Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Active Duty Unassisted Home Birth Story

 Here is my story having a home birth while active duty Army. I wanted nothing more than to avoid the Army hospital and have a home birth, and thankfully, I was able to!

 When I found out I was pregnant in June of 2013, the first thing I had to do was attend a bunch of briefings at the hospital on post and fill out mountains of paperwork. Such is the Military. I was somewhat fearful because my biggest concern was I'd be forced to have my baby at the hospital. I'd heard horror stories of pregnant soldiers being "escorted" to the hospital because not doing something that is considered "safe" would be misuse or abuse of government property (because essentially that's what I am).

To make matters worse, the first brief I had consisted of a nurse telling us that birth was not a natural thing to go through, that it puts a strain on our bodies and has a high level of risk to it. This made my blood boil, but I managed to stay calm and not confront the ridiculous statement of a so called educated individual.
20 weeks pregnant, bathroom selfie!
I feel very blessed that the care provider I ended up with was a retired Lieutenant Colonel midwife, and thus she was actually very open to supporting natural options throughout pregnancy as well as labor and delivery. HOWEVER, I did not, and do not, tell my care provider that I am planning an unassisted home birth. I have given birth in California, Maryland and Kentucky. I do not know the details of state laws, but some like to threaten that I am either endangering my child, myself or doing something illegal. I've read about some women who've had CPS called on them around the time they were going to deliver because they mentioned unassisted home birth to their care provider. I'm not willing to take that chance. How IRONIC is it, that it's okay a few months prior to kill your baby but not okay to give birth where and how you want to??? Some things are seriously twisted. Anyways, I digress.

I did tell my provider that I wanted to find a midwife. Generally if you tell them this, they won't ask as many questions and will not be as suspicious when you refuse certain care or when you insist on waiting for your baby and body's time to deliver when you're past your due date. I did consistent prenatal care, several ultrasounds and everything came back healthy and progressing normally throughout my pregnancy.

At 41 weeks and 5 days, I was off to another doctor appointment, gearing myself to fight off induction. They were pushing it despite the fact I’d had stress tests done plus my fluid measured, everything coming back stellar. My Dr. asked again about induction and I firmly said NO, following that up with, “Who do I have to fight?” She looked nervous and I knew my decision was putting her in a tough spot as far as her following hospital regulations/procedures for pregnancies that were overdue.
“I’ll go talk to my boss about it, she’s a civilian so that will help...I’ll be right back.”
  Last thing I wanted was to have an Army doctor pull rank and try to order me to get induced. I’d read some of the stories on the internet and knew this could be a possibility. I was ready to push back even if it meant getting in trouble, but I was nervous too.
She came back and said they’d let me go a few more days as long as I came in twice more for repeat stress testing. ‘That’s enough to cause stress!’ I thought to myself, but agreed to compromise. She asked if I wanted to try to get my membranes stripped and I agreed to this (which I will never do again!). My cervix was softened but I was still dilated to just 1 cm. My heart fell. I’d tried Castor oil in chocolate ice cream more times than I could count, primrose oil, Black Cohosh, walking, constant sex...all ended in ‘false’ labor. She had blood on her glove though and said this was a good sign. I started cramping as I redressed to leave.
Later that night, the contractions got stronger. I started feeling very nauseous and cold. I spent that night throwing up and having diarrhea praying labor wouldn’t start. I didn’t think I could handle the pain of labor and being sick. I googled my symptoms and came back with uterine over-stimulation from the membrane stripping. Or possibly the flu? I was exhausted and finally fell asleep later on that morning. I spent the rest of the day resting and re-hydrating, with no more serious contractions.
I was scared. I wanted so badly for all this to be over but I was doubting my abilities to do it at home with a couple friends for support. I was prepared. I’d already had two babies at home with my mother and her best friend for help...this time it was just me. I sat down on the kitchen floor and cried. I let it all out and started talking and praying myself to bravery, working my way back to courage and peace. My baby boy would come when he was ready, I wasn’t going to be pregnant forever.
  I relaxed, a feeling of peace slowly enveloping me. I spent another 20 minutes praying and listening to the Christian radio station. When I got up, I was finally ready. I’d let go.
  I spent the rest of the day cleaning and enjoying my son and boyfriend, not thinking about anything labor related.
 The next morning, Friday the 31st, exactly 42 weeks from my due date, a strong contraction woke me up around 9 in the morning. I switched positions and ignored it. They kept coming but I refused to acknowledge them doing my best to sleep and stay relaxed, not wanting to get my hopes up.

I finally got up around noon, my boyfriend and son were watching TV. I felt rested but starving. I was having contractions but not in a consistent pattern, however these were different than the other ‘false’ ones. It took a lot of effort not to focus on them. I suggested to the boys that we go out to eat, thinking a distraction would be a good idea. We left around 1:30pm. Contractions were getting more intense and I found myself bracing through them, breathing gently in through the nose, out through the mouth. My boyfriend noticed my focus and breathing pattern. He got quiet, nervousness lurking on his face. This would be his first time experiencing a home birth and I knew he was worried about how everything would go, but he’d still been very supportive.
  I chose a light but filling meal knowing I would need the fuel for what was going to happen. I kept my focus on the moment at hand and didn’t time the contractions or allow myself to think too far ahead, just work on getting through each one when they hit. By this time I had to stop eating to get through them.

We got home by 3pm and I spent the next several hours walking, bouncing on my yoga ball, breathing and watching movies. I laid down around 5pm to rest. Contractions were getting a lot harder and felt very productive. I knew today was going to be the day, so I knew rest would be needed. My body wouldn't really let me rest though, so I knelt by my bed in the dark, puppy training pads, shower curtain liners and sheets spread on the floor. My boyfriend kept checking in on me and I could tell he was nervous.

It was about 7pm when I felt the urge to move. I got up and went into the bathroom, laying down the pads and sheets in there instead. I was standing up going through contractions that were roughly 5 minutes apart and needed my 100% focus. I could not talk during them. I had to make low moaning sounds to help every part of me relax and let the contraction do it's work. I did not sit and stare at a watch during contractions. I really didn't want to focus on time, but instead focus on my body and being in tune with everything.

I looked down and saw a couple spots of blood on a towel beneath me. I was wearing a wife beater. I don't really remember when I decided it was time to take off my sweats. I felt excitment at the blood. It was a very small amount, nothing to worry about. Just a sign that my cervix was stretching and opening to prepare. My boyfriend freaked out a little because of the blood and the fact I couldn't talk during contractions and they lasted quite awhile, so he called a good friend of ours who had offered to be there for the birth. She had had 3 babies, all hospital births, but was willing to be there to encourage.

I'm really not sure about time from this point on. I had my radio set up in the bathroom playing the Christian music station on low. This really helped keep me calm and focused. Our friend Crystal showed up and talked to me in between contractions. It was really nice to have a female there. I was ready to go it alone, but I didn't realize how nice it was just to have the support and kinship of a positive feminine influence.

Shortly after she arrived, I decided to get into the tub so we filled it halfway. From here on out, I don't know time at all. I just stayed focused on breathing in through my nose, out through my mouth, low moaning (this relaxes the uterus and makes every contraction way more productive). I felt when my water popped inside me. It was a sensation and noise that I heard. I let Crystal know. This was a good sign! I knew I was close.

The discomfort/pain increased as well as the pressure. I knew exactly where his head was and how far down he was, all this instinctively! I was telling Crystal and my boyfriend everything that was happening in between the close-together contractions. I told them when I was crowning. It hurt yes, but nothing like my other 2 babies. I never panicked, and I never raised my voice. Just low moaning and staying as relaxed as possible. His head came out. I reached down and touched his soft, silky head...I couldn't wait to be done! However, I DID NOT PUSH until the next contraction came. This prevents tearing and putting stress on the baby. I only had to wait a little while, then I gently pushed with my body and his shoulders came out. Another contraction, back to back, and he came out completely into my arms.

We wiped his face and suctioned his nose, checked his color, looked at the tub water to see if there were any signs of meconium, which there were not; He was just then taking his first poo! He wasn't crying, just looking up at me blinking his big eyes, breathing was good but a bit raspy like he needed to clear his throat. He did have white vernix on his skin, but it was creamy, not dried or scaly. Nothing was blue about him. He was born 10:18 pm on January 31st, exactly 2 weeks past due.

I pulled him to my chest and Crystal helped me get a towel around him and take my tank top off to nurse. He latched on right away. Nursing helps stimulate the uterus to pass the placenta as well as help prevent hemorrhaging. I waited 30 minutes, but the placenta still hadn't come. Another friend, Brenda, showed up at this point and I asked her to make me a very strong cup of Raspberry Leaf Tea. She put 4 teabags in and I drank it. It was still 45 minutes after my baby was born that I finally started contractions again. I passed everything about an hour after. Longest time yet, but I didn't force anything, just waited on my body. Forcing the placenta out is dangerous.

I waited until the cord turned white before we cut it using a pair of scissors and shoelace I'd previously sterilized.

I didn't bath him either, just gently wiped him clean and wrapped him in a warm blanket. I showered and wrapped my stomach, then climbed into sweats. I felt amazing! Not only was I high on the accomplishment of doing this, but also physically I felt fine. Just tired and hungry. I took 3 Tylenol and chilled on the couch with my brand new baby boy.
2 hours after delivery

6 hours old!

Fit N Fancy for Life,

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