Guide to Chidlbirth" did). I also found this website useful, especially the Research page (which has no direct link, just click on the Research tab on the left of the home page) and the What If page.  

Then there was the issue of finding out if it was even possible where I live. Illinois is not friendly to midwives and home births. There was a news story in 2010 about a couple in Illinois who had their baby at home, with a midwife, but later took the baby to the hospital when she was very fussy and found out that she had some temporary nerve damage in her arms from her positioning during the birth. The hospital called CPS, who took the baby out of the home for FIVE MONTHS, accusing the parents of medical neglect for choosing to birth the baby at home. 

Outside of Chicago, there are only a handful of midwives who will attend home births. I couldn't seem to find anyone in my area until I contacted a doula who lives nearby and she gave me the contact info for Bernice. I contacted Bernice and she said she wasn't really accepting more moms because she was already near her max with all the "return business" she gets. But, since I lived so close to her (20 minutes), she was willing to take me on because it was so convenient (she sees women in a 1.5 hour radius from her house). It was amazing how everything fell into place. Once I started seeing Bernice, and especially once I started my Hypnobabies course, home birth began to feel so natural to me, it was hard to imagine doing it any other way.

And can I just share one awesome thing that my midwife did? She gave me a handout she wrote called "Preparing for Labor" with advice about relaxation and Bible verses about strength and trust. Where would you ever find a doctor that would give you that gift? It was awesome and I studied those verses quite a bit the last few weeks. One of my favorite things she said was this:

"Know that the pain [in labor] is for a good purpose, and that you will be given the strength to deal with it and the means to keep it manageable. In the long run, you may look back and discover that pain in labor, like other difficult life experiences, may bring gifts besides the baby; gifts such as greater levels of faith, strength, trust, yielding, compassion, understanding, thankfulness, maturity, humility and self-respect."  

And in case you missed it, here is Piper's birth story

Friday, October 26, 2012

Babymoon memories

I was just reading a crumpled piece of paper I found in my purse that my midwife must have given me at my last appointment regarding postpartum care. She advised thinking of baby's first 2 weeks as a babymoon and really enjoying every moment.

Here's what I'm enjoying right now:

I'm really enjoying having Piper sleep in bed with me. She's actually only slept in her crib a couple of times because she seems to sleep so much longer next to me (like 6 hours straight at night! How did I get so lucky?!) We'll worry about transitioning to the crib later.

Nursing. I can't believe I'm enjoying it already; it took MONTHS before I got to enjoy it with Libby because we had such a rough start. Piper was born with a tongue-tie, just like Libby, but I looked for it right away (it runs in families), so we were able to get it cut at 1 day old. She didn't even cry and I noticed a difference immediately in her ability to latch. As a side note, Libby had a posterior tongue tie, meaning the frenulum was restrictive at the back of her tongue. It was pretty severe, but hard to recognize because it's more rare. Piper's was very obviously an anterior tongue-tie. Her frenulum extended all the way to the tip of her tongue and caused her cute little tongue to fork like a snake's tongue. I wish I had gotten a picture of it before we cut it.

The newborn coos and grunts. Piper spends a lot of time sleeping on my chest in a wrap, so I get to hear her cute sounds all day long. I can't decide if she sounds more like a kitten or a puppy.

Sisters. Libby has been so great and really, really loves to hold Piper. She is constantly grabbing my nursing pillow, climbing onto the couch and saying "hold baby? hold baby?" She does a really great job and is so gentle. She gives Piper hugs and kisses and likes to teach Piper by pointing out the colors on the pillow. She'll say "baby" to get Piper's attention and then name the color she's pointing to: "Baby, blue. Baby, yellow." etc. 

Libby wanted to cuddle on the bed with Piper this afternoon. Because I positively could not decide which picture was the most adorable, I just added them all. :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Piper’s Birth Story

I had been carrying the baby very low for a couple of months already, but Monday evening, she seemed to drop even lower. I felt a lot of pressure in my pelvis and my lower back. I did some pelvic rocks and sat on the birth ball and rocked my hips back and forth through an episode of Downton Abbey, but the sensation never let up. It wasn’t painful, but it felt like a point of no return. I knew the baby would come that night.
I went to bed around 10, but was wide awake. I listened to a couple Hypnobabies tracks, but still couldn’t fall asleep. I got up at midnight to get something to eat and check the phones.

[The day before there was some yet-to-be-explained outage and all the landlines and cell phones and cable internet services stopped working. Our internet still worked since we have broadband over our power line, but we had no idea if my midwife had phone service. If needed, our plan was to send her a text via internet and hope she had cell service in her area (she lives about 25 minutes away) so she could receive it. If she didn’t respond, my mom would drive to her house to let her know I was in labor.]

At midnight, the phones still weren’t working, but I wasn’t in labor yet, so I wasn’t worried. I might have slept a few minutes here and there between 12 and 2. By 2, I was having an argument with myself. Part of me was so excited that tonight was the night, but the other part of me was still not convinced and was just annoyed that I wouldn’t go to sleep.

By 2:45, I was definitely feeling crampy in my lower abdomen in addition to the pressure in my pelvis. I started watching the clock and noticed the cramps seemed to spike every 11 minutes, although they never fully went away in between. At 3:15, the phones started working again. Sometime during the next hour, I told Jared to send Bernice (the midwife) a text to give her a heads up, although I figured I still had a long way to go. Close to 5:00 AM, I asked Jared if Bernice responded and he said he never texted her. I told him contractions were now 6 minutes apart, so he should skip the text and go ahead and call. Right about the time he called her, contractions sped up to 3 minutes apart, then 2 minutes. They were only about 30 seconds long and were still quite manageable, but I was surprised at how close together they were. I had been lying down in bed with a hot rice pack on my stomach most of this time, but now I had to get up. I went to the living room and leaned over on the birth ball for the next hour. I listened to Hypnobabies on my ipod and zoned everything else out. I focused on counting up to 4 with every inhale and backwards from 8 with every exhale.

Bernice arrived sometime after 5:30 and her assistant, Boo, arrived just after 6:00. Around 6:10 or so, I got into the deep kiddie pool we had bought for the birth and set up in our living room. The water wasn’t quite deep enough (word to the wise: those pools take forever to fill up), but it was enough to cover my stomach while I leaned over the edge onto an ottoman. Jared poured warm water over my back, which really helped, too. Immediately after getting in the pool, I noticed the contractions change to pushing contractions. I couldn’t believe I was really that close to pushing, but there was no denying that my body was starting to push involuntarily. Then I heard Bernice say that I’d need to take off my “undies” because I’d start pushing soon. I hadn’t told anyone that my contractions were changing, but she obviously noticed and it felt so good to have confirmation from her that it was nearly go-time.

My contractions still weren’t much longer than 30 seconds (I never actually timed them, but that’s my estimate) so I really only had time to get in one long push with each contraction. I was listening to the Hypnobabies track called “Pushing Baby Out” and I tried to just do what my body told me to do. I took a deep breath at the beginning of each contraction and said “Ohhhhh” as I breathed out. A couple of times I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and had to gasp for the next inhale, but most of the time, I felt in control. Once, I almost yelled out “I don’t want to do this anymore” but I told myself to stay in control and instead I asked “how close am I?” Bernice said she couldn’t tell from her angle and told me to reach down during the next contraction and see if I could feel the baby’s head. I did and I felt a huge bulge.

During one of the next contractions, I remember saying “it really stings” and feeling like I was going to rip all the way up my belly button. But soon enough, her head was out. The baby’s hand had been up by her face (just like Libby’s had been when she was born), so Bernice worked to get her hand out of the way while I waited for the next contraction. Two minutes later, at 6:51 AM, the rest of her body was out and Bernice swam the baby under my body towards my stomach and I picked her up out of the water. I turned over and sat down and immediately thought “I am so glad that’s over.”  I stayed in the pool until the placenta was out and we cut the cord. I had planned on cutting the cord myself, but I was so tired that holding a pair of scissors just seemed like too big an effort at that point. I did feel the cord while it was still pulsing, and that was cool, but I asked Jared to cut the cord.

I moved to the couch and held the baby skin to skin. She nursed for a while and then Bernice checked the baby out while I was still holding her. We put the baby in a sling and attached a hanging scale. Jared had the honors of picking up the scale and calling out the weight: 7 lbs 12 oz. She was 20 inches long. Her Apgar scores were 9 and 10 – super healthy!

The midwife and her assistant stayed at my house until about 9:45. They cleaned up, put the dirty laundry in the washer, and helped Jared empty the pool. He and I were both surprised and pleased with how easy the cleanup was. Having a baby at home is really not as messy as you might think. It all went so smoothly and we have no regrets.

For those that are curious what happened to the placenta (I know I was beforehand), Bernice took the placenta to donate to some people she knows who use them to train search and rescue dogs. I find this insanely cool.

I'd love to answer any questions people have about homebirth! It was awesome and while it may not be for everyone, I want people to know it's not as scary as you might think. I LOVED being at home for the birth and especially these few days afterwards. I have been recovering so much faster than I did with Libby. And there's nothing like sleeping in your own bed and having access to your own fridge. Anyway, ask away if you have any random questions!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Libby's favorite things

It's fun to see Libby go through different phases and see her interests change. Right now, some of her favorite things are:

  • "Where's Waldo" and "Look and Find" books. I checked some out from the library on a whim, unsure if they were too advanced or not. Turns out, Libby loves them and I am so impressed with her patience and attention to detail. She can easily spend 5 minutes on one page, looking for all the characters. We've spent a lot of good family time playing with these books lately.
  • Playing in the cardboard tunnel Jared made for her out of a couple of large boxes. It isn't the prettiest structure in our living room, but it gets the most use. 
  • Going for walks. Libby likes to say "ready, set, go!" and race against us. One day, Jared was teasing her, saying "I'm winning!" and that phrase really stuck. Libby loves to run and say "I'm winning!" Jared also taught her to say "Mommy's losing!" but luckily, she doesn't repeat that one as often.
  • Getting "snacks" from the bakery. We usually go to the grocery store twice a week, and Libby loves to check for free samples in the bakery. They're usually pure sugar, but if they keep her from taking bites out of broccoli and plums when I'm not looking, I guess it's worth it. There's no telling how much unwashed produce that girl has tasted. (Don't worry, I usually buy the things she puts in her mouth, so no one else has to.)