Monday, December 31, 2012

My Home Birth Experience

I'd like to take a minute and not talk about software.  My wife and I recently had a successful home birth and I would like to share my story to remember what happened while it's fresh, as well as help others who are considering a home birth feel more at ease about the potential risks they could run into for their births.

You might be thinking, "big deal, babies get born all the time".  But the unusual things about our home birth were that the baby was born 30 minutes after contractions started and the baby was born early Christmas Morning and nobody arrived in time.

Births are messy and I am going to talk about things that are unpleasant for people to listen to.  So if you can't stomach medical terms about nether regions or you are a current or future employer of mine, this blog post is not for you.  Also, I am not a hippy.  I'm just a guy that wanted to have a uneventful and safe home birth with his wife.

My wife's water broke around 1pm.  She got up to use the rest room, but soon realized that she was not peeing, but instead leaking amniotic fluid.  I was woken up by her telling me that she thought things were starting.  I was skeptical because she claimed that things "might be starting" on previous nights.  So instead, I woke up to change our toddler, who was screaming at the time.

After finishing that, I tried to go back to bed.  My wife said I should call the midwife and notify her.  When we called her, she advised us to try and sleep and call back when contractions start.  This is a standard thing to do because lots of labors last a very long time even after water breaks.  So, we tried to get back in bed.  After a few seconds of her lying down, she immediately got up and said that it was not working.

She went back to the bathroom and remained there for the rest of the labor.  Like I said, labor is messy and the rest room is a very safe place to be when you might not be prepared for things.  She pretty much evacuated all her waste at this point in time.  This is a pretty good sign that you are in labor when this happens.  Other things happened around this time like a "bloody show", which happens due to the cervix opening up.

Once active labor starts for my wife, she pretty much can't go anywhere.  This is unfortunate because we wanted to have a water birth.  Water births are where the mother tries to deliver the baby in a pool of water.  Usually this involves some sort of tub or bath.  We had a tub set up for our previous home birth, but like I said, my wife probably couldn't even be convinced to move into the tub.  That being said, my wife wasn't in a condition to be moved even to the car.  So if we even tried to go to the hospital, the baby would probably have been delivered in our car.

So, after we were in the bathroom and situated, my wife eventually mentioned she was going through contractions.  But the issue here was that she thought they were the wrong kind of contractions.  If you have taken any birth classes, or watch any videos on the stages of birth, you usually see sections where they say "When contractions last for X minutes and are Y minutes apart, you are probably in the Z stage of labor".  Well, my wife thought that because she was having short contractions with short intervals, she wasn't in Active Labor.  Most of the terminology says that your contractions are longer when in Active Labor.  So we called up the midwife and let her know things were gearing up.

Since we knew the midwife and her backup were on the way, I tried to call up nearby relatives who said they were going to help take care of our son.  We had a plan where we wanted our son to be around and at least know about the birth happening.  But we didn't want him to interfere or get in the way.  We were expecting the labor to last at least as long as the last labor (about 4 hours).  So we figured that was enough time to merit having someone look after our kid.  One of the stressful things about this was that it was late at night (around 1:30 am) and no one we called answered the phone.  It took at least 10 tries to get ahold of someone.  After everyone was contacted, the relatives were thirty minutes away and the midwife was 15-20 minutes away, so I had to play the stalling game.

We were prepared to have a home birth, and had supplies set aside for when labor started, so I decided it would be a good idea to go through it.  This box was in our toddler's room, so I woke him up while stumbling around in the dark.  I also got a Pilates ball, so I could sit with my wife in the restroom.

I remembered from the last birth that the midwives tried to make sure pain around the opening was managed.  You can apply things that ease burning sensations, or just help lubricate or stretch the area.  Also I remembered that they also tried to monitor the baby's heart rate to make sure we didn't need emergency intervention, like a hospital c-section.

So, I tried to use some oils to help with stretching, but most of my efforts were met with disapproval from my wife.  Since I don't have much experience, nothing helpful resulted.  I then resorted to massage her hands to help calm her down.  But, because of her labor pains, even touching her hands was not what she wanted.  Which was different from my first home birth, where I absorbed her pain in each contraction when she clenched her hands.

Her general demeanor was not too good at one point, and I realized that we weren't calming down.  I remembered that we did some breathing exercises whenever my wife started feeling like she wasn't in control.  So at one contraction, I just started breathing low and she followed me.  She immediately remembered she needed to relax and we got through the contraction.  At one point, I remember trying to tell her that she was in control.  She was parroting me back, but I actually thought she said "I'm not in control", which was a mis-heard downer, but I didn't let it effect me.

Around this point, we made so much noise that at one point I looked behind myself and saw my child watching us.  He wasn't afraid, just curious why we were making so much noise.  He definitely witnessed his mom in a poor state.  We were happy that he was able to see what it means to have a baby.  Being 22 months old, he wasn't able to verbalize much, but we kept reassuring him and telling him that a baby was coming out of mommies tummy.  We wanted him to know as much as a baby can comprehend about what was happening.

I eventually started to wonder where everyone was.  I looked down at her area and saw that the baby was crowning.  This is when the head starts to be visible.  I ran to the front door of our house and looked out and saw no one and immediately ran back.  I ran past my child happily jumping on our bed. I figured that we should make sure the baby was ok and I put my head against my wife's belly to see if I could hear a heart beat.  I remember that we did a bunch of heart monitoring in the previous birth.  When I put my head on the belly, I got a gentle kick to the face and decided that that was good enough and said, "the baby is still alive", with a grin.

We went through a couple more contractions and then I realized even more that the baby was fully crowned.  I figured that we were going to have to deliver the baby right there ourselves.  We both had a moment where we realized this together and came to accept it pretty fast.  I asked my wife if she would stand up, trying to keep her legs somewhat apart, and she did.  In a split second, the baby's head got through the opening.  The rest of the body was slippery and came right out.  I caught the baby pretty easily and gave the child directly to its mom so she could bond and feed it.  There has been research that shows that children need to have bonding time with their mom immediately after the birth, and I was eager to help with that.

I got up and went to the front door of the house and saw the backup midwife outside.  I opened the door and said, "The baby's already come!"  Here's a recap of what happened: Water broke around 1 am, noticeable contractions started around 1:30.  Baby was born at 2:05.

Most people don't expect a half hour labor.  Looking back, I wish I knew ways to slow the labor down.  I thought, maybe if I made her stay lying down in bed, she would have had less time pushing because its harder to give birth when reclined.  I also wished that I was able to help slow down the crowning baby.  Afterwards I asked the midwife and she says there are pushing techniques that can be done to do this.  But I still feel like I'm not qualified to do that next time.  Most people reassure me saying that when a baby is ready to come out of mom, you can't stop it.  So maybe I couldn't have done much anyway.

You may think the story ends here, but after the midwives came ( and eventually the relatives to take care of our toddler :-p ), we went through the post birth things, like birthing the placenta and cutting the cord.  Then they tried to assess what damage happened.  I could tell by how they were acting that they didn't think that they would be able to repair it easily.  So, we decided to go to the hospital around 3 am. on Christmas day.

We left our child with the backup midwife, then my wife, our midwife, and I drove to the hospital.  Unfortunately, since it was really early and Christmas, we were received pretty slowly at the hospital.  Also much time was taken just rounding up all the doctors and deciding how the procedure should be done.  The surgery was fast, but we weren't in a state of being able to leave until noon.  Finally we were reunited and ate breakfast, opened a few Christmas presents, and finally passed out for most of the day. (and got "take out" from a local Chinese restaurant since it was the only one open that day)

One fun thing about the experience was that I got interviewed by a local newspaper.  Someone I knew tipped off the newspaper that we had a home birth with no assistance.  And since it was Christmas and not much news happens around those days, there was a mushy story the next day on the local front page about a dad delivering a baby on Xmas.  I left out the part about the hospital in the newspaper, but wanted retell the whole experience in this blog to be for people who are thinking about having a home birth.  I want potential home birth people to understand what a "worst case" situation looks like and that it really wasn't that bad.  I think we did as much as we could and we were definitely prepared and had supplies.  We had help that was on the way and we were committed to having a home birth.

I feel very lucky to have gone through this experience and that both my wife and child came out of the situation in good health.  This birth wasn't as scary birthing my first child (who was breached, but that's another story).   At most it was inconvenient to deal with an unhelpful hospital on christmas morning.

I never thought of having a home birth, but my wife was insistent on having one.  I remained positive about her decision and despite everything that's happened, I still believe home births are a great experience.  Above all, do what is most comfortable for your spouse.  Trust in your spouse's ability to give birth and you will be amazed at how strong they are.  Be there for them when they feel afraid of pain.  Never make her feel like she is doing something wrong, or doesn't know what she is doing.

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