When Shane and I moved to Southern CA in 2004, my first order of business was to find a Birthing Center; I wasn’t even pregnant yet! At that point in my birthing career, I felt that the birth center was my best choice, a happy medium between hospital birth and home birth. There was only one in the county and that made my choice easy. But here’s where I made a huge mistake…I didn’t listen to my intuition. There were a few red flags during our initial visit to the Birth Center. Shane and I were about 15 minutes late and they rushed us through the tour saying they needed to go on their lunch break. Hmmm…what happened to pleasing the customer? Especially when your customer is paying $4000. I didn’t sense much warmth or interest in any of the staff and there was a high turnover rate. But that was my experience with all medical offices in my life and I suppose on some level I was comfortable with that.
I didn’t particularly like the owner of the Birth Center but I dealt with her minimally. My midwife was nice enough, as well as experienced, and I felt I was in good hands. Then suddenly at 30 weeks my midwife disappeared. Vanished from the office. I was never given an explanation and put into the care of a new midwife. I couldn’t put my finger on it but there was something I didn’t like about this woman. I went to the midwife/ owner of the Birthing Center, let’s call her Jenny, and told her I wanted her to catch my baby. Jenny became my midwife and it turned out I liked her even less than the previous midwife. I was growing more disenchanted with the Center with each passing week but I felt committed; I had paid nearly $4000 and spent 8 months in their care. By this point I had swapped over to home birth (the Birth Center midwives offered both). In quiet moments, I spent time trolling midwifery websites and dreaming of another home birth midwife. I found one who caught babies in my county; she looked sunny and wonderful…exactly what I was longing for.
36 weeks rolled around and Jenny began acting like a “med-wife.” She ordered ultrasound (I didn’t go for it), then an NST (non-stress test), she checked my dilation at one appointment. At 37 weeks she threatened induction for low fluid levels. I was no longer comfortable with her care; I knew deep down that I couldn’t have the birth I was dreaming of with her and I decided to leave. My husband fully supported my decision.
I called the sunny-looking midwife, Sue Gill, told her my story and prayed that she would take me on as a client. She sounded great on the phone and listened intently as I told my tale. She happened to be in the car with her backup midwife and promised they could confer and she would call me back. 15 minutes later I got a “yes.” I was thrilled. Now for the messy part, calling the Birth Center and firing Jenny the midwife. Shane bravely offered to do the deed. He explained to Jenny that we would no longer need her services. Her reply? “I’ll transfer you to the billing department.” That was it. No questions about why we were leaving, or who would care for us so late in the game, no offer of money being returned (contractually she didn’t have to return any). Nothing. That reaction, or lack thereof, from Jenny, confirmed that we made the right decision. We never looked back.
My husband and I met Sue the next day and we loved her. She was confident, warm and knowledgeable. We knew all would be well with her. We did wind up paying for two births but it was worth. every. penny.
Two weeks later, on a Saturday morning, I woke up feeling crampy and crabby and my husband woke up sick as a dog. He never made it out of bed that day. I put on a happy face and whipped up some muffins for visiting relatives. I had a busy day planned: a wedding present to shop for and a wedding to attend! I headed to Macy’s and killed time picking a present. All the while my surges were going full steam ahead. I used my Hypnobabies training as I shopped and it kept me calm and comfortable. Shopping done, I headed out the door to the wedding. I sat towards the back so no one would notice me closing my eyes through surges. It was a gorgeous ceremony but by the end of it I was pooped and the reception seemed out of the question. I headed home and found Shane stretched out in bed, barely able to muster the energy to speak. Oh dear. Baby on the way and incapacitated husband. I joined him in bed and drifted off to sleep listening to Hypnobabies. I don’t remember much about how I spent my evening. I do remember I turned on a movie but I couldn’t focus enough to watch it. Around 9 PM I began timing contractions. They were holding steady at 4 minutes apart. I called my midwife who suggested a hot bath and some Tylenol PM. I tried the bath but didn’t notice any difference.
At 2 AM I drove to the grocery store to pick up Tylenol PM and peach nectar to sip during my birth. I was alone in the store so there was no one to notice me leaning over and closing my eyes as I breathed my way through each surge. I made it home, put Hypnobabies on again and listened for a few more hours. At 7 AM I woke Shane and to my great delight he was fully recovered. Hallelujah! I sent him off to the store with a long list of delicious treats for after the birth. He soon returned from the store and got busy setting up the tub. Meanwhile, I called my doula who arrived at 10 AM. Sue, the midwife, arrived at 11 AM and she and Shane got the tub filled. I stepped in around 11:30 and it. was. pure. bliss. I labored comfortably in the tub, Hypnobabies music in the background, doula at my side. I did feel a lot of pressure in my back towards the end but didn’t understand why (I would soon find out). Shane was posted near my rear pouring bowlfuls of water onto my low back as I knelt on all fours. I planned to give birth in the squatting position but when I began pushing, that position didn’t feel right. My favorite position was reclining, fully supported by Shane(he was outside of the tub). My husband deserves a medal for holding me in that uncomfortable position for so very long. We soon found out why I liked that semi-reclining position so much. When Sage’s head arrived she was sunny side up! I looked down into the water and saw her little face staring back up at me (eyes still closed). Sage was posterior and when babies are born in that position, mamas tend to enjoy reclining positions as it alleviates pressure in the back. A few pushes and out she came. I was amazed by how normal giving birth felt. I felt fantastic and on top of the world but in a very quiet way. Sage was a sweet little babe right from her first moments.
I used the bathroom, delivered the placenta on the toilet, then got into my bed where the midwives began stitching me up. Sage’s positioning (posterior and asynclitic (head cocked to the side) caused me to tear a bit. The midwives worked quietly, murmuring to each other about stitching techniques, all by the light of a flashlight; I listened to my Hypnobabies and hardly even noticed them working.
Later we began making calls to family and friends. We had chosen not to tell people in advance about our homebirth. We figured it was better for their sake not to worry, and for our sake to not to hear criticism about our choice, one we felt very good about.
You can imagine their surprise! Sue and Karen (the backup midwife) cleaned up the tub and bathroom, measured and weighed baby Sage and were soon on their way. A friend brought a delicious meal (a bleu cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate milkshake) that I gobbled up. Then Shane and I got into bed with our brand new baby and all three of us had a lovely, blissful snooze in our own bed.
P.S. on page 67 of Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake & Abby Epstein you can read about firing your midwife. That Birth Center they mention? Same one I used. And that midwife, Susan, they mention? That’s my midwife Sue. She later told me that I was her first client to jump ship from Midwife Jenny but I certainly wasn’t the last. Ever since she has had a steady stream of clients who choose to leave the birth center and come over to her.
P.P.S. I later discovered that my original Birthing Center midwife was fired for arriving at a birth drunk.
Vital Stats: 8 lbs 10 oz & 21 inches
My sister, Kassie, and I tend to copy each other. I had a homebirth and then Kassie got on the bandwagon and had three homebirths of her own. She became a doula and then I decided to follow suit. When the time came for our second baby to arrive, we asked Kassie to fly in from NYC and be my doula.
Kassie arrived a couple of days before Micah’s guess date and planned to stay for a week. I was determined to get our baby boy to arrive during her visit. She arrived on Sunday and we got to work the very next day.
Monday: walk stairs
Tuesday: breast pump, more stairs, homeopathy Wednesday-strip membranes , walk hills, homeopathy Thursday-more hills, herbs, homeopathy
Friday- even more hills, herbs, homeopathy
Saturday, stairs, hills, herbs, homeopathy
Sunday- hills, enema, herbs, homeopathy, admit defeat
We decided to make a last ditch effort. I set my alarm for Monday at 3 AM, woke up, chugged a 1/4 cup of castor oil and went back to bed. Pretty soon the bathroom trips ensued and my surges began around 5 AM.
7 AM- call my midwife, Sue, and tell her that I think it’s time
7:20- Shane takes Sage to a friend’s house
7:30- I call Shane (who has just arrived at friend’s) and get upset that he’s not here… Uh-oh that’s how I know it’s baby time
7:35-Kassie starts filling up tub
7:40–Get in tub (Hallelujah!)
8:15- Sue arrives
8:40- Micah is born
Kass told me that 2nd births are like trains…they come fast and furious. I definitely felt that way with Micah; I got in the tub and dove straight into transition; that kiddo came barreling out of me. I felt his head drop, my water released and then BAM that big ol’ head was out. In fact, he came so fast that his head never even molded and he arrived with a lovely round noggin. With Kassie coaching me, I slowly eased his shoulder out, reached down into the water, brought him to my chest and held him close. It’s a blissful moment cuddling your baby in your arms after long months of waiting.
Sue was perfect. She sat back quietly as Kassie and I worked together. She came over to the tub at the end when Micah’s head came out, had me change position and supported my perineum as his shoulders oozed out. She calmly waited and watched for when she was needed.
Kassie was with me every step, encouraging me, keeping me grounded, giving me sips of water and making birthing sounds with me. Shane was snapping pictures and taking video. I like my husband silent and hands off but nearby during birth. Sage joined us just a few minutes after the birth and attempted to cut the cord (she needed a little help from Shane). She was a bit shell shocked by Micah’s sudden appearance but happy.
Home birth and hospital birth are so very different. At home there was no rushing, no one ordering me to push, no strangers, no annoying monitors to keep me from finding a comfortable position, no waiting for a doctor to get there, no one whisking the baby away afterward. I called the shots because it was my birth.
After the birth I sat in the water for a minute with Micah in my arms as Sue listened to his heart, then moved over to my daughter’s bed (the birthing tub was in her room) where I held him close, nursed and waited for the cord to stop pulsating. In the meantime Sue gave me “Placenta Out”, a vile herbal concoction that (what else?) helps your placenta come out. Twenty minutes or so later, with a little pushing on my part, that placenta came out. Phew! It felt like I was pushing another baby out.
I hurried into my own bed with my little baby, nursed, got comfy and reveled in the moment with Shane, who fed me snacks. Meanwhile, the midwives cleaned up and Kass prepared delicious food. About an hour after his birth, Micah’s newborn exam took place on my bed with Shane and I next to him. We were all delighted to find that Micah weighed in at 10 lbs 8 oz.
Afterwards I ate Kassie’s fabulous meal: filet mignon with caramelized onions, a baked potato topped with lots of butter, cheese and creme fraiche and chocolate chip pie. Mmmmm…my idea of heavenly food.
A few short hours later (2 PM) Kassie was on a plane jetting home and we were alone…our little family of four!
Vital Stats: 10 lbs 8 oz & 21 inches
On Tuesday, after lunch, I started to feel crampy and began having surges that were a little different than the usual variety. Surges had come every day for weeks, along with intermittent cramps, so I shrugged it off and went about my day which included: grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, school drop-off and pick-up and caring for the kids. All afternoon and into the early evening those surges came but I didn’t think much of them. My midwife, Flame, warned me over and over again that third births are wild cards. Even though my second was 3.5 hours long, she told me not to expect a fast birth again. I took it to heart and figured I’d have a nice long birthing time and I may as well keep busy in the early stages.
This is the timeline according to my phone:
6:24 PM- Call Flame (my midwife) and let her know we need some help finishing the birthing tub set-up (this one is a little complicated unlike the tub I used previously) but I assure her that nothing much is going on surge wise.
7:19 PM- Call my sister to chat and report on surges, while I shop at Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target. Those surges start getting progressively longer, stronger and closer together. At Target I move at a snail’s pace; I have to keep stopping to close my eyes, lean over my cart and breathe through every surge.
8:13 PM- Call Shane on my way home from Target and let him know this could be it but I’m not really sure.
8:30 PM- Arrive home, Shane and I put away Target purchases. At this point I am barely able to shuffle around. The surges are coming strong and fast but I still think if I can just lie down they’ll ease up.
8:56 PM- Call Flame, have a nice long surge while we’re on the phone and then she knows it’s getting to be time. She says she’ll be on her way.
9 PM- Call my doula, Courtney, and tell her to come
9-9:22 PM- Order Shane around (no energy to be polite!), “Fill up the tub. Get my toothbrush and toothpaste.” At this point I am in the basement and have no desire to go anywhere else.
9:22 PM-Shane calls Flame and leaves a message telling her I feel pushy.
9:23 PM- I kneel over the fireplace and suddenly I feel lots of pressure, I yell out, “Shane, I need you!” Shane arrives, puts a hand on my shoulder and Bam! my water releases all over the carpet. Lovely. With Sage and Micah my water released in the last few minutes before they were born; now I know baby will be here any minute. Shane calls Flame to report. She is on her way but I swear she must be hitting every red light. 9:29 PM- (call time: 3 min 14 sec)- Shane calls Flame to tell her the latest. I tell him to, “Get off the phone!!!” Am I bossy during birth or what? He leaves the phone on, throws it next to me, we can hear Flame talking but have no idea what she’s saying.
I lie on the floor on my side, tell Shane to pull off my leggings. He does. Then he looks down and says, “I see the head.” And then Haven comes shooting out, no pushing needed. Shane catches her and holds on tight to that slippery little baby. We look between her legs and are surprised to find that we have a girl! Then we look at her luxuriant black hair and marvel. Shane is cool as cool can be the whole time. We hop back on the phone with Flame. She’s heard the whole birth, including Haven’s first cry, so she is relieved and almost to our house.
9:35 PM- Flame arrives
9:40 PM- Doula Courtney arrives
Easy peasy. Can every birth be like this? I loved sharing that sweet moment with Shane, and Shane alone. He was just perfect; always calm, always steady Shane. We were both amazed how normal it all felt, giving birth on the basement floor and having Shane catch our little baby. In the end I think we were more surprised to have a little girl with a full mane of black hair.
Vital Stats: 8 lbs. 13 oz. & 21 inches