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Sharing our home birth story

Three and a half years on from the birth our my daughter, I’ve decided to share our home birth story. I wrote it soon after the event, without much idea that I would share it down the track. Mostly, I wanted to capture the experience, and I’m glad I did.

My birth story is what it is. It’s my own unique experience and every woman will have her own. It’s not intended to be prescriptive. I merely want to share our empowering experience for families who may be considering a natural birth, and perhaps a home birth.

This birth story blog post is a joy for me to share. As is often the case, our experience wasn’t everything we planned for. However it was empowering and amazing. We felt like we were in control and were well informed of what was going on throughout the process.

I went to some home birth ante natal classes. We watched some videos of some very calm, relaxed, zen-like women delivering their babies with complete ease! This left me somewhat uneasy because I thought that my partner Colin might expect me to be that way! He of course assured me that he didn’t have any expectations like that, but I still thought about those calm women in the back of my mind.

I’m all for positive thinking but somehow I didn’t think my home birth story was going to be quite so peaceful!

A natural birth plan

Before I get into my home birth story, I want to share something with you. It’s a copy of our natural birth plan. You’re never going to know exactly what the course of events for a birth will be. However, you can be clear in your wishes for the different scenarios that could occur.The box below gives you access to the natural birth plan that we wrote up. Feel free to use it as a sample birth plan that you can modify for your own wishes, if you choose.

'Our Birthing Plan' FREE PDF

This FREE PDF is the actual birthing plan for our first born

Includes the pre-birth advice and wishes we wanted to express in relationship to the vision we had for enjoying such a special day in our lives.

You can opt-out of our mailings anytime. I value your privacy and promise not to share your email address. Powered by ConvertKit

Zen-like? I don’t think so!

I read the hypnobirthing book and listening to a hypnobirthing cd (find out more about this in my pre natal fitness blog). However I still felt every bit of physical pain that comes with pushing a human out of a body (men, just imagine pushing a watermelon out of your nostril). And I sounded like a drowning whale in the process (I didn’t labor quietly – very un-zen like!)

This is our raw, amazing home birth story. I feel compelled to share it to help empower other families to be active in the decisions that lead up to the birth of their baby. It’s not intended to scare you, but instead simply share a real life home birth story. Feel free to share it around if you’ve watched any zen-like home birth videos lately!

The days leading up to our home birth story

home birth storyI wasn’t one of those women who would be happy, relaxed and cruising along at 42 weeks pregnant. Nope – 40 weeks came along and I was ready for bubs to make an appearance. I was sure he or she had been ready to arrive for the past week or two due to how uncomfortable I’d been feeling.

The baby had apparently been sitting right on my bladder for the past week. The subsequent leaking of urine had me worried I’d already destroyed my pelvic floor muscles before giving birth. So it was time for this baby to arrive.

Colin had requested:

  • a) Summer baby
  • b) Sunday baby
  • c) Girl

So on my actual due date, Saturday 30th November, I set in place my ‘labor plan’. This started with the gardening. After a couple of hours digging and waddling about, I noticed I was bleeding a bit. I was pretty convinced that this baby would arrive tomorrow. It would be a Sunday and the first day of summer at that, and we’d have one happy new dad!

After the gardening I was relieved that I didn’t feel it necessary to continue with the ‘labor plan’.  A long walk and a hot curry just would have been too much!

So I went to bed with a sore stomach, and did the usual ‘up five or six times’ for the toilet in the night. The 5:30 am toilet stop was for my waters to break.  At the time I wasn’t 100% sure they had broken, but things got reasonably intense from that point, indicating that our home birth story was about to begin!

Our home birth story begins – it’s labor time!

I immediately determined my stomach was too sore to go back to bed so I got in the shower for some hot water relief. The water didn’t quite work as magically as it normally would though – the stomach pain remained just as intense.  I was in labor but I didn’t really recognize it as I didn’t feel separate contractions – it was just nonstop pain.

I yelled out to Colin that I was in labor, and could he please fill the birthing pool (actually maybe I didn’t say please – not too sure!). There was a little bit of preparation involved to get set up.

Perhaps Colin thought that labor part of our home birth story would be like what we had read in the books. Contractions would come about 30 minutes apart to begin with. I could probably just carry on with whatever I was doing for a while because they wouldn’t be too painful.

Real life can be different from the books!

I certainly thought it would be like that, and that I would at least be able to distinguish between the different contractions. Not so much. I remember calling out about 45 minutes later, to ask how the birthing pool was going, only to realize that I hadn’t made it clear how much I needed it!

Colin was just sitting at the table, relaxing and eating his breakfast! I then explained that I was not removing myself from the bath until the birthing pool was filled and could he kindly sort it out now! He sensed the urgency this time and got straight on the job. Not long after I had my first spew, and those contained throughout the whole day, I think as a pain response.

At some point I remember Colin trying to time the length of my contractions and the time in between them so he could decide when to get the midwife in. I was vaguely (ok, highly) annoyed at this, as I personally couldn’t determine where one stopped and started, so how could he know? The pain was constant, so I don’t know how he was deciphering one contraction from another.

The midwife is called

Anyway, they seemed pretty intense and close together, so it was time for the midwife to come over. My day from then on was spent either lying on the couch, sitting on the toilet, or lying back in the water birthing pool. I needed my own space so Colin wasn’t invited into the birthing pool! It’s funny how I thought I’d like things such as massage and candles during the labor. But what I needed in reality was for everyone to get the heck out of my way!

By the way, if you’re interested in purchasing a home birthing pool, see the section below ‘Our birthing pool kit

The pain in my lower abdomen was relentless and I needed to focus inwardly the whole time, just to be able to deal with it. Probably the thing that helped me the most was ‘sounding’. My constant moans and groans really helped direct the energy down where it was needed and seemed to be the only coping mechanism that helped.

I think it was good being in the water as it made me feel lighter, but it didn’t seem to ease any of the pain. Why wasn’t it happening like it said in all the books? They all said there would be a lovely relaxation period between contractions – when was that going to come? In all the water birth stories I had read the laboring mom seemed so calm?!

The distressed whale appears

So I kept on making sounds that I am sure I’ve never made before and never made since then. I remember thinking it was quite surreal. Here’s me lying around and sounding like a distressed whale, while Colin is sitting on the couch calmly working on his iPad. The cat is curled up fast asleep, and the midwife is just chilling out writing notes at the table!

As they were all so relaxed I figured that there must be nothing wrong. I looked to the midwife for reassurance from time to time, but as a whole just tried to focus on thinking positive, empowering thoughts. I knew that if I let my mind start to tell me that I couldn’t do it, that things would get a whole lot harder. My body would tense up and slow things down, so I focused on just being in the moment and getting through it.

There came a point when the midwife wanted to do a vaginal check. I had previously asked for them not to be done unless absolutely necessary because:

  • a) it’s not comfortable to have one done
  • b) it can increase the risk of infection and
  • c) I didn’t want to be told I was only 1 cm dilated after all that hard work, for fear I may want to give up!

But there comes a point where the pain has been strong enough for long enough, and a check is required. If I was only 1cm dilated by this point in my home birth story I would have needed help.

A posterior baby – the next challenge of the day

I mustered all my efforts to lie down on the floor and be checked.

“Good news” the midwife exclaimed. “You’re 8cm dilated…but your baby is posterior”.

What? How can that be? Our baby had been in the right position for at least the last ten weeks. Since when had the turn-around happened?

The midwife suggested that if I got on my knees it might help the baby to turn. This seemed like such a massive effort and I had all sorts of doubt going through my mind at that point. Weren’t posterior labors that ones that took 36 hours and required forceps to get the baby out?!

Was it even possible for the baby to fit out of my pelvis while facing that way? The doubt had crept in but the midwife told me I could do it, and I believed her.

Natural baby birth pictures

home birth story
Laboring at home

At this point I’d like to share some of our natural baby birth pictures with you. I’ve had to sift through them as I was in the ‘rudey nudey’ all day and would like most of them to stay private. And I’m not going to share any of the crowning with you!

By the way, prior to labor day I did not foresee that I would want any photos of my home birth story. The midwife suggested it and I’m glad we agreed in the end, because the photos are really precious to us now. I opted out of video however…anything with sound was a no-go. I’m proud of our home birth and water birth experiences and what my body was capable of!

I know about that term ‘the ring of fire’

At some point, the second midwife arrived and I didn’t even say hello! Our baby’s arrival was close and I remember suddenly noticing that the intense pain I had felt in my lower abdomen all day was gone. The midwife said this last part was the hardest, but I didn’t think so. Yes, it was intense, I made even more noise than before, and I felt like I was being split in half. But to have that intense abdominal pain gone and to be able to focus my efforts elsewhere was magical.

This was the time when I needed Colin. Outside the pool he stayed, but I squeezed his hands as tightly as I could to help focus the intensity elsewhere. The midwife advised me to push when I felt that I needed to, and the next part seemed to happen super quickly.

It was the most empowering feeling that with each contraction our baby was moving further down and would soon be born. Colin was crying (with joy I think) and I remember thinking “wow, I’ve never seen you cry”!

“The head is out” the midwife exclaimed. “Your baby has lots of black hair”.

“What?!” I thought!  Neither Colin nor myself had ever had anything close to black hair, so I was pretty confused.  It turned out later that the water had just made it look a bit darker than it was. It gradually became blonder over time!

I’m a mom!

home birth story
Check out those lips!

Then with another couple of pushes, our baby was born… facing the ideal way, so the kneeling had worked a treat.

I remember our baby swimming around to me with dark blue eyes wide open, and the brightest pink lips I had ever seen. I knew it was ok for the her to stay in the water, but instinctively I picked her up and pulled her up close for her first cuddle.

At this point Colin enthusiastically hopped into the now extremely bloody-watered pool and we relished in the joy of our first moments of parenthood. With a tiny baby that wasn’t even crying after such a big journey(!) this truly was the most magical part of this home birth story.

home birth story
Colin is allowed in the pool now!

It was only after ten minutes that we discovered we’d had a wee girl. Ayla was born at 3:50pm on Sunday December 1st, weighing 3.75 kg…Colin had gotten all three of his wishes! Apparently ten hours was quite well done considering the posterior aspect of the labor, and that Ayla was my first baby.

Our home birth was a great experience

Despite the continuous pain throughout the day, and the spewing it was a great experience. Despite the fact that I could barely take a sip of water, let alone eat anything, the time really did feel like it flew by. I was astonished every time I looked at the clock and saw an hour had gone by. The body is truly amazing!

After enjoying some time in the pool I started to get a bit cold and wanted to get out (I’d been in there for more than a few hours!), so I cut the cord to do so.

I thought that the hard work was done and that with another small contraction the placenta would be born. Not so much.

Things take a turn in our home birth story

home birth story
Ayla’s first feed

Every time I had a contraction, a big gush of blood came with it , but no placenta. I tried squatting. I tried feeding Ayla to make the contractions stronger. The midwife tugged at it. Eventually I even got given the drug ‘syntocinon’, to make the contractions stronger. Nothing happened except more blood loss.

Shortly after my hearing was starting to go as a result of the blood loss, it was determined that a trip to the hospital needed. I was wrapped up in a blanket to preserve my dignity, as I’d been naked all day long. I hadn’t seen the point in putting on any clothing for the day!

But I must say that to my surprise, I was not the least bit bothered about my nakedness. By this stage the midwives had been unsuccessfully trying to get a line into my hand, and a catheter in the other end for some time. Nakedness was the least of my concerns!

This is where my home birth story becomes a post birth hospital story. The ambulance men arrived soon after and sorted things out, and then whisked me off. Poor Colin had to figure out how to get our brand new baby into the car seat.

Goodbye for now home!

Due to a large drop in my blood pressure, the decision was made for me to go to A&E first. There was more tugging on the placenta, a number of faces peering down at me, some arguing. Someone even knocked my catheter bag off the bed accidentally – as if I wasn’t already in enough pain! I’d really had enough by this stage.

Ayla had been given her nice drug free home birth and I was happy about that…but I knew the placenta wasn’t coming on its own. By then I was asking for the drugs and whatever operation was necessary.

Eventually I ended up ready to go into theater. First we had to wait for someone else to finish in there and for me to sign a waiver and be told all the worst case scenarios. By this stage I had lost three liters of blood and I just wanted to get in for this operation as soon as possible.

Lights out for a while

I pretty much closed my eyes after being given the anesthetic, and felt like I woke up one second later.  But when I awoke the placenta had been manually removed and my second degree tear had been stitched up in the process.  The best case scenario had occurred (given the situation). There had been no need to cut me open or give me a hysterectomy – phew!

From that point I had to stay in the hospital for three nights until my hemoglobin count was sufficient. I was well looked after in there apart from one mean nurse who made me cry! (All the others were super lovely).

But after the second night I was itching to get home. I felt great on some sort of adrenaline high after the birth.  Looking back on it all, despite the intensity of the pain, and the unplanned trip to the hospital, it was such a positive experience. I just let myself go with the flow of what was happening.

No regrets

We can’t always control how things pan out, but we can control how we deal with those things. I love that I got to birth at home. I am also very grateful that we live in times, and in a place where advanced medical care is there when it’s needed.

We have no regrets. One of the hospital doctors made the comment “there will be no more home births for you”. However I was in safe hands, and excellent communication was there every step of the way. My midwife was well trained to make professional decisions as needed. I also believe that it’s ok to want to embrace the natural process of labor and child birth. (It’s also ok to choose the hospital and ‘give me every intervention I can have’ route if that’s what you want).

If a second time comes around I’d plan a home birth again in a heartbeat.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my home birth story. For the moms to be who are planning a home birth, here are some extra snippets of information you might find useful.

home birth story

home birth story

home birth story

Our birthing pool kit

We were living in NZ at the time and had been attending birthing classes specifically catering to those wanting birthing plans for natural childbirth. During the process, we discovered some of the birthing tools we would need and for convenience sake purchased the whole kit from a specific home birth website called H2O Baby. It came with all the extra bits that we might need and we were very happy with the service we received.

I now realize that it’s a fair bit cheaper to simply purchase the pool and any extras you might need from amazon! Especially if you live in an amazon country. (But note also you can use any alternative you may already have at home, e.g. a bucket or net as a scoop, and most things you can get from your local hardware store).

The kit is effectively one large inflatable paddling pool and a bunch of useful accessories required to use it indoors on a birthing day.

Our kit contained the following and, yes, we did need all the bits (note you can get plenty of use of most of the kit after the birth too):

  • Birthing pool The main feature that you need for a home birth pool is depth. It needs to be deep enough to sit in and for the water to come up to your chest. Otherwise it probably won’t do much to help.
  • Hand pump From memory, we added an electric pumptoo. And Colin was glad we did! Don’t skip the electric pump, unless you know you can use a hair dryer or have a lot of time and strength in your arms!)
  • Floating thermometer This was extremely useful as the water needs regular emptying and topping up to stay a comfortable temperature over time and be ready for when baby enters the world.
  • Heat Retention cover Again useful as it takes effort to empty water that is not warm enough.
  • Scoop Used to scoop out any ‘floaties’ during labour and birthing process. Don’t assume you’ll be in control of all your normal bodily functions.
  • One (sufficiently long) length of PVC hose/piping Make sure this is long enough to reach from your hot water supply to where the pool will be situated for the birth. (Also think about how you will empty the pool. You can do it bucket by bucket but this can be time consuming and is probably the last thing anyone wants to do after becoming a parent! If the pool can be placed at a level higher than the place it will be emptied, then you can use the hose and a siphoning technique to empty the pool all by itself! But make sure the hose is long enough for that job too.
  • Faucet/hose/tap adapter kit To make sure you can connect the hose to your indoor hot water supply.
  • 3m x 4m Groundcover i.e. some form of water protection to go under the pool and surrounding areas to keep your indoor floor in the condition it started out!

When I was pregnant we used to hook the birthing pool hose up to the hot water and set up our own outdoor spa under the stars. We’ve also used it many times as a paddling pool since, so we’ve certainly put it to good use. (We still have it stored back in NZ!)

Here’s a picture of the main pool and where you can check amazon for latest prices.

Other home birth supplies

Start getting supplies on hand in the lead up to your own home birth story. This list has been adapted from the one we were given at our home birth ante natal classes.

  • Rubbish bags
  • Buckets for linen, and hot water
  • Plenty of old towels, hand towels and face cloths
  • Soft toilet paper or wet wipes
  • A container for the placenta
  • Wheat bag or hot water bottle
  • Small ice cubes (small enough to eat easily)
  • Torch
  • Camera
  • Super sanitary pads (I froze a bunch of them with added healing ingredients such as witch hazel and aloe vera)
  • Baby clothes and nappies
  • Clean clothes and underwear (I recommend the biggest ‘nanna knickers’ you can find). I had to send Colin out to buy some big ones because let’s just say my regular ones weren’t so comfortable straight after the birth.
  • A birth mat

My biggest recommendation, which I’ll note that was not on my original list, and should have been, is a hospital bag. You should absolutely be prepared to go to hospital if required. Colin and one of the midwives were left with the job of bringing me a hospital bag. They tried their best but I ended up with g-strings and a strapless going out bra, which was not so suitable for breast feeding!

That’s it for my birth blog!

I hope you enjoyed reading my home birth story. Please don’t take it as prescriptive. It’s important to work closely with your lead maternity carer(s). Any advice in here is not intended to replace the advice of your primary care physician. I hope that my home birth story empowers you to take control in the decision making process of this beautiful life event. And if you are thinking about a home birth, I hope it helps you on the next stage in this journey!

Do you have your own home birth story? I’d love to hear about it! Please feel free to leave a comment below.

What to read now? If you’re a mom and you think you might be suffering from postpartum incontinence, find out about the signs you’ve got it, and what to do about it xx

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'Our Birthing Plan' FREE PDF

This FREE PDF is the actual birthing plan for our first born

Includes the pre-birth advice and wishes we wanted to express in relationship to the vision we had for enjoying such a special day in our lives.

You can opt-out of our mailings anytime. I value your privacy and promise not to share your email address. Powered by ConvertKit

Also published on Medium.

2 Comments

  • Annie

    Thanks for sharing Elly your home birth story Elly.

    • Elly McGuinness

      My pleasure Annie:)

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