My first real adventure was the dive into parenthood. I was newly 18 when I got pregnant with my first daughter. My little blessing. I had wanted a child of my own ever since my sister was born when I was 3 years old. Believe me, I was overjoyed at the chance to be a mom – but damn, I did not expect everything to be so difficult.
Being a mother is hard enough, but being a young mother – unestablished within your own life, unsure of the direction you want to go, only a small amount of finances to take care of yourself, and barely even sure of who you are. Still, I saw this journey as one to brave into proudly. Nonetheless, it was a struggle.
For my first child I was so unsure of what I wanted. My mother had given birth to both my sister and I at home (I had watched the birth of my sister), and I felt a connection and deep pull towards doing a home birth. However, I was scared. Being a first time parent is scary. Being a young first time parent is horrifying. I had no idea what to expect. I had read stacks of parenting and pregnancy books cover-to-cover during high school, I had spent countless hours baby sitting my younger sister and other children, I had watched my sister being born at home when I was 3, and I had been exposed to what school considers “Sexual Education”. I felt like I knew what I was doing, but somehow I still felt completely clueless at the same time.
My fears, unfortunately, kept me from having a home birth that first time around. I was too worried about the “what ifs” of labor and birth. I didn’t want anything to go wrong. Of course, I had no idea that the location of the birth didn’t matter as much as my comfortability level. Things can go wrong no matter where you give birth. Most importantly, you need to trust your body, and feel comfortable in your surroundings. I didn’t feel that trust in my own abilities. I have never felt comfortable in a hospital setting as I rarely ever went to visit a doctor as a kid, but I also wasn’t sure about giving birth at home. I settled on having a Nurse Midwife, to try and bring the home feeling into the hospital (which didn’t work at all).
Things went as wrong as I could possibly imagine them to that first time around. I ended up moving a week before I went into labor. I had the on call doctor at the hospital. I went in with a birth plan to do things completely natural – no pain killers, no nothing. Ha! I had no idea what pain was, let alone how to handle it on my own. The second I went into the hospital it felt like a business transaction. I sat down at a desk in an office and filled out papers and signed things (releasing liability and all that scary jazz). Then I was taken in for a checkup, where they decided I needed to be hooked up right away to an IV (YIKES! NEEDLES!) because my blood pressure was too high. I decided right then and there that if I had to be hooked up to an IV I needed pain killers so I wouldn’t be focused on the tube going into my arm. That sort of stuff really freaks me out.
So I ended up being stuck in a bed, laying on my back (the absolute worst position to be in for labor). The pain meds stopped working after a few hours, no matter how much they gave me it just didn’t seem to help. At one point they let me flip onto my hands and knees (phew, the pressure was finally gone from my back – I thought I could actually handle it). Psych! They couldn’t get the baby’s vitals while I was in that position so they flipped me back onto my back. OW! My entire labor was spent going back and forth between screaming as loud as I possibly could from the deep, agonizing pain and passing out from exhaustion. I would literally just wake up to scream and then pass back out. Finally I decided screw this I’m getting an epidural, I can’t handle this pain. The pain meds had slowed down my labor, making it take forever, and they had me in the worst position – I couldn’t do this on my own.
Then came a needle up my spine. They tried to hold me down – one person on each arm – as I screamed from the pain. They told me I had to sit still in order for them to put the needle in properly. And during all of this they had me sign papers to release liability in case I…I don’t know…lost the ability to move my legs or spine. Ha! Great! That’s reassuring. They also had to insert a catheter, eaw. And about 5 minutes after they gave me the epidural they come back and tell me I’ve hit 10 centimeters. WHAT!?! There is no way they were legally allowed to give me an epidural that close to me hitting 10 centimeters! Not cool!
So they lay me back and have me put my legs up by my head. What in the world? Why would you try to birth a baby upward? So dumb! Bam, my baby was born. I had tearing that needed to be stitched and the on-call doctor literally yanked my placenta out so she could get things cleaned up quicker. Now I can rest, I thought. Nope. My daughter was measured and weighed and then we were quickly wheeled to a new room. A freezing cold room. The windows were covered up, no sunlight, no view. I was exhausted after my labor of 24+ hours, but they kept coming and taking my baby from me every 15 minutes or so for tests. No rest. No relaxation. Just tons of worry. We ended up being trapped in the hospital for 3 days! They wouldn’t let us leave. My baby had a tracker attached to her umbillical cord so we couldn’t leave the area of the hospital they wanted us to be in without their permission. I felt like I was trapped in a prison. Horrified! When they finally released us the doctor told me to visit a pediatrician in a couple days for a checkup. Screw that! I was so traumatized from that experience (the lack of control I had over myself and my daughter) that I didn’t take my daughter back to see another doctor until she was about 8 months old.
With that awful experience behind me I moved on – going to college full time, while working nights, and trying my best to be there for my daughter as much as I could. It was the most stressful, challenging, and empowering experience of my life. Every time I got overwhelmed – my amazing, darling daughter was there to remind me that all of this was for her, for us. She inspired me and pushed me to be the best I could be, and I love her so much for that.
Four years later and I find myself giving birth to child #2 – my second daughter. This time around I knew what I wanted, and my home situation was more stable. I found myself a Midwife, and did everything the way I knew I wanted to. Pregnancy went smoothly (except the awful morning sickness), and then pregnancy crossed over into labor.
I went into labor with my second child in the middle of the night. No lead up to it like with my first child (I had lost the mucus plug when I woke up in the morning and labor had come on gradually). Nope! Not this time. I woke up completely confused, thinking “There is no way this is labor! It’s too much too soon!” My contractions were already at 3 minutes apart. That didn’t seem right. But it was, I was in labor. I called my midwife and let her know. I leaned against my couch a bit, swaying back and forth. Stood in my kitchen, resting on my husband’s chest, swaying gently. I moved all over the place – swaying and breathing, staying calm and relaxed. My husband and I even went on a couple walks around the neighborhood – the first time it was completely dark out, but the second time we were stepping out into the first light of morning. It was so nice getting to walk and talk and just enjoy this experience with my husband.
Eventually, we ended up just laying in bed together. As the contractions got stronger and stronger I tried a whole array of positions. At one point I found myself in the shower – the water felt nice. The pain was growing stronger, but I stayed calm and kept breathing. My midwife had me watch this documentary Orgasmic Birth, which did help me understand and handle the labor and birth a lot better – but let’s be honest, my labor and birth were Nothing like the women in that film. The pain was real. But it was manageable. I knew what it was all working towards.
When it was time to push I was on my hands and knees (My water hadn’t broke until a moment before I had gotten the urge to push – a HUGE pop while I sat on the toilet, it kind of freaked me out). Then SURPRISE my daughter was Not coming out head first. And, not only was she breach, but she was coming out butt first! Holy moly! I was so confused – I pushed and pushed and felt (what I thought was her head) slide out, but then it went back in. I’m thinking “What in the world is going on? Why won’t she stay out?” At this point I was pretty delirious, unaware of what people were doing around me. I just kept trying to push her out. And then it happened, her butt came out and her legs flopped out right after. Phew! Sweet relief! But then, oh no! Her head was still stuck inside me – her body flailing. Everyone was panicked and I had lost the urge to push. I was so scared! I was ready to pass out, but I kept pushing and pushing and pushing, until finally she came out!! Yes! The Midwife resuscitated her, and she was fine. Perfectly fine.
I laid back and they rested her against me (though she couldn’t make it all the way up to my chest – apparently the cord had been too short and she had flipped around during labor, so until the placenta came out she was trapped down near my pelvis). And I thought that was the end of it. Boy, was I wrong. Next thing I know the Midwife is trying to stop the bleeding – doing everything she possibly can, but my uterus wasn’t retracting all the way. She thought there must be something stuck inside. Great, here we go. Again, no rest time for me.
As best as I could, I stayed calm. I was worried about going to the hospital, but the Midwife believed it would be best. So I took some deep breaths and mustered up every ounce of strength I could. I was too dizzy to stand without help so she inserted an IV to give me fluids (major blood loss is a bitch), then she drove my husband, our new daughter, and I to the hospital. She was AMAZING! She stayed by my side the whole time, explained everything to the doctors so I didn’t have to even try to think or comprehend what was going on. Then she went with me (while my husband watched our new daughter) to go into surgery. I had a piece of retained placenta, not much, but it was preventing my uterus from properly shrinking up. Once I knew what was wrong I wasn’t as scared anymore. It was nothing too serious. I was going to be okay. Everything was okay!
The hospital staff at his hospital were all very friendly. They used lots of humor to keep me calm. And soon I was being put under anesthesia and then… nothing. I was out. I woke up like 20 minutes or half an hour later in the recovery area. My husband came in with our baby. My throat felt rough, but I was going to be okay. I felt so relaxed. Though it would take a few weeks for me to fully recover, they let me go right away. I headed home, ate, climbed into bed with my new little blessing, and fell asleep. Peace and tranquility, finally.
So, which experience was better? They were both very intense. However, only one of them actually traumatized me. My decision to do a home birth the second time around, even though it ended up being just as much work, was well worth it! I don’t plan to have anymore kids… but if I do, I will definitely have them at home. You can find so much comfort in being in your own space, able to move around in your own way. The freedom you get from a home birth is so empowering and calming. I would choose home birth again in a heartbeat. The overall experience was much healthier for myself and my daughter. The intimacy I was able to have with my husband, with myself, with our daughters – it really made the experience for me.
Most women who give home at birth go through a much less intense experience. It is extremely rare to give birth breach. Women of all kinds find home birth, and natural birth (though you can have pain medication at a home birth if you want to) to be the most empowering experience of their lives. I highly recommend home birth. However, beyond my opinions – I recommend that you look into every option. If you’re having a baby, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your option. Informing yourself of all your options gives you the control of choosing exactly what it is you want. You just need to stay open to any and all possibilities, because no matter what you want or plan, things can change. Labor and birth is an unstoppable force – and it is truly awesome. Whether you decide to give birth at home or in a hospital… do what is right for you. And listen to your body.
If you want to read more about pregnancy, birth, or parenthood, please click here.