Maggie's Home Birth Story- Unmedicated birth with a cervical lip
I love birth. I picked up a book on natural child birth when I was pregnant with my first baby, at the age of 22, and ever since then I have been fascinated with every aspect of it. After I gave birth to my first baby (Charlotte), an unmedicated hospital birth with an OB, I couldn’t wait to do it again. In fact I became a certified birth doula during that time, because I loved it so much. I gave birth to my second girl (Donna) at a hospital, in the water and I had midwives that time. Both of my births were wonderful and again I couldn’t wait to have a third.
I started to consider the option of having a home birth with my third baby before I was even pregnant. I was not interested in delivering at the small town hospital less than 10 minutes from my house and I had driven an hour with my second baby to get to the hospital of my choice. It was the hardest part of my labor and I did not want to do it again. The more research I did, the more reasons for home birth were added to my list. By the time I got pregnant I had decided. I just needed to convince my husband. He was a bit skeptical of the idea. Luckily he trusts me to make the right decisions for myself and our babies. After interviews with a few midwives he was officially sold on the idea.
At 19 weeks we found out we were having our 3rd little girl. My husband, who only ever wanted to be a girl dad, was overjoyed. I have to admit it took me a couple of days to accept the fact that I would never have a son. Once I moved past that though I knew I would absolutely love this life full of all things feminine and pink and soft. It certainly helped to have two big sisters who were over the moon with the idea of their baby. They happily came along to every midwife appointment, eager to hear how the baby was doing and picked out clothes for her and talked to her through my belly, tickling her little feet as they kicked.
My due date was August 8th. In the absolute middle of summer I was 9 months pregnant. As much as I love giving birth, I do not enjoy being pregnant. I have struggled with perinatal depression during all three of my pregnancies and that combined with every possible physical symptom makes for a bit of a rough time. I also do not love summer or the heat, even when not pregnant. Come mid July I realized I had not thought things through well enough almost 9 months earlier. Not having central air was a great contributor to my problems. I survived on fans, cold rags and ice cold raspberry leaf tea for those last couple months. All of that being said, I felt less of a rush for things to be done than I did with my first two. Knowing this was the end of a season in my life made for a bittersweet time for me. I felt more connected to this baby than I had ever before felt with my first two.
At 38 weeks my belly made a drastic drop. After having a baby riding ridiculously high for the first 38 weeks of pregnancy it was not the relief I would have expected. But it made me hopeful that perhaps she wouldn’t make me wait too long. At 39 weeks I started to have prodromal labor. When I laid down at night I would get some contractions, but then drift off to sleep. Every morning, however I would wake to contractions that would be anywhere from 5-10 minutes apart. I would lay there for an hour and cross my fingers that maybe this was it. Then 20 or 30 minutes after I got out of bed they would go away. This went on for a week.
My mom arrived a few days before my due date. I was ready, my husband was ready, my kids were ready, the midwives and the photographer were ready. My neighbor and our cat were ready. It seemed like the only one not ready was this baby girl. On August 6th I went to my last midwife appointment with my girls and my mom. Baby was so low and in the absolute perfect position. I treated myself to a pedicure after that appointment. I came home and did curb stepping for 30 minutes in front of my house. I had some fantastic refreshing time with my mom after everyone else was in bed and I went to sleep.
I woke up on August 7th to contractions, just like every morning for the past week. Deep inside there was a flicker in my heart that told me something was different this time. I could feel a shift inside. It was just one of the magical parts of the whole event. Maybe it was physical shifting of the baby, maybe it was a shift in my hormones, maybe it was my cervix starting to open up. It was probably a combination. But I knew. I knew it was the start. The contractions lasted for a full minute and came every 10 minutes while I laid in bed and watched the light from the sunrise start to fill the room. They were the strongest contractions I had felt yet. I got out of bed and started to go about my day and they faded away, but this time they were not completely gone. A few times every hour I would feel strong cramping. I kept it a secret though. I took my two big girls to the pool for a swimming lesson. I put my legs in the cool water and took in the moment, sensing in my gut that this was the last time I would be able to enjoy being with them as a mom of two. I texted my photographer and told her I thought something was changing. She was the first one I let in on the secret. After getting home from swimming, Matt came home for lunch and I told him that I was getting pretty confident we would have a baby tomorrow, on her due date. I told him to keep his phone close at work, but my guess was that she would make an appearance late morning the next day. Then I told my mom I was having some very light contractions. We continued to go about our day.
A couple of hours later I laid down with the toddler to take a nap. While I snuggled up with and took in my baby one last time, my contractions grew stronger and became more consistent. I knew this was the real thing and I tried to lay and rest for as long as possible because I had a feeling I wouldn’t be getting much rest until this whole thing was over. It was then around 4:00pm that labor truly became established. I got up and let everyone know this was it. I was officially in early labor. I called Matt, shortly before his work day was over to let him know and he urged me to call the Midwives. I told him to relax. I would call them soon, but there was no huge rush. I watched some TV and then ate my dinner, all while contractions came and went. When I finished eating I decided to call my midwife, much to my husband’s relief. We chatted and decided I was good to keep going through early labor and I should call them when things picked up a bit. I let my photographer know the plan.
My family did a good job of watching the kids and letting me do whatever I needed to do. I was able to watch TV and hang out for the evening, but felt antsy and shifted and moved around a lot. I enjoyed watching my kids run around outside in the fading light. Last minute tidying up kept me a little occupied, while I got the house just right for my labor and delivery. My girls went off to bed and I gave them hugs and kisses and promised to come get them if there was a baby that night, but that it would probably not be until the next day. I started getting a little frustrated because while they had grown stronger, my contractions were still pretty far apart and averaging still about 8 minutes.
Donna, of course, chose that night to have a hard time staying asleep. She got up a handful of times until I finally told her she could come snuggle with me in my bed for a bit. Matt laid down with us for a bit to try and get a little rest before the real action started. This was around 11pm. As I laid in bed, wishing I would either be able to fall asleep or start to speed things up, my contractions ramped up so quickly. I had been able to lay there through contractions for awhile and then all of a sudden I could not. I found myself focusing hard on my breathing and working on relaxing my body. I had Matt lay Donna down with my mom and and I stood up and started closing my eyes and swaying through contractions.
I told Matt he wasn’t going to get any sleep. He went and grabbed an energy drink as I thought about what I wanted to do. My contractions had jumped down to 6 or 7 minutes apart. It was just before midnight at this point. I decided to call my midwife and let them know that it seems like my body was starting active labor. I talked to her and she decided it was time for her to head my way, especially because they had an hour to drive. I texted my photographer and told her it was time for her to head this way as well.
I spent some time in my cozy bedroom working through contractions while Matt did a few last minute things in preparation around the house. I felt excited and happy that the long wait was over. I felt so at peace with the decisions that had led me to this point. I am always so celebratory feeling when labor starts. This 3rd time around was no exception. My feelings of calm and peace started to fade away as my contractions sped up to 5 minutes apart over the next 40 minutes. And it felt like each one was slightly stronger than the last. I had zero interest in having a non-attended free birth in my bedroom so I told Matt I wanted to get in the bathtub for a little bit, hoping that might ease things up a bit until everyone got there. I filled up the tub with the hottest water I could stand and tried to relax my muscles into the water. Matt and I chatted and I enjoyed that alone time with him before everyone else was buzzing around It felt nice, but did very little to help my contractions.
As Matt shaved his face and I finished up my bath my photographer walked in, scaring the crap out of me. Phew! At least one person was there. I got out of the bath and put on my labor clothes and chatted with the photographer. Sometime around then my mom came upstairs as well. It was starting to feel like a real birthing party, just what I had been hoping for. At 1:30 my midwives arrived. I was finally able to relax, stop timing contractions and let others worry about anything there was to worry about. I just needed to let my body do it’s thing. I felt like I was just along for the ride. The midwives got to work setting up their supplies, and checking in with me. My contractions were starting to require every ounce of my focus, but I was still able to talk and laugh in between them.
Not very long after my midwives arrived, around 2am, they asked if I wanted them to do a cervical check, just so that we might have somewhat of an idea of where we were in this process. I said that I really did. Laying on the floor for that was not my favorite thing, but it was over quickly. My cervix had dilated to 7cm, really more like 7.5. The midwives seemed happy with where I was and I was very happy to have gotten that far with not too much effort. I made the decision to not blow up the birth pool at that point. I had been leaning toward a land birth, and was only going to use the pool if I needed a break or of things were going slowly. I didn’t think I would need it at that point. I had things set up on our empty side of the living room. Floor coverings, a nicely protected mattress, twinkly lights, etc. I ended up in the other part of our living room, the part that was not prepped for a birth. Birth happens where it happens.
I continued to chat in between contractions and during contractions I would lean on something and sway my hips while someone, usually Matt, pushed on my lower back. He tried a few hip squeezes, but this time around what felt the best was counter pressure on my lower back and tailbone. There was also so much pressure in my vagina. It was a feeling I had not had with either of my other births.
At 2:20 we turned on a live feed to a Facebook birth group. We turned it on my phone and put it on a shelf and forgot about it. It was so cool to read all the comments of support and love from other women who were watching me give birth, though most of them were read a few hours after the birth. I am passionate about giving people exposure to birth, especially the more rare unmedicated variety and on top of that, the rarely seen unicorn of birth experiences, a planned home birth. Thousands of people, from all over the world watched me live and in the time following and I love that fact.
By about 2:45 my contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and lasting longer than they had up to this point. I started to get in the zone. There was a bit less talking and more seriousness. I was still have more pressure and pain in my vagina than I had in either of my other births. It wasn’t quite the instinctual feeling of pushing, but I could tell it was heading in that direction. There was so much heaviness and pressure. I did not care for the feeling, but I tried to embrace it because I knew it was my body getting close.
At 3:00 I was in the thick of transition. I could see everyone clearing a space around me. Moving furniture and then eventually laying down plastic and towels to protect my rug. I realized it was happening there. I had no energy to spend moving to another area. I got into my all time favorite labor position that has now gotten me through all three of my labors. I put the exercise ball up on the couch and leaned over it. It’s a simple move that doesn’t require studying educational books on giving birth, but it is my favorite all the same and my body natural moves into that position every time.
Around 3:00 is when my rational brain started to turn off and the emotional/instinctual part took over. I had given birth two times before this and had seen multiple other women give birth. One thing that I have said at my own births and heard at every birth I have been to is “I can’t do it.” This is almost always not true and it almost always means you are very close to “doing it”. I heard those words come out of my mouth. Rationally I knew I could do it and that I would do it, but the emotional part of my brain was the one calling the shots at this point and it felt like I couldn’t do it. I knew I was getting close though and I internally grinned hearing myself give such a tell tale sign that the end was near. It was a bizarre moment.
By 3:10 I had stopped being able to talk to my husband in between contractions. I started crying a little during each contraction. It was such an emotional labor for me. I was happy and tired. I was so excited to be so close to meeting my baby. I was sad that this was the end and I would never be pregnant again. I was tired and a little overwhelmed with this new experience of being at home. I was so happy this home birth I had dreamed of was happening. I felt so much love for everyone there. I was in so much pain. It all came out as tears. Happy tears, sad tears, tired tears, hormonal tears, all the tears.
I have never been a quiet birthing person and by my 3rd time around I had fully accepted and leaned into this fact. Being at home only freed me to just let it all out even more. As I loudly moaned through my contractions my mom came and sat by me on the couch. I held her hand. She brushed the hair out of my face, or gave me sips of water. Looking into her eyes calmed me. When your mom is there, you know everything is going to be OK eventually. Eventually there was only silence and the occasional camera shutter in between my contractions. My midwives were there to watch, and offer occasional reassurance and validation. But, this was my work. Everyone else was there to watch.
At about 3:20 I stood up and leaned into Matt, as he held me. The position itself was not quite as comfortable as the exercise ball had been, but the emotional comfort of feeling Matt hold me up felt wonderful. With the first contraction in the more upright position I felt my baby move down. The pressure was absolutely shocking. It felt like she was going to just barrel her way out. I wasn’t quite pushing, but my body may have sort of been pushing her in a way, right down to my cervix. It was intense, but made me feel hopeful, since I have always been really good at things once the pushing started. It has always been such a relief to me, especially after transition. I took my pants off at that point.
After only a few breathtakingly hard contractions in that position I went down on my hands and knees and buried my head into the couch. I liked being able to hide my face like that. Matt pushed on my back again. Looking at video of the birth it looks sort of awkward and uncomfortable him pushing me down, but it was wonderful and just what I needed. Going through the worst of contractions, at least to me, it feels as though at any second your body will just start to shatter and float away. Like there is nothing tying you down to the earth and this force coming out of your very soul is going to pull you up into the heavens. Having someone to keep me down on the ground and out together was 100% what I needed. I never voiced all of that to him, not really so I’m not sure how he knew I needed that. Perhaps daddy intuition?
Just after 3:30 my body decided it was time to push this baby out. My mom once again sat on the couch in front of me. I held her hand and I held Matt’s hand with my other one and he again pushed down on my back. The fetal ejection reflex was very strong this time. I didn’t even realize I was pushing for a few moments. It just happened. Relief! So much relief was coming. I love pushing out babies! But then the relief I was expecting was not there. Instead it hurt. There was a very sharp pinching feeling instead. I didn’t want to push, but my body continued pushing anyway. It wasn’t unbearable though. As that contraction subsided I decided I would just push with absolutely everything I had the next contraction and maybe she just needed to move down a bit. It would be fine. There was so much pressure, she wasn’t going back up, that was for sure.
My next contraction came and the pain got worse. So much worse! I wanted to stop, but my body was pushing without my permission. It felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife. I was pissed off. This was not normal. Something was wrong. I started really yelling. Someone needed to fix this. Everyone was speaking encouraging words, that I couldn’t put energy into actually hearing, but they sounded kind. I was starting to get close to a panic when that contraction ended. I told myself surely the next one will be better. It has to. I couldn’t just keep going on like that forever. Something had to give. I was at that point in labor where I questioned if you could actually die from being in labor. Like just die for no other reason than contractions. I mean, how can something feel like this and not kill you? Or at the very least you should be able to pass out from pain like people seem to do very often in the movies. Why was I not able to pass out!?
And then the next contraction came and it was the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. I started to panic. The more I pushed the worse it got. It felt like I was pushing out a knife sideways. I just screamed in pain. I wanted to stop, but couldn’t. It got worse and worse and worse with every push. Then it was a full on hyperventilating panic. I needed that pain to stop. I wanted to die. I literally remember thinking I wish I would just die right now. Please God just let me die. I regretted being at home so much. I needed someone to knock me out that second and cut this baby out. No one seemed to understand that I was about to die. This was not ok. It needed to be fixed. I couldn’t do it on my own and encouraging words couldn’t do it. My midwife was there by my face. She started saying something about laying down and then she could see if I had a cervical lip. I couldn’t. There was absolutely no way in hell I was going to move to a laying down position right then. She wanted me to try and stop pushing. That was also not going to be able to happen. I couldn’t voice any of these things though. All I could scream was “help me”. Everyone was trying to get me to move. I could not and would not. I was getting angry at everyone for acting like that was something I could just do. This was too much pain to not kill me. This was not the productive pain of labor. This was a car crash or a gun shot and it wasn’t something I could just get through. Things got very blurry. I remember more talking but I’m not sure what they were saying.
There was so much pain. It got worse and worse and then... better. The knife moved. All of a sudden it felt like I was giving birth again. My midwife had been able to reach in and help move that little lip of my cervix out of the way. I could feel my baby moving down and out. This was it. My panic left me. My brain turned back on. This was the moment I had promised myself for months that I would absolutely absorb and remember.
As far as I am concerned, there is no better feeling in the entire universe than that of a tiny baby coming out and into the world. The first time I gave birth I was in such awe of the satisfying, slippery feeling. I wanted to do that part 100 times. I was willing to go through all of the other part for those five seconds of amazement. Somehow, in the midst of everything else, I was able to remember. I wanted to savor this moment with everything I had in me. I wish those around me could have felt the joy that I was feeling at that moment. But, I know that my feelings were not being communicated to anyone.
When’s the Midwife fixed my cervical lip, my baby’s head was right there, visible. She told me to slow down and use some grunts as baby worked her way out. And, in what felt like a moment and an eternity her head was out. A few seconds later one more small push and the rest of her slippery little body came out. That was it. I had birthed what would probably be my last baby. The moment hit me. Practically before her entire body was out she let out a big wail and everyone celebrated. I cried. I had never cried at the birth of my other two children. This one was different for me. I was crying for so many reasons, some of them I couldn’t even give a name to. I was crying because it was the end. It was the end of probably my most favorite thing I will ever do. It was the beginning of a new part of my life. It was the beginning of this baby’s life. It was the end of feeling baby kicks and hiccups. It was the end of two pink lines and limitless potential. But, I had done it. I had succeeded at the thing that I wanted to do most in the whole world. I had given birth naturally, and on my own terms three times. It was an accomplishment I knew no one would ever be able to take away for me. I had had my baby on my living room floor. My body had taken on the hardest thing I would ever ask it to do, and it did it so well. It did it three times. But, it was over.
Everyone was looking at the baby, and listening to her cry. But, before I reached for my baby I looked up at my own mom. She was looking at me. I looked deep into her eyes, and slowly they brought me back. I was once again in the present moment. And I had done it! I smiled as I listen to my baby cry. Maggie was born at 3:50. She was born with meconium in my bag of water, that had broken as she came out. So, the midwives took a minute to asses how she was doing and wipe off some of the extra yucky stuff. I was happy to have a moment to take some deep calming breaths to get myself grounded. Then they passed her between my legs, wrapping her in a towel. I hold her close to my belly, resting slightly on the floor. She had a short cord so I had to keep her down there for a bit. Finally a got to take a look at her. She looked somewhat gray still, and wet and squished, just like all babies before her. And just like them, she was perfect. I could tell right away that she was smaller than my last baby. She had an adorable little upturned nose that was different than my others had as well. I took her in, telling her that she was ok and that I loved her. Finally, I was meeting this person who I knew and loved so well, but was also mostly a stranger. It is always such a moment of “ah, there you are! I know you!”.
Matt was kneeling on the floor next to me, rubbing my back and hugging my shoulders. He is a person who usually doesn’t have a lot of words to say. And during my labors and births he knows his role is to be a quiet supporter. But I could tell from his body language at that moment that he was relieved. It had been a long journey for him as well and it was over. We had all survived and he had taken such good care of us.
As soon as she was in my arms my mom left to get my 6 year old. She came down a minute later and went right over to her daddy, who was sitting on the couch by then. I saw her as she came into the room and our eyes connected. Such joy was on her face. I have never seen her so happy. She looked on, grinning, as everyone helped me move and position myself to leaning against the couch, holding the baby.
Over the next 20 minutes my midwives calmly worked on helping the baby get her lungs inflated and dried out. Her cries sounded pretty wet and she was gasping a bit, unable to take deep breaths. They did some suctioning first and then after a few more minutes they took her out of my arms and laid her on the floor next to me and forced some air into her lungs. She did not care much for that. Once she was back in my arms she calmed down and was able to take somewhat deeper breaths. She wasn’t gasping as much, but there was lots of gunk coming out of her mouth for the next hour or two.
My placenta came out uneventfully 20 minutes after she was born, and I did not bleed any more than normal. That was a bit of a relief since I had been struggling with low iron and low platelet counts during the last few months of my pregnancy. I cut the cord this time, which I had never done before. I hadn’t thought about doing it, but our photographer suggested I do and it seemed fitting that I cut the cord of our last baby. Charlotte was very interested in everything that was happening. She was especially interested in seeing the hole the baby came out of. 🤣 I loved being able to show my big girl how wonderful our bodies are and how amazing birth is.
45 minutes after she was born I handed our baby girl over to her daddy and walked across the living room to the little bed I had set up to relax in. The sweet relief of relaxation after pushing a human out of your body is what makes the whole experience worth it. Riding a hormonal high, snuggling a tiny little human you made, being surrounded by family and people who are taking care of you... it’s the stuff of fantasies. Once we were situated in bed and everyone was happy and cozy Matt went downstairs to get Donna. She had been sleeping in Grammy’s bed during the whole event, but we knew she would want to be with the whole family and meet her baby sister. She did not want to wake up at 5am. Matt carried her upstairs and tucked her into bed with me and she slowly started to wake up. Once she realized there was a brand new baby next to her in bed the look of annoyance and confusion melted off her face and the look of sheer delight and joy replaced it.
My family was all together. My husband and I and the 3 little girls we had created. This was my life. The decade that had passed since Matt and I had fallen in love had not been easy. The majority of our dreams and goals had not come to pass. Many of the things we wanted and worked for will probably never happen. But there was so much joy mixed in with the disappointment and pain. My heart was full with more love than many people could ever wish for. If I was never able to achieve anything else I had succeeded at this. I let that feeling sink in and enjoyed it for all it was worth.
It was amazing to be at home. It was cozy and comfy. Every single thing was my decision. My kids were happily kissing their new sister, in their PJs. The midwives examined every inch of her on my bed. She was 6 pounds, 14 ounces and 19 inches long. He latched on and started breastfeeding with a little help. After a couple of hours the photographer said goodbye and left us to go edit her photos. Shortly after, the midwives made sure we had all the info we needed and left us until the next morning. It was heavenly to just be able to relax at my own house. My mom made us pancakes and it was by far my best post birth meal ever. After a few hours I went upstairs to my own bed and napped and snuggled and relaxed all day long with my baby. No one woke me up to check my blood pressure. I didn’t need to put my baby in the plastic box and get up 623,694,421 times a night with her. She slept snuggled up to me nursing on and off all day and night. The next week was mostly snuggles while my mom took care of me during the day and Matt took care of me after work. My midwives came back to check on us a couple of times over the next few days. My recovery was by far the easiest. Honestly, in a matter of a couple of days it didn’t even feel like I had just given birth.
Maggie Jo has been my happiest, easiest baby. She loves her sisters and they are fierce protectors of her. I think some of the ease of everyone’s transition can be credited to the amazing prenatal care I got from my midwives and the joyful home birth I was able to experience.