Thursday, April 14, 2011

Homebirth and why I wouldn't do it again (Hint: it's not why you might think)

I'm sort of the crunchy-granola one around here at 18 Years to Life. I'm the cloth diaperer and the one who gets organic produce delivered every week from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. So it only stands to reason that I also have given birth to both of my children 100% naturally and medication-free, both out-of-hospital.

When I got pregnant with my first daughter, I bought several books on childbirth and started researching my options. Knowing that my mother gave birth to both myself and my younger sister 100% naturally, I wanted to do the same. After reading several other books, I read The Birth Book by Dr. Sears and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, which became my favorite books on childbirth and solidified my decision to go 100% natural if I was lucky enough to have a normal, healthy pregnancy. I was lucky enough, and saw a wonderful midwife for my prenatal care. When it came time to decide whether to give birth in her birth center or at home, I decided on using her birth center because I had never given birth before, so I wasn't 100% sure that my body could do it. The birth center was two minutes away from a hospital, and that gave me a great sense of security. We also lived in an apartment at the time, and I didn't want the neighbors to hear all the commotion and call 911! So when I went into labor with my first daughter, after two days of prodromal early labor (that sucked, let me tell you), we finally went to the birth center once active labor finally got started, and my beautiful first daughter was born about twelve hours later. It was painful beyond anything I could have ever imagined, but it was exactly the way I wanted it. She and I were both completely awake and aware, no drugs or chemicals in our systems to interfere with our first meeting. I got to experience every nuance of her entry into the world, and I loved it.

When I got pregnant with my second daughter, we were looking for our first house. Knowing that my body could indeed do it and that I could indeed tolerate the pain, we decided that if we managed to buy a house before she was born, we would do a homebirth.

It's not as crazy as people think. Midwives are highly trained medical professionals and they bring all the medical equipment needed with them. They have oxygen, resuscitative equipment and other safety equipment, plus the experience and knowledge that comes with having assisted hundreds of women in giving birth naturally.

We did buy a home when I was seven months pregnant, so it was decided: we would do a home birth. With my daughter due to be born in December, I was so happy that we wouldn't have to drive to the birth center in potentially terrible weather or drive our newborn home in the freezing cold. I was happy that I'd be able to give birth in my own bed, with all of my comforts and all of my stuff.

When on December 6th my water broke at 4:00 AM and I went into labor, I called the midwives and my doula to give them a heads up. Everyone told me my second labor would be quicker, but ha! It was not. My contractions finally got painful enough and close enough around 6:00 PM that evening, and I called my doula and the midwives and asked them to head over. Once they got there, the main midwife assessed my condition and told me I was actually not close to giving birth at all, but had quite a way to go. They considered leaving and coming back later. I got a little scared and prayed that they wouldn't leave, because I felt like my labor was really getting going. Thankfully they did not leave, because I was right. My labor really got going and started making serious progress shortly thereafter.

To keep my spirits up, I watched Monty Python while my doula used her pain management techniques to help me withstand the pain. It worked great. However, as with my first daughter's birth, my labor continued to take its time. My water had broken about 20 hours earlier, and the closer we got to 24 hours, the closer we got to the possibility of my having to be transferred to the hospital for a C-section. We had to get the baby out.

Once I was able to start pushing, to accelerate the baby's downward movement, my midwife had me get into a veriety of positions. In each position, the other midwife used a fetal doppler to check the baby's heartbeat and make sure she was doing OK. She didn't tolerate some positions well and her heartbeat slowed. Thankfully through the use of the fetal doppler, they could find this out and have me get into a position where her heartbeat stayed normal. This was pretty scary, and the clock was ticking away, getting closer to that 24 hour mark. The main midwife decided it was time to use a classic midwife's trick: to have me get on the toilet to push. It sounds uncouth, but the downward gravity caused by being in that position is great for helping babies move downward.

One of the midwives and my husband helped me into the bathroom, where I sat on the toilet and waited for the next pushing contraction. I was pretty exhausted at this point and was ready to do anything to get the baby out. When the next pushing contraction came, I pushed with all my might, and felt the baby move down. Success! When the next contraction came, I pushed with all my might again. When the next came, I grabbed onto the doorknob to brace myself, pushed as hard as I could and heard a loud CRACK! Instantly, freezing cold water started rushing around my feet.

I limply whimpered, "What the hell just happened?" as I looked up at my two midwives, my doula and my husband. Their eyes got as wide as dinner plates as they realized what had happened. "Oh, no, get her out of there!" someone said. They came to help me out of there and my husband explained, "You broke the toilet tank in half!"

He rushed in and turned the water off. Despite the searing pain I was in, I started laughing. My midwives, the doula and my husband were all laughing, too. The main midwife said, "In seven years of being a midwife, this is a first!"

It was just the comic relief I needed. I got a second (third? fourth?) wind and very shortly thereafter, pushed my baby out, 22 hours after my water had broken. She was handed to me instantly and I happily held my 8 lb. 10 oz. new baby daughter, exhausted but happy to have made it through naturally once again.

I had a long, sometimes scary labor, but through the training and brilliance of my midwives and the pain-management techniques of my doula, I made it through. If we have another baby, I want to do it naturally, but I wouldn't do another homebirth. Not because there were some scary moments, not because of being under the gun to get the baby out or face a C-section.

Because I would not want to have to remodel.

If I happen to break another toilet while bringing a baby into the world, it will be someone else's.


  1. Oh my!! I am cracking up!! I am also a little envious - I would love to do a homebirth, but it's just not going to happen. I ended up needing a c-section for my first because my bones are not shaped to actually let a baby get out. :-( The idea of being in my own home after giving birth is just so appealing to me, I'm going to have to erase your toilet breaking story from my mind. :-) PS - Interesting note - my husband's cousin is an MD and is planning a homebirth for her 3rd child, due in just a few weeks!

  2. no home birth for me (4 yrs ago)- twins... we argued for it but it was a no go, even the midwives wouldn't touch us.

  3. Hi, I am one of your newest fans from Bloggy Moms!

    I am also on facebook!


  4. Awesome! My home birth ended with my son in the toilet. Oh the stories...

  5. LMAO Oh, wow, I didn't know he ended up in the toilet, Katie! Poor little guy! Mila could have, had I not accidentally annihilated it.

    I feel really fortunate that my pregnancies were both totally run-of-the-mill, so I was able to do natural childbirth both times. I'm sure everyone's birth is just as special and beautiful, though, and just as unique!

  6. That was one of the funniest birth stories I ever heard. It "cracked" me up, ha ha. What a story for the baby book, eh?

  7. Thanks, Ado! I imagine I'll use it as part of a guilt trip when she's a teenager. "I broke a toilet in HALF bringing you into this world!"

  8. That's hilarious and put a laugh into my otherwise sad self that my homebirth never happened and I DID end up with that C-section.


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