*DISCLAIMER* I know some people have amazing hospital birth stories, and this post is not intended to bash hospital births by any means. If you had a positive experience in the hospital, keep having your babies there. I have utmost respect for the medical community as I was raised in a family of medical professionals. I unfortunately just happened to have a negative experience with my hospital birth, so I am just relaying my personal experiences to you.
Since relaying to the world that we had a home birth, there have been so many people asking us to share our story! People have wanted to know every detail, so we figured it would be easier to write it once and share it with everyone. So here is Etta Jayne’s birth story, all details included :)
First of all, home birth was not a “SuperMom” thing for me. I didn’t have anything to prove. I just didn’t have the best experience in the hospital with Emerson’s birth and had complications for several months after. So why not look into other options? We started looking into the midwife route and the more we learned, the more we knew that was the route to take this time!
We had originally planned to deliver at a birth center, but soon realized that it would be the same setup for a home delivery, and a whole lot less money! I also did not like the idea of having to pack up and leave the birth center just four hours after delivery. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that our home was the perfect environment to bring our baby girl into the world.
Because Emerson was three weeks early, we had to be prepared for another early baby. We had all of our birth supplies set out and our birth pool in our room because we were thinking that Etta Jayne would make her debut around 37 weeks as well. To our surprise, she waited until I was exactly 39 weeks to make her debut. After several weeks of intense pressure and false labor and staring at birth supplies in our room, I truly got discouraged that I would be pregnant forever!
On the morning of November 7, I woke up at 2am. "Oh great! Another bout of pregnancy insomnia!" was what I thought. This had been going on for weeks. I tried falling back asleep but could not, so I wrote in my pregnancy journal and lounged on the couch until 5am. Finally, I was tired enough to take a second try at sleep. I was able to fall back asleep, and upon awakening at 7, I was so uncomfortable. I told Trice that I was miserable and didn't know how much longer I could handle the tease of false labor!
Around 11am I texted my midwife Jenee and asked her to please reassure me that my baby would come out. She laughed and said to be patient and that all babies come out eventually. I decided to try to take a nap, but I still couldn't get comfortable. I noticed that the contractions I felt were actually building in intensity and that's when I began to wonder if this was real labor! I also had gotten quite nauseous and lost my appetite. Still, I didn't want to get my hopes up because of all the false alarms in the last month, but I knew I should give Jenee a call and talk to her about it.
When I called Jenee she said that it sounded like this might actually be the real thing and to start timing the contractions. Sure enough, my contractions were following a regular pattern, and a few would stop me dead in my tracks! YES! Maybe today actually WOULD be the day! Because it sounded like early labor, Jenee decided she would come to the house after her prenatal appointments for the day, but to keep in touch if things changed.
Because I was having a home delivery, I didn't have to worry about getting things together for the hospital. We took Emerson on a walk, ate (tried to eat rather) lunch together as a family and spent our last bit of time with just Emerson before his nap. It was so nice to not have to go through assessment at the hospital or wear a funky hospital gown or be connected to IVs and not be allowed to eat. I ate healthy snacks and kept myself hydrated. In the midwifery model of care, they actually WANT you to eat during labor. Could you imagine running a marathon on an empty stomach? Labor and delivery are just as intense, yet mamas are expected to go through it with no nourishment. I'm thankful I had the extra calories to give me the strength and energy to make it through labor!
Trice's sister Lacy came over while Emerson was still napping, so Trice and I went on another walk. Trice was laughing because every 5 minutes we would stop and I would basically hold onto him through the contractions. I'm sure our neighbors wondered what was going on, but I didn't care. I was enjoying the wonderful weather and having the freedom to enjoy my labor instead of dread it. Way better than being stuck indoors! Labor isn't so bad when you realize that with every contraction you are one step closer to meeting your child. I think we work ourselves up so much about the pain, when in reality, the pain is a good sign that things are working!
When we got back from our walk, the contractions were really starting to pick up. Jenee came to the house around 3:30pm and assessed me and found that I was 3cm dilated and completely thinned out. She and her assistant Lauren left to go grab a bite to eat and tell their families hi as they knew it would be a long night. Emerson woke up from his nap and Trice and I gave him lots of emotional hugs and kisses before he left with his Aunt Lacy.
Now it was just Trice and me. We had worship music playing and he helped me through each contraction. They were getting closer and closer together and becoming a lot more painful. But I am SO thankful that my Trice is so supportive! We breathed through each contraction together and then cut jokes in between. Around 5pm I told Trice to call Jenee because I could feel that things were getting more intense and I knew I would feel more comfortable with her there with us!
Jenee arrived and checked me and found that I was at 5cm. My water still had not broken which is the opposite of what happened with Emerson! Jenee encouraged me to try some active labor techniques to help me progress even further along. I asked if I could rest first to build up the energy needed to make it through the rest of labor. So I lay in the bed (our own glorious bed… SUCH A TREAT!) for about 20 minutes and Trice lay beside me and helped me through the contractions there. They put these amazing heat packs on my belly and back and that helped to soothe the pain of the contractions as well. I felt well rested and I was then ready to work my tail off to make labor progress even further.
We spent about thirty minutes on the birth ball, which was SUPER intense. This is when labor started getting really painful. I’m not going to lie and say that natural birth isn’t painful. There is certainly a tremendous amount of pain! It IS called labor after all. BUT, if you are mentally prepared for it and are surrounded by a good support system, you CAN do it. Trice rubbed my lower back while Jenee rubbed my face and hair and made sure I stayed relaxed with my palms open. I learned in birthing classes that if you relax with each contraction, it makes a lot more progress.
After a few other active labor techniques, I was really ready to see if I had made any more progress and also to see if the birth tub would help ease the pain a little bit. I was pleased to find out I had gotten to 7cm. It WAS working after all! The birth tub was ready at this point for me to try to get some relief. Can you say AMAZING?! I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the birth tub, but it really helped to soothe me through contractions. A birth tub is not the same as a regular bathtub. It has an inflatable bottom, so it provides a nice cushion instead of you sitting on a hard surface.
After about another hour of really strong, progressive contractions, I told Jenee I was unsure how much longer I could go. I asked her to check me to see if I had made any further progress so I could prepare myself mentally for what was to come. We had been in a very good rhythm, and I was handling the contractions really well – I just needed to have a time frame in mind so I could know if the end was in sight or if we still had a lot of laboring to do. My water had still not broken (which we discovered later was a BLESSING because your water bag helps to cushion the pain a bit!), so Jenee suggested that IF I wanted to, I could have her break my water to make things progress even further. I was 100% in on that plan because I was READY to meet my baby! When she checked me again, we found that I was 8.5cm dilated and my water still had not broken. We went ahead and agreed that she should break my water, otherwise I may have had another couple of hours of labor on the horizon.
At 9:02pm, Jenee broke my water. I thought I would have a couple of minutes to stand up and get back in the birth tub before things got too intense, but literally the second she broke my water the pain increased ten fold. Honestly, for the next 16 minutes, I felt the most excruciating pain in my life. We had been in a very good rhythm, but for the first time in labor I thought to myself, “What was I thinking?!” They got me back in the tub, and within that 16 minutes I pushed to 10cm and gave a few more pushes until Etta Jayne came out at 9:18pm. It happened VERY fast!
After Etta Jayne was out, my midwife told me to reach down and pick up my baby out of the water. Talk about INCREDIBLE! I was the first person who got to touch and hold and pick up my baby. Because there were no drugs involved, and because she was delivered into the water, she was very alert and I pulled her out of the water and her eyes were open and she was just staring at me. I leaned back in the tub and just held my sweet love in my arms. The pain was gone and my girl was here. Talk about bliss.
Because the pushing process happened so quickly, my placenta detached very quickly, so little Etta Jayne needed a couple of breaths from Jenee to get her breathing going because her oxygen supply had been cut off so fast. She was very alert the whole time, she just wasn’t taking breaths on her own yet. During this time, I was not scared or freaked out at all. I was confident in the judgment and experience of my midwife, and before long Etta Jayne was taking breaths on her own and letting out the cutest little cries ever.
Although it was the most intense 16 minutes of my life, the pain was gone immediately after delivery and I felt so rewarded that the pain didn’t even matter anymore! Honestly, I would rather have 16 minutes of intense pain and a great recovery than hours of no pain and weeks of a really difficult recovery. It was totally worth it!!
After Etta Jayne was born, they lay me in my own comfy bed (hallelujah) and I delivered the placenta with one little push. Ha. I had been so scared of that step, and for this delivery, it was so easy peasy. The midwives showed it to us and explained where Etta Jayne had been hanging out the last several months. Trice and I are total nerds, so we loved being able to see it. It was a really neat learning experience!
They then wrapped Etta Jayne and me with a blanket, and I got to nurse her for the first time. Lo and behold, the girl latched immediately and is such a good nurser!! It took Emerson a solid 6 weeks to learn how to latch properly, so this was a nice change. While I was nursing Etta Jayne, they were preparing the herbal bath for us. THIS WAS MY FAVORITE PART! It is basically a concoction of herbs that are good for healing, and you get to enjoy a soak in the tub WITH your baby. I got to give my own daughter her first bath. She wasn’t taken away from me for a single second. I will be forever grateful for that. The other fun thing about the herbal bath is how alert the babies are! Etta Jayne just had her eyes opened and cooed and took in the world around her. It was such a precious time together.
The midwife team had put fresh sheets on the bed, started laundry for us and had all the birth supplies cleaned up so we would be presentable to our family. My parents finally arrived along with Emerson and Trice’s sisters. It was so neat for Emerson to be able to walk into his own house and meet his baby sister. I think it really helped it to click for him! He got to lay beside her and love on her and snuggle with her. Once again, there was room for all of us in our comfy bed. No squeezing into a hospital bed ;) And I think it made it easier that Emerson got to come home to meet her. It’s not like Mommy went away somewhere and came back with a new baby. For us, it has been very very smooth so far.
We waited to do the newborn exam until our family got there because we wanted them to be a part of the experience. Trice got to weigh Etta Jayne in this cute little sling thing. They measured her length and head circumference. Jenee performed the newborn exam and was so gentle. Midwives are trained not only for prenatal care, labor, delivery and postpartum care, they are also trained for newborn care. Etta Jayne was the picture of health. Once again, she wasn’t taken away from me, there were no shots or heel pricking or anything else traumatic. It was truly a gentle beginning.
Jenee left us with care instructions for both baby and me and then left us for the evening. I was feeling GREAT. There was such a night and day difference between this delivery and Emerson’s. There was hardly any tearing, no need for strong pain medicines, a fully alert baby that latched immediately, and hardly any bleeding. It was such a healthy delivery, and I can say that I truly felt empowered after that. I will never deliver a baby any other way.
With home birth, I loved that there was never a stranger who walked into the room. My birth team was there from start to finish. I was never left alone. Jenee and I had gotten to know one another during the previous months during our prenatal visits, and I can truly say that a wonderful friendship had developed. Anytime there was a scare throughout the prenatal process, Jenee was competent and willing to drop everything to make sure we were okay. She was literally on call for us 24/7. You can't beat that kind of care! We had bathed our home in prayer and worship music for several days before delivery, and it truly made our home a sacred place to deliver our child. During times of fatigue in labor, I would cry out to the Lord, and Jenee and Trice were right there with me praying for strength. I loved that they made sure I was as comfortable as possible and had food in my belly. I love that my child was never handled roughly or taken away from me. I felt 1000x more respected and loved than I ever felt in the hospital setting. I was so thankful for such a smooth start with our new little one.
We are completely hooked on home birthing from here on out, and our hope is to see more people make the transition from hospital birthing to home birthing. We hate that there is a "stigma" of sorts with home deliveries. It is truly counter-cultural, but I hope that it becomes more of the norm in the coming years. I hope that through our story, you can see that it isn't weird or dangerous. As long as you have a competent, experienced midwife, I believe that you can actually receive BETTER care than with an OB/GYN.
I know a lot of you have more questions about home delivery and the midwifery model of care. Please don't hesitate to ask me any questions you may have! I will hopefully get to share more of the experience over the next coming weeks. I am so thankful that God opened our eyes to this model of care. I feel very blessed to have such a beautiful story!