Disclaimer: A homebirth can be an empowering, comforting, loving and beautiful experience. However each birth, whether it be at home or in a hospital, is its own story. The experience of one person giving birth at home does not mean another person will have the same outcome. This blog post is about my experience, which I felt good about and want to share.
This was my fourth pregnancy. My other births all took place in a hospital – the first delivered by my family Doctor, the second by a Doctor from a maternity clinic and the third by midwives of Transitions Midwifery.
This was the first time that I felt confident about wanting a homebirth. As a Doula, I was more knowledgeable about childbirth than I was during my other pregnancies, we had the space in our home, and I imagined every aspect of what a “perfect” birth would look like for my last baby and it included having him or her at home.
Everything in the pregnancy seemed to be going well up until my third trimester.
For those that don’t already know, with my first pregnancy I went into labour at 30 weeks. Baby boy made quite the effort to try and come early… my cervix had dilated to 3cm, I was transferred to a hospital more equipped to handle preemies in case of delivery, I was given steroid shots to help with the development of his lungs and for 3 days I was given medication to try and stop my contractions. On Day 3, after my final dose of meds, my contractions stopped. I was in the hospital for a week, then sent home on bedrest until 36 weeks. When I was 35w 6d I started moving around again, excited to baaasically be off bedrest. That night around 11pm contractions started again and at midnight when I was 36 weeks I went back to the hospital. My son was born at 7:10am at 36 weeks. My second and third children were both born at 37.5 weeks with no signs of preterm labour.
Anyways, so everything with my fourth was going well up until my third trimester. With my second and third pregnancies it was suggested that I have an ultrasound between 28-30 weeks to check the length of my cervix and make sure it wasn’t shortening too quickly and that I wasn’t at risk of premature labour again. So with this pregnancy as well we planned for a third trimester ultrasound. At my midwife appointment just before the ultrasound I was asked if the tech mentioned anything to me about baby’s kidneys. Nope. FYI the techs tell you nothing at those appointments so don’t even bother asking. Turns out one of baby boy’s kidneys was slightly enlarged. Cue the panic. So my midwife made a note for the tech to check the kidneys again while checking my cervix length. A few days after the ultrasound I received a phone call from my midwife. Cue the panic again. I know that unless you have an appointment, receiving a phone call from your care provider is not usually a good thing. This is where I need to add that my midwives (Grow Midwifery) were AMAZING. It just worked out that majority of my appointments had been with Tanya, so I was able to build a relationship with her where she really made me feel comfortable, heard, and cared for. She knew that I would want to know the results or I would just stress myself out thinking about it until my next appointment. She told me that my cervix was fine, but baby’s head was measuring on the small side. To be more specific, the 5th percentile. That’s small. That means that 95% of baby’s at the same gestation had a head bigger than mine. This was a HUGE cause of stress and anxiety for the remainder of my pregnancy. After that I had a couple more follow up ultrasounds with MFM (Mternal Fetal Medicine) to monitor growth. His head size did get up to the 10th percentile at one appointment, but I was still told that they didn’t know 100% what this would mean for my baby. On top of that there was a space between his brain that was on the higher end of normal for length. A note was made that after baby was born we would need to see a Pediatrician.
You might be wondering by now what all this has to do with my homebirth. I’ve shared the details of my homebirth and what happened the evening of with a number of friends and family already. But all this stuff leading up to my birth was something that I stressed and struggled with (somewhat) silently, for months. I only told a select number of people, even hiding it for as long as possible from my own mother. I was scared. I had doubts about having another baby. Maybe I should’ve just been happy with 3. I knew I would love this child regardless of any issues they might have, but the thought of the unknown was scary and giving me bad anxiety the more I thought about it. These details are so important to my homebirth story, because it’s part of my pregnancy journey and all this unknown was still part of my birth.
Near the end of my pregnancy I also found out that I was GBS+ which isn’t a big deal, but I had never tested positive at the end of my previous pregnancies. I didn’t know what this meant for my planned homebirth and at one of my midwife appointments everything just felt like a ball of yarn unravelling that you can’t quite catch. I walked into the office and when Tanya asked me how I was doing I just burst into tears. She knew. She didn’t even have to ask, because she knew. I felt like my “perfect” homebirth wasn’t meant to happen. She told me I could still have a homebirth. That was a huge relief.
Around 35 weeks I began have really bad pelvic pain. It hurt to walk, it hurt to stand up from a sitting position, but what was even worse was it hurt to move or get up from out of bed. This is a big problem when you’re heavily pregnant and getting up 10x a night to pee. Anytime I tried to get out of bed I could hear my pelvic bone crack. It was uncomfortable until it became painful. I would cry trying to get out of bed at night because of the pain. I tried seeing a chiropractor but that didn’t help at all, and by 37 weeks I was so miserable and was sleeping completely upright hoping it would make getting out of bed easier if I wasn’t laying down. It didn’t. So when I saw my midwife at 38 weeks I begged her to try and give me a sweep. I was 2cm, but thankfully she was able to. I was proud of my body for carrying this baby to 38 weeks, since I had never made it that far previously! As a Doula I know getting a sweep for no reason before your due date can cause problems when your body is not ready to go into labour, but I felt my body was already done and beginning to work against me with the pain I was in.
On August 23rd I had my sweep around 12:15 in the afternoon. My wonderful best friend had come out to help me with the other kids, so after my appointment she stayed with us until just after dinner. I had walked, bounced on my ball, tried pumping.. anything to get contractions to start. I had a few random ones but nothing that seemed to be going anywhere, so I gave her the okay to go home. Cramping and contractions are very common after a sweep so I didn’t know if it was just from that. My contractions weren’t very regular and ranged from 5-7 minutes until 7:30pm. Then all of a sudden at 7:30pm they started coming every 3 minutes. I texted my midwife around 9pm and she gave me a call. I told her the intensity hadn’t changed from when contractions were 5-7 minutes apart. She told me to try and relax, take a gravol and try to sleep. We still weren’t sure if it was just the after effects from the sweep or the real thing, but she said she was going to try and get some sleep just in case. I said okay and told her I had just filled a bucket and was just going to mop my floors and take a shower first. I’m borderline OCD with people entering my home when it’s a mess, so on the off chance this was really labour I needed to mop! So I did that – around 9:30pm I took a gravol, had a shower, then tried to lay down. That didn’t last long, because by 10pm I couldn’t lay down comfortably. Contractions started to get really intense and I couldn’t talk or get comfortable through them so I called my midwife back around 10:35pm. She said she’d head over and be here in 30m minutes, and asked if I felt that she should call her backup right away to meet her at our house. I said I wasn’t sure… so we hung up. All my other labours had been 8-9hrs from start to finish so I didn’t know if we still had awhile to go. At 10:56 the midwife calls me back and says she wants to just listen to me – I was having a contraction and had stopped timing but they were coming faster. I checked later and saw that our call was 4min long and I had had 2 contractions while on with her, so she said she was calling the backup to come to the house as well.
I was labouring in my room and kept trying to pop into the living room to ask my husband to do stuff – setup the birth pool, move my car so the midwives had somewhere to park in the driveway, fill the birth pool etc. He had called one of my younger sisters already to come (thank god he did), because she was suppose to catch the baby, but she hadn’t arrived yet. I began thinking that my husband wasn’t going to have the pool filled in time, and I really wanted to be in the water, so I started filling the bathtub in our ensuite. I filled it only halfway because I was wearing a TENS machine on my back that I didn’t want to fully take off. I turned on the Spotify playlist I had created and continued to labour alone. The midwife arrived around 11:15pm (went to the wrong house on the street first, oops!) and starts setting up her stuff in the other room where the birth pool is. Around 11:25pm one of my sisters and my best friend show up. Around 11:30pm I start calling for the midwife because with each contraction my body was trying to push, without me trying. This is called the Fetal Ejection Reflex (See how amazing our bodies are?! This is not something I had experienced before). My midwife said that if I was going to stay in the tub that I needed more water, so she tried to fill the bathtub more… but the hot water ran out. My bad. That would be due to my husband still trying to fill a birth pool in the other room. She said there wasn’t enough water in the tub for baby so I would have to move to the bed. So between contractions I get myself out of the tub and move over to the bed, still experiencing the fetal ejection reflex with each contraction. After a few contractions on the bed I decide it’s time to start working with my body and I start purposely pushing. My waters break. From then I could feel his head in my pelvis so with each contraction I held my pushes as long as I could and he was completely out in less than 2 minutes.
Ezra Gray James Braaksma was born at 11:51pm on August 23, 2023. The most perfect little boy to complete our family.
Did my pregnancy and homebirth go EXACTLY as I had planned it would? No. But I am grateful I was able to get the homebirth I desired. My baby was born healthy and safely. (His head size was completely normal!) I don’t regret any part of it. I had hoped to have more family members present for support (my mom arrived 10min after he was born and my mother-in-law & sister-in-law were an hour away still) but everything went a lot quicker than I anticipated. I am still really happy with the outcome and that they were all able to come meet him shortly after the birth.
Creating a “birth plan” or “birth preferences” is a great way to know what your desires are and make sure your support team and care providers are all on the same page. It’s important to have a plan for all possible scenarios though, in case our “perfect” birth doesn’t happen how we hope. It’s okay for our births to not always go according to plan, but the important thing is that we still feel empowered and are able to make our own informed choices regarding our body and our baby.
Are you considering a planned homebirth? I would love to chat more with you!
March 13, 2023