midwifery

Casey’s Birth Stories

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child in September of 2016 (two weeks after my husband and I tied the knot…no joke), there was no question as to whether or not I wanted to do a hospital or home birth. I was home birth all the WAY! And so, my journey began with Heidi at 6 weeks pregnant.

Fast forward through nearly 25 office visits, one ultrasound, one birth class, not enough luxurious and always-too-short back and hip rubs, weeks of at-home perineal massages from my husband (ladies…if you don’t know, now you know…and you’re welcome) and it was May 14th, the day before my son was due. I was pulling a trailer with our 1978 Ford flatbed, vigorously rubbing my nipples as the sun was slowly setting after a day of work (read: heavy vibrations and lots of intentionally jostling myself around) in the skid steer with the hopes that I would get to meet my kiddo the next day.

I concocted the spiciest meal I could think of. My husband and I had sex…I was ready.

As if on cue, I woke up at around 2am to intense cramping. I quickly realized that I was having contractions. I scrambled around our house looking for the papers that Heidi had given to us early on detailing what we should and should NOT do when we begin to panic about having contractions in the middle of the night, and the advice was that if they weren’t close together, SLEEP. So that’s what I tried to do.

At around 7am the next morning, I was FaceTiming my sister who was in Dublin at the time when I felt like I got a swift kick to the you-know-what and thought, “Well, it must be time to go!” I thought my water had broken…so I called Heidi and said we would be down shortly. When I ran back inside to grab my heavy pads for bleeding and bent down to pick up the bag, my body let me know that my water had not, in fact, broken when I thought it had. Apparently, the kick in the you-know-what was my mucous plug breaking, and the difference between that and my water breaking was stark. Let’s just say I had to change my pants…

What normally takes about an hour to drive we accomplished in approximately 40 minutes. We were nervous and excited…and speeding. But when we got there, Heidi was as cool as a cucumber, checked my dilation and told me to go enjoy the day, to not have any sex, and to drink a lot of water because I had time to spare. This was at around 10:30am or so. So, off my husband and I went to Safeway to snag some coconut water, and head for Sinks Canyon to check out the raging spring runoff in the Popo Agie River. It’s safe to say that almost immediately after leaving Safeway, my contractions grew significantly closer together (about 2 minutes apart) and I did NOT want to be in a vehicle or around anyone I didn’t know. So, back to Sweetwater Midwifery we went.

I don’t remember how long I labored out of the birthing tub, but I do remember that by the time I got IN the tub, the water was a welcomed support as I moved through contractions. The most comfortable position for me was on all fours, but my arms grew tired quickly and I had to rely heavily on my husband to hold me up. Poor guy, he was so curious to see what was happening down below, but his services were need up top!

Several hours after I returned to Heidi’s birthing center, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The umbilical cord was relatively short, and I had a labial tear. I remember the stinging feeling I had while holding my newborn before the cord was cut and the placenta birthed, and honestly, the worst part about the entire birthing experience was getting the lidocaine shot so I could have a couple stitches (or maybe just one stitch? I don’t recall!). I remember the joy and confusion of the first few hours of being a parent, learning how to nurse, weighing him, wondering about shots, circumcision, what and how I was going to eat, and the brief pangs of sadness about no longer being pregnant. It was truly a beautiful experience.

My second child came very much in the same way, although more quickly and almost two years after my first. This time, I chose to be hooked up to an IV drip of antibiotics because I tested positive for Group B Strep and was concerned about passing it to my baby. Besides that one new change, I arrived to the birthing center more prepared for what I was going to experience – ready to vomit up my breakfast, poop in the birthing pool and rely heavily on my husband’s strong arms.

Between arriving at Sweetwater Midwifery around 8 or 9 that morning and 11am, I was in and then out of the birth tub because my contractions had slowed down and become less intense, perhaps as a result of the warm water’s relaxing effects. Once I was out of the tub and walking around, they kicked into high gear. I remember kneeling on the bed about an hour after drying off and donning a dress – I was breathing through a contraction when my legs started shaking from exhaustion. That’s when I knew that I needed the support of the water again. So, back into the tub I went. After one more contraction, my waters broke. 12 minutes later (yes…TWELVE), I was holding another baby boy, feeling the familiar sting of a labial tear (this time accompanied by a minor perineal tear as well – DO THOSE PERINEAL MASSAGES, LADIES!) and knowing what was in store for us next – the worst part…a lidocaine shot.

Home birth (or as close to our home as we could be to have this kind of intimate delivery setting) was exactly right for my husband and I. Our birth team consisted of Heidi and her assistant, and the two of us. We couldn’t have asked for a calmer environment with the right people to support and usher us into parenthood.

I remember with fondness that after my first birth I said to Heidi, “I’m tired.” She responded, “Well, you basically just ran a marathon.” And I said back, “I think that was way easier than running a marathon.” She asked if I had ever run a marathon, and the answer was, “No, but I never want to.”

And I’d still rather birth a baby at home than run 26.whatever miles any day.

Ye Old Fatso

I couldn’t be happier to report that this pregnancy has only gotten better within the last four
weeks. I have been more energized, more enthusiastic, and DEFINITELY feeling pregnant. I
definitely look pregnant too. Everyone from family members to strangers are commenting on
how big I am for being just over halfway through the pregnancy.

What’s it like to be told I look big? Well, I’m happy to report that, for the first time in my life, I
find it incredibly relieving and validating.

Have I necessarily enjoyed people telling me, “Wow, you popped early this time!” or “You’re
only 20 weeks?!” or calling me Fatso? To tell you the truth, no, I didn’t. However, I do truly
enjoy looking and feeling pregnant. But it’s not only what’s happening on the outside that
matters to me. The bigger I get, the more I enjoy pregnancy because of what’s happening on
the inside.

In my last post, I wrote that I was experiencing a lot of anxiety about this pregnancy in general,
but specifically around not feeling the baby move as early as I did with my first child. I am
overjoyed to say that now I am feeling the baby move literally whenever I sit down.
Who knew that getting kicked in the belly could be so comforting? It’s the best part of
pregnancy as far as I’m concerned.

Even going to visit the midwife is better at this point.

During our last visit, we ran through the routine – pee in a cup, weigh yourself, take your blood
pressure, and the “How are you doing” questions – but it is the prenatal massage that makes
my heart go pitter pat. At Sweetwater Midwifery, after you do “the medical stuff” you are
invited to hop up onto a massage table. Heidi measures your belly, and you listen for your
baby’s heartbeat. I can’t help but smile when I hear that quick thump-thump-thump-thump-
thump-thump. What I look forward to the most though, is the massage.

Heidi works around your stomach to help keep your large intestine unblocked, and your
muscles feeling relaxed. Then, you’re positioned on your side in preparation for what I believe
to be a heavenly backrub. I know there has to be something more medical than just relaxing
happening while she works away at your muscles, but when you get to have 30 minutes of
being cared for by a deeply capable and knowledgeable person without distraction (aka, a
toddler running around, or throwing balls at you, or threatening to break windows with, I don’t
know, anything), it doesn’t matter. The relaxation is the biggest benefit to my health as far as
I’m concerned.

The visits are super simple, there aren’t ultrasounds or beepy things, or invasive vaginal gazing
unless there is a need for it. Heidi’s office is a homey environment that feels less like a clinical
visit and more like a living room chat. The visits are intimate, they engender trust, and her clinic feels like a place where a pregnant woman can be a pregnant woman instead of a medical case.

From what I’ve read, that’s very uncommon for something as common as giving birth.

So, is pregnancy round two all doom-and-gloom like I made it out to be in the first post?

Absolutely not.

It’s only getting more and more beautiful with each passing day, even if people do call me Fatso
prematurely.

Baby Number 2: A First Trimester Recap

I had my first baby in the spring of 2017. My pregnancy came quickly after my wedding (and when I say quickly, I mean that I can nail the timing of the whole conception part of the process down to several hours after our ceremony ended), so I went from blissful newlywed to being slammed into the throes of my first First Trimester. And guess what? It was fabulous.

I rarely felt sick, I slept when I wanted to, I traveled, I skied (albeit with some nasty repercussions, but in the moment, it was really good). Labor, I am grateful to report, was a relative breeze too. I even told the midwife that it was way easier than running a marathon (which got me a questioning look – no I have never run a marathon, but I would rather go through labor again than run just two miles). I had a beautiful, healthy boy, no complications, and I even came away from the experience wishing that I was still pregnant. Yes, ladies, it’s true. I LOVED being pregnant. So, a month after my son was born, I said to my husband, “When should we start trying again?”

Fast forward 12 months, almost to the day of my son’s birth, and I found out that I was pregnant. Again. The bliss that had accompanied my first pregnancy was not totally gone, but it was heavily masked by the F word – FEAR.

Maybe it was the fact that my son was still nursing through the night, or that he required me to be touching him what felt like 90% of the time. Or maybe it’s that I was exhausted and felt like I was either going to faint, or throw up, or both. Maybe I was just realizing that being pregnant with a toddler was actually going to be a lot harder than being pregnant without one.

WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME? Not that it would have mattered – I wouldn’t have believed them anyway.

This pregnancy has been riddled with different struggles. So far (and I’m just barely into my second trimester), I’ve actually experienced more anxiety – why can’t I feel this one moving as much as the first one (because this is not your first child…this is a different child)? Did I drink too many glasses of wine before I found out I was pregnant (probably not)? Is my anxiety causing more damage than my actions (probably)?

WAIT. AM I ACTUALLY PREGNANT? The answer is yes.

I am moodier. I am more tired than I was the first time around, which I did not think could be possible. I get kicked in the belly more because I’m still breastfeeding. I get confused looks from people when I tell them I’m still breastfeeding (but I’d get that whether there was pregnant or not, I’m sure).

And you know what? It’s. All. Fine.

While I don’t have the luxury to sit and meditate for 30 minutes before I do an hour of yoga and then go for an hour long walk anymore, and I don’t have the time to document and analyze every change and wiggle that I feel in my body like I did with the first pregnancy, I know that I am growing a child, and I positive that I am raising a child, and that is pretty amazing. It’s another adaptation for my body, for my psyche, and for my development as a mother. It is showing me my strengths and my weaknesses. It is opening doors for me to figure out how to manage my responsibilities with my son’s need to play and be outside, and it is asking me to ask for more help. Besides, it makes the time I do spend focused on the baby that’s inside of me very special, very intentional, and filled with love.

Clearly, I still have more to give. So, bring it on, pregnancy. Apparently, I’m tougher than I feel.

Homebirth or Hospital Birth? Find Your Happy Place!

We’ll start by emphasizing that a general operating rule amongst midwives is that a woman will deliver her baby best where she feels best and by best we mean safe, supported, and relaxed. We advocate for that with every woman who comes into the practice, especially if they aren’t sure where they’d like to deliver. That being said, a new mother might not know where she feels best – it could be in the hospital, surrounded by doctors and nurses, and it may be in the privacy of her own home surrounded by the things most familiar and comforting to her in her daily life, or it could be in a birth center which is a balance between the hospital and home – no beeping machines, but not your living room couch either, although it’s typically a very comfortable, homey space.

It’s important to clarify that birthing your child is not the ONLY component that a family should consider when deciding between a home or hospital delivery. Considering where you’ll be receiving your prenatal care is just as important as considering where you’d like to deliver. The entire process of being shepherded through pregnancy is how the foundation for comfort is set for your labor. If you feel supported during your pregnancy, chances are you will feel supported during your labor.

Whether you’ve had previous hospital births or this is your first child, you may be wondering whether birthing at home is the right choice for you. While nobody but you can answer that question, here are a few facts about home and hospital births that may help you decide where it will be best for you and your family to bring your child into the world.

1) General Health

If you are in good health, are committed to maintaining that good health for the duration of your pregnancy, and have a low-risk pregnancy, home birth is a viable option for you.

2) Medical Procedures

Most women don’t begin their pregnancy by saying, “I want to have an episiotomy during my birth,” or “I’d like to plan my C-Section right now.” If you are someone who would like to avoid medical interventions unless they are absolutely necessary, you might be interested to know some of the statistics about hospital births and medical interventions during delivery. One notable trend over the last half-century in deliveries is the rise in C-Sections. A recent study showed that planned home births had low rates of intervention, physiologic (vaginal) birth, and no increase in adverse outcomes even if they were transferred to a hospital.

Today, roughly 32% of all US births in hospitals are cesarean, making c-sections the most common procedure performed in operating rooms nationwide. As midwives, we operate with the evidence-based knowledge that the majority of planned homebirths for women with low-risk pregnancies happen without medical intervention. Birth is a normal human process that, when given enough time, can be achieved without induction, medication, or surgical procedure. We allow for that time by working with mothers where they are comfortable and by giving them the time and support they need to have an enjoyable, relaxed labor.

For more information on evidence-based care and the state of maternity care in the United States, visit the Evidence Based Birth ® Blog (it’s one of our favorites!).

3) Familiarity

Besides the aforementioned attributes to birthing at home, an exceptionally excellent part of a home birth is the comfort a woman and her partner will have in a familiar place where they are surrounded by people who they trust and love. Midwives provide truly personal prenatal care throughout the duration of a woman’s pregnancy. We don’t rush appointments, and we try to become as integral a part of your budding family as we can be (within reason). When a woman goes into labor under the care of a midwife, the only medical facilitators at her delivery will be people she knows and with whom she has established rapport. The benefit of being in your home is that you know where everything is, you won’t be around strangers, and you may feel more relaxed.

In a hospital birth, you may encounter some unfamiliar (and sometimes, therefore, unwelcomed) faces – nurses you’ve never met, or even a doctor you’ve never seen during your pregnancy – while you’re in labor. This can be stressful especially if you have experienced difficulties, or have existing reservations or fears about birth.

4) Breastfeeding and immediate bonding with your baby

In a recent study in Ireland and the UK, researchers found that healthy breastfeeding practices were strongly associated with homebirths in low-risk pregnancies. While there are many factors that contribute to healthy breastfeeding habits, and healthy sustained breastfeeding habits, several reasons such as decreased stress, and a simplified post-partum care process have been attributed to helping mothers and newborns to start on a strong foot in breastfeeding.

Additionally, there are fewer procedures that need to be done right away in a home birth than in a hospital birth, thereby allowing the mother and child the opportunity for more skin-to-skin time – a practice which has been proven to improve the transition and healthy development of newborns. This skin-to-skin time allows for biological bonding and it provides ample and early opportunities to learn to breastfeed for both mother and newborn. The process is relaxed in a home birth, and having one coach (the midwife) can reduce stress simply because there are fewer opinions and tactics being tossed around the room.

To read more about bonding after birth, visit UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative website.

5) Cost

The average cost of a home birth in the United States is roughly 20-30% of the cost of a hospital birth, and will most likely be less than the out of pocket costs of a hospital birth as well. Furthermore, some insurance companies DO cover home births. So, it is likely that if cost is a factor for your family, delivering at home will be the most economic route.

At the end of the day, the only way to know if a home birth is right for you is if it feels right. Welcoming a healthy, vibrant baby and having an easy, peaceful labor is what we want for all mothers whether they deliver in the comfort of their own homes or the comfort of a hospital bed. The best and only way to ensure that outcome is for families to choose where they feel safe and supported, and to identify what practices align most with their values and beliefs. There is no wrong answer. Follow your hearts!