My decision to birth my first baby at home was a gradual transition for me. I grew up with my father in the medical field and I assumed a hospital birth was how civilized people have babies. My husband, Randy, was more educated than I with herbal remedies and living naturally. He suggested we consider a home birth with a midwife. I was very doubtful of the whole idea, but willing to research to learn the options. At first, I was willing to use a midwife at a birth center rather than at home to be closer to a hospital in case the need arose. Near the end of my pregnancy, I decided a home birth would be better and safer for my baby and me.
When we began the search for the right midwife, Randy called the four or five midwives listed in the yellow pages. I was home and answered the phone with Alisa Voss returned Randy's call. I already knew Alisa through a mutual friend but I had been unaware she was a midwife. Randy and I still followed up with phone interviews with the other midwives who responded, but I had already decided on Alisa. Her intended assistant at the birth was Jennifer Kelleher who was apprenticing at the time. I had planned a water birth, but my labor progressed so quickly we didn't have time to fill the pool with water. I felt the urge to push several minutes before Alisa reached or home. When she did arrive, she quickly assessed the situation and calmly coached me through the birth of my daughter, Hannah Lee. I was pleased that Jennifer came within minutes after the baby was born. Alisa gave guidance during my labor without taking control of the experience from me.
My second home birth, I had to use a different midwife because Alisa had moved out of state. But, Jennifer was again able to assist during my birth experience. This labor progressed slower because the baby's head was out of position. So everyone- midwives and family- had plenty of time to travel to our home. Finally, I went to sleep in my own bed for around 30 minutes. When I awoke, the baby was in position. I remember Jennifer softly reminding me to breathe through the contractions as I birthed our son, Daniel Ray.
When I discovered I was pregnant for the third time, I called Jennifer. I found that Alisa had moved back to San Antonio and was partnered with her! I was so happy that I was going to get both my preferred midwives back I sat down and cried. Nearing the end of my pregnancy Alisa and Jennifer talked me through several bouts of false labor. When active labor finally hit me, they came as soon as I called. Even so, they arrived only minutes before the baby did due to a thunderstorm. But again, Alisa was not flustered by my precipitous labor and Sarah Beth was born in the water, safe and healthy.
So, I have had Alisa or Jennifer or both present at each of my three home births. Initially, I chose Alisa based on our prior friendship. My subsequent decision to birth with Alisa and Jennifer was based on the skill and knowledge of birthing each possess, in addition to the calm and confident presence they each bring in to the experience of birthing at home.
The weekend was not looking too good. My husband Jason and I had planned a last "couples" vacation (also to celebrate 3 years of marriage), but that changed when hurricane Rita headed towards the Texas coast. I joked that this might be God's way of telling me that our baby would arrive that weekend. Up to this point my pregnancy had been straight out of a textbook so I assumed that it would continue another 2-3 weeks. Thursday night I didn't sleep well because of several contractions that were intense. I didn't tell any family because I didn't want to excite anyone.
On September 24th 2005, we went to bed at 1:45 AM. An hour later I woke with the feeling that my water was going to break, and it did. I tried waking Jason up but he could not understand what I was telling him. I finally told him to call Jennifer and ask her what to do; the contractions seemed to slow down once my water bag had broken. Jennifer answered her phone and told me the contractions may go away for the night and to call her when they were under 5 minutes apart and lasting 60-90 seconds. By the time new sheets were on the bed, the contractions were back and closer together. As Jason was dreaming of sleep, we timed contractions.
We called Jason's parents to tell them Ciera had arrived but Grandpa Randy had taken a sleeping pill, so we could not get him to comprehend she was here. He finally gave the phone to Grandma Cindy, who had figured out what had happened. They came to meet their granddaughter about 45 minutes later!
Rachael's Birth Story: Birth of Jonathan
February 10, 2006
I knew from the moment I was pregnant with my first baby, that I DID NOT want to go to the hospital! After all, I thought giving birth was natural. So, the decision to have a home birth was easy for me however, I had my family to convince. So, the process began. Jennifer came and we spoke at length with my husband, my mom and my dad (popping in and out).
I loved having a midwife and Jennifer was just the best! She told me all about nutrition and every visit was a minimum of an hour. She listened, she encouraged me to ask questions and we got to listen to the baby's heartbeat. It was just thrilling. And the best part of all was that a woman was helping me to grow in learning about my body, having a baby, what's normal and what's out of the ordinary. Alisa joined Jennifer and I loved her as well! They were just a world of information and I was very comfortable with them.
Then, the big day arrived. My bag of water broke and Jennifer came and checked on me that evening. I was not having strong contractions yet, and she encouraged me to go out on a date with my husband, which we did. After all, this was our last night of freedom. I followed her advice and got a good night's sleep.
Jennifer was at my door by 8:30am the next morning. She told me what I could anticipate for the day and that by tomorrow I would be a "mom!" As my labor progressed through the day, I was in close contact with Jennifer every few hours. She was very persistent and called every couple of hours.
My husband arrived home from work and we began timing my contractions. Oh my, they were five minutes apart, but not long enough yet. We timed them for about three hours and then they were close enough for Jennifer and Alisa to come.
The next few hours were filled with me walking up and down our stairs, getting into the tub... ahh that was relaxing, well maybe soothing, considering I was now in hard labor. While I was in the tub Jennifer gently encouraged me to open up my body to the process of birthing my baby. The next thing I know she's telling me I'm in transition and out of the tub and up the stairs I go. Transition, oh my gosh, I can do this!!! Right after I got upstairs, it seems like I started pushing and oh my... we could see his head and it was soooooo amazing! Before I knew it he was here and he was beautiful. He weighed 9 pounds and 5 ounces!
Both Jennifer and Alisa were very attentive and took care of my every need. They were diligent and persistent and I could not have asked for any better care than they provided me.
My home birth experience was better than what I could have imagined. Would I do it again, well... if I get pregnant again ABSOLUTELY!
Brenda's Birth Story: Birth of Zachary
June 20, 2006
This was Brenda's 5th birth, the 3rd time she gave birth at home, and her 2nd time to give birth in the water. Brenda is also studying to be a birth doula and hopes to be a midwife one day when her children are older.
My due date was originally set for June 27th-29th, but because of the 2 sonograms I had we adjusted my due date to June 25, 2006. I was of course hoping for another early baby, my 4th baby came 10 days early, but I had also had quite a few early labor signs and sleepless nights, so I was trying to be very patient and not worry about it too much. Every night for quite awhile the baby had been moving a lot from about 12-2 AM and I was having lots of contractions and some diarrhea at times, so I was fully expecting to have real labor start at that time also.
I had started losing my mucous plug around 33 weeks this time, and according to my husband Nelson's checking, we thought I was around 2 cm dilated for a week or two before labor started.
On the evening of Monday, June 19th I went to my monthly ladies Bible study at the church, even though I had not really been planning to go this month. I felt really good after taking a nap Monday afternoon, and decided to go ahead and have one last night out, because I knew I would be at home for awhile after the baby's birth. After I got home that night Nelson and I spent some time together (ahem!) and right afterwards I had a bloody show when I went to the bathroom, at about 11:30 PM. I wasn't really feeling anything else at the time, but I knew that the blood was a good sign that something might be happening.
I went downstairs and Nelson and I talked for awhile, and finally I told him about the bloody show and he got the biggest smile on his face! I told him I didn't know if this was the real thing or not, but that I wouldn't be surprised. We sat and talked for awhile longer and I could tell that I was definitely having some contractions, but nothing more intense than any other night previous to this one so far. I didn't think I would be able to sleep though, so I asked him to stay up with me for a little while. It didn't take too long until I started feeling more intense contractions, and after wondering what to do, we decided to go ahead and start preparing our bedroom for the birth just in case. We really didn't want to repeat what had happened with my 4th baby's birth where I didn't even have time to get in the water before he was born. So we felt like we needed to get things ready plenty early.
Nelson brought up the pool and started filling it and then he cleaned the bathroom and made the bed. I kept him busy doing some other things as well. I was really wondering when we should call Alisa, so Nelson suggested that we time some of the contractions to be able to tell her something. He also checked my cervix at that point and said he could definitely tell things had changed, and thought I was 2-3 cm dilated. We timed the contractions for about 45 minutes or so and they were consistently 3 minutes apart but only about 45 seconds long. Still, we decided to go ahead and call Alisa at 1:15 AM to let her know that I was in early labor. She said she would take a shower and go ahead and come, and that she would also let Jennifer know. I also called Mom and Nelson's mom Pat, who both said they would be on their way. Pat called my sister-in-law Jenny who was also hoping to come, but she did not come after all because she had recently been sick. I also called my friends Brandy and Keyla, who both had said that they wanted me to call them day or night so that they could be praying for me.
I stayed downstairs for a short time after this, reading the Bible and walking around. I eventually went back upstairs though; I was still in early labor and just needed the distraction of having Nelson there to talk to. Mom came over in a few minutes, and she also stayed upstairs and talked to me for awhile because I told her that it was distracting to have the conversation. Once I went back upstairs I really started losing track of time. Alisa came at 2:15 AM, and sat and talked to us for awhile, I remember being able to laugh with her quite a bit at first and I shared some of the details of my other births with her. We also laughed when Nelson shook my rear end during a contraction (something I had read about in my doula books) and I had to tell him to stop because it was making me laugh and lose my concentration. Pat came and talked to me for a few minutes, but then went back downstairs and eventually I was aware that everyone downstairs was trying to rest and get a few minutes of sleep. Jennifer also came in and checked on me at 3 AM, but then she also slept for awhile downstairs while Alisa stayed with us upstairs. I only remember looking at the clock a few times, and once I realized that it was 3:30 AM, the same time that my 4th baby Philip was born, and I remember really wishing that this birth could be over too.
I had decided to take Vitamin C during this labor [a personal choice of Brenda's, some women report they notice a difference in their labors when taking Vitamin C after labor has begun] because it had really seemed to help during Philip's birth, but eventually I had to stop taking it because it was giving me really bad diarrhea and making my bottom hurt terribly. At first I wasn't sure the diarrhea was being caused by the Vitamin C, because I had already been having it prior to labor starting. But eventually I had to admit that the Vitamin C wasn't helping this time, and actually made the labor quite a bit harder to handle because of having to spend so much time on the toilet. It was also very hard to deal with the contractions while my bottom was hurting so much at the same time. I even had to put off getting into the pool for awhile because of it, although I finally decided at 5:20 AM I just had to get in to the pool anyway, and then had to get out 2 more times during the labor to run to the toilet. Thankfully I made it in time and the water didn't get dirty.
I remember trying quite a few different positions during my labor this time, partly because the labor itself lasted longer than I was used to, and partly because the contractions were much more intense and painful starting at probably around 3 AM or so. I sat on our exercise ball quite a bit at first, then knelt beside and leaned over the bed, then laid on the bed with the body pillow for awhile, then stood up and leaned against Nelson for awhile (trying to get the baby to move down), plus of course spending plenty of time on the toilet. I also really appreciated the back massager/vibrator which Nelson and Alisa used on my lower back during every contraction until I got into the pool. Once I got in the pool I reclined most of the time, although at one point I leaned over the side on my hands and knees, because I was thinking that this was the position I wanted to actually give birth in. It would have worked fine, except that the baby still wasn't moving down, so Alisa suggested I change positions again close to the end and I ended up semi-sitting against the side of the pool for the birth.
Alisa checked my cervix a few times when I requested during labor: the first time I was 4 cm dilated, the 2nd time I was 5 cm dilated and 75% effaced, and the 3rd time I was still 5 cm dilated but 90% effaced. This took place over 2 hours and to me this seemed like slow progress and I was really discouraged because I felt like the contractions were much more intense than what I expected at 5 cm. Comparing this labor to my previous ones, I felt that I should have been progressing faster. I decided after the 3rd check at 5:35 AM that I didn't want her to check me anymore because it was painful and because I didn't want to continue to be discouraged.
This labor was the hardest one of my 5 births to deal with except maybe for my first one where I spend most of it on my back in a hospital bed. The last 3-4 hours of this labor were very intense and I really felt like I was in transition that whole time. It helped to listen to my scripture tape that Nelson made for me, and also to a CD made for me by the children for Mother's Day with them singing and reading to me. But I really struggled with keeping in control of the pain for quite a long time, and I remember wishing over and over again that it would just be over, or that I could just have a break. I knew that if I asked them to break my water it would probably help the labor go faster, but I was already right at the edge of what I thought I could tolerate, and all I could think of was that I didn't want it to hurt more. I had been more fearful of this pregnancy and birth all along, and had been trying to deal with that by praying and quoting scriptures, etc. but I really think that my fears played a part in the more difficult labor and birth.
I think it was around 6:30 AM or so that they decided to wake up the children, because they thought it was getting close and I didn't want them to miss it. Courtney came in to see me, and someone told her to start rubbing my arm. Courtney was so calm and sweet that she ended up staying with me the rest of the time, and although I was having a hard time, I really appreciated her being there. The contractions had been coming right on top of each other for awhile now, and 7 AM I could feel the baby moving down and I was starting to have a pushy urge, so Jennifer said that she needed to check to see how much cervix I had left. She said that there was an anterior lip of cervix that was keeping the baby from coming, and that I would have to have a few more contractions. I remember saying (or thinking?) "No, no more." At that point I really didn't think I could do it. I had been moaning through the contractions for quite awhile now, and I also remember Jennifer talking me through them and how much her soothing voice helped. After another contraction or two Jennifer said that she needed to try and push back the lip of cervix. When she said that I could only think of how it would hurt for her to touch me, and I did not want her to do it, but the baby was coming down and my cervix could tear if it was not out of the way. She helped the lip slide back, and it really did hurt! At the same instant (7:09 AM) my bag of water broke and I felt the baby come down immediately, and then the urge to push came on me suddenly and strong.
I had asked the midwives and Nelson to get in my face and help me breathe and gently push because I have a hard time staying in control when I get the urge to push, and I didn't want to tear. Alisa, Jennifer and Nelson all three started encouraging me not to push, and to stop screaming and breathe, but I had had enough, and I just didn't care anymore, I wanted this baby out! I pushed and screamed, and then someone put my hand down there and I felt his head! They were still telling me to slow down and not push, but I just wanted him out of me, and I pushed again as hard as I could to get it over with. On June 20, 2006, at 7:10 AM he came out with one more push. They brought him up to the surface of the water and covered him with a towel right. Nelson and Jennifer held the baby up to me and told me to look at him, and when I did he was looking right back at me with blinking eyes. He didn't cry right away, but just looked at me and started breathing. He was covered with thick vernix, even in his nostrils! After a minute or two Alisa asked me if it was a boy or a girl (I had requested that no one tell me but instead let me find out for myself) and I moved back the towel and saw that I had another son.
We stayed in the water for awhile just looking at him, and at some point he decided to scream for a few seconds, just to prove he could do it. I felt another contraction, and Alisa told me that I could deliver the placenta myself if I wanted to. So with the next contraction I reached down and pulled gently on the cord, and pushed at the same time. The placenta came out immediately and it was really small and easy compared to previous times. They told me that not very many moms deliver their own placenta! We stayed in the water for about 25 minutes, and then I was ready to get out and wanted to shower off right away. My son Matthew helped Alisa cut the cord, and then Jennifer took Zachary while I showered and rubbed him down with towels.
Zachary nursed perfectly the very first time I tried, and he was perfectly healthy. I hardly bled at all, and recovered from the birth very quickly as well. I did not tear at all, and had only 3 tiny skid marks which healed within a couple of days. I did have some very strong after pains, but they only lasted about 2 days. Jennifer and Alisa stayed for about 2 hours after Zachary was born, checking both of us to make sure we were doing well. Both midwives agreed that he was born early, they estimated by about 10 days or so, which was the same as my last baby! He was 8 lbs exactly, (Grandma Pat guessed right!) and 21 inches long.
I told Courtney that she was my little doula, and she was excited to have gotten to be with me through it all. She was a little traumatized at the end though, because she thought the midwives were being mean to me those last intense moments before birth when I begged them not to touch me and they did anyway. We had a talk with her later on and explained to her that they were only helping and doing what was best for Mommy, and she seemed to understand that. I had prepared her for my screaming ahead of time, but I had not prepared her for things I might say in the moment that could upset her.
This birth was perfect in one way; because Zachary and I were both healthy and nothing went wrong during the birth other than it being a little slow at the end. And although it felt longer and more painful to me than my other births, I am so thankful to have been blessed with a 3rd son and 5th healthy baby! He is perfect!