When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I didn’t think much about where I would have the baby: at the hospital, of course, just like everyone else. I took a birthing class that informed me about options for things I would like to include in my birth plan, like lighting, room temperature, and laboring position (granted I didn’t get an epidural). Besides that, I didn’t have much of choice in the whole process. Once I reached my due date, I found out that I didn’t even have the option to continue past it. My doctor induced me on that exact day.
It was my first pregnancy, and with that, there was a lot of trust put into my doctor. I assumed she knew better than I did, as this was her profession. Unfortunately, during my entire prenatal care, I never felt a connection to her. When she informed me that she wanted to induce me, I actually questioned her authority because my intuition told me it wasn’t necessary. However, under pressure from her and my mom, I agreed. At the hospital, I felt unprepared. I felt out of place and uncomfortable. I was given Pitocin and then just instructed to wait. When contractions began, I was terrified. It began with one strong contraction that immediately broke my water. I didn’t have the chance to ease into my labor, it just hit me like a ton of bricks.
The pain worsened, obviously, but without any progress. Completely unable to bear the debilitating contractions brought on by the Pitocin, I received an epidural while only 1 cm dilated. While the pain went away, the problems did not. I had trouble breathing on my own. I was restless and needed to call the nurse often to shift my body as I was completely numbed. I remember crying because I was unable to roll over and too embarrassed to call the nurse again. Being the middle of the night, my mom and husband were sleeping. I was strapped to numerous monitors, IVs, oxygen; this is not how I imagined my delivery would be. At one point, there was talk amongst the nurses of a C-section.
When the time actually came to deliver my daughter, I had no idea. I needed to be told when to push. I felt nothing. The room was filled with nurses that were complete strangers to me. I was completely exposed and vulnerable. After I delivered my daughter, I was relieved the whole ordeal was over. For a few weeks, I suffered postpartum depression.
Two years later, I was very disappointed that I had to go with the same doctor for my second pregnancy. I told her from the beginning that I did not want to be induced. Her reply, “we’ll see.” I immediately lost trust in her, but had no choice but to continue with her, as she was who was accepted by my insurance. Sure enough, on my due date, she spoke of inducing me. Remembering my first experience, I refused. She threatened that if I didn’t go into labor by the end of the week, she would induce me. I left my appointment shaken up and feeling defeated.
I went into labor early the next morning. By the time I got to the hospital, I was begging for an epidural. The pain I was feeling upon arrival was the same pain I felt while only dilated 1 cm. with my previous labor. I thought I had hours to go. The nurses checked my progress. All I heard was “bulging bag.” I was given an epidural. Minutes later, my second daughter was born. I was shocked! How could they give me an epidural so late into my labor? Why didn’t they encourage me and trust that I could finish off those last moments without an epidural? I delivered so quickly after arriving at the hospital, that my doctor wasn’t even there. While my second delivery wasn’t bad, I left feeling unsatisfied with the experience.
When I became pregnant with Baby Z, I was torn. My insurance only covered the same doctor. This time I knew that a) I would not let her induce me, and b) I don’t need an epidural. When I called to schedule my first prenatal appointment, I was surprised to be told that she wasn’t expecting new patients. (New patient? I’m a returning patient!) Honestly though, I was relieved. But at the same time, I didn’t know where I would go from there.
A week or so later, I attended a women’s conference where I got the chance to hear a midwife speak about midwifery and home birth. Two years prior, I heard about my sister’s friend who had a home birth and remember thinking, “That’s crazy! I would never do that!” But now after my two birth experiences, I was all ears. At the end of the workshop, I had a tingling inside. Home birth was going to be the best choice for me! And the fact that my insurance covered it was the icing on the cake!
From my very first prenatal appointment that was held in the comfort of my own home with my daughters and best friend by my side, I knew I had made the right choice. I felt so relaxed and involved. As the months went on, I learned more and more about pregnancy and labor than I did with my two previous pregnancies combined. I felt like I mattered and that I was an important part of the whole process. I was completely taken aback when Shannon, my midwife, asked me, “What can I do for you during labor?” For me? I never had the nurses or doctor try to accommodate me or inquire what I would need. My prenatal appointments began to feel like a dear friend was coming over for a friendly chat.
Needless to say, there was no talk about induction. My body, and the baby, would be allowed to naturally go into labor. There was no pressure, no stress, no deadlines. When labor naturally began a few days after my due date, it was a gradual escalation of contractions that I was able to tackle. The pain was far worse than my previous labor. However, the thought of an epidural didn’t cross my mind. It’s like a dieter that isn’t tempted by cookies because they aren’t in the pantry. It’s just not an option. Shannon was amazing during my labor. Her touch was so gentle. I was so focused on managing my contractions that I wouldn’t notice her monitoring the baby. It was only until I heard that beautiful swishing sound of my baby’s heartbeat that I would realize what was happening. Her soft voice would utter encouraging words at all the right times.
The time finally came to deliver. My room filled with those closest and dear to me. There were no strangers that I’d never see again. Everyone in the room would cherish this moment and it would touch their hearts. Time to push! And push I did! Even though it was painful, it was incredibly miraculous to actually feel what was happening. The pain completely stopped after Zaynab was delivered. My demeanor changed from, well, a woman in labor, to a mother on an euphoric high. The emotions I experienced at that moment were very different from the first two deliveries. I felt connected to my baby that now lay on my chest. I felt empowered!
Shortly after, everything was cleaned up, Zaynab was checked out, and my midwives went home. There I lay in the comfort of my own warm bed, in the calm silence of my home, with my precious new daughter in my hands. It was by far the most satisfying and beautiful experience. Even with two previous pregnancies, I felt as if this was the first time I ever had a baby.
I never, ever thought that I would be the type to have a home birth. After the experience, I realized that there isn’t any certain “type.” A home birth is for anyone looking for a more rewarding option outside of a hospital. It also goes without saying: “Never say never.”
Photo courtesy of Eslam Najjar Photography.