I’ve been reminiscing a lot about my son’s birth lately, since he just turned 1. After one year, I finally finished writing his birth story! I’ve shared my other 2 birth stories before (see my 2nd’s story here), but I’ve never shared how or why I felt so called to have a home birth. In this post I share about all of that… and, of course, his living room birth. Photos included this time!
As a little girl, my favorite TV show was Little House on the Prairie. That is where I first saw a home birth and LOVED the idea of never leaving the house to have a baby!
I’ve had a major fear of hospitals ever since I was about 4. My twin cousins were being born and my parents brought my sisters and I to the hospital. I was apparently too young to go into the room so they left me in the lobby of the hospital.
All alone. No parents. No sisters. Just me.
(Ah… the things parents did back then! I never remember being in a car seat either. With the current laws, my oldest will definitely go to the prom in her car seat!) I’ve had a major fear of hospitals since. I don’t think anything “happened,” you know, besides being left alone in a strange place like that but who knows what I saw, I honestly don’t remember. (Although as traumatic as this was, it also propelled me toward a life & career in holistic health so it wasn’t all such a bad thing. 🙂 )
Anyway, I loved Little House, as a child. I read all the books, saw every episode MANY times and even as a young adult driving cross country from LA to NYC, I stopped at the homestead in South Dakota’s tallgrass prairie where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived from 13 – 18…. it was thrilling (yes ALL of these are my photos from that trip!)
When I got my SAG card (it was just SAG then, I already had my AFTRA card), Melissa Gilbert was the president at the time. She played Laura Ingalls on the show, so you can imagine the giddy 7 year old in me! I still have that union card. 🙂
When I got pregnant with my first child, I REALLY didn’t want to have the baby in the hospital. My husband & I did a lot of research and were pleasantly surprised at what we were finding. Home births are safer, shorter, easier, and generally have a more positive outcome compared to hospital births. ALL of my grandparents were born at home, which was the norm then… here in the US!
Our culture tells us that we HAVE TO have a baby in a hospital, that it’s the only safe option. I wanted to dispel this myth for my 2 daughters. (I’m so, so grateful my 2nd daughter was an active, excited participant at the birth of my son. Read more about that below.)
Of course every woman knows what is right for her but I think it’s important to share POSITIVE birth stories. I recently saw a TV show (Virgin River on Netflix) where one woman scared a mom-to-be out of having a home birth because she personally had a bad experience. (Even though her bad experience was IN a hospital.). Even more personal: one of my IG friends is pregnant again and she just shared that she NEEDS to have a hospital birth, because of how messy birth is (to quote her to catch the ‘5 buckets worth of fluid that leave your body’). But again, that is HER experience and HER perspective. My “messiest” birth was the one I had IN the hospital (and it wasn’t even THAT messy. It was very bloody after the birth because the doctor ripped out my placenta instead of letting me delivery it naturally like I did with my 2 home births). My home was quickly back to normal while I was still in bed bonding with Baby #2 (and ditto for #3).
I remember being pregnant the first time and being surprised (not in a good way) at how friends, family and strangers alike saw it as an invitation to share their birth horror stories. (Invariably always about hospital births, but that’s not the point.) WHY do women DO that? It’s YOUR birth and will be unique to YOU. They are all SO different. So if you are pregnant, my suggestion is to block the negative noise, tune into yourself and see what the right/best answer is for YOU. No wrong, no right… no judgements. Just tune into what YOU want. That’s the BEST answer! 🙂
My husband’s cousin told me (over lunch at a restaurant by Bloomingdales in NYC) how I would be yelling at him and cursing him for getting me pregnant and existing, guaranteed. But in reality, that was her experience. Not mine. I never once even remotely thought that, ever. Through all 3 births. I was so happy he was there and holding my hand and although I was in pain and uncomfortable, I knew it was temporary and was very excited to meet my babies!
I gave birth naturally to my two daughters in very different settings. My first was in a hospital in NYC. Even so, it was 100% natural. To the point where I gave birth in my street clothes, and was “admitted” well after I was holding a baby in my arms. That birth felt like a freight train, and was something like 4 hours start-to-finish.
My second was at home, in a birth tub in my kitchen. compared to the first it was longer, slower and less intense. I wouldn’t say “easy” like some of the hypnobirthing videos I’ve seen (I still am not convinced those are real!), but not quite the uncontrollable rush of my first. And I very much appreciated not having to go anywhere, or really move more than a few feet from the bedroom to bathroom to kitchen, as I felt the need. In fact, the first time I set foot out of my home was for Baby’s 2-week doctor’s appointment.
For my 3rd, everyone kept telling me “3 is the wildcard.” They never explained what they meant, but many different people told me that. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. As with my 1st and 2nd, I really thought this would finally be the pregnancy where I give birth BEFORE my due date! (I don’t enjoy being 9 months pregnant. It would be nice to have some kind of silver lining and save a few days. As long as Baby is ready, of course.) But no, Baby #3 waited until 2 days past his due date to make an appearance.
Things started the night of December 11th. I had some fluid, and a swab test the midwife included in my birth kit confirmed it was amniotic fluid (imagine that… I did it all myself! Easy-peasy!). She told me to get some rest, and let her know if I started having contractions.
My midwife lived in Agoura Hills, not exactly close by (about an hour away). Since my first two deliveries were relatively quick, and since #3 is “the wildcard,” the midwife I had for birth #2 was on standby in case I needed someone ASAP. (She lives closer.) My doula & the midwife’s assistant were ready as well. I tried to get some rest, but was woken up at 3:45 by nature’s call. (Not too unusual. Late pregnancy = frequent bathroom breaks 24/7.)
I started having contractions 15 minutes apart. They lasted about a minute and were very intense. I knew I should try and save up my energy & rest in between them, but that’s easier said than done. By 6:30 they were 5 minutes apart and getting stronger. The girls woke up, and my husband toasted them some leftover green pancakes we had in the ‘fridge. He made the mistake of putting peanut butter on them, and even from the bedroom the smell made me nauseous. Smelling it on his clothes when he came back was just too much. I’ve never had a reaction like that before to peanut butter!
The midwife’s assistant showed up around 7:00 and helped the girls get dressed for school.
My midwife from last time arrived at 7:30, and I have to say I was never so happy to see someone as when she arrived. Words can’t express how happy I was. Elated? Overjoyed? Whatever the word, contractions were pretty intense at that point and I found it very reassuring when she listened to the heartbeat and took my blood pressure and everything was fine.
She left me to labor with my husband (my best birth partner ever) and went to check on the girls & midwife’s assistant. At 7:45, a neighbor arrived to pick up my oldest daughter and take her to Kindergarten. Our NEW nanny (it was her FIRST day on the job!) arrived at 8:45 to bring my younger daughter to preschool but she started crying and flatly refused. She wanted to stay for the birth, and I said fine. She played with the nanny in her room most of the morning.
My husband played a song or two from my birth playlist on loop. I remember “I Release Control” by Living Waters playing most of the morning, including when I was giving birth. It seemed fitting.
I was hoping to give birth in the birth tub, since I had such a good experience with it last time. This time around, I tried getting in the tub but it was too hot. Since I was so far progressed I wasn’t able to really talk so my husband recalls me saying, ‘hot, hot… too hot.” (I couldn’t get full sentences out). They cooled it down a bit, and I found it felt better, but slowed the birth too much. My 3 year old & husband held my hand. My doula would occasionally rub/massage my lower back. After a while I got cold and went back to bed to warm up.
At this point, I was beyond exhausted. Besides not sleeping well for weeks due to the bowling ball sitting on my bladder, I was up all night with contractions & running on fumes. The midwife decided that a rebozo might help. (It’s a scarf often used for labor.) The doula held my belly with it, and I sat supported by my husband on the birth ball in the hallway. It wasn’t comfortable, but it must have helped because it was soon time to switch to the birth stool by the couch in the living room.
At 10:15, the midwife went to get my younger daughter from her room. She was quiet, but super interested and watched from the sidelines. She was the first one to speak when he was born. She said (very excitedly!) “the BABY!”
10:24 the head was born, and 10:25 my husband caught the baby! (His first “catch”. I caught #2, and the doc at the hospital caught the 1st.)
Despite his “guess” weight being about 7 lbs, Baby #3 weighed 9 lbs even!
My 2 girls are petite, and have been since birth. Not this boy. He started off at something like the 83rd percentile and has been big ever since.
Anyway, my daughter watched the whole birth (from where you see her standing.. although she was sitting before the baby was actually born!), said “Hi” to the baby, and then went back to her room to play.
The umbilical cord was a little short, so instead of my chest I held my baby on my tummy. We went back to bed to rest & birth the placenta. My husband got to cut the cord. (He’s getting good at this – his 3rd one!) Baby got a checkup & then started nursing.
After some nursing, he fell asleep and I rested with him in bed. My daughter came back to see him in bed & read him a story. It was a Sandra Boynton book but as she read it and turned pages, she recited Wheels on the Bus. To this day, it’s his favorite song! As we rested, bonded and fell in love, the midwife & assistant put the kitchen & living room back to normal and quietly said their good-byes.
My older daughter came home from school to find a new baby, once again!
The ordinary extraordinary.
And now we can’t recall life without him. He is the smiliest baby ever, so happy and (as a 1 year old) just got to try his first slice of homemade cake.
Finally, I have such gratitude for my birth team, and for all the women before me sharing positive, uplifting stories helping to normalize birth. I started this journey with Ina May’s books and was honored to meet her when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter! (If you are pregnant or wanting to become a Mom, google her or look at my pregnancy book list for more info!). I’m grateful to have been shown that natural childbirth, especially a home birth, is not only possible but is actually a safe & responsible choice. No judgement on what choices anyone else makes, but if I had one request it would be this: Please be considerate of the emotional & vulnerable pregnant woman in front of you when you share advice or a traumatic birth story (your own, or others’). Birth works best when things are open & flowing, and fear and negativity are counterproductive, even if the intention is to be helpful.