24 February 2014

The gift of Lil’ A’s homebirth

I delivered Lil’ A at home. Yes, I did. And in honor of her first birthday, I decided for the first time ever to write out one of my birth stories. I won’t go in great detail, but if this subject doesn’t interest you… stop reading, please!

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I had never expected to give birth at home. I had never dreamed of giving birth at home. I never thought I would EVER give birth at home. Do you hear me?! Homebirth was not my thing. The first two were delivered in lovely hospitals after a wonderful epidural had been administered. Oh… the glorious epidural!

See, we had planned to have Lil’ A in Africa. Several ex-pat friends of mine had delivered with a German midwife in a questionable local hospital and had a good experience. I would have felt more comfortable planning for another U.S. hospital birth but we were both running businesses and didn’t want to leave our normal life and haul our family to another continent to live temporarily for several months while I delivered. After the birth we would have had to apply for a passport for the baby and then waited for a visa to return back to our African home. This is what we did the first two times, but we were in a different place in our lives weren’t willing to do it again if not necessary.

So we decided to go for it. Actually I should say I decided to go for it. My wonderful husband would have accepted my decision whether I wanted to stay or go to give birth. Which is kind, considering I’m the one giving birth and all! He’s so great…

Anyway, I never craved a natural birth like some do, but I was willing to do it if it meant we didn’t have to leave our home in Africa for three months and pay thousands of dollars of airfare and thousands of dollars of hospital costs. We literally were going to pay less than $300 cash for a delivery. Glory! I was excited to deliver a baby in a country where we were actually living long term. Like, come home from the hospital to my own bed in my own house with my own deep freezer stocked with meals and plan to be there for many more months. Never had that before! My babies were born ‘on the go’ previously. The thought of coming home after delivery was so comforting…

However, as you know, our plan didn’t quite play out and I unexpectedly found myself in America six weeks before my baby was due. Since I had planned to deliver with a midwife in Africa with very poor medical facilities if there happened to be an emergency… why wouldn’t I do it IN AMERICA where there are good medical facilities in case of emergency?! And midwives cost waaaaaaay less money than hospitals, even with our insurance covering some of the medical bills. Money was a factor, I admit!

It was decided.

And a dear midwife who I had never met, Jan, agreed to take me on even though her month was over-filled and I was a latecomer. In fact she told me later that God told her to take me on.

Thank you Jan. Thank you God!

I liked Jan from the start. So much! I would go to her home for my prenatal visits and she visited our temporary housing to prepare for the birth. We hoped to be in an apartment by the time the baby was born. For awhile we didn’t know if that would happen, but in the end we were in our own home.

Now, our home is not necessarily your normal home. We do have our own (wonderful) apartment, but we do also live in community in a shared building (read: close proximity to others!). Delivering on campus was a touchy subject but I felt strongly that this was what I wanted to do. I would be the first to do it. Yikes!

So we had a home, that’s good! At times I would get nervous about being at home and not having help with the pain. I had epidurals with both of my other children although I believed that my epidural had worn off by the time I delivered my boy H (I pushed for four and a half hours) and that it never had time to kick in with Sweet N (she nearly fell out after a quick labor). So I thought that I had kinda sorta already delivered them with no pain relief.

I.

Was.

Wrong.

So very wrong.

I felt contractions for the first time through the night. A snow storm was coming through our city and they say that the changing pressure of storms can put women into labor. It was a few days early but this is what happened! I thought after a night of contractions each hour that they would increase as I got up and moved around come morning. But they died down instead.

By mid-afternoon I was ready to get things going. So Mikey and I walked around the campus in the snow while the kids went sledding with my Dad. A few laps brought the contractions back and very regular.

We returned inside and prepared dinner. Mid-dinner things were really moving along. My Mom had the great idea to take the big kids to a hotel for the night (she’s genius!) and we quickly packed the kids as my contractions were getting more and more serious.

They pulled out and about fifteen minutes later the midwives arrived. I was walking and breathing through each one at this point.  The next couple hours were spent moving around my house sipping Smart Water and lamaz-ing with Mike as he breathed with me through contractions. It got intense.

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Things progressed quickly and only about four hours after things really started rolling I was ready to push.

And I’m gonna be honest. This is when it got bad. This is when I realized a million times over that in fact my epidurals had been VERY beneficial in helping me with my pain with the first two babies. I have no words.

Wow.

However…

Twenty minutes later…

We had a baby. Didn’t know if it was gonna be a boy or a girl…

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A baby girl!!!

What a gift.

The midwives gave her to me and did a few initial checks before they left us alone to snuggle with her for half an hour or more until the cord stopped pulsing. She was a natural nurser from the start. It was peaceful and calm and surreal. Just Mikey, me and our newborn babe in our warm and cozy bedroom.

What a gift.

They returned later and did extensive checks on the baby. They were more than thorough, I had such confidence in them! I felt so calm and cared for and so full of peace. They helped me shower, changed the bed, gave us some instructions and slipped out of the building.

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(weighing her)

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(already sucking her fingers!)

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(checking her length)

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(Poor baby screamed and screamed through all the checks! That girl had some volume from the start!)

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It was a bit unreal being alone immediately post pardum with a newborn. But Mikey did great caring for us through the night. We slept. We were at peace.

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(This photo is classic, I love it.)

As far as we know, no one on campus knew what had happened in their midst. (And I was not quiet there at the end, FYI).

The next morning my parents returned with big brother and big sister and everybody got acquainted on the couch.

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When people ask me about it I just well up with joy inside. Our homebirth was truly an unexpected blessing. A gift from God. IMG_0087

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