I started with Owen and Nathan’s birth stories not only because I wanted to record them, but because I wanted to portray the vast differences between their births and Ivy’s. Consider yourself warned, this is really long!
I had wanted to try home birth after Owen was born, but understandably so, Jesse and I couldn’t really come to an agreement on it. In June of 2011, we decided to move to New York where Jesse would begin working with his brother in his custom cabinetry business, Steinberger Woodworks. To help ease this transition, Jesse’s brother Justin, and his wife Zoe, and their 2 children, Myles and Elliot, selflessly allowed us to move in with them. Zoe was expecting her third, a girl, whom they named Olive, in September.
Jesse and I knew we wanted to have one more child, but I was insistent that I didn’t want that 3rd one to come until Nathan was at least potty trained. I was keeping track of my ovulation via natural family planning, and doing pretty well with it. In October, I mixed up my dates, and the day I ovulated and realized I had confused my ovulation days, I conceived. I was naturally kind of disappointed about it, but the disappointment didn’t last long. I was thrilled to have another one, even if it was way before I wanted it. Through a chain of events, Jesse informed me he would be okay with my having a home birth. I was elated. I contacted the midwives, HeartSpace Midwifery, and we began monthly visits.
I endured the next 20 weeks with the usual intense morning sickness, this time seemingly a little more difficult since I was also taking care of Owen and Nate, but I am so grateful that we were living with Justin and Zoe still, as Zoe was a big help during this time. I was due July 11. We found out she was a girl in February. The baby girl I had prayed and longed for. We also found out that I had what appeared to be placenta previa. Placenta previa is where the uterus imbeds over the cervical opening, and almost always indicates bed rest towards the end of pregnancy (in case of preterm labor) and c-section. I was only 18 weeks along, meaning the uterus and baby are still quite small, and it’s easy to mistake a placenta previa. But still, precautions had to be taken. I was told I needed to be careful about doing too much and straining too much, and no sex. Eight agonizingly long weeks later, we had another ultrasound, and this ultrasound indicated that the placenta previa was entirely gone. The ultrasound tech showed me the obviously clear cervical opening, and then he traveled halfway up my stomach and revealed the placenta way up at the side. I cannot express the relief I experienced at that point! In March, we moved out of Justin and Zoe’s house and into our own apartment, about a mile up the road.
Besides the placenta previa and miserable morning sickness, the pregnancy continued without much event. Every month I went to see the midwives, Heidi and Maureen. The visits lasted an hour each time. They had a big comfy couch in their visiting room. As I sat there, we talked about every relevant topic (and some irrelevant :), got to know each other, developed a midwife/patient relationship, but also a friendship. They allowed me to talk freely about any uncertainties and worries, listened to me, and offered advice and encouragement. Any time I needed anything before or after Ivy’s birth, I could text them and they were always prompt with their responses, even several times going out of their way to rearrange their schedule to allow me to come to their office if necessary, or to stop by my home. They were kind and friendly, understanding, very knowledgeable about natural ways to approach pregnancy and anything else, and willing to help me with whatever I presented.
For the next few weeks we settled into our new apartment and prepared for Ivy’s birth. Owen asked a lot of questions about Ivy and the whole process. Nathan was a little young to process it all, but even so, he’d point to my tummy and laugh and giggle. Both boys would rub my tummy, kiss my tummy, and thought it was hilarious to blow raspberries. Ivy would always start moving when they did that.
When I was about 37 weeks along, I was feeling the usual Braxton-Hicks contractions pretty often. Since my other births were like this, I knew that she would be coming soon. Around this time, the midwives came for a home visit to see what our apartment looked like and to talk about how the home birth would go down with Jesse and I. They also brought the birth tub, and encouraged us to set it up, fill it, and for me to get in it to see what it was like. They gave us a list of things that would be needed for the home birth, which I diligently set up on the dresser near to where the birth tub would be. Somewhere in this time, I woke up one morning feeling pretty intense contractions about 5 minutes apart. Justin came to pick up Owen and Nathan, and I called my mom to have her start heading over from CT. Unfortunately, by the time the midwives got to me, the labor had tapered off…false alarm. I was 3 cm dilated and not in active labor when they checked.
Even so, my mom came, and I was relieved to have her around. About a week and a half later, I was getting pretty tired of the Braxton-Hicks contractions that seemingly weren’t getting me anywhere. On July 3, my birthday, my mom gave me money to get a massage. I told the woman doing the massage to feel free to hit every labor pressure point. I also visited the chiropractor. I had visited the chiropractor every week for the second half of the pregnancy. That helped immensely, for every normal ailment related to pregnancy from heartburn to body aches to trouble sleeping, and for the labor itself to make sure everything was lined up properly and to shorten the labor.
Early on July 4, Nathan woke up crying, so I went into his room and noticed I was feeling that crampy, weird, not quite normal feeling that indicated the onset of labor with my other pregnancies. It was about 3:30 am, and I knew I’d be able to go back to sleep, so I went to bed. Around 6:30, my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but not very painful and I was still able to sleep through them. I still texted my midwives to let them know I thought this was the real deal. About half an hour later, I got up and ate a little, but found that I was really tired, so I went back to bed. My midwives arrived around 8, and I was sleeping somewhat fitfully, waking up about every 5 minutes to a contraction that was intense, but I was able to breath through it. Heidi came in and asked if she could check me and found that I was 7 cm dilated. After that I couldn’t sleep much, so I got up and started to wander around. Jesse ran Owen and Nathan over to Justin & Zoe’s and then came back and started filling up the birth tub for me.
Leading up to this, I had been nervous that it was going to be awkward having the 2 midwives, Jesse, and my mom all sitting around in my little apartment waiting for me to have a baby. I found that this was not the case. Heidi and Maureen came in quietly, set up their things, kept a watchful eye on me, and talked in low tones. The atmosphere was calm and friendly and homey. I wandered around, stopping occasionally for a contraction, and talked and joked with everyone. The midwives showed Jesse and my mom how to apply counter pressure to my lower back during a contraction, and I found that this was so helpful. I couldn’t get on top of the contraction unless somebody was doing that. I spent the next couple hours mostly on my knees, draped forward over a birth ball, with someone applying counter pressure to my lower back through every contraction. I’d take a deep breath as I felt the contraction come on, then kind of huff and puff my way through it, and breath a sigh of relief when it ended. It felt so perfect to be surrounded by people I was completely comfortable with, in my own home with my own bathroom and bedroom.
Around 10 am, the birth tub was full. The second I stepped into it and sank into the water onto my knees, it was the greatest relief. At this point I think I was around 9-10 cm, my contractions around 2-4 minutes apart. My water still hadn’t broken. While it is a good thing for the water to stay in tact, since it helps the baby to settle into the correct position in the birth canal, it also felt like it made the labor a little more drawn out.
For the next hour and a half, I leaned forward over the side of the tub as Jesse applied pressure to my lower back during contractions. The water made the contraction infinitely easier to handle. The tub was designed to have air in the bottom too, so the cushiony feel of it took a lot of pressure off of my knees. Jesse stayed close by me, always keeping my hair off of my face, holding my cup up so I could sip water from the straw, ready to apply counter pressure during a contraction, and lend any support I needed. The midwives were always nearby, quietly observing, waiting patiently, allowing me to follow my body’s cues for labor. It felt as if they were simply there to observe the miracle of birth and lend a hand if needed.
Eventually, I started wondering how much longer this was going to be. In a typical labor and delivery, when a laboring mother gets to this point of feeling like they have no more in them, she is pretty close to the end. The midwives were telling me that it was taking a while because my water hadn’t broken. They said it may help to get out of the tub and walk around a bit. Because the water had made my laboring more manageable, I was able to do this. I assume at this point that I was about 10 cm, my contractions still about 2-3 minutes apart. So, out of the tub I came. Jesse helped me to the bathroom and helped me walk around. This got tiring quickly, so I got back into the tub. I asked Maureen if she could break my water, so at the next contraction, she did. It broke with a painful whoosh, and I immediately noticed that my contractions were much more intense, and soon I felt the slight urge to push.
I leaned against the squishy side of the tub, kind of on my side, upright, one leg down against the bottom of the tub, the other knee up. Jesse was there with his arms around me, supporting me, my head on his upper arm and shoulder, giving me strength simply with his strong hold and presence. After a few contractions, when I could feel her head close, I took a deep breath and bore down on the next contraction. To everyone’s surprise and my great relief, her head came out! After Maureen checked to make sure the cord wasn’t around her neck, a few more little pushes, and out came her slimey little body into the warm water. Maureen lifted her out and handed her to me, then wrapped her with a warm towel. I wanted so badly to look at her sweet face and tell her how glad I was that she was here and how much I loved her. But my arms felt like jelly and all I could manage to do was put my head back, close my eyes, and savor the feeling of my little girl in my arms at last.
After a few minutes, I felt strong enough to get out and deliver the placenta. Ivy was handed to Jesse, who had removed his shirt so Ivy could have continuous warmth through full skin-on-skin contact, enabling Jesse to have a few moments with his baby girl. I got out and moved to my bed in my own bedroom. The midwives did everything I needed, helping me to the bed, setting everything up, giving me time to adjust. When I got to my bed, they handed Ivy to me and I nursed her and delivered the placenta.
For about an hour, Jesse and I were able to sit together by ourselves with Ivy. We talked about her birth and looked at her sweet little features. The midwives stayed close by in case they were needed. They weighed, measured, and checked her over. My mom brought me fresh home-cooked food, my dad came in with a balloon and flowers. Owen and Nate came in and were so excited to see her and kiss her. It was a nice calm day, celebrating Ivy around the people that loved her most.
When the midwives checked Ivy, they discovered that she was tongue-tied, and talked us through the implications. For the first 24 hours, she was able to nurse and got milk effectively, but it was very painful for me. The day after she was born, we went to Albany to a specialist of which there are few in the country, who removed the tongue-tie with lasers. After this was done, she nursed much better. For the next couple weeks, we had to stretch the tongue-tie back open several times a day so that it wouldn’t heal back together. This was really difficult for both Jesse and I, and I pretty much cried every time we had to do it. Now it is all healed correctly, and she nurses like a champ, without any pain to me!
The home birth was a beautiful experience, exactly as I had hoped for. Sure it was very painful, but I was able to manage with the freedom and relaxation of being in my own environment, with people I was familiar with, and a birth tub. The midwives stayed around for a while, until they were sure all was well, then left us with instructions, letting us know to call if needed. We were able to enjoy Ivy’s first days with no interruptions. My mom stayed around for a week or so, cooked and cleaned, helped me with Owen and Nathan, helping us all transition to life together.
I am beyond grateful that Ivy and I had the experience that I think was best for us. She is a beautiful girl, absolutely adored by her brothers, and a great sleeper and eater. The midwives checked in often over the next few weeks, and were always just a text or phone call away, which was very helpful when I got mastitis, then thrush. Their knowledge of very helpful and useful remedies for those ailments helped me get through both of those ailments quickly and successfully.
I am so grateful for my sweet kiddos and loving husband!