The pregnancy and birth of our third child was so much better than the births of my previous two children. My firstborn was induced at a hospital three weeks early due to low amniotic fluid. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. The labor lasted 32 hours and was extremely frustrating and painful. It took my husband and me several years of trying on our own and about two years of fertility treatments to conceive our second baby. We finally gave up…and then found out we were pregnant within a month. Our first two children are eight years apart in age.
Our second baby was also induced, because she was 10 days late, also in a hospital. I had an epidural and many complications from it, including breathing problems and nausea. I was very sick for many weeks. I felt like I almost died; I would stop breathing in my sleep and my body would jolt me awake. On top of that, someone was entering my hospital room every single hour. I couldn’t get any rest when I needed it the most.
When our second child developed constipation problems, I took her to a chiropractor. Eventually our whole family started to go after seeing the tremendous results in her. We became pregnant again within six months of my first period. Many of my friends who have had chiropractic work have said it cured their fertility problems; I don’t think that was just a coincidence!
That’s a quick background of my westernized pregnancy history. With my third pregnancy, I already knew I wanted to do things differently. I just didn’t know how yet. I remember my next visit to our OB-GYN office like it was yesterday. The moment I walked in for our third baby, I was pressured to get a flu shot. Not a good sign. After waiting for 90 minutes for the rushed midwife to see me (red flag No. 2), I raised all my concerns from the birth of our daughter, especially the state-mandated vitamin K injection, about which I had a great deal of concern. New York State has a law that Child Protective Services will be called on any and all parents who refuse the vitamin K injection. Having CPS called was not exactly in my birth plan.
The busy, almost absentminded, midwife at the OB-GYN office said, “Even if you don’t want to give the vitamin K, you don’t want to risk the care with a homebirth.” Wait, the experience and care that I had with our daughter could get worse? Thank God I at least had a supportive chiropractor who was on the same page with many of my natural life decisions at that point. Thanks to my biweekly adjustments, I was sleeping better than I had during my previous pregnancies.
The disappointing OB-GYN visit set me on my path to find a homebirth midwife. The last thing on Earth I wanted to hear again was how New York State was going to tell me what to do and how to birth my child. I connected deeply with the first midwife I interviewed, Kathie, and hired her on the spot.
At 35 weeks, I was driving to my weekly chiropractic appointment and noticed some wetness. I thought maybe I had peed my pants (hey, it happens!). But the flow didn’t stop; it just increased. When I arrived at Dr. John’s, I called my midwife, Kathie. As a precaution, she suggested I go to the hospital because I was not yet full-term. Going to the hospital felt like a death sentence to me. The crime was having a baby and the punishment was having no say in my own care. It was my worst nightmare, and exactly what I didn’t want. I truly felt fine at the time. I compromised with Kathie, and went home but took blood tests and nonstress tests every day to watch for infections.
My instincts were telling me very strongly not to go to the hospital. As a precaution, I even saw a new OB-GYN with whom Kathie had a relationship. But what little research there was did not convince me that a pre-ruptured membrane was safer in a hospital than at home. I felt the most conflict during this time. I had to listen to my gut. To this day, my oldest has a lot of health problems due to inductions and vaccinations. In my experience, most doctors are just looking out for themselves and what is going to be the least risk to them. They don’t care about long-term health risks. Once you are discharged, those aren’t their problem.
Friday evening I got very little sleep, and by Saturday night I was not feeling well. My baby shower was that Sunday, and I had many relatives visiting from out of town. Around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning I felt pains (contractions) in my mid stomach, which I had never felt before (having had inductions with my first two children). I called Kathie at about 2 a.m. and she told me to wait an hour and call her back to see how I progressed. I walked around the house with my iPhone playing the Grateful Dead’s greatest hits while a houseful of family members slept soundly, even my husband. I didn’t even last an hour before calling Kathie back and saying, “I think this is it!” I woke my husband and got into my tub. Looking back, I was waiting for the midwife to arrive— she lived about 50 minutes away. The baby was born about 5 minutes after her arrival. I honestly don’t even remember pushing.
Trey Aaron arrived at 4:01 a.m., three weeks early, the day of his baby shower! He received an Apgar score of 10, healthy as could be. He was on the little side, weighing exactly 6 pounds. I had about a 20-minute nap and felt great! My friends and family moved my baby shower from a local venue to our home. I was even up walking around a little for photos! Such a different experience than my first two births, when I felt like I was a unwell prisoner to the doctors and nurses.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have had all of my children at home. However, I’m glad I have experienced childbirth on both ends of the spectrum because it makes me appreciate the power and beauty of homebirth even more, and I feel that in having both experiences, I can be a better advocate for homebirth. If my story can inspire other women to at the very least consider homebirth, then I have accomplished even more.
I learned so much about my body, nature and women during this experience. I learned that women should be better informed about their options during labor and delivery. I feel homebirth should be made more available to all women rather than being viewed as some back-alley, illegal act. Childbirth is a natural event; it is not some physical ailment that needs to be controlled and monitored every second. A woman should be free to try natural methods of pain relief rather than have an epidural before she makes it past the hospital elevator or be offered a buffet of narcotics that will fog her memory of such a glorious event.
A woman should be free to labor and deliver in any position she feels is best, rather than lying flat on her back because it’s convenient for the doctor. It never crossed my mind to lie on my back to deliver my baby—I think that might have been the most painful thing I could have done. Women have been birthing babies for thousands of years, and only in the last 75 have hospitals become the “expected” place for births. I can’t imagine delivering in a hospital again (although we feel like this is our last baby).
A woman should be free to deliver wherever she likes, and rather than being looked down on for her choices, she should be praised and supported. There is nothing more beautiful and amazing than the birth of a child. I am super thankful I had the support of my chiropractor, my midwife and, of course, my amazing family and husband.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #48.
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