With my first child, I planned a hospital birth but halfway through, changed care providers and opted for a home birth. This is my home birth story – the path that led me to birthing my children at home.
I found out I was pregnant with my first child on Sunday, July 12th, 2009. My world has never been the same! Shortly after I found out we were expecting, I did what most women would do–I started searching for someone to deliver (or as my midwife would say, “catch”) my baby. There were 2 things I wanted: a female midwife and an all-natural pregnancy AND birth. I assumed that all midwives were natural-childbirth minded. I would soon find out I was wrong! Way wrong! Here is my home birth story.
Originally I decided to sign up with a practice that had a handful of midwives. This is one of those practices where you see all of the midwives while you are pregnant and you just “get” whichever one is on call when you go into labor. Having never had a close relationship with a medical provider in the past, I was fine and dandy with that. My husband works 12 hour shifts, so we were lucky enough that with this large practice, I was able to schedule my appointments so that he could come along too. It seemed like this was going to be great!
My first appointment lasted over an hour. Of course, they checked my urine, weighed me, checked my height, blood pressure, pap test, all that good stuff. Then they asked me question after question. Some related to my medical history, some had NOTHING to do with my medical history (even ones such as “do you own a gun?”) Really? That relates to me giving birth how–and that’s your business because?? They even talked to me about what I was planning on doing for birth control after the baby was born! I remember telling my husband afterwards that that really got on my nerves. It made me feel like they were implying I wouldn’t want pregnancy to happen again. It was an hour+ long appointment, but I walked away not knowing anything more about pregnancy or birth than when I walked in there. Nor did a feel a bit of a connection to the nurse practitioner or midwife who had spent time with me. I was around 8 weeks along when I went to my first appointment.
Like most women, I had an appointment every 4 weeks. My 12 week appointment went like this: Wait in the waiting room for 20 minutes, pee in a cup, get taken to a room where I’m weighed and have my blood pressure taken. Wait another 10 minutes for the midwife to come in. Spend 5 minutes with her, be sent on my way. As she was getting ready to walk out the door, I asked her if she could give me any info on local Bradley childbirth classes because I wanted to have a natural childbirth. She looked at me as if I had just said my pee had been the color purple lately! She told me that she had no idea where I could find classes like that locally but that if I wanted to go natural, “[I] better take some type of natural childbirth classes!” I remember feeling very disappointed because I could tell that she not only thought I couldn’t have a natural childbirth, but she was uninterested in helping me achieve my goal. She thought I was crazy. I walked away hoping that she wasn’t the midwife I got stuck with and that maybe one of the other midwives would be more supportive.
4 weeks later I was back again for my 16 week appointment. This appointment went very much like my 12 week appointment except for a few extra unpleasantries. When I was weighed this time, the nurse practitioner told me I had lost weight (about 5 pounds!). She told me this like she was a mother scolding her child. Now, I’m a tiny, skinny girl as it is and everyone tells me I look young for my age. I just had this feeling that she was looking at me thinking to herself, “this is another young girl who won’t eat like she should because she’s concerned about her figure.” I turned to the nurse practitioner and told her something was wrong because I had just weighed myself that morning and although I hadn’t gained any weight yet, I also had not lost any weight, and certainly not 5 pounds! We have a digital scale and I told her what it had said just that morning, BEFORE I had my clothes on–and it was more than what she was telling me. She didn’t want to listen to me but I insisted that her scale was wrong. After arguing with her for about a minute, she finally sighed and said she’d take me over to the digital scale next door. Wouldn’t you know, when I was on that scale my weight came out right. She shook her head and said that she didn’t understand. We walked back to the other scale and she made me get back on it. Of course, it was still 5 lbs off and she stood there looking so confused. I looked at it and noticed right away that the notch where the 100lbs block should be resting was off. I pointed this out to her (which I’m sure she hated) and, once corrected, my weight came out right
Of course, at this point, I figured she’d turn to me and say she was sorry she hadn’t believed me. Instead, she proceeded to tell me that I was correct, I hadn’t gained any weight yet and that was NOT good. My husband and I just sat there not knowing what to say or do. When the midwife came in a few minutes later I asked her about not gaining any weight yet and she told me it was okay. If I had been eating healthy (which I was) it was fine to have not gained any weight at that point. So, I felt a little better after that. Of course, this was also the office visit where I was required to pee in the cup TWICE because they LOST my urine. How do you lose urine??
Week 20 rolled around and of course we were really excited about the big ultrasound! They do everything right in their office, so I had my ultrasound first, and then my prenatal visit. The ultrasound tech was 45 minutes late–for the first appointment of the day–and therefore rushed through the whole thing. Still, we were excited to find out we were having a GIRL!
I went in for my appointment and to my surprise when I was weighed this time I had gained 8 pounds! Woo hoo! No more worries about not gaining enough weight for my baby–but wait–back that happy train up. NOW the nurse practitioner was lecturing me on gaining too MUCH weight, too quickly. I wish you could have seen my husband’s face. If looks could kill! By this point we were taking our Bradley Method childbirth classes (and anyone who has taken those knows that they put a large emphasis on eating well). I had been recording what I’d been eating for weeks and eating very healthy! We both knew that the weight I had gained was weight I was supposed to be gaining and was healthy weight.
We both left that office visit feeling very dissatisfied with the care and attention–or lack there of–that I was receiving. I saw a different midwife for each of those appointments and I couldn’t tell you one of their names or even what they looked like. They were in and out of the room in minutes.
Now, home birth was something I had mentioned to my husband (who was completely opposed to it!) from the very beginning as something I was interested in, but I had no idea where to even find someone who did that, how safe it was, ect. You see, when I was a girl–probably 8 or 9, we knew a couple at our church who had had a home birth. I remember that it really intrigued me. I remember thinking “gosh, that had to be so messy and bloody”–I had seen my fair share of “A Baby [Stories]” by then! I also remember thinking that it was neat though, so much calmer and relaxing than a hospital. The thing that stuck with me most though was that this was a well-educated, smart, stylish couple. It was not the “hippy” family I would have expected to have a home birth. In fact, the husband was/is a pharmaceutical rep and his wife was a receptionist at a family doctor’s office! They were both in the medical community and yet, chose to give birth to their 2nd-5th children all at home. That made a big impression on me! Of course, I was still young enough that I never discussed any of this with them and by the time I was pregnant they had moved to the other side of the country and our family had lost touch with them years ago.
During our very first Bradley childbirth class we learned that our instructors had had 2 children and that both had been home births. I was very eager to hear about their experiences! We also met another couple in our class who were the same ages as my husband and I, and they were planning their first child’s birth as a home birth. With every passing bad experience at my prenatal appointments, home birth was becoming more and more appealing. After classes, we started talking about home birth with the other couple and with our teachers and learning more about it. After being scolded for my weight gain at my 20 week appointment, and hearing more great things about home birth during our childbirth classes, my husband and I really started to research home birth and weigh the pros and cons between home and hospital birth. It was not a decision we entered into lightly–in fact, we still went to my 24 week appointment, where I, again, left feeling like I’d just been pushed through like a cow in a heard of cattle. Shortly after that appointment though, we had a meeting set up with two of the local home-birth midwives.
We had no idea what to expect during an appointment with a home birth midwife. My husband was still pretty scared about the idea of me giving birth at home. He wanted to make sure it was safe for me and the baby, of course. Let me just say, that the appointment with these midwives was a night and day difference! For once I felt like these were women who had confidence in my body’s ability to be able to grow and birth a baby–as it was designed to do. These ladies talked to us as equals. They did not rush us through the appointment. They listened to all the questions we had and answered honestly. Instead of making birth sound like a medical, scary experience, it was a natural, welcoming experience. Instead of telling me to take all kinds of over the counter drugs for any problems I might have, they told me about natural remedies I could use, like drinking lemon water for heartburn. Even my husband walked away feeling confident in their ability to help us in the birth of our child. For the first time, I walked away knowing the names of my midwives, and already feeling like I had made a personal connection to them. We left their office and called my other midwives’ office right away to let them know I would NOT be returning. They didn’t ask why.
My prenatal appointments were never the same! Now it was like going to visit a close friend every month instead! I looked forward to my appointments (and really missed them after my daughter was born!). These ladies shared the excitement of my pregnancy with me and encouraged me in my quest for a natural pregnancy and birth. I was never rushed through any appointment and I left them feeling more and more knowledgeable about my body and the birth that was to come. I was never again scolded for my weight–in fact, I was never even weighed by them! They knew I was eating healthy, I looked healthy, and that was what really mattered.
I went on to give birth to my beautiful baby girl, at home, with the 2 midwives in attendance (yes, I will share that story as well soon–many of you have asked–this post just ended up being so long already!!). It was one of the greatest days of my life, right behind marrying my husband. I had one of the 2 midwives at my side the entire time I was in labor–I even got a foot massage during labor from one of them! I know without a doubt I would not have received that much care and attention from one of the midwives I had originally been seeing! The personal connection I felt with them made all the difference in the world to me.
I am now pregnant with my second child and due in May. I am using one of those same midwives again (Back when I had both of them, the midwife I am using this time around was still in her apprenticeship phase, although she’d already attended hundreds of births. She’s now finished being an apprentice and off on her own!). I LOVE my prenatal visits! My midwife comes to my house and it’s always such a fun time! She is always here for at least an hour, many times longer. I can’t put it into words how wonderful it is to have her as my midwife!
I realize there are many women who are not interested in having a home birth but ARE interested in an all-natural birth at a hospital or birthing center. I would encourage you, ask around before you decide on your midwife or obstetrician! Also, don’t feel like you can’t change providers half-way through your pregnancy if you don’t feel like you and your provider are on the same page as far as the birth that you’d like to have. I didn’t even see my new midwives until I was 28 weeks along with my daughter but I am forever greatful that I made the switch!
I write this post to say that it IS possible to find someone to help you achieve the birth experience that you want–whether that be at home, in a hospital, drugged, undrugged. It is worth finding someone that you love and who you feel genuinely cares about you! Don’t settle, I’m so glad that I did not. I thought that all midwives were the same–I was so wrong!