My daughter’s birth 2 ½ years ago was a planned natural hospital birth with OB that turned into a c-section after failed induction (due to OB leaving town and me being exhausted). She was 9 lbs 15.3 oz and never got into a position where her head was on the cervix, so I never dilated past 2 and never really went into labor (contractions every 2 minutes for 5 days). We tried EVERYTHING to get her to change position, with no success.
So when I became pregnant again, I started researching my options. I live in rural Wyoming, where the only hospital that will do a VBAC is 1 ½ hours away. For the past 18 years or so, midwives haven’t been able to do homebirth in Wyoming, but the law was finally changed just last year and Wyoming began licensing midwives. I found out that there was a midwife 3 hours away (actually in Montana) who was licensed in Wyoming and would come to us, and that midwives could deliver VBAC’s at home in Wyoming.
I would not have been ready for homebirth with my first birth, but after much thought and talking with my husband, we decided it was our best option for a VBAC.
My pregnancy was normal with no complications, thankfully. Because I was a VBAC, I had a few prenatal visits with an OB who is my midwife’s backup. I enjoyed getting to know our midwife at our prenatal visits. She addressed the emotional component of birth, something that wasn’t done with my first pregnancy. She made sure I was prepared emotionally and had processed my feelings from my first birth. It was hard for me to “let go” of being able to control the outcome of this birth.
I started having good Braxton Hicks contractions about 36 weeks that continued to intensify gradually. Unfortunately they got me thinking that I could go into labor anytime, very early, so by 41 weeks I was VERY ready to be done being pregnant. At 40 weeks, I tried some natural induction stuff recommended by my midwife, including castor oil and hiking in the mountains. That started some good regular contractions, but no dilation.
On Monday the 25th, (41w1d), I had strong, regular contractions all afternoon and called the midwife in the evening just to let her know what was happening. She happened to be an hour away and decided to come down and check me. I was 1 cm and very disappointed to hear that. She basically told us not to call until I couldn’t talk through contractions, because my contractions were quite regular & close together but I still wasn’t dilating. Had a good cry that evening and went to bed, not sure if I’d be able to sleep through them. I did sleep until about 3 am when the contractions woke me up for an hour or so.
On Tuesday the 26th, I woke up to some bloody show. We walked to the coffee shop and home and I about died from the heat. Started having good contractions again on the way home. Around 1 pm, got an acupuncture treatment. A few minutes into the treatment I started having painful contractions with serious back pain.
I texted the midwife at 2 pm “Little more mucus at 11. Still contractions, painful but talking.” At some point, I sat on the ball, and didn’t get up from there. The contractions were way more bearable sitting on the ball. At some point in the afternoon we realized that this was real labor.
Midwife arrived about 5:30. I remember knowing before she checked me that I was dilated and actually in labor – I was 4 cm. She told us we were having a baby! She said that most women dilate about 1 cm per hour after this. She went out to make some calls and then started setting up for the birth. I played Spelltower on my phone, putting it down during contractions, until I couldn’t concentrate anymore.
The midwife and her apprentice came in to check baby’s heartbeat and my blood pressure every hour but otherwise left us alone – just DH & I in our bedroom. I continued dilating right on schedule; had them check me every few hours. I came downstairs a few times and tried to join in conversation in the kitchen, but eventually just preferred to be upstairs.
About 9 pm, I told DH to ask the midwife when I could get in the pool, and she said now was fine! I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t slow labor down but thought it would feel really good. She recommended that we time contractions for a little while, then get in the tub and time them again to see if it slowed them down. They were about 1 minute apart at that point and I was close to 7 cm. The water definitely did not slow them down. It didn’t provide any relief either - I was surprised. My plan was always to do what felt best; I didn’t have strong feelings either way about waterbirth, but I wanted the pool available for pain relief. The contractions were actually more painful in the water. I had to lean against DH’s hands at just the right angle during the contractions for them to be bearable.
So I got out and continued to labor on the ball. Things after that are fuzzy. At some point, the midwife checked me and I was 9 cm, and she wanted to break my water. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that (afraid of more pain) so I told her to wait, and I went through a few more contractions and talked with DH, and decided I was ready.
I had an incredibly strong amniotic sac. The midwife tried to break it first with her fingernail (which she said usually works). Then she went looking for an amnihook but didn't have one, so she tried again with her nails and was able to. I had a TON of water. Tons. Started with 2 chux pads on the bed and they ended up needing 10 or so.
I was expecting the contractions to intensify after that, but they really didn’t change much. As long as I was on the ball, they were bearable. They wanted me to figure out a birthing position and had me try my office chair and the floor. Nothing really felt right. I tried a few pushes squatting and a few in the chair, but I didn’t have the urge to push. The midwife had me use my breastpump then to try to strengthen the contractions and get things going. She had me lie on my back on the bed which I hated. She finally told me & DH that they were going to leave the room for 10 minutes and then come back and reassess – I think maternal exhaustion was mentioned.
I got up at that point and kneeled/squatted beside the bed and felt a little urge to push during the contractions – so told Steve to go get them. Pushing hurt a LOT, like nothing I have ever experienced. I didn’t really have a strong urge to push, and pushing hurt so much, that the midwife had to basically make me push. I think now that it was my body making pushing go slowly so that I wouldn’t tear – he needed to come out slowly. At some point, his head was partially out, and the midwife told me that his head was turning blue and I needed to push hard. So I did, and wow that hurt. His head came out. I found out later that he had shoulder dystocia. The midwife told me later that the apprentice had been supporting my perineum up to that point, but the midwife had her move away then so that the midwife could hook her finger under baby’s armpit and pull him out. The apprentice then had to additionally pull his hips out. No shooting out after the head like most babies do. I remember begging them to keep their fingers out – didn’t know at the time what they were doing.
3:03 am - Relief, and falling back on the bed behind me and being handed a slippery bloody baby. I was in shock from the pain then. The placenta came out with one small push right away. We snuggled on the bed for quite awhile and he nursed for a bit. My mom brought me eggs & toast and DH fed them to me. I took a brief shower and they weighed Declan – they were shocked that he was 10 lbs, 5 oz. Nobody was expecting a baby that big!
Declan is perfect. No issues from the dystocia. He’s a remarkably calm baby.
I am so, so glad that we chose homebirth with an experienced midwife. I am quite certain that in the hospital, had I even been able to relax & dilate the same way, I would have at minimum ended up with an episiotomy and forceps.