Ruthie’s Home Birth Story | Part 2 | Natural Homebirth Experience
Our Natural Homebirth Experience | Ruthie’s Home Birth Story | Part 2
If you haven’t read about our breech diagnosis at 36 weeks and external cephalic version experience, you’ll want to do that first! Read part 1 here!!
My due date was on Sunday, November 7. I figured I’d go late, but ever since the ECV, I started having typical pre-labor signs and symptoms, so I knew my body was doing good work to prepare. While I wasn’t too worried about going past my due date, I was worried about my mom – throughout the early part of the week, she was out of state. We wanted her to be a part of the experience and be there for the actual birth (one of the many benefits of a home birth!), but the earliest she would be able to get to Bartlesville was Thursday night. But the Lord knew!! In his perfect timing, nothing of note happened until my water started leaking on Thursday morning, November 11. (And because my mom was able to get here in time, we have her to thank for most of these photos!)
All throughout that day, I was also having very mild contractions that would start and stop, so I curb walked and went through the Miles Circuit several times. I knew that with my water leaking, I was officially “on the clock”. The risk of infection goes up if your water breaks and labor doesn’t begin within a certain time frame, so we really wanted things to get moving. I had let my midwives at Special Delivery know, and we decided that if things hadn’t progressed by Thursday evening, I would go into the office to get my antibiotic shot (I was GBS positive). We also decided that the castor oil trick was on the table to get things going, so I had Jonathan run to Walmart on his lunch to grab some! Things stayed the same throughout the afternoon, and after our quick trip to Tulsa for my shot, the game plan was to go home and take 1 oz of castor oil at 6:30PM. If you know anything about natural induction methods, you know this is kind of a risky move, and I was really not looking forward to being in the bathroom all night while also likely being in labor!
About 30 minutes after the dose of castor oil (mixed with a tablespoon of peanut butter), things started picking up. Since my contractions thus far that day had been pretty stop and go, I was naively anticipating that things would slow down again, but the waves gradually became longer (with some lasting 1:30 – 2 minutes) and closer together by 8:00 or 8:30PM. The problem was that I wasn’t really able to make much of a pattern of it, and it felt like I wasn’t getting very much of a break in between them. I texted Grace (our midwife) screenshots of my tracking app and was excited when she said, “I’m going to go ahead and head that way”. Nicki (our doula) arrived soon after, and not too much later (maybe around 10 or so), my mom and dad arrived!
For the first few hours of the evening, I had my robe on and was moving around the living room…I laid over the exercise ball, sat and bounced, stood up and leaned over a chair, etc. By the grace of God, I never got sick from the castor oil. I don’t know when I was officially in active labor (or really any of the stages for that matter), but I do know that things got very intense very fast. Around 12:15AM, I was side-lying on the couch when my water officially broke. By that point, I was anxious to get in the birthing pool and find some pain relief, so the team started filling the tub.
I knew that a lot of home birth moms ended up delivering in the birthing pool, and I had been asked countless times if we would do a water birth. That was not something I was necessarily planning for – I figured I would have her wherever was comfortable at that time! But the pool is a great option for pain relief and I desperately needed something. After I got in, I told my mom that the pool was a “game changer”, but like most methods, the magic wore off probably after the first 30 minutes. Mentally, I thought I was a lot closer to delivery than I actually was, so I started pushing a little bit while in the tub and then took a break. It was around this time that my back pain was really starting to bother me as well, and that became one of the hardest aspects of my labor to manage – there was no break from the aching and stiffness. Nicki brought a tens unit with her, and having stem on my back as my pelvis opened was another major source of relief.
It was really important to me to not know where I was at in terms of dilation progress, and I’m so glad I opted to stay in the dark. I’ve read too many birth stories to know that the progress number can be completely defeating, and as long as we had comfort measures in place, I really didn’t want to have a defense going up against the mental aspect of labor. It turns out that was a wise decision…I was only 2 cm dilated when Grace checked me at the beginning of the night, I moved to a 4 around 1:30AM, and then stayed there up until the last hour of my labor. When she checked me at 5AM, I was still at a 4, but somehow stretched to a 7 during the next contraction. Within 25 minutes I was at a 10 and we were ready to go.
I was surprised at how internal labor was. I expected to be connecting with Jonathan throughout – really working through my contractions together, knowing he was right there with me, and relying on him quite a bit to be a source of comfort (I still did, but wasn’t as aware of it as I thought I would be!). I also expected to be able to recall my scriptures that I had mentally bookmarked, but the only thing my brain could do the entire night was focus on breathing, relaxing my body, staying awake, and making it through the next wave of contractions. It was the most intense, all-consuming experience. There were no birth mantras except for when I said out loud in between contractions, “Ruthie, you gotta help me out here” haha.
After I got out of the tub, I alternated between positions quite a bit…another huge benefit to the flexibility of a home birth. I knew squatting and the force of gravity could be beneficial, but laying down was definitely more comfortable. There are only bits and pieces of the wee hours of the morning that I have a clear memory of, and I do remember worrying that I was not progressing like I should have been. I pushed off and on for so long and so hard through the morning, and it felt like we weren’t getting any closer. I remember thinking there was no way I was going to make it this long just to be transferred. And even if I did have to transfer, I have no idea how they would even get me there because holding myself up, moving, and even staying awake felt close to impossible. I was exerting so much energy…combine that with an all night labor, and I was mentally and physically at the end. I do not know how I made it through labor, but I do know that my birth team was outstanding throughout – consistently encouraging me, staying positive, moving so quickly and efficiently to get everything in place every time I changed positions or needed something new. Jonathan was right there next to me the whole time, rubbing my shoulders, holding me up, and I’m sure countless other things to keep me going. My mom was taking photos and brushing my hair out of my face, and a much needed calming presence.
As we started getting closer to her delivery, I was surprised that I didn’t feel her moving down as much as I thought I would. We were doing coached pushing (something that I think most having a natural home birth wouldn’t plan for) but I am glad we did – I needed to know that it was going to be 10 seconds of hard work, a few breaths, and then a few more rounds of 10 seconds of work. The final minutes before she was born was a production – Jonathan was laying behind me on the couch, Grace was right in front of me, and Nicki and Marlita (our assistant) were alternating with me doing a sheet pull. It was a huge physical feat for everyone involved!
Ruthie was born (with a full head of hair!) just before the sun came up November 12 and was placed immediately on my chest. Those first moments afterwards were just as I expected – hearing her sweet cry for the first time, wide-eyed on my chest…the sweetest! The most overwhelming emotion I felt was relief. That she was here, that labor was over, that we could rest, that I wasn’t pregnant anymore! Everyone always says you will feel like your heart doubles in size when you first lay eyes on your child. I expected to feel that and MORE – like my heart was living outside my body with her in the world. In all honesty, one of the hardest parts about those first few days was the guilt I felt for not feeling those overwhelming feelings right away like everyone describes. I loved her right away, but it also took time for us to bond and for that big love to grow. But the beautiful part of that is that it has grown in ways I didn’t expect, and it is just the beginning!
I am so thankful that my physical recovery has been fairly quick. The afterpains and my stitches were the most uncomfortable part and it probably took me 4-5 days before I could really get up and get moving around a bit easier. We camped out downstairs for the first week, slept on the couch, and I barely moved other than to go to the bathroom. By one week, I felt a lot more mobile! There are so many home birth post-partum “essentials” that I was glad to have on hand and hope to share someday. One of those being a lactation consultant! I won’t sugarcoat it; the challenge of breastfeeding makes labor feel like a sprint…
My natural home birth experience was the hardest thing I have ever done. I have heard many home birth moms say that theirs was the most beautiful, rewarding thing, and they would do it all over again, and I believe them! But throughout mine, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had gotten myself into and why! It was so much more difficult than I ever could have imagined, and there was nothing I could have done to better prepare myself. Even as a lifelong athlete with a high pain tolerance, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. One thing we do know is that we have an overwhelming gratitude and thankfulness that the Lord ordained it all to be and had his hand over every moment. Through three weeks of breech positioning and all the unknowns, the ECV, and an all night labor, we made it through it, and we are blessed that our precious little sugar arrive safely and without complications. This experience was the answer to countless prayers and one we will never forget.
Proud Mimommy! I was thrilled she got to be there for the birth of one of her grandchildren! I have the sweetest video of Steve walking in and both he and Jonathan in tears!I love this one of Jonathan and his mom! Uncle Matty…AKA PeePeeLittle sugars!
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