How Hospitals Drove Me to Homebirth.



     My trip from hospital births with all the fixings to a unassisted birth at home while floating in a pool of warm water took me almost ten years.  By the time I became pregnant with the ninjababy, my fourth; I didn’t want anyone with letters after their name anywhere near me:  the last three children that I had birthed at the hands of the medical establishment had left me broken and scarred.


     Baby one, my eldest, my son.  I was young(ish) while I was growing him, but at 23 I knew that I wanted a midwife – not an OB/GYN.  I didn’t really know much more than that, but looking back on my birth plan now I shake my head.  I had listed no drugs, intermittent fetal monitoring, and no episiotomy.  I wanted to labor in the shower and not deliver on my back and decline routine vitamin K and eye goo.  I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know how to achieve it at that point.  I chose to birth in a medical hospital because I had been convinced that it was “safer” but my midwife may as well have been a doctor.  She was part of a huge medical group, and the hands on personal attention I wanted was pushed off to her nurses and partners.


     I had literally every intervention short of a c-section with DS1.  I had an IV, constant external fetal monitoring, AROM, internal fetal monitoring.  I was stuck in bed, given Nubain and then an epidural.  I agreed to everything the nurses suggested because I believed that they had my best interest at heart, and knew more about birthing babies than I did.  I ended up delivering  him flat on my back with a NICU team in the room because after being pumped full of pitocin for 8 hours and not being allowed to eat or drink anything for more than 17 hours the machines said he was in trouble.  Out he came after a huge and unneeded episiotomy to “hurry things along” … perfectly healthy and 8 pounds, 11 ounces.


     Twenty months later when I was in labor with my daughter I thought I had it figured out.  I was NOT going to the hospital until the very last minute!  I had a short, succinct birth plan that I was sure they would follow!  I had a BETTER midwife that would listen to me!  This would be the one!  I arrived at the hospital at 7cm to find that I’d be delivered by an OB since “my” midwife was off-call and a short three hours later was holding a bumpy headed baby girl … after being stuck flat on my back in a bed, having constant external monitoring, AROM, oxygen, an IV and a wonderfully unneeded to “hurry things along” episiotomy that expanded to a 3rd degree tear with I’m-not-going-to-tell-you-how-many-stitches.  She was tiny, only eight pounds, and there was no need for all of the interventions that took place.  On the bright side, I did manage to avoid an epidural, and her birth was drug free.


     The birth of my second son was so traumatic that almost five years later I find myself still unable to write the story of his birth.  I was violated, humiliated, tortured and dehumanized in every way possible.  Animals birthing in barns are treated better.  I left the hospital less than 12 hours after his birth with a fractured pelvis, both arms purple from IV’s, a bruised baby, and the feeling I had just survived a nightmare. I went straight to the grocery store, totally unable to process what had happened to me.  I suffered PTSD (I later found out that “birth trauma” is a very real and under realized issue) and massive anxiety attacks that made it nearly impossible to leave the house for almost a year after his arrival. When I finally broke down and asked myOBfor help, describing the terrifying, suffocating panic attacks, soul crushing depression and out-of-control feelings he asked me if I was thinking of hurting the baby, then offered a script for Zoloft and the advice to “just get over it.”  He was nine pounds and three ounces, and I was told that I’d never birth a bigger baby safely.


     I literally swore that I would have no more children.  No bastard in a white coat was coming near me again to torture and humiliate me.  I WAS DONE.


     And then my life changed.  And I found myself pregnant with the ninjababy.


     I was ten years older than I was the first time I had done this.  I had birthed three babies with no complications.  I had read more; I had more of a support system.  I had watched documentaries, had a group of like minded crunchy moms on Twitter and a new and supportive partner. My entire life had changed.  But the thought of going to the hospital to birth still terrified me. 


     So I chose not to.


     No hospital.  No OB/GYN.  No testing, no blood work, no fingers poking my cervix once a week.  No weigh ins.  No drinking nasty sugar water to prove that my body could metabolize it.  No paper gowns. 


     Not this time.


     Our original plan was to birth at home, with a hands-off midwife.  I wanted to do as much of my own prenatal care at home as I could.  My first problem came when trying to actually find a hands-off midwife that we could afford.  My insurance simply wouldn’t cover the charges for a home birth (don’t get me started on that…) and we just did not have the extra $3000 to $5000 that was the average cost in this area.  Besides that obstacle, the few midwives that I spoke to did not exactly seem hands-off to me…I wanted someone to sit by and knit in the living room if and until I needed them, not someone who was going to insist on pushing a Doppler against my stomach every fifteen minutes and start talking transfer after 12 hours of labor. No one I interviewed “clicked” and I just couldn’t picture them at my birth.


     We did find one, fantastic, awesome, amazing doula and midwife that we visited twice.  She was kind enough to write a script for me to get the 20 week ultrasound I wanted since it was important to me to make sure there were no underlying medical conditions that would make a home birth actively dangerous, but realistically she lived much too far away to attend our birth.  She offered to talk my partner through it on the phone if it was needed, and attempt to come if we wanted her, and I was okay with that.  She also monitored my weight gain (actually, loss for the first seven months) and the results of my ultrasound and weekly urine tests.


     I did all of my own prenatal care.  I monitored my weight, bought urine dipsticks to keep track of protein and sugars and ketones.  I have a blood glucose monitor that I used periodically before and after eating to make sure that my sugars were fine (they tend to run low).  I rented a Doppler to have here to check his heartbeat as a “just in case” – though I honestly think I only used it twice, the peace of mind was nice to have.  I ate well, took vitamins, exercised and kept track of how often he moved.  I measured my belly to make sure that he was growing appropriately.  I learned belly mapping to help me recognize his positioning.  Once a month or so I’d have my blood pressure checked.  We had two ultrasounds – one at twenty weeks and one at 32 after a fall – both of which showed a healthy boy growing well with no obvious health concerns.  I did everything here that an OB would do in an office except for cervical checks the last month, group B strep, and glucose tolerance testing…all of which I felt safe in declining.


     We did not go into this unprepared.  We discussed unassisted birth here at length.  We talked about the “what ifs” that may occur.  Periodically TBA would have a question and we’d go over it until he was comfortable with the answers.  I was personally comforted by the fact that the hospital was less than five minutes drive even in bad traffic, and that Rescue is housed two blocks away: we could have an ambulance here in two minutes if we ever had to call 911.  I had taken a class in neonatal resuscitation.  We had a birth kit here with everything we could possibly need that you could buy without a prescription.  I had pumped midwives and doulas and friends for information on hemorrhage and dystocia and every other “worst case scenario” I could think of…but at the base of it, deep in my heart, I believed that birth was a natural process.  Women are made to birth – that is what we do.  I knew that we had a solid plan in place for the “what ifs” and also knew that the chances that we’d need that plan were low.  I trusted that if I followed my body and listened to my instincts that all would be well.  I was never once afraid.  I never questioned our decision.


     I won’t rehash the ninjababy’s birth story here:  he has his own blog post.  What I remember most about bringing him into this world was the amazing, relaxing, calm atmosphere in the house.  There were no clocks counting down.  I ate, I drank, I slept.  I moved when I wanted to and changed positions.  We watched TV and laughed.  I didn’t know how dilated I was, and didn’t really care to know.  It didn’t matter, I knew he’d come on his own time.  We played the Beatles and lit candles and incense.  We watched the sun come through our bedroom window and steam rise off the birth pool.


     No one was yelling at me to push, or not to push.  There were no strangers with fingers inside me.  No one cut me, or pushed needles into my arms, or insisted I lay flat on my back.  The room wasn’t filled with strange people waiting to snatch my baby away to clean him and inject him with unnecessary things and smear antibiotics in his eyes.  He was born into his fathers’ hands, peacefully in the water, almost in the exact spot where he was conceived.  He took his first breath in this world while cradled on my chest.  There were no harsh lights or latex gloves or strange smells.  There was just a perfect baby and his family.  Before he was two hours old the three of us were laying in bed, warm sunshine coming through the window, nursing and napping.  It was amazing, and yet also felt like the most natural thing in the world.


     As a side note, the ninjababy was nine pounds and seven ounces – larger than my second son – and he was born without leaving so much as a mark on me.  My smallest child did the most damage, my largest the least.  His was truly a gentle and healing birth that I recovered from very quickly.


     I accept that giving birth at home isn’t for everyone, and that giving birth unassisted is for an even smaller percentage.  That’s okay.  I believe that every woman should have the right and opportunity to bring forth life in the place and in the way she feels most comfortable.  I also believe that this country needs serious reform in both mother-baby care and insurance coverage.  Did you know that in 23 states certified professional midwives (CPM’s) can lose the ability to practice if they assist a home birth?  Not only that, they can be arrested and prosecuted for “practicing medicine without a license.”  (I need to note that CPM’s are different from CNM’s – certified nurse midwives – who are trained nurses.  Most CNM’s work in a hospital setting.)  It also maddens me that insurance will gladly shell out $25,000 for a cesarean section, yet balk at paying a tenth of that for women who want to birth at home. It just makes no sense to me.


     Will we have any more children?  I’m not sure.  We discuss it now and again.  If we do, they will be born unassisted, here at home.




#Ninjababy’s Freebirth

As I sit here with a baby two weeks new it occurs to me that I should write the story of his birth before I lose the details. I’m sure that I’ll add and edit in the coming days, so bear with me!  Whether you call it freebirth or unassisted birth I know that not everyone agrees with delivering your own baby at home without a medical professional present – but this was our educated choice and the decision we felt was best for our family. Enjoy!  Parts of it are graphic, so consider this your warning!

I had been experiencing prodromal labor for three weeks by the time October 8th rolled around. I was only three days “late” and my other children were all born closer to 42 weeks, but I was getting tired with the near-constant contractions. I was on Twitter mentioning that some of the contractions tonight actually hurt and received a joking reply about #ninjababy arriving the next day – October 9th – which happened to be John Lennon’s birthday. ( #ninjababy is a big Beatles fan – the first time I felt him move we were listening to the White Album and he reacted with kicks and wiggles every time we played the Beatles for him.) Shortly after midnight I started to time contractions, realizing they were coming pretty regularly and were getting my attention. I didn’t want to say that I was “in labor” yet or get The Man’s hopes up, so we headed to the bedroom to watch the first season of The Walking Dead on Netflix. Romantic, I know … but I think I watched every zombie movie in existence the last two weeks of my pregnancy!

By about 3am I was definitely uncomfortable. The contractions weren’t painful, but I was sure at that point this was the real thing and asked The Man if he’d like to fill the birthing tub for me. “Really?” he said, and got an excited look on his face. I knew it was too soon to get IN the tub, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take to fill and I knew we’d have to stop at least once to let the hot water refill. While he was hooking up the hose and filling the tub I got up to walk a bit, rearranged the pillows and put a chux pad down on the bed just in case. I found a semi-reclined position felt the best and let me relax the most during a contraction.

We kept watching TV, and by the tub was full ( about an hour and a half ) I was really, really ready to get in. Sitting wasn’t comfortable, I couldn’t lay on my side, and standing and walking intensified the contractions to the point that it took my breath away. The hot water felt incredible! I draped a towel over the side, leaned on it and found that stretching out kind of frog-legged was the most comfortable way to be. My belly was almost resting on the bottom of the tub, but when a contraction had ended I got on my knees. We were still watching TV and I was focusing on breathing and staying totally relaxed and loose during each contraction. The pain was SO much less in the water and I loved how easy it was for me to move and change position, but …

After maybe two hours in the tub I realized I wasn’t progressing. The contractions were getting stronger, but further apart — from 4 minutes when I got in to nearly 10 minutes apart. I didn’t want to get out, but I knew that’s what I had to do to get things going again. The Man woke up when I got out of the tub ( I told him to take a nap while he could) and I wrapped up in his bathrobe. While my fantastic partner bailed water from the tub so he’d have room to top it off with hot for me, I walked. I labored on the toilet, leaned against the sink, made a trip to the kitchen for a cold drink. Contractions ramped up fast, and they hurt. I was having a hard time relaxing and breathing and just wanted to get back in the water!

I waddled back into the bedroom, determined to stay out of the pool until I couldn’t take it anymore. I got as comfortable as I could in bed and attempted to nap, and almost managed to doze off between contractions. I had labored nearly 12 hours at this point and had been awake more than a day, and I was getting tired. I sat there, looking at the gently steaming water – incense and candles burning – and realized this was as close to a perfect birth environment as I was going to get. I also realized that I was to the point that I had to close my eyes to focus through each contraction and they were coming faster. I was headed back into the tub!

I asked The Man to go start the dryer ( I had towels in there for after the birth) and asked him to make me my labor martini.  He was only gone ten minutes or so, but by the time he came back into the bedroom everything was getting moving.  I was having to vocalize through the contractions at this point, laying flat in the tub during a contraction and then moving back to my knees between.  I didn’t want to open my eyes, and it took concentration to stay very relaxed and open and just let the pain go.  My legs started to shake, and I said “Oh – this is transition.  It’s going to really suck for the next twenty minutes or so, but it’s almost over now.”  He came to the foot of the bed and held my hand during contractions, but I found that I didn’t want to squeeze – making a fist made everything else tight as well – but just holding his hands was enough.  I remember talking to the baby, saying things like “c’mon, then — come on down” and “not much longer.”  I was way  more aware of what was going on than I thought I would be, and was giving a running commentary of what was happening.  I never felt the urge to push – my body just did it all on its own.  After three very fast, hard, contractions I could feel his head coming through my cervix and said “Oh! I feel his head!” followed almost immediately by a pop and my announcing “and….my water just broke.” I let go with one hand and told The Man I wanted to check and see where the baby was – he couldn’t have been more than three inches away!  Four pushes and he was out – the first one had him crowning, and I was able to reach down for the first time ever and FEEL my babies head.  The second push and his head was out — I moved off my knees back on to the seat in the pool so that he could see what was happening as well, and told him that the next contraction would free him to the shoulders, then another and he should be free so be ready to catch.  I was almost laughing saying “It’s his head! It’s his head!”  I probably sounded like a nutter!  The next contraction came very fast and hard and I felt his shoulder and one arm pop free, then the other.  There was a pause that felt like forever between that and the next contraction, but in reality probably only lasted 45 seconds or so.  The Man reached into the pool, ready to catch … my body pushed, and the #ninjababy was free.  He lifted him out of the water, said “Oh my GOD!” and handed him to me, then ran off for towels.  I unwrapped the cord from around his neck, held him to my chest and rubbed his back … he gurgled twice, then opened his eyes and took a deep breath.  The cord had already stopped pulsing by then, and I was afraid the water was getting too cold in the pool, so as soon as the towels were there we wrapped him.  The man reached over my shoulder to tie and cut the cord, and #ninjababy looked up at him with these wide eyes and grabbed his wrist with his little hand.  As soon as he was free dad got some great skin to skin time while I was delivering the placenta.

I hadn’t intended originally to deliver the placenta in the tub, but I was having horrific afterpains and it was right there … so out it came, along with a clot the size of my fist.  I stood up, kind of shaky, and wrapped a chux around me to head into the bathroom to clean up, then back to bed.  I was bleeding more than I felt comfortable with, and I knew I hadn’t torn at all, so I took two doses of HemHalt while nursing the newbie — passed one more large clot and a gush that saturated the chux I was lying on and then the bleeding seemed to almost completely stop.  Funny side note, and probably TMI, but about an hour later I headed to the bathroom to pee and felt something dangling …. only to reach in and find the amniotic sac right there, nearly completely intact, and another large clot.  I remember thinking it odd, but my bleeding had nearly stopped at that point and I was tired.

We headed to bed, the three of us, and took a lovely nap while the #ninjababy nursed.  Well … the boys napped!  I laid there staring at the beautiful new baby that I had just delivered – on my own – and almost in the same spot that he was conceived.  It was both surreal and the most normal experience ever.


Leonidas Danger Perry 9 pounds 7 ounces and 21′ long with a 12.5 inch head!

Born at 1:53 pm – in the water at home

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