My fiancé and I did something amazing.
We made a decision months ago to bring our baby girl into this world in a way that is seen as “unconventional” in our modern society. I know the decision was much easier for me than it was for Greg, but he was a damn trooper. He trusted me and my dream for a peaceful, natural birth. I know he was scared much more than he allowed me to see.. I was scared at first too. How can’t you be? The first thing we almost always heard when telling people about my goal for an all-natural, unmedicated, out-of-hospital birth was horror stories. That’s all people know. They know a friend of a friend’s sister who would have “died” had she not given birth in a hospital. Or a baby who they knew would have never made it, if not for medical intervention.
Now let me get this straight, I do believe there is occasional need for medical intervention during birth. And I believe EVERY birth is beautiful. There are special circumstances, or personal preference that should take advantage of our medical advances. But I also believe that a lot of the time, for women with low-risk pregnancies, this is all unnecessary. I believe birth is a natural event. I believe that nature made a woman’s body with all of the right parts and functions to grow another human being, and bring that human being into our world safely. I firmly believe that not enough women are given that encouragement.
So no wonder 99% of the people who were told about our birth plan had negative words. “What’s the point?” “The hospital is safer” “What if (insert scare tactics here)?”
My first reaction was fear.
Maybe they’re right. Maybe they know something I don’t. So I researched even more. I found the support I neeed and I became confident in my decision.
My second reaction was anger.
How dare people assume I am putting myself and my baby in danger? How dare you sweep away a woman’s choice- a family’s choice- for the birth of their dreams. Or neglect to educate people about their choices for birth.
My third reaction was avoidance.
I tried not to tell people. I didn’t need their negative words clouding my dream for something more spiritual and empowering and NATURAL. Something that I felt was right for my family.
And now- communication.
I am sharing my experience to let people know their options. To let people know they can have control of how and where they bring their child into the world- a once in an life time event for you.
One thing I am highly disappointed in is how common it is for a women to be told “You’re pregnant. Go to an Obstetrician.” It took my own extensive research to learn I have options in care providers. And I felt cheated. I felt like the medical system coaxed me in the direction that was convenient for them. I felt that information was withheld from me. Do you know almost everyone I spoke to didn’t even know what a Midwife is? Hell, I didn’t know what a Midwife was! I knew an OB was THE medical professional who delivers babies. Wrong. An Obstetrician is trained in childbirth surgery. Obviously they know how to deliver a baby without surgery, but so often they end up calling the shots and forgetting to trust the mother. We are so often bullied into what is convenient for the OB, because he/she has a degree, and can scare us with simple “what ifs”, especially in the middle of labor- such a vulnerable state for a woman and her partner. And this is just such standard practice at this point.
The hospital staff tells you that your uterine contractions need to be sped up, assuming your body and your baby do not know what they are doing. Then the pain intensifies with this unnatural labor augmentation, so now almost always an epidural is requested (or more often suggested). And now you have to be told when to push, because you probably can’t feel your body’s natural urge to push. But often pushes from a numb lower body are ineffective, and assistance is needed in the form of forceps or vacuum extraction (likely an episiotomy too for ease of delivery).
They do not provide full truth, and they all make it difficult to have a choice (health insurance companies included). And THAT is the problem.
My statements are obviously very general, and not the only outcome of a hospital birth. But this chain of events is normalized. All of these interventions. And yes, we have developed them, and we can take advantage of them at our will. If this is your choice, I support that. What I support is a woman’s voice in her birth. What I don’t support is being misinformed and bullied into a birth experience that is on someone else’s terms than your own. I support choice, and presenting pregnant women with their options. And listening to their wishes for their unique birth experience.
I did not feel confident that my birth wishes would be accepted in a hospital, so Greg and I visited a birthing center and made the decision to bring our daughter into the world there. Surrounded by educated (people forget this) midwifes who have assisted in the delivery of healthy babies for years. Midwives who we became close with over the months and felt comfortable with, knowing they would be the ones supporting us at this intimate event. They respected our wishes, they educated us, and they cared.
And now, after it all, I am SO grateful that they listened to my body and let my body and my baby tell us what the game plan was. Not the clock or the next shift change.
Our Birth Story…
I woke up Sunday morning a little before 7am with some cramping. I wasn’t really able to sleep through it, so I walked around. I made breakfast. I did some yoga and I meditated. The surges were not subsiding and I started thinking this may be labor. I wasn’t sure, but I had been dealing with some consistent back pain for two days in a row. My contractions weren’t lasting very long though so I text my Doula to update her, and continued my day.
Soon I realized I wasn’t able to focus on tasks around the house, so I woke up Greg and got in the shower to help my body relax. After, we laid down in bed and he helped with pressure points and back rubs as the contractions got stronger. Then I decided to try a bath. After a little while I couldn’t even sit still, so I stop up and took a shower again, but when the water started to turn cold, I realized I couldn’t manage this alone anymore. I asked Greg to call the Midwives and our Doula. I was sure our baby girl was coming today.
Our Doula decided to come to head over to our house since it seemed labor was progressing. I believe this was around 12pm.
Roughly 10 minutes later, after Greg decided to shower and pack up, my water broke, standing next to my bed. The contractions now quickly intensified. I think I scared Greg out of the shower, and we decided it was time to head to the birthing center.
This was quite a ride…. We needed to drive about 30 miles to the center. It was obviously impossible to get comfortable while I was in active labor in the car. But I turned inward. I focused on my breathing, and I breathed through each contraction. I reminded myself of the purpose of these contractions-my body knows what it needs to do, to safely deliver this baby girl– and that is what it was doing.
We arrived at the birthing center and I remember stepping out of the car, holding on to Greg, and looking down to my bare feet. We left the house in such a hurry, I honestly had no idea what I was dressed like. We were greeted at the side door by our midwife. Our Doula also arrived at the same time. She helped me immensely with massage and essential oils to counter the pressure from my contractions, while the tub filled up. My midwife checked me to make sure everything was okay, and apparently, I was already 9cm dilated. This she did not tell me until I left later that day, and I am so grateful. The absence of clocks and numbers allowed me to listen to my body in the progression, and not put any expectations on what should be happening next.
Finally, I got into the warm water and tried to relax. At this point in labor I was in such a state of focus, my surroundings were blurred. I didn’t know exactly who was present l, but I knew my midwife, my Doula, and Greg all surrounded me. They encouraged me, loved me, empowered me- telling me I was doing great. Reminding me to breathe. Relax. Stay hydrated. The support brings me to tears. I could not have asked for anything more.
I was never told when it was time to push, but I think at some point my midwife mentioned that if I feel the urge to push, then I should. “Listen to your body,” I was told over and over again. This was the best advice I could have ever received.
I finally began pushing as I felt my baby girl descending, and after I figured out what was effective and what was not, Avery Rion Carstensen joined us Earth side at 2:18pm. She was immediately placed on my chest, and I just looked at her in amazement. The first cry was the greatest sound I had ever heard. I had felt this baby girl for 9 months, and maybe seen her a few times, but I finally heard her. She was here.
They moved us from the tub, to the bed. Greg laid with us as the birth team checked Avery and I. Everything was perfect. We laid and cuddled and tried to process the whole event which seemed impossible. What had just happened? We thought we had a few more weeks!
They brought us food and warm tea and talked about how amazing everything went; how great we did together, and how grateful we all were to share this experience. Then later that evening when Avery and I were checked and stable, we went home to spend our first night together as a family.
I had my dream birth. And I don’t think enough people can say that, which is why I wanted to share our birth story. I literally imagined this birth, in the tub, in the exact suite we were in. And to go through your first labor in 7 hours? It’s almost unheard of. Everything just fell into place. Women can only deliver at a birthing center between 38-42 weeks, I was 38 weeks exactly. My water broke at home, no need to rupture membranes, and I didn’t tear. We were both healthy, and it was absolutely perfect.
I was so very fortunate to have the support of an amazing Doula Gila. My midwives Belinda and Diane were absolutely wonderful as well. And my family in Chicago was so kindly supportive from across the country. And Greg. He really impressed me. He was so gentle and encouraging, whispering into my ear through the most intense moments of labor. I will never forget those moments, for as long as we live. Such pure love and compassion- it is so appreciated.
I want women to know they have birth options. You are in charge of where you will deliver your baby, and who will be present. Exercise your choice to the fullest extent, and have the birth of your dreams.