Question of the Quarter – What is your favorite homebirth story?
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 50, Summer 1999.
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Q: What is your favorite homebirth story?
A: One of my favorite homebirths was when I helped a mom who was an RN birth her fourth baby. All her others had been difficult hospital births. Just walking through the door into labor and delivery made her become very tense and things would degenerate from there, resulting in very long, painful labors. The outcomes had not been great either. She had had one Down syndrome baby who died at eight months, a preemie who arrived at about 32 weeks, and a baby with respiratory problems who wore an apnea monitor for what seemed like forever.
The beginning of her fourth pregnancy was difficult because she had trouble building trust with her midwives. But she was determined to avoid the hospital, so she struggled through. Her five-year-old girl and seven-year-old boy were all prepared. About a week and a half past her due date, she went into labor.
She called us at half past four in the morning and we arrived just before five. She was having back labor but was handling things well. Eventually she was on hands and knees with her head on an overstuffed chair in her bedroom. I was doing double-hip squeeze. Soon she was asking “Am I pushing?” and we denied it, of course. We did have to “fess up” as the baby moved down the birth canal, however. Her daughter decided she wasn’t interested and went to her room to color, but her son was down at the “business end” and became her chief coach! “C’mon, mom, push; I can see his hair—there’s his ears. Push, mom!” She still remembers his voice. She had had no intention of delivering in the hands-and-knees position, but that’s how the baby came, very gently, her largest baby by about a pound. He was as healthy as they come and nursed like a champ.
The funniest part of the birth was that the baby came at 6:55 am, less than two and a half hours after the mother’s first call. And the dad was in total shock: “That was it? That was the whole labor? It’s over already?” “Yes, that screaming child you’re holding would be your son.” He just couldn’t believe it. I realize this loses in translation, but remembering him repeating those lines over and over again always makes me laugh. Needless to say, they were all very happy with the outcome.
[Editor’s Note: The author wishes to remain anonymous.]
A: Cindi and Stewart led a life of peaceful simplicity far from the bustle of a city or town. When they discovered they were to become parents, they knew they didn’t want their child to be born in a hospital full of bright lights and strangers. They were prepared to take responsibility for having a homebirth, and they trusted the natural process enough to feel safe being an hour’s drive from a hospital.
As it turned out, Stewart, who is of Cree heritage, was on the other side of the country the day Cindi began her birth process. Josi, her primary midwife, arrived at the house in the early evening. I was the backup midwife for this birth and began the drive to Cindi’s home a few hours later.
When I arrived, Cindi was sitting on blankets spread on the ground of a lodge near their house. Although it was dark and rainy outside I could see her by the candlelight and hear her gently moaning with the sensations of birth. I tended the fire that was stacked with rocks, then laid out the birthing supplies. I felt a sense of timelessness and of history. I could feel energy emanating from the lodge … sacred, powerful birth energy.
After an hour or so Cindi’s moaning intensified. Knowing that her baby would soon be born, she asked me to bring the glowing hot rocks inside. I picked them up with a pitchfork and gently laid them in the rock pit beside her. Soon after, Cindi got up on her knees and held onto the willow branches that framed the lodge. She transitioned from relaxing her body and letting it open to working forcefully with contractions to push her baby out. I positioned myself behind her so I could rub her legs as the strong sensations swept through her. We closed the door flap and the lodge became toasty warm.
My eyes had become accustomed to the dark, making the one candle seem very bright. Words were not necessary. It wasn’t long before we saw the baby’s head. Cindi gently pushed it out, and the body soon followed. She gazed at her newborn son for a moment before scooping him up.
This pink, healthy baby began breathing right away. His eyes were wide open and he looked around. Josi and I sat back quietly while Cindi welcomed her son into this world. After a time, the placenta was born and I cut the cord. I fetched an enamel basin with warm water and Cindi gave her son his first bath in the warm cocoon of the lodge, with soft light and love all around.
Author’s Note: This use of a lodge for birth was a personal decision of Cindi and Stewart’s and does not reflect a cultural norm among the Cree.
Phyllis Beardsley trained as a lay midwife in 1994, and hoped to become registered with the new College of Midwives of B.C. in the near future.
A: My own two births are, without a doubt, my favorites. That said, because my practice is only two years old, I have the requisite lopsided clientele of primips. So my immediate response to the question is “well it has to be a multip” because, though I can surely appreciate the triumph of a first-time mom having her baby after a long difficult labor, every midwife will have to confess that they savor the occasional quick, uneventful birth with a woman having her second or third baby.
But one of my all time favorites is the primip who had a short uneventful labor and birth. Monika was petite and cheerful throughout her pregnancy. She was a dancer with much energy, but my midwifery partner and I were leery about what kind of labor she would have due to her strong, well-developed muscles and small frame. In addition, her partner was at least six foot three inches tall.
We got a call that she was having mild contractions at about seven-thirty in the morning. After getting my girls off to school and meeting up with my partner, we drove to Monika’s house expecting to just check in, then probably leave until things “picked up.” At 9:30 we arrived to find her in active labor. A cervical check found her to be 6 cm dilated. She proceeded to continue at this pace with only a little labor support until, at noon, she was complete and pushing. Within 40 minutes her baby’s head was appearing at the opening and he was in her arms 15 minutes later. Jay weighed over eight and a half pounds and was perfect.
I went on to pick my kids up from school, continue my normal after school activities with my family and get a good night’s sleep. Okay, so now I’ve admitted what any honest midwife will confess: Every birth needn’t be dramatic to engender our appreciation. Thank goodness for small favors!
Susan Moray is a certified professional midwife, a licensed midwife, and the press officer for MANA. Her homebirth practice, Northwest Community Midwives, is in Portland, Oregon.
A: Although we planned a homebirth, the homebirth did not go as planned.
Shortly after learning we were expecting, the placenta began separating from my uterine wall. My doctor shrugged his shoulders and told me to accept the fact I was going to miscarry. We were devastated.
My girlfriend, shocked at my doctor’s lack of empathy, referred me to her doctor. I called him and explained our situation. He scheduled an appointment for that afternoon. Once there, an ultrasound indicated that my baby was fine and that the placenta was beginning to reattach. The doctor ordered complete bed rest for two weeks.
As the pregnancy continued, our doctor discussed homebirth with us and helped prepare us for the birth of our fourth child—our first homebirth.
My water broke at 5:00 in the morning. We called Dr. S. and he headed to our house with his assistant and a midwifery student. I laboured squatting in the shower. When the baby began to crown, my husband helped me to our bed where I lay on my left side. While the video camera recorded everything, our son made his entrance and landed right in his daddy’s hands. His brother and sisters were awe-struck and clamoured to hold him. After he nursed, everyone got to cuddle together.
Fifteen minutes later, Dr. S. and his crew arrived, delayed by bad weather and highway construction—my hour-long labor had made it challenging to be there on time, anyway.
Kestin Shaw weighed in at twelve pounds, five ounces! The baby who had been “written off” at six weeks now outweighed any baby every delivered by our doctor.
Julia Goforth lives in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada with her husband and children.