Hey mamas! Welcome to the fifteenth post in my Honest Birth series! I’m excited to share another real mama’s birth story, because I think it’s so important to share our childbirth experiences with each other. My goal with this series is to provide a place for women to share their birth stories without holding anything back, as well as compile stories for pregnant mamas to read in preparation for their own childbirth experiences. Every mama is different and every birth is different, and I believe that when we share our stories we help each other.
Today I am featuring a friend of a friend named Jenn! Jenn and her husband Jared live in Des Moines, Iowa with their three kids, Libby, Piper, and Birdie. Before having kids, Jenn worked as a Recreational Therapist. She and her family love spending time outdoors, and since she homeschools her kids, they get to spend as much time as they want exploring nature! When she isn’t outside with her family, she’s usually reading or learning to play the guitar. Today Jenn is sharing the home birth of her second daughter, Piper. It’s the first home birth of the series, and it’s such a good one!
Ready to read all about her daughter’s home birth story? Here we go!
The Birth Story of Piper Benson
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I took a Bradley natural childbirth class with my husband, Jared. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to have a drug-free birth, but I wanted to have coping options and to learn more about birth. It was wonderful to take the class with my husband; he became a very educated father-to-be! During that class, I learned about birth centers and even took a tour of one in my area. In the end, I decided to use a traditional OB-GYN and have a hospital birth because the birth center was located in an inconvenient location for me.
My daughter’s birth, which ended up being medicated, went pretty smoothly, but I hated being in the hospital. I started crying the moment I walked in and didn’t get a wink of sleep for the 48 hours I was there. I just couldn’t relax in the hospital. And my recovery from all that pushing while numb felt like it took forever. I was so swollen, I couldn’t sit on a chair for a week! So when I was pregnant with my second, I knew I wanted to try something different. But now I was living in a new state, in a very rural area, and there were no birth centers at all. After much researching and networking, I tracked down a home birth nurse-midwife named Bernice and when I finally met her, I felt so relieved. She was like the sweetest grandmother you can imagine. My prenatal appointments were at her home and it was so cozy and comfortable. I loved the intimacy of it compared to visiting a doctor’s office.
My second pregnancy was harder than my first. More nausea, more fatigue. I was also really nervous about having another baby and caring for a newborn and a toddler at the same time. I also felt guilty that I didn’t feel a connection with my growing baby, which was unlike my first pregnancy. I decided to try a home-study Hypnobabies class. I was very dedicated to listening to the hypnosis tracks and they really helped to ease my anxiety and especially to help me sleep! I also felt very prepared for and even excited about labor.
I had been carrying the baby very low for the last two months of my pregnancy and I was convinced the baby was coming early. I even had my mom fly out two weeks before my due date. We did a lot of walking in those two weeks. Then, three days before my due date, the baby seemed to drop even lower. I felt a lot of pressure in my pelvis and my lower back. I felt like I couldn’t sit down on a hard chair or I’d crush the baby’s head. I did some pelvic rocks and sat on the birth ball and rocked my hips back and forth while I watched TV, but the sensation never let up. It wasn’t painful, but it felt like a point of no return. I knew the baby would come that night.
I went to bed around 10, but was wide awake. I listened to a couple of Hypnobabies tracks, but still couldn’t fall asleep. I got up at midnight to get something to eat and check the phones.
The day before there were some yet-to-be-explained communications outage and all the landlines and cell phones in our area stopped working! Worst timing ever. Our plan was that if the phones weren’t working by the time we really needed to contact the midwife, my mom would drive to her house to let her know I was in labor.
At midnight, the phones still weren’t working, but I wasn’t in labor yet, so I wasn’t worried. I might have slept a few minutes here and there between 12 and 2. By 2 am, I was having an argument with myself. Part of me was so excited that tonight was the night, but the other part of me was still not convinced and was just annoyed that I wouldn’t go to sleep.
By 2:45, I was definitely feeling menstrual-like cramps in my lower abdomen in addition to the pressure in my pelvis. I started watching the clock and noticed the cramps seemed to spike every 11 minutes, although they never fully went away in between. I still didn’t know if this was labor, though. At 3:15, the phones started working again. Sometime during the next hour, I told Jared to send Bernice a text to give her a heads up, although I figured I still had a long way to go. Close to 5:00 AM, I asked Jared if Bernice responded and he said he never texted her! He didn’t want to wake her up if I wasn’t really ready for her to come. I told him contractions were now 6 minutes apart, so he should skip the text and go ahead and call, since she lived 30 minutes away. Right about the time he called her, contractions sped up to 3 minutes apart, then 2 minutes. They were only about 30 seconds long and were still quite manageable, but I was surprised at how close together they were. I had been lying down in bed with a hot rice pack on my stomach most of this time, but now I felt I had to get up. I went to the living room and leaned over on the birth ball for the next hour. I listened to Hypnobabies on my ipod and zoned everything else out. I focused on counting up to 4 with every inhale and backwards from 8 with every exhale.
Bernice arrived sometime after 5:30 and her assistant, Boo, arrived just after 6:00. Around 6:10 or so, I got into the deep kiddie pool we had bought for the birth and set up in our living room. The water wasn’t quite deep enough (word to the wise: those pools take forever to fill up), but it was enough to cover my stomach while I leaned over the edge onto an ottoman. Jared poured warm water over my back, which really helped, too. Immediately after getting in the pool, I noticed the contractions change to expulsive contractions (what my birth class teacher appropriately called the “reverse dry heaves”). I couldn’t believe I was really that close to pushing, but there was no denying that my body was starting to push involuntarily. Then I heard Bernice say that I’d need to take off my undies because I’d start pushing soon. I was surprised because I hadn’t told anyone that my contractions were changing, but she obviously noticed and it felt so good to have confirmation from her that it was nearly go-time. Throughout this time, without speaking or disturbing the position I was in, Bernice would gently put the portable doppler on my belly to check the baby’s heartbeat. I appreciated that respect.
My contractions still weren’t much longer than 30 seconds (I never actually timed them, but that’s my estimate) so I really only had time to get in one long push with each contraction. The strange thing is, I never voluntarily pushed. My body just took over. I was listening to the Hypnobabies track called “Pushing Baby Out” and I tried to listen to my body. I took a deep breath at the beginning of each contraction and said “Ohhhhh” as I breathed out. A couple of times I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and had to gasp for the next inhale, but most of the time, I felt in control. Once, I almost yelled out “I don’t want to do this anymore” but I told myself to stay in control and instead I asked, rather desperately, “how close am I?” Bernice said she couldn’t tell from her angle and told me to reach down during the next contraction and see if I could feel the baby’s head. I did and I felt a huge bulge.
During one of the next contractions, I remember saying “it really stings” and feeling like I was going to rip all the way up to my belly button. But soon enough, her head was out. The baby’s hand had been up by her face so Bernice worked to get her hand out of the way while I waited for the next contraction. I was still in the pool, on hands and knees. Two minutes later, at 6:51 AM, the rest of her body was out and Bernice swam the baby under my body towards my stomach and I picked her up out of the water. I turned over and sat down and immediately thought “I am so glad that’s over!” The fears I had during my pregnancy about not having a connection to my baby were in vain. As soon as she was in my arms, I had a powerful rush of love.
I stayed in the pool until the placenta was out and we cut the cord. I had planned on cutting the cord myself, but I was so exhausted that holding a pair of scissors seemed like too big an effort at that point. I did feel the cord while it was still pulsing, and that was cool, but I asked Jared to cut the cord. (Fun fact: I didn’t want to keep the placenta, so Bernice took it with her and gave it to a friend who trains search and rescue dogs.)
I moved to the couch and held the baby skin to skin. She nursed for a while and then Bernice examined the baby while I was still holding her. We put the baby in a sling and attached a hanging scale. Jared had the honors of picking up the scale and calling out the weight: 7 lbs 12 oz.
The midwife and her assistant stayed at my house for about 3 hours after the birth. Bernice examined me and stitched up a couple tiny tears I had. I did have local anesthetic for that part! They cleaned up, put the dirty laundry in the washer, and helped Jared empty the pool.
Bernice called to check on me a couple times over the next two days, and came back to my house at 7 days to exam me and the baby. I felt very cared for I was so comfortable being in my own home! I slept great being in my own bed. It was such a beautiful birth, that for months afterward, I would daydream about what a peaceful, spiritual experience it was.
Wasn’t that incredible? I loved how kind and thoughtful her midwife was, and I’m glad Jenn was able to use Hypnobabies not only to manage her pain, but also before her labor to get ready! I’ve always loved the idea of being able to be home in your own space immediately following the birth, and I’m glad everything went so well for Jenn and her family! Thanks so much to Jenn for sharing her story on the Honest Birth series! You can leave a comment here if you want to get in touch with her! And don’t forget to check back again next month because I’ll have another Honest Birth post going up!