Bianca Skye was born on December 4, 2008 at 7:25PM in a fast, furious and wonderful unassisted homebirth. This is our story.
Why I Chose an Unassisted Homebirth
My first and only birth experience was Brielle’s birth 3 and a half years ago. It was a full medically managed hospital birth despite having chosen a midwife and despite verbal instructions and a birth plan to the contrary. I was induced for no valid medical or scientific reason and both Brielle and I were permanently affected in a number of ways.
That experience changed my life and I began researching alternatives to the standard practice of medically managed births. A whole new world opened up as I learned about homebirth and unassisted childbirth in particular. I cried when I realized that all of our pain and suffering at the hands of a “medwife” could have easily been avoided by simply identifying the pregnancy as low risk, being prepared for some basic contingencies and trusting birth. That is exactly what I did this time around.
Path to 41 Weeks and 4 Days
I visited an OB exactly twice to get some bloodwork done and have an ultrasound at 18 weeks to rule out placental issues that would preclude homebirth. The OB was not aware that I planned an unassisted homebirth the whole time and that I only wanted her as a backup in case I needed a hospital transfer. I let her think that she was getting my whole business. It was a fun game.
In our last meeting I made arrangements for a “natural” cesarean if one were necessary. I made her agree to a lotus birth and to let me hold Bianca immediately and other such requests. She got pretty snippy about the lotus birth and I finally came out and told her that I simply did not trust her to not cut the cord until it was done pulsing so she couldn’t cut it at all . She was super offended after that and ended our appointment on the spot. Thank goodness I didn’t need her.
The rest of the pregnancy was uneventful. I never had morning sickness or any signs of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. I stayed healthy, took tons of supplements and felt great up until about 38 weeks when I started to get too big to do anything comfortably. Even at 41 weeks and 4 days when I spontaneously went into labor, I was still quite content to let Bianca arrive on her own timetable despite the growing concerns of people around me. Spontaneous labor was something I was robbed of in the first birth and wild horses could not have dragged me to an induction this time around.
December 4th, 2PM – Labor Begins
I began having contractions that were strong enough to realize I was starting labor but not strong enough to incapacitate me. I also finally had bloody show so I knew that it was the real deal or very close to it. I sent an email to a few family members that I was starting labor but not to get overly excited because the contractions weren’t on a 4-1-1 (four minutes apart, one minute long for an hour) so even if I were a “normal” person I wouldn’t be heading off to the hospital yet anyway.
I was using a website called contraction master which allows you to track your contractions by pressing the space bar at the beginning and end of contractions. From 2-3PM, the contractions were fairly random, sometimes only 30-40 seconds and some almost two minutes. I started losing track of the timing around 3pm because I would stay keeled over on the couch or bed through 2 or 3 contractions so they would be 17 minutes apart when I came back to contraction master.
I was also roaming around the apartment because Brielle was starting to get into things and I was plodding behind her (between contractions) trying to clean up her messes (so I could videotape the birth in a clean apartment) She had unrolled a couple rolls of toilet paper and overturned some bins of toys. Perhaps she sensed what was happening or just realized that I wasn’t enforcing anything and she could get as wild as she wanted but it was stressful and unnerving given my condition.
I had every intention of blogging, twittering and/or video blogging the birth. It was important for me to record the birth for the benefit of other women looking at alternatives to hospital births. Nothing is more powerful than positive birth stories and videos are the most powerful of all. Unfortunately labor and contractions had a different plan for me.
December 4th, 4PM – Hard Labor
I was sitting on the couch with my laptop and I was in the middle of writing a blog post about the onset of labor and whammo – I was on the floor. It was utterly incapacitating and the beginning of the end. At the end of the contraction I was on all fours on the floor by the couch and had to throw up so fast that I just reached out for a bin of Brielle’s shoes, dumped it over and puked. Thank goodness it was plastic. There was no time to get anywhere. There was no way I could have sat back down to type anything. Blogging sounded great in theory but in retrospect I should have arranged to have someone else twitter for me.
As soon as that major one hit I was on the floor for the remainder of the labor. Brielle and my parent’s dog Sugar were assaulting me on every contraction. Brielle started out being loving and sweet and she would pat my back and hug me through contractions. The dog would lick my face through them. As my “vocalization” increased, Brielle started yelling “MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!” though them or literally jumping on my back. I was totally helpless to stop them. I finally got an IM to my dad begging him to take those two away because they were trashing the place.
I was crawling around the living room inching my way farther from the front door with each contraction. I had no idea if my neighbors were home but I thought they might not hear me as well if I was toward the inside of the apartment. I finally landed outside the bathroom door which is where I stayed until I delivered.
My dad and mom showed up around 5:30. My dad stuck around with Brielle and Sugar until Brielle announced that there was too much noise (I was really hollering at that point), she put on her jacket and left. I was so relieved. I dearly wanted Brielle to be there for Bianca’s birth but she was making me utterly crazy and not letting me focus and I think seeing me in such pain was making her a little crazy too. There is also the question of how much a 3 year old will remember in the long run anyway.
My mom stayed with me. I have mixed feelings about that because I really wanted to be alone and “go primal” to let my body do whatever it had to do naturally. She totally stayed out of my way but I still knew she was there and I am not sure if I would have birthed differently if I was alone.
That said, she happens to be a nurse who knows how strongly I believe in natural childbirth who also likes me enough to respect my wishes so I can’t think of anyone better to be there if I wasn’t going to be alone anyway. She was kind enough to get me water when I needed it and of course she was ready to take my blood pressure or get a blanket upon request. I would not have been able to do any of that on my own. I also imagine from her point of view, that it was quite an honor to be there for the birth. I also don’t even know if I would have been able to call for help if I had needed it so it was nice having her there in case anything went wrong. I asked her to draw me a bath but I was never able to get in it.
I was feeling cold before my dad left with Brielle and Sugar so I was laboring on all fours on the floor totally under a blanket. Then I began alternating between being very hot and sweaty and very, very chilled and shaking. I was shaking almost constantly and I wondered if I was already in transition. I also got very tired. I desperately wanted to sleep between contractions which was weird because it was the middle of the day and I had only been in labor for a couple of hours.
I also began to sort of go “out of body”. The pain was so intense and agonizing that I wasn’t able to do anything but vocalize. I sort of began floating above myself as an interested observer during contractions. It was very strange. I was running a commentary on the difference between this birth and Brielle’s and home vs. hospital etc. and sort of observing my own pain levels like I was keeping track on a clipboard. This helped get me through the contractions as well.
I labored on the toilet for awhile and for some reason that seemed to help take the edge off. I arched my back during contractions and it was not as painful as when I was on the floor. Despite that I got back on the floor and under my blanket again. I began pushing during contractions. I had planned on waiting until my uterus pushed Bianca out gently or until I had the “overwhelming urge to push” rather than “forced pushing” but intentional pushing really helped alleviate the pain of the contractions. I was able to focus the pain into an effort if that makes sense.
I began feeling her move down my pelvis during contractions/pushing and then slip right back up at the end. That was really frustrating but motivating at the same time. I asked my mom to grab the box with the birthing supplies and get me a tablecloth and some underpads because I felt a mess coming on with the pushing.
I was still fully clothed during all of this. I was wearing maternity sweatpants with no underwear and a normal maternity top. I have seen hundreds of childbirth videos for my website, research and just my own personal interest and I see lots of women roam around naked for hours in front of people they normally would not get naked in front of. I do not understand that and it doesn’t resonate with me. If my mom wouldn’t have been there I probably would have shucked down but I felt the need for privacy with her there. I also didn’t want her trying to check out crowning or anything because at this birth, I planned on doing all the checking and catching.
As my pushing became more productive, I could feel Bianca moving down the birth canal and it felt like she was going to come straight out my ass. It was the weirdest feeling and I think it kept me from pushing to my fullest. Then I got past that feeling and just began feeling like I was going to split in two. I am not sure which I prefer.
December 4, 2008, Delivery
I kept checking myself during the contractions/pushing for crowning. I was on all fours between contractions but sitting back on my haunches during the pushing which helped her come down tremendously. I could feel an instant difference with the positioning. My water never broke spontaneously and without a doctor or midwife interfering, Bianca emerged “in the caul”, meaning she was still floating inside the amniotic sac as she emerged. Now that was totally weird. As I was waiting for her to crown, I felt her sac coming out instead. It felt like a very strong, plastic water balloon.
I told my mom about the sac and she offered to break it to which I respectfully declined (In reality I probably screamed NO! at her and scared her off). I felt the sac for a push or two and then I gave one great, mighty push and her entire body came out all at once and the sac either broke on that push or as she hit the ground (I did not have a chance to do any catching). There was no head – then rotating – then shoulders like there is in a standard birth. She just came out quite literally all at once. The funny part is that I was still wearing my sweatpants because I didn’t know she would come that fast so Bianca was born in the caul and in my pants.
She splooshed all over in amniotic fluid and blood and I yelled to my mom “SHE’S OUT! SHE’S OUT!” and my mom came running. While I extricated myself from my nasty pants (which were tossed immediately FYI), she grabbed Bianca and began massaging her to breathe. I was watching with interest but not worried in the least, mainly because I am such a big believer in umbilical cords and I know it can take a minute for babies to breathe sometimes. My mom gave her a couple of starter breaths and she gurgled, coughed, breathed and cried just fine.
In retrospect I would imagine that because she was born in the caul, no fluid was squeezed from her lungs during the trip down the birth canal. She also couldn’t have received all the beneficial bacteria that babies get in the birth canal because she was covered. All that kimchi in the 3rd trimester gone to waste! She also was born with an absolutely perfect head like a cesarean baby. No crowning, no coning I suppose.
The cord was white, thin and limp. I have to assume that the placenta detached either during that last push or right before. I don’t know if having an intact amniotic sac had anything to do with it or maybe it was because her cord was short but that is very, very scary. She was perfectly pink and her heart was beating fine so I think it had just barely detached but any earlier could have had a dramatically different result.
After she emerged, I began bleeding and it seemed like quite a bit so I asked my mom to grab a bowl I had in my birthing supplies to catch/measure the blood. My rule was to transfer if I continued bleeding after 2 cups of blood. My mom was worried about the placenta and mentioned a couple of times that I was bleeding too much and the placenta has “got to get out of there” and that maybe I should “tug on the cord just a little bit”. I have been lecturing her on passive management of the third stage of labor for 9 months and of course she knows how I feel about manual traction but I think her nursing instincts took over all my natural childbirth blather in the heat of the moment. Needless to say, the placenta delivered very quickly and the bleeding stopped right away. Despite the fact that it looked like a lot of blood, it was only a cup and a half when I measured it.
Clean up was a breeze because almost everything was on the tablecloth or inside the bowl. Once I got cleaned up, everything else went in one kitchen sized garbage bag and I was ready to spend time with Bianca. I cannot describe how wonderful it was to already be at home with her rather than after spending time in an institution.
The placenta remained in a bowl, briefly in the sink before it migrated to the freezer until I decide what to do with it. Brielle and my dad showed up immediately after Bianca was born and Brielle was fascinated with the placenta. She already knew about placentas from homebirthing books and from what I told her about how babies “eat” inside and from seeing the cat give birth. She was pretty excited to see a human placenta and grandpa later commented that it is the first (and probably only) time in his life that a three year old said “Hey grandpa! Come look at the placenta!”
Bianca had a very gentle greeting and has only been in the arms of people who love her and share her DNA. She did not get a rough bath, immediate cord clamping, Hep shot, PKU, eye ointment, bottles, harsh lights, gloved hands or any of the other standard newborn procedures of a typical hospital birth. Her birthing “experience” is much more important to me than my own after all safety considerations have been met.
Bianca nursed like a champ from the get go and has been a ravenous eater for the entire two days since she joined us. She has chubby little thighs and a beautiful round face with silky, dark hair. She has beautiful gray, blue eyes and makes great eye contact, checks things out and coos when she gets boo already.
There are also many legends surrounding being born in the caul, the most notable being that Bianca will be gifted with “special sight” like ESP. Let me know if you are aware of any legends surrounding being born “in the pants”.
Unassisted Childbirth Conclusion
Would I do it again? Absolutely, without question, without a doubt.
Was it everything I thought it would be?
No. It was a lot more painful. I was geared up for a pleasurable or pain free birth because I absolutely believe that is possible. Apparently my uterus believes otherwise. It hurt like hell but it was a totally different kind of pain from what I experienced in the hospital with Pitocin. It was manageable and workable.
Would I consider a homebirth with a midwife?
Nope. Having someone do pelvic exams and talk to me and move me to other positions would have changed the whole dynamic. My mother being in the next room doing dishes or watching TV changed my dynamic. A stranger interfering, touching me, watching me, monitoring me….it would have been awful.
Any other hospital birth epiphanies?
I am much more sympathetic to women who get epidurals. I begged for one with Brielle’s birth (and never got one) but I had massive amounts of Pitocin and I think any woman who has Pitocin should just get an epidural immediately.
Now that I have had a spontaneous, natural birth I can totally understand why women want to relieve the pain. I would never, ever get one for myself because I am acutely aware of the risks to mom, baby and the birthing process, but for women who haven’t researched natural childbirth extensively and who do not fully understand the physiology of birth and who have no clue when the pain will end, I can absolutely empathize with their decision to seek relief.
Will this help you heal from your first birth experience?
I will never forget the first one because it drives me to help others avoid the same fate, but yes, somehow having birth as it is meant to be has been very healing on some level.