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Home Birth Story: What if Something Goes Wrong?

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Many thanks to Brittany McCardle of The Gentle Home for sharing her birth story with us. She shared the first part of this story on her midwife’s website. And congrats to her as she is expecting baby number two! If you would like to share your birth story with us, please visit our submissions page for more information.

BrittanyMcCardleI always knew I wanted a home birth. It made the most sense to me to birth in a familiar, loving, safe place. This was my first pregnancy though and many people didn’t understand why I felt so strongly about wanting to birth at home. Skeptical friends and strangers would often challenge me saying, “But what if something goes wrong?” I just knew that normal pregnancies needed a normal birth, and I knew this was the way to do it. I trusted that my body could birth in a normal way.

At 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning on February 27, 2011, I woke up after feeling some leaking. Right away, I knew it was my water leaking. I woke up my husband just to let him know and then called Nanci, my midwife. She just told me to get some rest and go back to sleep. This was hard to do! At first, my husband and I were both nervous, realizing what this might mean. I was worried that labor might not start right away, but I didn’t have to wait long before I started feeling light cramping and very mild contractions. After getting something to eat, eventually we both fell asleep and woke up just a few hours later. Sleep was difficult though because I kept feeling my water leaking. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the contractions were getting stronger, and felt different from the Braxton Hicks contractions I had felt so much during my pregnancy. I was glad I was feeling stronger cramp-like contractions because I knew that meant everything was progressing the way it should. Although it never really occurred to me that I was going to have our baby this very night!

I called Nanci back in the morning and she told me to try and walk around to keep things going. Labor really was happening! So I walked around the house straightening up rooms, stopping to breathe and lean against a table or countertop when a contraction came. At first I could talk through the contractions, knowing they were there, but not having to focus on them. Now the contractions were getting harder to ignore, taking more of my concentration each time, but I was still able to walk around and talk in between them. Walking around the house and rubbing my belly helped and I found myself going into quiet empty rooms during a contraction.

In the early afternoon, Nanci and Diana (the other midwife) came over, and Diana checked me and found I was almost 6 cm dilated! I was so glad to know I had made it that far. My husband helped set up the birth pool and when the temperature was just right, I climbed in, sinking into the warm water. It was very relaxing, especially now that the contractions were getting closer together. After that point, labor really became more difficult.

I knew that my job was to breathe and relax through the contractions, but this became harder each time. I leaned over the edge of the pool. Nanci sat at the edge next to me and just kept reminding me to breathe out, breathe out. There was only one time that I really didn’t think I could go on, but listening to Nanci’s gentle reminders gave me something to focus on, and I knew if I could just get through this one contraction that it would be gone forever and I would be one step closer to seeing my baby. The midwives’ encouraging words throughout were essential in keeping my confidence that I really could do this and that I was doing great, especially when it felt like I wasn’t.

A while later, they checked me again and found I was almost 9 cm. I knew it wouldn’t be long now, but I really wanted the pushing phase to begin. Eventually, it felt like I wanted to push, so I began not too forcefully, pushing. They said the baby was very low and it shouldn’t be long now. Soon the pushing feeling intensified, and I knew our baby was getting much closer when both the midwives came in the room turned on the lights and started getting things out of their bags. But it took longer than we all expected to push her out because she was posterior.

Nanci helped me find different positions to push to help each one be more effective. I pushed standing, leaning over the edge of the bed, and squatting, even on the toilet. Pushing was probably the most difficult and most painful, but I knew I had a job to do and I was the only one who could do it. Even when it felt like things weren’t progressing, Diana and Nanci assured me that the baby was moving down closer and closer. With each push closer and closer, the sensations became more and more intense and I was getting tired, but I knew if I could just push a little harder that my baby would be here and I could relax.

It seemed like it was taking forever to push her out, but they were able to show me her head with a mirror. At one point I even reached down and felt my baby’s head and all that hair! It was that moment I realized this was my baby and she really was coming! Nanci and Diana helped so much with encouraging words, advice on how to push and different positions, and even massaging my cervix with warm oil so the baby’s head could come more easily and quickly. I know I truly could not have done it without them!

On hands and knees on our king-sized bed and after three-and-a half-hours of pushing, our baby finally slid into this world, and I almost didn’t even realize it! I think because of all their help I never felt that “fiery” moment when her head crowned. The moment when she came out was totally painless. And even though they said I had a small tear, I never needed any stitches.

We never found out the sex of our baby during the pregnancy, but I almost forgot I didn’t know! I really thought it was a girl the whole time, so I wasn’t surprised when I finally realized she was a girl! Our baby girl came into this world perfect and pink and healthy, and I couldn’t believe she was finally here! They put her in my arms and I got to hold her. My job was finally done and I could relax!

Soon the placenta came out on its own, painlessly, and I lay there feeling quite empty and exhausted. I had my baby in my arms, looking right up at me. She had goop in her mouth, which I instinctively wiped away. I don’t remember her crying although they said that she did. And I promise that when she looked up at me, she smiled!

BrittanyMcCardle2Despite all the elation and relief of labor being over, I started feeling strange. I felt light headed and dizzy. About that time I felt a gush of fluid come out of me. It was blood. I felt terribly weak and not good. My midwives brought me juice and cheese to eat and drink as much I could, quickly, too. They rubbed the top of my uterus to facilitate its contractions and rubbed Cypress essential oil all over me. I started to feel okay and they said the bleeding stopped. Everyone seemed relieved. But not long after, it started again. They told me to put my baby to my breast to get her to nurse, but I just felt too weak. I told my husband I couldn’t hold her and he took her. That’s when I noticed my baby crying. My midwife gave me shots of Pitocin, but I was scared. What if my uterus wouldn’t contract? What if I didn’t stop bleeding? It didn’t help that pre-pregnancy I was underweight and I had only gained 21 pounds during my pregnancy. I was small and I really couldn’t afford to lose much blood. I asked Nanci, “When do you think I should go to the hospital?” She said that it was truly up to me, and I told her I wanted to go. I was so afraid that the bleeding would stop, the midwives would leave, but then it would start again and no one would be there to help me. I wanted to reassurance that everything would be okay.

My husband called the ambulance and it was soon on its way; we were literally one mile from the nearest hospital. My mom and sister came over to watch our baby who was only about an hour old or so when we left. I felt so weak and “out of it” that I didn’t even remember feeling bad about leaving my baby. My midwives threw some clothes on me, and soon a few men were standing in our bedroom lifting me onto the gurney and taking me outside to the ambulance. Our baby girl, who we named Marlee Hope, was born a little after 9:00 p.m., so it was already dark outside. The men were so nice. They couldn’t believe I had just had a baby! The thing that I hated the most was seeing all the worried looks on my family’s faces.

Soon we were at the hospital and they were giving me an ultrasound, assuming the reason I was bleeding was that part of the placenta was still left in my uterus. But my husband assured me that the midwives said the placenta was complete and no parts were left inside. Still the ER doctor said that part of the placenta was inside and that they would do a procedure called a D&C to remove it. Now they said I could not eat or drink anything. I began trembling, uncontrollably, all over. I wasn’t cold, I was very anxious. They offered me medicine to sleep and relax, but I didn’t want any.

Something inside of me told me this procedure was not what I needed. I told my husband that we needed to pray and right there we prayed that we would get a different doctor and a different diagnosis. In the meantime they had put a wet washcloth on my forehead because I felt so faint. I told my husband to soak the washcloth in the running water from the sink that was in our room and give it to me to suck on. I was dying of thirst and they wouldn’t let me drink, but I didn’t care. I knew I needed to and I knew my instincts were telling me not to listen to the doctors.

Soon we got some news—they weren’t going to give me the procedure, but just move me to another room to observe me overnight! Our prayers were answered and we were so grateful! We got some sleep that night and the next day we went home to finally be with my baby. I had to pump in the hospital, and at home Marlee had to be on formula, but I was adamant that she be fed with a syringe and no pacifiers! Soon breastfeeding was working and I was very glad about that.

Looking back we realized that the hospital did nothing more than what the midwives could have done for me. My midwife had oxygen for me and even IV fluids that she could have hooked me up to. She’s the one who gave me the Pitocin and rubbed my uterus to get it to contract. The hospital did nothing more than let me rest and rehydrate me with fluids. Later, my midwife told me that I really was not in any real danger at any time. If I was, I know that she would have rushed me to the hospital long before I asked to go.

Now that I am pregnant again, we are still planning a home birth for baby number two. We are confident that we can take any precautions needed, like making sure I stay hydrated throughout labor, having IV fluids handy and ready to go in case I need them, and getting adequate prenatal nutrition.

I am still so proud to say that I really gave birth to my baby at home and naturally! Even though it was exhausting, challenging, and even scary at times, there is nothing in this world like that feeling of accomplishment and strength to know that you birthed your baby into this world. More than that, I am so glad I learned to trust my body and my instincts.

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